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  • Writer's pictureBaker Institute Team

"Today exceeded my expectations."

[ Throughout the #LSV2019 program, students write reflections about their experience.]

Hanna Skinner '20 | Start Up

Major | Political Science and Economics

Hometown | Winnetka, IL

I applied to Lehigh Silicon Valley because I am so incredibly inspired by the handwork and grit that any founder or employee of an early stage start up embodies. Over the past two summers, I have worked as an intern at an entrepreneurship hub called 1871 in Chicago, and I truly fell in love with the start up culture there. However, I had always known that the Bay Area was the place for innovation, and therefore I was extremely curious to check it out, and learn from founders who risked everything to create their idea. I also wanted to see if the Silicon Valley really lived up to its reputation.

I wanted to see what working for a start up in Silicon Valley is really like- and today exceeded my expectations. Not only were we lucky enough to explore VMware’s campus in Palo Alto, but we were lucky enough to interact with and hear from successful leaders in the start up community. The day was hosted by Tom Gillis, who was very impressive and demonstrated immense leadership skills. Leadership and team building were mentioned numerous times throughout the day, as each speaker emphasized the importance of having a cohesive team of great people. Tom Gillis said something that deeply resonated with me “Great people make great products. Great products make great companies." Everything ties back to the people you work with, and this was a consistent theme that was brought up with each speaker.

We first heard from the Chief Architect of VeloCloud (now part of VMware), Craig Connors, who shared with us his unique and unconventional path. We also heard from two women founders, which I found to be incredibly valuable. We heard from Poornima DeBolle, who is the Co-Founder of Menlo Security, who not only demonstrated intelligence, but also grit paired with balance. What resonated with me from both the private session with her and the panel was how she emphasized focusing on three things in your private life to do exceedingly well, and outsourcing the rest to family or nannies or other forms of help. She said this balance was critical, because as much as you may want to do everything as a mother or wife, you are also committed to your business, and balance is a better approach than offhandedly attempting to do it all. Jordana Stein, the founder of series-A start-up Enrich, was another panelist, who also spoke with us in a smaller session afterwards. As a current Political Science major, it was refreshing to hear about her diplomatic background as a speech writer in France, and how her numerous experiences have contributed to her life in the valley as a founder.

Overall, today was an amazing first glimpse at start-up life in Silicon Valley. It exceeded my expectations, and it was amazing to have access to such remarkable and innovative business leaders.

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