Most of Conn’s rising seniors completed internships this summer. Some ambitious students even had two. Cameron Aaron ’21 had 12.
Aaron, a computer science and psychology double major, cognitive science minor and scholar in the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology from Studio City, California, would start his days at 6 a.m.—to coordinate with colleagues on the east coast—and work well into the night on projects that ranged from creating an app to supply much of central California with personal protective equipment (PPE) to mentoring students at Google.
“In a single summer, I have gained experience in everything from engineering management to corporate partnerships,” Aaron said.
“I have had the opportunity to work with teams all over the world, building products to help those in need. I will never see the world the same way again.”
Aaron didn’t set out to set any internship records this summer. Prior to the start of the pandemic, he had applied for, and accepted, a position as a virtual reality game development intern at BardoVR. But after COVID-19 began spreading around the world and Aaron returned home to continue his courses remotely, he also wanted to find a way to help.
“It has always been my goal to use technology to help people and to enhance their lives,” he said.
Aaron applied for a position at Helping Hands, a non-profit organization launched by current and former employees of big tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Lyft, WhatsApp and Uber, to address the pressing needs of vulnerable communities in the midst of the pandemic. Aaron signed on as a field operations engineering specialist, working closely with the COO and engineering manager to create a website and app to coordinate the delivery of food donations using Uber Eats to elderly and immunocompromised members of the community.
Then, Aaron was approached by a team of graduate students from the University of California, Berkeley, and became one of the first members of the C19 BayShield project. He led a team of engineers to develop an app that connects makers of PPE with health facilities in need. The project was awarded the Jacobs Institute’s Student Design Challenge first prize for helping supply thousands of pieces of PPE to health facilities.
More opportunities just kept coming, and since he could work from home (and wasn’t able to spend much time with friends anyway, due to COVID-19 restrictions), Aaron kept rising to the challenge.
He worked as a software engineering management intern at Daymakergift.com, which allows patrons to shop for gifts from small shops impacted by COVID-19; as a project participant at Wonsulting, a professional training and coaching company; as a program mentor and product management intern at Upkey, an education and career development software service; as a technology fellow at Nu School, an e-learning company; as a computational biology and informatics researcher in the lab of Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics at Connecticut College Stephen Douglass; as part of the literature review interface product team for CoronaWhy, which gathers literature and analyzes data related to questions about COVID-19 and potential vaccines and therapeutics; as a member of the Coronavirus Visualization Team visualizing the genetic mutation trends of Sars-CoV-2; as a volunteer with the COVID Tracking Project initiative housed at The Atlantic; and finally as a CCSI section leader and student mentor at Google, where he has worked since 2017, mostly as a product expert.
Aaron also launched two of his own companies, Save Our Waste, through which he had the opportunity to pitch Daniel Ahmadizadeh, CEO of PersistIQ and founder of Quarantine Together, on an app that can reduce food waste by allowing farmers to sell directly to consumers, and Houzzer, through which he was able to pitch the IE School of Business on a product to help students find off campus housing.
So how does one juggle 12 different internships and run two organizations of his own? By scheduling absolutely everything on Google calendar, Aaron says.
“Since I was doing a lot of things simultaneously, I’d get these due dates where I’d have three or four projects due the same day. I’d have days where I had to give a presentation to a company on the east coast at 6 a.m. At 7, I had to jump on a call with UCLA. At 8, I had to deliver a project to a team manager, and so on.”
While he admits it wasn’t easy, Aaron says all the early mornings and late nights were worth it.
“Just yesterday, I was in charge of Helping Hands’ Uber Eats deliveries. I’m watching the drivers, and can visibly see all these people getting food deliveries,” he said. “That’s what drives me. I take pride in the fact that I’m helping people.”
All that hard work is paying off, too. The rising senior has amassed a 15-page CV and is already interviewing for full-time, post-graduation positions, including at 23andMe, after he emailed the company’s CEO about his bioinformatics research project involving a two-way acrylic mirror that can tell a person about their DNA. He also received a LinkedIn shout out from Facebook’s Director of Research Sarah Sled for his mentorship of other aspiring tech professionals.
And, just as the summer was winding down, Aaron was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: a full-time, six- to nine-month internship with SpaceX. He plans to complete the internship while taking classes part time this fall.
“People are taking an interest in my work, and that’s the kind of positive affirmation that helps me keep going,” he said.