Chennai to Arizona State: Having an Entrepreneurial mindset and earning Full Tuition Scholarship.

Twenty four hours, multiple security checks and scrutiny at the immigration later, I was finally there at the Sky Harbor International Airport — all by myself — save for the clothes I was wearing, two check-in luggages and hand luggages. The excitement of attending Arizona State University (ASU) had blinded me from getting too awed or even scared at the prospect of travelling close to 15,000 km, alone, to live in a new continent. The risks I had taken had indeed paid off as ASU presented me with multiple opportunities to learn and to do things that I’d only been dreaming about until then.

Pooja with the CEO and co founder of Unroll.me

Being the ambitious person I am, I signed up for all the email newsletters by the university and attended every single talk, workshop and seminar that happened on or near campus related to topics that interested me. One such was the inaugural event of ‘Generator Labs’ popularly called ‘GenLabs’, which is a space at the Fulton School of Engineering at ASU for entrepreneurial and socially-minded students to collaborate on their awesome ideas. GenLabs was organising a 36-hour hackathon called ‘Fulton Furnace Fallout’ (which was later rechristened as ‘Devil’s Invent’ for the upcoming events) in partnership with the KEEN Foundation. As I’d never been to a hackathon before, I decided to attend it and there was where I heard the term ‘Entrepreneurial Mindset’ for the first time in my life. I lost the first hackathon and the one after that, however I did make it to the finals during the EmergenTech hackathon & pitch competition with my amazing teammates Zoe Cayetano, Hunter Middleton and Zarah Khan.

All though the hackathons’ objective was to develop Engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset, at the end of it, I figured out that I was an Entrepreneur with an engineering mindset and that was one of the major turning points in my life. I changed my major from Mechanical Engineering (Energy & Environment) to Technological Entrepreneurship & Management (TEM), an undergraduate program which was a combination from both the Fulton School of Engineering and the W.P. Carey School of Business.

Arizona State University Campus

During my second semester, I took a class on ‘The Entrepreneurial Mindset’ (FSE 294) by Prof. Ken Mulligan and I learned in depth about the 3Cs of Entrepreneurship — Curiosity, Connections and Creating Value.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” — Albert Einstein

The first step to having an entrepreneurial mindset is to always be curious about everything around you and to question it; you’ve got to identify what’s being done inefficiently and think about how you can make it cheaper, better, faster, more accessible and so on. Secondly, a lot of people believe that ‘making connections’ is only about meeting people. While networking plays a huge role in building your career, no matter who you are, it is equally important to make connections between everything you learn. In the book A Mind for Numbers, Barbara Oakley talks about two kinds of thinking — focussed and diffused. During focussed thinking, our mind focuses on one particular topic and follows a pattern whereas in diffused thinking mode our thoughts flow freely and creatively. It is important that we exercise this diffused mode of thinking while solving critical problems as it allows us to correlate multiple subjects. You never know when that one chapter from middle school history or that one fact from that chemistry class you were failing in will help you!

Great ideas are dime a dozen, but how many of them solve real problems? So the final and most important factor of the Entrepreneurial Mindset is to create value; if you’re not creating value, you’re only wasting your time. You know that you’ve created value only when you alleviate your customers’ pains and create gains that your customers expect, desire or even are surprised by.

My goal has always been to bring the best of tech with the goodness of nature to solve the world’s problems. My passion for sustainability earned me my full-tuition scholarship through the Next Generation Service Corps program by the Public Service Academy at ASU. The program trains its select cohort members in cross-sector collaboration through coursework, service activities, mission teams, seminars and internships. With my sustainability mission team, I’ve been able to put to practise what I’d been reading about in books. Another such platform is the Changemaker Central, a co-working space at ASU, which also contains multiple committees such as Startup, Solutions, Service, etc. Through the Startup Summit and Solutions Summit, I’ve made numerous connections and have also gotten the position as Startup Chair for the academic year 2017–2018.

I’m someone who believes that the entrepreneurial mindset is a must-have for anyone from author to automobile engineer, regardless of their choice of career. To see how you can inculcate this mindset in various fields and to carve a niche for yourself in the field you’re passionate about, sign up here!

~Pooja Addla Hari

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