As a trained engineer with a career focus of social enterprise, Renate Diggelmann’s internship with Arbutus Medical has been a perfect fit for her.
“I’ve always been interested in sustainability and social ventures – and this is all of it,” says the UBC MBA student, currently interning with Arbutus Medical at the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub, a social venture accelerator run by Sauder’s Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing.
Arbutus Medical is led by a team of UBC engineers who came up with an innovative solution to a challenge faced by bone surgeons in conflict zones and the developing world: properly sanitized drills are prohibitively expensive. They designed a medical grade fabric cover which goes over a regular hardware store drill, making a cheap and readily available tool fit for the operating room.
They’re one of five social ventures at the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub in 2015. While sharing a dynamic workspace with fellow social entrepreneurs, and receiving expert mentorship and advice, each venture has a full-time intern working with them for the full summer.
Arbutus Medical’s CEO, Florin Gheorghe, says Diggelmann’s combination of business smarts and familiarity for the challenges engineers face has been valuable to the team.
“Having her perspective as an MBA student, as well as the extra access to insights from her professors, has been hugely beneficial,” Gheorghe says, adding he appreciates the extra capacity during a fast-paced summer as the team negotiates two new key partnerships.
Arbutus Medical is also looking at expanding into veterinary markets in Europe and North America, so Diggelmann has been tasked with doing a customer discovery and market analysis, in addition to helping them rebrand the social venture.
The team is receiving more branding help from another social venture working alongside them in the accelerator program: Brands for the Heart, which takes social enterprises through a branding process at a price they can afford.
Two other Sauder students are working with social ventures at the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub: Cherihan Hassun, a BCom student specializing in entrepreneurship, is helping out sustainable coffee-leaf tea vendor Wize Monkey, and MBA student Dmitrii Semenov is interning with Food Waste Recyclers, who make composting easier for Vancouver residents and businesses.
Diggelmann says she enjoys working with Arbutus Medical’s small team of like-minded engineers. She says she’s a big fan of applied learning, and likes the chance to make use of what she’s learned in the MBA program on topics such as finance, market research and business communications.
“I like seeing the whole process of running a social venture, and it’s exciting to be around when major developments happen. Just recently, we shipped a package to a medical team in Nepal, so it was very cool to be making a real impact.”
She says she’s getting a much better idea of where she wants to take her career after she graduates.
“Going into my MBA, I really wanted to figure out if I would fit in with a startup, and to learn how to go about starting my own company,” Diggelmann says. “In this internship, I’ve been testing the water, seeing if I’m comfortable with ambiguity and with the unknown. So far, I really like it.”