By David Nassau, Innovation Academy Alum
PROFESSIONAL HOPSCOTCHER, DAVID NASSAU, IS A GRADUATE OF THE INAUGURAL INNOVATION ACADEMY CLASS OF 2016. AFTER FOUNDING HOPPING 4 A CURE FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS IN HIGH SCHOOL, HE HAS CONTINUED BUILDING THE AWARD-WINNING ORGANIZATION IN ADDITION TO BECOMING A PRODUCT MARKETING MANAGER FOR PC GAMING AT INTEL CORPORATION AND AN IRONMAN TRIATHLETE. AT UF, DAVID SERVED AS THE PRESIDENT OF THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP CLUB, CHAIRMAN OF GATOR INNOVATORS, AMBASSADOR TO THE INNOVATION ACADEMY, AND 3-YEAR RESIDENT ASSISTANT AT BEATY TOWERS.
The only time you have no opportunities is when you decide to stop taking them. -Danny Wallace, Yes Man.
As a wide-eyed freshman, I wrote about the goals I had and why I chose to attend UF as the first IA Student Spotlight in August 2012. With no real idea of what was to come, my answers to the questionnaire all came to fruition and led me to where I am today. The excitement around the Innovation Hub & Gainesville’s Entrepreneurial Community became a pillar of my involvement and reputation at UF. The other like-minded students I met in the program influenced me to get more involved across campus through Student Government, continue facilitating the amazing Living-Learning Community as a Resident Assistant in Beaty Towers (for 2.5 years!), and take my chance for an Internship at Walt Disney World!
Reflecting on my life & experiences over the last 8 years since graduating high school in 2012, I’ve had a pretty wild life so far. A lot of it is rooted in the experiences & connections made during my time in the Innovation Academy at the University of Florida.
Everyone knows about the infamous ‘Freshman 15’. Though, instead of thinking about the 15 in terms of pounds, think of it in terms of organizations that you try out and become a ‘member’ of. I worked part-time all four years of college to help maintain independence from my parent’s pocketbook. That said, by moving up to Gainesville during the Fall semester of my freshman year, I enrolled in the (then) maximum of 2 Fall Connection Courses that interested me and got a job on the first food truck on campus.
Living off-campus (Beaty Towers were not an option at the time), this job paid for my rent, food, and daily all-day parking in the Reitz. Since the food truck was only operating at lunch, and I wanted to make the most of my $5/day parking-fee investment in being on campus, I made a routine of getting to campus early, saying hello to all faculty/staff I knew (shout-out to Dr. Citty, Jamie Kraft, & Dennis Barnes), work on the truck, and finding any organizations that were hosting a meeting each day of the week.
I gradually narrowed down my involvement into a manageable level. This allowed me to focus on attaining leadership roles within each of the organizations I dedicated myself to, eventually becoming President of the Entrepreneurship Club (now Entrepreneurship Collective), Head of the SG Gator Innovators Agency, Ambassador to the Innovation Academy, UF Club Triathlete, and Founder/President of the UF and National Chapters of Hopping 4 A Cure.
The reputation I gained and the connections I made from getting so involved my first fall semester, followed me through the rest of my time at UF, and continue to make an impact on my life today. Reaching out to IA students and alumni is imperative for this. People like Brian Ardavin and Pablo Casilimas can help you get involved in the community – ask them about One Six One Group!
The most transformational moment I had on campus was when I got lost. After working a shift at the La Lola Loca food truck, still dressed up in my Green shirt and festive hat, I got lost in the business school looking for a club I read about in a flyer. When walking in circles trying to find the right room in Stuzin Hall that evening, a group of people in suits walked past me. I asked one of the ‘suits’ for help finding this room. He responded ‘Ahh, screw that club. Come join ours instead!” At that point, I was already very late to the other club and figured I could trust dudes in suits. Once he said they had pizza, I was in!
This was my first meeting of The Entrepreneurship Club at the University of Florida that I ever attended. Matt Hintze was the speaker, and the room was packed with the most amazing people I’ve ever met to this day: Aidan Augustin (Feathr), Nik & Anjali Kundra (Partender), Abhi Lokesh (Fracture), Kristen Hadeed (Student Maid), Julian Miller (Sharab Lounge, eMotion, & others), Collin Austin (NS4L), Valerie Waid (ToneRite), Josh Greenberg (Grooveshark) and so many other Gainesville Entrepreneurial leaders all in one room, every week, hearing each other’s stories, and supporting one another every step of the way. I started talking more and more about Hopping 4 A Cure every day, wearing the shirts everywhere, and applying the concepts I was learning in class to my own organization.
Today, Hopping 4 A Cure is a full 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with chapters across Florida. This summer we have 10+ interns from across the US establishing new chapters, helping us support people in local communities who have been diagnosed with, or affected by, Multiple Sclerosis. Joining the Entrepreneurship Club and getting involved in the Gainesville Entrepreneurial community helped me see the potential of Hopping 4 A Cure through a new lens.
"You become what you focus on, and who you surround yourself with.”
