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Mistakes provide entrepreneurs with valuable data

The entrepreneur puzzle has three pieces – and they can all be taught, says Stanford professor Tina Seelig during a visit to Aalto University.
Tina Seelig inspiring Aalto faculty at the School of Electrical Engineering.

Following several career changes, Tina Seelig, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, ended up as a professor and director of an entrepreneurship programme at a top university. The question is why?

'My passion is helping young people see their opportunities,' she told a group of Aalto people taking part in the Inspire! event organised by Aalto Ventures Program, the Aalto schools and Learning Services. The purpose of the lectures held during the week and Seelig's workshops was to consider how the skills and attitude required for entrepreneurship could be integrated into all teaching at every Aalto schools.

'At one point in my career, I changed jobs every couple of years. Now, I've been at Stanford for more than 15 years, because I realised that there is nothing more inspiring. The work we do is important not only to young people but to the entire world,' sums up Seelig.

The power of a community

The Stanford Technology Ventures Program led by Seelig offers three entrepreneurship programmes tailored for the needs of students completing undergraduate, master's or doctoral studies. A common element in all of the programmes is effective small group teaching and close collaboration with companies and alumni who studied in the programme.

'They are an incredible resource for us and are very actively involved in our work. This year, each student in the undergraduate-level Mayfield Fellows Program was assigned five top mentors from different fields. For example, the founders of Twitter met through us,' says Tina Seelig with a smile.

For Seelig, entrepreneurship is like a puzzle made up of three pieces: knowledge, skills and attitude.

'Research is really important,' she emphasises.

'In a doctoral programme, students notice that the analytical skills they acquire in the laboratory are very valuable when solving problems in business life. However, knowledge is not enough, and we also have to teach skills: communications, management and negotiations skills. And then there's attitude, which is the mindset required for entrepreneurship. Along with creativity, that includes the ability to deal with disappointments and learn from them. I always say that mistakes are actually valuable data that is necessary for success.'

The creativity to challenge

Seelig's introduction was followed by workshops. Inspired by Stanford, the Aalto Ventures Program already offers Aalto master's students the chance to take a minor module and courses that are open to all students, but how can entrepreneurship be integrated into all university teaching?

'Entrepreneurship requires creativity and right now we don't challenge students enough. Instead, we give them too many problems that have already been solved,' says Keijo Nikoskinen, Vice Dean of the School of Electrical Engineering, as he summarises the thoughts of his group.

Professor Jaan Praks' group pondered how to help students who are already enthusiastic about entrepreneurship move forward. According to the group, one of the most important steps and biggest challenges involves increasing cooperation between industry and alumni.

'All companies want engineers who have entrepreneurial skills,' said Tina Seelig in encouragement.

'Entrepreneurship is also creativity inspired by scarcity; being able to turn incredibly limited resources into more than anyone ever dreamed possible.'

More about Tina Seelig here

More about Aalto Ventures Program here

 

 

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