The Fellowship Year

By Michelle Faits

Michelle Faits awarded 2016 Innovator of Year at The Innovators.

A Pipeline fellowship year starts like this — you meet the other fellows for the first time right before the Innovators. Pipeline members come in to give you advice, much of which comes down to “you’re part of a family now. The sooner your group can open up to each other the sooner you can help each other grow and thrive.” You look around at this group of strangers and wonder if you’ll bond like everyone is saying you will. Will you trust these people with your weaknesses and doubts?

The thoughts don’t linger for long (nothing does that first year) because you’re marched here and there, sometimes hardly knowing where, and suddenly you are watching the “graduating” year’s class give beautiful pitches in front of a 50’ movie screen. You watch them and you wonder if your pitch could ever look that good.

Then, over the course of the year, Pipeline magic happens.

On the first day of module 1, we listen to each other pitch our businesses for the first time, not knowing that by the end of the year we’d be able to pitch each other’s businesses in our sleep. As the year goes on, uncertainty fades, and understanding begins. Each of us starts to get what others are working on, and trying to achieve. We dig in — my fellows asking questions, pushing back, challenging me. They call me out when my value proposition gets lost in unintelligible scientific and medical jargon. They’re right beside me at 2am during module 3 as I rebuild my company’s financial projections. Most importantly, they constantly inspire me to be better, to be the best me — I felt lucky to be around such talented and driven people, and I never wanted to let them down.

The highlight of my Pipeline fellowship year was the day I got to see how far all of the 2016 fellows had come as we pitched on stage at the Alamo Drafthouse. I could see how far we all had come. Every person on that stage used something from our fellowship year to improve their business and themselves. I heard fellows pitch their products using phrases that others had suggested. I saw flawless business models that had been polished during late night module homework sessions. I heard them tell stories of successes that they’d first shared with us on our class’s slack channel. I noticed how many of us had started the year quiet and reserved and were now on stage as confident powerhouses. Most significantly, I felt like I was watching my family up there, and I felt so much pride seeing how much my family has accomplished.

A Pipeline fellowship year ends like this — you get to stand up in front of your class of fellows and the rest of the Pipeline membership — all people you’ve come to love, respect, and trust. You get to show how far you’ve come during the year. You feel joy for the journey, a little sadness that it’s over, but mostly excitement — because you know you’re going to watch the magic all over again when the incoming fellows are up on stage next January.

The 2016 Pipeline Fellowship Class at Queens University in Northern Ireland.

Pipeline — thanks for letting me be part of the family. To my class, the Perfect 10th — I can’t wait to see how we all continue to grow, what we accomplish, and what we give back.