Category: Introspective Ramblings


During the year I have been crafting a personal development plan or “PDP”, as seen in my last post. In this, I have listed various competencies which I have sought to actively improve upon. This will, I hope, help with an upcoming “competency based interview”. But not only that, it also highlights specific competencies or skills deemed important in terms of overall personal or career development.

I was prompted to devise this (PDP) plan by a lecturer in DCU. The module is called Next_Generation Management or “N_G_M”, and was split into four themes; Personal and Career Development, Global and Societal Awareness, Research and Digital Media and Communication.

Key to this module where PODs. The Term POD is an acronym for personal opportunity for development. Each student was set a challenge to achieve 40 PODs, which in some way offered an opportunity to develop various competencies or skills. Examples of PODs include for example; classes, seminars, webinars, mini-conferences, competence development workshops, presentations, assignments and other initiatives, associated research and reflective writing.

What I would like to do with this blog post then is to present a reflective journal on my key learning throughout the year, and crucially how such learning will help me in my future career.

I have thus split this blog into five sections, one for each theme and a final section for an overall perspective on my competency development.

Section 1: Personal and Career Development

1.1 Overall Reflection

Description

I will now reflect upon my overall learning from the theme; personal and career development. In so doing, I call upon instances of learning derived from; lectures, activities, assignments, associated feedback and POD‟s. Throughout, I will highlight competency development, particularly where this relates to my personal development plan.

Competency Development

Self-Analysis

Personal and Career Development is important to me. I want to be the best Dara Boland I can be, working in the best suited post. To quote the mantra of DCU; “the pursuit of excellence” is my goal. I therefore, sought to tap into, what Martin E.P 2002, describes as a “universal desire to attain happiness and self-maximisation”.

This has always been my attitude, yet, prior to N_G_M_, it existed only in an Abstract sense. The opposite of Abstract is concrete. N_G_M_ then, allowed me to chart a concrete roadmap to personal development. Throughout the year, I held a tremendous feeling of incremental self-improvement.

Similarly, I had always approached career development with an attitude of optimism. I value success. My passion for success however, was not only unfocused and difficult to measure, but undefined. The self assessments were particularly helpful here. I can now say that success, for me, comes from achieving happiness and leading a fulfilling life.

Analysis of Your Learning in Context

In the past people relied on the organisations or companies to decide their career paths and faith, however today things are different and we ourselves are masters of our own faith (Drucker, 1999).

Arthur, Khapova & Wilderom, 2005 discuss how career paths are becoming increasingly unpredictable. Mitchell, Levin & Krumboltz 1999 postulate that it is becoming more difficult to make informed, rational career choices. I decided to apply for this Masters whilst living in New York. I was working in a bar and was content. Yet, as I looked around me, I saw few career opportunities and I lacked a clear goal.

If you dont know where you want to go, you will probably end up somewhere else” (David Campbell cited in Gubbins, 2010).

I felt an urgency to act, and signed up to e-commerce. Even upon beginning my studies, I lacked clear focus. My initial plan was to complete the course and then travel (leisure) around Australia. This focus difficulty is highlighted by Simon (1983) where it was written that people are often unable to make rational career choices because they do not have all the facts, and possess neither a consistent value system nor sufficient reasoning skills. This is referred to as a bounded rationality which favours the adoption of a short term perspective.

According to Bailey, Hughes and Moore, 2004, although employers expect new graduates to have an abundance of knowledge, skills and intrinsic motivation, this is far from certainty. My skills have been bolstered, yet so too has my motivation. According to Geurts & Meijers, 2009 the lack of a clear career wish, or “identity” often accompanies people with low motivation. Plane 2009, states that such an existence can lead to random career choices.

I have since devised a revised PDP, this time charting a route which includes working in Google Ireland for 2 years (at which stage I will request a move to a foreign Google division for one year – e.g. San Francisco, Sydney or Hong Kong) and subsequently setting up my own digital marketing venture in Ireland.

Linkage

In my undergraduate position (Marketing, Innovation & Technology, DCU) I had attended several career guidance seminars. Having experienced N_G_M_, I now feel that traditional career guidance offered little benefit to me. I say this because, upon completion of MECB, my career choices will multiply, and the consequences of such choices become increasingly important, ultimate responsibility lies with me.

Thus where N_G_M_ succeeded was not necessarily in providing better information, but really, in allowing me to gather my own insights and transform them. This was achieved by developing personal and career competencies, and turning them into meaningful knowledge and actions, with regards work, self and career.

As the internal locus of control told me, I believe I control my own destiny. Patton, Bartrum, and Creed (2004) illustrate how an internal locus of control can shape career planning, self-knowledge, knowledge of work attitude, and better career choices.

Evaluate

Baker 2009 writes that academic qualifications are not enough anymore, that employers are now, more than ever, interested in personal skills and personality traits. As mentioned, I seek employment with Google (sales). Having completed the first round of interviews, I have yet to respond to a question re: for example, my grades, or even my technical skills. Instead, they asked; “who is Dara, what makes him tick, does he have an entrepreneurial flair?”

Upon entering the first few classes, I, admittedly, did not participate to any great extent. Mittendorff, 2010 discusses how often students lack motivation in reflective career assignments, especially where they are part of a curriculum. Perhaps owing to the theoretical nature of many of my modules, I failed to make the association between my personal reflections and real life.

However, I soon realised that the career-orientated approach taken was different to what I had been familiar with. I began to learn that here, I could make my own choices to, e.g. develop competencies, and I felt more motivated. I also felt that I was in a position to give more direction to my career path. If I were to sit the course again, I would embrace the merit of reflective learning earlier in the process.

My goal was in achieving continuous competency development, both of existing competencies and new skills. Of course unfamiliarity is more risky but test results show a natural aversion to minimal risk. I aimed to strive for personal development instead of playing the safe bet by doing what I know. During semester one I spent most of my time on the “known” domains of SEO rather than that of say; Market Entry. The following semester then, I had made a conscious decision to attribute more attention to the “unknown” Nootrol project over the “known” Gomcha project.

The self assessments I undertook, really honed in on key areas which would otherwise have remained unexplored. For example, the emotional intelligence assessment saw me feature in the third quartile. This indicated that I may not be sensitive enough to an emotional climate of a group. This prompted the inclusion of teamwork skills into my PDP.

Reconstruct Self-Concept

Whetten and Cameron (2007) postulate that obtaining self-awareness will increase a person’s satisfaction with oneself and health in general. Despite my initial aforementioned resistance, I now fully embrace self-assesment as a foundation for personal and career development. Having obtained feedback from workshops and associated reflections, I highlighted communication and presentation skills in my PDP. Similarly, the ISAC score sheet indicated that I should better learn to communicate my ideas to others. I thus developed such competencies by participating in the Toastmaster programme. The Green Business competition allowed me to fine tune my leadership and entrepreneurial competencies. The Suas programme represented an opportunity to develop interpersonal skills but also offered an unlikely testing ground for my sales skills. This is because I had to negotiate the children‟s acceptance, in order to build relationships with them. Learning Chinese is part of my ongoing drive to develop my language competencies. Even if my aforementioned career path was not to materialise, I will still likely encounter native Chinese speakers, wherever I work.

Result/Application

I exercised my leadership skills, throughout a range of teamwork assignments. In one such instance, the group appeared to be in disarray. I thus took it upon myself of not only deploying management activities, such as delegating work, but I also stood as a leader and motivate/inspire each team member. Here, I had a chance also, to exercise conflict management. Arguments had arisen, fuelled by the lack of productivity. I called upon the Belbin results here. Putting them out on the table, I said to them team, I am an implementer; hence, I may appear rigid in my ways. By using the Belbin team roles, it allowed to team to approach the difficulties, without resorting to personal vendettas.

Fullan (2001), writes “leadership is needed for problems that do not have easy answers. The big problems of the day are complex, rife with paradoxes and dilemmas. For these problems there are no once-and-for-all answers.” This was the case for many of the problem-based scenarios faced throughout the year, e.g. the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award. The Accenture project also allowed me to develop creative thinking skills. Zaleznik (2004) compares the role of a leader, not to a manager but rather, to that of an artist, scientist, and creative thinker. In this case, and in the Green Business plan, I called upon management skills such as organising and planning, but crucially; I crafted an idea into a credible business plan.

As club captain of my football team, I often called upon my heightened Emotional Intelligence skills. I began to sense that one player, a striker, was lacking in confidence. The rest of the team had been putting considerable pressure on him, due to the fact that he had not scored in several consecutive matches. In this instance, I pulled him to the side, and explained to him that, his place is secure, and with his talent and continuous efforts in training, the goals would come. I told him; form is temporary, class is permanent.

Having worked to develop my communication and presentation skills, I actively sought feedback from my peers. Class members noted significant improvements, particularly with regards in-class presentations.

Ultimately, I will continue my ongoing pursuit of incremental improvements upon my own personal competencies. This, I truly believe, will also aid my career development.

Section 2: Global and Societal Awareness

2.1 Overall Reflection

Description

The following is reflection on my overall N_G_M_ learning. Discussed is my heightened Global and Societal awareness and related competencies, specifically derived from a series of presentations, seminars, workshops, assignments and personal initiatives.

Self-Analysis of Learning

My PDP clearly highlights a roadmap towards an end goal; becoming a next generation leader. Thus, achieving a heightened Global and Societal Awareness, and each inherent component, represents a pivotal role in my own career and life path. I enjoyed all aspects of this, an incremental learning experience.

To succeed in my intended field (e-commerce) I required new knowledge, innovation and competence building, to face associated challenges, and to excel where opportunities exist. I first intend to work with Google (International Sales) and thus, it is important for me to attain not only a good grasp of different cultures, but also the technological advancements across nations.

A key concept learning was that of the concept of; Globalization. This discusses an acceleration and intensification of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations (Rothenberg 2003). What has thus ensued is an emergence of Global Economies, and an increase in interdependence, interconnectedness, and cultural diversity. The assumed likelihood of my working for/with a multinational IT company is almost inevitable. Therefore, this theme is also directly linked to my career development and my reaction was to heighten my Global/Societal awareness.

My attitude is that, much of this change (Globalization and Global Economies), is driven by e-commerce. A global society has thus emerged where workers compete internationally and culture and trends know no borders. The assumed likelihood of my working for/with a multinational IT company is almost inevitable, as is the instance where I will work with individuals of varying nationalities. Therefore, this theme is also directly linked to my career development and my reaction was to heighten my Global/Societal awareness. I had many chances to learn, for example, socio-cultural implications for international business. The concept of Guanxi, was discovered whilst designing a Chinese market entry strategy (Tickets.ie). Here, I expressed to management; the increased importance of relationship building. That project also underlined the importance attributable to researching global markets and going beyond a basic PESTEL analysis. Furthermore, the Chinese classes offered key insights into how to do business with foreign countries. Simple lessons were learned. For example, the Chinese have a very hierachial culture and rank is especially important when doing business. This aspect of cultural differentiation was also highlighted in the Get International (Regional Business) workshop materials (online).

In the Toastmasters blog post I illustrate Global Thinking. Here, I discuss statism and how Governments communicate with citizens. For instance I highlight instances where specific phraseology is used, in order to build a carefully crafted PR message. Discussed there is: “Global Banking Crises” and “War on Terror”. Also discussed is how I learned to become a leader and communicator amidst members of all nationalities, both key competencies within my PDP.

My Out on Your Own blog post highlights how Bobby Kerr‟s entrepreneurial successes can be attributable to his societal awareness. Kerr had noticed a societal trend; a lack of take out culture and thus targeted a gap in the market. I would hope that as I heighten my Global and Societal Awareness, I too will be more receptive to potential entrepreneurial ventures. Entrepreneurial skills are a prominent part of my PDP.

I was delighted to heightened my cultural/societal awareness when volunteering for SUAS Mentoring Programme. This prompted significant personal development by transforming me into a more active citizen. Discussed in the associated blog post is; inequality in education (here re: Ballymun) as, a Global issue, which spreads far across countries and cultures. This activity also allowed me to develop my relationship building skills, which is, considering my intention to work in sales, of crucial importance to my ongoing development.

Linkage

I called upon my Marketing degree to discover; the Mason and Hayes Green Business Competition was an example of cause-branding. The company sponsored a worthwhile social project, which may also have resulted in positive business implications. In this case, the marketing value amassed could materialise in a social pay-off. According to Cone et al 2003, those corporations whom best “demonstrate a sense of social responsibility” are thus likely to “stand out in a world of increasingly undifferentiated services”.

