By Diogo Parreira, JADE President
I joined my Junior Enterprise 4 years ago. At that time, it was already a very big personal accomplishment and a huge challenge was about to start – I was a 1st-year bachelor student, who just moved to Lisbon. I must admit I had a very small picture of the world. I was born in the middle of nowhere, in a small Portuguese archipelago (the Azores, for the record), where volcanos and earthquakes are common topics of the day. Business and strategies are not.
The journey started.
Consultant. Vice President. A collection of stories to tell. Friends for life. A concrete opportunity to help businesses to grow and to learn exponentially. 5 semesters after I started a master in a new university – internal drama: is it the time to leave the Junior Enterprise network? Not really.
Elected as President of JADE Portugal, I lived one year focused on the development of an entire network. I learnt that we can do much more than delivering projects or even managing the structure of a JE. First day in the office: one-quarter of the network extremely unhappy with the direction of the Confederation. Last day in the office: a 5-year strategic plan and a very positive satisfaction rate among all Junior Entrepreneurs and Junior Enterprises. What would come next? Let’s be honest, I was finishing a master and more than ready to start a career. That was when a certain curiosity came to my mind: that kind of little creature inside you that asks you to not stop and to always do more. I knew JADE very well already but I was not sure it would be the right next step: for me or for JADE. Was I prepared?
E-mail. I wrote to the ExBo of that time and asked for a call. We did not talk about selection criteria or logistical issues: there was only one question I wanted to ask – What are the big challenges of JADE? The answer was long. I was listening to every single word and writing everything down while smiling. I was reviewing the challenges and thinking about solutions; strategic scenarios and possible directions. 1 call; 30 minutes; 1 question and 1 answer – I was decided, motivated and determined. JADE was the next step.
Today – JADE house. I remember every single word from that conversation. Has it been as I expected?
1. 8 AM, Charlemagne building, Brussels. The President of the European Parliament enters, looks me in the eyes and says, “Good morning young man” (short hesitation) “Good morning… sir!”. The audience was about 650 high-level business people. I was preparing a speech that would take place right after his. The topic of my speech was “how Junior Enterprises are fighting for a better education”.
2. End of January, JADE house, Brussels. 11 countries in one room. More than 12 hours of discussions. There was no consensus. I had changed the methodology 5 times already. In my mind: “Maybe we do not need a conclusion today… stop insisting. Maybe there is no possible consensus.” (1-minute break: enough time to remember how important is what we do in JADE) I am back in the office – we need a consensus. “Start over and do not forget that 26.000 Junior Entrepreneurs are counting on us.” We tried again, we did not leave the room. A consensus was achieved – the priorities for the next 3 years were defined.
3. “You are not doing this right” – they said. When you interact daily with so many people it is impossible to have everyone agreeing on the same ideas. A General Assembly composed of 14 people, an ExBo of 4, a 13 Project Managers’ team and a large pool of JADUS (alumni), the advisors and the counsellors. JADE is not only about managerial challenges. It is about interacting, understanding and empowering people. As a leader, you have this role. As a person, you should always try to improve. “You are not doing this right” – they said. “Please, tell me more, how can I do better?” is the answer.
4. Changing the way we talk to the countries…
5. Organizing the biggest JADE event ever…
6. Managing a very unsure budget…
Has it been as I expected? No.
It has been much more challenging. I am happy that challenges will be always the best meaning of JADE. Because the potential has no limits. I am happy I have learned so much; I have amplified my world. Talking to some other people that were part of JADE in the past, you discover everyone has similar stories – made of big challenges, handled with smart solutions that led to countless lessons learnt.
The next team will find other very big challenges: implementing strategic changes in structure; shaping the European Confederation organizational culture and increasing JADE’s exposure of JADE towards businesses. The next ExBo is a lucky one.
Do you want to know more about JADE challenges? Drop me an email: [email protected] and let’s talk.
Discover more about the Call for the Executive Board here.