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Archive for May, 2011

Networking: hate it or love it, you are going to need it

We all hear stories about people getting jobs even though they’re not necessarily the best of the best. We tend to resent those people who just seem to find it so easy to get whatever job they wanted, when others who were possibly more qualified, or downright needed the job more, don’t. Gone are the days when doing well in school and college was practically a passport to employment-land. This is the age where no matter how good you are, there is always going to be someone out there who has more to offer. So if everyone always has someone who has more to offer than them, how DO people get jobs? The answer to this question is something that Management gurus cry out as often as they can in their books and articles: Networking. And this refers to serious business networking, not just winning in a popularity contest (though that may come in handy in some cases).

One way to network is to actually go to academic or even other functions around college. Getting to know your professors is another great way to build a network, because who is it that recommends you in applications for scholarships as well as in your resume? It’s that Calculus professor from freshman year with whom you discussed your interest in indefinite integrals. Every time there is a chance to attend an event where professors or people from the industry may come, try your best to show up, because every single person you know now may become a future source of employment.

The advent of computers and the internet has changed the networking scenario completely. There is such a range of ways to stay in touch with people, and keep getting exposed to more and more people and opportunities every single day, due to the variety of networking sites on the internet. Ever since Facebook came into existence, for example, it has kept millions of people hooked, college students, high school students, and executives alike. Some would say that if it’s not on Facebook, then it doesn’t exist. Facebook is the ultimate tool used by most people to stay in touch with loved ones, and old friends.

But that’s not all that Facebook can do for you! Facebook has this really useful app called BranchOut, which is mainly like a Facebook for business networking. It was started by Rick Marini and his team of innovative managers in San Francisco. Signing up is super easy because your education/employment details will be pulled in from Facebook (since the BranchOut account will be linked to your Facebook account) and if you already have a LinkedIn profile (about which we will talk in a bit) you can just import all your resume details. Once you’re in, you will access to all your friends’ contacts if they’re part of BranchOut too. Also, you can do searches for jobs, and possible even get an internship or even a job! Every single contact that you add on your BranchOut list brings with him or her, a big group of people, including their present or previous employers, or possible job opportunities. BranchOut gives a whole new meaning to the saying (shown proudly right across their homepage) “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. While most of us do well at the “what you know” part, (let’s not be modest – this is IIT), a lot more of us fall short at the “who you know” part. Networking is something that should be taken very seriously, and social networking is the simplest way of doing this.

Another networking site that I mentioned before is LinkedIn. Unlike BranchOut, which hasn’t gained a  name yet, LinkedIn is a strange case because while most college students have heard of it, very few are actually active members. LinkedIn is a networking site meant largely for business networking purposes, where job seekers put up their profiles and resumes, and companies present available jobs. It’s a more sober version of BranchOut, and has the more serious job seekers for members. Creating a LinkedIn profile is quite easy too, though it would require some time to finish filling in all the details, if you want a comprehensive profile. The system by which LinkedIn works is similar to BranchOut in the sense that your friends pull in even more contacts. Once again, you can do searches for jobs, or employers can find you based on your profile.

While you’re at it, “Built in Chicago” would be another website to check out. This site has articles to help with management, and aims to connect and promote the digital community in Chicago. This would include a lot of professions, like software development, product management, media buying, analytics, and usability. The online community includes big companies as well as small startups in its vast range of member companies.  Join the IIT Group at http://www.builtinchicago.org/group/IIT!

In conclusion, I’d like to add that networking is not just about collecting business cards, and having lots of people on your contacts list on Facebook or LinkedIn. It is about how dynamically and proactively you keep in touch and keep the relationship alive. While Facebook and LinkedIn make this process easier, some amount of personal networking is also required, so that you can stand out from the crowd. Another useful tip would be to be careful to not come across as someone who is networking with an immediate agenda. When you network without seeking to get something out of it immediately, and try to help people instead of seek help to begin with, you create better equity, and this pays off in the long run. It’s a tough world out there, especially now, with the recession that the economy appears to be just recovering from. Networking is an essential tool to make sure you have that edge over others in the labor market. It can be really easy with just a little bit of care in keeping track of all the people you know, but it can also be the thing that gets in your way every time, if you don’t use it! You remember those people mentioned before? The ones who seem to always get the job (to your irritation) just because they always know someone on the inside? Well, if you can’t beat them, then just join them!

 

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The Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour: Making Your Dreams Come True

As you might have seen from the posters all over campus, the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour was at IIT on Wednesday, April 6th! With tables set up at Herman Hall, the event was quite a success, in terms of captivating the attention of the participants. Did you know, for example, that 80% of the world’s millionaires are entrepreneurs? Only about a handful of people in the audience could guess that, and I bet not too many out there could have thought of that number!

