Stephanie Santoso and Makers at the White House

stephanie_santosoMuch of the entrepreneurship in the United States is driven by the Maker Movement, where builders and tinkerers are using 3D printing and electronics to create the nation’s future. At Cornell, LCL’s first Make-A-Thon brought dozens of innovators together to build in this way. Maker communities have become so powerful that the White House decided to welcome them to their doors. A current Cornell student was at the forefront of executing this large pursuit.

On Wednesday, March 23, the Institute for the Social Sciences hosted a presentation by Stephanie Santoso, a Cornell Ph.D. student and former Senior Advisor for Making at the White House. During her time at the White House, she worked in the Office of Science and Technology Policy to bring maker communities to Washington. She arranged the 2014 White House Maker Faire and the National Week of Making.

She shared these tips for working in the maker industry:

Work with dolphins – not sharks.

In other words, find people you can collaborate with. Although Santoso found a flat, open door structure at the White House, she identified people who were open to listening to one another. She referred to these people as “dolphins” and avoided “sharks” that did not want to build positive team atmospheres. Finding collaborative individuals is critical when working in and strengthening maker communities.

Take informal meetings.

One day, Michelle Obama’s stylist wanted to meet with Santoso to simply hear about her work. Santoso set aside time for her, and months later when Michelle Obama’s stylist was arranging a fashion event in Washington, she asked Santoso to help design a portion of the event dedicated to the intersection of fashion and technology. Exciting opportunities and collaboration come from taking informal meetings and learning from others.

Create engaging initiatives.

Sometimes, tech can simply be fun. In 2014, Santoso helped organize the first White House 3D Printed Ornament Challenge. The challenge welcomed submissions from across the country; 20 ornaments were finalists, and 5 ultimately hung on the White House’s holiday trees. Initiatives like this bring people together in simple, fun ways and utilize accessible technology.

Interested in working in the White House? Apply for student internships here.