In my view, the great speaker and alumni events organized on campus always offer a great opportunity to take a step back from the stressful coursework and to be reminded of what many of us M&Ts are striving for – and that is more than just the next A. One of these eye-opening events was the M&T Alumni Entrepreneurship Panel held last fall and sponsored by our M&T Club.
Myself having a great passion for the start up sector, I took this opportunity to get some very close insights into life as an entrepreneur, the transition from a regular job into the start up world and the role of both the M and the T in the post-college career of alumni. And when I say close, I am referring to the unique relationship between M&T alumni and current M&T. We look up to the alumni knowing what they have already achieved and at the same time, the alumni have been in our shoes and can relate well to us. This creates a very unique atmosphere, in which perspectives are exchanged in a very honest and actionable manner.
The M&T Club invited five M&T alumni to this entrepreneurship panel. All five have had unique paths into entrepreneurship, either straight from college, after a short-term job in finance or consulting, and sometimes more or less intended. This variety offered a great range of insights to diverse topics and questions from us.
One important takeaway was undoubtedly the significance of finding a mentor in these early years of one’s career. I have noticed that this piece of advice is extremely consistent throughout all alumni talks, which I have attended during my time at Penn.
All five panelists at some point transitioned from jobs at companies such as UBS, AOL or Snapfish into the entrepreneurial world. From their experiences, it stood out that their M&T degree has made them incredibly flexible in this transition. They were able to very quickly build skills and networks in fields from scientific research to the financial industry and this set an ideal foundation for any conceivable business idea.
In addition, it was interesting to hear about the personal sacrifices associated with the life as an entrepreneur. Many of the panelists had to forgo the convenience and certainty of a well-paying job to fully commit to their entrepreneurial ventures. Yet not a single one of them showed any regrets and could attest that they had grown personally through these steps.
Leaving from this event, I was once again reminded of the almost ungraspable range of opportunities that the M&T Program offers its students. Lastly, I would personally like to stress the importance of maintaining a strong level of curiosity during the stressful times of college. The ventures of our five panelists are proof that one has to challenge beliefs and established systems to identify entrepreneurial opportunities in the world around us. So to conclude “stay hungry, stay foolish” (Steve Jobs).
Benedikt is a current M&T freshman in the Class of 2016. He hails from Germany and is contemplating studying Computer Science or Computer Engineering within Penn Engineering. He has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School.