When you look at some impossible or even crazy projects, one thing they have in common is that they are very motivating for the people who have been working on them. How else would you contemplate cars driven by electricity when the entire automotive industry lobby is against you otherwise? (Tesla) Or a privately owned space travel company? (SpaceX).
It is a similar situation when you try to connect major law firms and have them work on one project. This applies to other industries as well. Education has not changed in principle for centuries. Despite the odds, this is where I navigate my company European Centre for Career Education. But why will we succeed? Because we can, because we have a strong foothold when it comes to global and domestic leaders, and because the idea is simply right!
What is wrong with higher education sector? It does not reflect the outside world.
The problem remains the same everywhere in the world. Most of the teachers are generally people who either have not succeeded in the real world or did not have the opportunity to even try. If someone wants to teach how to do business, how to work with an architecture budget, or how to defend your clients, his/her experiences that were learned from books alone will not be sufficient. You must have the experience of practicing for yourself. It is hard to earn the respect of students if you just read books written by people who might not have even tried to apply their knowledge in the real world. If you want to prepare students for their career, you must let them have access to successful people, global leaders who have already faced challenges that students need to learn about. This is possible either through online education, or as we do it - through short-term highly-concentrated and focused programs.
Learning by doing!
I have never done anything in Silicon Valley, but what I love about that environment is that every attempt and every fail is a learning exercise. Through trying yourself and facing challenges, you understand deeper, gain more, and move faster than by just reading. That is why it’s important to reform the education sector by letting students be in the real life environment and learn about it on their own.
As I have tried to describe, future education cannot work without support from leading companies and institutions. By opening up to global young professional or students, these companies will get a more competitive edge, cultural understanding and access to true talents. Some of these talents have started practicing outside the universities, as they are doers who are not interested in devoting 5 years of their life to just study in university alone. We have the opportunity to work and connect students with companies such as Siemens, T-Mobile, DLA Piper, Bird & Bird, 大成 Dentons, Linklaters or Clifford Chance and many others excellent domestic firms. Or even at the aforementioned Tesla. I personally have huge respect for them because they do not just talk, they establish and represent trends. These leaders are those from whom students should learn. By opening up to students, they also gain their own potential ambassadors for the future. It is difficult to put these leaders on one platform because they often compete against each other. Hence that is why it is so motivating to work on this ‘impossible’ undertaking. What I have learned is that it just takes time. These global leaders are leaders because they often employ the brightest people. The key challenge is to convince them to get out of their comfort zone and be open to new possibilities. At ECCE, we have been convincing them by bringing them concrete business opportunities. By growing bigger with their help, we can also bring more and more commitment and opportunities to them.
Why take care of students from other parts of the world?
To develop a business channel, you can either work on existing relationships with leading companies or build up relationships with companies which will become leaders in the future. Most of the fastest growth and most important potentials are currently not in the US or Europe, but in developing countries (incl. China where we focus). By ignoring students from these parts of the world, you might have ignored the key future markets as well. The sooner companies realise this, the better for them. Unfortunately, many of them still stay local and nurture only their immediate needs by hiring and educating local employees. They ignore the fact that growth will come through the next generation. Many corporations are set up in a way such that they have branches all around the globe these days, while their operations are still highly local and it is hard to find ways to fit global students into their local operations. It is, however, of superior importance to bring future leaders to new regions and allow them to understand how business or law is done in other parts of the world. They cannot realise their full potential without this close understanding. It does not matter if the global approaches of companies are as unified as Apple or as adjusted regionally as McDonald’s, future managers must understand clients from all parts of the world. Global education for these people should not only be about travel and professors, it must be also about the local players’ involvement.
And the most important of all? Promises!
Once you have made a promise, you should always keep your word. I remember one scene from the movie “Pirates of Silicon Valley” where Bill Gates successfully negotiated a license agreement with IBM for the operating system DOS which did not even exist at that time (Video below). It is clear that this is not the way in which people should do business - to pretend you have something that does not even exist. In other words, to lie. However, what is more important is the fact that if you lie, you must make certain that you can deliver the results at the end. This is basically why Tesla struggles these days. I do not think that the problem is profitability, but it is about the capability to produce what was promised and deliver this to your partners/clients. We work closely with our partners at ECCE on an individual basis. When we have a new partner, we always assign somebody who takes care of them individually and works with them on a close relationship basis like a family. It is not easy, but all successful entrepreneurs know how important relationships are. And what about students? They need to learn it from these entrepreneurs, not books. This is what universities and professors cannot deliver.
Why will we succeed? Because we do what nobody else does and can do
Because we drive our company based on vision and not just profitability, our partners stay loyal to us, even when short-term gains are small. At the end of the day, profits will always come. Partnerships and everything else must be built and forged. This is what we believe is the future of education and successful projects. Success is normally built on synergies, not beating the competition. To improve education requires working with universities, not their destruction or pure criticism. Nevertheless, you need to be stubborn and have the right vision to push it through. That is why I believe in Tesla, Apple or Amazon. These companies just came and changed the market, because they understood it and knew what was needed before anybody else. I hope we do the same with our partners in education and we are happy that these strong leaders are willing to invest in the future!
Founder at European Centre for Career Education