Nurturing the talent of tomorrow
"When we started out we never realised how big it would get. Lots of faculties now see participation as being very good for students' CVs," says Accenture country director Mark Ryan
Accenture Awards are designed to seek out and coach the business leaders of the next generation
The shortlisting process for this year’s Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Awards has now begun in earnest.
Twelve proposals from the hundreds of entries received from final year college students around the country have been selected and this will be whittled down further over the coming weeks with the best six going forward to present their idea to the judging panel at the final in Accenture’s Dublin office on Thursday, April 11th.
This year’s awards attracted a large volume of applications from all the main universities and colleges in Ireland, with a big emphasis on group entries.
The innovative business concepts span a broad range of themes including green-tech services, social media-based collaboration tools, mobile productivity applications and new social and charitable ventures.
The six finalists will take part in a series of development days ahead of the final. These developmental workshops combine guest speakers, classroom training and mentoring and cover topics such as leadership, entrepreneurship, innovation and business operations. As part of this process, finalists will be assigned mentors who will help them prepare for the final round of judging where they will present the business idea to a panel of Irish business leaders.
Set up by Accenture six years ago, the award is designed to seek out and develop the business leadership potential of the next generation, giving Irish third-level students the opportunity to be coached on their individual business concepts, regardless of the sector or industry.
“We take on a large number of graduates each year”, says Accenture country director Mark Ryan. “And about six years ago we thought it would be very interesting for us to do something for the final year students where they would take their own entrepreneurial and innovative business ideas and pitch them against other students in a nationwide competition.
“We did this because the quality of graduates we were encountering each year was outstanding and we thought it would be good to get them thinking a bit more about their own ideas.”
This very much fits in with Accenture’s own graduate recruitment policy. “When we take on graduates we look for high academic achievements, of course, but we also look for other qualities,” Ryan explains.
“We are looking for self-starters, people with initiative who have other achievements outside of academia – perhaps on the sports field. Leaders of Tomorrow exemplifies that. We are looking for people with a broad range of strengths.”
The competition is now established as a major event on both the business and academic calendars.
“When we started out we never realised how big it would get. Lots of faculties now see participation as being very good for students’ CVs. We have also been fortunate enough to have many of the finalists come and work for us in Accenture over the years.”
This year’s winner will get the opportunity to develop their proposal as part of an Idea Incubation Internship with Accenture as well as partake in a leadership tour to New York.
There also are two runners-up prizes for Best Strategic Innovative Solution and Best Technology Enabled Solution.
But the benefits are not confined to the winners.
“The journey to the final is very important,” Ryan points out. “When they get to the shortlist participants are coached and mentored by our staff here on various aspects of business skills. The students benefit and our guys love it as well.”
The competition is for business ideas which involve the innovative use of technology. “Last year all of the finalists were in the mobile space while three years ago there were just one or two in that area, that’s how fast things are moving,” says Ryan.
“What we are looking for is an idea which addresses an identified problem and solves it. For example, last year’s winner was for a mobile application to resolve problems university libraries were having in tracking and managing books.
“The year before we had a very interesting idea for a stick which you put in your drink and which changes colour if the drink is spiked or adulterated in any way. That has now been patented.”
While the students bring the ideas Accenture tends to bring the business sense to the table.
“We have very high calibre judging panels. This year we have Louise Phelan from PayPal, Colm Lyon of Realex Payments, Eilish Hardiman of Tallaght Hospital, and Liam Kavanagh from The Irish Times and they put the finalists through a Dragons’ Den-style grilling.
“We find it is often the business area where the students are a little naive and that’s where we can help. By the time they get to the final they are able to make a really robust business case for their ideas.”
He is looking forward to the final again this year.
“The standard of the students is tremendous. These are confident, competitive young people who want to see if they can get their ideas accepted by the judges.
“And every year the judges go away uplifted and inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of the students. They are a credit to their colleges in that regard.”