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The Startup Leadership Program - the youngest-ever Fellow tells his story

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by Startacus Admin

Christopher seems to have a tradition of breaking with traditions – now 19 years of age; he has already been elected to a number of board positions and highly competitive fellowships.

To top this up he stood out as the only teenager at many of the conferences he attended, and recently Christopher was selected for the Startup Leadership Programme, a highly competitive global training program for outstanding founders, leaders and innovators who are or want to be start-up CEOs. SLP Fellows participate in 2-3 classes per month from September to February taught by successful entrepreneurs, VCs, specialists and faculty from leading business schools. Although currently preparing the launch of Let’s Lunch in the UK, he gladly shares his experiences on identifying, applying and joining these programs with other young entrepreneurs, so that they can further accelerate their careers.

When did you start in tech, was it a recent move?Christopher Pruijsen
I started moving more into tech last year, when I became more involved in Oxford Entrepreneurs (eventually as President). I had always wanted to take the leap and start a company myself, but had not thought it possible for me personally prior to my exposure to relevant role models and entrepreneur communities.
Another factor which contributed to my (late) start was the fact that no programming or computer science classes were available during my entire primary and secondary education in the Netherlands, even though I was at some of the best schools in the country. This is in fact something I am particularly worried about in relation to the future of the Netherlands in the online economy of the 21st century.

Do you expect alternative educational models to fill this gap?
I do. In the US you can see institutions like Flat Iron School (NYC) and Devbootcamp (SF) offering immersive Ruby on Rails programming courses. These programs boast extremely high graduate hire statistics, which is not surprising as RoR developers are both most coveted and least available currently. However, such immersive programmes are not yet available in Europe and people are only starting to accept this as an alternative to university education in the tech scene, which cares mostly about your skills and not your degree paper.
In Q4 this year Hackademy (http://hackademy.co) will run a trial program in Copenhagen, in order to launch its global immersive Ruby on Rails course in Q1 2013 in Copenhagen (Denmark), Cape Town (South Africa) and Los Angeles (USA). This programme will feature project work and ‘externships’ with companies in the local tech scene, which will provide the participants with valuable employer references, employment opportunities and a project track record.
The will also pilot something you often see in global companies: lectures given live in one location will be live-streamed in other locations around the world via video-conferencing (and also available afterwards on hackademy.tv).

How was it to be the youngest person in many of your networks and recognitions?

One of the best things about entrepreneurship is the community which actively practises Paying-It-Forward principles – which is not so common (or at least not as genuine) in most corporate professions. In entrepreneurship some measure of failure is statistically very probable at some point in one’s career, and thus naturally tight and helpful communities arise so that people can help others succeed and/or start again after failure. People are especially keen on helping young entrepreneurs who still have a lot to learn about how to run a business and their relevant industries, and another benefit is that there aren’t as many young entrepreneurs asking for that kind of support, which gives you an edge to stand out in most application procedures.
It has always helped me to just ask for invitations, meetings, positions and responsibilities – of course you still have to deliver in the interview and actual job, but getting the gig is already half the trouble.

My age has never been an issue – in fact, if age is stated as a requirement somewhere and you’re younger – just ask them if exceptions or rule revisions are possible… often such rules are based on preconceptions about age more than any solid reasons.

Reach out to Christopher via Twitter @CPruijsen, invite him for lunch at letslunch.com or send him an email at [email protected] and we thank Christopher for his time in writing for Startacus.

If you would like to Self Interview for Startacus - contact [email protected] for more information.

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Published on: 2nd October 2012

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