An MBA student from EAE is taking part in the #EUvsVirus Hackathon run by the European Commission
29 de May de 2020
29 de May de 2020
Just two days ago, the European Commission held the Pan-European Hackathon #EUvsVirus 2020 in which participants from all over the world connected online to form team to create solutions and proposals to tackle the technical, social and political issues involved in the complex situation triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Lex Heredia, a student on EAE Business School’s MBA, took part with Business ERA, a consultancy specializing in helping small and medium enterprises to consolidate and overcome the approaching economic difficulties.
Would you like to discover more about this EAE success story? Find out in this interview.
Lex, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What did you study? Where do you currently work?
I am a Colombian entrepreneur striving to fulfil my personal purpose: learning, serving and improving the conditions in my environment to the greatest possible extent. I came to Madrid just over a year ago to take my Master at EAE Business School. I have an MBA and I am a certified Systems Engineer and Project Management Specialist. I am passionate about music, travel, nature and technology, and I am now completely in love with Spain! viajes, la naturaleza y la tecnología, y ahora, ¡enamorado a tope de España!
I currently form part of EAE LAB V in Madrid, under the supervision of Rocío Álvarez Osorio and the mentoring of Henri Mennens. I am working on developing my process as an entrepreneur. We plan to finish the program in a couple of months with a validate value proposition set out in a profitable business plan.
At the same time, I offer consultancy services specializing in project management technology, my area of professional expertise, through a company that I set up in January using the E-Resident program, a really interesting program tun by the Estonian government that gives you virtual access to different state services, including incorporating a company.
With respect to the EU vs Virus Hackathon, how did the idea of participating originate and what project did you take part with?
The coaching that we receive at EAE LAB keeps us informed of any events that may help our development as entrepreneurs. That was exactly what happened and, thanks to Rocio Alvarez Osorio, I heard about the EU vs Virus Hackathon. I had recently taken part in another hackathon at a Spanish level and, a few months earlier, in one run by the School. In these previous experiences, I discovered how much I enjoy events in this format so, when I heard about the EU vs Virus, I didn’t hesitate for a second to sign up.
I didn’t have a project that was mature enough to put forward and work on in this hackathon, but I know that wouldn’t be a problem. I looked through the projects available (over 2,000, perfectly classified by topic and subtopic) and I contacted the contestants working on the projects that interested me most. In under an hour, I had weighed up various options, spoken to the different representatives and selected a team: “Business Era”. I have to admit that I found it hard to pick a project because there were so many good initiatives put forward.
Tell us about the project initiative, your role in the team and the evolution of the proposal.
The selected project was classified in the Business Continuity category (one of six big topic categories) and the subcategory of New and Resilient Business Models. Basically, the Business Era proposal puts forward a business models that reduces the mortality rate of small and medium enterprises by giving them access to specialist consultancy services, based on the business needs they have, all at a very low cost or even free of charge in some cases.
My role in the project did not have a very big impact because they had been working on the initiative before the hackathon and the business structure was fairly well developed. The immediate needs were more related to issues associated with implementation and the audiovisual presentation, some of the few areas in which I could make a contribution. We didn’t detect this problem at first, which I found quire frustrating, but I took it as part of the learning process. That is one of the features of hackathons, everything moves so fast that, once you are up and running, you have very little margin to change track.
Nevertheless, it was a really rewarding experience! Right from the session before the event, you could sense the level of organization. They had thought of everything! Well defined stages and the respective processes, classification of the participants according to their role, integration of the process support technologies, communication channels, orientation and instruction materials, checkpoints, support throughout all the stages, motivation and even potential communication problems for the diversity of languages of the participants (they had special channels with people helping with translations between various languages). It was always focused on a clear goal: solutions to the problems caused by coronavirus in Europe.
In relation to your studies, tell us about your experience taking the MBA at EAE Business School.
My experience at EAE was rewarding in lots of respects, including the development of soft skills through a specific program that formed part of the MBA. An absolute hit! I rate this training almost as highly as the main classes of the Master.
The insight into the Spanish labour market thanks to various workshops, coaching, internships, events and direct contact with companies at all levels. The networking and the experience of living in a multicultural setting and, obviously, the boost to my professional profile. In my particular case (a technological background but always with an entrepreneurial spark), the MBA gave me the right contents to considerably expand my understanding of the business world and the dynamics of the global economy.
In your opinion, what is the best way to fight the pandemic and the approaching crisis?
To find an effective cure, you need effective diagnostics. In my opinion, each market has a duty to evaluate itself in depth, specifically identifying the new challenges that it has to tackle, understand its causes and impacts, and analyse its relations with other markets and the global economy. In addition, they have to project themselves by analysing different scenarios to achieve a holistic overview of their status (the diagnosis), which will enable them to find the solutions to overcome the crisis (the cure). Feed back and repeat the whole process.
This all results in processing information: facts, figures and verified data on which we can build the solutions to the crisis. So, in my point of view, the best way to fight the pandemic is to be well informed, gather or access quality information, process it in line with your needs and make data-based decisions.
I also think that it would be a good idea to acknowledge that one of the direct consequences of the pandemic is the acceleration of digital transformation, which, in turn, accelerates the decline of certain businesses and professions that are destined to vanish (operational tasks, primarily). For these businesses and professions, the best approach would be to begin their transition processes as soon as possible (which normally involves learning new skills) towards sectors related to sustainable environments (technology, energy, healthcare, etc.).
Entrepreneurship appears to be a key factor in moving tomorrow’s world forward. Do you agree? Why?
I absolutely agree. It is a well-established fact that small and medium enterprises are a really important driving force in the global economy but, beyond that, they are essential because they are really effective channels for generating fast solutions to specific programs, they are very flexibles and, as such, easy to integrate with other solutions, to create more robust services, and their internal structure enables them to make decisions quickly and adapt better to changes. Moreover, they have the support of significant consumption trends.
We are witnessing a transition in which we have an ever-declining number of giant companies that dominate entire markets (as big sharks), with a shift towards multiple entrepreneurial ventures that complement each other and co-exist at a functional level (like giant shoals of small fish). In 2019, SMEs accounted for over 90% of the total number of companies around the world, generating almost 65% of employment and 50% of global GDP. While it is true that these companies are more vulnerable in the crisis, they are still making headway in global markets.
Moreover, in my opinion, several of the current consumption trends favour the development of entrepreneurial ventures, such as the following:
- The consumption of products and services from environmentally responsible companies with CSR programs.
- The importance of connecting with brands that we identify with and that inspire us.
- The preference for natural, healthy and artisanal products.
- Now, as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis, a marked preference for consuming local products and services.
Lastly, what aspects of your experience on the EU vs Virus Hackathon would you highlight? Do you have any message in this regard for the readers?
My recommendation for any type of professional is to take part in at least one event in this format, primarily because it is a great opportunity to learn, network, get a first-hand insight into market trends and, of course, to help build a solution to a specific problem. Moreover, in view of their agility and efficiency for generating solutions, these events are increasingly common. It is a really good idea for any professional to be familiar with the format.
If you are an entrepreneur and have an idea in mind, it is essential to have your project plan ready, be flexible and know your market very well. If you don’t have a specific idea yet, but you want to help, this kind of events give you an ideal platform for connecting with other ideas and seeing the dynamic of developing a project. These experiences will give you inspiration
To finish off, the following factors are critical for taking part in a hackathon effectively:
Enjoy yourself and, of course, work on a project that excites you. If you do, you will always have the motivation you need to go the extra mile!