Please introduce yourselves.
Sanna: I’m a rising junior in Cornell studying chemical engineering. My interests are energy systems and sustainability. Outside of school, I am involved in dance.
Avinash: After studying Mechanical Engineering in India and Germany, I worked in Munich. I moved to Stockholm to do my Masters in Sustainable Energy Engineering, focusing on policy. I am involved in Engineers Without Borders as the International Project Coordinator.
Anna: I’m a rising senior at Brown University studying Business Economics and Environmental Studies. I’m interested in sustainable investing and cleantech. Last year, a friend and I started our own venture focused on reducing restaurant food waste. I also play on my school’s Varsity Rugby team.
What drew you to work at a startup, and particularly at Enerpoly?
Sanna: This is my first ever internship. There are lots of different paths for chemical engineers and I want to pursue something sustainability related. Energy storage felt like the path for me. Also, I’m Swedish-American and wanted to come to Stockholm so that fit perfectly!
Avinash: Enerpoly and cleantech aligned with my focus in sustainability. Batteries are touted as essential to the future of renewable energy, so I wanted to jump into the field in an early stage of my career. While researching different opportunities in Stockholm, I noticed sustainability was emphasized on Enerpoly’s website and that drew my interest.
Anna: I wanted to work at a startup to gain exposure to different business areas. In a startup, you can have interactions with company leadership and your work has a visible and quick impact. Also, I prioritize working more closely with people versus the impersonality of a larger company. The cleantech and sustainability aspect especially appealed to me. I think Enerpoly is working on a very impactful problem as batteries are a big bottleneck when making the transition to sustainable energy.
How did you become an intern at Enerpoly?
Sanna: When I was searching for a summer experience on LinkedIn and other job websites, I saw Enerpoly’s job posting for a Senior Battery Scientist. This put Enerpoly on my radar and I reached out to ask if Enerpoly was considering having any interns for the summer. I had an interview at midnight from California because of the time difference.
Avinash: When I moved to Stockholm, I reached out to different startups in the area, and sent an email asking if Enerpoly would be interested in quantifying its strategic environmental impact with a life cycle assessment.
Anna: My college, Brown, has a grant funded program for over 30 different internship options. When I saw Enerpoly listed, the sustainability aspect drew me in, and I researched the company and applied.
Could you explain your work at Enerpoly this summer?
Sanna: I primarily worked under Graham (Graham Stevenson, Senior Battery Scientist), on the tech development team. I helped set up, run, and analyze experiments. The bulk of my time was spent conducting a lot of different investigations for different parts of the battery. This was a great experience because we were constantly innovating, and I learned a lot through both observation and executing. We plan for a week and shift our plans when something does or doesn’t work out. I used to really focus on detailed planning but working here has taught me to be agile and innovate. I enjoyed working with Graham and Ravi (Ravi Nataraj, Manufacturing Lead). They were very supportive and were always there to answer any questions I had.
Avinash: My primary role was to investigate the life cycle assessment (LCA) of zinc-ion batteries. I also did sustainable development goal (SDG) mapping of the company and explored carbon impact assessments. I got to spend time in the lab which was a lot of fun. I helped Ravi with the setup of the manufacturing machines. I really loved the friendly and flexible work environment.
Anna: I’m the commercialization and strategy intern and I worked closely with Sahitya (Sahitya Yarlagadda, Commercial Strategy & Marketing). I’ve had the opportunity to work on everything from what’s needed internally (competition and end user research, grant applications) to what’s shown externally (brand positioning, creating content for the media kit and blog). This really helped me understand Enerpoly’s positioning and capabilities in the space regarding the technology and the end users, which helped guide my research about potential synergies with partner companies. Our biweekly commercial strategizing check-ins taught me a lot on what goes into building a startup.
What were your expectations for your internship, and how has your time at Enerpoly fared?
Sanna: As this was my first internship, I didn’t really have any expectations. Throughout the interview process, everyone was so accommodating and tried to understand my interests and incorporate them in my work. I was very thankful for that! I was a bit nervous about spending all summer in a lab as I did not enjoy my lab courses at college, but this is so different from being in a class where there are set procedures you must follow. There’s much more creativity in a real environment and I learned a lot by analyzing data. I got to work on different parts of the process, and I’ve been involved in every single step from working with the raw materials, making the cathodes, assembling the cell, to testing.
Avinash: I sent in a proposal on what I wanted to do at Enerpoly. It was quite clear from day 1 what Enerpoly could provide and how my work fit into the company’s goals. Throughout my internship, I had frequent check-ins with Mylad (Mylad Chamoun, co-founder and CTO) and Samer (Samer Nameer, co-founder and CINO) to plan and assess my progress. What was helpful and unexpected was that I was able to leverage Enerpoly’s contacts as with the International Zinc Association to connect with valuable resources who helped guide my LCA project. Their expertise added a lot to my knowledge and improved the project. Overall, I was happy with the work, and the flexibility allowed. The work culture was great, and we went out for lunch or ice cream together. It was a friendly and inclusive atmosphere.
Anna: I expected to have a couple big projects assigned to work on by myself. However, I ended up working closely with Sahitya which was great because I got quick feedback and learned a lot by working on many different things from the media kit to grant proposals. I was also nervous about having no background in science since the last time I took chemistry was in the junior year of high school, and the fact that EVERYONE at Enerpoly is an engineer besides me. However, the team was great at explaining the technical aspects to me and getting me to the level of understanding I needed to be at. In fact, Graham spent an hour my first week explaining the technology and answering my questions.
What does a typical day look like for you? (If there has been a typical day…)
Sanna: My day started with team stand ups and then I’d come into lab and set up according to what we had planned the evening prior. When Graham comes in, we start running experiments and building batteries.
