My experience with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship program has shown me a different side of myself in academic, collaborative, and creative settings. As an engineer, I have been siloed in settings with the same types of people and same types of thinkers in classwork and group projects. However, the I&E program has given me the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of thinkers, especially people who or more creative minded or business minded as opposed to being analytical. This has helped me to broaden my own ways of thinking and approaching problems. Additionally, another skill that I have come to use in all of my classes and work experiences has been to look at problems and opportunities with an unbiased perspective. This has helped me immensely in many facets of my life, even outside of work and class.
My summer experiences working at a start up and for the Summer Innovation sprint has been especially significant in my process of narrowing down potential options for my career path. Working on strategy and market research for piloting a clothing brand for people with disabilities gave me a glimpse into the role of high level decisions, research, strategy, and planning. This work was incredibly exciting, even though our research led us to the dead end of there being no feasible infrastructure and market opportunity. There was still much learned from that experience. The following summer, working at the start-up bio-tech company, I took a more in depth R&D role. This role was very complementary to the summer experience before. The problems I worked on to identify and solve were on the molecular level, litterally. Although this experience was one I also learned a lot from, I knew that working on this level of detail wasn’t for me. The combination of these two experiences helped me to become a better problem solver, as I knew from experience that it was equally important to sweat the details and understand the bigger picture.
The program’s impact in my overall learning experience at Duke has been incredibly significant. Having the opportunity to work collaboratively in Innovation and Entrepreneurship has helped me in my other coursework and team-based classes. It has helped me to look at solving engineering and medical problems by first clarifying and truly understanding the problem and true user need as opposed to jumping to the solution and design. This perspective is something that even my professors have noticed, and appreciated.
My experience with the I&E program has not always been linear. My pathway that I originally intended to stick with, which was Technology and Design, has funneled and led me more specifically to innovation in healthcare. Starting more generally has helped me understand the whole scope of the industry. I was able to see and experience the design aspect in my summer internship, as well as get exposure to new technology development. More, interestingly to me, however, was new technologies that could specifically be integrated with medical devices and the healthcare industry–and the methodology of how this could be implemented. This narrowing of my pathway was equally reflective of the narrowing of my career interests. This was incredibly valuable during the time my senior fall where I was applying to jobs and thinking about what I really wanted to be doing. The exposure of diverse experiences I was able to have with this program gave me a clear sense of drive and passion for certain areas of industry and positions.
Overall, my I&E experience has taught me to become a critical thinker, have empathy, to look for the opportunities, and to ask the questions. It shaped my academic experience and Duke, and will continue to help me through future experiences post-graduation. I am excited to see what comes next in my entrepreneurial career, and feel confident I am prepared for what lies ahead.