Below is the second batch of the reflections from students that participated in the Kai trip to NYC. Click here for the first batch. For an overview of the trip see the itinerary here, or read the Wesleyan Argus article on the trip here. For those that are interested in more trips like these, check back often! We'll be posting details in July on upcoming trips to NYC, Boston, and Silicon Valley.
Shirley He ‘18
Saturday marked the start of the Kai Wesleyan trip to NYC, where we met up with several alumni who are widely active in the tech scene. The first portion of our discussion was held in the Hopscotch office, a well-lit, very modern looking space made for creativity and innovation. We had the opportunity to speak with Liza Conrad, who works with Hopscotch, Chris Meade, founder of SportsRecruits, and Jason Rosado, founder of Givkwik. It was incredibly interesting to hear about their paths since graduating Wesleyan, and it was definitely eye-opening to be exposed to the flexibility of a liberal arts degree. They emphasized the importance of networking and reaching out for help, and the expanse of our alumni network was surprising, at least to me.
The trip gave me more exposure to an area that I had never really previously considered. I’ve always figured that I’d just go down the med school path - I’d major in some area of biology, research in a lab, then apply to med school, etc. The trip helped me think about my education here in a broader sense - it showed how my degree can actually be put to a practical use, and I’m able to make more sense of how the skills I’m learning can be applicable to outside the classroom setting. It was also nice to be off campus and experience a change of scenery. I had a great opportunity to meet some nice people who I otherwise wouldn’t have connected with. The trip allowed me to step into the outside world again, and to appreciate the community that a small campus creates.
Hans How ‘17
The highlight of the trip for me was definitely the dinner with alumni at the NYU Performing Arts Center. I had the chance to talk to David Jay, founder of Nudge at Samsung Accelerator. Although we had very different interests, I enjoyed my conversation with him as he helped me go through some of the industry disruption ideas that I had in mind. I have always been interested in the motion picture industry, and am seeking ways to create a financing model that would fund low-budget movies outside of the studio system that have the commercial potential to become mega blockbusters. He talked about the nature of venture capital to me and bounced off ideas that helped me lay out the crux of the problem I want to solve in a very clear manner. The trip opened my mind to innovative solutions that technology and venture financing could provide to industries dominated by a few major players. After having the opportunity to talk to successful alumni through this trip, my long term career trajectory has become clearer to me and I will continue to find connections between the current film development model of the motion picture industry and innovative venture financing pioneered by the technology investors.
Duong Vu ‘18
The one-day trip to explore the tech scene in New York City organized by Kai Wesleyan has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences for me this semester. Seldom do current undergraduates have the chance to sit down and talk in person with various alumni working in different areas of tech all at once, and be in the heart of New York City. It is amazing for me, as someone who has always been fascinated about technology and graphic design, to be able to gain insight of what it is like to be present in the vibrant tech scene of today. Also seeing how it has been like for the successful alumni to overcome formidable challenges on their career path.
The trip has fueled my two passions in ways I never expected. I was once hesitant to pursue an Art Studio major at Wesleyan because I was told, primarily back home in Vietnam, that knowing Art would not be of much significance to my career. Now, however, seeing how important passion is to achieving success, as agreed by all the alumni I have met during this trip, and how art is quite relevant even in tech, I have gained more confidence in what I am doing. I believe that this is the most valuable thing anybody can benefit from such a field trip like this one. I can spend days reading about how to succeed in the tech world and how important passion is to my career without being much persuaded, but having a chance to meet those who have experienced all the ups and downs in the business world is totally different and much more impactful. It is my hope that Kai will continue to be the leading initiative at Wesleyan that truly helps bring out the entrepreneurial spirit from within our students.
Zixuan (Victor) Zhao ‘17
How do you launch a successful crowdfunding campaign? How do you become a leader in a tech startup with little programming background? Or what are the critical stages of a startup to get financed? These are the questions I had as I embarked on the Kai Wesleyan trip to New York City. I started with the very vague idea that I am interested in entrepreneurship and what I wanted to do, but had no idea about how to link them. Yet, even without coming onto the trip with clear direction, I was able to gain a lot from it.
Jason Rosado has a very interesting experience with a dramatic career shifting from senior level position in a major investment bank to becoming a social entrepreneur and creating his own company. He had envisioned the idea of “impulse philanthropy” when he was about to graduate from Wesleyan, but he still went on for a career in banking. It took him time to realize that banking was not what he really wanted and he eventually carried on with his college startup idea. The struggle between going bravely after one’s startup idea and going more gently into the “traditional” jobs always exists, and people often find themselves lost facing miscellaneous choices. I consider myself among these people, going after too much and not willing to give up stability. However, after learning from Jason’s story, I became less confused. He resigned from his first banking job and took two years off to travel, and while traveling he had a chance also to learn languages and design skills. He encouraged me to pursue my impulse to take a year off (starting next year) and to travel as I want without worrying too much about whether it is the right choice to leave college halfway. He exemplifies how things learned through traveling can add up into one’s charisma. After all, I think there is not a right time for doing something since you can pursue an idea that you had several years ago, but what matters is when you dedicate yourself to this idea and stop waffling around.
