Rising early this morning, I head off to an event sponsored by GenderCorp. The symposium consists of a speaker and panel discussion, relaying first hand stories of successful entrepreneurs at the University of Rochester.

Our master of ceremonies, Dr. Susan Rogers, Executive Vice President & General Manager of WXXI, a public media organization, kicks off the session with introductions of the impressive agenda. Delivering the key note address, Dr. Charles J. Camarda, Deputy Director for Advanced Projects at NASA NS-5 Space Shuttle Flight STS114, leads us through how creativity and innovation plays an integral in the problem solving process with the Challenger Disaster. The panel consists of Jack Baron , President Advanced Solutions – Paetec, Michael O’Hara Director, Civil Space Propulsion Aerojet, David Dey, President & CEO RISEGO, Inc.

The panel guests were open about the challenges they faced when deciding to start and build their business or personal equity. The hurdles seem overwhelming, in most cases, their internal value system provided a compass.

The decision to take risks were precipitated by significant events in their lives, either personal change or clear dissatisfaction with their work environment. All of them faced difficult, defining decisions along the way.

Here is what they had in common:

  1. None of them accepted the status quo, and sought support mechanisms to give them stability during the chaos.
  2. Their systems were people – relationships with family, friends, mentors or colleagues.
  3. Parting words of advice held a common theme – fill your network with high integrity people who hold similar values and openly communicate with one another.