I have worked on numerous Science Communication projects. I am passionate about promoting and engaging the public in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Thus, I enjoyed the EU Commissioner Quinn and the Dr. Stephen Chu talks, as I witnessed a master class in public engagement.

In the An tSli Ghlas event, Commissioner Quinn, discussed the project as an “exercise in collaboration”. Here she discussed the “knowledge triangle”; research, education and innovation and further discussed the essential role in which Government and Business will play in The Green Way project, an initiative centred around green technology (Business in Society). As a Science Communicator, I have an interest in how political leaders engage with society about science.

Furthermore, I have an academic background in Innovation, and greentech may represent future career opportunities for me. This is therefore of significant relevance to my PDP. The seminar allowed me to develop upon my critical thinking skills, particularly in light of the Commissioners comments about a supposed “high level of public engagement” in science. Nobel Lauriat and Social Entrepreneur Dr. Stephen Chu, further emphasised the importance of Government. In my associated blog post I note; “the future of the economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy”. Dr. Chu discussed how Government should support businesses to be environmentally and socially active, by putting various reward systems in place.

During my marketing degree, I learned a lot about CSR, but always as a profit driving initiative. Archie B Carroll presents the CSR Pyramid in the article “The Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility: Toward the Moral Management of Organizational Stakeholders.” He discusses four kinds of social responsibilities which constitute total CSR: economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic.

The SUAS Programme, in which I volunteered, benefitted from DCU‟s social responsibility. Here I discuss CSR as a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis. This is, at least in part, because they are increasingly aware that responsible behaviour leads to business success. Corporate reputation can be defined in terms of a number of attributes that form a buyer‟s perception as to whether a company is well known, good or bad, reliable, trustworthy, reputable and believable (Levitt, 1965). I agree and thus made a recommendation that Suas seek corporate sponsorship from local businesses (e.g. Musgraves, Lidl and IKEA).

Having attended an Ethics talk (Professor Patricia Barker) I learned that modern society favours graduates whom embody an ethical approach. Here I learned that ethics deals with values, good/bad, right/wrong. Following the David McKernan, Java coffee seminar then, I discovered that businesses cannot avoid involvement in ethics, for much of what they do, and what they don‟t do, represents a potential subject of ethical evaluation. Java appear as an ethical entity. They give 11% of net profit towards philanthropic initiatives and are sustainable (e.g. carbon neutral roaster). Mr. McKernan also highlighted recycling and energy saving initiatives undertaken. He said that Java embodies his own ethical stances. As such, corporate accountability is determined by a corporate governance structure within the company; a set of non-binding principals, standards or best practices, that relate to the internal governance of the organisation, all of which, he says, have high standard of ethics at their core. However, he also acknowledges that a highly competitive market exists, and reputation is of upmost importance. CSR can be viewed as an element of sustainability marketing and thus by engaging voluntarily in Social Responsibility initiatives; companies can gain positive views from the public as well as becoming sustainable (Belz and Peattie 2010).

This concept of corporate accountability can also be viewed in my Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow competition entry which puts forward my new IT system which directly responds to internal corporate governance inefficiencies, within the Public sector. As an entrepreneur, I will now also, ensure future ventures operate under a strong code of ethics.

Evaluate

I found this theme to be of most enjoyment. I believe my heightened awareness has fuelled my overall personal/career development. I would, however, have enjoyed it should N_G_M_ have dedicated at least two classes, specifically to the theme. I had held a misconception regarding Global/Societal awareness, which could then, have been discovered earlier in the process; I had approached this theme as representing voluntary work and thus did not understand the full breadth of the theme.

As an individual, I no longer think solely in terms of my own existence and prosperity, but I understand that what I possess could have a Global impact. For example, whilst on the India N_G_M_ trip, I researched how I could help improve the lives of those in developing countries. I have since made a conscious decision to work with Camara, an organisation that deploys technology to improve education in Africa. (I encountered the founder of Camera, Mr. Gary McDarby at an eSoc event. A Biomedical Engineer and Neuroscientist by trade, he is a serial social-entrepreneur). Volunteer work, which calls upon my technical knowledge, will thus feature as a prominent part of my career path. (I have since applied for an Online Executive/Social Media position within the charity Barnardos.)

Reconstruct Self-Concept

With a heightened Global and Societal Awareness came a heightened consciousness and cognition re: my own tacit understandings of global issues. I no longer perceive the world in accordance to suggestions absorbed from the surrounding culture. For example, I now view what I read in newspapers, subjectively.

Mentioned above was the Global Economic Crises. Prior to N_G_M_, I favoured a conservative (right) style government. A business student, and capitalist, I had my eyes set firmly on the (financial) bottom line. I believed morals where in place to facilitate a “survival of the fittest” society and trusted the free market economy. Yet now, I am more receptive to left side (Liberal) thinking. In fact, the reflective learning experienced here has helped me in transitioning to someone whom favours a community based on ethics. Evidence of this can be seen, e.g. in my own social entrepreneurship initiatives (e.g. Green Business). Similarly, in the Dr.StephenChu blog post, I call for Government intervention to entice, e.g. lower carbon footprints.

Result/Application

Kirkwood (2001) describes globally educated people as “those who possess high-tech skills, broad interdisciplinary knowledge about the contemporary world, and adaptability, flexibility, and world mindedness to participate effectively in the globalized world”. I agree with this assessment and believe I fit the description. I have conducted formal academic studies in Ireland, Canada and have travelled to all but one continent. I have a broad spectrum of technical skills, and am an active and conscientious citizen.

Throughout the year, I witnessed the parallel heightening of Global/Societal awareness and strive in personal competencies. In terms of entrepreneurial skills, I can derive a greater understanding of the market, can better spot new opportunities, and can act in a socially responsible/accountable and ethical manner. Furthermore, my Global/Societal awareness has allowed me develop a raft of competencies, including them of leadership and communication. As a next generation leader, in the globalised, dynamic field of e-commerce, I must understand the cultures of all stakeholders in order to achieve success.

Having completed the module, I continue my venture. My learning has provided me a critical lens through which I can evaluate and contextualize Global and Societal issues, including trade, technology and the environment.

Section 3: Research

3.1 Overall Reflection

 

Description

This is a reflection on overall N_G_M_ learning. Discussed is my heightened awareness and competence in Research skills, specifically derived from a series of presentations, seminars, workshops, assignments, conducting and partaking in quantitative and qualitative research and personal initiatives.

Self-Analysis

As a marketing graduate (MInT) I had been aware of various quantitative and qualitative techniques. In 2005, I was introduced to such topics, in the module; Market Feasibility Research. However, since then and until N_G_M_, I had not approached such techniques in any form of a critical manner. Thus, I was happy to revisit the area, because, as a marketer, I value research.

Analysis of Your Learning in Context

Whilst conducting my qualitative (interview) assignments I ensured the integrity of both the interviewers and interviewee as well as ensuring relevancy of research and made sure the research was only used for intended purposes. According to Bryman2007 research ethics seek to ensure the dignity and welfare of interview candidates. Cowan1992 postulate that 3 categories exist; Informed consent, deprivation of benefit and confidentiality. Whilst conducting my research, I sought to always put participants at ease and made sure there was no sense of obligation to partake. One qualitative interview was with a member of Donaghmore GAA club.

The participant was first contacted via phone, then emailed an agenda summary/topic sheet, where he replied with consent. We achieved permission from Dr John_Connolly prior to conducting the research. Upon meeting, the participant signed a consent form, which also outlined what the research was for and that all findings would only be used for that purpose. We also informed him of all individuals who will be privy to the results of the interview. Before submitting, all group members signed and included a research ethics declaration in the final report.

Planning, is a competency, very much related to my PDP. It is an essential aspect of most of my academic undertakings, yet, has been one which I had often neglected prior to N_G_M_. Throughout this year, I conducted research planning in various projects including e.g. all N_G_M_ core projects, MarketEntry and Commercialization report. Feedback sought from my qualitative assignments highlighted that “preparatory work should be better” and the lack there of negatively affected grade. Quinn 1968 offer the below research planning process.

The research element was segmented into two main components, qualitative(Dr.John_Connolly) and quantitative(Mr.Gerry­_Conyngham).

Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 2001 discuss Qualitative research as “collecting, analysing information in as many forms, chiefly non-numeric, as possible …to achieve ‘depth’ rather than ‘breath’’”. DeRuyter (1998) further highlight that “Qualitative research does not measure, it provides insight.”

Throughout the year, I conducted qualitative interviews, used covert observation techniques and participated in a focus group.

We, two group members and I, devised a Research Proposal as part of practicum research. I did not enjoy its undertaking which indicated to me that I lacked passion for that idea and thus, we have since changed idea. We scored poorly in this assignment, yet viewed it as a learning opportunity. Reflection, coupled with feedback showed that errors occurred where an inability to differentiate from practicum objectives and research objectives existed. Also, research questions where rather broad and required refining. All suggestions were taken on board and allowed to focus on improving such research competencies.

The Literature Review was supposed to be a key ingredient of this research proposal. However, we had not presented an extensive review, as very little literature could be found. I so doing I called upon Watson 1994 “A what, why and how,‟ framework for crafting research”. In the Green Business competition, I did conduct a more thorough literature review in a bid to learn/critically analyse work which had already been undertaken and thus to help identify any gaps, which could offer a framework for further research (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 2001).

Prior to N_G_M_, I had approached this process in an unstructured and sporadic nature. I would conduct field research by way of academic reading, yet often I failed to record such findings in a literature review. Thus I learned this method as a means of refining the research objectives and framework whilst simultaneously educating myself in the field of the research subject.

Quantitative research then “differs from qualitative research in a sense that it does not analyse opinions and values” (Lee, J. S. K ). “Quantitative data analysis helps researchers to answer their research questions and achieve their research objectives by expressing the opinions, attitudes and behaviours of people or characteristics of organizations in quantitative terms. Quantitative data can be a product of different research strategies, but mainly come from surveys and experiments.” (Altinay, Paraskevas 2008) The SPSS workshops and assignments allowed me to develop competencies in counting, measuring and performing statistical analysis. I felt that generally where results are measured, they are more likely to be considered reliable. I studied market feasibility research in my undergraduate studies (MInT) yet had not grasped SPSS. I now feel highly competent in its use and have highlighted it as a potentially important tool in my career development, particularly as I have a keen interest in marketing. I felt the non representation of SPSS on my CV could cast doubt on my marketing abilities. Not only did such seminars help me in submitting a high quality assignment, the knowledge gained may also be called upon in my practicum and of course my career.

I also used quantitative research methods whilst developing a commercialization plan, when evaluating my website and during the Accenture and Green Business competitions. Furthermore, I partook in various Quantitative studies, including; The Health Survey. This year and indeed my future career will require much important research to be conducted, analysed and presented, thus research and technical skills are a significant part of my PDP.

My (qualitative) research proposal was laid out with the following sections; Research Background, Research Problem and Justification, Proposed Literature, Aim of this Research and Data Gathering Approach. This best allowed for all inclusive, yet succinct and comprehendible presentation. The interview report also used such headings, whilst it offered the transcript of the interview also.

In the quantitative assignment, I was able to present the research via easy to understand tables and graphs. Research and technical skills then have both been highlighted as areas with which I strive to develop as part of PDP.

Another competency is that of entrepreneurship. One problem I often have is in communicating the merits of some of my more outlandish business ideas. Sometimes even despite my obvious conviction and passion I still fail in achieving consensus or buy in. I would also describe myself as being rather unorganized in many aspects of my life. What SPSS, for example, can offer me, is a tool to help me approach data analysis in a structured way. Furthermore, it allows for clear and concise presentation of research. Although quantitative research was conducted in the Green Business Plan, this occurred before I had completed the SPSS seminars. I believe my presentation of results could have been improved and may have been a factor in me not progressing through the final stages.

Library and information management skills are key competencies for a next generation researcher. The library and indeed library resources including databases were used for all N_G_M_ and other core assignments. I was a DCU undergraduate and as such, was quite familiar with such resources. I learned further about the online databases during the Immersion week and then refined such knowledge upon attending a Library Research skills workshop. I found such resources excellent, not only for gaining insight or forming arguments, but also in backing up my own writings with relevant material. Upon completion of MECB, I intend on purchasing an Alumni card, so as to gain continual access to such resources. According to DCU Library, 2010, this facility costs €76 per annum yet could become an excellent resource in bettering myself in any career role.

