Things That Have Made Me A Better Enterprise Educator

Written by Dr Lauren Ellse

Good jobs are enjoyable and fun, but the best jobs make you want to improve so that you can be better at them.

I feel this way about my role in Enterprise Education and I hope you do too.

I have worked in extra-curricular enterprise support at the University of Bristol since 2017 and have a scientific and entrepreneurial background. As enterprise educators usually work in small, innovative teams delivering programmes to meet specific needs, I am often struck by how similar it is to a start-up… albeit more secure. For me, this is part of the enduring appeal, but I have sometimes found it challenging to identify my skills gaps and ways I can progress. Just as we would recommend that founders focus on their own personal development as well as business success, perhaps we need to practice what we preach…

This blog is for those new to enterprise education who are keen to find development opportunities. EEUK has lots of ways to support you and recognise your achievements so please check out the development section of the website, but here are some personal reflections on things that have helped me so far…

Road trip!

Visiting other institutions can give you fresh ideas and allows you to see how their programmes work in the context of their city/town. Importantly, you will meet fellow enterprise educators working in similar roles who are great contacts for sharing best practice with moving forward.

I was fortunate enough to receive funding to visit three universities through the Richard Beresford Bursary in 2018 and would encourage you to apply.

Network your socks off

Attend as many events as you can in areas that interest you. IEEC is the ultimate networking event and a brilliant opportunity to showcase work as well as connecting with the enormous EE community. My top tip would be to talk about something your team are finding challenging and that has a broad impact. Neil Coles and I ran a session on the new Start Up Visa regulations for IEEC 2019. No-one had the answers, but the room was buzzing, and it started conversations which continued after the conference.

My other tip would be to attend events that are slightly out of your comfort-zone. Last year I found the IAN conference particularly insightful despite misgivings that our student enterprise team wasn’t really an accelerator. Conversations with incubator and accelerator managers helped me to benchmark the value on offer at Bristol and understand the challenges and opportunities at a national level.

Join the conversation

Join groups and networks where you can contribute to the conversation and learn from others. EEUK have Membership Advisory Groups (MAGs) which meet quarterly to discuss opportunities and challenges relating to your professional pathways and generate solutions to share throughout the network.  Another group I have found invaluable is the excellent Network for Coaching and Mentoring Entrepreneurs set-up by Dr Harveen Chugh and Victoria Nicholl. This group is all about sharing and discussion, sessions are expertly run and hugely impactful.

Be an advocate and find yours

It is a privilege to work with innovative future founders every day. I always try to find opportunities to be their cheerleader within my organisation. The insight we have is valuable because trends, needs and outlooks change quickly in this field, and I have found this has helped me build internal connections and programme awareness.

Finally, reach out to your network and ask for help and advice. Perhaps you’re fortunate, as I am, and have a supportive manager with whom you can discuss development opportunities with, but I would also suggest talking to a range of more senior colleagues working in different areas of enterprise education. Picking their brains about their career path and how they achieved their position might help you make your next step.

Dr Lauren Ellse, Enterprise Adviser, University of Bristol