This summer I did an experiential learning block, which is one of Quest’s many opportunities to get out of the classroom and still get class credit. It’s a great way to learn beyond the walls of Quest and test the skills you’ve developed in the classroom.
For my experiential learning block I did an internship with a wearable technology startup called Awake Labs. They are a social enterprise developing a wearable band (kind of like a fitbit) that measures and tracks anxiety in real-time. This wearable band is called Reveal and it’s being designed with the goal of empowering autistic people who struggle with anxiety to help increase their independence and work towards more inclusive future for them and their families.
My main responsibility was running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, but I got to do a whole lot more than that. I also attended numerous events and presentations and helped with market research and some business strategy. I got to tip my toes into almost every aspect of the business is someway shape or form. It was a whirlwind of testing out new ideas, making a lot of mistakes and strategizing. I learned more than I could fit into one blog post, that’s for sure.
What I really ended up exploring in my reflection at the end of it all was the skills that my last year at Quest prepared me with. How did classes like Peasant Cultures, What is Life? and Earth, Oceans, Space, help me be effective in the startup space?
Here are 3 essential entrepreneurial skills Quests provides you with (according to me).
(1) The ability to effectively hold space and work in a group.
The company was made up of about four or five of us; we were all under 25 and came from different backgrounds. We had engineers, a computer science student, a business school student and me, a liberal arts student. We all shared a one big table that we sat together at all day everyday. It was a lot of fun, but for people who weren’t used to the constant group work that Quest prepares you for, it was a shock. Getting used to constantly being challenged by others, learning how to filter through feedback and to know what you know and stand up for that. All those skills I learned during group work. Despite how much we might complain about it, it is so useful!
(2) No assumptions, always ask.
There are a number of sensitivities to consider when working with a vulnerable population. As the one on our team leading the marketing and community development efforts I had to figure out what those sensitivities were and how to address them. One of the keys to this was the ability to see a problem from every angle and every opinion. There have been so many times in class where I was sure I was well informed about something and that I knew the right answer and despite that certainty my tutor or classmate blew me away and changed my mind entirely. After having that happen much more than just once, I learned that the only way you can see these opinions is by asking. Autism is a really unique community and there are so many people involved in the care process. Knowing that I had to reach out, ask and listen to each one of these people was something that not only saved me a lot of time and energy, it informed how we could best serve each of these customer segments and design with their needs in mind.
(3) Dealing With The Unknown
I consistently leave the classroom at Quest with more questions than answers and the best classes I’ve taken have been ones where I’ve been given a question and told to just figure it out. Speaking as someone who has been to two other universities, this is something unique to Quest and I love it. Learning how to plan, strategize and tackle problems, it was these kinds of challenges that were invaluable to my job. There was very very rarely a time when someone told me exactly what to do. It was up to me to look at what was happening and see where I could contribute and add value. Being okay with not knowing and learning the process of figuring stuff out is essential in the startup space.