Archives for category: entrepreneurs

Our Intern at University of Strathclyde, Stephanie Warne recently caught up with SIE Entrepreneur, Victoria Hamilton for an insight into the life of a young entrepreneur. 

Victoria is the founder of VH Innovation Ltd. and the product Recoil Protective Kneepads   Since meeting SIE back in 2013, the business has gone from strength to strength, and Victoria has just won the New Entrepreneur of The Year award at the 2016 Business Woman Scotland Awards.

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What have you been up to since we last spoke to you in summer 2015?

When we last spoke I was just about to place the order with our local manufacturer in Edinburgh. It took about 6-7months to actually get the moulds ready for production – there was a lot of trial and error there because one of the moulds was pretty complicated to manufacture. We finally managed to get them ready in March 2016 and I gave the OK to print off a batch of 500. We got the website updated and finally launched on the 15th of June this year. Then Toolstop, which is a Glasgow based distributor, came on board in mid-August and started retailing Recoil through their online website. We are now also on amazon and currently negotiating with a DIY chain so fingers crossed that takes off!

Having just recently launched Recoil Kneepads officially, what has changed in the day-to-day work that you do?

The biggest thing I would say is responding to customer emails -I try to reply as soon as possible. That’s what I tend to use my mornings for. Another thing as well, which is actually quite funny: McLaren Plastics is the manufacturer that did our first 500 sets but then being a start-up, I decided that I would assemble the full 500 sets myself because I didn’t properly trust anyone else. I wanted to make sure they were perfect and that I fully understood the process myself. So I got 500 sets sent to my mum and dads garage and I’ve spent a good couple of week assembling them! I do now fully understand how they are assembled and I make sure the quality of each and every one single one sent out is spot on so if something goes wrong I know it’s not down to an assembly mistake.

Product Designer Vicky Hamilton from Gourock, Inverclyde who has revolutionised kneepads with her patent pending double-layer shock absorbing kneepad 'Recoil'. Hamilton is pictured at her Dad's workshop with the prototype kneepads. Photography by Julie Howden

What has been the highlight over your past 3-year journey with Recoil Kneepads?

It’s a really difficult question to pin down to just one particular event. See when everything is so new you just think “oh wow that’s amazing!” for everything. Like when I did all the testing right back at the start I was like “oh wow that’s amazing it actually worked!”, and then seeing the moulds ready for production I was again like “wow that’s actually my product” and again getting the first sample off the tool. It’s so difficult to pin down to one moment but I’d probably say getting the first product off the mould was extremely cool.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

I love the fact that everything in the business is a direct output of you so whether your business succeeds or fails really comes down to your own determination and drive. It is hard work and not for everybody but you just have to push on and what you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. So if you don’t put a lot in, you’re not going to get much out. If you put everything into it then you’ll get a fantastic amount of achievement and self -worth and it’s just a really good feeling when things work and you know it’s worked purely because of you. I did a summer placement once in a corporate firm and you wouldn’t get that same feeling if something worked well– yes it’s a good feeling but it’s not just down to you, it’s down to loads of other people, a process and people above you whereas in a start-up if something works well it’s all down to you.

Final Question, what does the future hold for VH Innovation?

The plan at the moment is to continue to increase distribution networks in the UK. Then we’re also looking into starting to sell in the US and Australia, hopefully next year!

If you want to find out more about VH Innovation or get your hands on a pair of Recoil Kneepads, visit Victoria’s website.

 

 

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The SIE Interns are an ambitious lot! Not content to slack off during summer,  many spend their time running their own business ventures or getting involved with other internships. This week, we have a special guest blog from Monika Gopal, our 2015  University of Stirling intern, who has just completed an internship with the Saltire Foundation in Dubai.

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This summer I spent eight weeks working in Dubai as a Marketing and Communications Intern for OPITO International.

During my internship I was given ownership of three projects in different areas of marketing and encouraged to contribute to strategic-level meetings with the team. High expectations were set from the start as I was given real responsibility and tight deadlines. This was challenging and equally rewarding; exactly what I expected from an internship through The Saltire Foundation.

