"The road to success is paved with good inventions"
Antonio Campanelli '19G | Start Up
Major | MBA Corporate Entrepreneurship
Hometown | Arlington, VA
I’ve been staring at my notes for 20 minutes and I don’t know who to pick. I can relate with so many of the entrepreneurs and investors I’ve been lucky to meet so far.
Tom Gillis was great in every way. He was raw, candid, relatable, infectious, and one of the best story tellers I’ve met in my 27 plus years of life. Then there was Poornima DeBolle, who left India at 19 to study in the United States. Poornima’s network here was absolutely nobody. She literally knew no one and turned herself into a self-made entrepreneur with stories any Silicon Valley-bound youngster could only dream of. My father moved to the United States as a teenager, so I also found this very relatable. I could go on and on about each individual we’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far because they each have their each unique story about defying odds and finding success, but for the purpose of the assignment I’ll pick one that has resonated in my mind most so far.
Craig Connors was the Chief Architect of VeloCloud, which has recently been acquired by VMware in a recent blockbuster deal. If you met Craig at a bar, you’d be hard pressed to imagine that he wasn’t an absolute rock star from the start. His cool and laid-back demeanor paints a picture of life-long triumph, but Craig’s story is anything but that. Craig went from high-school drop out to senior management of one of Silicon Valley’s most reputable firms. In a world where we obsess over successful college dropouts finding success (see Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, etc.), Craig had an even more unlikely path. Craig had an incredible story along the way, which includes, but is not limited to five years in the armed forces, becoming a self-learned programmer, and eventually a college degree at NC State.
I don’t want to pretend like I have that much in common with Craig, but I can’t help but feel like I was also a bit of a late bloomer. I graduated high school with a modest GPA. I had modest SAT scores. I picked my undergraduate university mostly in part because I was interested in playing soccer there. To be quite honest, academics were an afterthought at age 18. If I had a chance to talk to Craig I’d ask more stories about his mindset at a young age. I’d also ask about more anecdotes relating to his early struggles, his personal lows, and the time he realized he was capable of accomplishing something great.
In May, 2019 I’ll graduate from the Lehigh MBA program. I’ve accomplished a bit between high school and now, but hearing stories like Craig’s gives me hope for something special. I’ve been incredibly impressed by my undergraduate classmates from Lehigh thus far, and sometimes I feel at a disadvantage solely because I don’t have a blue-chip undergraduate degree from a school like Lehigh. Craig’s story is certainly different than mine, but it’s a story that reminds me that success sometimes takes an unlikely path, and for this I’m hopeful that I can one day find success similar to that of Craig’s.