Joe Matto (ILF2014)


Institution: Harvard Business School (USA)
Course: Key Executives Program

In the midst of a changing and challenging local manufacturing sector, an opportunity to accelerate my leadership and management skills presented itself with a phone call and visit from Geoff. After a short discussion there wasn’t much persuasion needed to engage me to review this ILF opportunity. Luckily I knew a little about the program from previous candidates and had heard amazing feedback about the opportunities experienced. This was a major catalyst for me to engage and procure further the opportunity.

With a busy schedule and new business venture in the midst of being released, timing was never going to be perfect, especially being so heavily involved with the business operations and design teams. The thought of being away from the business at such a critical stage was concerning.

The application process was easy to follow with clear and precise instructions. A three tiered process with the first two stages conducted online setup the frame work for the basis of the application. This gave me the opportunity to outline my objectives and outcomes for myself personally, the business and the local community.

The final process, the interview, was a perfect finale to the application journey. The opportunity to discuss candidly with ILF board/committee member’s the current state of affairs in SA and what had to be done to ensure the state’s future was prosperous and in the hands of current and upcoming Industry leaders.

The application process led me to apply for the Key Executive Programme at Harvard Business School located in Boston Massachusetts. The attraction to this course was firstly the reputation of the School, the components of the course and the global cross section of cultures and industry leaders.

The HBS – KEY application is merit based and certain criteria’s are required before you can apply and hopefully be successfully in your application.

The two week course covered Leadership, Business Innovation, Strategy and Marketing, Business Finance and control and how to measure and take advantage of entrepreneurship opportunities.

After the long flight to the US and having no sleep for 2 days I arrived at Harvard Campus in Boston, welcomed with the first snow of the season. The facilities were very comfortable and professional as you would expect. The hospitality was fabulous in every way.

There was no time to take in much of the historic surrounds; it was straight to the course notes and reading case studies in readiness for the weeks ahead. With a good dose of jet lag and a mountain of case studies to review and analyse it was certainly not for the faint hearted.

The HBS KEY program structure was to split the main group (approx. 60 students) into discussion teams of six to seven (similar to a board). This team would be together for the duration of the two weeks. I was lucky enough to be picked as group leader and it was an honour when looking back. The days would start at approximately 7am and would not finish until late that night or flow into the morning after. I was blessed to have such a diverse and experienced team with a multitude of cultures and knowledge. My team consisted of professionals from private and public firms to multinational multibillion dollar companies, located from all corners of the globe – USA, Portugal, India, Argentina, Brazil, Philippines and of course Australia.

We were definitely a strong group who challenged each other at every opportunity ensuring we squeezed out every inch of learning knowledge from each other. This was evident when we convened each day with the rest of the groups during the case study discussions (image below).

The HBS lecturers were amazing, they structured the course so that it flowed from one stream to another seamlessly. They engaged and challenged every group, in all sessions to ensure we all participated. The course notes were available on-line and were comprehensive and direct. Access to the HBS library, one of the world’s most lucrative Libraries allowed us plenty of additional material to review ready for the next day. All past students/alumni of HBS have lifetime access to the HBS library which is a fantastic resource.

Looking back at the experience, from the intense two week blockbuster program, with sleep deprivation and the shock of studying case study after case study after case study, compressing so much in so little time, amazingly the knowledge learned has been extraordinary. The cultures I encountered and the vast knowledge of other leader’s in their industries all combined provided an exhilarating once in a lifetime experience.

In hindsight extracting myself away from the business was beneficial, giving me the clarity and space to support the future vision needed for the company and be prepared for the challenging times ahead.

The Harvard Business School was an extraordinary experience, living on site for two weeks with intensive nonstop learning; it’s amazing what can be achieved. Expanding my knowledge with a global vision, has given me a new dimension to the possibilities for the company and future in SA manufacturing.

I came away with confidence and a higher level of business knowledge. Diversifying Quality Plastics & Tooling away from traditional manufacturing practices into new innovative manufacturing sectors will ensure the company has a long future in SA.

I can’t thank Geoff Vogt and the ILF board enough in giving myself and Quality Plastics & Tooling this opportunity to grow my business knowledge and expand my horizons to become an effective SA industry leader.