It has been tough being a Master of Management student here at Michigan. The snow, the cold, and the many, many miles between my family and I. Luckily, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Weather Underground Startup Trek (WUST), where 50 student entrepreneurs and I traveled to the Bay Area to explore startups, entrepreneurship, and real-time innovation. This trek enticed me because California is near and dear to my heart. Being that California is the place I grew up and completed undergrad, San Francisco is where I eventually want to be.
Prior to joining my Masters program, I was working with a startup in Barcelona, Spain on a mobile application. It was fast-paced, exciting, and challenging–everything I craved in a job.
When I decided to go to business school, I essentially traded real life for the classroom (again). Going back to school was almost like putting myself on a leash, and I yearned to find an opportunity outside the confounds of the classroom that would expose me to new ways of thinking. Then, I heard about WUST. Nothing excited me more than the possibility of meeting entrepreneurs in San Francisco. I took it upon myself to go no matter what. WUST was my way of chasing the lifestyle I want, meet people like me, and hear their “origin stories”.
During the trek we traveled all around the city, visiting and hearing from several notable alumni and entrepreneurs. Out of all the workshops we did during WUST, a workshop hosted by Real Industry was by far my most valuable and memorable experience. During our time at Real Industry, we were split into teams and challenged to create an an audio/speaker-related tech product for our target consumers.
I was extremely lucky to work with an impressive and diverse team of business, engineering and law students. We quickly delved into exploring innovative headphones, speakers, and other music-listening platforms. With a mixture of excitement and anxiousness, we embarked on our first ever challenge working as a team and it worked out amazingly (Go Team Haptech!). You know how people say it’s about the process or journey not the destination? It was very true with this group. Though we didn’t have very much time together, we came up with so many great ideas and were able to identify a clear target network and product benefits. From custom-designed headphones to party speakers that partnered with Waze to best control volume, the room was bursting with innovation. As a teaching assistant for a marketing class, it typically takes weeks to teach students how to find the proper network. It was shocking to me, how quickly and effectively we learned just through doing; we took theory into action, which was an exhilarating experience that we don’t often get outside of the classroom.
During our time at Real Industry, Executive Director, Jay LeBoeuf, also moderated a panel of talented and diverse entrepreneurs. From marketers to designers to product managers, we heard stories about how they got to where they are today. It was comforting to hear that many of them had very non-linear paths. Mary Hope Garcia’s story was especially memorable, considering she majored in history and started her career at a private mental hospital! I really connected to her story since, like myself, she had many interests, but also had no idea where she wanted to go. She went from a history major to an ad agency, from a mental hospital to a bibliography software company. Now, she is at Autodesk to help organizations by strategizing growth!
After speaking to these people, hearing their stories, and participating in innovation challenges, I was convinced that I could reach out to any place I was interested in and not be worried where I may end up.
So…I end with a quote from the book I am currently reading. “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, Infinite Possibilities open up in your life.”—Eckhart Tolle (“A New Earth”).
By Jessica Lin
MBA, Ross School of Business