With a slight change to our regular series, Catalyst member Kelly interviews members of our team about their roles, interests and life before Sussex Innovation. Today she chats with Catalyst Project Manager Eva Poliszczuk.
So Eva, when did you start working at Sussex Innovation?
It was the 5th of August 2018 and it was the Tuesday after Pride - I remember because I thought oh my gosh, I’m not a student anymore! I had graduated that summer, so I had about three months to just soak up the Brighton sun and say goodbye to friends who were leaving and embrace the last few months of being a carefree student. Then I started as a Catalyst team member and I supported Joseph with Sussex Innovation PR and Communications. I came a day early because the person who did PR and Comms before me left before I started, so I had a whole handover day and had already met most people.
On my first day, I had a very long onboarding session with Lucy who was the programme manager at the time, and we basically chatted about what was going to happen in the year and my goals. Then I had an onboarding with Liam who was the project manager, he walked me through all the systems we used and how to organise everything.
How long were you in your role as a Catalyst Team member?
I was a Catalyst member for 6 months. I found the transition going from member to manager difficult at first, because I had to change my mindset to be a manager. I went on a managerial course in London for three days, that was really good because I have good people skills, but it helped me put that into being a manager. It was a great consolidation session; we did lots of personality questionnaires and quizzes about how we think and organise processes. I remember mine said I was a coordinator, an organiser and a team player. Two of which are the two strongest characteristics for managing people. It was useful to get affirmation that I was going down the right path and to learn about managing people and how to deal with different personality types and situations.
It was nice having 6 months before the new team started because it meant I could really grow into the role, practicing sales, networking and project management. When my new team came in, I felt like I was in a good position because people need a strong manager when you start a new job, especially if you are a graduate. So when Arthur - our first team member – started, I wasn’t nervous!
What is it that you do?
I am project manager of the Catalyst team. I help manage a team of young, talented graduates from a range of disciplines, helping them with their personal and career development and sourcing projects; team members can work with a company 3 days a week for a whole year, or they can work with them for just one week during their entire time with us. It’s completely flexible as they can work with over 30 companies at a time. I also help them with training, development.
Are you excited that your whole team is here now?
Yeah, I am excited! I have been waiting a while for it now, I felt ready but the old team had been there for 8 to 10 months, so they didn’t really need as much support as a new team does. Now that team 6 has started I feel like it is my team, and it’s great! Everyone in the team has had a really great start and everyone has a brilliant attitude, are very intelligent and ready to learn. Although each member is really different, they all really get on. We are now 4-5 months in, and I am very happy with the team and I think all the staff and members at Sussex Innovation are too.
How did you conduct the interview process to find a good team?
With this team, we wanted to have a much wider range of disciplines. In the first interview, looking for someone who’s charismatic was the main thing. The job is so varied, candidates had to have a passion and a bit of work experience.
We also made sure to host lots of events out of office at the start of the job such as the summer social, playing rounders together and our all-about-me day. We wanted to help the team create bonds that they might not have time to do when working.
What is the hardest thing about your job?
There are lots of different challenges. I think for me because I’ve been in the Catalyst position I knew if you start midsummer sometimes there aren’t enough projects, so I wanted to make sure people still felt fulfilled in their work. The most difficult thing is trying to make sure everyone has the same experience because some team members may get more clients at the start and for others it takes longer to get a full diary. You have to keep team morale up in those situations. Making sure people have the same opportunities is something that I feel strongly about, and I want to provide.
What are you looking forward to with your new team?
I am looking forward to helping my team members carve out their futures, to see them leave and know I’ve helped and influenced their career in some way. Hopefully, they might look back in five years and think about their first manager Eva who helped them out! I look forward to people making the most out of Catalyst and pairing a team member with their perfect client, or opportunity if you will. I just love when our team members are supported by not just us, but also their client.
Recently, you won the Croydon Business Award, young enterprising person of the year, what was that like?
It was a complete shock. So the Croydon centre manager, Saffron nominated me and persuaded me to apply and I didn’t have any confidence that I’d win to be honest. I know I’m good at my job, I know I’m passionate and enjoy what I do which are all important things to being an enterprising young person - but I just didn’t think I’d win. I remember looking at the ballot and scoping out my competition. Then they went through the commended and highly commended and I started getting that twitch that it might be me. Then Manju Shahul-Hameed started talking about commitment to diversity and inclusion and how the award winner had only just started in the world of business…and I just started welling up as I knew it was me and then she announced that it was “Eva Poliszczuk”. Everyone just started screaming - it was so fun. Saffron gave me a big hug. It was amazing. Croydon is such a thriving place that it was so great to be recognised for the work we’re doing there, because it won’t look the same in ten years. It’s great to know you’re part of that development.
It was a really special moment personally as well. My dad sent me a picture of himself looking teary, because we are a family of criers, and he said, “next stop… Alan Sugar.”
What do you do outside of work?
Outside of work I am very active, I love Zumba, Kirin on our team also does it but we have only managed to be in the same class once! I have a big social life. I have a good group of friends in Brighton from university, then I have my friends back home in Portsmouth, who I don’t see enough but I wish I could, and my family are very close too. My boyfriend lives in London so I also see him. So, I usually have really packed weekends, but I do try and save some weekends for watching ‘Orange is the New Black’ or to read a book. To sum up, outside of work I am just a very social person who still likes home comforts and a bottle of red wine.