Written by Andrew Seale

Over the course of Venture for Canada’s training camp at Queen’s University, Sumiya Abdirashid felt like she’d learned some empowering, new language.

“I was super green… a complete outsider to the whole startup ecosystem and to business as a whole,” says Abdirashid, who’d studied neuroscience at Carleton University. “The things people throw out (when talking about start-ups), the jargon: people are always talking about MVPs or ‘validating who your customer is’ – I didn't know how to talk about any of this stuff a few months ago.”

When you’re on the inside, it can be easy to take it for granted. But it’s the simple things that tend to create the barriers. For Abdirashid, understanding how to talk about startups was critical to delving into that world and that education began when she stumbled on Venture for Canada, a not-for-profit that recruits, trains and supports recent graduates to work at startups.

At the time she was grappling with a growing disconnect between her studies and her passion; extracurriculars like growing the neuroscience society as vice president and facilitating mentors and training through the university’s Science Student Success Centre.

“Towards the end of university, I think everyone looks back on their experience and is trying to figure out what they want to do going forward,” she says. “A lot of those things (I enjoyed) were things I did outside of the classroom.”

When she came across Venture for Canada through an email sent out by Carleton, “things just kind of clicked.” She applied and although she was certain it was a long-shot, she made it into the program. “It's honestly been one of the best decisions I've made – I've been connected to so many people like me who instantly were on the same page.”

During one of Venture for Canada’s pitch days, where Abdirashid and the fellows could pitch themselves in 60-seconds to prospective employers at startups, she met the general manager at Lighthouse Labs which runs coding bootcamps. She researched the company and realized it embodied all the things she loved about her experience at university.

They hoed her and she started as admissions manager, moving on to the education manager role.

“This is an even more perfect fit… I'm doing a lot of the things I'd previously done: overseeing student progress and success, working with our teachers, part-time teacher’s assistants and mentors,” says Abdirashid. “It really is the dream I never even knew I had.”

In a lot of ways, she feels it’s a sort of language barrier that keeps a lot of young people like herself from pursuing careers in business or working at startups. Venture for Canada helped her break that barrier.

“There's a bit of a stigma attached to business where people kind of fear it, you have to be someone who's wearing a suit and went to business school and has all this knowledge and information… I think people are intimidated and don't really pursue it,” she says. But business is about leadership and and serving your community. “Changing my own language and the way I defined what going into business really is, helped me realize this fits in with all the things I've done and all the things I'm interested in doing.”

Photos: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)