Thoughts, travels and inspiration

Category: Personal Development

Five reasons to volunteer in 2020

Photo by Marcela Hernoux Photography

Last December I had the opportunity to be part of one of the biggest self-development event TEDx in Luxembourg City. Most people are familiar with the TEDx model of conferences: ideas worth sharing being delivered in 10 – 12 minute talks, made available to the public online, so that more people can have access to them.

From the importance of sharing knowledge to engaging ourselves for a cause, the TEDx conferences offer a possibility for everyone to grow not only as individuals, but also as a society. It’s meant to inspire, stimulate and motivate attendees, stirring up new and thought-provoking ideas and concepts.

This made me think of the act of volunteering: offering my time and services for free and not expecting payment in exchange. I realised throughout the process that the experience has given me so much that my time was actually paid, not in a pecuniary form, though.

Volunteering has numerous benefits and I would like to encourage you to think about it in 2020. Here is a modest list of 5 of these benefits that I felt were my paycheck.

1- Volunteering gives a sense of purpose

In a world going faster and faster, we sometimes feel stuck in a routine, doing the same actions again and again.

After long hours at the office, on the phone or on a road to meet clients, picking up the kids at school or enjoying a bit of free time with one or two beloved activities, we develop the “Sunday evening feeling” that the next week is another one before another break or holidays.

Volunteering offers a tremendous opportunity to be part of something bigger than us and to give our best for something that can change the life of many. It allows us to nourish our values and to transform us into an instrument of goodness, without the mechanised feeling of routine tasks.

With strong values of quality, respect and freedom, volunteering with TEDx offers me the opportunity to reflect on topics that can be interesting to develop my values and share them with the people around me.

It allows me to be part of a bigger group of bright minds that give their best to share knowledge with others.

2- Volunteering helps to develop deeper relationships with people

Volunteering is usually a privileged moment to meet a lot of people in a different context detached from the routine.

Listening to an older person who is retired and feeling lonely, giving a hand to a part of the community who is in need or offering some free time to teach a passion to kids or disadvantaged people is a fantastic opportunity to connect with others and build a strong relationship with them.

Offering my management skills to TEDx enabled me to meet people I sometimes work with in other contexts and develop a unique collaboration without any other interest than serving a cause I dearly care about. The interaction becomes more spontaneous and genuine, and the environment is more friendly and less competitive.

3- Volunteering is good for your career

Volunteering is also good for your career. As we all know, careers can be pretty linear with the same type of activities done with different companies at different levels of complexity over time.

Doing another type of activity, sometimes completely different in a volunteering role can turn into a chance of doing something different we like or haven’t had the opportunity to try before.

Once experienced, the volunteering activity can become a vector of experimentation and even change if successful, bringing a huge opportunity to target better things and even a career switch into a more appreciated position or sector.

Volunteering at TEDx offers me the opportunity to connect better with the crowd and the public and be in contact with events. It is a great platform for my passion for sharing knowledge and helping people, as well as assessment of practices and activities I would like to develop in the future.

4- Volunteering is good for the community

We are all part of a community of people working to make our lives better. Some having done this throughout their lives and others starting now, growing up to adulthood and getting their place in this community.

Through volunteering we can give back to those who are making our home or welcoming cities a good and safe place to grow as individuals, professionals and families. It allows us to provide a service and give something we know how to do well for the benefit of the society.

Participating at the TEDx adventure in Luxembourg City is for me a way of offering the Luxembourgish community something of value for having welcomed us so well from the time we arrived last year.

It gives me the opportunity to bring knowledge, care and thoughts to a country and city we love and want to see growing and thriving in the next coming years.

5- Volunteering is good for yourself

Finally, we are all here for a reason and the best way to be is to give in order to exist and grow. Volunteering is sharing, caring and growing for ourselves too, and it is extremely useful to do so.

It allows us to transform ourselves through our passions and see the immediate results with the people we are volunteering with and the others we offer our services.

