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I cannot overstate the impact that RisingWISE has made in many areas of my life. It is rare to dedicate time to thinking about your skills and what you really value because academic work can be so demanding and time-consuming. RisingWISE gave me this opportunity. I left sessions with an incredible sense of motivation and confidence. The course gave me the boost I needed to develop a start-up idea I had been thinking about for over a year, but never had the confidence to pursue. RisingWISE opened up a world of entrepreneurial activities around the University. I took my start up idea to Oxford University Innovation who put me in touch with people who could help develop my ideas. I wrote a pitch that secured me £10 000 of seed funding from the University Green Fund. I learnt about social enterprises on the course, and this helped to formulate the sort of start-up I wanted to run. While the start-up is not based on my research, I also now approach my research in a different way, thinking more about its importance and impact.

RisingWISE also introduced me to the Oxford Foundry, where I entered a hackathon to find artificial intelligence solutions to the climate crisis. Here I met a group of like-minded students and academics and we have formed a team to develop an app to motivate climate friendly transport decisions. All these actions were a direct result of RisingWISE, not only giving me the confidence to pursue my ideas, but the practical connections and skills I needed to make things happen.

I now feel part of a supportive community of incredible women, who I can turn to if I ever need advice or have a crisis of confidence. These amazing women cheered me on as I successfully negotiated a grade change and salary increase in my job, something I would not have done before the course. The message to “change the system, not the women” has empowered me, and I have taken on a number of leadership roles, within my department, in which I can actively make changes to promote women, equality, and diversity and pay forward what RisingWISE has taught me.

Michele Veldsman

Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the Cognitive Neurology group, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford