. . . or how we turned dots on a piece of paper into a story
Do we really believe that “the world belongs to the young”?
Distracted, hard to teach, even harder to manage, arrogant, stubborn, the Instagram generation. . . How often have I heard that said about the young. And about myself, if I’m perfectly honest. We might add that they see the world differently. Is there anything wrong with that?
It depends! A better question might be whether we want and are able to take advantage of this difference.
My story began a lot earlier than the beginning of the StartYoung Academy.
Years ago I was given the role of leading and training a team for the first time . . . To begin with, three promising students. Our task was to set up a “Vision” department at a company. With know-how and enthusiasm, while experience was something we would build along the way.
Interestingly, one of the first to put its trust in us was Domel . . . The challenge they set us was one that tested our abilities to the limit . . . Would we be up to it? Innovative approaches and, above all, a willingness to tackle the problems that appeared along the way, together with the customer’s trust in our success, was the key to an excellent result.
Leading teams has become a source of energy for me. Leading young people is a particular challenge, but the change in them after they have passed through mentorship is a priceless result.
The embryo of the Academy came into being at my previous company. With the aim of forming ties with a secondary technical school, we set up an agile professional project. Did we stop there? No! We competed with the team to see who could get whom further out of their comfort zone (and it is very probable that they were the winners of this particular duel). The project quickly outgrew its original framework and became a genuine internal start-up. We didn’t only work on the technical side, we also delved into marketing, sales, PR, finance, project management . . . In short, a little company within a company that opened the eyes of our young team to the world of enterprise . . .
And where did Domel come in?
When we started discussing how to adopt a different way of addressing new challenges, the earlier story undoubtedly had a big influence in convincing us to design the pilot project StartYoung Academy. Once again Domel showed a lot of trust in me and believed that together we could do something really worthwhile.
A number of students volunteered to take up Domel’s challenge. None of us really knew what to expect from the challenge, but we were all driven by the desire for something that would go beyond the traditional bounds of mentorship and innovation. We set the challenge as a combination of product development work and the development of an enterprise idea with the help of start-up methods. And incidentally started to build two internal start-ups.
Let me first of all say that we focused a lot on the market and the target public and occasionally put technical aspects and product design slightly to one side. . . which earned me quite a number of grumpy looks . . .
But all for a reason, I might say. The motivation that sprang up in the team as a consequence of the positive responses from the market was invaluable in boosting confidence and proactivity when it came to resolving the problems that appeared along the way. And there were plenty of them . . .
Oh yes, the result!
We set up a team, learned to cooperate, learned agile approaches, raised the level of responsibility, became more adult, courageously tackled tasks that “frightened” us, learned to swim outside our comfort zone, discovered that in order to make a product you need to know and see and understand much more than its mere technical specifications . . . We discovered that in the end it is the customer who decides whether a product is good, we understood and accepted the values and vision of the company, we learned to follow a vision and nevertheless work independently . . .
Ah, but you want to know what we actually did?
We made the first prototypes of products that may over time become part of Domel’s portfolio . . . More about that in the illustrations. And in their own words, the lads gained invaluable experience. And I don’t think they were the only ones . . .
When I look back, I quickly realise that apparently random events join together to form a great story. Connections like this cannot be predicted in advance. For this reason, I cannot predict what events will mark the StartYoung Academy in the future. I can say, however, that whatever happens, it will be done with the aim of putting young people in the driving seat as early as possible, so that they experience for themselves what we mean when we say that the world belongs to the young.
Will they be up to the task? I believe they have already proved it today!
I responded to the challenge in the hope of gaining new knowledge and a better understanding about the construction of new products. During the project I learned important things about teamwork and at the same time discovered the importance of cooperation between the team and expected customers.
Overall, I would say that taking part in this project was an important experience for me and I would recommend it to students next year.
If your goal is to pass Construction Methodology with as little work as possible, by responding to the challenge you’ve taken a step away from that goal.
Jure Bajt: What gave me the most added value? Working outside my comfort bubble :D
Miha Rejec: Domel’s challenge was a super experience that changed my view of the process of solving problems and finding market niches. I would certainly recommend participating in the project to future generations.
The hardest thing for me was waiting for the development of the prototype. But I understand and it seems perfectly logical to me that it makes more sense to find out what customers want first. Nevertheless, that instinct remains :)
One of the most important things I learned was that before you start developing and making a product, you need to check whether a market for it actually exists.
The company gained precious experience about how we can cooperate even more closely with our future employees while they are still students. We also took the first concrete step in the pre-development of a product that is potentially commercially interesting.