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From Participant to Facilitator: An Interview with Leo

By January 14th, 2022Alumni Spotlight

Meet Leo Xia.

He began his journey with 3 Day Startup as a participant in our UT Austin flagship program. He joined, and then led, the Organizing Team for 2 years. After graduating and moving to Seattle, Leo became a 3DS Certified Facilitator and facilitated his first program at UCLA! Below is an interview with Leo about his experience over the last 4 years with 3 Day Startup.

  1. What was your experience like as a 3DS participant? 

“Participating in a 3DS program is so different from organizing or facilitating one. It’s one of the most fun and one of the most challenging things I did in college. Mentors and facilitators asked the tough questions about decision making and even though I came out of the weekend feeling like I learned a ton, I realized that there was still a ton left to learn. The program was really a starting point for me to dip my toes into the water of being successful in my career and even in my current job as a Software Development Engineer at Amazon, I’m still faced with those tough questions.’”

  1. What project did you work on?

“I worked on a non-profit idea called Causefolio, an app to help young professionals manage their recurring charitable donations and provide the necessary tax documentation every year. The customer discovery process was probably my favorite because I had never really “cold called” a stranger before and I was super nervous going into it. That was the first experience I had with really getting out of my comfort zone and I learned a lot about myself. Now I can ask for a second food sample at Costco without feeling too anxious.”

  1. How did the experience affect your view of entrepreneurship?

“I have friends that go through the program and decide entrepreneurship isn’t for them and I can respect that. I also have friends that decide that being an entrepreneur is the only thing they ever want to do. I definitely think I fall somewhere in between that spectrum. If I think about it, I see myself using a lot of the skills I learned from 3DS subconsciously in my job and in my everyday life. The skills I learned in 3DS share a lot of similar themes with the Amazon leadership principles (iterating quickly, customer obsession).”

  1. What made you decide to become an organizer?

“After the program I participated in ended, I wanted to stay involved with the people I had met and as a Freshman in college still getting to know people I was trying out as many on-campus organizations as I could. Two years later, I ended up becoming the lead organizer and another two years after that I became a facilitator too.”

  1. What has your experience as a facilitator been like and how is it different?

“Facilitating a program is so different from being a lead organizer. My first time facilitating, I was still in the organizer mindset and trying to make sure everything was running smoothly, but I learned to trust in the process and just be there for the participants. Throughout my four years of experience organizing and facilitating, I hear a lot of ideas, but what’s different now is that as a facilitator, it’s my responsibility to guide the participants to find the answers themselves instead of telling them the answers from my own experience. It’s definitely a different mindset to have when going into a program, but it helps the participants get the most out of the learning experience.”

  1. What was the biggest challenge you have faced throughout organizing and facilitating?

“People have lives and other priorities and as a lead organizer, it’s your job to take into account how to communicate those with other people.

The challenge for facilitating is different. For me it’s: How do I explain these concepts that I know very well and put those into words so that someone else can understand them? It’s very similar to what participants have to go through on pitch day: How do I explain my startup that I know very well and put it into simple terms so that someone who’s hearing about it for the first time understands it? I’m sure with a little more practice, I’ll be teaching preschool students complex business ideas.”

  1. What’s your favorite 3DS highlight?

“Hm, I seem to remember making a diss track for Cam Houser (Founder of 3 Day Startup) and just absolutely roasting him… maybe he can comment and refresh my memory… This really kickstarted my career as a Hip-Hop artist.”

  1. What is something you would tell people just beginning their 3DS/entrepreneurship journey?

“Enjoy the program! But get out of your comfort zone. Do the things you normally wouldn’t do and talk to the people you normally wouldn’t talk to. 3 Day Startup has given me so many opportunities because I stepped out of my comfort zone and went after them. Everyone’s entrepreneurship/career path is different and unpredictable, but you’ll open more opportunities for yourself if you go out and look for them.

If you want to learn more about becoming a 3DS Certified Facilitator, visit