Tag Archives: intern

A Note from Jacob: Biz Dev/Marketing/Sales Intern


This post was written by Jacob Laufer, one of our awesome summer interns and a rising junior at NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

On my first Friday at Knewton, I was asked by one of our product managers what I would be doing for Hack Day. I, being the young and naive intern I was, responded that I didn’t know how to code and walked away. As I went to open the front door, however, I realized that I had probably given the wrong answer. The sweet sounds of drills and hammers filled the hallway and I entered the office to a few people building a bike rack, breaking only for beer and pizza later. Apparently coding wasn’t the only kind of “hacking” around here.

This was my “welcome to Knewton” moment.

The next week, at the Hack Day presentations,  Ian and Sean, two members of the Knewton team, presented the idea of the WTF series of brownbag lectures. They explained the rationale behind the lectures: Knewton is an educational technology business made of education people, technology people, and business people – each of whom could stand to learn a few things about the aspects of the company in which they’re not directly involved.

These past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to learn about many different parts of Knewton — not only through skill-sharing presentations like the WTF series, but also through hands-on projects and experiences. Case in point: I was originally hired as a business development intern, but – as is the norm in busy startups – things changed, and I started out working with the marketing team. I was able to help build the Knewton brand through planning and researching conferences, and learned a ton in the process of writing presentation proposals. Later in the summer, I had the opportunity to work in sales. The sales team truly brought me in and allowed me to be an integral part of an ambitious sales campaign. Finally, by the end of my internship, I had come full circle and got to do some business development work. I took the task of researching as many ed-tech companies as possible for the BD team to review as possible partners or competitors. I created slide decks on each company for the team to reference in the future.

About two weeks ago, a large Knewton contingency trekked over to General Assembly for an ed-tech event. After the event I got a chance to chat with our head of business development, Katie, and she asked how I felt about my experience at Knewton – and specifically about being bounced from the business development team before I even started. I answered that I honestly believe that it was the best thing that could have happened. I was able to acquire a diverse skill-set and work with some awesome people in different roles.

10 Reasons to Live the “Knerd” Life: A Product Intern’s Take

Aaron Tobias

Aaron Tobias, one of our awesome summer interns, has been hard at work for the past few months. “As an intern on the product team, I’m expected to gain a full understanding of the products I’m working on and the users for whom those products are created,” says Aaron. “I’m a major advocate for the user in the product development process, while simultaneously understanding and balancing the needs of international and external stakeholders.”

A Computer Science and Information Technology & Web Science dual major at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Aaron has been applying his many skills to our Math Readiness product, assessing, prototyping and modifying code as well as taking on tasks related to human computer interaction and product reporting.

Aaron also found the time in his busy schedule to put together this awesome tribute to the Knewton lifestyle.

10 Reasons To Live the “Knerd” Life

by Aaron Tobias

1. No dress code

While the corporate employees are sweating through their skulls wearing a suit and tie, you will be off to Knewton clad in polo shirts, shorts, and sandals. [Or a Knerd shirt!]

2. The Knewton pantry

Dive into an assortment of snacks and fresh fruit from the Union Square farmers’ market whenever you like in Knewton’s kitchen.

3. Ultimate Frisbee

Every Thursday a group of Knewton employees travels to East River Park near the Brooklyn Bridge to play this incredibly fun and entertaining sport. Don’t be surprised if the quarterback is Knewton’s CEO himself, Jose Ferreira — and don’t worry if you hit him in the head a couple of times with a poor Frisbee throw as he takes his perseverance and deal-making skills and molds it into a personalized Ultimate Frisbee combat strategy.

4. Late night dinners

Have to work late? Enjoy dinner at Knewton — on the house.

5. Comfortable office

Knewton has various hang out areas with couches, video games, and lamps. They’re great for a change in work setting or a midday meditation session.

6. Amazing views

You’ll be mesmerized by the view of New York’s cityscape and the Union Square area from Knewton’s 12th floor windows.

7. Knewton “graffiti”

Ninety percent of all the walls at Knewton have an integrated layer of IdeaPaint. In other words, you can write on them as you would a whiteboard. Employees can spontaneously scribble down brilliant ideas or collaborate on the details of a project.

