A Step in the Right Direction

I’m so grateful for the Duke liberal arts education. Even as I move deeper into the design and creative industries, the liberal arts continue to make a case for themselves. Deep has brought life to global capitalism, to medical advances, to the celebration of renowned leaders who are shaping the future of our world — yet if not for broad, none of these advances would have worked out like they did.

What I’ve learned:

  • I’ve now experienced all aspects of the design process in some form: I’ve conducted user research and testing through previous anthropology & political science coursework and internships, learned how to mockup and wireframe across a variety of fields (web interface, visual), prototyped plenty of designs with clients, and put out a couple that have won awards. I’m grateful to have been this successful so early in my design career (2 months!).
  • As the main designer for a host of different projects at the agency, I’ve learned that being truly client-facing requires you to actively practice and demonstrate empathy. I chose design in part because user research was so central to the process. While the anthropology and political inquiry classes helped lots, my internship helped solidify theory into practice. With both my boss and his clients, this means providing multiple designs (not just ideas) to choose from, taking your best guess on certain design choices (because they’re busy), and even going against your client, choosing the right battles to keep their best interest in mind. Make the effort to surprise and delight, always.

How I’ve changed:

  • I’ve become a problem-solver which further solidifies my conviction that designer and entrepreneur are so closely intertwined. I see design choices everywhere now. I think about how the arrangement of buttons in my parents’ car could be better arranged, how the Bryan Center doors really deserved a redesign along with the rest of the building, how I would redesign my room at home if I had the resources and freedom. Dream a little, sketch some out, mobilize your resources and make it happen.
  • I really want to take part in designing future user experiences. UX is much more than a buzzword, aesthetic addiction or job title to me now — it is seriously improving lives. By removing mundane obstacles and giving people more margin, design is empowering humans to tap into more satisfying and sanctifying experiences to better their lives. My wish is that from there, they choose to pay it forward and bless others.
  • I’m learning to tie my craft and purpose together. This fall, instead of returning to Duke I’ll be taking part in a consulting program with The Institute for Innovation, Integration and Impact in Silicon Valley and then going on a business trip in Indonesia, India or South Africa to help mid-market entrepreneurs maximize their impact on society. Along the way, I’m learning to unchain myself from the fetters and expectations Duke culture carries and to do my own thing.

Steps moving forward:

  • The internship was a sampler. I’ll be tackling more ambitious creative projects focused on the skills I want and the things I love. My first project is to design [and hopefully develop] a website for a dance team.
  • Spend time mastering basic techniques in Illustrator, InDesign, web design and UX via lynda.com, Codecademy, etc. to propel myself towards even more ambitious and impactful projects.
  • Breathing and enjoying the whole process.

Until next summer, Duke SIP. It’s been fun.

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Reflections

This summer provided me with one of the most intense learning experiences I’ve ever gone through in an 8 week period of time. Because I was at a start up, I was expected to get up to speed and start making an impact in as short an amount of time as possible.

Through my experience at LiveIntent and the Summer Innovation Program, I gained a deeper insight into (1) the processes and daily minutiae that companies experience every day, (2) the power or influence of one person to change how something is done, and although cliche, learned to apply this type of initiative to my life: (3) go out and prove something by building a prototype, base it on some sort of data, and it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

To address the first part, every business must facilitate communication between its employees. At LiveIntent, we had meetings every single day at 9:30 to meet with the front end and back end engineers and an additional engineering team based in Argentina. When I first started in June, Skype audio was the preferred platform. In the next two weeks we switched to a different platform and bought and installed a speakerphone to improve volume and clarity. LiveIntent hired someone new during my last two weeks, Anna, and she implemented google hangouts. For the two years that LiveIntent has existed, the employees in the US had never met the ones in Argentina or even saw their faces despite speaking for a half hour a day and emailing back and forth. The obvious result was increased communication and stronger relationships with the engineering team in Argentina as well as a more human and enjoyable morning experience. Improvements, suggestions, and implementations like these work together to create a company culture and it was cool to see how Anna successfully navigated this despite her short tenure at LiveIntent.

Secondly, I enjoyed the challenge from my coworkers when I presented new ideas. Working in an industry I previously knew nothing about, I felt that my ideas would be useless or uninformed and during meetings, coworkers would ask deeper questions to see the weak points of my analysis or decision-making process. Through this constructive challenging I quickly understood that any decision must be backed up by some sort of data no matter how small. Exemplifying this principle to an extreme, Marissa Mayer once tested 41 shades of blue (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/01/business/01marissa.html?_r=0). However this does prove that there is always a way to take bias, human error, or other forces that work to obscure truth and reality out of the equation.

All in all, I had a great summer and it was an optimal experience for me at this point in my life. 

Rangeland Solutions: Summer Wrap-up

Greetings from Nairobi! As you may recall from my previous post, I moved out here to oversee operations for Rangeland Solutions and our upcoming expansion this fall.

