Have you ever wondered what it is like to work for a startup? What is it like to have an idea and make it a business? Do you like entrepreneurship? Do you like to be challenged?
It was about a year ago when I started thinking about these same questions. That’s why, after graduating as a chemist and working in the ever-changing pharmaceutical industry, I decided to look for new opportunities. I brushed the dust off my backpack and headed back to school, this time for business. I started the Professional Masters of Business Administration program in the fall of 2015, and being new to business, I looked for opportunities to get my feet wet. That’s when I stumbled across the Lassonde New Venture Development Center.
New Venture Development gives you the opportunity to help commercialize an innovative idea from professors and companies. As a program associate, you are involved in developing these chosen ventures into commercialized products. This means that you will learn and put into action your business skills in marketing, finance and researching. It will require you to try new things, to think outside the box and learn something you don’t know.
In August of last year, I found myself going to class, working full-time and developing the commercialization strategy for an innovative end-of-life care product in New Venture Development. This was exciting and challenging. I had wanted to get my feet wet, but suddenly it felt like my whole body was underwater. With no business background, I encountered a steep learning curve. I quickly became a jack-of-all-trades, and within this exercise of putting on new and different hats, I was able to gain insight into the career I had been wanting. This took some time and effort and I was worried that by putting too much time into one thing I be sacrificing another. Surprisingly, in the middle of all the chaos, I found myself above the water. More importantly, I was able to apply what I was learning in class at New Venture Development and vice versa. There was synergy between my classes and the opportunity to apply those principles in real life scenarios. Indeed, New Venture Development helped me perform better in my classes. It also helped me better my network and open up doors to opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to on my own. I have been able to attend a pitch event from the Park City Angels, go to the Student Entrepreneur Conference and this summer I will be an intern for the University Growth Fund.
Specifically, I have worked with the “Me & My Wishes” team led by Dr. Gail Towsley. This venture focuses on improving the care of patients in long-term care facilities by providing a feasible way to video record their present and end-of-life wishes. As part of my job I have studied the market size and done market research for this product. I have looked at the demand and need for such a product, and developed ideas of how to commercialize it. I took a survey of nursing homes in the area to analyze how this product would be welcomed and how nursing homes dealt with such a problem now. I have done a stakeholder analysis and evaluated competitors’ products. In summary, I have done everything from marketing to business plan to financing scalability. It has been challenging but amazingly rewarding and fun.
Do you want in?
The program is open to any graduate student and focuses on creating interdisciplinary teams in order to foster creative solutions to complex problems.
If after reading this article you are still not convinced, then ask yourself this: are you getting the most out of your education? Can you differentiate yourself from the next candidate in a job interview? Do you like to solve problems and can you concentrate on a problem for a long time? Once you come to the conclusion that you want more than just a degree, browse the Lassonde website and check out past and present students. Reach out to a present student that can share his/her experience with you.
As a student, you can become so focused on your studies and other aspects of your life that you often overlook the opportunities offered by your school. These opportunities ironically take time away from your studies, yet are helping you study. They reinforce what you are being taught in class and bring theories to reality. At the Lassonde Institute, New Venture Development is one of the many opportunities that do just that.
Like anything in life, you get out what you put in. It won’t be easy and it might sound like it is too much, but it is worth it. You will come out a better student, entrepreneur and job candidate. So don’t wait … go apply! Watch the application page for you next opportunity.