Corporate sponsors play a key role in the Integrated Core Experience (ICE), McIntire’s comprehensive, cutting-edge third-year core curriculum. Here, ABB’s Roger Hallett and Bill Gibson discuss the responsibilities—and considerable benefits—of ABB's role as a corporate sponsor.
At ABB, Roger Hallett is Business Development Director, North American Rail Segment; Bill Gibson is Vice President, Railway Industry North America.
Why did you decide to become an ICE corporate partner?
Hallett: Once we began to understand what the ICE program was about, we pretty quickly saw that there was an opportunity for us not only to participate, but to get something meaningful and tangible out of our participation. The opportunity to work with the ICE program came at a time when we were sifting through a lot of information from consultants and customers, trying to work out our future strategy. We were hoping that the students would come back with more information, and either a validation or a contradiction of what we thought, and that they might even throw in some new ideas that we hadn’t considered.
It sounds like you expected a lot of the students. Did they deliver?
Hallett: We went into the partnership with the expectation that it would work well—it just worked so much better than we thought it would. Literally, the day after the presentations, we listed at least 10 ideas that were real takeaways. That was a result of the fact that the research was fantastic, and the ideas were really good.
Having good ideas is one thing, but were the students able to effectively convey those ideas to you?
Gibson: It was interesting to see the impact of making a presentation the way you’re supposed to do it. The students came in with conviction and force, and were very concise—which is just how you should be, if you want to be effective in selling your ideas.
But being an ICE corporate partner involves more than just attending the students’ presentations. What were your responsibilities?
Hallett: Our involvement was quite close. We had some preliminary discussions with faculty members about what the particular targets were for the students, as well as about what we needed, because as I said earlier, we saw this as a great opportunity to get some tangible value for ourselves. After those preliminary discussions, we designed the inputs and the expected outcomes in a fairly general kind of way, and then I came to McIntire to give the students some background information on our current strategy. Then in the middle of the term I came back to do a two-hour Q&A session. In the four weeks that followed, I had a lot of email correspondence with the students, which was channeled through Professor Gary Ballinger. Then in December we came back for the final presentations.
What do you think was the most surprising aspect of your experience?
Hallett: The students’ ideas were really good. Some of them we’d thought of before, but some of them we hadn’t. The students argued for and supported their recommendations, and there were some real eye-openers in what they suggested.
Gibson: The students’ level of commitment to the project was something of a surprise. They obviously had to enjoy what they were doing, or they wouldn’t have done it so well. We really appreciate the work they’ve done with us. From the start, this was a great partnership.