Sunday, 28 September 2014

Minds of Many

Patrick Downie, Cohort 2014

It was 8 am on a cloudy Saturday morning in September - too early for any university student to function at full capacity. As time passed on the way to our destination, thoughts of coffee and bed turned to excitement. What mysteries lay ahead at the 2014 SELA bootcamp?

The first thing you notice as you pull up to Shrigley Hall is its impressive and imposing 19th century fa├žade. The second thing you notice is the expansive view, stretching all the way across Manchester. The third thing, in our case, was our SELA mentors rushing out to greet us and usher us into this land of leisure that was to be our home for the night.

Our HQ was a spacious conference room with personalised folders that contained the plan for the weekend. The aim was to help build various skills integral to an effective SELA member. On the first day, tasks included a role-playing exercise in which a decision had to be made on whether to enter an F1 car into a race by weighing up engineering and financial risks. This task was a great introduction to the bootcamp and came with a shocking twist, which I shall not spoil here. After adjourning for lunch, we had to build a free standing tower from uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows, as well as gain an intriguing introspective into our own motivations and styles of work in a professional environment. A short break allowed us to explore the grounds and wander onto golf courses, much to the annoyance of the golfers, before reconvening for a delicious three-course meal and wine.

It was then time for Pitch Club; each of us had to think of a product that would be helpful to an elderly person and pitch our idea to the cohort. Products ranged from the useful and plausible (a shoehorn, but for socks) to the ridiculous (a Werther’s Original dispensing walking stick). Following the fun and engaging speeches, the mentors retired to their rooms. The remaining cohort had a leisurely evening, appreciating some lounge piano and, despite the insistence of some inebriated golfers, not going for a crazy night out in Macclesfield.

Fresh faces greeted each other at breakfast. Invigorated by a good night's sleep, we wasted no time in getting back to work. Our first activity on Sunday was a noteworthy lesson about how different thinking styles (represented in this case by different coloured hats) can be used independently to effectively approach problem solving. We rounded the weekend off with a task to help us develop effective negotiation skills. The negotiations became quite heated, but the task was an effective demonstration of how issues can be resolved. With that task the bootcamp had finished, aside from one more important piece of information.

We had been informed in the application stages of a yearlong project that we would complete as a team. It was on Sunday that we finally found out what that project was. Neil began with a history of SELA, from its initial conception as a manufacturing leadership academy, through the cohort selection process and leading all the way up to that early Sunday afternoon. We were told about the hard work and resources it took to bring this bootcamp to us. Ultimately our task would be to deliver a comparable event to next year’s cohort, handling all of the funding and organisation, ourselves.

On the bus home, the air was abuzz with ideas and conversation about what lay ahead. It should prove to be an interesting year.

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