[This post was originally written in Spanish for the Innovandis blog, and was posted here. I wanted to retrieve the post and share it in my own blog :-)].
One of the moments when you realize that your university stage is coming to an end is when you have to develop your “capstone project”. A Capstone Project is not an easy task (at least, mine was not), because of several reasons:
- The workload should be equivalent to one or several subjects (depending on the curriculum of your faculty / university) of your degree.
- The project should try to bring together as many concepts as possible of your degree in a coherent way, or at least, of the specific field you are working on.
- The work is self-paced. Even if you are guided by a tutor, you have to work hard on your own – or in a group – to produce a decent project.
Through this post I would like to share the troubles that I had to face during the execution of the project, which finally led me to obtain the Sebastián Iruretagoyena Award for “Best Capstone Project in Business Administration and Management ” of the 2018-2019 Course, created in honor of the late professor Sebastián Iruretagoyena.
This award, granted by a group of friends of the former professor of ESTE, Sebastián Iruretagoyena and his family, aims to highlight the figure of Professor Sebastián Iruretagoyena, who taught for many years at ESTE and was the first director of the Executive MBA. The award values the academic excellence of the project, the proximity and value contributed to the business reality, and its economic, social and environmental impact.
a. [OPTIONAL] Have an initial idea.
In my case, I had a clear idea that I wanted to use this Capstone Project to test an idea that had been around my mind for a bit longer than a year. This idea was aimed to create a company based on computer vision software. It was really helpful for me to share this idea before with my family, friends, mentors of the Degree of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (iNNoVaNDiS) of the University of Deusto and with my bosses in the company where I did my internship.
[Obviously, this only applies to those people who want to do a Business Creation Capstone Project based on their own idea].
b. Contact your tutor ASAP.
You will be doing the work with more or less people (I had the chance of doing it individually, which does not mean doing it in isolation, because I solidly based my previous idea when submitting the application for the project).
But excluding you and / or the members of your team, the person you should contact is your tutor. This person will be with and for you throughout the development of the Capstone Project. However, it will depend only on you to take advantage of its full potential, which in most cases is far superior to what you might imagine, based on what you could have seen during the degree’s subjects. As I said before, this is autonomous work, so taking advantage of the resources at your disposal is part of what is expected from students.
c. Watch out your planning.
Two things that helped me to pivot and give the correct results in the expected time working individually were:
- Start working a little earlier. If you have the opportunity to speak with the company / institution that have given you the project well in advance – and it doesn’t break any other personal plans you might have -, do so. I could use a couple of weeks before starting the semester to start shaping the business model and reflect.
- Be pessimistic in planning. Let’s face it, very few people meet every single milestone on time. Lots of unpredictable contingencies will appear which will certainly delay you. Try to set your deadlines a few weeks before the actual deadline.
d. Enjoy the challenge.
I understand that there may be certain projects that are assigned more or less arbitrarily, but if you have the option of working on something that you have defined yourself, motivates you, and has the potential to generate a real impact, take advantage of that opportunity.
e. Accept deviations (because there will be).
If you asked me what my Capstone Project was about, my answer before starting it and after finishing it would differ radically. My response before starting the Capstone Project was a somewhat ambiguous, even naive, approach to the real problem – something that as a business was absolutely unfeasible.
However, based on the questions proposed by my tutor (Ricardo Vea), by my friends, by my coworkers, etc. I knew that I was not on the right track: I was “inventing a problem to solve it”, and not “inventing a solution to solve an existing problem.”
From there, I had to pivot quite seriously, repeatedly, in order to develop a valid solution, and hence be able to build the final business model. Therefore, I ended up using almost completely the additional time I projected in my planning.
f. Use your available options.
I want to highlight this again. I interviewed various people, organizations; I sent surveys repeatedly to companies in the sector to obtain reliable information, etc. If the project motivates you, you will try to do whatever it takes to do it well, and do not forget to use the options presented to you (obviously, always considering both respect and confidentiality).
g. Prepare a good pitch.
Once you have done the hardest part of the work, do not forget to present it in a clean, pleasant way, clarifying and agreeing on the criteria and contents on which to emphasize with the tutor and coordinator of your Capstone Project, In this way, you will certainly get a quite high grade.
And, that’s it. It’s your time now!