Author Archives: jodiec

Maintaining a start-up culture

With so many big graduate companies vying for your attention, it can be easy to overlook the smaller companies when you are planning your future. Yet this could be a massive mistake as they offer big opportunities!

We caught up with Andrew Jervis, Co-Founder of ClickMechanic, to find out more about start-ups and the benefits of working at one…

What is start-up culture?

Business culture in start-ups is usually seen one of two ways: the 100 hour work weeks or the breakfast bar and sleeping pods of Google. Luckily, most start-ups are a nice balance of the two with more relaxed working environments but the expectation that you’ll go above and beyond as part of your role. Along with all the company socials and charity events found in most corporate jobs, you may also get Friday beer nights and a greater emphasis on mingling between teams with lunch and learns.

The actual working environment involves a lot more independence by employees being able to create their own process and take on responsibility themselves. These are core values in most start-ups as it encourages innovation rather than following a script.

What does ‘start-up culture’ mean at ClickMechanic?

Our key values as a team are independence and transparency. These values drive how ClickMechanic employees collaborate together in creating a better product. A traditional way of doing this has been to hold monthly update meetings with the entire company present. These forums allow every team to feedback ways they have succeeded, failed, and upcoming projects they aim to work on. It is a good reflection of our practices in general that allow any new intern to contact everyone from other teams or the founders with questions and suggestions. The trust that is put into our staff is rewarded by fresh ideas and determined work.

As the business scales, how do you maintain the start-up culture?

By empowering employees, their ideas can feed straight back into the company, shifting how their team and the wider company work. Every idea has some nugget of gold, even the silly ones, as they can hint to deeper thoughts and feelings. Reading into concerns and noticing patterns around the workplace have definitely helped us stop some roadblocks between teams forming.

As the team has grown, there have introduced several methods to help teams collaborate on projects or just catch some lunch together to bump heads. Good ideas are constantly falling out that change the product or the site which is invaluable.

Do you miss anything about the early days of ClickMechanic?

There are many stories of early start-up life – working sleepless nights and weekends – and they are generally true. Your main aim in the early days is to launch quickly, learn, and iterate on what you have created. Pouring sweat and sore eyes into the project lead to incredible personal achievements when milestones are hit.

The breakthroughs, record days, and partnerships were all self-propelled in the early days which definitely makes them special. Our journey through two employees in a living room, to four in a co-working space, to the 20-30 people in three offices has been an incredible journey and has brought unique challenges at each stage.

If you would like to know more about start-ups or ClickMechanic, then please get in touch with austin@clickmechanic.com or through their website.

If you want to find out more about the big opportunities an SME or start-up could offer you, we are here to help! Visit our dedicated webpage: www.aston.ac.uk/sme, join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #AstonSMEs or come and speak to us in the Careers+Placements Centre. Don’t forget, you can also explore a range of placement and graduate opportunities at SMEs on Aston Futures.

Reflecting on my placement year…

The time has flown so fast, especially since we hit 2018! If I had a choice to repeat this year then I would do! I have come so far in my personal development due to my placement and fulfilling my hobbies. No doubt I still criticise myself about not completing all the goals I have on my list or having lazy weeks but I try and remind myself to be proud of how far I’ve come.

My placement year

I was actually trying to think about how much I have grown professionally because of my placement and it was really hard to think. Why? Because the skills you develop become second nature to you that you actually forget that you didn’t have these skills before you started! But I know I have come so far in my professional development and that is all thanks to my placement and the team I am part of. I would love to meet the Harjap from May 2017 so I could actually see how far I’ve come! But trust me I have come far! Goodbye to placements and hello to applying for graduate roles. Bring it on!

My placement has given me exposure to the different types of marketing there are and I now have a better idea of the sorts of things I love and want to pursue. I am glad I didn’t give up on applying for a placement because now I have an insight into work life and a better idea of where I would like to take my career. I didn’t secure my placement until early June so don’t worry – you still have time to secure yours if you haven’t already, but make sure you put the hard work into finding one!

Photography

I was re-reading my blog post from January where I had just started my photography page on Instagram and taking pictures. It’s May and I’ve come far! I remember worrying about my editing skills and wondering when I would be able to get the Adobe apps. I bought the apps spontaneously last month. I thought to myself I can’t wait ten million years for this, I need to do it now! It’s been 5 months since I started my page and I feel like I have come so far in terms of editing and taking pictures. I still have a long way to go, but I’m blessed.

Where have I been taking pictures?

In February, I took a day trip to Liverpool where I took many pictures. Here’s one:

RETRO 🕺🏾

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In April, I went to Cannock Chase Forest and two local nature reserves.

Follow the path 👁 – – – – – – – #divine_forest

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I am now planning to try and go to local places near me every week or fortnightly. I want to capture beauty that is close to home. People really doubt and put their local areas down, but there is so much beauty in the world, we should capture our local areas before capturing different countries. I’ve been surprised myself to be honest of how many cool and beautiful places there just 30 minutes away from me!

On an end note

Placement year has been one of the best years of my life. I would say it’s in my top two haha.

If you have the opportunity to take a placement then you should do it! Every opportunity brings something.

Now it’s time for me to start prepping to go back to final year! Bye!

Splitting my placement year between Sweden and Tanzania

Jennifer Akussah is currently studying Economics and Management here at Aston. Last year, she did a split placement between Stockholm University, Sweden and International School Moshi, Tanzania. Read on to find out more about her placement experience…

What did the work on your placement involve?

I was an exchange student in Sweden and I also volunteered for six months in Tanzania at International School Moshi where I was the Activities Coordinator for the primary school boarders. My responsibilities were to ensure that the children had weekend activities that were fun, creative and educational. I also assisted them with their homework and was active in the primary department during school hours where I helped during lessons.

What skills did you develop during your placement?

I developed so many skills from doing a split placement: I became more confident and a risk taker, I got to learn two different languages – Swahili and the Swedish language – and I definitely developed my communication and leadership skills.

What was the highlight of your placement?

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania which had been on my bucket list for years. Also meeting and networking with so many exchange students at Stockholm University – I got to travel with them and learnt so much from getting to know different cultures.

How did you secure your placement? 

I was religiously on Aston Futures looking for opportunities abroad. I also received a lot of help from the placements team with my CV and applications and I am so grateful to them for the support before and during both placements.

Has doing an overseas placement helped or changed your plans?

It definitely has. My career goals have changed immensely because I got to study some specific modules at Stockholm University which I would not have explored if I had not taken a placement year. Also volunteering in Tanzania made me realise how much of an impact I can have on society and vice versa.

What advice would you give to other students thinking about doing a placement abroad?

Go for it. It looks good on your CV and gives lots to talk about during interviews. You also get to travel and meet so many incredible people and build long-lasting friendships.

What tips would you give to other students to help them make the most out of their placement?

Enjoy it. Live in the moment. It’s one year that you get to explore. Culture shock is totally normal. And if you ever need help with anything, Aston has got your back. You’ve got your placement tutor and the placement team to assist you during an adventure of a lifetime.

Placements are yours for the taking. So seize the opportunity.

Has Jennifer’s experience inspired you to undertake a placement abroad? Find out more about international placements, visit Aston Futures to search available opportunities or chat to us about your options.