On Thursday the 7th of February I accompanied CIT International Business students on a trip to Brussels to visit the Irish Embassy, the Microsoft Innovation Centre, Business Europe and the DHL Aviation Hub.
Our day started with a lovely breakfast in the Institute before catching a train from Leuven to Brussels Schuman and then a short walk to the Embassy on Rue Froissart. The group was met with a warm welcome from the Embassy team before Irish Ambassador Helena Nolan arrived to give the students a talk on her role, the importance of Ireland having a presence globally, an insightful chat on her career and her rise from her first post with the civil service to her present role as one of Irelands leading diplomats. Ambassador Nolan stayed to answer the student’s questions and for some photos before the group had to make their way to the Microsoft Innovation Centre.
Personalised Individual name badges and a large lunch buffet on arrival were well received as the CIT students made their second stop on what was very busy day. After lunch the group was led through to an Innovation room filled with the latest Microsoft technologies for a presentation from Director of Public Policy Ciaran Conlon and Director of EU institutional Relations Mark Lange. The group learned about the large amount of work Microsoft do in various sectors with Artificial Intelligence and possible applications, including it’s use as a live audio descriptor for visually impaired people being of most interest. Other topics of discussion included data protection, cloud computing and the complexities of lobbying. Once this talking was done it was time for the group to get their hands on the latest tech and take them for a test run.
Next up was a trip to Business Europe who are a lobby group representing 39 national industry and employers’ organisations from across the EU and six non-EU countries. Jessie Fernandes gave a brief description of who Business Europe were and what their function was. Next was Pieter Baert who explained the organisations economic policy and what they measure when creating such reports as their biannual Economic Outlook. Finally, Patrick Grant, a member of Business Europe’s Brexit taskforce spoke on the possible economic impact of Brexit and how they were working to try to ensure a smooth outcome for European businesses.
The DHL Aviation Hub Brussels was the final location for the day and was perhaps the most surprising. This 36,500m² hub, which opened in February 2018, comprises warehousing and office spaces and has the ability to process 42,000 shipments an hour gave the group a glimpse at what is an often forgotten about aspect of global business. After a video presentation the students were brought around the fascinating complex by two fantastic guides, Maarten and Steve who answered any questions the group had all while describing how DHL’s in-house sorting process worked and how any potential errors are dealt with in a short time frame. The final stop on the tour of DHL was the main office which comprised the flight monitoring systems and the sorting control. There was just enough time for a group photo and a parting DHL gift pack for all the students before it was time for the bus back to the Institute to end what was an incredibly fun and insightful day.