Tagged Boston

An Open Letter to Career Changers

Two months ago, forty-nine strangers gathered together. We had no idea what we were joining, but we agreed that we needed change. We all felt unfulfilled in our lives and careers. Eight weeks later, we have evolved into a family. More important than the skills we have gained and refined, we have learned about ourselves and each other. Our emotional intelligence makes us a force to be reckoned with!

As we prepare for our Startup Institute TalentExpo in Boston (sixty-second pitches), there are a few things I want to say.

To my fellow classmates,

You are all ROCKSTARS! You may feel nervous, but you should not be. We have worked hard, stretched ourselves thin, and gained for our perseverance. The long hours, the sleep deprivation, the gallons of coffee were worth it — not because they will lead to a job, but because they have allowed us to grow and experience what we could not have done on our own. They have given us the tools and confidence to tackle any challenge.

To those looking to hire us:

You might want to be nervous. This is a group of passionate people, ready to bring the fire. We have given up much to be here. But what we have given up is not as important as why: we want to be part of the startup community; we want to get our hands dirty; we want to pay it forward and help the next group of upstarts. We would not be here if we were not up for the challenge. We embrace change, growth, and uncertainty, with the mindset of doing what has not been done before. One minute does not do us justice. It is a taste – a tease to draw you in for the full experience.

To those looking for change:

Start now. Do not wait. It may seem scary to drop everything, but when you choose to do what makes you happy, you grow. That is a sacrifice worth making. Startup Institute is a great place to start the journey toward change. Not only do you get to learn from a group of amazing startup insiders, you place yourself in a community that will help you along your path to success.

Startup Institute Boston is adding forty-nine new minds to the community, ready and willing to add our knowledge and experiences to this growing ecosystem. Please support us as we make our first steps into the startup world. Check us out this Tuesday at the Startup Institute Boston Student Exposé.


Richard Williams is a Technical Marketing student at Startup Institute Boston. He is excited to merge his passion for storytelling with the world of startup marketing. Say hello to him on Twitter @rcmwill.

18 Reasons to Be Thankful In Boston

I’m thankful for the startup community’s openness. A friend of mine who recently moved back to California used to comment how it can be difficult to know people in Boston. The one exception to that was the people in the tech community. They are always willing to sit down, chat and have a drink. 

  • I’m thankful for when the T finally shows up.
  • I’m thankful that Boston startups love and support our city. Days after the marathon bombing, an effort led by TUGG (who I am also thankful for) rallied the startup community and raised approximately $300,000 for the victims of that senseless tragedy.
  • I’m thankful that it is almost socially acceptable to wear shorts when it is 50 degrees in November.

Startup Institute has humble beginnings in the Boston tech community. We have grown from Boston Startup School to two additional domestic locations, Startup Institute New York and Startup Institute Chicago.  The Director of Startup Institute Boston, Allan Telio, offers his gratitude during this season of thanks, courtesy of BostInno.

Read the rest of Allan’s appreciation here.

Join Allan at Startup Institute Boston by applying for the spring program. Early deadline is December 1st.

“Important People Honest Conversations” this Wednesday with Rob May, CEO and Co-Founder of Backupify

Rob May, CEO and Co-Founder of Backupify, is opening up the kimono. Please join us on Wednesday, May 29th, for a night of honest conversation. (RSVP HERE)


Backupify is the leading provider of backup and recovery solutions for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. Rob graduated from the University of Kentucky and started his career as a digital design engineer before founding Backupify.

We will be discussing his journey from Kentucky to Cambridge, as well as his metaphorical career journey. Please join us for wine, beer, and cheese at 6:30 and our conversation will begin around 7pm.

From Rob: 


MechE’s Gone TechE: Interview with Olin grad turned Twitter software engineer

When you hear the term “engineer,” what immediately comes to mind? Three years ago, I would have said blueprints and machine shops. Simply put, the basics of mechanical engineering.

When I started college, I was determined to be a mechanical engineer, since it was something I knew I enjoyed. Many of my friends fell into the same trap, and it took a year or two for us to realize that what we loved about engineering was the problem-solving process — what sect of engineering we studied was irrelevant. We wanted to be able to be creative and build new products.

This blog post is the result of a discussion I had with David Gaynor, a software engineer at Twitter. He began school at Olin College of Engineering as a mechanical engineer and has not set foot in the machine shop in the last two years. After taking Software Design, Olin’s introductory programming class, he changed tracks and has been pushing code for the last two years.

