ABaCuSS Student Reflections

BackResources

30th September 2021

Funded by Aspect, ABaCuSS is designed to inspire innovation through collaboration between business and PhD researchers in social science. The programme aims to accelerate solutions to social challenges for businesses, and provide a platform to transform the contribution that social sciences research can make to society.

 

 

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

 

 

Categories:
ABaCuSS, Business Engagement, The University of Glasgow and The University of Manchester

Introduction

Six students from the Universities of Glasgow and Manchester were placed into intrapreneurship-based placements within companies for 8 weeks, to test working models of intrapreneurship. This report is a compilation of reflections from the participating students, part of the culminating activity of ABaCuSS. The reflections highlight the transformative experience the students had on the project, and demonstrate that the wrap-around support accompanying the placement was key to advancing the students both as academics and on their placement.This report is a compilation of reflections from the participating students, part of the culminating activity of ABaCuSS. Each student reflected on their initial motivations for applying to ABaCuSS, how the wrap-around training and support had enhanced their placement, and what was accomplished on placement — including challenges. The reflections highlight the transformative experience the students had on the project, and demonstrate that the wrap-around support accompanying the placement was key to advancing the students both as academics and on their placement.  

Summary of ABaCuSS Participants and Placements 

Student # Programme of Study Academic Institution Business Placement 
1 PhD in Law University of Manchester Faithful + Gould 
2 PhD Business and Management University of Manchester Vira Health 
3 Sociology PhD University of Manchester Vira Health, Stella 
4 International Management and Design Innovation University of Glasgow The Crichton Trust 
5 PhD Economics University of Manchester Tandem 
6 PhD Urban Studies University of Glasgow The Crichton Trust 

Student One 

Programme of Study: PhD in Law  

Academic Institution Name: University of Manchester  

Business Placement: Faithful + Gould  

  1.  What was your reason for wanting to be on the ABaCuSS programme? (200 words)  

As a social science researcher, I was keen on getting valuable hands-on experience, which could broaden my range of skills as well as my network. The placement offered a rare opportunity for me to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in a professional milieu. I was equally fascinated by the project I worked on, and the potential output of the placement. Cost certainty is a critical element of every largescale infrastructure development project. Therefore, the deliverables of this placement will go a long way towards fine-tuning my thesis, which focuses on Public-Private Partnerships and sustainable infrastructure development. Moreover, Faithful + Gould is a world class integrated project and programme management consultancy which employs renowned experts in the domain. Working with this consultancy offered me a singular opportunity to learn from the best and to lend my modest contribution towards a study which could revolutionalise project delivery not only in the United Kingdom, but globally, given the company’s wide influence. This placement equally provided a platform on which I could build for the future dissemination of my research output. In addition, the innovation training course as well as the tailored coaching sessions designed for social science researchers seeking to integrate the business world caught my attention.     

  1. What skills, competencies, and/or insights did you gain through the wrap-around support provided by theboot-camp, on-going training, 1-to-1 coaching, and conversation with innovators? (300 words) 

The concept of commencing the placement with a boot-camp wherein the interns could share their opinions on the different projects was laudable. I was able to gain skills in skills cross-disciplinary research as I set out to gain more information on wider topics to assist my peers in identifying the different approaches they could adopt, identifying the right network, highlighting potential opportunities and barriers, as well as envisaging the possible outcomes of their business challenges. Moreover, we completed a number of exercises as a group thereby helping to fine-tune my already acquired skills in communication, teamwork/intra-personal relationships. Furthermore, the innovation training permitted me to acquire new intrapreneurial and problem-solving skills which would empower me to nurture an idea from thought to delivery. In addition, our interactions with the innovators were inspirational as we learned from their experiences and savoir-faire. As early career researchers, we all have brilliant ideas which are buried before they materialise. These sessions helped to reassure us that struggling with an idea or concept is normal. Moreover, we were equipped with the necessary tools to harness these ideas and produce quality output. The one on one coaching sessions allowed us to freely share our concerns with seasoned coaches who offered quality advice. This was especially important for me as I struggled under the pressure of delivering quality output within a limited timeframe. I equally used the bi-monthly coaching seasons to discuss other issues such as careers and employability in the post COVID-19 era.   

  1. What methods did you use to undertake your business challenge –reflect onskillsyou’vedevelopedin your academic experience as well as business/industry skills. (cantake the form of bullet point list)   
  • Qualitative and quantitative research  
  • Team work and communication  
  • Problem solving  
  • Leadership and intra-personal skills  
  1. Describe any challenges that you facedduring the course ofyour placement?How did you overcome anyroadblocks, and what mechanisms of support would have been helpful in retrospect? (200words) 

In the course of completing my placement, I faced three principal challenges which include; corporate bureaucracy, assimilating new material, and multitasking.  