The feeling and the emotions brought by the TEDx Luxembourg City Women event in December were absolutely astonishing. It was impressive to see people connecting as one and offering a unique moment of knowledge and passion to the crowd.

It was one of the moments where I felt the most at home in Luxembourg and I have build many friendships and connections around the event.

Photo by Marcela Hernoux Photography

To wrap up, volunteering is good for a lot of reasons and the ones I listed here were the ones that resonated the most with me. This doesn’t mean you won’t find others, maybe even more relevant for your personal view and needs. I believe everyone should volunteer even if it is once in their life time. You can be surprised to learn that it is as much about yourself as it is about the others you help.

Let me know your thoughts about it. Are you volunteering? Are you thinking about doing something like this? What does it make you feel? Please connect and share your opinion. I would be delighted to hear more about you and know how volunteering makes you feel 🙂

5 reasons to discover Luxembourg now!

Abbaye de Neumünster, Luxembourg Grund

Summer has passed so quickly and it’s a pleasure to welcome you back after the holidays with some more pictures of my travels around Europe.

A business opportunity brought us to Luxembourg and we have been able to enjoy a fantastic summer surrounded by new landscapes that I wanted to show everyone. So here are 5 reasons to visit Luxembourg and maybe surprise yourself!

1- Summer is nice and sunny

Luxembourg is not a year-round warm country, but its continental climate offers a good choice for summer weather while being really reasonnable regarding its European neighbors.

This Summer most of the days were around 25 degrees with nights around 15 mainly due to the forests surrounding its capital and main towns. Temperatures feel really comfortable, bringing enjoyment to outdoors activities. Even on cloudy days, a good walk is always pleasant.

Luxembourg can be easily accessed by road, train or plane and its national airline Luxair, is well known for its quality and punctuality. And it is always good to remember, from the 1st of March 2020, all public transport will be totally free in Luxembourg.

2- Its capital is either buzzling or peaceful and cosy

Luxembourg city has very different neighborhoods, either very international and busy around the main station (Gare) or the business area of Kirchberg or more quiet and very close to the nature, like the Grund. It’s a city of contrasts.

The heart of the city is the Ville Basse, the lower level of the city. It’s a scenic and picturesque area, with plenty of green areas and preserved buildings and structures from medieval times, such as the Bock Casemates, a group of tunnels and galleries build in 1644 during the Spanish domination to serve as defensive passages.

The welcoming Abbaye of Neumünster (in the Grund, ville basse) is one of our favorite places in the city and is a great place to unwind and walk during the long summer evenings.

Some great restaurants offering international cuisine are also located in the area of Clausen (ville basse) and are to be discovered.

The Ville Haute, higher level of the city, is where all the buzz happens. From the historical city centre with its squares (place Guillaume and place D’Armes) and the Palais Grand-Ducal, to Kirchberg, business area of the city with great options of entertainment (MUDAM – Modern Art Museum, and the Philharmonie).

3- Its community is vibrant with exciting activities

Luxembourg is a small country where most of the international communities are represented to offer a unique and amazing opportunity to meet the world.

The Schueberfouer, yearly funfair happening early September is an amazing opportunity to celebrate the town and its diverse community around the ferris wheel and its numerous attractions. It also counts with a great deal of typical food such as the Gromperekichelcher (Luxembourgish potato fritters), and stands selling souveniers and interesting objects.

Located on the Place du Glacis, its attractions offer amazing photos like the one below.

4- Its landscapes are breathtaking

Leaving the city to the North of the country, numerous castles can be visited like the one of Bourscheid pictured below.

The beautiful region around Esch-sur-Sûre offers to the visitors gourmet cuisine and tremendous views on the river Sûre and the forests surrounding it.

5- Its towns are full of colours and history

Leaving the region of La Sûre, it’s worth driving East to the Mullerthal, its beautiful waterfalls, its long trails into the woods and the town of Echternach.

