If you have been keeping up with my blog posts, you will know that I have been holding a graduate assistantship position during my time with the TEAM program. My title is Spirit Coordinator and my primary role is to maintain and schedule appearances of the University of Rochester mascot, Rocky the Yellowjacket, as well as participate in special events for my office. This job is a joint position through Wilson Commons Student Activities and the Athletics Department. It is a 20-hour per week position with 15 hours scheduled in the office and 5 hours available for activities on the weekends and evenings. I have chosen to write about this position in this blog post because I feel that this is a unique part of my experience as I complete the TEAM program.
Around this time last year, I was looking into options to help me with my finances while I was in graduate school. I was worried about paying rent for housing as well as having spending money for food and activities during the year. When my sister was in graduate school at another university, she held a graduate assistantship, which acted as a scholarship program. So the first thing I did was research potential positions through the University. I began by contacting many different departments from the Office of Minority Student Affairs to Admissions to Residential Life to the Office of the Dean of Students and many more. I figured the more departments I contacted, the greater the chance of finding a position. This experience taught me that it is important to put myself out there and survey all of my options, a skill I am using today as I search for a full time job. While many departments did not have formal graduate assistantships, I received a lot of positive feedback and assistance from them. From suggesting other departments to contact, to telling me about other employment opportunities that they offered, I felt the University of Rochester community was extremely supportive in helping with my search.
I eventually came across the graduate assistantship page for Residential Life and the Office of the Dean of Students on the University website. This page showed all of the graduate assistantship positions that were being offered for the upcoming year in these departments and directed me to job descriptions, application deadlines, and the contact information for the specific positions. This is where I found the description of the Spirit Coordinator position. It was past the deadline for the application; however, I figured I would still give it a shot and submitted my resume and cover letter to Wilson Commons Student Activities and Athletics. Soon I received an interview and then a job offer.
I have really enjoyed holding this position for the past nine months because it has allowed me to be further involved with the Rochester community. During my graduate work, I wanted to still feel like I was a part of the University community since I have been a student here for so many years and I think that this is just one way I have been able to give back. Many doors have been opened to me through this position, and I have developed many new relationships with other graduate students who are not in the TEAM program. Lastly, because I hold this position, I was able to financially afford staying in Rochester for one more year to participate in the TEAM program.
– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)
Hello, entrepreneurs! In this post, I intend to provide some suggestions to those of you who are in the process of pitching your venture to prospective investors, based on my personal experience as a consultant working for major companies and as an entrepreneur:
- Do some research: Before you can really break into an industry, you need to become familiar with it. You might be experienced enough in technical matters but you lack expertise in business and other softer areas, and that is perfectly acceptable! Spend more time with people in the business and try to see how they work on a daily basis. Ask them all the questions you need to ask and try to see the world through their eyes. Also do some proper internet research about the market on: what is the budget your potential customer has to spend on your product/service, what drives their decisions, what are their interests, how familiar are they with the technologies you expect them to use?
- Be transparent: No startup is perfect; no scenario is the best. There will always be weaknesses and threats, and investors are aware of that, but if you omit them or avoid mentioning them it looks like you overlooked them and this does not help convince people that you can take control of a business. Just be honest and mention those issues that are out of your control and could threaten your business before someone else points them out for you. Even better, try to explain how you can fight or minimize their effects by using your strengths and taking advantage of opportunities. Do not be afraid to explain that you need to do further research on some aspect or that you need money to improve some weak area you are dealing with.
Do not underestimate users: As technical experts, there are many times when we think WE know what our customers will need better than they do. We take it for granted that they will think our product is super-cool and feel there is almost no need for them to give us their feedback. We welcome and celebrate those compliments and thumbs up we get from them, but categorically disregard the negative opinions or suggestions, alleging that the user probably did not understand our value proposition or might not know what they want. We just need to take a look at the most successful apps (Google, Facebook, Twitter) to understand that their first main goal was to attract users with useful tools, nice interfaces and reliable services and only after that, they started making a profit out of their traffic. Facebook did not start selling ads before it had many users; not until 2012, when it had 1 billion. It is true that users are always reluctant to change (especially those coming from traditional retail, finance and health verticals), but we need to do our best in order to offer a good value proposition and a fantastic user experience that can make their efforts to give our products a chance worthwhile. Try to see what things you can do better than your competitors’ or alternative products/services, and try to focus your surveys and user evaluations
– Agustin Baretto ’15 (MS)