Connecting the dots with Jo Zimpel
Jo Zimpel has always been interested in science – it runs in the family. Her father was a machinist, and the shed in their family’s backyard that he used as a workshop was filled with all sorts of exciting things, at least according to a young Jo. It also didn’t hurt that Jo had a natural affinity for all things math and science.
“I guess it was just a natural progression for me,” says Jo. “I loved physics, I loved math. And then I had an absolutely inspiring teacher in year 11 and 12 who blew my socks off when it came to physics. That was it; he sold it to me and from then on I wanted to be a physicist.”
But after studying applied science and completing her honors year Jo found that getting a graduate position was a lot harder than she expected. “Like every graduate I thought I would get a job within seconds and found that I hit the wall,” Jo explains. “Companies were pretty honest with me, brutally honest. They said I didn’t have enough experience ...I had no transferable skills.”
During this time Jo ended up being offered the chance to do her PhD and made an unexpected move toward chemistry. The experience was just what she wanted. While studying human teeth in relation to human migration Jo was able to gain a significant amount of lab experience and it wasn’t long before she got her first industry position. However she never quite forgot the difficulty she had faced after completing her undergraduate degree.
I eventually got a job in industry after doing my postgraduate study but I just couldn’t forget the trouble that I had and I just thought there had to be a way to help students,” says Jo. “I knew there were a lot of job boards like Seek and Linkedin but there was nothing specific for STEM.”
Slowly Jo came up with the idea of STEM Hub, a platform that connects industry with STEM students and graduates. “I absolutely breathe science and tech -- I just love it. So I want to help other students and grads because I’ve been there before,” explains Jo. But after setting up a website and attracting some positive organic attention Jo wasn’t sure what her next step should be until she saw a sign advertising RMIT Activator, a decision that has also led to her enrollment in the RMIT Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship).
“I just thought it was such an amazing opportunity – especially because I really wasn’t sure what to do next. I was reading a lot of books and blogs but I was struggling with how to best navigate the start-up world in Melbourne, and really in Australia as a whole,” says Jo.
“I was lucky enough to get into the RMIT Activator boot-camp and they completely opened my eyes. I was taught how to properly test, how to create the site, what metrics you should be looking for, and so much more. From there I got into the Activator residency and it has just been amazing. Coaches, mentors and other start-ups around to just bounce ideas off. It has been absolutely brilliant.”
Having successfully launched phase one of STEM Hub, Jo is now in the process of onboarding students and businesses to facilitate meaningful connections, and is also in the process of putting together phase two. “During boot camp they gave us a few days to go to businesses and see what problems they needed solving in relation to our ideas,” explains Jo. “A lot of the small to medium size business said they’d had issues trying to source post-grad students. After I had these conversations with businesses I knew I had a site that could provide them with a solution.”
“Phase two will include a portal for researchers … it will provide businesses with a really quick and easy resource to be able to tap into a huge brain trust of PhD and masters students so that they can work together.”
We recently went down to Activator to speak with Jo about the importance of networking and her tips for making your idea a reality.
Follow STEM Hub on Instagram
Jo Zimpel is currently studying the RMIT University Master of Analytics.
“I absolutely breathe science and tech -- I just love it. So I want to help other students and grads because I’ve been there before,” - Jo Zimpel