January 10 CXP

Hey everybody, I’m the new CO.LAB intern and my new owners thought it would be interesting if I could report on the CXP internship mixer on January 10 from the student’s perspective, so here goes…

I had never heard of CO.LAB before I saw the ad on the UTC website, but as a transfer business student from Gainesville, FL who until recently had been a history major, I was looking for pretty much anything productive and business-related to do as soon as I could, so I called CO.LAB for more information. I got Joe Ellis and asked him a few questions about dress code and whether or not to bring to bring a resume. He explained that it was just a casual meet and greet designed to get entrepreneurs and potential interns in the room together, that I didn’t need to dress up, and that a resume was optional. It sounded good to me, so a little before 5pm I showed up in jeans and black polo shirt with a backpack containing ten freshly embellished resumes.

I didn’t see anyone who seemed to be in charge when I walked in, so I tried to make small talk with the other students as I waited for the event to start. Unfortunately, none of the other students had been informed that this was a casual meeting, so I stood out in a way I didn’t much care for. As I silently wondered if Joe telling me that this was a casual event was his personal hazing ritual for new attendees, the entrepreneurs arrived and each grabbed a table, writing on white boards about what their companies did and what kind of interns they were looking for. There were seven companies and about 30 students, so we made the rounds, listening to their presentations and then talking a little bit about ourselves. First I met Jeff Cole from Quickcue and he explained their iPad app to a cluster of us. We were all very interested but, while I knew it might benefit me greatly to work for them, I was straightforward with Jeff about what I bring to the table. I won’t bore you with my “Strengths and Accomplishments” spiel here, but my professional background is mostly blue collar along with a great deal of youth volunteer work, so when it comes to cutting edge tech, I’m a noob waiting to be pwned. I was looking for something that would stretch me, but also fit enough skills that I already had that I wouldn’t be a drag on the company.

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Photos courtesy of Matt Baxter of Just Shoot Me Photography

I had never gone to a job fair or mixer like this before, so I treated the night as an experiment and just tried my best to present myself well and be memorable. I enjoyed meeting with Socially U, Men’s Ministry Network, Skoodat, and Chattanooga Football Club and left resumes with all of them. After I talked to Sheldon Grizzle at CFC, he suggested that I approach Joe about interning for CO.LAB. I really liked the idea of working with CoLab since they help so many businesses and would give me great exposure to entrepreneurship in the city, and fortunately my conversation with Joe did go well. We discussed various things that I could do for CO.LAB and he more or less told me he’d find me a spot.

I was already pleased with how the night had gone so far, but there was still one more table to visit, so as everybody else filtered out around seven, I listened to Ernie Dempsey give his pitch for Job Ninja. He was looking for a few interns to do market research about hiring processes at businesses that employ students, and offered us the chance to sit in on meetings with web developers and potential investors. As internships go, this seemed right up my alley. This was an opportunity to participate in the inner workings of a promising internet startup while hearing from hundreds of other business owners about some of their frustrations. I told him my story, explaining that I was just your typical 31 year old former window cleaner-bookstore cashier-caterer-bouncer-pool cleaner-church youth director-Men’s Wearhouse “wardrobe consultant” who wanted to run my own business some day. I guess this appealed to Ernie, because he offered me an internship and I’m working with him too now. Although neither gig currently pays, they each offer experience that will at the very least make my resume more well rounded, and may even lead to greater opportunities with each of them in the future.

– Donnie Marsh