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This summer, many of our Duke I&E students were across the globe exploring the concepts of innovation & entrepreneurship. Some of them will be guest blogging for us detailing their experiences.

This summer I had the pleasure of working at Survata. Survata sells Brand Intelligence to the world’s leading brands. Their technology-driven solutions include Market Research and Ad Measurement. Brands use Survata’s platform to talk to customers after every touchpoint: ad impressions, site visits, online & offline purchases. I worked as an Operations Analyst Intern primarily focusing on the Market Research side of things. I assisted in managing day-to-day operations of studies in various stages and oversaw the end-to-end campaign life cycle. I explored both the back and front ends of the research process while serving a broad range of clients. I Identified inefficiencies and implement processes to improve workflow and created a product manual for internal use at

During my time at Survata I got to work on some great projects. One of my first projects was templatizing a one-pager sheet of statistically significant data for clients. This challenged me to think innovatively as well as creatively to make something that was informative but also beautiful to look at. My big project was creating a product manual for Survata. This was a big challenge as I had to document all aspects of the product while simultaneously putting it in a format that is digestible.

Managing day-to-day client requests was hard because I had to learn the product and processes for responding. I usually try to figure things out by myself but I was forced to ask for help. I would finally feel comfortable, like I had the hang of things and then make a mistake. I struggled with this and found myself constantly second guessing. The reassurance from my team and especially my manager assured me that we all make mistakes and it was going to be alright. The most important thing I learned is how important your relationships and work environment really influence your experienced. I loved Survata because I loved the people.

 

Duke in Silicon Valley

This past June, students participated in the Duke in Silicon Valley (DSV) program organized by Duke I&E and the Global Education Office for Undergraduates. The program is crafted for undergraduates with an interest in entrepreneurship, designed to give students an intensive course experience in the creation of new ventures, both commercial and social, and is and hosted in the heart of the nation’s hub for innovative enterprise. Some of this year’s DSV students shared their thoughts on the experience and we have included them here. The post below originally appeared on the Duke in Silicon Valley blog.

What We Learned: DSV in Three Words

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The last week of our Silicon Valley marathon included demos at ABB’s fascinating robot laboratory, an informative lunch at Canaan Partners, a compelling presentation and tour of Google’s Mountain View headquarters, networking and learning valuable skills at LinkedIn, and having inspiring conversation with the partners of Freestyle Capital.  It was a perfect mix for our last week, spanning topics from robotics to venture capital and companies with 4 employees to over 85,000.  If I could sum up our experience in three words, it would be innovation, passion, and people.

in·no·va·tion |ˌinəˈvāSH(ə)n|noun

  1. The action or process of making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

Innovation is an action or process.  It is current, continuous, and growing as I sit here writing. The companies we have met with have emphasized that while they are aware of their pasts and the present, they are always looking forward.  They want to figure out ways to provide convenience, opportunity, safety, and enjoyment in all of our lives and are doing so in ways that I could never imagine. Carbon is using 3D printing, an already novel concept, to allow humans to customize dental models and shoes for optimal fit, plus many other applications.   Zume Pizza harnesses artificial intelligence to make predictions for speedily cooking and delivering yummy pizza, and I am staying tuned to see what will be next.  Google started with a search engine, expanded to allowing us to become friends with the rooms in our households, and is now using helium balloons to provide internet access to rural areas.  I originally thought that I was only going to learn about past success stories, but I have been overjoyed to realize that we still have so much to explore.

pas·sion |ˈpaSHən| noun

  1. Strong and barely controllable emotion.

Being passionate is contagious.  I have been so uplifted in listening to our speakers enthusiastically share what motivates them and how their journeys have shaped their careers.  It is so truly empowering to me that our speakers each have such diverse interests and stories, yet they all revolve around a common mission to improve quality of life for humankind.  Whether it be volunteering in third-world countries, redefining women’s lingerie, 3D printing from a chemistry standpoint, designing electric cars, building robotic security guards, analyzing big data, or delivering groceries to homes, I am looking forward to similarly finding a way to utilize my passions to assist others.

peo·ple |ˈpēpəl|noun

  1. Human beings in general or considered collectively.

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The beauty of people lies in the power of unique individuals communicating and working collectively.  While robots are becoming very intelligent and capable, people are what make all of this possible, and that is something that can never change.  Everyone who I have been able to meet, with many thanks to generous Duke alumni plus so many more, has eagerly welcomed our group of 25 students into their workspaces and openly shared their experiences, mistakes, values, and goals.  I am grateful to have been able to witness the mutual admiration among colleagues within the culture of many companies, as that is something that cannot simply be taught. Especially at Freestyle Capital and Canaan Partners recently, I loved watching our speakers interact in a way that exemplified how much respect and appreciation they had for each other’s complementary talents.

