Accelerate@HHL 2022: Leaving My Comfort Zone
Those who know me know that I have been doing ProjectWizards for 20 years and Merlin Project for almost 18 years. So everyone can easily imagine that I know a lot of people in the business. No matter if I show up at an Apple event, or a project management event, I already meet the first known people right at the entrance. That's nice, it gives me a good feeling and it's fun. That's how I know that the years of work have paid off and that the network I've built up is working. Because people help each other, they exchange ideas. And even if you don't do business directly with each other, sooner or later it pays off for both of us in some form or another.
But I also have to admit that after 20 years you become more idle. You only choose events where you know that there will be something going on - whatever. And this comfort zone became bigger and bigger for me. Of course, no trips took place during Covid-19, and the urge to attend online community meetings became more and more suppressed. I noticed myself getting more and more cushy. And then the opportunity came: Accelerate@HHL 2022!
The HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, formerly known as Handelshochschule Leipzig, is a private business school based in Saxony, Germany. Established in 1898, it is one of the world's oldest business schools. The school is accredited internationally by AACSB and locally by ACQUIN. HHL Leipzig graduate school of management is authorized to award doctoral and postdoctoral degrees (Wikipedia). Once a year, Accelerate is organized and held there as a conference by students for students. Due to Covid-19 the last two years had to be cancelled but in 2022 it took place again on site and online.
I have always enjoyed giving regular lectures and workshops on the topic of project management in universities. The variety of topics ranges from "Project management in business: wish or reality?", to topics on risk management, to motivational talks on why you should get involved with project management. Quite a few students and lecturers have seen me live. But in each case, I was announced, gave a presentation, and then left.
At Accelerate@HHL 2022, things were different. Apart from the fact that my son Marvin led the organization of the event ("… his first project!"), nobody knew me there. Consequently, I was deliciously bored for the first few hours at the event. Until I finally got off my butt, and remembered my job in the early years: approaching new people.
But there was also the Speed Dating. Even though my wife was pale at first, it was excellent job application training for the young people - and for me. Yes, really, I talked to young people who were excellently prepared for the short interview. But also with some who just came to me lazily and didn't even know what ProjectWizards does. In the latter cases, it was simply over quickly.
My first lecture was then fitting for the end of the first day and at the same time should be a motivation for the students to visit my workshop the next morning. I had chosen the "Making of..." topic for Merlin Project (PDF here). Somehow, though, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to inspire anyone with my old jokes from 10 to 20 years ago. So I rewrote the presentation and modernized the slides. And of course I rehearsed the lecture. Because I still remember my first Merlin demo at Pixar, which went anything but perfectly. And that was only because there wasn't enough practice... no: because I hadn't practiced enough. Back then I was lucky and Pixar bought some licenses of our project management software despite the poor performance. This time I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of the elite of our students.
And it worked fantastically. Admittedly, the room was only partly filled - who knows the CEO of a GmbH - incl. an abbreviation, which you usually look for in vain in the startup scene. But still, there were people present and they listened. About my background as a project manager at Bertelsmann, about the garden party caused by the Loveletter virus that paralyzed the corporation in Gütersloh for some time. The desire to do project management with my own company and the lack of a suitable software, which finally led to Merlin Project. I reported relentlessly about all ups & downs and was probably quite authentic, because already during the presentation I saw how the audience hung on my lips.
Already at the dinner afterwards - which, by the way, was just perfect, as was everything to do with food at Accelerate 2022 - I was surprised by many people. Motivated by my emotional performance, they approached me with interest. They wanted to know more about this and that, especially they wanted to know if the workshop the next morning will be in the same style. Well...
The next morning at 9 o'clock my workshop „How To Sabotage A Project“ was very well attended. Yes I know, 9 o'clock is for many students a not yet really receptive time. And therefore I had planned to start directly with a dynamic element. And that also worked! I am glad that I was able to inspire the audience. But also after the workshop all participants were very eager to learn and I had one conversation after the next. Every time I was happy about new and especially young opinions and insights.
In summary, I can say that I am happy about Marvin's choice, because I got to know this university as a real - even if the word is rarely used nowadays - Elite Forging. The focus on entrepreneurship, the way young people are treated, has simply inspired me. And everyone I got to know a bit better are bright minds, but they don't put business above everything, they have a real vision: Shaping a better tomorrow!
P.S.: I am now again offering free lectures and workshops on project management in universities. Inquire with us!