I like to ask questions — lots of them. I was certainly that little kid who would endlessly follow up every question with yet another “Why?”. While I may have annoyed my 6th grade science teacher and my parents on occasion, I think this infinite curiosity was a blessing because it led me to where and who I am today.
The more I learn about the world, the more questions I have.
Why are vehicle-sharing services of all kinds suddenly becoming popular?
Why do Millennials appear to value experiences more and material possessions less than their parents?
Why are suicide rates in the United States increasing even though the standard of living is the highest it’s ever been?
Why are cash payments more popular in Europe than in the US?
Why are long form discussions and interviews via podcasts and YouTube shows becoming more popular?
These are a few of the many questions I ponder on a regular basis. While I have my own theories to explain concurrent societal phenomena, it is very difficult to take a step back and examine them as if I am not a part of them. However, I still enjoy trying to make sense of them because understanding them allows me to better predict their evolution.
I like to think of myself as someone with the brain of a scientist and the curiosity of a philosopher, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m probably just a nerd with too much time on my hands.
VOOGASalad - A game development and running environment
This program allows a user to develop and play their very own platform scrolling games such as the very well known Super Mario Bros. Users can import their own images to use for blocks, characters, backgrounds, and more. This software includes functionality for mulitple levels, high scores, and even things such as reversing gravity, speeding up players to increase difficulty, and a point system to promote collecting various items.
SLogo - A simplified version of Logo, a project designed to teach kids programming
This program features the Logo programming language, a simple language used to teach and promote coding to young children. Users have the ability to use up to 50 commands to make their turtle(s) move around the screen, turn, change color, disappear, and much more. This software also allows for the nesting of commands such that one can can use the results from one command as an argument in another such as in the command "forward add 10 20".
I am from Charlotte, NC and I decided to attend Duke University almost entirely for one reason: the people. From touring many schools and visiting some of them after acceptance to get a feel for the student life and campus atmosphere, Duke stood out immediately. Every campus had great buildings, organizations, and opportunities, but I chose Duke because every single student and prospective student I met was unique and passionate about an issue important to them.
I am majoring in Computer Science with a certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship. I began my college career wanting to double major in physics and computer science because I have a deep interest in astronomy and astrophysics and was fascinated by the idea of computer simulations to better understand and predict astronomical phenomena. However, after much consideration, I decided to drop the physics major to pursue a more entrepreneurial route. I chose computer science because I’ve always had a natural interest and knack for it, and I believe it to be the major that will best equip me to solve problems in a new and more effective way than in the past. I chose the Innovation and Entrepreneurship certificate because I believe the program’s curriculum is the most relevant to the kind of work I expect to be doing after graduation.
I chose to take I&E 253 Social Media Marketing because I know that many marketing teams feel undervalued and I wanted to understand the value that they bring to a company. Additionally, I think it is incredibly important to understand all aspects of a products development and sale if I want to be an effective product or company leader in the future.
So far, my entrepreneurial experience includes the work I did with Praos Health over the summer of 2018. The main focus of my work there was to extract information from their database and convert it into useful metrics to demonstrate the value of the product.
I&E 253 Social Media Marketing
This goal of this course is to analyze the strategies employed by corporations, celebrities, and influencers to develop their online brands.
I took this course as a part of my Innovation & Entrepreneurship pathway because I believe it is the one aspect of developing a business in which I knew the least. Additionally, the vast majority of social media users don’t think twice about the posts they see from their favorite brands, celebrities, or influencers.
The worldwide expansion of social media and its current trajectory leads me to believe that marketing on social media will take on a key role in the development of any modern company. Furthermore, the sheer size of the audience provides an entirely new marketing medium unlike any other. Because I want to be a future product/company leader, I believe it is absolutely essential that I have an understanding of the role and strategies of marketing teams. In order to be most effective, a leader must understand every aspect of their product’s value from the customer’s perspective, so that they can efficiently focus efforts on improving the most valuable aspect of the product and understand how to communicate this value to the customer.
I&E 253 demonstrated the value of a strong online marketing presence and the tactics one must use in order to maximize marketing resources to their full potential. I learned that there is no single answer to the question: “How can I better market my product or brand?” Every marketing team must first identify the image or message it would like to portray of its product or brand. Apple focuses on the development of blending its image of innovation and simplicity to convey the message that it creates the best products for everyone. On the other hand, Wendy’s focuses its efforts on capturing the juvenile culture of Twitter’s jokes and short jabs at others, creating the image that a massive corporation is just like your friends.
