Our Experience in the Room series continues with Andrew Rea, Head of Professional Services at ESRI Ireland, and a past participant of the Henley MBA. He shares his story of how instrumental the Henley MBA was to his career and his organisation.
What is your career background?
I’ve been working in Professional Services delivery in the IT sector for over 28 years, starting my career as a software developer for McKeown Software Ltd. During my time with McKeowns I developed an interest in the management of people, projects and services delivery which has been at the core of my career ever since. Over the last eighteen years, I’ve held various positions in McKeown Software, Nua, Arconics and Cow & Gate.
My career has focused on leading software development and consultancy services across verticals such as Financial, Logistics, Content Management, Information Architecture and Geographical Information systems in both the product and bespoke arenas. I’m currently working with ESRI Ireland, the leading Geographical Information (GI) solutions. As Head of Professional Services, my role involves leading the professional services team in delivering GI Solutions to our customers.
Why did you choose the Henley MBA?
My role in ESRI Ireland involves managing the operational activities of the department (a team of nearly 40 people), providing strategic direction for the department and contributing to overall company strategy. I selected the IMI Henley MBA because I believed that this programme would help me to be more successful in this role and provide me with enhanced skills in leadership, in managing people, financial management and in strategic thinking.
The flexible approach combined with the applied leaning style provided by the Henley MBA was something that I thought would be very beneficial. I could achieve my MBA while at the same time applying the learning in a practical way within Esri, and gain insights and learning from the experiences of peers on the course and from the IMI community.
What were the highlights?
It is difficult to pick highlights out of the MBA because it was all so applicable to my objectives and my career. If I were to pick one though, it was the opportunity to have an interaction with experts in the various subject areas. This, combined with, being able to share experiences with people in different industries made the experience really invaluable. Similarly, being able to apply the learning directly to my work environment through the assignments was excellent and allowed me to demonstrate the value of the MBA to the organisation.
What were the challenges?
The biggest challenge for me was my own time, balancing work, personal life & study time. Maintaining a consistency with all of these factors across the three years required a lot of planning and sacrifice personally and from my family. Also, it had been a long time since I’d done anything academic and the prospect of launching into this was very daunting. In saying this, there was plenty of support to get through this from Henley and the IMI team.
What impact has the MBA had on your career?
It is still early days for me as I’ve just completed the programme. I can say though, that there has been a change in both my Personal Development and in my leadership in work. I know that I’ve grown as a leader and have developed a more rounded, authentic leadership style. My perspective has evolved to being more strategic in nature and is now focused on “leading” my department and Esri Ireland as opposed to “managing” it. I now feel that I can rise to whatever opportunities and challenges lie ahead. It’s an exciting time.
What impact has the MBA had on your organisation?
The programme has had a direct impact on my organisation and one that started almost immediately. The MBA is structured so that you apply your learning to real work scenarios and therefore from the very first module until the very last, ESRI Ireland has and is benefiting from my Henley and IMI experience. The learning and development that has been brought to the organisation as a result of this MBA has impacted the performance of my team in achieving our margins, growing the team and increasing our value to our parent organisation.
What is your advice to people planning further study?
If I were to provide any advice it would be to plan how you are going to balance all of the demands of your time, i.e. home, work, study etc. Sit down and agree this plan with your family. Make sure that it is something that you will enjoy and that you can see the benefits of, this will help get you through the times where you are exhausted and hitting that study wall. Also, listen to the people administrating the course, it will be the first time you have done it but they’ve done it hundreds of times, heed their advice.
I’ll leave you with one thought which sums it up for me – in the words of Gail Devers “Every accomplishment starts with a decision to try”