Reflection on the University Innovation Fellows National Meet-up

When I first arrived at Google during our first day, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was still a bit unclear of what the following three days would entail, and questioned how much I would learn from this experience. What happened during the next three days was one of the most eye-opening, self-reflecting, and thought-provoking weekends I had ever experienced. Being around so many people that were passionate about change and cared for those around them, in spaces that were open to collaboration and teamwork, it was a perspective of life that I had a vague idea of, but finally saw all of the elements come together. There was a lot that I got out of the trip, but a few lessons stood out that I will carry with me for as long as I can.

Empathize with those around you.

Every person you see walking down the street, ordering a cheeseburger at a restaurant, or walking their dog at the park has a story. Our lives are as unique as we make them, each person taking different paths and decisions. Being able to acknowledge that people come from different backgrounds with different perspectives will open your mind to so many more views.

A leader doesn’t have to mean holding the most power

When working with a team of people, the most important part is that every person feels comfortable contributing to the rest of the team. To be a good leader means you can work with the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, placing them in positions that increases productivity.

Fake it until you make it!

There will be moments that you won’t want to finish a project, or walk up the stage to deliver your presentation. Everyone goes through moments like this, and it honestly sucks. But know that puffing out your chest, throwing that smile on your face, facing your fears with the mindset of “nothing can stop me” will push you to places you didn’t even think were possible. Confidence can bring you a long way, and it’s an attribute people will notice.

Last but not least, fail!

Mess up that presentation. Trip during that award ceremony. Learn to embrace each moment of failure, and be okay with laughing it off! Failure is just a part of life, and how you deal with it says a lot about who you are. Mistakes will be made, and making the best out of poor situations will show not only yourself, but to others that you can learn from your mistakes and adapt to the situation.

This article was written by Bobby Caswelch, University Innovation Fellow at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.