Another useful thing I learned from this class is how different social media sites are valuable in different ways. For a company like GoPro, Instagram is the obvious best choice to market their product because it is in their product’s very nature to produce interesting visual content. Whereas a company like Budweiser might find more success on Facebook because of the success of short video advertisements on this medium.
I&E 352 - Strategies for Innovation & Entrepreneurship
The keystone course encompassed a wide variety of skills related to innovation & entrepreneurship, including: need identification, lean methodology, financing strategies, marketing/communication methods, team formation approaches, and success evaluation. This comprehensive approach provided me with a great understanding of all things important in the creation of an entrepreneurial venture.
I began this class with the same misconception many early entrepreneurs have about evaluating their companies: it’s all about the product. Having a unique, innovative product is an extremely important part of running a successful business, but it is far from the only important aspect. One must also consider the skillset of the management team, the market/competitors, the problem the product is solving, and much much more. I’m very glad I had the opportunity to learn how to logically analyze these factors and consider the larger picture when evaluating various business models.
Regarding the validation of a product and its place within the market, I feel like I learned a lot from the Rent the Runway case because the founders, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, did a good job of surveying their market and identifying an unmet need for many American women: the ability to wear a designer dress for special events. Many women in the country don’t have the finances necessary to justify the purchase of expensive dresses because they will likely wear them once or twice and then try to sell them for a fraction of their original price. This is not a feasible or attractive strategy for many American women. Rent the Runway identified a market for renting out expensive, fashionable dresses to regular women for reasonable prices. To me, this business model sounds very promising, but without proof of its viability, it could be a very risky investment for VC’s. To address this, Hyman and Fleiss conducted their own research by working with Harvard and Yale sororities to test two potential business models. At Harvard, they allowed the women to try the dresses on, and observed that 34% of these women rented dresses. At Yale, they adjusted the dresses on display to reflect preferences learned from the Harvard trial, and also did not allow the women to try the dresses on. 75% of these women rented dresses after the trial. This demonstrated that the inability to try the dresses on did not hurt the rental rate, but could actually help increase the rental rate. In addition to these trials, the founders met with fashion leaders to discuss their potential business model to gain a better perspective from those with a deep knowledge of the fashion industry. I thought that they did a great job conducting research to test the viability of their model, especially because they were able to test out the actual rental rates of the women from the Harvard and Yale trials.
This relates to one of the most important things I learned from this class: prototype and test. The only way to obtain accurate estimates of consumers’ willingness to spend money on a product is to ask them to spend money on that product. One can conduct endless market research and survey potential customers on how much they would be willing to pay for a product, but until that opportunity is actually presented to them, it’s impossible be sure of these rates.
Another important contributing factor to a business’s success is the ability of the management team to work effectively with one another. This includes a few factors in and of itself, such as the ability to communicate effectively and take constructive criticism, as well as the ability to utilize unique skills in such a way that everyone on the team plays an important role. There was a bit of tension in one of the teams I worked with this semester because scheduling time to work was a bit tough as a result of one member’s inflexibility. This was resolved through honest communication and the realization that conflict would only hinder our group’s ability to achieve our common goal.
The Dr. John’s Products case demonstrated great teamwork and the ability to complement one another’s skills in a very productive way. I imagine that this is in large part due to John Osher’s prior experience building ventures and the relationships he had built from these experiences. He chose to hire people who were overqualified, even for the upper level management positions, because he wanted to keep the team small and efficient, likely because he wanted to bring the company to scale quickly and sell it off. For example, he had previously worked with his CFO at Osher Toys, and he chose to hire the former head of sales at Clorox to lead the sales effort. He created clearly defined roles and chose people based on their qualifications for those roles. He also made sure their experiences were relevant in more than just the title i.e. relationships with relevant distributors. I can’t speak to his interpersonal skills, but I’d imagine they’re strong considering his many successes as a serial entrepreneur. Overall, his method of selecting and working with a team seems to be one worth modeling.
