What I Learned at My Internship At Muse At 16
My Dream Job
In the summer of 2021, I was lucky enough to land an internship at Muse, a leading neurotech company developing BCIs to augment meditation and sleep. They develop an EEG which is be used when you are sleeping or meditating so that their biofeedback can augment it with guided meditations or a soundscape. At the time of writing, they have raised 30.4 million dollars. Knowing all of this The first thing on my mind when I finally got the job was “Holy sh*t I actually got my dream job… and it’s at MUSE!”
My title at Muse was “Research Development Intern” and I mainly worked with Chris Aimone, the CTO. I helped them roll out new neurofeedback-like sleep content for their new sleep BCI (can’t go into detail as it isn’t released yet).
If you’ve been following my content this past year, you would know that I’ve been involved with the neurotech space for the past year. Muse is a massive consumer neurotech company that’s well known in the industry as one of the “OGs” in the space. So when I got the offer for an internship there, I jumped at the opportunity.
A Bit Of Background
Before I start talking about my key takeaways, I want to talk a little bit about my position at Muse and my responsibilities there.
As I’m someone who can do a lot of different things, I wore many hats at Muse which translated to a lot of learning and mentorship. I did some graphic design, front-end development with React, development of their new sleep algorithms, and content creation.
How I Got The Job
This past year, I was part of a human accelerator called The Knowledge Society (TKS), through them I was able to follow my curiosity into the neurotech space. I thought that neuroscience was really cool, but didn’t want to only do scientific research and leaned towards computer science and technology. After finding neurotech, it seemed almost obvious to dive deep into it.
Fast-forward a year, I’ve freelanced as a web developer and a UI/UX designer, built neurotech projects, and (most importantly) networked a bunch.
After I built a neurofeedback project, I decided to network with people from different neurotech companies with the goal of getting an internship. I sent cold emails to a bunch of different people and eventually met with Hubert Banville, a Biosignal Researcher at Muse and talked with him about Muse as well as my project.
He liked me and sent my details up to HR after I asked him about any internship opportunities. Then I had an intro call with HR, and an interview with Chris (my future manager). After about a month, I signed my contracts, and started my internship!
Here’s what I learned during my time at Muse.
Lesson #1: Making connections with other people is everything.
I’m not talking about LinkedIn connections, but actual authentic connections with your colleagues in every department. I emphasize every department as it’s easy to stay in your department’s bubble (especially if you’re just an intern), and just grind out code everyday. But after just 2 months of working at Muse, I realized that a company is truly just people banding together to try and make other people’s lives a bit easier/better.
That may be an obvious take, If you are trying to integrate yourself into a company and provide value, you need to connect with everyone there to understand all the moving pieces; and how you fit in that puzzle.
Lesson #2: Make use of your colleagues expertise to help upskill.
Essentially if you are building a personal project or doing a ML course in your spare time, your colleagues could be a great help. At the time of writing, I’m currently building an EEG-Shazam project where I decode imagined music from EEG data using the OpenMIIR dataset.
I had a sync with one of my colleagues, Sean Wood early in my internship to get to know him. He told me that he has some experience with music related projects and he’s currently working with EEG data at Muse. Funnily enough, we barely talked about my project the first sync, and he taught me how to use breakpoints and properly debug code using the debug terminal and breakpoints. After that first encounter, he agreed to mentor me for a little bit during the project and I was able to learn a lot from Sean and leverage his expertise in a field that I’m really new to.
Another example of me using my colleagues expertise was with Lucas Klein who is currently doing his Ph.D. His Ph.D project happens to be on speech envelope extraction with stimulus reconstruction which is similar to my project (I’m extracting music information instead of a speech envelope). I was able to bounce ideas off of him and got a lot of research papers relevant to my research which helped me a lot.
Lesson #3: Constantly Overcommunicate
This sounds like a bad idea at first. “Overcommunicate? They’re gonna think that I’m annoying and that I’m telling them things that they already know.” In remote work, that’s usually not the case. People are usually hyper-focused on their own tasks and have no clue how hard you’re working. This also really helps document your growth and your progress.
I found that sending a daily update with a couple of dot-jots to my manager really helps keep everyone synced without having to go to a stand-up or organize a call. I also kept updating my manager (or the project lead) on the status of the task that I was doing for them proactively which kept communication really smooth. Here’s an example update:
Concise, and to the point. Nothing too long, or else there’s little point in writing the update since nobody is going to read it.
Lesson #4: Take risks, it’s ok to make mistakes.
I made a decent amount of mistakes in my first couple of weeks at Muse. Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal since problems all come with solutions (usually). The first time I made a mistake, my mentor Gabriel Klockner got on a call with me to bail me out and mid-way through the call he told me.
Yeah, I made that mistake too. Don’t worry about it. Just remember to name everything properly next time so it doesn’t happen again.
Boom. Message sent. If I made a mistake (even if it was a stupid one), it was ok, as long as I fixed it and didn’t repeat it.
That culture helped me push my boundaries and take a lot more risk in some of my tasks. The increased risk usually meant a more efficient and effective solution to the problem I was facing. It also allowed me to learn more by failing and testing the limits of what I can do and try to push said limits. You’re going to hear this a lot but that’s because it’s true; take risks.
Lesson #5: Seek feedback early.
When you’re new to anything and are still learning the ropes, feedback is gold. It’s often when I have multiple cycles of feedback early in the design process that I create my best work. The whole “Done > Perfect” principle really applies here. Optimally you want to get your MVP out for whatever you are doing so that you can iterate as quickly as possible and (if applicable) get feedback on a creative risk that you took.
Those are the most important lessons that I thought to mention in the article. Let me know if you guys liked this style of content and I’ll make more of it. I want to shout out all of my colleagues at Muse: Gabriel Klockner, Lucas Klein, Sean Wood, Hubert Banville, Shalin Vohora, Aravind Ravi and so many other people who made my internship at Muse so much more enjoyable.