Great Advice from Great Minds

By McKayla Marcola

The Western Michigan University team attended and volunteered at the Lean startup conference. Our group had the privilege of volunteering at the conference while getting to experience all the conference had to offer.

During the conference our team was everywhere from registering people when they check in for the conference to being room monitors while lectures on innovation and team management where being given. However, I was fortunate enough to have been volunteering in the VIP room. The VIP room is where every speaker who was at the conference had to go to get a microphone before they went on stage. During this time, I was able to speak with some of these great minds in “Lean Methodology” and “Business Model Design”. These minds included Eric Ries and Alex Osterwalder.

Eric Ries who is the founder and CEO of the Lean Startup Conference and whose innovation in the way startups operate is UN-parallel. Although my interaction with Eric was brief, his attitude toward his fans was positive. I was able to approach him and tell him all about Western Michigan University and our instructor Barcley Johnson. He thanked me and told me to pass on his thanks to my instructor. After getting to meet with Eric, I was able to talk with another great mind and receive eye-opening advice.

Alex Osterwalder is a Swedish intellectual and businessman known for his groundbreaking work with the Business Model Canvas and the Value Proposition Canvas. While I was volunteering in the VIP room he took a moment to talk with WMU team member Amber Mudget and myself, He asked us what we thought about startups, to which Amber and I expressed our concern for the level of risk involved. To which Alex replied,

“There is a lot of risk but there is no better way to gain experience in every job field.”

Alex Osterwalder

This resonated with me, he was right when you work in a startup you become a jack-of-all-trades. Just because your diploma says marketing doesn’t not mean you won’t work with finance, accounting, and sales while at a startup. When you work for a corporation after graduation you get fixed in one area so that’s all you learn. Then if you ever get to the point where you want to create your own startup or have a career in a startup most people struggle since they don’t know how to be flexible. Now in reverse, when you work for a startup you learn every job then if you decide to go into the corporate world you will be more marketable through you vast level of experience.

Meeting with these two accomplished men has given me insights into possible futures that I could peruse that I had I not traveled to meet them I wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

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