(Pink Shirt Labs Founder Josh Metcalfe and intern Yiping Zhong) 

The Twin Cities Startup Week acts as a launch pad for rising companies and entrepreneurs. One year ago, this event and its uplifting community helped Josh Metcalfe launch his tech startup, Pink Shirt Labs.

With Metcalfe’s background in EdTech and software development, he knew he wanted to work with schools, specifically small schools, to provide software solutions that help address the needs and challenges faced within the education sector.

Pink Shirt Labs was a one-man operation, that is until Metcalfe hired intern Yiping Zhong to help him with some app development.

Meet the intern
Zhong is studying computer science at Macalester College. After dabbling in game design in one of her intro classes, Zhong had so much fun developing her creation that she decided to pursue computer science as her major.

Working for Metcalfe, Zhong had the opportunity to expand her existing knowledge of frontend design and backend coding while learning new tools and techniques of the trade. Her on-the-job training centered almost entirely around app development.

A startup’s guide to hosting interns
How does the founder and sole employee of a startup hire and train an intern, you ask? Well, Metcalfe started by hiring through SciTech, a free, state funded internship program that reimburses small business employers, like himself, for half of their interns’ wages; making it easier for them to find the STEM talent they need and provide competitive wages.

Next, they determined her schedule. Zhong worked nine to five, two days a week, joining Metcalfe at the Wellworth coworking space in St. Paul. Getting to work in that environment, Zhong said, surrounded by startups and entrepreneurs, was really exciting.

“This place is awesome,” Zhong added, “and it’s really relaxed.” Compared to internship experiences that her friends shared, working in cramped office spaces with little sunshine, Zhong’s working environment came with a 180 degree view of the St. Paul skyline, with rooftop patios and loads of natural lighting. 

Once her schedule and setting were established, Metcalfe and Zhong took time to plan out the projects she’d be working on. Together, they discussed the app structure and what tools they wanted to use to develop it.

Communication and collaboration
“The thing I’ve appreciated most about this is experience is that Josh is not the type of person that tells me what to do,” Zhong said. “I feel I’ve learned a lot just from our discussions around the app. I feel I learned how working with others will be like in the future.”

In the end, there was a lot of collaboration between them. When Metcalfe communicated his plans and goals for the app in the future, Zhong was able to code the app to accommodate those changes going forward.

“Having Yiping here has made a difference in how some of the designs have changed, and how we’ve talked about the app and the direction it could go,” Metcalfe said. “For me, having a bunch of experience in K12, I probably have a lot of assumptions or built in preferences. So it’s good to have her experience and her point of view. That’s been super helpful to me in a number of ways, but also to the company and the company’s future.”

“I feel I’ve really learned a lot from this job,” Zhong reflected. “I got more experience working on mobile applications. After developing this, it’s made me really interested in developing mobile apps, so I’ll probably look for that kind of experience in the future. Here, I’m really building stuff, and it makes me excited that I’m building something that others can use and that might have an influence.”

Get involved
Looking to build your small business workforce? At least 200 internship wage matches are available to small employers on a first come, first hire basis. Get started today at SciTechMN.org.

Are you a returning SciTech student? Send your current transcript to SciTechMN@mhta.org to reactivate your account. Winter internships are available now.