Was this your first time at Celebration?
Yes, this was my first time at Cornell’s Entrepreneurship Celebration. It was great to see so many familiar faces and alumni that I look up to!
What did you opt to attend?
I attended the panel titled, "Set Me Up for Success: Entrepreneurs Share Their Lessons Learned". It featured Ali Hamed’14, Michael Whitman’91, and Andreas Mustad’94, all alumni who have started their own financial services companies, including Ali whom has a venture capital firm.
What value did you take from the session? How can you apply this on your path forward at Cornell? Beyond Cornell?
There were several key takeaways that I gained from this panel. I felt the panelists were very honest with sharing their pitfalls and lessons learned, which I greatly appreciated. One of the main takeaways was how important it is to take care of yourself as an entrepreneur, in particular with catering to your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Michael discussed the importance of self reflection; without self awareness, it is impossible to lead others effectively. Andreas shared a personal story of how he lost most of his net worth in the span of a couple of hours, and how throughout the challenging moment, he remembered that family and his values were most important to him - “money is just money.” Michael also discussed the importance of taking care of your health as an entrepreneur because the lifestyle can be very demanding.
Another takeaway I gained from the panel is the importance of doing your due diligence as a leader of a company. Even when your team members have an expertise in a certain area, it is important to have a base level of that skill-set to verify that everything is working as it should. “When your name is on the front, you have to be able to audit the work of your team.”
Lastly, Ali Hamed’s comments on the non-linear nature of opportunities was especially poignant to me. He explained that it is important to take advantage of a great opportunity when it arrives because we can never expect another great opportunity to come, especially not consistently. I value this because I recognize as an entrepreneur, there are times when it is important to make the most of that period of time and use down-periods to rebuild a stronger foundation for my company.
Was there any social entrepreneurship focus in the session you attended?
This panel did not have a special social entrepreneurship focus, but the panelists did discuss the importance of leading an organization with your values first. If you are not convinced by the vision and mission of the organization, it is impossible to convince a team to be excited as well. For me, this translates directly into my work as a social entrepreneur. If our motivation to serve is inauthentic, it would be impossible to motivate a team to work for our cause.
Did you network? If so, with who and why? If not, what stopped you from networking?
I didn’t network to a great extent because I did not come prepared and dressed more casually than I felt was appropriate. Nonetheless, I did network with several individuals including Ali Hamed, Tiffany St. Bernard, Pedro Bobrow, and a few other individuals.
Did you attend sessions beyond what was required for class?
Unfortunately most of the conference events conflicted with class and my work schedules, so I did not have the chance to attend many events. I was sure to keep a copy of the brochure in case there are individuals that I would like to network with that I was not able to meet at the event!
How I can leverage resources through Cornell going forward
Reflecting on everything that I've gained from my experience at Cornell, I am so happy to know that the benefits of being a Cornellian continue after I graduate. In the past summer, I interned at Deloitte and was quickly connected with fellow Cornellians in the office. From speaking with a Cornell alumna who graduated several years ago, it became clear to me how involved she still was with the school's network, even in her new home, Washington D.C. From speaking with her and other alumna of Cornell, I know that these are some of the resources I hope to utilize post-graduation:
Cornell Clubs. It is clear that Cornell Clubs are a great way to stay in the know of what is going on Cornell-related in my local city. By staying connected at the Cornell Clubs, I believe I will be able to connect with alumni who I did not even get the chance to meet during my time at Cornell and continue to form relationships within the Cornell network. I think this will be even more beneficial once I've moved to a new city because people in the Cornell network may be able to help me adjust and find the right opportunities for my interests in that area.
Cornell Black Alumni Association (CBAA). Even during my time as an undergrad, I saw how involved CBAA was in continuing to support the Black community here at Cornell. When CBAA members were on campus, they made sure to connect with students and ask how we needed help and what ways they could support us. I always thought this was very special of them to do and I aspire to also be someone who can give back in this way and form relationships with the Cornell alumni to come. Furthermore, CBAA hosts events regularly in New York City, Washington D.C., and other major cities that are great ways to connect with alumni and form new relationships. Since I have been deeply a part of the Black community at Cornell during my undergrad, I'm sure being a part of CBAA will be a comforting experience for me as I acclimate to life post-graduation.
Cornell Library. Honestly, Cornell Library has so many great research tools that I use frequently as an entrepreneur. In the future, I would like to continue to use Cornell's access to exclusive research portals so that I can be informed with the best data and research in my entrepreneurial ventures in the future.
Entrepreneurship at Cornell. I hope to stay connected with the Entrepreneurship at Cornell community, primarily by staying on the email listserv. The listserv is a great way to see all of the opportunities that are available for Cornell students and alumni, including events and competitions. I have benefitted greatly from this during my time as an undergrad and hope to continue to find great opportunities and connect with entrepreneurs through this way!