Over the past year, I have graduated with a first class masters degree in mechanical engineering from Heriot-Watt and started two businesses while finishing my course. The first is a social enterprise called Helping Hands: we advertise on disposable consumer goods that are fully compostable to reduce land fill waste and offer employment opportunities to ex-homeless people. I started Helping Hands after I won the Edinburgh Apprentice earlier this year and partnered with a local investor. The most recent business is a consumer technology company called Castus Spes Technologies – we are developing a ground-based remote control (RC) vehicle to compete against RC cars and drones. We are currently applying for funding and will be entered in the Scottish Edge very soon.
My experience from Undergraduate of the Year taught me many things. Firstly, how determination and resilience will ensure that you achieve your goals. I also started to realise what I enjoyed most about my degree course and the professional world. By entering the competition, it started a journey to becoming an entrepreneur. I did not win the internship with E.ON, but I was interested in the energy industry so I ended up interning for a competitor, RWE nPower. The culmination of three years worth of internships across multiple industries showed me what I didn't want to do and, most importantly, what I enjoyed doing. I know now that I enjoy consulting, generating ideas and creating products that innovate and have the potential for greatness.
I have gained contacts in a number of industries, from a range of fields, and in positions of influence. Keep in contact with your friends and colleagues: they will become part of a greater network. On a daily basis, I use my contacts to source expert advice, generate sales and raise awareness for my projects.
I would definitely recommend the Awards to anyone who wants to discover more about themselves. Be it the challenges in the assessment centre or the in-depth application form, you will learn more about yourself. One of the most important things I took from the competition was the hunger after failure. My advice would be to learn from every mistake every step of the way and be resilient. I did not win the competition, but I went on to be crowned the Edinburgh Apprentice and develop two enterprises. I now know what I want to achieve and I wake up every day with the passion and determination to succeed.
Set your goals, write down your objectives and keep track of all your ideas, because one day you might need them. Try to be organised, keep track of deadlines and plan to do your work. This way you will slowly complete your tasks without any hassle. Be yourself and show off your talents, especially during the interview stages. Use your past experiences, be they in retail or another industry, and translate them into the lessons you have learned.
You will inevitably do numerous interviews during your career and each one will make you more confident. Don't be afraid to fail or to get your feedback; every bit of information will help you improve your performance for the next time. Your interview is a story of your life and a chance for you to show your future employers that you are the right person for the job. If you find out you are not, that's okay, because you may end up doing exactly what you want tomorrow! Have faith in yourself, for no problem, no matter how great, is ever too big.