It is widely believed that, to strengthen our economy, we need new ventures, new enterprises, new businesses and new industries. What, then, is an appropriate role for schools of engineering and engineering educators? Can you teach entrepreneurship? Or are some individuals just born entrepreneurs? Are engineers entrepreneurial?
A number of the key entrepreneurial personality traits mirror engineering competencies necessary for a 21st century career. At the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering, we are fortunate in having successful entrepreneurs among our graduates, students and faculty.
Many of our alumni mix a strong technical skill set with mastery of time management and organizational skills, understanding team and leadership dynamics, ambitious professional goals, and an alert eye for opportunity.
Our faculty members encourage students to ask challenging questions, prepare them to work well under pressure, help them to communicate their ideas, and nurture a resilient attitude to failure and setbacks. Some of the key principles of entrepreneurship are instilled by the classes we teach, the research we do, and the professional networks we have created—as evidenced by students, alumni and faculty who start their own ventures.
In this issue of Vanderbilt Engineering, you will read about just a few of our engineering graduates who have launched successful businesses. They credit their Vanderbilt engineering education for laying the groundwork for entrepreneurship—from honing creative problem-solving skills to rigorous multidisciplinary design projects to courses in engineering management. These entrepreneurs will tell you career success, while often dependent on technical expertise, also depends on your ability to sell an idea and to manage your time, yourself and others.
Ken Morse, the former head of MIT’s Entrepreneurship Center, thinks entrepreneurs are made, not born. Thus in addition to providing a solid technical base, engineering educators have a responsibility to teach principles of product development and project management, to encourage creative problem solving and to nurture innovative thinking. To that end, a Vanderbilt engineering education has and will continue to launch entrepreneurial career paths.