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Following your dreams with the Saltire Foundation

By Sophie Harpur - Posted on 28 August 2014

International business student and Saltire Foundation Scholar, Sophie Harpur, shares her international summer placement experience and how this has helped her channel her entrepreneurial aspirations…

The Saltire Foundation’s mission is to “find, fuel and spark Scotland’s human potential, in turn creating our next generation of business leaders.” It also involves sending candidates from Scottish Universities out to gain experience and confidence from placements with leading companies all over the world.

I began my Saltire Scholar internship this summer and I was lucky enough to get my placement with the Victorian government in the Department of State Development and Business and Innovation, based in Melbourne, Australia. I was on an eight week project that focused on cloud computing, the buzz word of the ICT world!

It was a brilliant department to work for and coming from an inward investment perspective, the department has a big focus on a wide range of digital based industries which allowed me to work with people from the gaming, TV and film industry.

My job was to evaluate the current cloud market in Victoria and identify any unique opportunities that Victoria can offer to cloud based companies looking to expand to the Asia Pacific. The end result of my research project was to work along with designers to create an infographic which will be used as a marketing tool all around the world.

My role involved interviewing people within industry, local universities and intermediaries to gain an insight into the cloud computing industry which was a great opportunity.

I got to meet some amazing people on a day-to-day basis which has been invaluable for me. For example one interview involved meeting the CEO of IT support firm, Telus Pty Ltd, which offers computer support specifically to the over 55s which was extremely enlightening. CEO, Mrs Bambi Price was so nice and was willing to do anything to help me with my project. I could have listened to her stories and her pearls of wisdom all day! I have to say, those Saltire Foundation business cards dwindled down nicely with all those meetings!

The placement has shown me the importance in creating and maintaining working relationships as it gives you a chance to thread together people’s ideas and after all, collaboration is where all great innovations stem from. My boss says: “Think big, think unique – don’t be a robot like 90% of the workforce.” That is absolutely what I want to do, I know the Saltire Scholars are that unique 10%.

We had ‘Casual Fridays’ in Australia and I loved them - a great way to finish a week of hard work. We all stopped work at half four and talked about our plans for the weekend over a glass of wine and awesomely sophisticated nibbles. We stayed for an hour or two – the food, wine and company were great but my favourite part was  being able to see the sun set from level 35 of our building and watch the city turn into thousands of specks of light. We recently saw the end of the financial year so the department celebrated its achievements with a fancy lunch on a roof terraced restaurant.

I’ve made the most of the weekends too; one weekend we went down the Melbourne peninsula to the famous Victorian vineyards; I must say Australian wine is fantastic. The sun was shining and we sat and tasted the various types of wine, with a folk band in the background, it was so beautiful! On our road trip we also went to a cheese and strawberry farm. It was literally a whole day of continual eating and drinking – I loved it! We also got to see the famous beach huts of Melbourne, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars because there are so few of them left.

The whole journey has been brilliant and it just kept getting better! In my career I really want to work with under-privileged communities around the world and I got the opportunity to talk to Sue Hodges who runs social projects in India. She was really impressed with my interests and we clicked immediately. She said she would love to work with me in the future – who knows if that will ever materialise into anything but it was lovely to feel recognised and gain a new contact who I can talk about my ambitions with.

My experience here has really opened my eyes to what the world has to offer. With passion, the right people supporting you and hard work, you really can achieve anything. A quote that has really stuck with me during my trip – “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – I saw it on a little sign on the beach where I lived in Australia and I think it will stick with me forever. No ambition is unachievable. This experience has given me the confidence to want to start my own social enterprise, help people in need and continue to travel the world.

Do you share Sophie’s entrepreneurial aspirations? How important do you think networking is in developing and moving ideas forward?



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