I was having a conversation recently with a “business leader” in Cork. The mood was jovial until I brought up that I had completed a Spring Internship in London with Credit Suisse last year. I was laughing that many of us UCC students and graduates were well able to match, if not exceed the capabilities of our international counterparts at the investment bank. She became immediately serious, and her face soured at me. “Of course you were. I’m quite surprised myself that you were surprised!”
I guess my perceptions of Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics had been skewed by their marketing teams, prestigious researchers and watching too much “University Challenge”. I did, late one evening, inform my Cambridge flatmate of my stereotypical views on students from his university. He laughed and explained that they only send the “freaks” on TV shows like “University Challenge”. He explained that while there is some great work being carried out at his institution, most of his classmates are ordinary guys with a strong work ethic.
Although I learned a lot from spending time in one of the world’s largest IT departments, I think one of the most important things is a reinforcement of what my rowing coach used to tell us before competing – “race the person, not the name”.