In June 2018 Ragini Khanna undertook work experience at Kent Innovation & Enterprise (KIE) as part of the Employability Points Scheme. During her week here she worked on the Inspire, Challenge, Excel Programme (ICE-P). She recently launched her own project, an social enterprise project in New Delhi, India, that aims to educate women about menstrual hygiene.
Biomedical Science student Daneil Clarke interviewed Ragini while undertaking her own week of work experience with KIE.
Why did you apply to this role and what did you hope to gain from this opportunity?
Well, initially I had applied for the role of business engagement within KIE. However, when they got back to me, they offered me on ICE-P. Probably because during my interview I told them about my social enterprise project and they thought this would be a better fit. And it was! I’m an international student from India and launched my own project through Enactus Kent. The project aims to educate women about menstrual hygiene in a village in Delhi and further, teaches them to make and sell good quality, affordable sanitary napkins.
How long was your work experience and what did you do whilst you were here?
My work experience was for a week with KIE and I worked on the ICE-P project, looking at blogs, researching into different companies to see how they could help with the project and I interviewed Amanda Cottrell who has done so much from being the High Sheriff of Kent, receiving an OBE for services in Kent to being a Patron of Produced in Kent. I also sent out a feedback survey for the programme to see what they thought of it, and the changes that can be made to improve it.
Was there anything that you found challenging while you were here?
I wouldn’t say anything was challenging. Working in any organisation in the beginning can be a bit difficult. But I learnt a lot, everyone at KIE was very encouraging and helpful. Also since I was just there for a week, I had to make sure I achieved most from it within that week. I recently completed my degree and I’m starting my own social enterprise and this opportunity reassured me that this is something I want to do.
Did your expectation differ from your actual experience?
Yes, a little. I didn’t know about ICE-P and I didn’t research the programme prior to going there, as I mentioned I had actually applied for a different post within KIE. My main goal was to provide a different perspective on ICE-P because they have been working on the project for a while now and so they wanted me to give a different outlook on things. The experience also gave me a different perspective. For example women in England face different challenges than women in India. It was inspiring and motivating for me that not only in India, women all over the world are facing different kinds of issues. So, to be a part of a project where I can bring something new and make a change was very motivating.
What was your most memorable time at KIE?
The most memorable time would be when I interviewed Amanda Cottrell. I was a little bit scared because I’ve never interviewed anyone before and she has done so much. I was thinking, ‘’how I am going to interview her’’ but she was so lovely. She also shared a lot about her experience that is not available online. She inspired so many women during her career; she is in her 70s now and when I interviewed her, she said she had no intention of retiring soon, just keep on inspiring and that’s one thing I wouldn’t forget.
Everyone was so encouraging, it’s such a nice team. Since my first day, they were welcoming, and they made the whole experience lovely.
What was it like to be given the opportunity to speak to such an influential and honoured individual as Amanda Cottrell?
It was an amazing experience and she was lovely and encouraging. She asked me about what I’m doing in my life and the project that I’m working on and I thought that was really nice of her. She told me about her experience as High Sheriff of Kent, trustee of Canterbury Cathedral and a Patron of Produced in Kent. She has done so much and for her to be so humble and modest, it was amazing. She was also telling me that she has four kids and ten grandchildren, and I wondered how is she doing all of this and how does she find a good work balance. She had good things to say about everyone and I learnt a lot from just a span of 30-40 minutes with her.
How has ICE-P changed your outlook on what women can achieve and the scale in which they can be successful?
The whole concept of ICE-P is to inspire, challenge and help women to excel. I’ve just briefly worked on this project and I realised there is so much that you can do. Women have faced so many issues in the work place and, looking back over the last 100 years, we’ve come a long way, but I still think we have a long way to go and it’s good that people are here challenging this and want to do so much. This inspires me to keep going, to just excel in what I’m doing, and it also taught me that it is never enough, just always keep going.
I had the chance to read through the questions you asked Dr Cottrell and I thought the last question was a bit quirky and somewhat intriguing so, I thought I’d follow in your footsteps and ask: If you were a city, what would it be and why?
A city! That one is a bit hard. If I were a city I think I’d be New York because they call it the city of dreams. I have all these crazy ideas of things that I want to do and want to achieve. I am about to graduate and there are so many things I’d like to do and I’m unsure about where I’ll go and I think I’m at that stage now where I’m figuring it out.