For Sierra Nevada College professor Rick Winfield, entrepreneurship is an adventure, and in the classroom his students join him on a journey.
“In entrepreneurship, you need to feed the bottom and bring it back up,” Winfield said. “That’s also what teaching kind of is.”
Winfield became an adjunct professor at SNC in 2015, however, his story doesn’t follow the typical trajectory of someone in academia. He earned a degree in linguistics, and a minor in cognitive science from the University of Pennsylvania, and then started his career in technology and web developing in Seattle in the ‘90s.
Now he is pursuing a PhD in start-up accelerators and teaching while continuing his entrepreneurial passion as founder of eight companies.
“It’s about making your own path to the future as opposed to a prescribed path,” Winfield said.
From an early age, Winfield expressed an interest in entrepreneurship, offering to mow his neighbors’ lawns for spending money when his father didn’t want to raise his allowance. It’s this type of entrepreneurial thinking that has helped him in his many ventures in the tech and business world.
“I realized early on that I liked working for small businesses,” Winfield said. “So naturally I think that lead me to want to pursue owning my own small business.”
He spent the early years of his career in small business, then moved into the big leagues working for telecommunication giant AT&T, only to end up at a small business again. He liked the agency and flexibility of working in the small business environment.
“I like having my roots in all areas of a business, not just specializing in one area,” Winfield said.
Winfield believes it is important that all students take an entrepreneurship course, especially since entrepreneurial thinking has become so integral in today’s business environment.
“You see a path forward that other people haven’t seen,” Winfield said. “You have to show others, investors and fellow business partners what you see.”
He believes entrepreneurs make good teachers and professors due to the nature of the entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs must be prepared to educate and sell investors or colleagues on innovative ideas.
“In my classes, I try to combine academics with the personal experiences I have had to bring a wholesome learning outcome,” Winfield said. “As entrepreneurs, we have a duty to make the world a better place and to be considerate in what we do.”