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Talking with … Christine Janssen

Interviews | May 03, 2019 |

Christine JanssenEach “Talking with…” feature helps you learn about a different Gabelli School faculty member, administrator, or staff member. This week, we’re speaking with Christine Janssen, clinical assistant professor of leading people and organizations and director of the entrepreneurship program.

What’s one specific way your previous work experience helps in your current role?
Much of my work experience—especially in corporate—opened my eyes to so many things/processes/attitudes that hinder progress and innovation, both at an individual level and an organizational level. I like pushing the boundaries to make things better. I like playing in the “grey” space of ambiguity. This is very representative of entrepreneurship at a fundamental level and these experiences, along with an open mindset, have fueled not only how I teach, but what I teach. My students are given plenty of opportunity to identify problems, e.g., outdated processes, gaps in the marketplace, etc., and then play in that grey space. Through experiential learning, they become more skilled and confident to be future change agents and problem-solvers.

Does the way entrepreneurs learn influence how you teach?
Absolutely. I did my dissertation on “how entrepreneurs learn” and one thing is for sure—you can’t learn to become an entrepreneur by being a passive observer. You need to DO. You need to try, to experiment, to test, to make mistakes. Learning basic concepts in class is one opportunity for students to test the waters, but other resources at Fordham like the Foundry provide additional support for students who want to really dive in and follow through on a business idea.

So I don’t use textbooks. I don’t give typical exams. And I use minimal powerpoint slides. While my students learn and evolve in the classroom, they have just as much opportunity to learn outside of the classroom with hands-on projects. That’s when the lightbulb goes off.

What’s one main skill students need to master in the Gabelli School’s entrepreneurship concentration?
One of the biggest things is for students to adjust their mindset about careers, money, failure, etc. I want my students to leave my classes with a renewed sense of confidence, embracing ambiguity and uncertainty and not getting pulled into the same-old, same-old life path that society imparts on college students. I want them to learn how to make money work for them vs. the other way around and understand that mistakes and failures are simply learning opportunities.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for female entrepreneurs?
Female entrepreneurs still struggle with getting venture-backed funding. Now, part of that is because women aren’t creating high-growth businesses that have the potential to yield high returns for investors. Part of the equation is that women are often not prepared to sit at the table—they need to strengthen negotiating skills and confidence levels, and perhaps obtain solid mentors. Part of the equation is that the VC industry is heavily male-dominated. Women need to own this and break down some barriers rather than letting the industry status quo suppress their ability to be wildly successful entrepreneurs.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone planning to become an entrepreneur?
Be a sponge. By that I’m including: build your network and support system; be self-motivated to learn anything and everything pertaining to business and tech; learn from others’ mistakes. By arming yourself with lots of knowledge and skills, you will significantly mitigate your risks.


Fun questions

Ice skating or roller skating:
Neither! I’ll play it safe with boxing.

Ice cream or cake:
Neither: cookies.

Would you rather walk a mile when it’s 100 degrees outside, or when it’s 30 degrees?
I grew up in the midwest. I can handle 30 degrees.

Last movie you saw that you kept thinking about afterward:

Favorite sandwich:
Fish tacos


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