Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Celebrating success: Interviewing the winner of Siemens Sustainacity Challenge

Rachel Thomson

SELA Cohort 2019 member Sam Nield has led the winning team to victory in the Siemens Sustainacity competition, creating and pitching innovative ideas for a completely unique, connected and sustainable mobility system.

Sam’s team was selected from entries across the UK, drawn from disciplines as diverse as business studies and software engineering. On Monday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam about his experience in the competition, finding out how SELA helped him get the most out of his experience. 

As the pandemic rolls on and the competition for jobs, internships and graduate schemes becomes stiffer than ever, the first question I asked Sam was how he tackled the selection process for a company such as Siemens. Sam was quick to emphasise the similarities between the application process for Siemens and that of SELA, highlighting that having to answer questions as part of the SELA process gave him the practice he needed to excel at the Siemens application process. 

The team was given a briefing on the Friday night before the competition, which consisted of details about a hypothetical city for which they had to invent a travel system, taking into account factors such as a historical district where modern features would have to be kept to a minimum. Their task involved coming up with both a presentation and a detailed report of their ideas, at least one of which had to be completely new.

The team's new idea was to have so-called ‘pods’ similar to cars which people could drive or be driven in by the pods themselves, which could then attach to other pods forming a carriage. The thought behind the idea being to ease congestion on the roads whilst allowing for social distancing. Other ideas the team put forward included driverless banking districts with AI-run taxis in order to reduce congestion, with journeys becoming cheaper each week as the taxis gathered data on the routes people were taking, allowing for high efficiency.

Beyond the innovative ideas however, a winning team of course takes a great leader. Sam was able to put his learning from SELA to good use in this role. He took on the responsibility of delegating tasks and managing the team, whilst also helping each of the individuals, none of whom he had met before, to realise their own ideas and reach their fullest potential.

Sam also notes how SELA has influenced his ability to work with such a vast array of people. He explained how with SELA he has taken part in various workshops and group projects with people with different kinds of engineering background, helping him prepare for Sustainacity. Other notable skills Sam has learnt from SELA which he put into use at Siemens was the ability to think under pressure, both in only having a day to come up with a report and presentation on his teams ideas, and then when put on the spot. He described how during the introductory bootcamp at SELA one of the exercises was, ´we were given a topic and then had ten seconds or twenty seconds to think of a two minute presentation on that topic´, which he claims was an invaluable exercise which helped him answer a very unexpected question during his presentation, a skill which he also uses in job interviews.

Also learnt from the SELA bootcamp was time management, which Sam recognises was very important during the competition, and which he attributes a lot of his success to. Sam used tips and techniques he was taught by various industry leaders during the bootcamp such as putting timers on his phone for various tasks so he got them done on time and efficiently. Sam was then able to list a further set of skills and attributes which he was given as part of his feedback including, ´passionate presentation, studying the brief well, detailed proposal and answering questions´ all of which he puts down to having developed during his time at SELA.



All in all, it is evident that Sam truly succeeded in the Sustainacity competition, applying both practical and interpersonal skills developed during his degree and time at SELA to the challenge given to him, driving his team to victory.


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