But it seems like this summer has come and gone. It really is amazing how fast the time can go when you are having fun. Rangeland Solutions has accomplished a lot over these short few months. On the fundraising front, we have submitted grant applications, gone on a fundraising tour and networked with a lot of great people. We have even launched an Indiegogo campaign (Check it out!). During this process, I have learned that to raise money for your start-up you have to constantly be hustling, as you never know where a potential lead may appear.

In field operations, we have completed collecting baseline data for our Monitoring and Evaluation Program. Our field researcher, Thomas Turere, has conducted over 70 interviews, covering all of households in Olekimunke, where our pilot project was established. This baseline information will act as a yardstick from which we can measure and assess the social, economic and environmental impacts of our work. Moving forward we will use this information to inform our decision-making and planning but also to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our program members, the pastoralists. This is even more important in today’s data-driven world, where donors and supports want to see quantifiable results.

Also during this summer, Rangeland Solutions has engaged with a number of organizations interested in collaborating on issues from soil carbon monitoring to livestock marketing. Though these are preliminary discussions, it is encouraging to see other organizations drawn to our mission and model. But as we have begun to gain more traction in the market place, I have come to see the importance of having a long-term strategic vision and plan for the organization from a financial, operational and staff perspective. Developing such a strategy would enable us to chart a clear path forward and help us to evaluate whether a potential opportunity is in line with our goals or may act to sidetrack our operations and divert precious resources. The question comes down to how can we grow our operations quickly, intelligently and most important sustainably.

We would like to thank Duke SIP for the opportunity to continue working on and developing Rangeland Solutions. With your support we have been able to gain significant experience and insight, which has been crucial during these beginning stages.

SIP Bay Area

This summer, I worked in management consulting at PwC. While I was placed in the Healthcare division, my projects spanned industries and sectors. My first project was a business assessment for a biotech company determining whether or not they should launch an authorized generic drug. The second project was for a tech company that is considering unifying their web marketing platforms across business units. I also had some exposure to the Business Development process for a beverage company. This wide spectrum of projects allowed me to experience consulting from multiple angles, including developing proposals to win work, concluding projects and finalizing deliverables for the client, and working through transition phases in a long-term project.

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to live and work in San Francisco this summer. Interacting with the Bay Area community, including Duke students, Duke alumni, entrepreneurs, and co-workers, was an eye-opening experience that provided me with a perspective of solving problems using technology.

I’m excited to get more involved in entrepreneurship at Duke and RTP in my last year at Duke.

The Internship experience- Miami

With me going to Miami for my internship, my friends were more excited about my summer job than one might normally expect. But my internship was special for reasons beyond that extended spring break type feeling that accompanied. One of those reasons was the early introduction to the amazing alumni group here through a SIP Miami event. Miami is booming with the tech startup culture and there are always so many startup networking events happening that one could attend, but Chris Martin & Brooke Levin (Duke Alumnus) introduced some specific events which were worth my time and helped me in making some great connections.

I worked with Venture Hive (a tech based startup incubator/accelerator) as a fellow and Castaclip (an online video streaming startup with their US office inside venture Hive) as a strategy & marketing intern.  My work with Castaclip was very challenging wherein I learnt in & out of media industry, and then I used analytic softwares to crunch the vast amount of user data to develop white paper and strategy on how to expand in US market. With Venture Hive, I was given few vast subjects to research upon and analyse the startup trends, based on that, I wrote papers on those topics for entrepreneurs. The culture inside Venture Hive was very encouraging where people were friendly and very willing to share their knowledge & experiences. My 10 weeks here were, to say the least, extremely well-spent and enriching.

Review of SIPMiami

As everyone can easily imagine, internship in Miami has to be fun. On top of that, SIP provided us a very good platform to explore the technology and startup scene in Florida. In addition to daily job tasks at the startup company called Venture Hive, we were invited to a lot of networking events which engaged Duke Alumni from different circles to connect and interact with investors, developers and industry professionals. It was one of these events where I came to know about popular community meet ups encouraging the collision of ideas and striving to build an ecosystem to buttress ventures.2014-07-30 16.22.11

 

I got to meet very interesting folks at Venture Hive, there was a diversified group of people working on creative ideas from all over the world. The work culture was professional and everyone was eager to help out one another. I enjoyed the whole experience and would recommend this opportunity to anyone who is passionate about entrepreneurship and wants to get his foot in the door.

End of Summer for Med3D

Greetings from Med3D! This summer though short, was probably Med3D’s most important summer, as we hope it sees many more summers to come! Our team, as introduced in the previous posts, tried to use this summer to define our milestones, assess the landscape, and advance our prototypes. We loved to be a part of the summer innovation program, as it provided us with new resources and connected us to new doors to knock on as we navigated this important phase! To give you an idea about the kind of things that kept us busy this summer, I can tell you we got ourselves legally informed, connected with regulatory giants, made progress with our multiple sciency partnerships, connected with veteran entrepreneurs, and collected amazing data. Most of all we realized first hand that building a start-up is nothing but hard work, dedication, and drive! We are looking forward to continuing our efforts and enjoy making a system work in front of our eyes! Thanks team SIP for all your support.