People and Culture

“If only university was setup more similar to this academy, I’d most probably never want to go onto semestral breaks”

5 minutes to read

We are committed to supporting talented students from developing countries. In cooperation with Aiducation International we have been running the Zühlke Innovation Academy in the Philippines every year since 2018: In one week, six Zühlke mentors introduce about 50 students to topics such as innovation and design thinking, provide 1:1 student support and promote cultural exchange.

Zühlke held an Innovation Academy in the Philippines. Together with ‘Aiducation International Switzerland’ and the local partner ‘Pathways to Higher Education’ mentors of Zühlke taught Design Thinking to 42 students. I interviewed one of the students to know more about how he experienced the week.

What and where do you study? How long have you been part of Pathways?

I’m an incoming 4th year college student taking Electronics and Communications Engineering in the University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus. I used to be a Pathways participant; however, now I’m affiliated with them as a volunteer member of the organization.

Why do you think the work of Pathways is important?

In my view, what Pathways does is quite literally to serve as a bridge for less fortunate but promising students to go from point A to point B. Not only in terms of education per se, but also in terms of these students’ personal developments. And I think this is very important because this is exactly the student support needed.

Why did you participate in this academy?

I value self-development quite a lot. And with this, I saw the Zühlke Innovation Academy as a great opportunity to learn things that I would most probably not encounter in school nor in my everyday life. I also saw it as a special avenue to meet new people and to make friends. In a way, one can say that it’d be like treading unfamiliar waters, and what better way to further improve myself than this?

What’s your overall impression of the first Zühlke Innovation Academy?

It was an exceptional experience. I mean, if only university was setup more similar to this academy, I’d most probably never want to go onto semestral breaks. It had an interactive combination of fun and productivity which quite amazingly creates an atmosphere of learning in which one wouldn’t even realise it’s a form of student support and you’re acquiring a lot of knowledge.

Comparing to other academies, how was this academy different?

I’ve only been to one other academy, the SwissRe Academy, besides this one so I’ll be comparing just the two. For the content of the two academies, the main difference is the Zühlke Innovation Academy is focused on innovative thinking, solution making and direct students support, while the SwissRe academy is more focused on the business side of things. For the experience I had, both are really great but this one with the Zühlke Innovation Academy differs in various ways from the SwissRe academy and I think it is mainly because of the mentors. That is, the mentors are mostly younger professionals as compared to what we had in the other academy. With that, I observed that most of us participants became more engaged with the mentors; it seemed that we were able to develop a deeper connection with them because rather than seeing them as real mentors and having that somewhat wall of respect, we were able to see them and treat them more as older friends.

What did you specially like about the Zühlke Innovation Academy?

Aside from what I’ve mentioned about the mentors, I specifically like the core concept of the Zühlke Innovation Academy itself. This is because personally I’m very interested in finding and creating innovative solutions to different problems. It makes me feel like I’m getting a step closer to becoming more like my intellectual heroes such as Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Nikola Tesla to name a few.

Did anything make you feel uncomfortable?

I think the one thing that really made me feel a bit uneasy or uncomfortable is the process of having to show faults and mistakes in your work. The process of presenting incomplete solutions with all its vulnerabilities. It’s not the best feeling, but I guess we were all able to learn in the academy the importance of this process and that somehow makes the uneasiness that comes with it a little bit less.

What are your major learnings from this academy?

Aside from the lesson about the importance of making mistakes that I’ve already mentioned there are two more things I think are my major learnings from the academy, one is about leadership and the other is about looking at things differently.
There are various things I’ve learned about leadership, but I think the most important is this: I’ve learned about the value of having a leader in a team and that this leader makes sure everyone is able to get a hold onto the moving train that is work; or in other words that no one gets left behind. Because as a leader I think it is very easy to get lost in your work/role, and just do everything you can, on your own, without you realising that you’ve already left the rest of the team behind. The other major learning I’ve had from the academy is the importance of thinking from varying perspectives, looking at things in ways other than our own point of view. I think this is a major learning because it is applicable to almost everything.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

I guess I just want to send my gratitude to Pathways and Zühlke for this amazing opportunity to learn, to meet wonderful people, and just to be able to spend a part of my life that I can always look back into and say that it is definitely worth it.


Interview by Nicole Feusi, former Talent Relation & Recruiting Specialist at Zühlke Engineering AG