10 July 2020
In the next four-minute read, I will introduce you to a one-of-a-kind Business School event conducted for the very first time: The 8-Hour Challenge!
A Bit of Background
Let me begin with a bit of context. Starting in September 2019, excited and determined to make the most of this academic year at the Business School, I was introduced to the Student Development Team (11 months later I can proudly describe them as 'amazing'!) and learnt about the Career Development Programme.
This is a pathway for students to engage with and display commitment to their professional development throughout the year. On successful completion, you can be rewarded with a career development badge that you can display on platforms like LinkedIn to showcase your professional commitment and dedication to future employers.
The succesful completion of the career development programme also makes you eligible for the year-end career development trek. This allows a selection of students to visit a chosen business capital, (travel and accommodation paid), to meet with future employers and connect with the vast Business School alumni network.
At the end of Semester 2, I'm proud to say I earned the badge. It was an incredible feeling. For the trek, this year we were meant to fly to Amsterdam. However, none of us anticipated being faced with a pandemic and living through times like these with travel bans.
However, fret not! This is where the 8 Hour Challenge makes an entry.
The Student Development Team (special thanks to Flaminia and Peter) organised this virtual event to replace the lost opportunity of the career development trek. An intense, full-day activity (yes, the 8-hour bit is not an exaggeration), this was an opportunity to self-develop in many ways.
With active engagement from employers including Mercedes, FIFA, easyJet Holidays, UserTesting, Marelli, and LoCa Bev (a list that I can assure you will only keep getting better every year as our Alumni network keeps expanding) it was a fantastic chance to broaden our horizons by learning about real challenges companies are facing right now.
Once selected to participate, we were introduced to the companies and given an overview of the challenges being presented by these firms. We were able to indicate to the organisers our order of preference, depending on which challenge we personally found most exciting and which sector/company we preferred to engage with. Naturally, since all participants provided their preferences, we weren't guaranteed our first choice. That being said, I was lucky enough to get my first preference, a cultural change challenge with Mercedes!
We were then split into groups (one group per challenge) with a mix of diverse MSc programme students. This was great for encouraging different thought processes and applying varying academic lenses to solve these real challenges, and provide the companies with the hands-on solutions they were seeking.
A Glimpse of the Day
With the 9am sharp start, we were greeted by the organisers (Andrew, Peter, and Flaminia) and warmed up for the day with the client introductions. We then joined our allocated breakout sessions (virtual reality in action!) where we met our group. We also had the opportunity to work with the business client in order to learn in-depth about the current challenge we were assigned to.
This was a team building exercise at its peak; we had a blend of HR, Finance, International Business, and Marketing students working together, and it was a fascinating chance to experience the positive effects of cognitive diversity in play. Throughout the day, we spoke, laughed, collaborated, shared (our thoughts, data, and our worries) and as a team ensured we were coherent, however not too agreeable: we needed to think out of the box! And it was made possible through the constant brainstorming with a varied group. Virtual breakout sessions can be as much fun as real ones. On the plus side, you have your favourite coffee at hand, and get to share and experience a bit of everyone's space.
The day was also enriched by a very relevant 30-minute presentation on the theme of 'transitioning to employment in times of crisis' by Laura Sleigh, Senior Consultant, EY. Just one more opportunity to learn about the career paths and journeys the Business School Alumni have been on, never failing to inspire.
Presentations and Feedback
The day culminated with the opportunity to present our recommendations as a group to the clients, and talk them through the rationale of our choices. We delivered a concise five-minute presentation, followed by another five minutes of Q&A. It was quick, it was live, and super engaging. The 8 Hour challenge allowed us to get hands-on by engaging with real-world business challenges, receiving real-time feedback on our ideas from current industry leaders, and network with alumni and current MSc students. There was all to gain and more.
Did I mention there were also prizes to be won? And more interestingly, mentoring opportunities that the winning team could pursue. Many congratulations from my side to the winners of this year, the FIFA group! Well-deserved indeed.
Dear prospective students: I hope when your time comes, you put yourself outside your comfort zone, and come out as enriched as we did!
Moomal Unar is studying for the MSc Human Resource Management.