Linkage

After graduating, I hope to enter the working world. A challenge related to the post banking crises business economy relates to more stringent control measures. Where research is commissioned it is of heightened importance that research (and cost of research)is traceable, focused and measureable. Drawing from my undergraduate learning, I can say that in marketing communications, especially through digital marketing, it is becoming easier to measure a campaigns results and thus success. I can link this to the recent undertaking of the Google online challenge. Google analytics is an excellent kit which allows the administrator to, for example, track a click through rate. The trend then is in an increased need to justify, measure and present clear results in research.

Evaluate

I found the seminars and the associated learning to be a positive experience. It helped me greatly in achieving personal/career development goals, has allowed me to critically asses some of my own research in assignments gone by and will allow me to better conduct data analysis in future, including that of the practicum.

I am someone with Attention Deficit Disorder and as such much of the content covered in class was lost on me. I find passive learning especially difficult. The classes where large, and despite the lecturers excellent delivery and engagement with the audience, I felt I was not learning as much as I had hoped. The SPSS workshop however, facilitated a learn by doing approach. My particular preferred learning style, highlighted by self-assessments in the personal development theme of N_G_M_, is that of experimental. Of course, both the qualitative and quantitative research assignments still required a considerable amount of background reading, but ultimately the practical application of knowledge allowed me to approach such tasks with a greater degree of optimism.

Reconstruct Self-Concept

Initially I felt quite intimidated by the task which lay ahead, when I learned of the complexities of research methodologies. I had however, gathered quite early that I could reach a foundation level of competency relatively easily. I wanted to go beyond attaining a basic understanding and really excel in research skill competencies. I thus employed the attitude that in order to master such skills, I would have to take a long term approach. This, as such was viewed as an incremental learning experience and is still a work in progress.

I found learning to be both difficult yet rewarding. This aspect of incremental learning made it easier for me to remain persistent. I viewed the initiative by small victorious, which charted a path towards success.

Like many marketers, what excited me most is the creative, softer side of putting together marketing campaigns. I must admit that I made the fatal mistake of shying away from tracking and measuring activities, whether they be upstream (market research) or downstream (marketing communications). If such a cliché exists, I would say I‟m not really a facts and figures kind of guy, and possess a tendency to favour qualitative research. Once again, I can relate this back to personal development in that I must target such analytical competencies.

Result/Application

The result of my learning can be viewed across the associated reflections. There I illustrate increased competence across a broad spectrum of research methodologies.

Ultimately, I will continue my ongoing pursuit of incremental improvements upon my own personal/career competencies of research skills. My learning has also provided me a critical lens through which I can evaluate and contextualize others‟ research, which will in turn allow me to refine my efforts.

Section 4: Digital Media and Communication

4.1 Overall Reflection

 

Description

This is a reflection on overall N_G_M_ learning. Discussed is my heightened awareness and competence in Digital Media and Communication, specifically derived from a series of presentations, seminars, webinars, workshops, assignments and personal initiatives.

Self-Analysis

Upon introduction to N_G_M_, it was this theme that captured the greatest level of personal intrigue. I have long held a passion for digital media and communication. I had entered N_G_M_ as someone with academic, personal and commercial experience with various digital media communication projects, and I relished the opportunity to build on my existing knowledge. During my undergraduate studies (MInT) I had valued my web 2.0 communication learning. However, I held an assumption that such learning would limit additional personal gain in this theme. This attitude however, resulted from a rather naïve misconception, as I quickly found that I was not quite the expert communicator, I had believed myself to be. During N_G_M_, I was delighted to discover; incorporated real-world technologies rather than merely reading about them. I was excited that, this theme went beyond the known basics of e.g. how to use digital marketing tools. In undertaking this masters, I sought to not only learn about e.g. “new media” communication yet also to fine tune my existing skills. The incremental learning experience towards maximizing the impact of digital communication, in delivering a message, was thus challenging and rewarding.

Analysis of Learning in Context/Derived Learning

The exponential proliferation of new media could not be met equally with personal growth. I do however, feel I have greatly improved key competencies, including communication and refined technical competencies. I am now highly active in online environments, and embrace this learning experience as a long-term journey. I am excited to continue such learning, as I embark on my pursuit of employment, and beyond. The necessity for continuous learning in this domain is of heightened importance, especially considering my PDP, which highlights a roadmap towards an end goal; becoming a next generation leader, in the field of e-Commerce. I also seek to utilise digital marketing in my future career. Thus, achieving heightened competence in Digital Media and Communication represents a pivotal role in my own career and life path. I enjoyed all aspects of this, an incremental learning experience.

I availed of several webinars, including those from Techspe­_ctations. One such webinar, which I participated in, via live stream was that of an “Introduction to Google Adwords”. Throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies I have built up knowledge and competencies in using the search and display network. I have twice entered the Gomcha challenge. Aside from college requirements, I have assisted a company named eX_pd8 in their Adword campaign and also ran a campaign on behalf of cashforgoldireland.ie.

Having attended the Search_Marketing_Summit(India) I began using the SEOMoz toolbar, which has helped me, e.g. refine keywords. This allowed me to develop my competencies in SEO. The N_G_M__SEO plan as well as my consultancy work with cashforgoldireland.ie allowed me to put knowledge to practise. Following my undergraduate studies, N_G_M_, Information Access module and daily reading/contributing to various SEMblogs, I now consider myself a highly competent search engine marketer.

Get_Digital allowed me to gain insights from real, live practitioners. My chosen breakout session, also offered a better understanding of cloud computing, and the advantages offered to e-commerce following its emergence.

The Social_Media_Bootcamp highlighted such media‟s merits as a vehicle, particularly for digital marketing. Already active across many of the platforms, I have since embraced Reddit and Digg following these seminar. Hootsuite is another which I felt could have helped me in professional campaigning and thus I embraced this also. In terms of e-commerce, I learned the emergence of services such as Vendorshop, via the HighTech Entrepreneurship module.

Social Media as well as other web2.0 learning(including web design) was expressed via N_G_M_ reports, personal activity, consultancy (cashforgoldireland.ie) and also through volunteer projects (DublinScience2012 and DCUAmateurBoxingClub). As Webmaster/Social Media Manager to dcuboxing.com I tested and trialled various different platforms and messages in a bid to maximise the communication impact. I called upon my existing knowledge of Google analytics to help me measure traffic impacts to changes made. I used PostRank to monitor how compelling my message was across the platforms, by monitoring a measure of engagement.

I learned of the true power of the Social/Professional Network; LinkedIn, following the associated seminar. I have since used this as a networking tool and an addition to my CV. I regularly consult LinkedIn groups such as AllThingsSocialMedia whilst conducting campaigns. Here, I also utilise the InMaps function to offer a visualized form of social network analysis.

Following the SecondLife workshop and further reading, I learned of various virtual world platforms being used to facilitate online stores and contextual advertising. In my bid for digital marketing competencies, I could utilise virtual worlds in branding; to appear “cutting edge”. It would also allow access to a new online society where publicity is cheap and the demographic is edgy and computer savvy. This may also offer an opportunity to have rich discussion with customers, employees and other stakeholders, in a more intimate way then email or phone communication. Furthermore, such platforms can be used for other communication purposes, e.g. conferences. I also used SecondLife for immersive learning, whilst learning Chinese.

The Get_Mobile event highlighted the exceptional opportunities which mobile technologies offers MECB graduates. I remember attending a Return2Sender talk five years ago, where I learned about WAP, infrared and an emerging concept of Bluetooth. Five years on, that same company put forward a presentation charting excellent marketing potential afforded by 3g connectivity. Learning about the Daft Augmented Reality (Layar) app inspired me to design an AR concept of my own. This idea stemmed from face recognition research I had been aware of. I have since presented this to Professor_Alan_Smeaton, and may pursue this opportunity as a commercial project.

Furthermore, the N_G_M__India trip showed the potential of mobile marketing. Here, I witnessed the country effectively skip a step, as they have not experienced the full spectrum of digital marketing afforded by fixed broadband penetration and web2.0 connectivity.

During the Mobile and Location based marketing seminar, held in DIT, I learned of the increasing significance of e.g. Foursquare, Google latitude and Facebook places. Here, I learned really practical advice relating to; mobile SEO, QR codes and Google places. I learned new age Influencers now have the abilities of; Amplification and Ability to Publish. Noting this point, I realised the importance of pinpointing Influencers, in my own social media marketing campaigns. I thus experimented with various Social Network Analysis tools. Klout and Peer Index allow me to conduct thorough analysis of who was using my social media sites, and crucially who within such a pool was exerting significant influence. I perused a controversial necessity for web-based mobile apps and discovered that group buying platforms such as Groupon can be used for marketing purposes. I also make an extrapolation relating to geolocation marketing being used to drive predictive analytics. I feel, as such services improve, I, as a digital marketer, will use them to e.g. learn where people are going to be, thereby modifying marketing/sales efforts accordingly. My practicum is based around location based services, and thus I will further exploit such knowledge throughout the summer and potentially throughout my career.

Upon attending a GTUG (Google) seminar, it is obvious how mobile is an essential part of their long term strategy. There, the CEO of ZAPA technologies discussed the significant opportunities which NFC holds. Since then, Google have launched Google wallet. As someone interested in a digital communication career path, it is important I stay up to date, especially considering the high pace, dynamic progression.

My report writing competencies where also developed, especially through the N_G_M_ core projects and also reports such as Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow. As, I develop my technical skills, it is important I be able to communicate and present my work. In a career sense, I may have to present a report of technical nature, to a stakeholder, whom may not hail from a technical background. The SEO report, allowed me to describe, succinctly and coherently a roadmap to optimization, whilst the Accenture report allowed me to present a report inclusive of a highly technical nature.

Evaluate

I found this theme to be enjoyable and rewarding. I believe my improved competencies will fuel my overall personal/career development. I would, however, have enjoyed it should N_G_M_ have dedicated at least two classes, specifically to the theme. I had held a misconception regarding the Communication/Presentation skill elements in the course outline, which could then, have been discovered earlier in the process; I had interpreted this to encompass personal development activities re: person-to-person communication/presentation skills. A better interpretation would have been re:maximising impact of communication by presenting a well crafted message through digital media. I have been reading up on, particularly on SEO, for four years. I would have enjoyed it should N_G_M_ offer a scenario whereby students actually made changes to a website and measure results, rather than solely crafting a recommendations report. This said, I found all core materials to be highly beneficial to my personal development.

Reconstruct Self-Concept

My experience in this theme has exceeded my expectations. I took the opportunity to develop upon and put into practise my existing knowledge of social media and search engine marketing. Furthermore, in the Accenture project, I developed technical competencies such as SQL Server, Macromedia Flash and Fireworks, Dreamweaver, CSS and Javascript to better communicate a marketing message.

In the instance of dcuboxing.com, I may have focused too much attention on designing the medium, i.e. the website/social media at the expense of maximising their impact, in terms of sending a message. Where I did study analytics, I did not use such data often enough, to refine/alter the message. Furthermore, I embraced social network analysis tools late in the process and thus did not maximise their value.

Result/Application

The result of such learning can be seen in the associated reflections and also the associated websites/social media pages created. Ultimately, I will continue my ongoing pursuit of incremental improvements upon my own personal competencies of digital media communication. This, I believe, will also aid my career development. My learning has provided me a critical lens through which I can evaluate and contextualize others‟ campaigns, which will allow me to refine my efforts.

As stated, I am highly active in online environments. See:

 www.about.me/daraboland for a snippet of such activities. I have integrated much of my activity in central locations(aggregation). For example, when the user clicks on the WordPress icon, this allows them to read my blog without leaving that page.

Section 5: Overall Reflection on N_G_M_

Description

This is a reflection on overall N_G_M_ learning. Discussed is competency development across all four themes; Personal and Career Development, Global and Societal Awareness, Research, Digital Media and Communication. Such competency developments where derived from a series of lectures, presentations, seminars, webinars, workshops, activities, assignments, associated feedback and personal initiatives.

Self-Analysis

As aforementioned, Personal and Career Development is important to me. I want to be the best Dara Boland I can be, working in the best suited post. To quote the mantra of DCU; “the pursuit of excellence” is my goal. I therefore, sought to tap into, what Martin E.P 2002, describes as a “universal desire to attain happiness and self-maximisation”.

I first intend to work with Google ((International Sales) with a long term aim of establishing my own digital marketing company). Thus, it is important for me to attain not only a good grasp of different cultures, but also the technological advancements across nations.

The N_G_M__India trip showed me an example of a Global agglomeration. I am a well read individual, and could liken India‟s successes through foreign Investment, to what Ireland have experienced. In India, firms (predominantly IT) flocked inward (FDI) to avail of pools of inexpensive, yet skilled, labour, availability of support services, and associated knowledge spillovers. An interesting instance was where we attended Accenture Bangalore. Here, the international sales team underwent regular communication classes, in a bid to perfect a Western (English) accent. My intention is to work for Google, specifically in International Sales. This exercise further highlighted to me the hastening importance of excellent communication skills.

