Growing My Entrepreneurial Mindset—and Exploring New Options

My 5 Takeaways from the UC Entrepreneurship Academy

Diane Lim holding certificate
Diane Lim MBA 23 (right) earned her certificate of graduation from the UC Entrepreneurship Academy with fellow MBA student Lisa Hornick, OD, FAAO.

In May 2022 I took the risk of leaving my job of five years to pursue a career in a new field. In the face of the coronavirus, nationwide layoffs, increasing inflation, and predictions of a recession, this was a daunting move, but I knew it was necessary for my professional growth.

After leaving machine tool manufacturer DMG MORI, where I had been a senior trade compliance and operations analyst, I decided to take this time to focus on my education and on job applications.

I started the UC Davis Sacramento Part-Time MBA program in 2020 and while attending courses last summer, I spoke with my program advisor about prospective job interviews. I recall him mentioning the option to start my own business, but I jokingly rejected it because I never quite imagined myself in that role.

We reconnected the following week and he brought up the idea again. This time he also told me about an opportunity presented by the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a Center of Excellence at the Graduate School of Management. He emailed me more information and a link to the upcoming UC Entrepreneurship Academy in September. I read through the program details and, with an inquisitive mindset, I decided to apply for one of the 60 spots.

The academy helps students, postdocs and faculty in all academic disciplines and fields gain the knowledge and networks needed to identify, develop and validate the commercial potential of research or ideas.

Building a Diverse and Valuable Network

The room was filled on the first day of the four-day academy. Through our introductions, I discovered that my fellow participants came from many backgrounds, industries, and academic and professional programs, including agriculture, medicine, technology, health, wellness and more.

They were also at various stages of their business concept. Some were starting from the bottom and others had plans ready for funding. I did not have a concrete concept, but I was inspired by being among these like-minded individuals looking to pursue their passions.

With each exercise, guest speaker, group assignment, and development session, I felt how genuine the academy was in providing the guidance and resources young entrepreneurs need to develop their business ideas.

Mentorship, Collaboration and Support

There were two key features I appreciated most about the entrepreneurship academy, the first being the hands-on mentorship we received throughout the program. While we continuously worked on our value proposition and product offerings, we met one-on-one with a series of mentors to pitch our businesses and receive constructive feedback.

Getting a professional perspective helped broaden my view of new opportunities I could venture into while also taking into consideration the finances associated with each concept. I gained new insight through each discussion.

I appreciated how the program facilitated an environment of collaboration and support. Each day we were asked to complete assignments with participants we had not previously worked with. This gave us a chance to get a fresh edit on our individual concepts while also allowing us to adopt new skills when learning how others operate.

Andy Hargadon
Professor Andrew B. Hargadon presents at the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship UC Entrepreneurship Academy.

5 Takeaways from the UC Entrepreneurship Academy

  1. Be open to people and opportunities. Someone that you meet now may be able to help you further through your career and vice-versa. Alumni and staff of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship are happy to give advice whenever needed.
  2. Everyone has their own path. Don’t judge your career growth based on someone else’s success.
  3. Rejection is good. It gives you the opportunity to re-evaluate and continue toward success.
  4. Surround yourself with a quality team but not full of “yes-men.” Being in an echo chamber of approval won’t help you find areas of improvement.
  5. Learn when to move on from an idea. Seeking out biased data to prove your concept may work does not mean that your concept will be successful.

The UC Entrepreneurship Academy truly promotes inclusivity and provides an introductory foundation for the network and skills needed to be successful. It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of as part of the UC Davis MBA experience—and best of all, it's free! 

My Next Steps

I’ll soon be a “Double-Aggie” having graduated from UC Davis in 2017 with a B.A. in international relations and now on track to earn my MBA in June with a concentration in marketing and organizational behavior.

While in the Sacramento Part-Time MBA program, I accomplished my short-term career goal of landing a new position as data analyst for the State of California ScholarShare Investment Board, which sets investment policies for the state’s 529 college investment plan. Specifically, I work on operations for the CalKIDS Program which provides higher education funding for low-income students.

With the UC Entrepreneurship Academy takeaways under my belt, my aim is to advance my experience, knowledge and relationships to further strengthen the foundation of my future business ideas.