This week we meet Ruth Weir, Senior Programme Officer for Entrepreneurship at UCL Innovation & Enterprise, who chats to us about adapting to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ruth and her team transitioned the SPERO workshops - which she oversees - to an online format within 48 hours.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I oversee the extracurricular SPERO training programme in entrepreneurial thinking for doctoral students at UCL. We offer three levels of workshop; SPERO 1 - students start discovering their entrepreneurial strengths, SPERO 2 - students develop their understanding of what it takes to establish a business or social enterprise and SPERO 3 - students delve into the intricacies of enterprise management. Whether students stay in academia, join the commercial workforce or even set up their own business/social enterprise, our workshops help to give UCL doctoral students a competitive advantage in their future careers.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I started this role in January 2020, but this is actually my second stint at UCL as I completed my PhD in Neuroscience here in 2013. My previous role was researching neurodevelopment and autism at the MIND Institute in Sacramento, California but last year I realised I was ready for new challenges outside of academic research. A colleague and friend from my PhD days, Rebecca McKelvey, CEO of In2ScienceUK (a UCL supported startup) told me the role at UCL I&E was becoming vacant and I jumped at the opportunity. The power of networking is real!
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I am really proud of how quickly we implemented the necessary changes in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, transitioning the SPERO workshops to an online format within a 48-hour period. With research and teaching suspended across UCL, demand for SPERO workshops has increased two-fold. The new online format, run in MS Teams, mimics the face-to-face experience as closely as possible, retaining the high quality didactic content and interactive small-group activities. We are also able to reach students that ordinarily wouldn’t be able to attend a full day-workshop in central London, such as those who are completing their studies remotely, or part-time students that normally have concurrent work commitments.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
I am currently tackling how to capture and quantify the up-lift in skills gained from SPERO workshops. We get very positive feedback from the students at the end of the workshops, but I’d like to quantify that impact (I’m still a researcher at heart). Additionally, while we may sow the seeds of entrepreneurial thinking, they might not germinate until months, or even years later. I welcome any suggestions you may have to help me achieve this challenge!
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Album: Keane - Hopes and Fears - it takes me straight back to care-free, first year undergrad days
Film: The Lion King - the original, the live-action re-make and the stage show are all great.
Novel: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - the first book that really made me think about the morals hidden behind the story
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
What kind of fish performs brain surgery?
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Dr. Jane Goodall - to chat science
Bear Grylls - to chat travel and adventure
Chrissie Wellington - to chat marathons, triathlons and health
What advice would you give your younger self?
Life won’t go according to plan and that’s ok.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
In 2012 I weighed 3 stone (19kg) more than I do now. Reaching my weight loss goal wasn’t a piece of cake (pun intended!), but I haven’t looked back since. I now run marathons and complete long distance triathlons. With determination and discipline anything is possible.
What is your favourite place?
The view from General Wolfe statue at the top of Greenwich Park as I’ve been going there since I was a kid. The Queen’s House and Royal Naval College in the foreground have been ever present while the backdrop of the Docklands has changed beyond all recognition.