Speakable coffee chat

This week, we got to talk to Rae (‘19 Architecture) and Peter (‘19 Operations Research and Financial Engineering), our two interns at Speakable. Speakable works to get people to take action on the news that they read with the Action Button. The Action Button is placed at the end of news articles, relating the content of the article to different things a reader can do about the topic at hand. Ultimately, the Action Button allows you to take impactful actions such as donating to an NGO, signing a petition, or tweeting at your local representative.


What was the most rewarding project you worked on this summer?

Peter: The most rewarding and substantial project was specifically designed for us two interns, which is to build a data visualization platform to deliver analytics to our company’s publishing and non-profit partners. I worked on the backend, using Flask framework to integrate two databases and Google Analytics to deliver metrics. I had never done anything related to web development so ending the summer with a launched web product is incredibly rewarding.

Rae: My fellow intern and I were in charge of creating a data dashboard from scratch to present user data to the publishers we work with. I was in charge of the design and front-end development, while he worked on the back end. It was incredible to focus on one product for the summer and see it to completion. I loved working on a tool that would be used by others and have a significant impact on the company.


What aspects of the business would you want to implement if (or when!) you start your own company?

Peter: After experiencing firsthand how startups operate and hearing from so many entrepreneurs, I realized by far the most important aspect of building a successful business is to be in touch with consumer demand. Businesses in the end exist to maximize profit, and all successful startups have identified inefficiencies in the way our society runs, addressed the issue in an innovative way, and monetized the process. After this summer, I find myself more interested in and increasingly aware of how different systems and processes around me operate in general.

Rae: I enjoyed the size of the team and the different perspectives they brought to the table. With only 5 people at the company, everyone had a specialty and everyone had to do things outside that specialty at some point.


What is one piece of advice that was given to you this summer that changed your viewpoint? Or, what is one piece of advice that you received that you disagree with?

Peter: I find myself generally in agreement with all the advice that has been thrown my way, but interestingly the one that has stuck with me was to never follow any conventional advice and find a unique, personalized approach. In the end, my biggest takeaway is to absorb all the wisdom around me but ultimately trust my own judgement and instincts to carve out my own path.

Rae: Being surrounded by driven success-bound individuals forced me to reflect on my own personal goals and success metrics. One of the messages I heard a lot was to commit yourself fully to whatever you're doing and to really pour your life into your work. I found that I disagreed with this, and I was able to understand my own life motivations better by contrast.


When you think of someone successful in the entrepreneurship world, who is the first person that comes to your mind, and why?

Peter: The first person that comes to mind is Jeff Bezos. He embodies what I admire most about successful entrepreneurs, vision. Bezos built his company from scratch into a nightmarish corporate machine via aggressive, diversified investing and expanding into what seems like every existing market. It’s incredible to think that Amazon began as an online book store and grew into not only e-commerce powerhouse but also streaming, consumer electronics, cloud infrastructure and soon to be retail giant.

Rae: I read Elon Musk's biography, and he has achieved remarkable success by his own metrics. He wanted to change the world, he thought space and renewable energy held the keys to that, and he pursued his goals with abandon and without compromise. I may disagree with some of his values and motivations, but he stands out as someone who accomplished what he set out to do.


What is something you learned this summer that you did not expect to?

Peter: The entire web development process was something I did not expect coming in but had a great time learning. I certainly did not expect to learn HTML/CSS/JavaScript, which I used to implement some front-end features. The constant learning is something I very much appreciate about working at an early stage startup.

Rae: Between attending events and learning about how my company goes about creating partnerships, I learned a bit about networking, which I had not planned. I never quite understood what it really was or its value, but I've come to realize how big a part it plays in the professional world.


Nick Chow