In addition to selecting a strong team, a company must stand for ethics and values in order to maintain its integrity. After taking this course, I’d define a lot of these ethics to be those by which I already live my life — the most important being to leave something better than you found it. This is tougher to define in an entrepreneurial sense, but I would define it as selling a product which can help many and harm none. There is a lot of gray area here though. Is Coca-Cola acting unethically because their bottles are a major part of landfills? What about their sugary products causing health issues? This is a debate to be had no doubt, but I would never want to start or join a company which is clearly a net negative for society. Additionally, there should be a code of ethics to follow within the company. It could be something simple such as looking out for your co-workers best interest in addition to yours, and not lying or cheating your way to good results. This is a very basic code of ethics which every company should follow, however, as a part of this class, we read a case in which I do not believe the owners acted ethically. This is the Florida Air case, where Dan and Scott had not discussed their issues with Henry with him, and instead split the equity very unevenly when the time came. Naturally, Henry was very upset and at the very least deserved to be a part of the discussion in which the numbers were decided. This entire conflict could have been avoided had they been better about communication through the entire process, and for all they know, Henry could have stepped it up significantly had he known how unsatisfied Dan and Scott were with his work.
Overall, I think the material we covered in this class will be more relevant to my career than any other class I’ve ever taken. This summer, I’m starting my first internship working for a consulting firm, and when I describe this class to my friends, I describe it as “Consulting 101”. It’s all about learning how to evaluate businesses from top to bottom, and this is exactly what I anticipate I will be doing this summer. Additionally, my long term career goals are to start a company myself or join another company in its infancy, and help scale the business by evaluating important decisions about its direction and strategy. I’m so glad that I was able to take this class before my internship because of how relevant the material is to my long term goals. Taking this class has also made me more excited about continuing the I&E program and especially taking the I&E capstone class. Also, because I’m a Computer Science major, many of the classes I take are very quantitative, allowing for only one correct answer to complex problems. This class allowed me to see the complexity of the business world and come to understand how there is never just one right answer, but many possible solutions to each problem. And not only that, but the class gave me some experience and confidence when it comes to evaluating each of the possible solutions and choosing which of them seem, to me, to be the best path forward. I definitely made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, but I learned an enormous amount from them as well as from debating with the class about the feasibility effectiveness of each potential solution. This class also made me consider going to business school someday because of how much I learned and enjoyed it.
First Conversation with Lee Jacobs
Lee Jacobs is a successful product manager at Spreedly, and he offered a lot of useful insight into the world of entrepreneurship. One significant takeaway from our first call with him was how his nonlinear path allowed him to temper expectations for his career trajectory as well as teaching him to be open minded to new opportunities. After receiving his undergraduate degree in Music at Penn State he went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Music from BU before reevaluating his trajectory and joining the U.S. Marine Corps. He explained how his time serving in the Marines prepared him for his current job by providing him with specific technical skill sets and emphasizing behaviors like discipline, leadership, and delegation. Lee was careful to explain that to successfully engage in innovation and entrepreneurship, one has to have a relatively loose grip on their concept of the future. This is applicable both to one’s specific vision for their own future as well as their vision for the development of a product or service. Both experiences are, in large part, collaborative, whether the collaboration is intentional or not. It takes a precise balance of confidence and flexibility to succeed as an entrepreneur, and necessitates an openness to information from a multitude of sources -- some of which are bound to be unexpected.
One thing which immediately became clear from our conversation with Lee was the importance of understanding client needs. Being a product manager requires a deep understanding of the product’s values because without this, every bit of time and effort put into development is wasted. We asked Lee about how he generally spends his time, and he said about half of his work is coordinating with the development team and the other half is interacting with customers. He also mentioned an interesting strategy employed by Sageworks: they require that each of their product managers conduct a minimum of five customer calls per week to ensure that they are always aware of changing customer needs.
Lee shared a specific example with us regarding customer satisfaction at Sageworks. His company released an API integration to users before it was thoroughly tested. Right away, it was clear that customers were not using the product and were upset. As product manager, Lee had a significant role repairing the damage. Learning to deal with failure is about learning to acknowledge that you have failed and then immediately come up with solutions to the problem -- customer relations must be mended quickly. A core value in entrepreneurship is transparency: investors and customers must trust the company before they buy in. In order to fix this failure, Lee’s team had to quickly come up with a solution that was best for the customers -- outsourcing the technology. In the end, the customers were satisfied with the outsourced product. Lee and his team learned from this were not only the importance of product testing, but also that it can take time to bounce back from failure and rebuild customer’s trust.
