Updated: Jan 20, 2019
In this featured guest piece, Barb Alder presents a Support Service portfolio of the many resources available through Purdue University and the Purdue University Foundry.
Barb Alder is the Director of Engagement at Purdue University. She specializes in connecting individuals, entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations to the capabilities of the University in order to raise the economic and educational achievement of all in Indiana.
Let’s start with a bit about my responsibilities with Purdue University. When I came into this role a little over six years ago, the term “engagement” wasn’t in quite as much use as it is now. Terms like employee engagement, community engagement, customer engagement, and the like are common these days, not just in higher education but in broader use as well. But back a few years ago, not so much, and I found myself explaining that it was all about helping people make connections to improve their chances for success. In my role, the term relates to business and industry, with a focus on economic development. Fostering a climate that supports entrepreneurs is an important part of economic development; that is what brought me to the Startup Ladies and a Support Services membership for our office. Think of my role as a gateway to resources that can foster greater success for your organization.
Our friend, Founder & CEO Kristen Cooper, met with me a few weeks ago at my request to discuss how Support Services members could do more than just help to fund the organization via member fees and attending events. While networking and valuable connections often happen organically — Kristen shared one such example during that meeting — I was interested in being more deliberate and intentional about it. The outcome was she invited me to contribute to the series of blogs on the organization’s website.
As a new blogger and a Boomer continually learning to make it in a Millennial world (actually the underlying theme of many of my blog posts to date), my first step was to review other posts on The Startup Ladies website. Company owners blog about how they started their company after observing an unsolved problem or unmet need in the marketplace. That is what I call an outward facing perspective, and is critical to success. Conversely, what I bring to the table when I meet with a company (mature, mid-stage or start-up), is a more introspective view. Looking inward, this introspective view is one that every company’s leadership and team should maintain as well. This perspective starts with three questions I assign as “homework” prior to any meeting, helping to identify what connections at Purdue (or elsewhere; more on that later) will be most helpful.
So without actually meeting with me, here is your homework. Spend some time thinking about these three questions:
What are you good at?
What would you like to be better at?
What keeps you up at night?
Other than the plant manager who told me his teenage son was getting his driver’s license the following month and that kept him up at night, the answers to these questions are quite instructive and the springboard for subsequent dialogue about how I can help.
As a Startup Ladies member, you may have had the opportunity to interact with others from Purdue University, either through the Foundry or perhaps working with my colleague John Hanak. John is now heading up Purdue Ventures, a source of capital; don’t let that limit your thinking about the depth and breadth of his knowledge when it comes to just about anything entrepreneurial in nature. With this as the starting point for available people and programs that can be part of your support network, let’s outline a few more that you should consider part of my Purdue Support Services portfolio (with links to more detail) below. While you can always start with an in-person meeting with me after answering the three questions above, taking a quick surf through the available programs and people first to see if anything jumps out at you can also be instructive. How you want to proceed is completely up to you.
ACCESS TO PEOPLE (HIRING)
Many colleges and universities have online portals for students and often alumni to post their resumes, search for job postings, obtain career advice, resume writing assistance, and so on. As a company grows, access to the right people is a major challenge to success, right up there with access to capital. The online portal for potential hires at Purdue is the CCO, or Center for Career Opportunities (www.cco.purdue.edu).
On the right hand side of the home page screen when viewing on a computer, you will see the quick links for employers; a more robust list of employer information and services is available from the pulldown menu at the top of the page. My recommendation is that you at least take a quick look at what is there well before you need to hire.
ACCESS TO CAPITAL
John Hanak, mentioned above, is where I would start. He knows more than I ever will and is where I would point you. If you haven’t met him and would like to, either Kristen or I would be happy to introduce you. Let us know.
ACCESS TO INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL
This is a sort of fancy way of asking whether you need expert help solving a business or technical problem. This can be help at any level from a short-term undergraduate student classroom project through a graduate student or post-doc research assistant, on up through some highly skilled people in the labs on campus and nearby Discovery Park.
Much like taking a look at CCO before you need people, if you are in an industry that might benefit from some business or technical research assistance down the road, take a look sooner rather than later and let’s think about what your options might be.
ACCESS TO PHYSICAL SPACE
Most of you probably think of dorm rooms when you think of renting space from Purdue and, if you have been following that story in the media this fall, how that physical space is at a premium thanks to our record-breaking incoming class. This particular reference to physical space is commercial space available for lease at the locations owned and managed by Purdue Research Foundation.
The Purdue Research Park network of technology-based business incubators is a dynamic entrepreneurial business environment, designed to attract high-technology companies and to launch new startups.
The Purdue Research Parks are located around the state of Indiana, with the largest not far from main campus in West Lafayette, with the Aerospace District recently announced. In close proximity to the Indianapolis International Airport, at Ameriplex Parkway, the Indianapolis location is a great spot for Indy’s tech sector. Other locations are Merrillville and New Albany.
ACCESS TO PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & TRAINING
Purdue University provides professional development and workforce training to tens of thousands of individuals and employers located in every Indiana county. Programs and colleges offering on-site services throughout Indiana include Purdue Extension, the Technical Assistance Program, the Polytechnic Institute, and several others. Collectively these programs award thousands of certificates and credentials, preparing individuals for career advancement and helping employers maintain global competitiveness. Here are just a few examples:
As your company looks to expand, either horizontally or vertically, you and your team need the best possible skillset to maintain competitiveness. Something other than a full degree program may be the answer; consider professional certifications and online programs to fill any knowledge and skill gaps you may see now or on the horizon. And don’t forget Purdue Global, a fully online option headquartered in Indy.
ACCESS TO NON-PURDUE CONNECTIONS
There are two basic types of networks: closed and open. In closed kind, everyone in the network knows and interacts with all the same people. With open networks, each member knows different people and can make connections outside the network. When functioning well, open networks benefit members and those outside, much more so than closed networks.
My network is open and functions very well; Kristen is a member, after all!
That said, here is how that works with a few examples. I subscribe to the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats. Yes, I know we have no tides in Indiana. Let’s not focus on all the amenities we lack; that bores me. The rising tide thing is something I use metaphorically when somebody wonders why I think they can be helped by, for example, a program at Eleven Fifty Academy or by talking to my friend John Wechsler at Launch Fishers. I also sit on a number of not-for-profit boards, with missions in K-12 STEM education, tech entrepreneurship and access to capital, transportation and logistics and a number of other topical areas that allow for a very open network and only one or two degrees of separation from the person you probably need to be in touch with.
In closing, I encourage you to do a few things — assuming you got this far!
First, learn more on a broader scale about my office by going to my website at www.purdue.edu/engageindy. There you will see four major industry clusters and how all of the academic units at Purdue map to those industries and help the Indiana economy to grow.
Next, follow me on Twitter @BarbaraAlder1 and look back at my tweets to link to my other blogs
If you get back far enough in the blogs to read “connections” then connect with me on LinkedIn (Barbara J. Alder); no cheating — I will know if you skipped the blog!
Thanks for reading. I look forward to connecting either in person or virtually — maybe both!