Tuesday gave us a downpour of rain but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the group on one of our busier days, with a trip to the world’s number one university, MIT. We had academic learning from Bill Aulet, Senior Lecturer, on creating sustainable and rapid profitable growth and operational excellence. This was a fantastic lecture with lots of valuable information. After a quick coffee break we had a lecture from Professor Fiona Murray and Dr Phil Budden on the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and how entrepreneurs need other stakeholders to scale. Also a very interesting and interactive lecture which the group thoroughly enjoyed.
For the afternoon we headed to HubSpot. We had a quick tour of the offices, which were amazing – a very relaxed atmosphere, all open plan, dog friendly (my favourite part!) with many spaces for taking a break, be it playing ping pong or building Lego. We then had three speakers – Mark Roberge who is Chief Revenue Officer for HubSpot, Debbie Farese, Director of Marketing and Brian Halligan, Co-Founder and CEO, all focusing on the main theme for this whole week, scaling your business. Brian was interviewed by Bobby Kerr from Newstalk which made the talk a lot more personal and lent itself to opening the floor for questions from the group.
After we returned to the hotel, we were straight into another session with Dermot Halpin from TripAdvisor on how do you manage hyper growth through technology enablement. People enjoyed this talk as it was from a fellow Irish man! We then walked to the Liquid Art House for our dinner, about ten minutes from the hotel. One of my favourite things about Boston was the relaxed atmosphere it hosted, unlike many other fast paced American cities, which allowed the group to walk along at a leisurely pace.
We had another early morning on Wednesday as we headed for Harvard. It was a scorching hot day and Graduation was on so there was a fantastic buzz around the campus. We had lectures from Karen Dillon, former editor of Harvard Business Review, on disruptive innovation, Paul Le Blanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University and David Fubini, a Harvard lecturer, on organisational behaviour. It was an amazing experience and my hand almost fell off from all the notes I was taking!
When we got back to the hotel, Sam Kennnedy, President of the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Management spoke to us, explaining his role as president and how he runs this business. He also awarded anyone with a good question for him some Boston Red Sox Merchandise, a very enticing prize for many! After a quick coffee break we then had a talk from Howard Brodsky, Founder and CEO of CCA Global Partners on delivering the unexpected.
Our last dinner of the week was in the Boston Harbour Hotel. We were met by the largest Irish flag I had ever in my life seen hanging at the entrance, thanks to the hotel’s manager Stephen Johnston – a lovely touch that the group clearly appreciated! Our guest speaker for the night was Mayor of Boston, Martin Walsh. He met and chatted with us all and has a very strong Irish connection. After dinner we played a video montage and a picture slide show of our week done up by the film crew and the photographer. This seemed to put the week into perspective for many, as it showed just how much was packed into the few short days and it also captured the many friendships that had been made throughout the trip. Kevin and Sean then wrapped up the night, thanking everyone who helped out in any way – none of us could really believe the week was coming to an end. Not a group to do things by halves, Dooley’s Irish Bar was next on the agenda, and although not on our itinerary, our team ventured in to show face too – it would be rude not too!
The next day, with a few tired heads and sore voices, we spoke with Denis Cashman, CFO of EMC, Roy Hirshland, CEO of T3 Advisors and Joe Kennedy II, JFK’s nephew, on the importance of legacy. These talks were very inspiring and a super way to end the trip. After some hustle and bustle trying to get luggage loaded on the right buses and confusion about what flights people were on that day, we eventually made it to Faneuil Hall for some food and pottering around the stalls for last minute souvenirs. Before I knew it, it was time to get the first bus to the airport. It was a strange feeling saying goodbye to the group. Before coming on this trip, I was most nervous about the social side of the week and having to chat to all these entrepreneurs, thinking they wouldn’t have time for an intern like me. Luckily, I was sorely mistaken. I made some great connections while I was in Boston and had some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with most of group. Everyone was so open, friendly and honest, and by the end of the week I felt as though I was chatting to a group of old friends.
The week has by far been the best week of my entire life. The few weeks leading up to organising the retreat were certainly challenging but the reward couldn’t have been better. I was very naïve when originally planning for this trip, thinking there wouldn’t be enough for the whole team to do in organising it, but every hand was needed. The precision of every detail, checked and double checked, led to a seamless week. The people that I met this week also was an experience in itself. Between the finalists, alumni and the people from EY that joined us, I learned a lot about their stories, businesses and the importance of their roles on both the Irish and international economy. It was a very inspiring week and I gained a lot of insight into the world of entrepreneurship. Of course I wouldn’t have even been on the trip had it not been for the amazing EOY team. I’ve learned so much from them in my few months here and couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity – some things you just can’t learn from school!