By Jacob Rich
In the wake of the pandemic, there are many things that have been canceled: vacations, time with friends, internships, a T&M annual trip to China, among many others. However, during difficult times, innovation can truly prosper. The Hoeft Technology Program has done a great job adapting to the many challenges COVID-19 has brought and has even created new opportunities for students and alumni. One such opportunity is a summer programming series that connects students with alumni to take online courses over the summer and gain valuable skill sets that will aid in students’ further personal and professional development.
One of the many course options students had the opportunity to choose from is titled “Entrepreneurship”. While collaborating with fellow classmates interested in developing their own companies, students get the chance to learn from their alumni coach, Kevin Lehtiniitty, a Class XX alum and CPO/interim CTO at Prime Trust. Kevin had the opportunity to work with and help grow small businesses during a college internship, but upon graduation, he chose to work at a larger company. He soon realized that he wanted to make a difference in the world, and to do so, he needed to create his own small firm. It has been four and a half years since the founding of Prime Trust. Currently, they have over one-hundred employees and have been growing at a rate of eighty percent month-over-month.
While COVID-19 has negatively impacted many companies, especially when down-sizing and the furlough of workers is of concern, Prime Trust has continued its rapid growth and is trying to keep up with demand. This rapid expansion is due to the revolutionary technology Kevin has helped build within the FinTech industry. Many would think the biggest challenge he currently faces, especially during the pandemic, is product management and design. However, Kevin states that the hardest problem he faces is finding the right people to support his company. In the midst of the pandemic, Prime Trust is continuing to hire talented personnel to suit the company, including a manager from DocuSign.
A big reason the T&M program has the ability to enhance the student learning experience is due to alumni like Kevin who are giving their time and expertise back to the program. When I asked Kevin why he wanted to coach for the program, he responded by stating how much the T&M program helped him grow as a student and as an individual. He wanted to give back to the program that has helped him achieve the successes he has today. The relationships he built in the program and the variety of events he attended were the most memorable of his college experience. He values these connections more than what he learned in the classroom.
Kevin gave a lot of really great advice on how to deal with these uncertain times and how he would have approached school differently if he got to go back. “Building relationships with others is the most important aspect of life that a lot of people forget about.” Kevin talked about this in reference to the International Business Plan Competition he went on, which was one of his favorite experiences in the program. A lot of the groups were only focused on working endlessly to have the best case, but Kevin’s group put an emphasis on getting to know each other and enjoying the experience together. While he is admittingly “salty” about getting second place, he values the relationships he built and the experience he had. Students and professionals, including Kevin and myself, can easily get overly-stressed out about getting great grades in a class, perfecting a single assignment, or acing an exam. We often forget that we need to enjoy the moments in life and take the time to learn important material and build relationships within the groups that surround us. In the end, that will have the greatest impact on our lives going forward.
Jacob is currently in T&M Class XXVI, a sophomore in Accounting, and is interning at the Polsky Center at the University of Chicago in consulting.