Baltimore and the Informational Interview

Baltimore and the Informational Interview

First off, mentally prepare yourself because this is a long blog post. I traveled to Baltimore recently to do my informational interview. I got on the MARC train at 8 a.m. and headed out. I was a pretty simple ride out and only took about 45 minutes. After I got there, I headed to a Starbucks to hang out until it was time to go meet with the person I was interviewing. Unfortunately, Baltimore is not set up like D.C. The bus system is very confusing and I ended up taking a cab.

I interviewed Mr. Dave Troy. He is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of 410 Labs. Mr. Troy is a serial entrepreneur and has many successful businesses. He is also very involved in the Baltimore technology community. Entrepreneurship and technology runs in his family. His mom has started many small businesses and his dad works with computers. My entrepreneurship professor Johnetta Hardy is good friends with Mr. Troy so she helped facilitate this meet-up. I am very interested in technology and since my major is Computer Information Systems (CIS), it was a great fit.

Mr. Troy gave me some great advice on entrepreneurship and technology. One piece of information he mentioned that has stuck with me is that the life of an entrepreneur is like a roller coaster. One day can be really good and your product or service is doing great. However, not all days are good days, as everyone comes to realize at some point. What the customer liked yesterday, he or she may hate today. Then there are those average days where good and bad things happen but not one more than the other. These are your most common days. You are basically going day-by-day to fill needs and wants of the customer. A common saying that can be used to describe the entrepreneurial lifestyle is that you learn to “roll with the punches.”

Secondly, he mentioned is it is good to have basic understanding of everything in your business.  For example, a computer engineer can have an idea or product that is good from an engineering standpoint but not good from a business standpoint. Another point he made that I find very interesting and important is to keep you as a person separate from the business. What I mean by this is that it is a common misconception that when a business fails the person has failed as well. This is not the case. If a person properly separates himself form the business, it will make it easier to go about his life if it fails. One good way to do this is to set hours that you work and do not go over those hours. If you do not set aside time for yourself, you as a person will suffer and your business will likely suffer as well. A common misconception that I myself have believed before is that the more hours you work the more productive and successful your business will be. The goal of your business should be quite the opposite. You want to be spending the least amount of time and be as productive as possible.

You can also look at this from a societal point of view. Society loves reality television shows. One of my personal favorites is Survivor. This show divides people up into tribes on a relatively deserted island and makes them compete in challenges. The prize is one million dollars and the twist is that the losing team of the challenges has to vote someone off the island. The winner of last season showed an innate ability to separate himself from the game. By this, I mean he took nothing personal. The phrase “nothing personal, just business” can be applied in the business sense just like everything the winner of Survivor did was because he was playing a game.

After meeting with Dave, I asked him of any other people he thought I should meet and he suggested I go meet with Mike Brenner. He is the CEO and co-founder of a company called Betamore. Betamore helps “accelerate” startups through collaboration and incubation and also offers career focused education from experts in a specific field.   His secretary gave me a tour -- which I really enjoyed -- of the building and explained how the business worked and then I had an impromptu meeting with Mike about a variety of topics.

After meeting with these two men, I realized that I definitely want to continue to do things related to entrepreneurship and technology. I want to be able to continue learning about these topics and more long after I have left Washington, D.C. I will be using the advice Dave and Mike gave me on a regular basis in my career.


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