Grad returns to help next generation of professionals

During her studies at Niagara College’s Bachelor of Business Administration (International Commerce and Global Development) program, Adriann Knight spent six months as a research assistant with the Business & Commercialization Solutions (BCS) team at Research & Innovation. After graduating in 2017, she was hired as a business information officer for the City of St. Catharines. Adriann has now returned to NC as a research lead, overseeing the student research projects at the BCS centre.

We catch up with a busy Adriann to find out what’s new:

In addition to her BCS position, Adriann is also studying remotely to complete a Master’s of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) at the University of Waterloo – graduating in spring 2022. As part of her co-op, she’s also the entrepreneurship and economic development coordinator at the university. And, if that isn’t enough, this past June, she was married.

In August, she will be starting a full-time job with local technology start-up Intuitive Shipping as their business development manager.

Tell us about your role as research lead with the BCS team:

As the research lead, I am responsible for helping the student teams ask the right questions to find data that results in meaningful information. The role oversees the students’ work to help them capture and translate the data into a story that gives us insight into the business’s industry, clientele, opportunities and risks.

What’s it like to be back at Research & Innovation to impart what you have learned?

Working with the next generation of professionals has been my favourite part of this role. After working with the start-up community for more than three years, I can now impart what I have learned to the current research assistants. Seeing the students grow in their capabilities and critical thinking throughout each project has been rewarding! 

After being out in the workforce, what insights are you bringing back with you?

Our small business community can benefit from tapping into post-secondary institutions. As they look to scale their businesses, having the expertise to provide guidance on topics from marketing to risks and regulations is critical! There are so many hard-working and talented entrepreneurs in Niagara and beyond who are making a difference and creating jobs every day.

For students: If you will be working with a small business, you need to understand that a lot of time, money and love has gone into building this dream. You need to treat it as if it were your own, work hard and be open to learning every step of the way. You will never know everything, so never assume that you do. Knowing where to find information and translating it into actionable items will help you leaps and bounds in your career.

Lastly, know what your skills are and how they can make you successful in current and future roles. Each person is different, and as you develop in your career you will see what you enjoy doing and happen to also be VERY good at!

What is it about this field that you enjoy most?

I am passionate about economic development – which comes in so many forms – from connecting our community to existing resources and finding ways to grow sustainably. This role plays a part in the business economic development side. When businesses start, grow and thrive, they hire and contribute to the quality of place and life. We have seen this with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our business community makes up the fabric of our culture, way of life and quality of life. Being in this role and being able to support local businesses, as well as those beyond Niagara, has been rewarding.

How has your experience been working on your Master’s degree remotely?

Studying online was a challenge as you miss the social aspect of education. I always would pick my professor’s brain after class or meet up for a coffee with a classmate to share ideas. With an online platform, that isn’t the case. I also started a full-time Master’s degree while working full-time, which can only lead to one thing – burnout! This was a common thread amongst other students. A few other classmates and I thought that since we don’t have to travel and we are at home anyway, that we have all the time in the world to do both! Reality check, we didn’t! I moved to part-time and told myself to go slow and steady. Education is not a race, and we only have so much time and energy.

After earning your degree next year, do you have a specific career goal in mind?
I am so excited about my new upcoming role that I have not been able to sit! The founders of Intuitive Shipping are entrusting me with creating the role of business development manager. Building this department will be a new challenge and fits well with my skillset (project management, analysis, communication, networking and strategic thinking). I am looking forward to helping the company scale and grow its team.

Can you expand on how you’ve grown since your original Where Are They Now? feature…

At that time, I had been in my role for about 1.5 years; I was just past the learning stage and became confident in my skillset. Yes, grads – some roles can take six months to one year to learn and even then, you’re still learning every day!

Since then, I have met and worked with a thousand more aspiring entrepreneurs and grew the training program from 20 to 60 participants. This helped strengthen my communication, presentation, organization, conflict management and overall project management skills as the cohorts for programming grew. I also now understand what my strengths are and how they can be applied in various situations and industries. Some may graduate with that self-awareness; others, it takes time to truly find what makes you unique and an asset to an organization. 

Anything else you want to say?

First, don’t burn your candle at both ends. Burnout is real; take on only commitments that you know you have the capacity to fill. It is better to do well at one thing and excel than mediocre at many. I learned that the hard way!

And second, it is by challenging yourself and being open to learning that you grow.