While we all seem to have a variety of different backgrounds, Lee touched on a lot that will help us when figuring out our future careers and taking on various roles in the startup space. During the call, Lee stressed that it’s okay not to know what you want to do and that it’s important to seek out and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Lee talked about “blooming where you’re planted,” meaning you should try your best at whatever you are doing it is that you are doing and view each opportunity as a learning experience. By this definition, no experience is ever really a “failure.” It was especially refreshing to hear from someone with such a nonlinear path because it helped to offset some of the rigidity (or rather the fear of an absence of rigidity) that’s often emphasized at universities as academically rigorous as Duke. For some reason, we live in a day and age where it seems like everything should already be figured out and we should already have a career plan mapped out for years to come. Lee touched on the anxiety that one may feel from the false perception that everyone else around you already has their life figured out even when they’re really just as lost as you. Lee also addressed that working well with people who are different you and knowing how to define success and failure are two especially crucial skills to learn - for product management and life in general.
Second Conversation with Lee Jacobs
Lee Jacobs is someone with a bit of an unconventional career path — from playing music gigs in Boston to joining the military, he has a unique collection of experiences in and out of entrepreneurship that allowed him to give me better insights on my own future career path. Too often at Duke, it appears as if everyone has their life figured out to the smallest detail. From the perspective of someone who still isn’t entirely sure of their professional desires, talking to Lee reassured me that I have plenty of time to figure this out.
A big point of our conversation was the evaluation of the two companies at which I had final round interviews for this summer. These two companies are Accenture (consulting) and Yext (tech). Throughout my time at Duke, I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to start my career in tech and transition to a more business-focused role, or if I should just jump straight into it. And while Lee doesn’t have any experience in consulting, he was able to offer me some advice on going into a technical role i.e. software engineering. I could certainly see myself in a similar product management role to Lee someday, and wanted to ask him about his experience transitioning from a Network Engineer at Cisco to a Product Manager at Sageworks. Because product managers work so closely with software engineers, it made sense to me that one would want experience working as a software engineer before trying to lead a software project. Lee confirmed this assumption, saying he thought his time as a Cisco engineer helped him better understand reasonable expectations in the software development process. This is not what I wanted to hear because it’s very tempting to jump straight into a role I feel is more suited to my strengths, but it certainly made a lot of sense. As it turns out, I didn’t have to make the decision about where to work this summer in the end, but discussing this with Lee helped me understand how I should evaluate career decisions.
The other big takeaway was about how the capacity for risk changes as one enters different stages of life. Lee and his wife had a baby in the past year, and he discussed how this significant life event has changed how he views entrepreneurial opportunities. He likes working with start-ups, but said he doesn't have the opportunity to work for equity anymore. He needs to have a reliable salary because of the responsibility he now carries. This conversation led me to think about when in my life it would be best to pursue an entrepreneurial idea. On one hand, my capacity for risk is much greater in my 20s when I’m not trying to support a family. But on the other hand, it seems as if a venture would have a much larger chance of success if I act on it later in life after I’ve made a larger network and have more professional experience. While there are certainly benefits to both of these approaches, one definitely stands out to me as the better strategy. Starting a venture at a younger age seems like the better option because I can put far more time into it and learn what I don’t already know as I go. I know that I’m a person who can be hesitant to act on an idea until I feel like I have a good understanding of what to do and how to do it, but I know this isn’t how to be successful as an entrepreneur. Just as we discussed on the last day of class, I need to learn to prototype and test, and embrace what I will learn from failure.
My conversation with Lee was extremely informative and got me thinking about a lot of different aspects of my future career, and I was extremely lucky to be assigned a mentor who is doing a job I could see myself in someday.
I&E 263S - Problem Solving Global Health
Global Health, both international and local, has a long way to go to support healthy lives. In this class, I had the opportunity to learn how the entrepreneurial method can be used to improve health outcomes all around the world. I also learned the importance of an interdisciplinary team to address these issues because no one person can provide the insight and skills necessary to tackle broad health issues. Additionally, we learned about the Theory of Change methodology to better understand how to create an action plan that will result in the final outcome of interest.
Accenture Technology Summer Analyst
I worked as a Technology Summer Analyst at Accenture over the summer of 2019. Accenture is a global consulting firm with a specialization in technology i.e. a lot of the focus is on the strategy and implementation of new technologies — artificial intelligence, distributed ledger systems, etc. — to make sure its clients not only stay with the times, but ahead of them. I chose this opportunity because it fits my career goals of learning to utilize emerging technologies in the business sphere.
Overall, my experience with Accenture was a very positive one because of the exposure I had to many key members of the company, the impressive colleagues I had the opportunity to meet, and the numerous resources available to me to continue learning new technologies on the job.
