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Entrepreneur Schuyler Kaye teaches in shorts

Schuyler Kaye enjoys the freedom and flexibility of being an entrepreneur, but it wasn't an easy journey to get there. (Photo: Schuyler Kaye)

One day in elementary school, Schuyler Kaye was asked to draw a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up. Kaye drew two things on his picture: One side featured a scientist, the other a teacher, wearing shorts. His young mind didn't know how the two would work together, and other students teased him for his teacher in shorts, saying teachers can't wear shorts. But today, twenty or so years later, blending the two is exactly what Kaye does as an entrepreneur.

"As we grow up, we spend so much time receiving opinions, and rejections and so many types of things; not all are bad, many are good, but they influence who you are and where you are going," reflects Kaye, a member of AAAS. "I think one of the things that drove me to starting my own career as well as [becoming] an entrepreneur was a way of cutting some of those strings."

Strings have long held Kaye back. When he was still reading at below the first grade level in third and fourth grade, his teachers realized something was off. He was diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning and comprehension disability where the brain has a hard time recognizing symbols, such as letters.

"It was just hard for me for a really long time, I would get headaches if I did a lot of reading," said Kaye. "Things like math just came a little bit kind of made more sense for me."

Kaye connected with a group called RASEM in New Mexico. The Regional Alliance for Science Engineering and Math was started by the National Science Foundation to help students with disabilities receive mentoring and encouragement to go into STEM fields. RASEM hosted a summer program at New Mexico State University in which kids could build websites. This inspired Kaye to study Computer Science when he went to New Mexico State University.

Kaye wanted to work the summer after his freshman year, but didn't know what to do. Kaye talked to his old RASEM mentor who suggested the AAAS EntryPoint! Program.

The AAAS EntryPoint! program aims to help students with apparent and non-apparent disabilities get opportunities to intern in a variety of organizations in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and some fields of business. EntryPoint! has partnerships with companies like IBM, NASA, Merck, Google, Lockheed Martin, CVS, NAVAIR, Pfizer, Infosys, Shell, Procter & Gamble and several university science laboratories. These internships provide students with a group of mentors and colleagues to help them work through their disability, and help them get contacts and build up their resumes for pursing careers after school.

Kaye was invited to have an internship with the NSF in Washington, D.C. Although he was initially hesitant to leave New Mexico, Kaye ended up loving the internship and went on to have an EntryPoint! internship for the next three summers, first at the NSF then later at several NASA laboratories. This internship led the way for his eventual move to the nation's capital. It also helped him to learn to work around his disability.

"I don't have a visual disability, which in some ways is nice as you don't get the first impression situation," says Kaye. "But you get the expectation of someone who doesn't have a disability." Kaye struggled at first in school with his slow reading, and was worried he would face a similar uphill battle professionally. But EntryPoint! helped him to build connections to get around his disability. After completing his Masters degree in computer science from Stanford University, Kaye was accepted to a corporate rotation program with Lockheed Martin.

He eventually began helping executives at Lockheed Martin establish online brands. Through tools like Twitter and Google Alerts, Kaye helped them connect with colleagues and act as experts online to promote their work and advance their careers.

Eventually Kaye took this knowledge and started his own company, T4Execs, a social media training tool to teach people how to create an online brand for their careers and how to create and maintain online mentoring opportunities. But the switch to working for himself, as well as launching a new business, was hard for Kaye.

"When you're working for yourself, you have to find ways to hold yourself accountable," Kaye explained. "So I made a bet with a bunch of my friends that I was going to finish this product by the end of some month. I bet all my friends anything from $10 to $50. For them it's no big deal, its $10. But for me, if you start adding all that up, I didn't want to pay $300 or more, so it was a real incentive to get the product going."

T4Execs has been operational for a little over a year, and Kaye is enjoying being an entrepreneur. The flexibility and chance to 'teach in shorts' is a perfect combination for this teacher-scientist. His computer science degree comes in handy since he can build websites and programs himself.

And Kaye is eager to give back. He is giving a number of donations to AAAS to support EntryPoint! so other students can get the same opportunities he had.

"I want to make a difference, I want to help people," said Kaye. "Part of the reason I'm doing this partnership is I got so much out of this program: the confidence, the opportunity to work on things that some people may never get, and others may not get until much later... I've met a lot of other people with disabilities that certainly had the desire [to be successful], and through the EntryPoint! program had the support group [they needed], and there is no reason why more can't have the same."

Today, Kaye is helping many people, not just those with disabilities. He hopes that T4Execs can help people to communicate better with both their colleagues and the public. He didn't let his disability hold him back from pursuing the hybrid career he envisioned back in elementary school, and he hopes to encourage others do the same.

Kaye has agreed to let other members of AAAS receive a discount on this tool so that other scientists can better communicate with their peers and the public online. Details about this member benefit of AAAS can be found here.