From Startups to Corporations to Startups Again | A Faculty Fellow’s Full-Circle Entrepreneurial Career

Life has a way of coming full-circle. Taryn Stanko, a Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Faculty Fellow, spent a portion of her career working for a large corporation, Paramount Pictures, before her involvement with entrepreneurial students and startup companies in San Luis Obispo. However, her career happened to jumpstart in the same realm as her current endeavors.

“When I was an undergrad, I got an internship at a startup doing computer programming and it became a full-time job,” Stanko explained. “I worked there for several years developing customized business solution software, so that’s where I got my first taste of entrepreneurship.”

Even though she left the startup for an established company, Stanko says she never lost her entrepreneurial interests; that’s why she jumped at the chance to be a part of Cal Poly’s entrepreneurship program.

Upon coming to Cal Poly from the University of Oregon, Stanko began teaching courses around business negotiation. Currently, she teaches three separate negotiations courses: one for undergraduate business students, another at the MBA level and a third for entrepreneurship students built-up from scratch by Stanko herself.

It wasn’t until she was approached by a student midway through her first year at Cal Poly that she found the CIE.

“When I was teaching my MBA class, one of my students had taken on a roll in the CIE and he came to me and said ‘Taryn, you have to come run a workshop for these folks,’” she recalled. “I’ll never forget going to the CIE HotHouse and meeting everyone… The energy, enthusiasm, and level of engagement was contagious.”

That’s exactly how Stanko found herself back in the world of startups. After becoming a faculty fellow at the CIE in 2016, she led workshops for students going through the Hatchery and accelerator program, as well as held one-on-one mentoring with startup teams. Stanko also got involved with businesses in the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a program hosted by CIE, by mentoring and consulting with local startups and small businesses.

Stanko brings an extensive set of knowledge to the table, often utilizing her negotiations teachings within her mentoring of the entrepreneurs. She notes that negotiations are commonplace for entrepreneurs, between internal team negotiations, day-to-day operational negotiations, and negotiations with external stakeholders.

“I believe there’s special pressure on entrepreneurs to be able to negotiate well,” she states. “Your ability to negotiate good deals and partnerships within your team, and every other relationship with external stakeholders, is going to drive your success.”

While Stanko possesses a great deal of insight into this realm of entrepreneurship, she recognizes that everyone within the CIE is full of unique knowledge and skills from all different areas of expertise.

“One of the best things about the CIE and the faculty fellows program… is that it brings people from across campus together. The CIE fosters this interdisciplinary networking, which means you get exposed to opportunities you never would have been otherwise.”

Between her course teachings, mentoring and workshops, Stanko offers three key takeaways for her students and entrepreneurs. First, ask for what you need. Second, never underestimate the necessity of research and planning. Third,  see the importance of fostering valuable relationships.

Where better to put these lessons to work than at the CIE, a program, and community that Stanko says “gives people a chance to learn, grow, flourish and start something new.”

If you are looking to grow your negotiation skills as an entrepreneur, look out for Stanko’s Introduction to Business Negotiation for Entrepreneurs course, typically offered during Spring quarter.

To apply your entrepreneurial skills and innovative mindset toward starting something new, visit  to explore the programs and resources that the CIE offers.