Selda: HEX – Discovery APAC 2020

I was grateful to be sponsored to participate in a 6-day programme teaching all there is to know about start-ups, innovation and business. Various sessions were held allowing students to experience, discuss and learn more about different aspects of start-ups and business from learning how to create an app to understanding the aspects and legalities of patents and intellectual property. These learnings were supplementary to a project where we were teamed up with other students around the world to create a fully-fledged start up during the 6-day course, ready for presentation to investors and VCs.

I met many new people from all over the world with different areas of expertise and specialisation which helped me develop a network of strong, intelligent, amazing professionals and friends. My group consisted of myself and an RIT student from New York specialising in Industrial Design. With my strong belief of equitable healthcare and goal of improved health outcomes for the public as well as background as a Dietetics student we developed an app platform that allows dietitians to connect with the NZ public to provide accessible, reliable and equitable nutrition support.

During the 6-day programme we developed this platform with all the necessary components of a true start up including a business model, marketing strategy and a very aesthetic prototype which we condensed down into a 5-minute pitch that we delivered to our peers, staff and investors at the end of our course. I was so grateful to have stumbled upon this programme and get sponsored by the university to participate. I was able to learn so much theory about start-ups, business and innovation while also being able to put these learnings into practise with a start-up idea of my own.

The HEX learning environment helped me develop my idea further in a collaborative, safe space with access to experts in every field imaginable. I am so grateful for the amazing network of people I met, the valuable learnings and experience I gained from HEX. As someone with no prior experience in business but many ideas that I had no idea what to do with I would recommend anyone that has even the slightest interest in business or innovation to participate in a HEX programme. Since the programme was completely virtual it had its merits and challenges. It was great to be able to learn from home in a safe, familiar and stress-free environment. However, one challenge that we had to overcome and adapt to was working with students in our groups from all around the world and compromising to find times to collaborate with people in completely different time zones. Regardless, it was a very exciting and new experience that I would do all over again and recommend to anyone of any background.

Lisa: Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate

If you are looking for a course that will challenge and inspire you in ways you hadn’t even considered possible, I encourage you to look no further than the Global Inclusive Leadership certificate offered by Diversity Abroad.

In my experience, a lot of so called “leadership certificates” can often be so dry, simply reiterating what we have already heard a million times before. I can however confidently say that this course couldn’t be further from that. Filled with inspiring modules, videos that had me pausing them every three seconds to reflect on the truth bombs that had just been dropped on me and many opportunities for interaction, this leadership course is one that offers solutions.

We are all in need of the leadership skills offered in this course, whether you’ve considered yourself a leader since you crawled out of the crib or whether the word “leadership” alone makes you want to crawl into a hole and hide – everyone has something to learn from this course. I personally definitely identify more with the crawling-into-a-hole variety, and yet I have found myself opening up and taking initiative much more than I had done prior to the course.

I have learnt that you don’t need be leading a march with torch in hand or hurling commands at others to be considered a leader, but that empathetic and inspiring leadership can be all the more effective.

Yokiu: HEX – Discovery APAC 2020

The Hacker Exchange APAC virtual exchange programme is a fun and challenging experience to work on a start-up project, given the current conditions, an actual visit to the APAC region is not possible. We have two Program Leads – Matt and Jac. They are very good at their jobs in organising and engaging people in the programme. We have a Slack channel for easy communication and a “Command Central” page where Notion (one of the useful applications that I am introduced to in this program) is used as the management system, and the program schedule, mentor and speaker lists, and submission links for daily tasks e.t.c. are all in one place. Before the start of the programme, we also received a goodie bag with a HEX T-shirt and a pair of cardboard virtual glasses to be used in the programme.

The program runs for 2 weeks, Monday to Friday from 9am to evening. HEX is based in Melbourne and the programme is scheduled to Melbourne’s time zone as well. Most students are from Melbourne and Sydney but there are also students from other countries. For me who is in Auckland, the start time of the programme at 11am (9am AEST) is nice but the end time of the programme could be too late, ranging from 7pm to 9.30pm. Other than that, the programme schedule is very rewarding.

Every day we virtually travel to a country in the APAC region by changing our Zoom backgrounds to 1 of the 3 photos provided for that country. A part that I personally really enjoy is that we get introduced to a few common phrases or slangs in the country’s language at the start of the day. Speakers from the region that we “travel” to will come on the Zoom meeting and present their area of specialty. They are very qualified professionals and willing to connect with me on LinkedIn. I have therefore gained a lot of insights and knowledge that would help the start-up process, from marketing, AI, to legal issues from multiple speakers.