8. Hack Day

For those seeking a higher level of company pride, every three months Knewton has their famed Hack Day where employees compete for prizes in the areas of: Product, Performance, Business, and Culture. My hack day project was in the performance category; I implemented a priority queue data structure with Fibonacci heaps in the back end.

9. Presentations Galore!

Knewton will give you ample opportunities to present and improve your management skills. Interns are free to schedule their own meetings with Knewton employees.

10. Cross Department Experience

There’s a lot of collaboration around here. Interns are not restricted to working with their own team but can interact with Knewton’s other departments and assist them in their projects.

Interview with Swarna and Sara: Our Summer MBA Interns

Sara Ittelson

This summer, we’re lucky to have Swarna Srinivas from HBS and Sara Ittelson from Stanford GSB working with us as interns in marketing and business development. Whether you’re looking for insights into the MBA experience or thinking about pursuing a career in edtech, this interview will give you some perspective from two women who have hands-on experience in both arenas.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and why you decided to pursue the MBA?

Sara: As a consultant straight out of undergrad I learned a lot about business ‘in-the-trenches’, so by going to business school I wanted to round out any foundations that I may have missed and gain functional exposure that I hadn’t experienced as a consultant. After consulting I worked for Chicago Public Schools implementing performance management processes, so another driver of my pursuit of a MBA was a firm belief that ‘business-thinking’ could dramatically improve our nation’s education system. For me, finding a strong joint-degree program in education where I could meet other similarly driven individuals was a top priority.

Swarna Srinivas

Swarna: I grew up in sunny San Diego and moved out to the east coast when I started college at Harvard. At Harvard, I majored in economics and was actively involved in student government and numerous tutoring-based extracurricular activities. After graduating, I pursued jobs in tech, education, and entrepreneurship. I gained experience working in start ups, incubators, and venture capital before starting business school at HBS.

2. What is the most surprising or unexpected thing about the MBA experience?

Swarna: I have met so many great and extremely talented people. Everyone from your classmates, to your professors, to your career counselor wants to help in any way they can. They offer great advice and make you think hard about your career direction, the impact you want to make, and what’s most important to you.

3. What advice would you have for prospective MBA applicants?

Sara: Find a friend who is applying to law school. Ideally this friend is also your roommate. Then you can study and write essays together. It’ll make up for any deficit in your social life due to application season, without adding any stress that may come from prepping with other MBA hopefuls. If you really want to do it right, agree to go out for cupcakes for every interview or acceptance either of you get!

4. Are there any myths about the admissions process you would like to debunk?

Sara: I think after you’ve shipped off your application the blogs can do more harm than help. Some of the blogs had nonsense about the exact time of day that Derrick Bolton makes his famous calls and applicants posting when they got the call and their location to try and track his telephonic path around the globe. This stuff can make you crazy if you think the magic time has passed. I got my call later in the evening than I’d call a grandparent. That’s a lot of unnecessary angst!

5. You chose Knewton for your summer internship. What about this internship experience appealed to you?

Sara: I sought an MBA program that would allow me to build my knowledge in both business and education, Knewton is right where I want to be at the intersection of these fields using data and analytical thinking to make education more efficient and engaging. Not to mention, as an aspiring edtech entrepreneur, seeing a start-up from the inside is incredibly powerful and our technical team’s openness to educating me is invaluable.

Swarna: I chose Knewton for several reasons. I’ve always been passionate about leveraging technology to build high quality and accessible education. I was aware of Knewton’s great product offerings and strong vision before I started school. It’s been great to be part of a visionary, hard working, team that really wants to change the face of education.

6. The MBA is not for everyone. What kind of people do you think are best suited to pursue a full-time, 2-year MBA program?

Sara: A couple profiles are easy – 1) You want to start your own company while you’re in school. Go build the team, get the expert support, and apply each class directly to your immediate work. 2) You’re a career switcher. Why continue doing what you don’t really like? Instead network like crazy in your target career, and make the most of the summer internship. Otherwise it’s probably a really personal choice. What I have enjoyed most about the full-time, two-year program is the opportunity to really reflect and explore while not being accountable to anyone but myself for making the most of it. And, if you are someone who believes like I do that you will learn immensely from your classmates, being in a program where your classmates aren’t also juggling job expectations is a big advantage.

