Alumni Stories: Simon Boucher

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In our latest alumni interview, we talk to Simon Boucher, EUI alumnus 2007.

Simon Boucher

Simon Boucher is the Chief Executive Officer at the Irish Management Institute (IMI). He completed a Masters and PhD at the European University Institute, where his doctoral research examined the leadership styles and effectiveness of political leaders. His principal research interests remain in the areas of leadership development, leadership coaching and enabling peak performance. He is a former research fellow at Trinity College Dublin’s Institute for International Integration Studies (IIIS) and is the former lecturer in US Politics at Trinity’s Department of Political Science. Simon has also worked internationally as a management consultant with Accenture, for the European Commission in Brussels, and regularly commentates on American political events for TV3.

First, would you mind giving us a short description of your current job?

I am the Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Management Institute (IMI). IMI is a not-for-profit independent business school, and Ireland’s only globally-ranked provider of customised executive education. We provide management and leadership development programmes and seminars to thousands of executives each year. Common to all IMI programmes is the translation of academic best practice to real-world solutions for practising managers.  As Chief Executive I am responsible for defining and overseeing the implementation of our organisational strategy, ensuring commercial growth and providing leadership to our fifty staff.

What are the most challenging parts of your job and what kind of challenges have you encountered in your career so far?

I have changed role four times since I joined IMI in 2007. I think one of the most interesting challenges as you develop your career is becoming comfortable with the process of letting go of previous responsibilities and thinking yourself into the expectations and requirements of the new role you are stepping into. For instance it took me some time to accept that to work effectively in an executive role I had to handover my teaching responsibilities. Prioritisation and delegation are painful but necessary arts!

Have you held any other major roles, or things you have achieved of which you are especially proud, since you left the EUI?

I have been an undergraduate lecturer of US politics, which is a passion of mine. During the 2008 and 2012 US presidential election cycles, I undertook a significant amount of political commentary on national TV and radio, which was a really exciting experience.

In 2011 I was appointed by the Irish Government to the “Judicial Appointments Approval Board” – the state body that identifies and informs the Government of individuals suitable for appointment to senior judicial office. I sit on this body alongside Ireland’s Attorney General and the Presidents of our different courts.

Why did you personally choose to attend the EUI?

A combination of factors… The opportunity to take an entirely new direction in my career (before joining the EUI PhD programme I had been a management consultant), the challenge of completing the PhD process, the anticipation of becoming an expert in my area of research, and meeting many interesting political actors as I undertook my research. Plus the adventure of four years living in Tuscany!

How would you describe your experience at the EUI?

Attending the EUI is by definition a life-changing and life-enriching experience. The research process can be frustrating at times, but is equally very rewarding. Overall I spent four wonderful years at EUI, made some great friends, and became a more rounded person. I would recommend the experience wholeheartedly to anyone considering applying!

Do you have any advice (academic, professional, culture or social) for current EUI researchers?

From a work perspective – develop project management expertise, and manage yourself rigorously. Life as a researcher requires real discipline and structure, and you are the only person who can manage yourself. Treating your approach to your work professionally is also very important in order to build credibility and trust with your supervisor.

Find a social outlet – I played a lot of football during my time in Florence with the EUI football team, and for me that was one of the most enjoyable and memorable parts of life at EUI.

Make a real effort to learn Italian – I was lazy and regret now that I didn’t work harder at it!

Take advantage of the many additional opportunities the EUI offers you – I did a “stage” in the European Commission in Brussels via the EUI, which was another great experience.

And make sure you never fall out of love with Florence – it is an amazing place, but I saw several colleagues grow tired of Florentine life. I spent extended Christmas and summer breaks back home in Ireland every year, and I think that kept Florence “fresh” for me.


Do you have any comments on this story or want to feature your career journey on the alumni website? Please email Neha Sinha