Ron Boger personal site + musings

MedHacks 2017 presentation on "How to land an awesome startup job"

Slides can be found here.

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I stopped by Baltimore this weekend, visiting my family and checking out MedHacks 2017. It’s awesome to see just how much it’s grown. I met so many people today from all over the world who flew specifically to Baltimore for the event. This growth has not been without thoughtfulness. The event still maintains its original principles. Unlike most hackathons, at MedHacks a large percentage of hackers do not study Computer Science, the gender split is 50/50, and most come with the intention of learning about health + tech rather than winning a prize. Combined with the general setup of the event, an inviting, collaborative environment results. This leads to the diverse mix of ideas and collaboration that I believe is necessary to solve the most pressing health issues. I’m proud my leadership has been succeeded by such passionate, intelligent, and caring members.

The organizing team asked me to give a short workshop/talk for hackers on how a student can land “awesome startup jobs in Silicon Valley and beyond”. The slides can be found here. In my experience working at several Silicon Valley startups, founding MedHacks, and failing at starting a recruiting startup during my MS, there’s clearly a problem in how technology recruiting is done. Gender and racial diversity has rightfully become an area where technology companies are beginning to focus. A topic that has not yet received as much attention is institutional diversity - namely that much of Silicon Valley seems to have gone to school at one of 5-10 schools. It’s not exciting to work only with White and Asian males who all attended the same top 10 engineering universities. In the long term, this trend destroys the empathy technologists have with the problems they aim to solve.

This issue presents itself even at Johns Hopkins, where some of the most talented engineers I’ve met are blissfully unaware of opportunities despite the high ranking of the university itself. Much of this has to do with a knowledge imbalance. Few startups have the bandwidth to actively recruit outside their geographic and personal networks. Any engineer in principle shows enthusiasm at the thought of working at an awesome startup - it’s just that few know who these startups are and how to reach them. Services such as TripleByte and A-List generally level the playing field and have incentives lined up correctly. They don’t seem, however, to be as well-known or received among students. Further, every startup I interviewed doing my failing recruiting startup attempt admits this as a foregone conclusion, even though they are desperate to hire talent.

These quick slides contain a few principles students can use to change the outcome of their internship/first job - hope this is useful for those who both attended or did not attend MedHacks.