There was a significant delay in getting me a critical piece of proprietary information. This delay was attributed to the confidential and sensitive nature of information contained in the playbook. To overcome this issue, I began working on other aspects of the business challenge (for example; literature review) prior to its release. Moreover, I prepared interview guides ahead of time to avoid any delays in securing slots with those concerned.   

The second major challenge faced was that of assimilating new material. Though organised for social science researchers, the business challenge was not necessarily within the scope of my research expertise – legal studies. To overcome this obstacle, I consecrated the early days of my internship to learning about the subject and related topics. Moreover, exercises carried out during the boot-camp enabled my peers working on other projects to contribute towards this task by brainstorming on the business challenge.   

As a PhD student, I had to carry out this placement concurrently with other duties such as teaching and writing my thesis. Multitasking proved to be a major issue in the throughout my internship as I had very close deadlines both for schoolwork and the placement. To overcome this issue, I adopted a motto – Purpose, Hard work, and Discipline (PHD). This allowed to be efficient in managing my time and to be proactive. Furthermore, the one-on-one sessions with the coach helped to reassure me and keep the desire to have an impact burning.  

  1. How did the scope and objectives of your business challenge change over the course of the placement? (200-300words)   

The scope of my business challenge evolved from merely analysing the playbook and its applicability in TVD and management contracts to comparative studies with other methods such as Target Costing and Value Engineering. However, due to time constraint, the deliverables were limited to three (3) leadership magazine articles of 700 words each. Some tasks and deliverables originally listed in the project definition document dropped include;   

  1. An assessment of the applicability of this method to other procurement routes  
  1. Production of a combined TVD/WLC playbook  

Nonetheless, during this placement, we were able to identify some of the pitfalls associated to this method and derive strategies to boost its accuracy. This was achieved through administering interviews to cluster heads of some of the organisations involved in the process. Also, an in-depth literature review was beneficial towards identifying some elements which could help boost cost certainty using this playbook.  

Furthermore, we envisage a peer reviewed journal article based on the findings of this placement. We also spoke about an ‘action research’ proposal which could be beneficial towards ascertaining the accuracy of the method used in this placement. Therefore, the findings of this placement could serve as a skeleton for future research on a method which has the potential of revolutionising cost surety in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry in the UK.   

  1. What are the final outcomes of your project? What will your work produce? How will the business you were placed with use the deliverables in the future? (200-300 words)  

My placement produced three magazine leadership articles (700 words each) on a range of topics touching TVD and management contracting. The first article focuses on explaining TVD and the playbook produced by Faithful+Gould professionals. In this article, I discuss the method and highlight the pitfalls and strategies aimed at strengthening future output. This article gives a brief background to TVD and its Target Costing (TC) origins in the manufacturing industry in Japan. It then proceeds with an expose on TVD and how it was applied within the scope of the business challenge. The second article compares and contrasts TVD to other concepts such as Value Engineering (VE) and TC. The purpose of this comparison is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of TVD vis-à-vis more familiar techniques in the AEC industry today in the UK. The final article is on management contracting and the application of TVD in these types of contracts. This is an important article considering that management contracting has not received much interest from academics in the discipline.   

These articles could form the skeleton for a peer review journal article to be written in the near future. In addition, a combined TVD/WLC playbook (one of the original deliverables of the placement) can be conceived in a bid to further increase cost surety in the AEC industry. Moreover, the business challenge has the qualities to be further developed into an ‘action research’ wherein academics and practitioners will work hand in glove from start to finish to have a better mastery of the method. The company could use the output to boost cost surety in future projects using management contracting, as well as test the method within other procurement routes. The business challenge if further researched upon can revolutionalise the way things are done in the UK’s AEC industry.   