Fanying Chen ‘17
As a sophomore math and philosophy double major, I was always wondering what I could do after college. “Entrepreneurship” and “start-up” are the two most popular words among my friends, regardless of major and interest. But it seems to me, the most they understand of these terms seems to be just “founding a company.” Hoping to find out what it really is and what entrepreneurs do, and therefore discover why entrepreneurship is so popular, I joined this wonderful trip sponsored by Kai. In the afternoon panel with three wonderful and nice alumni, what left the biggest impression was the advice from Chris Meade, Co-Founder and CEO of Sports Recruits. He extolled how important finding a mentor is. Chris suggested that we should find some alumni, who share backgrounds, academic interests or just extra-curricular activities with us, as our career mentor and keep regular contact with them. Since alumni have experienced more than we have, it would be helpful to have their view when making decisions. Looking back to my own experience, I have had a lot of students from my high school coming to ask me about courses, test-preparation advice and other college decisions, and I was always more than happy to help them find out the best solution. Not realizing how accessible alumni are and how helpful they can be, Chris’s advice really opened up paths for me. Moreover, although major is important in our academic life, it’s never too late to change our mind and do something new. Many alumni with great startups majored in completely different areas, but later on discovered their interests in something else. Although I don’t know how math and philosophy can help me in the future, there’s no need to worry, but just always keep an active mind, looking for new ideas, and never being afraid of trying something new. All as early as possible! And for “entrepreneurship”, rather than a career, it’s more like a personality or lifestyle, which can accompany all majors and interests, just like rice to meal, which goes on well with all kinds of dishes, and that’s why it’s so popular in today’s world.
Caren Ye ‘17
This was my second Kai Wesleyan Entrepreneurship trip and I didn’t hesitate to sign up. It always feels refreshing to taste a little bit of the real world in the middle of my Wes buble life. Although the companies we visited and the people we met were very different from those in Silicon Valley, I received the same passion from the Wes Alumnus in NYC Tech offices and the experience really got my entrepreneurial mind going because of all the showcases and conversations in which we participated. There are some insights I want to share with people from the Alumnus talk: As juniors or seniors, we should start to have a vision and keep sharing it. In addition, it’s important to step out to build connections, such as with like minded peers and two to three potential mentors (eg. from Wes Alumni Networks). For example, one of the Alumni Chris Meade mentioned that he manually looked through the Alumni list from the Wesconnect Website and sent emails to alumni regarding questions, advice and internship opportunities. It’s important to not be afraid and be able to reach out to people, even a 15-minutes talk in a café space won’t hurt. I was also drawn to the idea that Jason Rosado, the CEO and President of Givkwik brought up—take risk when you are 20 because in general it’s harder to take risk in age 30 when you are pretty settled in your trajectory. It made me rethink about my current academic paths (whether to study abroad and where to do summer internships) and I will exclude those which make me more comfortable and stagnant, instead, I will definitely go for what broadens me and makes me grow more.
Samantha Lau 18’
From the trip, the person that stood out to me was Jason Rosado, CEO and President of Givkwik. When he was introducing himself and talking about his past experiences, it really showed me how far hard work can get you. He talked about how he went to work at Chase after graduating and had the opportunity to become vice president but instead chose to travel for two years. He spent those two years learning new languages and enjoying himself. He was able to quickly bounce back and land a job back in a bank with ease. On weekend nights he would devote his time working on a project and would tell his peers about his ideas but because he did not devote his full time on it, no one took him seriously. It wasn't until he worked full time on his idea, the basis of Givkwik, that people started seeing that he was taking this venture seriously and started paying attention to him. His story shows that success is not something that comes overnight. He stressed how everything took time and one needs patience and dedication in order to succeed. He also talked about how there are always secrets and tricks to getting something done. For example, when you are trying to fundraise something on a website, you have to make sure you have donors beforehand before launching the website. This way, once people see the large contributions, they are motivated to donate. In addition, most of the money one gets from fundraising websites is from the first couple days. Even though I am not interested in the tech industry, what I learned from Rosado can be applied to any career goal and vocation. His story reinforced the idea that you can do whatever you want and once you devote your time and effort, there will be results. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, you will always be taking risks and calling the shots of your own life. You have to be able to bounce back and find an alternative solution no matter what is thrown at you.