Entrepreneur Workforce Development

Career development for the entrepreneur economy

by davidmcfarlane

Entrepreneurship – Why UMass Boston

David McFarlaneWhen I told friends about the Entrepreneurship Center and Entrepreneur-In-Residence role at UMass Boston, they thought it had been created just for me, a perfect fit. I have always been a passionate entrepreneur. From high tech to small urban businesses, I have been through classically executed IPO’s, rode the tech bubble and landed back in the sobriety of the new millennium. Now, I believe Boston is on the edge of a new wave of entrepreneurial opportunity fueled by its leadership in biotechnology, healthcare and big data informatics. I believe UMass Boston is the perfect platform from which to drive that next wave of entrepreneurship.

Why UMass Boston? Well, I have worked with Harvard iLab and MIT Enterprise Forum, but at UMass Boston I have found something different, a pragmatic drive to applied education. I saw this first in the work that Dan Philips and Entrepreneurship Center did in preparing UMass Boston students to work in entrepreneurial roles in industry. The EC Sales & Marketing course and Practicum gave students tools that made them immediately productive in a start up role. Combine that with the student’s renown for hard work and gritty determination and you have the recipe that puts UMass Boston above the rest. As an entrepreneur I have taken interns from many notable ivy league colleges, but I hired from UMass Boston.

Venture Development CenterUMass Boston has been both visionary and pragmatic in creating its state-of-the-art Venture Development Center with wet labs, HPC facilities and dedicated mentoring specifically geared to the High Tech/Bio/Healthcare industries. The VDC bridges the gap between academia and industry, bringing real world experiences to students at the heart of the campus, an access to excellence that’s more than equal to the best. As the university builds momentum in its research, the VDC and the new Integrated Sciences Complex illuminate the path for entrepreneurs both inside and outside of the university. It’s a great time to be here, almost a coming of age of the UMass Boston vision.

Even so, UMass Boston has stayed true to its core mission of urban entrepreneurship and development. As an urbanite myself, it’s gratifying to see the economic development in Dorchester and the audacious vision of the 25-year campus master plan. Our diverse student population reflects the future of Boston’s workforce. Entrepreneurship no longer requires the deep pockets of venture capitalists, but it’s a reality for students from all walks of life with the determination and the guts to take that path. UMass Boston has positioned itself to be a leading participant in the next wave of workforce development and I am lucky to be a part of it.


By the way, for all you students out there we have PAID internships and JOBS waiting for you now. Frankly, more positions than I can find students to fill them. Please email me at david.mcfarlane@umb.edu to get the ball rolling.

by daniel.phillips

Entrepreneur Workforce Development Courses

We have spent 3.5 years working with startups in the area, understanding their internships needs and running workshops, events, and mentoring to help prepare students for these internships. After working with 45 startups to place 97 students primarily in sales/marketing and software/web development internships, we are ready to begin our next phase. Beginning this Fall we will offer our first formal entrepreneur workforce development course that will educate and train students on the skills and requirements needed for an entry level sales/marketing position in a startup. These students will also have ongoing access and participation in our StEP Internship Program: www.umb.edu/entrepreneurship_center/step

It doesn’t make sense for students to graduate from college and not be prepared for entry level positions in the most vibrant economic sector in our region. And it doesn’t make sense for students to need to enter into training programs after they graduate in order to be qualified for these positions.

This course can be taken as a for credit course in the College of Management at UMASS Boston or as a certificate course by anyone interested in building their career in the entrepreneur economy. All are invited to attend an Information Session July 25 at 5pm in the Venture Development Center at UMASS Boston: http://www.umb.edu/news_events_media/news/new_entrepreneurship_course_at_umass_boston_provides_workforce_training/

We are also actively working on an Entrepreneur Software/Web Development Course to prepare students for entry level development positions in startups. Stay tuned.

by daniel.phillips

Do Internships in Startups Lead to Employment?

We have just completed our 3rd year of partnering with technology based startups in the greater Boston area and training and connecting qualified UMass Boston students with paid internships at these companies. We also just completed our 2nd year of training UMass Boston students to launch their own startups by actually launching and evolving their own startups through live test marketing in all phases of their business with the help of mentors. A method we believe comes closest to providing an internship for someone who wants to launch their own startup.

The concept is simple. The Entrepreneur economy is very healthy and if you train students in the skills and requirements needed in a startup, they will in turn, get hired when they graduate. And this benefits the students as well as the entrepreneur economy. Our numbers, while still very much a work in progress, are below.

