Part of my sabbatical has been spending time with academia and I’ve learned there are some great things going on at our universities.
In the spirit of the annual Reading/Leeds music festival (best bands I’ve seen there were The Arctic Monkeys and The Hives) I’ve created two parallel blogs – one with an example from Leeds and one from Reading.
A little while ago one of my favourite people in the IBM Cloud business, Doug Clark introduced me to Dr Danny Gozman at Henley Business School. Danny and I got talking about technology, innovation and areas of mutual interest.
I enthused about my love of the IBM Extreme Blue programme, where top talent student interns work on real client challenges and deliver totally new prototype solutions – and then Danny told me about the Technology Advisory Practices module which he runs for undergraduates. This sounded great – the undergraduates work in teams with external organisations, often charities, to deliver a consultation style project to address one or more of their key opportunities or challenges.
Given my experience of Extreme Blue, Danny asked if I’d like to get involved with the module in 2016 and I quickly said yes.
As well as giving the students a project, a client and support, Danny and team (including Jonathan Mangan) bring in a series of guests from industry to spend half a day each week with the students. This time includes a guest lecture on relevant and useful topics and most importantly an amount of quality time with each team to discuss and review their project and progress – and provide advice and guidance from the years of client facing industry experience.
I must say I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the students. The quality of their questions and insights made me quickly forget they were undergraduates rather than experienced professionals.
The module culminates with a presentation day when the teams present to their clients, an industry panel and the Mayor of Reading. I was delighted to be part of the panel for the presentation day on March 2016.
I was hugely impressed with the quality of the project deliverables and presentations. Talking to the other panel members (Richard Sykes and Alex Furneaux) we were all amazed by the way the students had taken on board the advice we had given to them and then merged this with their own thinking and insights. The clients were all very appreciative and every single one said they were going to implement some or all of the students work and recommendations.
To be an undergraduate with this level of real world experience (positives, frustrations, team working, job satisfaction) must be an amazing thing.
Setting up, supporting and delivering projects like this is no mean feat. The module is a credit to the university. A huge well done to the students and to Danny and the Henley team.