Located at the border of Germany and home a very well known festivals and religious processions, it’s for sure a very well spent Sunday in one of the most traditional towns in Luxembourg.

Those pictures are only a few taken over the summer of beautiful Luxembourg. Other locations worth visiting are Vianden and the iconic castle, or Remich and its vineyards close to the Moselle river.

Different websites are also easily accessible for more ideas and information like Visit Luxembourg, Luxembourg City Tourist Office or the official website of the City of Luxembourg.

And you, have you already visited Luxembourg? Are you planning to do so? Let me know your thoughts and happy to help you create your journey around Luxembourg.

Did you like the pictures? All credit goes to my better half Marcela Hernoux. You can check her work on www.marcelahernouxphotography.com

10 wonderful places to discover

From the time I have started this blog, I try to promote my thoughts for a better world.

Thinking, debating, offering ideas is key to build better lives for our families and the people we love.

Travelling is one of the best ways to open our minds and understand how others do things. It triggers our curiosity and enhances the respect we need to have for each other.

Over the last 10 years, I had numerous occasions to travel and to discover great places around the globe where I like to go relax, think and spend some good time.

Today I’d like to share a few spots that have inspired me to look at the world, understand and appreciate the beauty of it. Some of them are also not very obvious choices and can definitely amaze visitors. Let’s not wait, here are 10 places you need to discover soon!

Ireland

Ireland has fantastic sceneries and has been home for 10 years in my life. While Dublin City centre, the Guinness factory or the Cliffs of Moher are something to see, here are three places to enjoy aside from the crowd.

Dún Laoghaire is a town located at 20min in the South of Dublin and home to a lovely harbour and a couple of old Piers. Walking at the end of the day on one of them can offer you sceneries like below. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/qetaVzb8FFo2xDRq6

East Pier, Dún Laoghaire, Ireland

Slightly further South, Vico Road offers a splendid view on all the South Coast of Dublin up the towns of Bray and Greystones. You can go on foot from Dún Laoghaire, use the DART or the car to Killiney. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/BK3kiSiDmD62LCHe7

Vico Road, Killiney Hill, Dublin, Ireland

Forget about Dublin, head down to Cork and its beautiful English Market. Take the car and go to Kinsale for some fresh fish at the Bulman. Once done, drive to the extreme South and the Downmacpatrick Old Head. Stop before the private Golf Club and admire the landscape both on your left or on your right. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/vSs2nBc559p2KMm67

The Old Head of Kinsale, Cork, Ireland

Portugal

Portugal is a gem in Europe with one of the nicest food and landscapes in Europe. Starting in Lisbon, take the end of the day to go and admire the sunset from Miradouro da Graça. The light on the bridge reflecting all over the city is a perfect time for the shot of the day. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/V184Rz3NpXcsZDS8A

Miradouro da Graça, Lisbon, Portugal

Leaving the city and driving North to the region of Leiria, take some time to lose yourself in the beautiful streets of Torres Vedras. Admire the blue sky and the sun reflecting on the tiles after a good lunch in town… Where? https://goo.gl/maps/cBW4y6C7ujELhp8K8

Torres Vedras, Portugal

At the West of Lisbon, Cascais is a must-see town close to the ocean. Go for a stroll on the harbour to get a bit of quietness from the tourists and enjoy the view. Best of all, the picture was taken in February 🙂 Where? https://goo.gl/maps/Gqzv2qvj9Vodar3v8

Cascais, Portugal

Before leaving Portugal for another destination, just take one of the fast ALFA and nonetheless cheap trains to go to Porto. Spend a few days in town and cross the Dom Luis Bridge a few times to admire both sides of the city from it… Where? https://goo.gl/maps/6xb6Uvm8yaFGgVfX7

Ponte de Dom Luís I, Porto, Portugal

France

Plenty of pictures can describe France from the Eiffel tower, one of its famous monuments. Just for a change, I bring you to the Alps and Le Grand Bornand, close to Annecy. Fantastic mountain village, you will be able to eat good food, plenty of cheese and also admire la Chaine de Aravis.. Where? https://goo.gl/maps/7gUZvdJq2KMU6FDE7

