by Holly Riddle
“Intrapreneurship” is a buzzy business word at the moment, but what does it really mean in the lives of employees and for a company’s bottom line? Penn State’s upcoming Conference on Intrapreneurship Employees as ChangeMakers hosted by the College of Engineering’s School of Engineering Design and Innovation hopes to help Happy Valley business leaders understand just that — the same way the school helps its students understand the value to be found in intrapreneurship before sending them out to work at some of the country’s top organizations.
We spoke to one such student, 2022 graduate Masen Nartatez, last month. Nartatez is now putting the intrapreneurial skills he learned while at Penn State in action, as a flight test design engineer at Lockheed Martin in West Palm Beach, Florida.
To me, entrepreneurship is when... you’re driving the ship. Intrapreneurship still invites and allows for new ideas and new solutions to problems, but you’re doing so within a company that is able to provide guidance and resources.
Set to graduate next month, Reilly Smith is another student from the College of Engineering, with a degree in computer science and an entrepreneurship and innovation minor. Starting in August, she’ll be working in Capital One’s technology development program and one of the reasons she chose Capital One as her future employer is the company’s intrapreneurial support.
“A lot of the tech industry over the past 20 years has been defined by both entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship,” said Smith. “To me, entrepreneurship is when you have an idea, passion or problem that you’re looking to solve, but you’re driving the ship. You’re coming up with all the ideas. You’re raising the money to make it happen. You’re reaching out to build the connections that you need to grow your business. Intrapreneurship still invites and allows for new ideas and new solutions to problems, but you’re doing so within a company that is able to provide guidance and resources.”
Not every company encourages intrapreneurship among its employees, Smith noted, but for those that do, the employees benefit from a safety net and connections, while companies benefit from employees actively searching for solutions to company problems and opportunities for product growth.
The entrepreneurship and innovation minor has set me up to help make companies a better place to work, while helping companies better serve their customers.
During her time in the entrepreneurship and innovation minor program at Penn State, Smith learned a variety of intrapreneurial skills. Class projects have included looking at companies that currently exist and identifying intrapreneurial features — ways in which they make it easy for employees to bring unique ideas to the floor, feel as if they have a voice at the table and garner support for their ideas.
“It’s taught me a lot about seeking problems and finding things that could be better, and then thinking about how I can make them better,” said Smith. “Combined with my engineering degree, [the entrepreneurship and innovation minor] has set me up to help make companies a better place to work, while helping companies better serve their customers.”
For companies to see the benefits — like improved customer and client solutions — that come from intrapreneurially minded employees, they have to foster an intrapreneurial environment and actively seek out employees that are going to be a good fit for that environment, all things that business leaders can learn about at the Conference on Intrapreneurship Employees as ChangeMakers.
“It’s very exciting, when you work in any field, to come up with something new and fresh that makes a product, service or the world better — whether in the form of huge strides and brand-new things or in a lot of small, little changes that are made over time,” said Smith. “[It’s important to] be able to identify employees that will either set people up to or make those changes, for your company, in the future. Someone who’s not an intrapreneur or intrapreneurship-focused might not be thinking about how something can be made better or, what are the current issues and how can they provide a solution.”
Not sure how to get started? Register for the Conference on Intrapreneurship Employees as ChangeMakers, taking place May 11, 8 a.m.–5 p.m., at the Eric J. Barron Innovation Hub in downtown State College. The event will include a continental breakfast, lunch and buffet dinner. The keynote speaker is Dr. Irena Yashin-Shaw, world leader in intrapreneurship education and consultant from Queensland, Australia.
The conference is free and registration is limited to 80 attendees. RSVP NOW to save your spot. You can register here or at the QR code below. For questions, please contact Frank Koe, teaching professor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.