The following comes from recent Princeton University graduate Julia Kaplan, who is working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs in Mexico as part of the PiLA program.
The Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) is a non-profit organization that has been partnering with non-profits throughout Latin America since 2002 to match them with young, public sector professionals seeking full-year fellowships in development work. The program was co-founded by Endeavor staff member Allen Taylor.
When I told people I was going to live in Mexico City for a year, the most common response I heard was, “Are you crazy?” Let’s just say that most Americans have a very narrow perspective of Mexico, informed by various negative news reports and State Department travel warnings. However, I had done my research, and knew that there was much more to Mexico than security issues, including an exciting, fast-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem that I was about to join as a Princeton in Latin America fellow at Endeavor Mexico. And in fact, my time in the bustling metropolis of “el DF” has been a truly exciting adventure.
My job at Endeavor Mexico, in the Search & Selection area, involves profiling our entrepreneur candidates so that when mentors come to Local and International Selection Panels, they have a strong understanding of the entrepreneur and their business before interviewing them. This allows Endeavor to make the most of the limited time they have at selection panels to screen and select the most promising high-impact entrepreneurs. The Endeavor profile may seem like a simple report on the surface, but many hours of work go into its creation. I get to know the entrepreneurs’ businesses inside and out as I accompany them to interviews with Endeavor mentors and hold one-on-one sessions to get in-depth insights into their operating model, governance structure, company culture, and personal story. The range of individuals and companies we work with is astounding, and I have come to have a deep understanding of fields as diverse as mobile technology, personal care products, organic agriculture, and software, to name a few.
I have also learned a lot from the people I interact with, including my coworkers — who are not only my colleagues, but also my friends. This is definitely the most fun office I have ever worked in! I also learn so much from the entrepreneurs, and especially our fantastic mentors, who always have something new to teach us about the business world. And this all happens in Spanish! At first I was very conscious of the language barrier, but now it has become second nature to me, which is one of my biggest accomplishments from my time so far in Mexico.
Apart from all that I have learned in the office, there is so much that daily life in Mexico City has taught me, such as:
– How to squeeze onto an unbelievably crowded bus in the morning and live to tell the tale
– When to properly use the ever-present guey and the many other Mexican slang words
– Appreciating quesadillas de huitlacoche—that would be corn fungus, and yes, it’s delicious
– The necessity of greeting everyone with a kiss on the cheek in all circumstances—just shaking hands would be rude!
– How to cook a turkey…
That last one might seem random, but one thing I have noticed is that I have as much to teach my Mexican friends as they do to teach me, and I absolutely had to cook them Thanksgiving dinner! That is one example of the moments I would have never had if I stayed in the US after graduating. I am so glad I came to Endeavor Mexico for this incredible and unique experience!