What it’s like to intern for a startup in Detroit

 

Detroit.

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.

Final Thoughts.

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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Infobesity: The Overabundance of Information on the Internet

 

 

infobesity: the overabundance of information on the internet. The current state of the Internet is cluttered with noise. Backstitch helps filter the Internet down to help you focus on the things you care about.

Content is being constantly created online; from news stories to videos and tweets to status updates. With so much information, it is more difficult than ever to sift through all the noise and find only what’s important to us. backstitch brings together all of your favorite websites and services into a beautifully organized experience for you to focus on the topics you care about.

Don’t be a victim of infobesity, get backstitch!

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Computer Mediated Communication and the Generation Gap

The printing press, telephone, radio, television, Internet; perhaps no technology has had more of a cultural impact than the Internet. It has significantly changed the way humans interact with each other and with information. We are currently in the Information Age, which can be characterized as the most rapid period of technological advancement. It represents this phenomenon of a shift from an industrialized economy to one based on computerized information. We are in one of the most exciting times to be alive. Humans are more connected than ever before. A person in New York City can have a video conference call with a business partner in Hong Kong in real time. I can reach into my pocket, pull out my smartphone and instantly be in contact with any one of my friends no matter where they are in the world, whether through SMS, Facebook Messaging, or even a Phone Call. Many of today’s largest companies (Microsoft, Apple, Google) are technology based companies. They have produced some of the most innovative products in the last 20 years. As an individual who is involved in the tech industry, it can often be easy to overlook how other people engage with technology.

There have only been a few generations to have occurred in this brief period of time that the Internet and other computer technologies have been around. The Millennial Generation (early 1980s – early 2000s) and Generation Z (mid/late 19902 – mid 2000s) fall under the umbrella of what some people are calling the Net Generation. These are the young people who grew up with the development and widespread popularity of computers and the Internet. They are the same people who have adopted many of the hottest technologies that are widely used today. Facebook, iPods, and SMS were quickly adopted by this generation of young people. They have also been the generation of people most likely to utilize new communication channels.

One of the biggest impacts of technology is the way humans interact with one another. Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is essentially any communication that occurs through the use of electronic devices; originally, CMC originally referred to interactions that took place through various computer-mediated mediums (such as IM, E-mail, online forums), however, the term has grown to include other forms of technology based communication, including SMS, SnapChat, Instagram, etc.

It can be said that each generation is influenced by the technologies and media available at the time. The Baby Boomer generation was largely influenced by the popularization of the Television. The “MTV Generation” was influenced by, well, MTV. The Net Generation; the Internet. But where does the current generation fall?  The children that are currently being born are entering a period of time that is vastly different from the early periods of the Net Generation. Technological innovation is accelerating at such a rate that it is essentially creating these mini-generation gaps were each mini-generation of children is growing up being influenced by vastly different technologies. Even groups of children three and four years apart are having entirely unique experiences with technology. When I look at younger generations I see kids not even 4 or 5 years old playing on iPads, they know how to perform basic computer operations, and it seems like the age when most kids are getting cell phones is getting younger and younger.

With new technologies being released all the time, the tech environment that children are entering today is largely different than the ones you or I grew up in. I remember when MySpace was very popular and social media was a relatively new concept; my school was very restrictive and invasive about students having MySpace accounts out of fear of their identities becoming publicly available (stranger danger and what not). However, in today’s environment social media is at the forefront. Facebook has become incredibly popular; aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other friends/family who aren’t tech savvy individuals have accounts. Facebook currently requires users to be at least 13 years of age to utilize the product (but that isn’t necessarily stopping curious youngsters), which means children and teens are being exposed to social media at much younger ages. Online identities and interactions are therefore being understood by younger and younger kids, which means they are being better prepared for the virtual world that awaits them.

Generations differ not only in the way they utilize technology, but also how they perceive technology. Older generations are more skeptical and often hesitant to accept new technologies or even engage with them. They are often the late majority or laggards in the innovation adoption lifecycle. Younger generations are quick to adopt new technologies and tend to think that their parents are out of touch. The consequences of technology hinge on the way that its used and what its used for (two things which vary greatly between different age groups). Facebook, for example, is certainly used very differently by people over the age of 40 compared to 13-18 year olds. It’s also used quite differently between teenagers and those in their 20s. Mini generations may very well be the way we refer to future generations. Ninety percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years. The rate at which new technologies are developed is getting increasingly higher. The generational differences we see now between 20 somethings and teenagers may be similar to the differences we will see between mini-generations not even one or two years apart.

