Priya Gill teaches, mentors, and inspires TTU startup entrepreneurs
Priya Gill aspired to be a fighter pilot and is now a chemical engineering faculty member and our TTU Innovation Hub Mentor of the Year. She is recognized for her hundreds of volunteer service hours, extraordinary contributions, and exemplary dedication to Texas Tech startups.
Q: You've had more than 16 years of experience as an engineer and business manager in the utilities, oil & gas, and airlines industries before becoming Assistant Professor of Practice in Texas Tech's Department of Chemical Engineering. Was that always your goal?
"I was growing up to be a fighter pilot to start with because my dad was in the army. So that was my dream job. Then I wanted to be an astronaut. None of those were good options for women in India. I decided to get a degree in electrical engineering and I worked in India in the oil and gas industry. Also, I never thought I would come to the States. Then I met my husband and he wanted to come to the U.S. for research. I said, 'sounds good,' and so here we are! That was July of 2001. The plan was I was going to take a year to work and then start my MBA at Georgia Tech. Unfortunately, 9/11 happened, so no one was hiring internationals. I did free jobs here and there. I worked in labs. I found that everything that you do takes you to the next step. Everything that you do, you learn something. You're never wasting your time. Each of those steps has brought me to where I am today."
Q: You've received the Innovation Hub's $2,500 Faculty C-Startup Grant to inspire and create an innovation and entrepreneur culture at Texas Tech. What has that meant to you?
"The C-startup is a program designed for faculty who want to implement the LEAN Launch Method into their curriculum. Chemical Engineering, the department I teach in, has a very good record of students getting a job in the industry. Many of them get close to $100k or more as their starting salary. Many of my students said they believe they will use the methods they have learned in their jobs, even though they are not going to start out as an entrepreneur. To me, that was such a great launchpad for these young students- to learn an entrepreneur method which is much more practical and will make them very successful."
Q: What do you get out of your entrepreneurial mentoring of students on campus and of participants in programs at the Hub?
"Just as examples, in the last (Hub Accelerator Program) cohort I mentored Hangio and NemaLife. NemaLife's product is going to space. Hangio is launching a product soon. And so when I watch these teams soaking in the advice to start a company, I am inspired by their hustle. The joy that I get out of it, you know! For me, it's all about bragging rights. And I have students in my class who have started companies. There's a student who's started a record label and a student who's started an app store, for example. When I think, 'I spent all these hours,' it doesn't even feel like it because I also see what they get out of it."
Q: What does 'hustle' mean to you?
"The first part of it is if you do something, do your best. The second part of it is, life is short. So if you realize that you have been given only so much time, and if you really want to make an impact, then the point is to get there as fast as you can. If you start taking shortcuts and don't really do a good job, then it's not truly 'hustle.' Everyone's best is not the same. But if you can do YOUR level of excellence, then you have achieved that."