This is just a post to cover the wonderful first session of InnovateHer which occurred this Wednesday. This was the first session of the year-long programme, and I was excited to see the other female participants, get to know them and commence the programme. Everyone was friendly and enthusiastic, which was encouraging. I cannot wait to attend the session this coming week and to become more involved in the programme.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the InnovateHer programme is organised by the SU Enterprise department of my university. It is unique in that it is for female students only. It aims to assist 25 business and entrepreneurial minded female students who want to learn more about this line of work, providing practical assistance and support through interactive seminars and workshops.
Upon our arrival in the Enterprise SU suite on Wednesday afternoon- which will no doubt become our second home over the year – we were greeted by the fabulous Enterprise SU officers and received a lovely goodie bag. I ended up speaking to three lovely girls and hearing their reasons for applying and careers goals was so interesting. I soon noticed that there did not appear to be a group of girls who knew each other around the room, meaning we were all in the same boat in the sense that we would have to get to know all the participants. Judging by the excited chatter filling the room on Wednesday, that is not going to be a problem!
The staff briefly introduced themselves, reiterated the aims of the programme and the learning outcomes, before handing over to representatives from PwC Belfast. A member of the Belfast graduate recruitment team delivered an interesting presentation about PwC and the graduate opportunities that are available. PwC Belfast actually sponsor the InnovateHer programme, which is an honour indeed.
Following on from the presentation, we were introduced to the ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at Enterprise SU, and she is certainly a very savvy and sharp businesswoman. I am definitely looking forward to the sessions she will present in the coming weeks, and cannot wait to hear more about her own experiences and expertise.
We were tasked to engage in networking with each other over lunch – networking is of course a vital skill in business and professional life generally, as too are communication and listening. We had to find a girl we did not know and had not yet talked to, and find answers to certain posed questions so that we could introduce her to the group after lunch wrapped up.
Amid the tables of sandwiches, biscuits and coffee I ended up talking to a very friendly accounting student. After we sympathised with each other regarding the tribulations of final year thus far, we soon discovered a surprising similarity – we had both been involved in the Study USA scholarship programme last year! We exchanged a few stories of our experiences in America as well as answering the selected questions relating to why we had applied, what we hoped to achieve from the programme and what we would like from the other participants. (The answers to these questions from my personal viewpoint may be found in my earlier post relating to my acceptance on to the programme.)
It was amazing to see how many girls all wanted to have a friendly and supportive learning environment, and how many were simply seeking to gain knowledge and insight into the world of entrepreneurship and business. I had previously thought there may be many who already had a business plan or product idea in mind; this had actually been a fear of mine when applying in the sense of what I was hoping to achieve from the programme compared to the other applicants. It is, however, reassuring to see that there are many of us who wish to gain new skills, to challenge ourselves and essentially inspire each other. I have no doubt whatsoever that my fellow participants and myself are going to be supportive and encouraging towards each other and provide constructive feedback and motivation when we begin to consider business plans later on in the programme.
The programme concluded with a wonderful interactive business game: essentially it was a stimulation of running and planning a business, understanding costs and aiming to secure profits. We were split into groups and had to follow instructions in a pack to plan ‘orders’ for our business and plan a budget. I cannot give too much away as this game was created by our Entrepreneur in Residence and she uses it as part of her business, educating professionals in understanding the basics of business. But what I can say is that it was a brilliant strategy-centric game, with an emphasis on the importance of understanding the market and your competitors. It was also very hectic and surprisingly stressful by the game’s conclusion, as we constantly weighed options and wondered what our opposition was doing! But it was thoroughly entertaining and educational too.
In sum: it was a brilliant afternoon of an interesting and friendly first session. I cannot wait to attend the next session and participate in another workshop.