Research, development, and innovation: Justin Mosbey spotlight
International student Justin Mosbey is currently completing his Master of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. As part of his Capstone project, Justin partnered with Deploy Solutions using the Riipen platform.
Given his international background, opportunities to work with local Canadian companies and showcase his extensive IT experience from Kenya is hard to come by.
Over the course of his 4-month project on Riipen’s platform, Justin pulled from his professional experience in Kenya while developing new skills in primary and secondary research. The final research proposal presented to Deploy Solutions - plans to develop a Climate Change Impact Planning software - received high praise for its exhaustive research and logical insights. As a result of his professional insight, Justin was hired by Deploy Solutions as their R&D and Innovation co-op student.
Due to COVID-19, students preparing to graduate from post-secondary institutions around North America are facing an increasingly uncertain labour market while in-person internships and work placements are being interrupted. This is preventing access to practical work-place skill development. Students all over North America are struggling with the challenging effects this will have on their job applications. However, Justin is grateful to be jumping into the job market having developed extensive work-place skills from his Riipen project.
We spoke to Justin through video chat to learn more about his experiences as an international student using Riipen’s platform and the value of online integrated work-integrated learning (WIL) experience in this changing educational and economic climate. We finish up with Justin’s main takeaway for how other local and international students can utilize their online internship and WIL experiences to differentiate themselves in a challenging labour market.
Now that you work with Deploy, can you tell us exactly what your role is and what your day to day involves?
I’m a Research & Development Innovation Manager so part of my work is to validate the data we identified during our market research...We identified the problem through market research last year during my Riipen project and my current work is a continuation of that. We are now trying to validate customer segments. This is through interviews with customers around Canada to see whatever challenges we identify. This month, what I am doing is analyzing the interviews we did earlier. Also, I’m using Tableau to present reports about a climate change proposal we are trying to make. This spring and early summer, we hope to come up with a prototype to show plans on what we think is a potential solution.
Any other projects?
I am also helping support the new Riipen group working with Deploy Software Solutions. I have been meeting with the current Riipen cohort, giving them feedback, and of course using my experience I had with Riipen to help them. They are building a search engine for us.
Can you tell us a little about the project for Deploy Solutions as part of your Industry & Market Research & Analysis course?
Our secondary research was to identify the market gap and opportunity for Deploy Software Solutions in Canada. Deploy Software Solutions plans to launch a Climate Change Impact Platform (CCIP) to help citizens; municipal, provincial, federal government; businesses and non-profit organizations to prepare for, mitigate, and recover from climate change disasters. My work was to assist Deploy Software Solutions build a business model that would deliver a solution to help track and provide feedback on mitigating climate change induced disasters.
How did your work experience from Kenya impact your work in your Riipen project?
I was at an advantage having an IT background doing some of the work Deploy Software Solutions needed me to do. This is partly why I was hired after my Riipen project for this co-op position. Someone without this background would have needed more training but given my experience in Kenya it was a smooth training process.
I was an IT manager in Kenya. I wanted something different and I also wanted something where I could use transferable skills. At Deploy Software Solutions, there were some technologies - like Zoho (CRM platform) and Asana (project management software) - that were new to me. As much as they were new to me they were quite easy to learn given my background.
You mentioned learning to use new CRM and project management softwares. How else did this online work integrated learning (WIL) experience add practical value to your in-class studies?
There are so many ways I have improved. I learned interviewing skills [from interviewing customer segments for his primary research], Tableau, and Wordpress…and then interacting with citizens and subject matter experts and getting feedback from them for our Climate Change project.
What we are doing currently is more exactly what we have been taught in class in terms of material but now we are doing it practically. So if you ask me, I’m at the right place doing the right thing.
What was your experience communicating with Deploy Solutions’ management team through the Riipen platform during your project? What proportion was done virtually?
It was 100% online. It made the transition to my remote co-op from my Riipen project very smooth. We [Justin and his manager] used to have weekly meetings on the Riipen platform, so I would present to him during that period and he’d give me feedback and advice and discuss my deliverable.
The platform keeps you focused with milestones throughout the project. As a student when you have a milestone and a deliverable it keeps you focused.
If Riipen had a virtual internship opportunity available, do you think that would have been beneficial for you?
Of course. Definitely. The most important thing for us as international students is to get any real life experience.
On that note, with COVID-19 driving a shift in the education system towards online learning and virtual internships, how has your online WIL affected your preparedness to work remotely?
Previously where I used to work [in Nairobi, Kenya] I used to work in an office but worked with remote teams. Deploy has given me an opportunity to fully work remotely myself. It is very convenient. I can live wherever I like.
As an international student in Canada, how has COVID-19 affected you as you prepare to graduate and enter the labour market?
From what I’ve read and heard, people have been laid off. It’s something I’m worried about - what are my chances of getting work? Frankly speaking, I feel much more prepared working with Deploy now - and potentially at other companies later - because I’ll be more equipped with real experience. I’m more assured now than had I not joined Deploy Software Solutions through Riipen originally.
What was your main takeaway from this experience for other students looking to do Riipen projects?
I encourage [incoming students] to select Riipen projects, and to select something that is of interest to them….My biggest takeaway is that choosing to take a Riipen project was the best thing for me. I learned so much. I think that all of the soft skills that work in my favour now… I learned these through my Riipen project with Deploy.
When given the chance to expand on anything else that he wanted to highlight, Justin passionately expressed the impact this online WIL project had on his life as an international student by saying:
I am grateful of course to my program for integrating Riipen into my class. As an international student it can be a really hard experience finding work since I don’t have any Canadian experience. Nobody wants to look at my CV because all of the experiences I have are in Kenya.
Most of the students in my program are international students. Those who have done their project with Riipen have been able to reference their projects they did with Riipen in applying for jobs and co-ops. Those who didn’t do their project with Riipen face the challenge of not having Canadian experience on their resume. My Riipen project gave me that Canadian experience. As international students, most of us plan to stay here. If you plan to stay here, choose a Riipen project to get that real life experience.
As COVID-19 causes more uncertainty for local and international graduates in the labour market, the importance of standing out is even more vital. Taking advantage of the online WIL and new virtual internships facilitated through the Riipen platform has helped many students like Justin to bridge the skills gap while providing concrete results to companies.
To learn more about how Riipen is helping our partner academic institutions and companies transition their experiential learning online via virtual internships to continue providing work integrated learning opportunities to students, please visit our virtual internship page to learn how companies and post-secondary institutions can leverage these opportunities.
Written by: Harris Green