As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
Canada has always been on my travel list; known for its great outdoors, safe multicultural cosmopolitan cities, and friendly people. Engaging with people who had visited, Canada was always described to me as one of those places thats experience is nearly impossible to describe and after visiting once you’ll want to return.
So when the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship was released, it posed as an opportunity to spend up to 12 weeks researching in a country on my bucket list. And when people ask why I applied, I say why not, because I had so much to gain from this opportunity and little to lose.
I first applied for the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship in 2020 however was unsuccessful in my application. Fortunately, due to a change in my degree programme I became re-eligble to apply and reapplied in August 2021. Receiving, notification in September that my application had been nominated for the programme I began the process of filling out the application form, detailing experience I had gained from work experience the year before and what skills I could bring to the programme. With my application submitted it, I was left to wait to see if any Canadian professors would contact me. I was fortunate to be contacted by two professors in November to further discuss their projects and my suitability.
By December, I had been selected and confirmed my place on the 2022 Globalink Research Internship.
From January through to departure in May, I organised my flights, housing, visa, starting/ finishing dates for the internship, and a small amount of currency. Connecting with my supervisor during this process made it feel less intimidating as I was able to ask questions or express queries.
Before I knew it May had arrived, and I was stood at the airport waiting to depart on one of my biggest adventures yet. An 8 hour flight, and 2 hour immigration wait later, I was in Toronto.
The first week, I was provided with a tour around the faculty, opened up a bank account, and familiarised myself with the campus. I was able to meet my supervisor and research team in person as well as start on my project. Over the next 10 weeks I was able to develop a general research topic of Micro-structural analysis of advanced composite structures, into a working conference and journal paper focusing on Investigation of impact response of 2D braided hybrid composites using Micro-CT. Throughout the project I was able to develop my knowledge of braided composites, non-destructive analysis, and composite sample manufacturing.
Alongside researching, I took the time to explore the city of Toronto through events such as Toronto Pride, Canada Day at Woodbine Beach, and a Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. These formed some of the key highlights of my internship in addition to trying different foods and visiting the key tourist attractions such as the CN Tower, Casa Loma, and the Aquarium.
As the end of July approached, I realised I had learnt more, made international friends, gained new experiences, and stepped out of my comfort zone to my growth zone. It’s an experience I will always look back on fondly and would encourage people to take as many opportunities to develop themselves personally and professionally.
Ask for help
Take time to explore where you are, it’s easy to get stuck in work
Keep in contact with your support network back home
Take lots of photos and videos
Plan in advance especially housing, visas, flights, packing.
Maisie Linford, MA Media and Broadcast Production student joined our Future-Ready Skills for Leaders Global Leadership Programme in Toronto. Here are her ten takeaways.
I was among the 25 QUB students across all subjects from first year to PhD who travelled to Toronto for the Global Leadership Programme (now Future-Skills for Leaders: Go Global). We explored the city, networked with businesses and pitched a smart solution on return to Belfast.
Toronto is known as the city of Immigrants. Over 50% of the cities residents are born outside of Canada. Being such a diverse city means that it’s also open to change and as the site for Alphabet’s proposed first Smart city it was the perfect place for us to learn about leadership and smart city solutions. I can’t cover everything in one post, but here are the top 10 things I learned on the programme.
Lesson 1: How to use Design Thinking
Our learning actually began well before we’d even arrived in Toronto, with intensive training on Design Thinking. We were put into teams with people who thought differently based on personality tests and given the challenge ‘How might Smart Cities solve 21st Century problems?’ Using all of the phases of design thinking we found real problems facing Belfast and devised a concept that would use new technology to find a solution.
Lesson 2 : What makes a Smart City
On our first day of business meetings in Toronto we went to the Sidewalk labs office to learn from legal, policy, strategy and outreach professionals at the Alphabet company. We got a real sense of what Sidewalk Labs wants to achieve in creating a smart city in Toronto and the role design thinking played in coming up with smart solutions. They also shared how they’re dealing with media challenges around data and privacy and the strategy for getting approval from the council.
Lesson 3: Diversity of thought is important
City of Toronto officials gave us an insight into their strategy on smart cities. The representatives emphasised the importance of diversity of thought in public planning and commended the group on the range of ideas we shared with them. It was really interesting to gain both sides of the perspective on city planning from a private and public policy perspective.
Lesson 4: There are lots of ways to be a strong leader
We continued to develop our smart city solutions and learned about the ways AI can influence business strategy, gaining further insight into the different strategies to being a strong leader from Brian McKenna, Linda Blair and Raman Rai, who shared the different approaches to leadership. This session completely changed my understanding of business strategy and leadership, making me feel more confident about the corporate environment and the different ways you can show leadership. I feel more knowledgeable and open to different career paths thanks to the insights shared.
