Written by PRISM Member Kerry Meier
As we approach the time of year when we will be spending time with family and catching up with old friends, we are given the pleasure of realizing the things that really matter. We recently got to speak with a Marketing and Management alumnus, Katie Sonntag about the things she is thankful for.
Katie is originally from Stafford, Virginia and currently works as a Sports Alliance Management Coordinator with Disney. In her day to day work, Katie manages partner relationships with those who support runDisney. The runDisney division of Disney Sports focuses on organizing running events coast-to-coast to encourage guests to stay healthy while having fun.
In her time at Virginia Tech, she was an active member of The Marching Virginians, and earned a Marketing Management degree with minors in Global Business and Business Leadership. When asked what she was most thankful for from her time in the Pamplin College of Business, she says writing thank you cards. “In my Marketing Communications class, we had an executive from FedEx come in and speak, and one of the things he mentioned was the importance of sending thank you cards. It really hit home for me! Once I’ve gotten into the “real world,” I’ve been making a true effort to write thank you letters to each of those who have interviewed me and let me tell you, it truly makes an impact.” She also added, “At Virginia Tech, I learned to have fun while doing your work. Enjoy the task, enjoy your colleagues, and enjoy the moment. I know it sounds cheesy, but you never know how that one experience could change your direction, so have fun with it!”
When asked what she looks forward to from the day; Katie explained that each day is 100% different from the day before, and that that is motivating for her. Katie described, “I like being able to work behind-the-scenes, planning all sponsorship involvements and then see it in action, live, at the event. Our partners come to work and enjoy the event and we want to give them the most quality experience while they’re visiting Walt Disney World.
The atrium in Pamplin is getting a renovation to give a dynamic and comfortable place for student, faculty, and staff to study, meet, and relax. The seating along with electricity will be added to the atrium over the Winter break and is planned to be complete prior to your arrival back in Blacksburg for the start of the semester.
We need your help. Provide your input at: http://www.pamplin.vt.edu/atrium
Written by PRISM Member, Michael Harnish
Virginia Tech was lucky enough to have Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian come and speak to students in Burruss auditorium. Hosted by the Entrepreneur Club at Virginia Tech there was a noticeable buzz as students gathered outside before the doors opened at 6:45.
Alexis is one of the most down to earth and real speakers I have ever encountered in my life, he has a slight awkwardness in the way he talks presents that makes you believe he is grateful and humbled to be speaking to even the smallest crowds. From the beginning it was clear this talk was not so much about Reddit itself but Alexis’ growth along the way.
Alexis attended UVA with Steve Huffman, co-founder of reddit. Their first idea: eliminate lines from all eating establishments. Their service was called MyMobileMenu (MMM for short) and it had customers send in their orders ahead of time and pick their order up when it was ready. So like any good entrepreneurs, Alexis and Steve threw caution to the wind and decided YCombinator was the way they would get the funding and press they needed to start their money making venture. Except the only problem was that YCombinator didn’t think their idea was possible with the technology available. Dejected, Steve and Alexis headed back to UVA with no idea where to go from there. However, a curious phone call from YCombinator changed everything. They loved Alexis and Steve, just not their idea. “Change the idea” they said, “and we will fund whatever it is.” So they did, and they created the prototype of reddit with almost no idea what they were doing. Even though it was, as Alexis proclaims, “janky”, YCombinator agreed to fund the project fully and so reddit was born out of a rough prototype and $12,000 of borrowed money.
After his talk on failure, successes, and how reddit came to be Alexis invited one of Virginia Tech’s own entrepreneurs to the stage. Michael Rihani, co-founder and CEO of Koofers, joined Alexis for a quick Q&A on being an entrepreneur. It was interesting to see a fellow Hokie who had grown a business and persevered through the ups and downs a startup entails. What started as just a site to help other students power through their classes became something much larger. Michael described how originally Koofers was sent a cease and desist letter from Virginia Tech. The irony being that Tech is now one of Koofers’ biggest supporters. The biggest thing I took away from Michael Rihani is the power of innovation and how not everyone likes it.
The most striking thing about Alexis and his presentation was his commitment to a project and to learning from mistakes. The amount of times he failed was exponentially greater than the successes he encountered on his journey. He practiced what he was preaching to the auditorium and in doing so, may have helped spark the next great website in years to come. As Alexis put it “sucking is the first step to being sorta good at something”.
Written by Director of Undergraduate Career Services, Stuart Mease
On Thursday, December 5 from 10-2pm in the Pamplin Atrium we are going to have one final career event in 2013. Tables will be setup with the following stations:
If you are a senior (or any year) and are still looking for jobs, please make an effort to stop by December 5.
