Placement spotlight: Zinc
By Sofia Vaz Pinto Simoes Coelho (Oxford)
I came to Zinc hoping to find out whether I would enjoy research outside of academia. My experience could not have been better! Zinc went to great lengths to make their PhD Internship Programme a fantastic opportunity for doctoral students to gain new skills in an unfamiliar environment. The internship included three bootcamp days (start, middle, end), where we listened to interactive presentations about various aspects of entrepreneurship (from design to intellectual property). After an introductory week, I spent five weeks working for a start-up, and after a transition week, I moved on to a different start-up for another five weeks, with a wrap-up week at the end. Seeing two early-stage start-ups from the inside, going to their meetings, and doing whatever tasks were needed (including, in my case, a lot of user and qualitative research, but also tasks I was less familiar with, like social media research and management) offered invaluable insight into entrepreneurship.
Furthermore, the ‘venture project’ assigned to the group of (eight) interns was a fantastic way to develop teamworking skills and experience the very early stages of creating a start-up first-hand (including ideation sessions, various user research iterations, market research, and designing a business plan, as well as presenting it to a board of judges at the end of the internship). Apart from gaining new research and IT skills, I also got to improve my public speaking through optional training sessions where we would pitch our PhD topics to our Zinc supervisor and other interns. The work environment at Zinc is friendly and relaxed, if fast-paced, and my internship peers were a lovely group of people. With two supervisors and individual meetings every week to check on my progress and welfare, I felt the internship was carefully designed to give us the best possible experience. I highly recommend this placement opportunity to any students considering research careers outside of academia, or simply curious about them.