Introducing 21st Century Leadership to Engineers at the start of their careers – The Dyson Institute

Client Experiences

Leadership is a contact sport learnt ‘on the job’ – so when faced with their very first leadership role how do you introduce busy undergraduates, already juggling study with their first job, to experiential learning – oh and via online webinars!? 

That’s precisely what Fp did for the Dyson Institute’s students who were leading student representative teams.  Convene people, create a safe to fail learning space, galvanise them around interesting ideas, introduce ways to experiment with these ideas, and then openly share successes, mistakes, learning and next steps.

“The Leadership skills course has been invaluable in reshaping my understanding of effective and progressive leadership.”

Anoushka Patel, Undergraduate Engineer, the Dyson Institute  

The Journey

The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology recognised that the responsibilities of a ‘student rep’ presented these students with their first and formative experience of leadership, a precious opportunity to consciously shape their approach to leadership at the very start of their career.  

“What I didn’t want was a run of the mill ‘here’s how to be a good leader’. We needed something that could be shaped for their roles within the Dyson Institute with an eye on their future roles in Dyson.  
Something to give them a slightly different perspective on leadership. I needed something designed for us, not off the shelf.  We got that and more from Fp.”

Ruth Burchell, the Dyson Institute 

The Process

Fp worked closely with the Dyson Institute to create a programme to maximise engagement and shift mindset and behaviour. 

The first workshop invited participants to co-create the content of the programme, followed by a series of webinars on core leadership skills, and finally a learning review session to share stories of successes and learning along the way.  

Every webinar used insight and coaching to encourage ownership of their learning. Following a rhythm of insight/new idea, discussion, experimentation in their real work, reflection, and repeat. 

“Fp’s idea was to run short but highly interactive online and in-person sessions, getting participants into the right headspace quickly; to create impact while we had their attention and set them ways to experiment and practise between sessions so that theory stuck.  

Juliet [Daye, of Fp] worked in a brilliant way, involving everyone in the programme design. She ran ideas by them and steered the work to their feedback. She had material ready but flexed and amended as she went.”

Ruth Burchell, the Dyson Institute

The Impact

Following the first programme’s success, the Dyson Institute are offering this opportunity to more of their undergraduate reps. 

“It also gave them a really different idea of leadership – to bring people with them rather than a top-down approach…. It gave them a confidence with their teams …Many said they had developed knowledge and skills that they will take into their future careers.” 

Ruth Burchell, the Dyson Institute

“I found the leadership skills course an incredibly rewarding experience, especially the sessions around purposeful leadership and mindset. The method of ‘deliberate practice’ to enforce the learnings from the sessions was really effective, and something I have taken forward into many situations since.” 

Harvey Allsop, Undergraduate Machine Learning Engineer, the Dyson Institute