Eric Sillman

Eric SillmanCurrent organization: Aperture Venture Partners

Fellows assignment: First assignment, 1996-97 (Peru)

His experience: enriching, entrepreneurial, eye-opening

Why did you apply to the TechnoServe Fellows Program?

My senior year of college I wrote a seminar paper on the history of non-profit economic development organizations in Latin America, referencing a case study from TechnoServe, the organization I felt was having the best impact at that time. When offered the opportunity to work for a year as a TechnoServe Fellow in Peru, I jumped at it. I figured more traditional jobs would still be available later if I chose to pursue any of them.

What was your experience like on the ground as a TechnoServe Fellow?

The experience was incredibly enriching, both personally and professionally. Professionally, I worked on a variety of projects with a good deal of autonomy, and had the opportunity to interact with project beneficiaries, TechnoServe staff, and private and public sector players. Personally, I grew so much and probably was more of a beneficiary than the people we were aiming to help.

How has the TechnoServe Fellows Program impacted you and your career?

On a personal level I will always be able to recall several hard-working, very poor yet optimistic families that made my life look easy in comparison. Professionally, I went on to co-found a venture capital firm, and I believe that the early entrepreneurial experience that I gained through TechnoServe absolutely contributed to my career. More specifically, I worked in some challenging environments where the answers were not readily available and that required interactions with a variety of constituencies.

Where are you now and what are you doing?

I live in the oasis of Brooklyn, New York, and have been managing a healthcare venture capital firm that I co-founded 14 years ago in 2002. I am happily married and have two great children.

What advice would you give someone applying to the program?

Keep alive the entrepreneurial spirit that led you to apply in the first place! While you are abroad, spend more time connecting with the local people than with your friends at home via social media.