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Focus on how he went through the company projects'challenge

The IoT course started in January. It is a 120-hour path which gives students inputs about information mastering, connected economy, strategic implications, business models of connected objects, ethical and legal issues, innovation, technology, patents and design, and digital marketing in the age of IoT. 
On Thursday, 9th April, the course ended with a final major step: students presented their recommendations to 4 companies as sponsors (Société Générale Assurances, Schneider Electric Valeo and Kerlink).

Felix, one the the students, shares his experience of this company project process: new skills, Covid-19 impact on the teamwork, pedagogical role of the project...

ESCP: First, why did you chose to attend the IoT specialisation?

Félix: Personally, I am extremely passionate about technology and Innovation and IoT plays a key role in that. We can witness completely new business models, products or services that are enabled by the internet of things. During my first year of my master study at the Warsaw campus, I already specialized in Innovation management to dive deeply into the innovation sector and have the chance to work with several companies for different project from very different angles. When I’ve read the syllabus, the overall concept of the specialization, and what previous students of the specialization were working on during their time it was a no-brainer to apply. The opportunity to specialize in such an influential “technology” is an incredible chance to increase my already existing knowledge and experience in technology and innovation. The IoT specialization was therefore a fantastic complement in further developing the skill set within innovation and add another layer around the core of “innovation”.Furthermore, the very strongly developed link to practice makes the difference. Working closely with the IoT Chair’s sponsors on diverse and complex projects they are also working on is a fantastic learning for all of us and let us dive into real life challenges. 
Lastly, I have a professional background in technology and innovation consulting at Capgemini. I was working for several different clients in diverse industries and individual challenges that had to be solved. Similar as with my academic background, acquiring expertise in the business of IoT is a distinctive value and complement that I can apply back at my company and in a professional context. 

ESCP: What did you learn from the project's process in terms of new skills you have developed or enhanced? 

Félix: We were a very ambitious team that aimed to work on a challenging yet rewarding project. Since the team was composed of double degree students, we knew each other quite well from the previous semester already. While it definitely helps to know each other in private as well, working on such a project is yet another story. We all had quite some different approaches to tackle the challenge, structure and manage work, which required especially in the kickoff phase of the project some time to be completely on the same page. However, we were motivated by delivering an excellent result not just for the course, but one Valeo can actually benefit from as well. The multicultural team benefitted from very diverse experiences and thus point of views and ideas in all phases of the project. 
What especially stands out as a learning is the experience to conduct a whole project in a very compressed and limited time. Starting with the project brief, applying knowledge that has been taught in previous courses such as Design Thinking, to iterative project meetings with the sponsor to develop final recommendations, is a unique experience – especially in an academic environment. We have been working iteratively within the project team, spending long hours together in person and remotely, as well as with the sponsor to gather feedback and work it in to eventually create the final strategy they were us asking for.
This experience, combined with the exceptional situation of Covid-19 to manage a global crisis and ensure to deliver a project that meets and satisfies the “client”/Valeo, is an experience that will help us all to immediately be a valuable team member in the first job after graduation. Working with different cultures, through different time zones, from one point completely remotely, and still deliver a project on point, are skills companies will increasingly search for.
But the learnings exceed the solely business value; we all grow as a person as well that helps us to stay calm and focused in further situations besides business as well.

ESCP: What did you learn from the experience of finalising the project remotely with your teammates and sponsors?

Felix: Working remotely is a challenge and even between digital natives it is a setting that needs to be figured out how to work and collaborate effectively. However, both, the sponsor as well as we, are digitally all well-equipped so that switching from one day to another was a process in ease. 
But, to make this model of remote teams more efficient, we definitely need better and more intuitive technological tools on the market to simplify and improve collaboration. At the moment, even though it worked out at the end, we always faced issues with sound or video quality, connection issues and so on.
Another notion is that, to make this model really work in the future, there need to be new models how to manage bigger projects in such a setting. It is difficult to stay efficient, and from an academic point of view to keep students engaged and focused, when the technology is still not 100% reliant and limited in its usability (easy class/group collaboration beyond screen sharing and more in the direction of virtual or augmented collaborative models).
The fact that we started in a “usual” person-to-person scenery, had the first meetings in real life was a big advantage to manifest the framework and avenue of working. Everything was well developed at the point when we were required to move to remote work so that we could switch to the new setting relatively effortlessly. The question how it would have been gone just virtually, without any personal contact before, however, is another story again. I personally believe strongly that our previous groundwork was the enabler to continue and finish the project on distance and even across different countries

ESCP: What is the role of such projects in the pedagogical process? 

Félix: Practical projects within an academic environment are an invaluable element that complements the theory that is taught in class and what makes the difference eventually. Due to my previous professional working experience working as a technology and innovation consultant at Capgemini in France I was also able to clearly spot the links and could benefit from both, the content that has been taught at ESCP and the working experience, to then leverage and apply the knowledge to those projects. The projects itself, with the IoT chair sponsors but also further opportunities (such as AB InBev e.g.), have been on an incredible high level that challenged us to go the extra mile and develop projects that turned out to be also valuable for the companies itself. 
Valeo, for instance, invested a lot of time and dedication from their side to help the project succeed. From a kick-off design thinking workshop at their Creative Lab to understand the context and dive into their current activities, to continuous meetings in their offices as well as online, put us in a real consulting setting. As I said earlier, it was challenging and required long hours to work on but at the same time, the project was stimulating and very rewarding as well. 
To sum it up, I personally believe that those projects, together with the highest level of teaching is what makes ESCP Business School distinctive and attractive for students as well as companies to collaborate with and look for talents.