I have learned much from my experience with TechTown and the dozens of staff interviews I have had with TechTown staff. Three stand out to me. First, I learned that instability is the norm in nonprofits. Covid-19’s move to virtual work, funding confusion, and new hires can change quickly, which affects organizational structure and priorities. On that note, I found the importance of the resilience needed to work with limited resources. While making recommendations, we have had to adapt many of them so they can be feasible executed with TechTown’s budget and staffing constraints. Secondly, I discovered how scalable nonprofits are. I always pictured nonprofits as organizations with small teams, limited funds, and small service or product offerings. TechTown rejected this stereotype. Its services are diverse and extensive, and their team has many, impressive moving parts. It has encouraged me to pursue nonprofits now that I understand that they can be large and scalable. Thirdly, I learned how important community engagement is since nonprofits serve community members. For instance, Ellen and I were tasked with interviewing entrepreneurs and TechTown Alumni, which has been incredibly useful. By reaching out to community members, TechTown entrepreneurs feel heard and appreciate us understanding their problems. Additionally, the connection with the community has been super helpful in identifying and fleshing out recommendations to improve TechTown programs. These lessons will be invaluable in how I run future nonprofits and startups.
All in all, my experience with TechTown has surprised me. Entering the experience, I felt like and expert, but I learned new things about the creativity and user input important to nonprofits in a chaotic nonprofit world. I look forward to finishing this summer at TechTown, and, more importantly, taking these lessons with me going forward.