In the beginning of our program, I was excited to be surrounded by peers who had different majors than me but were also interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.  Other than learning about alternate approaches to a common theme, looking back, I had not yet recognized the true value of such diversity.  Now, as we have bonded over the past four weeks, I can look at these peers and confidently state that I would be thrilled to have the chance to work with any of them. Our creative engineers, computer science wizards, economics and finance geniuses, talented linguists and psychologists, Blockchain experts, and public policy enthusiasts are going to make an extraordinary team, and I am forever grateful to have connected with them.

To my peers and to Silicon Valley, see you very soon.

Camaren Dayton is a rising sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering, Visual Arts, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  She is interested in combining these fields to use design as a means of empowering and encouraging others.  At Duke, she is the Marketing and Outreach Director for FEMMES (Females Engaging in More Math, Science, and Engineering is a club connecting Duke volunteers with local elementary schools to lead STEM activities for girls) and will be a studio manager at Duke’s Arts Annex this year.  She enjoys running, hiking with friends and family, going to farmer’s markets, and reading the Skimm.

Duke in Silicon Valley

This past June, students participated in the Duke in Silicon Valley (DSV) program organized by Duke I&E and the Global Education Office for Undergraduates. The program is crafted for undergraduates with an interest in entrepreneurship, designed to give students an intensive course experience in the creation of new ventures, both commercial and social, and is hosted in the heart of the nation’s hub for innovative enterprise. Some of this year’s DSV students shared their thoughts on the experience and we have included them here. The post below originally appeared on the Duke in Silicon Valley blog.

Bringing it all together: Lessons from Silicon Valley

As our Duke in Silicon Valley experience comes to a close, I am ready to go home, but also reluctant to leave this amazing place and program. These past four weeks have been challenging, thought-provoking, exhausting, invigorating, incredibly valuable, and everything in between. We have spent days tested by Professor Azhar in class, bonding with my classmates on long bus rides to San Francisco, and picking the minds of industry leaders about everything from utilizing big data to enhance hurricane relief efforts to an algorithm that predicts the best bra size, and nights analyzing case studies, cooking with friends, and exploring the Bay.

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DSV 2018 @ Google

In the past week, we visited the robot lab at ABB, spoke with associates at Canaan Partners, were hosted at Google, networked at LinkedIn, and finished the company visits with Freestyle Capital. At each of these visits, Duke alums and others spoke to us about their company culture and their career paths, while also offering advice and answering our many questions. The fact that we have visited such a diverse group of companies, from tech giants to minute start-ups, from grocery delivery platforms to venture capitalists, has contributed to a comprehensive view of the many opportunities that Silicon Valley has to offer. Our concluding visit of the program was to a tiny office in residential San Francisco, housing the small venture capital firm Freestyle. The majority of us agreed this was a phenomenal company to end the program, because of their genuine passion for innovation that was evident in their talk. Although each company has given us a unique perspective on the technological industry and Silicon Valley, a few themes have cemented all experiences – the importance of failure, the unparalleled value of a good team, and a desire to remake the world.

The classwork for the last section of the course has been centered around designing a game, incorporating principles of design, customer archetypes, and ethnographic skills that we have learned throughout the past four weeks. My group’s game was designed for “Peter the Plotter”, a customer who enjoys individual games that incorporate strategy. In our second to last class, we presented our games, playing and evaluating all the other groups. Although my group’s game, Loan Shark, fell flat in the engaging and fun aspects, we succeeded in being the most individual, player interactive, and deliberate games, which aligned with our customer archetype. Creating a game was a great way to consolidate all of our lessons about design, innovation, and empathizing with the customers into a final project.

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While this program has given me a basic understanding of starting a company, it has also gifted me with a breadth knowledge of the lead tech companies, a network of gracious Duke alumni and other hosts, and an intimate understanding of the Silicon Valley culture and its culture of innovation. However, for me, the most valuable part of this experience has been creating lasting relationships with my inspiring, creative, and intelligent peers, many of whom I am positive will become industry leaders.

 

Audrey is a rising sophomore at Duke University who is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and pursuing a minor in Economics. She was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and attended a boarding school in Massachusetts. At Duke, Audrey is a TA for a freshman engineering class, involved with FEMMES and tutors local Durham students. Audrey is interested in technology startups and product design processes, and hopes her experience in Silicon Valley will provide a basis to further explore these topics. In her free time Audrey enjoys running, reading, and eating at new restaurants.

Reflections on the I&E Certificate: Adam Kershner

Adam Kershner is a 2018 graduate of the I&E Certificate, and below are some of his reflections on completing the Certificate. This is the third in a summer series of pieces highlighting the experiences of recent Certificate graduates.  More information about Adam and the work he accomplished as a Certificate student can be found on his e-portfolio.

Connection to Self-Understanding

What’s my biggest takeaway from completing the I&E Certificate?

love entrepreneurship.

To many, “entrepreneurship” is associated with what happens when college roommates spitball ideas at 3 a.m. in a dorm. How incorrect that depiction really is! After all of my experiences and projects I’ve learned that innovation and entrepreneurship are constant methodologies that can be applied to almost all aspects of life.