There are also mentoring sessions that I can attend by booking on Notion to talk to mentors 1 to 1, and speed networking sections in Remo. I am therefore building more confidence in talking to professionals and pitching my ideas. There are also workshops where we are being introduced to different resources and applications to aid the start-up process, such as using Pitchspot for my business model canvas and Figma for prototyping.

The project that I am working on during the two weeks of the programme is called Petite Designs. I am thinking of building a brand that specifically designs apparel for petite figures by collaborating with designers and brands who do not normally design for petites. The petite community is very underrepresented and ignored in the fashion industry. Regular women’s clothing are designed for heights of 5’5 or above, which does not fit a petite figure properly and does not flatter us. Simply cutting a few inches off the hem cannot solve the problem because the garment has to be redesigned to allow the darts, waist, patterns e.t.c. to hit the right place and hug the figure properly. It is time for the industry to start designing for petites. One of the judges in my final pitch questioned the need for this brand with the availability of customised clothing out there. However, if women of “regular” height have the option to choose from customised clothing and off-the-rack clothing, why wouldn’t petite ladies want this option too? Why are the petite community only bound to options in customised clothing, tailoring and the kids section? This problem might seem niche but the average height of women in most countries are below 5’5, including New Zealand. And in America, 50% are below 5’3. In my research survey, 93% of petite ladies agree that there is a need for more supply for petite sizing.

Caitlin: Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate

I had the privilege of being involved in the Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate, which took place virtually over 9 weeks in late October-December 2020. The programme encompassed 4-6 hours of weekly module completion as well as three online live events which were recorded.

Initially I did not know what to expect from the programme, besides what I had read in the programme description. The initial application process was not too difficult and the 360 International Staff at University, were very helpful. The programme consisted of 9 weeks’ worth of modules including video submissions, readings, assigned video’s to watch and a final community project. Everything was conducted online so the flexibility of the programme helped while I finished off university exams.

The three live sessions took place on zoom with the other programme participants; there were around 10-15 of us around the world. The first module focussed on leadership and identity which helped to ease into the deeper content that we learnt. My favourite module was module 6 which focused on inclusive leadership: unlocking the value of diversity and inclusion. This was because we learnt about what inclusive leadership was, what 4 key areas inclusive leaders excel in, and reflected on empathy and leadership. Empathy was one of my key takeaways from this programme; I was able to further develop and understand my own level of empathy as a leader, and work towards being a more empathetic inclusive leader in different environments. I believe this is crucial for leaders to develop.

Another key takeaway was from module 5: examining local, global and intercultural issues. This was interesting and eye opening as we learnt about ‘critical race theory’ and unpacked what ‘privilege’ is. As someone who is engaging in being an inclusive leader, this was very important.

A challenge during the programme was the virtual format of the programme given Covid-19 and University teaching turning to online format also. This made looking at the computer screen more difficult as I would already be spending 5-10 hours a day studying online, thus can get mentally tiring. Some advice I would give to students thinking about virtual programmes is to think about your why; why are you wanting to give it a go? what do you hope to achieve? how will you keep connections throughout the programme? and, what can you do to implement what you learnt back into your everyday life and life vision? Make the most of every opportunity.

I am very thankful that I was given this opportunity and it has definitely helped to further develop my inclusive leadership skills.

Ryoka: HEX Discovery Asia-Pacific Programme

The HEX Discovery Asia-Pacific program (APAC) was an eye-opening experience. The programme is a startup experience to prepare for the demo day, which is to present in front of real investors around the world. It may start early in the morning, depending on where you are currently located, but it is definitely worth waking up and joining via Zoom. Every day, we have travelled virtually to a country, talked to business founders, and learned about the ecosystem. We went to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore. Not only discovering the country, but it was also a great experience to build connections through LinkedIn after the session.

HEX also offered us mentoring sessions at least once a day, and we had opportunities to ask questions about our business ideas individually to those who have experience in our fields of interest. I have talked with mentors who have backgrounds in journalism, technology, management, finance and so on. They all gave me supportive advice and also fun casual chats.

The contents of HEX was practical in terms of building the business idea and creating a prototype. At first, I did not have any clear idea of what I wanted to do, but through an ideation session and talking to mentors; it became much clearer. No one had denied anyone’s idea, and I think that was the best part of HEX. Some of the cohorts have already graduated from universities or already have experiences in startups, so not everyone was in the same boat. But everyone was very interactive and supportive of each other, such as giving tips on digital marketing. I had never created an actual website and had no idea on how to create the prototype at first; though, of course, HEX had a few sessions teaching us how to do it. This programme is not only about building an idea but also gaining various skills to use in the future.

