I never considered myself to be an innovative person until last year, when my group emerged top at a trade fair assessment as part of the Developing Enterprise, Entrepreneurship and Employability module offered by the Careers Service. Working as a START UP Intern, I was given the opportunity to put into practice what I had learnt in addition to further sharpening my innovative and creative problem solving skills. I thought I might give it a go and apply for the Undergraduate of the Year Award for Innovation sponsored by Barclays.

It all started with an online application that included a write-up about my motivations, the impact of Brexit on the UK economy and a Barclays-specific question, followed by numerous psychometric tests. Coming from a biomedical science background, I never thought that I would proceed any further, so I was surprised (and super excited!) when I was invited to the Innovation Pitch Day at Barclays HQ at Canary Wharf.

I initially hesitated about attending the pitch as it fell on the submission date for my dissertation project. After some calm reflection, I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss! The whole experience was very positive; not only was I given the chance to present my idea in front of leading senior figures from Barclays Eagle Labs, RISE, Customer Banking Solutions and Barclays Technology, but I was also able to connect with bright, like-minded individuals across different UK universities. All the candidates were outstanding and had incredible ideas, and I felt truly honoured to be considered alongside them. What really struck me was that everyone was genuinely friendly and interested in getting to know each other better rather than being competitive.

I was on cloud nine after hearing that I had been shortlisted and was in the final ten. As a result I was given the privilege of attending the grand final organised by TARGETjobs at East Wintergarden. Fast forward to the celebration on 20 April: we were greeted with a glass of bubbly and a string quartet on arrival, followed by a three-course meal prior to the awards ceremony hosted by TV presenter Rachel Riley, not forgetting to mention the great after-party hosted by L’Oréal. What an inspiring day, being surrounded by so many talented young people, industry professionals and directors!

Throughout this journey, I have learnt so many invaluable lessons, from stepping out of my comfort zone to involving myself in challenges that can stretch me. Suffice to say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I would highly encourage anybody who is interested to apply for it. Never try, never know!

I would like to extend my gratitude to Barclays for this wonderful opportunity and for making the whole process enjoyable, and TARGETjobs for planning, organising and running the awards. I am beyond grateful to have been part of it, and to have met so many inspiring people throughout the process. Last but not least, congratulations to all the well-deserved winners!