A native of Yorkshire, Oliver Bean (Wadham, 2020) is a Crankstart Scholar, meaning that he qualifies for a bursary to assist with the cost of being an undergraduate. One of the silver linings is additional help with career starts, including a mentorship programme.
Now in his second year of four reading for a MEng in Engineering Science, he explains that he has recently decided to try and shift the focus of his degree, moving over into a cherished programme called Engineering, Entrepreneurship & Management. This is a joint honours programme shared between Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and Saïd Business School, with approximately a dozen students a year enrolled.
His participation in the Crankstart Careers mentoring Programme was a highlight in what has otherwise been dull days during the pandemic – ‘it was all online for a long stretch – no pubs, no clubs. The positives were that we became very close to each other in my year, plus last October saw a repeat of the Fresher’s Fair that we had previously missed as Freshers. I am lucky to have a four-year degree because it will give me some scope to catch up on normal student experiences.’
He applied to the mentorship programme, following his interest in the applied side of engineering. As such he was teamed up with a brilliant mentor, Dr Francisco José Tavira Sánchez who was Entrepreneur in Residence at aviation conglomerate Airbus and a leader of the Founder Institute Munich, an entrepreneur accelerator.
‘My mentoring began in February 2021, so with continuing lockdown it was all online. We had four discussions and they were incredibly helpful in orienting my interests. Dr Sanchez was very dynamic; and I could tell that he was very busy. But he made time for me. He was a sounding board. He confirmed to me that you can combine engineering science with a broader entrepreneurial mindset; he was such an enthusiastic person. Really interesting, really friendly!’
He says the very first point of movement on the mentorship was simply looking at the 'Developing Careers Ideas' bit of the Oxford Careers Service website.
‘Yes, that was in Michaelmas 2020, when I was a fresher but went into a new lockdown and I was simply looking around for inspiration.’
His biggest takeaway from the mentorship was the importance of networking.
‘Networking was alien to me. I didn’t really understand that you could use LinkedIn as a tool for finding connections, and some other applications too.’
On the back of that advice, Oliver joined a student consultancy society, which led to him taking part in a consultancy exercise for Joe and the Juice, the international juice bar company.
While he won’t graduate until June 2024, the mentorship was also instrumental in his choice of degree module, he says, noting that he has picked the electronics, computing and business modules for Trinity term.
‘I think it’s fair to say that I will look back on the mentorship as being influential, even though I don’t yet know exactly where I am headed, careerwise.’