85 students in 89 internships and 44 companies
33 students – employed full time with internship deemed influential
25 students – still in school and internships
12 students – internships did not result in or influence employment
15 students – we don’t know results

So, I guess what we can say at this point is out of the 45 students who have graduated and we’ve been able to stay in contact with, 73% received full time employment with their internship being an influential factor. The results seem okay. We’ve learned a lot over the last 3 years and there is much we can do to improve the quality of training and preparation we provide.

Regarding students launching and evolving their own startups though live test marketing and with the assistance of mentors;

46 students – participated in this program
28 students – launched their own startups
14 startups – operational and producing revenue
17 students – interns/employees in a previously launched startup
17 previously launched startups – operational and producing revenue

In regards to these numbers above, 50% of the student based startups that were launched from scratch, are in operation today. 100% of the startups that were more mature and hiring students to help build out their businesses are in operation today. I do believe we helped these more mature startups to expand and grow, but we are by no means claiming their success is because of our program.

So, what’s next? Evolve based on what we’ve learned, improve results, and scale program. What else do you do with a startup? :)

by daniel.phillips

Acquia Launches Workforce Development Training

Acquia, a venture capital backed company that provides enterprise level service and support of the open source social publishing software, Drupal, has just launched Acquia U, to employ and train recent college grads and career changers to become designers, developers, marketeers, and customer support representatives of Drupal. And Acquia is partnering with as many universities as possible to deliver and promote this workforce development program. Acquia’s got it right. The private sector and education working together to create and execute workforce development programs that address the current skills that are required for open positions today. There are plenty of jobs available for skill sets that we aren’t yet teaching in our universities. Let’s not complain about it, let’s fix it. The private sector and education can do this together.

Is this self serving on Acquia’s part? Of course! What’s wrong with that? In fact it’s good. Business is incented, education is incented, the workforce is incented, and the economy is incented. Acquia’s got it right.



by daniel.phillips

White House Business Council Workforce Development Roundtable at UMass Boston VDC

White House Business Council and 20 High Tech Start-up Execs Roundtable at UMass Boston VDC.

On Thursday, July 28, Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training, and Joanne Goldstein, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development for Massachusetts, along with other government officials, met with 20 high tech and life science executives from the greater Boston area.

The purpose of the roundtable discussion was for the Administration to get feedback from local start-ups on how the government can best support the employment and training needs of high tech and life science start-ups as well as understand the Administration’s resources and programs designed to help local businesses create jobs and compete.

To net out a very open and constructive two hour conversation:

We have a shortage of mid level employees that are trained and qualified to work in high tech start-ups. The skills required are cross functional in nature and workers need a broader overall skill set that encompasses technology and business knowledge. A Sales person may be responsible for internet marketing, CRM, SEO, cold calling, demos, and closing, as well as have a strong understanding of technology. And a Software Developer may have responsibility for managing the lab, QA, scripting, fixing existing code, and writing new code. Students are not graduating from college with this multi function knowledge. And laid off workers from other industries do not have these skill sets. Searching for employees in high tech start-ups is extremely time consuming and the majority of hires come from stealing from other start-ups.

Suggestions from this roundtable included:

Create a consortium of high tech/life science start-ups to provide the domain expertise required to create high tech/life science workforce development certification programs to be delivered in the Community Colleges and Public Universities. Program would include intern experience. Targets for enrollment would include, students, x – military, and laid off workforce from other industries.

Government support to help fund the cost of hiring and training interns and new employees in order to train them in the skills required to work in a high tech start-up.

Create a State/Nationwide Database of laid off high tech workforce for instant access to high tech start-up opportunities in their area. Database can be expanded to all candidates seeking opportunities in high tech start-ups.

Lowering the barriers to entry in order for a start-up to receive an SBA loan.

Expand H1 Visas. Obviously a topic with many pros and cons and would require more debate and definition, as is true with all other suggestions above.

A very positive dialog with strong interest from the State, Fed, high tech execs, and UMass Boston to continue this dialog on an ongoing and more formal basis.

Stay tuned.

by daniel.phillips

Skills and Requirements for Entry Level Positions in High Tech Start-Ups

We are now up to 75 students with paid internships in high tech start-ups and the majority of internships continue to fall into the categories of sales/marketing or software development/QA/IT support. And these internships are spread throughout 40 companies. So it feels as though we have enough critical mass to define the common skills and requirements for entry level positions in high tech start-ups.