What made you interested in engineering in the first place?

The driving force behind my interest in engineering was that I wanted to exercise my creativity in constructive ways. To me, this meant making products, whether they were physical or not.

Why did you decide to switch to computer engineering?

When I started building software, I realized that I could build a useful program in a few hours. This was much more efficient than the full week it might take me to build something in the shop. If I had a bug in my program, I could just go fix it. That’s not the same with wood — if I split a piece of wood, I have to go buy more from the hardware store and start the part over. I found that programming was a faster way to make the things I wanted to build.

What advice would you give people who are trying to decide if computer engineering is for them?

Before you make the switch, I would recommend thinking about what interests you about engineering in the first place. Is it:

  • Making new products that didn’t exist before?
  • Impacting lots of people with your ideas quickly?
  • The mindwarp that comes with thinking about complex problems in fields like statics and thermodynamics

If you love the complex math problems in statics and thermo, then we definitely need more people like you in the mechanical world. However, if you decided to be an engineer to create products fast and impact lots of people, then you may want to consider software.

Have questions? You can contact both David and I Juliana Nazare via Twitter.

How I Came to Startup Institute Boston


Jordan Morano graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Connecticut’s School of Business in June 2005, with a concentration in Finance and a Minor in International Studies. He has worked in the business operations of two international hedge funds based in New York, NY and Paris, France, as well as an energy management company in Boston, MA. He also helped launch a gelato business with his sister in NH.

When reflecting about what lead me to apply to the Startup Institute Boston, up and quit my job and attend the Spring 2013 class, my mind goes way back to the beginning of my memories. When I was a kid, three years old, I was playing with my sister near an elementary school that our brother and sister attended. We were being watched by our Mexican babysitter (we were living in New Mexico at the time).

I remember making the connection that our siblings were in school and then asking my younger sister if she wanted to go see them. Without waiting for a response, I led us across the schoolyard wall (it was a short mud wall at the time) and across the yard to the school doors.

I had no idea what classroom my brother or sister were in, but proceeded to peer into each door until I saw my brother who quickly shooed us away to my older sister’s classroom where we unceremoniously joined her class celebrating a birthday. My mom was waiting for us at the school exit and was furious. Reflecting back on it now, I smile because I see some traits that are and will continue to be a part of me: I tend to do first and figure things out as I go.

There are a number of similar stories like this throughout my life. The most recent obviously being the decision to leave a stable job and join the Startup Institute. Despite this tenacity to do, I have also wrestled with indecision. Throughout my late 20s, I have become more aware of the essential ingredients that make up my being and therefore I am able to make life decisions more confidently. I’ve never had a problem making a decision when something I know I want is presented in front of me.

I studied business in college and studied abroad in France my last semester. I began my professional experience in NYC where I firm hopped until I found myself in a small (50 people) but large ($6 billion) hedge fund, working in the back office doing business operations.

I learned a lot but quickly became restless and demoralized with my morning commute (ever see Joe vs. the Volcano?). I tried changing it up, bought a scooter, looked at work overseas, told my boss that I wanted to work for the Amsterdam office and even almost went. I eventually found a job at a French hedge fund in Paris.

I quit my job while I was in the plane to Paris for my final interview. Again I don’t have a problem making decisions when I set my mind to something). In Paris, despite the expat lifestyle, I didn’t enjoy my job and felt even less challenged than before. I did some night MBA classes and after two years came back to the states. Then I put my mind to helping my sister’s business take off, which I then went ahead and did.

At this point, the ingredients of my life had become more firmly in place, and I knew what I wanted: to work in the tech industry using tech. I looked for work in Boston, and joined a clean tech company in the finance operations, where I worked for 2 years till I found the Startup Institute.

As would have it, I discovered SIB from an alum who was wearing a t-shirt and was at a coffee bar that I frequent. I am a big believer in opportunity cost and that is why SIB is a marvel: you need to make yourself present for opportunity when it hits you and you can’t do that behind a desk. You can, however, definitely do that at Startup Institute.

Over the past few weeks, I have been immersed in the startup culture here in Boston through multiple channels: founders’ talks and Q&As, panels, and job fairs. I have also been learning online marketing skills that will aid me on day 1, as well as bouncing and learning ideas from other students with different experiences and skills. The opportunity to learn has increased every day that I have been enrolled in this program and I feel that my hunger to learn has only increased.

