Alumni Interviews: James Haworth Wheatman, former Technology Director and VP of Enactus Sheffield

How would you describe Enactus and its missions?

Enactus is a global network supporting students to create social change through entrepreneurial activity. Universities take part in that network as societies or companies, and they set up their own social enterprise, getting all of the advantages of the experience and the positive impact it has on their communities locally and globally. The major benefit of Enactus is creating a supportive environment for students to encourage them to be more responsible citizens and open them up to the idea that they can make a difference. I think it’s all about opening up people to the idea that they can go out and make a change.

How did you first find out about Enactus Sheffield?

I first heard about Enactus at a Careers Fair where I saw someone with an interesting mechanical device on their back that the Enactus team had engineered to help with farm work in rural countries. After we got talking, I found out that they were looking for engineers and people with scientific backgrounds. I initially applied to the technology team which was the first time we had ever had such a team. I just took a chance on it and went to one of the open events. Although I wasn’t really sure about it at the time, I was aware that I’m now an adult and should be a responsible citizen, so I was exploring this as one opportunity to become more responsible. I enjoyed the first meeting and decided to sign up.

Which roles did you hold within Enactus during your two years there?

I started off in the tech team and within the first 6 months I progressed to the tech team leader, shortly after that I became the tech director. I spent the second half of my second year in Enactus as VP which was a bit more intense with more responsibilities but the work I was doing also had more impact on the company at large. Working in a tight-knit team with all the other execs was really great.

Which experiences stand out from your time with Enactus?

As VP I worked on the national competition, where we presented everything that we did in the previous year alongside other teams from across the country. One of these projects was one I worked on as tech director which was called Code Creators. As part of this project, we designed and taught our own 8-week python course. The project is still running now three years on, and it has grown since then from about 20 people in the first year to about 300 people online recently - It’s good to see that the projects carry on.

What were some of your biggest challenges at Enactus and how did you overcome them?

You’ll face challenges working in a team with others, especially if your visions or priorities don’t align. If you do join Enactus, you will have to work in a team with other people and that means compromising and building trust with each other, and I think building trust is the way to overcome those difficulties that arise. We had some difficulties, but I think by the end of the year we had a really strong team and a lot of trust between the team members.

What did you learn from your time at Enactus?

There are a lot of opportunities for growth and networking, for instance at some of the events you’ll be meeting people from sponsor companies. You also get the opportunity to compete in competitions – I took part in one which I still have on my CV. In terms of skills gained, I’d mostly say organization and learning how to run and manage a project with other people. While it sounds quite general, when you have to do it on a daily basis for a complex project which is quite time-consuming it can help a lot.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining Enactus?

It’s a great experience, you’ll meet lots of people who are supportive of you and want the best for you. I really enjoyed my time there – so it’s worth giving it a shot!