With less than two weeks for the MBA program to start, here’s what you can do

Dear MBA aspirants, if you have an admit to start in 2018, take a deep breadth before you dive into the most exciting days of your lives. While an MBA is said to provide compounding returns over many years, now is the time for you to embrace an experience you will cherish forever. You’ve just finished a warmup marathon, through your GMAT, ‘money’ planning, essays, scholarship application, LORs and interviews. As the dust settles, start watching Excel videos and work on Prof. Niamh Brennan’s pre-course assignment. Then, grab a pint @ #TheDarkHorse or #ThreeTon… down Carysfort Ave. for a head-start into your MBA life! If you’re moving into Dublin for the MBA, forget pints and start house hunting.

Some of you might be in the process of getting an admit. If you’re nearly there, hold on tight, as you’re nearly there. On the list of admissions requirements above, I’ve mentioned GMAT first, not that it’s the toughest thing but it needs more time and is a qualifying requirement before you look any further. If you think GMAT is tough, wait for Orla Nugent’s interview and you’ll find out (btw, Orla is super cool)! In August, if you’ve just realised there’s something called GMAT, it’s really ok. We all have our times of realisation.

The GMAT is more than Math and Verbal; it’s a test of nerves. So, pressure doesn’t help. Heard of time-pressure? Still, sit the test if admissions deadline permits you to. Generally, people buy ‘Official Guides’ (best recommended) and start solving questions in the order they are printed. Try this instead. For Math – make mixed sets of 10 questions (5 P.S + 5 D.S) and solve them in approx. 20 mins. For Verbal, make mixed sets of 9 questions (3 S.C, 3 C.R, 1 R.C Passage with 3 questions) and solve them in approx. 15 mins. This gets you closer to the actual flow. On Verbal, SC concepts/rules are numerous; CR and RC have fewer question types and can be largely covered in this short time span. Decide wisely on allocating time to these sections; think of your return on investment (time). Most important, take it easy!

P.S: The GMAT needs months of preparation based on individual’s schedules. Worst case, give it a shot now, and know that you’ve started preparing on-time for the 2019 intake.

Sreekanth Nagabhushana (Sree), FT MBA 2015/16

The Beginning of a New Phase

This week another phase of my life is coming to an end. I submitted the Capstone Project Report, the last assignment of the MBA. Myself, Eoin, Emrecan, and Cathal were the first team in the class to submit the report. We did our project with a start-up company called Mobstats. The company provides an artificial intelligence (AI) solution for sport clubs to increase fan engagement. Our project was to develop the company’s business plan, particularly focused on market and competitor analysis, marketing and sales plan, pricing guidance, risk assessment, and financial projections.

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The Capstone Project is a unique opportunity to put in practice all the learning from the MBA in a real business environment. Especially for students pursuing a career in consulting, the experience reflects what they would face when dealing with clients, from setting the scope of the project through the engagement letter, to delivering the final product using different frameworks. The diverse background of my team combined with the experience we had in the international consulting trip to Iceland surely maximized the learning from the Capstone Project.

Now that we are ready to go back to the real world, a new phase begins. New expectations, challenges, and goals are now being set by each colleague in the MBA class. Some colleagues have already accepted a job offer, others are still doing interviews, some are starting their own business, others will travel the world before returning to the world of business, and a few will continue their student journey. Regardless of the situation, we all share the same sense of accomplishment from successfully finishing the MBA.

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An important stepping stone was achieved, but we all know that our journey does not end here. New challenges will involve as much effort as required in the MBA. Everything we learned throughout the MBA will help us to succeed in the next stages of our career. However, we need to be aware that our learning process does not end with the three letters on our CV. We all need to be open to continue to learn as the world continues to change.

 Marcelo Cardozo de Mello Boccuzzi FT MBA 2017/18

GMAT Preparation- logic is king!

The GMAT is not easy. Nor is it meant to be. But rather than being complicated, it is deceptively simple. It is not, as most people believe, a two-and-a-half-hour test of your quantitative and verbal skills. Instead, it measures your ability to apply logic and critical reasoning to a problem whilst under pressure: a crucial competency needed throughout the MBA and beyond.

During my time at Smurfit, I have learnt that critical reasoning is something that has been expected of me in every lecture of every module. That expectation has been upheld not only by my lecturers, but also by my fellow MBA candidates. Setting a high GMAT score as a benchmark ensures a greater standard of debate and discussion in the classroom.

The best advice anyone can give comes straight from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “don’t panic”! Here are some tips, from myself and others, on the best way to go about studying for the GMAT.

Never mistake activity with achievement, a 700 plus GMAT score requires more than 100 hours of productive study. You must know your core arithmetic and formulae through and through and constantly consider, when it comes to improving your score, what’s the most effective use of your time. I’d recommend using only one broad preparation course (Veritas Prep is just one such example) in addition to the questions in the Official Guide: using multiple courses only leads to mixed messages. Limit your study period to six intense weeks, any longer and your preparation will become stale. Pick a test date, you will make it work!

