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by Padraic Gilligan, VP, INdustry Relations MCI

I’m NOT sitting at a railway station

I’m sitting on a granite ledge. It’s about 30 degrees and I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face. Around me there’s a veritable babel of different languages and random sounds. The breeze is warm and bone dry. To my right I can see the domed cupola of the Ritz Hotel from which I’m separated by a pleasant green swathe of vegetation. A large banner hangs above the neo-classical entrance of the building where I sit. “El Ultimo Rafael”. I’m outside the Museo del Prado in Madrid and I’m lost in thought.

Spain 4 Italy 0

Two nights ago I witnessed Spain humiliate Italy in the final of Euro12. Pat and I joined about 50,000 locals in the Hyundai Fan Zone outside the Bernabeu and got high on exuberance and euphoria while a large section of the predominantly teenage crowd got high on hash. Spain may have Europe’s highest unemployment rate and its banks may not have any liquidity but on Sunday night nobody cared as Fabregas and Iniesta and Xavi danced around a disappointingly static and predictable Italian side and knocked in 4 goals. I’m thinking about confidence, positive self-image and optimism and realise that this victory can do more for Spain’s economic recovery than any bail out by the European Central Bank!

Spanish Class

This morning’s early AM ramble took me down the Castellana as far as the Palacio Juan Miro and back to the Melia Castilla where we are staying. There’s a confident swagger about the people I pass, and a style that’s characteristically Spanish. Women look elegant and smart in flat shoes and tapered chinos worn just above the ankle. Men are in dark business suits but without ties. They all have beautiful skin, carry expensive leather bags, smoke cigarettes. They look like extras from Madmen, all studied, recherché chic. The buildings too, in this, the “back office” part of the city, are robustly functional but convey the same confidence. This is not a country going down the tubes.

Prado or Prada – which do you prefer?

These thoughts are interspersed with reflections on a 90 minute skate across the surface of the Prado, one of Europe’s most important art museums. With limited time available we concentrated on Spanish Art and were mesmerized by the extraordinary versatility of Goya, the game-changing originality of El Greco and the sumptuous sensuality of Rubens. We were also stopped in our tracks by the hubris of Velasquez who had the temerity to depict his monarch, Philip IV, exactly as he was – apparently – with a prominent chin and comical over-bite.

Son of Omar Sharif?

My thoughts also range around the reason for being in Madrid. We are here for the MCI Academy, European edition. Under the extrovert, expert direction of Avinash Chandarana, our own Omar Sharif (only younger and more handsome) the MCI Institute, MCI’s internal learning and development organisation, stages three regional week long “academies” for Asia, Latin America and Europe. Over 100 MCI “talents” from our European offices are gathered at the Melia Castilla for a variety of workshops, seminars and classes delivered, in the main, by Senior Management who are qualified in the various disciples and domains. It’s an extraordinarily vibrant experience for all concerned, once again proving the strapline “When people come together magic happens”.

The DNA of MCI

The MCI Academy, like MCI’s assembly for its entire workforce, the annual IBM, is a tangible expression of what’s unique and special about this rapidly expanding company. The more it expands, it would seem, the more it remains faithful to its cultural and ethical origins, expressed pithily in another MCI aphorism “People and relationships are the DNA of MCI”. There’s something truly great about a corporate organisation that studiously avoids hierarchy and rank and provides everyone with an “Access All Areas” pass: a company where Michael Dalton, a recently recruited young ambitious talent based in Ireland can casually chat over coffee with Sebastien Tondeur, CEO of this $300m company; where Jurriaen Sleijster, Executive Vice President, member of the MCI Executive and MBA whizzkid will donate a week of his time to work with middle and senior management on leadership and strategy.

So these are my thoughts as I soak in the Spanish sunshine on a granite ledge outside the Prado. It strikes me how entirely appropriate it is for MCI to be in Madrid during a week of great confidence, hope and optimism. MCI’s success has always drawn on such energy and so long as this continues to be the case then success is guaranteed.

Padraic Gilligan is Vice President, Industry Relations at MCI and Vice President of Ovation Global DMC, MCI’s destinations services division. Besides paying tribute to Avinash for the vision he’s pursuing with the MCI Institute he’d also like to give a big shout out to Leonie Tijink for the unfussed, quiet way she pulls everything together. 

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