On April 29 to May 28, 2019, a group of eighteen students attended an entrepreneurship program at the Technion – Institute of Technology. Under the guidance of Program Directors: Dr. Andrew Maxwell, Helen Leighton, and Dr. Shlomo Maital, the students embarked on a journey of self-discovery and self-development by diving into the world of entrepreneurship in Israel – the Start-Up Nation.
This experiential education course was truly unlike any other course that I have ever experienced in the past, delivered in a dynamic and engaging format, through a series of lectures, interactive workshops, guest speakers, group activities and visits to technology companies. In many of the classes, there was a strong emphasis on team-based learning, meaning that we were encouraged to collaborate, support and learn from one another through mutual feedback and sharing.
I found this to be a more engaging, motivating, and highly effective method of learning which complemented traditional lecture-style classes. The activities compelled us to think creatively, on the spot, while collaborating in teams – all skills which are necessary to entrepreneurship. For example, we were tasked to create a Rube Goldberg machine in one hour, an activity paralleled the world of entrepreneurship. There was huge capacity for creativity due to the ambiguity of what was possible with our given tools, there was a need to work in an efficient and resourceful manner, and it was a chaotic environment given the limited time and large group size. Importantly I learned that teamwork is more than the sum of individual contributions but rather the sum of the interactions between team members.
This course was invaluable to my learning in terms of both personal and career development. In the past, I was often unable to speak my mind in fear of judgment. However, the instructors created a safe environment by recognizing each individual’s uniqueness and value. This enabled me to come out of my shell and I often became the first to speak up during discussions, as they gave me the motivation and confidence to do so. Moreover, I was able to discover new strengths of mine through the project of creating a pitch for a new venture.
Taking on the role of team leader within my group, I learned how to effectively delegate work by analyzing each member’s strengths and the type of work that they find motivating. From this, I assigned a project manager for specific tasks, so as to promote accountability and ownership. I also oversaw the team dynamics, providing encouragement and support to enable productivity and motivation.
The opportunities presented through this experience gave me greater confidence as a leader and provided insights as to what type of work I find rewarding. While these insights are crucial to shaping a fulfilling career for oneself, traditional courses often do not encourage this type of introspection as they lack the experiential education component. The focus is often on absorbing information, rather than having the autonomy to pursue projects that cater to one’s talents and interests. Collectively, we learned more about our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as working in a team. From this, we learned that working well as a team is a more important determinant of success than being a talented individual.
Through this course, I saw that many of my peers were empowered to pursue entrepreneurship, as this course validated their dreams and gave them the tools for success. We appreciated the emphasis on purpose-driven work, and the emphasis on personal growth rather than competition. I can confidently say that everyone who attended the Technion program in my cohort found huge value in this course and ultimately came out as better versions of themselves. Being in a completely new environment in Israel forced us to learn to adapt, start anew and get out of our comfort zone.
We developed a new sense of appreciation for the culture of this country, and learned so much by listening to the personal stories of the entrepreneurs firsthand, who inspired us with their passion and resilience. One of our biggest takeaways was to overcome the fear of failure. We internalized the lesson of viewing failure as a learning opportunity. Many of us became more comfortable with risk-taking and ambiguity, which is beneficial to setting us up for success in the working world.
This is written up by Renata Harton- one of the students attended this program.