Living in Dubai for eight weeks gave me the opportunity to engage with people of different nationalities from different cultures. At work it was great understanding how an international business operates, a concept that I couldn’t fully grasp until I worked and experienced a new culture. The vibrant and social side to Dubai made it the perfect place to explore outside of work and I had great company to do this with as over the summer I was lucky enough to form friendships with people from across the world.

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Top of the Burj Khalifa!

With a friend already living in Dubai, and great support network at work, I settled in quickly and found the transition from Scotland very easy. This was helped as OPITO International is a Scottish company with many people in the office hailing from Aberdeen. Inside and outside of work, the people were so friendly and I think this is because as expats, they remember what it was like for them when they moved to Dubai.

My internship has allowed me to grow personally and professionally, and develop a global outlook. Moreover, the skills that I have gained in using creative software, market research, planning and communication, and the industry knowledge that I have accumulated, have ensured that I will leave university as a well-rounded marketing graduate. This is why gaining an internship through The Saltire Foundation was my highest priority for the summer of my penultimate year and it has exceeded every expectation that I set.

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Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai is just one location you could end up if you apply for The Saltire Foundation’s internship programme and wherever you go, you know you will be entrusted with real responsibility and your opinion will be valued. Also your connection to The Saltire Foundation doesn’t end after the summer as after this you become part of its Alumni Network filled with inspiring students, graduates and future leaders. If this isn’t a good enough reason to consider applying then I don’t know what is!

If anyone is considering applying and has any questions or queries then please get in touch, I would love to help!

Thank you, Monika!

Want more information on the Saltire Foundation Scholar programme?  Visit the website.

 

We’ve come to the end of the 2015-16 academic year and what a busy year it’s been! This week we’re reflecting on the past year and rounding up the highlights in preparation for the year ahead.

The new SIE interns started in September 2015 in institutions all across Scotland including six of Scotland’s colleges. They were busy championing entrepreneurship, promoting our enterprise competitions and hosting local events throughout the year.

Also in September, we invited students to join us at RNIB’s Techshare Europe 2015 along with 300 attendees including Samsung, Google and Apple! We ran a live innovation lab over the two days, where students worked directly with blind and partially-sighted people and industry experts to generate creative solutions to challenges.

Our competitions kicked off for another year with Fresh Ideas launching in October. There are four chances to win with prizes of £500, £250 & £100 each month (Oct – Jan). All monthly winners & highly commended entries had the chance to attend Exploration Day in February 2016 and pitch for a top prize of £1,000

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In March we held our Student Enterprise Summit in Edinburgh with hundreds of students, entrepreneurs and members of the support community coming together under one roof.  It was a day packed with inspiration and advice! We heard real-life business stories and put questions to the entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. Throughout the day, students were invited to browse our enterprise fair and pose for selfies in the photo booth.

 

The Summit also incorporated the SIE Annual Awards where we crowned our Interns of the Year and announced the winners of Fresh ideas and New Ventures.

This year also saw the launch of our brand new social enterprise competition, I’m an Innovator. We launched back in February, with students entering their ideas online, and being selected by judges and invited to a one day workshop, and then to a residential Bootcamp where they had the opportunity to improve their enterprise skills and pitch to judges for £1000.  Read more about the I’m an Innovator Bootcamp and winners here.

We also launched four new case studies in the ‘I’m an Entrepreneur’ series. You can see videos from MindMate, Toni (Saunt & Sinner), Amanda (All Day Designs) and Geared App as well as posters and written case studies here. All are packed full of inspiring stories of how they transformed their ideas into business ventures.

 
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Phew, It’s been a busy one! As this academic year comes to an end, we are reflecting on all that’s been achieved by SIE entrepreneurs and looking forward to welcoming our brand new team of interns in the coming weeks – make sure to look out for them on campus!

