The Royal Belfast Academical Institution

Commerce Week 2020: Day 1

The pandemic may have robbed us of many events and irrevocably changed the way we have lived our lives for five months, but it hasn’t prevented RBAI’s annual Commerce Week from taking place!
Commerce Week 2020: Day 1

RBAI Commerce Week 2020

The pandemic may have robbed us of many events and irrevocably changed the way we have lived our lives for five months, but it hasn’t prevented RBAI’s annual Commerce Week from taking place! Once again, our boys have benefitted from the school’s links to many local and international businesses, along with the commitment and experience of our alumni, providing them with unparalleled opportunities to gain insight into a range of businesses.

The boys themselves will write about their experiences each day, allowing us all a window to the unique project. Thank you, as always, to School Governor Mr Colin Johnston, Head of Careers Mr O’Neill and all those who have given of their time to accommodate our students.

Day 1 – Lewis Shiels and Thomas Johnston

Commerce Week began this morning at Grant Thornton, Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors, where we met with Managing Partner and past pupil of RBAI, Richard Gillan, who introduced us to the various job opportunities associated with being a chartered accountant.

A few of Richard’s colleagues went through the different pathways they had taken to get to their current positions and also told us how we could become chartered accountants. This included training apprenticeships and university courses (both undergraduate and postgraduate). Next, we completed an activity where we were asked 12 questions to gauge what kind of workers we are and how our personalities would complement the role of an accountant.

We then had a short walk to the nearby offices which are home to Osbourne King, where Director and RBAI Governor Martin McDowell greeted us and briefly introduced us to the company’s history and his role as an estate agent dealing in commercial property.

To give us the opportunity to try our hands at property developing, and to introduce some competition to the morning, we split into two teams, each of which was assigned a member of Osbourne King to assist us We had to pitch our plans to invest £30 million into commercial property whilst diversifying the portfolio; Martin had the unenviable task of picking a team to invest in. This was concluded by lunch at Osbourne King.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in both work environments and gained a great insight; thank you to Richard, Martin and all their colleagues for giving up their time and organising such interesting sessions.

Lewis Shiels

This afternoon we travelled to the award-winning Ormeau Baths. This was initially interesting due to the long history of the baths, which we were taught about upon entry. The baths were first built in 1888 as 36 public baths and two swimming pools. Now the building has been converted into an intentionally designed coworking space for local entrepreneurs, specifically in the tech industry.

Here, we received an insightful talk from Mark Dowds, the Managing Director at Anthemis and one of the founders of the Ormeau Baths. He spoke of his impressive history of investment in high-growth, early-stage companies.

We then heard from Fergus McIlduff, Chief Financial Officer of Automated Intelligence, who spoke of the journey which has led him to his current position and the qualities required for working in a tech start-up company. We were also fortunate to hear from Ryan McAnlis of Techstart, a venture capital company which has invested in many start-up companies across Scotland and NI, including those based at the Ormeau Baths. Then Symon Ross of MCE Public Relations spoke to us; he gave us an insightful look into the world of Journalism and PR, and what is required to enter and thrive in this sector.

The people I have met today have given me the opportunity to see into a variety of industries, some of which I would never have considered working in owing to my lack of knowledge of the field. It has been a really interesting and rewarding day which has left me looking forward to tomorrow’s events. Thanks to everyone who has already welcomed us.

Thomas Johnston

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