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“We should start a movement to bring tech to urban schools and to girls” With Ellen Weber of Temple University

I would bring tech to urban schools and to girls. By bringing technology knowledge and skills to those who do not have access to it on a…


I would bring tech to urban schools and to girls. By bringing technology knowledge and skills to those who do not have access to it on a daily basis, would be the movement that I am most excited about. I think it’s important for developing our economy and the future leaders of tomorrow and opening doors to a career that they might have never thought of. I very much admire the work being done locally by Bob Moul and nationally by Tracey Welson-Rossman (Women in Tech Summit and TechGirls). For Tracy, by working with girls in middle school, she aims encourage and inspire young girls to pursue careers in STEM. Because up until middle school, girls are at the same level for math and sciences as boys. It is then when they start being told that they aren’t supposed to do this, and girls should be doing that. Bringing this education and information to girls at that young age, encourages them to continue with math and science courses. Evens the playing field, gives people a chance to be successful and to develop confidence. Bob is working on bringing technology to urban schools. By doing so, he is helping those students compete in this economy and in education for high school and college.


I had the pleasure to interview Ellen Weber. Ellen is an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. Ellen is also Executive Director of Fox’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute. She is Executive Director of Robin Hood Ventures — Angel group that fuels startup growth in Philadelphia region. Ellen is also active in supporting Philly Startup Leaders, Philly Tech Meetup, and the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In school, I ended up studying business and was always interested in helping companies grow, originally large-scale companies before start-ups. About 20 years ago, I was working for a company called Shared Medical Systems and I started to have an urge to work with start-ups and be part of the start-up scene. I then started down two paths at the time: one was helping friends of mine start an angel investment group called Robin Hood Ventures, which is one of the first organized angel groups in the country and at the same time I also started a consulting practice that was looking at best practices in large companies and bringing them to start-ups and looking at energy and innovation in start-ups and how to bring those to large companies.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

One of the most exciting things I get to see is how these entrepreneurs grow and how we helped introduce them into the entrepreneur ecosystem. There’s a great example of Bethany Edwards from a company called Lia Diagnostics. She is a wonderful entrepreneur and she is a Temple alum and was working on her master’s project in design and it was a focused around sustainability and she brought it to Temple’s Idea Competition (as an alum). It is a pregnancy test that is flushable, so it is economically and environmentally safe and is cost efficient but most importantly, it is a more private pregnancy test. She won the competition and was matched with a mentor, joined an accelerator group in the region and gained a lot of support from them. She then presented at Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures through Temple’s Venture Forum and then ended up receiving funding from Robin Hood Ventures, which is the angel group that I run.

So, it has been really great seeing the synergy and watching her grow has been truly amazing.


What do you think makes your school stand out? Can you share a story?

First and foremost, our students are very socially minded and very entrepreneurial. It is part of Temple’s DNA — the founder of the university was entrepreneurial himself. One of the most interesting things to me is that when Temple students are working on social problems, a lot of times they are working on real-world, relevant issues that they themselves relate to or are passionate about. By helping these students and empowering them to find tangible solutions fuels Temple’s ability to provide the resources for students to succeed in their careers.

There is this grit and pure desire to succeed from the students and entrepreneurs that we work with both at Temple and in the Temple community.

For many of our students, they enter post-college world as freelancing entrepreneurs, but they have access to the courses and groups that are dedicated to growing companies and educating those who want part of that world. We recognize there is a need for these resources and want to provide those practical skills for students, faculty, alumni and community — through [Temple’s] Small Business Development Center we are able to offer help to aspiring and growing entrepreneurs in our community in addition to our student body.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, we are building two new spaces at the university right now. We are moving into a new space in August 2018 and looking to ramp up our accelerator program. We think it will be a place that students around the university will want to go to. Innovation needs its space, and this will be that space that allows students to come together, collaborate, find co-founders, and practice their ideas in a safe and encouraging space.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

The most important advice that I can give to for someone to help their team thrive is to set the vision, help people understand how they connect to that vision and how to align themselves to it, and then help them break down the barriers that they are finding along the way.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

At both Robin Hood and at Temple, I manage large groups of volunteers. They are doing things because they want to give back and because they want to be part of what you are building. Share the vision with them and show them how their activities fit into the big picture. I also say that you can’t herd the cats, but you can put out milk and hope they come to get it and I think that that is really important with large teams. You can’t force people to do things, but you can provide the right incentives and share similar visions and hope that they give their all. Strategy is something that I feel many women thrive at navigating.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Barbara Sivek, formerly from Shared Medical Systems. She really helped match my strengths with a role, and she gave me a position that was, at first glance, to manage a group that was structurally broken, and she gave me the opportunity to fix it. One of the key things that I learned from her is that it is a great career move to take on a project that no one else wants to do and be very successful in that challenge. She was able to understand where my strengths were and matched me with an opportunity that would provide the situations and challenges where I could learn and grow and ultimately be successful in turning around a group that needed it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I spend a lot of time helping women entrepreneurs. Whether it’s meeting one-on-one, doing walk and talks, I take as many calls as I can, and I think it’s important to have a repertoire of strong business/entrepreneurial-minded women that you can reach out to when need be. When a position is open, we need to think of women that might be good for the role. I spend a lot of time encouraging my colleagues to go out of their comfort zone when it comes to opportunities. There’s the old adage of “If a man meets 5/10 of the criteria he will apply, but if a woman meets 9/10 she won’t deem herself worthy.” It is important to be a voice of support and push these women to be confident in their capabilities.

