During my last two years at Yale, I began to think seriously about post-graduation plans. Having immersed myself in entrepreneurship by starting a consultancy for college founders and participating in an international startup accelerator, it was clear that my only routes to professional fulfillment were 1) start my own company or 2) work for a rapidly growing startup. Starting my own company out of college would be great. I had (and still have) clarity about the field in which I want to innovate —smart cities and urban technology—but I was cognizant that I still didn’t know what I didn’t know about starting a company.
While I’m a lifelong believer in the “learn by doing” mentality, I knew that I could grow at an accelerated pace by joining a company with strong, experienced founders and dedicated teams of interesting people. I especially knew that if I was to work for a startup, I needed to choose a place where I could see myself both having an impact on the future of the company and having direct access to feedback from company leaders in order to continue honing my skills. Having studied Architectural Design and C.S., I had developed a strong interest in technology, design and business, and I realized that the best position for me would be one in which I could interact with all three fields—that of a project manager. I was especially drawn to the role of project manager since it would allow me to operate individual projects within a larger company as though they were my own company. I could work directly with clients to develop a strategic plan and collaborate with subject matter experts in design and technology to realize those plans.
Throughout my initial job search, I was inefficiently reaching out to early stage startups—most of which weren’t hiring yet—and on occasion flying out for exploratory conversations to learn more about their industries. As this process sped up, I realized that I was severely limited by my own ability to discover startups in the specific fields I was interested in and that I needed a way to efficiently scale the number of startups I could learn about while minimizing the time wasted researching companies that were all ‘talk’ and no ‘do’. This was when I decided to seriously consider the Venture for America fellowship.
I had known about VFA since 2013, when my older brother, Ilan, graduated college and came across the two-year-old fellowship which he briefly considered prior to deciding to focus on consulting. Then a junior in high school with a passion for forging my own path, VFA stuck in my mind as a potential starting point for my career. Four years later, as I looked to enlarge the number of legitimate startups I was talking to, VFA seemed like the obvious choice. A secondary benefit was that VFA gave me access to startups in a class of cities that were drastically different from San Diego (my hometown) and New Haven (where I went to school). By living in mid-sized cities such as Baltimore, where I ended up, I could continue to understand the larger range of urban problems in America. This experience would allow me to generalize across populations so that when time came to start a company in the field of urban technology, I could design for more than just the populations of NYC, LA and San Francisco, something that’s rare in that industry.
After going through the application process and getting an offer to join VFA’s class of 2018, I was thrilled to dive into the match portal. Unfortunately my eagerness had led me to apply during the first round of applications in August and VFA Match only opened in late March.
Midway through the second semester of my senior year, Match opened. I was initially cautious about moving too fast with any one company since new jobs were being posted on the platform every day. During the first week I didn’t reach out to companies, but carefully monitored the list of companies and jobs that were popping up on the platform hoping to find something that matched my personal and professional goals.
My second week, I matched with Leverege which, being in the IoT space, fit both my interests and skills. That Thursday, I had my first call with Ryan, Leverege’s CSO, and I knew that if Leverege was even half the place he described, I definitely wanted to work there. A day later, I was in Philadelphia for a VFA job fair and got to sit down with Eric, Steve, Ryan, Calum and Yitaek. I was floored by the company’s culture—you could tell everyone loved goofing around as friends, but there was also an intense air of “let’s get shit done” that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. More so, there was genuine cross-over between my interests in Smart Cities and all of Leverege’s projects, a synergy the team was excited to explore.
After leaving the interview I knew I wanted to work with Leverege. Two weeks later, I was in Baltimore for a site visit and saw that the culture I had experienced at the Philadelphia job fair extended to all team members. When I received my job offer in the airport that same day, I instinctively called the other companies I was interviewing with to rescind my candidacy, signed on with Leverege and bought myself a celebratory Cinnabon—it was a good day.
Fast forward 6 months and I’m nearing the end of my second month at Leverege. It is clear to me that I made the right decision. I’ve gotten access to more responsibility than I ever could have imagined. As a project manager, I’m currently helping our customers solve real business needs and deploying the largest LPWA network in North America with over 600,000 trackers among other things. Eric, Steve and everyone else on the team are incredible mentors who approach company building in a synergistic way, looking out for opportunities through which I can better both my hard and soft skills and dive into specific projects that align with my interests and goals. As two months turn to six and six months to a year, I see no limits to my growth and learning and that makes me proud of my choice to become both a fellow at Venture for America and a project manager at Leverege.
Marc is a systems engineer at Leverege where he focuses on building IoT concepts into full scale deployments. He graduated from Yale University with a B.A in Computing and the Arts (Architecture track) and a certificate in Energy Studies focused on the technology. In his free time he enjoys visiting art museums and continuously rewatching Step Brothers or National Treasure.
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