I’ve been a teacher for 10 years, and I never thought I’d do anything but work in educational institutions. I chose my own adventure through university, eventually graduating with a Bachelor Media Communications/Secondary Education. Early in my career I started looking for projects beyond the classroom and got involved in professional associations. Then I came across the idea of an intrapreneur and secretly self-applied that term. I was lucky enough to work on a range of projects, but so many projects didn’t go ahead or were diluted due to ‘managing the risk’, ‘compliance,’ and ‘security’. I admit that my own procrastination, driven by a fear of exposure, has negatively affected some ventures, but I’ve realized that I’m actually a wannabe entrepreneur who fell into the most unentrepreneurial profession — education.
“Intrapreneur: an inside entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur within a large firm, who uses entrepreneurial skills without incurring the risks associated with those activities.”
It seems inevitable that I’d ‘fall’ into teaching. Both my parents were educators, but there were signs of other interests from a young age. On my Year 5 camp I was awarded ‘Most Entrepreneurial’ from the school Principal for selling sparklers for $1 each to my friends (a box of 12 sparklers cost about $2 at the time and despite the award I was ordered to give the money back). From the age of 12 I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. A strong sense of social justice and a hot button for hypocrisy as well as a desire to do something different than my parents, led me to believe the Law was where I needed to be.
In high school, I did Film and TV and loved the ability to be creative and technical. Despite doing well at high school, I didn’t score high enough to study Law, so I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Queensland. I created my own ‘Liberal Arts degree’ and studied history, media, English, philosophy, religion, and politics and upgraded to Law in second year. But Law seemed like plugging real people’s situations into Maths formulas instead of an enabler of social justice. So, I went back to Arts and transferred to Queensland University of Technology where I enrolled in a Bachelor of Media Communications. I quickly realized that the grind and instability of the media industry wasn’t where I wanted to be, so, having been at uni for 5 years, I decided to combine Media with Secondary Education.
I graduated and after a term of supply teaching, I landed a contract at a state high school that rolled into permanency. I enjoyed aspects of teaching but became disillusioned about two years in and felt trapped. My wife firmly encouraged me to stop complaining and take and create opportunities. After some more complaining, I realized mine and my family’s happiness was more important than the parts of teaching I didn’t like. So, I bucked up, set some goals, and took advantage of professional development and leadership opportunities, building projects in digital literacy, video games, STEAM and documentary film across state and private schools.
For the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of working on the Learning & Teaching team at an inner-city high school in Brisbane where we’ve used agile practices to drive positive change in pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment. I work with an amazing group of smart, passionate, innovative educators and have had the chance to experiment with a range of initiatives to affect whole-school change management.
We collaborated with the students and staff to generate four pedagogical principles: Critical Thinking, Connectedness, Collaboration, Creative Problem Solving. We partnered with QUT School of Design to create the Indooroopilly SHS Innovation Hub and implemented a Professional Learning Community comprising cross-faculty teams, each working on a specific ‘challenge of practice’ to trial one of the pedagogical principles in classrooms.
Most recently, I’ve been lucky enough to work with my Principal, a friend and colleague, an amazing project officer, and a diverse consortium that was successful in being awarded an IET Partnership Fund grant from Trade and Investment Queensland to create a student innovation challenge for international and domestic students. gen[in] can stand for Generation Innovation, Generation International or Genin and is a mostly online incubator for students, 14–21 years of age, to bring their ideas to life with support from learning materials, mentors, an online community, and prize money. The goal of gen[in] is to become a self-sustaining venture that helps young people navigate the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Queensland, Australia and ultimately the world, so they can be the next generation of international innovators.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to be part of the launch team with Future-U, an organisation led by Jonathan Nalder, which is dedicated to helping young people and educators navigate the transition to the post-work era. Jonathan has amassed a community of over 150 international experts, from astronauts to virtual reality companies, who are on a mission to bridge the gap between school and the real world.
“As an intrapreneur builds the aptitude for recognizing and solving important problems, he also builds the skills required to start his own business.” http://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/intrapreneur.asp
Writing this, I feel grateful for the opportunities that I have and while many would think I’m crazy contemplating leaving my position with its freedom and agency, I feel like it’s time to take the next step in my journey from educator to entrepreneur. While the education system as a whole is about as far from entrepreneurial as you can get, it has allowed me to hone my problem-finding and problem-solving skills. Part of me wishes I’d had the courage to take this step earlier but the other part of me knows I needed these experiences to build the confidence and skills required to one day run my own business.
For about a year now, after a late-night submission to Vinay Gupta’s Hexayurt Capital fund, I’ve been working on a learning journey startup that will utilise emerging technologies like blockchain and AI to help children and parents record and synthesise formal and informal learning. I’ve held global think tanks with incredible experts via video conference, created and delivered pitch decks and iterated the concept numerous times. I still have so much to learn about startups and business, and I’m not sure what the next chapter will look like, but I feel compelled to take the risk and leave education to continue my own learning journey.
I’m fortunate to be supported by an amazing wife and four beautiful children who believe in my vision and are on this ride with me. I’m looking forward to documenting this trip that I hope is more than just an excursion into entrepreneurship. Like Seth Sentry says, “Taking risks is risky,” and I’ve got to take the risk and see where things go.
This blog first appeared at https://medium.com/@rhyscass
Featured image via Adobe Stock