Danielle Koterbay (ESTEEM '21)
Hello everyone — thank you for reading this blog to learn a little bit more about me and my Week in ESTEEM!
My name is Danielle Koterbay, and I am from Shelton, CT. I attended Notre Dame for undergrad where I majored in Chemical Engineering and was very involved in Notre Dame’s Society of Women Engineers and Engineering Leadership Council. After 4 wonderful years at ND, I really loved the technical, problem-solving skill set I acquired, but longed to apply my creative-analytical skills in a way that also brought in the business and entrepreneurial component in order to truly “fix things that matter.” It just so happens that “fixing things that matter” is ESTEEM’s main tagline, so I instantly knew this program was special.
Hopefully after you finish reading my Week in ESTEEM, you can see how special it truly is! Aside from a week of usual classes, my week was filled with career recruiting and attendance at ND’s first home game of the season, so definitely busy, but incredibly fruitful!
For Monday, I started the week off by sleeping in. After a busy weekend of working on my Technical Review for my Capstone Project, it was good to rest and recharge. The Technical Review is a thorough explanation and emphasis on the technology behind the capstone’s product/service. For my Capstone Project, I am working with Coast Southwest, which is a leading full-service, chemical distribution and ingredient technology company headquartered in CA. For the project, I am focusing on analyzing the commercial potential for a full line of industrial lubricant additives. Already, this project has exposed me to a multi-service business that is very well-versed in R&D and desires the ability for market/product validation in order to determine if a launch strategy for these lubricant additives is feasible — definitely very interesting and is something I believe I would never have the opportunity to do if it wasn’t for ESTEEM. It is also wonderful since I think it really brings my chemical engineering background to life in a unique way, so I love that ESTEEM bolsters one’s STEM background instead of negating it.
For lunch on Monday, I headed to grab pre-packaged food to-go (protocol this year because of COVID-19) from one of Notre Dame’s two dining halls on campus. I really enjoy the availability of meal plans for grad students, as it makes it really easy to enjoy a meal, while also being immersed in the undergraduate life at ND (longing to be a freshman again so I could have more years at ND). After lunch, and before Leadership class, I took a walk around campus (the weather was absolutely beautiful) and of course had to snap a few pics of the Dome. Leadership class was great, as our professor makes each class very engaging and informative. For this class, we discussed the readings we had to read prior to coming to class, and the content included a variety of different CEO’s and important lessons in leadership that they evoked from their diverse backgrounds/experiences. This class is very tangible and has taught me the variety of ways in which I can grow in ESTEEM and beyond. After Leadership, our cohort had Entrepreneurial Immersion class, where instead of a sit-down class, we had the freedom and flexibility to work on our design sprint (building and testing a solution to improve the tailgating experience) with our teams. I had set up an interview with a potential customer and asked them a whole host of questions that involved raw and honest feedback about the prototype our group created. It was a great exercise to learn how to interview, as this is a very important concept in the entrepreneurial world!
After classes, I grabbed a salad from Modern Market (an eatery option inside of Duncan Student Center), and returned to my apartment to work on my Capstone Technical Review for the evening!
I began my Tuesday with a morning jam session to Taylor Swift’s folklore and a yogurt parfait. My first class of the day was my chosen elective: Innovative Approach to Cancer Research (each semester, ESTEEM students have the option to choose a 3-credit class that falls in an area of their interests). Our professor, Khoa, works at the Harper Cancer Research Institute here in South Bend and schedules amazing speakers to come and share about their experiences in research. On this day, we heard from Ashley Kalinauskas, a fellow ESTEEM alum who founded Torigen Pharmaceuticals. I highly recommend you check it out here, because it is absolutely amazing. After this class, I grabbed lunch at the dining hall and made my way back to my apartment for a career call with an ND alum at a firm I am interested in. The ND Network is really powerful — alums are so eager and willing to guide students along the way to discern their future endeavors. After a quick meeting with ESTEEM’s recruiting team regarding my part-time job as an ESTEEM student recruiter for Notre Dame’s campus (I’m so excited!!), I traveled to DeBartolo Hall for our Technical Business Presentations course (learning how to best present aspects of our Capstone project) and our Technical Marketing course (gaining an understanding behind the market, customers, and how all those aspects work together in order to generate a successful product/thriving company).
