The switch from the calm, organized and structured environment that many of the apprentices were used to in their Swiss offices, to the hectic, noisy and energetic downtown New York might well have felt like increasing life’s playback speed by a factor of two. Right from the get-go, the young developers and media technologists were thrown into the flowing stream of busyness that runs through the city. Designing, testing and realizing web projects for clients, parsing data for sentiment analysis and machine learning, documenting fairs and exhibitions and so many other tasks were tackled by the young team, with wide-eyed curiosity and genuine enthusiasm.
For a month, that paradoxically felt as long as the first steps on a steep mountain ascent and at the same time as short as the fleeting seconds you spend on its summit, New York City and its living network of start-ups and companies hosted six young computer science and media technology apprentices looking to refine their knowledge in the big city. My application to mentor this group succeeded and I was fortunate enough to accompany them on their journey at TIE International.
Working on their tasks, the aspiring developers were absorbing everything I could teach them or point them to like sponges. This did not deter them from taking in more information at some of the exciting opportunities we were given, such as visiting companies hosting other apprentices. This was the case for our visit to the headquarters of the Swiss bank UBS. With an unprecedented tour of the main trading floor, several honest and insightful conversations with top management, as well as delicious snacks throughout, the visit remains one of the many highlights of the trip.
Another highlight included visiting a company with an organizational culture that could have not been more different. Trail Of Bits is an information security company digging deep into critical systems and helping to improve them. No suits, no formalities and no top management were on display here, but instead we were treated to a lot of interesting technical details, an unusual business structure and a deep fascination with building secure products.
Switching from strictly business and technology, the apprentices also had the chance to meet the Swiss top model Manuela Frey, quiz her about a career in fashion and design and talk about how it felt moving from a small town in Switzerland to the gigantic New York at a young age.
This may already appear like a lot to go through during a one-month stay, but in addition to this, the group found time and excitement to double the number of activities in the out-of-office hours. For all of us, spending this much time partaking in various visits and events both during and outside office hours was in stark contrast to our usual schedules in Switzerland.
Back in Zurich and sitting in a library with a mountain view instead of skyscrapers, I am thankful for this amazing mentorship experience. I hope that the apprentices had a great time and learned a lot during this intense period. Hopefully, the connection between NYC, which is establishing itself as a hub for technological innovation, and ETH Zurich grows stronger, offering many more students opportunities to apply and test their skills in the big apple.
About the author
Daniel Fischmann is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Computer Science at ETH Zurich. Before starting his graduate studies he completed his Bachelor's, also in Computer Science at ETH, and led a team of security engineers at ChainSecurity.