Interview with Leszek Szmidtke, originator and creator of Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation and Agnieszka Zglinicka, a member of Foundation’s management board and Director of the area of small and medium sized enterprises in Olivia Business Centre.
The pretext for our conversation is a meeting, which inaugurates public activity of Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation, which was held on October 5, 2017 in Olivia Sky Club at Olivia Business Centre. Among guests there were founders, organisers, friends, as well as business, institutional and social partners of the initiative, which takes up the challenge to support young people in making choices concerning their development and future work in Pomeranian business.
During the meeting, previous Foundation’s projects were presented, its creators presented also recommendations of further development of projects carried out by the Foundation. Guests had an opportunity to listen to some words of encouragement addressed to entrepreneurs and educators to make them more willing to help, together with the Foundation, children and young people to find their feet in labour market.
The following persons took part in a debate conducted by Marcin Nowicki: Agata Hofman, PhD – director of Gedania Kindergarten 1922 and creoGedania school, as well as Polish Academy of Children, Małgorzata Gwozdz – HR director at Olivia Business Centre, Dominika Michalska – a student in one of Tricity high schools and Paweł Musiał – founder of MpicoSys. Agata Hofman paid attention, among other things, to the need to create space, where young people could develop their talents – and this is what Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation deals with. The meeting was crowned by the performance of Igor Falecki. The boy not only demonstrated his incredible music skills, but also talked about the amazing history of his passion’s development – playing the drums.
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Monika Bogdanowicz (Olivia Business Centre Communication): Leszek, as a publicist and commentator of social life, for many years you have been engaged in showing us people who are active in the field of Pomeranian business and economy. Your another, new role in the scope of promoting professional activity is becoming more realistic and is starting to directly influence our reality. What was an impulse to set up Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation and what is the main aim of its activity?
Leszek Szmidtke: (Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation): When I realised that because of my stroke I will not be able to come back to my previous profession – I was a journalist and I worked in Radio Gdańsk and the Institute for Market Economics – I began to help my son’s class. I wanted students to see how a great part of economy looks like when performed by good, Pomeranian companies. DCT, Ship Repair Yard and Merkus shop gave the example and everything began with small, young company named Professor Why, based in O4 Co-working at Olivia Business Centre. It was a long, but extremely important beginning. I did all these things most of all for my son’s sake. I hoped that by seeing various examples and dimensions of entrepreneurship and workplaces, he will find it easier to make future choices. Maciej Grabski was a witness, organiser and participant of the first visit and he told me: “Do something more with it”. Something more, it means not only for my children…
Photo, from the left: Leszek Szmidtke and Agnieszka Zglinicka
Monika Bogdanowicz: In such a dynamically changing world it is difficult to indicate some elements of activity, which may contribute to young people’s successes in the future. Why is your idea to combine in one project actions addressed to young people and innovative Pomeranian companies so unique?
Leszek Szmidtke: Entrepreneurship is not an ability to earn a lot of money. Entrepreneurship is, in my opinion, a way to lead an active life. By showing specific examples of entrepreneurship, we try to tell kids in a variety of ways: “Search for your place in life where you will feel good”. Many vocational schools visit companies as typical, future workplaces, here we have X department, there is Y department. We show it in a different way. We talk about enterprises and entrepreneurs while relating to searching for your own path, we talk about persistence in pursuing objectives, picking yourself up if you fall, because such things also happen, and about courage. For me, the most important thing is to teach a young person how to find his or her place and activity, which will make him or her feel complete. This is my definition of success. Young people should search and make mistakes when costs are not really high.
In any case, companies are very creative while planning two hours, which students spend there. There are no two same visits. This is a diversity, which may sometimes make your head spin.
