My Quarter in Review: Fall 2015

My greatest accomplishment last month was discovering my nexus — that intersection of what I love, what I’m good at, what the world needs, and what’s financially sustainable. My nexus is — I take down systemic barriers to education innovation. As a result of this revelation, everything I work on has come into sharp focus, and I’m clear on what projects I say ‘yes’ to, and what projects I decline.

When people ask me what it is I do, I now draw for them this diagram:

Nexus Works
It’s the best way I’ve found, yet, to explain that I’m an educator entrepreneur, and that I’m an educator first and an entrepreneur second. *Note: Diagram will be completed with Tricia’s input as well. Consider this one a work-in-progress.

Next quarter, my goal is to push on the following fronts:
– In consulting, I’d like to find a way to build a process for innovation within education communities that allow for early stage teams to get the feedback and establish the partnerships they need to build products and services that truly meet the needs of that community’s children. While currently I’m able to do this work because of years in the industry building both expertise and trust, I am not scaleable, whereas a process for innovation is. Things I’m keeping an eye on include the work of education innovation clusters in building rapid cycle test evaluation test beds, EdSurge Concierge, and Redesign Challenge, an early stage innovation hub dedicated to transforming how communities adapt to meet student and teacher needs in a constantly changing world. I’m most interested in Redesign Challenge, as my love is for early stage ideas, where they are still in the prototyping phase, because I think that’s where the most valuable insights are generated.
– At #NYCEDU, I want to shift more and more from being the doer of projects to being the catalyst of projects. For #NYCEDU to truly succeed, it needs to be a vision, mission, brand, and community that is owned by each and every member of the community. It needs to elevate voices, open opportunities, and grow an entire corp of community builders, leaders, and organizers. We have a history of doing this, as evidenced by the amazing teams that have come together to organize Startup Weekend NYCEDU, and this past month I collaborated with Ravi Patel on #NYCEDU meets SXSWedu 2016. I want to do more. I’ll know I’m successful when eventually, I feel like #NYCEDU doesn’t need me anymore to continue growing, evolving, and iterating to meet the needs of the NYC education community.
– For Edtech Efficiencies, I want to continue doing problem interviews to discover the major roadblocks edtech companies face in building and scaling their product. I have some hunches. For example, I think it’s much more difficult than necessary for companies to get on city vendor systems, like NYC’s and Chicago’s. Another problem I see is companies needing the ability to operationalize and automize their sales processes. I’ll keep on digging to find that minimal lovable product that is quick to launch, immediately profitable, and an immense value add to the education innovation ecosystem.

Finally, moving forward, I’m going to be very careful with the following:
– Keep focused. Protect my time and energy. Say no. Delegate. And, take no more than three meetings a day. I need slack in my life to continue synthesizing all I’m learning and all I’m doing. I trust that the right insights will come as long as I continue to surround myself by amazing people in and out of this work while having the space to think through the implications of all our conversations.
– Assume the best but plan for the worst. I see this most clearly in the time <> money balance. Because my consulting work is not scaleable, yet, #NYEDU is completely unfunded, and I’m only in the very early stages of edtech efficiencies, the revenue I bring in to support rent, food, travel, experiences, all comes from time-bound work. I’ve purposely chosen to minimize my living expenses ($650/month rent in NYC, holla!) and not maximize my earnings in favor of having the freedom to do everything I do, but I do know that one wrong move can set me back quite a bit. As a result, I’m careful to keep my contacts in the tutoring world so that if I need to, I can immediately bring in money by tutoring, and I’m careful to always have at least a six month runway, which I call my freedom fund, stored away, as well as a disaster fund for things like the sudden loss of my computer.
– Be discerning. While in the past I’ve always judged people by their intentions, moving forward I will also be careful to judge the impact of their actions. Seeing the best in people also means bring able to see them realistically. I also need to be as discerning about my own intentions and the impact of my own actions.

In short, I have high hopes that the month coming up will be a wonderful one!

EDIT: I’m currently cleaning out my Evernote Account and stumbled across the following note from My Month In Review: April 2014. I thought it’d be interesting to put it here and reflect on how far I’ve come.

My Month In Review: April 2014

What I accomplished:

– I stood up for what I believe in by staying in NYC
– I found out that I can do this, I can survive by waking up early, running, going to sleep at the right time
What I hope to accomplish:
– Gather edtech designers together for 1 roundtable
– Set up financial system
– Build habit of eating healthy
Time:
– Need to spend more time meeting with people and generating new opportunities