For today’s My First Year Out, I caught up with Scott Bailey ’09, another member of the UVM Foundation Fellows Program. The Fellows program is currently a cohort of six young alumni from the last decade nominated by Foundation leadership to insure the perspective and opinions of our young alumni are represented in the work of the Foundation board and committees.
In addition to his role as a Fellow, Scott works at MassChallenge, a non-profit in Boston that helps fledgling start-ups succeed. Sounds pretty cool right? Check out the link above to learn more.
I think Scott’s story is a great example of finding a way to build your career by taking some risks and following unexpected paths to success. And as always, learn from your mentors, they can really help!
Here’s what Scott had to say about his first year out.
1. Describe your first year out of UVM.
My first year after graduating from UVM was an interesting one. I remember leaving the lobby of Kalkin after finals and passing in my paperwork to accept my diploma. As I handed it in, the woman at the desk asked if I had forgotten to fill out the back where it asked students to list the job they’d be taking following graduation. My only response was “it’s correct.”
It was 2009, the Dow was below 7,000 and there was talk of the next Great Depression. Like many of my classmates, I left college without any strong job prospects, but what I did have was a drive to create a meaningful impact in my community. Even then, it was clear to me that entrepreneurship was part of the solution to addressing social, economic, and equity issues around the world. Together, startups, entrepreneurs, and the venture capital community drive new growth, opportunity, and optimism – and that’s something we needed most.
2. What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Looking back, I’d say my biggest challenge during that first year was learning to focus my efforts. I had to push myself to develop a set of criteria that could help identify the best opportunities and the right fit for me. A lot of you are probably in that same position, worrying about what you’ll do after you leave UVM. The best advice I can offer is to be flexible. Create a process, market yourself, and know that it’s okay for things to change. This is something I’ve learned from the startup community.
After graduation, I reached out to one of the leading innovation organizations in Burlington, the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. David Bradbury, a UVM alum, serial entrepreneur, investor, and community leader, generously took me under his wing right out of school. He introduced me to different stakeholders in the community, taught me to how to talk to startups and identify the challenges they were facing while launching and growing their businesses. I had a lot to learn, but I was hooked.
I may have started my career in an economic climate where it seemed like there was little opportunity, but I felt the strong desire and need to create more for myself. Gradually, I stopped looking at individual aspects of the world and started to connect the dots. From my work at VCET I knew that startup accelerators not only helped entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life, but also created powerful innovation ecosystems in their communities. They fueled economic growth, job creation, and more, and I wanted to be a part of that change.
3. What are you doing now?
After my first year at VCET, a mentor of mine convinced me to explore opportunities with MassChallenge, a new Boston-based organization that aimed to catalyze a global startup renaissance. I’m still at MassChallenge today, helping thousands of entrepreneurs get access to the resources they need to successfully build their companies and identifying new opportunities to expand this support across North America.
My job looks a lot different than what I could have ever imagined for myself when graduating, but that’s also because it didn’t exist.
I love being a value creator and the first to try something new. I get to interact with startups every day and am so inspired by their vision to change the world. I have an opportunity to collaborate with so many smart and talented people across the global innovation ecosystem that are also focused on the big picture.
4. What advice do you have for recent graduates?
This whole experience has taught me that the right opportunities are out there. It’s just up to you to find them… maybe even create them yourself!