Back in May, I attended a Toastmasters conference in Antwerp, Belgium. During this conference, I attended the International speech contest and the evaluation contest. I saw wonderful speakers, such as John Zimmer and many others give great speeches, impress and inspire their audiences.
As I was Public Relations Officer of the District, I could not participate to the contests, but during the awards ceremony, seeing the joy of the winners, I thought to myself “in six months, I want to stand at the same place !”. And so, a couple of weeks after, I started to work on three humorous speeches for the upcoming contests. One in English, one in French and one in German. Different speeches are needed because the type of humor is different in every language. Also, as the contests happen during the same day, it is important to offer different jokes, otherwise any surprise effect or twist that creates a funny situation does not have the same impact. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun to see the audience at different levels of the contest laugh at my jokes.
I made it to the contest at District level (Continental Europe), in Budapest, Hungary, in impromptu speeches in English and in humorous contests in German and French. It was a great experience to speak in front of hundreds of people in a larger environment with a microphone. I really enjoyed it and the feedback I get from my fellow Toastmasters will help me improve my public speaking skills.
In the end, I finished second in the humorous speech contest in French and won the humorous speech contest in German. I realized what I had promised myself a couple of months before: to win a District contest. To me, these contests are everything Toastmasters is about. If you are willing to work hard and listen to the feedback given to you, then you can truly make progress in public speaking. I can only recommend this experience to anyone.
To conclude this post, I’d like to thank a couple of people who helped me on my way to the finals:
- Thanks to Mel Kelly, who’s been a wonderful sparring partner, a great winner in the English humorous speech contest and who took the time to help me improve my German speech
- Thanks to the members of the CRFM, and especially Elisa, Jean-Marc and Lucienne for their support and advice
- Thanks to all Prostmasters and especially Ineke and Christopher for their support across all contests and in Budapest.
And of course thanks to the whole Toastmasters organization, to all the people who spend an enormous amount of time organizing conferences and helping others grow as speakers and leaders.
After a couple of years of preparation, I finally applied at the beginning of this year to two MBA programs. The reason why I want to study again is that I want to broaden my scope of responsibility beyond only technical relationships and know-how, to learn about business in a structured way and also to challenge myself in an intense academic experience.
The first step I took was to prepare my GMAT. It is a very interesting test: although it does not really require a lot of knowledge, it does, however, definitely test your ability to think both fast and under pressure. The exercises are an excellent brain workout, even outside of an intense preparation. I mainly used the Manhattan GMAT books and the Newton preparation. My advice is: work hard and do not discourage yourself if you get a bad score. Dust yourself off and get back to work !
The second part was to write my essays. These essays are meant to give more depth and another perspective to your professional profile. It really helped me that I have been part of Toastmasters and Round Table. I experienced leadership positions at Toastmasters : I ran the Public Relations for the District 59, which spans all over Continental Europe and serves 6000 members. With Round Table I had the chance to organize a large-scale charity event for impoverished children from East Europe and definitely had a couple of stories to tell about these experiences. If you are applying for a MBA, an advice I can give you is to let as many people as possible read your essays and give you feedback. You will have to share stories with people you would not have thought you would, but I am grateful that I received feedback and suggestions for improvement from friends and family members.
Finally, I also had to ask my previous manager from HP and my current manager at Red Hat to endorse me. In my case, I decided to be very open about my intentions to stop working to go study again and had the chance that they supported me.
I applied to IMD and got the chance to be invited for the famous assessment day, along with 5 other applicants. I was amazed by the quality and diversity of their professional background. And all of them were very nice people. The day was divided in three parts:
The first part was a traditional individual interview that lasted 45 minutes
The second part was a business case, for which each of us had 30 minutes to prepare and to make some business decisions, based on the given case and data. Each of us had to give a 5 minutes presentation about his conclusions. That is when I realized that Toastmasters is an invaluable learning experience. I had to give a somehow impromptu presentation in 4 to 5 minutes in a structured manner to convince my audience: this is pretty much what I have been doing every two weeks in my club for the last 6 years ! Thanks Toastmasters !
The last part was another business case that we had to prepare in advance and discuss together, in order, again to make a business decision.
