Finding the Innovation Academy
In my first year as an undergraduate at UCD I took an Entrepreneurial Endeavour module at the Innovation Academy. The classes were so different from my other courses. They were interactive, fun, and I was always excited when the class came around each week.
I had an expectation of what was going to happen in university: assignments, exams and essays. When I came to the Innovation Academy, it was very different. It was not all about grades. You were expected to participate, to experiment, and be more hands on. To talk and work with people who are completely different to you.
Our degrees teach us to be very solution-oriented and initially I was the same. The Design Thinking process that you learn at the Innovation Academy Undergraduate Module brings the emphasis back to the problem. The Design Thinking process is the whole cycle, from empathy to prototyping to testing. The process is iterative. You prototype, you keep testing, you keep refining your solution. You might have a wonderful app or website but if it’s not the solution for the problem you are trying to address, it won’t matter.
The Innovation Fellowship
When I saw an opening for the undergraduate Innovation Academy Fellowship I applied and was successful. I worked on a Virtual Reality project, a ‘fruit ninja’ chopping game. It was a completely new experience for me. I had never worked on something like this before and it was way out of my comfort zone. I was surrounded by new people and the team was extremely helpful.
Working with industry partners
During my time at the Academy, I worked on several Design Thinking sprints in teams. In my Creative Thinking module we worked on a challenge with a real company, Brown Thomas Arnotts, the iconic Irish department stores. We had to come up with a solution to help them reach the Gen Z audience. We pitched an app that would gamify the shopping experience. We were the first runner up. It was really exciting to design the mock up, we used MarvelApp which was a lot of fun. Pitching in front of so many students was challenging but working with a diverse group of people and understanding different perspectives allowed me to overcome my fear of public speaking and come up with ideas in a short period of time.
I found that I learned a huge amount from the other people on the course. In other courses you don’t get the chance to work collectively.
After the Innovation Academy
The Innovation Academy has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I got a chance to be part of Enactus, a group that seeks positive social change using social entrepreneurial business models. I also joined a program in the Asia Pacific Innovation Academy in China (not formally connected but it has a similar approach) where I further developed my understanding of design thinking. Today, I’m a Management Consulting Analyst at KPMG and all my learnings from the academy have helped me solve real problems in my day to day!