How my Skytree internship expanded my views of startup life

Published on 
September 20, 2022

My name is Rachel and I’m a rising sophomore at MIT studying Computer Science and Engineering. I was fortunate enough to intern at Skytree this summer with the R&D department, through the MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives) Netherlands program. Throughout my time at Skytree, I enjoyed working on a diverse range of projects - from building a secure and scalable database to liaising with venture capitalists. It was rewarding to be able to apply the skills I learned at MIT. For example, I used what I had learned from my electrical engineering class to solder the air pumps on the DAC test rig. I also used Python programming to automate plot generation and calculations. 

One of the biggest highlights throughout my internship was the culture at Skytree. Everyone was so diligent, ambitious, collaborative, and kind. They shared my passion for a greener Earth. And whenever I needed support or had a question, they were quick to work with me. I also appreciated the company’s non-hierarchical structure. I had a say in how experiments were designed and Rob van Straten, Skytree’s CEO, even chatted with me a couple times on how my internship was going. 

What surprised me was just how fast the company was growing. New improvements to the carbon filters were constantly ideated, tested, and developed. Filter performance improved rapidly and the Skytree team also expanded by a few people. This may sound like the people at Skytree never took a break. But that wasn’t true. I was amazed at how great the work life balance was. We had company socials (aka borrels) where we played pool, munched on bitterballen, and enjoyed some drinks. 

At Skytree, I was challenged to find creative solutions. I developed my problem solving, data analysis, and experimental design skills. I’m excited to use these skills for the research I will be doing in the fall, with the MIT Media Lab Opera of the Future group. Additionally, I saw the behind the scenes of the business and technology sides of a startup and how they worked together. This exposure sparked my interest in business, so I will be taking a finance class this coming semester. But most importantly, Skytree has changed my relationship with CO2. Before this internship, I only thought of CO2 as something terrible that needed to be removed and buried into the ground. Words like pollution and climate change came to mind. But now that I have seen how Skytree captures CO2 and brings it to places that need it, I understand. I’m very optimistic about the direction Skytree is headed and the impact that they will make on the world.

Nick Feneck | Rachel Loh | Rob van Straten
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