Our offer is of a systemic character and is addressed mainly to high school students, who will make important life decisions around matura exam time. We want to limit the number of random choices. We offer not only visits in companies. We prepared many additional, attractive offers based on our allies: Talent Development Centre, “Starter” and “Clipster” Entrepreneurship Incubators, O4 Co-working, Pomerania Development Agency, Voivodeship Labour Office. We want to motivate students to go off the beaten track; that is why, infoShare foundation runs classes called “Coding for humanists”, Natalia JadźkaRysuje Klonowska runs “Visual thinking” and Rafał Dadej runs project management workshops called “The best party in the village / district”. In this way, we look for new solutions. In any case, we have other crazy ideas, which we are going to implement in 2018.
Monika Bogdanowicz: Agnieszka, what, in your opinion, do young people, who are about to choose their life path, direction of further education and begin professional internship, need most?
Agnieszka Zglinicka: There are many variables, but finding the subject which is interesting for a young person and at which he or she is or can be good seems to be crucial. Such awareness, identification of the area of interest, passion can completely change current way of functioning and even the whole life. Anyway, it can be a good beginning.
Monika Bogdanowicz: How can you directly help participants of the action connected with foundation’s projects? How do companies, which are open to participation in your initiative, benefit from the project?
Agnieszka Zglinicka: I will advert a maxim of Confucius, which illustrates our idea in a nice way: „Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand”. This is the basis of Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation’s activity. The Foundation is supposed to open the door, giving an opportunity to get to know and understand modern world of business better.
That is why, besides visits in companies, we have workshops which make it possible to get to know yourself better and gain vital skills, not necessarily connected with the direction of education. Asking questions, formulating problems, searching for answers independently, but also team work, are not less important than developing skills, which are essential to do well professionally in the future.
During visits in companies, students carry out also mini-projects. Their fresh, sometimes even abstract look at the problem, which is not limited by Excel or budgets, is a priceless lesson also for managers who host students. Companies have a chance to get to know future staff, show them what is really important at work and what, which skills a certain job really requires from them.
People who organise such visits in companies, don’t have an easy task. They have to cope with teenagers, who are not so easy to be pulled away from smartphones. We have to act and talk in a different way. That is why, programme needs to be attractive and engaging. Because in the whole project young people and their future are the most important. Let’s not forget that tomorrow present teenagers will be creating our environment. Today we can help them enjoy they work – it will be beneficial for everybody.
Monika Bogdanowicz: On which stage of development are currently Foundation’s projects? Which companies have supported Foundation’s activities so far?
Leszek Szmidtke: We have begun the last preparatory phase before the start, which is planned for 2018. Then, we will suggest the shape, which is supposed to bring us closer to assumed objectives. By the end of current year, about 100 companies will have been working with us. We are approaching this number. At the same time, quality and willingness to help are important. Gathered enterprises are a carefully selected elite because being an inspiring example involves specific responsibilities. It is not an easy task, especially given the fact that there is no one pattern of such an activity. That is why, Foundation’s development requires from us a lot of effort and creativity. We have similar expectations when it comes to schools. It can’t be just a trip.
Monika Bogdanowicz: From the beginning of its activity, the project is supported by active people, who create and develop leading companies and institutions in Pomeranian region. How do you manage to convince managers to participate and get engaged in creative work with the youth?
Leszek Szmidtke: This is our huge asset that we managed to gather so many wonderful people around this idea. Each of them does something and is active somewhere. The owners and directors of companies begin to understand that they should not only earn money, but also create “something more”: for others. They know that they need to go beyond their offices and gates. And they do it more and more often.
The project is based on goodwill and willingness of many people. I don’t have any problems with engaging companies. Worse situation concerns schools, which are still very often closed to the surrounding world. I take comfort in the fact that this is just the beginning and the avalanche will start after crossing a certain border.
Admittedly, our idea is supposed to encourage entrepreneurship, but I think that not many students who benefit from the offer, will set up their own companies. We assume that in 2018 there will be about 3-3.5 thousand young people in Pomeranian labour market; 2 or 3% of them will set up their own business activity. The rest of them will be looking for jobs in existing companies and institutions. They can do it, but they should know what is attractive for them and what is not.