Analysis of Your Learning in Context

My internal locus of control indicates that I believe I control my own destiny, thus undertaking competency will positively affect my personal/career development. In this, a globalized world, I will likely work abroad. Inevitability exists however, where I will work with individuals of varying nationalities. Key to my ongoing entrepreneurial activity, is both quantitative and qualitative research methods, particularly where used as market feasibility research. The necessity for continuous learning in the domain of Digital media is of heightened importance. I must stay up to date, as I intend to set up my own business in 4 years.

During the N_G_M__Market_Entry assignment, I also learned that Near_Field_Communication is likely to transform the tickets Industry there. At this point I began to research NFC. Only recently have Google launched details of their NFC initiatives, which will soon launch in Ireland. NFC, I learned, could revolutionize the purchasing process. This is of direct importance to me, an e-commerce student. In this instance, my heightened Global and Societal awareness allowed me to be “ahead of the curve” in terms of emerging opportunities/technologies.

Perhaps in part due to the Global economic crises, business ethics is now high on the agenda in both the public and private arena. Accordingly, DCU have recently (April 2011) appointed Dr Simone deColle to the Institute of Ethics as the first lecturer in Business Ethics. According to the Institute Director, the appointment marked an “important step in the Institute‟s plan to engage with Irish society on integrity, corporate social responsibility and other business-related ethical issues”. (http://dcu.ie/news/2011/apr/s0411d.shtml). I am disappointed I never had the chance to take a module in ethics. I feel, such an activity would help me develop both personal and career competencies. A key motivation for me is to become a next generation leader, having and communicating an ethical stance would help me in this regard.

Another point about the Global Economic Crises is re: Global economies. Not only the rapidity of the decline but also the fact that so many seemingly diverse markets plunged at once, showed a negative consequence of Global Economies.

Linkage

Having participated in volunteer work, I will continue to act as a global citizen. Furthermore, when I establish my company, I will ensure an excellent corporate social responsibility regime is in place. Such CSR initiatives would be thoroughly researched, as I would also seek a social pay off. Furthermore, all expenditure would be measured, predominantly via quantitative measures. In fact, I would seek to use my new age Influencer status, to promote social responsibility. I would also ensure that my own CSR initiatives were published and amplified, to convey a positive brand message to the market.

Evaluate

The overall experience has been incredibly positive. Despite the long hours, and lack of free time, it is inextricably clear to me, that personal development has ensued in a prolific fashion. Yet, it must be said, that I regularly flirted with burnout. This is my criticism, in my opinion, the module would actual be more beneficial if they shaved 10% of its workload. Baker 2009 writes that academic qualifications are not enough anymore, that employers are now, more than ever, interested in personal skills and personality traits. As I intend to work in sales, it is imperative I continue developing my people skills. As an individual, I no longer think solely in terms of my own existence and prosperity, but I understand that what I possess could have a Global impact.

One derivative of this, is the development of a critical lens upon which I can approach news articles and research papers and also an ability to dissect messages via digital media.

My (Green) business idea, related to alternative, renewable energy. Unfortunately, key to progressing through the competition was an ability to outline profitability. Thus, I had to combine a motive to increase social value, with a clearly defined profit motive. According to Dees (1998) in an instances of social entrepreneurship, “the social mission is explicit and central” and wealth creation is not the central aim. He postulates that wealth creation is a by-product, solely a means (sustainability and self sufficiency) to a social end. However, the stipulations of this competition, prompted me to include profit in the goal structure. This disappointed me and I hope that next year, they allow an equal ground for those businesses for whom profit is not the ultimate goal. Research conducted for my business idea (based on solar power), allowed me to develop upon an expanding environmental awareness.

Reconstruct Self-Concept

Whetten and Cameron (2007) postulate that obtaining self-awareness will increase a person‟s satisfaction with oneself and health in general. Despite any initial aforementioned resistance, I now fully embrace self-assesment as a foundation for personal and career development.

Similarly, with a heightened Global and Societal Awareness came a heightened consciousness and cognition re: my own tacit understandings of global issues. A concern of mine, was my poor analytical competencies. Noting this, I have highlighted quantitative research as key future learning, as I have traditionally favoured qualitative research. In terms of digital media and communication, never again will I underestimate the importance of measuring online activity. Various analytical data can help me craft a better, more refined message.

According to Stewart, 1989, entrepreneurship is best thought of as an extended activity which may well be carried out by a team or a group of people. However, after attending the David McKernan Java Coffee seminar, I began to view social entrepreneurship as a completely different approach to the business of societal good. Johnson 2000, describes social entrepreneurship as an innovative approach for dealing with complex social needs. Furthermore, after completing the Nootrol assignment, I began to peruse the relationship between social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. The client was a builder, who, as a company, and a group of individuals, were participating in social enterprise, as a complementary activity.

According to a McKinsey Quarterly Report (2010), every company is now a global company and the most innovative ones are building a global and societal awareness into their DNA. I must follow suit and continue to harness the power of this assertion.

I have always had a great ambition to succeed in business. My success measure was however, generally that of financial gain. Yet, through N_G_M_ and various self assessments, I now believe that money is but one intrinsic motivation for me. Success, for me, comes from achieving happiness and leading a fulfilling life. I feel a duty, yet also gain intrinsic rewards from acting as a global citizen. I have thus designed a mission statement for Dara Boland; “to achieve success and leave the world having made it a better place”.

Result/Application

Fullan (2001), writes “leadership is needed for problems that do not have easy answers. The big problems of the day are complex, rife with paradoxes and dilemmas. For these problems there are no once-and-for-all answers.” As stated, I intend to work in the highly dynamic company; Google followed by putting my entrepreneurial competencies to use by setting up a digital marketing company. As such, my leadership skills will continue to constitute a prominent part of my artillery.

Kirkwood (2001) describes globally educated people as “those who possess high-tech skills, broad interdisciplinary knowledge about the contemporary world, and adaptability, flexibility, and world mindedness to participate effectively in the globalized world”. I will continue this winning formula of incremental improvement by frequenting various extracurricular opportunities for development followed by conducting complimentary research. I am an avid blogger, and thus I can use this publishing facility as a means of reflective writing.

 I have just heard that I have progressed to stage 3 of the interview process, for my dream job. WOHOOO! 🙂 But… the next interview entails a competency based interview. Yikes.

Last September, I was required to design a “competency framework” which will be discussed in this blog post. Following this activity, I was prompted by a lecturer in DCU, to devise a personal development plan (PDP). During the year then, I have been crafting this plan. In this, I have listed various competencies which I have sought to actively improve upon. This will, I hope, help with my interview. But not only that, it also highlights specific competencies or skills deemed important in terms of overall personal or career development. An outline of my PDP is presented at the foot of this post.

My Competency Framework

“A competency is effective performance of a task or activity in a job setting, due to the underlying characteristics of the individual: motives, traits, skills, self-image, social role, or knowledge and experience” – Boyatzis, R., The Competent Manager: A Model for Effective Performance, New York: Wiley, 1982. I have broken these competencies into three different areas, personal competencies, social competencies and cognitive competencies.

1.) Personal Competencies

 Personal Competencies represent a set of attitudes, skills and values that are possessed by a person. This set of skills impact on an individual ability to work effectively and contribute positively to their companies, clients and profession. These competencies incorporate a wide range of abilities, including being strong written and verbal communicator, to demonstrating the value-add of their contributions, to being able to think creatively and innovatively in an always changing working environment. Four of the main personal competencies are leadership, communication, self management, and analysis.

Leadership: Leadership includes an individual’s level of self confidence and self belief.  A person with strong leadership competency remains flexible and positive in a time of continuing change. They celebrate and encourage self achievement and the achievement of others. They build an environment of mutual respect and trust, respects and values diversity

 

Communication: Communication skills are key personal competencies. Good communication competency incorporates presentation skills. Communication includes verbal and non verbal communication. A good communicator is able to communicate plans and ideas effectively. They also have high interpersonal listening skills.

 

Self Management: Self management includes the ability to recognise the value of personal career planning. Good self management allows an individual to self motivate in order to successfully complete a task. They also have the ability to understand one’s own moods and emotion. They can self regulate and control their moods and emotions. Self management gives an individual the ability to balance work, family and community obligations. Self management also includes being able to manage your own self development.  This results in an individual having the ability to understand their skill set and focus on areas for development.

 

Analysis: Being able to use analysis in a range of situations is a key personal competency. Being able to see the larger picture and tackle a task from multiple angles is an example of good analysis ability. An individual with analysis skills is able to recognize the balance of collaborating, leading and following they are able to take calculated risks and they plan, prioritise and focus on what is critical.

2.) Social Competencies

 According to an article by Eric Trogdon in the Nations Cities Weekly he agrees that the social competency improves effectiveness amongst leaders. I conducted research in to what key social competencies and skills are required for effective leaders. The three most important skills or competencies were as follows; respect, relationship management and empathy.

 

Respect: Firstly respect is gained by leaders from their ability to regard workers opinions and values regardless of their behaviours and respond to them truthfully.

 

Empathy: This competency is closely related to the respect skill required by leaders. In order to achieve empathy as a leadership skill one must earn trust by understanding others and treating everyone the correct way. Empathy also involves showing genuine concern and listening to other with understanding.

 

Relationships: The final social competency to be discussed is that of relationships which incorporates collaboration and cooperation. Leaders who encompass this competency encourage relationship bonding allowing the free sharing of ideas. By creating a cooperative friendly workplace leaders can nurture internal and external opportunities and allows for everyone to be evolved creating a sense of self satisfaction.

3.) Cognitive Skills

Cognitive Skills can be defined as any mental skills that are used in the process of acquiring and utilising knowledge; these skills include analytical and strategic reasoning, perception, creativity and intuition. Leaders must assimilate and synthesize information rapidly, be contextually astute, recognize the complexity in issues, challenge assumptions and face up to reality. 

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” — A. Einstein

What Einstein was trying to convey, was the difference between cognitive skills and academic skills. The implication for leadership is this: just as cognitive skills are the mental capabilities required for academia, they are also the underlying skills which must function in order to be a good leader. For example; a good leader must not only have the knowledge, they must also be conceptual thinkers. They will identify patterns and key issues in complex situations. They may also utilise creative or inductive reasoning to lead change.

Two key competencies, in a Cognitive Leaders armory include; Strategic Thinking and Emotional Intelligence.

 

Strategic Thinking: Strategic Management theory, generally, takes the stance that managers, and leaders, will make rational decisions, based on all available knowledge. So cognitive skills for leadership involve an inductive and intuitive mindset. The concept of “Emotional Intelligence” should now be introduced.

Emotional Intelligence:

  

A well learned Academic may not be a good leader. IQ ignores many behavioural and character elements such as social and interpersonal interaction. A good leader showcases effective awareness, control and management of his/her own emotions, and those of his/her followers. Daniel Goleman, the most prominent academic to champion this concept, writes about five “domains” of EQ: 1.) Knowing your emotions 2.) Managing your own emotions 3.) Motivating yourself 4.) Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions (empathy) 5.) Manging relationships (the emotions of others.)

Leadership

 

Level 1: Build leadership trust. Entrust a self confidence and belief in work colleagues within your own department who trust your judgements.

Level 2: Managing leadership confidence. An ability to gain confidence and trust of your entire organisation that will follow, justify and back your decisions.

Level 3: Controlling leadership. Lead and build an external environment of interconnected organisations which encourage self achievement towards the improvement of the marketplace.

Communication Skills

 

Level 1: Establishes regular communication with and among the team. Keeps relevant persons informed. Secures the needed support, explains rationale and justifies key decisions.

Level 2: Empowers others and embraces their input. Builds team spirit to promote effectiveness. Communicates a vision and then brings it to fruition. Offers followers a sense that change is achievable and that their contributions are important.

Level 3: Communicates to external groups such as stakeholders and is able to inspire subordinates to contribute and lead. Aligns organization’s efforts. Removes obstacles and creates momentum.                                                                                                     

Analysis levels

 

Level 1: Analyse the internal workings of your team and improve on problems which arise.

Level 2: Recognise your entire organisations internal processes and plan to optimise productivity.

Level 3: The ability to analyse your external processes while dealings with a network of companies. Leading to collaboration for improvement.

Self Management

 

Level 1: Has the ability to recognise the value of personal career planning.

