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Drew WandzilakIncoming Venture Analyst, Alumni Ventures

“If we really dive into a problem through conversation and observation, then the solution should be easy to design because we understand the specific needs to be solved.”


What led you to the Farley Center?

My decision to come to Northwestern was driven by the University’s prominent entrepreneurial ecosystem. The first thing I did once I came to campus was look for ways to get involved. Of course, Farley was the first thing that popped up and it was only a quarter before I took my first class. After that, I was hooked and took as many Farley classes as my schedule would allow. I finished the entrepreneurship minor requirements before the end of my sophomore year.

What about the Farley Center “hooked” you?

The Farley Center provides classes that mix creativity and open exploration with structure. I found I could be creative and apply different strategies and artistic abilities into a project while also having the structure of my teammates and my professor there to ensure accountability. It was an exciting marriage of the organization of a typical classroom with the creativity and imagination of something that typically happens outside of the classroom.

Students with all types of backgrounds take classes at the Farley Center. What was that experience like for you?

Especially through various NUvention classes, the Farley Center pushed me to engage with other students across the University, not just within my major, not just within my friend group, not even just within my school. I interacted with Kellogg students, graduate students in computer science and design, and undergrads from all the different schools at Northwestern. On my own, that’s not something I would have done. We have this great university here of so many minds, and it was the Farley Center that brought all these people to me and encouraged me to interact with different individuals.

Then, when you’re in a late-night work session trying to solve a problem, you really understand how important it is to not only respect other opinions, but to bring those thoughts into the ideation process. My experience at the Farley Center helped me see the benefit of having people from different backgrounds and areas of focus share powerful inputs while we collectively pursued innovative solutions.

What was the most important lesson you learned at Farley?

At the end of the day, the Farley Center teaches people how to be passionate problem solvers and to be comfortable in the ambiguity of not having an easy and clear solution to things that need to be fixed. Personally, it helped me bridge the gap between problem and solution, which was not something I thought about before joining classes and events at Farley.

What are your plans after graduation?

Thanks to the experiences I had at Farley and within the entrepreneurial sphere here at Northwestern, I will be working as a venture capital analyst here in Chicago. Even though venture capital isn’t the entrepreneur-founder path, it’s a world where I need to be comfortable in ambiguity and passionate about the people trying to solve big problems. I’m excited to continue working with entrepreneurs as much as I can.

What would you say to a student considering taking a Farley class?

I recommend the Farley Center to almost every single person I meet at Northwestern. I tell people that entrepreneurship shouldn’t be a scary word. It should not intimidate or belittle — it should empower.

While the Farley Center provides the academic backbone to entrepreneurship, offering entrepreneurs the skills and strategies they will need in their toolbox to solve real-world problems in interesting ways, the skills taught at the Farley Center, such as how to articulate your mission, how to identify problems, and how to work with others, are valuable for anyone charting their own path.

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