Communication graduate: Polina Pashkov
Co-Founder of Stitch Hub & UX Researcher & Designer, Snepo
Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Media Arts & Production)* / Bachelor of Creative Intelligence & Innovation (BCII) - 2017
*The Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Media Arts & Production) is now known as the Bachelor of Communication (Media Arts & Production).
If your interests lie in more than just creating films and learning with other open-minded thinkers then I would definitely recommend the double degree. It's an experience like no other and both provide very open and flexible platforms to work on your craft and allow you to mould the two degrees together in your own way.
Since graduating in 2017, where have you been working?
I don't have 'a main job' per say, my week is split equally between Stitch Hub [the startup I co-founded] - where I work 2.5 days a week - and I also work part-time as a UX Researcher & Designer, at an Interactive Technology and Software Agency called Snepo.
What does a day in the life of an entrepreneur look like?
An average day at Stitch Hub entails a traffic-filled commute from home to Ultimo, where my team of 2-founders and I work out of the UTS Startups space, headed by Murray Hurps. We were originally invited into the space around April 2018. One of our past lecturers from BCII had heard that we were a 'homeless' startup and put us through to the Head of Hatchery [now UTS Startups], who was happy to accommodate our small team.
As soon as the 3 of us get in we set out our daily goals and outline any events/meetings we may have that day and get stuck into working - either that be more website developing, revenue model building, database amalgamating, bickering... the list goes on! We do EVERYTHING and we have fun doing it! We definitely utilise the table-tennis by our desks, throughout the day. Nearby there are HEAPS of cafes where we get our morning, midday, and afternoon coffees/chai lattes... Don't forget our morale chocolate runs that tend to happen at 3pm. As a team, we bicker A LOT, but in a healthy manner that keeps the flow of work moving and conversations interesting.
How far has Stitch Hub progressed?
Since this article we have won 2 pitch competitions! The first was with Muru’D at the Golden Ticket Pitch Event, where we won an all-day bootcamp mentoring session. This was an insanely eyeopening experience, we had sessions with a range of investors, mentors and industry professionals that saw value in the area we are tackling with many offering to help in our journey. And the second at the New Horizons Pitch Competition, where we won a 10-day tailored program to the needs of our business with mentors in the business, health and wellbeing space. We launched our minimum viable product (MVP) in August 2018.
What skills are you using at Stitch Hub that you developed through your Media Arts & Production degree?
The predominate skills I bring from MAP (Media Arts & Production) to my startup is understanding how to influence and consider stakeholders and how to navigate between design and communications. A lot of my role consists of areas and tasks that I have had to learn on the fly, however being able to empathise with and persuade an audience has assisted in many presentations and stakeholder engagements. In MAP, we learned methods to navigate audiences through various journeys using imagery and sound, and written/verbal communication is no different in having to weave words and dialogue together.
In BCII you are with students from other disciplines, what skills did you bring to the table from MAP?
MAP is the intersection between design and communications - it draws on dialogue, storytelling, visuals and design. It was not so much that we are set apart with certain knowledge or skillset, but rather we have this diverse exposure of how disciplines overlap, crossover and meld together - rather than oppose one another. We do have a more technical understanding of moving imagery and the way to manipulate an audience using imagery and sound, but the clear difference is, is the diverse roles that MAP has within itself. We are taught from the very beginning, the importance of learning what cog you play in the greater machine and the diversity of minds within MAPs supersedes any other discipline, even within other Communication Majors. With this understanding, MAP brings a new light and a more considerate perspective of other disciplines, through a greater understanding of the different epistemologies that come into play in transdisciplinary teams.
Why did you choose to study MAP and BCII? And why at UTS?
Before endeavouring to choose what I wanted to study, I knew that UTS was the biggest contender. I had come from a high school that stood out from the crowd because of its unique teaching methods and flexibility to each student. I needed the same out of my tertiary institution - I wanted somewhere that had an equal focus on the development of the students socially and professionally as it did in providing the learnings. I wanted somewhere that would be more practical than theoretical and I wanted somewhere that allowed me to choose my own path. UTS was just that. I had known for a while that Communication was the area I wished to pursue but I wanted something else to compliment it. MAP was a last-minute change from Public Relations, as I was fascinated by the cinematic experiences one has through sound and imagery.
