Venture Café Philadelphia connects young professionals, innovators, and entrepreneurs with high-impact programming and events on a weekly basis in the University City area. They create intentional spaces for individuals and organizations to gather, connect, and build relationships.
We all know that networking is important, and at Venture Café, building relationships is at the center of the programming. To learn more about the events, we connected with Emily Meltzer, the Program and Community Engagement Associate for Venture Café Philadelphia.
Emily shared a little about her career at Venture Café, what students and recent grads can gain from their programming, and some timely advice on networking!
Emily Meltzer is a passionate connector and “out-there” idea enthusiast. Emily is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware with B.A.s in Sociology and Anthropology, and minors in Women’s and Museum Studies. Her current focus lies in contributing to the startup ecosystem in the Greater Philadelphia area and fostering connections within the innovation community. Currently, she is a Program and Community Engagement Associate for Venture Café Philadelphia. She manages weekly event operations, including pre-event marketing, onsite logistics, and post-event data analytics. Emily has extensive experience in a variety of educational and community engagement roles including museums and nonprofits in New Jersey, Delaware, and Georgia. Through this work, Emily has devoted herself to youth empowerment, environmental sustainability, and historic research.
Tell us about yourself! Where did you go to college, what was your major, and what brought you to the Philadelphia region?
Originally I am from New Jersey, and I went to the University of Delaware for my undergraduate degree (Roll Hens!). While I was there, I majored in Sociology and Anthropology with minors in Museum Studies and Women’s Studies. After graduating, I moved around between Maryland and Delaware before starting my job with Venture Café, which brought me closer to the Philadelphia region than before! After graduating, I knew I wanted to stay in the area and was excited to get further connected with the Philly ecosystem.
Would you consider your career path to be linear or non-linear, and why?
My career path is far from linear! I’ve had a variety of jobs and internships where I’ve done everything from selling greeting cards to educating the public about dinosaurs to cataloging artifacts from the 18th century and more. I love my non-linear career path because it has given me the opportunity to connect with people on different levels and learn about many organizations and fields. The best part of my career path has been meeting passionate people along the way!
What’s a typical day like working at the University City Science Center and Venture Café?
Every day is different, which is what keeps it interesting! A lot of what we do at Venture Cafe is curating experiences for our community to enjoy every Thursday. This involves outreach to our speakers, curating nightly themes, engaging with our community of attendees, and backend event management logistics.
Tell us more about the Thursday Gatherings at Venture Café. Who are these events intended for, what’s the basic format for the event, and what is your role in these events?
Thursday Gatherings are weekly events that convene innovators in different fields to exchange ideas and learn something new! We believe that innovation is everywhere, and our events are always free and open to the public. During our events, you will always find opportunities to network and attend an engaging session. Our sessions focus on innovation in a wide variety of fields, including startup resources, education, and health inequities, to name a few.
The basic format is that the events happen every Thursday from 3-8pm at 3675 Market Street (on the 3rd floor!). Currently, our events are Hybrid, meaning that for most sessions you can join us in-person or virtually. Folks attending in-person are required to present proof of full vaccination and masks are required unless actively eating or drinking.
My primary role is making sure these events run smoothly! This includes making sure each session is staffed, our speakers are supported, and all of the technical components of running a Hybrid event are working correctly.
Thursday Gatherings sound like an excellent way to “network” in a non-intimidating way (because sometimes networking can be intimidating!). What are some tips you’d offer to students and recent graduates interested in growing their network and meeting new people at these events?
- Be confident! You are someone worth meeting! I have definitely fallen into the trap, especially as a student, of assuming that I may not know enough about a given topic or industry, or perhaps my lack of experience means that I will not have anything to contribute. The only way to break this cycle is to jump in (even if it’s a baby step) and get connected with someone. I will add that you do not need to be a super out-there extrovert to do this! Even connecting with one person for one conversation can make a huge difference.
- Be curious! Attending with a mind of inquiry is one of the fundamentals of our community credo at Venture Café and it is something I hold to in my own life. You will find that many members of the Venture Café community will show a genuine curiosity in whatever you are working on. This is the environment we strive to create and it is one of the best parts of Venture Café. Never be afraid to learn something new—it can open your mind to possibilities you may not have considered before!
- Be considerate! You never know who your next connection will be or where that connection will take you. As you navigate the professional world (or a Thursday Gathering) it is important to operate with a basis of kindness and empathy for every individual you meet. You’d be surprised how far this can take you!
How can Venture Café’s Thursday Gatherings be a resource for those who might not know exactly what they’d like to do with their careers?
As I’ve mentioned before, Venture Café’s Thursday Gatherings are a great place to learn something new. Our goal is to provide sessions that not only offer value in immediate learning, but to provoke a continued curiosity beyond the session and event. When attending our sessions, there is no pressure to be an expert. In fact, I would say that being in a position of someone who may not know what to do with their career is an ideal candidate to attend Venture Café. Jump in and attend some sessions! Let’s say you attend five sessions. You may learn about three things you would love to do, and two things you know you would not like to do—both super important to know! Attend a variety of sessions and see what sticks out to you.
If you were to offer ONE piece of advice for a future Venture Café Thursday Gathering attendee, what would it be?
Treat yourself and others with kindness first. Be kind to yourself, hype yourself up—whatever you have to do to know that you are worth being in the room and people are lucky to meet you! And, of course, be kind to others. You never know who’s in the room and what connection can lead you somewhere new and exciting—make a good impression!
Powered by the University City Science Center, students and recent graduates have access to the amazing community of innovators through the freely accessible programming that happens every Thursday. Themes of the programming vary week by week, but there is always something new to learn, and someone new to connect with.
Sign up for the next Venture Café Philadelphia event now!