With the summer finally upon us, these few months off from study can be a great time to get started on a business idea. Today, we’re focusing on starting a business from your bedroom! Inspired by summer holidays and booking flights, we are looking back a talk Skyscanner CEO and co-founder, Gareth Williams gave at our 2014 Student Enterprise Summit.

Skyscanner is a global travel search site, a place where people are inspired to plan and book direct from millions of travel options.  Skyscanner initially grew by word of mouth, and when thousands of people were using the prototype site every day, the three founders quit their day jobs. They opened an office in Edinburgh, and officially launched the Skyscanner site in 2003.

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In his talk, Gareth discusses the origins of the business, the importance of thinking from a user’s perspective, and how their prototype spreadsheet has grown to become a multi-million pound company employing over 250 people, with offices in Scotland, Singapore, Beijing and Miami.

Extra enterprise skills can help no matter which path you want to take. Our workshops and masterclasses are the perfect places to start gathering those extra skills but we also regularly share advice on our website and right here on our blog (subscribe below to catch all SIE posts).

The winners of SIE’s ‘I’m an Innovator’ competition gathered at Loch Lomond last weekend for the Winners Bootcamp to take their innovation ideas from concept to reality.

Over 100 entries were received back in April, with entrants completing an application, attending an innovation workshop and submitting a challenging video pitch before reaching the final. 14 ideas were represented in this final stage of the competition, ranging from new products and services to improve social inclusion, education and innovative products to improve general health & fitness or manage medical conditions.

Kicking things off on Saturday morning was Mel Sherwood, Director of Grow Your Potential, who delivered a talk covering a wide range of relevant topics, from taking ownership of your idea to presentation skills, and vocal warm up exercises.

The afternoon session was led by Xpand founder, Juergen Kast, and focussed on developing entrepreneurial skills and strengths to drive your idea forward, which roused some further questions from the captive audience of winners.

The finalists worked on their ideas over the weekend, before making their final pitches to a panel of young social entrepreneurs (and SIE alumni!); Fergus Moore & Scott Kennedy co-founders of Revive Eco and Stephen Spiers co-founder of Studio2080 and Power a Life.

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 CEO Fiona Godsman with Scott Kennedy (left), Stephen Spiers (center) and Fergus Moore (right.)

 The final winners of the ‘I’m an Innovator’ Competition are:

1st prize: £1000, Alex Rollings & Alison Cunningham, University of Strathclyde

Winning entry: Innobox, which uses storytelling and problem solving to encourage a child’s interest in STEM subjects.

 2nd Prize: £750, Glen McMurchy, University of Strathclyde

Winning entry: A new modular design for wind towers.

3rd Prize: £500, Liam McMorrow, University of Aberdeen,

Winning entry: A new device to help diabetics manage insulin dosages.

Highly Commended: £250, Simon Griffiths, Edinburgh College

Idea: A support package to help young people cope with renal dialysis.

Highly Commended: £250, Heather Guyan, University of Strathclyde

Idea: An innovative ‘ear defender’ to support learning in special needs environments.

Highly Commended: £250, David White, University of Strathclyde

Idea: A new bodyweight fitness training product.

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The competition finalists who pitched to judges were:

  •  Alice Kettle, Edinburgh College of Art
  • Susan Drummond & Kirsty Johnson, University of Strathclyde
  • Robin Irvine and Ciorstaidh MacGillivray, University of St Andrews
  • Thomas Reid, University of the West of Scotland
  • Karthik Ramesh, Glasgow School of Art
  • Jonny Ingledew & Kate MacDonald, Heriot-Watt University
  • Hui Chi Yan, University of Edinburgh
  • Alina Mikhailova, University of Edinburgh.

Well done everyone – we can’t wait to see how your winning ideas progress!

Last weekend, the 5th year of World Whisky Day took place with thousands of people around the globe celebrating including David Beckham and Nicola Sturgeon. You may be surprised to hear that back in 2012, World Whisky Day was founded by a student! Founder, Blair Bowman, was studying at the University of Aberdeen when he first had the idea for World Whisky Day and went on to grow it into a hugely successful business. He won SIE’s New Ventures competition in 2012 and the Young Innovators Challenge in 2013. Find out the full story in his video below.

