When The Garage opened its big garage door for the first time back in 2015, we were thrilled to welcome the first batch of curious and bright students who wanted to make their ideas into a reality. Today, those students (now alumni) have accomplished more than we could’ve ever imagined.
Ben Weiss, SESP ’17 founded and incubated Zcruit at The Garage, which went on to be acquired (The Garage’s first acquisition). Ben still runs his company today. Blair Pircon, Kellogg ’16 worked on her company, The Graide Network – which she still runs full time. Some of our earliest Residents are now working at companies like Google, Apple, Catch Co., Deloitte, Instagram, The Washington Post, and more. Every single one of these students has a unique story about how they grew while at The Garage and beyond, and each story is packed with insight, advice, failure, and success. We thought it was time we began to share those stories.
When the world changed in the spring of 2020 and we found ourselves operating all of our programs virtually, we thought it was the perfect time to develop our own quarantine project – a podcast highlighting these stories of alumni of The Garage. Alongside our alumni, we poured time, energy, and excitement into the first season of The Garage’s podcast, How I Got Here. Season 1 traces the journeys of six recent Northwestern alumni, their entrepreneurial experiences at The Garage, and how the lessons they learned help them land their dream roles – whether as founders at their own startups or innovating at exciting companies.
Season 1 featured:
Global Product Policy and Operations at YouTube
Product Marketing Lead, Monetization at Instagram
Chief Product Officer and Co-founder at Brewbike
Equities Trader at Goldman Sachs
Product Design Engineer at Apple
Co-founder at Stable
Here’s a sneak preview of some of the valuable lessons and takeaways shared from guests in season 1:
1. Exposure is everything.
Connor Regan ’16, now working in Global Product & Policy Operations at YouTube, participated in 11 (yes, 11) internships throughout undergrad at Northwestern, in addition to dabbling in entrepreneurial projects at The Garage. His goal was to gain as much exposure as possible to a diversity of experiences, ideas, and people. This ultimately not only armed him with the knowledge of what he enjoys but opened up tons of doors to opportunities. Connor felt empowered to be flexible in his career, and follow the path that was the most interesting and exciting for him – rather than the “default.”
Listen to Connor’s full episode here.
2. Let your passions guide and empower you.
Rachel Xanttopoulos, Weinberg ’11 + Kellogg ’17, currently Product Marketing Lead, Monetization at Instagram, was never interested in a specific title or company. Rather, she let her interest in having a positive impact on people and her passion for working in the media industry help her stay on a path that truly enriched her. When working on her startup, Daybreak, a daily newsletter summarizing interesting events and resources for students at Kellogg which quickly grew in popularity, Rachel made sure to share her idea with anyone she could and was met with a warm reception and helpful feedback from others.
“Immediately getting this very warm reception by a few people to my idea and knowing that your classmates saw your venture as something they wanted to help with. That really gave me confidence.”
Listen to Rachel’s full episode here.
3. Invest in yourself.
Sarah Ahmad, McCormick ’18 is the co-founder and CEO of Stable, a startup based in San Francisco that she founded with a fellow alum of The Garage, Collin Pham. Along the way to becoming a full-time entrepreneur, Sarah shared that the questions and doubts about whether she’s doing what’s right, the “series of bets” she’s making at any given time, never really go away. But at an early stage of a company, she pointed out that the co-founders are the company, so investing in yourself and your relationships are vital to your success. It was these relationships, ones built at The Garage, that helped her propel Stable beyond just an idea to a full fledged operating startup.
Listen to Sarah’s full episode here.
As we wrap up another virtual quarter at The Garage and welcome spring at Northwestern – we think it’s the perfect time to catch up on season 1 of How I Got Here. Whether a current student navigating the choppy waters of figuring out what to do after graduation or an alum curious about where others have ended up – we are proud and excited to share these one of a kind stories.