Harvard computer science major launches startup

Helps visually impaired people experience art and more

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The question of the season:  What’s it really like to be an intern at Microsoft? In this three-part series, you’ll meet real interns who talk about their roles and how they got here. Here’s the first:

Rish is a rising senior at Harvard. This summer, he is also an intern at Microsoft. Rish is a PM in Data Integration and Insights, part of the Fundamentals team in our Operating Systems Group.

Rish isn’t only an intern. He’s an entrepreneur with some epic skills. Along with two friends from Harvard, Rish launched a startup called Midas Touch. Originally, the product was conceived as a way for visually impaired people to experience art, but the team envisions the technology as an entirely new, multi-sensory art form. As a computer science major, Rish conceived the tech: “We join together various forms of existing hardware to create actual sensors and program it to audio files provided by the museums. When the sensors are activated, the audio files provide more information about the artifact.”

Also on Rish’s resume: a summer internship at a tech startup in Palo Alto. For 2014, he had a choice of a number of tech companies.

Why did he pick Microsoft?

  1. It’s not a startup. “I wanted to be at a company that was at the opposite end of the spectrum.”
  2. It’s far from the culture of Cambridge. Rish came to the U.S. from India at age 18 to attend Harvard. Having experienced Boston and Silicon Valley, he wanted to experience another culture.
  3. Most importantly: It’s an exciting time at Microsoft. “The company is doing exciting things in the world of software. There’s a new CEO. The company has taken a giant leap from the traditional Windows environment to unify Windows across all platforms – desktop, web, mobile and Xbox. It’s a good time to have an internship at a company that is changing the status quo in a big way. And it’s not just outside the company, but inside. What’s it like to work there every day? I thought to myself: ‘An internship is 12 weeks. It’s a great time to find out.’”
  4. It’s the company that built Windows. For Rish, coding has been a life-long passion. From his earliest hands-on moments with computers, to 10th grade, when he knew what he wanted to do professionally, he says, “I enjoyed the art of programming. I think of it as an art rather than putting code on the screen. Writing a program is easy. Writing a functional, readable and secure piece of code — which is abstracted enough but still runs fast, is hard. It takes a lot of creativity to polish those few lines to get them near perfection. That’s why it’s an art.”

Ever since Rish had his first computer, he’s been using Microsoft services. “Back in India, I never imagined I would be at the company that actually built the software. I decided I wanted to go see how Windows was built. The decision felt right, so I chose Microsoft.”

Has anything surprised Rish about working here?

  1. Motivation. “I thought: It’s a huge corporation. People might feel like a cog in a giant machine. I was surprised by how motivated people are. And how much impact they can have. What they’re working on can change a billion lives. That is about a sixth of the entire population of the planet. It’s huge!”
  2. You have a voice. “No question is stupid,” Rish says. He encourages other interns to “customize their internship,” by talking with their managers about what they’re really interested in. “That makes the internship more fruitful for both the intern and Microsoft.”
  3. Working hard – while having a life. “I expected things to move things more slowly here, because there are more teams, and there’s more collaboration. When I was at the startup in Palo Alto, we worked from maybe noon until 4 a.m., crazy hours, but I still had a lot of fun. We were excited about how far we could take it – every startup wants to be the next Microsoft, Apple, or Google, so there was a lot of excitement there which resulted in crazy hours.”

This summer has been completely different. “It’s not just 21- to 25-year-olds, but people who have families. We have deliverables and schedules – people might work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. when things are tight.  But there’s a better balance between work and family – and I came to appreciate that balance. It gave me a lot of time to do fun things. I’ve never been to Seattle, and I could explore the area and get to know other interns.”

Now that Rish is winding down his internship, he’s had time to reflect on the company and where it’s headed. During the summer, he says, “I became very interested in Microsoft’s consumer focus over time, both the brand as a whole, and the individual products.” Essentially: “What ideal does Microsoft stand for when advertising itself to the consumer?”

After chats about these musings with his recruiter and his managers, including Principal Group Program Manager James Mickens (a leading Microsoft Research scientist), Rish’s recruiter recommended him for a roundtable conversation in which 15 interns met with CEO Satya Nadella. Reflecting on that meeting, Rish says: “Though I think I have a clearer picture now, I believe there is considerable work to be done in how Microsoft can market itself to the average consumer.”

//oneweek hackathon

Rish enjoyed participating in last week’s global hackathon, part of our //oneweek celebration. He says, “I like making things. I like that I can build something fast, ship it, and have people interact with it.”

Smart, curious people do their best work at Microsoft

Like Rish, are you creative, curious and customer-focused? Visit Microsoft Careers to learn more about internships and full-time opportunities at Microsoft.

Related information:

//oneweek hackathon shows culture shift at Microsoft

One intern’s week-in-the-life at night

Three summers; three different internship experiences

Get the most out of your Microsoft internship

Startup culture emerging at Microsoft

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