25 Things to Expect From a Startup Internship

Over the past year I’ve been on a startup internship adventure that has taken me across the globe. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of two early stage companies on two separate continents, each with their own unique of values, goals, and culture that I really dig.

Both of these experiences have changed my life drastically in their own ways. I think both companies have great missions to be the change they want to see in the world and I’m happy to have played a part in that change.

My first internship was with my favorite blog, Postmasculine. Globetrotting entrepreneur Mark Manson had just pivoted his brand and was looking for a few loyal readers that were interested in learning about Internet Marketing and the startup lifestyle to help push his business to the next level. Having helped boost his traffic numbers for a few months prior to the offer, I was a shoe-in and ended up landing a spot on the team. I moved down to Medellin, Colombia to our new “main office” which was a 4 bedroom penthouse with a hot tub and a roof deck and got to work.

I learned a so much at Postmasculine. Mark gave us interns room to work and a lot of trust to experiment with his company from the start. The truth was this was uncharted territory for him. We were learning things he himself did not even know, so there had to be that element of trust or it wasn’t going to work.

We accomplished a lot down in Medellin, but it didn’t translate to a full time job. Although at the time not turning the internship into a full time world traveling gig was disappointing, I learned so much it was absolutely worth it. Not only did I get my first experience traveling the world, but I learned some valuable lessons about startups that I don’t think I would have if I had not been a part of an early stage company with huge goals. Also, I got some great friends. 

When I came back home I was looking for a job, but I ended up landing myself another internship (Program Associate) here at the Startup Institute in Boston. Although the environment had many differences, such as no sunny roof deck or room for my preferred bat-like life/sleep schedule, there have been many similarities.

Much like at Postmasculine, I’ve been given a lot of freedom. Many of the things I’m working on I’ve thought up myself. Many of the projects given to me are almost completely up to me. When I ask a question on what to do, usually the response is “YOU decide and tell us what you are going to do”. This has helped me feel more confident in my decision making skills and makes me think harder about my time management and my process. Again, there is a lot of trust and I think it has helped me grow and learn more than an environment where I am just told what to do.

Because one of the main things I learned at my last two startup internships is that “time is valuable”, I’ll save both yours and mine and cut the rest of this down to a bullet pointed list of things I have learned


  • You have the opportunity to learn from great people who want to invest in your success

  • You feel the pressure of deadlines and see it in the faces of your co-workers and the CEO

  • Mistakes are for fixing and learning, not hiding or crying about

  • You get hands on experience, thrown right into the fire. It’s do or die.

  • You have to carve out your spot, sometimes with little direction.

  • Your co-workers are your family.

  • Sometimes the office is home, both literally and figuratively.

  • “Hours” don’t always exist, it’s more like a get as much work done as you can free-for-all

  • You have to be able to change what you are doing on a dime

  • You learn to make clear asks and points, or suffer the awkwardness of wasting time

  • You have to accept full responsibility for your actions, time, goals, and learning

  • Others are there to help, but you have to ask for it, it won’t just come

  • Action is more powerful than words

  • Growth Mindset– everyday is an opportunity to learn and grow

  • The willingness to take risks, make decisions, and deal with pressure

  • How to manage your own time and be accountable to yourself and your duties without someone watching over you

  • The value of emotional intelligence in the workplace

  • The value of coachability and willingness to accept feedback

  • A get shit done attitude is paramount.

  • Functioning within a team and team dynamics

  • Failure is not a reflection on your character – Max Thayer

  • Value yourself and your skills

  • A hunger for doing things that have not been done before

  • Don’t lose site of the mission or your values

  • Most importantly, be a human being


Zac Champigny is the Program Associate for the Spring ‘13 Startup Institute class. Coming from a coaching background, he dove head first into startups and world travel back in May of 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. Zac loves the Internet and thinks it’s the best tool we have ever had to help make the world a better place and come together as human beings.

You can follow him on Twitter, add him on Linkedin, or read about his adventures on his blog

Learning How to Pivot…Again

Matt Williams is a current student in the development track for the Startup Institute Boston Spring 13’ class.

I am a technologist.
I am a student.
I am an evangelist.

As I progress through life I learn as I go. But learning by life experience can only take you so far. A burst of education at various intervals is a great thing to do if you have the opportunity. And that’s where I am now. Today I am a student in the Startup Institute.

