On October 7, The Garage was excited to see some familiar faces (virtually, of course) of students who frequented The Garage during their time at Northwestern! We hosted a virtual panel and discussion with five recent alumni, all of whom were involved with entrepreneurship across Northwestern through coursework, student organizations, and various programs or startups at The Garage. Now, only a few years post-graduation, all of our alumni guests are leading superstar careers at desirable companies like LinkedIn, Apple, and Grubhub.
Our goal with this discussion was to catch up with alumni and learn about how their experiences at The Garage and with entrepreneurship shaped their careers, but also to share valuable insights and advice with current students about the best ways to navigate finding a job as a new graduate.
Each panelist first gave a brief introduction of themselves and then shared what their involvement with The Garage was as a student. Next, we heard some tips for those who are looking ahead to life after graduation.
Michelle Kim ’18 currently works on the growth team at Stripe. At The Garage, Michelle started a student group called Women in Tech. While the student group didn’t take off, it was an excellent way for Michelle to network with alums and women in various tech jobs.
Advice: As she was applying for jobs and attending recruiting info sessions on campus, she shared that she wished she knew her value more, and what she can bring to the table. Her advice was to not be afraid to show your enthusiasm, and to be confident in your skills and your ability.
Zach Scott ’15 interned at SpaceX as a Northwestern student, and then worked for three years at a startup, FormLabs. He credits this experience for the ability to switch jobs to work for Apple, where he started as a Product Design Engineer in May 2020. At The Garage, Zach was very involved with EPIC, the undergraduate entrepreneurship club, and played a lot of Super Smash Bros on The Garage’s Nintendo.
Advice: Zach shared that it’s vital for students to “play the odds,” as he applied to 80 jobs and received two offers. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and don’t feel at a loss if you get rejected.”
Bennett Hensey ’19 is the co-founder of Unruled – a startup creating unlined notebook for visual notetakers. Leading a Resident startup team at The Garage, Bennett honed his entrepreneurial skills and Unruled sold out its inventory multiple times. Upon graduation, Bennett moved to downtown Chicago and took a job as a Software Engineer at Grubhub and is the prime example of an alum who still runs their startup as a side hustle.
Advice: Bennett shared the importance of taking an active role in your career. “A job search isn’t just about getting one job; it’s something you will apply throughout your career. How do you want to spend your 8-hour work day?”
Priya Kumar ’16 was President of Northwestern Student Holdings, now Student Holdings, during her time at The Garage. After graduation, she worked at Deloitte and Bain & Company, where she shared she enjoyed the people she worked with more than anything else! Her time working in consulting allowed her to discover what her passions are. At Bain, she did an externship with Chicago based Alinea Group in business operations. Next, she served as the Head of Growth at InHouse, a dining startup in New York City.
Advice: Priya shared she spoke with 130+ companies because she wanted to talk to people and learn how to sell herself. “Don’t settle. Find something you’re deeply invested in!”
Sienna Parker ’18 (also a former intern at SpaceX) joined LinkedIn’s rigorous 6-month rotational program after graduation where she explored multiple positions and departments. Today, she is working as a Customer Success Manager at LinkedIn.
Advice: Sienna’s biggest takeaway from her own experience navigating her career is to figure out your story and learn to articulate well. “Who are you? Why this company?” She also shared the importance of understanding her values and how those can inform her job decisions.
Many students who participate in programs at The Garage and incubate a startup through our Residency program opt to take a job after graduation, just like our panelists. Through this discussion, we aimed to show that this is by no means a failure. We wholeheartedly believe the experience of building an entrepreneurial toolkit and developing an innovative mindset can not only lead to working on a successful venture full time after graduation, but can also serve as a launchpad to an exciting and fulfilling career at a larger company.