  1. What is your overall feeling after completing the ABaCuSS programme? Reflect on skills or insights that you think will benefit you in the future? The impact your contribution to the business might be? (200 words)  

Overall, the placement was a wonderful experience. It offered a singular opportunity for social science researchers to get hands on experience in the corporate world, as well as to employ their skills as researchers towards addressing a business challenge. Throughout the internship, I gained quintessential skills, knowledge as well as valuable experience which would go a long way towards preparing me for life post my doctoral studies. I found the innovation boot-camp particularly helpful as we were taught among other things, the innovation process (create, define, discover, develop and deliver), the connection between innovation and research, and the innovation sales forecast. The individual and collaborative exercises permitted me to gain new skills as well as fine-tune my already acquired skills. My contribution to Faithful+Gould will be important in the evaluation of the later stages of the landmark rehabilitation project of Manchester City Council’s Town Hall. The findings of this placement could help towards ascertaining cost surety in the remainder of the aforementioned project, as well as future projects wherein TVD is used. As a recommendation, future research could be undertaken for an extensive period to allow researchers participate from start to finish in a bid to get a clearer picture of the method and how the findings could be disseminated to a wider academic and professional audience in the UK.   

  


Student Two 

Programme of Study: PhD Business and management  

Academic Institution Name: Manchester University  

Business Placement: Vira Health  

  1. What was your reason for wanting to be on theABaCuSSprogramme? (200words) 

This placement excited me as I hope to go into a researcher position in the industry after completing my PhD. The placement looked like an excellent opportunity to gain unique industry experience, develop new skills whilst getting valuable support and coaching.  

Additionally, I was particularly excited about the placement provider, Vira Health. Their team, developing an exciting behavioural change app stood out as a really exciting and inspiring company.   

  1. What skills, competencies, and/or insights did you gain through the wrap-around support provided by the boot-camp, on-going training, 1-to-1 coaching, and conversation with innovators? (300 words) 

We had some great sessions around creativity and moving through different innovation phases. Also, it was great to talk with the coach about different topics relevant to the placement as well as my future career.  

  1. What methods did you use to undertake your business challenge –reflect onskills you’vedevelopedin your academic experience as well as business/industry skills. (cantake the form of bullet point list)   
  • Research – Scoping, identifying the most relevant information from multiple sources.  
  • Analytics – Finding new ways to analyse the pilot data, applying my familiarity with statistical analysis, particularly the use of regression models.  
  1. Describe any challenges that you facedduring the course ofyour placement? How did you overcome anyroadblocks, and what mechanisms of support would have been helpful in retrospect? (200words) 
  • Some of the existing scopes turned out to be less relevant to pursue. This was because some was no longer a priority for the company, while others were not feasible following the data produced by the pilot. I kept a close collaboration with the responsible team members and identified other areas that could be helpful for them.   
  1. How did the scope and objectives of your business challenge change over the course of the placement? (200-300words)   
  • The scope changed slightly, in which my contribution was broadly split into two phases. The first phase involved looking at drop-out rates and applying statistical analysis in examining why certain users did not complete the pilot. The second phase was closer to the original scope, identifying areas of automation, relying primarily on gathering information about existing technology and applications in the industry.   
  1. What are the final outcomes of your project? What will your work produce? How will the business you were placed with use the deliverables in the future? (200-300 words)  
  • The first phase (i.e. drop-offs), contributes by showcasing what characteristics are important for the users completing the pilot. This information is valuable for advancing work on personalization and automation. The second phase will hopefully provide a better foundation for different elements that Vira can automate.  
  1. What is your overall feeling after completing the ABaCuSS programme? Reflect on skills or insights that you think will benefit you in the future? The impact your contribution to the business might be? (200 words)  
  • Overall, I am happy with the program. The team at Vira is a welcoming, competent, and driven team that I have learned a lot from. Being a PhD researcher, we usually spend a lot of time working on our own, and it has been great getting to work with others on a daily basis.   
  • Furthermore, I think I have learned a lot about an exciting industry, but also the complexity of developing a high-quality behavioural change application. This will be useful when going into any research position in the future.   

Student Three 

Programme of Study: Sociology PhD  

Academic Institution Name: The University of Manchester  

Business Placement: Vira Health, Stella  

  1. What was your reason for wanting to be on theABaCuSSprogramme? (200words) 

My current and prior research projects in addition to my academic interests correspond well with the interests of ViraHealth. Where possible, throughout my academic career I have focused my studies on women’s health issues. This is evidenced in my undergraduate dissertation, postgraduate dissertation and my current PhD research. Prior to my internship , my interest in women’s health issues had taken place in an academic setting. By being part of the ABaCuSS programme, ViraHealth facilitated the opportunity for me to transfer my skills in researching and analysing data on women’s health issues to the private sector. ABaCuSS facilitated the transfer of those skills through providing workshops helping to develop numerous skills to help academics excel in the private sector. Such workshops were focused on innovation, presentation skills, interviewing skills, networking and so on. Through ABaCuSS I was also able to speak to other who had started in academia and went on to make successful careers in the private sector.    

