What a year, what a dream and what a future for some new Habitat Homeowners….

I’m sitting on the couch at home wondering where the last 9 months went and how I ever survived. Year 1 on the EMBA has been one amazing whirlwind involving countless projects, presentations and cases. In fact I’m so exhausted, all I can say is that 1) It was totally worth it 2) I laughed out loud a lot more than I expected 3) I’ve met and worked with some really interesting and clever people who I hope to know all my life.

I sign off this term with some photo highlights of a dream just realised – President Michael D Higgins’ visit to our Habitat homes in Inchicore as the keys are handed over to their new occupants….

You can watch President Higgins speech here and view more photos here

Have a great summer!

Neighbours: Keith Green, Habitat Homeowner, meets President Michael D Higgins

President Higgins tours the newly refurbished homes in Emmet Road Inchicore

– Karen Kennedy

MBA Discussions at the Dinner Table

At the Sunday dinner table, we’re debating investing in Apple shares (alternative pension if you will…). I begin discussing perceived value, intangible assets and heavy reliance on equity while having what feels like an outer body experience.  Clearly some of this course is rubbing off on me after all; terms that seemed so alien not 5 months ago are now making a lot more sense.

Many companies in Ireland today have experienced a very different few years to Apple, implementing austerity measures across the board, struggling for investment and opportunity with cripplingly limited access to credit. Yet while I keep a measured line of caution I can’t help feeling that the country is turning a corner. It may just be the promise of spring, but the painful and difficult decisions implemented during the crisis; restructuring, refocusing, realigning etc should now be starting to bloom.

We move to slightly lighter topics but stick to optimism. April will see Michael D come to Inchicore to hand over the keys to our new Habitat homeowners. After more than a year of struggle with banks, cashflow and the grim reality of the economy, it looks like the cloud has parted. A family of four living in a one bed flat that the boom forgot, will finally move into their 3 bed home that they helped refurbish.

Maybe it’s just spring, maybe I’m a little too optimistic or maybe its these three great weeks of midterm, but I’m thinking it’s time that the corner was turned and perhaps it is a Reasonable Projection for the country, that thoughtful investments in the tough times can yield their benefits in the not too distant future…

– Karen Kennedy, EMBA 2011/13

New Year, new resolutions, new groups…

Ah January, you’ve been a struggle. Having missed Christmas last year, I embraced every opportunity to take it to a whole new level this year, and then clung on to it for as long as I possibly could – the tinsel came off from around the mirror last Monday. The whole place seems a little bare, even dull. We handed in our last group project a few weeks ago and it’s hard not to feel a little lost.

I join many other ambitious resolution-makers once again in my local gym, trying to reverse the effects of much mulled wine and burn off the many mince-pie-calories. Then amidst the doom, gloom and reluctant exercise, we get assigned our new groups. I’m back in to lectures in Bankers and things start looking up.

Our first presentation is on Management Accounting; making decisions and driving the right behaviours. 2011 was a very tough year for many, especially non-profits, this topic couldn’t have come at a better time and I’m impressed and grateful for practical perspective Christoph takes. Mikes drawn up a Gantt chart of our work flow, Shanes got to grips with the numbers, Billy’s working on the report and I’ve set us all up on dropbox and Skype. It’s great to feel part of a team, and (almost!) ready for whatever the MBA puts our way this semester…

– Karen Kennedy, Exec-MBA 2012

A presentation, a partnership, an explosion and some future homeowners…

All of a sudden it’s Thursday and I’m driving down the quays heading to a 4pm work meeting before my groups’ 5.30pm EMBA presentation.  It’s going to be a photo finish reaching the Institute of Bankers on time. I have my earpiece in and am mid conference call with the team – Donal has made some last minute tweaks to our report that should give us that extra edge. Dermot and Simon have put the finishing touches to the presentation itself, and I’m taking the lead on its delivery tonight.  It’s our second of three essays due in this week. We knew it was going to be a tough time; burning the midnight oil and juggling work and family commitments. Work, college and study have merged into one and these last few days I’ve got about 5 hours sleep tops a night.