Avinash: I mostly spend time in the Sting accelerator. My morning routine consists of replying to emails, planning my week, and doing work. I always reserve 1-2 hours to explore new ideas, especially after I’ve been talking to Mylad and Samer. In the evenings, I’d come to our industrial lab to work on the machines, sometimes also doing lab work by working on experiments and setting up electrolytes.
Anna: My day starts in the morning in USA so I can sit in on afternoon meetings happening in Sweden. Usually, I have meetings in the first half of the day as I’m 6 hours behind. In the afternoons, I finish up on assigned work. Even with the time difference, I didn’t feel disconnected and had enough time to work. Everyone was great at giving me timely and thoughtful feedback. Sometimes it was bizarre to get emails at 4am or see 2am meetings on the calendar. I’ve been lucky as lots of my friends have remote jobs too, so we all sit and work together which helps create a focused and connected environment.
Did your school work prepare you for your time at Enerpoly?
Sanna: I was surprised by how much my classes are applicable here. I’ve studied textbook examples in school of what I’m seeing here in the lab. For example, I was able to use my knowledge from my fluid mechanics class and apply it to the battery slurry properties. I haven’t taken Electrochem yet so that has been learning by doing. Coming in, I wish I had known more about batteries from class rather than having to read it up myself.
Avinash: I directly learnt all topics in classes such as the SDGs and LCA analysis and researched more about the LCA on my own. I wish I’d known more about batteries and electrochemistry terms such as depth of discharge and battery deterioration. But I was able to absorb the new information to successfully complete my work, and now I understand how applications are dependent on the electrochemistry.
Anna: My Eco-Entrepreneurship course that I had last semester aligned with startup concepts like the lean business canvas. However, classes like corporate finance did not feel applicable so the experience this summer was invaluable for me in learning how a startup operates. It was great to also understand how to pitch and what potential investors are looking for. One of my favorite experiences this summer was watching Eloisa (Eloisa de Castro, CEO) pitch at Dealflow and field the jury’s questions because I saw Enerpoly in the context of all these other sustainability startups and saw us place in the top three.
So, what skills will you take away after your Enerpoly internship?
Sanna: Besides technical knowledge gained, I learned how to prioritize on investigations. As I learned more, I was able to understand the why behind Graham and Mylad’s decision making. I was a bit overwhelmed in the beginning and I’ve seen how much more efficient I’ve become in working throughout the internship. I’ve nailed certain processes and assembly line work and figured out how to be most efficient by doing certain tasks at once. I’ve definitely developed better lab skills and am better at communicating to Graham’s and Mylad’s expectations as efficient communication is essential given the fast-paced nature of the startup.
Avinash: A big takeaway for me is understanding batteries and how big of an impact they can have in reaching net zero targets. Regarding sustainability, I can now apply the data I have collected for Scope 1-3 emissions. I got to explore new terms I had only heard of and put them in relation the Enerpoly. I also gained knowledge about the different, growing applications of batteries.
Anna: I’ve taken away a whole new set of critical thinking and analysis skills, and I’ve learned to communicate more effectively. My writing has improved as working on applications and pitches has helped me become more concise and direct. I leaned the steps needed to make effective connections and get pilots. With my research on end users, I’ve learned how to filter out data to what’s most relevant to us. The companies I researched put out a lot of info and I’ve become much better at determining what is greenwashing versus what’s actually being done that may have synergies with us. This improvement has come from practice and from gaining a good idea of who Enerpoly is and what we want to accomplish.
Any other things to note about your summer?
Sanna: I loved the off-work experiences Enerpoly had like the Stockholm tour. It was nice to take the time off and go around the city. It felt like a friend group going around, getting to relax and appreciate the city. Since it’s super Swedish to take the summer off, the building and workplaces were quiet. Also, I really like fikas (the Swedish term for coffee breaks) and getting to eat traditional sweets.
Avinash: It’s super quiet right now since everyone is on vacation in Europe. Like Sanna, I think fikas are great. I’ve got quite a coffee addiction now, drinking 2+ cups of coffee a day. I really enjoyed the potluck we had with all the Enerpoly team members this summer as we got to hang out and relax and talk.
Anna: The first Friday I worked we had a work happy hour which was fun. It was at around 1pm for me, and we all talked for hours. It must have been a 5-hour Microsoft Teams meeting! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming that I felt connected to the team even with the time difference and being new and having a remote role. I also remember the day Enerpoly was going to talk to ABInBev. We took a picture with all of us holding an Anheuser-Busch beer for the pitch deck. It was the afternoon in Sweden, but it was 8am for me so it was just funny to start my day taking a picture with a beer. I also felt like I got some understanding of Swedish culture, even while being remote. Everyone was always talking about different pastries and Mr. Cake, a pastry shop right by the office.
What are you looking forward to for the next school year?
Sanna: I’m excited to get the culture shock of going back to USA. Dance groups have done online things and social events were so restricted that I’m excited to do things in person. Now that I’ve had this lab experience and enjoyed it, I’m keener on getting involved with research when I get back to campus.
Avinash: I’m excited for some time to relax! I will continue my biking tour of Sweden, pick up indoor swimming, and choose my master thesis topics. I’ll be in contact with Enerpoly to discuss possible thesis ideas, and I want to work on developing more skills in sustainability analyses.
Anna: I’m excited about my rugby season as I haven’t gotten to play all of last year and we couldn’t tackle each other. I’m really looking forward to being back with the team and having that community. Also, I miss the aspect of college where you can organically meet people so I’m looking forward to that.