Lesson 5: Leaders need to keep learning
We learned more about how Artificial Intelligence works at Element AI, who shared that although AI is a significant market force it’s not too late to learn and get involved. If you are studying French, Computer Science or Media Production (like me) it’s worthwhile to learn more about how AI works and is changing all industries. We continued to develop our smart solutions, thinking more specifically about the ways artificial intelligence could and is being used.
Lesson 6 : Leaders should listen
John Speers, Managing Director at Bank of Montreal gave us a crash course on how financial services work and an insight into the trading floor. His key lesson was that leaders need to be able to listen. In finance that may be listening to what is happening with the markets, what your manager or your client needs. This works across all sectors, the better we are at listening the more effective we will be.
Lesson 7: Networking is another place to learn
At networking events I met people working in all sectors in Toronto including programming, the Toronto Film Festival, EY and diplomats. This wasn’t just a way to get business cards. It was a chance to meet new people who could give insight into leadership, business and innovation. I also got to know the other people on the Global Leadership Programme and fellow young leaders from Canada who were starting their own social enterprises and could share their experience.
Lesson 8: Do what you love, where you belong
David Walmsley, Editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail explained the importance of finding the right fit for you. He always knew he wanted to be a journalist, but it took a while before he found an organisation that was a perfect fit. He shared the importance of liking the people that you work with. I was most looking forward to this visit, as my course specialises in broadcast journalism but was most engaged by the interest of students from other disciplines; such as astrophysics that could challenge David on the changing media landscape and role of AI in the future of journalism, which makes finding a place you belong to as a journalist all the more important.
Lesson 9: How to pitch an idea
Returning to Belfast we continued to refine a smart city solution and honed our respective pitches, which we delivered to an expert panel at Ormeau Baths, Belfast’s innovation hub. In my team we had developed an app that could connect homeless charities in Belfast and be uploaded onto the new pulse smart hubs. I was nervous during the pitch but tried to stay focused and got positive feedback so feel more confident pitching in the future. The response we had has led to continued conversations with EY on making these projects a reality and continuing to be involved with conversations at home that shape Belfast as a smart city.
Lesson 10: Leaders support each other
The greatest lesson is from all the fellow global leaders on the programme. Whether they were studying law, medicine, business management or computer science everyone in this talented group changed my way of thinking about leadership. It’s not a matter of being the loudest or most confident person in the room. By being open to all of these lessons, leaders in our own field and supporting each other we learned how to be leaders. I have made great friends on this trip with people I would never normally come into contact with and I look forward to seeing the great things they all achieve in the future.
Find out more about the programme go.qub.ac.uk/careersprogrammes
The Global Opportunities team together with Santander have offered over 70 undergraduate students the opportunity to complete a funded Utrecht Summer School Course in The Netherlands. Successful applicants – who will each receive £1,400 towards their course and accommodation costs – include Malaysian sisters Abigail and Priscilla Jeyaraj, both Biomedical Science students, who will study Advanced Clinical Research Monitoring and Leadership for Innovation and Performance Happiness, respectively. Here is what Abigail and Priscilla had to say ahead of their trip.
Are you excited for the trip?
Abigail: This summer school opportunity is the opportunity of a lifetime! Utrecht University is a prestigious research university, and it would be an invaluable experience to complete a course on clinical research at Utrecht University.
Priscilla: I think “opportunity of a lifetime” captures our thoughts accurately, being enabled by Queen’s University Belfast to undertake this opportunity in the #1 University in the Netherlands, ranked by Shanghai Ranking 2019 is a blessing and we couldn’t be more grateful!
How does it feel to be travelling together?
A: I’m very excited about traveling together! We’ve travelled together quite a number of times in the past and we’ve always had a fun time together. My sister is a great travel companion.
P: We have previously travelled together extensively on many occasions- including summer schools, but it is an experience that we are so fortunate to share together and the excitement and eagerness is always the same as the first time.
What are you most excited about?
A: I’m most excited about meeting people from all over the world with similar interests through the summer course. I’m also very excited just to experience the beauty of Utrecht! I’m fascinated by the beautiful double-dock canals in Utrecht and I can’t wait to see them in person.
P: Learning from world-class experts and going on visits to companies in Utrecht! I’m really excited to be amongst other students that share the same passion about leadership and having student experience and delve into the culture in Utrecht!
What do you hope to learn – both professionally and personally?
A: The course I’ve chosen is delivered by some of the best professionals in the field, and it would be an honour to not only to learn the course content from them, but also to get to learn more about their research and their experiences in the field. The course includes a lecture on oncology trials, which I am particularly looking forward to. There also will be practical sessions where we will be able to utilise the skills we have learnt throughout the course, which I believe would be very beneficial. Personally, I’m very excited to learn more about the lifestyle and culture in Utrecht!