Level 2: Can self regulate and control their moods and emotions.

Level 3: An individual having the ability to understand their skill set and focus on areas for development.

Respect

 

Level 1: Respect your individual workers and teams values and beliefs. Respect your internal work team by listening to their opinions and ideas.

Level 2: Accept the value structure of other organisational departments and build respect by listening and sharing concerns without being bias to any of their positive or negative values or belief structures.

Level 3: Lead your company to be open with other enterprises that either share or oppose to your companies own values. This truth allows for mutual respect to accept one another and create a successful business network.

Empathy

 

Level 1: Understanding the genuine needs and concerns of the colleagues you interact with on a daily basis within your working department.

Level 2: Create an organisational wide network which supports different department and individual concerns. This network can help understand the needs of the workforce and improve their capabilities and improve their productivity.

Level 3: Encourage the market your organisation works in to listen with understanding to each business in order to deal with market problems and changing trends to improve the market and ensure competition and market profitability in the long term.

 

Relationships

 

Level 1: Create a relaxed and friendly working environment for colleagues to create and expand on new ideas and plans.

Level 2: Lead inter-organisational research and development teams which can build an alliance and improve efficiency. 

Level 3: Guide a collaborative market research team across two separate industries in order to improve productivity to both industries. An example of this would be the work being done to creating collaboration between the business world and technological world.

Strategic Thinking

Level 1: Open Mindedness. Illustrates an openness to new information and opinions from diverse standpoints.

Level 2: Analyzing information. Makes sense of disparate information; sees patterns and trends. Comfortable moving between detail on the ground and also the big picture.

Level 3: Strategic reasoning, creativity and intuition. Crystallizes key points from an array of disparate sources of information and makes logical sense of complex situations. Develops new ways of explaining complex issues. Will see beyond the obvious and explain in simple terms.                                                                                                                                            

Emotional Intelligence

 

Level 1: Self awareness. Illustrates a good awareness of own feelings and emotions

Level 2:  Controling and managing own emotions. Acknowledging the causes of emotional reaction to particular situations. Understand own strengths and weaknesses

Level 3: Control/ Managing others’ emotions. Cognizant of particular emotions’ impact, on self and others. Highly emphatic and intuitive. Will tactically empower or use informal persuasion to strategically influence others.

Justification for competencies selected

Personal competencies are essential for developing and becoming leaders of tomorrow. Leadership and communication are essential components of the personal competencies which are evident in the article by Eric Trogdon (2009) which states “Our professional culture is in a generational change that will depend on leadership and communication to maintain the past lessons learned while merging new and innovative ideas”.

Aparna Nacherla (2010) conducted a study on a number of high executives which were asked to select six competencies that best characterised the most successful leaders in their organisations. According to the study 42.2% of all executives say good communication skills are necessary in becoming effective leaders. Fowlie and Wood (2009) suggest that bad leadership equates to a lack of self management and relationship management competencies. As a result of being poor at these key competencies an individual is unable to manage or lead successfully. According to Fowlie and Wood (2009) leaders should focus on developing self management and relationship management competencies.  

Soderquist et al (2010) found that the effectiveness of organisations today depends largely on leaders’ abilities to activate, share and transform the intellectual capital of the company into a sustainable and competitive advantage. In order to be able to carry out the aforementioned tasks an individual would require analysis skills as a competency. Eric Trogdon (2009) believes that effective leaders need skills to respond appropriately and properly to positive perceptions of others in order to gain personal respect. Respect is one social competency required by leaders of today because an organisation willing to follow and adapt is much more likely to succeed than an anti-change organisation.

Respect can be earned by the other social competency that is empathy by gaining trust and understanding your workers. Upon reflecting on the article of Eric Trogdon he is of the assumption that effective leaders with good social competencies can create opportunities for interaction of workers to share ideas and questions creating improved outcomes. This assumption closely ties into our choice of collaboration as a necessary competency required in order to become an effective and influential leader. Aprana Nacherla (2010), shows that 44% of all executives recognise that creating an environment of trust and respect is a key competency for successful leaders.

The article; “Strategic Thinking: is leadership the missing link” proposes that two approaches to strategic thinking exist, a behaviorist approach and a cognitive approach. Both camps agree that leaders often make decisions based on rules of thumb – or heuristics. There is then, a risk of e.g: selective perception, wishful thinking and conservatism. As a result of this it is clear that strategic thinking is a key competancy for leaders to possess. The article; “Planning on the left side and Managing on the Right” illustrates how leaders may “synthesize” information rather then “analyze” in a logical, structured manner. Because the brain does not always act in a syncronized fashion, a leader’s decision making process may be more intuitive then intellectual and more relational and holistic then ordered and sequential.

 Now, back to my own Personal Development Plan.

I selected the following competencies because I feel they are critical to excelling in my desired sales role in a certain leading internet marketing company. The undertaking of various self assessments helped me select specific competencies which required fine tuning. Examples of such self assessments included:

Self-awareness assessment, Defining issues test, Learning style inventory, Locus of control scale, Tolerance of ambiguity, Belbin’s team roles, Emotional intelligence assessment, PAMS, Jungian Personality Test, Intrinsic motivation assessment, Leadership style inventory, Competency framework for a new leader, Identifying aspects of personal culture test, Creative problem solving, Creative style assessment, Team working self-assessments, Team development behaviours pre-test, Diagnosing the need for team building, Personal career social networking analysis, Leadership analysis and a Conflict management assessment.

See below my PDP:                   (click to zoom)

In the next blog then, I aim to discuss one module I completed; Next_ Generation Management or “N_G_M”. The reason being, that this allowed me an excellent opportunity to develop some of these competencies.

A potential employer asked me today; “What are your salary expectations?”

It’s a tricky one. You don’t want to undervalue yourself, yet you also don’t want to price yourself out of the market. It’s also tricky because I don’t like giving my price when I don’t yet know the roles and responsibilities of this particular sales post. Yes the economy may be in tatters and believe me, I am compassionate to those out there whom don’t have the luxury of a regular salary. But, I value highly, what I can bring to an organisation.

How did I respond? I responded honestly. I gave a figure which I felt was reasonable yet highlighted that money is not the be all and end all. I said my real focus is not merely on the financial benefit.  Instead I focus on more intrinsic motivating factors.  I like sales. Because I deem this as important, I want to inject my energy into them.  I thrive in team environments yet I also enjoy a level of freedom to perform sales tasks my way. I feel that company offer a work environment which drives and sustains empowerment, this will allow me to exercise my own trusted judgement. Facing new challenges and developing new and existing skills excites me; I love sales, I think I am a good salesman, I know I want to be great.

With me, I am often extraverted. Yet, in many respects I am incredibly introverted. I’m big on self improvement and if someone asks me a question, I will look inwardly and find an answer. Here the question was, how much, I looked beyond and began to think about what motivates me. And you know what happens when I get thinking. That’s right…I find answers and then I hit up wordpress. Maybe I should stick to the diary, but, if you are interested, here is what I’ve come up with. The motivations of Dara Boland.

I used an integrative model comprises 4 “task assessments” upon which will be expatiated upon. The combined values of these may indicate intrinsic rewards necessary in order to produce and sustain empowerment. As such, once an accurate reading of a participant’s own sense of purpose and activities performed takes place, derived extrapolations can be made re: job satisfaction, stress and performance levels.

Feeling of meaningfulness: whereby a person is completing a series of work which they deem as important and thus worth investing energy. It consists of an understanding values and desires. This feeling may be enhanced where co-workers share similar values/desires and thus act as a support. I am a little akin to a sponge, in that I love to absorb information. The opportunity to better educate myself by working towards a masters make me feel privileged. This said, I have highlighted areas of concern.

“The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live.”                                                                         — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Many of the subjects I study are thought to be excellent to have on a CV. I have attained a basic grasp of difficult subjects such as Java, information access and networks and internets. This basic grasp is to be celebrated, however, when compared in juxtaposition to modules such as web design, issues arise. I was not especially motivated, in part because I could not see the end product/application of such knowledge. However Web Design is relevant to me, I have a desire to create websites and thus I enjoyed the pursuit of knowledge/was more intrinsically motivated.

Feeling of choice: This is in evidence where a person feels a sense of freedom in choosing tasks and is allocated the freedom to perform such tasks in a way they choose. The person trusts their own judgement and work according to their understanding.

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.”                                                                              –George Bernard Shaw

My undergraduate degree had many of the same modules as my current course. As the feeling of choice also relates to ambition to face new challenges, this has made it more difficult for me to motivate myself. Concepts such as SEO and SEM continually get introduced as a new topic, however to me, they are quite familiar and rather unchallenging.

“Education is a method whereby one acquires a higher grade of prejudices.”   — Laurence J. Peter

 

In terms of grades, yes this does give me an advantage. However, grades alone do not act as a significant motivator for me. The ISAC score sheet indicates that I am motivated by choice rather than need.

Feeling of competence: This is re: the self perceived skill level attributable to task performance. It may include facing new challenges to develop new or improve upon existing skills.

“It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.”  — Alec Bourne

After conducting an Online PR project for a client, PR now finds itself in my personal development plan as a possible future career. The reason for this is, having actually put together a real world PR plan, I now feel confident in putting theory to practise.

Feeling of progress: This occurs when an individual senses that a project is making headway and that their investment of effort is accomplishing goals. In terms of career development it is important that a long standing employee still feels fulfilled by his/her activities. Can he/she see any strides in performance and did this contribute to an associated increase in general wellbeing. How far up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the individual, can they chart their progress. I have previously worked in 9-5 office scenarios. Allianz Insurance comes to mind. Even after a couple of months the monotonous workload was becoming quite a burden to me. I thus feel a career in a fast moving Industry would best suit me. The exponential growth of digital industries make it difficult for those involved to become lackadaisical. I also envision myself eventually setting up my own company, and more likely several companies. Quigley and Tymon (2006) discuss a trend whereby individuals have become footloose. They are likely to move between jobs, which contributes to new competency development and likely increased motivation.

2.)Feeling of Meaningfulness: I have recently completed a DCU Degree in Marketing, Innovation and Technology and am currently working towards a masters in e-commerce. As such, I have a deeply engrained love of and passion for all things technology. I also have a burning desire to one day be a successful entrepreneur. For these reasons I will embrace every opportunity which will help in attaining this goal.

One issue I have encountered arose during discussions with my practicum group. Although extremely capable students in their own right, do not share the same motivations as me. Many of my practicum ideas where quirky and even controversial but where all money spinners. What I found though, was that the group preferred the idea of taking a sponsored project which would involve software design on behalf of a company. Although this will also help me in developing key competencies, I feel I would have developed more working towards our own venture. We were all motivated differently and so a small rift escalated. An ISAC score sheet indicated that I should better learn to communicate my ideas to others, perhaps this fact induced the rift. Furthermore, the group is composed of diverse Belbin team roles i.e. implementer, team worker and shaper. Whetten and Cameron (2007, p449) offer that where team roles are utilised to their full potential “improvement in productivity, quality and morale” occurs. We as a group, should now revisit each of our roles, particularly in light of out intrinsic motivations.

Feeling of Choice:

I enjoy embarking on new tasks and generally approach them as voyages of discovery. It is important to me that the remit of project deliverables are clear. Indeed, the test scores show that I have an innate aversion to ambiguous instructions. Although I prefer clear instructions in terms of goals, I then enjoy crafting my own strategy to achieve the predefined goals. This freedom is in evidence in one project I am working on. This project saw me hook up with a client from the DCU Ryan Acadamy, where I designed a commercialization plan on their behalf and where I had effectively been presented with a blank canvas.

“The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.”                                                                                                                                — Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Feeling of competence:

What I must strive for here is continuous competency development, both of existing competencies and new skills. Of course unfamiliarity is more risky but test results show a natural aversion to minimal risk. I thus strive for personal development instead of playing the safe bet by doing what I know. During semester one I spent most of my time on the “known” domains of SEO rather then that of sat; Market Entry. I thus found myself relatively unmotivated. In semester two I had decided to attribute more attention to the “unknown” e.g.; Nootrol project over the “known” Gomcha project.

“It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot, irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.”                                                                    — J. Bronowski

Feeling of progress:

I acknowledge that, although I enjoy freedom, continuous feedback is beneficially to me. Particularly beneficially to me is uplifting encouragement or where necessary, constructive criticism.

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.”                          — Thomas Carruthers

Results achieved act as a measure of performance but the feedback can entice/motivate me to improve in future efforts. The existence of a subjective view allows me to better assess what I have excelled in and what I must improve upon. Upon writing up my personal development plan, I went about availing of classes and workshops which I deemed beneficial. For example; CV clinics, communication workshops, interview skills, presentations seminars, analytical thinking discussions etc. all helped me evaluate my intrinsic motivations upon which I will call upon to improve.

