It’s finally the end of term! What an exhilarating time! The last entire month has been a roller-coaster ride of the work hard play hard ethic. I knew I had to stop my weekend escapades as there were only three more weeks left till the end of term and I had a lot of coursework due for two of my modules which would eat away my time. It was time to work hard.
For my databases module, my teammates and I had to finish my carpooling web application and make sure it fulfilled certain requirements. This coursework was due on March 15, on the second last Friday of lectures. The entrepreneurship coursework was due the following Thursday. I had to submit a full-fledged portfolio consisting of a business venture proposition with a business plan, financials, marketing research, prototypes, customer development, pitch video, and powerpoint deck for investors. Needless to say, I worked every waking hour for the next two weeks trying to juggle different assignments and projects.
My sleep was suffering and the stress peaked two days before the deadline for my carpooling application. The coursework favored quantity over quality by suggesting students to implement as many features as possible. However, I strongly believe in the converse. Therefore I was determined to make the product as polished as possible and fulfill the coursework requirements at the same time. I tried to give my teammates tasks that suited their skills. However, there were times when I wasn’t satisfied with the work and would fix it myself. Then I realized that in order to be an effective team leader, I needed to point out the issues and ask them to fix or improve them themselves. This led to better synergy but more time spent communicating. With lots of coffee substituted for sleep, we somehow managed to turn in the project albeit a few minutes late (no penalty incurred).
For my entrepreneurship module, I was using my elections application as the business idea. I requested not to have teammates from UCL as I built it with colleagues from Rice and wanted to avoid unnecessary involvement. Therefore I was working alone on the entire portfolio. I had no time to find professional equipment, so I used my laptop to record a pitch video after taking many cuts and editing them through iMovie. I assembled a business plan which was a great exercise. In my business plan, I wrote about the problem, our product and solution, why it is so compelling and people will want to use it, the target market, the team, and an appendix of screenshots and analytics of the working product. All of this compiled with the executive summary helped me think through the entirety of the product and answer questions for myself. I finished the video by Sunday night and began working on the business plan afterwards.
I was barely sleeping and by Wednesday evening, I had just a few sections remaining but I was attending a Passover Seder at a few friends’ of mine. Danielle and Hayley – two great friends from Washington University in St. Louis I met here in London – had organized and prepared the dinner. I really appreciated the invitation and did not want to turn it down. I’m glad I ended up going because I had a terrific time! I learned about Jewish traditions as I reclined in celebration of freedom, ate matzah, enjoyed the company of my friends and Danielle’s neighbors I had just met. The best part of the night was when we tried to find the afikoman, a piece of matzah hidden away for the dessert. We were spared the trouble of searching outside the kitchen as Danielle told us that it’s in the kitchen. As we went through every nook and cranny of the kitchen, we got more hints. Prizes were given out in the end. The dinner was really kind of Danielle and Hayley! It got my mind off of work even if it was for a fleeting moment.
Around 10 pm, I left and got back to my room and dove right back into work. I pretty much had the rest of the portfolio well formed in my head. I remember the entire night flying by as I typed away into my computer. Around 5 am, I had finished the business plan, financials, management team, and documented the prototypes. I had yet to write up the customer persona and powerpoint deck for the pitch. I got a splitting headache at this point and the portfolio was due at 12 pm. I realized that I couldn’t work any longer as I was suffering from exhaustion. I took a 3 hour nap and woke up at 8 am. Fortunately, my headache was gone. I took care of the remaining items and polished my work. At 10:30 am, I took a shower and headed out to campus. I alternated between speed walking and running as I went to the University of London Union and found the printing facility. With 40 minutes left, my heart was pounding as I figured out how to get the printing and binding for the portfolio. I managed to submit it right on time.
At this point I was starving and had two hours till my final lecture of the term began. I grabbed lunch and went over my slides and worried how I would pitch my startup within 3 minutes. I wrote down some bullet points to structure my thoughts. I then mentally calmed myself for an hour by reading interesting news and articles online. At 2:00 pm I headed over to class. The teams – about 45 – were split among 4 mentors in the module. We were to pitch in our own mentor group and the two teams with the best pitches / ideas would go on to pitch to the entire class. Many of the teams did not show up as the pitches were optional. One by one, all of the teams pitched their ideas in my group. Every one of them targeted a very specific market, however, most of the ideas I heard did not seem very practical and had not been thoroughly tested. I was the last person to pitch and by now everyone was tired of listening. However, I maintained a really high level of energy and explained my startup in very simple terms and related to the students. Furthermore, I had a working product already that was being well used at my Rice. Naturally, I was picked to pitch in front of the class. The other 7 pitches I heard were really good, and almost all of them had some sort of working prototype or basic product. Many of those ideas were very sensible and I was truly impressed. This time, I was really calm and confident about my pitch and timing. I maintained great eye contact with the audience (which has always been a weakness of mine) and captivated them through my presentation. I got really good questions at the end of my pitch. All the work I put into the module was suddenly worth it. Somehow, I was really energized throughout the final lecture as our professor concluded by outlining next steps for turning our startups into successful ventures.
Later that evening, I went back to my room and collapsed on the bed. I think I slept for 12 hours that night. Now that I had finished all of my projects and the term had ended, it was time to play hard. I’ll leave that for another blog post.
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