Sales & Marketing

Entry Level Job Description:
• Manage CRM lead generation database
• Manage and execute email marketing campaigns
• Market research to identify prospects
• Inbound and outbound phone calls to qualify prospects and set up appointments
• Analyze web KPIs, help to establish action plan for web based lead generation
• Run Google SEO reports and help with analysis
• Set up webinars, execute and analyze
• Update website content
• PR Assistance
• Administrate Blog
• Manage and update collateral
• Overall Support of Marketing/Sales Team

• Marketing education focus
• IT education focus
• Proficient with Microsoft Office Suite
• Practical work experience
• Working knowledge of CRM, SEO, and KPI’s
• Strong verbal and written communication skills
• High energy, driven, un-entitled, self-starter, handles adversity and ambiguity, requires minimal supervision, and seeks responsibility and ownership.

IT and Software Engineering

Entry Level Job Description:
? Provide supporting services to engineering team, including development, quality assurance, and IT support
? Development
? Work with developers to iteratively improve existing internal tools
? Develop internal tools as needed
? Fix software defects at direction of senior engineers
? Support development testing of web-based software product
? Code development
? Provide lab management support
? Quality assurance
? Execute test cases on web-based software product
? Identify potential product defects
? Troubleshoot and reproduce potential defects
? Report defects in test case management system
? Provide lab management support
? IT Services
? Provide end-user desktop support
? Diagnose and resolve application and operating system issues
? Install and upgrade software
? Maintain server infrastructure, including supporting hardware and software upgrades
? Manage end-user incidents in ticketing system

? Computer science or equivalent technical major
? Power user of two or more operating systems (e.g. Linux, OSX, Windows)
? Familiarity with web-based development, including HTML, JavaScript, CSS
? Familiarity with desktop applications (e.g. Microsoft Office)
? Strong technical troubleshooting skills
? Passion for technology
? Practical work experience
? Strong verbal and written communication skills
? High energy, driven, un-entitled, self-starter, handles adversity and ambiguity, requires minimal supervision, and seeks responsibility and ownership.
? Development and Quality Assurance only
? Proficient in at least one programming language (e.g. Java, Ruby, C#)
? Working knowledge of software development
? Strong object-oriented coding skills
? Experience with a scripting language (e.g. Python, shell) a strong plus

The more we can do to educate and train our students in these skills and areas of expertise, the more successful our students and the high tech start-up sector in Massachusetts will be.

by daniel.phillips

Entrepreneur Workforce Development Skills that can be Taught

At UMass Boston I do a few things. I mentor start-ups in our Venture Development Center, manage a paid internship program for UMass Boston students who want to work with high tech start-ups, oversee the Entrepreneurship Center, and teach an MBA entrepreneur course. The theme of this blog is entrepreneur workforce development and the comments to date have evolved around the entry level skills and requirements for workers in a start-up. And the majority of the analysis has come from the 65 internships we’ve placed with start-ups. However, after teaching an entrepreneur course for two semesters, preparing for a third, and analyzing the results so far, the following are essential workforce development skills required for start-ups that are being developed in this course.
In order to enroll in this course, the student needs their own start-up that they are in the process of launching. And we use their live experience to teach them the evolutionary process of launching a start-up. In this course there are experienced CEO, VP Sales, VP Marketing, VP Development, CFO, and Legal Counsel entrepreneurs that guest lecture based on the class topic that evening. And class topics include business description, unique value proposition, market definition, competition, lead generation, sales process, product/service requirements, business model, funding, and legal.
Students are required to take their assumptions and solicit live customer/market feedback on all their assumptions. And begin to develop domain expertise based on customer/market feedback and further define and evolve their assumptions based on this test marketing. And the overwhelming results have been that the student’s business descriptions, unique value propositions, market definitions, product/service requirements, and business models look very different after a semester of obtaining ongoing market/customer feedback.
The main skill sets being developed in this class are the ability to network and talk with strangers and solicit feedback and advice. The ability to articulate clear concise messages that resonate with your market. The ability to take large amounts of feedback and use it to focus and become more specific and precise in the market being addressed and the product/service requirements that need to be developed. The ability to obtain customer/market feedback for everything and let the market needs steer the direction of your business.
And finally, to obtain the ultimate knowledge that the business description, unique value proposition, market definition, product/service requirements, and business model all need to be driven from constant and ongoing customer/market feedback. When one of these areas change/evolve, they all change. And the process is a constantly cyclical and evolutionary process, not a linear process. And it’s never finished.

by daniel.phillips

Post From Jeremy Krantz, UMass Boston Recent Alumni, Regarding Entry Level Marketing Skills Acquired