Moderating the event was Bert Gervais, entrepreneur, public speaker, and best-selling author of his book “Who’s in Your Top Hive?: Your Guide to Finding Your Success Mentors”. With his easy style and funny anecdotes he made sure that he kept the audience laughing throughout the program. “The EET goes around the country and brings together the top young entrepreneurs and goes to campuses (like these) to show the students that anybody can start a new business”, said he. With his experiences from back home as well as from the US, he told the audience about a lot of things. He also told us stories from the industry, like that of Pat Cuarto, the world’s number 1 yoyo player, who made his million just doing what he loved – yoyo, and about how a college student once started a business on just 10 cents!

This introductory session was followed by a talk by David Gardner, who graduated from Duke University, and was already an entrepreneur by the time he left college. His company, Colorjar is a company that helps out young entrepreneurs who are just starting out on their own, in finding the right kinds of support, strategies and capital to turn their dream into reality. His inspiration and passion started back in college, and he acted upon it, and made it! He talked about all the negativity we see around us, how this is especially bad for entrepreneurs, because entrepreneurship requires that people take the leap of faith to what they want, and if they’re constantly afraid of being laughed at, or of “FAILING”, they will never go through with their dreams. He talked about how you should present their ideas, and why anybody should remember who you are, and use it to the fullest.

The next speaker was Joseph A. Pascaretta, Head of Marketing and Business development at LPIT Solutions Inc., a healthcare software company with flagship product TrackCore Software, the market leader in tissue and implant tracking systems. Prior to this, he was President and Corporate Director of The Alps Lawn Co., and Chief Executive Officer of Alps Technology. He has received several distinguished honors, including the Midwest NFIB/VISA Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Product Solutions 2008 as the world’s youngest winner, and has been a featured speaker at organizations and universities around the country. He is a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and will be beginning an MBA program in healthcare at George Washington University in the Fall of 2011.

The other speaker at the event, Brian Moore started as an entrepreneur 10 years ago, forming his consulting firm, Thruput, Inc. One of our own here at IIT, Brian has an MBA in Operations from Illinois Institute of Technology and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University. Working with CXOs of Fortune 500 companies, his team produced great results in service and IT operations by applying innovative management methods. Five years ago, in an effort to focus these skills in a more socially responsible way, he started GreenCells at usedcellphoneshop.com. He shared a lot of his ideas with the audience too. Since 2005, his reuse and recycling of cell phones has made green easy for hundreds of thousands of happy customers. “Our mission is simple”,  Brian explained, “provide quality products and service, and enable our customers to contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment by making used a better choice than new.”

Another speaker at the events was Guillermo Krovblit, who served as Operations and Business development manager for Lucent Technologies, presently Alcatel-Lucent, from September 1998 until July 2007. During his tenure at Lucent, he was in charge of managing mission critical operations for telecommunication networks across the Caribbean and Latin American region. Later on in his career he became a network operations consultant in charge of optimizing customer operations to increase reliability and reduce costs. Another member of the IIT community, Guillermo is a Master in Design and MBA degree candidate at IIT Institute of Design, and he holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. His organization, Peapod Labs is the result of three engineers from around the world that decided to study design in Chicago. When they found that they shared a lot of ideas and convictions of the world, they decided to get together and founded Peapod Labs in the summer of 2010. “We believe,” said he, “that technology is now very accessible to children and we are focused on creating playful learning experiences for kids with this technology”. Peapod Labs works with the Institute of Design Make-to-Know design process to develop playful learning solutions that enhance education for children, so that they have the opportunity to learn new things in a way which otherwise may not have been possible. Peapod Labs already has 5 apps in the Apps Store: ABC Play, ABC Music, ABC Go, ABC Wildlife, and Bugsy the Blue Hamster, which are all fun ways to teach little kids their first things about the world around them!

The last speaker, Hazem Dawani co-founded OptionsCity in 2006 and currently serves as President and CEO. OptionsCity is a Chicago based financial technology company built on a vision for technology and options trading. Together, the three founders of OptionsCity created an electronic trading platform so powerful, intuitive, and reliable that it would change the way options traders conducted business. Before this, Hazem worked as a Director in the Software Department at Chicago Trading Company (CTC) and played a big part in coming up with the company’s main electronic trading. Within a short period of time, his system took the company’s electronic trading revenue to an explosive growth. Prior to that, Hazem worked at SSI as a Software Engineer building real-time embedded systems solutions. Another IIT alumnus, Hazem has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and was a scholar in the IIT Leadership Academy.

At the event, we also learnt a lot of things about networking, like how when networking, it should be about what you can do to help others, and not what they can do for you. This is a fatal mistake that most people make, and due to this, other people think of you as being selfish, and ultimately don’t think of you when an opportunity shows up. It was a great learning experience, about both becoming an entrepreneur, as well as just being a good networker, and a good person to work with. The networking in between the speaker sessions were very useful as well, where we got to talk to all the people at the event, and share ideas and thoughts.

All in all, the experience was great, and a fantastic learning experience. What one took away from it was the more in depth knowledge of what entrepreneurship really is, and the ways to channel is a way that it does great things. We learnt about the “That’s awesome” movement, where every time we see something really good, we exclaim “that’s awesome!” So go out there, and spread the word and make your dreams come true! Trust me, it may seem difficult, but it is never impossible!

 

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