"LehighSiliconValley just helped me complete the ‘why’ puzzle of my life actions."
Maddie Monahan '21 | FinTech
Major | Computer Science and Business Minor | Entrepreneurship
Hometown | Fairfield, CT
When I was 15, I was very fortunate to be recruited to play field hockey at the Division 1 level. At each school I visited, ultimately each coaching staff illustrated the same idea: they wanted me to play for them because I could pass the ball extraordinarily well. Although I felt it was peculiar (and a bit concerning) to receive the feedback that passing, a simplistic skill, was my greatest asset, I didn’t question or dwell on it and ended up choosing Lehigh to further my academic and athletic career.
Fast forward about 6 months, I entered my all-girls high school into an engineering competition at Sikorsky, headquartered merely 10 minutes from our campus, with the help of two great mentors. A myriad of challenges arose throughout the year-long project but the most impeding one ended up being communication as a result of significant gaps of knowledge. As we had representation from all four classes within our team, everyone was at different academic levels and inherently had different skill sets. I decided to bridge the gap by relating a mechanical control system and a fly-by-wire system of a helicopter to a paper road map and Waze and suddenly everyone was on the same page. Fast forward 6 months again and I am a freshman at Lehigh. Throughout my first year, the question of how I seemingly knew so many people pervaded many conversations.
You may be wondering what this all has to do with LehighSiliconValley. Fast forward a year and I am embarking on this incredible journey with some of the most ridiculously intelligent and accomplished people Lehigh has to offer. I was more than excited that I was chosen to attend dinner on our first night with President Simon and the Board of Trustees, most of whom I had never met. Just during that dinner, I fostered relationships with people I had no business being in the same room with such as Chairman of the Board Kevin Clayton ‘84. With Donald Outing, our VP for Equity and Community, I had the privilege of discussing the pros and cons of different first-year orientations on campus as I am a Student-Athlete-Mentor and we threw ideas back and forth on how to make the programs more successful and worthwhile. At the networking event the following night, Lehigh Board member Jane Jamieson ‘75 and I realized we shared the same passion for all-girls education and the dire need for more STEM education in that specific environment. President Simon, my roommate Anna Lehman ‘21, and I discussed the environment and the current culture of our school’s athletic department.
Fast forward through 3 days with the most fascinating companies in which we heard unbelievable stories and genuine life advice/lessons from their founders and leaders, I am sitting in the Lehigh@NASDAQ center in front of Ann Lewnes ‘83, CMO of Adobe, and Sandy Stelling ‘91, Managing Director at Alaska Airlines. While telling their respective stories, they each mentioned something that they had been passionate about or had done that resonated with me: with Ann it was her support of the Sundance Film Festival and with Sandy it was her ability to relate complex IT concepts to things she could understand like servos or scenes in Finding Nemo when she first entered her current role.
We were given an assignment later that day to explore and write an “un-resume” detailing aspects of yourself that are not explicitly stated on your professional resume: essentially, we had to figure out what differentiated us from one another. And right then and there in that blue seat in the NASDAQ center, it all clicked. Rewinding back through my short 19 years thus far, I realized that the one thing that all of these have in common is connection. I have the innate ability to make a connection - whether it be a pass on the field, a creative analogy, or a relationship - with just about anyone or anything. Although it was literally right in front of me my whole life, LehighSiliconValley just helped me complete the ‘why’ puzzle of my life actions and I never would have found this piece to the puzzle had I not flown across the country and immersed myself in the program.
Where I go from here? I am not sure. We have heard time and time again these past two weeks that great people make great products that make great companies. We have heard that success in the real world is more about passion, culture, and willingness to learn than anything else. Today at Visa TrialPay, Director and Product Manager Justin Mendelson ‘09 illustrated that a Start-Up’s success is contingent on leaders being obsessed with the problem their product is solving. At Wealthfront, we heard that ultimately their company will succeed because employees are willing to run through walls for their product unlike their competitors or the big players in the market. There is something truly sublime about this place, this program, and the people in it: I see the world differently now that I experienced LSV, through the eyes of a creative thinker, a passionate learner, a problem seeker, and a budding entrepreneur.