Month: October 2019

Discovering tech for social good in Nairobi

Life is about choices, which career to pursue, graduate school to join, or elective to select – all to achieve the goals some of us are fortunate to choose to set and attain. An elective Technology for Social Good that took place in Nairobi, the pulsing heart of Kenya is new on the MBA curriculum. We sometimes choose our electives by the expected learning scope, not expecting that we can be the living contributor to the course environment itself.

This exciting elective was a result of an ambitious initiative of Professor Alessandro Giudici, who connected his passion for impact entrepreneurship with enormous academic and hands-on knowledge in Strategy; and a masterful on-the-ground course organization by Koby Cohen, a Cass alumni and entrepreneur, to deliver an interactive full 6-day study tour in Nairobi – one of the most vibrant cities in the East Africa.

Our schedule was packed with site visits to tech hubs and coworking spaces – the thriving centres of social entrepreneurship and innovation spread out across Nairobi. One of them was E4Impact Innovation Hub, an accelerator that has been a nest for impact-driven entrepreneurs in sectors like agritech, social housing, and green energy. All of the startups had incredible community outreach and demonstrated social impact. How astonished we were to know that the hub even hosts Nairobi Space Days!

Kenya is tech-savvy. Today the country is home to more than 200 startups worth of USD1bn. With most of these headquartered in Nairobi, the capital has been unsurprisingly named ‘Silicon Savannah’.

Over the course of the tour, we visited successful startups that have over the past decade shaped Kenya’s innovation landscape – such as M-Pesa, an ultimate leader in mobile payments, BRCK – a revolutionary off-grid internet provider and Ushahidi, a crisis management platform. We learned how these success stories reinvented themselves by supporting the startup ecosystem and reinvesting their gains to support the new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. My cohort and I were touched by the questions that were asked to us by the 14- and 15-year old students of the M-Pesa Foundation Academy, a state-of-art high school for high-potential young students from underprivileged backgrounds. They were bold and driven; they knew what they wanted and were unafraid to ask us why and how. In reality, we were lucky to meet these future leaders of Kenya.

One of the hubs, iHub, allowed us to attend a live pitching event for startups seeking seed funding. Kenyans and entrepreneurs from other countries presented to investors, often from a webcam! Their ideas were incredible and their pitches focused on how tech can enhance the lives of the communities, to make education, sanitation, health care and light accessible, or how to make farming more efficient.

I found the biggest benefit of the course was the opportunity to meet many young, passionate entrepreneurs who are thriving despite challenges. It was wonderful to witness how a moral choice to address the real needs and determination to find real solutions through application of technology can generate a tremendous impact for thousands, and millions of people.

A visit to Kenya makes you realise one thing – Africa has unlocked your mind and opened your eyes. And all you want is become part of this honourable journey that will change lives.

Anastasiia Liashchenko, Executive MBA in Dubai (2019)

Networking

A friend of mine and I were having coffee.

She was about to quit her job and was sharing her story: “The Vice President of the company has done a lot for me. I was out of a job and out of hope when he approached his senior management and created a designation that never existed before – just for me. He convinced them and hired me here.”

I was baffled by the fact that someone could just create an opening that did not exist before. Fast forward few years, I was contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn for a job that was not advertised on the company website. Fast forward few more years, I realised that this is not unusual. 60 – 70% of jobs are never advertised. As surprising as it sounds, it is true.

As it turns out, there is a way to access this “hidden” market – networking! A lot of importance is given to this aspect at Cass and as part of this, Mr Will Kintish was invited for a session. Of the many things learnt during this session, here are the ones that I left the room thinking about:

  1. Networking is a gradual process.

 It organically grows over time and we need to be patient for at least eight-nine months. There are three phases:

First – knowing. A good introduction plays crucial part (I talk more about this in my third point).

Second – liking. If I am not sending out good vibes, the other person is neither going to want to spend further time with me, nor is going to be open to listening me.

Third – trusting. In Amy Rees Anderson’s words, “trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.” The best way to build trust in professional relationships is by being reliable.

  1. Taking the anxiety out when at an event full of unknown people.

 It is quite natural to be nervous and confused while attending a networking event. Keep in mind this simple three step process for approaching this kind of situation comfortably:

First – Preparing and planning. When planned and prepared for attending any event, one feels far more comfortable, stays in control and enjoys the event. It is helpful to consider these seven key words while accepting any invitation: Who? What? Where? When? How? Which? Why?