P: Professionally, I hope to widen my leadership network, develop, and sharpen my leadership skills and gain an insight into applying the skills in a company setting during the company visits. And personally, I look forward to enjoying and traveling around the historic city, Utrecht.
Businesses Management student Rosie Alexander completed a virtual internship with Mourne Dew Distillery as part of our Working Globally from NI programme. Here is how she got on.
In June, I started a marketing internship with the local spirits company Mourne Dew. I was excited to get started as I knew the experience was going to be insightful and beneficial. As a first-year student, this opportunity has afforded me the ability to discover where my passions lie and gain experience in an area in which I have an interest.
Researching the company
Before beginning my internship, I was impressed to learn about the story of Mourne Dew and the multi-award winning gins, whiskeys, vodkas and poitíns they produce. Based in Warrenpoint, Mourne Dew is inspired by the essence of the Mournes, infusing their drinks with botanical flavours to create a unique taste. I was really interested in this company due to their values of tradition and pride for the island of Ireland, as well as their commitment to quality. Working for an up-and-coming local company interested me greatly and I was excited to be gaining some insight into the marketing side of things.
My first campaign
The majority of my internship has been remote as I live quite far from the distillery. In my first week, I was introduced to the team and learnt about the different projects Mourne Dew have been working on. I got stuck in with tasks such as finding new accounts, working on current campaigns, such as the Fathers’ Day competition and communicating with partners to help promote Mourne Dew’s products. I was especially interested in social media marketing and took charge of the LinkedIn account. This responsibility allowed me to be creative and I really enjoyed thinking up different campaigns and posts. Another task that interested me was looking into the distillery’s international presence, as they are beginning to expand into Europe, the USA and Asia. It was exciting to progress on international plans as I could see the business’ growth.
On the road
A few times I got to go on the road with Neil Fleming, the Sales and Marketing Executive. This allowed me to see how sales and distribution works and I enjoyed meeting Mourne Dew’s contacts. It was great to see the products physically and I learned so much about how a small but growing business is run. I especially enjoyed our sales pitch at the Northern Lights Bar, as I was able to find out a lot about the different types of drinks that Mourne Dew produces and what makes them so unique.
Visiting the distillery
In addition, I was able to visit the distillery itself in Warrenpoint. It was fascinating to watch the distillation process of the gins, vodkas, whiskeys and poitíns, and I loved smelling all the botanical ingredients that infuse the drinks. It was interesting to see that each batch is made by a recipe by hand, and each part of the process, from distilling to bottling and packaging, happens in the one place. It was also lovely to meet all the team, including Donal and Noel (the owners), Lydia (who does social media and photography) and Donal and Tag (who work in the production process). I also met the other intern Claire, who I had been working with remotely for 3 weeks of my internship.
An amazing insight
Working with Neil these past 4 weeks has been invaluable, and I have learned so much about both marketing and how a local distillery is run. I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of this internship and would encourage anyone considering a programme like this to go for it! It has truly solidified my future vision of working in marketing and I have made some friends and connections along the way. I have gained amazing experience and insight and will miss my time at Mourne Dew greatly.
Naren Boddeda, a second year BSc Computer Science student completed a four-week internship with Queen’s International Office as part of our Working Globally from NI Internship Programme. Here is how she got on.
Gaining experience from India After my first year, I wanted some hands-on experience with working for an organization and gaining some experience in my field, so I decided to do a summer internship. But because of the Covid 19 situation and the travel restrictions, I was in India and needed to find an internship that could be done remotely.
The Working Globally from NI- Internship Programme was the ideal choice for me. It is a summer internship that could be completed from anywhere in the world and, I felt, it is a nice opportunity to gain valuable experience in the early stage of my degree. Working online was something new and I was looking forward to it.
Playing to my strengths I got an internship offer from the International Office. During my interview, I mentioned I completed the module on databases and would like to gain some experience in that therefore I was given a project related to it for my internship. Before the internship started, the Global Opportunities team had set up a call with me and they briefed all the important details regarding the internship.
It was four weeks long and each week I was given specific tasks. There was no stringent pressure of deadlines and the international office had wonderful people to work with. I was given two mentors to help me catch up with my work and reach out if I had any queries. I had catch-up calls, in MS Teams, twice a week with my mentors. For the first week, I was given an introduction to my work and, also some time to settle in. I started my data analysis project in the second week. It was nice to work with real-world situations and complete impactful projects. I also had a group project with a few other interns to review new campaigns, which was a nice online collaborative session. Every week I had something new to do and I had a steady amount to workload. I also got an insight into how the international office in Queen’s functions. Overall, it was a great experience and gave a head-start to my career.
