Creative enterprise strategy

Dr Eva Kirchberger

Eva is Marie Curie fellow in Design Management and completed her PhD on creative industries at the Business School to become Senior Teaching Fellow at the Dyson School of Design Engineering.

As part of Marie Curie Eva had the chance to work at one of the co-pioneers in service design thinking, which she brings to her teaching in entrepreneurship and professional practice.

Eva reflects on how her career in innovation and entrepreneurship builds on a solid foundation of STEM study at school and how the skills that come from a science and maths education can open the doors to a huge range of career paths.

"My career path certainly shows that STEM is a core skill for many different disciplines, especially in this era of data-driven decision making and digital services.

"Statistics and quantitative analysis are a vital part of creative and entrepreneurial practices, too. Studying science and maths does not necessarily restrict you to a career in scientific research but gives you the foundation to do anything."

Can you tell us a bit more about your job at Imperial...

I work at the Dyson School of Design Engineering where I am responsible for the theme review of the enterprise track in the MEng programme, and teach Entrepreneurship and Innovation to final-year Bachelor students and Master's students in Innovation Design Engineering and Global Innovation Design.

For Imperial College Business School, I support Professor Phillips in his Executive and Global MBA teaching and work as Data Sparks Coach for the Imperial Business Analytics Centre

My expertise in enterprise also means I have the chance to work closely with the team within Imperial's Enterprise Lab.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The thing that excites me most about my job is generating enthusiasm amongst students and colleagues for exciting new business ideas and services.

It is very rewarding to think that I have had some role in inspiring them and helping them see opportunities.

I think we are in an interesting era of change, fuelled by digitalisation and datafication, and it makes me happy to see how the young generation of Design Engineering students is embracing this as their new normal and develop products which would have been impossible a decade ago.

And it's wonderful to see, especially, that young female students show lots of great ideas confidence doing so.

Your background is in STEM? How did this lead you to your current role?

At school in Germany, I specialised in natural sciences such as maths, physics, and chemistry before doing a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration; I was interested in learning about business, people and innovation from the start.

As a curious mind, I explored lots of different projects along the way, with one of the highlights working on a James Bond movie as production assistant.

With excitement for the new, I pursued a Master’s at Central St Martins in Innovation Management, before being selected for the Marie Curie Programme in Design Management.

What advice would you offer for women looking to follow in your footsteps?

The first would be to find really friendly and supportive mentors, who see the potential in you and help you grow.

Also, to form a circle of like-minded peers who support each other. To be aware that there will be unconscious bias and to promote specific women’s needs is important.

Reach out to other female colleagues, form a group and feel the support!

I feel younger women are much more outgoing nowadays, and that is great. I had several young women approach me after one of my talks and asked straight away for internships and support.

What hurdles do you think society needs to overcome to get more women into STEM careers?

At society level, I think it is important to remember that it is an old myth to think that women are not good at STEM subjects.

Countries like the UK need to begin developing an attitude similar to places like Germany where it is normal for women to study STEM. The fact that Chancellor Dr. Merkel is a physicist is not surprising. More public role models in the UK and awareness might help.

At university level, I think still more could be done to create a truly inclusive environment. I believe it sits with raising awareness of deeply held stereotypes, working against these and looking for gender balance not only in numbers but also power positions. This does not just happen, this needs to be proactive work.

Research shows that girls tend to be underconfident and boys overconfident about their work… how do we take this into account and encourage a balance in our teaching?

The end goal must be that we associate both men and women with the word “leader” – an indication that girls truly can become whoever they want to be.