It’s hard to move from the town you’ve grown up in to an entirely new city, let alone make that city your home and future career space. It’s difficult to call that city yours, to acquire a passion for its ventures that mimics the local’s. When Lindsay Tsai came to Philly, she had no idea it would become her home, her workplace, and her new passion all in one.
Lindsay Tsai is a Penn Engineering graduate originally from Southern California. During the college application process, she wasn’t exactly sure what she was looking for in a school, but when she traveled to the east coast and set foot on Penn’s campus, she was hooked. She loved the environment, and how it was close enough to Philly to be connected to it. She didn’t have a defined goal for her career path when she started her freshman year at Penn.
“At Penn, everyone seems to know what they want, but I had no idea what I wanted to do.”
She ended up pursuing an engineering degree with a minor in engineering entrepreneurship, but it was ultimately in her sophomore year that she made a decision about her engineering career path.
“I didn’t want to do industry engineering, but instead use my engineering skills in a different way.”
The summer after her sophomore year, Lindsay worked for a non-profit in the Philippines called International Care ministries. She said the experience increased her skills with social contacts, project management, and working on a team. She learned a lot about herself and the nonprofit world and how it functions differently than normal business world.
After her junior year, Lindsay still did not want to follow the Google or consulting internship path that was becoming so common to Penn engineers. She instead chose her own road and started working at a video-advertising startup in Venice Beach called Zefr. At her internship, she discovered that startups had the time and the passion to invest in their employees. She was able to meet amazing people who helped her grow as an employee and person during her experience. It was then that she started to fall in love with the startup scene.
Even though she loved her taste of the startup world, Lindsay was still not completely sold on pursuing that career path. A lot of people from her sorority and professional engineering fraternity who she considered very similar to her went on to work at consulting firms like Deloitte post graduation. She knew that they loved it there, so she decided to give it a shot. She went through recruitment and got hired by Deloitte as an aerospace consultant.
She knew within the first 2 months of working in aerospace that it was not at all for her. Luckily, her position at the company moved into working with the healthcare innovation group.
“I’m so thankful for the senior manager [of the healthcare innovation group] who took a chance on me. It shaped my career moving forward to look at disruptive technologies nationwide and work with healthcare organizations who wanted to use them.”
Lindsay said that working with this group helped her frame her thoughts in a very “future-looking” way. After some time at Deloitte, Lindsay knew she wanted a change of pace. She wanted to stop traveling a lot and have more of a home base. A friend of a friend introduced her to a new opportunity – running the Philly Startup Leaders accelerator.
Philly’s startup scene was not really on Lindsay’s radar in college. It was when she started working for the Philly Startup Leaders organization that saw how emerging the space really was.
“It was a rejuvenating experience to work at PSL. I got to be with people who not only passionate about work, but also about Philly.”
It was through this job experience that Lindsay began to call Philly home and really took pride in all her city had to offer. At PSL, she was leading all of the programming, which included an accelerator that ran in the winter through spring, the fall startup boot camp, and the summer fellowship. She built relationships with people in startups and connected them with other people that could help their venture.
It was through this process that she met the company Roundtrip, a platform to simplify the nonemergency transportation space. This company went through the PSL accelerator, so Lindsay worked with them closely. She was with them when they signed first client and when they began to make hires. They were an amazing team who were growing quickly, so they asked her to join them.
“It was kind of like the perfect storm. I had a lot of knowledge that could add value to the team that came from both working at Deloitte and PSL.”
Lindsay loved how she could contribute a lot to the team but also be mentored and shaped by the people around her. This is ultimately the reason why she chose to take on this role.
Lindsay had some advice for anyone trying to break into the startup space:
“Everyone has ideas, but people don’t execute on them. There are brilliant people who could build any company they want, but they’re scared of the risk. A lot of people fall into the ‘let me just take a consulting job’. It doesn’t have to be right after school, but the risk is worth it because of the super rewarding experience you get out of it.”