How did I get here? What made me think that now was the time. When I heard about the program I knew I had to follow it. I knew it was something I had to do to make my next pivot.

Not everyone has to make a pivot in their lives. But for me, changing things up has been important. If I had stayed in the role of Systems Administrator I wouldn’t have seen the world. If I had stayed in the role of Technical Writer or Analyst I wouldn’t have learned about peeling the onion. If I were still in the role of Product Manager I wouldn’t have learned by teaching. If I stayed at Microsoft, I wouldn’t have seen how a small company functions.

Every step of my career has been another learning experience and now in the Startup Institute I am learning a bit more intensively. Every day here involves finding out something new, either about startups or about myself.

Today I learned about techniques for fleshing out a product in the early stages, documenting pain points and figuring out what needs to be solved. In recent days I have learned from founders of startups new and old all over Boston, finding out why they started and what they learned along the way. And of course, being in the Developer track, I am learning about Ruby and Ruby on Rails.

Every day is a chance to learn something new, and the Boston Startup Institute simply intensifies that process. What is my next pivot going to look like? I have no idea, but Startup Institute is helping me learn how to get there. Follow me on Twitter (@technovangelist) to see how I do it.

My Journey From Nigeria to the Startup Institute Boston


Sinmi Araoye is interested in brands and the customer engagement process. She is a writer, an amateur cook and a big believer in service. Currently she attends the Startup Insitute Boston and is learning in the technical marketing track

When I was really young and everyone asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I always said I wanted to open a restaurant called Miss Small’s. It became a nickname. When I was a bit grown-up (I don’t think I am fully grown-up yet), I did take that leap and start a business with my sister. We created and operated an independent fashion label, House 38, in Nigeria.

The experience of running my own business was the most tasking, most terrifying and most frustrating experience of my life. I felt like my life was in the fast lane with no option to slow down until the fuel ran out and the machinery stopped moving.

It was almost inevitable that I was going to try entrepreneurship at least once. I was born into a family of entrepreneurs at least 3 generations deep, on both my mother and father’s side. Growing up, I was really exposed to the process of starting and running a business, mostly from a retail point of view. My  mother always made a conscious effort to involve my sister and I in the business planning decisions.

The funny thing though is that nobody ever thought that business was a viable option. Business is, for many people of my parents’ generation in Nigeria, a side gig or a Plan B. I chose to study writing as an undergraduate. I promised to go to law school to make everyone feel better about my decidedly “unprofessional” choice.

While I was in my final year of study at University of California San Diego, one of my friends dropped out in her third year studying Biology. She chose to start all over again at an art school. I cried so much but her choice to pursuit her passion made a mark on me. About a year later, on the day of my LSAT, I decided I could not do law school.

I have always loved fashion. I estimate that I spent 20% of my allowance when I moved to the US on fashion magazines. I found myself a Master’s program in Manchester, England to study fashion retailing. The more I learnt about fashion, the more I realized fashion is a business, so I decide to complete a second Master’s in management and marketing.

While I was living in England, my sister and I started building a fashion label in Nigeria gradually. Then it got to a tipping point and I decided to move back to Lagos to join full-time.

After the label basically became an unsustainable venture, I became disillusioned. The failure was personal and it hurt. I decided to take time out and complete the year of service in Nigeria. I got the opportunity to teach and I really loved connecting with my students.

While working, I focused on applying for jobs in big multi-national. I really wanted something low risk and plain. I got the chance to interview with a big bank. Luckily, I guess they realized I was not a fit for them. After crying on a flight from London to Lagos, I realized I really won’t fit into a big multi-national company. I get really excited about innovation and startups.

The more I thought about my big failure, the more I realized that I really loved startup process. So, I decided to prepare myself in case lighting strikes again.

I started reading about the practicalities of founding and growing a business. I really was looking for a community that believed in building businesses from the ground up on new ideas. During my search, I found the Startup Institute (then the Boston Startup School) online.

I became obsessed with this place where the focus was on empowering you to work effectively in a startup environment. I was excited and took the big leap of applying for the summer session. As I thought about it more, I realized I really had no reason to wait four months to start my journey. So I asked to be moved to the Spring session.

On my first day, I felt, and I still feel, excited about the many possibilities ahead for me here at the Startup Institute.

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