The Making of an Entrepreneurial Leader

Erik Steiner MBA’20

Standing at the cusp of graduation, Erik Steiner MBA’20 still remembers his first day at Babson, when he attended a meet and greet with his new classmates.

As one does at such events, Steiner asked the people there about themselves and their future plans, and he was struck by their answers. He had expected them to have their futures meticulously planned out, to have very specific life and career goals.

Instead, many of his fellow students admitted that they didn’t know what the future held. Rather, they said they wanted to do something meaningful and were open to possibilities that would present themselves. “I want to solve something,” they told him. “I want to crack the code.”

Erik Steiner MBA’20
Erik Steiner MBA’20 (top left) and his Babson classmates visit the Hawa Mahal palace in Jaipur, India.

As Steiner would come to see, this flexible, roll-with-the-punches attitude, one that accepts uncertainty and seeks possibility, is a hallmark of entrepreneurial leadership at Babson. It is a mindset that Steiner has since embraced.

In the face of a pandemic that has turned the world upside down, it also is a way of thinking that is desperately needed. “It’s a great time to have an entrepreneurial mindset,” says Steiner. “Entrepreneurial leaders constantly work in the face of uncertainty, and they do so in innovative and creative ways. COVID-19 isn’t the first uncertain scenario folks have seen, and it won’t be the last.”

The Next Step

Before attending Babson, Steiner worked at E-Trade Financial in anti-money laundering. Investigating potentially suspicious trades and transactions, he found the work rewarding.

As he looked to the future, though, he wondered what his next step would be. Did he want to work in management? Did he want to spend his days shaking hands and sitting behind a desk? “I wanted to do something more tangible,” he says. “I was hungry. I wanted to make an impact.”

More and more, he was thinking about different paths one can take in life, and more and more, he was thinking about entrepreneurship in its many forms.

That thinking, of course, eventually led him to Babson, where Steiner’s professors and classmates helped to instill in him the entrepreneurial spirit. In a course called Leading Business Turnarounds, for instance, lecturer Bret Bero P’14 looked at decision making during critical junctures. “It may have been the best class to take in this time,” says Steiner.

“I’m very flexible with my plans. I want to make an impact, and, wherever I can see an opportunity to make an impact the most, I’ll take it.”

Erik Steiner MBA’20

Steiner grew close with classmates, and those friendships led him to visit their homes around the world, in Mexico, Colombia, and India. On those trips, he saw how proud people are of the businesses they start and grow. “It opens your eyes to the ways the rest of the world works,” he says. “It opens your eyes to what entrepreneurship is around the world.”

Over time at Babson, Steiner found his perspective changing. He didn’t fixate as much on short-term business setbacks. “It’s OK to fail,” he says. “Just because there’s a risk of failure means you shouldn’t pursue it in the first place.”

Solving Problems

That mindset is evident in his classmates, many of whom have lost job offers because of the pandemic. Steiner says they aren’t dwelling on their disappointments but instead are redoubling their efforts to find career opportunity. “They are eternal optimists,” Steiner says. “They will land on their feet.”

As for Steiner, he will continue working at Dronegenuity, where he had served as an intern this semester. He is helping to launch a new product at the drone services company, which was founded by Dan Edmonson MBA’15.

When Steiner started at Dronegenuity, he told Edmonson, “I would love to solve the critical problems facing your business.” Wherever Steiner lands in the future, that’s what he wants to continue to do. “I’m very flexible with my plans,” he says. “I want to make an impact, and, wherever I can see an opportunity to make an impact the most, I’ll take it.”

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