Since we filmed, Blair sold World Whisky Day to Hot Rum Cow in 2015. Blair remains in place as the founder and as a consultant but has gone on to work on new projects. Here at SIE, we’re really proud of what he achieved and are delighted to call him alumni. He is a great example of what students can do whilst they’re still studying!

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For more on Blair’s story, see the full case study on the SIE website. To get started with your big idea, get in touch with our Business Advisors.

This week, we caught up with Revive Eco; a team of three University of Strathclyde graduates who are finding new innovative ways to recycle coffee grounds and save the planet in the process. They are full of brilliant ideas, the latest involving their local community. We spoke to Co-founder Rebecca Richardson to find out the full story!

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Our team of three; Fergus, Scott and I are a waste rejuvenation eco-prise called Revive, providing a unique waste recycling service and a range of environmentally-friendly products, derived from used coffee grounds.

We have worked continuously with SIE since winning the Young Innovators Challenge in 2014 and during this time I’m sure even our SIE pals are slightly sick of hearing us go on about the amount of coffee waste going to landfill! SO… we figured the time for discussion was over and that we’d try a new idea which showcases the great social and environmental benefits that Revive creates on the smallest of scales.

We started a new project in our local community; the wee village of Bridge of Weir. It’s a pretty special place for us, not only did Fergus give me chicken pox there at the age of three, it’s also where Revive was born! Over the last few months, we’ve been busy collecting and recycling every gram of coffee waste from the local businesses to create our bio-fertiliser product. This bio-fertiliser is then passed on to the locals schools; Gryffe High, Bridge of Weir Primary and Houston Primary; to be used by their gardening clubs.

In three weeks we have not only recycled over 60 kilos of waste coffee but we have received cheers and rapturous applause from the local business owners and a nod from the kings of the council! Our goal is to create the first of many coffee-neutral communities. ‘WHY?’ I hear you ask. Our answer is simple – social and environmental responsibility has always, and will always be at the forefront of decisions made at Revive. We are building more than a company; we are building a brand and an organisation that creates a positive impact to all stakeholders, the environment and the wider society.

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In only a few weeks we have diverted a huge amount of waste from reaching landfill and instead created a great product, to be used within our even greater community. Whilst this is only a small scale project right now, we are showing the benefits Revive provides and will provide once we grow to a larger scale; something we know we will achieve!

If you’d like to find out more, or get your hands on Revive’s environmentally-friendly bio-fertiliser, visit their website. To support their crowdfunding campaign, visit their VOOM pageYou can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

 

If you want to know more about how they started out, see their video case study here.

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In March, we announced the winner of our 2016 New Ventures competition: Paul McGinley! Paul is a graduate from the University of Strathclyde and is now the Founder of Pyramid Wifi. We sat down with Paul to find out more about him, his business and what his big plans are for that £10,000 prize!

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Tell us about yourself

I think many people expect me to have a technical or computer science degree because of what I’m developing but I actually graduated with a degree in Enterprise and Marketing from the Hunter Centre at the University of Strathclyde. Despite choosing to study business, I’ve always been a tech geek at heart. I was always the kid playing with latest gadget and now I have the opportunity to build my own which is a really nice feeling.

What problem is your business trying to solve?

My company is eliminating online restrictions with a focus on geo-blocking. Geo-blocking stops you from accessing online content you’ve paid for in the UK, such as the television licence and Sky, when travelling overseas. It also affects what you can access in the UK. Legal workarounds such as VPN are cumbersome, lack support for many devices (including games consoles) and slow down connection speeds often leading to the dreaded ‘buffer wheel’ which, at least in my personal experience, causes a sharp rise in blood pressure!

Due to these limitations, piracy is often viewed as more convenient than legitimately accessing content. Fortunately, we’ve developed a simple and legal solution that solves this problem in seconds.

What is your invention?

