About 70+ students clamoured to the 17th floor of the Shard in central London at noon on 24th October 2019, having shaken of the spitting rain that came down on us in the 10 seconds between the London Bridge Tube Station and the Shard entrance.
Going up the eerily still elevators, I came across LEARNING 1. The Shard towers up to a magnificent 95 floors, however only 72 of these are habitable. Within the first 28 floors of offices and management suites, part of floor 13 and floor 17 is occupied by Warwick Business School.
This is followed by 3 floors of restaurants (Aqua Shard, Oblix and Hutong), 19 floors of the Shangri-La Hotel, 13 floors of residential apartments and London’s highest public viewing gallery.
Our first event was an insight into the Consulting Sector, with representatives from Tata Consultancy Services, Simon-Kucher and Partners, McKinsey & Company, JCURV, EY, Centre for Public Impact and BCG, who had given up their time to come speak to us. Divided into syndicates of about 8-9 people, we had the fantastic opportunity to get know the expert minds behind these successful businesses, in the lush offices that overlooked the city of London. (Thank you to Steve Sanders, Elsy for the pictures below)
LEARNING 2 for me was changing my conventional perception of ‘consultancy’ – in terms of its industry-driven specialisms: finance, technology, healthcare, environmental, and so on. JCURV brought a new perspective to light, through their focus on delivering ‘agile’ methodologies to improve businesses sustainability. I was particularly fascinated learning how the term ‘agile’ can be mis-interpreted, and the challenges faced in working with businesses to come up with their own version of agile (i.e. principle behaviours).
LEARNING 3 came in the wrap up session, with the speakers summarising the ideal traits of a consultant into 2 distinct categories: 1. BE CURIOUS, be tenacious and passionate about your job. Be willing to constantly learn and adapt to change. 2. LISTEN to the specific needs of the client. In order to solve a problem, you need to understand it first!
The afternoon had the Finance Sector insights in store for us. In a similar format to the morning, we met with representatives from Credit Suisse, Credit Enable, JDX Consulting, L&G Investments, PayBiz Consulting, Mastercard, BMO Asset, Steady Pay and Bottomline Technologies. I have to credit James for aptly capturing the essence of the afternoon, above. As someone who had attended this session to get a feel of ‘life in the Finance Sector’, I was surprised by the diversity of functions within the Finance sector, which covers Banking, Investments, Consulting, R&D/Innovation, Asset and Wealth Management, etc.
For me (that’s me! on the left, professionally taken by Supat), LEARNING 4 came from drawing comparisons between Finance and Consulting. There were two key trends (in the form of challenges) that kept re-appearing in discussions, across both sectors:
1) Growth of technology and its command over business strategy, processes and implementation.
2) Excessive availability of data, and finding optimal ways to manage and exploit this information for business gain.
Pushing the boundaries even further, beyond consulting and finance, I think it is safe to say that these two trends are dominating all job functions, across all industries.
Wrapping up the day, the evening grew closer, and the London night lights came to life. The 17th floor started to hustle and bustle with chatter between students, speakers, staff and alumni – it was a warm, friendly and spectacular environment to be part of.
As a woman in business, it was inspiring for me to be around talented, hardworking female figures in this mix. And yet, I could not put out of my mind, a statistic I came across yesterday. LEARNING 5. As of 2019, accordingly to the Fortune 500 Companies List, only 6.6% of CEOs in the 500 are women. There are many companies who are trying to create platforms to support women with challenges faced in the workplace, but despite this, we seem to have decades and decades of work laid out ahead of us.
I don’t have hope… I have certainty that this will change, as women continue to empower each other, and as cohorts of women in business continue to enter and thrive in their fields. Working with these fabulous ladies this year, (and the idea of this extrapolated to women in all the business schools across the globe), I am excited just thinking about our future leaders and bosses.
Yes, the future is sustainability. It is technology. It is data. It is emerging economies. It is social awareness & growth.
But, the future is also female.