With the fourth cohort of The IFT Academy beginning in September 2017, some of the most useful information to have when considering whether to embark on a programme of study is the views of graduates and current participants. Recent graduate Nick Alexander with current participants Carolyn Wood and Fash Sawyerr share their thoughts on why they joined the programme and the benefits it brings. The IFT Academy is specifically designed for high potential individuals working in a turnaround or restructuring environment and that is certainly true for Nick Alexander, who graduated from The Academy in 2015, and Carolyn Wood and Fash Sawyerr who will graduate this year. But despite being business professionals with considerable turnaround experience, all three saw The IFT Academy as an opportunity to formalise their skills. Nick’s comments: “I had lots of management experience but I felt there were gaps in my knowledge. I could see from the programme content that it was likely to give me what I needed.” Carolyn also highlights the specialist nature of The IFT Academy by saying: “There aren’t many alternatives other than on-the-job learning. I saw it as a way to formalise what I’d only ever self-taught.”
Nick funded his place in The IFT Academy himself and his experiences of it are extremely positive. He summarises it by saying: “It gave me a lexicon that I wasn’t previously familiar with and it gave me the confidence to know I could deliver on whatever was put in front of me.” He is very complimentary about Programme Director Shaun O’Callaghan and particularly highlights the speakers who contributed to the modules: “The speakers were sometimes inspirational. There was lots of goodwill from them towards the programme both at the time and some have also continued to keep in touch. For Fash, some of the most important parts of the programme are the case studies: “They have been really powerful and we have had some impressive external speakers sharing their experiences.” Carolyn agrees, saying: “We have been hearing from turnaround professionals and management teams in the case studies and it’s great to hear the story from their perspective.”
The Unexpected Benefits
While all three consider the programme content to be broadly in line with their expectations, they are all clear on the benefit they weren’t expecting: the opportunities to expand their network. Nick comments: “I didn’t expect to meet a group of people I would still be in touch with four years on and know I can call on them with absolute trust and be confident they will provide a true and honest answer should the occasion arise.” Carolyn adds: “I used to think I was relatively well-networked, but I’ve met a lot of people I simply wouldn’t have met ordinarily.”
The Value of the Investment
Of course, the most important thing to assess when looking at any professional development qualification is the value that results from the time and money invested. Nick embraced the opportunities that The IFT Academy gave him, putting in more hours than he was asked for, reading round the subjects and finding businesses other than the ones on the programme to visit and, for him, the investment has been more than worthwhile. Since graduating from The Academy he has completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, where he also led a session on Brexit. He has been a colleague to several of the people he first met as speakers on the programme and has worked on projects in the US, mainland Europe and recently opened an office in Perth, Western Australia, to act as a bridge between Australia/Far East and the UK. He concludes: “The programme was a springboard that has taken me across the world.” Even for Carolyn and Fash, who are still going through the programme, the value is already clear. Fash is putting knowledge and skills into practice in his day-to-day work while Carolyn says: “It’s challenging me to think differently and be more rounded in my approach. You only know what you know and the programme has given me a new perspective." When asked whether they would recommend The IFT Academy, all three are very positive. Fash would highly recommend it and Carolyn says: “It sounds like a big investment of your time but it’s time well-spent.” Nick concludes: “I’d recommend the programme to anyone at whatever stage of their career – there was a good proportion of senior people with 30 years or more experience in turnaround in The IFT Academy with me and that made it really interesting. So just go and enjoy it!”
Nick Alexander is a graduate from the first IFT Academy. In 2013, following a career as an executive, he made the active move into business turnaround in acute situations, carve-outs and market or digital disruption. He is currently also advising boards on risk mitigation strategies around Brexit.
Carolyn Wood is part of the current cohort of IFT Academy participants. She spent the first part of her career working in restructuring at PwC before switching to the banking perspective. She is currently Relationship Director in the Large Corporate Loan Management Unit of HSBC.
Fash Sawyerr is also part of the current cohort of IFT Academy participants. He started his career in the mining industry before moving into consultancy. His current role is Director: Value Creation at Actis where he works with portfolio companies post-acquisition on behalf of his private equity clients.
Article by Catherine Every