My Irish Spring – The Trinity Business School Forum (Wednesday)


Wow… How long has it been since I’ve done an international trip? How much longer since I’ve gone international solo?

Let’s see. The last international trip was to Scotland, right before the Pandemic hit. When I had that really bad flu… right before the Pandemic. With COVID. That presents sort of like a flu. That I’ve somehow avoided getting, as if I’d already gotten it and gained an immunity… Okay we’re not going down that road the last time I went abroad was January 2020. Three years and change.

The last time I went on a solo international trip? Well, that’d be New Zealand, back in 2012. 11 years.

It’s high time I explored.

I got accepted to Trinity College’s MBA program back in November, and accepted the offer that same month… though I delayed admission until 2024, to give me some time to finish up in Oregon and save up a bit more money. While talking to the admissions officer though, I learned about a Business forum put on by Trinity in March – a perfect opportunity for me to stretch my international adventure legs and see if Dublin would make a good home for a year or three!

I planned, I packed, and I set off on my first solo international trip in over 10 years…

(Please note that these are my raw notes from the trip. I’m proofreading them for obvious mistakes… but they’re still short-hand. Because life is busy, and blogs don’t need to be perfectly edited.)

Wednesday, 08-Mar-2023

The day of the business forum!

I’d confirmed my spot with Eoghan earlier on Tuesday, and so found myself checking in and grabbing a cup of coffee at 9am in the lobby of the Trinity business school. I’d actually set an alarm the previous evening, but thankfully

See notes, but it worked well. Networked with quite a few people, and made a ton of linkedin connections. Learned quite a bit about Trinity, and Dublin as a whole, and even had an unexpected discussion bear fruit in the form of a possible startup idea.

<See Ben’s notes, added below, since they’re kind of extensive and unique to his interests and mindset at the time>

After the forum, I debated trying to track down some of the students and alumni at a nearby pub… but it’s my vacation, and an important part of that vacation is being honest with myself about energy levels and what I want to do. After a full day of socialization and “being on”, I wanted to head home.

So I did, by way of a nearby sushi place for dinner, I quickly found myself relaxing and heading to bed.

Ben’s Notes:

First Keynote
: Ricky Rose, CEO of Mountain Productions (a stage-building / equipment sales company)

  • Built his company by focusing on “adjacent opportunities” – Instead of diversifying and growing their core team, they’d create new teams to chase down new opportunities, allowing the core team to focus on optimizing and excelling at their main goals
    • Thought – Can we do this with our group?  Maybe let individual engineers “spin off” their own team by hiring short-term contractors and letting people take a part time “project manager” role until it’s completed?
  • His company makes extensive use of bionics… asked about tips on getting better usage from the operators, but he didn’t have any clever insights – Mountain Productions got the best results from brute force.  “Use the exoskeleton, or don’t work for us”
  • Works with German Bionics, recommended that we reach out to discuss expanding from just Ekso

Panel – “Forging good careers”

  • No major takeaways, more focused on the undergrads in the audience, giving a general conversation about leveraging your career and internships
  • Worth presenting to our interns, however:
    • Make sure to keep transparent conversations with interns about their goals, and help them connect with people who can help
      • We already do this, but worth keeping focus on
    • Importance of leveraging small events, such as meetings with alternative groups and interactions during timing studies
      • We already do this too, but worth keeping focus on

Masterclass – “Leading age-diverse teams”

  • Codify the interview process – Have objective measures that are clearly defined, in order to eliminate subconscious biases
    • Recommendation – Consider creating a standard process for interviews, including the following:
      • Pre-interview meeting with the interviewers, to discuss the goals and needs of the position
      • Create tangible metrics to judge candidates on, and print out that “scorecard” for each interviewer
      • Include a section for intangibles, maybe titled “would I want to work with this person?”
      • Review scores immediately afterward, and let people explain their reasoning
  • Discussed the idea of “servant-leadership”… an interesting concept, but may not be applicable
  • Recommended training complex skills, such as sudoku or chess, as a way to mitigate the impact of aging on people’s psyche
  • Noted a study showing that age doesn’t correlate to tech skills – younger professionals don’t show better computer skills than older workers.
  • Quoted a book by Peter Drucker, “Managing Oneself”
  • Mentioned including “Psychometric analysis” as part of annual goal setting
    • Focus on what individual workers want
    • Statistically, older workers want meaning to their work and opportunities to mentor & pass on their knowledge, instead of higher pay

Masterclass – “Behavior Modification & the self-fulfilling prophecy”

  • Focused on things like Google Analytics and Facebook Statistics
  • Analytic prediction websites are hitting the limit of their prediction algorithms… so it’s more effective for them to try and manipulate user behavior to match predictions, versus refining predictive models further.
    • That’s terrifying
  • Implementing “nudging”, “herding”, and “conditioning” among userbase
    • Including random rewards is statistically more effective than defined rewards
    • Thought – Can we implement this in a non-evil way in the office?  I can’t think of anything offhand… but worth considering
  • Reinforcement learning was mentioned… worth reading into

Panel – EDI in Scaling Businesses

  • EDI = “Ethics, Diversity and Inclusivity”
  • Implementing EDI in business statistically gives an average of 19% increased growth vs. not implementing it
    • Their sample set appeared a skewed toward small startups in European countries.  Which is fine… but less applicable in Oregon
  • “Be decent people… but have a plan to do so”
    • Ties in with the recommendation above, regarding interviews
  • Recommendation – Do some form of annual subconscious bias training
    • Perhaps nest this in with the pre-interview meetings?  Walk people through some subconscious biases that people may have, and give them a few tools to detect them and negate them?
    • This could be wrapped up into the “objective interview metrics” option
  • Thought – we have a fairly diverse production floor… can we leverage that somehow?  Maybe get some folks from the floor to act as part-time IE Techs, or QATs?

