by Joshua Flannery | Manager, Student Entrepreneur Development & Co-founder at FounderLab
For the recent Westpac The Youth Network Summit I was asked to run a Entrepreneur Development program for a group of 120 young up-and-coming staff from across all business units and branches in Australia and New Zealand. The Summit is in its second year and aims to bring together a diverse group of high-performing team members, aged 30 and under, from across the Group’s brands and geographic locations, for an educational and career development experience.
Most of the participants were meeting each other for the first time, and we had them sit in groups with members from different departments, experience, and skill sets to take on two categories of challenges:
(1) Improving the corporate experience for young bank employees; and
(2) Solving the world’s biggest problems.
Teams were introduced to an adapted version of Lean LaunchPad methodology, and worked through ideation, problem identification and validation, and solution development before finally the development of a pitch, which was then presented.
Something I couldn’t help but notice was how similar in enthusiasm and passion for innovation and entrepreneurship this relatively large group were to the 500+ student and alumni entrepreneurs we have been supported with our entrepreneur development services and programs at UNSW Innovations these last three or four years.
The key difference though, was the insights and experiences this group have in the corporate world, which allows them to recognise business problems more easily, and articulate real problems that real businesses face – now.
Occasionally we do have students that have this work experience to draw upon (more often with our alumni-led teams), but I must admit it would be an exciting prospect to have the teams formed in this group of bank employees continue to solve the problems we began to tackle in these sessions – but continue on as individual startup teams.
So what were the themes and issues this demographic of young finance professionals worried about? Without providing an exhaustive list, here were some of the issues shared among the group:
* Lack of mentoring for young people
* Work / life balance
* Legacy infrastructure
* Fast moving goal posts
* Demographics – how do you escape your “box”?
I’ll keep the proposed solutions confidential for now given that some of them may end up being implemented, but I do find it interesting how these issues common to young professionals are actually not so different from those faced by young entrepreneurs.
On that note, for a change of pace I brought in successful UNSW entrepreneur, Steve Hui from iFlyFlat. Besides the fact that Steve’s product helps people fly business class more than they otherwise could, the group was particularly interested in his story – going from corporate to startup founder and loving it.
My evil little wish here is that some of these entrepreneurial young professionals do take the plunge and go and start a startup themselves, but realistically I am really happy knowing they are the next generation of industry decision makers with a strong understanding of innovation and the importance of working with startups.