Motivations are interesting to me because they are complex and difficult to pin down. The irrational is mysterious and mysteries are attractive. Don’t believe me, watch this…



In September last year, I entered my first Toastmaster International event. I have since attended and participated in each bi-monthly gathering.

Each meeting is 120 minutes in duration, with prepared speeches, impromptu talks on assigned topics. However, before each meeting I conducted a lot of preparation work, especially on the weeks which I was to present a topic. After the events I conduct evaluations of others speeches which can take some time and listened to other members evaluations.

The purpose of these meetings is to help members develop communication techniques which will aid public speaking, listening and fulfilling leadership roles.  Along with the other members, I eagerly accepted assigned scheduled roles – taking on different challenges pertaining to speaking spontaneously, preparing and delivering speeches, both giving and receiving evaluations, practicing grammar, extending vocabulary, using parliamentary procedure and timekeeping.  The atmosphere is always relaxed and the environment nurturing and positive.

I believe that good communication is of the utmost importance in all relationships, and I was keen to learn how to fine tune how best to relate to people.  I, like most adults, learn best when an environment satisfies my needs and when the information is relevant to me.

Initially I assumed it would only take a couple of evenings to reach ‘competency’ in the area of my desired communication abilities.  However, I was greatly surprised at how each evening brought little improvements, and I was eager to learn more … a little like mastering a musical instrument, a little practice helps a lot.

Toastmasters International has impacted on over 4 million people since it was set up by Ralph Smedley in 1924, having as its aim to help people educate themselves through better communication.   I was pleasantly surprised to find a diverse group of people attending – people of differing backgrounds and occupations (not just business people, as I had expected), but people with different expectations, needs and cultures, all wishing to improve their standard of fluency.  Each brought life experiences that influenced the meetings.  I began to notice that even those whom I perceived would have no common interests with me   taught me how to see things from a different perspective.  I began to notice that even the “dull and boring“ have their story to tell, and that by engaging with others on a social level, my horizons were broadened.

With a membership of 260,000 in 12,500 clubs worldwide there is great enthusiasm, commitment and hard work being carried out. Who would have thought that the lessons of Aristotle two millennia ago would still be practiced today to help us communicate better, and “make this world a better place”?

At the onset , I was feeling tense, quite shy and apprehensive about how  these meetings would help me achieve my goals and improve my performance, but with mentoring and encouragement I began to relax and , as I often heard at the meetings “Achieving starts with believing” I started  to believe.  I valued the opinions and recommendations I received, and welcomed them.

College graduates must possess complex communication competences, not just the ability to write and speak effectively” (Tuleja and Greenhalgh, 2008 cited in Laster and Rus, 2010). I concur with this observation and the reason why communication are an important part of my own personal development, is that I feel they are important to succeed in all areas of life.

Coming from a marketing background, I have had some experience giving presentations. I feel as I seek a career in this area, it is an area which must still be improved upon.

To be perfectly honest, I joined Toastmasters to learn how to speak without getting sweaty palms and to learn to slow the pace of my delivery. Believing that to be a leader in the marketplace would involve making credible and competent presentations. I also believed that Toastmasters would encourage me to hone in on the areas which needed improvement and by paying particular attention to my individual needs, I hoped that my feelings would become more confident and assured.  As a consequence, I hoped that with my personal growth would come poise, professionalism, and ‘panache’ at the podium. I had learnt from past members that T. M. is a great training ground, and that the great camaraderie and team spirit at the meetings would increase my knowledge and jump-start my journey to achieving greatness.  Toastmasters appeared to be a selfless type of people, very quick to extend a helpful hand, not only in their own community, but to offer condolences and financial support following the recent natural disasters that occurred in Australia and Japan in particular.

I am constantly reminded of the power of language. The power of language in my opinion, means more than that guy you see at the bar, with a silver tongue, chatting up the ladies. The power of language has widescale impacts across business and society. As I refer back to my personal development plan and particularly an analysis of my social network, I realise that those whom have excelled, are likely articulate speakers. It is thus my aim to become an articulate speaker.

The existence of a language can help define a country.  However, even within societies, it can provide a cultural identity, the way that it does when someone says “stall it to the gaff”, “let’s go chill at my crib” or “come join me in my house”. I remember watching P Diddy (African American Rapper) interview Barack Obama. I noted a slight distinction in the way Obama spoke. He took off his suit jacket in a symbolic move and conversed in a more relaxed and fluid way, he was tailoring his communication towards that specific audience.
Throughout this year, I have also noticed where language can often become one of the most important weapons in the constant jockeying-for-alpha-male status. I have found in group dynamics were certain individuals have shown an excellent command of technical terminology which has made them appear highly intelligent, whereas a florid talent for literary flourish might signal a more artistic speaker. Even a simple step to use pauses or to slow down speech can have drastic effects.

In the Global sense, I now acknowledge the crucial importance of language, communication and leadership. This is evident in almost every scenario; however, I have chosen one of my favourite speakers, Barack Obama, as a case study. As such I have looked to the examples of the current United States President and his predecessor for a study in the power of language.
George Bush had a tendency toward hard, solid, “tough guy” talk that his supporters attributed to a reputation for being strong and decisive. However when his speech was mixed with a wealth of speaking errors, it gave his detractors plenty of reason to believe he was unintelligent.
Obama is in many respects, the exact opposite, with his incredibly polished manner of speaking that gave his supporters all the evidence they needed that he was a very thoughtful, intelligent, reasonable man. However, this combined with a long-winded thoroughness that gives his detractors plenty of reason to see him as elitist and not genuine, and possibly even indecisive.

After concluding watching Obama’s recent speech (proclaiming the killing of Osama Bin Laden) I felt as though I were a proud American, and that it were, in fact, a proud day to be American. I am however, not American. After taking some time to distil the information and reflecting back, with my new perspectives gained on communication, I feel Obama is a master communicator.

I am a humanitarian. I love my fellow man. I enjoy the ideas of freedom and liberty, with which the United States supposedly live by. I thus feel that the murdering of Bin Laden is a contradiction, as is the operation that is Guantanamo Bay. In fact there are multiple abuses of liberty, another case in point being the phone tapping scandals which George bush orchestrated. The first amendment of the United States Constitution is supposed to “protect the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference.” The carefully crafted US government rebuttable came as a carefully crafted PR slogan, the war on terror.

Similarly instances like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face and which do not fit with the professed aims of the particular political parties. Thus what ensues is political language which consists largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification, or even, a war on terror. Untried “war criminals” are imprisoned for years without trial: this is called (in the case of Guantanamo), intelligence building to protect liberty and freedom. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. (This may also be seen where Fianna Fail refer to the recession as the Global Banking Crises. Here the Irish Government are stating that this was a global issue and thus playing down the Irish vulnerabilities. It also singles out only one Indusry when in fact the recession spreads across many Industries. Finally it attributes blame to the Bank officials and shifts focus away from an maybe even squishes the undesirable phrase; leadership crisis.

A recent article (StriketheRoot) which discusses the power of language gave the following example.

It asked the reader to consider a comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. It read “He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.’ Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.”

This again brought me back to Obama’s speech, where he effectively mystified the murdering of a human being. So, on the one hand, Obama’s ideology is aiming to render this violence as invisible, in order to disguise the affront to equality and hypocrisy of a “non extremist state”  it represents. Yet on the other hand, the superpower status of the US depends on people and nations being all too aware of the force which backs it up. So in this case Obama and the US seek to remain as a plausible democratic country, the land of the free. The US Government then have succeeded in transubstantiating such violence into a more peaceful and even joyous incantation, justifying it as a war on terror.

Barack Obama, is such a good communicator, that despite the above violence’s occurring during his tenor, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Another way of approaching communication is to view it as a people process rather than a language process. As such, if I am to continue making improvements in not only becoming an articulate speaker but also in general communication, I must make changes in interpersonal relationships. When I eventually reach that higher level of competency, I will be better able to capture the intensity of my feeling, whilst not using them as weapons.

One problem I have encountered throughout the year (teamwork) is where I showcase an abrasive tone. I can often appear flippant, which had led to appearance of individuals’ feelings being discounted. In actual fact, I am a highly emphatic person, and I would thus like to represent this by achieving better communication skills.

One type of alteration I have highlighted within me is in the reduction of defensiveness. I find this trait holds me back, particularly in group work in college life. Where I perceive or anticipate a threat in the group, I often become rather defensive. Even though I can still give a level of attention to the project task, I am also devoting a large portion of energy to defending myself. Besides talking about the topic, I often wonder how I appear to the other group members. What I have found is that my inner feelings and indeed outward acts sometimes create defensive postures in the other group members. Not only is this a potential barrier to optimal communication, and can even become destructive. As this stems from esteem issues, I am actively trying to address this by improving my self esteem through Toastmasters. I have also sought to eliminate negative postural, facial and verbal cues, in a bid to facilitate more open communication, within the group dynamic. Teamwork as such, is another key component of my personal development plan.

Earlier this year, I attended a seminar given by Mr. Niall Kiely of Carr Communications. It was a talk based on Communication/Presentation skills. This topic, as it turned out, would feature again in my college course. I found Mr. Niall Kiely to be an inspirational speaker. It was he whom managed to convince me to assess my own skills and consider simple improvement measures. Primarily, from a marketing background, I have given many presentations and admittedly, I had fostered a false confidence in the area. Upon reflection, I found many areas upon which I was actually weak in, and subsequently, have made suitable adjustments.

I can also link back to the immersion course of my masters, specifically to a talk re: management consultancy, an area I thought would be of great interest to me. These reflections are meant to be honest, so I will be honest. I am confident that lecturer was and is held in great esteem and he is deserving of my respect, however, I found the lecture extremely tedious and in no way engaging. In fact, I spent this time contemplating what the previous speaker had said about presentation skills: engage the audience, ask questions, change voice levels for effect etc. He had also said that a good communicator will convey his/her passion and you will remember his/her name. I don’t remember much about that consultancy talk but after consulting my notes I can say the talk was from Mr. Ken Germaine of IMCA Consulting.

I am someone with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and can find it incredible difficult to sit for long periods of time, where I am not engaged. On this occasion I not spent that session feeling detracted from the subject them (daydreaming) but, having learned about the importance of audience engagement, I grew incredibly frustrated. I have given many presentations, the intention almost always being to convey subject knowledge to an audience. I began to ponder whether I was doing enough to engage with my audiences. This too was an antecedent to starting training with Toastmasters.

Before participating in Toastmaster meetings I had read considerably about the necessary requisites for presenting a ‘smooth delivery’. The Toastmasters Programme consists of manuals containing 10 projects per manual, each with different challenges and objectives, and on completion the member is awarded certification for his/her achievement.  Many use these awards for career advancement.  Perhaps that will assist me in the future, but presently, I am concentrating on critical thinking, giving feedback, time management, planning and implementation, and organisation and delegating.  The structured programme has had a very positive effect on me by allowing me try out different methods, until I become more knowledgeable and self assured.

I can link my experience in Toastmasters to my gradual improvements in my in-class presentations. Many of my fellow class mates have noted the improvements which has been rather encouraging.

Although, an initially unexpressed aim, the experience has also allowed me to develop another area of my personal development plan. The opportunity from networking is almost unavoidable in Toastmasters. Although, I am part of the tightly knit club in Malahide, there is a wider Toastmasters “family” upon which we welcome to our club on a regular basis. As mentioned, this allows me to network with individuals from all backgrounds and across various Industry sectors.

It is also linked to the presentation workshop which I attended, as part competency building, in semester one. Taking that workshop, I picked up various actionable tips which I was able to perfect in Toastmasters e.g; analyze the audience, identify your intent, make the most of the message, structure the content, design the principles and refine your nonverbal delivery. Taking then, that particular workshop as a case study, I can express some key learnings. I can draw from that experience that often slight nerves can prompt inspiration and bring about a certain magic to my performance. However, having studied my performance on tape, I felt my evidently nervous demeanour diminishes my ability to communicate with the class room.

In Toastmaster Magazine (Jan 2010) writer Karen L. Twichell recommends several tips to alleviate stage fright. Furthermore, writer Jana Barnhill discusses (in the November edition) practical ways of blocking out self damaging behaviours when presenting. Had I have read these particular articles prior to that presentation, I would have made simple, practical adjustment which could have impacted my emotional state and contributed to a superior presentation. For example: I would have avoided caffeine on the day and used throat lozenges. Deep breathing is also advised; this would have reduced my body tension and slowed my heart rate.