Le Grand Bornand, France

Spain

What about a weekend in Spain and sunny Catalonia? Take some time to visit the Parc Guëll and admire some of the nicest views of the city. Be ready for a bit of hilly walk but the reward is definitely worth it! Where? https://goo.gl/maps/GVhCw2zp6dwteQpm7

Parc Güell, Barcelona, Spain

Arizona

Last but not least, let me share with you, one of my favourite pictures of 2013 and a trip to Phoenix in Arizona (US). This is not the closest place to Europe and not the most known in America but I highly recommend it. People are very nice and food very tasty as well 🙂

Phoenix, Arizona (US)

Do you also love travelling? Do you enjoy taking pictures? Feel free to drop me a line or comment on this article. I would love to publish more during the summer among other more academic articles.

6 principles for better charities

The world is better when people work together. And the word is better with charities. From the smaller charities of our local towns to the biggest ones, everyone should consider giving a bit of their time, money or skills for a better world. But how do those charities really operate behind doors? How to make sure that your charity reigns with the most trusted ones?

By law, charity trustees have individual and joint responsibilities for what happens in their charity. They are responsible as individuals and as a board for their charities meeting their legal duty. This article aims to explain in a simplified manner what are the state of Irish charities in Ireland, what are the legal duties of charity trustees, the main principles of charity governance and ten steps charities should follow to reporting on compliance.

The charity context in Ireland

Over the last couple of years, I have tried to work with companies having in mind sustainability as a key component of their strategy. Appian Asset Management, one of the most trusted investment company in Ireland organised last week a conference with Mazars and Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC) to explain their approach to the Charity Sector in Ireland.

MHC mentioned that at the end of 2018, Ireland had more than 9,000 registered charities. However around 15% have not completed their details on the Register and 1% didn’t even fill their annual report. Those charities are currently at risk and can be removed from the Register if they don’t disclose this information.

At a moment where the number of charities continue to grow year after year, the Charity Regulator has decided to bring a new approach and build a new code to help charities align their actions into key principles and better compliance to regulations.

As a Member of the Institute of Directors in Ireland, I’ve also got the chance to get a presentation of a new code regulating charities to help them meet their legal duty under Charity law. This code available in the Charity Regulator in Ireland website can be downloaded here. The code written in plain English is principle-based and should apply on a “comply or explain basis”

The six principles of charity governance

Charities trustees have the mission to make sure their charity is working properly and comply to the different legislations in place. In this sense, six different principles have been elaborated to help trustees to build their actions on a daily basis.

The first principle for trustees is to help advancing charitable purpose. The Charity Act 2009 defines four different categories with poverty, education, religion or any other purpose that a community can benefit. This should be indicated in the Charity governing document with the outcomes the charity want to achieve and how this will be done.

The second principle is about ethics and behaving with integrity. Values are key in a charity and trustees need to be independent and act on the interest of the charity, not on their personal ones.

Leading people is the third key principle. Trustees must clarify everybody’s roles and value the effort of the volunteers, employees and contractors. As every business, they have a duty of care and must promote respect inside of the charity.

Exercising control is set as the fourth principle. Planning is key but execution is even more important. Charity trustees must make sure the strategy is properly executed and understand the governing document of a charity is legally binding and needs to be respected. This means that funds must be controlled and risk must be reduced as much as possible.

The fifth principle is about working effectively as a team. Building a team with the correct talents from board members to volunteers is a must for a charity success. Trustees need to build a good mix of experience and skills and provide proper training to new charity trustees.

The sixth and last principle states the importance for trustees to be accountable and transparent. Accountability for charities means to stand in any circumstances for the charity values and being able to present it to any person querying the purpose of the history of the charity.

