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Warwick students first for enterprise (and second, and third...)

STEP winners Alison and James
STEP winners Alison and James

Originally published 13 October 2003

Three students from the University of Warwick have been named Coventry and Warwickshire’s most enterprising students.

The Shell Technology Enterprise Programme (STEP) offers undergraduate students work placements within small and medium sized companies. At the Coventry and Warwickshire final of the STEP 2003 project, Warwick students took first, second and third place.

21-year-old Alison Walters, now in her 4th year of MMath at Warwick, took first place, receiving a cash prize of £1000. Alison’s innovative mind saved Larch Consulting, a small management consultancy in Leamington Spa, from having to buy new computer equipment and software to improve their computer system.

Alison was initially taken on for an 8-week placement to oversee the installation of a new customer relationship management package. However, she soon realised that the company’s computer system could not cope with the new software, a problem that would take £10,000 to fix.

Instead, Alison taught herself Visual Basic programming to develop and customise the company’s existing system within Microsoft Outlook. Using her new skills, Alison was able to consolidate several existing systems onto one central database, accessible by all employees.

“By utilising existing systems and increasing efficiency, it has been predicted that Larch’s new system has the potential to increase their profits in the first year by £39,000, ” says Alison, who is particularly proud of her achievement.

“I’m thrilled to have got this far, since I only took on the project for something to do during the summer! I thoroughly enjoyed working at Larch and believe I have learned a great deal, both technically and about working in a small company environment. I would recommend the experience to anyone.”

James Withers, a 3rd year Computer Science undergraduate at the University, closely followed Alison’s success in the local final. James received a prize of £300 in recognition of his work at Direct Air and Pipework where he helped develop and implement a software integration system.

A close third place went to Mike Cox, a 4th year MMath student at Warwick, for his work at Best Graduates’ struggling marketing department. “Mike more or less took over the marketing department in his placement,” explains Daphne Starley who, alongside Penny Robb, helps run the STEP project at the Warwick Science Park. “He gave it the shake-up they needed and completely reorganised their database.”

Since winning the local final, Alison’s success has also been recognised regionally. Alison and James were invited to attend the regional finals in Birmingham where they had to showcase their work to the judges. Alison was named winner in the West Midlands region and received a further £400 prize-money.

Alison will now attend the national finals in London on October 29 where she will present her work to a panel of judges, including the Minister for Small Business.

STEP - Access to Knowledge