Queen’s Dentistry graduate, Leo Sims travelled to Kathmandu in Nepal on a three-week dentistry elective during his fourth year to see the differences between healthcare in the UK and the developing world.
I chose to study at Queen’s University Belfast because it’s part of the Russell Group of universities with high research intensity.
Furthermore, they’re also well-known for their dentistry course and they have a large international student community, which adds to the vibrancy of the student life!
Student life at Queen’s
My five years at QUB were amazing. I had the opportunity to get involved with different roles and responsibilities within clubs and societies – where I made friends for life.
I particularly enjoyed my time when I was President of the International Student’s Society where I worked with people from all walks of life and provided a home away from home for fellow international students in Belfast.
Finding the right placement
I undertook my placement during my summer holiday at the end of my fourth year. My international elective was not a compulsory component of my dental course, but my clinical tutors provided me with advice on how to organise it.
I chose Nepal as the destination for my dental elective due to its unique blend of South Asian and East Asian culture, its geographical beauty and the positive feedback I’d received from friends who had been there before. I thought it would be an eye-opening experience and it turned out to be more than that – it was an adventure of a lifetime.
Over the two weeks, I was given the opportunity to experience different departments (endodontics, restorative, periodontics and orthodontics) in the teaching hospital, as well as the chance to attend some lectures for the Nepali first-year dental students.
There was a walk-in clinic where patients would be assessed and subsequently given immediate treatment or further appointments depending on availability.
Most practitioners were trained in English hence it was not uncommon for them to use a mixture of Nepali and English when explaining procedures and treatments to patients.
To my surprise, for a hospital service, they put a lot of effort into saving a tooth, encouraging patients who have irreversible pulpitis to undergo root canal treatment. I had previously experienced a dental service in a hospital back in Malaysia, where extraction is the norm and the preferred option among patients.
Challenges in the developing world
While we often try to emulate the best clinical practice according to the latest literature, the lack of resources can prove to be a big hurdle in the developing world.
Disposable consumables and equipment are kept to a bare minimum. Burs, dental probes, dental mirrors and forceps were immersed in disinfectant and washed with soap water before being reused.
There was also limited restorative options – selection of composite shade was restricted to whichever was available at the time, a lack of disposable composite capsules meant it had to be scooped out from a common dispenser for all patients, a lack of matrix bands, transparent strips and finishing burs (only diamond burs were available in the clinic).
During my elective, there was a patient who presented with a class II cavity and required composite restoration. ‘Matrix band and wooden wedges in?’, I asked. The dentist whom I was shadowing at that time, told me ‘Yes we would use them, if we had them’, before proceeding to pack the restoration free-hand.
Insights from practicing in another country
I noticed that orthodontics in Nepal was very technical and particular when it came to measurements. Incisal length at smile, vertical and horizontal facial height, and the length between pupil were all measured and noted. Taking orthopantomogram and lateral cephalometric radiograph for angle measurement was part of the protocol for all cases.
For endodontics, due to the lack of resources, rubber dams and rotary instruments were not readily available. Sodium chloride irrigant and stainless steel hand files were used instead.
In Nepal, unlike the increasingly litigious society in the developed world, patient compliance was simply beyond exceptional. Local anaesthetics were not normally given for restorative and endodontic treatment as they were usually reserved for more invasive procedures such as an extraction (and only a minimal volume was given in these cases). Their pain tolerance certainly deserves credit.
Exploring the country
I did some exploring around Kathmandu during my free time and visited the main attractions including the Swayambhunath temple, Thamel region, and Durbar square. What’s better than having a pint while enjoying the majestic sight of Boudhanath temple at night?
Over the weekend, myself and the others from the Work the World house went to Pokhara on a 7-hour bus journey which was definitely worthwhile. A highlight of the trip was paragliding over Phewa Lake at an altitude of 2500 meters whilst indulging in the lush greenery of the landscape.
Memories to last a lifetime
My two weeks in Nepal was an opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we are compared to other developing nations – what presents to us as an essential may well be a luxury to others.
My experience made me realize how fortunate we are to have vast amounts of resources available when providing care in a secondary setting compared to a developing country. It was definitely an eye-opening experience to shadow different complex treatments being carried out in Kathmandu.
For a future dental practitioner, it is definitely worth taking an overseas dental elective before graduating, it’s a trip you’ll remember for life.
Landing a graduate role
Since graduation, I’ve worked as a foundation dentist based in Berkshire. Compared to previous years, my cohort had less clinical experience due to Covid-19 forcing my final year of dental school to end prematurely.
It was a very steep learning curve in the beginning but I would say it is the year I’ve progressed the most in dentistry thus far.
My experience overseas with Work the World added a different perspective of how dental care is provided in another country. I learnt a lot of transferable skills from my experience, such as communication and adaptability. It has helped with transitioning into different working environments and making the best out of them.
