MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

An executive's deep roots and ongoing collaborations with MIT Sloan

Carolyn Cameron-Kirksmith

Carolyn Cameron-Kirksmith manages key initiatives and a diverse range of projects for Standard Bank Group in Johannesburg, South Africa. In her complex role, Carolyn manages new and existing relationships throughout Africa and writes on topics like innovation and digitization for the company’s executive committee. She is charged with finding innovation solutions to complex problems for the bank.

In 2012, Carolyn began a journey at MIT Sloan Executive Education that continues today. She holds an Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership as well as an Advanced Certificate for Executives, and in 2014 she embarked on the five-week Advanced Management Program, simultaneously helping to forge innovative collaborations between MIT and her company.

“I’ve always been fascinated by MIT and I highly value the thought leadership coming out of the Institute, including the MIT Sloan Management Review,” says Carolyn.

“In our organization, a few executives are selected to attend an advanced management program (AMP) at an ivy league institution somewhere in the world. When I was offered the opportunity to attend one of these programs, I suggested MIT Sloan’s AMP, given that I had met AMP participants while taking Executive Education programs in the past. They were surprised to learn that MIT offered such a program and encouraged me to pursue the opportunity. In doing so, I spoke with the Faculty Director, Court Chilton, over Skype … and very quickly, I was offered a seat in the program … it was surprising. The bank was very supportive.”

Carolyn understood that MIT’s Advanced Management Program is different from other programs, in particular because of the small, select nature of the group. “The small class size is a real differentiator for me,” says Carolyn. “Many of us in the program are still in touch today,” she adds. “Where ever possible we continue to help and support each other professionally. It great to keep in touch with a broader network of colleagues.”

Carolyn also chose MIT in part because of our presence on the cutting edge of technology and the digital revolution. “In my role, I have to consider a lot of unknowns, many of which are largely in the tech and digital space. In AMP, Jeanne Ross and other faculty helped us understand what the rapid changes in technology and digital means for our organizations, as well as the broader environments and ecosystems that we operate in.”

Coinciding with her participation in AMP, Carolyn’s company was invited to be a sponsor of MIT CISR (the MIT Center for Information Systems Research). CISR helps executives meet the challenge of leading dynamic and information-intensive organizations, providing digital leaders with insights on topics such as business complexity, data monetization, and the digital workplace. More than ninety firms sponsor the Center’s work and participate in the consortium.

“Our CEOs asked if I could meet with Peter Weill, the Chairman of CISR and was also one of our AMP lecturers. I also met with [Associate Dean] Peter Hirst to talk about the opportunity we had to become a CISR sponsor and other ways our organization could interact and work with MIT. CISR was clearly a good fit for our organization and we have been a sponsor for over four years.” During her time at MIT, Carolyn was also struck by how responsive and collaborative Weill and all the MIT Sloan faculty were.

“When I returned to South Africa, we were looking for a keynote speaker for a very important meeting of 350 of our top executives across operations globally. Eric Brynofflson, whose new book, The Second Machine Age had recently been released, was one of our AMP lecturers. I was privileged to have the opportunity to speak with Eric after the lecture about The Second Machine Age and what this could mean for Africa. I emailed Eric regarding the opportunity and he actually made time in his schedule and presented his and Andrew McAfee’s findings to our top 350 executives—you could hear a pin drop in the room. It’s been amazing to see how collaborative and responsive the faculty have been throughout all these experiences. They truly live the Mind and Hand credo.”

Carolyn and her organization have since collaborated with MIT Sloan on a series of custom programs. “Our company’s Group Executive committee attendees and our chief executives from 19 countries in Africa were able to make it to campus for the first set of custom programs in May, The MIT Sloan Executive Education team was simply fantastic in working closely with us to design and deliver the two fantastic programs… that experience continues to resonate very deeply with our senior executives. By all accounts, AMP, CISR, and now custom programs have each been the right thing to do, at the right time. I’m am grateful and really glad to have been able to make the most of my experience with MIT.”

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