My main responsibility this summer was working with an Accenture team for a large hospitality client to ensure that the data processing and reporting system were staying up to par with the needs of the client. This included adding new processes to the client’s existing data systems to increase the amount of useful transaction and reservation data so that they could make more informed business decisions. This was a major project that had been started before my arrival at the company and wrapped up shortly after my departure.
This project was also the source of a large learning opportunity for me because I was entirely a beginner to the technology I was using throughout the project: bash scripts. I spent my first week or so doing online courses on this programming language and reading the existing scripts so that I could better understand the current state of the project. After getting myself up to speed, I began working on adapting the existing scripts for the purposes of our project. This is when I faced some major challenges. I overestimated my ability to do this because I did not yet understand the wide scope of the project and all of the interdependencies. As a result, I was not able to meet the initial deadline we had set. Luckily, this was a soft deadline because my manager also understood that this was new territory and did not know how long we could reasonably expect the project to take. From this experience, I learned about the importance of transparency with my managers and how to better estimate the time required to tackle a given project.
Another opportunity I had this summer was to work with the other Accenture Technology Summer Analysts in my office on a hackathon project. The hackathon was a competition between all North American Technology Summer Analysts to address one of a few issues e.g. community engagement or sustainability. My team decided to focus on community engagement by creating a prototype website and mobile application that would allow users to connect their digital payment methods to the site, round every purchase up to the nearest dollar, and donate this extra change to their charity of choice. Very excitingly, we placed top three in the country and were featured internally in the company for this accomplishment.
I had a great experience working for Accenture, and I think the aspect in which I learned the most was about professionalism and how to carry myself at work. I had never worked in a job of this level, so I learned a lot about interacting with mentors and colleagues, as well as how to effectively carry myself and communicate with others about my work and its importance.
Praos Health Data Analyst Intern
Over the summer of 2018, I worked as a Data Analyst Intern for Praos Health. Praos is a startup based in Austin, TX working to redesign the nurse staffing experience. Right now there are staffing agencies whose entire role is to staff nurses in hospitals in need of nursing help for specific shifts. In the process of doing this, they take a cut of the money the hospitals pay to find staffing. Praos Health is bypassing these agencies by facilitating a direct connection between nurses and hospitals to decrease the cost for hospitals and increase the wages for nurses. My role at the company was to organize and present their data so that they could better understand how people are using their platform. I chose this role because it would grant me exposure to not only the technical side of the business but its relationship to the business requirements as well.
Working with Praos Health was a great experience because I not only had exposure to the data analytics side of the company, but also because I had the opportunity to shadow the CEO on a daily basis. I had the opportunity to learn about the company’s business model, the product management process, and the daily routine of a startup CEO.
This was my first real experience to business concepts and thinking about the business models of various companies because I did not take the Innovation & Entrepreneurship keystone course until after this summer experience. I learned a lot about not only the importance of having a sustainable business model, but also the ability to assess this in real time through conversations with clients and the analyzation of business data. This experience is what first sparked my business creativity and my search for entrepreneurial ideas that did not yet exist.
Learning about the product management process was also a very important part of the internship for me because, until this point, I had only learned some of the technical skills necessary for development and not how to assess the usability and value a product provides to its users. The CEO met very often with our clients and potential new clients to better understand their needs and how our platform could be used to provide them with the most value possible. I then sat in on meetings with the development team to see how these features were translated into technical requirements.
Lastly, having the chance to observe the CEO of a startup on a daily basis helped me develop a better understanding of the lifestyle required to run such a venture. She always emphasized to me that it requires a ton of work, more work than the majority of jobs require from people, but that the successes were so much more rewarding as a result.
The work I did myself as an intern at Praos Health involved the organization of the data into a dashboarding tool to better understand how users were using the platform and where the majority of them were from. I had a lot of flexibility in choosing a tool to use for this project, so I got to see a variety of products and choose the best one for our purposes. I struggled getting started with this, however, because the company was transitioning development teams during my time with the company, so the CTO’s main priority was to make sure that went smoothly. As a result, I didn’t get a lot of attention in the beginning and a good overview of the technical architecture, so it took me a while to get up to speed with how everything was organized.
Overall, I very much enjoyed the experience and am very grateful that they gave me the opportunity to contribute to the success of the company.
In this course, students brought together interdisciplinary insights from their work throughout the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate program to shed light on innovation and entrepreneurship and the roles they play in addressing the world’s most pressing problems. The class incorporated rich discussion, selected readings, and guest speakers addressing topics in innovation and entrepreneurship. Students focused on applying what they learned through the certificate curriculum to develop an innovation and entrepreneurship capstone project.
