When I first joined Catalyst in June 2017, I was but a clueless Romanian boy who just finished his second year of his History and Sociology degree. Honestly, I had no idea how I even managed to get the Catalyst job. To an extent you could say I was the human embodiment of those insects who fly aimlessly around your room, with no purpose, just chasing the light of your essay-scarred laptop. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and more importantly, I had no idea how to apply my degree in the real world. Honestly, before Catalyst, I always imagined that I would become a secluded historian, who, like a modern hermit would only get out of his cave to buy coffee and biscuits. But enough about me, this blog is not about who I was, but who I’ve become and how you too can make the most out of this transformational journey.
I remember my first day perfectly. I recall feeling both excited and nervous. At exactly 1100 hours on a Wednesday, I received my first project. It was a market research analysis for a client who wanted to develop an app for landlords and tenants. I put on my game face and tried to give the impression that I knew everything that I was doing. Truth be told I was just terrified of failure and I wanted to make a good impression so much that I forgot one of the most important things: ASK FOR HELP.
Now, 1311 hours and 43 clients later, my Catalyst journey has come to an end. I’ve had a great time, met great colleagues, great managers and great clients who all taught me valuable lessons, both professionally and on a personal level. Even today, I sometimes reflect on the person I was before Catalyst and how much I’ve grown in just 12 months. As Catalyst alumni, I thought that it’s appropriate to leave a gift to the next year’s intake. So, future and current members of the team, I leave you this short guide on how to make the most out of this year.
Lesson number 1: Be open minded
Catalyst is all about taking risks. Every project will be something new, something different. From day 1 you’ll get your first project so having a go-to attitude is probably the best mindset to have. Also, don’t ever assume that you know everything. I’ve made that mistake and instead of growing, I spent one month stagnating. Remember that when you stagnate, so does your project and that leads to a mediocre job. All in all always be the best version of yourself and never be afraid of a new challenge. Who knows, you might surprise yourself!
Lesson number 2: Be professional
During this year you will work with at least 30 independent businesses and on many occasions, have the opportunity to promote and talk about Catalyst. Remember that people will not only make an impression about yourself but about your employer too. So, it is imperative that you will always look smart and act in a polite and professional manner. Contraire to popular belief, this won’t turn you into a boring person. You can have a lot of fun while also looking smart and professional.
Lesson number 3: Stay close with the team
You have to understand that you are about to go into the real world of work, a world that will undoubtedly be intense. So in order to make your life easier, you need to stay close with your team. You will share a lot of good and not so good moments so someone to back you up will prove to be a great asset. Moreover, no one wants to spend a year working with people they don’t like or know, right?
Oh, and also always communicate with Lucy and Liam. They are your best allies when a project is not working well or when you are feeling overwhelmed. So be sure to always talk to them. They are not mind-readers… apart from Lucy, she can sometimes do that.
Lesson number 4: Talk to the support and accounts teams
The support team, what/ who are they? Well if the office hasn’t changed since I last was there, they are the people sitting on the edge of the room. Whys should you talk to them? Well, first of all, you are going to spend a year in the same office as them so it would be nice to get to know them. Also, these people come from all backgrounds and have done some amazing things in their life. For example, one has run his own charity while another has run a very successful events business. As I hope you can imagine, they’ve been through a lot of moments that you will find yourself in (and many more). So do go and talk to them. I am sure that they have loads to teach you. I, unfortunately, saw that opportunity too late and I am sure that if I would’ve interacted with them earlier, I would’ve grown more.
Lesson number 5: Work Hard. Play Hard. Party Hard.
Probably one of the most important lessons in this blog is to have fun. What makes Catalyst so great is that it is genuinely taking you by the hand and guiding you into the world of work. You are somewhat protected by the corporatist monster. Some of the best parties of my life so far happened with these guys - do prepare for the Christmas party, trust me when I say that it won’t disappoint. Also, time really does fly when you’re having fun and I can safely say that I had plenty of it working at the Sussex Innovation Centre.
These are just a couple of the lessons I’ve learned with Catalyst. I’ll let you do the rest because it would take away the fun. Learning your own lessons is part of the journey. As for me, well I’m not really leaving. I’ll be here, watching you, analysing your every move from the shadows, kind of like a SinC Batman. But, jokes aside I’ll go back to finish my degree and after that who knows? All I can say is that Catalyst has prepared me to fully tackle the corporatist beast and emerge victoriously. So I hope that this guide will be useful in your time with Catalyst and don’t forget to embrace everything it has to offer.
P.S – Do your Timesheet. I get it, nobody likes it but it has to be done. Trust when I say that once you get it right it will make your life much easier.