• Entrepreneurship at UBC

#StaffSeries: Katie from e@UBC

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Always wanted to learn who was behind the scenes of the infamous e@UBC newsletters? Meet Katie, previous e@UBC Marketing Specialist. Read on to learn about her time at e@UBC, how she got first got involved in entrepreneurship, and what's next for her!

Hi Katie, How are you doing?

Hi! I’m good, thank you.

When you say you work at e@UBC most people recognize you from the newsletter "Katie from e@UBC" Could you tell us a bit more about it?

(Laughs briefly) The newsletter is actually one of my favourite things to write, funny enough. I know that we all get thousands of newsletters in our inbox that we don’t read and I’m so guilty of that, so I am always flattered when people tell me they actually read it. I’ve been trying to make it fun, quick and skimmable so that you can get your news and maybe have a laugh at me attempting to be witty.

What is going to happen with the Katie at e@UBC newsletter when Katie isn’t here anymore?

It’s going to turn into the Noelle at e@UBC newsletter.

What has been your role here at e@UBC?

I’ve been running the marketing efforts since May. We’ve grown our team a lot since then, which is really exciting. If you’ve noticed big changes in the website, that’s been my main priority for the last 6 months. I’ve also been trying to revamp how we talk about our programs so that it’s a little bit easier to understand, more collaborative and inclusive. We’ve been trying to diversify the way we talk about ourselves to be more inclusive and attractive to a whole set of prospective entrepreneurs that is more representative of the population at large.

Where did your interest in entrepreneurship stem from?

Back in 2014, I was a lost first year student and my dad was teaching one of the e@UBC Lean Launch pad programs. He told me to volunteer at his class, so I did. I started doing interviews with the teams and watching them pitch, taking notes and doing a variety of other stuff. It had a genomics focus and I was just amazed at the discoveries that these people had made. For me it was always about impact, and entrepreneurship was a really tangible way to do that.

"Seeing how it can be used as a tool to serve so many different people has been an incredible opportunity."

That being said, entrepreneurship is hugely variable by context. I’ve had the privilege of working with entrepreneurs in a variety of contexts from UBC and Kenya as well as entrepreneurs from the Hupačasath, Tseshat, Nuuchahnulth and Huu-ay-aht nations. Seeing how it can be used as a tool to serve so many different people has been an incredible opportunity.

So I hear you are leaving e@UBC because you are going to go finish your undergrad degree, where and what are you studying?

I’m a student at Quest University Canada, which is a small liberal arts university in Squamish. Technically we only offer one degree, so I’m taking a Bachelors of Arts and Sciences. We don’t have majors we have “questions” and my question is “What is the relationship between entrepreneurship and inequality?” My thesis is almost nothing to do with that (laughs)…but yeah.

What is your thesis about?

My thesis is about consumer credit, high interest lending and economic agency. Specifically looking at the politics of these various issues in relation to underserved demographics.

"Some of the big things I’ve been interested in is our diversity and inclusion initiative and figuring out where the gaps might be for underestimated entrepreneurs."

How did your academic interest influence your time at e@UBC?

A lot of what I’ve been looking into is groups of people who aren’t able access to credit and capital. So, some of the big things I’ve been interested in is our diversity and inclusion initiative and figuring out where the gaps might be for underestimated entrepreneurs. That led one of the program managers Andrea Lloyd and I to go to a tech inclusion conference in San francisco. We’ve been really diving into this, doing research and working with external partners to really improve our programs in that sense. And that’s been driven by what I’ve been studying at school.

When you say underestimated entrepreneurs, you mean entrepreneurs that are considered minorities, but I am curious as to why in your opinion using a different language is important.

The term underestimated entrepreneurs actually comes from Backstage capital, a really cool VC fund that has now launched an accelerator program started by Arland Hamilton. They use the language of underestimated to talk about minority and underrepresented groups in entrepreneurship, I think underestimated is much more empowering language than saying that they are underrepresented. I think that it speaks more to their potential than anything else.

You got to work with the Coast Capital Savings interns this past summer, how was that?

That was really fun, I actually took part in the program two years ago and it was structured really differently. When I was doing it we were all embedded directly in Ventures, which was chaos but good at the same time. This year they were actually contracted out, and so they all worked in teams with different ventures on specific projects. It looked really different and it was really interesting to see what that model looked like. I loved seeing all of them collaborate and work together, I know that I made a lot of friends through that program, and so it was fun to watch them do the same thing.

What kind of programs where they involved with?

They did a lot of market research for ventures, business planning, financial modelling, a really broad spectrum of things. It was a mix of MBA students, masters in management, B com student a DAP (Diploma in accounting) student mixed all together with a huge variety of skill sets. They all got to learn from one another and work on different projects. It would often be someone with a specific skill set like financial modelling paired up with a marketing person and they would learn together. It was really cool to hear their stories about those experiences.

What are some of the most valuable things you learned while being at e@UBC?

I think this time around, one of the most valuable things that I’ve learnt is that work is going to be really busy, and there’s always a thousand things you can do, especially in the startup world. It’s really hard to not get stuck down in the weeds just doing the work, it’s important to look up and make sure your tasks are being strategic. I’m very fortunate to have Kari, who dug me out of the weeds in the middle of the summer and made me look up at the strategy and better coordinate what I was doing, that’s a hugely valuable lesson that I am going to carry with me.

"It’s all about learning and figuring out what works and building a community"

What are you going to miss the most?

I think there are a lot of awesome people in this organization, who care a lot about what they do and are really interested in learning. Nobody is really stuck in the way we are doing things, which is exciting. There are a lot of unknowns in terms of startup education and how to make successful companies, let’s be real, no accelerator has found a magic bullet, and it’s all about learning and figuring out what works and building a community. I think we are learning that and I’m excited to see what happens.

Interview by Maria-José Araujo

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