In the future, I hope to undertake further training in restorative dentistry but life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you will get!
Work the World specialise in creating overseas dentistry electives in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their destinations provide eye-opening insight into the challenges associated with delivering healthcare in the developing world.
Olivia Anderson, an International Business with German graduate completed a four-week internship with Queen’s International Office as part of our Working Globally from NI Internship Programme. Here is how she got on.
This summer I had the great opportunity of completing a 4-week internship with the International Office at QUB. I applied for this at the end of my final year as I wanted to gain some experience in this area over the summer before moving on from university. When I saw the opportunities available in this internship programme I wanted to apply as I thought it would be interesting to be able to work on projects with a global perspective right here from Northern Ireland.
The application process involved an application form and then a video call interview which already enabled me to develop my skills in these areas.
Although 4 weeks sounds like a very short time, and I was wondering how I would be able to get involved in projects within this timeframe, there was no need to worry. The internship was very much tailored to my interests and skills and the projects that I was involved in were genuinely interesting. I got to work on some research projects and do some competitor analysis as well as write blogs and think about how QUB is being marketed to students internationally and how this can be improved. It was so valuable to gain these skills and insights into how to carry these out and how the university attracts students from all over the world.
Working in a virtual team
I also got the opportunity to connect with two other interns who were international students from China and India, and we worked on reviewing some of the university’s marketing material together. This was great to understand each other’s perspectives on how Queen’s is perceived.
Before beginning my internship, I was unsure how it would be structured as I was working from home, however there were multiple calls per week with my supervisor with clear guidance on the projects and what they would like to be achieved by the end of the internship. This helped to clear up any questions and give some interaction where it could have been quite isolated.
What I really enjoyed about this internship programme was that the projects that were given to us were challenging enough that I was being pushed and developing new skills while also being given guidance and help and being able to change the scope of the projects along the way to suit my interests and skills.
I am so glad I got accepted to this internship programme and would encourage anyone to apply and gain some great experience over summer which you will be able to carry forward with you into your future studies and career.
Keep an eye on our events website for details of upcoming internship opportunities and funded programmes.
Conor Houston, Queen’s Law graduate is Director of Houston Solutions Limited, and Chairman of several organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses Northern Ireland, One Young World 2023 Belfast, and of Fleming Fulton School. He is also the Governor and Trustee of the Irish Times Media Group.
What does Queen’s mean to you?
I’m often reminded of Seamus Heaney, his famous line when he talked about the original centre. I think, as I reflected, I’m making this video today, Queen’s University very much is for me, my original centre. It’s where I formed my passion for Law, which was the career I practised in for most 10 years. But it also gave me a number of skills, perspectives and opportunities that continue to this day, and I’m very proud that I have for almost 20 years, I’ve had an association with Queen’s University.
What was your Queen’s experience like?
I graduated in 2004, with my Law degree. I had a fantastic three years at Queen’s, made a lot of friends who are still very much friends today, and I suppose it ignited my passion and interest in in law and the rule of law. I was very fortunate through my times at Queen’s to be involved in a number of summits and conferences, but also to go and study at the European Public Law Group Academy in Greece, in 2004, which was a really fantastic opportunity. It was my first time, I suppose, with young people from right across Europe studying together, all the different languages, cultures coming together and united by European Union law.
That was a very formative and special time. And in fact, a number of the things that I’m continued to be involved in, tend to have that international perspective and lens. After I had completed my Law degree, I went on to study for my Master’s in Human Rights law, and was very fortunate that there was an opportunity to do a cross border element. So I did the first half of my Master’s in Queens, and the second half of my masters at the National University of Ireland in Galway. And again, that was a very special time and experience and a number of the friendships and relationships I enjoy to this day were because of that cross-border experience.
What was your first graduate role?
I graduated from Queen’s with my Master’s and I then went back to Queen’s to study at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, where I was finally admitted as a solicitor in 2008. I was lucky that I had a firm that I did my apprenticeship with John J. Rice and Company in Belfast, which was a criminal and human rights firm.I worked there for almost 10 years and was fortunate to be involved in many of the pioneering human rights cases of that time. I was dual qualified in that I was qualified both in Northern Ireland and also in the Republic of Ireland. So I practised a lot in Belfast and Dublin. And during my time in practice, I was very involved in the profession. Firstly, through the Young Lawyers Association, the Northern Ireland Young Solicitors Association, which I ended up becoming Chair of, and we had some fantastic conferences and events and a lot of fun with that group. I was then the first lawyer for Northern Ireland to be appointed to the board of the European Young Bar Association, which our relationship continues to this day. And 2010, we actually brought the European Young Bar Association conference to Belfast, so it was fantastic to bring all these international lawyers to our city.