Last week Pamplin Reinventing Social Media had a chance to sit down and talk backpacks with Taaluma Totes co-founder Jack Dufour, recent Virginia Tech grad (Mechanical Engineering’12)
What is Taaluma Totes and how did it start?
“Taaluma Totes are backpacks with benefits. Each one is paired with a country. It is made of fabric from that country, and funds a microloan for a person in that country.
It started when we traveled to Uganda one summer and Alley got a skirt made of African fabric. I was jealous, so I asked a local seamstress to make a backpack. She had never made one before, so she used my Jansport as a model. It started as a souvenir, but we soon found out this was the start of something bigger…
We had actually read the book “Start Something That Matters” by the founder of TOMS shoes on the plane ride to Uganda, so we were on the lookout for an idea like this throughout our stay there.
Why Blacksburg, VA? How did Virginia Tech help you in your entrepreneurial development?
“Virginia Tech’s Entrepreneur Club is probably the single biggest influence that pushed this from just a good idea to a full-fledged social business. I can’t recommend highly enough that anyone with an entrepreneurial interest get involved with the club.
The entrepreneur community throughout all of Blacksburg is insanely helpful, too though. The most common phrase in this community is without a doubt “What can I do to help?” People are always making a point to help one another.
The university has been a huge pool of resources, too. From experienced professors offering wisdom and advice, to young students excited to contribute their newly developed skills, Taaluma Totes has definitely benefited from being surrounded by so many great people.”
What are the core values of Taaluma and how do you set Taaluma apart?
Taaluma Totes is here to make a difference in an empowering way. We give dignity rather than donations—and choice rather than charity.
This is reflected in two main elements of the business:
1) The making—The backpacks are made by adults with disabilities who earn a living by working alongside some of the region’s best seamstresses.
2) The microloans— We give back to the international communities through microloans, which give people the resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
Where do you see Taaluma in the future? What are your current company goals?
We want to mix things up in the backpack market. Popular backpacks right now don’t offer benefits to anyone beyond their customers. Taaluma Totes will prove that backpacks can mean more than that.
Check out Taaluma Totes on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TaalumaTotes and show your support for this Virginia Tech startup!
Written by PRISM Communication Team Officer, Erica Wiles
Last Saturday at Virginia Tech’s new Center for the Arts, TedxVirginiaTech was held and featured sixteen remarkable speakers, all former or present faculty and students from VT’s campus. The speakers ranged from an aerospace engineer to an English major and ballet teacher to a news anchor from a Virginia news station to countless others. All of the speakers were extremely thought provoking and inspirational and I left the Arts Center that day feeling excited for the future of Virginia Tech.
Wu Feng’s current project took me by complete surprise and left me amazed at the work our faculty is conducting. Feng is a computer science professor as well as an adjunct professor in electrical and computer engineering and the director of the Synergy Laboratory. As he spoke about his work at Virginia Tech, he casually mentioned that he has created the greenest supercomputer and won The Green 500 in November 2011. This computer is one hundred thousand times fast than a regular PC and takes up about nine telephone booths worth of space.
Chelsea Cook had a talk which really moved me and changed my outlook on people’s abilities to achieve their goals. I remember Chelsea from my Intro to Astronomy course from freshman year as she was always engaged in our five hundred person lecture class and never hesitated to question our professor. She is majoring in physics and hopes to one day become, “an astronaut who writes poetry in space.” She shared her thoughts on her obsession with space and how much it fascinates her. I should also mention the reason she inspired me so much is because she is blind and made no mention of her disability ever stopping her from living her dreams. We watched a short video on Chelsea learning multi variable calculus and it was amazing to see how she learns and also how eager she is to understand every possible detail there is in math. Her positive outlook on life inspired me to think outside of my capabilities and not let anything stop me from trying.
The last person that really inspired me was Chris Williams, assistant professor in mechanical engineering and the director of DREAMS lab which focuses on additive manufacturing systems also known as 3D printing. I was stunned to find out that Virginia Tech has an additive printing lab and is continually working on designing products through this printing process. He brought in a high school senior from Blacksburg High School who helps him create products and brought in a helicopter which they made in the lab. I was amazed to see a student in high school working with such powerful technology and also grateful that Virginia Tech offers these great opportunities to students, even if they do not go to Tech.
The all-day event was extremely worthwhile as I learned things about this university I had never known before. Seeing our faculty, students, and alumni working on such creative projects and ideas made me proud to attend Virginia Tech as it rapidly moves forward on its goals.