7. How have you enjoyed living and working in NYC thus far? Discover any favorite neighborhoods?

Sara: I have loved living in NYC. I’ve only been here a couple weeks so a favorite neighborhood may be a little premature but so far I have loved that every neighborhood seems to have a new place to explore around every turn. Even if I committed to not repeating a single destination all summer, I’d barely scratch the surface. And I’m not sure I could give up my daily stop at Oren’s for iced coffee.

Swarna: NYC has been great this summer.  A large portion of my MBA class is in New York for the summer, so it has been great to explore the city together and exchange stories on our summer internships.  In addition, there is a thriving entrepreneurship community here and it has been wonderful to take part and learn from one another.  As for favorite neighborhoods, Knewton has prime location right in Union Square.  It’s been great to explore this area with my co-workers, who have created a diverse list of favorite lunch spots.  Finally, I’m living in Columbus Circle.  Proximity to Central Park, numerous brunch spots, and plenty of cultural attractions makes it my favorite.

8. And now for the best part. Pick one from each pair:

A) MOMA or Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Sara: Met – Just saw Savage Beauty which was amazing.
Swarna: The Met, there is not enough time to see all the great exhibits they have!

B) Magnolia’s or Crumbs:
Sara: Write-in alert! Molly’s Cupcakes in Chicago. See answer #3 above.
Swarna: Tribeca Treats

C) Summer in New York or Christmas in New York:
Sara: Summer. It’s the obligatory answer for a summer intern.
Swarna: Both

D) Gossip Girl or Sex and the City:
Sara: Sex and the City
Swarna: Gossip Girl

E) Dive bars or rooftop bars:
Sara: Rooftop. Preferably with good Belgium beers on tap.
Swarna: Rooftop.

F) Woody Allen or Seinfeld:
Sara: Seinfeld
Swarna: Seinfeld

G) Shake Shack or Corner Bistro:
Sara: I just had Shake Shack for the first time 3 days ago and it was delicious! If this is even a remotely fair match-up then I’m moving Corner Bistro to the top of my list.
Swarna:Sara and I probably have the same answer – we just went to Shake Shack together and loved it.

H) Steve Jobs or Bill Gates:
Sara: Steve Jobs.
Swarna: Bill Gates.

I) The Economist or Bloomberg Businessweek:
Sara: Economist.
Swarna: Economist.

J) Pumps or flats:
Sara: Flats. There’s nothing worse than the “I can’t walk in my own pumps” hobble. Regardless of heel, if you can’t walk to a meeting or through the airport as fast as another coworker, you’re in the wrong shoes.
Swarna: Flats, I was thrilled when ballet flats came into fashion.

K) Kindle or Ipad:
Sara: iPad.
Swarna: iPad.

L) Twitter or YouTube:
Sara: Youtube.
Swarna: Youtube.


Introducing Knewton’s 2011 Turing Fellows

Summer is a great time at Knewton, and not only because of the weather. One of the best parts of the season is the arrival of our annual crop of summer interns.

This year, we’ve been lucky enough to snag two NYC Turing Fellows. (There are 18 total Turing Fellows, selected from a whopping 750+ applicants from undergrad, masters and PhD. programs. The fellowships are awarded annually to top computer science, engineering and mathematics students for paid summer internships with leading NYC startups.)

We asked each of our incoming interns to share a few fun facts about themselves. First up, Brandon Liu. Brandon is finishing up his freshman year as a Computer Science major at Harvard.

Why you were interested in working at Knewton?

I love entrepreneurship because it gives me the opportunity to utilize my skills and build something that will have an impact on society. Nowhere else am I able to find the triple intersection between passion, skills, and impact. Entrepreneurship is ridiculously exciting and fun as well! I’m excited to hang out in NYC this summer, not only to explore an incredible city, but also to get to know the burgeoning startup community known as Silicon Alley. And in particular, I’m excited to work at Knewton because I believe they’re truly leaders in disruptive innovation, and I believe that they are on track to revolutionize educational systems around the world.

Any hobbies, interests, or talents?

