How To Get More Done At Your Desk

A few days ago, one of my close friends, Ben Ng, wrote an article illustrating “How to get more done at your desk”. As a college entrepreneur himself, he has the experience and knowledge to know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to being a college entrepreneur. He summarizes that it’s important to have a warm, humid environment, an ergonomic desk and keyboard, a posture defining chair, a cooler light around your desk, and a large monitor. All of these factors come together in ensuring your work-space is as productive as possible. You can read his entire article at the link below:

How To Get More Done At Your Desk

The Experience Bank

What is the meaning of life?

No, I’m not trying to pose a question with a philosophical solution to the ultimate question, but it does beg the relatively simple question, “What do you want to do with your life?” Most people would say they want to have a stable job, a family, settle down, make a lot of money, retire, live happily, but none of these responses really answer that question. People have a tendency to pursue happiness. While there can be misconceptions about how to attain happiness, it is in our nature to pursue it, and to find meaning and fulfillment in our lives. People have conceived various solutions to satisfy this craving, from religion to government, to satisfying our curiosities, but we are so busy cultivating our intellectual skills in the pursuit of successful careers, that we neglect the pursuit of happiness. Very rarely do our solutions satisfy that need for happiness. In response to that problem, I’d like to propose another solution, the experience bank.

Your Experience Bank is a collection of many firsts throughout your lifetime, from big firsts like your college graduation, your first job, your first car, your first house, your first child, to little milestones like your first time driving, first love, first road trip, first time injured, first time abroad, and so on.

Throughout the course of your lifetime you’re constantly depositing experiences into your experience bank. It provides a glimpse into you, your identity, your being. These very experiences shape who you are as a person, both good and bad.

I’ve had many experiences that I have deposited into my experience bank. Experiences like being involved with Business Professionals of America, an experience that has helped me grow personally and socially, attending the University of Illinois, an experience that has helped me understand college and understand what my identity means to me, starting SnoHassle or FreeSkies, experiences that have allowed me to grow my skills in entrepreneurship while expanding my knowledge beyond the field of engineering, going abroad for the first, second, and third time, an experience that has shaped my understanding of the world and ignited my insatiable desire to travel. These experiences have allowed me to learn more about myself, and have shaped my identity. It is because of these experiences, consisting of both actions I’ve taken and those I haven’t, that have determined my future, and allowed me to attain happiness. The actions you take and the decisions you make over the course of your lifetime can be both good and bad, slowly carving out your identity, and filling that bank.

It is at these crucial moments in your life that a few important questions must be asked. Is that experience worth adding to your experience bank? Where do you draw the line? How does this experience shape your identity? Some experiences can grow you while others can hurt you physically, mentally, and psychologically. Some experiences may be illegal, some can compromise your morality, some can hurt those around you, some can test your honesty, your character, and your trust. It can be wonderful to fill your experience bank with every experience possible, but it’s also important to understand that certain experiences can mar your identity and degrade your character. Not all experiences can be controlled by you, in fact, many of them have been imposed on you, both good and bad, but it is in your power to make the most of that experience and shape it in a way that benefits your experience bank.

So this is the challenge I propose to you. Take it upon yourself to fill your experience bank with the best experiences. When making decisions throughout your life, think about how it affects your experience bank. Will having a stable job, settling down, earning a lot of money, or retiring grow your experience bank? When you’re on your deathbed, it’s not about how much money you have or what your job was, it’s about how you’ve filled your experience bank, and what you’ve experienced.


To Succeed, Be The One Everyone Can Count On

The CEO and Founder of the 1871 Start-up Incubator that I work at, Howard Tullman, recently had his article featured on the INC homepage. He talks about some basic skills everyone should have to be successful, whether it be in their careers, relationships, or their entrepreneurial endeavors. You can check out his inspiring article below:

To Succeed, Be The One Everyone Can Count On 


Talent is great, hard work is essential, but there’s an intangible quality that makes all the difference. Here’s how to develop it.

It’s not just country music that we rely on to say the simple things that need sayin’. And the Blues doesn’t have a monopoly on tellin’ it like it is (or how it ain’t), or the way it should be. The fact is that over the years many songs from many genres have told stories that resonate with millions of listeners; that’s how “hits” become timeless classics.

Sometimes, but only rarely, is it a memorable hook that drives the widespread appreciation of these classic tunes: a special intro (like Keith’s on “Satisfaction”) or a guitar solo (think Carlos Santana). Most of the time it’s the immediate and intimate connection we have with the lyrics that seals the deal. They seem to speak directly to us, ultimately “killing us softly” with a sensation of unexpected emotion.

Putting aside all the songs about love (including love of country) and loss, what strikes me is that the single most successful and consistent message in the largest number of classic songs is one that’s just as significant in our business lives as it is in our personal affairs. It’s about the importance of being there.

Think about it. What have you got “when you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand”?  Of course, you’ve got a friend. And who will “take your part when darkness comes and pain is all around”?  Simon and Garfunkel–for sure. And for all those times “in our lives when we all have pain, we all have sorrow”?  We know we can lean on Bill Withers.