  1. What skills, competencies, and/or insights did you gain through the wrap-around support provided by the boot-camp, on-going training, 1-to-1 coaching, and conversation with innovators? (300 words) 

ABaCuSS training provided me with numerous skills which I then used during my placement. Such skills included; presentation skills, interviewing skills, networking skills and communication skills. The workshops also taught me how to make the most out of my placement so that I can use my experience to further myself in the future. ABaCuSS introduced me to the concept of innovation and how to be innovative within a business setting.  

Conversations with innovators were inspiring and informative, giving real life examples of how those from an academic background can become successful outside of academia. I found the conversations with innovators throughout the 9 weeks extremely motivating for my placement. Each innovator gave different tips that I then used during my placement such as to ask my placement for a linkedin reference. Unfortunately, due to time I was unable to book a 1-to-1 coaching session.   

  1. What methods did you use to undertake your business challenge –reflect onskills you’vedevelopedin your academic experience as well as business/industry skills. (can take the form of bullet point list)   
  • Presentations   
  • Thematic analysis – on coach to user conversations from the pilot launch of the app  
  • Researching – Peer company analysis   
  • Using numerous different new platforms to work on e.g. notion, google doc, google sheets, intercom, typeform  
  • Using numerous different platforms to communicate e.g. zoom, google, slack   
  1. Describe any challenges that you faced during the course of your placement? How did you overcome anyroadblocks, and what mechanisms of support would have been helpful in retrospect? (200words) 

An initial output of my placement was to give a proposal for a training programme to new coaches within the app. While I had no experience of designing a training programme, I was looking forward to bringing my expertise on women’s health into the training programme where possible. Once I had started the placement programme, I realized that the placement wanted me to help to design the training programme. Having no experience on this but wanting to impress, I struggled on for a few weeks trying to complete this task. With little knowledge of the app, I was unable to complete this job to a standard I would have liked. Half way through the placement I discussed this with my placement and they moved me onto tasks that I enjoyed and was able to complete to a good standard. In hindsight I should have spoken to my placement about this issue earlier. Maybe ABaCuSS can set up the opportunity for an informal ‘check in’ with each individual student every 2-3 weeks.    

  1. What is your overall feeling after completing the ABaCuSS programme? Reflect on skills or insights that you think will benefit you in the future? The impact your contribution to the business might be? (200 words)  

I found the experience of being part of the ABaCuSS programme and ViraHealth team extremely valuable, exciting, and different to anything I’ve experienced in the past. ABaCuSS training enabled the transfer of skills from an academic setting into a business setting, which I was then able to put into practice with ViraHealth. This experience has opened my eyes to future opportunity outside of academia, motivating me to pursue a career in business rather than in academia. Completing this programme/ placement has enabled me to see how my skills in research and expertise in women’s health experience can be utilized within a business context, especially in the context of women’s health apps.   


Student Four 

Programme of Study: International Management and Design Innovation  

Academic Institution Name: University of Glasgow  

Business Placement: The Crichton Trust  

  1. What was your reason for wanting to be on theABaCuSSprogramme? (200words) 

I was attracted to this programme for numerous reasons.   

Firstly, the transition from academia to business can be daunting; however, since this programme is designed to help navigate that journey, it caught my attention. I liked that the placement was centered around blending academic research skills with practice to bring value to both parties.   

Secondly, I was interested in the hands-on learning approach. The prospect of enriching my skillset with intrapreneurial methods made this placement stand out. I knew this would help to build my confidence in taking on the challenge as well as projects beyond ABaCuSS.   

Thirdly, I thought it would be a unique opportunity to connect with innovators in industry and members of the business community. I wanted to expand my network and learn from first-hand experience. This, coupled with the fact that the programme facilitates collaborative learning/working with other graduates confirmed my intention to apply. I liked the prospect of going through the process with others in a similar position who could relate to my experience.   

Lastly, the nature of the internship offered at The Crichton, chimed with my personal interest and dedication to climate action. Not to mention, the focus on innovation and a design-thinking-led approach offered me a chance to apply research related to my studies to a practical setting  

  1. What skills, competencies, and/or insights did you gain through the wrap-around support provided by the boot-camp, on-going training, 1-to-1 coaching, and conversation with innovators? (300 words) 

The initial bootcamp provided an ‘Innovative Process Framework’ which was helpful in structuring my approach to the placement. This was particularly useful in the early stages - it encouraged me to tease out information from The Trust to help understand how they currently work, what their intentions are, and what they were expecting of me and my research. This clarified objectives which has been a useful reference throughout the placement.   

