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From Engineering Geek to Dating Coach

Niels Hoven, 26, was a PhD student at UC-Berkeley in electrical engineering, but a stint on the reality TV show "Beauty and the Geek" led him in a new direction.

What was your life like as a geek?
When I was in the PhD program, I never took my eyes off my work. I had no idea how to meet new people and expand my social circle.

What did you do to change that?
I got a job as an intern at a company in San Francisco called PickUp 101, which helps guys work on their social skills. I observed the workshops and practiced on my own. Then I met the casting team of Beauty and the Geek and got on the show.

How did you become a dating coach?
After the show, I went to New York for an internship in engineering. Seeing what my job would be like, I wasn't that happy. PickUp 101 was doing workshops in the city and asked me to be a field instructor. I worked my way up to head instructor.

How do you teach someone to date?
We work with guys on making first impressions and connecting emotionally. We have them practice with instructors and each other before we take them out into the real world.


So you feed them pickup lines?
One thing we teach is how to walk up to a stranger and start a fun, flirty, interesting conversation.

What's the pay like?
The company charges $200 an hour for a one-on-one lesson and $2,000 for a weekend workshop. But I get paid a stipend, travel expenses and commissions for recruiting new customers.

Was it hard to walk away from a lucrative career like engineering?
I believe the road to financial success involves finding something you're passionate about and then throwing yourself into it completely. I'll continue to work with PickUp 101, but my goal is to start my own company that will bring the social skills we're teaching people to the corporate world.

Have you found true love?
I am enjoying the dating world, and all of my relationships are stronger than they were before -- not just with women, but with friends and family, too.

-- Interview by Jessica L. Anderson