Making the Most of a Good Thing

Annika Larson has spent her last four years at the University challenging herself to explore the outer limits of her comfort zone. “There’s a quote I read somewhere online that said that if you do not encounter a major failure at least once a year, it is a signal that you are not pushing yourself to try new things or pursue any new goals,” she said. “I truly do believe in that.” Whether starting her own business or serving as the President of the UW’s Association for Women in Communications (AWC) chapter, Annika’s enthusiasm for new experiences has led her on some incredible academic adventures.

Why did you choose Communication as your major?

“Initially, I thought I was going to enter the medical field or become a computer programmer, but after taking a few prerequisites, I quickly realized that was not the path for me. I took a Communications course based on a friend’s recommendation and absolutely loved it.  Specifically, I loved how broad Communication was as a major, since it would allow me to focus on a variety of different fields that I was interested in, such as marketing and public relations. For a freshman who had some difficulty making up her mind, the Communication department was a great way for me to explore different focuses while still staying within the same major.”

What has surprised you about UW?

“The amount of opportunities available at the UW constantly astounds me. I have done so many things over the past four years that I never thought I would be able to do. I have gotten to study abroad in London and Iceland, gone on behind-the-scenes tours of TV shows, explored amazing companies like Twitter and Expedia, and started my own business, just to name a few. Since the UW is such a large and reputable school, I think UW students are blessed with a lot more opportunities than other institutions.”

Can you tell us more about your business venture?

“I am minoring in Entrepreneurship, which is a new offering through the Foster School of Business. As a requirement of the program, all students have to form a team and run their own business for two quarters, using funds provided by the university. At the end of the course, everyone donates their profits back to the entrepreneurship program, in order to help fund the next generation of student businesses. Ultimately, the success of the business is what determines each student’s grade.

I formed a team with two other female entrepreneurs and created ela Seattle, where we sold unique plant gifts that were made-to-order. More specifically, we made cute succulent arrangements that could brighten up any dorm room or office space. At first, the process was intimidating; we were the only all-female entrepreneurial team and there was a significant learning curve. We had to write a business plan, pitch to a board of investors, design a website, and most importantly sell our products at local farmers markets and pop-up booths. Through hard work, we got over these obstacles and really enjoyed the experience! In the end, we donated all of our profits back to the university, which was double the amount we initially received as a loan.”

What other experiences have you had as a student?

“Studying abroad was an opportunity that I’ll always remember. I was part of an Early Fall Start program with the Foster School of Business and was able to study abroad in London for a month. It was amazing. However, the highlight of my trip was actually on the way back home, when I had a two-day layover in Iceland. The population of that country is quite small, so there are beautiful open landscapes that are completely untouched. It honestly feels like you have been transported to another planet or time. During my stay, I was able to visit the famous Hallgrímskirkja church and catch the sunset over the capital of Reykjavík and the Atlantic Ocean; it took my breath away- I do not know if I will ever see anything more beautiful in my life.”

Why did you join the Association for Women in Communications (AWC)?

”I discovered AWC by accident; my FIG leader from freshman year used to be president of the AWC. She convinced me to attend the first meeting and the rest is history. I love the supportive and encouraging club members, as well as how AWC prioritizes creating networking opportunities for women in the COM department. AWC taught me many skills; I learned the importance of writing a thank you card after every interview, the best tips for creating a LinkedIn profile, and professional networking.  Through AWC I experienced that first big push to really start thinking about what I wanted to do in a future career.”

What is one piece of advice you have received that you think everyone should know?

“What recently has kept me up at night is job hunting. To be honest, I am a nervous interviewer. However, last month I was prepping for a big internship interview and my current boss gave me some great advice- to have fun. I recognize that this is slightly unconventional wisdom, as most people stress doing research on the company and having your answers ready before you go in, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. According to my boss, going into an interview with the mindset of having fun allows you to relax and share your personality with the interviewer. It makes people want to work with you. And I have to say, after following my boss’s advice, so far so good!”

 What is something you wish your senior self could tell your freshman self?

“That it is okay to fail. Failure is progress. As a freshman, I used to be very hard on myself when I failed; I took each failure personally. If I had a bad test score, it automatically meant I was a bad student. If I had a bad job interview, I felt like I would never find a job. Do not fall into that trap! As cliché as it sounds, I discovered that every failure was a valuable learning experience and ultimately made me stronger. I would therefore tell college freshman to prepare for failure- it will not be fun, but it means that you are on the right track to something better.”

What is next?

“I am graduating this spring, so hopefully I’ll have a job lined up before graduation (fingers crossed)! I was born and raised near Seattle, so I want to stay local and enter the marketing field. Besides that, I am going to take a brief break after graduation and spend some time exploring Scandinavia with my family during the summer. I am a quarter Swedish, so it has always been my dream to visit Stockholm. Personally, what gets me up in the morning is the idea of the unknown. I love waking up every morning and wondering what opportunities/events could happen to me. I am looking forward to new adventures after graduation!”

Know someone worth howling about? To nominate an undergraduate student for a “Hello Huskies” profile, email Megan Jeffrey, Department Communications Specialist