There are an incredible amount of events for engineers and entrepreneurs happening in Chicago and all across the United States, but with school and work is it really worth attending? Conferences, webinars, talks, and competitions offer the opportunity to learn new business practices, find inspiration, and network with members of professional communities. Rather than simply taking our word for it, tune in this week to hear from MEM students and alumni as they reflect on events they’ve recently attended and discuss why they found them beneficial. Each post will be accompanied by upcoming event recommendations and we’ve also posted a host of new events in the calendar for you to check out.
Our first post comes from current MEM student Patricio Cofre who won the opportunity to attend the unique “ThinkChicago” event during Chicago Ideas Week. Patricio Cofre is an entrepreneur from Chile and was recently named a VIP Member of Worldwide Who’s Who for Excellence in Information Technology and Services. He is sponsored by the national government through Becas Chile (Scholarship Chile) and has contributed articles to the MEM blog in the past.
When I arrived at Northwestern I was surprised to discover a rich entrepreneurial environment in the university and entire Chicagoland area. I immediately started participating in as many conferences and meet-ups as possible and I even felt overwhelmed at times with the amount of new information and knowledge I encountered every day! At the same time, the wealth of information only shows that Chicago is the best possible place to think and develop new ideas, and opportunities like Think Chicago are prime examples of this.
Think Chicago is a special events within Chicago Ideas Week in which students can apply for the opportunity to visit and meet with some of the most cutting edge companies in the city. I decided to apply for the event when I realized that one trip would be to 37signals, the creators of Basecamp, Campfire, and Hirerise. It wasn’t until I was accepted that I became aware of the press and prestige surrounding the event and became aware of what to expect.
The program lasted a busy two days filled with trips to different companies. My group visited Orbitz, Groupon, 37signals, Trunk Club, and Emmi Solutions while the other group visited Microsoft, Google, and Grubhub among others. During my first visit to Nokia, I was surprised to discover that the main researchers of the labs would be showing us around. It was impressive to see how two important researchers would take the time to patiently show us around their labs, explain their latest developments, and even joke around with us during the tour.
In the end, two events stand out most to me. Mayor Rahm Emanuel participated in the Groupon panel and stressed the importance of developing new businesses in Chicago to provide fresh and new services for a diverse range of existing businesses in the area. He emphasized his commitment to capture the best talent in Chicago, which he called the “new entrepreneur’s paradise.” As a relevant example, Neil Sales-Griffin, an NU alumni and co-founder of The Starter League and a successful Chicago entrepreneur, was also a participant on the panel.
The second highlight was my visit to 37signals. I admire 37 signals because they have not only developed one of the most impressive project management applications available today, but they have also developed a management theory considered a “must read” in the entrepreneurial world. We were received by founder Jason Fried, who spoke and answered questions regarding entrepreneurship and topics like hiring, recruiting and pricing. He also explained part of his “irreverent” theory, which was mostly a re-write of part of his management literature with a focus on today´s startups.
To wrap up, as an international student and entrepreneur I have never before seen such an awesome and highly motivating environment to develop ideas and projects than Chicago and the universities here. The commitment of offices and institutions invite and encourage students to take the risk to do something new. Anyone interested in creative and innovative developments would feel at home in Chicago.
Think a similar event would be useful for you? Check out “Tech Speak: Chicago Entrepreneurs Commit to Hire” this Wednesday, November 7, 2012 in 1871 Merchandise Mart, 12th Floor. The event takes place from 6:00 to 8:30PM and tickets cost $10. The event consists of a panel of top Chicago tech firms discussing how to “acquire and manage talent and the types of future jobs within the Chicago tech community.”