*Please note: The information on this page is out of date. The ISI Program is currently managed by Innovate BC. For more information, click here.
Students need real-life work opportunities. Startups need motivated young people to help propel them forward. That’s where the Innovate BC Innovator Skills initiative program (ISI) comes in! This BC-wide program provides tech companies grant funding to help them hire awesome post-secondary students.
We visited gastown-based MuseFind, to check out their projects, meet their students and see how the program has made a difference to their startup.
MuseFind is an influencer marketing company. Their cozy gastown office is exactly what comes to mind when thinking of a typical startup: open plan, tightly knit, nerf guns, ping-pong table, and beer tap in the corner.
MuseFind hired two students through the Innovate BC Innovator Skills Initiative (ISI) program, from UBC and SFU.
Mackenzie is a computer science major at SFU—he works on the website, updating features, and is actively learning how to be a full-stack developer and programmer.
“It’s a lot of fun here. I get made fun of a lot,” he says, laughing. “I enjoy the work that I’m doing, and it’s so great to have a job in my field. I’m working on the Q&A, new features, and testing—they’re throwing me in everywhere. The project that we submitted expanded; it evolved into working on features.”
The ISI program is for technology companies but it’s not limited to hiring developers and engineers. Anca, a sociology student at UBC, is hard at work managing MuseFind’s campaigns and onboarding.
“Mostly, I work with brands and influencers, features, and videos to help people work through the platform. I also onboard, process reviews, and develop templates. I work on a lot of projects on the side too—I learned how to make videos,” Anca comments. “I’ve been here through a full cycle of project management—after I graduate from UBC I’m interested in completing my PMP certificate.”
Mackenzie jumps in to comment how useful the experience has been. “This has been a great experience—I’m making an app right now in my classes; the skills are so transferrable from here to the course I’m taking. And it’s also made me realize that when I first got here, I thought I could do a lot more than I could.”
Anca sees the connections between her major and her work, although they’re not quite as direct, at first glance. “I’m a sociology major and family studies minor—this work is not directly applicable to my schooling, but I think the field makes me a better communicator. It’s how my degree relates to society—to see the world through other people’s perspectives. It’s scary being an arts student, because you don’t have tangible skills—programs like these provide more opportunities for us. It’s hard to find a good, solid job. “
Andry, MuseFind’s COO, reiterates this. “Yes, that is the beauty of the startup, because communication is number one—the other skills you can learn on the job. Our team members have interesting backgrounds—an English lit major and philosophy major became developers. One of our salespeople studied political science, and another studied chemistry. We all have similar strengths—we’re all so friendly and get along.”
“We all like Egg McMuffin day—which is tomorrow,” Mackenzie interjects.
The day isn’t a McDonald’s run—it’s a breakfast at work that everyone creates together. Grilled cheese day is coming up just after that.
Then came the usual questions: any success stories from the projects they’ve completed?
Anca answered, “All of our projects have succeeded. Both of us are just having such a great time here, it’s going really well.”
Andry chimes in, “We’ve been given great feedback and review from the clients and are open to ideas. A lot of the things on our site, the onboarding experiences, mostly are due to Anca’s implementation.”
Anca continues, “MuseFind supports any idea that you have. I wanted to create videos instead of little comments to help users, and everyone was like ‘sure make them and put them up’. I get feedback and support, which is nice, but it’s my own project and I figured it all out.”
Mackenzie agrees. “The rejection box. That took way longer than it should have. Asking why brands reject working with some influencers and why influencers reject working with brands – that was my first successful project. It was a lot of learning, so I had to look at all the other coding that we had done, but by the end I learned a ton from that.”
Anca says, “There’s so much support, they don’t want us to take the easy way out. Even this morning, I was putting out a new feature, but I got some help, and everyone’s so open to helping out. We feel empowered.”
Mackenzie: “It’s so fun here. We have some breaks by the ping pong table – my game has improved a lot. There’s a keg, beanbag chairs, a Keurig—“
Anca: “I sit on a yoga ball.”
Mackenzie: “Every single week in class we talk about things that we’re already doing at MuseFind. A lot of people also don’t know what to do after school.”
Andry goes on to comment how the ISI program has helped his startup. “Other than the financial help, we all appreciate programs like this, cause we can take risks in hiring. We get a lot of fresh perspective—a lot of times we’re very stuck in one mode of doing things, but students give us a chance to see things differently. They tell us a lot of about what they’re hearing outside, or how they might see things as an influencer.”
Anca and Mackenzie jump in to talk about being company ambassadors, when they’re with their friends or on campus.
Anca comments, “I Snapchat it all the time, and everyone wherever I go asks me about my work, because they see how different of a workplace it is and get curious. When anyone asks me about my job, I recommend that they work at a startup since I’ve experienced so much growth. It’s like a family more than anything else.”
After Anca and Mackenzie wrapped up their fall terms, Anca was hired on, full-time, and Mackenzie stayed on as a summer student while completing his undergraduate degree.
Looking to hire student in 2018-2019? The Innovator Skills Initiative Program is open for applications now. Your BC-based tech company or startup could receive up to $10,000 a year to hire a post-secondary student.
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