The legal duties of charity trustees

Charity trustees have the same obligations as any other director. However, on top of their business skills, they must have the sustainability component in mind linked to the purpose of any association.

Here are the legal duties that charity trustees need to comply with:

  1. Comply with their charity’s governing document
  2. Manage their charity’s resources responsibly
  3. Ensure their charity is carrying out its charitable purposes for the public benefit
  4. Act in the best interest of their charity
  5. Act with reasonable skill and care
  6. Be accountable and comply with the law

Other legal requirements beside the Charities Act 2009 exist for Charity trustees. It is recommended to pay a particular attention to the data protection legislation, the employment legislation and the health and safety legislation.

Ten steps to reporting on compliance

The Charity Governance Code available online on the Charity Regulator website offers a framework to follow to report on compliance every year. Here are the 10 simplified steps to follow:

  1. Read the code in full
  2. Decide if your charity is more complex for the purpose of the code
  3. For each standard, define the actions needed to meet this standard
  4. State each action next to the relevant standard in the Compliance Record Form
  5. If any standards do not apply to your charity explain it in the previous form
  6. Decide what evidence you can provide for every action undertaken
  7. State this evidence in the Compliance Record Form
  8. Review and agree the accuracy of the Form at a board meeting
  9. Declare your charity’s compliance level when submitting your annual report
  10. Review your alignment to the code standards every year before reporting it to the Charity Regulator.

How to get more information?

The Charities Regulator website offers plenty of information and documents on how to get support related to public questions as well as the charity questions.

Charities can find more information in a dedicated section of the website. The code mentioned in this article can be found here.

Information for the Public is also available online, more particularly the Charities Register and how to raise a concern if needed. The Charity Regulator can be contacted online, by phone in Ireland at +353 1 633 15 00 or by email mentioned on their website.

The summer is coming and there is no better time to engage yourself in new activities or to make sure your charity is benefiting from all the respect it is due. Having better working charities will not only benefit society but also ourselves too. The world will say thank you and your community too!

Five things you should know before starting an MBA

Doing an MBA had always been a life time goal! “Why?” would you ask. Does it really make you a better professional? Does it change you as an individual? And actually, what is it really to do a Master’s in Business Administration?

After more than 2 years of studying, dreams come true. In September, I will graduate with an Executive Henley MBA from Henley Business School. At a time when I enjoy looking back and reflecting on it, here are 5 things you should consider before starting your own MBA…

1. Why do you want to do an MBA?

Doing an MBA is always an intriguing thing. Indeed, lots of people start to ask you questions to demystify it… Many of them will be linked to money and how much you might earn after it. Others will ask about your capacity to handle the volume of study and how it will definitely challenge your resilience. All well considered, the major question you should ask yourself is what do you want to achieve from your MBA?

An MBA is a generalist degree that offers a strong level of knowledge to develop, manage and scale a business or a team at a large and sustainable level.

Think in terms of career progression, what do you need to develop the most? Is this a generalist approach to business to grow your capacity to be part of larger projects and lead them to completion? Or do you need to get more specific knowledge in an area where a Master’s of Science (MSc) would be more appropriate? Do you even need a degree, or a certification is enough? Think well about this before committing to it.

A good way to discuss that is to talk to your colleagues, friends and family about how you see your career and what you need to move to a next stage. Your manager should definitely be part as well of the conversation and your career planning strategy. Feeling lost or unsure? A coach or a mentor can also help you in this direction.

2. What will you study during your MBA?

During your MBA, you will study practical business cases covering all company areas and impact on the wider society. In some Business Schools, like Henley, you also have a very good in-depth personal development module on top of the fundamental topics below.

The first year will be focused at looking inside of your organisation. Management of Systems and Processes, Finance and People is covered in depth with a particular application made on how to implement your suggestions.

The second year will be more strategic and will ask you to look outside of your organisation. Company strategy, international business, leadership and change and finally strategic marketing will be the core of your studies. You should also be able to pick an elective module and make a study trip somewhere in the world to develop your consulting skills.