What has been a career highlight?
I suppose a combination of all those roles, as well as being so very fortunate to be representing some leading human rights cases represent journalists, politicians, and many others. I suppose I became very interested in how law can affect change, I was very passionate about making a difference. And that’s what attracted me into law, the power of law to create change in a society.
I was very fortunate that the cases I got to work on, were very much about driving that change. But I suppose I became interested in how could I do even more so in 2014, I was awarded a scholarship by the United States State Department. And I spent a few months, I took a sabbatical and took a few months out to Boston College and then into Washington, and on their rule of law programme, which really started to develop my thinking more around the skills and experiences and perspective I had, and what I could do.
Whilst my mission was very much about helping people and making a difference, trying to refine what I could do with that, I became very interested then around maybe getting involved around politics and trying to create change to help complete our peace process, and to, I suppose, realise the enormous ambition and potential of Northern Ireland.
What are some of your favourite work-related projects?
I was very honoured to be appointed as the programme director at the Centre for Democracy and Peacebuilding. And I worked there for a number of years and worked on some fantastic projects around working with, for example, community organisations, youth groups, loyalists bands. And it was a great privilege to be involved in their work in trying to help to complete the peace process and build capacity within both civic and political society.
One of the amazing projects I got to work on with them was the EU debate programme, which was set up about nine months before the EU referendum. And the idea was to create a space for informed thinking and debate in Northern Ireland, on the issues that the Brexit referendum would have, particularly as it pertains to Northern Ireland.
I was involved with the board in rolling out a very ambitious programme where we engaged with community groups, youth organisations, religious organisations, every political party in Northern Ireland. And we really began a conversation, we weren’t trying to determine the outcome of the debate, we were trying to make sure that there was a debate. So we were neutral in that we weren’t trying to tell people to leave or remain, we were just trying to present all of the arguments and create that space. And that was a very humbling experience.
Queen’s University Belfast were very involved in supporting that project. In fact, we launched a new debate in the Great Hall in Queen’s and academics from the School of Politics, including Professor David Phinnemore were involved in writing a briefing paper for us. So it was very important to us that it would be underpinned by that credible academic expertise, but also the have that support of the reputation of Queen’s.
Why did you set up your own business?
I decided to set up my own consultancy, and I suppose what brings together a number of the clients and projects that I work on, is that one thing to realise the ambition of Northern Ireland. So I work with a number of leaders, all of whom may be coming from very different backgrounds and sectors, but all of whom are very passionate about realising the enormous potential of Northern Ireland, and trying to drive change here.
I suppose that’s what unites the number of projects that I’m privileged to work on now. And as I mentioned, I’m government trustee of the Irish Times Media Group. So the Irish Times is owned by a trust, and there are eight of us appointed to effectively act as the shareholders of the group. So we’re there to sort of look at the long term vision and that’s been particularly interesting, interesting in an age of post truth and thinking about the lines around freedom of speech, etc. So, and a lot of that, of course, goes back to the learnings that I had when I studied both my Law and Master’s degree around the issue of proportionality and competing rights.
What is One Young World?
I’ve been involved in leading a bid to bring One Young World to Belfast in 2023. So in 2017, I was asked to address the one Young World Youth summit in Bogota, Colombia. One Young World is the world’s largest youth summit. It brings over 3000 young people from every country in the world, to a city each year. And it’s one of the only organisations aside from the Olympics that actually gets every country in the world involved.
And this is about identifying the future leaders, both within business but also within NGO sector, just young people that are passionately driving change right across the world. So I was very fortunate to be invited to address this summit in Bogota, Colombia in 2017, and was introduced on stage by the then president of Colombia, President Santos and the late Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations. Both of those men spoke about the impact that Northern Ireland had on their journeys to peace, and this was a very humbling moment for me.
When I addressed the summit, I realised the power of our generation and the generation watching this video, to effect real change, not just within the place we will call home, but also in terms of making an impact in the world. So I then began the process of building a team to put together a bid to bring One Young World to Belfast in 2023, and we were successful in that.
How has your degree from Queen’s helped you?
Queen’s is that passport, not just for your career, but to accessing opportunities, and a fantastic network right around the world. So, you know, I’m extremely proud of the many hats and roles and things I’ve been involved in being a graduate of Queen’s University is really up there, and I look forward to continuing that role with Queen’s.
What challenges have you faced?
When I was a lawyer, and some of the projects I work on, particularly some of the Civic roles that I have, I think one of the challenges your generation is going to face is how we engage with the people we disagree with. So one of the challenges is always when you have very passionate about change, or seeing something happen, and you encountered the resistance to that.