As my time at UMass Boston as an undergraduate student slowly trickled down, I caught wind of the Venture Development Center through one of my marketing professors and decided to investigate it further; I then met Mr. Dan Phillips whose services were invaluable to help me transition from my studies there to the work environment. Through my experiences in marketing, management and my background in high-tech, I was able to acquire a part-time internship which I still hold to this day. The startup in question is ChosenSecurity but it has since then been acquired, twice, the most recent being by Symantec. So in the last year, I’ve gone from finishing up my curriculum at UMass Boston to being in a beautiful, dynamic office in Waltham in a fast-paced, high-tech environment where I’ve been learning some invaluable things day-after-day.
My day-to-day tasks revolve around inbound marketing, which in a nutshell, optimizes the way we can be found by customers. Some of you might know it as search engine optimization (SEO) but I also do a few more things like web content management and online marketing. Some of the tools that I currently use on a daily basis are ones that I’ve learned how to use in the very classrooms where I sat in lectures; an example of such being Google AdWords. I’ve been able to reach a higher level of profession through some training and have been able to access and use some valuable, professional marketing tools.
This internship is and has been extremely helpful and valuable to me. I not only work for a big, recognizable and respected company but I also have and still learn a lot of things working here; the networking aspect has been quite valuable as well. I am very thankful for the opportunity that Mr. Phllips has given me and look forward to being able to return the favor to the community through the wonderful Venture Development Center in the future.

by daniel.phillips

Entrepreneur Workforce Development Trends

We have been placing UMass Boston students in paid internships with the leading VC backed high tech start-ups in Massachusetts for almost two years now, and it is very interesting to look at the workforce trends and results.

Total # of students placed = 52

Total # of companies = 28


Marketing internships = 22

Software/Web development internships = 16

QA internships = 5

Sales internships = 4

IT internships = 2

HR internships = 2

Finance internships = 1

In addition:

25 were MBA

27 were undergrad

22 were international

Of the 28 students who graduated, 12 were hired on full time


So…….because I know each of the companies that hired these students as well as the students themselves, I have a deeper understanding of these statistics beyond the raw results, and a number of things pop out.


An MBA was not as important as relevant practical work experience, but having both is best.


Work authorization laws as well as lack of American business level communication skills inhibit the hiring of international students.    (This is a topic for another posting)


12 out of 28 students being hired full time was a more impressive statistic than meets the eye, as these positions were not budgeted, they were created because of the performance of the students.


The marketing internships involved lead generation based customer relationship management.  They involved email blasts, inbound and outbound phone call and email prospecting, web content uploading, webinar and seminar coordination, and social media marketing execution.  All tasks that are extremely time consuming and laborious but essential, and all tasks that are typically done by the sales and marketing staff.   In addition, there were four sales internships who filled similar roles but with more of an emphasis on appointment setting.  And all of the marketing internships evolved to more sales oriented roles as they gained experience.


The software/web development internships involved supervised coding, scripting, QA testing, documentation of testing process, and IT management of development environment.   All tasks that are essential to the development environment but tasks that can slow down the productivity of the development team.  In addition there were five QA internships that filled similar roles but were more specifically defined toward testing.  And these QA internships all evolved to more development oriented roles as they gained experience.  In addition, there were two IT internships focused on managing the development environment as well as the company’s overall IT environment.



The marketing and software/web development internships were #1 and #2 respectively because they had the biggest impact on freeing up valuable and expensive resource in the start-up organizations to do more productive tasks.   In a start-up it’s all about building and selling product/service.  Everything else takes a back seat.   The impact of gaining multiple extra hours per day for seasoned developers and sales/mktg people to be in the create mode, is dramatic.


In terms of our high tech entrepreneur economy in Massachusetts, educating and training students on the sales/mktg and software/web development skills described above is where it’s at.


by daniel.phillips

Invitation to Entrepreneur Center Launch

You are invited to a cocktail reception celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Venture Development Center and the launch of UMass Boston’s new Entrepreneurship Center

Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 5:30 PM
Venture Development Center
University of Massachusetts Boston Wheatley Hall, 3rd Floor
100 William T. Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125

Meet top-tier investors, executives, educators, and students who are fueling the entrepreneur economy. Learn how you can support internships, workforce development, and start-ups in Massachusetts.

with remarks by: 
Chancellor J. Keith Motley, UMass Boston 
Secretary Greg Bialecki, Dept of Housing and Economic Development
Editor and Publisher Doug Banks, Mass High Tech


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