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Capstone course provided me with a unique experience in learning how to evaluate not only potential ventures, but the world at large. We discussed wide ranging topics from business ethics and data privacy to where we think the world could be in 50 years. These captivating class conversations significantly shifted how I perceive everything in my daily life — do you know why a school bus is yellow? Well, now I do, but that’s against the point. It’s not so important to know the answers to questions like these as it is to know which questions to ask in the first place. An immense amount of thought goes into even some of the most basic characteristics of our world, and pondering these things allows you to see insights and make connections many will never be aware of. Noticing the intricate details of our world fosters the development of a unique knowledge base that better equips you to spot opportunities for progress. I have found this class incredibly important to my personal development because it taught me to be more observant in every aspect of my life.
Observation leads to the identification of opportunities, which then creates the need to evaluate which opportunities are worth pursuing. One of the worst things an entrepreneur can do is spin their wheels. It is an utter waste of time to work tirelessly to create a solution for a problem that either doesn’t exist or is a symptom of a deeper problem. One must carefully research an opportunity to discover if it is really an opportunity at all. This is something we discussed thoroughly in the class, and we had the opportunity to hone our skills in this department through our capstone projects. If you take a look at the artifact below, you can get a sense for the kind of analysis we learned to perform.
I learned a ton from this class, and I think the things that will stick with me the most can be summarized in the form of one-liners:
Everything is the way it is for a reason
Some problems are just symptoms of larger problems
People don’t buy ideas, they buy solutions to their problems
If you think you have a good solution for a problem, ask yourself: “Why doesn’t this already exist?”
Business success requires the existence of demand and reliable access to that demand
The artifact below is the slide deck for the final presentation in this course. This was a group assignment. The original problem we were trying to address is the access of urban parking to members of the community who do not live downtown. Studies showed that many people in suburban communities would like to travel downtown more often but were often reluctant to because they found parking to be too large a hassle. We looked into this further and found that parking is actually often available but sometimes hard to find. This initially led us down a rabbit hole trying to discover how we could provide real-time information to people about where available parking in the cities was located. After some brainstorming, we realized that we had to pivot our thinking.
We had to ask ourselves, “Why is it an issue at all that parking is difficult to find in urban areas?” It’s because urban businesses are losing out on customers because people find it too much of a hassle to get to them. So, our ultimate goal then became brainstorming ways to make it cheaper and more convenient to bring business downtown. Take a look at the slides below to see what we learned about this opportunity.
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship program was, I believe, the most influential part of my academic career at Duke.
I came to Duke wanting to major in physics to later pursue a postgraduate degree in astrophysics. This is what I found a unique passion for in high school, and I had no doubt in my mind that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. This changed quickly as I arrived at Duke and began to understand what this would mean for the kind of work I’d be doing on a daily basis: research. This didn’t excite me, and I wanted to be excited for the next steps in my life. I then had to do some serious introspection to figure out what the right path would then be for me. This is when I realized that I wanted to build things. I didn’t immediately know what those “things” would be, but I came to realize that these “things” would be businesses after I found the Innovation & Entrepreneurship program.
I’ve always been an inherently curious person, asking why things are the way they are and being incredibly frustrated when the answer I’d get back was, “That’s just how things have always been.” This irked me to no end when I was a child, and it still bothers me to this day. I began wondering what skill would best equip me to tackle problems no one had yet addressed, and entrepreneurship revealed itself as the answer.
The I&E program has taught me to think in a much different manner than I was trained to through my computer science education. There existed much more room for gray area and debate about what the right interpretation of a business decision or marketing tactic might be. I found these conversations to be fascinating, and I also found that everyone has a unique approach to the kinds of questions we would discuss in class. The I&E program taught me some of the basic principles of entrepreneurship:
People don’t buy ideas, they buy solutions to their problems
Business success requires the existence of demand and reliable access to that demand
But it also taught me how to develop my own interpretation of the world.
We live in a world of incentives. The better you can understand what motivates you and those around you, the better you can understand why we act in the ways we do. Humans are very complex creatures, but we can be very predictable if you can understand the underlying incentives. This is why empathy is such an incredibly important trait to have in order to be a successful entrepreneur. If you can empathize with the challenges people face in life, you can better understand the ways you can help them to address these challenges.
I credit the I&E program with much of the development I’ve experienced in my perspective on the world, and I’m beyond excited to take what I’ve learned and put it into action starting this Fall.