The conversations with innovators have been another highlight. Mel Sherwood’s pitching masterclass has significantly improved my presentation skills. I now follow her advice in preparing my voice before most zoom calls. Indeed, her coaching has helped to build my confidence when conducting myself online. Meanwhile, her insight into expressing social queues virtually will continue to be relevant as the world moves in a more digital direction.    

Some advice has not been particularly relevant to my specific placement but has proved to be influential in other external projects. Indeed, idea generation tips such as free association, the use of stimulus have helped me to think outside the box. This has enriched my current academic assignment and will be useful in future research too. Meanwhile, tools in effective communication have helped me to discuss ideas outside of academia and this placement. They have helped me to speak about work more clearly and ensure that all relevant points are included. Application of such tools have resulted in more fruitful and productive conversations. I will continue to apply these skills to my academic and professional work in future.   

  1. What methods did you use to undertake your business challenge –reflect onskills you’vedevelopedin your academic experience as well as business/industry skills. (cantake the form of bullet point list)   
  • Developed networking skills and learnt to properly utilise platforms such as Linked-in and Twitter  
  • The innovation process of ‘Create, Define, Discover, Develop and Deliver’ helped me to structure my thinking and approach to the placement   
  • Idea generation tools such as ‘Free Association’, scribing and gathering stimulus has helped to generate unexpected ideas and innovative thinking  
  • The idea communication framework has helped me to translate such ideas in academic projects and in external work   
  • Tips in conducting discovery interviews has helped me to structure my primary research to reach valuable insights   
  • Pitching skills have helped me to communicate more effectively online and develop confidence  
  1. Describe any challenges that you faced during the course of your placement? How did you overcome anyroadblocks, and what mechanisms of support would have been helpful in retrospect? (200words) 

It was difficult to connect with all stakeholder groups within the allocated timeframe. Many stakeholders would not reply or would take a long time to get back to me. This is understandable given their busy schedules. Although I initially had faith that we would complete the expected number of interviews, as time progressed, I became increasingly concerned that the number and breadth of interviewees would not be sufficient. However, during the Multimind session, Joanne recommended micro commitments. These have been effective in accessing further information and connecting with more interviewees. Indeed the ‘snowballing effect’ has been crucial in confirming more interviews, which has helped to enrich the personas and broaden the scope of my research. Perhaps recognizing this in the early stages would have saved future frustration and led me to set more realistic expectations for The Crichton. Indeed, I may have offered to produce fewer, but more in-depth personas. In saying that, perhaps such ambitions intentions pushed me further.    

Another challenge I found was balancing this internship with academic studies and other commitments. I found the 1-1 mentoring to be supportive in helping me to manage my stress and overcome such challenges. Evelyn from Skillsfluence encouraged me to value time-out to recharge and helped me to recognise when to say no. The reading she offered to enforce this was empowering and reassuring.   

  1. How did the scope and objectives of your business challenge change over the course of the placement? (200-300words)   

The more I learnt about The Crichton and the more conversations I had with stakeholders highlighted the scale and breath of potential personas. Soon into my research I identified my initial expectations to be naïve. Indeed, I began to recognise numerous different stakeholder groups that I had not initially accounted for, as well as personas within personas – different characteristics and conflicting opinions needed to be accounted for. This was partially a result of the ‘snowballing effect’, for different stakeholders felt others in the community should be heard. This was challenge to grapple with, but it was also interesting to understand how far reaching The Trust is within The South of Scotland. As a result, it has been necessary to extend the internship to ensure that the breadth of different stakeholders is included.   

My work with Crichton’s stakeholders has sparked such an interest that I have now centered my final research project around finding a way to help The Trust reach their net zero goals. This has added another dimension to my primary research and broadened my personal objectives and outcome from the placement.   

  1. What are the final outcomes of your project? What will your work produce? How will the business you were placed with use the deliverables in the future? (200-300 words) 

My research will deliver comprehensive personas to translate the different stakeholders of The Crichton Trust. In speaking with different users and related partners of the estate, I have come to understand the range of different attitudes towards climate change. The personas depict stakeholders’ characteristics; as well as their needs, desires, ambitions and challenges in relation to carbon reduction. In portraying them in an anonymous character format, Crichton’s team can build empathy for their stakeholders. This is essential in driving Crichton’s decision-making process in an effective direction. It is important to understand what drives their users to ensure that any change is adopted and welcomed during their next phase of development. It is likely that the personas will spark many different potential directions for the Crichton, but they can be used as a reference to evaluate which initiatives are most pressing and assess which direction is most appropriate.   