Exams and assignments per modules will sanction your progress or will offer you another try to make it to the next stage.

Finally, the last six months of your studies will be focused on aligning your knowledge to an industry level challenge with a Thesis. I chose to focus on Leadership and Employee Retention in partnership with some Irish Associations like the Institute of Directors. Topics are free as much as you deep dive into one of the modules.

This is the best part of it as you can really undertake a full project, launch interviews and draw conclusions with the support of your supervisor. Be prepared all over the course to read a lot of books and take notes along the way in a development journal to be able to see your progress overtime!

3. How committed are you?

Doing an MBA is a long marathon with a few sprints at the middle with some yearly exams and some assignments to deliver every quarter or so. There is no right or wrong amount of work to do to get them right but you should forecast more or less 80-100 hours of study per module to get a pass grade.

As an example, from October 2016 to March 2019 I spent a total of 1,200 hours of study in total, and around 300 hours for the last piece of work, a thesis of 15,000 words.

I would advise to spend a minimum of 10 hours of study a week including a session of 4 to 5 hours non-stop (usually on the week-end) to deep dive into the materials and get the most of it.

Every module included for me an assignment based on my company and I spend around 25% of my time on gathering the right information, populating the models and writing my conclusions.

4. Which Business School should you pick?

Choosing the right Business School is very important to make sure you get the right quality level of teaching. My preference is to go mainly for triple accredited MBAs (AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS). You can find a list of them on the different websites like Find-MBA.com.

You will be often asked to do a GMAT Test to check your analytical writing and your verbal, quantitative and integrated reasoning. You can find more information on the mba.com website.

Your professional experience and your English proficiency can also be checked so make sure to contact the different schools you are interested in and check all their requirements before making a decision.

Finally, Business Schools price MBAs very differently based on their reputation, their location and the prestige of their alumni. Cheapest ones start around €20,000 and can go up to €100,000 for the Top MBA schools.

Be aware that companies are more and more willing to participate in the education fees to contribute to employees’ professional development. They may also be interested in benefiting from your future assignments to review their whole strategy. You can start to be involved in more projects internally and grow your career quicker this way.

Always check as well incentives from Governments to understand what will be your real net financial investment in the programme. Ireland has put in place a tax relief for third-level fees that is worth studying on Citizens Information for anybody thinking in starting a new degree.

5. What is the real value of an MBA?

I often get this question. Is it really worth the price? It’s so expensive to do an MBA, isn’t just too much money for something you could gather yourself along the way…

There is definitely not a standard answer to this question but I do believe it has been greatly beneficial to me for different reasons.

  • The alumni network everywhere in the world is huge and with more than 28,000 members Henley Business School has allowed me to connect with leaders all over the globe.
  • The knowledge proposed by the school has been challenging and fascinating in many aspects to force me to think out of the box and manage successfully every component of a business or a division.
  • The international character of the school grants a diversified programme with study cases from all over the globe. It also offers another level of impact to different businesses and leadership styles globally.
  • The Executive aspect of the MBA, allowing me to apply my different modules to my company challenges, has allowed me to grow my business acumen and take better and more factual decisions over the course of the programme.

Final thoughts

Doing an MBA is not easy, it is a commitment to work hard with yourself, to get constant support from your family and understanding of your business during the 30 months of studies. Having the correct level of work / study / life balance is important and people we love are key to our success.

The support of your study team will be key as well, and taking the time to rest without guilt is capital to go through this transformation process.

Tracking my time studying was capital to me to make sure I was keeping myself stimulated to deliver results while allowing some breaks and exercises outdoors. Free tools like Myhours are great for that and super easy to use.

I would encourage you to think carefully about what motivates you to do an MBA and write exactly what you want to get from it.

It will help you celebrate better your successes and ease difficult times you may have along the way. If you need any help or have any question, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to share my experience and help you make the right choice for you!

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