Venture For America Fellow Experience

Accidental Entrepreneurship

I'm still not sure how I ended up at Leverege, but I'm glad I did. I had no concept of entrepreneurship growing up, unless you count disparaging media images of tech magnates and money-hungry risk-takers.

Hannah Sloan

I’m still not sure how I ended up at Leverege, but I’m glad I did.

I had no concept of entrepreneurship growing up, unless you count disparaging media images of tech magnates and money-hungry risk-takers. My college experience changed this perception.  

I came into college with a math and science background, and I also came into college with a fledgling business I started with four other friends…partly by accident. My friends and I worked on a product challenge to address an environmental ill we noticed around us. We were introduced to entrepreneurial resources at our school to turn our idea into a reality, and so the five of us—all women—incorporated the summer after high school to try our hand.

I was no natural-born entrepreneur; I happened to stumble across a group of people and an idea I cared about enough to try and bring it to life. Throughout college, I worked on this project with the same four friends: it was a web application designed to reduce food wastage in grocery stores by communicating time-sensitive discounts on perishable foods. It’s pivoted since then, but you can imagine I got quite familiar with that one-sentence description. I worked on this during much of my free time, and one summer I took the project on full time as my friends took internships elsewhere, looking to return in the fall.

I learned a lot about software architecture—enough to know that it wasn’t going to be my immediate passion. I also learned a lot about tax forms and business administration—enough to know that I couldn’t go it alone, even for a short period of time. My love for building things was stifled by the overwhelming ambiguity of driving a business.

After that, I focused instead on my love for academia. I became enamored with the social sciences and philosophy, and I found joy in co-teaching a seminar on human rights. I thought about where my path might go from there, but was nagged by the fact that most of my learning in college had come outside of school. Tact, persistence, a love of collaboration, an appreciation for the power of human empathy—all these things I found not in the classroom, but in my relationships with student entrepreneurs, freelancers, case workers, and team members.

Senior year came and I was wholly unsure what I wanted out of my post-grad life. Venture for America had been on my radar for a few years as I saw some of my more creative friends take the startup plunge. I decided to pursue Venture for America because:

  • I felt I would learn the most in small team work, where collaboration is necessary and diversity enriches design.
  • I wanted exposure to many parts of a company, so that I could hone a higher-level perspective and explore what areas I like best.
  • I wanted to learn more about urban America and contribute to the growth of new businesses in areas not traditionally saturated with startup culture. I saw friends heading off to the New Yorks and San Franciscos of the world and wanted something different for myself.
  • I wanted to be part of a community. Venture for America not only cultivates local VFA communities, but they encourage fellows to build their own communities in their respective cities.
  • I wanted to lean into ambiguity, not avoid it. Venture for America has intentionally minimal structure, and I knew I could grow in this freedom.

So how did I end up at Leverege? It started with a good friend from high school who got a job building self-driving cars in college. People generally thought this was cool. I thought it was “problematic” and “not so simple.” I bothered him with claims about massive impending job loss, the widely-acknowledged security risks of self-driving cars, and many (many) other concerns. He listened, granted some of my concerns, chalked most of them up to inevitability, and kept working on this passion project. I felt somewhat complacent about my cynicism.

I found Leverege late in the job search, and never intended to work for an IoT company. However, a piece of advice I received early on in VFA was to search for a role and a team that were a good fit for me, and to grant myself room to grow into an industry if needed. I spoke with the Leverege recruiting team and felt a familiar yet new sense of excitement. These are driven people who care about what they do, I sensed early on. Within a week, I was hired.

I found myself revisiting my thoughts on software architecture, technology companies, and even tax forms (not really). I became fascinated by the challenge of owning up to my skepticism and leaning into curiosity about what our shared future will look like. It will look like IoT. It will look like machine learning. It will require risk and innovation. Ultimately, I decided on Leverege because I want to learn. In other words:

  • I want exposure to a new industry with boundless opportunities for learning.
  • I want to explore new thoughts about technology in society, something Leverege conveniently encourages through our IoT For All publication.
  • I want to do project management and operations work, because I know these skills are not only something I value, but something I want to improve upon.
  • Unlike many other companies I interacted with during the Match process, Leverege was direct, transparent, and focused in their hiring. I want all of these characteristics in a workplace.
  • I want to work in an environment that is open to people from different backgrounds. I spoke specifically with the women on the team before signing on and was encouraged by the comfort and support they felt to succeed in their jobs.  
  • I want to work for a team that is committed to being reflective and always improving. This is foundational to Leverege’s company culture.

At Leverege, I feel part of a team that supports each other and pushes for greater learning. My professional life is just getting started, and I feel confident that I’ll grow as a reflective and capable team player here.

Hannah Sloan

Senior Project Manager

Hannah Sloan is a Project Manager at Leverege and the Operations Coordinator at IoT For All. She studied philosophy, politics, and economics at UNC-Chapel Hill. She loves to spend time drawing and hiking, and she has been described as the human equivalent of a Golden Retriever.

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