CEO Retreat 2014 – An Intern’s Perspective (Part 3/3)

Seattle…the final leg!

Arriving in Seattle just after 11pm, Claire and I were greeted with some badly needed sustenance in the form of red wine and sushi. It was most definitely worth the wait! We were hanging tired, but given a new lease of life with a personal comedy show from the three amigos, which rounded off the day quite perfectly.

After what felt like only the briefest of sleeps, we were up and ready to face another day. There was a buzz of anticipation as we were being treated to a tour of the Boeing factory, the largest industrial building in the world, with over 30,000 employees working on the future of flight. It’s impossible to fathom the enormity of such a building until you are inside it looking down on the body of a 747 that is under construction. It is quite simply amazing!! This was followed by a superb lunch overlooking Boeing’s fleet of inventory, worth a cool $24billion, at which point Ray Conner spoke about the trials and tribulations that he faces being the CEO of a company in such a dynamic and costly industry. Once such difficulty he shared is the lack of work/life balance when you hold such a prominent position. Leaving us to question, are we striving for the impossible?

Later that day we were given an invaluable lesson on well-being from our very own Liam Griffin followed by a stimulating talk from venture capitalist and ex CFO of Microsoft John Connors. The finalists and Alumni then joined the EY partners for sessions on Succession Planning and Exit Readiness. The EOY team were, at this time, scurrying around in an attempt to beautify ourselves for play time at EMP (Experience Music Project). The evening was spent singing karaoke, badly, while being recorded, and trying our hands at numerous electrical instruments. Following dinner and some touching speeches we headed off to a local bar to try our hands at Bocce, a game similar to bowls. All you had to do was ‘NOT HIT THE BACK WALL’ as one entrepreneur kindly informed me, but you know what happens when you’re told NOT to do something! So, I hit the wall every time! It was not my finest hour!

Day 6 was an action packed executive education day in University of Washington. After a warm welcome from Dean Jim Jiambalvo, we were treated to a host of outstanding lectures and talks. From ‘Big Data & Enormous Opportunity’ by Professor Ed Lazowska, Director of the University of Washington eScience Institute, to Artie Buerk’s ‘Realising Your Goals’, (remember to write down your goals everyone), there was something for everyone’s tastes. Similar to the UBC lectures in Vancouver, the main focus of these talks was big data and culture. Paul O’Shaughnessy, Senior Director of Product Development and Software Services for Intel, gave an eye-opening talk on emerging trends such as the industrial internet. In particular, the power of 1%, which suggests that, with the use of the industrial internet, companies such as GE, could save a projected $276 billion over 15 years through a 1% increase in efficiency. (Source) Mind-blowing don’t you think?

Left with a little information overload, it was the perfect evening to head down to The Chihuly Boathouse. Home of Dale Chihuly a glass sculptor and entrepreneur, his magnificent studio has just about every colour of the rainbow in an array of blown glass sculptures and unique paintings. There is even an indoor heated swimming pool that would make you feel like you are in a fairy tale, if only we could’ve had a wee dip that is! It was time to head back to the Fairmont Olympic to prepare for the last dinner of the CEO Retreat. Held in the glorious Garden Room, dinner was an indulgent affair with speeches from many of the Alumni and EY partners, finished off with a charming talk from Ed Murray, the Mayor of Seattle. It felt like this was the first time on the trip that we stopped to take a breath and I found myself wondering ‘how did I end up here?’

The last day had arrived and there remained only one last trip as a group to Microsoft HQ where we met and were entertained by PJ Hough, VP of Program Management.  It was the perfect ending to a delightful trip. Sadly it was time for the group to split as some headed to the airport while the others were heading to the mall to pick up presents for their families. There were hugs galore as we loaded the buses and prepared to begin the long journey home. I began to feel the withdrawal symptoms almost immediately as we left behind half of our pseudo family.

As we headed towards the airport I couldn’t quite believe it was over, it was both the longest and shortest week of my life but one that I will remember forever. Be it a stroke of luck or just being in the right place at the right time, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to contribute to and participate in such an amazing event, and become part of such a dynamic, exciting and innovative team!

How do I go back to my student life after this?



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