CCPA Summer Whitehead Internship: MAXSA Innovations
By Benjamin Kang
For the past three years, I’ve had three internships at three different non-profits. I love helping people and I will continue to do so. I also love the idea of traveling and having an internship. Now that I officially consider myself a world traveller – because I went abroad – I was willing to take any internship that could bring me to a new location. This year, I started working at MAXSA Innovations, a small Solar-Energy household lighting company in Fairfax Station, Virginia. The company was founded by Skip West, Class of 1978 in 2003 and since then, it has been growing and growing. I am a psychology major and I barely know how to use my own MacBook, or how to connect a cable box to a TV screen. I still applied because I wanted to learn more about anything if it meant that I could also pursue marketing and sales.
Fortunately, Skip did not care too much about my experience/inexperience with technology, solar-energy or if I’m capable of selling or marketing products. Skip cared that I have been to many places of widely different cultures, and that I wanted new experiences no matter what kind of situation I might find myself in. Skip and I talked about my trip to Tanzania in 2009 and his trip to Tanzania in 1977. We both knew Tanzania is a special place that can provide life-changing experiences. With our travel stories, we tacitly acknowledged that we are both risk-taking people who will try new things even if that meant failure. Skip offered me the summer intern position a few days later and I immediately accepted it.
I don’t have a driver’s license, so Skip kindly decided to house me and another intern from France in his old house, which happens to be our office of 6 employees. Although stuck in middle of nowhere, this is my first time living in a forest-like atmosphere with a stream in the backyard, and I love that I am not surrounded by loud cars and music all the time.
First day of work: I expected a desk job or working with an Excel sheet. First thing we do together every morning is our team meeting. We briefly go over our agenda for the day, possible goals and problems that we face. Soon after that, I was immediately transferred to the warehouse. I’ve never been to a warehouse with big boxes full of products stacked on top of each other. Now, I was not only moving the boxes, but organizing the boxes, packing the boxes, and shipping out our final products to distributors like Amazon, HSN, and Groupon. The Memorial Day Sales shot through the roof and we had to ship out many more skids than usual. So I got down and dirty from the first day before lunchtime. Some might ask (or I did initially): why should I be doing manual labor? I did not sign up for this. Then, I realized that multi-tasking with both some desk job and some warehouse labor is the name of the game for small companies. Even Skip himself packs boxes while he’s on the phone as a our president. Back in 2003, he had to do everything with only one intern Jesse, who now works for MAXSA.
To me, I am grateful that Skip has not yet asked me to fill out an Excel sheet or research for tedious information that doesn’t seem useful. So far, my daily jobs are jobs that I have never done before. I am brainstorming for different names for our products, new gadgets and ideas to additionally implement on our existing products, and reviewing product feedback on distributor sites like Amazon. Last night, Skip sent me on a rather daunting job – I had to travel to DC after a few hours at the warehouse for a Haverford Alumni/Student networking event. I had a make a pitch for an open job position at MAXSA. I have never been to an official networking event and I definitely have not represented a company before to talk to a crowd about the company in detail. I did what Skip asked me to do; I realized that he provided me with a wonderful experience. Now, not only do I know what to do at networking events, but also know how to pitch in front of people. All these new experiences are piling up and I cannot see any holes in my current internship position. I will continue to enjoy and learn at MAXSA Innovations. I am certain that I will probably be asking for more jobs even after my 10th week.