Ambikaa Jaggi ’21 has always had an entrepreneurial drive and therefore wanted to work at a start-up because of the hands-on, collaborative and fast-paced approach to work. However, as an international student, Ambikaa struggled to find companies that would be willing to hire her due to the visa requirements. “Being an international student, a lot of the time many opportunities weren’t available to me,” she said. This is when Jaggi began to explore the Cornell network to look for more internship opportunities.
Ambikaa, (currently a junior in the Sibley School), first learned about Iterate Labs from REV: Ithaca Startup Works, a business incubator and workspace located in Ithaca, NY. Iterate Labs was founded by two Cornell Ph.D. students, Jason Guss, Biomedical Engineering ’18 and Apoorva Kiran, Mechanical Engineering ’17. During her first year at Cornell, Ambikaa became interested in biomechanics and health-oriented engineering. After taking MAE 2250: Mechanical Synthesis with Assistant Professor Guy Hoffman, she also became interested in product design. This internship opportunity at Iterate Labs helped Ambikaa gain valuable experience in both areas.
Iterate Labs uses data to develop safer and more comfortable workplaces, by monitoring the employees’ movements with a wearable device that is attached to a glove. This device collects data on the stress and strain on the employees’ hands to prevent workplace injuries.
The fast-paced startup culture of Iterate Labs gave Ambikaa the autonomy to follow her project from start to finish. She was able to gain real-world experience in CAD, laser cutting and designing for rapid prototyping. “The fact that I got to follow through with something from start to finish to get a final prototype that was used in a deployment...I would never have gotten that satisfaction had I not been at a startup,” said Jaggi. As one of the only mechanical engineers at the company, she was able to work one-on-one with Kiran (CTO) on the mechanical aspects of her project. Kiran provided mentorship to Jaggi throughout her internship experience and has continued to provide support and advice even after the summer ended.
All three of the interns at Iterate Labs were international students from Cornell Engineering - the other two majored in Computer Science (CS) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). CPT is a form of work authorization for international students to work in the U.S. - the process can be extremely difficult to maneuver for many international students on campus. “It’s difficult to know where you have to start and how to go about it,” said Jaggi. One of the things that benefited Ambikaa most was receiving advice from her older sister, Shreya Jaggi. "You either have to have a sibling or an upper-class mentor to guide you through the CPT process. It’s always easier to talk to someone that’s gone through the experience.”
When asked about the most helpful resources for navigating the internship search process, Ambikaa mentioned the Engineering Career Center and their presentations in ENRGRG 1050 classes. Career Center advisors emphasize the importance of networking, exploring career options and preparing for applications and interviews - encouraging students to use the many resources available in their office and across campus. Christa Downey, Director of the Engineering Career Center has helped many students discuss and plan their careers. “Find ways to connect with people doing things that sound interesting to you. Ask what they love about their work, what they find challenging, and what advice they have for people interested in pursuing a similar path. These conversations are an essential component of a successful job search. With this information, you will be more prepared for the interview and more likely to find satisfaction and fulfillment in your work,” says Downey.
This upcoming summer Ambikaa will be working for iRobot - a company that makes autonomous robotic appliances such as vacuums, mops and mowers.