The Innovation Workshop Opening Gala and with it the academic year officially opened on Monday, September 2, at Skoltech’s new campus. Students representing over twenty countries attended and President Kuleshov opened the ceremony with warm words of welcome, emphasizing the benefits of instilling basic innovation and entrepreneurial skills into new students and closing his speech with words from the late Steve Jobs, “Stay hungry, stay foolish!”
Members of the Skoltech leadership and faculty, President Kuleshov, Provost Keith Stevenson, Dean of Education Anna Derevnina, Vice President for Community Development and Communications Alexei Sitnikov, Professor of Practice Dmitry Kulish, and Assistant Professor Zeljko Tekic officially opened up the school year by ringing a bell together.
The keynote speakers were:
- Katerina Lengold (Entrepreneur, a space enthusiast, angel investor)
- Charles R. Cantor (Co-founder and retired Chief Scientific Officer at SEQUENOM, Inc.)
- Karima Nigmatullina (CEO of Vi-Holding, Professor)
All three keynotes are incredibly distinguished individuals with impressive careers and the focus of their presentations was on their experiences in deep science, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Katerina Lengold, a Skoltech alumnus, gave an inspired speech outlining her own life principles and guidelines for aspiring innovators, driving home the ideas that make up the Innovation Workshop, and what it takes to be an innovator and entrepreneur.
“Our environment shapes who we are – who you are. Take this example: During the Vietnam War, many US soldiers used heroin, but 80% of them gave it up upon returning home. This is a prime example of environmental factors influencing us. So look at the people surrounding you here, and at the place where you will be studying and think about that point for a moment. Everything here is going to influence you on your path!” – Katerina Lengold (Skoltech alumnus, entrepreneur, a space enthusiast, angel investor)
She emphasized the importance of the lessons one can glean from mistakes, which can become guidelines for life and business. “It’s important to have a goal, but that is the outcome; more important is the ability to change habits and behavior. Failure is not a bad thing; it simply depends on how you react to it. It can have nothing to do with you but you can always take action. The result is equal to the external circumstances multiplied by your action or inaction!”
Lengold stated that when building a business or developing a product, the go-to approach is Ready-Aim-Fire! Yet sometimes it is better to jump into the deep end rather than spend too much time aiming at your target. This may be a scary prospect to some, but it is also an exciting one.
She placed great emphasis on the point that through persistence and hard work, an individual can create his or her own luck. When approaching a potential investor, 9 times out of 10 they will turn you away, but that is part of the game. They expect you to come back to them again and if you have developed your idea further to the point that it is “touching reality,” that is when they will stop to think. Feeling like the dumbest person in the room is not a bad thing, because one will invariably learn something new and it is a humbling experience.
Lengold ended her speech with a call to action. Holding up a 2000 Ruble note, she asked the audience, “Who wants two thousand Rubles?” Multiple hands shot up into the air, but only one person actually stood up, approached the stand and took the money. “That is what it is to take action!” said Lengold to applause.
These points are what Skoltech aims to instill in its new students through the Innovation Workshop, and this approach sets it apart from a great number of universities internationally. We want our students to follow the footsteps of individuals like Charles Cantor, Katerina Lengold, and Karima Nagmitulina.
To quote based on Gene Roddenberry’s writings:
May they live long, innovate, and prosper!
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