Dr. Ketaki Desai is the Executive Director of the LindenPointe Development Corporation, and runs the eCenter’s business incubator and the Entrepreneurship Academy for high school students. Dr. Desai recently participated as one of the Global Talents at the UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Denmark. This year, she was also awarded the Business Women’s First Award, which honors women who’ve made a difference in their communities, blazed a trail for other women and are leaving a mark on the western Pennsylvania business community.

One of Pittsburgh’s “40 Under 40” honorees, Ketaki has cofounded and consulted with several startups in the Pittsburgh region. Dr. Desai has a Doctorate in Biomedical Sciences from Texas A&M University, a Master’s in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from Pune University, India. She was selected as a Graduate Fellow by the UN Council of Women World Leaders, and is a graduate of the Civic Leadership Academy of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s Office. Ketaki also volunteers with the United Way Women’s Leadership Council and The UpPrize at The Forbes Funds. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her husband Girish, not just to see new places but to experience their cultures and truly understand how similar we all are as people. She has been practicing karate for over a year, and loves adventure sports like sky diving, bungee jumping, paragliding, etc.

When you are the last one standing, when you are the only one there and you have hours of work left – you have arrived as a leader.  Grit. It is the number one characteristic that sets entrepreneurs apart from the rest of the world. Strong emotional control and acceptance of all people round out my top three traits of leaders, of innovators, of entrepreneurs.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I read this Albert Einstein every day.  The classroom atmosphere that I develop  at the Entrepreneurship Academy @ Linden Pointe is purposeful.  Many classrooms have made me feel  invisible and unvalued.  I felt like one of many, all doing the same task at the same time trying to find the same result. But we all have different skills. And I knew if I ever had a classroom of my own, the atmosphere would be built around celebrating each individual.

When students walk through my classroom door I immediately accept them as they are and celebrate their skill sets. I have no expectation that this class will change them or of what they might accomplish during our time together.   For some of my students, it will be the first time that they will share their skills, learn what they are skilled at or feel comfortable enough to tell us what they are passionate about. When you accept a person just as they are, they feel comfortable and relaxed enough to share who they really are – not just a who they are boxed into during high school. When a person’s true self is known and celebrated, real relationships form and are long lasting.

My view on the Entrepreneurship Academy students starts with admiration. Having the courage to take a chance, learn a different way, participate fully and leave average behind is something I did not do until I was almost twice their age. They are the focus of the class, they are the reason the program exists, they will be the next leaders in our communities.