Meet student Sarah Hong '21
Sharing the Confidence To Become An Entrepreneur
Sarah Hong felt the pull toward a corporate job, but knew that she wanted a more creative career.
When Sarah Hong travelled to Hanover from Dallas for her Dimensions accepted students weekend, she was excited to see campus and find out about everything that Dartmouth had to offer. Among the college’s many attributes, one resource stood out and affected Hong’s decision to matriculate.
“Hearing about The Magnuson Center, the resources they have, and the Living Learning Community influenced my decision to come to Dartmouth,” says Hong, who is now entering her junior year.
Hong didn’t have a company, or even an idea that she was passionate about, but she knew that she wanted to engage with entrepreneurship.
“I’ve always wanted to pursue entrepreneurship after graduation, either creating my own company or working for a startup, so it seemed natural to pursue that in college,” said Hong, who is majoring in computer science and economics.
She enrolled in The Magnuson Center’s Living Learning Community and joined undergraduate students from all years living together together on the first floor of McLaughlin Cluster dormitory. Hong participated in dinners and educational programming meant to teach students about launching a company. She learned basics of entrepreneurship like the lean startup model and how to pitch. More importantly, she engaged with other students who were enthusiastic about innovation.
“We would talk to each other in the hallways about what we were working on and our interests,” Hong said.
Hong participated in the East Coast and West Coast Experiences, traveling to Washington D.C., Seattle and San Francisco to meet with Dartmouth alumni who have started their own companies or who are working with startups.
On the West Coast trip, she received valuable advice. One member of the group asked all the founders what job recent graduates could take that would prepare them for entrepreneurship. The answer, again and again, was product management. Product managers need to have the creativity, leadership skills and management capabilities that are also essential for successful entrepreneurs, the founders said.
“Talking to founders helped shape my future career,” Hong says. “Before that, I knew entrepreneurship would be in the picture, but I didn’t quite know how to get there.”
In addition to pivoting her career interests toward product management, hearing from alumni about the lived experience of being an entrepreneur helped Hong visualize what life would look like working at a start-up.
“When we talk about entrepreneurship it’s kind of abstract, because we are not experiencing it. Talking to these founders about their real lows and how they overcame their obstacles really shows you the true life of being an entrepreneur,” Hong says. “There are parts of the experience that are not glamorous. But there are highs too and ways you can make an impact, so it balances out.”
At Dartmouth, like many elite schools, there can be pressure to take high-level corporate jobs after graduation.
“I felt that pull very strongly during my freshman year,” Hong says.
However, being engaged with Dartmouth’s network of entrepreneurs through The Magnuson Center showed her that there are viable, lucrative and rewarding career paths outside the corporate world.
“If I hadn’t had exposure to entrepreneurship through the Magnuson Center, it’s very likely I might not have had the confidence to pursue this creative, innovative side of me,” Hong says.
During her sophomore year, Hong was invited to participate in a focus group about the Tuck Lab program, which was being developed at the time. Seeing how seriously the leadership at the Magnuson Center took student feedback showed Hong that she could have a real impact on the center and help other students benefit from the resources it provides.
“I realized I could have a big impact on how the center did things,” she says. She applied to be a member of the center’s Student Leadership Board, and has not served for two terms on the board.
“I thought it was amazing that I could have that impact throughout the year and work with students who were also very interested,” she says.
As a student leader, Hong works to increase the visibility of the Magnuson Center on campus. She wants other students to know the resources that the center offers to everyone, at all stages of interest and engagement with entrepreneurship.
“I really hadn’t been exposed to entrepreneurship until I came to Dartmouth, and being able to tap into the resources at the Magnuson Center was really helpful for me,” she says. Now, she wants to pay it forward by making other people aware of the center’s resources. “People can come at anytime and there’s a really low barrier to entry to all these amazing people and opportunities.”