A Balancing Act

What most first year graduates don’t do

Balancing two degrees simultaneously at uni seems to have prepared UTS-grad, Polina Pashkov, perfectly. Whilst growing the med-tech startup she’s cofounded, she’s continued building her industry exposure in an experience and tech agency. Oh, and we haven’t even touched her 5 months of international leadership experience.

After graduating in April this year, what have you been doing for work? What’s it like?

Since graduating, I’ve had 2 concurrently running jobs – (1) as a UX researcher and designer at an agency and (2) as a cofounder of med-tech start-up.

Snepo Research is an experience and technology agency that specialises in interactive software and hardware development. The company works across multiple digital domains to create digital experiences and differing pieces of technology for a range of industries. While working with the company, we were drawing on our Fab Lab (a lab of emerging technology) to create experiences for corporates to understand and see the risk and opportunity technology is infiltrating industries with.

Stitch Hub, on the other hand, is a med-tech startup that looks at supporting those living with Type 1 Diabetes to take command of their chronic illness. It is an online marketplace of tools that are outside the immediate scope of direct medical care; tools such as books, support groups and clinical trials. Alongside my 2 co-founders and I we do ABSOLUTELY everything – from engaging with stakeholders to manually entering tools into our database. On average, my days consists of meetings, strategy planning our next steps and continuing to build out our platform.

 

You’ve had a hell of a journey getting to where you are today, can you tell us about it?

I am the first-born child of immigrants who travelled from a non-English speaking country, so I’ve grown up with the pressure and expectations to succeed. My upbringing was split with a strict work regime, to perform well academically (which I kind of did) and going to various extra-curricular activities, such as dance, swimming, touch football, Russian School and more dance.

A pivotal moment in my life was breaking the firm grip of schooling life and being able to actually forge my own path. I ended up taking an ENORMOUS risk and choosing a degree that had not yet existed up until that point; the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation at UTS. All it took was 6-minute conversation at Open Day to convince me that it was an unknown I wanted to pursue. As it happened it provided me varying opportunities to travel, learn and connect with extraordinary minds. This is where my startup was born, through a passion project within this degree, and has since grown out to be its own entity.

I was also lucky enough to be paid by the university to travel to places like Belgium, Fiji and Cambodia! The latter two was where I first encountered Project Everest Ventures and concurrently began my journey with them. With my 2-year involvement in PEV I’ve grown so much and have in turn been able to obtain skills around leadership and business that I would not have experienced anywhere else.

I chose to pursue a startup myself after working in the environment of one for 2-years with PEV, loving the passionate people and meaningful work. I didn’t see the value of applying for job openings with set expectations of a role, and as a result I began approaching companies and showing my value, in the hope that I could create my own role: which I did at Snepo.

 

Does it take a certain type of person, or set of skills, to do what you’re doing now?

Anyone is capable of doing what I do, you just need a resilient and open mindset to learn and do on the job. I believe in a transdisciplinary approach, which means blending disciplines and fields to create new knowledge and outcomes that allows for various degrees to feed into each other.

For my roles, it’s important to be able to decipher what stakeholders and customers are saying and doing when interacting with questions, products, services or experiences, in order to get to the crux of their needs and wants. As well as, being able to approach challenges from different disciplinary angles.

 

What’s your favourite part of these two roles?

Personally, I find admin very therapeutic but not something I could do all day, every day. I enjoy the exposure I get to new kinds of technology and getting the opportunity to explore these pieces in different contexts, as well as being able to teach these insights to others internally and externally. If I am enjoying the environment I’m in, work with the people that are as passionate and stimulated as I am, and if the work I do is purposeful and meaningful then I know that I am working towards the right thing.

 

What 3 pieces of advice do you wish you’d been given as a uni student?

  1. Get more involved in experiential and international work placements that the university has to offer. Do not let the intimidation and little-experience factor dissuade you from applying.
  2. Go to more industry events on social topics that are currently being explored (eg. Held by General Assembly and big corporates – PWC, Accenture, Deloitte). As well as, participate in more Hackathons.
  3. Be confident in your decisions that are regarding you and your study; no one else is living your life but you.