I think that one of the big challenges that I challenge myself every day, I think that we have to all turn on is what can we do to engage with the people that we disagree with, how we, I’ve often said we don’t have to agree but being disagreeable is a choice. So we need to find more places and spaces in which we can find that ability to respectfully engage with each other and actually see that compromise is an art, it’s not a sellout.
I think this is something that I encourage your generation to really challenge I think that the future will belong to those who can build relationships that can be constructive that can respectfully disagree with each other, but can see the common good can work together for the common good, can see the bigger picture that is the challenge of your generation.
What gets your out of bed in the morning?
I don’t feel that there’s an average week. For me, I think that’s probably what I love most about my, my work. In fact, I don’t even feel like I have a job because I’m very fortunate that everything I do, whether it be in my business life or my civic life, they are projects and issues that I’m very passionate about. So I jump out of bed in the morning, passionate about making the change in the area that day, whether it be through being on the border shadows and LGBT youth organisation, whether that be in promoting the role of small businesses through the five and a half 1000 members, and I have the privilege of being Chair of the FSB, and speaking up on their behalf, whatever I can do to to advocate change, to advance those who are trying to make a real impact.
That’s what sparks me on in the morning.
What advice do you have for graduates?
I think that’s one of the most exciting things about this generation, the graduates of today is that you really do have a blank canvas to create the kind of life and career that you want for yourself. And Queen’s University, as I say, is the ideal place to give you that toolkit for you to be able to do that.
It’s for me, it’s that life journey, it’s not just about getting that degree wasn’t really that important that you do, and it’s about the relationships that you build, the skills that you have, and they will sustain you for the not just years but decades ahead. And you know, as I said, it’s 20 years this September since I started Queen’s, and I’m reminded of something my late grandfather said to me, he said 20 years is a long time looking forward, but nothing looking back.
And for the first time, I can tell you, it doesn’t feel like two decades ago I entered Queen’s University, but those two decades, I’ve had that original centre of Queens, which has, as I say, been a constant thread throughout my career both here in Northern Ireland and through the international experiences and opportunities I’ve had.
Daniella Timperley is a 2nd year student at Queen’s and a blogger from our MEDIA programme. She recently completed a virtual internship with Think Pacific – a volunteering organisation working with remote villages in Fiji. Here is how she got on.
The Think Pacific Virtual Internship was the answer to getting my international fix in the midst of the pandemic. My expedition to Fiji was cancelled so I took on a 12-week internship which provided me with the opportunity to still make a difference in Fiji and more importantly learn about the Fijian culture. I was very fortunate to receive a full scholarship for the internship from Think Pacific.
A personal highlight…
Before you even get started on your internship, you are immediately welcomed into the Think Pacific family and immersed into a community of highly motivated change-makers who are ready to make their mark in Fiji. Some stand out moments during my time on the internship was definitely grabbing a virtual tea or coffee with another intern and getting to know all about them and their goals. Other interns aren’t the only people in this online community that are committed to making you feel welcome on the internship, you will also be assigned a Think Pacific mentor that will be available to answer any questions you have and also guide you when you are creating your action project. A personal highlight of mine was my mentor calls with Cam. I loved sharing my ideas for my action project and Cam bounced off of my passion for my project and was extremely encouraging. Also Monday briefings with Cam and Katherine was a personal favourite moment each week on the internship. This feeling of being surrounded with support from the Think Pacific family definitely fuels inspiration and motivation to continue to make a difference.
Learning a new culture…
The discovery phase of the internship is the first of four phases, but it is the most fascinating. In order to be able to make a sustainable impact in Fiji through your action project, you need to understand the people, the culture and their way of life before coming up with a project that can be put into action in Fiji. The discovery phase covers everything from understanding the complex term ‘vanua’, learning some of the Fijian language, getting an idea of the gender roles in Fijian society, getting to grips with the sustainable development goals and so much more. It is really hard to be able to make a difference in a country you know nothing about, but this phase really breaks down everything you need to know to become familiar with the country and help you to feel connected to Fiji. During the discovery phase I set 3 goals that I wanted to achieve throughout the course of my internship; my personal goal, my professional goal and my contribution goal. My goals are as follows:
1. I personally want to enjoy learning about the Fijian culture and in particular Gender Equality and Women’s role in society in Fiji.
2. I want to boost my network by taking part in one virtual coffee every week with other interns in my field.
3. I will learn 7 modules per week during the discovery phase.
Making the most of the experience…
As you go through the different phases of the internship, you can explore as much as you like. If you are an international development intern, you can still learn all about global health or mental health so the possibilities and learning opportunities are endless. I personally loved looking through all the different organisations and action projects available. There are so many sports organisations, NGO’s and businesses in Fiji that you can choose to partner with. I partnered with FemLINK Pacific to create an awareness campaign for violence against women. I have been campaigning against violence against women for over 7 years but doing this in a different country, especially a developing country like Fiji was a challenge. I embraced the challenge and proposed an international campaign that still takes place in many countries across the world that encourages men to never commit, condone or remain silent about abuse against women. I have created a manual about the campaign and how it can be implemented in Fiji as well as social media posts that FemLINK Pacific can use to promote the campaign. So, I would recommend choosing a project you are passionate about but that will challenge you as I can say from experience you will get the most out of the internship and learn a lot about yourself.
