Entrepreneurship may not be love at first sight
Interview with Harold Wright – Professor at the University of Alabama
Professor Harold Wright from the University of Alabama is one of the many faculty members who visited EIA program in the summer. Over the past 2 years, the University of Alabama has brought 10 students to EIA programs, and we are looking forward to welcoming the 3rd patch of Alabama students in Portugal, 2019.
One of the most important things for students to realize is that a cultural exchange like EIA will make them more aware of the real world and face problems that they might have not been exposed to before.
It also opens up more business opportunities. He continues and says “I want my students to know that the world is a big place to explore, but at the same time it’s very small. If you want to sell more products, you need to go global.”
Poor business conditions can lead to innovation
When people talk about innovation, what do they really mean? Professor Wright gives us his point of view and says “Innovation comes in many forms. It can be a disruptive force, destroying other platforms, with AirBnB and Uber being good examples. But iteration in the innovative space is also very viable. I believe we innovate what’s being sought after the most”. He also mentions that innovation comes from seeing opportunity, and at times it comes from just a need. Poor business conditions can, for example, push people to be more innovative and think outside of the box. Professor Wright says the question we need to ask ourselves is “What changes the game?”, and that’s when we really have to push ourselves to be innovative and creative.
The business tools you must have
University of Alabama recruits students each year to EIA programs. But how exactly does one get recruited and which sort of students are a good fit for the program? The professor explains that the students he looks for are the “high potential” students who have shown to be extremely capable, bright, but most importantly: motivated. He adds “I also look for the students who are perhaps a bit more reserved, who I thought needed to step out a bit personality wise. I want them to add another tool to their tool bag, and with this experience, they’ll hopefully get out of their comfort zone.” A cultural exchange will make students more aware of the outside world and face problems that they might have not been exposed to before. It also opens up more business opportunities. He continues and says “I want my students to know that the world is a big place to explore, but at the same time it’s very small. If you want to sell more products, you need to go global.”
Working globally gives you a different perspective
The EIA is for young entrepreneurs to grow, learn new skills and get a better understanding in different fields. But what about the academics? What do they get out of this experience? Professor Wright says that one of the best things about this experience is to pick up some finer points in order to add and supplement to his lectures. He continues “It’s given me, in my travel globally, a different perspective that I can give to my students in the US”. He also mentions that the best thing about being an academic at EIA is to see students stepping out of their comfort zones. He adds “When we did the speed dating round, I told them that this is going to be hard, it’s going to be difficult and you have to be ready. It’s a lot like love – you may think it’s love at first sight, it may work out well, but in most cases it doesn’t, and you need to be prepared for those type of situations”. When the students are going to pitch their idea to the vice president or the president of the company, they will most likely feel nervous and uneasy. And that’s what the academics want to prepare them for – give them that experience, that uncomfortable feeling first hand, before they have to face it alone.
Three words to describe EIA
“To me, EIA is Energy, it’s Global and it’s Awesome”. We couldn’t have said it better.
Did you know that 66% of students want to be an entrepreneur but only 3 percent actually start their own business?
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EIA review by Elise Kaminski, University of Alabama, participant in 2017:
“The EIA program was a wonderful opportunity to grow and push myself beyond my comfort zone. They throw you into the deep end from the very first night you are there– you network and form teams within a two hour “speed dating” experience.
The next day is the first official day of lectures. Through the program, you have access to dozens of talented, inspirational speakers who are experts on subjects ranging from intellectual property to social media marketing to artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Your LinkedIn network will thank you! Beyond that, you get to meet and work with people from all different backgrounds; this past year, the Italy session had participants from more than 70 countries. Weekends are free, too, so you can travel and see other parts of Europe.
During the final week, teams focus on preparing pitches for venture capitalist. Overall, I think it was an amazing experience where I met new people, learned from industry experts, tried out new skills, and explored a different culture. I would highly recommend it.”