All these three activities were monitored by three members of the IMD faculty.
This assessment day was both exciting and interesting.
- Exciting because you want to prove how interesting and smart you are, as well as a leader and a team player. You have to be aggressive enough so that others hear you, whilst knowing when to stay quiet and listen to others.
- Interesting (for me) because the two business cases were radically different from the industry I work in on a daily basis. I thought it was very, very refreshing and thought provoking.
My advice if you are accepted to this assessment day is to stay true to yourself. Yes, you need to be heard and to make suggestions, but as I am more an introvert, being too loud would have seemed unnatural.
IMD called me back and I got accepted into their MBA, which I am really proud of, as it is ranked #1 International one-year MBA (i.e. outside the US) program by Forbes. I am going to move to Lausanne in Switzerland in January and will start on January 6th. And of course, I’ll try to keep this blog up to date to share my impressions of the program !
After 3 hours and 50 minutes of pain and a distance of 42.195 meters, I finally managed to cross the finish line of the Munich marathon.
I would like to thank all the people who donated money to my charity, it means a lot to me. It helped me stay focused when I needed it, both during the training and during the race. I really appreciate your support ! All in all, I received 508€ from private donations, but Red Hat, my employer, will contribute with 5000€ to this project. I am really proud to work for a company that cares about communities… not just the open-source ones !
I experienced the famous “down” after the 30 kilometers, I felt my legs hurting, but I also felt boosted by the people cheering us along the track ! There were even people waiving Breton flags. That definitely is the kind of things that motivated me !
It was a great experience and I think I did well for a first time. I did not know really know how to manage my race as I never ran 42km before. I think that I know my body’s reaction to pain a little bit better… and I am confident that I can be faster next time !
Here is a funny picture of me crossing the finish line with a big grin on my face !
Thanks again to all those who donated, you rock !
For the first time, I will participate to a marathon on October 13th and in order to make things matter, I will run it for a charity.
I am member of Round Table 50 München,a service club for young men aged 40 and younger. All “tables” in Germany contribute to a so-called “National Service Project”, which this year is dedicated to the renovation of an abandoned open-air pool to transform it into an adventure camp for underprivileged children and teenagers in Kaub.
Please go to http://www.hmarcy.com/munich-marathon-2013/ in order to spend money !
In the light of the recent revelations about the large-scale spying activities of the NSA (and others, including European agencies), I will be changing my behavior to make the most of my right to keep my privacy intact. I am not stupid enough to believe that this will protect me completely from intruders, companies and government agencies alike, but I want to make use of my right to do whatever I want to do without being suspected or spied on. So I will gradually undertake the following steps:
- using Tor for as much traffic as possible, including web and email. This includes not only my home desktop, but my work laptop as well as my Android mobile phone. The Tor project can help you protect your privacy. The connection is slower, but that is a small price to pay. It takes a couple of minutes to install see https://www.torproject.org/ Having already started to use it, I noticed how Google and Microsoft services hate to see you somehow anonymous, asking at every connection if you are the legitimate user of the account.
- running own mail server. I will gradually leave GMail, which -granted- is a fantastic service, for something like email at hmarcy dot com. Gmail is way to intrusive for me and giving my or someone else’s data to the NSA does not play in Google’s favor either.
- replace Google analytics with Piwik. As I do not want to be spied on, I do not want you to be spied on when you visit my website. I started an OpenShift application with Piwik to monitor my website to not give your data away to Google through Google Analytics
- remove +1 buttons. I actually installed a WordPress plugin on this website to share my articles on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. I removed it because these buttons will help these service to track your browsing behavior and that is just not right.
- running my own calendar application. I will stop using Google Calendar and take an open-source replacement for it on my server.
- use jabber. Using Jabber alone will not help protect my privacy, but I trust the jabber.org people much more than Google with their Hangouts. Feel free to add me vouzico at jabber dot org. See http://www.jabber.org/
- use Ixquick as search engine.
- use the browser extensions Ghostery and adblock
- use OSMand instead of Google Maps on my Android mobile phone (look for “osmand” on Google Play Store). It is a GPLv3 application !