A weird thing happened today. I felt like I was back at University – the final day of university to be precise, walking across the campus car park with that rising feeling of nausea mixed with excitement, slowly realising that when the sun rose tomorrow, I’d actually have to start acting on all the lessons I had learnt over the past three years.
Do you remember that feeling? Or the day you left school? An immense pride in what you and your friends have just achieved coupled with a slight panic that now you actually have to put it into action. And the endless sea of opportunity that has suddenly opened up before you.
Today was the last day of the final three-day intensive learning ‘Boot Camp’ of The Marketing Academy – the final instalment of the trilogy that has formed the cornerstone of our learning and development over the past 9 months. The class of 2010 is still technically in session for another three months before the lucky next year of scholars step up to the plate in May. But this was the last time we will all be spending consecutive days together learning, brainstorming, absorbing, creating, workshop-ing, learning a bit more, with just a touch of socialising in between. And as I drove away at the end of today, that curiously familiar juxtaposition of endings and beginnings suddenly began to dawn on me.
It was the realisation that the first chapter of this priceless, once-in-a-lifetime journey is coming to a close. Yes it’s corny, but true. It is safe to say that over the past 9 months, all 28 scholars on the inaugural Academy year have had an experience beyond our wildest expectations: personal mentoring from idols in the marketing industry; group lunches with inspirational leaders; life coaching from the best in the business; faculty educational days and workshops from leading agencies; applying our skills to some incredibly worthy causes in the non-profit sector; and of course building our own founding scholars network of young, passionate, marketing professionals just embarking on the next stage of their careers. And all for free. The only currency required? Talent and potential.
The bond that has developed between all of us was perhaps the most surprising, which is what made leaving at the end of today a pretty emotional affair. Imagine: 28 young, highly driven, ambitious marketing professionals, some client-side, some agency, some rival brands, some rival specialisms – and not one ego or new business approach in sight. As we concluded today in a workshop to shape the future of the programme, this is an arena where all scraps of ego are left at the door upon entry. It is a pre-requisite. Because not one of us had an agenda here, other than one shared agenda of developing our skills, our self-awareness, our knowledge and our leadership potential to build great teams and inspire great work.
We also spent part of today defining the programme by what it is not. It is not a prospecting/new business opportunity. It is not a ‘course’ taught by academics. It is not a qualification that can be bought for the right price. It is not (only) a series of networking events. It is not the method by which you are guaranteed a promotion at the end of the year (but you never know…).
It is a brand new approach to leadership development, one that requires investment from all corners: the valuable time of the coaches, mentors and faculty partners, the valued financial and resource support of our sponsors and partners and the passion, dedication and effort from all of the scholars – for the more you put in the more you get out. Not to mention Sherilyn and Camilla, without whom none of us would be here.
But the best thing? Next year, 28 lucky individuals get to do it all over again. It goes without saying, we are all indescribably jealous of them all and are (not so) secretly plotting ways to remain part the Academy forever (once a Founding Scholar, always a Founding Scholar etc…). I am so proud and privileged to have been a part of the foundation year.
So my one plea to you, reading this right now, is to give someone else the chance to experience what I have. 2011 Scholars need to be nominated and if you know someone who will one day take on the world (if indeed they aren’t already), then nominate them now.
Shape their future. Enable them to be the best leader they can be – for themselves, for your organisation, for a whole future generation of marketers.
Nominations for the next year are open on The Marketing Academy website and the nomination portal closes on 1st March. Check it out. Right now. Go, on. Do it.
And if you still want the ego boost, know that you will be helping to shape the future of our industry. Literally. And how cool is that?