My Journey as a Creative Founder

I was really excited before taking Christina Wodtke’s Creative Founder class. I had heard all kinds of things, drama, too much homework and lots of sketchnotes to great feedback and lots of growth as a designer and as a person. I had been waiting for this class for years and I was ready to take it during my senior year.

I had all these ideas I wanted to explore. So many things to validate. So much to learn from my teacher and my classmates. We started by sharing a bit of ourselves. I talked about my past experiences as an entrepreneur, about the many hats that I had to wear, about the many times I failed and the journey that brought me to Silicon Valley and the world of Design.

After sharing our interests, super powers and areas of opportunity, our teacher and mentor, Christina Wodtke, broke the class into different teams. I was really happy with my team. Two other seniors and one junior. I knew the kind of work they did and had an idea of the challenges that we could be facing. After some days of brainstorming and talking to other teams, we decided that we liked each other and that we had similar interests. The team felt well balanced.

Weeks went by and we decided that we wanted to focus on education. We were all passionate about learning and growing in our fields, so we wanted to work on a product that could help the growing community of Designers out there. It all sounded good until I realized that I was running out of money and that the clock had started ticking for me. My time in the US as an international student was about to be over. I needed to get a job at a big company, get more work experience, get a visa and start paying for my loans. Companies had already started reaching out to some of my peers with offers in hand and here I was planning my next startup. Back to square one.

It is really hard for anyone who is not American to stay in the country. One of the reasons I am studying at CCA is because I needed a student visa to stay in the US to keep doing what I love. I started my company, did all the hustle, started selling and then it was time for me to go back home. Just like that. So instead, I decided to follow my dreams. I decided to attend the best Interaction Design program and learn from the best. I had to put my startup aside and start all over again.

The fact that I was back in this situation was very troublesome. Here I am about to graduate, with the clock ticking and instead of looking for a job, I am focusing on starting a new company. It was not just another class. It was not just homework. It was that spark that ignites that hunger for problem solving and innovation in me. It was HARD. Recruiters started reaching out, I started preparing for the interviews, working on my portfolio, showing up to the interviews and everything was going well. Unfortunately, things with my team were not going as well. I was not acting as the leader they expected me to be after they picked me as the CEO. I asked my CMO, Zhiyu for help, but the reality was that I needed to be present.

As part of the class, we had to give each other feedback on a personal level during midterms to see how we were doing. This was a great opportunity for me to tell my team where we could improve as a team, but also a chance for me to see what I was doing wrong. Having someone giving you real and authentic feedback is great, but it is also quite difficult. Christina was amazing during this part of the class, she shared some personal stories with us and taught us the best way to handle feedback. After going through a few rounds of feedback, I learned that I needed to step up and show up for my team. I needed to be more involved and prepared in order for us to succeed in the class and so I did.

I put my job hunting aside and started being more involved with the team. It was great! Hours and hours of thinking, brainstorming, creating systems, telling stories, interviewing people and ideating. I instantly started noticing the changes in the dynamics of the team. No more passive aggressiveness, no more not showing up and no more not doing the work. We all started working together as a team.

We had some ups and downs. We got some great and some terrible feedback for our product. My team and I had a couple of fights and difficult moments, but the greatest thing was knowing that we were all there for each other. We were passionate about our product and we trusted each other.

I loved seeing my team grow. It was great knowing that someone had your back. I learned that someone can grow incredibly from a Performance Improvement Plan. It was a great experience. I am glad I could enjoy Zhiyu’s energy, drive and passion, I loved seeing Tiffany be confident and blunt in the moments that mattered and I also loved working with Jherin and learning from his amazing artistic talent and his systems thinking mind.

Overall, it wasn’t an easy semester for me. I could not put the pieces together until we had Cory Smith as a guest speaker. His talk was very inspiring. Cory talked to us about purpose, mindfulness, passion and grit. He told us to always be in control of out boat and learn when to jump to solid ground when being an entrepreneur. He shared many stories, but it was one quote in particular that really resonated with me; he said “I am an entrepreneur. That is who I am and I cannot help it! If you feel this way, then don’t fight it!”. That was it! This is who I am! I am an entrepreneur. This is the reason why I’m here in this class.

The fact that I am now about to graduate as an Interaction Designer and that I am looking for a job, doesn’t mean that I am not an entrepreneur. It means that it is time for me to go out there, learn and do my best work! I am in the right place at the best time. I have access to the best designers in the world. I can get a job at any of the most innovative companies in Silicon Valley. I will learn how things work, how a Design team is managed, how to solve problems in different ways and strengthen my super powers. I cannot wait to get a job and apply all the skills I’ve learned. Thanks for a great semester Christina Wodtke!

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