So Many Hats (Intern Files #015)

Shawki Atassi, Saganworks, 2018 HF Intern

Shawki Atassi, Saganworks, 2018 HF Intern

Seriously. I had been told that interning at an early stage startup would mean that I’d have to be willing to wear a bunch of different hats. To be honest, it’s one of the biggest reasons why I’m interested in working at smaller companies. Wearing many hats at a startup is a chance to get bite-sized experiences of a wide variety of specialties. I can’t say that I was expecting to have worn on all of the hats I have tried on for size so far, but I’m very glad that my work provides me this experience.

    My first two months at Saganworks have been nothing but exciting. And I do mean that in every sense of the word. I’ve seen the company expand into a new office, demo (for the first time) in front of a large audience, and celebrate the release of a prototype. We’ve had hectic weeks and we’ve had easy weeks, but all in all, it feels like the work I’m doing is really making an impact. And that isn’t limited to just programming. One of my tasks (among other things I was surprised to get paid for) included making a virtual shrine of Carl Sagan. Really.

To be honest, I used to be a bit worried about pursuing a career in computer science. My two main interests (filmmaking and programming) felt like polar opposites. But the more time I spent programming, the more I realized how much room there was for creativity. That’s what drove me to try to combine my two interests by working with visual technologies. So, I came across Hacker Fellows and Saganworks at just the right time in my life. I quickly learned that being a programmer could be much more exciting than some had led me to believe. Plus I wasn’t automatically relegated to becoming what one of my professors calls the “hands guy.”

Haven’t met him? I’ll introduce you. Hands Guy works at a large video game company. You need hands? He’s got hands. He can make the most realistic, dextrous, beautiful hands for any character in any game. You’ve got two ogres doing Will and Jazz’s handshake from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Hands Guy is on it. But Hands Guy will always be Hands Guy. Day in and day out — hands. Don’t get me wrong, Hands Guy is doing a noble thing, but I don’t want to be Hands Guy! There is so much to explore and create, and there are so many unique opportunities in this field that it just feels wasteful to be tunnel visioned on one specific side of it. The day I spent being “Virtual Shrine of Carl Sagan Guy” got me thinking about what techniques curators use at museums, and how to seamlessly guide users subconsciously. Who knows, maybe that’ll give me an interesting perspective next time we choose to review our app’s UI. What I do know is that I probably sound a bit off the rails here. The simple point I’m trying to make is that there’s a lot more to life than hands. There are hats.

Shakwi Atassi Square.jpg

Shawki Atassi, 2018 Hacker Fellows Intern, is finishing up his Computer Science and Film degrees at the University of Michigan. He is working with Saganworks for Summer 2018.