Aside from learning the tangible skills like divergent thinking, building business models, pitching ideas, or even cold-calling, what I’ve appreciated most is the realization that entrepreneurship is what I really want to do in life.

I enjoy the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows, of working in a startup environment. Collaborating with a high-energy team to solve a problem and deliver a solution is beyond exciting to me. I’m always thinking about new opportunities, and I want to get to a point in my life where it’s impossible to sleep because I’m both nervous and ecstatic about my venture. It’s not even about the lucrative potential of an idea (although that more than often determines practicality), it’s about the nitty-gritty.

I remember so many times throughout my I&E experience in which I was challenged in new, unexpected ways. While working with Elevar, I had to drink from the firehose constantly as I adapted to VC lingo and the nuances of statistical analysis. In Nicaragua, I had to be forthright in making connections and was assertive in identifying unmet patient needs. While working on my final capstone project, there were so many times in which my team and I came to a “brick-wall” in terms of ideas, only to re-evaluate, strategize and navigate.

To me, innovation and entrepreneurship is about problem-solving and execution, using anything and everything at your disposal in creative ways. I’ve realized I have the exact skillset and thick skin to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams, and I’ll be continuing to improve my abilities throughout my life.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for checking out what I’ve been up to. This experience has been incredibly valuable to me. I believe I can make a real difference in the world through entrepreneurship, whether it be delivering a necessary solution or building a healthy company culture.

 

Reflections on the I&E Certificate: Anna Huck

Anna Huck is a 2018 graduate of the I&E Certificate, and below are some of her reflections on completing the Certificate. This is the second in a summer series of pieces highlighting the experiences of recent Certificate graduates.  More information about Anna and the work she accomplished as a Certificate student can be found on her e-portfolio.

What I’ve Learned

 

I chose to pursue the certificate program as a first year student in order to gain a broader understanding of how to enact social change. I saw this narrative in public discourse that the government is slow and inefficient, and there were calls that the government needed to be run more like a business. This rhetoric only increased during the 2016 Presidential Election, which resulted in the election of Donald Trump–a businessman. While many people’s biggest complaint about the government is the inefficiency, the slowness of government is partly by design. The Founders of our country wanted the government to be deliberative, and they wanted to prevent any one faction of opinion from dominating our public policy.

As a first year, I understood social innovation in the non-government sector as an alternative to government work that offers a different approach and perspective, potentially yielding more efficient and effective solutions. As a student in the certificate program, I have learned that this is, in fact, true. Social entrepreneurs create positive change in their communities–both local, national, and international. They can mobilize quickly, pivot quickly, and they aren’t burdened by politics. On an international level, they can also bring more resources to a country or offer services that the government typically doesn’t provide.

However, as I’ve learned about Innovation and Entrepreneurship, I’ve reflected on whether the discourse surrounding the government is well-founded. In other words, can the government adopt lessons of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to make it run better? Rather than an alternative to government action, can the principles of Innovation and Entrepreneurship inform government action? The short answer is yes and no.

First, I wish the evaluation and pivoting practices of entrepreneurs could be adopted by the government. However, I remember reading in Challenging the Performance Movement by Beryl Radin, a book I read for Innovating for Social Impact, how performance measurement in the public sector can be abused for political reasons. Radin continues by emphasizing the importance of allowing for nuance in performance measurement. As a naturally optimistic person, I’m troubled that politics seems to be the reason that the government can’t adopt a practice of entrepreneurs. It seems that while politicians are motivated by self-interest, social innovators and entrepreneurs are motivated by social good. I’m reminded of a quote by James Madison, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” In this quote, Madison implies that men will act for personal gain and personal power. Our government is structured to prevent any one person from being able to do this. To adopt the practices of a business, the government (and its officials) would need to internalize a collective goal for public good. Businesses are motivated by delivering value to their customers to make profit (or create good, in the case of social enterprises). The government must be similarly motivated to deliver value to its citizens. Unfortunately while there may be good actors in the government, one bad actor can similarly abuse a system. For example, politicians may view data with an agenda: if they want to cut the budget of a program, a “failing” assessment would be beneficial to them as a justification.

However grim that analysis of the government, the principles of Innovation and Entrepreneurship can still inform individual action within the policy space. When developing a policy, the philosophy of human-centered design can ensure a policy reflects a community’s needs. Policymakers can ask questions of community members to learn how they experience a problem. Policies instituted locally that are successful can act as minimum viable product tests to inform state-level or national-level policy. Policymakers can conduct research to learn about these tested policies and adapt them to a larger scale implementation. Adaptations may take into consideration different resources or differences in how other communities may receive the solution.

While I don’t plan to become an entrepreneur after college, the experience, tools, and thought processes that I’ve gained through the certificate program have given me invaluable resources to draw on in the future, when I hope to be instigating social change through public policy.

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