Every summer brings a fresh wave of students for our internship program, the best and brightest who are passionate about sustainability, and the change we can help drive. They are encouraged to work across business practices and markets. Gaining their fresh perspective, their experience, and their insights allows RTS to grow as a company. Here, we sit down with Constanza Hasselmann, a Stanford student, to discuss her experience at RTS.
Q: Why did you seek out RTS for an internship?
I was first drawn to RTS for its unwavering commitment to sustainability. As I dug deeper into the company, I realized that RTS’s how is just as important as what it does: The intentionality behind the vision of enabling the circular economy and determination to follow through is remarkable. Zero Waste is not just a statement, but a lifestyle embraced by RTS-ers and embedded in company culture. (To different extents, of course, which contributes to the beauty of it – all are encouraged to take the actions that are feasible within their context, and best practices are shared in our “Social” Teams channel.) This attitude makes sustainability – a topic often associated with privilege – an accessible set of actions that, collectively, are good for the planet.
While commitment to sustainability is what brought me to RTS, thoughtful innovation is what encourages and sustains my work. At Stanford, I am often exposed to the potential and excitement of high-growth startups. However, if the right questions are not asked early and often, a well-meaning product can fail its users, investors, and cause social harm, encapsulated in the motto to “move fast and break things.” RTS’s approach is different, and that’s refreshing. We’re growing rapidly but are calculated in our movements. When we make mistakes, we own up to them. I’ve witnessed and admired this attitude firsthand on the Technology Team, where we examine the why until we arrive at the root of the problem. In short, I admire the thoughtful work and time RTS invests into not only creating good products and services but making sure that they do good.
Q: What are some pointers you learned [during your time] as you explore your career?
Observe, reflect and act – in that order. On the product team, my job is to listen and seek to understand motivations and hidden desires behind statements. To do so, acute observation (or paying attention to the people and environment around you) and reflection (thoughtful work to digest and make sense of information) is required. With this process comes clarity on what actions should be taken – in the product world A/B testing, validation with users, building an MVP – and is a lesson on being deliberate I’ll carry forward.
Another insight relates to sources of knowledge. Although we are often taught by those considered experts, there is power in asking whose perspectives are missing and seeking out their wisdom. In fact, it is crucial to do so. I’ve enjoyed getting metaphorically “out of the building” by talking to potential users, understanding others’ problems in the context of the complex system that is waste management, and discovering how adjacent industries answer the same behavioral change questions that RTS grapples with. Knowledge, no matter where it comes from, is not to be discounted or diminished; this is an invaluable lesson that I was reminded of at RTS.
Q: What made your experience with RTS unique?
It’s an incredible time to be at RTS. The growth, implementation of processes, and definition of business that I have witnessed has helped me appreciate the difficulty of sustainable growth. Being here has informed my perspective of startups and proven the capacity of an invested, determined group of people.
Like any meaningful experience, my time with RTS was defined by the people I worked with. Day-to-day interactions with members of the product team – whether we were joking about the random noises that randomly interrupt calls or using Miro boards to track our thinking – kept me focused and grounded. The individuals who work at RTS have varied, yet distinct experiences. Discussions with members of other teams helped me better understand our business, their individual motivations and challenges faced. Every time I asked an RTS-er how they became interested in sustainability, their answer did not disappoint! (And thank you to all who took the time to share ????)
Q: Any favorite moment(s)?
Every other week, the Technology Team picks a movie to watch together. Typically, we pick a classic and reminisce about the times in which they were released (interesting given that some of the films came out before I was born). It’s special to carve out and spend time with one another in an informal context, something I was unsure I’d have the opportunity to do in a remote internship. The break and sense of togetherness it provides is what I look forward to every time… and, of course, our prolific chat channel.
Q: What advice do you have for young professionals looking for internships?
Follow your curiosities. Have confidence in your skills, experience, and story – they are yours to own, frame and speak to. Be humble, be considerate, and be resilient.
I am in this role – and discovered I love solving problems for users as a product manager – because other people instilled confidence in me. I recognize how fortunate I am to have had that. Therefore, I am here to tell you that whatever problems you can’t stop thinking about, ideas you’re intrigued by or creative itches that need to be scratched: Go for it.