Pyramid is a very small WiFi box which can comfortably fit in your pocket. It provides global access to over 300 streaming services from 30 countries and automatically switches locations. You can enjoy iPlayer and other UK services from anywhere, just like you were at home, or really easily unlock international content.

Pyramid Wifi

Pyramid has three main breakthroughs compared with the current technology.

  1. It’s simple to use as you connect to it just like a regular WiFi network.
  2. It works with zero speed loss meaning there’s no suffering with buffering.
  3. It’s compatible with literally any WiFi device so you can enjoy unlocked entertainment on any screen.

Overall, it’s just a simple and fast way to access any content, on any device, anywhere.

Tell us about your SIE experience and

The first thing I’d say about SIE is that they made me get out there, challenge my inner introvert and engage with other entrepreneurs. That has been so valuable and I was really surprised by the quality of startups being built by students and recent graduates. We may not live in Silicon Valley, but there is no shortage of innovation in Scotland.

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So tell us, how are you going to spend the £10,000 New Ventures prize?

Pyramid is a little unusual for a tech company as we’ve avoided raising early stage investment opting instead to bootstrap our way to market. This made winning New Ventures a really pivotal moment for us as we now have the cash we need to fund the initial production run of the product.

When filling in my application for SIE I really didn’t imagine that I’d get the opportunity to connect with so many great startups, gain valuable advice from expert advisors or win a profile boosting prize that helps us get to market but that’s been my experience.

Pyramid Wifi will be announcing more details about their UK launch very soon. You can sign up to be one of the first people to unlock the internet on their website or you can follow them on Twitter – @pyramidwifi.

Do you want to apply to the next New Ventures competition? Sign up to our student e-newsletter to be kept up to date with all the important deadlines!

Last week, we started a new blog series looking at what the SIE Interns get up to once they’ve finished their internship with us and university/college life ends. This week, we’re sharing an update on former University of Strathclyde intern, Rebecca Pick who is now the Founder of Pick Protection. Our current Strathclyde intern, Vanessa, spoke to Rebecca to find out more…

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When were you a SIE Intern?
I was an intern during my 3rd year at the University of Strathclyde and I heard about it from the previous year’s intern. She said that it was a great opportunity for those wanting to get started in entrepreneurship so I was eager to apply for the position. I would always see her dotting around campus in her orange t-shirt and thought it would be great fun to give it a try.

What did you do as an Intern?
I did a whole range of things whilst being an intern. Probably the best one was when I teamed up with the Glasgow Caledonian intern to organise a pub quiz. It was really good because we managed to get people from both our universities to attend. We also got the people that were just at the pub anyway. It worked really well and was loads of fun.

What was the best thing about being an SIE Intern?
The best thing about being an intern was getting to talk to people. Whenever you were promoting SIE you would hear people’s ideas and it was really interesting and started sparking my own thinking. Also, I got to know the people at Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network and if it wasn’t for SIE that never would have happened. That has led to lots more opportunities. Being an intern also looks really good to future employers as it shows you’re proactive during your time at university.

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What have you been doing since?
When the internship finished I was then eligible to apply for competitions within SIE so I applied and managed to win the Young Innovators Challenge. That gave me enough money to start my business, Pick Protection. Since then I’ve really been focusing on getting my business up and running.

So, what exactly is Pick Protection?
Pick Protection is bringing a new personal attack and lone working alarm to the market. It’s basically a really small, discrete alarm that, once activated, can send the police your exact location, send a text to your friends and family letting them know. It means everyone knows about the situation and can get to you as quickly as possible. It also records the dialogue, which can be used in court to get a conviction if necessary. We have managed to raise investments and are hoping to launch the product in late spring.

Rebecca Pick speaking

What’s the best thing about running your own business?
I think the main thing is that it’s really exciting. There is so much potential and I don’t know what’s going to happen whereas in a graduate scheme that wouldn’t be the case. I get to do whatever I want, when I want. No one really tells me what to do so that’s quite nice. It’s also given me the freedom to bring something to market that I’m really passionate about and that will make a difference. It definitely takes a lot more time but it’s a lot more rewarding.

