This article was written by Candace Rhind for the Excite! Magazine, published by Canberra Institute of Technology.

“So, we’ll lock in that date for the hackathon?”

I check my diary and smile, “Yes, no problem”

But in the margin I scribble, hackathon???  Diff. to Collab lab how???

It’s my first day in the office, I’m brand new to the innovation ecosystem, and feel like a babe in the woods where all the trees look familiar and yet… not. Luckily I have some very friendly forest guides, I mean workmates, who patiently explain that hackathons and collab-labs are types of workshops that address specific problems.

Their voices chime,

“These events bring a bunch of diverse minds together to innovate…”

“… to excite”

“…to create”.

I nod, captivated.

Under the pretty, pristine Canberra pictorial, beats a network of clever creatives working hard to innovate. I don’t always understand the solutions (satellites track rural water use, somehow?) but the passion for problem-solving is inspiring. While there seems to be an impression that innovative start-ups equal technology, it’s really all driven by people. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely lots of fascinating technology being created, but I’ve quickly realized that the magic happens when the right people are connected to the problems.

And I see that magic happening every day at the Canberra Innovation Network.

Mentors who have been doing business for 20 years chatting in the kitchen with newly minted grant recipients. People from every industry jumping into an online chat to share their wins and losses for the week. Wherever someone is on their entrepreneur journey, there’s always someone there willing to share their knowledge and advice.

They’ve been to the darker parts of the forest, encountered the frustrations of hitting a dead-end on what seemed a promising path. And while we have a modern Coworking Space, outfitted with sit-to-stand desks, conversation pods, and break-out spaces, the vibe is old-school, that of people gathering to share stories, to travel on similar journeys. There’s a truth to the worn adage to surround yourself with people a few steps ahead of you.

Of course, you should forge your own path, but you don’t need to wander alone in the woods. Your friendly forest guides will help to light your way. Tap into resources and travel safely in a group by getting involved in the network.

Maybe you’ve been doing this for years, or maybe you’re new to it like me. Either way, there’s always more to learn. Personally, I’ve had to learn a lot of jargon, and one day I’ll tell you about the time I thought “Fintech” stood for “Finnish Technology”…