E-learning company GoSkills’ co-founder Bhavneet Chahal says her experiences at Otago kickstarted a career helping others learn about IT and realise their potential.
Bhavneet completed a Bachelor of Applied Science with first-class honours, majoring in molecular biology in 2006. She later gained a Master of Entrepreneurship.
While working for Groupon in Sydney, Bhavneet realised that online courses were a growth area but that they were not always providing the quality content required by professionals looking to expand their skills.
Since being founded in New Zealand in 2013 – with input from Otago Professor Paul Hansen – more than 104,000 users have signed up to access GoSkills’ 50+ online learning courses.
Bhavneet backs up her advice for young women wanting to start their own business with practical assistance; she proudly supports two $2,000 scholarships each year. The title of these awards leaves little room for misinterpretation: they are called the Scholarship for Women Who Want to be the Boss.
How did Otago help to shape your life and career success?
I studied Applied Science as an undergraduate and, while I always enjoyed science, I couldn't see myself pursuing a career as a researcher or scientist.
During the last year of that degree I found a student business competition on campus called Kickstart. I entered the competition with a business idea and I was a winner in the first round and a finalist in the competition’s second round.
This opened up my eyes to a totally different world of business and entrepreneurship. I then completed a Master of Entrepreneurship to learn practical skills to start and grow a business.
This degree was right up my alley, I learned the fundamentals of business and felt prepared to one day start my own company.
Highlights and interesting memories of your university days?
Definitely the residential colleges; when I first arrived at Otago I stayed at St Margaret's College. I later worked as a Residential Assistant (RA) at Cumberland, which was known at the time as being a bit of a party Hall. It was then that I realised what being an undergraduate at Otago was truly like! I was glad I started off at a relatively tame place and could ease into uni life. Some of my best friends today are people I met at both St Margaret's and Cumberland!
Recollections of favourite or standout lecturers?
I had two standout lecturers. The first was Richard Higham – he was about 79 when I took his class during the Master of Entrepreneurship. I was inspired by his sharp intellect, boundless energy and superior Excel spreadsheet skills! He was able to bring our class together and teach us how to grow a business in a fun and dynamic environment.
The other standout lecture is Professor Paul Hansen – an economics lecturer and part-time surfer. I was drawn to Paul's energy and passion for his craft – economics and business. It's no wonder he's won student popularity awards and it's also no coincidence that he's now my business partner at GoSkills.
What are your career or personal highlights?
Starting a company from scratch, pulling together people and resources and growing it into a global business. Our team can work from anywhere in the world and we sell to customers the world over. Building a business that pushes the boundaries of being in a global and connected world has been extremely fulfilling.
What are your future goals?
Keep building businesses, help others build and grow businesses, and world peace – naturally!
What advice do you have for current students or students considering studying at Otago?
Make the most of every opportunity. There are so many facets to university life – try them all. Join random clubs, try sports you might not have ever considered, enjoy the unexpected friendships you will form along the way. It's only when you try loads of different things that you discover what you truly like and figure out who you are. University is a time to try things in a safe environment and set yourself up for a future that most aligns to who you are and where you want to be.
The University of Otago is proud of our former students who have gone on to achieve outstanding success in a variety of endeavours.
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