The Application Process
Simon and I reviewed the cost of the AMP, and we considered that a grant from the ILF would make the opportunity for me to do the program feasible. The application process itself was very succinct; the written application is straight forward, and because it involves an interview process, it is not necessary for the application itself to be particularly time consuming or verbose. In my case, spelling out the challenges and opportunities that Minelab faces as a South Australian technology company that sells to worldwide markets, and the opportunity to attend an international business school with a global perspective was compelling. Indeed, it is at the interview stage that you have the opportunity to bring your aspirations for the selected course to life, and to focus in on the aspects of the course that you believe are particularly relevant and will make a difference to you and the company. For me this meant particularly the areas of leadership, negotiation, strategy, competitive advantage and marketing.
Why I chose the Harvard AMP Program
There are a number of excellent international business schools around the world for executive education, but I chose Harvard for two main reasons. Primarily, I had had a first-hand recommendation from the Codan group CEO, Mr. Donald McGurk, that the course was excellent, transformational and relevant. Secondly, the program format was truly international, from the mix of attendees to the course content, and this was very relevant to me and Codan as most of our sales are international, and typically we sell to over 100 countries. Finally, knowing that such an opportunity comes along rarely, Harvard’s reputation for excellence gave me confidence that I would not be disappointed.
Indeed, the biggest challenge can be in finding and managing the eight consecutive weeks away from your day job, yet you have to be able to leave work behind and have your position covered, because the intensity of the course leaves no room for trying to do both.
What I learned from the course
This is a question I am often asked since returning in October 2014. At the highest level, I learnt more about myself(!) and other people, motivation, relationships, leadership and negotiation. It was both challenging and eye opening. The self reflection elements of the course are exceptional and are conducted through an intensive 360 degree assessment and self reflection work that is part of the course.
Further, because the Harvard course is based on the case study method, it offers a way to accelerate your business experience through studying many, many cases, analysing the situation described, using the tools and methods provided, taking input from a diverse experience base of colleagues, and coming up with recommendations. We then had the opportunity to discuss in a large class format the key elements of the case, and to discover what were the choices made, the outcomes achieved and to then review and critique those decisions, all based on real life examples. In many of life’s activities you have but one opportunity, and it’s often said “if I could do it again I’d do it better.” Well Harvard provides the opportunity to accelerate that critical business experience so that I can make better business decisions now and in the future, based on having explored situations with familiar key issues through the course. I was impressed with the quality of instruction, and the Harvard Business School professors were the best instructors that I have experienced, including having had many excellent ones at Adelaide University as well.
Conversation and Networks
One of the strongest aspects of the Harvard course is the networking that I was able to do. Harvard really facilitated opportunities to meet and discuss with most of the 180 attendees at the September-October 2014 course through living group interactions, events, class room participation, meals and lecture theatre rotations. The living groups, of eight people each, are made up of a diverse cross-section of people, industries and experience, and this is one of the best parts of the course, having the opportunity to work on cases in detail with such a diverse group of executives.
My group included people from Egypt, Japan, Singapore, the USA, Germany and the UK, and from a dental surgeon living and working in Dubai to an oil platform construction CEO working in Brazil! Lifelong connections and friendships are made from this group and across the wider cohort of attendees.
The benefit to me personally
Having completed an electronics degree, an MBA, and the Australian Institute of Directors course previously, I was curious to understand from where the strongest benefits would come. Indeed, the LOGOS subjects of finance and accounting, for example, were somewhat a repeat of my MBA, but with some interesting twists around ethics and values. However the PATHOS and ETHOS subjects under the leadership modules were brilliant, and brought a lot of what I had experienced in part, into a whole, with a greater structure and with in-depth analysis. Negotiation was also excellent, as we were able to not only analyse the process, but to practice the skills in relatively realistic, while simulated, scenarios to really understand the dynamics and key influencing factors. Marketing and strategy were also very well done, with many takeaways directly applicable to my business decisions, while leadership weaved its way into and through all the lectures and discussions. In some respects, I wish I’d done the course ten years ago, and in another it is best absorbed after you have some significant level of experience already.
The benefit to Minelab and Codan
This course expanded my skills in leadership and my breadth of business knowledge that will be applied to continue to grow and expand the Minelab organisation, through organic growth and by acquisition, and to manage the complexities and difficulties of such growth in a global environment. More than 50% of our revenue comes from the developing economies, and we sell to over 100 countries each year. It is a complex mix of customers, from the UN to artisanal miners in Africa and the Amazon, and the market dynamics are influenced by many external and geopolitical factors. The AMP focus on comprehensive leadership, and in particular my further development in organisational and team leadership, marketing and strategy, will be of particular benefit to the company. It is important to be able to identify opportunities and competitive advantage, and having the benefit of the AMP’s exposure to a broader global perspective has added to my ability to identify the right strategic and tactical decisions.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the Harvard AMP, and I would like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank the ILF and its Board members for the generous support that enabled this opportunity to become a reality, without which it might never have been a good time to make the commitment. The ILF makes a difference.
I would also like to genuinely thank the Codan Board of Directors and Mr. Donald McGurk for their support, both financially and for the time allowed to commit to the course for the eight weeks, and in particular to Donald for covering my role at Minelab.