Competitions, internships and workshops – will always bring back fond memories of my experience studying at the University for the Creative Arts. I threw myself at every opportunity going. I just knew someday, somehow I would look back and think ah ha, that’s why I did that.
My final graphic media project was something that I was particularly proud of. Not because it was the best in the class, but because it was clear for everyone to see how much hard work I had put into it. It was a group project, unfortunately my team didn’t really pull their weight, and pull all nighters like I did, somehow we all ended up with a distinction!
Our lectureres were really pleased with our final project, they suggested we put ourselves forward for a competition called the Creative Challenge. I knew it would mean more hard work, but I managed to convince my team that we should take part, the winner would have the opportunity to make their business idea a reality, win an internship and maybe a cash prize (maybe I made that bit up!).
Being involved for me, was really about the opportunity to learn more skills and perhaps open up more doors for myself in the future. I knew our idea was a fantasy, it was never really a business idea, we presented it like it was real. Our lecturers loved how professional we were, from our logo design to the colour coordinated clothes on the day of our presention, we most certainly stood out.
At first my team thought it was a great idea to take part in the competition, but as soon as they realised it meant staying at uni longer, attending workshops, working hard and putting in extra hours on top of our degree they began to let me down one by one, until the day of the presentation, the only person left standing was me (the last person dropped out on the morning). I didn’t use this an an opportunity to quit. I was absolutely terrified. We got right to the last part of the competition, pitch day! The only person left was me.
We had to present to industry experts, from Sony to Dell, you name it they were there. Although I knew our uni project was exactly that, not really an idea we wanted to turn into a business, I was shaking with fear in front of the experts who say before me. You might find this hard to believe. I was a teacher at the time, how on earth was I scared to stand up in front of an audience and talk? I’ll tell you why, public speaking is a far cry from the classroom. Especially if you’re not confident and don’t really know your subject, it’s a tramatic ordeal. I knew I just didn’t have the kind of skills needed to be standing there and presenting.
Time was ticking, I had to make a decision, do I do it or not? I told myself I had no choice but to just get on with it. What’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps I will learn these skills later. Afterall, I liked the workshops I took part in right? They helped didn’t they? I was about to find out.
Now you are wondering what our project was about aren’t you? It was called iTree, a mobile phone network, by guess who, yes Apple! I am going back many years, when people were starting to get crazy over iPhones and iPods, Apple was really dominating the world. I even told the panel that, only to be questioned (quite rudely I might add) by the woman from Sony. Ouch that didn’t go down well. Screwed that up I thought.
Weeks later, I found out I made the final shortlist of ten candidates! The judges were so impressed with my pitch I somehow go through to the final stage, I didn’t win (obviously, I mean who was going to fund iTree, and I am pretty sure no one from Apple was there the day I pitched my idea). But I did win an internship at a top London design agency. To this day, the whole experience baffles me.
When I think back, it was these workshops that ultimately had such a profound impact on my life both professionally and personally. I learnt so much about myself and realised there were so many opportunities out there waiting for me. Being a teacher at the time, I was even able to go back into my classroom and further empower and inspire my students with the new skills I learnt.
But It didn’t stop there. I was so inspired; I decided to make the entrepreneurial move and change my career. I’ve since been involved in so many projects and am in the process of setting up my own business. All from attending university workshops. The workshops were run by a company called Preseli, founded by a wonderful man called Andrew Tiliing. Without him and Preseli’s workshops I wouldn’t have taken risks and the opportunities I have. I will save that story for another blog.
When life throws you opportunities, grab them, when life doesn’t go out and find them. You never know how they will change your life.