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Intern Reflection: My Summer at Voodle – the Three C’s and my Definition of Success


AUTHOR: Rania Uppal | September 27, 2021

This past year, Madrona and the Singh Family Foundation initiated and ran an intern program focused on under-represented groups in the technology industry.  A cross-functional team at Madrona worked with outside groups including Summer Search, Rainier Scholars, the Foster School to understand their students’ needs and match them to exciting opportunities within the Madrona portfolio. This summer, we had a cohort of students.  We held sessions focused on understanding venture capital, the path to entrepreneurship, and interviewing tips to supplement events held by each company. 

For the next couple of weeks, we will feature reflections by the interns about their experiences this summer. We were so impressed by the students hard work – and are excited to continue to grow this program next summer! 

Midway through my summer internship at Voodle, Madrona Venture Group organized a panel that allowed its interns to hear from various startup founders. The speakers included Alessya Visnjic, Jamien McCullum, Justin Graham, and Xiao Wang, who spoke about their entrepreneurial backgrounds and answered questions pertaining to their experiences. One question was burning in my mind from the beginning of the meeting: “What does professional success mean to you?”.  

I had no idea the greater impact that Voodle and Madrona’s internship program would have on me and my future career goals. I feel so much more prepared to go into the workforce, knowing to advocate for myself and constantly reflecting on what success means to me.

Expectedly, I received wildly different answers that were unique to each person and the stage of life that they were in. Xiao Wang’s answer stuck with me. He said that in a job, you will most likely get only one of the 3 C’s – Cash, Career, Calling – and you have to decide which is most important to you and your success. Working at Voodle this summer and talking to each of my colleagues has made me contemplate which of these 3 C’s is most important to me currently, how my values will change later on in my career, and ultimately what success looks like to me. 

The First ‘C’ – Cash 

Cash is a sticky topic to talk about, but let’s get into it… my parents are both immigrants whose focus was financial stability in order to provide for their future children. Being one of those children, I learned the value of hard work leading to financial gain as a pillar of success. This mentality has stuck with me throughout my academic career as I have pursued a degree. While I continue to seek financial freedom and stability, this priority has shifted in recent years as I think about my future. When I head into my early career as a recent college graduate, I will have fewer financial commitments and more freedom to pursue one of the other C’s. I also recognize that I have the privilege to pursue ‘career’ or ‘calling’ before cash at my age and credit this to my parents and grandparents, among other factors. Yet as I grow older, I am sure my mentality will shift as more people begin to depend on me and financial security becomes a priority. I heard this view reflected by the panelists as they discussed founding startups while having families.

Many of the founders acknowledged the financial risk that startups are known for and said they wished to have instead founded a startup right out of college.

Many of them acknowledged the financial risk that startups are known for and said they wished to have instead founded a startup right out of college. This reality is why I feel the strong need to take advantage of my younger years through the opportunities I pursue. Like my dad always says, “You can sleep when you are dead,” and this sentiment drives my go-getter mentality.  

The Second ‘C’ – Career 

Xiao described the second C, Career, as one’s acceleration of skills and self-growth at a company. Ideally, I would like to develop professionally, technically, and personally throughout my whole career. I am happy to say that I achieved career growth at Voodle through my summer project. I worked on both the Product Management and Engineering teams, each for half of my internship. I chose the project of including a button in the iOS app that allows users to upload videos from their camera rolls as “Voodles” (short asynchronous videos used in the app). While working with product management, I composed high-level requirements, designed prototypes for all platforms, and conducted user testing through interviews. After transitioning to the engineering team, I created my own app in SwiftUI to upload videos as “Voodles”, implemented my flow into the Voodle database, and bug-tested to prepare for an internal release.  

Having never worked in product management or with professional software engineers, I knew I would at least learn some skills. What I didn’t realize I would achieve was the amount of technical and personal growth. To say that I actually designed and built a feature for a real-world app, coded in a language I had never seen before, amazes me. Yet I can’t forget the challenges I faced, and how I had to find the right balance between working through them alone and reaching out when I was finally stuck.  

Through my internship, I learned how to collaboratively work in a professional environment within and between teams and immersed myself into the startup culture. Having now worked at Voodle, I feel more reassured about the aspects of a workplace that I desire in the future, including a fast-paced, non-hierarchical, and inwardly reflective environment. Additionally, I want to continue learning new programming languages, working with different people, and exploring various career roles that I have not tried. 

The Third ‘C’ – Calling 

One’s calling in a career seems like a vague and idealistic idea but has drastically changed how I think about my future career. I was able to talk to my colleagues at Voodle this summer about their career goals and passions, which reflected my ideas and introduced new ones. I could see how driven people were to make the product succeed, which was reflected by a huge product launch that introduced “My Voodles.” I think that many people in the startup world, not only at Voodle, have an intense drive to find fulfillment and calling. The question I then ask myself is, “What is my calling?”  

I believe that my calling is a passion for creating technologies that help reduce social inequities. While I cannot envision what exact path will help me on my way or what specific job can achieve this goal, I am sticking to what professionally and personally excites me. I don’t know where this passion will lead me, but I have so much time to figure it out. Out of all three, I think calling is the most important C in my current stage of life as a curious and excited college intern with hope for my future career. 

I did not know what to expect from my summer, except maybe gaining an introduction to product management and watching professional software developers work. I had no idea the greater impact that Voodle and Madrona’s internship program would have on me and my future career goals. I feel so much more prepared to go into the workforce, knowing to advocate for myself and constantly reflecting on what success means to me.

To answer that question, I believe my success in a career is currently affiliated with Calling. But who knows, check back in five years, and ask me again! 

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