Everyone needs someone in their lives that they can count on, someone to call when there’s no one else to call. And, these days, with radical change and ongoing disruption a constant part of every business, the most valuable people in any company are the ones you can count on in a crisis or a crunch–the “go-to” guys and girls. The people who are there in a pinch and who you naturally tend to run to, not from, when the feces hits the fan.

This isn’t part of anyone’s job description, and it’s not something you can create on the fly. That’s why there’s no better investment you could possibly make in your career or your future than being the first stop when someone’s looking for help, versus the last resort.

The good news is that this is a trait you can develop over time, like any other part of your reputation. If you’re truly committed and your efforts are sincere and authentic, you can make it happen. Here’s how.

1. Stay Up (Perspiration)

Be the early bird at the office. Effort and energy trump talent all day long. And it never hurts to be the night owl, too. Not the guy who’s the last to leave the office after the TGIF party, but the person who puts in the extra time to make sure that things are done right the first time. Turns out that the buddies you buy beers for aren’t very often the ones you’d bet your business on. And, as often as not, while you’re bellying up to the bar (or buying someone a breakfast burrito the next morning) the real winners are back at the ranch taking care of business.

2. Step Up (Passion)

Make sure that everyone knows you’re interested and available, that you’re excited about the business and the opportunities and that you really want to be a part of the program. Ya gotta want it and it’s gotta show. You need to put it out there and understand that all anyone can do is say no–they won’t eat you.  And, if you keep asking, I guarantee you that it’ll only be a “no for now,” and it’ll be full speed ahead soon enough. Anyone who tells you it’s not cool to be out front and eager these days will soon be changing the bottles on the water cooler while you’re being welcomed into the club.

3. Study Up (Preparation)

Even in the world of great entrepreneurial BS’ers, it actually does help to know what you’re talking about. “Wingin’ it” is good for sports bars and on Thanksgiving, but it’s not a strategy for success in business. As I said recently, saying you don’t know something these days isn’t a commentary on your lack of knowledge but a confession of laziness and lack of interest, because the information is out there; it’s mostly a matter of looking. The kind of knowledge, research, and situational awareness that matter don’t happen automatically or without help. You’ve got to put in the time, do the looking, and ask for assistance when you don’t have or can’t find all the answers, in order to be ready when someone asks for a hand.

4. Stand Up (Principles)

You can’t create value if you don’t have a set of real values that consistently guide and inform the way you behave. Charismatic leaders can attract a lot of followers, but the attraction is to themselves rather than to something greater and more important. Cause leaders bring the multitudes along with them in support of doing things that matter, and make a difference not simply to a single business but to a broader and more general good. It’s important for the people you work with (and for) to understand that you believe that the best plans and the best businesses are focused on creating situations where everyone can benefit and where it’s a win-win-win all around. Not easy to pull off, but very important in the end.

5. Bear Up (Perseverance)

Execution is everything. Keeping at it, getting knocked down and picking yourself up again, making it clear that you won’t settle for less or take no for an answer–these are all behaviors and traits that the big dogs in the business will quickly pick up on, because (a) it’s absolutely a part of their own DNA and (b) it’s also a big part of what got them to where they are. Winners have a Spidey-sense about other winners and, while their ears don’t actually perk up like a dog’s, you can’t miss the shift in their interest and attention when they encounter another of their own species. Wanting to win is fine; wanting to do the work that it takes to win, and to keep at it until you do win, is what makes the difference in the end.

That’s all it takes. You can make it happen, and there’s no time like the present to get started. It’s a lifelong, iterative journey, and the good news is that it gets better all the time.

If there’s a goal or an endpoint to the process, it’s very simple. When the chips are down and the fat’s in the fire, you want to be the one who people can count on.

Miss Possible – Dolls to Inspire Girls Across Generations

A few friends of mine have been working on a start-up called Miss Possible with the aim of inspiring girls to change the world by putting them in front of positive role models. They do this by using dolls of famous woman throughout history and allowing girls to interact with them through their app, allowing them to follow their story, perform activities, and play games. 

Janna Eaves, a Material Science student, and Supriya Hobbs, a Chemical Engineering student at the University of Illinois, saw the lack in positive role models for girls and decided to take matters into their own hands. They’re currently raising funds to pursue this endeavor on Indiegogo. Please help support their campaign on Indiegogo and find out more about their journey on their website:

Airbus Tour – Toulouse, France

On Thursday we had the opportunity to visit Airbus at their Toulouse location. We were given a tour of their facilities and were guided through the process of construction and assembly at their factory. The Toulouse location does not deal specifically with the molding and construction of individual parts, but rather they deal with the final assembly, testing, and delivery of the aircraft to their clients. Overall, there were about 8 buildings on the Airbus campus, ranging in functions from testing structural and aerodynamics to construction of the A330, A350, and A380. Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures as we were all suspected spies for Boeing attempting to steal the secrets of the A380 aircraft, what can we do? I apologize in advance for the large amount of technical information in this article, but aim to condense the long and thorough process of developing an aircraft into a short, easy to understand article.