The judging panel (Teaching Assistants), on that day (presentation workshop), offered back a series of evaluation points, upon which I have developed upon further through Toastmasters. The evaluation points where as follows,  note I have expressed my own evaluations also.

Teaching Assistant’s Assessment – I received a review sheet, which highlighted specific key strengths and weaknesses. Also, upon collecting this sheet a TA developed upon some of these areas. 

Personal Evaluation – I formed my opinion based not only on the TA’s assessment but also utilised additional resources. I have recently joined a Toastmasters group which is an excellent opportunity to critically evaluate presentations. I have also called upon previous experiences: previous presentations given and previous workshops attended. Finally I have read up on presentation best practises.

Volume is this a separate reflection to toast masters?

TA Assessment

I was “comfortably audible,” which for an informative presentation is said to be “about right.”

Personal Evaluation

Upon studying the footage, I agree. However although I feel my voice is active (i.e. not passive) and that I speak with authority, I do feel I could have injected more passion. One way I could project passion (in order to engage with the audience) would be to vary the pitch/tone of my voice.

Speed

TA Assessment

My speed was “brisk.” Although the review says this was “about right” I feel there is room for improvement.

Personal Evaluation

A key aspect of preparing for and delivering effective presentations is knowing your audience. There were several international students present; a slightly slower delivery with better enunciation would facilitate better communication. Also, should I use occasional pausing, it may help me to relax whilst also adding emphasis or facilitation smoother transitions of content. This tactic may also help me in reducing my tendency to use gap fillers such as “you know,” and “em.” In this particular presentation I did not use gap fillers but they are something I have used in other presentations.

Colour

TA Assessment

This aspect was deemed as “pleasantly varied.” It was believed there is an opportunity for me to become more expressive.

Personal Evaluation

I mentioned earlier, the lack of passion in my voice, this should be addressed also. Although the content was the ingredients of an informative presentation, I also used narration – telling a story about the formation of the company (a teenager sells his bike to buy a sowing machine.) The particular brand discussed is particularly vibrant and thus, my tone should reflect this.

Mannerisms (Assessment and Evaluation)

This is the area in which poses me highest opportunity for personal development.

I recently read a book called Body Language, 7 easy lessons to master the silent language, by James Borg.  Although not specifically relating to presentation skills, the underlining theme is that of communication. The old cliché says actions speak louder then words and you know what, its true. The book states that people generally remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see or 50% of what they hear and see. The author discusses “congruency of message” – i.e. do my mannerisms fit with spoken content. I would consider myself a relatively charismatic person. Yet often my mannerisms don’t reflect this. For example: I made no attempt to smile. This poses the question, if I’m not excited about being there, how do I expect the audience to engage? I feel my posture portrayed confidence yet the TAs correctly asserted that I make “too little” eye contact. (Instead I looked to the slides or the ground.)

Although not noted in the assessment, I feel I should introduce some carefully selected gestures where they can help in communicating my message.  In terms of using my hands, I feel I am quite good in this area, moving them to emphasis key points. In terms of movement, one of my class mates commended me for standing to the side of the podium. Where as many mannerisms or behaviours can create metaphorical barriers between speaker and audience (e.g. crossing arms, nervous movement) the podium represents a physical barrier.

Engagement

TA Assessment

The TAs noted that my presentation was too short to adequately engage with the audience or build report. 

Personal Evaluation

Although informative presentations are least inclined to appeal to emotions, I feel, in this case it was a missed opportunity. Brands are all about the sum of emotional attachments between consumer and company. Therefore emotional engagement is important in discussing this topic. It was for this reason that I included a YouTube clip of an advertisement. Crucially, this video had no text and was not actively trying to sell. Instead it showed cool pictures with funky music in a bid to engage particular segments with the brand.

Also, in one class, I noticed some students walking around the stage. I felt this was an excellent means of addressing each section of the audience. Another idea I could have used was to pose a question, e.g. “How many of you have heard of this brand, a show of hands please?” to entice engagement.

PowerPoint

TA Assessment

The first point made was re: introduction. Although I had a slide with our names and Title of presentation, I only quickly mentioned this. A practical solution was offered; add a picture of each of the team and properly introduce each member, and perhaps what they will be discussing.

Personal Evaluation

Another suggesting was in relation to my Youtube clip. I should have used a full screen. Another point which was made in a recent communications workshop was; it is a good idea to embed the Youtube clip within the slides.

In the past I judged myself to be an enthusiastic, passionate speaker who found it easy to rally support, and encourage people to accomplish the task in hand to the best of their ability.  I equally knew that I had many challenges and barriers to overcome, one of which was my sensitivity to perceived criticism.  By receiving evaluations in a positive, non critical way I am able to re-assess my performances and be less re-active and become more pro-active in making small behavioural changes – which reap rich rewards.

I now channel my enthusiasm and passion into creative ways to make my message memorable in fewer, more visually expressive words.  I believe that you get out of any experience what you put into it, and have noted that by being open to suggestions, and trying out different roles, I have been able to notice my improvement and keep careful track of my progress.

I feel I have greatly improved upon many key competencies since participating in Toastmasters. “A competency is effective performance of a task or activity in a job setting, due to the underlying characteristics of the individual: motives, traits, skills, self-image, social role, or knowledge and experience” – Boyatzis, R., The Competent Manager: A Model for Effective Performance, New York: Wiley, 1982.

In semester one of my masters course, I devised a competency framework. Here, I discussed key competencies under the headings of; Personal Competencies, Social Competencies and Cognitive skills.

The competencies, which I improved most, include personal competencies; leadership, communication and self management, but also social competencies, especially that of relationship building.

Personal Competencies Developed

Personal Competencies represent a set of attitudes, skills and values that are possessed by a person. This set of skills impact on an individual ability to work effectively and contribute positively to their companies, clients and profession. These competencies incorporate a wide range of abilities, including being strong written and verbal communicator, to demonstrating the value-add of their contributions, to being able to think creatively and innovatively in an always changing working environment. Four of the main personal competencies are leadership, communication, self management, and analysis.

Leadership: Leadership includes an individual’s level of self confidence and self belief.  A person with strong leadership competency remains flexible and positive in a time of continuing change. They celebrate and encourage self achievement and the achievement of others. They build an environment of mutual respect and trust, respects and values diversity

Communication: Communication skills are key personal competencies. Good communication competency incorporates presentation skills. Communication includes verbal and non verbal communication. A good communicator is able to communicate plans and ideas effectively. They also have high interpersonal listening skills.

Self Management: Self management includes the ability to recognise the value of personal career planning. Good self management allows an individual to self motivate in order to successfully complete a task. They also have the ability to understand one’s own moods and emotion. They can self regulate and control their moods and emotions. Self management gives an individual the ability to balance work, family and community obligations. Self management also includes being able to manage your own self development.  This results in an individual having the ability to understand their skill set and focus on areas for development.

Analysis: Being able to use analysis in a range of situations is a key personal competency. Being able to see the larger picture and tackle a task from multiple angles is an example of good analysis ability. An individual with analysis skills is able to recognize the balance of collaborating, leading and following they are able to take calculated risks and they plan, prioritise and focus on what is critical.

Social Competencies Developed

According to an article by Eric Trogdon in the Nations Cities Weekly he agrees that the social competency improves effectiveness amongst leaders. One such competency is that of relationships.

Relationships: this which incorporates collaboration and cooperation. Leaders who encompass this competency encourage relationship bonding allowing the free sharing of ideas. By creating a cooperative friendly workplace leaders can nurture internal and external opportunities and allows for everyone to be evolved creating a sense of self satisfaction.

Personal competencies are essential for developing and becoming leaders of tomorrow. Leadership and communication are essential components of the personal competencies which are evident in the article by Eric Trogdon (2009) which states “Our professional culture is in a generational change that will depend on leadership and communication to maintain the past lessons learned while merging new and innovative ideas”.

Aparna Nacherla (2010) conducted a study on a number of high executives which were asked to select six competencies that best characterised the most successful leaders in their organisations. According to the study 42.2% of all executives say good communication skills are necessary in becoming effective leaders. Fowlie and Wood (2009) suggest that bad leadership equates to a lack of self management and relationship management competencies. As a result of being poor at these key competencies an individual is unable to manage or lead successfully. According to Fowlie and Wood (2009) leaders should focus on developing self management and relationship management competencies.

In my earlier speeches I spoke too briskly, ‘garbling’ my words in a rush of enthusiasm, and was often over-animated, in an attempt to stamp my message home.  I am now endeavouring to speak slower and with greater vocal variety.  I will concentrate on choosing my words more carefully, and because I will speak slower I hope to have better enunciation. I have learned that it takes an objective ear to truly point out the difference between how I really sound rather than how I think I sound. Each time I am asked to give my report on the role I have performed that evening I will gain valuable experience in this regard.

I now limit the facts and break the material into logical, sequential segments.  I pause both before and immediately after relevant points for emphasis.  I am learning how best to introduce anticipation, to heighten the tension, and build to an exciting end to my speeches so that the message will be clear and forceful and the audience will leave for home with a clear, concise message in their heads ……it is a work in progress !

Instead of flailing my arms dramatically as in the past, I now introduce startling facts/humour for better rapport with the audience in place of the over-animation of my past efforts.

In terms of my own personal strengths and weaknesses, I often call upon the words of Peter Jones, of Dragon’s Den. He stated that “an inner self belief is like a cornerstone under the tallest building”. I believe that many of my perceived weaknesses where in fact esteem issues. However, Toastmasters also offered a wealth of discussed actionable steps towards becoming an excellent communicator. For example, many of the body language mannerisms highlighted to me where unconscious. Eye contact, posture and hand movements etc. provide volumes of personal information about people and therefore are inherently important in communication/presentation skills.

My experience successfully identified a number of strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps more beneficial is the emergent trend. Having completed a thorough examination of Presentation strengths and weaknesses, I have found the area which requires most attention are not areas which require simple tweaking. It suggests the areas requiring most attention are psychological issues. One article in a Toastmaster magazine discusses “self sabotage.” This is an area of study I had been unaware of but which left an indelible mark upon me. It struck a chord, as it effectively drew a picture of my relationship with presentations. The author Judi M. Bailey defines self sabotage as consciously or unconsciously blocking oneself from succeeding or accomplishing some task or project. The article highlights research conducted by the psychologist, Kevin Hogan. Hogan says that children who have been driven too hard to excel are particularly vulnerable to undermining themselves as adults. The implication is that children who had demands of being perfect develop a perfectionist mindset where they never do anything in life, because either can’t be perfect at its accomplishment. The relevancy here is that, there is no such thing as a perfect presentation and therefore I often feel defeated before stepping up to the podium. I have noticed that I procrastinate around presentation times, this is evidence of unconscious self sabotage. My main weaknesses are centred around self confidence issues. The club, with its warm environment, is designed for those who want to improve their self confidence whilst also improving communication skills. I believe this will thus continually to improve, incrementally, as I continue participating in Toastmasters.

The method I used to re-enforce my learning was to remind myself that I was and still am receiving valuable advice and I try to be open enough to follow it, knowing that it is helpful recommendations – not criticism.  By envisaging my goal, and questioning how best to achieve it, I am helped to focus.  It fascinates me why some people are involved in the organisation, people have such different goals and ambitions, but each person appears to be benefiting and feel affirmed by their participation.

During the short time I have been attending I have noted how the programme of self development has enriched our society. Some of my fellow members report that they enjoy arranging tall tales competitions and workshops for some elderly and infirm people in the locality.  The greater intimacy and expressive way of life, brought about by improved listening awareness has, I have been told, enriched the family lives of those involved in our group.  Doctors say it helps them deal with the whole person, instead of just body parts, technology and chemistry.  Educators report being more comfortable with the wide array of cultural differences they meet in the classroom daily.  Because Toastmasters makes us sensitive and show respect and reverence to diversity, the world appears to be a smaller place with all reaching out to one another.  At all our meetings we extend a cead mile failte to people who have come to live in our locality.  The multilingual members bring a richness   educationally, and socially.  The variety of dialects and colloquialisms can be challenging yet fun .

Business people have shared that due to fulfilling roles pertaining to team building e.g.  public relations, contest chair, newsletter editor ,webmaster  or General Evaluator, they have been required to practice building better teams and have gained valuable experience in conflict management.  Marketing personnel report that due to weekly practice they feel that they speak with more integrity when merchandising and advertising.   They are just a few of the people who have been. touched by the power of incorporating self belief into their daily lives.

