Perhaps it’s the just the Christmas season that has me in a thoughtful mood, or that the annual Othot holiday party was this afternoon, or both, but for this week’s blog I’d like to diverge slightly from our usual musings on big data, predictive analytics, and the business surrounding it and instead, talk about the spirit of startups.

Entrepreneurship has been a business theme for America throughout our history — our culture of capitalism and individualism and the “American Dream” are known across the globe, and many people still come to this country searching for an opportunity to build their dreams from the ground up. Once upon a time, it was mom-and-pop shops. Today, startups are little hubs of innovation, creative thinking, and incredibly skilled and talented people. It’s estimated that 100 million businesses are started each year, and while the majority of them may fail, that staggering number is a testament to the fact that the American Dream is alive and well.

I had always seen myself working at a small business or a non-profit– the big, bad corporate world never called to me.  But, beyond that, I had no starting point. I personally joined the startup world a year and a half ago, at OThot. It began with an email from a professor saying he knew someone looking for a “business student” to work as an intern, helping to start a new business. I needed an internship for the summer (my first internship) and so I contacted Andy Hannah (our founder and CEO, of course). I prepared for the interview as best I could, reading up on the company I thought I would be working for, which turned out to be Andy’s previous endeavor. “No, no– we’re not doing that anymore. I’m starting a new company. Do you know anything about predictive analytics?”

To be completely honest, I had never heard of predictive analytics before, and “Big Data” was a tech trend outside of my realm. I was given an explanation of the basics, and a vague description of the market research I would be doing. I decided to give it a shot, and Andy hired me as Othot’s first-ever intern.

Since then, I’ve seen Othot grow from two interns and a CEO working at tables in the business school building to over 20 employees and our own office; I’ve done research, marketing, fundraising, proposals, and worn dozens of other hats; I’ve worked with amazingly intelligent professionals and interns, and continue to learn more and more about predictive analytics and the impact it can have. I’ve never truly had a job description, I never know exactly what to put on my résumé, and the company has changed entirely since I started there only 1.5 years ago… which I wouldn’t trade for anything. The constant evolution and dynamism of a startup like Othot is amazing to witness and be a part of. It’s incredible that undergraduate students like myself and others have had a hand in building a company, and that we’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the best in business and data science. The experience and knowledge I’ve gained at my time here is extremely valuable, but even more so is the direction I now have for my (very quickly approaching) real-world career. The culture, the team, and the work I do at OThot will always shape my future career choices.

This goes beyond my story, though. I would encourage anyone, in any stage of their career, to consider exploring the startup world.  Maybe it’s not the ideal choice if you require indefinite structure and security, but for those that enjoy always doing new things and sometimes making it up as you go along, it’s an adventure and once you get started, you never want to stop.