“I wanted to understand the strategic implications that come with technology” – EIT Digital

EIT Digital

By Karin Oost EIT Digital 

Read all stories

Meet our student: Nelly Hernández

Researching strategic management, as PhD researcher Nelly Hernández is doing at Fraunhofer IMW, should involve digital transformation. Hernández thought as such and wanted to learn more about digital transformation. The offering of courses about digital transformation that doesn’t require a technical background however is low. Except at EIT Digital.  Hernández selected the Summer School in Munich about IoT Platforms for Industry 4.0. “I now understand the concept of digital transformation.”

At the EIT Digital Summer Schools it is possible to enter with a business background. In two weeks’ time, Hernández learned enough to further her research on strategic management, she says. She hopes to finalise her research in 2022. 

The IoT Platforms for Industry 4.0 summer school is one of the many summer programmes EIT Digital is offering every year. These summer schools are about to learn to turn emerging technologies into business. Each school is centered around one of EIT Digital focus areas: Digital Cities, Digital Industry, Digital Finance, Digital Tech, and Digital Wellbeing. Hernández went to the Digital Industry summer school in München that will be held again in 2021. In all schools, the students deep dive for two weeks in real-life business cases and get to learn how to turn tech into business.

Why did you sign up for the EIT Digital Summer School on IoT Platforms for Industry 4.0? in Munich?

“I am doing research in the field of strategic management on the topic Digital Transformation. I lack some technical background and I wanted to understand the strategic implications that come with technology. I wanted to have more knowledge about the internet of things and industry 4.0. When I read the description of the EIT Digital Summer School in Munich about gaining technical knowledge and an entrepreneurial focus, I was interested. At first, I was afraid to have too little technical background. But I called and they said it was okay to have no technical background to enter the EIT Digital Summer Schools. I liked also that the summer school IoT Platforms for Industry 4.0 was in Munich, for I live in Leipzig.”

How did you experience the Summer School?

“To be honest. At the beginning when I heard the school was to be online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had no big expectations but was hoping for the best. I thought, two weeks online might become boring. In the contrary, I was amused during these two weeks. The summer school was absolutely not boring. I did not feel I had to stare at my screen for two weeks.”

How come that you were not bored having the classes only online?

“The organisation was seamless, and the school entailed a lot of interactions and provided several breakup rooms. Sometimes you were a listener, and a lot of time you were doing teamwork, you had coaching hours, and you were practising your pitch. It was very well organised, and the virtual situation was very well managed. I liked the mixture in time between theory, workshops and content. I also liked the level of presenters. The only thing I missed was real contact with people, but that is out of the hands of the organisers.”

How did you cope in the classes with only a business background?

“Because I lack some technical background, I felt that sometimes the lectures were a bit out of my scope. It was more demanding for me than maybe for some others. It took more time for me to grasp the theory, but others were always willing to engage with me to explain a bit more.”

The EIT Digital Academy Summer School differs from other business summer schools in that it puts professionals in the same classes as EIT Digital Master School students. How do you feel about that?

“Before the school started, I thought about how that would be. If most participants are students, will I fit in with my different background? But to be honest, in class I did not feel I was in the middle of master school students. These people were super qualified. I was amazed of the level of everyone here. It was also fruitful. They are young, fresh, spontaneous, and open to express their opinions. They do not hold back. I might be more biased already because of working in the same field for a long time, which makes you narrow minded. These students opened up my mind.”

At the EIT Digital Summer you are being teamed up with others to work on a business case. What do you get out of working with students?

“My team was very engaged and somehow, maybe because of the tight schedule, we worked more. We only had two weeks to complete our case. I was lucky with my team. We were all participating well and there was a good chemistry. I was delighted to work in a multinational and multidisciplinary team. That is a rich experience. Two women came from India, there was a man from Panama, one from China, and one from Hungary. With me, being from Mexico, living in Germany, we had a very international group I like that the students come from different master programmes. I had for example students in my team from the master programmes Data Science and Human Computer Interaction and Design. I never worked before with profiles like these. I learned a lot of their different perspectives and open mindedness. It helps to open up your mind -if you always operate in a same business environment you live within a certain scope of thoughts. That is now more open. I am connected with all team members on LinkedIn, we keep in touch.”

What do you think you brought to the students?

“I hope I gave something back. I have worked in market research for some years, that I could bring in our business case. I could help others also to see the big picture. The group dynamic brought forward a lot of ideas, I could balance the ideas from my management side and do a reality check.”

What were the main things you learned?

“My main learnings, what I recall is these: I have gained a good understanding of the concept of digital transformation, of the Internet of Things, and of Industry 4.0. I have learned how to create value, was inspired by the teamwork. The teamwork was a really huge learning: we worked together in a very short time to reach a common goal. There was not much time to discuss: you need to find agreement fast. I also remember that I received an electronics starter kit to play with. Even though I have no technical skills, I now managed to some basic coding in led lights. People with more technical skills got to higher levels in this package, but I was happy to get the first level. It taught me the basis to construct some beginner things. In general, the Summer School gave me a general idea that concepts of products and services nowadays are not that simple anymore.”

What business challenge did you do?

“I participated with my team in a business case of Siemens. I thought that was a very interesting case. We worked so hard, that we even won the business challenge. What we did? We created a marketplace to trade Co2 emissions. It was a good combination between technical know-how, customer experience, and business.”

What are you taking back to your company after these two weeks?

“I like a lot the tools that we work with, the platforms online and the app Slack that we used for the schools to interact with other people was useful. I also make use of the presentation skills I gained, the focus on go-to-market thinking and making the product, service attractive in the delivery. Above all, I like the entrepreneurial thinking that I took with me. I work at a research organisation, and when doing research all the time you might start forgetting to put yourself in the shoes of a client. That is useful now. I also like the methodologies used in the school, some of them I bring to my daily work. Like if you make mistakes, make them fast and don’t wait for an entire semester.”

Would you recommend the EIT Digital Summer School to other professionals?

“Definitely. I really enjoyed the EIT Digital Summer School, even when it was complete online. I learned a lot and I think anyone who is open – it demands to be open – can learn and profit from it. At this summer school, there were in total about four to five external participants, but to my understanding everybody left with new learnings. At school there were people from different companies, professors, and students. I think this is in line with what we deal with nowadays in ecosystems: it is not just working with people like you, but you need to learn to work with any kind of people, with any kind of levels and with any kind of different associations.”