I also serve on a lot of panels, so women can see that there are female investors and female leaders in the workplace. Helping women is something that I am really focused on and passionate about. I ensure that if I am running a forum, I make sure that there is diversity in both gender and race to show that there is a world of opportunity and it is not solely a male-dominated world.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons My Experience Taught Me” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. You need to ask “Why?” five-times, until you really get to the core of what the problem is:

a. You should not jump in and try and solve problems for your team. You need to consult your team members and ask them why they think it’s an issue and dig down to find the root. Only then can you really get to the core of the issues and then move forward to help find proper solutions

2. Get inspiration from your customers and share it with everyone in the organization.

a. The customer should be at the center of the vision. Working at Shared Medical Systems, and bringing in physicians, nurses and patients to understand the importance of what we do, and making sure that everyone, from the person working in customer service on the night shift to the CEO of the company heard that message. Dr. John Zapp talking about how what we were doing saved lives — and getting very specific with one patient whose life was saved because we were able to get all her information in one place.

3. Listen to everyone in your organization. The best ideas often come from people closest to the customer, not in the c-suite.

4. Work from an abundance framework/lens not a scarcity framework/lens.

a. If you are working from an abundance lens, you focus on the upside. Work with people, don’t fight for resources. There’s always enough to go around if you live your life this way. People spend way too much time focusing on protecting their own turf. It can be better to partner with someone, don’t be closed off about collaboration. Better to have a small piece of something great than a big piece of something that doesn’t grow.

b. Doug Alexander story gave a speech about the abundance framework mindset, and I remember breathing a sigh of relief after hearing him speak and thinking “That is the world that I want to be in.” Some of the startups that we have worked with, at both Temple and Robin Hood, we have been able to see when one company has one idea that could compliment another’s very successfully and by bringing them together, they were able to build something stronger than they both had individually.

5. When conflict occurs, ask people what they are fighting for, not what they are fighting against. Find the common ground. I saw that work, early on in my career when there were a number of departments that were pointing fingers and the entire system’s process was broken. I remember someone asked the question “what are we fighting for?” and what is it that each person was fighting for and what they want.

6. Stay true to your own values, and always act with integrity. Trust is built over time by making commitments you can keep and keeping them. If you are honest with people, they are honest with you.

a. If something doesn’t feel right for you, speak up and express your hesitations but also with explanation. I remember early in my career, I was asked to do something by a client and it did not feel right for me. So, I went to the partner and explained that I felt uncomfortable with what this client was asking, and they respected my position on the matter. If you are true to your values, people will respond well to that. By treating people with integrity, you will receive the same level.


You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would bring tech to urban schools and to girls. By bringing technology knowledge and skills to those who do not have access to it on a daily basis, would be the movement that I am most excited about. I think it’s important for developing our economy and the future leaders of tomorrow and opening doors to a career that they might have never thought of.

I very much admire the work being done locally by Bob Moul and nationally by Tracey Welson-Rossman (Women in Tech Summit and TechGirls). For Tracy, by working with girls in middle school, she aims encourage and inspire young girls to pursue careers in STEM. Because up until middle school, girls are at the same level for math and sciences as boys. It is then when they start being told that they aren’t supposed to do this, and girls should be doing that. Bringing this education and information to girls at that young age, encourages them to continue with math and science courses. Evens the playing field, gives people a chance to be successful and to develop confidence.

Bob is working on bringing technology to urban schools. By doing so, he is helping those students compete in this economy and in education for high school and college.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

STOP “SHOULD”-ING AROUND. (Say it out loud). We all, particularly women, have things we believe we SHOULD do. It’s the music that plays inside our head and can keep us from reaching our potential. The minute you stop thinking about the things you SHOULD do, and focus on the things you WANT to do, the more likely you are to have alignment in your life. For example, when I was at Wharton, I believed I SHOULD be studying finance, because that was what everyone was doing. When I got rid of that should, I found that I loved my management and human organization classes. I thought I SHOULD be on an upward corporate path, but when I realized what I wanted to do was to help build great cultures, I found work that was much more rewarding.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them…

I’d like to have drinks with Shonda Rhimes. By creating stories for strong women and people of color she totally changed the equation.

Originally published at medium.com

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