What it takes to set yourself apart

In the winter of 2017, I joined the Adams Apprenticeship cohort of 30 undergraduate and graduate students to follow my passion in startups. At first I was apprehensive about networking with high net-worth individuals who had proven success and authority. What I quickly realized is I needed to find a way to gain confidence and differentiate myself from numerous high-achieving individuals.

What I learned from this opportunity was to play to my strengths and identify those common denominators that relate me to someone of authority. As a former Division I rower at UNC, I used my experience both on and off the water to formulate a connection.

By playing to my strengths and knowledge, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Marilou McFarlane, a leading sports tech entrepreneur. She is a founder of Edufii, a respected leader for the SaaS platform SportsBoard, and a mother of two former UNC soccer players. I knew I could use my background as a former rower to set me apart and find a common ground. We made the conversation light and fun, but throughout the introduction I used my knowledge and strengths to show Marilou what I had to offer. By the end of our discussion we had established our similarities and made plans to talk in the future.

Fast forward one year, and I am now an associate working with Marilou for a company called Women in Sports Tech. Women in Sports Tech is the leading organization to bring together companies, their executives, young professionals and students who share a passion for innovative technologies that impact success throughout the business of sport. Marilou thought of this idea during the summer and came directly to me to help get the ball moving. My day-to-day functions range from managing the social media accounts, curating sport content and establishing the website. We talk almost every day and have established a connection that goes way beyond just mentorship. She teaches me practical business management, communication advancements and tech solutions.

What I learned from this relationship is that sharing authentic connections, knowledgeable passion and curiosity is a perfect starting point to set yourself apart. The Adams Apprenticeship has given me the skills and resources in order to establish lifelong relationships and I’m extremely grateful to be a part of such an influential group of people who genuinely want to form that underlying connection.

By Nina Luker (BA ’18), an advertising major in the School of Media and Journalism and an entrepreneurship minor