Next month I will move to London and therein end (or postpone) a relationship I’ve had with Dublin City University for the last 5 and a half years. Considering I also completed my undergraduate studies at DCU, I’ve now spent eight and a half years of my adult life at DCU, nine and a half if I include Erasmus.
What does that mean for me? Well, if truth be told I feel integrated into DCU life and that’s something that I will find hard to turn my back on. I was part of DCU, a university with big ambition and some very dynamic people. As well as doing meaningful work, I’ve made some good friends at DCU. Unlike corporate environments where at times, people can put on a professional front, in a University people can be, and are expected to be themselves. As I look ahead, I find it difficult to align myself with a single profession. In DCU I’ve been lucky to wear a lot of hats! I have managed over 150 funded projects with industry from SMEs through to multinational companies. I coordinated the online delivery of a Masters in Management (Social Enterprise). I’ve taught students from undergrad through to postgrad level and I’ve supported mature students returning to education after a long time. That might not sound like much but consider what we take for granted as everyday tools such as Moodle, webinar technology, Google Apps and online library databases, returning to education can be a huge challenge. This becomes an even bigger challenge when ones thinks of part time exec students who are used to being the boss in their organisation and now find themselves working on teams with their student colleagues.
Life before DCU
After a short but reasonably successful (in terms of promotions etc.) career in financial services, my girlfriend, now fiancé and I packed our bags in 2008 and set off on a yearlong round the world trip. I left a well-paid corporate banking position at Ulster Bank that I liked, a lot. I had been growing in confidence in my position and abilities and I had spent the previous year and a half making a huge effort to integrate myself into the organisation and get to know colleagues across lots of different departments. This is something that not everybody did. Banks, like civil service organisations can be, or at least were quite segmented organisations. Upon reflection, I realise that building these internal relationships has been one of my strengths as it has often allowed me to bypass bureaucracy and get things done more quickly than other colleagues. Anyway, I was in the career stream and had a manager who believed in my abilities and took every opportunity to highlight my achievements to senior management. In 2008 when I handed in my notice, Ireland was very much on the precipice of a new reality that we now simply call “the Recession”. Back then though, nobody wanted to talk about recession and instead used words like “soft landing” and in the banking world where I worked – “the credit crunch”. The day that I handed in my notice and told my boss that I was going to leave this great job to go backpacking, he told me that I had just been promoted but it hadn’t been made official yet. He asked me if I was sure about what I was doing. After all he said, the Ireland that I would return to in 12 months might look very different to the Ireland that we were in then. For years during the boom, young people had been leaving good jobs to go and hang out in Sydney for a year only to walk straight back into their old jobs when they returned. My boss and I knew that those days were over. Sure enough, when I arrived back in Ireland a year later I met that boss and another Director of the bank for lunch and they told me of the organisation wide recruitment freeze. In an odd twist, I learned of a colleague who had started at the same time as me was offered a redundancy and was going to stick the payment in his back pocket and …… go travelling for a year. Good for him I thought!
Returning to education
I wasn’t heartbroken though. As much as I had loved working in corporate banking, I never dreamt of working there as a child (who does?) and so I went back to education to do a Masters in eCommerce at Dublin City University. As depressing as those days were in 2009 from an economic point of view, I felt quite positive and looked forward to learning new things and creating new opportunities. The course was tough. There is something about Business School education that seems to demand so much from course participants. It’s not just about good time management. The workload was huge, partly due to a brand new 20 credit module which was being piloted that year and also the amount of team work involved. Once team work is introduced to the mix, you are no longer in control of your own schedule. When working on multiple teams on multiple projects, it can be incredibly difficult to coordinate times to meet and work together. Sounds like no big deal? Throw personal commitments such as relationships and working to pay the bills into the mix. Personal relationships are most certainly challenged! I experienced that but I have seen it time and time again since I have worked in DCU. But that’s for another post. Still, one of the great things about completing the programme that year more so than any other year of that programme before then or since is that there was a diverse range of people participating. I was not the only one returning to education and trying to define a new path for myself! There was a good balance of genders and the age range went from 22 – 50.
University life or back to corporate?
At the end of the year, the Course Chair who I had gotten to know asked me if I would like to come and work with him as his Research Assistant. The job would not be well paid but I would have opportunities to work on some very interesting projects and with some interesting clients, continue learning, work with smart people and do some travelling. At the very same time, my old boss from Ulster Bank got in touch to let me know that a position comparable to the one that I had left two years previously had become available and would I like to return. That was a tough decision to call. The Ulster Bank position was far more lucrative and offered a clearly defined career path. DCU on the other hand wasn’t well paid and had no clear career path. It did however offer me the chance to continue learning and work in education. It was a tough decision to call. At the time there was a lot of negative press about the banks. This certainly had an effect on me. I recall meeting up with a former colleague to ask their advice on what I should do and I remember they implored me NOT to come back. The bad press, the pressure to manage toxic relationships and loan facilities of clients who were no longer able to meet their commitments and new regulatory requirements meant that the working atmosphere in the bank wasn’t what I had remembered. In the end I made a decision based on values. I valued learning and further, I realised that there are few careers more satisfying and valuable than education. I wanted to create value by supporting SMEs and teaching. I found it difficult to see value in calling in bad debts. And so in the spirit of Robert Frosts “The Road Not Taken”, I chose the less trodden and less clearly defined path of DCU.