Nothing, however, was as eye-catching as Professor Kees Dorst sitting at a dingy table on the very first BCII Open Day with just an A4 piece of paper to outline what this new cutting edge degree would be about. After listening to him speak for only 6.5mins, I was convinced and then focused my energy on trying to achieve the unknown marks for this degree. I was lucky enough to get in and have never regretted my decision of putting something so elusive as my first choice, as a school-leaver.
How did your MAP degree compliment and support your BCII degree? And vice versa?
MAP provided a good pathway into the power and influence of storytelling and the importance of a team approach when tackling problems put forth in BCII. Whereas, BCII provided a plethora of frameworks and methodologies to explore, blend and fuse different disciplinary approaches, thoughts and ideas to create value. Both put stakeholders (or in MAP's case, audiences) at the heart of every decision and approach, which makes the projects and experiences more relatable and enjoyable to work on. Both degrees also provided a lot of industry experience - which ensured I could almost always get my foot in the door of an organisation. It was at that point where I had to demonstrate my differentiation in thinking and approaches that would allow me to showcase skillsets and be heard. There is a strong value in being able to succinctly communicate a problem, approach, process or outcome, as there is solving it, which aligns the two degrees together.
How have the extracurricular programs you completed at UTS helped you in your professional life?
My involvement in societies and extracurriculars has definitely been a crucial aspect of my personal, professional and social development throughout my university career. After being a part of a few societies here and there during my first year, in second year I mustered up the courage to build a brand new society. With 8 other like-minded individuals, we designed a society associated with the new degree we were pursuing. BCII:Connect was born with an unwavering amount of support from the faculty, as well as the students within the degree. I started as the operations coordinator and quickly moved into Vice-presidency. It definitely taught me a lot about how to navigate within such a large entity as UTS, who to best find for what we required for our events, how to collaborate with other societies, all within tight budgets and timeframes. Having such a unified core team made me value teams that followed in that manner and taught me to how to guide teams to a more collaborative and productive approach.
Amongst the chaos of co-running a society, I also agreed to take on the HUGE role of producing UTS’ most successful and largest musical to-date, Hairspray. This is where I put my producing skills to the test, from MAP. Having to coordinate the schedules of over 70 crew and cast, plus facilitates and equipment was an immense experience on its own. We garnered over 130 auditions and 3 sold-out shows within 2-weeks, with 50% of seats selling out in the first 48-hours. This project amped up my organisational and operational skills by a mile. As well as, becoming more flexible and adaptable to growing situations and imminent incidents. Time prioritisation, delegation and accountability was a huge learning curve in grasping how to coordinate and do, all at once.
This leads nicely into my work with Project Everest Ventures (PEV), where I drew on similar skill sets of organisation and coordination. This was also the place where I found my passion for value innovation and social impact. It was through experiencing PE as a trekker and then leader that I was able to establish the type of leader I am and where I fit within a team. It gave me many opportunities to push me into areas I would have never sought otherwise, such as business and the startup world. It was one of the boosters that led me to start my own startup - in the social impact world. PEV also gave way to opportunities within the core business and leading to apply my MAPs skillset in creating visual content.
What would you say to a future student that is considering studying MAP and BCII?
The two degrees really do compliment each other if you give them the chance to play off one another. Those truly passionate about these two areas always have a ‘lightbulb’ moment, sometime throughout the degrees, where the learning from both degrees finally aligns. If your interests lie in more than just creating films and learning with other open-minded thinkers then I would definitely recommend the double degree. It's an experience like no other and both provide very open and flexible platforms to work on your craft and allow you to mould the two degrees together in your own way.
What's your advice to a graduate thinking of pursuing a startup?
1. If you are pursuing a startup on your own, try to find someone or a team that aligns with your goals and vision. Sharing the experience with someone else will make everything less daunting and more motivating. My co-founders have played a large role in keeping up the motivation, having those tough discussions with, sharing wins and losses and preventing me from ever giving up.
2. Be prepared for knockback from industry for your age and experience. Don’t let it affect you and keep doing what you're doing.
3. Ensure that you are always looking at the bigger picture and revising your strategy, goals and tasks in getting there.
4. Make sure any advice you get from experts, industry or mentors actually aligns with you and your company and not what they think is best for you. No one knows you and your company better then you do, so be wary of the advice you are taking, and know that not taking the advice of someone else is not wrong.
5. When meeting with investors or stakeholders make sure you sell yourself as much as you sell the idea. The look at your drive and passion as much as they look at feasibility.
6. Lastly, learn and enjoy the experience!