The World Cup: The American Exception

Brasil World Cup 2014

With the 2014 World Cup set to begin in Brazil in just a few days, I find it interesting to examine why soccer, or football, is the most popular sport in the world, everywhere except America. But why is that? Why is there this American Exceptonalism when it comes to soccer?

There is this notion of a hegemonic sports culture, a phrase coined by Andrei Markovits, a professor at the University of Michigan, which essentially is the idea that certain sports have reached this level of popularity in which the culture of the sport extends beyond the sport itself. In the United States, for example, four sports can be considered hegemonic sports; they are: Baseball, Basketball, Football (American), and Hockey. Hegemonic sports cultures encompass things such as fantasy sports, video games, season ticket holders, and die hard fans.

Fandom

In the rest of the world, soccer reigns as the hegemonic sport. In fact, the rest of the world is soccer crazy; and in this particular year, world cup crazy. America was one of the first countries to develop soccer leagues and have sanctioned games, however the sport itself never caught on.

The development of sports, whether in the form of leisure or as a commodity of culture, happened in conjunction with urbanization, industrialization, and education. In fact, sports are linked to some of the most fundamental aspects of modernization. Soccer was developed and codified in England. In fact, England is the origin of virtually all early accounts of the sport with its roots dating back to Medieval times. Prior to the 19th century, there were no standardized rules for soccer. The development of soccer in England was largely due to aristocracy. In 19th century England, most working class people were forced to work six days a
week, often working twelve plus hour days. Laborers had neither the time nor the desire to participate in sports for recreation. Public school boys had more freedoms from work, allowing them to frequently play the sport and ultimately become the inventors of the organized game of football. Previously, schools had their own unique rules, making competition between schools quite difficult. Out of aristocracy grew this desire for a single code for the game. Quite distinct social relationships were thus elaborated in most sports, with the process of codification remaining a reserve of the privileged even though the leading practitioners in games such as football, cricket, and golf were usually professionals. The key source of the division lay with the emergence of sport as a central feature in the British public-schools system, which stressed in particular the social values of team sport.

Teamwork

The British Empire played a key role in the proliferation of association football throughout the world. Through team sports, participants were thought to learn traits that were essential in the British Empire, such as teamwork, loyalty, etc.  Sports allowed networks to form outside of professional or occupational domains. Bankers, educators, and missionaries alike helped spread the belief in the good of games. By the turn of the century, sports and games had become widespread throughout the British Empire, carrying its influence to Africa, Asia, and South America.

Soccer never took hold in the sports culture of the United States as it had with countries like Brazil, Argentina, or Nigeria. American culture is largely different from the rest of the world. Frederick Jackson Turner, an American historian in the early 20th century, argues in his frontier thesis that in America’s early days the Atlantic Coast would have been considered the frontier of Europe in a very real sense. As we moved westward towards the Pacific, the frontier became more and more American. As colonial America expanded across the continent, it sought to remove itself from the influence of British rule. In the process of establishing a country, culture, and identity America abandoned many aspects of British life, including monarchy, classism, and even sport. Since the American Revolution the United States has sought to distinguish itself as a democratic and capitalistic country. Because sports play such an impactful role in culture and society, the desire to accept a national sport different from that of Great Britain ultimately led to a diminished popularity of soccer in America.

Baseball Americas Pastime

In the absence of soccer, America adopted new sports, ones unique to its own culture that expressed values and characteristics that are distinctively American. American football, baseball, basketball, and hockey became the hegemonic sports in the United States and effectively filled the “sports space”. Sports space is this notion that in any society there is a limited amount of space for sports to exist and once that space is filled there is minimal room for new sports to enter. The big four American sports have essentially filled the sports space in America, crowding out soccer and thus preventing the sport from taking root in American culture. Even though soccer maintains its status as the most popular sport in the world, it still has yet to take hold in American sports culture. The big four dominate the American sports space. America is a country based on homeruns and touchdowns, not corner kicks and penalty shots. Americans sought to distinguish themselves from the rest of the world after the American Revolution; they traded new ideals for old and formed their own values and characteristics for society. It was in this process of Americanization that the United States kicked its chance to have soccer as a hegemonic sport.

US Men's National Team

But what does this years World Cup actually have in store for the US? The US Mens National Team drew a tough group, with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. It will be interesting to see if the US can make it through the group stage and onto the knockout stage. The USMNT is a strong team but they face one of the toughest routes to the World Cup final of any team in the tournament.Ghana has an incredibly fast team and they have knocked the US out of the past two World Cups. Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo will also prove to be a brutal matchup for the Americans. Germany will also be tough, toting one of the world’s best midfielders in Mesut Ozil. Coach Klinsmann, the coach of the US Men’s National Team has brought a new style of play to the team, preaching aggression and toughness over more passive play. He has also sought out younger, faster talent to help the team compete with the more experienced teams they will see in Brazil.

