Interning at Formlabs: Field Report

Ethan Sherbondy, MIT '14, spent his January term interning with our software team. Here's what he had to say about the experience!

Over the month of January, I spent my weekdays interning on the software team at Formlabs. In four short weeks, I had the chance to contribute to internal calibration tools and begin work on new functionality for PreForm, the desktop application for interacting with the Form 1.

Since day one, I have been astounded by:

  • How much I've learned in a single month.
  • The engineering-driven culture.
  • How everyone here is focused on making the product as good as it can be and fostering an ecosystem. We are floored by what customers are doing with the Form 1, and the whole team is constantly striving to improve the experience: even greater precision, faster printing times, better supports, and so on down the list.
  • How Formlabs truly feels like one big team. I was able to interact regularly with people throughout the whole company. By talking with others at our biweekly family lunches, Thursday night gatherings (dubbed Foamlabs), and so on, I learned a ton about the manufacturing, design, mechanical and electrical engineering thinking that went into making the Form 1 a reality. Cross-disciplinary teams are truly magical. If you want to learn a lot in a short amount of time, I recommend you find a place where people are actively collaborating and sharing knowledge across fields, be it Formlabs or elsewhere.
  • The company's flat hierarchy. Your input here really matters. An intern can take on a real project, implement it, and ship it. You can even propose the project, and if others think it is a good idea and will help the company deliver on its mission, then nothing is stopping you from making it real. Heck, the reason I'm writing this blog post right now is because I proposed that we do intern blog entries!
  • The sheer lack of friction. Despite all of the moving parts that go into making desktop 3D printing a reality, I always felt like I could just dive into a project and get going. Everyone else on the team was incredibly open and receptive to answer any questions I had.
  • How the team actively encourages everyone at the company to shape and refine the underlying vision and how we present ourselves to the outside world.

Over the past year, whenever I had an opportunity to speak to entrepreneurs from technical companies or listen to them deliver talks, I consistently received two complementary pieces of advice:

  1. “Find a rocket ship.”
  2. “Find a place where you can learn a lot.”

Well, Formlabs feels like building rocket ships inside a rocket ship. The team is growing at a steady clip, and the progress we make each week toward our goals is remarkable.

As the month of February arrived, I realized I couldn't leave. I have so much more to learn from the people around me. A few days ago, Manuel from the software team sent out a fantastic list of book recommendations, and I'm looking forward to reading every one of them.

And I can't stop printing. I have a (growing) list of about a hundred ideas for things to fabricate, so I'll be keeping our print farm mighty busy.

And there is so much to be done. I've never felt more strongly that I could make a meaningful impact on the lives of creative individuals than I have here at Formlabs. So I'll be continuing work part-time during my final semester as an undergraduate, and I'm looking forward to joining the team full-time this Fall.

A few weeks ago Sam Jacoby was sitting at the lunch table and asked others from the team what we thought would be a nice tagline for the company. Here's a belated suggestion that sums up my feelings for what Formlabs does, and where we are going: “Render your dreams into the world.”

Today is Thursday. Classes at MIT have officially started. But I'm spending this afternoon at Formlabs, because I've been learning just as much here, if not more, than I have been at school. Frankly, I'm hooked.

If any of this sounds even remotely appealing, I strongly encourage you to apply for an internship or full-time job with the team. I hear we're hiring.