Startups often need flexibility in their schedules, and so do part time students. That’s why the ISI grant program was a great fit for HeartPress. By getting an ISI grant, they were able to hire a part-time student with an open start and end to fulfill a Project Coordinator role to Q&A test the companies new platform. Interview with Lori Munoz Malcolm, Community Strategist and Founder, of Victoria based Heartpress, and her student Amal Khan, Project Coordinator.
Tell me a bit about HeartPress
Lori: Heartpress bridges the gap between businesseswho want to give back to non-profits by playing the role of match-maker. Our mission is to help companies connect with their communities and give back in a way that aligns with their own values.
What was your education/work experience prior to working at HeartPress?
Amal: I am currently taking courses at the University of Victoria and online classes at Thompson River University. Throughout my time in school, I have taken courses in bio-chemistry, health information and computer science. Prior to working at Heartpress, I worked at a number of public sector healthcare companies, where I worked on the business side of things rather than the tech side.
How did you find your student?
Lori: I met Amal at a YYJ tech ladies event in Victoria.
What did a typical day look like for you at HeartPress?
Amal: During the three months I worked at HeartPress I was exposed to many aspects of the startup. I was able to work remotely, which worked well with my full time courses. Each morning Lori would post the goals of the day into our slack group–this helped me to prioritize my work.
As Project Coordinator, my main role was to test the second version of our MVP to ensure a successful customer experience while collecting data for further developing the platform. I also had the opportunity to do some marketing–this included writing the newsletter and helping to design and build content for the website. By wearing multiple hats in my role of Project Coordinator I was able to gain a better idea of what my career options would be, post grad, and work in roles that I didn’t necessarily think were my strongest suit.
Why did you decide to apply for an ISI Grant?
Lori: Unlike co-op grant programs that have set terms, the ISI grant program has flexible start and end dates, and allows for part time hours. This fit Amal’s school schedule better because she couldn’t take a semester off to do a work term.
How did hiring a student help your startup?
Lori: Hiring Amal allowed me to create a new position where her main job was to interact with our users. She was able to navigate and help us through our web application build. Amal had a technical background, which differed from all the other team members. Her unique skill set brought a different perspective to the Heartpress work culture.
What would you say to students who want to work at a tech startup?
Amal: One thing I would say–be prepared to wear many hats. Be open to working in areas that you may not necessarily think are your strength. It’s a great experience to work at a fast-paced tech startup environment where there are constant deadlines.
I found that because I was in a constant feedback loop, I was able to see the positive outcome of my work right away, which was really rewarding and motivating.
Why would you recommend the ISI Grant Program?
Lori: I would recommend the program because of its flexibility of the type of student you can hire. I think it’s great that the student doesn’t necessarily have to be studying business or tech to work in a business or tech role. This allows you to find the right fit for your company, over hiring a person that has the skills you require to meet the requirements of the grant. Although knowledge and practical skills are important, these can be taught. Fit is everything when you’re in the initial stages of building your tech startup.
Amal: The ISI Grant program is a great program. Without it, I would not have had the opportunity to work at a startup. I enjoyed learning about entrepreneurship in the Market Validation Training modules. With the help of the grant, students like myself are able to gain exposure to the fast-paced tech industry, which is an exciting and rewarding sector to be a part of.
Interested in applying to the ISI grant program? Applications are open. 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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