Helping businesses improve their productivity and customer experience is a long way from studying Nanomedicine in a lab. But it’s a career move Manish Sriram, Senior Solution Engineer APAC at Intercom is happy he made.

“I never saw myself spending eight years at university,” he shares. “But I really enjoyed my studies at UNSW and ended up doing a PhD, researching bio sensors to detect diseases early on. While I was excited by science and research, I soon decided my career wasn’t as a researcher in a lab.”

Manish, a UNSW Science alumni, took some time to really think about next steps, but it was a retail sales role that he held through university that helped steer him down a different path.

“I knew connecting and communicating with people in that way was something I enjoyed. That made me realise I was more interested in the commercialisation of science and the translation of research into more of a commercial application or business idea.”

After finishing university and applying for sales jobs in the science space, Manish couldn’t land a role. Those that did respond to his applications advised him to come back when he had some sales experience. This led Manish to an entry-level sales role at Salesforce.

“Getting the job at Salesforce was the biggest pivot for me. After about a year and a half my manager started asking me where I wanted to take my career,” he shared.
“I wanted a role that would allow me to be on the sales side of things, but also one that needed some creative problem solving.”

And after exploring the options with some great managers and mentors, he found his place in solution engineering.

Helping businesses elevate experiences

In his current role at software company Intercom, Manish works closely with the sales team to understand clients’ challenges, needs and processes and design tailored solutions that solve their problems.

“I might talk to 10 businesses in a week and although a lot of their problems may be similar, everyone has slightly different problems. And while as a platform, we may do 20 different things we only put forward what's relevant and can help transform their processes.”

Intercom’s next generation customer support platform helps businesses shape better customer and employee experiences through a single AI-enhanced, omnichannel workspace.

Manish says his time at UNSW gave him the core skills that made the transition to work – and a new field – smooth.

“UNSW helped prepare me for work – from thinking about how you approach and solve a problem to how to communicate. I learned how to translate technical information and communicate effectively with a range of audiences. In science, a lot of what you do is sales – selling your research idea to a research institute or governing body to get a grant, or your paper to a journal.”

And for the past four years Manish has been helping businesses – and UNSW students – prepare for the evolving future of work.

For the past four years Manish has been involved in UNSW Employability’s Innovator Pro program, mentoring students and running practical workshops.

Preparing the next generation for the real world

As well as focusing on his career, giving back to the UNSW community is also important to Manish. That’s why he has been involved in various initiatives at the university over the years, including UNSW Employability’s leading intrapreneur program Innovator Pro.

The three-day program pushes students out of their comfort zones to unleash their curiosity and creative potential. It also equips them with problem solving, influential ideation and business modelling skills.

For the past four years, Manish has been working with the UNSW Employability team to share ideas and feedback on how to improve the program, mentor students and run practical workshops.

“During the program we provide real world problems for students and get them to create ideas or come up with a product or service. I also help mentor students throughout this process helping them think through how to translate their ideas to a real business outcome, and run workshops on innovation, design thinking and pitching,” explains Manish.

One challenge participants tried to solve was to reduce high levels of stress in high school students. One group developed the idea to create a youth mental health first aid course, teaching students different mental health disorders, their signs and ways to help each other.

Manish is also a judge during pitch nights, where students with the most innovative, yet practical ideas compete for industry prizes. It is where students can demonstrate how they’ve developed and practiced skills like ideation, communication and pitching – and Manish says it’s one of the most rewarding parts in being involved in the program.

“I find it really rewarding to see kind of where the students start and where they end. Seeing them grow in such a short span is incredible.”

The program equips students with the skills and practice of innovation and helps them develop a supportive network of industry connections. They have a safe space to ask questions and learn from others. And the skills they learn translate to so many different aspects of their degree, their career, and provide a great launchpad.

And it’s a big part of why Manish keeps coming back.

“Giving students that space to be able to work on themselves is something I wish I had. I was lucky, I had a lot of good people around that I could ask for help, but not everyone has that. So it’s great to be able to help students near the end of their university journey, where they're thinking about their career.”

“The program teaches students different ways of thinking and problem solving, and to take ideas and turn them into something tangible. And just within the span of a couple of days, students make incredible leaps in how they communicate – and I think that's so relevant for work.”

Manish Sriram,
Senior Solution Engineer APAC Intercom

This article was brought to you by UNSW Employability