Five Questions For … Rice Entrepreneurship Professor Yael Hochberg

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at the same time, you never know what you would have changed [if you traveled back in time] and what you would have come back to.

X: What career advice do you give to new college graduates?

YH: There are two things I tend to tell graduates. The first is try to find something they’re going to enjoy in addition to having it be work. If you can find something that you’re really passionate about—even if you start out and don’t get to do the exciting parts of it—the chances that you’re going to be successful in your career are much higher. And you will enjoy your life. Don’t focus on the industry that’s hot at the moment.

The second is find a mentor, work on developing a relationship with a mentor. When you start out you don’t really know how the world works. If you can find someone who can help guide you and shape your career, that can pay off in spades. That can help ensure you achieve goals you want to achieve, and having someone who helps you navigate the process will help you learn what the adult world is like.

X: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

YH: I wanted to be an astronaut. I had all the applications, but I was stuck. I had these glasses and terrible vision and didn’t think back then that would work. I didn’t even know if you had to be military. Being a fighter pilot was not an option I could pursue. And I wasn’t sure how to be a mission specialist without doing a degree in biology or physics. I was not as interested in that as engineering.

But I wound up in Houston. I’m close to the astronauts. Now that I’m older, it turns out, I’m claustrophobic so I don’t think that would’ve worked out well. I have great admiration for the people who can do that. It’s undoubtedly the greatest adventure you can have on this earth.

X: What’s your biggest fear?

YH: I have two things push and pull against each other. I want to know I can have an impact in my life, that I made a difference for people. That’s part of why I became an educator. At the same time, in having that goal and working hard to leave some kind of impression on the world, I worry that I’ll forget to step back and enjoy life and really take advantage of my time. I don’t want to be the person who lives only for themselves. But I also don’t want to be the person at 70 and wake up, and there is this amazing world to see and do things, and I didn’t go and do any of it.

I guess an amusing fear … my biggest fear is that I’ll get bitten by a great white. I watched “Jaws” when I was three or four, when I was very young. I would check the YMCA pool every single time before I jumped in for swim class, just to make sure there wasn’t a shark in there.

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