I am convinced that when they enter labour market, they will start their searching with companies, which they visited and which made good impression on them because they saw people who worked there with passion, energy and joy. Someone may say that there are no such enterprises in our country and such way of thinking is naive. But I know such companies and they are engaged in our project. I also found some schools, to which I would like to send my children. Of course, unfortunately, there are still some schools, to which I wouldn’t like to send my children…
Monika Bogdanowicz: Leszek, your vision of Foundation’s development implies a real change in our society and creating a modern formula of educating the youth. Do you face lack of interest or criticism? It seems that it is difficult to break the pattern of school trip to a workplace…
Because of the fact that we create something new, we make and will make mistakes. However, we are open to discussions, different opinions and constructive criticism. Still, together with people engaged in the project, we are searching for new ideas and examples, which will be inspiring for young people.
Monika Bogdanowicz: The first year of activity is like a big training ground for organisers. What was the most difficult lesson for you and what is an everyday inspiration to take up new challenges while working on Foundation’s development?
Leszek Szmidtke: We have difficult lessons nearly every day. We need to come up with unique solutions, which then have to be verified in practice. We are not always understood, especially by teachers, mainly because we expect them to be engaged and to work. We don’t only search for the best – in terms of content and form – ideas for students, but we also search for beneficial solutions for companies. Young people are very creative. They look for creative solutions. Our entrepreneurs very often perceive them as inspiration.
Monika Bogdanowicz: With today’s event, Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation began its public activity. How do you imagine the materialisation of your vision and what should I wish you for the next stages of development?
Agnieszka Zglinicka: In some years’ time we would like to see the effects of our current activities. We would like to see happy young people, students who learn things which are interesting for them and who are aware of what is important for them and for companies they would like to work for after or already during their studies. We would like to see satisfied, young workers and their employers, who complement each other and learn from each other.
Leszek Szmidtke: I would like to add that in 2018 we want to refine the idea, make it stable and give it multiannual character. Then we will be able to start thinking about project scaling. What is more, we dream of creating healthy relations between the world of business and schools. Olivia Business Centre is a perfect place to do this.
Leszek Szmidtke, a historian, who feels quite well in the area of economy. A journalist in Radio Gdańsk (for more than a quarter of century). The winner of some international awards for reportages and other broadcasts (mainly historical ones) – in some way, he is still a journalist, but of different nature than before. A long-term collaborator of the Institute for Market Economics. Health problems closed this chapter, but opened a new one. Long-term rehabilitation (which still continues) and help gave him willingness and strength. Together with Maciej Grabski (and more precisely his company – 11 Cards) he set up Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation (in August it became one-year old). First steps were taken in autumn last year and this year in autumn, we will be very close to our target shape and the story will be continued…
Agnieszka Zglinicka, a management specialist with many successes in the scope of banking. Today she is a dedicated member of Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation management board, Director of the area of small and medium sized enterprises at Olivia Business Centre, Director and creator of Olivia CONNECT project – a space concentrating business and personal development support organisations. A propagator of good education.
Inspirujące Przykłady Foundation – it runs a programme addressed to young people between 16 and 18 years old, which aim is to inspire by showing attractive examples of Pomeranian entrepreneurship. The aim of the project, which was created in cooperation with regional business, is to develop attitudes which foster entrepreneurship and make people aware that we need to shape features, which are important not only for future creators of companies or workers, but also citizens. The initiative shows students not only existing opportunities for independent creation of workplaces, but also supports the abilities to notice the need to adjust to new labour market requirements (with the emphasis on further education). In Pomeranian region, especially in Gdańsk and Gdynia, there are many development opportunities for young people, especially thanks to higher education schools and entrepreneurships – including highly advanced technologies, which more and more often think about their future in the long term perspective. Tricity’s diversity manifests in the existence of many institutions of business environment with educational character, such as Starter Entrepreneurship Incubator, Pomeranian Scientific and Technological Park or planned Centre of Inspiration in Olivia Star building at Olivia Business Centre.