So what’s the goal of this meandering post? Well, for anyone that takes the time to read it, I just wanted to rationalise why, in 2010 I made the career choice to work in DCU rather than in banking. Also, I’ve already highlighted some of the types of work that I did while in DCU but I would also like to record some highlights of my time at DCU in terms of fun and interesting experiences. This is as much for my own benefit as anyone reading! For potential employers, hopefully this post will convince you that I haven’t spent the last four and a half years sitting in an office reading books!
- 2010 Attended World Expo in Shanghai, China
- 2010 Returned to Shanghai to deliver a series of Social Media Marketing Bootcamps at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade
- 2011 Attended the BETT Show, the world’s leading technology in education trade show
- 2011 Research trip to the United States. Drove from Boston to New York and then New York to San Francisco. Flew from San Francisco to LA. Along the way we visited:
- University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
- Centre for Talented Youth, John Hopkins University, Baltimore
- Velocidi, New York
- Enterprise Ireland, New York
- Slingshot SEO, Indianapolis, Indiana
- University of Illinois, Chicago
- PayPal, Omaha, Nebraska
- Intellectual Ventures, MountainView, California
- Klout, San Francisco
- ClickStream Technologies, San Francisco
- Happeo, San Francisco
- School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California
- 2011 Coordinated and led a research trip to Bangalore India for Masters Students. The trip included visiting companies such as:
- Microsoft Research Labs
- Professional Access
- Project Management Group
- Attended a 2 day Search Engine Marketing conference
- Google Labs
- IBM Innovation Centre
- We also attended a two day Search Engine Marketing Summit where we got to learn about the state of search marketing in India.
- 2011: Coordinated and led a research trip to Shanghai and Beijing, China for Masters Students. Some highlights included:
- Visiting the Irish community in Shanghai
- Visiting Tourism Ireland to learn about how they are packaging Irelands value proposition as a leisure destination for Chinese travellers
- Visiting Ireland House to learn about the local activities of Enterprise Ireland and the IDA
- Meeting the Head of Marketing (an Irish lady) at PepsiCo for the APAC region and learning about marketing in a very different cultural environment than what we are used to in Ireland
- Walking the Great Wall of China
- Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing
- 2012: Attended the Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, Nevada
- 2012: Delivered a two day Digital Marketing Bootcamp for UK Business School Deans at Cass Business School, City University London
- 2012: Coordinated and launched an online Masters in Business Management (Innovation in Social Enterprise) to be delivered to social entrepreneurs in Ireland and Wales
- 2013: Delivered a 2 day digital marketing bootcamp to social entrepreneurs at University of Bangor, Wales
- 2013: Tokyo Japan. Business meetings and delivered a social media workshop to business students at Musashino University.
- 2014: Coordinated Irish researchers to go to Japan in a drive to increase collaboration with Japanese companies, research institutions and universities. The four-day visit, organised by ISCA Japan (Science Foundation Ireland’s new Ireland-Japan science collaboration programme), in close cooperation with IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Embassy of Ireland in Japan focused on information and communications technology research with a particular emphasis on big data analytics and cloud computing. The visit commenced on September 30th and included meetings with leading Japanese and multinational corporations, research institutions and universities to present Irish ICT research and identify opportunities for collaboration. It culminated in a one-day conference on Friday, October 3rd at the Delegation of the European Union in Japan, entitled “EU-Japan R&D Cooperation, Horizon 2020 and the Irish ICT Research Opportunity.” With over 100 attendees, the conference was addressed by representatives of the European Union, the Japanese and Irish Governments, Fujitsu Laboratories, and the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
- 2015: Coordinated and led a research trip to Bangalore India for Digital Marketing Masters students. We stayed in the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. As well as attending a number of sessions for educating expats on doing business in India, the trip included visiting companies such as IBM Innovation Centre, Edelman India and IPG Media Brands India. We also built in a number of cultural visits including a visit to Mysore, one of South India’s most famous tourist destinations ,known for its magnificent monuments and buildings including its World Heritage listed palace.
- On top of all of this, I have organised a number of conferences covering topics such as Social Media, Start Ups, Mobile Technology and Cloud Computing.
I could write blog posts about each of these highlights. Perhaps I will reflect on that another day. In the meantime, I look forward to the challenge ahead in London with mixed emotions