I had a very special experience in the last few weeks of my time as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at McCombs. I reconnected with Rick Byars, who was my MIS333K professor (my undergraduate major at the University of Texas at Austin was MIS), in time for his legendary end-of-semester speech. He invited me to attend and speak for five minutes at the end of it.
To put this in context, when I was in Rick's class back in 1994 it had a huge impact on me. First of all, it was the most practical class I took at U.T. and, as a result, the one I remember the best. It simulates what it is like to be a technology consultant by giving you and your small team a large project to develop, test, and "deploy" by the end of the semester. It is the most time consuming class I took at U.T., by far, but at the end of it you have an incredible feeling of accomplishment. And then, at the end of the semester, Rick surprises you with the article below and his talk about it. You had no idea it was coming, and the shock value is what makes it a very special experience. You can't help but thinking, "Is this for real?! Was this really Rick?".
Rick's big point is that the journey of life is the reward. And it doesn't have to be scripted by your parents, your boss, society, or anyone else. It is your journey and yours alone. It doesn't have to be a straight line. It is your line. There doesn't have to be a "logical" progression. It is your progression in the journey.
I remembered this talk when I was at Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group, who I joined right after I graduated from U.T. Austin. While I can say some good things about my experience working there for two years, I can also tell you that I felt "maxed out" after a year. I was, frankly, bored. And I was frustrated that I had not followed my dream to start a business upon graduation. I didn't feel ready and I underestimated my ability to "learn the ropes" quickly as I went. It also bothered me that Deloitte was charging our clients around 10x more per hour than they were paying me. I believed that I could do this work on my own and probably charge a similar hourly rate to theirs, and I needed to prove that to myself. I was looking for a way out - I, in short, felt somewhat like Rick did at IBM. Thankfully, at Deloitte, they would pay for some promising people's MBA education if they returned post graduation. I saw the path and I convinced Deloitte that I could be one of those people. Deloitte gave me the opportunity to test my mettle. I was accepted to Wharton, and I began my first business - consulting - at the end of my first semester. I cleared around $250-$350/hour per project, and I felt more career freedom than ever before. There was no going back (you can read about my journey in my first few businesses in this Lucky7 post) - I was now solidly on the entrepreneurial path. Rick's class prepared me for Deloitte, which in turn prepared me to launch my own consulting business. As I would tell U.T. Austin students that would visit me during EIR office hours, this is a great way to prove to yourself that you can be an entrepreneur. Do the job that you did for an employer on your own, as a consultant, to start the entrepreneurial journey in a lower-risk way (it has limited upside, though, as I wrote about in my state of tech entrepreneurship in Austin post).
After starting five businesses and being the entrepreneur myself, I'm on a different journey now. One where I'm dedicated to helping others achieve their goals. You can see our emerging portfolio, and we're very thankful to the entrepreneurs that allow us to invest and hopefully help them along in their journey.
What teacher has had an impact like that on your life? I'm sure you can name one. Please tell us all about them in the comments section below.
For more on the journey being the reward, I have some simple advice for you in this Lucky7 post. Entrepreneur CEOs - this advice will especially help you.
A final word: Thank you, Rick, for your incredible dedication at McCombs. You made a big impact on me, and it was a sincere pleasure to be in one of your last classes in your 34-year history (so far) there. Seeing your talk 20 years after I was a student in your class was, to say the least, a very reflective experience. I can also tell you that your talk was one of my inspirations when I wrote this Lucky7 post on what Benjamin Franklin may have meant when he famously said, "remember that time is money".