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Astrid Schanz-Garbassi Class of ’12

Graduation Year: 2012

Job Title: Product and Business Development Associate

Current City: Providence, RI

Email: aschanzg@gmail.com

Current Job Description: 2013 Fellow at Venture for America, placed at 121Nexus, a four-person company working on providing unique device identification software to pharmaceutical and medical device companies. My responsibilities will involve identifying customers, front-end product development, communicating between clients and engineers and ensuring all deadlines are met.

What do you do on a daily basis at your job/project?

Imagine I will … format apps/web pages with css, html and java, strategize about target clients, manage accounts with clients, suggest new features to our product, pitch our software solution to medical device companies and pharma companies, help to recruit new hires, fundraise, make cold calls to potential influencers, donors, and industry experts.

Describe your work environment (independent research, working in groups or teams, etc.)

Working on a team of five in a co-working space at a startup accelerator. We’ll have to communicate and collaborate every day in order to move the product forward.

Are you pursuing any other projects? (taking a class, volunteering, teaching yourself a new skill, training your puppy, etc.)

Yes! I plan to be volunteering in 8th grade classrooms teaching an almost MiddCORE-esque curriculum intended to expose middle school students to an entrepreneurial mindset from an early age.

How did you get involved in PCI as a student? 

My first experience with the PCI was my freshman year through the 2011 Solar Decathlon project. I helped to organize meetings at the Old Stone Mill, where I met and fell in love with Liz Robinson. As I heard about more and more PCI initiatives, I couldn’t help but get involved. This first taste led me to take MiddCORE and start a project of my own on campus (YouPower) with help form the PCI for fundraising.

What did you learn from your PCI involvement?

Some of the most valuable lessons I learned through the PCI were during MiddCORE. The course is meticulously curated to expose us, as students, to skills and concepts we didn’t know that we didn’t know. These concepts have proven invaluable in all of the work scenarios I’ve encountered as a post grad, and I could ramble about them for pages, but to keep it digestible, I’ll keep to the top three lessons:

  1. You are always on stage: special thanks to Mike Kernan for showing us that even in silence our posture, facial expressions, and movements of all kind are constantly projecting information. Without realizing it, we are constantly telling people how smart, interested, capable, trustworthy, or reliable we are. MiddCORE helped me become conscious of the language I use, both body language and speech, in small groups or in front of huge audiences. Mastering how I project myself to the world has been and will continue to be a great challenge, but is incredibly important in everything I do.
  2. A phone call is worth a thousand e-mails: Cold calling is scary and uncomfortable. Why bother a stranger and risk awkward pauses, misunderstandings, and perhaps even total rejection of the idea or request you’re offering. Much easier to hide behind a computer screen and whip up an e-mail. MiddCORE taught me to flat out reject this mindset. Picking up the phone will not only ensure you get your audience’s attention, but it almost guarantees more engagement and commitment from the person you connect with. Hearing your voice will humanize you, and make others more likely to get behind whatever you’re doing.
  3. Two failures might make a success: The pass/fail structure of the course made MiddCORE one of the most liberating experiences educational experiences I’ve ever had. No longer scared to bomb a presentation, class mates started playing not to their strengths, but to their weaknesses. We all did something we were uncomfortable doing, and more often than not the outcome was a flop. But the more flops we built in our repetoir, the more … flips? we started to see.

Which of those things do you think about the context of your current job/class/life? 

All of them.

How did your experience with PCI fit in with your larger Middlebury experience and education?

Don’t have a great answer to this right now… Sorry!

What are some unexpected challenges you’ve had in your post-graduation pursuits? (or your current job) What are some pleasant surprises?

Challenges: not talking bringing Middlebury up in every conversation, making sure I don’t get stupider, not having structured learning “blocks” and having to find what I want to learn and then teach myself.

Pleasant surprises: I got some incredibly relevant “life skills” through various PCI initiatives, there are other amazing people in the world. Like college, you can switch careers just like you can switch majors. Unlike college, you can switch as many times as you want and you don’t need to drop anything off at the registrar’s office!

Where do you see yourself going in the future (back to school, to another location, staying at your current company, etc.)

The VFA fellowship entails a two-year commitment at my company, and after that, I’m open to many possible paths. The jackpot would be starting a company of my own!

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