Sainsbury Management Fellows is engineering your next breakthrough in the IT business

There is plenty of talk about reinvention and changing business models but there could also be something to doing some personal development

As you read this there are two regional events, Digital Festival in Wales the Fintech North in Manchester, that showcase ground breaking start ups that could bring prosperity to the region.

MicroScope readers, the resellers and service providers who actually fight all the battles on behalf of manufacturers, are constantly being told to ‘re-invent themselves’, think outside the box and innovate.

In truth, it’s massively difficult to make the jump and create a new business model. Coming up with the idea is tough enough, but the execution is 100 times harder. No wonder there are so many fatalities in tech start ups.

With this in mind, it might be an idea to give an MBA Scholarship scheme a go. Computer sciences and tech engineers are being invited to apply for a £50,000 Lord Sainsbury MBA Scholarship which takes you to some of the world’s top business schools.

Doubtless the tutoring at Harvard, Stanford, LBS and INSEAD is as good as it gets. But the real empowerment, that will help you break out from the ghetto of being a channel player, is all the influential people you meet, according one of the graduates of this scheme.

Stephane Lee-Favier studied engineering at Oxford then worked at Rolls Royce for ten years. So he had above average credentials already.  But he says the MBA made all the difference in his successful transition from employee to salaryman to CEO.

“Doing an MBA is very daunting and hugely expensive,” says Lee-Favier, “yes, the grant takes the edge off the cost but it’s the experience that is the revelation. You have your eyes opened to so much and you meet so many cool people.”

By cool he means influential. Lee-Favier’s background in engineering trained him in problem solving, but an MBA solves problems on a completely different level. This is something that many start ups in the channel don’t appreciate. Once you have studied in one of the great seats of learning, you will get access to people who’ve encountered the problems you will be plagued by as a start up.

Lee-Favier’s background was in energy management at Rolls Royce, but he had to learn new skills to fulfil his first role, to help alleviate the strain on the Northern Power Grid. His company, Gengame, uses Gamification and Behavioural Psychology to encourage the masses to use electricity more wisely.

Ecotricity in the NorthEast is using Gengame to help persuade its consumers to use electricity more thoughtfully. A simple device attached to each house’s mains power supply can monitor the homeowner’s electricity use. A mobile app connects the consumer’s phone to the device. Once their consumption is measurable, they can start earning prizes for lowering their electricity usage. For the simple expedient of, say, running your dishwasher, washing machine and mobile phone charging job at night, and helping to lower the strain on the grid at peak times, each home owner could win a cash prize of several grand.

A scheme that simple to use, but with such a massive payback for consumers, sounds pretty fool proof. That’s a sign of good engineering. It looks easy to use, but there’s a fiendishly cunning level of sophistication running below the surface.

Other graduates of the course include Phil Westcott who runs Totam AI, which aims to bring machine learning to the masses.

Meanwhile, Chirag Shah founded Simfoni, which aims to create operational improvements for business through apps and analytics. “Attending INSEAD was like being in a virtual business incubator and inspired my career choice as an entrepreneur,” says Shah.

Engineers tend not to be as pushy as sales and marketing people and are less likely to get funding for start ups.

The Sainsbury Management Fellows scheme is looking to support more engineers into creating start ups. It has so far stumped up £8 million and 60 fellows now own an  enterprise.

When Gengame gets massive, remember you read about it here first.

This was last published in May 2018

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