These undergrad interns are helping to power Nanoleaf: Jeanny Yao and Josh Hwang
(image courtesy Nanoleaf)
Why would a fast-growing LED lighting startup hire a statistician and a scientist as business development interns?
Nanoleaf – a global startup from U of T Engineering alumni – says it was for their different perspective and critical mindset. (Read more about Nanoleaf)
“The U of T presence is still very strong at Nanoleaf, and I believe it always will be,” said spokesperson Leslie Chen. “When we were looking for interns to join our team, the first place we looked was at U of T.”
The interns, who hooked into Nanoleaf's team through a specialized new venture internship course called IMC390, get to earn course credits while exploding all conventions of what they can do with their degree.
U of T News is profiling some of the interns helping to power the company as it continues to innovate with clean tech products in Canada and around the world. Below, writer Brianna Goldberg talks with Jeanny Yao, a fourth-year science student at U of T’s Scarborough campus and Josh Hwang, a fourth-year mathematics and statistics student who just began working with Nanoleaf this September.
How did Nanoleaf recruit you and why did you want to work with them?
Yao IMC390 is a venture course that allows students to work in a startup company for eight months, gaining entrepreneurship experience as well as university credits. I recently co-founded a biotechnology company that aims to save the oceans so I was very excited about this business learning opportunity. Nanoleaf particularly caught my eye because of their belief in green technology and sustainable energy, which perfectly align with my values and interests. (Read more about IMC390)
Hwang I applied for an internship at Nanoleaf through the Impact Centre at U of T (read more about the Impact Centre and the vast network of accelerators and startup supports at U of T). I thought this was a great way for me to gain new experiences and learn outside of the classroom while earning one course credit. The IMC390 course allows students to gain work experiences with a startup while in school and I’m fortunate to be able to contribute to the business development of such a cool green-tech company.
Does your work at Nanoleaf connect with or supplement what you’ve learned at U of T?
Yao Indirectly, yes. I am a science student a U of T. My role at Nanoleaf is in business development. The two may not seem connected but definitely complement one another. The technical side of an idea or research project is essential but there are countless number of technicalities that could keep a person occupied. To be able to bring this research to the real world, there must be an appropriate market fit and strategic plan. I believe in the importance of academic research for fundamental understanding of how the world functions but I also believe that application is the key to bringing benefit to society through science.
Hwang My work at Nanoleaf as a business development intern is quite different from my studies in mathematics and statistics at U of T, but I’m able to supplement my hard skills with varied soft skills. I haven’t had any experiences with group work at university, but my work at Nanoleaf allows me to work in a team and interact with many different people, such as potential clients, and further develop my people skills.
What have you learned in working with Nanoleaf that surprised you?
Yao Everyone is extremely intense and passionate about his/her work but the setting is quite casual and the atmosphere is friendly. When physical and laborious work needs to be done fast, everyone gets on the ground and helps out.
Hwang As an intern, I expected I would have to give a lot to the company, but the company is also interested in helping the interns learn and grow, and make the most out of the internship. Everyone at Nanoleaf is very friendly and supportive, and the managers have been invested in my personal growth as well.
Interested in learning more about startups and entrepreneurship at U of T? Visit the Banting & Best Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship