For five days in July, our former monastery in Segovia played host to a collection of ambitious young minds from the US, Europe and beyond in the Berkeley Leadership Week. It’s typical of the ancient and modern nature of our campus in the city that, despite being redolent with history, Santa Cruz la Real hosted an event dedicated to the contemporary pursuit of new leadership perspectives.

The Berkeley Leadership Week is a summer program for students of the University of California, Berkeley, organized by the European Innovation Academy. This year, IE University was honored not only to host the event but to have some of our own students take part. In his opening address at the event, IE School of Science and Technology’s Dean Ikhlaq Sidhu spoke to the 70 participants before games, teamwork activities and lectures, all with a focus on entrepreneurship and leadership, got underway.

For the participating students this was, of course, an outstanding learning opportunity. But it was also a chance to network and interact with new people and hear some fresh perspectives as they engaged in thought-provoking activities. All of them gained something different from the event, and we spoke to some of them to get their own takes on what they’d come away with.

Paying close attention

Antonio Fernández, a student of the Bachelor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, gained a critical insight that he’ll be mindful of in future projects. He cited a key element of leadership that came out of the group activities: “It’s important to pay very close attention to all of the team members in order to make sure that everyone’s comfortable with sharing their ideas. Otherwise, someone keeps a really good solution to themselves or everyone just blindly follows one person instead of making suggestions that might be valuable. I will definitely be more attentive of this in my future team projects.”

Antonio’s favorite activity involved noting down all the information somebody was describing, and comparing his notes with the original. This was another lesson in detail. “It showed me how little details can significantly alter an idea,” he explained.

Inspired to chase his dreams

Medhi Zaid got his chance to participate in the Berkeley Leadership Week by winning the Mind Challenge, a data competition that encourages the use of soft skills alongside hard data mining capabilities. For aspiring data scientist Medhi, who is studying for a Dual Degree in Business Administration + Data & Business Analytics and wanted to improve his soft skills, this was an exciting opportunity to meet students from Berkeley.

In fact, Medhi highlights meeting them as one of the most inspiring aspects of the event, saying he learned a lot from the Berkeley contingent. “Just speaking with the other students and seeing how brilliant they are, and how much they’ve accomplished at their age, I think that being around them for one week helped me become more ambitious and more determined to chase my dreams.“

The first follower, but a future leader

Alicia Vera Peña also attended thanks to her success in the Mind Challenge. For Alicia, who admitted the event opened her mind to the reality of working alongside Berkeley students, an important lesson was the value of courage in believing in new ideas. “My favorite moment was when we learned about the importance of being the first follower. We’re pushed to be initiators, innovators and entrepreneurs, but the bravest and most powerful thing we can do is to be the first person to believe in the idea someone else has had,” she commented.

Having said that, and fittingly enough in a week that was all about leadership, Alicia learned about that skill too. “I’ve learned it’s all about perspective and teamwork. You cannot be a leader if you are not accepted as one,” she concluded.

New realizations

In his third year of a Dual Degree in Business Administration + Data & Business Analytics, Taha Yassine Moumni emerged from the event with his mind changed and his eyes opened to a lot of important aspects of business in general. His experiences in Segovia, particularly the competitive gaming challenges the teams were set, have made a considerable impact. Not least, he told us, “the realization that innovation is not limited to groundbreaking discoveries, but it’s equally about synthesizing diverse perspectives into unique solutions.” This insight, he says, has fueled his eagerness to collaborate across disciplines at IE University, fostering an environment where the exchange of ideas can be a catalyst for innovation.

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He also felt his attitude to entrepreneurship had adjusted as a result of witnessing the resilience shown by all the participants to the challenges they faced. He now has a mindset of “not just pursuing startups, but also of embracing calculated risks and adapting swiftly.” Indeed, Taha is determined to pursue every opportunity to put his new entrepreneurial spirit into practice, both at IE University and into his professional journey. And on effective leadership, he’s learned that it’s a multifaceted quality. “Beyond authority, true leadership entails inspiring others through empathy, open communication and a collaborative spirit. I aim to develop these qualities during my time at IE University,” he concluded.

Lessons on superpowers

Lourdes Mariana Reyes is a student of the Bachelor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. She secured her place on the Berkeley Leadership Week by taking part in a Tech Readiness Level course, and described it as a “week filled with amazing experiences and memories.” Lourdes was particularly inspired by a lesson in “superpowers,” saying it offered some incisive insight into team dynamics:

“Everyone has a superpower that can be anything from seeing things that others don’t, to being charismatic or knowing how to read the room. Acknowledging your own as well as everyone in your team’s superpower will unleash a success chain for you, your team and your company, and give unexpected results while creating a positive environment: the best team ever is the one with the most diverse superpowers.”

We’ll leave the last word on the Berkeley Leadership Week to Lourdes, who came away with her view on what makes a good leader sharply focused: “With the right mindset and resources, everyone can be a leader. It’s important to acknowledge the first follower, as that person usually inspires more followers. A true leader values their followers and will be on the lookout for their needs.”The Berkeley Leadership Week is a part of the partnership signed between IE University and the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (SCET) at the University of California, Berkeley, to help facilitate global collaboration between the students, faculty, and innovators of both institutions. The event was extremely successful with, as we’ve heard, important takeaways for the IE University students who participated. We’re already looking forward to the next one!