“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

A sound piece of advice, especially for a multimedia journalism student such as me – but I do tend to take it to the extreme.

From informing and entertaining listeners of Gaydio and BBC Radio Manchester to student TV appearances and writing music reviews, lifestyle features and news pieces… you name it, I’ve likely dabbled in it. 

In my two years studying at Salford Uni, I’ve tried my hand at everything – and until recently was confident I’d left no media stone unturned.

But then I was offered the opportunity to join TechBlast and BusinessCloud at pro-manchester’s Trailblazing Tech event at the Lowry Hotel last week – and it unlocked a completely new world.

I found myself thrown into a lion’s den of deep technology and business – both alien concepts to me – and it was daunting, to say the least. Conversing with marketing directors, CEOs and techies from a range of innovative businesses certainly got my adrenaline going!

I expected the conference to be dominated by men – after all, they dominate both business and tech – but was pleasantly surprised at the number of influential women I had the privilege of meeting.

One such figure was Amy Whitell, co-founder and CEO of group payments business Collctiv. Following rejection (twice!) by a London business accelerator she won a place on Techstars New York and is now making waves in the United States.

Amy also told TechBlast’s Manchester Startups 2.0 panel that she originated from a low-income household and treats the money she raises for the business with great care. I found her passion truly inspiring.

Revealing Manchester Startups 2.0

Many of the businesses I came across are combining a devotion to ethics with technology. Eleanor Harry, also on the panel, is empowering businesses to eliminate child labour from their supply chains through HACE.

I was grateful to both Eleanor and Amy – and many other people I met – for helping me feel at ease. My contact book has certainly grown! Before the event, I had always found networking an arduous task; when you are showcasing yourself amongst experienced people, you can feel vulnerable.

Several people, including Felix Robinson – CEO and co-founder of Pet Trust UK – offered me the chance to work with their company, which came as something of a surprise! I found Felix to be something of an enigma: not only did she change her name by deed poll – owing to her beaming grin – but she is relatively new to the startup tech scene and is still building her platform for the responsible buying and selling of pets with her son.

This proved to me that persistence and dedication are vital to entrepreneurship: Felix candidly told me that she frequently asks other business leaders for advice.

During the event, I was given several tasks to complete by BusinessCloud and TechBlast editor Jonathan which forced me to step out of my comfort zone.

Manchester United legend joins Dragons’ Den

One defining exercise was interviewing Natalie Tillett, creator of Yzen Ai. First I was tasked with gaining as much background information as I could about Natalie and her venture before pitching the idea to Jonathan as though it were my own, with Natalie herself sitting opposite. Initially, I found this task to be quite confronting – but soon the benefit became obvious: being put on the spot taught me to adapt my interview questions to our conversation. It was also nice to receive reassuringly positive feedback from both Jonathan and Natalie! 

For the record, Yzen Ai is a tool which can scan a text and inform the writer of any jargon or linguistic bias which may contribute to societal prejudice, or be lost in translation. 

Overall, the event was a positive experience and exceeded my expectations. I feel fortunate to have met so many inspiring and helpful people, all of whom opened my eyes to a world which I may otherwise have been oblivious to.

Special mentions must go to pro-manchester CEO Sam Booth, who gave me insight into how she runs the organisation over a delicious lunch, and Chris Maguire, who chaired the TechBlast panel.

Pointing me out from the stage, he forced me to stand up and introduce myself to more than 200 people at once – plus the digital audience – which topped off a truly memorable day!

You can connect with Scarlett on LinkedIn here.