Success, and its bittersweet aftertaste!

Today is the end…. the 9th European Conference for MBA Careers Professionals and Employers here in Dublin, has closed. We shared openly, we laughed, we scribbled notes, and I think more than once we all had a bit of decision anxiety about which sessions to go to! I have come away, as I always do, with a warm feeling that only coming together with your favourite network can provide.

This conference, my 3rd in Europe, was my swansong and it was a labour of love 9 months in the planning. As the co-chair I was able to shape the programming and really design a conference I felt would support my peers and I to develop our skills and help us navigate in an increasingly complex and volatile market.

Our theme: Disruption, Resilience, Change: Sharing value in a dynamic world was the outcome of many interesting conversations in the planning committee, through which it was very evident that we were all preoccupied with the relentless pace of change both in, and at the interface between postgraduate business education and the employment market. The ‘war for talent’, the ‘business school of the future’, the ‘new leadership paradigm’, the ‘everything-tech revolution’ are some of many changing dimensions that we must be cogniscent of as we review, re-evaluate and in some cases re-boot how we work with postgraduate business talent.

We know we are not the first to feel like we are drinking from a fire hose in trying to keep up with the pace of change. Today is another page in a very long book characterized by invention, innovation, renewal, struggle, sacrifice, failure, and of course, success.

If we looked in the index of that book for some of Dublin’s most famous sons; George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and Dracula creator Bram Stoker to name but a few, we would find that 100 – 150 years ago these men were observing and writing about these same concepts.

Disruption : “You see things; you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)

We’ve all met ‘disruptive’ people, the ones who simply refuse to accept the status quo and the next thing we know are launching the next app, product, service that will change the way we consume, interact and live. More and more this idea of ‘disruption’ is not just the purview of the start-up, but is something we can see and experience in any industry.

Resilience: “It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature” (Bram Stoker)

It seems like every day I am thinking about my levels of resilience…and every day my store is called upon! James Joyce is quoted as saying “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day”. This tells me that resilience is a product of our life’s experiences and the choices we make about how to process, store and learn from those experiences.

For example, on Monday I swallowed my fear of tripping on the stage, muddling my words, dropping the mic and deafening the audience and got up in front of 158 of my peers to launch this conference. I knew, If I did indeed ‘trip’, literally or metaphorically, then my level of resilience (and/or the volume of laughter) would dictate whether I would be able to go back in that room the next day! The good news is I didn’t trip, but even if I had, I am certain there would have been 158 hands out to help me up.

Change: Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. (George Bernard Shaw).

Certainly, the pace of change is increasing as more and more demands are placed upon time and resources, and competitive pressure means that customer expectations are increasing exponentially. Shaw’s idea of the possibility of progress through change is an important one. Change for change’s sake is a ‘challenge’, however change for the sake of progress, to meet those enhanced expectations and to better use time and resources, is where I want to focus my energies.

It is this intersection between ‘focus’ and openness to change, a resilient mindset and an innovative and disruptive approach that I hoped we would set up camp for the duration of this conference. And I think we did! I have had a swelling sense of pride these past three days in seeing our programme unfold, and hearing all the positive feedback after every session from my peers and colleagues who were getting as much out of it as I was – I couldn’t believe it! SUCCESS.

But, it is bittersweet for me. I am having to make the difficult step of detaching myself from this CSEA network, as a new role points me in new directions. Leaving behind these colleagues, some of whom I would also now consider friends, is really hard. I wish everyone could see the value in engaging wholeheartedly with peer networks like this. If we spent more time sharing and creating, instead of hiding and competing, then imagine what we could discover!

So success this time is tinged with sadness, BUT… my amazing CSEA friends, I leave with the words of Magnus Lindkvist ringing in my ears…
1. look for secrets…
2. experiment…
3. be patient…

and you know, we can all say we were there when…. and we will always have Dublin #MBACSEADublin

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