[Editorial Note: Dan's blog is the second in a series of reflections from our recently graduated 2015-2016 fellows. You can read Jake's blog here, and you'll hear from May and Amanda later this month.]
Serendipitous chaos. It’s probably the best way to describe what entrepreneurship feels like most days. It’s also my best attempt at distilling how the road we traveled in building something new, while ever-winding, still led us to somewhere remarkable.
After our first day of the fellowship, we all sat down to talk about what we thought the fellowship held in store for us as well as what we envisioned creating with the vast resources at our disposal. Unsurprisingly, our group of four young professionals from four very different backgrounds had four very unique views of what our collective future might entail. It also set the tone for how that future would come to be.
In nearly every situation we encountered, our four different identities drew distinct and diverging conclusions. Every patient experience, every stakeholder interview, every design problem encountered, the list goes on and on. While from one lens this lack of alignment might appear worrisome, it proved to be our greatest strength as a team throughout the fellowship. The ability to encounter a challenge and immediately have four different viewpoints and options for us to draw upon proved a tremendous resource that we were able to leverage in the roller-coaster ride that is entrepreneurship.
One of the goals we wrote in our team charter early on was to lift each other up and support the personal and professional development of one another throughout our time together. This ended up being a critical part of the fellowship as we sacrificed executional efficiency at times to support the education and growth of our teammates. While the additional expenditure of time in a rather time-constrained year was one that required a lot of trust in our team’s ability, it was also one that paid dividends as it provided a continual source of engagement, even at times when we faced overwhelming challenges.
Transitions often provide the opportunity for reflection. As I transition out of my role as a fellow, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have spent the past year in Washington, D.C. As alluded to earlier on, entrepreneurship is not without its ups and downs; however, it’s been a year where a lot of things have come together at just the right moment (i.e. serendipitous chaos). It’s also been a year of countless conversations with entrepreneurs, clinicians, and patients who I’m proud to say I now know and am grateful for all that they’ve taught me. Comparing where I was a year ago with where I am today, I’m living in a future I could have never imagined and a future that I will forever owe to Health for America.
To the Incoming Fellows
You are stepping into a fellowship that will be different from anything that you have previously experienced. It will be also be a fellowship different from the one I joined a year ago. A year from now, you too will be leaving the fellowship to a new class which will have an even different experience. This is a sign of the program’s strength and its commitment to practicing what it preaches on lean startup. Know that while your path may not look like those of past classes before you, we will always be here to help.
To My Fellow Fellows
It’s been an honor to work alongside each of you over the past year. As a group, we’ve faced tremendous successes and failures together, with many of those peaks and valleys often overlapping with one another on the same day. Throughout the fellowship, we’ve experienced an ever-evolving array of uncertainty and complexity, however we have collectively made it through to today by our joint efforts to support not only the team, but also one another. Even when repeatedly wandering through the “land of confusion” in our design process, we found reasons to make each other laugh. When we left each other over winter break for the first time, we all wrote Winnie the Pooh quotes up on the whiteboard at MI2. Now that we’re leaving each other for what will be a far longer period of time, I’d like to leave one those same quotes up in the space that this blog provides. Thank you all for a wonderful year and everything we’ve shared together.