  1. What is your overall feeling after completing the ABaCuSS programme? Reflect on skills or insights that you think will benefit you in the future? The impact your contribution to the business might be? (200 words)  

I am very grateful to have had this opportunity – I can see that I have learnt so much about conducting primary research online, entrepreneurship and innovation.   

I have really enjoyed my work with Skillsfluence and The Crichton. It has been fascinating to chat with so many different individuals about their opinions and experiences. Although I was initially very nervous about conducting interviews virtually, I am now completely at ease when working online. Advice in effective communication during the coaching sessions was very influential in helping me to reach this point. I feel proud of the progress I have made in learning how to conduct research online, and of the confidence I have gained in my abilities.     

Many of the tools taught in the bootcamp continue to benefit my work in relation to, and out-with, this programme. I have already enjoyed applying related knowledge and skills to different projects. Idea generation tools, presentation skills, and an idea communication framework have helped me to secure further opportunities beyond the ABaCuSS programme.    

I am pleased to have been involved in Crichton’s next phase of development. I strongly believe in their work and am glad that my contribution will help to ensure that their stakeholders perspectives and voices are not only acknowledged, but fundamental in driving their next steps. The research with Crichton has also expanded my knowledge about the climate crisis. It has highlighted the scale of the problem and how much I still have to learn. I feel inspired by my findings to continue exploring potential net zero initiatives.   


Student Five 

Programme of Study: PhD Economics  

Academic Institution Name: University of Manchester  

Business Placement: Tandem  

  1. What was your reason for wanting to be on theABaCuSSprogramme? (200words) 

ABaCuSS provided me with a unique and rare opportunity to test my theoretical understanding of the problems faced by real-world industries. Until I was introduced to the ABaCuSS program, I never had a chance to work with real businesses in such a way that I am responsible for helping them solve either a potential problem faced by them or help them designing an innovative tool that could help to improve the over all efficiency of the business. Obviously until and unless a researcher experiences real time challenges that could, in some circumstances, make or break the company, a researcher is never able to step out of the artificial bubble of research and isolation that is set up around him. I, as a researcher was facing something of similar sort. Having done two years of research, I found myself having a good theoretical understanding of the reasons why the businesses make decisions in different stages, however, I was unable to fit this all into a nicely knit bigger picture. I wanted to experience the mentality, rigor, and the overall business environment of a real world business that could further improve my understanding of businesses which otherwise isn’t quite possible solely by reading case studies.  

Another reason for wanting to be a part of the ABaCuSS program was that I wanted to be of assistance in bringing a positive change to the society which could help improve the overall well-being of even some section of society. Helping the new startups in improving their efficiency in meeting their consumer demands is exactly what I was looking for.   

  1. What skills, competencies, and/or insights did you gain through the wrap-around support provided by the boot-camp, on-going training, 1-to-1 coaching, and conversation with innovators? (300 words) 

The boot-camp helped me set up the expectations and timeline for the internship. Moreover, it provided me with good enough preparation for the questions/confusions to be addressed about the expectations of the program in my first meeting with the company. Additionally, the tools I learnt about different decision making processes of businesses and deliverables was an additional help in this regard.   

The on-going training conducted by Jo was the most exciting training program of the entire ABaCuSS training. Not only did I get a sporadic encouragement to work diligently but also it broadened my vision to look out of the box for possible solution to the problem at hand.   

The 1-to-1 coaching session helped me effectively  communicate  feedback to the company. Not only did she encourage me to get the problems I foresaw in the expectations of the company across the board, but she also helped me in coming up with a tactful solution to provide feedback around potential future issues.  

To be honest, the conversations with the innovators had such hidden gems that I couldn’t even fathom about. All of them talked about such aspects of delivering an outcome of the project that I had never previously thought about. The most notable of it was the intellectual property one. Similarly, the one on Presentation Skills imparted knowledge about some worthwhile techniques to get rid off the fatigue and anxiety one usually faces during presenting.  

