Sarah Lubik Q&A: Why entrepreneurship skills can be relied upon

Oct 05, 2016


Sarah Lubik, Director of Entrepreneurship at SFU, tests out one of the student ventures at Opportunity Fest 2016.

Sarah Lubik, Director of Entrepreneurship at SFU, tests out one of the student ventures at Opportunity Fest 2016.

In the second part of a two-part interview, SFU Director of Entrepreneurship Sarah Lubik talks about the path her new role has led her on, why  entrepreneurship skills are so important today, and why SFU’s approach to teaching entrepreneurship is both empowering and unique.

You were appointed as SFU’s inaugural Director of Entrepreneurship a year ago. Tell us about your first year in the role.

At SFU we had an amazing number of activities and programs, but they weren’t necessarily aligned and working together. My job was to try and make that happen, and then help us accelerate toward our potential as a national leader, if not international.

It’s been incredibly motivating to find out just how many people we have in every faculty and support structure at SFU who share the goals of creating and supporting an army of innovators. Coupled with the incredible amount of enthusiasm we have in our students, you have the perfect storm of conditions to really make our mark in entrepreneurship.

Why is it so important for students from all disciplines to learn about entrepreneurship?

The world is changing more and more quickly, meaning the knowledge you gain is dating more and more quickly, no matter how cutting edge your education is.

Entrepreneurship and innovation skills don’t date, and are applicable wherever you decide to employ them. Having the ability to identify, create and harness opportunities means a completely different type of job security: the ability to always be valuable.

Moreover, the mindset shift that comes with entrepreneurial education – ambition, curiosity, productivity, ability to deal with ambiguity – are increasingly the skillsets that are not only useful for starting your own business, but that employers are looking for so that their companies can keep up.

Earlier this year Charles Chang donated $10 million to SFU for entrepreneurship. Tell us about the importance of this gift.

SFU has quite a unique, highly interdisciplinary approach to entrepreneurship, making sure every student in every discipline can create their own entrepreneurship journey and experience what it’s like to communicate and work with people from a variety of fields. It’s at that intersection that many innovations happen.

Charles’ gift is a significant amount of validation from a clear expert in the field that we are doing something right. Charles has said that he loves the strategy we have about knocking down walls between faculties. But even more than that, it pours ongoing fuel on that fire and will let us pursue even more ambitious goals and unique ways to help students on their journeys.

What has been the biggest challenge during your tenure thus far as SFU’s Director of Entrepreneurship?

It’s a struggle to tell innovators that there are things they should not do or that there are things they should change. We have a limited number of resources, which means we can’t do everything – but the kind of people that drive change often want to do everything. So being able to continually bring people back to the same page and harness our energies so we are going in the same direction is an ongoing – but fun – challenge.

In some ways it’s a reminder to practice what we preach in entrepreneurship: if you can articulate how it fits into the big picture and makes us stronger, and you have the passion and ability to take it forward, there is usually a case that can be made and pursued together.

And what has been your most satisfying moment?

There are so many. The most satisfying moments are when I see the light go on in the eyes of students that now realize they have the power to recognize or create their own opportunities and the tools to create impact. There is a special kind of ambition and confidence that comes with that.

I had one student tell me that now he sees opportunities to make a difference everywhere he looks. Then he asked me if you could shut it off. The answer is no, you’re stuck with this now. But there’s an empowerment moment that happens with students when you give them these kinds of skills.

Do you have anything to add?

What is really important about what we are doing at SFU is the idea of breaking down siloes. Right from their second semester, students in science or engineering figure out what it’s like in business. This is a powerful skillset and community to be creating. So often you get trained in siloes, alongside people who only think like you, but then you get dropped into the real world and find out that people don’t have the same background as you. I think this approach is a very unique one to SFU, and it’s a very powerful one.