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How to become an entrepreneur: Advice from an airline president

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An increasing number of professionals of all ages and in all fields have entrepreneurial ambitions. If you have a great idea, or don’t think you fit into the existing job market, it’s easy to see how starting your own company or organization is the perfect path. However, the question of how to become an entrepreneur can be a challenging one.

If you’re looking into becoming an entrepreneur – whether you already have the next big idea, or want to join an entrepreneurial organization, the best place to get advice is from an expert. William Shaw, the founder and CEO of Ultra Air, a low-cost airline based in Colombia, has more than 26 years of experience and is a top entrepreneur in Latin America. He shared his career advice on an episode of The Intern Group’s podcast How to be the difference. In the episode, he shares the story of how he fell in love with the travel industry, and how he came to start his own airline. He also gives advice to would-be entrepreneurs on how to be successful.

You can listen to the full episode here.


A man in a suit stands in front of a skyscraper


Sometimes a career chooses you

“Sometimes you don’t choose a career, a career chooses you,” William says. He followed a slightly nontraditional path, and dropped out of university to backpack around Europe. To pay for it, he took a job as a check-in agent for British Airways in Mexico City. “The airline industry is about people,” he explains. “I was enamored by the business end,” William explains. He moved from ticket agent all the way up to sales manager in Colombia, then regional manager for the Andean region. He eventually moved back to the United States to become a regional cargo director.

“And then I kind of got bored with my life,” William says, and he started wondering what to do next. He attended Stanford Business School before founding Ultra Air.


Top tools for entrepreneurial success

Successful entrepreneurs aren’t built like ordinary people, William says. They’re more disciplined than anybody else.

Entrepreneurs have to be focused on the tasks set before them. People who are focused might not have time to keep a spotless office, but spend all of their extra time working. When William first founded his airline, he frequently met with co-founders at 5am on Zoom, because they were in different parts of the world.

Successful entrepreneurs also have a vision. This is an essential piece, William says. And in addition to vision, they have leadership skills. When you go from being your only employee, to having 500 workers, a lot changes. You need to have a lot of situational awareness. Are your employees tired? What’s going on in their lives? A successful leader knows that every person has different aspects in their life that affect their ability to work. Keeping a pulse on your company and the people who keep it alive is essential.

William says he likes to remember a quote from American businessman Steve Jobs. If you come home from work and ask yourself, “did I have fun doing what I did today?” and the answer is no, day after day, you should do something else.


Dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur? Consider doing an internship with The Intern Group.


  1. Rise And Grind, by Garrhet Sampson on Unsplash.
  2. Untitled, by bruce mars on Unsplash.
Photos and blog by Maeve

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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