I was able to put my learning into practical use recently.  Acting as an Assistant Football Coach, to a very opinionated group of 16 year old young men.  I became aware of a tense situation developing between the Manager and one of the team.  Their body language left all present in no doubt that it was a highly charged emotive encounter.  There was evidence of name calling, accusations, bringing up past injustices, and yelling.  Being aware that behind strong emotions sometimes lurk unexpressed thoughts/feelings, I asked both the Manager and the young man to step away from the group of onlookers and tell what had occurred.   Apparently, the young man when asked to change playing positions had judged that the manager was ‘having a go’ at him, and that the Manager had spoken with a very harsh authoritative tone. The young man felt disrespected and annoyed at not being afforded an opportunity to verbalise his feelings.  His feelings grew deeper as the Manager appeared to ignore him.  I asked a few questions for clarification, and then encouraged both to share their thoughts to me in a less confrontational manner.

The value of this exercise was that they, for the first time, could actually realise how the other was feeling, and because I gave feedback, the situation was quickly clarified and amended.  Each realised that he must be responsible for his own actions, and apologised.  I wouldn’t normally intervene, but because  I, as part of my Toastmasters training, am learning to listen , not accuse, take responsibility for my actions and when appropriate apologise, I could very easily relate to both men and the difficulty facing them. The incident made me aware of my interest in young people, how they often feel talked at, but seldom listened to – I walked in their shoes once. Later, when I have gained more experience, and improved my inter-personal skills, I hope to become involved in the Toastmasters Youth Leadership Programme, which involves visiting schools and following a set programme to help students with their presentation skills – an opportunity for them to feel listened to and develop their own strengths, as I have been helped to do at my club meetings.   By so doing, I hope to pass the torch of leadership on to others.

To paraphrase the Poet Goethe’s profound words, I hope to ‘communicate to others their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.’

Having already discussed the importance of effective communication and presentation skills, I have noted it plays an integral role in my personal development plan (PDP.) Therefore I relished the opportunity to showcase my existing skills in a recent presentation in the module “Risk in e-Commerce.” I sought out and embraced the audience’s feedback. Key improvement suggestions where offered by Liam Fitzpatrick, fellow student, particularly re: volume, tone, speed, audience engagement and mannerisms. Liam, whom was also in my undergraduate course has witnessed many of my presentations. I was delighted to hear he had noted an extensive improvement.

Furthermore, I have subscribed to the Toastmaster Magazine, of which are full of insightful articles. I have found these also, to be an excellent source of personal development.

Toastmasters International has been a catalyst for change in my life, and I thank all the members sincerely, and as I realise that the road to success is always under construction, I shall be at my next meeting in the Grand Hotel next week.

Come join the fun!

CV


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I keep hearing, reading and increasingly find myself sitting in passive learning environments where lectures try and teach me about; leadership.

I dare ye to do a CTRL + F for “leadership” on a digital newspaper or a search within the Irish Times website, I advise you to stand well back though, for fear of overload leading to explosion 🙂

“You know what the problem with Fine Fail was right; a lack of leadership”. “You know what’s wrong with the current Irish Football team, a lack of leadership”. “Breaking news; another premier league manager gets the sack”. “You know what this country needs right; it needs leadership”.

I’m  studying towards a masters in e-commerce. I’ve completed a module in; next­_generation management, whereby it states in its course objectives a bid to create a class of leaders. Can we all become leaders? I mean, surely to be a leader, you need some followers?  Furthermore, I’ve been involved in countless personal and professional initiatives, which have “leadership” as a proposed derived learning, e.g. the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award.

I’ve studied, extensively, the area of strategic organisation and management, especially with regards companies deploying ICT initiatives. Here what I consistently find is that; yes, ICT holds undeniable merit for business, yet often such initiatives are deemed as failures…the reason…you guessed it; change management i.e. leadership.

I am always working towards self improvement and have actually devised a personal development plan, where I constantly highlight and work towards achieving greater competencies, including that of leadership.

My fear though, is that leadership is becoming yet another fluffy buzz word, a go to description of an undefined concept. I have certainly witnessed it popping up a lot more in the last few years, especially where discussing failure; “oh the problem there was in leadership”.

Half of me wanted to have a rant. The other half of me wanted to find out what this thing I’m trying to be actually is.  I did some reading, reflecting, and blogging…

The complex concepts of leadership via the multidimensional concepts of management are widely studied and result in an abundance of literature. It is of great intrigue to me that, for such a commonly referred, socially embedded term (that of “leadership”) no one definition exists.

So, before going any further, I will now address this ambiguity which commonly envelopes the task of defining leadership.

Amongst the most commonly utilised definitions include that of Bennis and Nannus (1989):

“Leadership is the process of providing direction, energising others and obtaining their voluntary commitment to the leader’s vision.”

The article “Exceeding Expectations, the principle of outstanding leadership” discusses the findings of a leadership study. Central to their research was that of a series of interviews they undertook. By conducting a total of 262 interviews with 77 executive leaders and subsequently employing thorough content analysis, they were able to categorise the key, defining attributes of leadership e.g; vision, environment and relationship building, attitude towards power and control, performance, communication, self awareness and emotional intelligence.

In addition, (Bloisi et al, 2007) illustrate the “Traits that distinguish Leaders from Non-Leaders.” Discussed here is a heightened level of drive, leadership motivation, honesty and integrity, self confidence, cognitive ability and even business knowledge.

Another area of ambiguity becomes evident when discussing leadership in juxtaposition to management.

(Tiernan et al, 2006) make distinction between the two concepts. In many cases the term leadership was indicative of rank, e.g. as an ICT support team member climbs the hierarchical corporate ladder, he/she is rewarded the title of manager. Then as they

gain more followers he/she thus becomes a leader. Increasingly however, the prevailing viewpoint is that leadership and management are neither synonymous nor interchangeable terms.

Fullan (2001), writes “I have never been fond of distinguishing between leadership and management: they overlap and you need both qualities. But here is one difference that makes sense to highlight: leadership is needed for problems that do not have easy answers. The big problems of the day are complex, rife with paradoxes and dilemmas. For these problems there are no once-and-for-all answers.”

Furthermore, (Mumford et al. 2000) states “These theories have in common a focus on certain behaviour patterns and the implications of these patterns for leader performance. In contrast, however, leadership can be framed not in terms of specific behaviours, but instead in terms of the capabilities, knowledge, and skills that make effective leadership possible”.

I therefore make the informed extrapolation that whilst leadership and management are different constructs, variant in terms of competencies, characteristics and role, I concede that ICT and e-commerce initiatives rely on both. Note to self; become better leader and manager.

A CIO, for instance, as a leader, plays an imperative role in setting the strategic direction whilst also aiding its execution. However, quality management is also essential. Any company, whether that be a dynamic ICT company or not, relies on management to conquer the mundane, day to day challenges with which it faces.

This can be complemented by the work of (Kotter, 1999) where it was said, “Without good management, complex organizations tend to become chaotic in ways that threaten their very existence.” And so it can be said, “leadership complements management, it doesn’t replace it”.

The article “Leading organizations: Perspectives for a new era” further discusses the distinction between leadership and management. Although (Rost, 1981) put forward several theorists as

having already published material which highlighted the aforementioned distinction, it took an article by Zaleznik to really ignite the debate and establish this as a field of study in its own right.

In a 1977 Harvard Business Review piece (subsequently republished in 2004) Abraham Zaleznik stated not only are they examples of two different concepts but in fact they relate to two distinct types of people. He contends differences exist in their orientations towards work, goals, and towards relations with others, and themselves.

Further discrepancies could be viewed in the “conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order” (Zaleznik, 2004). Leaders, he viewed as “active” and would actively shape ideas. Managers, meanwhile, where “reactive” and thus, responded to ideas. Whilst managers see goals as impersonal, leaders use them to reflect a deeper meaning based on his/her own beliefs (and not necessarily them of the corporation). Managers are concerned with planning, negotiation, rewarding and coercing. Conversely, leaders aim to excite, inspire and support. Managers are said to portray low levels of empathy, whilst leaders relate to followers intuitively. Another key point to Zaleznik’s theory is that of “sense of self.” Managers personally identify with the corporation and thus gain rewards from its success. Leaders then are viewed as separate from their environment. They may work in a particularly company but ultimately, they don’t belong.

Zaleznik utilizes William James’ once born V’s twice born personality types to further illustrate the difference between leaders and managers.

Managers are said to be “once borns” in so far as their “adjustments to life have been straightforward and whose lives have been more or less a peaceful flow since birth.” Leaders are “twice borns,” or those whose “lives are marked by a continual struggle to attain some sense of order” (Zaleznik, 2004).

Zaleznik thus, compares the role of a leader, not to a manager but rather, to that of an artist, scientist, and creative thinker.

The attributes of an artist have been listed as follows: creationist, dreamer, inspired, determined, dedicated and someone who pushes beyond themselves to reach others. They are visionaries.

Let me halt for a moment and bring attention back to where I highlighted vision as a critical element of leadership. Leaders are said to be visionaries, and use creativity and intuition in establishing direction. CIOs, for example, are concerned with the alignment of vision in various areas, e.g.

• Direction: Vision to provide clear direction for ICT change

• Engagement: Vision to engage all employees

• Passion and purpose: Vision to establish a frame for enthusiastic and emotional connection with specific ICT projects. This may allow for superior championing of the project and encourage buy in

• Help followers view the company outside of its boundaries, encourage out of box, creative thinking amongst followers.

My course lecturers are urging students to emerge as leaders. Bennis (1989) discussed how managers “surrender to the context” yet leaders “master the context.” Considering the fast paced, dynamic and competitive nature of ICT, it is imperative that students like me can step up to the plate and lead strategic ICT change in my career.

Now, off to become a leader…

The Purple Bus, which I travelled around Europe in, had been christened and reincarnated several times. The “Barney Bus,” ( because its purple) the “Science Communication Bus,” and the “Turin Bus.” However, it was Irish Times writer Claire O’Connell, that coined the term, the “Boffin Bus” (See Article)

However, we ambassadors are not merely Boffins. But hey, we don’t take offence; we’ve built our metaphorical bridge and gotten over it. Yes, we are more then a bunch of science geeks, we are innovators, well kind of

The Obstacle

The Obstacle


The scene was set in Nice, France, approximately, 5 minutes away from our Hotel… so close but yet so far. We encountered a bridge. Uh Oh!

So, seen as we didn’t have any helmets, we agreed it was time instead, to get our thinking caps on. A chance to put our science and engineering “expertise” into practise, we thought. Mark, or “Otto,” the driver, parked the bus up and the debates commenced.

Did we have to go under the bridge? Was there another route? What where the options available to us? Could we build a ramp out of the mountains of promotional materials on board? If so, to what height and trajectory degree would the design spec be, and, how much momentum would be needed?

Michelle Takes Charge

Michelle Takes Charge

There was a car park just next to us, which lead to an alternative route… but the gate would be locked until 5 am… Hmm, not exactly convenient, but at least we would not resort to deflating air out of the tyres and/or the hydraulic suspension.

We had the measurements of the bridge, 4.3 metres, now we had to measure the height of the bus. Unfortunately, Kevin, our resident gadget guru, was stumped. Frantically flicking through his iPhone Apps, but alas, his dismay became evident… no result, no App for the measuring of double decker busses… who knew?

"Otto" Takes a Rest

"Otto" Takes a Rest

It was time to go old school. We took our mini flag posts, stuck them together, and measured the bus. Ingenuity in progress, we sought to “bridge the gap” from classroom science and engineering to solving a real world problem. Next, we measured the bridge, we where close but no cigar, I suspected.

Michelle reckoned we where only but a whisker away, and that we would nearly make it. Well, nearly never won the race, nearly never entered!

Meanwhile, “someone,” suggested the application of the very scientific “JDI” or “Just Do It” approach. Albeit this unknown “someone” made this suggestion in a funny accent, a poor attempt to mask their identity. (It didn’t work Kevin. You can take the Derryman to France, but you can’t quite take the Derry out of the man.)

Ellen, Martin and Ronan Measure the Bus

Ellen, Martin and Ronan Measure the Bus

Some were confident we would clear the height upon entry, but to throw a spanner into the works, it appeared that the road was rising. Even a slight gradient would be a BIG problem.

A defeatist shaking of heads ensued, signalling our unspoken decision to park the bus up and catch a taxi to the hotel… at least until 5 a.m.

But hey, that’s all water under the bridge now, as we found an alternate route, through that car park, and are now galloping, full steam, towards our next destination.

Beep Beep… Toulouse, here we come!