Posts Tagged ‘Alumni’

What the SE Experience meant for me

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

By Usman Gul

Sometime during my sophomore year at Wooster, I began to weigh my options about the many different paths in life that I could adopt after graduation.  Public policy, urban planning, behavioral economics and econometrics all seemed to be fine options, but first I had to decide whether I wanted to create jobs or seek jobs – was I to be an employee or an employer?

I wanted to be an employer. As a budding entrepreneur, the Social Entrepreneurship (SE) program was the only program at Wooster that provided students an opportunity to explore their entrepreneurial talents in a real-world setting. I worked with a non-profit organization that operated on grants from generous donors to promote the use of solar energy in and around Wayne County. As consultants, my teammates and I were required to propose a revenue generation model that would help the organization move closer to financial sustainability.

Usman Gul, Sam McNelly, Shitong Zhan and Moledina at the SE Seminar

For me, the SE program was a very effective reality check. I realized through first-hand experience that I needed to be more flexible in working with my teammates. Maybe I was a better candidate for a particular task, but what if my teammates really wanted to do that task as well? It seemed like I had to choose between group performance and team chemistry. However, faculty members who were supervising our project helped me find extremely simple solutions through which I did not have to compromise on either end. I ended up putting in my best effort for team performance, while also staying on excellent terms with my teammates.

Working with an external organization that had nothing to do with the College was an experience of its own. I learned all the little things that pile up to make a big difference in professional relationships. Working under pressure, constructing flow diagrams to visualize our project in group meetings, preparing an agenda before each meeting (and sticking to the agenda!), and being (or at least sounding) enthusiastic about the discussions in early morning meetings were only some of things I was able to master at an early stage.

Perhaps the most important lesson, for me at least, was to think outside of the box. One downside of taking so many objective and quantitative courses is that we begin to assume that there is one right answer to every question. Through the SE program, I realized that there were so many different ways of going about a particular project that possibilities were literally endless. However, the trick was to eliminate the uncertainty by acquiring the necessary information and then objectively and collectively decide the merits of every potential solution.

I feel that my time at Wooster would certainly have been incomplete without the SE experience.

Editors note: Upon graduation Usman was an Invest2Innovate Fellow. Thereafter he moved to New York where he worked for MasterCard. He is now in the Bay area working for Marqeta, a payment processing firm.