- Sep 2, 2016
Before Craig Follett’s first day at Ivey, he learned HBA1 students had to record a video introduction to help professors remember their names. What he looked like in that video would shape how his professors remembered him for the rest of the year.
Follett, pursuing his dual degree at the time, was also a student leader for the Engineering team at Western University’s Orientation Week. He was supposed to “go purple”– the tradition of dying his entire body, head to toe, purple.
Is that how he wanted to start his Ivey career? Did he want to be known as that Purple Engineer?
Without much hesitation, he decided to go for it.
“I knew the Ivey culture was going to be accepting and I should just put myself out there,” Follett said. “The bigger risk was inaction: To do nothing and regret it looking back."
Think for yourself
As the keynote speaker for Opening Gala, the first class-wide event for Ivey Orientation Week 2016, Follett shared his advice with the 610 new HBA1 students. But he advised them to take it with a grain of salt.
“People will start asking you, ‘So what’s next?’” he said. “And those asking the question will have advice for you. Listen respectfully, but don’t trust them blindly. Take a step back and think for yourself.”
Follett didn’t necessarily follow the path he was advised to. After graduating Ivey in 2008, he was faced with two career options: consulting or investment banking.
“When I was making the decision, my parents didn’t fully understand,” he said. “To them, consulting was both higher risk than finance and lower reward. To me though, this was a no brainer. I knew the bigger risk was to stop exploring, to stop learning. This was my life, not my parents’.”
He made the decision to go for consulting, and went on to Boston Consulting Group (BCG). But in the back of his mind, he knew he wanted more.
“I was gunning for investment banking and consulting but I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur when the timing was right,” Follett said. “Open your mind to the things not directly in your path.”
When he was ready, Follett stepped away from consulting and made the leap to entrepreneurship. He went on to become the Co-Founder & CEO of Universe – the social marketplace for events. The company was acquired by Live Nation in 2015, where Craig currently serves as Vice President.
He acknowledges it was a risk to leave BCG to pursue his own entrepreneurial venture, but it was something he needed to do.
“It didn’t happen overnight,” Follett said. “It was a series of calculated moves and understanding risks – the first and biggest risk of not doing what I loved and not living my life.”
Follett left the students with the reminder that their Ivey experience depends on them: what they do, how they act, and what they take away. Ivey is not a passive experience, he said.
“This is your life. It’s no one else’s,” Follett said. “Don’t live your life to achieve someone else’s goals or to what you think success is supposed to be. Be you, and be unique. Take time to reflect on what you want to do. And then work hard on making that your reality.”