A difficulty I found was that doing everything by myself. I have experience in a startup during high school, but I had a team. So whenever I had ideas, I could talk with them and gain new perspectives for the business. On the other hand, creating businesses individually also allowed us to do whatever we want. If we were in a team, we might allocate the tasks and focus on the task, which may limit the learning. Everything was new for me to do by myself, both doing input and output helped me to understand how to create a sustainable startup- market validation, financial estimated plan, and pitching.

I recommend future students to leave the two weeks blank with no plan, I was doing another internship at the same time with HEX, and it was a bit stressful. I think it was such a valuable experience to gain insights and build connections for the future. I hope future students also to enjoy what HEX offers!

Fiza: Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic this year, I was given the opportunity to undertake an exciting virtual programme with the help of the 360 international team. The programme was titled, “Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate” and ran for 9 weeks, starting from mid October to mid December. I was required to attend three live sessions with the programme coordinators and students from other countries who were also participating in this programme. As for the programme itself, it was divided into 9 modules, each comprising specific activities such as written reflections, videos, articles and also assignments that had to be completed before the end of the programme.

I truly enjoyed the programme because of various reasons. Firstly, due to its flexible nature, I could complete the modules at my own pace while also studying my courses at university. However, at the same time, my advice to future students would be to manage their time effectively and not leave the completion of the modules to the last minute. It would be a good idea to do small portions of the modules throughout the week so that you can finish the programme by the due date. At times when you feel stressed or find something confusing, your first action should be to contact your coordinator as they are very responsive to emails and will do their best to assist you.

Secondly, this programme taught me many crucial skills related to intercultural communication and inclusive leadership. I was exposed to many new and complex concepts such as emotional agility, empathy, critical race theory, cultural humility, Galtung’s triangle of violence, six personal leadership practices, privilege and many more. An example of a situation where I developed one of these skills was when I had to complete an assignment on the six personal leadership practices. This assignment required me to write a short report on a critical incident that I had encountered in my life. After assessing this incident by walking through the six practices, my view of the situation had changed drastically and I was able to find a way to manage conflict of ideas while working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Such a skill will be extremely beneficial for not just my future career but also nearly in any sphere of life. This is because, in a globalised world, it is nearly impossible to not have critical incidents at some point of your life when working with a diversity of people. However, this skill has taught me how I can find a middle ground with my colleagues or fellows during such tense situations without sacrificing my own goals and visions entirely.

Lastly, I truly enjoyed being part of engaging conversations with other students in the programme during the live sessions. It helped me to not only expand my network, but also gave me insight into how other students from different parts of the world were trying to be inclusive leaders in their own communities. By listening to their ideas and also voicing my own learnings, I believe that I was able to become a more confident individual, and feel as though I belonged to a global community. For this reason, I would encourage more students to partake in such a programme because it will definitely provide them with unique perspectives and a sense of global citizenship.

Sophie: Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate

The Global Inclusive Leadership programme by Diversity Abroad. The first time I read that title, I scrolled right past. It might as well have been called Innovative Synergies in Entrepreneurship or some other jargon-filled horror. But COVID-19 gave me too much free time, so I scrolled back and read some more. I decided to sign up once I saw that it was going through theories of leadership and diversity. ‘Theory’ indicated depth and I was intrigued. I decided to give it a shot and apply. I got in.

Nine weeks of online modules on topics ranging from theories of leadership to Critical Race Theory. Three one-hour online sessions. A few written and video assignments here and there. Seemed manageable. Little did I know, this was not going to be an exercise in empty words and jargon – it had substance, and substance takes time and emotional introspection. The first week I discovered that I am a contrarian leader. All the features of my leadership style that I thought were unique quirks fell neatly into this unfamiliar category. My propensity to put off decisions until the last minute was not born from indecisiveness, but a desire to have fuller information and make decisions based on my most recent emotional position. My contradictory views reflected a rejection of binary thinking and embracing complexity. It validated and enlightened my knowledge of my own leadership style and taught me how to leverage the abilities I have because of my contrarian style.

Then leadership interacted with identity. This was the point where I feared repetitive narratives. There were ideas I’d already heard time and time again, but there were also fresh, rigorous ideas. I learnt the history behind some popular buzzwords, for example, cultural humility and cultural competency. It challenged my view that words such as these are inherently empty and almost meaningless. They have a rich history, sometimes a long history. Cultural humility originated in healthcare and is a process that challenges the popularity of cultural competence. It says that, in order to work and live well in diverse situations, you must adopt the right attitude towards difference, not merely have knowledge of the substance of different cultures. If you merely focus on cultural competence, then you may be unintentionally upholding harmful attitudes even as you think you are being inclusive. For example, you may impose your ideas of what a culture believes or values onto a situation without being open to learn from the situation in the moment, or being aware that individuals within cultures may not conform strictly to the norms within their communities. This idea spurred a variety of movements in healthcare and the workers rights movement.

