What Clock Do You Want to be a Part Of? My Venture for America Entrepreneurial Fellow Experience - Micah Headley (CBA '22)

Micah Headley

 While I was in college, I did everything imaginable to stay away from a corporate career. The junior-year-internship-with-a-large-firm to senior-year-job-offer pipeline always struck me as the quickest path to my soul being crushed. Just by participating in the process, I felt guaranteed to fade into a state of middle management comatose. In hopes of avoiding that, I worked almost entirely with small businesses and community organizations while at Pitt. I wanted to have complete control over my professional life, and that was how I decided to do it.

This was incredibly naive. Our generation loves talking about being the main character, but the truth is that no one is really the main character of anything. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and we’re all part of a story much larger, more complex, and more important than ourselves. Remember in The Incredibles when Mr. Huph says that a company is like a clock?


The Incredibles

That little jerk is right. Unless you’re going to go entirely off the grid and become a homesteader (which is certainly a valid option), the question of life isn’t whether or not you want to be part of a clock. The question of life is what kind of clock you want to be a part of. Oftentimes, taking a job at a large organization is choosing to be part of an incomprehensibly complex clock in which you serve as a lever that turns a gear that turns another gear that lifts a pulley that turns a minute hand.


If you want to be the lever, that’s fine. Perhaps being one of a million pieces in an exceptionally ornate clock is preferable to being an entire mechanism in a much smaller and simpler clock. On the other hand, perhaps it means you’ll work for Mr. Huph and spend your time rejecting old ladies’ insurance claims. Perhaps it means that you’re so far removed from your product, so unable to discern your broader purpose, so deep in bureaucratic hell that you can’t even tell whether or not the things you do on a daily basis have any impact on your organization, your coworkers, or your customers.


My biggest fear in life is wasting the time I’m fortunate enough to have. Twiddling my thumbs while waiting for my manager’s manager’s manager to reject an idea I had because the proposal was in Calibri instead of Helvetica is enough to throw me into an existential crisis.


Venture for America allowed me to find a job where I’ve never once had to worry that I was wasting my time. I’ve been given as much autonomy as any entry-level employee on this planet (shoutout to AlphaLab). I get to have a tangible impact on my co-workers, on the founders we work with, and on my broader community. That’s all I could ever ask for, and I’m immensely grateful that VFA offered me a way into the startup space.


Now, if working for a multinational corporation doesn’t resemble Dante’s Inferno in your mind’s eye, my experience probably doesn’t speak to you. Why sacrifice the safety of a strong job with an established business to enter a more volatile space? In an effort to summarize some of the many reasons that a college student should consider VFA, I asked the group chat of 2022 fellows about why they joined VFA. My hope is that, if you don’t see yourself in my intense hatred of corporate bureaucracy and fear of living an unimportant life, you might instead see yourself in one of these other amazing people.

 VFA Slack


Sophia Schwartsman

“You’d be surprised at how many people pick VFA for what it isn’t rather than what it is. Many of us learn from other people’s experiences, even when they’re teaching you who you don’t want to be; it’s part of what makes someone an entrepreneur. I saw a problem in the way the world works, and I gravitated towards something that would allow me to work around it.”


Sophia DeJong

“Joining VFA has allowed me to be around people who possess a likeminded creativity; it’s incredibly energizing. The network that we’ve built with young adults from all over the country, many of whom expect to start businesses and ventures together, is invaluable.”


Zachary Andreason

“Transplanting to a new city with a community of young professionals with similar interests as you is night and day compared to transplanting and starting completely from scratch. Having friends you can spend time with from the get-go is amazing. While we may not all become founders, or even really want to be, VFA has served as an entry point into a high-growth career and positioned us to become intentional with the work and decision making we do very early in our careers.”


Bijoy Shah

“I have learned many things during my time as a fellow, but the most important is how to develop, foster, and cultivate positive working relationships. The VFA community quickly proved that it will be there for me in any event. Unlike most fellows, I had not secured a job for my fellowship prior to training camp, but once I shared what I was interested in, many fellows offered support in my search process from introductions to helping with my resume to encouraging me when I faced rejection. The VFA community is truly a community of people I enjoy spending time with and I’m very thankful that I made the decision to join and stay involved.”


In closing, a tl;dr for those of you who assumed this post would read like a cross between a self-congratulatory LinkedIn post and a Venture for America press release: be thoughtful about what clock you choose to be a part of.  If you’ve only ever been offered the chance to be a lever, apply for Venture for America. If you’re looking for a path that allows you to have a tangible impact on your organization, your community, and those around you, apply for Venture for America. If you want to be connected to a community that will have a positive impact on you personally and professionally, apply for Venture for America.


Connect with Micah on LinkedIn


 VFA 2022_MH

Apply to Become a Venture for America Fellow!

Venture For America (VFA) is creating economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs.

Accepted Fellows will go through VFA's 4-step process: finding a startup job, attend training camp, work at a startup or company, and start/lead at a company.

VFA accepts rolling applications. To be a part of the Class 2023 program, please apply by March 1, 2023 at https://ventureforamerica.org/apply/.