My last blog was about Taras Lanchev, an Exceptionally Talented Graduate from Ukraine and this blog is also about an exceptionally talented graduate, but from Mexico.

I met Daniel Melendrez when we were one of a select few startups invited to exhibit at the launch of the new Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) in Manchester. 

Daniel is the Lead Engineer at Atomic Mechanics, a university spin out based in Manchester, founded in 2017. It designs, manufactures and commercialises a range of sensor and actuator devices based on a patented graphene-based technology.

Atomic Mechanics is currently working in close partnership with the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester to develop its first two products; a robust pressure sensor and a transparent flexible touch interface. These products are manufactured using state of the are clean-room facilities using 2d material fabrication technology and the Atomic Mechanics core know-how of graphene-polymer films.

Graphene is a new 2d material that was discovered at the University of Manchester by 2 Professors in 2004.  Since its discovery and Nobel Prize award, Manchester is now the City of Graphene where the National Graphene Institute and the new GEIC houses many researchers, state of the art lab equipment and facilities and commercial industry partners who have taken up residence at these innovation centres to realise the commercialisation of graphene.

It’s no wonder Daniel chose to do his Phd in Material Science at the University of Manchester and made a beeline to work with this new and innovative material.

While we were both showcasing our inventions using graphene, Daniel said he was hesitant to apply for the Tech Nation Exceptional Talent endorsement because he felt the number of requirements were overwhelming. He also thought that this route was intended mostly for computer science and software engineers. 

In addition, he was so busy finalising his Phd thesis that he didn’t have much time to thoroughly consider the endorsement process.

While I completely understand the amount of time it takes to prepare an endorsement application, Daniel’s main hesitation was because of all the criteria that an applicant must meet in order to be successful.

I agree, upon a quick glance of the 20+ page guidelines produced by Tech Nation, it can seem overwhelming.  However, when chatting to Daniel about his achievements during his studies at the University of Manchester and his tech projects, I reassured him that he appeared to meet most of the criteria and all he needed was time to read the guidelines properly and figure out which documents he should submit.

With his Phd thesis looming, his mind was more focussed on completing that task so we agreed to have a further chat once he submitted his thesis.

Fast forward 2 months, Daniel was finally ready to tackle the endorsement application and seemed more eager than when I first met him.  This is because after reading the application guidelines properly, Daniel realised that his profile could fit in terms of both his academic and professional background which altogether matched with not only the minimum requirements but he was able to provide strong supporting evidence.

And the evidence he finally submitted included 

  • The Eli Harari Award, a £50,000 grant by the University of Manchester that he and his team won for Atomic Mechanics to help them with starting their business, 
  • a book Daniel co-authored, 
  • two recommendation letters from experts in Graphene, 
  • an academic letter from his supervisor, 
  • a technical report on his duties as the Lead Engineer from his company, 
  • a description of his own electronics projects including his GitHub profile, 
  • a publication in a high-impact peer-reviewed journal, 
  • a letter from his employer (CTO of the company) and 
  • a shareholder’s agreement document.

Speaking to Daniel initially when he felt overwhelmed to after we discussed his application and after he had time to read the guidelines properly, I could sense Daniel’s confidence had increased ten fold. This is because one cannot rush through this application process or juggle this with other high priority projects.

It requires time, patience and structure to ensure everything is in order and because you are relying on experts to write letters of recommendation, you need to respect their time too.

Daniel said one of the most time-consuming tasks is getting the recommendation letters from your known “Tech Wizards” as you depend on their tight schedules. 

Also, getting the documents ready, mainly the personal statement took a while to get it in the best “shape” possible.

I was so pleased and excited for Daniel when he messaged me to let me know that he had successfully received his endorsement. He flew back to Mexico to apply for his visa and to spend some quality time with family and friends knowing that his future, for the next five years, would be in the UK to continue to work at Atomic Mechanics, attend his graduation ceremony and relax knowing that his immigration status was secure.

For Daniel, getting the visa represents the opportunity to grow Atomic Mechanics and commercialise the products that they have been working on for the last 2 years and a half and bringing them to market. In addition, the visa will give him the opportunity to apply for UK residence after 5 years.

Looking back, Daniel’s advice now to potential applicants is 

First look into your own background and skills. If you believe that you aren’t eligible, think twice!

He’s absolutely right!

And Daniel’s sincere gratitude towards me is equally met with my gratitude towards him in allowing me to be involved in his dream of living and working in the UK.  The stress, the uncertainty and the overwhelming sense of meeting the strict criteria can be alot to take. My strong interest in graphene, my knowledge of the endorsement process and UK tech industry is why I thoroughly enjoyed working with Daniel.  His success took me back to when I got my endorsement and visa. It’s such an exciting feeling! Congratulations Daniel!

When I met Michelle her enthusiasm about the Tech Nation Visa was highly contagious! She told me not to worry about it and made me feel confident all the time. She provided key guidance on the type of documents to present, what to discard and how to present the most relevant evidence, e.g. she advised me on how to write the main idea from the personal statement and my technical reports. Last but not least she shared with me some templates that describe the way to submit each one of the supporting documents, including a checklist, since the application guideline is not as clear as one would like it to be. Michelle showed sincere interest on getting the endorsement application approved and when I finally got my Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa she showed the same excitement that I felt. Thank you Michelle!

If you would like guidance and help on the Exceptional Talent Endorsement process or appeals, I help highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and talent increase their chances for a successful application for endorsement.  For all my packages of support, click here.

This blog was written by Michelle Hua, Consultant, Speaker, CEO & Founder of Made With Glove. In 2016, Michelle was the recipient of the Exceptional Talent Visa (now called Global Talent Visa) and is the former #TechNationVisa Ambassador.  Michelle consults for highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and people working in digital technologies on how they can receive the endorsement for exceptional talent or exceptional promise. Read Michelle’s other blogs on the #TechNationVisa here and Michelle’s own journey here.