  1. What methods did you use to undertake your business challenge –reflect onskills you’vedevelopedin your academic experience as well as business/industry skills. (can take the form of bullet point list)   
  1. Setting up of realistic expectations and timelines before hand.  
  1. Always keep some room for encountering an unexpected error or bump in the progress of the project.  
  1. Be very clear in voicing/communicating your concerns which could hamper the development of the project to the stake holders in a timely manner.    
  1. What are the final outcomes of your project? What will your work produce? How will the business you were placed with use the deliverables in the future? (200-300 words)  

The final outcome of my project was the generation of a predictive pricing model. By the help of this model, the company before approaching any potential service provider would have a very good estimate of the range within which the optimal price of the journey should lie in. For the non-technical staff of the company, I generated a query-box type of page, where in the staff simply fills in the details of the prospective journey, like the number of seats the company wants to book, the distance between the origin and destination of the journey and whether there would be a wait and return for the service provider. The wait and return effect is an indicator of whether the service provider would have two way passengers, i.e, dropping the passengers from origin to destination, pick up the passengers from the destination who just got off their work shift and drop them back to the destination. This significantly reduces the overall price of the journey. Having filled in these details, a program automatically runs to generate the optimal price of the journey. Furthermore, I generated a user manual for the non-technical staff of the company which would help them in entering new internal/external data to the existing dataset even after the end of this project which would consequently increase the predictive power of the tool with time.  

  1. What is your overall feeling after completing the ABaCuSS programme? Reflect on skills or insights that you think will benefit you in the future? The impact your contribution to the business might be? (200 words)  

Nothing is better than being able to successfully complete an assigned task and watch people benefitting from it right away. As soon as I finished designing the model, I requested the co-founder of the company to get the tool run by different people in the company. None of the people who used it complained about it rather everyone enjoyed using it and grew in confidence in working in the company. The development of the tool helped me the company to get rid off the hassle of working out the optimal price of a journey after rigorous consultations within the office. Hence, everyone is happy about it which consequently delights me too.   

The important insight in the project is to always be clear in communicating the concerns you have about a project to the relevant stake holders and one shouldn’t be intimidated about the outcome of this conveying. Additionally, from academic point of view, I realized that its always better to have some degree of heterogeneity in the data through external datasets to have better estimates about the coefficients.  

The impact of my contribution to the business is that now the business has a comparative advantage over its other competitors in the market and can easily dominate the entire market until any other competitor devises a tool of similar sort. Moreover, the tool that I have designed is such that it will always remain an integral part of the company and with time it would only improve the overall performance of the company.  


Student Six 

Programme of Study: PhD in Urban Studies  

Academic Institution Name: The University of Glasgow  

Business Placement: The Crichton Trust  

  1. What was your reason for wanting to be on theABaCuSSprogramme? (200words) 

This was complicated but two key motivations stood out. One was I hoped to gain the requisite intrapreneurial skills and networks that could lead me to a lucrative academic career path and even working options beyond academia. The other was, seeing The Crichton Trust’s vision, history and legacy, I was delighted by the prospects of working at the institute, to contribute to the future development of Dumfries and Galloway. Scotland is a place I have spent an important period of my life, both professionally and on a personal level. I feel attached to it and want to offer my skills to the improvement of the landscape; literally and figuratively.   

In addition, I also thought it is a good opportunity for me to develop possible future research ideas. My PhD research focuses on place attachment. Technology keeps shaping people’s lives and subsequent user experiences in different places, be it home or workplace, from civic to natural spaces, which plays an important role in the development of attachment and/or nonattachment (to places). Understanding people’s experiences (e.g., satisfactions and frustrations) of using technology in their everyday living could be an essential jigsaw piece to solve the people-place relationship puzzle, and the topic has been largely underexplored in the literature.   

  1. What skills, competencies, and/or insights did you gain through the wrap-around support provided by the boot-camp, on-going training, 1-to-1 coaching, and conversation with innovators? (300 words) 

The boot-camp and on-going training. There was a lot of good stuff coming out of the training. I even kept a working journal. One thing I tried to apply, though I did not do well (see my reflection on the challenge question), was finding my role in the project and find out my employer’s approach to the project, a good understanding of which will lead to healthy working relationship and hence good achievement.  There were also many toolkits that are helpful to the work.   

1-to-1 coaching . I think these coaching sessions are very helpful as it provides a safe and personalised space for me to ask advice that otherwise I would not have a chance to ask in the teamwork sessions. I have received great advice on not only this placement but also my future career development. I even feel they sometimes do the job as counselling sessions where I think through my placement, receive feedback, be signposted to next steps and boost confidence.   

Conversation with innovator . I think the most interesting sessions were those “business representative interviews” in the boot-camp week, where we met the 5 businesses, knowing more about their business ideas, having Q & A sessions with them and receiving advice from the other seven placements about challenges and opportunities each of us envisioned. The ‘conversation with innovator’ sessions in the following weeks were also helpful but depends, in my opinion. The last speaker talked about networking which was very helpful while the first speaker was not really from a social science background.  

