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Telecomm Major Angling for the Next Big Idea
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 07/14/2017

Since graduating from high school four years ago, Pedro Roch has been fishing for just the right career opportunity. Earlier this year he interned with a startup company that was backed by Penn State's Launchbox initiative -- and the entrepreneurial lifestyle got him hooked.

"Being around so many driven and creative people has geared me toward marketing and business development," Roch said. "I want to start my own business. I want to be an entrepreneur."

Roch isn't sure what area he'd like to explore, but he is fascinated by the endless potential that goes with taking an idea from "just talk" to a functioning company. Plus, he's already laid a solid groundwork of interests and experience.

Roch's family moved to Boston from Brazil when he was 9. That is where his father took him fishing for the first time. Everywhere the family lived after that -- Jacksonville, Florida, and then Kennett Square, Pennsylvania -- he continued fishing. He fished with friends and family, in tournaments and with clubs, including the Penn State Bass Fishing Club.

Paired with a love for the outdoors, Roch originally majored in wildlife and fisheries science when he started his Penn State career at Penn State Brandywine. Unfortunately, he didn't enjoy the chemistry and biology courses that came with the major and cast his line back out, hoping he could still tie his passion to his career path. Much like in fishing, he had to be patient.

After dabbling with a couple other majors, telecommunications caught his eye, particularly because of the many opportunities in Philadelphia (40 miles from his hometown) where telecommunications companies like Comcast and Verizon are aplenty. Little did he know that he'd steer away from established companies and gravitate toward startups.

This summer, Roch is interning with Versalus Health, a three-year-old company in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, that helps hospitals streamline processes, keep up to date with policy, and maintain compliance. Versalus Health ensures that hospitals are compliant with the Centers for Medicare and Medicade Services, the Affordable Care Act, and the Department of Justice.

"The product that Versalus Health sells to hospitals stops revenue leakage within the hospital," said Roch, who assists with corporate brand development and marketing efforts such as social media and webpage design. "I locate hospitals and connect with CFOs, chief compliance officers and managers and invite them to attend our webinars." The company has hosted webinars for more than 250 hospitals.

Versalus has around 30 employees, and Roch said he prefers the small setting. He reports directly to the vice president of marketing, he gets valuable feedback, and he enjoys the camaraderie of working with a close-knit team.

Working with Versalus is not Roch's first experience with a fledgling company. He previously interned as a sales rep with AroundCampus Group, a media company that advertises businesses to college students. After making about 35 cold calls per day, Roch knew sales wasn't for him, but the experience was priceless.

"Cold calling people is difficult, not everyone can do it, but it's a really great skill to have," he said. "I learned that I'm good at it and it's something I can use in communicating and getting people on board to new ideas."

Roch's interest in the startup community spawned during the spring of 2017 while working for Omega Notes, a digital media company that allows students to share, buy and sell class notes. The year-old company is a product of Penn State's Launchbox initiative, which is part of a statewide initiative called Invent Penn State.

"It really clicked with Omega Notes ... and the Launchbox," Roch said. "I was around these amazing teams of people who were around my age and they were turning ideas into businesses. I learned you have to be courageous and take risks. It made me feel like I could do it."

Anne Doris, who taught Roch's telecommunications management course, said Roch has great analytical capabilities and an uncommon drive to "engage, learn and share."

"Pedro is an exceptionally poised student," Doris said. "His internships, community work and jobs combined with his scholastic achievements will prepare him for corporate or entrepreneurial roles."

As a marketing-communications coordinator for Omega Notes, Roch embraced the importance of digital trends. He created campaigns that optimized Google Analytics and increased followers on Facebook and Instagram by 50 and 85 percent, respectively.

"Going in, I didn't know much about (digital trends)," he said. "But now I 100 percent see the value in it. Data helps you make decisions. And I know employers love to hear about digital media trends. They find it very appealing."

Approaching his final year at Penn State, Roch is itching to join the ranks of innovative entrepreneurs in the startup community after graduation. He said he is working hard and building skills that will help him stay confident during the job search. Having a degree from the Donald P. Bellisaro College of Communications, he said, puts him "one step ahead of a lot of resumes."

"I can't thank the college enough. I try to take advantage of everything from the resume building workshops to the Career Days ... there is even an etiquette dinner. How cool is that?" Roch said. "Bob Martin (assistant dean of internships and career placement), who emails students internship information, can send all the emails he wants. They do a great job."

Although working for an outdoors-focused company or initiative would be ideal, Roch said he is open to other possibilities and ideas. What is most important is being a part of innovative endeavors and working with the creative minds of the future.

There is one requirement, however: "I at least want to be somewhere where I can fish."

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