As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know but who you know, implying the immense power that relationships have. Originally from India where he has experience as an engineer and corporate cricket player, UBC Sauder School of Business MBA student Sreejayan Rama, has gained a lot of satisfaction from his work as Alinker’s business development intern. Read on to discover more about, as the Alinker team often jokes, “his first Canadian work experience with a Dutch boss.”
As a student, what are the top reasons you were attracted to entrepreneurship and particularly, social entrepreneurship?
I’m really excited to be working in a startup because you get that chance to wear multiple hats and to be in different people’s shoes, which generally in a corporate company you don’t get. In a way, you become a jack of all trades but, of course, you should always make sure you don’t become the master of none.
I like people who want to have a meaningful approach to their business, who want to create a social impact; their business isn’t just a profit-making machine. I don’t want to earn money just for the heck of it— I want to have my work in an organization contribute to some sort of meaningful impact to someone who needs it most. That’s what drives me to do the whole thing.
What is your biggest win to date?
I think my biggest success has been learning about relationships and customer dynamics in North America and maintaining those relationships. In a rehab centre where we’ve developed a partnership, we’ve gone there and given live demos; we’ve seen patients sit on the Alinker and move faster than they would with a walker or wheelchair. The smile on their face when they do that— I think that’s the biggest takeaway, the satisfaction they get while they’re using the Alinker is amazing. They may feel like they have no reason to smile because they can’t walk and are ill and know they will be ill tomorrow but giving them a reason to smile today and probably for the remaining days of their life is impactful— it blew my mind. It’s not about the partnership, it’s the smile— it’s the fact that they’re happy with the Alinker and they find themselves so secure and feel as a whole individual again.
What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced to date?
Entrepreneurs, especially when they have a product, are very attached to their message, goals, and objectives and it’s a little hard trying to turn their head elsewhere. I think the toughest challenge is sometimes advocating for things that would be good for the business, which often they see as their child. There are times we go back and forth with things; we have a lot of constructive debates and it’s about reaching that mutual consensus. Of course there have been times when I have been wrong but I’ve learned to advocate for myself, how to change my perspective, and when to take what’s good and let go of what’s bad for the product and company and not hold on to any ego.
Your turn – give a piece of advice for someone in your shoes next year wanting to be an intern at the iHub.
My advice is to never stay fixed in the role you’ve been assigned to because in reality you will be working in and touching all aspects of the business. You have to be open to doing everything possible because an entrepreneur in a small organization needs help with everything. And, by doing those multiple things, you have to make sure that you don’t become Jack, the master of none. Take advantage of the opportunity provided by the iHub and e@UBC— put yourself in places you haven’t been, expose yourself to things you haven’t learned, and by doing all that, you can position yourself to do what you’re actually good at and that’s something we all want to do in life.
Interview conducted and written by: Amanda Bamford (Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub Marketing Intern)