Mentoring the next generation of science and technology leaders

August 14th, 2018

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Today, there are as many paths to successful entrepreneurship, as there are creative minds. Last week, Beyond New York’s General Manager, Matt Basford, led a session at The New York Academy of Science’s Global STEM Alliance Summit to discuss just that. He had the chance to interact with some of the brightest young minds who had gathered at the summit to seek mentorship and to build a global network of science and technology leaders.

Our partnership with The New York Academy of Sciences originally began a few years back when they were looking for ways to reinvent the way students use technology — not just to learn in STEM fields, but to create and innovate using STEM skills.This partnership resulted in Launchpad, a digital platform that allows students to work with virtual teams all over the world, tackle real-world problems in a digital space, and receive mentorship.

When Matt was approached to lead the entrepreneurship session, he was thrilled by this mentorship opportunity. “It’s important to be connected with the next-generation of leaders because ultimately everything we’re doing in our work is setting the stage for them,” he stated. “I was lucky enough in my career to have the guidance and direction from people who had experienced different challenges and had been successful, and they wanted me to have a chance to make an even bigger impact than they were able to. I hope that I can play a small role in helping someone go on to do great things, and learn from my experiences.”

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Matt further explained to the summit group that his career path was not linear– he very much embraced serendipity. He moved around, and interacted with people from various academic and professional backgrounds on the way to his current role.

Entrepreneurialism is choosing to see change as opportunity

In 2011, Matt saw an exciting opportunity in opening Beyond’s digital and creative studio in NY.  Although he didn’t have a clear idea where the journey would take him, he knew he would learn and create a platform for innovative and inspiring work. “Typically, we are conditioned to be averse in the face of change, rather than resilient to emerging opportunities. I’ve always run to change instead of away from it–and this has made for a very rewarding, career path,” Matt explained. “Through resilience, we become open to discovering paths we didn’t know existed, and the opportunity to influence the future in ways we could never have imagined.”

In education, we’re preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet.

That being said, Matt further explained, taking leaps and making bold moves is really only half the battle. Being an entrepreneur requires creativity–even if you’re in a STEM field–which is often falsely associated with suppressed creativity.  As Matt spoke to the summit group, he stressed the fact that everyone is creative: “It’s like a muscle. We just need to train it.”

Creativity is a core skill.

To help the students jumpstart their creative training, Matt guided them through several activities–one of which was the Apple Exercise. This particular workshop teaches us all to learn and build off each other’s ideas, and to think outside the box–since nobody is allowed to draw the same apple. It also demonstrates that in order to arrive at the one-of-a-kind ideas of the bottom row, we must “get the early apple’s out.”

Failure is your most valuable asset.

At the end of the session, Matt left his mentees with a core piece of advice. “Don’t think about trying new ideas that may not work as ‘failing fast.’ Failure is key to learning fast, which shows you how to grow fast–and how to grow in the right direction.” He encouraged them not to fear failure, but to embrace it. And underlined the importance of testing ideas and assumptions, as well as getting feedback from peers; Maybe your assumption isn’t quite right, but the idea behind it could be gold. You just may need help to mine it out.