Georgiana Dragomir (Grapefruit), MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Journal

A day:, Advertising, Business, Education, People, Profiler

With more than 10 years of experience in the Romanian advertising scene, out of which 8 in Grapefruit, Georgiana Dragomir was named at the beginning of the year General Manager of the digital user experience agency. This year Grapefruit is shifting its business exclusively to the digital and mobile service are, but also towards the new technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality. In this context of change and new oportunities, Dragomir took the chance of attending the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and told us all about the experience.

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Applying and preparing for MIT

At the beginning of 2016, when I became Managing Director in Grapefruit, I set off for evolution and doing things differently. I decided that we would only work with new technologies, focus on innovation and develop our own product.

Around March I started thinking about applying for MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, a program designed to teach you how to develop a strong digital product, with a high chance of success. Besides, Marius (editor note: Marius Ursachi) had told me about previous editions and had me convinced it was a life-changing experience.

Before applying to MIT, my first question to Marius was:

  • Sir, will I be able to face up to the challenge?
  • Of course not. That’s the point. Nobody does.

I finished the application in June. Honestly, I did not expect to pass on to the next step. There are hundreds of applications on each edition and only a few of them are selected. However, only a few days after submitting my online application, I was scheduled for a Skype interview. Two weeks later I received the email saying I was accepted at the MIT Bootcamp Entrepreneurship.

Wow…

I could not believe it! I eventually found out there were almost 800 applicants and only 71 of them were selected. I was one of the 71. Amazing!

The chaos that began after being selected

Prepare the visa folder, pay the tax, find plane tickets, accommodation in the hostel etc. Managing all these elements turned out to be the easiest part of all the MIT story. One month before the MIT Bootcamp I was on my leave. My phone started ringing at 3 AM. I looked at the notification with sleepy eyes.

An email from MIT!

It detailed all the documentation I had to prepare for the course before attending the bootcamp. I had to take three online courses, read four books plus a ton of articles and videos on the side. When do you find time for all of these in one month, along with office work, kids, family and all the other daily activities?

Lesson nr. 1: if you really want it, you can do it.

I started the intense courses. I studied between phone calls at work and after 10 PM at home, when the kids went to sleep. That month felt worse than the exams session in college. Real school. The day went by, until 1 or 2 AM, filled with courses, books and articles. I finally managed to read through all the documentation, even though I only read some of the pieces diagonally. I literally had no time to go in depth with all the documents I received.

I don’t know how one month flew by. I saw myself boarding for Boston, tears in my eyes. I had to leave my kids and husband behind for two weeks. It was the first time I was going to spend so much time away from them, so I thought: this bootcamp better be worth it. You will see, in the end if the experience was worth the sacrifice.

I had a long flight, Iasi-Bucharest-Paris-Boston, but it was well placed. Why? Because after the first to-read list I received another email detailing the pre-bootcamp challenges. They had to be completed before August 5th and I was almost there. I worked on my laptop during cruises and took breaks to upload the progress in airports. A quiet flight…NOT!

Boston and accommodation…

I reached Boston and went to the HI Hostel. Initially I preferred a double room, but considering the price for 12 days was USD 2500, I chose the 6 beds room. Rationally, I knew this was the right option but personally I found it difficult to fall asleep on the first night, with 5 strangers in the room, away from home and family.

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MIT Bootcamp

Alumni Reunion

The next morning, at breakfast, I met some of the bootcampers. Almost all of them were staying at the same hostel as myself. We walked all day through Boston, we visited the MIT, met with the bootcamp staff and attended the Alumni Reunion at the MIT Museum in the evening.

The madness started. There were almost 40 alumni from previous classes. We were Class 4. I met wonderful people, some of whom were also mentors for Class 4. I talked to at least 40 people that evening, until I could barely speak anymore.

I ran up to the hostel to grab a little nap and get over the jetlag because the Bootcamp started the next day.

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Welcome to MIT Bootcamp

I am doing a real effort to remember every detail of what happened on those 6 days of Bootcamp. At first I wanted to write it all down in a daily journal. Unfortunately, there was no time for that. The days were so intense that in the end I didn’t even realize it was all over.

They were completely right when they told us upon arrival:

Welcome to hell. 🙂

A pretty hell, intense and challenging. A hell I would gladly relive and I wish my kids could experience it. A hell that changes lives…for the better.

The first day we met our mentors, teachers and got acquainted with each other, the bootcampers. At the end of the day, the teams were supposed to be established, based on affinities, background and personal connections. The most important aspect, the mentors kept repeating was:

“Pick people on your team who you want to work with, who you are compatible with. Do not choose them by the idea they want to work on or other such criteria.” Many of us didn’t understand why they emphasized this point so much. We were going to find out later.

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After a full marathon of “Hello my name is…”, I chose my team, in the last 5 minutes. I did exactly what I wasn’t supposed to do. I chose a team because I liked the idea they had: the developing of emotional intelligence. A subject that I was comfortable with and liked working on. 

After finishing choosing the teams, I’ve started to think whether we made the right choice or not. After all, I’ve crossed an ocean, left my family, in order to remain in my comfort zone… I stood and I kept on thinking all night long about my choice. In the end I gathered the courage to chose another team. It was 12 o’clock in the night an the rest of the teams were already created and the roles chosen. 

At 3 o’clock I went to sleep with my lesson learnt, the hard way.

To be continued…