“Nothing can stop you if you, if you accept challenge and adapt.”
ALUMNUS AZHAR MURTAZA IS THE DIRECTOR OF VEGAN DRINKS COMPANY BORN MAVERICK. HE INITIALLY PRESENTED HIS BUSINESS CONCEPT TO ENTERPRISE SU AT QUEEN’S, WHERE HE RECEIVED MENTORSHIP AND GUIDANCE TO LAUNCH HIS BRAND.
As the director of Born Maverick, Queen’s alum Azhar Murtaza, from India, has faced his fair share of challenges. Food technologists questioned whether a vegan brand had sustainability in Northern Ireland, then there was the issue of how to package a vegan drink when your brand values are based around ecofriendliness. Shunning plastic bottles in favour of compostable and biodegradable sachets, Azhar has proved the doubters wrong, building a successful, ethical beverage brand and scooping accolades including Student Invent Finalist; Queen’s Dragons’ Den Finalist and a Belfast Business Idea Awards 2019 Top 5 finalist.
Accept and adapt to challenges
He urges graduates of 2020 to lean into change in order to cope with challenges. “Change is the only constant and being able to adapt to those changes is what defines us,” he says. “That principle has got me through all the challenges that were thrown at me, right from the moment I landed in Belfast to study a Master’s at Queen’s. Nothing can stop you if you are willing to accept and adapt.” Like many graduates, Azhar wasn’t sure where his career path would take him, but hoped a Master’s from Queen’s would help him pursue his passions. “I chose a university which would allow me to explore different aspects of my interests in science, business and art. I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but all I knew was that I would accept the challenges and give it my best.” He adds, “We are all in the same boat right now, plans and dreams on hold, as a result of the pandemic. But we are all in this together and we will prevail if we are willing to accept the challenge and adapt accordingly.”
Develop networking confidence
While at Queen’s, Azhar blended his love of biotechnology and business to begin to shape his career path. “I was helped a lot by Enterprise SU in defining my own career growth. As an introvert, I would usually have taken a step back from presenting myself and my ideas but through mentoring sessions and workshops, I was able to develop my confidence to put myself out there and present on various platforms.” Rather than being solely purely goal-orientated, Azhar developed softer skills that he has carried with him into his career. “I learned that winning is a by-product: being able to express yourself and to utilise your network is what matters. I was reaching finals of various business competitions but never able to cross the line into first place. However, those competitions were putting me in front of the right bunch of people. Ultimately, I gained contacts and experience worth more than any prize money.” It was while he was competing in the Queen’s Dragons’ Den final that he was offered an opportunity with Invest NI. “I lost the competition, but Invest NI offered me a place on their programme and Born Maverick Vegan Beverages Ltd was born.”
Innovation in action
The company owns the Púr brand of vegan drinks made with whole grain and finger millet, and are developing vegan non-alcoholic popsicles, fortified with vitamin D, and in flavours including Gin & Tonic, Prosecco, Irish Whiskey and Coffee. “Both these product lines have been formulated with the help of food scientists at CAFRE using Innovation Vouchers from Invest NI,” says Azhar, whose ideas keep on coming. “I am also working on a R&D project developing vegan eggs from mung beans along with Campden BRI and I am in an ideation phase of developing vegan prawns from seaweeds. In the coming years, we aim to represent Northern Ireland in food innovation on a global platform and lead consumers here towards living an ethically healthy life,” he adds.
Advice for new graduates
While Azhar acknowledges that this year is particularly challenging for graduates, there is still space for innovation, creativity and strategy. “These are challenging times and quite different to when I was about to graduate myself, but there is still scope for constant innovation.” He urges graduates to seek support from Queen’s, Invest NI. Catalyst Inc and Belfast City Council who are at the heart of innovation in the region. “Patience and perseverance pay off eventually,” he adds. “As a student, I made sacrifices to help me achieve my dream, like working nights at KFC and Tesco’s to free me up to attend workshops and business meetings during the day. I found out that there is so much support available within Northern Ireland for innovative small businesses. Reach out to Enterprise SU, The Graduate School and Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills team.” He adds, “I wish you all the best as you graduate this year. I am sure this phase is going to help many to reflect. Now is the time to rebuild, restructure and plan according to your goals. As they say, when going gets tough, the tough gets going. There is a world of opportunity if you are willing to explore beyond your immediate circle.”