SASE National Conference and SASEtank

By Gazi Mahir Ahmed Naven

After going through a three-round, four-month long process, we finally made it to the finals of the SASEtank business competition (organized by the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, or SASE). In the spring, we finished 2nd in the Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition at UR with the idea for our business. UPTICK was turning into a reality and we were finally ready to present our venture, a data-driven affordable marketplace for student essentials.

My team and I were fortunate to find that the University of Rochester’s SASE Chapter planned to attend the SASE National Conference in Chicago, where our pitch for the finals was going to take place. This was a great opportunity to attend the conference, which attracted over 2500 students (representing 130+ universities) and industry professionals. Not only was it a great opportunity to network with diverse individuals within the Asian community, but also to attend workshops led by professionals working in cutting-edge businesses.

UPTICK co-founders Sidhant Ahluwalia, Babaye Yahouza, and Gazi Naven.

One of my favorite workshops was led by Nyle Miyamoto, Additive Manufacturing Chief Engineer at The Boeing Company. His talk went over the importance of leadership in workplace. What I found most interesting was his formula for climbing up the ladder in a big firm: progression in workplace is a multiplication of how much experience, number of relationships, and the reputation one has. He emphasized that this simple concept can often explain why a lot of Asians –  despite their experience and work ethic – aren’t in managerial positions in big firms. He finds that Asians are not usually striving to build relationships or the reputation of the firm. Hence, he urged Asians to not only work hard at the job, but to also on break the cultural barrier that stops them from taking more initiative to build their reputation and relationships.

Nyle Miyamoto speaking of leadership potential and his formula for success.

Nyle’s words kept me inspired leading up to the SASEtank business competition. We were the last to go among the five finalists. I was prepared for it, but still a little nervous about being able to finish on time, since we only had 3 minutes to present. After our clear and concise presentation came the 7-minute-long session of questioning from the judges. While some were just clarification questions, I appreciated how many of their inquiries became discussions as we answered them. These discussions led to valuable comments and interesting ideas that we may begin to implement. While we did not end up winning, this opened space for advice and networking with the judges. One of my conversations led me to David Pan, who previously worked at P&G and Amazon, and now works as COO for MyIntent Project. From him I learned how you can create a demand in the market, a strategy MyIntent Project used. We talked about how UPTICK could benefit from doing something similar.

University of Rochester SASE Chapter members.

In addition to the delicious food that was served during the conference, I came to meet new people and learn about different perspectives. I was given feedback for my own professional development through resume reviews with Boeing and Leidos, and I was able to practice giving elevator pitches at the career fair. It was a breathtaking experience to take myself and our entrepreneurial venture out from the college bubble and into the real world.

Gazi Mahir Ahmed Naven ’19, originally from Bangladesh, is a senior at the University of Rochester, double majoring in Data Science and Economics. He is the CTO and Co-Founder of UPTICK, a student-only marketplace with advanced analytics. Naven is passionate about developing technology to create convenience and business value.