If you are conflicted about whether a virtual programme is worth your time, particularly one to do with leadership and/or inclusiveness, I would strongly recommend giving it a go. Many people seem to think that leadership and inclusiveness are common sense – are things that come naturally that don’t need to be studied. I’m convinced now more than ever that that perception is wrong. If you think inclusiveness comes naturally, you are probably the exact person who needs to take the course and interrogate their assumptions. I sure needed to.

Shisla: U21 Global Citizenship course

The programme I took was the Global Citizenship programme, which took me about 9 hours in total to complete. Most of this was done through asynchronous activities, and we had 2 1-hour sessions where we met with other participants from around the world. Despite the short amount of time, this programme was incredibly enjoyable and very insightful. The asynchronous activities included thought-provoking material and activities, where I got to know more about myself and the world around me. The two live sessions included a zoom call with over 2000 participants from all around the world. In breakout rooms, we would discuss our Goals, what the course has taught us and how we are going to work towards achieving our goal.

The interesting part for me was finding out about why people choose specific goals, what they have been doing about it, and what they will continue to do. This made me feel that although the world is so large, many people go through the same thing, have the same goals, etc.

The biggest challenge of the programme, for me, was to ‘create’ the time to participate in the live sessions – although this was also hardly a challenge. Because the program was only 2-3 hours a week and could be done in your own time, I personally did not feel that it was a strain, and felt very comfortable balancing it with my other commitments. However, the live sessions were a given time and date, that did not suit me. The good thing about this was that it was not mandatory to participate in both, however it was something that I really wanted to do. Hence, I managed to extend my lunch break at work to participate, and it flowed fine! I suppose another thing that I should mention, which wasn’t necessarily a challenge for me; is the cross-cultural aspect of the live session. I got put in a breakout room of about 10 people, all from different backgrounds. Because I have done a course on communication styles, I found it interesting to ‘read’ the way in which other participants communicated. However, I am mentioning this because I saw that some people found challenging to adapt to other’s communication styles: some cultures tend to be quite shy, while others are quite loud, and if the conversation is not managed appropriately there is risk that a couple of people will be dominating.

Some of the skills I developed through this experience were critical thinking, cross-cultural collaboration, and intercultural communication. Having heard of experiences I would have never learned of throughout my business degree, my mind was opened to how many simultaneous things are happening throughout the world, and how insignificant I am. This may sound gloomy, but it is definitely necessary for a student that immerses themselves in their own life so intensely without sometimes seeking an external communal purpose. It makes you think that what you do in your life is not just for you, it is for all of those around you. And I believe that this is a very special feeling; to feel apart of something bigger than you can even imagine. This made me motivated to work harder throughout my studies and pursue better opportunities, not only to benefit myself, but also to assist in developing the wider world.

Lisa: U21 Global Citizenship course

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

― Margaret Mead.

2020 and its entourage of lockdowns, restrictions and other treats has undoubtedly made us all feel a bit helpless. With the “I’m going to change the world” passion that engulfed us at the beginning of the year slowly fading away, I decided to apply for the U21 Global Citizenship program. I had heard of the United Nations Sustainability goals, but only as a faraway concept with no real life application. Throughout the course, I quickly became aware that this is not the case.

I learned a lot through the different modules, but most eye-opening to me was how many other people were in the same position as me. Students from all around the world, from different backgrounds and walks of life and holding various different beliefs and values all wanted to play a part in leaving the world in a better place when we found it. It instilled in me a new confidence that despite all the lunacy going on in the world, hope is still found where we need it the most: in collaboration to solve our common problems. We might hold different opinions and viewpoints, but one skill that I learned from the course is that it’s okay to admit when you’re wrong and to have the courage to pick up a different viewpoint when learning new information. I’m not trying to downplay the difficulty that lies in swallowing you pride but rather want to stress the greater good that comes out of it, something you that will become very evident in taking this course.

In terms of advice that I would give to anyone interested in taking this course, I just want to say: Go for it, but do so with an open mind. Sure, you can go through the different modules focused on what you believe and ignore the comments of other people, but that isn’t going to get you very far. It’s in learning to work with others that we can make a change, and this course is the perfect place to get started on that. Learn to engulf yourself in the different goals and find one specific goal that speaks to you the most and then use your newly found passion and drive to make it a reality.