Connection & Self-Understanding

In my freshmen year going into I&E was in a lot of ways a no-brainer! At the time I wanted to be a product manager within the tech industry, and so pursuing I&E at Duke was a way for me to gain insightful knowledge on what it looks like to know a product inside and out from all perspectives and what it takes to build out a product from a business perspective. In my freshmen year I was also considering becoming an entrepreneur coming out of Duke starting my own company. So, in my mind, whichever direction I was going to take the coursework in I&E would surely prove fruitful.

However, as my Duke career progressed and I shifted away from wanting to go into product management, and instead digital product design I began to question how the coursework I was currently or previously engaged in related in the slightest to what I would do with my future. My DukeEngage experience dealt with restorative justice in law. My class on technology commercialization mainly focused on the entrepreneurial viability of biomedical technologies. The keystone’s value was in understanding the nuances and complications of launching a venture and instilling in us the financial acumen to do so. And the capstone has been about the incredible challenge of catalyzing innovation in large, complex, and inert systems like the US Healthcare system.

That being said some of many things I’ve learned in the past four years is that 1. Often lessons are only truly learned with far enough hindsight. 2. That sometimes what you learn is often times more valuable than what you wanted to learn. and 3. That some of the most valuable lessons may be learned in doing things you had no desire or idea you’d be doing.

Although all of the coursework may not directly coincide with what I’m doing, I’ve come to realize that, that may be beside the point. Yes, university is for growing in your craft, and there are courses you that have fulfilled that role for me while at Duke. However, DukeEngage was one of the most growing experiences at Duke. My technology commercialization course taught me importance of understanding a value proposition not only for the purposes of entrepreneurship, but also for user experience design. It introduced me to the Melissa and Doug Entrepreneurs program and ultimately provided a platform for me to meet the incredibly helpful Howie Rhee and participate in the Duke Startup Challenge. It led to me being able to critically assess my future in entrepreneurship. It helped me to realize that crating a venture although incredibly difficult is possible. From that revelation, the keystone then equipped me with the skills to actually go and act on it should I want to. It also put the ideas into perspective and gave me reasons as to why I may not want to be an entrepreneur — information just as helpful as knowing you want to be one. And the capstone empowered me to challenge the status quo (something I already loved doing) in areas where you’re not confident or in your zone of familiarity at all. It taught me that ignorance was no longer an excuse for a lack of innovation, and difficulty and discomfort wasn’t even up for discussion.

It would be disingenuous of me to use this platform and not discuss the many times  throughout my Duke career in where I questioned why I was even pursuing this certificate at all. In many of my classes at the time I felt like I was an imposter, inadequate, working incredibly hard in vain, and not making the most of my time. Although those reflections were indeed accurate and valid at the time, they were all near-sighted and one dimensional. The value that I got out of I&E and the great lessons I learned were learned in hindsight, needed but not asked for, and ultimately when doing things that did not align with my will.

My time in I&E has reminded me, above all, to always capitalize and to continually practice humility. Capitalize on and leverage opportunities in situations you don’t enjoy. And realize there exists value in most things. It’s your decision how much of it you amass to help you grow, or how much of it you ignore to keep you stagnant.