For Jeanette Debek, the problem-solving nature of entrepreneurship sparks a special type of excitement. To foster this excitement and learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset, the junior studying advertising in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications enrolled in Penn State’s intercollege minor in entrepreneurship and innovation (ENTI).
Debek’s ENTI courses educated her on entrepreneurship concepts, and soon she found an enthusiasm for applying those concepts to help build a real business. She submitted an application to the entrepreneurship internship (ENtern) program offered by engineering entrepreneurship (E-SHIP), an interdisciplinary program housed within the College of Engineering’s School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs. Through its coursework, E-SHIP offers the technology-based cluster of the ENTI minor.
“I truly believe that having firsthand experience is the best way to learn,” Debek said. “We often trial our own business ideas in our classes, so diving in to contribute ideas to an entrepreneurship effort outside of the classroom was very enticing.”
Debek learned about the ENtern program in her ENGR 310: Entrepreneurial Leadership course taught by Bob Beaury, assistant teaching professor of engineering entrepreneurship. Students selected as ENterns receive a $1,500 stipend, provided by E-SHIP, and work up to 150 hours throughout one semester as an employee of a local early-stage venture.
As an ENtern, Debek worked with Gage Ventures, a startup developing classroom observation software teachers or school psychologists can use to better assess student behaviors. In her role as marketing manager and director of social media, Debek developed an online advertising presence for Gage Ventures. Debek promoted the startup through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and sent outreach emails to schools with the goal of recruiting participants for the pilot program of the company’s software, GageTrack.
Debek said her marketing and outreach responsibilities helped her to enhance several skills, including time management, as the locations of team members in Australia, California and the East Coast necessitated careful planning. Debek also emphasized the importance of independent decision-making in her position.
“I had to try different approaches to solve problems, seek out solutions on my own, and try things I’ve never done before,” she said. “A lot of entrepreneurship has to do with finding a way to make your idea come to life as you go.”
According to Debek, the independence of her role not only bolstered her work ethic but also her self-reliance.
“It’s essential to remain open to change and ready to pivot if need be while still believing you’ll find the answer,” Debek said. “The program was a great way for me to gain confidence in my abilities to navigate challenges, break down big ideas into smaller actionable tasks and seek out the best way to reach the end goal.”