- My Mom, probably.
By the time I was applying for the all-important Junior-Senior year internship, I had a Disney Internship and my own nonprofit on my resume. According to my peers, I had it all together and was going to do something awesome at some point. However, I was not hearing back for interviews after so many internship applications. I turned to LinkedIn and started spamming my resume to any job opening that sounded somewhat interesting. My rules were to apply for a maximum of 3 roles per company, no cover letters. This was a numbers game, and I was all-in with what must have been hundreds of applications submitted. Months passed. Until one email hit my inbox.
It was unformatted and discussed a position that had to do with 3D Cameras. Maintaining deep connections across Gainesville’s Entrepreneurial community, I knew the founder & some employees of the only 3D Camera company in town and set up calls & coffee dates with all of them to learn as much about 3D Cameras as possible. My IA Roommates in Beaty Towers also happened to be knowledgeable about computers & 3D Cameras as well. I also stalked my interviewer through all social media accounts possible, especially LinkedIn.
Out of all of the hundreds of applications I submitted, I received one email, asking to schedule one 30-minute conversation. I took this call in my RA dorm room, with a paper full of notes front & back. That was all I needed to secure my internship with Intel Corporation in Santa Clara, California.
My first day of my Intel Internship ended with a defeated call to momma Nassau expressing how I was not good enough, and it was not for me. It felt like a different world, though I spent time everyday learning more, meeting new people, and providing as much value as I could.
Within my first weeks, my manager asked something similar to, “If you don’t show up tomorrow, what would happen? … Would anyone notice? … Would Intel shut down?” It was pointed, blunt, and exactly what I needed to hear to motivate myself to become successful and make myself integrated in many areas in my organization to become someone others depended on every day.
By the end of my internship, I was ready to leave and not return. My manager on the other hand, needed me. He wanted to extend my internship so much so, that I negotiated the ability to work remote in Gainesville part time until he was able to find a replacement.
I made a strong impact during my internship. Performing at a high level, connecting with people at Intel, and cultivating a strong reputation by connecting with colleagues both horizontally & vertically in the organization ultimately led to a job offer.
I was very vocal about my strengths in Marketing, and a desire to make presentations. I also volunteered to support internal events. This led me to a Product Marketing team that ran the events I volunteered at, and a role where I present regularly to internal and external audiences across the world.
As a Product Marketer for PC Gaming, I create marketing messages and stories based on the work our engineering teams do and share the messages with global sales, retail, marketing, and product launch teams to help Intel sell hardware. Much of the coursework that the Innovation Academy offered helped me curate creative messages and more easily adapt to an engineering-centric environment as a business marketing person. The Innovation Academy has an amazing, diverse community, that helped me connect with others on a distinct personal level to build rapport quickly and establish high levels of mutual respect with business leaders in countries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting for work.
When it comes to Hopping 4 A Cure, I have failed with style over the last five years. Failing to build new chapters, failing to maintain the chapters we had, failing to retain talent who has worked with us over the years. Each failure has their own excuse I can tell myself if I want, though ultimately, I know I simply was not ready to put the extra time into the organization that it needed to be successful.
We had many issues that stemmed from a lack of documentation & easily repeatable plans to host our events. Every year we would iterate slightly but it was simply not enough. Finally, I put the pen to the paper and started writing. Last year, I began writing what is now a 25+ page ‘Guidebook’ for our organization that outlines everything about our organization from the organizational structure, to a step-by-step guide on how to host our events including pre, during, and post event instructions.
I also had a much harder time recruiting. Ultimately, when our chapters declined, I got older, and the connections to the student body were lost at UF and other institutions. We had to innovate or die. So with new documentation in hand, along with a new business model, and event structure, we have a huge opportunity to re-establish ourselves not only at UF, not only in Florida, but across the US.
We posted our internship application on our website and on Handshake. Within two months, we received over 250 applications from over 60 universities. Around 70 interviews later, we have an incredible internship crew representing 9 universities in over 10 states! Of course, thanks to the Innovation Academy Instagram post, we received strong applications from the IA community and are excited to have these student leaders bring it back to UF and make a difference in the Gainesville community.
Being on the other side of recruiting, interviewing, and reading resumes, it becomes obvious who actually cares about the positions they are applying to. I know what it is like to spam my resume everywhere and hope for the best – it worked for me. But there is a right and wrong way to do it.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on Hopping 4 A Cure and have become more confident in the future of my organization now more than ever before. We will always be evolving and growing. The new documents we have now will continue being updated and refined. It has been an incredible experience being able to apply what I’ve learned in classes and at work to Hopping 4 A Cure, and we know we’ve only just started hopping!
Take advantage of opportunities, apply to positions you might think are out of reach, start your own business/organization, and reach out to people for help often. It’s all possible if you put in that extra effort.
Innovation Academy students are always welcome to reach out and say hello to me anytime through LinkedIn, or any other social media you would prefer. All my account handles are @TheDavidNassau. If you have questions or want to learn more about Hopping 4 A Cure, please send me an email to David@mshopscotch.org.