My work meeting finishes early, the foundation of a new partnership seems certain and it makes sense; non profits are all ultimately working towards the same goal and we shouldn’t be in competition with each other. We should try to come together as much as possible in areas where we overlap, to build capacity, reduce costs and improve impact.

Looking back on my last post and I’m delighted that Michael D made it to the Aras, I haven’t yet gotten my photo with him but we have put in a request for him to hand over the keys of two new homes to Habitat families who have been on the council waiting list for years. One of the future occupants, a family of four, has been living in a one bedroom flat in the city centre for the last 8 years. There’s black mould on the walls, it seems the boom that came and went didn’t even impact some people at all. This family will be contributing 500 hours of their time working onsite with volunteers, as well as paying off a small mortgage.  There’s a school across the road and a garden out the back. It’s exciting to think about the difference this opportunity is going to make.

Traffic goes my way and I reach my team early – 5.15pm and Dermot already has the screen ready, Simon has the printed version of our project in hand, Donal and I start anticipating questions. What a team! I know I’ll miss these guys when our groups change in the New Year.

I arrive home exhausted and put on a wash; the first normal thing I’ve done all week. 5 minutes later I come back into the kitchen, having heard a little ‘bang’ and smelt smoke. It seems the dial was on 95 degrees and the washing machine exploded…. It’s hard to know how to react when something like that happens – one’s first inclination is to look for someone to blame and then for a means to deny it actually happened. Having no capacity to think of either, I just open the window and go to bed. I’ll think about it the weekend….

– Karen Kennedy

The apprentice, the presidency and the project!

So yet again Sunday evening comes around 5 minutes after I left work on Friday. It been a busy week; our documentary about the Brent Pope Rugby Legends Foundation was on RTE 1 and hits to our site shot up 250% on average every day since it was shown. There are 1 in 4 charities shutting down and we are managing to stay afloat, it’s been tough out there but we’re offering team building products to corporates that seem to be really catching on, plus we’re hiring so that can only be positive. Now it’s just about sustaining that momentum, building more houses and keeping in the media to raise the profile. That’s just the 9-5 though.

Like I said, the weekend just zips by. Saturday morning and team 5 are huddled around a laptop in a coffee shop off the M50. Donal dials in on Skype from Wicklow. Papers strewn around the table and we’re debating the best strategy for our mobile phone company. We look like a team from the apprentice (minus the cameras and the bad attitude). I would have said Charlies Angels but we’re taking about the MBA here – we use our brains, not our judo skills, plus I haven’t been to the gym in 6 weeks.

My brain is getting a lot of exercise though; back in the coffee shop, debating tactics and discussing all our projects. I’m project lead this week and we’re talking about what Ford can learn from Dell. It’s tough but it’s brilliant. 7 weeks in and I’m surprised at how much I enjoy the classes and discussions, how eager I am to pick up my books after a long day and how much I look forward to meeting up at 10am on Saturday mornings.  It’s practical, it’s relevant and it’s more challenging than anything I’ve done in a long time. It’s like a rollercoaster – uphill battle to get to a deadline and then the thrill of delivering a presentation knowing you’ve nailed it. I know I’m not the only one. 3 hours in we call it a morning and Dermot hooks his rucksack on his back and smiles – “Maire says I’ve not been this happy about working on a Saturday before, I’m enjoying this, even though it’s taking up all my free time.”

I hop back into my car, drive around the corner into a 30 minute tailback – roadworks for the third time this week; it seems the country has decided to start preparing for the future again. I turn on the radio and it’s Bertie. I’m glad we’ve moved away from that type of leadership, and we’re demanding more, but even more importantly than that, it seems people are engaging and owning that leadership more.  My money is on Michael D for president next week and I’ve just had an idea, if he wins, I’m going to try and get him to open our new renovation partnership with St. Michaels house 2 days later. Who knows, my next blog post might have that photo….

– Karen Kennedy, Exec-MBA 2010-2011