Dayana Jimenez, co-founder of Acude Foundation, chats about her experience studying the UQ Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and her career since graduating. Discover why studying innovation and entrepreneurship was a significant milestone in her professional journey.
Throughout her career in economics and sustainability, Dayana has always been interested in how businesses can utilise innovative techniques to create value. Coming from a working middle-class family in Colombia, Dayana’s experience of intercultural challenges grew her passion for children's education and her conviction that positive early interventions could shape the next generation of global citizens.
We spoke with Dayana to see how studying the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation furthered her understanding of innovative processes, which in turn fostered impactful changes and resolutions for her education startup, Acude Foundation.
Tell us about your career so far. What led you to study the UQ Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation?
I completed my undergraduate degree in economics and politics at the top of my class. It was during this time that I became interested in the necessity of innovation. Through extracurricular activities, I immersed myself in development theory and was amazed by the innovative approaches applied by nations to reach high social and economic development.
Then, I had the challenging opportunity of helping launch a startup that focused on technology and sustainable energy. My experience here as corporate director was the trigger to pursue postgraduate study related to entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Dealing with frustrating outcomes made me realise that it is simply not enough to have qualities such as creativity, tenacity or a willingness to take risks to translate ideas into impactful actions. I knew that studying entrepreneurship and innovation would give me a broader understanding of innovative process to foster real change.”
My next task was to find a university program that suited my interests. The University of Queensland quickly came onto my radar with its postgraduate program Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I wanted to explore concepts holistically and this program allowed me to do that, while specialising in two of five areas of my choice. I chose to focus on sustainable energy and social and community entrepreneurship, as these topics both integrated perfectly with my interests and needs.
What inspired you to join Acude Foundation and what is the foundation’s mission?
Acude Foundation came into my life in 2019 through a brilliant friend, Gloria Vega, who was engineering the idea. Acude was born from Gloria's experience as a migrant working mother struggling to help her child value multiculturalism, sustain heritage language, and gain a resilient, globally aware mindset. We’ve met many parents and educators seeking solutions to the same issues.
After several talks, I joined her, and we have been working together ever since. I also met my mentor and role model, Danielle Duell, founder of People with Purpose, through a UQ career and employability volunteer opportunity. Danielle introduced me to this world of purpose, which complemented Acudeperfectly.
Acude Foundation is a global citizens education hub. Our mission is to address children's lack of meaningful exposure to other cultures, build empathy and resilience. We provide fun, online cultural learning experiences for children and parents around the world.
Children's social-emotional skills are worthwhile tackling. As an emerging market with unmet needs, creative solutions have high social and commercial ROI potential. COVID-19 has deepened these cultural issues and opened acceptance for online solutions.
What did you like about studying at UQ and how would you describe the learning experience?
Studying at UQ enabled me to work with a range of diverse people and ideas. The content and classroom were very mentally stimulating, and there were many opportunities outside the classroom I could participate in, such as the UQ Ventures and the ilab accelerator program for startups.
What were some of your key takeaways from the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation program that have changed your way of thinking?
Studying a degree at UQ backed by quality research and content grew my interest even more in social entrepreneurship and corporate purpose. For me, this cemented today's conviction that all 21st-century businesses should be social enterprises, no matter what their core business is. Business as usual is not an option anymore.
Some of my key takeaways from the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation were:
Innovation is not an end itself – it’s a means to an end and enables companies and nations to survive and progress.
Innovation as a process is not a random phenomenon. Innovation capabilities are built into all organisations; you just need to know how to harness them. This can often involve reconfiguring existing resources and routines.
Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environments are constant – they will always be there. Entrepreneurial thinking can help organisations navigate this through problem-solving logic, polarity and paradox thinking, and leveraging the tension between opposites.
Unfortunately, great ideas rarely lead to immediate success, and many great ideas never make it. Startups (based on great ideas) often fail because of a lack of market fit. Value proposition and business model iterations need to be dynamic, and this is something UQ’s Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation program can teach you how to do.
Innovation rarely happens in isolation. To nurture innovation ecosystems and uncover common benefits, problems and interdependencies, entrepreneurs need to employ entrepreneurial thinking to collaborate and partner with stakeholders.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Most people hoping to start a business wait for a great idea to come to them, but don’t wait for that idea! A business model, in most cases, will not come as flashes of insight or an epiphany.
The UQ Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation taught me that innovation journeys are like building a puzzle that requires many attempts and reconfigurations. During my studies, I gained a broader understanding of the innovation process, which has enabled me to pursue my passions of teaching empathy and intercultural understanding, helping to solve societal problems and make a positive impact on our world.
What is a motto you live by, and do you have any final takeaways?
“Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.” from Robert Baden-Powell.
Business is one of the most powerful engines to mobilise resources and capabilities for good. As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we need to play a more active role in addressing the 21st-century societal challenges humanity faces through more conscious and innovative business.
Are you an entrepreneur who has startup ambitions and wants to make a difference in the world? Do you want to change your existing business to be more innovative? Gain hands-on experience in the newest innovation practices and theory by exploring a UQ Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.