On Wednesday, I started my day with a walk around campus and joined a weekly Zoom meeting ESTEEM orchestrated for students interested in the consulting industry. Erik Oswald - ND’s Career Services Rep for Grad Students - is an awesome resource for ESTEEM. He helps students connect to resources that can guide them along their path of career discernment. After a quick lunch, I led the weekly meeting with my Coast Southwest sponsors. The next task for the capstone is beginning to set up customer interviews in order to validate hypotheses surrounding the project! Like Monday, the first class of the day was Leadership, where we learned about the importance of accountability. I was in a breakout group with fellow ESTEEMers Tyler and Ariel, where Ariel shared a great perspective about how she can best foster accountability with her Capstone project team! The second (and last) class of the day was Launch Strategy (the first class of the semester, since ESTEEM classes have vary lengths, depending on credit hours), and this class will be focused on beginning to think about the steps needed for ultimately launching the product/service/technology of each Capstone project. It was awesome to hear about Professor Miller’s experience and what ultimately led him to teach the course. It is clearly evident that passion around innovation and inspiring the next generation of leaders is what fuels the ESTEEM professors to teach, and it truly shows in their dedication to students!
Thursday was very similar to earlier in the week, with the Innovative Approach to Cancer Research class as well as conducting interviews for Entrepreneurial Immersion. However, interspersed throughout the day, I had an information session for a consulting company I am interested in as well as an ESTEEM team meeting for my other part-time job this semester, which is working on marketing/content creation for ESTEEM. I worked on creating aesthetic infographics about the ESTEEM program to add to the ESTEEM Instagram (@nd_esteem, give it a follow!), in order to spread the word about upcoming deadlines and FAQ about the application process. After this, I decided to again walk around campus (are you noticing a trend here?) and attended 5:15 pm daily mass in the beautiful ND Basilica! I then returned to my apartment to have a nice dinner with my roommate (my roommate is a 1L in Law School, and it is really great sharing a household during these COVID times with such a great friend!).
I started my Friday by ordering breakfast from Rohr’s (an on-campus eatery in the Morris Inn (ND’s on-campus hotel), and it is hands-down the best ever). I took this meal and brought it to the outdoor patio on the third-floor of Innovation Park, which I think offers the best view of campus. It was such a beautiful day and really great to get fresh-air. At noon, I logged onto Zoom to watch the Innovation Rally that ND’s Idea Center hosts the Friday before every ND Football Home Game. These Innovation Rally’s feature speakers across the U.S. who have created/done something incredibly inspiring, and they are willing to share their story/entertain Q&A. I am so glad that even in these COVID times, the Idea Center still found a way to carry on the Innovation Rallies virtually, because they certainly leave me in absolute awe. Read about this week’s speaker here.
Since Saturday was the first ND Home Football Game, I knew I would get no work done during that day, so after the Innovation Rally, I decided to do some homework to close out the week/get started on the next week. After that, I ordered in Chipotle (the best kind of Friday if you ask me), and watched five episodes of Season 1 of Outer Banks on Netflix with my roommate. If anyone is obsessed like me and is curious about a Season 2, they resumed filming this week for it!!
ESTEEM definitely keeps you on your toes. My main piece of advice is always being open to opportunities for learning and growing, since that is what exists in the world of entrepreneurship and business. I have absolutely loved my time at ESTEEM thus far, and of course, being a student at the University of Notre Dame. It is truly an incredible place and has really allowed me to bring my academic interests full circle, in a way that continually inspires me for the future.
Thank you so much for reading up on my ESTEEM experience. I would love to speak to anyone in greater detail about the ESTEEM program, so feel free to reach out via email, if you would like to get in touch :)