Meet the Team – Nicholas Kondal

The Newsroom on the Unleash Space website is one of the many marketing platforms Unleash Space uses, and what better place than here in the Newsroom to introduce Nicholas Kondal, one of our Marketing Co-Leads?

Nicholas is in his second year of a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Science Conjoint, specialising in Biomedical Engineering and majoring in Physics. On top of all that, he is also one of the marketing co-leads at Unleash Space, and is deeply involved in many other organisations and programmes within the university. He is frequently found in the Unleash Space Student Office busy working on his many commitments; and the kindness and support he brings to the Student Leads team and the hard work and dedication he brings to his role make him an essential part of the Unleash Space team.

We asked Nicholas a few questions about himself, which he answered below as such:

Introduce yourself! Also, what’s one interesting fact about you that others may not know?

I am just another mass of flesh trudging around, trapped under an ocean of air on a speck of dust in the outskirts of one of the billions of groups of stars in an ever-expanding universe that’s reaching a cold, heartless death. Just kidding, I’m not a perpetual nihilist. I’m an aspiring biomedical engineer, physicist and science communicator studying at The University of Auckland. Or, at least, that’s what my LinkedIn says at the moment… I’m also a jazz/blues/classical piano enthusiast, I speak Spanish at an intermediate level (just give me a few hours to revise though), and I love LEGO oh-so much.

What was your journey like through Unleash Space?
I joined Unleash Space in the first round of recruitment back in September 2017, when the Space first opened its doors to university staff and students at the recruitment evening – some of whom would become our first Student Leads and Creative Technologists, while the rest would be a part of our Unleasher community. I was fascinated by the possibilities of such a vibrant-looking area on the corner of Grafton and Symonds; it contrasted the dull grey and brown of the engineering building.

What inspired me to join was the fact that anyone from any degree, faculty, skill level and experience could join the team and learn the things they needed on the job. After that evening, I immediately applied and a few weeks later, I was the Space’s first web designer… having had precisely zero years of web design experience. For two months, I was on the marketing team maintaining the website until the semester ended, after which I was back at it again in January, coming into university during the holidays to redesign the whole website for our inaugural launch. I wasn’t alone though. There were always people far more experienced than me who helped me during the redesigning process – we worked as a team.

When the semester began, little did I know that I would only have one more month of being the website guy before I stepped into the position of marketing co-lead. Since then, I’ve been on a steep learning curve, the one of effective leadership and communication. Being responsible for teams of up to 10 people is a big step up from being responsible for only one person, yourself. But over the past 5 months, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of experience, knowledge, and wisdom about what it takes to lead a team of full-time university students to consistently produce great work. I am so glad to have been a part of the Unleash Space journey this year and I can’t wait to get back into it again in 2019!

What makes your role different from that of Marie (the other marketing co-lead)?

Our roles are not too different in that we are both responsible for our team and their workload, making sure they have the knowledge and resources necessary to fulfil their roles, and maintaining the team spirit (or the more scientifically accurate term, hype). Basically, our job is to make sure the team does their job and that they’re happy doing it. Where we differ is in our areas of expertise that determine which team members we communicate with and which channels we look over more often.

Having two leads is much better than one, especially since this was the first full year of Unleash Space being open. So, as the new kid on the block, we had to make more noise than usual to get noticed – which meant a LOT of marketing for events and promotions. In order to make this role slightly less stressful for us, Marie and I decided to split the responsibilities of our roles based on which channels we had more experience with. While there are some platforms that both leads look over, I am primarily communicating with the portion of the team that manages our social media platforms and our website, including the writers of the Newsroom section of the website.

What is it about Unleash Space that keeps bringing you back?
There’s no space anywhere else on campus – everyone’s hogging the computers or couches. That, and the fact that there’s always someone here to talk to or hear from; each time you come to Unleash Space it’s a special experience.

Any funny stories from Unleash Space or the Unleash Team?
I’ve spent so much time in the Student Leads’ office that it’s practically become my second home. And I treat it like one as well because I am constantly rearranging things to make room or keep things tidy. One time, a few weeks ago when I was doing this, I found some old video game controllers inside a box. I took them out and realised they weren’t actually old, they were working replicas of Nintendo’s SNES controllers from the 90’s that had a USB 2.0 connection. Now, why would anyone create an old video game controller with a modern connection? There aren’t any consoles with USB ports that run old games with new versions of old devices… unless it was designed to plug into a modern computer with a plethora of ports to play 8-bit retro games and bring back the nostalgia. Time to test my hypothesis.

With the help of my friend, Google (who was around when these controllers were being used so it should know), I found out that you could download certain software that enabled old games that may not necessarily be compatible with today’s computers to run on said machines. Then, I figured out how to connect the SNES controllers to the desktop screens in the Unleash Space offices, downloaded a few games (legally) from an online website, configured the controller buttons and voilà… what we have now in the office is a pair of working SNES controllers that can plug into the computers and we can play Super Mario Kart or Street Fighter for as long as we want. Many great moments of victory and defeat have taken place in front of the computers and been captured on video for all the students to go back and hear the cries of laughter and sorrow at Mario being beaten by Luigi at the last turn or Ryu being knocked down by Dhalsim’s over-powered legs.