  1. What methods did you use to undertake your business challenge –reflect onskills you’vedevelopedin your academic experience as well as business/industry skills. (cantake the form of bullet point list)   

The nature of this project is different from academic research, where you would go through robust literature review, ethical application, fieldwork, data analysis and finding writing-up. However, I still managed to apply some of the skills I developed in my PhD study, which includes:  

  1. I developed a theoretical framework to have a structured understanding of various stakeholder groups and different aspects of people’s lives (domestic, civic/community, professional) where technology would possibly be used, which later helped me to do the stakeholder mapping.   
  1. I am now using thematic analysis to analyse the interview data.   
  1. Describe any challenges that you facedduring the course ofyour placement? How did you overcome anyroadblocks, and what mechanisms of support would have been helpful in retrospect? (200words)   

The biggest challenge I had was to adjust my academic mindset and skills to fit with Crichton people’s working pattern, their culture and needs. This happened in the first week or so of the placement and was reflected in a few ‘debates’ between me and other team members on how we should carry out the research. My proposal was to use a theoretical framework I developed to identify and map key stakeholder groups (who are more important to speak to and who are less) and then focus on collecting interview data to address a few specific research questions such as how technology can be used in COVID-recovery. The theoretical framework I developed and the research questions I identified were based on a literature review. However, the Crichton team thought the best way would be to follow the sort of a grounded theory approach. They highlighted that this project is different from a piece of academic work. Having a pre-defined frame and over specified questions would ‘kill’ the richness and diversity of the research findings. Similar debates went to whether we should further define ‘technology’ or not because it embraces everything. Such ‘tensions’ did create some difficulties and/or frustrations for me because I did not know where to start then and I started to worry about whether I could fulfil the job successfully.   

I think the key to overcoming these difficulties was being open and embrace the change. I had many conversations with my line manager both formally and informally to discuss my understandings and misunderstandings of the nature of the project. I then have been in the way they preferred and now I am quite happy with what I have achieved (although it is different from what I had expected at the start).   

Looking back on it now, it was an important lesson for me to learn. My feeling is I was naive to try to maintain the sort of academic identity. Over the past four and half years of PhD study, I have come across the term ‘inclusivity’ both in work and life multiple times, but I failed to behave inclusively – to appreciate different ideas and to recognise their superiorities. I was narrow-minded.   

  1. How did the scope and objectives of your business challenge change over the course of the placement? (200-300words)   

The scope of the research has not changed much which in itself is a positive thing. The only change that happened was we started from interviewing people who have a connection with the Crichton Trust and later went beyond them to those who live and/or work in Dumfries and Galloway. As such, the initial idea of asking people what role Crichton has in supporting tech innovation for rural communities was dropped.   

Another little adjustment that should be mentioned was we agreed to have a working definition for the term ‘technology’ after I had been constantly asked by some interview participants that what do I mean by technology.   

  1. What is your overall feeling after completing the ABaCuSS programme? Reflect on skills or insights that you think will benefit you in the future? The impact your contribution to the business might be? (200 words)  

Overall, I think working on this internship is one of the most rewarding experience for me. Specifically, first, linking back to my motivations for applying this project that I listed when answering the first question, I have obtained the experience, skills and networks that I wished to gain. For example, alongside working on this project, I also managed to present my PhD research to my line manager and the Crichton Trust team. We are now discussing project ideas and funding application based on my PhD research.  

Second, it transferred my view of being an employee. I started my job with the mindset that I was going to work forthe Crichton Trust. However, my line manager quickly brought me to a stage where I have been working with them as a member of the Crichton Team since then, and I think this has made a huge difference because I got more engaged. I think I would carry on this spirit in my future jobs.  

Third, working with people who have different mindsets and carry different skills from those held by academics enables me to realise and reflect on the advantages and disadvantage I have (in the job market) and to recognise the value of diversity, inclusivity and equity. 

Last, and most important, I have met a lot of nice people with great mentality and professionality, and I have made friends with them. I’ve always believed that any work/job will come to an end but the friendship you could develop last for the rest of your life.   


Visit the Aspect website or ABaCuSS website to learn more about the programme. Aspect members interested in learning about how you can get involved in future iterations can contact Paige McCaleb at paige.mccaleb@glasgow.ac.uk


Latest Resources

Get involved

Find out how the Aspect network can support you

Get Involved

Explore our Communities

Discover how social sciences research is transforming society

Communities of Practice