Second – working the room. Every room has:

  • Individuals – they don’t know anyone and don’t know how to break the ice. They are praying for someone to talk to them.
  • Open couples and trios – feel free to go over and join them – they want to meet you like you want to meet them.
  • Closed couples and trios – their body language is saying we are comfortable as we are for the moment but come back later.
  • Bigger groups – only enter when you know someone.
  • Rude people – don’t give them a second though, just move on.

Knowing this structure helped me better understand my audience and know where I will have higher chance of being welcomed.

Third – follow up. For this, exchanging business card and writing down details on it is a good way to remember the details and not miss out on following up.

  1. How to introduce yourself effectively?

Introduction can be broken into four parts:

First – name. Repeating the name “I am Sushmita. Sushmita Nad” helps the other person remember it, while creating an effect.

Second – title. Saying what defines me, for example “I am a recruiter,” will help lead to a conversation post-introduction.

Third – what problems do I address? Your job title might not be very clear or it might mean different things to different people. Adding little description like “I like to find people and then help them find what they want” will serve as ice breaker.

Fourth – prompt. Everyone’s favourite topic is themselves! Ending the introduction with “tell me about yourself” and taking genuine interest in the answer opens the person up for further conversation.

It was helpful to know that networking can be broken down to such small yet effective steps. Now, it is time to work on these and inculcate them.

Sushmita Nad, Full-time MBA (2020)

Visualise, Hear, Feel

Ever heard of the 60-30-10 rule? No, I am not talking of the classic décor rule. I am talking about the Harvey Coleman model.

According to Harvey Coleman model, performance is just 10% when it comes to career success. Pretty disappointing, isn’t it? After all that hard work you put in to do a good job, and then, a little better.

Well, the good news is that we know what the key is! The large 90% chunk (30% image and 60% exposure), is presentation. Presentation here does not just define a PowerPoint presentation slides you talk though during meetings, it defines YOU. It defines the way you present yourself to others. It defines how engaged you are and how well you project your good work.

Harvery Coleman Model

Harvery Coleman Model

One of many interesting takeaways I have had from presentation sessions at Cass by iOpener is that the abbreviation VHF does not always stand for Very High Frequency, it stands for Visualise, Hear and Feel. These three words define the only three categories of audiences you will come across in any kind of presentation you deliver.

To be an effective presenter, it is important to understand, connect and engage with your audience. To do so, knowing and learning about these three words becomes important.

Visualisea picture is worth a thousand words

From a formal presentation perspective, this means you need to include pictures wherever possible. Although, keep in mind that slides are just an aid and you are the presenter.

From a general presentation perspective, this means the way you stand, walk and use your hands.

  1. Stand – Stand on both legs, roll your shoulders back and keep your hands in Pivotari position.
  2. Walk – Stay grounded. Don’t move around much, this will affect the way you think and projects you as a nervous and confused individual.
  3. Use hands – Free up your hands, let them flow naturally and take the space to convey your message effectively.

Using these techniques adequately projects you as a more confident person.

Hear“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”- Peter F. Drucker.

Throughout evolution, we were designed to hear what is not said; you are conveying a lot more than just your words. The PPPE – pitch, pace, pause, and emphasis tell a lot more than your words do. Be sure to be low and slow most of the time. A slight rush is fine when you are excited about something.

Pausing at right places can create a tremendously different effect on the speech. Often, doing so helps to regain the attention of your audience.

Feel“They may forget what you said; but they will never forget how you made them feel.”- Maya Angelou.

This category is a tricky one. People notice almost everything. Your facial expression, your tone, your body language, and the words you use. If you are saying something that you don’t believe in – trust me, it will come out quite evidently. Practice is the solution here.

As our Leadership Development Specialist Lorraine Vaun-David says, “people who get invited to Ted Talk are great presenters. Even then, each one of them is required to practice at least once with the Presentation Coach a day before they are on stage.”

I hope you found this useful and that next time you present something, you will remember these tips.

the good news is that we know what the key is! The large 90% chunk (30% image and 60% exposure), is presentation.

Sushmita Nad, Full-time MBA (2020)

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