2014-06-12 13.38.11 2014-06-12 13.40.47

The day we arrived, there were already a few A330s on the assembly line. Outside, parts were coming in from all corners of the world, some parts arriving from China while others from the United States, using the Airbus Beluga aircraft. The aircraft was specifically designed by Airbus to transport fuselages and various parts. Even throughout the city, there is never a moment you won’t see a Beluga Aircraft in the air.

On the assembly line, Professor and Airbus Engineer, Jean-Fred Begue gave us a private tour of the A330’s under construction. When we arrived, they were in the process of attaching a wing section to the fuselage of the aircraft. This process is done very carefully as the two parts must come together precisely otherwise the wing would be compromised. They connect the two parts using a junction called Spliced Plates. It does have a high cost and can be difficult to remove for maintenance, but it is optimized for mass and incorporates redundancy for safety. The junction essentially consists of bringing the two parts together, placing a plate on top of and bellow the junction, and bolting through them. Overall, there are over 1000 bolts through the wing-fuselage junction. Professor Begue gave us a close-up perspective of the junction along with the connections for the engines and flap motors.

Today, engines are mounted on the wings using, at least, 4 points of contact, and are placed toward the front of the wing and as close to the wing as possible. This position is optimal due to the torque moment generated by the weight of the engine countering the moment generated by the lift from the airfoil, balancing the aircraft during flight. The engines are mounted using fail-safe pins that are meant to break upon extreme circumstances, such as a belly landing in which the landing gear fail, to ensure the engines do not spread fire to the aircraft.

During the visit, Professor Begue showed us both the interior of the wing and the interior of the fuselage. This view revealed the stringers and how they went uninterrupted by the frames of the aircraft through the interior of their structures as he discussed in class. The stringers are long metal beams that go the length of the aircraft that are meant to dissipate normal stresses that the airplane undergoes during takeoff, cruise, and landing. The stringers also help to maintain the skin’s stability by providing an anchoring point to attach to. Stringers are typically pretty thin, but are spaced close together – around one foot (30 centimeters) – so as to make up for the relatively low strength of the individual stringer.

In conjunction with the stringers, the skin is supported by frames which are circular supports spaced out a little more than the stringers and are meant to help prevent buckling while aiming to maintain the shape of the aircraft. During the visit, we were shown the interior of the fuselage before all the important insulation was in place which revealed the frames and stringers on the interior. The frames are made to allow the stringers to pass through them, but are connected via cleats to reduce the effective length of the stringers which reduces any moments generated on the stringers.

The facility we toured was assembling A330s. There were three different stations for the assembly. The first was to attach the wing to the fuselage as discussed earlier. The second process mounted the fuselage pieces together, attached the landing gear, and finished the majority of the exterior assembly. This process required a lot of heavy equipment and precision as it is imperative that everything is perfectly aligned.  The third step of the process is to assemble the inside of the plane. Airbus has a tradition to paint the tail fin of the plane once the seller has been ascertained. Although it looks as if no one is doing anything on the outside, they are doing a lot of work on the inside to make sure that everything is perfect for the airline company.

All in all, the trip to Airbus was very revealing as you begin to think how hard it is to manufacture the first aircraft. This is because everything within the manufacturing plant and everything involved – the Beluga, the plants that manufacture the individual parts, and every other step in the process all play a small role in the large picture of the A330.

Summer in France

Within the next hour, I will be on one of 3 connecting flights on my way to Toulouse, France, to spend the next 6 weeks taking classes in Aerospace Engineering, acquainting myself with some of the top Aerospace firms in Europe, and learning more about French Culture. While I’m not a stranger to traveling abroad, I can’t deny that I’m a bit anxious and excited to be traveling to Europe once again. It’s a continent filled with diverse cultures and people and filled with some of the most fascinating stories about the history of the countries that reside in it.

Last summer I travelled to Madrid, Spain for a similar program. I did research in Nuclear Fuel Management with the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid as well took a course in language in culture in Spain. It was one of the best experiences in my life. I’ve learned more about diverse cultures and people, public interactions, business, and engineering in that one trip that I had my entire life. You can see my blog from last year here. This summer I hope to experience something similar, but on an entirely new level.

This summer I will be taking courses in Aircraft Structures, Transport, Combustion, and Propulsion at the École Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace.  (ISAE) in Toulouse, France. We will be visiting several aerospace companies in the region including Airbus, Rockwell Collins, Interspace, Leibherr Aerospace, Honeywell, and several more. The GEA Summer program in Toulouse consists of about 30 aerospace students from around the world and aims to bring a diverse group of students together and to introduce them to a world of international engineering.

In addition, I will be working on a photography project while abroad. “Le Project Francais” aims to clearly differentiate social identities within different cultures. I plan on interviewing students, professors, and parents, and comparing and contrasting their day to day lives with their counterparts in the United States. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned abroad is that having an open mind about culture differences and acknowledging those differences is key to learning more about your own culture and applying that to other aspects of your life.

I may be a bit anxious and excited as I board this flight, but I look forward to the immense amount of knowledge and adventure that awaits me. Be sure to keep checking the site often for updates, I will be posting them whenever I’m available. Thank you to my friends and family who have supported me in this journey!