Nazr El-Scari ’21 says he was drawn to Lehigh because of the entrepreneurial and networking opportunities that would be available to him through the Baker Institute, including the Hatchery and the Eureka pitch competitions. LehighSiliconValley was a natural next step, he says.
El-Scari, who attended LehighSiliconValley in January 2020, is founder of “A Sneakerhead’s Paradise,” a subscription-based sneaker-buying service that he started when he was still in high school. While he has always been passionate about entrepreneurship, he says, LehighSiliconValley provided him with a new perspective about the importance of collaboration.
“And that was something that completely blew me away because I always felt like entrepreneurship was competitive, not collaborative,” he says. “That was something that I really learned in Silicon Valley, that all these people are working with each other. … It was at that point that I started really ramping up, trying to build my team, because I realized, a ship is only as strong as its crew.”
He says the diverse group of presenters in Silicon Valley provided much perspective.
“This is an eclectic community, full of people who want to help each other succeed and achieve their dreams and further humanity with innovation,” El-Scari says. “Collaboration is what's really going to push everyone forward. I believe that wholeheartedly, especially after that program, and it was life-changing for me for sure.”
Julia Pardee ’21 also was part of the January 2020 cohort. She took an extended three-day externship with the cybersecurity company vArmour and its CEO Tim Eades.
As a marketing and business information systems major at Lehigh, she says, the externship allowed her to combine her two areas of interest and gain valuable experience. Pardee had additional internships in the summer and the Fall 2020 semester with Eades' venture capital fund that focuses on early stage cybersecurity companies.
“One of my biggest takeaways from LSV, in general, was that the culture [in Silicon Valley] is so welcoming and entrepreneurial,” she says.
Also, she found reassurance in hearing that one’s career path isn't always linear. “It’s actually okay to not know what you want to do, which I've been told many times, and I know it's true, but I think seeing it throughout the sessions made it much more palpable.”
Student-athlete Maddie Monahan ’21, who singles out LehighSiliconValley as one of her best Lehigh experiences, says she learned a lot about herself through the program. She pointed to a challenging “UN-resume” activity designed and delivered by Getzler. With guests Ann Lewnes ’83, chief marketing officer of Adobe, and Sandy Stelling ’91, vice president of Strategy, Analytics and Transformation at Alaska Airlines, to coach students like Monahan, the workshop guides students to figure out their own story without just citing the experiences listed on their resume.
“I thought back to when I was being recruited to come play field hockey [at Lehigh], and the coaching staff at the time told me that I was really good at passing,” she says. “And I kind of took it as a backhanded compliment. It's such a basic thing. But I realized that the way I found success in my college years and my high school years was that I found connections, whether that be people or in engineering or in computer science or in the three internships that I've had.
“I feel I can find connections, and in anyone, in anything. … That's kind of how I've approached everything after LehighSiliconValley. I know that's one of my biggest strengths, that I have the ability to do that, and I don't know if I wasn't presented with this opportunity to think about that, that I would have ever realized it.”