Beneath the rubble, of bad news and exaggerated headlines about the bankrupt city’s crippling economy, water and sewage shutoffs, and preposterous crime rates, lies a part of Detroit that most people do not get to experience. Unless you live in the city or commute into Downtown for work it can be easy to accept the media’s portrayal of a dark and dangerous city. In 1960, Detroit had the highest per capita income of any city in America. Half a century later, nearly two-thirds of the population have fled to the suburbs and the city remains a mere shadow of its former self. Many people in Metro Detroit love talk about the city, but the fact of the matter is most of them only make it to Downtown to catch a Tigers game or to check out Eastern Market. In fact, I know a handful of Metro Detroiters who haven’t been downtown in over a decade. But, Detroit is not the wasteland it is often made out to be. There are some awesome people in Detroit. There are some incredible companies here too. There is growth. There is progress. A revitalization of the city, albeit slow, is happening right now. Buildings throughout the city are constantly being renovated, a series of new restaurants and eateries around the city are set to open soon, and the heavily talked about M1-Rail recently began construction in just the last few weeks.
If you grew up in the Detroit area in the last 50 years, your life was probably heavily influenced by the auto industry. Your father and/or other relatives probably worked for General Motors, Ford, or Chrysler and at some point you may have found yourself working on the assembly line just the same. Many of the characteristics of the Midwestern working class grew out of the auto industry. The people from here are hard working, self-sufficient, and humble. And in many regards they embody the realization of the American Dream.
This culture of hard work and pride still exists here in the Motor City and it is a testament to the working class ideals that many folks from around here grew up with. The newly dubbed M@dison block, the center of Detroit’s emerging tech hub, is full of determined entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts who are looking to turn their nominal ideas into realities. Lunch-and-learns, hackathons, and demo days are quite common. In addition, there is a sense of community amongst the tech folk in Detroit; people aren’t afraid to ask for help or give advice. The entrepreneurs here make the most of their resources and opportunities. They are constantly trying to improve their products and their companies. They’re looking to grow, just like Detroit.
Interning at a Startup.
While many college students my age will have spent their summers interning for large firms or corporations or working a typical summer job, I chose to intern at a startup. Working for a startup is unlike any other job experience you’ve probably ever had. You work incredibly hard, putting in more time than you ever imagined; but its so worth it. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing you made an impact or made something better. Its rare for a person my age to be able to have a say in their company’s product. I felt more like an integral member of the team than I did an intern. I didn’t spend the summer fetching coffee or making copies or filling papers. Instead I spent it doing UI/UX Design, content marketing, video editing, and a range of other functions. One of the best parts of working for a startup is your ability to wear many different hats. You get to take on new roles and get involved in areas you would normally not have the option to explore. You’re not just a developer or a marketer or a designer but rather an individual with a unique skill set who has the ability to impact the company in a variety of ways. You learn new products, services, and practices. As well as develop new ways to solve problems. You learn to work outside of your comfort zone and take chances.
The work environment is really cool too. Its fun, exciting, and stressful all at the same time. There are some long days and nights but you get to work with a team of incredibly talented and interesting individuals. You’re constantly communicating and collaborating on projects and ideas. It really is a team effort and camaraderie is an integral part of the teams success.
Being able to work for a startup company in the city of Detroit has been remarkable. I have been fortunate enough to have had an opportunity to work for a startup at an early stage, experience a unique city that most people neglect, and meet some truly awesome people.
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