Second Keynote: Iseult Ward, CEO of FoodCloud (A food re-distribution startup focusing on global food insecurity)

  • Raises money by helping companies limit food waste, and thus trash costs
  • Uses that money to redistribute that food waste to at-risk populations
  • “Focus on finance and operations teams.  If you don’t get their buy-in, you won’t get sustained continuous solutions”
    • Yeah, I’ll appreciate that shout-out!
    • Thought – Can we get some conversations started with our finance team?  What pain points do they see?  Can the IE team help mitigate them?
  • Find a problem, save money by solving the problem, and then find a way to monetize that solution.

Panel – Leading Inclusion from the inside out

  • “Diversity is a fact, inclusivity is a feeling”
  • Recommendation – Codify an exit-interview policy.  By regularly finding out why people are leaving, we could stop an issue before it become endemic
    • This could tie in nicely to Surinder’s 2023 roadmap “increase employee retention” target
  • “Overhaul means overwhelm” – Don’t implement all changes at once.  Do it slowly, to let people get used to the changes.  Staggered rollouts.
    • Thought – How can we include this into floor re-layouts?  We already include the leads… maybe ask them to solicit advice?
  • “Lead by example” – Make sure CEOs take paternity leave and vacation, to empower employees to do the same.
    • Thought – How can the IE team lead the floor by example?  Clearly and confidently documenting work, owning mistakes, and using new changes we’re pushing to the floor.
    • Example: Maybe we re-arrange the IE seating chart when we re-arrange the floor?  “Put your money where your mouth is”, so to speak?
  • Recommendation – Do “How does Raytheon feel” interviews with our interns at the beginning, and then at the end, of their internships.
    • Do this with people they haven’t interacted with, who they feel comfortable with, maybe as a split-level?
  • Middle management is the most important group in this situation – They’re the “boots on the ground” that interact with the most people overall
    • I swear, this isn’t just stroking egos.  It was really in the panel discussion.

Panel – Building an inclusive and Agile organization through freelancing

  • Hire freelancers or contractors to prototype a new project, instead of risking full-time employees
  • Pro-actively recruit for diversity – Ask diverse employees for recommendations
  • This panel was, frankly, less interesting… it seemed more focused on part-time workers in the EU.

Final Keynote: Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director of Microsoft, Ireland

  • Know how to evolve with the times.  Keep abreast of technology, and implement it as its useful
    • We’re doing this well with Smart Torque Tools and automation… what else can we do?
    • Thought – could we maybe confer with the design team to learn more about new technology they’re looking at?
  • Culture drives success, not the other way around
    • Our team is quite capable and successful… what else can we do to drive a positive culture?  More to the point, what culture do we WANT to foster?
    • Thought – More learning opportunities, and more chances to learn what others are working on / problems they’re solving?  Maybe even connect with other “benchmark” sites?
  • Use data and empirical evidence at every opportunity.  Present them clearly, and use them as leverage for the change they inform
    • Thought – Are there any metrics that IEs can be held to, as goalposts / promotion informers?  Maybe year-over-year throughput?  No… part shortages… Use the Turnback tracker to show change / enhancements?
  • Leverage what you know.  Go slow, but go intensely.  Stay calm, and don’t rush things.

After-event conversations / networking

  • Look into “President’s dinner for sustainable aviation”… maybe Collins can sponsor something?
  • Recommendation – I’d like to re-consider the “SEA awards” that I proposed to Dave Horch a year or two ago, that didn’t get much traction.
    • Summary: A system where IE/MEE/PQEs can nominate their peers for awards.  Hold quarterly “award ceremonies” to spotlight excellent engineering by our peers
    • I forwarded an email to you both about this, so we can hopefully discuss on Monday
  • “Praise in a vacuum” – Don’t disparage others (or ourselves).  Don’t say “you’re so much better than x!”, just say “You’re excellent!”
    • This is mostly for myself, but still a very good recommendation
  • Recommendations for Interns:
    • Showcase pay bands, if possible
    • Advertise the relocation stipend in the position description
    • Have a single point of contact during onboarding
      • We do this really well already
    • Give the interns a sense of responsibility and purpose – incorporate them into a team-wide vision
      • We need a team-wide vision first…
    • Be transparent and honest with interns, don’t resort to hyperbole.
  • Look into “German Bionics”, Mountain Productions is a reseller
    • Thought – They’re powered, and focused on easing carrying / walking.  I’ll check this out, but I don’t really think they’re viable for the production floor… but maybe for the stock-room? 

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