Siena alumnus heads new business incubator at Loudonville college

A big part of Michael Hickey never left Siena.

A big part of Michael Hickey never left Siena.

He is as invested today in envisioning the possibilities of what can be achieved locally in the business world as he ever was. To see him approaching his office down a long hall to Room 306 in Siena Hall, one gets a sense of a focused college student transported through time and life experience from 1983 when he graduated from Siena into the present, and the role he was ultimately destined to play.

Hickey joined the faculty in September of 2010 to head up what has been referred to as a “business incubator” in the college’s School of Business, where he has been passing on to the students he mentors the same core values that enabled him to attain success at a level far surpassing what many of them entering the program envision for themselves.

The very tone and environment of the department would seem to communicate that Siena “means business” about preparing its students to compete at the managerial level.

The large high-definition television mounted to the wall in the third floor hallway is tuned to MSNBC. The constant broadcasting of current commodities news with unbroken analysis of what is happening in the world financial markets charges the atmosphere as students pass.

The Douglas T. Hickey Financial Technology Center (named in honor of Siena College alumnus Douglas T. Hickey, class of 1977, no relation to Michael Hickey) is furnished with high-backed leather and wood boardroom chairs at each student workstation. A real-time stock market quotation board flashes colorfully in an adjacent lab, providing students with detailed stock market quotations all day so future entrepreneurs can stay informed.

Hickey says the term “business incubator” is outdated, though.

“The premise of a business incubator is based on an old real estate term,” he said. “It is more current to speak of ‘business acceleration.’ ”

Having reached a point in his career where he needed new challenges, his commitment and vision for regional business excellence led him to establish The Hickey Group, LLC, his own sole proprietorship management consulting business, as well as teaching in the School of Business at Siena. The school is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a global, nonprofit membership organization of educational institutions, businesses and other entities devoted to the advancement of management education.

Since his return to Siena and decision to join the staff as executive in residence, Hickey says he has focused on “connecting the school of business to the business community through proactive and progressive programs.”

He attained considerable success of his own in the business world — as president of locally based Pitney Bowes Software and chief operation officer of MapInfo.

That background uniquely positions him to help students in all areas of study at Siena to have the advantage of working with real executives. Students can gain experiential knowledge of the strategies and decision-making tools that help growing businesses succeed.

Hickey adds: “I’ve long had a passion to teach. I have an ability to see what’s possible. I want to see this region do well. I’m interested in the opportunities for us to lead. I’m working for a passion, not a paycheck.”

Hickey believes that being an effective business leader “is an interesting topic, because many people may have come to be known as effective leaders and yet it may be only one component of who they are that drove them. For example, some may be good at setting vision and strategy and others may be good at personally connecting with people. Others may be mentors, or good at getting people to grow beyond their comfort zones by challenging them. Leaders have weaknesses as well, and often a strength can actually become a weakness in certain scenarios.”

When asked what the influences were that led to his own success as a leader, Hickey says: “I have always had an interest in leadership personally. Whether it was from a coach, teacher, boss or peer, I always felt you could learn something different from everyone. I don’t like to make the same mistake twice, so I would use these real-life experiences to personally try to round out my own skills.

“One particular example does come to mind. Mark Cattini started as a peer and then became our CEO and thus my boss [at MapInfo]. Mark is the strongest [emotional quotient] person I have ever met and I would venture ever will.”

Emotional quotient is the measure of emotional intelligence, and is defined as a self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others and of groups.

By working side by side with Cattini for nine years, Hickey says, “I learned a lot about managing relationships individually. That experience in the end changed my path as a leader and helped me develop my own EQ skills. Left to my own inherent path I am sure I would not have developed as strongly in the EQ area. That’s one example.” Others, he said, range from Winston Churchill and Harry Truman to Derek Jeter and Jack Welch.

Hickey, 49, a Brunswick native, now lives in Clifton Park with his wife, Dana, and children Meaghan, Tyler and Evan.

He says that from an early age he had to be in charge and that even his daughter has been told by a teacher who also taught Hickey in class that he was driven to achieve and to lead when he was her age.

Asked what core values helped him lead MapInfo and what he tries to instill in business students at Siena, Hickey answered, “That the customer comes first, the necessity for collaboration and teamwork, creativity and innovation, and continuous improvement.”

Jeffrey A. Mello, Ph.D., dean of the School of Business at Siena College, is very enthusiastic about what Hickey has brought to the School of Business. “Siena strives to prepare our students for a lifetime of extraordinary achievement with extraordinary opportunities, such as the [Siena College Business Incubator],” he said via email. “The SCBI is housed in and supported by School of Business but has been developed for all Siena students across all three schools. The SCBI is a cutting-edge initiative rarely found in a small college environment. It builds on what we’re well–known for: quality, personalized liberal arts-based professional education but will allow us to deliver on the expectations employers have of our graduates even more than we currently do.”

Mello continued: “What is unique about the SCBI is, unlike most other business incubators, it was developed first and foremost as an academic initiative (rather than a revenue-generating initiative, economic development initiative, etc.) and has strong academic/classroom ties. In tandem with the launch of the incubator we are reinstituting a course in new venture creation and created a new student entrepreneurship organizations.

“These activities support the new strategic focus for the School of Business in providing students with far greater opportunities relative to entrepreneurship and understanding how successful businesses are built. The benefits for students include enhanced skill development/marketability, hands-on experience in creating and launching new ventures and more hands-on interaction with successful alumni. At this point we anticipate that the incubator will be morphing into a ‘Center for Entrepreneurship’ as part of a larger strategic focus of the School of Business on entrepreneurship.”

Hickey thinks a moment and adds: “So are leaders born or made? I happen to think it is a little of both. To be a great leader I think you are born with certain personality traits but work over your life to grow as a leader. From our own personal baselines we can all improve and get better.”

Categories: Business

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