I really enjoy playing piano! (Hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit the Steinway factory in NYC this summer). I also have immense respect for Tony Robbins, his philosophy, and all the work that he has done.

Our other Turing Fellow intern is Lakshman Sankar, a Computer Science and Physics major in MIT’s Class of 2011.

Why you were interested in working for Knewton?

As a computer scientist studying machine learning/data mining, one of the problems I hope to solve is the lack of data use/management within our nation’s education systems.  The number of student data points that aren’t even considered is appalling, and especially in the case of personalizing education, this data could be tremendously useful.  Currently, I am working on building adaptive learning systems to solve this problem with a friend (stay tuned!).  Knewton has a very good platform for such systems and I feel that the experience I will gain from this summer at Knewton will be invaluable!

Any hobbies, interests, or talents we should know about?

Outside of my interests in education and academics, I am an avid breakdancer and am the outgoing President of the breakdance club at MIT.  I am also involved with the Boston hip-hop dance scene and have played a part in the organization of events in the area.  As my primary de-stresser, dance has been a very big part of my life at MIT!

Interning at Knewton After College: An Untraditional, but Rewarding Path

Nina as a jellyfish at Knewton's Halloween celebration

This post was written by Nina Arjarasumpun.

Time flies when you work at a start-up.

College moves pretty quickly, but life in the real world starts so much faster.  Once those commencement caps hit the ground, newly minted alumni are thrown into an unknown realm — even if they’ve already landed a job or a spot in grad school.  Regardless of the state of the economy and personal and financial pressures, some people know exactly where to go next.  Some are content to go wherever they can, even if they know it’s not exactly what they want.  Others are willing to take a chance and enter the world post-graduation without anything yet set in place.

I decided to take a chance. Job offers came in, but nothing felt quite right. Saying no was incredibly hard, especially at a time when many of my peers were willing to say yes to almost anything. People told me I was being picky and impractical, but I wasn’t ready or willing to build momentum on a career path I knew wasn’t the right fit for me.

What did seem like the right fit for me, though, was this marketing internship with Knewton that I learned about during a user experience interview I had with the company right before graduation.  As a proud Knewton GMAT student, I was happy to provide student feedback, but the opportunity to actually intern with them was definitely even more exciting.  Before my imagination went wild about what their office and the people there were like, though, I needed to go in for an interview.

When I arrived at Knewton HQ, I was ushered into a room undergoing renovation. An empty bookshelf served as a makeshift table; we sat on boxes with unassembled chairs inside. Some people might have been turned off by the slapdash furnishings, but I could already sense the buzz of productivity and inspiration in the office. Plus, the job sounded like a great opportunity: it not only matched my interests, but would also give me the chance to find new Knewton students to become as enthusiastic as I was about the company and brand.

I started off learning SEO, doing college outreach, helping out with online customer service, and organizing GMAT study meet-up groups. The days flew by. Diving head-first into a workplace in which so many people are driven to make a difference in how people learn was incredible. The talent and creativity of my colleagues was astounding and a testament to how the company had managed to develop so much in just two short years. I myself was growing and learning at a phenomenal rate. It’s hard for me to believe that I would have gotten such a rich and rewarding experience at a standard entry-level position elsewhere.

The icing on the cake of my last two months here was coordinating the relaunch of Knewton’s entire marketing site in less than 60 days. I was eager for more experience in product development (with the site serving as the product in this scenario), and the fact that the Knewton team allowed me to take on this challenge says a lot about the level of trust they put in their interns. Two months was a crazy timeline in which to launch a website, but it was amazing to see the members of the marketing team step up their game and move out of their comfort zones to not only get the job done — but get the job done well.

Over the past seven months, I have been able to experience and contribute to a lot of the great developments happening at Knewton, and I know that this is only the start of the company’s successes. From day one of learning about Knewton while browsing for GMAT prep courses and really connecting with the vibe of the company, I knew that there was something special about the team. I couldn’t have asked for a better time to be part of the company. Being an intern at Knewton has encouraged me to push myself in ways I never imagined I could so early in my career. The company’s fast-paced, collaborative environment gave me the confidence to take on projects that many other recent grads wouldn’t consider. I for one am glad that I was “picky” and “impractical” and held out for a real-world position that truly felt like the right fit.