Working remotely has become the norm during COVID-19. But for Sandra and Katey of Powell River based eLeadership Academy, working online was the norm long before the pandemic started. An MBA student at TRU, Katey has been completing her studies online while also helping Sandra ramp up her educational platform with the help of the Innovate BC ISI grant program.
Interview with Sandra McDowell, CEO, eLeadership Academy, and Digital Marketing student hire Katey Harrison.
What problem does your eLearning platform solve?
Sandra: Most people don’t have access to leadership development online. We make it accessible for leaders and managers to access it at any time of day, not just during specific office hours. Our goal is to move out of the academic theory of leadership and into the practical, with our cohort-based programs, eLeaderHUB and monthly micro training sessions.
Why did you apply for the Innovate BC ISI grant?
Sandra: As a small business owner, being able to access that kind of funding really helps, especially at this time as things are contracting in terms of business. It’s also great to provide an opportunity to a student–a meaningful one from which they can grow and learn. It’s a win-win.
What did hiring a student help you achieve?
Sandra: It helped me to be able to support our market research needs, administrative duties, and the brainstorming about what’s possible to achieve with our platform. Katey has been working with us now for just over a year, and is helping us while we’re ramping up.
Katey: This role fits well with my schooling–I can put theory directly into practice. I can see how things work by being hands on–it solidifies the learning from my program.
What did you learn from hiring a student, and what was it like to mentor Katey?
Sandra: Katey helps me to remember the academic rigour that students are put through. She’s doing her MBA online, on top of doing this work. She reminds me that you can do both, and that people are able to aspire to that high level of achievement.
Katey: This role fits well with my schooling–I can put theory directly into practice. I can see how things work by being hands on–it solidifies the learning from my program. I studied neuropsychology as my undergrad, which helps with our platform, and my MBA also directly applies to what I’m doing here.
Did working for a startup inspire you to possibly start your own business someday?
Katey: I think down the line, being able to start something is such an admirable thing to do. This has been a great eye-opening experience to see all the avenues involved in that– marketing, admin, trademarking, and the big picture. It’s so aspirational what Sandra has done, and what others do–maybe it’s something I can do in the future.
Any success stories from working together?
Sandra: I think a success story is that it’s been a year, and even though we’ve only met in person once or twice, we’ve maintained a fantastic relationship. I attribute that to Katey–her self-management skills and high accountability. We’ve found a cadence to working together even though we’re not in the same room.
I think a success story is that it’s been a year, and even though we’ve only met in person once or twice, we’ve maintained a fantastic relationship. We’ve found a cadence to working together even though we’re not in the same room.
Any tips for people working remotely right now because of COVID-19?
Katey: A few things that help: having a strict schedule, where you block time for either work or school. Also keeping separated areas–I have a set work area, then the rest of my home is for other things.
Sandra: I agree. Also, as an employer it’s important to be clear about expectations, and use as many communication touch points as you can, in specific ways. Katey and I text a lot– it’s fluid. We decided email is for things that aren’t urgent, but text is used if you need a quick answer.
Katey: Sandra and I would do daily Zoom meetings in the first few months where we’d set objectives for the day and fill each other in. That helped as well to establish our relationship. I really feel I know Sandra much more than I should since I’ve only met her in person a few times!
Any comments or feedback on the program?
Sandra: I greatly appreciate the program and having access to it–it helps lower the risk of investing in a student, and allows the student time to grow.
The training modules that Katey completed at the beginning helped set the tone of what was expected, the rigour was behind the grant and how to apply it in the workforce.
I also appreciated the simplicity of everything–everything was fairly straightforward to access, and the portal is easy to understand. Overall it was a great experience!
Get on the waitlist for the Innovate BC ISI Grant program
Looking to hire a student for your company? The ISI grant is open for applications.