Regardless of the current popularity of soccer in America, the US Men’s National team has high hopes for this year’s World Cup. Winning the World Cup for the first time would effectively change the future landscape for soccer in the United States.

Follow this year’s World Cup like never before with the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil topic page.

 

 

Who will win the NBA Finals?

It’s that time of the year again, the NBA Finals are set to begin Thursday June 5th @ 9 p.m. The two time defending national champions the Miami Heat take on the San Antonio Spurs. Last year the Heat defeated the Spurs 95-88 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. This year should prove to be one of the most exciting finals series in recent years.

NBA Finals

Miami Heat

The Heat are seeking their third consecutive national championship, an accomplishment that would make them only the fourth team in history to win three consecutive championships. The Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals to advance to the NBA Finals for the 5th time in the last 8 years. They also have star player LeBron James who is arguably one of the best to ever play the sport. His ability to play and dominate nearly any position on the floor makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses. It is rare to come across an athlete of LeBron’s caliber; he could feasibly excel in nearly any sport. LeBron also has a great supporting cast around him; the three headed duo of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh makes the Heat a dangerous team in this years Finals.

Miami Heat

San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are often regarded as one of the best organizations the NBA has seen in the last decade. They consistently perform exceptionally well, making the playoffs year in and year out. Many people consider Head Coach Gregg Popovich to be the best coach in the league. He has built a team and an organization that could serve as role models for all professional sports organizations. The Spurs were the top performers in this years regular season. They defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals to advance to their current position. They’re led by veteran players Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. These three have been the face of the organization for quite some time, claiming 3 national championships in the last 11 seasons. Many people have the  Spurs pegged as this years favorite.

San Antonio Spurs

Prediction

Miami in 7

It is incredibly difficult to win one championship, let alone three in a row; however, I believe that the Miami Heat will win their third consecutive national championship. While the Spurs are arguably the better “team” in this finals matchup, LeBron James will be the difference maker. He has an undeniable ability to single handily take over any game. He can pull off moves that no one else in the league is capable of doing. He is the most physically dominant player the NBA has seen in a very long time, and he will be the reason that the Miami Heat prevail. The Spurs may be thirsty for revenge, but the Heat are eyeing their spot in history.

LeBron James Shot

Keep up-to-date on the NBA Finals here.

The Quest for the Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup Finals are set to begin, with the Los Angeles Kings being this years favorite. Meanwhile, the New York Rangers are looking to capture their first Stanley Cup in 20 years. The two teams will play their first playoff series between each other since 1981.

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2014

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings survived a grueling journey in the Western Conference to make it to this years finals. Each series in these playoffs has gone to Game 7 for the Kings; leaving the players taxed both physically and mentally. The Western Conference is clearly superior to the Eastern Conference (home of the Rangers). The Western Conference Final between the Kings and the Blackhawks demonstrated the elite level of play that we’ve come to know in the Western Conference. No offense to the Rangers, but the Kings are clearly the superior team. The Kings are one of the most volatile teams in any sport and are expected to claim the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years.

LA Kings

New York Rangers

The Rangers have turned a good regular season into one of their most successful playoff runs. The team relies on the tremendous goalkeeping of Henrik Lundqvist, whose spectacular quickness and athleticism make him one of the more dominant players at his position. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh has been playing outstanding this postseason; leading the team with 10 assists and is tied with the lead for points with 13 points. Winger Martin St. Louis, who joined the team at the trade deadline, should continue to provide veteran leadership and clutch play like he has all postseason long. Despite being the underdogs in this matchup, the Rangers are fortunate enough to have a few more days of rest than the Kings after having defeated the Canadians in Game 6.

New York Rangers

Prediction

Kings in 7.

Both teams have spectacular goalies and are defensive-minded teams, which should make for some tense and low-scoring games. However, the Kings offense has scored an impressive 3.48 goals per game this postseason and will prove to be a tough matchup for Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers’ defense. The Rangers lack players with Stanley Cup experience, while the Kings are returning a lineup that very much resembles that of their 2012 Stanley Cup winning team. This may be a very close series, but the team with the experience and battle-tested playoff run will triumph. Like many folks, I’m taking the team from the Western Conference to win this years Stanley Cup.

LA Kings Stanley Cup

Keep up on this years Stanley Cup Finals here.