Taking a Chance Beats Checking a Box: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Jackie Khorassani first set foot on Babson College’s campus in January 2020 for the Price-Babson Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators. It changed the trajectory of her professional career.
It’s where she met fellow entrepreneurial educators. It’s where she experienced the power of Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® (ET&A™). It’s also where she first met Heidi Neck, the award-winning Babson professor and academic director of Babson Academy. “My hero!” Khorassani said.
Now, as the recently appointed senior director of Marietta College’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Career Development, Khorassani is bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem at Marietta.
Babson remains an integral influence on her efforts. Last year, she was part of Babson Academy’s Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, an online course taught by Professor Candida Brush P’14 and Professor Emeritus Patricia Greene P’08.
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The course brought together educators, administrators, and others to learn systems and strategies to be leaders of change and find opportunities to develop an ecosystem in higher education.
Khorassani still keeps in touch with fellow educators and administrators, and it has influenced her path toward building the ecosystem.
“I find it truly enlightening and invigorating to engage in conversations, whether in person or virtually, with colleagues residing in different countries who share my goals and values,” Khorassani said.
Empowered by Babson Academy
Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is a major part of the approach of Babson Academy, Babson College’s entrepreneurial educator arm. Through workshops, courses, conferences, and connections, Babson Academy empowers educators and administrators to advance their institution’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.
After all, learning how to teach Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® (ET&A™) is one thing; implementing it across departments is another. And, Khorasani is determined to see it through with her new position.
“My idea from Day One was wherever, however I can, to inject parts of this mindset into all aspects of my work,” she said. And so, the building of the ecosystem begins.
First, a listening approach takes precedence. “My job is to not go around and tell,” she said. “My job is to mostly listen, and empathize, and really put myself in (her colleagues’) shoes.”
This ties back to something she was reminded of in Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Everyone sees things from a different point of view.
“My job is to not go around and tell. My job is to mostly listen, and empathize, and really put myself in their shoes.”
Jackie Khorassani, Senior Director of Entrepreneurship and Career Development at Marietta College
She recommends starting with those most closely connected, then working outward from there. Her goals are to break down barriers and collaborate toward shared objectives. Collaboration starts with listening. “If you want to work with anyone, it’s a good investment of time to actually learn about them,” she said.
In tandem with getting to know people, Khorassani remains action oriented. There’s a balance between the two, and she encourages experimentation with new ideas, or “pilots.” “Typically, I encourage the group to prioritize experimentation over excessive analysis,” she said.
She acknowledges that building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is the most challenging part of the job. “Shifting mindset doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “I know I have a long way to go.”
Even so, she is optimistic about her efforts, and has seen the impact this mindset can make firsthand. It’s useful to everyone, she stresses. “Not just someone who wants to start a business.” It teaches you to see opportunities, shine a light on the positive, and places value in taking a chance, versus checking a box.