Our summer 2020 hardware intern, Wendy Trattner, shares her experience of interning at Embark during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m a rising 4th year student at MIT studying mechanical engineering. I’m originally from Wisconsin, and have always been super interested in sustainability. When I got to MIT I joined the Solar Electric Vehicle Team, and that led me to the autonomous vehicle space. I also love to paint, rock climb, and cook for people in my free time.
What’s your go-to pandemic comfort food?
Pasta with parmesan cheese. I’m a true cheese-loving Wisconsinite.
Why did you decide to intern at Embark?
Embark drew me in because it’s one of the few companies working on autonomous trucks, it’s a startup with an exciting vibe, and it’s located in San Francisco. I wanted to test if I liked living in San Francisco. Hint: I love it!
What kind of projects do you work on at Embark?
I joined Embark to work on truck hardware. Little did I know that I was joining an incredible team of three other mechanical engineers, and would have the opportunity to work on tons of different core engineering projects with real impact. I got to hack together prototypes, make design decisions, and work on fun side projects.
The Hardware Platform team is responsible for mechanical designs, system integrations, and implementation of self-driving technology for our entire fleet. My first project was to install new active damping seats and integrate monitors into the seat backs. My next project was totally different — I designed and built a precision sensor calibration bench for the Perception team. Meanwhile I took on smaller projects machining brackets, designing new parts, performing fluid analysis to understand air flow in the truck, and implementing a new organizational system for the whole team to use. When I had an idea for Embark’s business strategy, I met with the COO and shared my proposal. Working at Embark has been fast-paced and exciting — it’s impossible to get bored.
How did COVID affect your experience?
COVID definitely made this summer a unique experience. I was lucky in a lot of ways — Hardware Platform was the only team allowed in the office, so I could do most of my normal internship projects and interact with my colleagues. There were weekly virtual activities so I could get to know people on different teams. It was a bummer not to interact normally with the whole company, but overall the social experience was very positive.
What was the culture of the company like?
Embark has great vibes. Everyone I met was interesting, friendly, and eager to help others. The Recruiting team put together events for the interns to meet people from other teams. My manager was super encouraging, gave me the autonomy to pace my own projects, and provided awesome feedback. The CTO met 1:1 with every intern, and each intern presents their projects to the entire company. The people at Embark clearly care about fostering a great community and work environment.
What is something you think everyone should know about Embark?
Embark is full of great people, and the company is working on a really interesting and important problem. Autonomous trucking means that freight can be shipped faster, because human truck drivers can only drive for a limited number of hours per day. Faster shipping could be really valuable in some sectors. For example, fresh produce that gets shipped long distances might spend less time in transit, stay fresh longer, and be less likely to go to waste.
What are your takeaways both professionally and personally after your summer?
On a professional level, Embark is such a dynamic and fast-paced place to work. Every day I learned new skills, enjoyed the flexibility to try new things, and was empowered to take initiative. Personally, I was able to meet some incredible, smart, talented, and hilarious people. The other interns were amazing, and I loved getting to know them over lunch every week.