An Ode to Second-Year Sloanies

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Attendees on the MIT Silicon Valley VC Pitch Trek, made possible by a squadron of second year Sloanies, of which Gerrit Hall, third from left, led the way.

The single-most important resource I’ve utilized as a first-year Sloan MBA – and that I also benefited from as an applicant – is the pool of second-year Sloanies.
Second-year Sloan students are the veterans of our campus. They’ve taken the core courses; they’ve experienced Sloan Innovation Period; they’ve gone a few student-led treks; and they’ve probably made headway in memorizing the building-naming convention. To say the least, their heads are jam-packed with incredibly useful knowledge that first year newbies could really use.

Alas, every Sloanie inevitably goes through the tortuous situations of going to the wrong building, overloading his or her schedule to prevent FOMO, or spending the full weekend studying when he or she should be out getting to know other Sloanies and MIT classmates.

Eventually, though, we all meet a second-year who saves the year. That shining light who guides us through the mess of options and points us to salvation – and a fully optimized schedule that reflects only the coolest, most interesting events happening on campus.

When I was interviewing at Sloan, I met two second-year students who showed me a new side to the school and ultimately pushed me over into loving – and choosing – Sloan. Those beacons of humanity were Phil Cohen and Ido Salama. After an information session, they showed me and a couple of eager entrepreneurship-interested applicants around campus, taking us most notably to the Beehive Cooperative, a student-run coworking space for student startups. Seeing the passion that these students had to run a coworking space for the good of the other students was the tipping point for me. It wasn’t the last time I saw Phil and Ido, though. I saw them at every entrepreneurship event I attended over the summer and the following year (last year), and each time, they taught me something new. For example, I saw the two of them present their startups at the Founders Skills Accelerator Demo Day in 2012. Seeing them go all-in on their startups inspired me and confirmed in me that I, too, could do it at Sloan.

Fast-forward to today. We’re nearing the end of our first semester at Sloan, and I can again say that a slew of second-years have saved my semester.

Prior to the start of the semester, I met Andrew Radin, Daipan Lee, and Amanda von Goetz, three co-founders of Thyme, one of this year’s Global Founders Skills Accelerator’s startups. The three of them have individually and collectively pulled me into the startup scene at MIT.

Radin showed me around the Trust Center and set me up for printing – sounds small, but it has shaped my morning, homework-printing routine. Daipan, too, sat me down and explained the tradition of the GradRat ring to me and what it means to have one. I now keep an eye out for BrassRats and GradRats when I’m traveling. I’m super excited to meet my first random stranger who once also roamed MIT’s halls. And Amanda introduced me to the world of tech journalism on campus, as well as sat me down and told me about what it’s like to be a second-year startup founder – an honor I hope to hold a year from now.

And then, there’s “the entrepreneurship guy” on campus, who has helped guide me through the vast and sometime political setup of the MIT entrepreneurship scene. That individual is none other than Gerrit Hall, co-president of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club. A great leader, he has pulled me and a handful of others under his wings to lead the E&I Club to the next level. He’s training the next generation of E&I leaders, of course, as this ship needs to keep sailing after he and the current crew is gone. This year, we collectively launched the first year of the Silicon Valley VC Pitch Trek, where we took about a dozen students to Silicon Valley to pitch and receive feedback from some of the area’s top VCs, including partners from Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, SV Angels, and Funder’s Club. I hadn’t thought that within my first month at MIT I’d be organizing a trek, but with leadership from Gerrit, I and others were able to get involved. I find that absolutely amazing.

Lastly, but not least, I’m inspired by second-year Steven Frechette, whom I consider one of the most polished entrepreneurs in the second year class. His startup, currently going through a name-change, is backed by beautiful design and a fresh take on digital interactions. Steven, too, is a great speaker and gives his startup pitch with ultimate panache. I aspire to pitch like him.

All in all, whether you’re a Sloan applicant or first-year student, I highly recommend reaching out to the second-year MBAs who are always willing to help out, and who amazingly radiate massive amounts of useful knowledge, typically without even knowing they’re being life-changing. Second-year Sloanies, this one’s for you. Thank you for being awesome.

Erica Swallow

Erica Swallow is a technology writer, startup entrepreneur, and status quo wrecker. She is currently an MBA candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management and her thoughts have been published in a number of esteemed outlets, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, and The Huffington Post, among others.

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