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Springboarding into the world of start-ups 

Posted on May 17

2 min read

Career Events & News

Ryan Wightman (2016) currently works at the generative AI start-up Springbok AI. With a background in PR, Ryan was keen to escape the corporate 9–5 and joined the graduate career network Jumpstart to launch his start-up career. In this article he talks about this journey and gives advice for those looking to pivot their career in a similar direction.

I studied Modern and Medieval Languages (French, Spanish and Catalan) at St John’s from 2016 to 2020. Graduating in the pandemic was tough, not least because the various graduate schemes I’d applied to were indefinitely paused. However, in hindsight, it provided me with the perfect time to reflect on where I wanted to take my career – I knew I had a strong interest in languages, making connections and communications. After chatting with the University Careers Centre, I decided on Public Relations, as the skills in this industry were a natural extension of what I was working on in my undergraduate studies.

Ryan Wightman

After a few years in PR I sought a new challenge, and I was particularly attracted to start-ups and their ability to make you more of a generalist. I was keen to use my PR knowledge to help a start-up gain more visibility.

Unsure where to start I stumbled across Jumpstart, a graduate careers network that matches high-quality graduates with high-growth start-ups. What is great about the Jumpstart community is that you can check in with the team if you have any questions or concerns. For example, I wanted to get to grips with a sales platform called Hubspot, and they provided me with a workshop to better understand it. It’s great having a mentor to help you navigate this world – especially as start-ups are quite up and down – so having some stability is invaluable. Jumpstart also hosts frequent community events as they place an emphasis on graduates connecting with one another to share knowledge and make friends.

Ryan and his boss Victoria at a PwC Deutschland event in March 2023. 

What was novel about their approach was the fact that start-ups pitched to candidates, in a week of presentations called ‘spotlights’, and we then selected our favourite companies. In my case, I chose a legal generative AI start-up called Springbok AI. What particularly attracted me to the role was the chance to get to grips with PR, marketing and sales (widening my skills), as well as the fact that it was remote first.

Currently, I’m focused on sales enablement, which means attracting leads into the sales funnel, finding the right person at a law firm to talk to, prospecting at events and creating social content. I am also responsible for all of our PR activity.

If there’s one piece of advice I can offer from my experience it’s this: don’t be afraid of moving out of a corporate setting. Start-ups give you leverage to carve out your own career path rather than having it dictated by corporate structures. As such, I’ve been able to widen my skill set and get exposure to different areas of the business that I didn’t have in my previous PR agency role. 

If you’re thinking about applying to Jumpstart, visit their website to find out more. They not only run generalist streams, but they also run sales-, engineering- and marketing-specific ones.

Ryan at a tech conference in Cluj Napoca, Romania in July 2023.  

I mentioned above that the role at Springbok is remote first, and I’m looking to make the most of this by moving abroad to Barcelona in the coming months and immersing myself in Catalan and Spanish language and culture. As for the next step in my role at Springbok, I envisage a Growth Lead role where I would own client relationships and drive forward our expansion plans.