I was elated when I found out, during the last week of April, that the team I was mentoring (Team TL;DR, an abbreviation for Too Long Didn’t Read) had made it to the final 4 in the world, and would be representing India at the Ericsson Innovation Awards 2018. The months of effort leading up to this moment had finally paid off! 1444 teams had registered, from 107 countries, and ours was one of the chosen teams, getting a lifetime opportunity to present their idea at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm. What made this even more special was the fact that I was invited to Stockholm, to be able to continue mentoring and supporting my team.
The first day at HQ, May 14, was mostly about mentor mentee introductions and some pitching sessions. It was a delight, meeting with the other finalists and their fellow mentors, some of whom had also traveled that week just to support their respective teams. What made it even more fun was when everybody mistook me to be a student participant, rather than the mentor. On hindsight, it made sense since all the other mentors were Heads, or in similar positions at their respective workplaces.
Leading up to the finale, the team went through rounds of pitching sessions every day. The audience ranged from various Heads of Ericsson and Researchers from Ericsson Garage in a closed conference room, to all Ericsson employees (as part of an Open Booth Pitch) in the lobby of Ericsson HQ, and even at the fabled Dragon’s Den in Ericsson Garage. With each pitch we garnered feedback to make the product and it’s presentation even better, with cups of Hot Chocolate acting as our source of energy.
Luckily the organizing team had foreseen this situation coming and had already planned a visit to the Ericsson Studio to blow off some steam. Inside, we were briefed on the ways Ericsson is applying 5G and Internet of Things to various use cases, ranging from Connected Street Lights to Landslide warning systems, to Connected Bikes/Cars and Ericsson’s own Driverless Bus. We were lucky to even see some of these cases live in action.
Before we knew it, the D-day dawned on May 17. On this day of the finals, the Nobel Museum was reserved for only the teams, their mentors, and a select group of people from across Ericsson; it was the moment of truth. With all the teams having given their final pitches to the jury just an hour before, the results were announced. Team TL;DR with their members still recovering from end semester exams they gave till as recent as May 16 were awarded walked away with the Third Place, and a prize money of €5000 to go forward with their idea. Initially, we were hit by a feeling of slight disappointment; then came the realization we had competed against the best in the world, and finished 3rd among 1444 teams. We had not done too bad; not bad at all. Besides, the whole experience was enriching, and we had collected happy memories of the amazing personnel at Ericsson HQ, the other teams and of course the natural beauty of Sweden.