Student Stories: Bridging the gap between science and startups

8th November 2016

Yan Ting was on track to defining a life-long career for herself in the world of scientific research. Despite the fulfilling intellectual challenge, she grew tired of the limitations and was hungry for a bigger mountain to climb. After dipping her toes into entrepreneurship, Yan Ting has found a new way to maximise all of her skills through the Master of Entrepreneurship.

Sometimes you need to re-evaluate

Yan Ting grew up wanting to be a leading figure in physiology and neuroscience research. From thinking about research projects, troubleshooting, to talking to people about her ideas, she loved the challenge. But after some time she realised there were limitations “I didn’t enjoy feeling like I was a robot in a lab. I wanted to have a positive impact on the world, but my research had me doing the same thing over and over again. After a while, this started to take a toll on me.”

“Originally, I thought I would do my research, start a lab, and somehow I’d be able to help people. But I began to notice that month after month I would interact with less and less people and my social skills started to go down. I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of my research, but it wasn’t enough. I needed to be on the frontline, and I needed something more dynamic.

Yan Ting started seeking out books, seminars, and workshops on entrepreneurship. She joined a ScienceTech startup team part of Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), participated in Wade Institute’s 3 Day Startup, and became hooked “I couldn’t get enough, so I joined the Master of Entrepreneurship to see how far I could take it. My science background fostered my love of challenge, but I was craving more collaboration with people who think completely differently to me. So I’ve dedicated this year to just that to be able to maximise my entrepreneurial potential.”

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The answer is always within reach

Yan Ting’s passion for pure challenge has never been as stimulated as since following the entrepreneurial bug “The times I’ve had the most fun are when I’m working on something that is beyond what I think I can achieve. Entrepreneurship feels like jumping out of the plane and assembling the parachute at the same time, and somehow you survive with fireworks.”

“I felt that in The University of Melbourne’s G-Cal program. We had to look at a project called UniWater, that sought to make water sustainability recommendations for the university in alignment with the Victoria government’s water policies. I didn’t know anything about water policy or government, but I committed to the project, so I had to figure it out. I always trust that the answer is within reach, either within my mind, within a group brainstorming session or Google. Since making the leap into entrepreneurship, I’ve also learned there are a lot of other people who can help you find a solution, and I don’t need to do it alone; and it’s smoother and faster to ask for help.”

Ting shared an example of troubleshooting a website issue while working on her startup during the Masters “Before I would have spent too much time trying to figure it out myself and now I realise the most efficient way is to ask people around me. I have mentors, teachers, colleagues who can provide their knowledge. I’m comforted by the thought that the answer is out there and I can acquire it somehow.”

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You are your most important asset

Despite having a lot of transferable skills from science like absorbing and analysing significant amounts of data, there are some things that she didn’t expect “Both are high-pressure environments with very limited resources, and a lot of your self-worth is tied to your work. In academia, you can see a lot of depression and anxiety, but we weren’t armed with the tools to work through it. But in the world of startups, they are better at acknowledging you need to look after your mental health.”

“Having spent the year with other entrepreneurs on the same journey at Wade, I have other people who are always looking out for me; we even encourage each other to exercise and eat well. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. To succeed you need to turn it into a sustainable lifestyle, so I can’t afford to burn out and compromise my startup.”

Yan Ting has also developed a new mindset when reacting to feedback “I used to struggle taking advice from people, but I’ve learned those insights only strengthen my business. Instead of getting upset by it, now I’m grateful, and I’ve learned to detach and listen to it in a sterile way. In fact, I’m almost angry when people try to be too nice because they’re robbing me of an opportunity to learn something. They might see something I haven’t noticed, and I could be walking into a hole. I don’t want to fall in, so I need them to point it out! And if I do fall, I know there’s always a lesson to be learnt.”

Yan Ting is a 2016 Master of Entrepreneurship student and co-founder of m-Time – a startup that gives busy parents more time for themselves by providing a Mum or Dadcierge to do cooking, cleaning, chores and childcare on a subscription basis.

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