Matt is our intern who uses his extensive coding knowledge to help us keep our website in top working order. Here, Liz interviews him on his adventures in London and preparing for his senior year of college.
Last year, you began your internship at Lotuff right after returning from a summer spent in London. Can you tell me about your experiences and the things you enjoyed most about your time there?
I chose to go out to London because I’ve always loved traveling and hadn’t been there in years. Because I’ve been to London so many times before—I have dual citizenship—I thought it would be a lot of fun to go and explore as less of a tourist and more of a local. It made it easier that I didn’t need a visa and even had family I could stay with. The whole thing was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up! I ended up living with my dad’s cousin and working at a company called PetsPyjamas in Shoreditch, which is sort of the SoHo of London. It was exciting for me because I could do an internship while learning about computer science and analytics in a different culture.
Shoreditch was a really cool environment; they called it “Silicon Circle” because there were a bunch of tech startups. It had a really neat culture that I don’t think you’d find in the rest of the world—Banksy actually started off doing most of his work there.
I loved the fact that every single day after work, everybody leaves the office and goes out to the pub to get a beer and talk about everyone’s day until it’s finally time to take the Tube back home. The other thing I loved about London (other than the people there, who I thought were amazing and all very friendly), was the layout of the city. I was able to run 8 miles to work every day through tons of different neighborhoods, like Primrose Hill, which has sunrise views of the entire city. You don’t get a view like that just anywhere! I also had the chance to go to Wimbledon before leaving London. My aunt got tickets from one of her friends and it was so much fun just sitting there and cheering. We saw players like Roger Federer and Serena Williams… it was really awesome.
You’re now a rising senior Business Administration major at Bryant University. What are you most looking forward to during your final year of college?
Senior year is going to be fun. There’s just so much I’m looking forward to, like the new squash season. I’m the vice president of Bryant’s Technology and Applied Analytics Club, so I’m hoping to advance that further. And I’m finally finished with my analytics capstone—my concentrations are in finance and analytics with a minor in CIS (Computer Information Systems)—which means that now I can take more classes for fun. I’m a huge numbers guy! I’m excited to be able to take the classes I want to and learn some new things that are interesting to me.
I first got into squash because my roommates and I had all played soccer before college but realized we weren’t good enough to get onto the Bryant team (laughs). So we went to try and figure out what other sports we could get into, and we found the squash court. We hopped in and looked up some videos on how to play, and since that first day, we played almost every day for two years until we were good enough to join the team. It just started out as a way to exercise, but it turns out we actually got pretty good. We had also heard that if you were able to beat the president of our school in a match, he’d pay your full tuition.
I’m in a fraternity, so I’m looking forward to my last year in Greek life. Both of my parents were in fraternities and sororities, but when I first came to college I thought it seemed kind of stupid and didn’t think I would ever become involved. Then I ended up joining junior year with some of my friends. We found that all the kids in our fraternity were actually very nice and athletic, so we’ve loved it from the start. It’s like a bond.
College Hill is well-known for being one of the most lively neighborhoods in Providence, and you live right in the middle of it all. Where are your favorite places to go and what are your favorite things to do in the city?
I spend a lot of time on Thayer Street. I got very very lucky because my brother goes to Brown, so he helped me sublet my apartment. I ended up with a really good group of people with a really cohesive dynamic. We usually go out to bars or just hang out together, but we just recently went to a Beach Boys concert. I love the Federal Hill area, and downtown is always fun. We spend a lot of time at India Point Park and on Wickenden Street. Living on Thayer is unbelievable, though, because there’s so much amazing food. I like the fact that I can just walk out of my apartment and any kind of food you could imagine is right there, from Ben and Jerry’s to Greek or sushi. On top of that, we have all the Brown athletic buildings and fields right in our backyard. We can go and play soccer or squash whenever we want.
My favorite thing about Providence is the culture of PVDFest and WaterFire. The city literally just encourages everyone to go out and have fun. There’s so much talent here, and everyone gets to show it off somewhere. The talent is definitely what sets it apart from other places. And all the food thanks to those Johnson and Wales graduates that stick around.
I think people are genuinely nicer in Providence. You can just walk up to someone or be standing in line next to them and they’ll be happy to start up a conversation.
You bring a whole new set of skills to this side of the studio thanks to your coding knowledge. Our website has never looked better! What’s been the best part of joining our team?
The thing I like the most here is the culture and the fact that everyone works so close together. There’s no wall between where people are manufacturing the bags and where the CEO is sitting. Everyone has their own jobs, but there’s no separation of departments. We’re walking past each other all the time. Occasionally we’ll all help other people out with whatever they may need, like helping to organize bags or packaging them when we’re short on time. Everyone is just so friendly and everyone comes in the door with a smile—Nnakabaale could be my favorite part about working here (laughs). He’s always happy.
I love how any time someone has a birthday, we always get a nice cake from Pastiche. Greg plays that Stevie Wonder song, and everyone comes over and ends up sitting at the table for an extra 20 minutes just talking and enjoying each other’s company. I was fortunately able to celebrate my 21st birthday here, which was really fun. Ellen was super sweet and made sure she got my favorite beer that I used to drink in London, which isn’t easy to find.
What do you feel are the most important things you’ve learned from working here, and is this internship different in any way from ones you’ve had previously?
A lot of what I’m learning has been with Ellen in regards to finance and thinking about the business going forward. I’ve been learning how to measure out cash flow and balance employee hours and labor. Everything is all about the ways to run a small business and the differences between a small business and one that’s worldwide with hundreds of people in each department. A lot of things happen unexpectedly, and so things have to be specifically tailored to your company versus having a set formula that handles everything for you. In another position somewhere larger, you might only know how to perform a specific set of tasks, but here, there are a couple of people that need to do everything all at once. There’s a lot more real-world experience.
It feels like my internship is more than just doing the grunt work that other people didn’t want to do. There’s actually weight on my shoulders, and it makes me feel like I’m actually helping to make a huge difference for the company. When it comes to coding and developing, I’ve kind of gotten to be the one who figures things out. It’s really pushed me to take on tasks beyond what I’ve thought I was capable of. Just being able to see that our rankings have gone up since I’ve been here is really nice.