Would you encourage other students to apply for the internship/become an entrepreneur?
Yes! Definitely, I would tell them to do both. Being an SIE intern creates a really good platform for you to launch your own business. You build a great network and you have lots of people to go to for advice. It also makes you aware of all the resources available to you because you have been telling everyone else about them. All that together gives you the confidence to go start a business. So, go and do both!

If you would like to become an SIE Intern for the next academic year, visit our website for all of the details! For more on Rebecca’s story, visit her case study on the SIE website. 

This article first appeared in Ignite Magazine, Issue 14.

 

The SIE Interns are an unstoppable bunch – they’re talented, enthusiastic and work hard to champion SIE at their local university or college. We’re sad to be waving off our 2015-16 Interns this week (although our college interns will stick around until May) and it got us thinking, what do SIE interns do once they move on? We sent three of our current interns to find out and we’ll be sharing their findings over the next three weeks!

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Our 2015-16 Interns 

 

Intern: Laura MacDonald

Institution: Heriot-Watt University

Interviewee: Alice Rawsthorne

I had the pleasure of meeting with Alice Rawsthorne the founder of 2 The Kitchen, an enterprise which creates recipes that can be cooked by two people, based on a fun ‘team cooking’ concept. Alice was an SIE intern at the University of Edinburgh for two academic years (2012-2014). I sat down with her to find out what happened next.

What was the best thing about being an SIE intern?

I would say the best thing is meeting new people: the other interns, students and entrepreneurs. I loved hearing their business ideas and found it inspirational to see the passion behind each one.

What have you been doing since?

I have been really busy since leaving SIE, trying out a little bit of everything. Between third and fourth year at uni I completed an internship through the Saltire Foundation Scholarship Programme, which was an incredible opportunity and definitely one I would recommend to penultimate year students. In January of my final year, I started my business 2 the Kitchen. It felt like the right time, as I still had the security of being at university and all the support that goes with that.
Now, I’m delighted to be back in Edinburgh in preparation for the next adventure: a full time position with bespoke catering and events company, Ginger Snap. This is essentially my ideal job, as it combines my love of food with the opportunity to train in events management with a truly incredible and entrepreneurial company.

Did your SIE internship help you to start your own business?

Absolutely! As a student, you may think that people don’t want to hear your idea. The internship made me feel more comfortable and confident when approaching the business advisors and other relevant organisations about setting up 2 The Kitchen. I knew that Tom (McGuire) would be honest and realistic, and would be able to point me in the right direction with regards to funding and contacts in the industry.

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Ashley (GCU), Vanessa (Strathclyde) and Angela (UWS) at the 2016 SIE Summit

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Undoubtedly the flexibility it brings and the opportunity to be creative. I have never been particularly artistic in the sense of painting or drawing, but food has always been my passion and a way to relieve stress. The whole process of creating a presentable dish and feeling the sense of achievement is very therapeutic.

Would you encourage other students to apply for the internship?

Definitely! The internship is very much a two way process; the more effort you put into it the more you get out. SIE opens doors in a way that other jobs don’t. The alliances between SIE and similarly-minded organisations create more opportunities. There is no better opportunity to meet people in all sorts of different industries and make invaluable contacts.

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Team building at Intern Training Weekend

Would you encourage other students to become an entrepreneur?

Yes, although there seems to be a bit of a stigma around the word ‘entrepreneur’. I think that too often people only associate it with an image of a multi-millionaire businessperson with a number of enterprises. I would encourage students to take part in any innovative activity, whether it is launching a business, being entrepreneurial in their existing workplace or using their skills to benefit a charity.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you?

Try everything, talk to everyone, and get in touch with others already in the industry you want to break into. Not everyone is competition – people want to help!

Would you do anything differently?

Probably not. I am glad I have taken my time to decide what I want to do, as it has allowed me to experience and explore so much more than if I had jumped straight into a grad job after university.

If you would like to become an SIE Intern for the next academic year, visit our website for all of the details!

 

This article first appeared in Ignite Magazine, Issue 14.

 

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