By Tom Frank, CFE Executive Director
As many of you know, for the past three years I have endured a “commuter” relationship between Ann Arbor, Michigan, and San Francisco, California.
In case you’ve never tried to make a marriage work across multiple geographies and time zones I can tell you it is a lot like being an entrepreneur.
Commuter relationships require an unwavering commitment and determination to build something great in an environment of continuing uncertainty. It requires leadership, teamwork, and stamina. And failure is not an option.
When I accepted my current position at The University of Michigan my partner was my greatest champion. Over the course of my tenure here, he has moved me twice, purchased a house and endured an extensive remodel of same, helped me establish a new circle of friends, helped train a rambunctious lab puppy, and racked up more frequent flyer miles than we ever imagined possible.
Somewhere in the middle of all of that we also got married. It has been a happy but chaotic ride.
Our plan was to make Ann Arbor our forever home and grow old while singing “Hail To The Victors.” Our plan was also contingent upon my husband selling his very successful business in the Bay Area and relocating permanently to Michigan.
Unfortunately, plans change.
It is no longer feasible or prudent to sell the business in California. It is also no longer fair to either one of us to continue to fly back and forth across the country just to spend time together. That means one of us needs to make a personal sacrifice and this time it’s my turn.
It is with mixed feelings I share I will be leaving my role as Executive Director at The Center For Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering at The University of Michigan at the end of the current semester. To say that I have loved my time here with students, faculty, alumni (and even the occasional administrator) is a gross understatement. This has been an amazing adventure for me in more ways than I can enumerate.
I’ve made some incredible relationships at UM, but the headline says it all. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is in San Francisco.
I would like to thank my team at CFE who makes every single day a joy. I’ve had a long and happy career so far but I have never had the privilege of working with such a quality group of thinkers and doers. CFE is great because of the team that stays when I depart. I am proud of them beyond words. I would also like to publicly thank Thomas Zurbuchen, Dave Munson, Paul Vlasic, Marc Weiser, and Jeff Schox for taking a chance on a decidedly “non-academic wild card” and giving me the resources and support I needed to build something great. Because we did just that and we still are.
And to the students who have been a part of my experience here, all I can say is “wow.” Every day you have pushed me to be my best because you expect nothing less from yourselves and each other. Keep changing the world. I will continue to be your greatest fan. (Besides, now that you’ve all taught me how to use Snapchat and Instagram I will never be hard to find. Please let me know if you ever need help. I will still be there.)
Next up for me will be a search for a new job back in Silicon Valley. I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned here about shaping the entrepreneurial mindset to an operating role. My time in academia has filled out some important new skills in my management portfolio. Hopefully this will give me an edge when I return to California. My guess is I will also continue to mentor, teach, and advise companies of all shapes and sizes from all over the globe.
Michigan, what can I say? You made me feel welcome from day one. My love, appreciation, and respect for this university is forever embedded in my heart.
We still have some time to create disruption, drive innovation, and inspire the next generation of leaders. I promise I won’t slow down a beat until they put me on the plane headed west.
“Go Blue” now and always.