Reflections: The Husky Startup Challenge

At the beginning of the summer, when HSC was first thrown into my life I didn’t know what to expect. I walked into my first meetings with my eyes wide open thinking that this would be an amazing addition to my life. To be frank, HSC could never be simply an addition to my life and it quickly became my life.

After some some odd meetings with little direction, I came to understand what I assumed was the true mission, creating a handful of workshops designed to teach students about the different aspects of becoming a startup. I threw myself into creating countless lesson plans, games and time sheets, hoping that I could do all the work early and relax during the school year. The easiest way to describe what next happened to me is having your eyes shut, taking a bite of turkey (gobble gobble) and then realizing that what you assumed was a slice was in fact a 20 lb bird made entirely for you. If that lovely image didn’t make it clear enough for you, I was filled to the brim with work. For every one thing checked off my list at least five more were added.

With bucket after bucket of work being thrown at me, the only way I could possibly survive is with a support team. Something I struggled in finding initially. People at home didn’t understand the importance of my work and my board members were in different time zones making it hard to lean on them. As all swimmers know, you can only tread water long enough before you start swallowing some. I did my best to stay afloat but it became difficult, causing me to crash within the first month of the semester.

I struggled with finding time for everything, finding the balance between work, friends, family, and personal care. It was at this point where I almost let the work consume me, where I started drifting to the bottom. If not for the people who kept me afloat, fellow board members and real friends, then I don’t know what would have happened. It was during that time that I truly realized the importance of HSC.

As this happened, I became more and more invested in my role. The ventures I worked with became almost like my children, they became the reason I do what I do. Working with them was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I have always wanted to create something myself (still marinating on that something) but in the meanwhile it was amazing to work with motivated and inspiring individuals everyday. It became clear to me that the true mission of HSC was not the bootcamps but rather the ventures. It was my responsibility to provide them with the resources to do good. As soon as I had this realization everything began to fall in place. Work became second nature, meetings became smoother, and soon we had a record breaking 46 ventures in our cohort. Not only has HSC facilitated my growth in all aspects of my life, but it has also given me insight into what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Our finale, our Demo Day, passed on November 13th. Since day-one it was the most important thing on my mind. I was so obsessed with planning it and getting through it that I often forgot to stop and smell the roses during the journey. Looking back I realize that these 7 months have taught me so much; about my work ethic, relationships, confidence, and ego.

Now that it’s the end of the road I’ve been feeling rather lost, eager to sink my teeth into a new project but also tired from all that’s just happened in what seems like a blink of an eye. A good friend once told me to just “sink it all in, it goes by so fast” and now I realize the validity in his words, I’ve spent these months running with the program and now it’s just ran away from me.

The only thing left to do is to express that gratitude. To Sam; thank you for pulling me back to earth every time my head goes too far up in the stratosphere. To Harshi; thank you for reminding me to take care of myself and always taking my side. To Fernanda; you really do give the best life advice. To Quinn; thank you for always pushing me to do better. To Lucas; without you I probably would have lost my mind weeks ago.

After this experience the only advice I could offer is this: take every opportunity you can, learn from it, savor it and beyond all transform with it. Here’s to the end of a journey, what a marvelous one it was.

Originally published at https://www.elinaagrawal.com on November 18, 2019.