Gatepost Interview: Assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship Dr. Erastus Ndinguri

[Allie Gath]

What is your academic and employment history?

I did my bachelor’s in economics. So, my background is in economics and management. My research is much more focused in entrepreneurship. I like to talk more about things like … entrepreneurship and things that are related to human character development, and that is what I like researching on. Even though my degree is in the human resource management area I find my research is much more primarily in entrepreneur startups and small business management.

Did you always know you wanted to work in the business field?

I come from a kind of an entrepreneurship family, but I did not think I was going to do that. I was much more in the banking industry. After a while, I wanted to expand my education. Then I found myself in the management area. It was one of those things that organically come in as you go in your career and grow.

What was your favorite undergraduate experience?

The trips that we did. … I liked being in clubs. I was in the economics club. I was in the math club. … Most of the time, we would go for trips using these clubs.

What was it like to be the assistant director of the Entrepreneur Innovation Center?

I stepped down last semester … It was a great experience and also a challenging experience because we were a startup and we were in charge of other startups. So, it was a double whammy. You have to grow and make it work – then make the people who are using the center grow and also work in their business because if they lose it, they stop paying for the center. It was great! There were some challenges. We had lots of successes and some happy days. … We went past the startup stage – I think it’s in the growth phase. So, I think it will be great to see what Mark Hardie will do as the new director and move it to the next level.

What would students be surprised to know about you?

I love ping pong. I would challenge any of my students to a game. I always loved it. I don’t talk about it a lot, but when I get near a table, I get excited. So, it’s one of those things people don’t know about me.

What class do you think all students should take?

I think they should take one business course, one art course and a science course. Those three facets are a good combination because in the sciences, you get the technical aspect of science. In the humanities, the arts area, you get the creativity out. I think in the business area, wherever you go, even if you are in the science and in the arts, at the end of the day, it’s a business that will hire you so you have to understand the facets of business concepts. So, I think those three areas are a must.

Is there any advice you would give to students?

They have to be kind of self-driven – that’s the first thing. So, they have to take charge, not waiting to be told, not waiting for people to tell them what to do. Then, they have to before they leave the University, do an internship. … You are competing with so many schools in the country. So, you have to differentiate yourself, and without something different, you look normal. You look like anybody else. … Those are the things I’ve seen teaching. I’m thinking, “I get you guys finishing your fourth year, your senior year, and you’re telling me to be your reference,” and I look at your resume and the only thing that is in your resume are things like working. I’m not saying a waiter and server is bad, but those are the things that are there, but you have to sacrifice one semester and do an internship … that contributes to your career. Otherwise you cannot differentiate yourself. There’s so many graduates out there. So, the practical part is key. Also, be a go getter. When you are told something, listen and think through it and internalize what you’ve been told and just apply it. Because most students will hear what you’re saying and say “What should I do next?” Try things. Failure isn’t a bad thing. You will fail, wake up, fail again. That’s just a part of life and I’m usually excited about a student that comes in and says, “I tried this I failed. I tried this.” That excites me because it tells me you’re trying, which is a big thing in itself.

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