There are so many more stories I have that involve 60 pizzas and an out-of-control library in the offices but I’m afraid this article will become too long if I shared them all.

What do you plan to do in the future?

In the very near future, I plan to spend my summer in Sydney doing cardiovascular research. After that, I intend to stay on the student team at Unleash Space for at least another year before the trials and tribulations of 4th-year engineering take my time away. In my final year, I want to go on an exchange to finish off my science degree, and my university career, with a bang.

In 20 words or less, describe what innovation and/or entrepreneurship means to you.

Combining existing ideas to create something better than the sum of its parts and making sure that has lasting impacts.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Big shout-out to the team that stuck with us through all the good times and all the hard ones; ended up unleashing their potential and helped me unleash mine.

Testimonials from the Unleash Space Team

‘Jumping into the marketing co-lead role with Nicholas has been an experience that has taught me so much. It’s not an easy task managing a team, let alone a conjoint degree – it always amazes me how many things Nicholas can manage to juggle at one time. Even though things aren’t always smooth sailing, everything always manages to work out and – through a lot of late night Slack calls, meetings, my rants (sorry), and extremely long and numerically ordered Slack messages – I think we’ve (mostly) figured out how to do this whole marketing lead thing. Like we’ve always been saying, who knew we’d end up managing a marketing team together back when we met all those years ago. It really isn’t an easy task managing a team, but because I’ve had the privilege to work with Nicholas on this challenging journey, it’s been an awesome, worthwhile experience.’

– Marie Landingin, Marketing Co-Lead 2018

‘Nicholas is someone who I knew from the first encounter that he’s got a very kind and caring heart. He’s incredibly intelligent (Brain Bee) and performs his role as marketing co-lead with so much compassion and love. Nicholas is a trustworthy friend and always a great laugh to be around. During the year that I’ve worked very closely with Nicholas, I’ve realised early on that he always pushes himself and constantly aims for improvement within everything he does. He takes the time and care to ensure that his team are not only doing their roles, but are happy doing so. Thank you, Nicholas, for your incredible contributions to the Unleash Space and for being an amazing friend. Pals for life!’

– Nina Kim, CEO 2018

‘It is said that actions speak louder than words, so I am going to pick three out of an unlimited number of instances that demonstrate how awesome Nick is. 1) Right before the Unleash Space soft launch last year, I remember going into Unleash Space and seeing Nick coming out of one of the offices. Turns out, he spent five hours in there getting the website up and running. Imagine one of those “before-and-after” comparisons: before – no website; after – website. 2) Can’t think of the exact time for this, because it’s more like an everyday occurrence: somebody starts asking for something, and Nick would reply, ‘Yep, it’s done’. 3) Another daily occurrence, and one that speaks to my language nerd part, is that you can definitely trust Nick to be meticulous in his wording and grammar when writing up marketing content. It’s like Goldilocks’ porridge – just right. Lastly, going right back to the beginning, at the Student Recruitment Night last year, I had no idea I was asking the future marketing co-lead, ‘So why do you want to join Unleash?’ – to which Nick replied (not in these exact words, forgive my memory) that he wanted to help more of his peers learn about creating, making and innovating. And the rest is history.’

– Ping Huang, Community Co-Lead 2018

‘Nick is one of those people you’ll realise can pick up anything that is given to them, and you’ll never know how he did it. From being thrown into designing our first Unleash Space website, to becoming marketing co-lead with Marie, who knows what other clever talents he’s got up his sleeves. If you ever get the chance to hear Nick say a speech, please do! He’s such a soft-spoken guy, but he really has a way of capturing an audience (I swear, it’s as good as a TEDx talk). The fact I’ve probably seen Nick heading to the student leads’ office, behind the glass windows of the office, or heading out of the student leads’ office far more than I have of him, just standing and chatting, is testimony of how dedicated and hard-working he is. He’s got a work ethic to be reckoned with, but he’s also so caring, supportive, patient, and seriously put-together. Thanks Nick, for keeping everyone collected with your composure – and for adding good bants to the silly, lovable Student Lead team of Unleash Space!’

– Ariel Dannenbring, Creative Technologist 2018

‘When it comes to Nicholas, where do I even begin with how amazing he is? To define Nicholas into a set of words short enough for a testimonial is no easy feat – yet, he would be the one to tell me that anything is possible with the right mindset, no matter how challenging it is. Being able to work closely with Nicholas in the marketing team this year, and through seeing the hard work and care he puts into everything he does as marketing co-lead – from communicating effectively to everyone (all those Slack messages!) and making sure we’re all up-to-date and on the same page on things, to all those super organised documents/spreadsheets/meeting agendas he makes on the Drive, to his kindness in supporting the team and helping us all develop in our roles – it would be fair to say that without Nicholas, marketing for Unleash Space would be so much harder for the team! He’s certainly helped me grow a lot in my role as Newsroom writer, and I am constantly inspired by him and his thoughtfulness, curiosity, work ethic, organisation, and love for Unleash Space and the team. I am so thankful to have met you Nicholas and to have had all these amazing experiences together; and I look forward to the challenges of the future and how we can all continue to unleash our potentials together!’

– Lisa Zhang, Marketing Team 2018 (Writer)