Our Experience in the Room series continues with Kevin Flanagan from Pivotal Ireland, and a participant on the MSc in Data Business. He shares his story of further education and how instrumental the MSc in Data Business was to his career. This piece was featured in the Sunday Business Post.
What is your career background?
During the early stages of my career, I worked in the food industry with Kerry Group in finance and operations roles before taking a Management Consultancy role with Coopers and Lybrand in London. After a year of travelling in Asia and Australia, I decided to change direction and took a Marketing role with Dell. That was the start of a very exciting journey in the IT industry and I subsequently held Sales leadership roles for EMEA with both Apple and EMC. I have just recently moved to a General Manager role with Pivotal, a start-up company which was created by EMC and VMware. Pivotal helps customers create competitive advantage through the rapid deployment of software applications and the exploitation of big data.
Why did you choose the Diploma in Data Business/MSc. In Data Business?
From our engagements with customers, it’s clear that traditional business models are changing rapidly and new models are emerging at a faster rate than ever before. The mega trends of social, mobile, cloud and big data are driving this change. After 20 years of industry experience, I wanted to sharpen my edge and the course content of the MSc in Data Business included a great combination of tools, frameworks and concepts both to help contextualise these industry changes and to transform our own organisations to exploit the emerging market opportunities.
What were the highlights?
Year 2 in particular is very practical and applied. Pretty much every concept, tool and technique covered could be immediately applied to a business problem. Agile analytics and user-centred design thinking are incredibly powerful. Action Research challenged me to look beyond what I do every day to address business problems and to consciously think about creating new knowledge. Embracing a “fail early” philosophy was also a key takeaway. The other highlight was the “peer to peer” interactions and the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with people from different industries.
What were the challenges?
The key challenge without a doubt is finding the time to balance family life, work and study. The assignments arrive thick and fast and the data business projects at the end of years 1 and 2 are not for the faint hearted.
What impact has the course had on your career?
I have just moved to a new role as General Manager of Pivotal Ireland and having the MSc in Data Business was instrumental to this move. Pivotal helps customers to transform their businesses by offering an open source platform to support the development of highly disruptive business applications as well as big data suites to extract value from their data. Course modules such as Agile Project Delivery and Big Data & Analytic were 100% on target.
What impact has the course had on your organisation?
During the 2 years of the Masters, I led Inside Sales EMEA for EMC, with the primary focus of driving aggressive growth and share gains in Mid-Market across EMEA. Leveraging the tools and techniques from the MSc in Data Business, I was able to guide my team to build an analytics model to segment the market and identify the prospects with the greatest potential. It has been a fantastic journey not just for me but for the team also. As a result of a more focused targeting strategy, we are seeing not only strong ROI but other benefits as well such as improved collaboration between Sales and Marketing and higher motivation on the sales floor.
What is your advice to people planning further study?
A decision to embark on further study is not one to be taken lightly, particularly if you are in mid-career. The time commitment is significant but if you are willing to embrace the journey, the rewards more than justify the effort. The other advice I would give is to choose a course (or a project within a course) that aligns with your career and business aspirations and one that you are passionate about.