Nine months ago I would have never guessed that I would be living in New York City and apprenticing for Sascha Lewis, the entrepreneur who co-founded Flavorpill, a creative and well-regarded events and media production company. I couldn’t have conceived that I’d be residing in an amazing loft in the financial district with ten other young doers and thinkers. But here I am, two weeks into E[nstitute] and I’m coming to realize that yes, this really is my life for the next two years.
I left college a year and nine months ago after wrestling with several conflicting feelings about the college experience. Although I had several amazing teachers, made great friends, and had been given access to great resources, I felt that, first and foremost, it wasn’t worth the price-tag and the amount of debt I was getting myself into with risky job prospects on the horizon. I also found myself feeling a lack of real world relevancy in what I was learning. I consider myself to be an entrepreneurial thinker, and the way school was structured just wasn’t entirely allowing for this way of learning and doing.
Before I moved forward in school, I decided to take time off and explore how else I could learn what I needed for what I wanted to do in the world. I traveled, volunteered, and worked in the US and in Europe. I attended various conferences and workshops relating to topics like redesigning systems, social entrepreneurship, and sustainable development. I started The Eduventurist Project, in which I interviewed dozens of people about the changing landscape of learning and working in our digital, globalized, and connected society. This time off turned into leaving college altogether for the time being, as I realized that I was gaining a lot more from my learning experiences outside of formal higher education at this point in my life.
That’s when I came across E[nstitute]. I found a link to it through Facebook, and knew I had to apply. It was the perfect blend between college and “The Real World,” and incorporated the positive elements of each. I’ve spent the past 20 months exploring how new learning programs can prepare students for the world of the future, and E[nstitute] understood these needs as well. In E[nstitute] I would have a community of peers to live and learn with as well as a community to work with at Flavorpill. I would have mentorship from someone who I believe embodies the characteristics of a leader and creative visionary. I would participate in programming and events with some of the top players in the New York tech and start-up community. I was so grateful and excited to be accepted and before I knew it, on a plane to New York at the beginning of September.
After meeting everyone and getting a tour of the E[nstitute] Headquarters, it was time to begin bootcamp. The other fellows and I spent the next two weeks unlearning many things we had been taught in traditional school that were not conducive to being entrepreneurial or even working in the real-life start-up community. We were given tasks that had us tackling ambiguity, navigating group communication and feedback, brainstorming and generating creative ideas, and learning the ins and outs of web design and digital communication. We received emails daily from a fictional entrepreneur, assigning us tasks like writing up talking points for a New York Times interview, or even designing a new pitch deck for our companies. In addition to these tasks, we hosted various guest speakers who spoke on topics ranging from creating a good organizational culture to how technology intersects with democratic and civic efforts.
We are now on week three of our apprenticeships, and forming new skills and habits every day. In my role at Flavorpill, I am exposed to critical new areas for my entrepreneurial development, such as sales. I listen closely to the sales team meetings and conversations with clients in order to observe the art of negotiation and partnership building. In my first week I gained insight into large-scale event organizing when I worked to organize a fundraiser that utilized new digital technologies such as Square as part of Flavorpill’s Yoga in the Park event, which drew over 500 people. But I have also been enabled to further exercise and build upon my existing skills and knowledge set of social enterprise as Social Impact Program Manager. From working on office sustainability practices and a new employee volunteer program, to talking with potential social impact curators for Flavorpill’s new site, I’ve been fully immersed in this effort. Having Sascha as a boss and mentor has been extremely helpful. He is always giving me feedback and input on who to learn from and how to get things done. I can’t wait to see how much more I will learn in the coming months, and I find it amazing what I’ve already learned in the first few weeks of this incredibly exciting learning venture.