As for the exam itself, the GMAT is all about time management. If you go over the two-minute mark, make sure you know how to answer the question. Never spend over four minutes on one question for any reason: guess strategically and move on.

Time management is a crucial skill, and one you should refine by sitting practice tests beforehand. With that in mind, be sure to make use of the two official (and, crucially, complimentary) practice tests that become available upon registering for the exam, as these will best reflect your actual experience on the day.

Finally, don’t be afraid to question your intuitions. Remember, there is not one right and four ‘sort of right’ answers, but instead one right and four wrong answers. With the GMAT, logic is king!

Robert Patrick Brennan MBA FT 2017/18

‘Lonely Planet – The MBA Journey’

 

It is exactly one year since I completed one of the most challenging, transformative, and enjoyable journeys I could have imagined. My MBA journey started on a beach in Vietnam. A month travelling around South East Asia provided space to reflect on those latent goals that you procrastinate on until the time is right, or invariably, perfect. Like everything in life, there is no right time, there is certainly no perfect time. I decided that the time was now, and in fact, the time would be six weeks after returning from my travels. Little did I think I was about to set out on an even greater adventure, and this time round there would be no Lonely Planet to neatly signpost the challenges and highlights.

 The MBA adventure kicked off with an induction and team building week on the soggy grounds of the Smurfit campus. I imagined sharp suits and laptops but the wellies, rain jackets and blindfolds were the perfect leveller! Running around with buckets of water on what I can only describe as an adult sports day, I forged friendships that would endure long after the MBA chapter closed. There are so many more highlights since those first few days in Blackrock, and each of them, like the best adventures, were unexpected and unplanned!

 My Lonely Planet collection expanded more than I had anticipated during an MBA. Together with four colleagues, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal in Canada to represent Smurfit at the John Molson International MBA Case Competition. Next stop, the International Study Tour saw eighty MBAs travel to Japan and South Korea to learn about doing business in international markets and visit global corporate giants including KIA and Samsung. My MBA passport was stamped again when I travelled to the US to undertake a week long module in the Behavioural Science of Management with global MBAs at Yale University. Smurfit is a member of an international global MBA network which offers students the opportunity to attend a Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week at one of a number of partner business schools. International travel aside, there were so many more highlights – the class debates, the team presentations, the countless coffee breaks with your colleagues amid writing papers on GE, Coca Cola and Southwest Airlines, and the ‘odd’ beer down the Dark Horse to catch the Six Nations after class!

 The application process was straight forward. I applied online in mid-July with my CV, two letters of recommendation, my university transcripts and a short written application. At the same time I also scheduled my GMAT aptitude test for mid-August. My application was reviewed by the Board and I was called for an interview within two weeks. I interviewed with the MBA Director who assessed my suitability and rationale for pursuing the MBA. In parallel with the application process, I commenced study for the GMAT aptitude test. I received a conditional offer from Smurfit in early August pending a sufficient GMAT score. In mid-August I sat the GMAT and obtained the score I needed to get into Smurfit, and with that my MBA journey kicked off a little over two weeks later.

 A Chartered Engineer by background, prior to the MBA I had over seven years’ experience in the utility industry across asset development, trading, strategy and innovation. Since completing the MBA, I have taken up a new role as a Manager in Accenture’s Resources practice where I work with utility sector clients on strategy and transformation projects. The skills which I gained during the MBA from leadership and strategy execution to client consulting have proved invaluable as I navigate my new role.

 While I believe everyone sets out on the MBA in pursuit of their own personal goals, I will share a few of my reflections and insights. A substantial portion of the learning on the MBA is attained through working in teams with colleagues from varied backgrounds. Embrace the diversity and opportunity to explore diverging perspectives. There will be different styles, there will be conflicting views and there will be frustrations – be open to different approaches and use the opportunity to truly understand and test your own leadership style. The leadership development aspect of the MBA was one of the most enriching elements of the journey. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, go first, have a shot, challenge your self-perceptions – you are there to learn and to push boundaries – nothing grows in a comfort zone. Take time and make the effort to bond with your colleagues. Your colleagues soldier with you and support you every step of the way. The MBA network has been one of the biggest enduring benefits, and the value of being able to tap into the network you formed while at Smurfit is immeasurable.

 To those sitting on the fence procrastinating and considering if the time is now, take the leap and put in the application; there will never be a perfect time. To those who have already secured their place, you are about to embark on an incredible journey, it will challenge you on so many levels but you will grow in equal measure. Enjoy every step of the journey!

Catherine O’ Brien EMBA 2015/17

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“Ice to meet you – the Reykjavík files”-Global Business Environments Iceland Trip 2018

The international orientation is one of the outstanding draws for Smurfit School’s MBA programme. With global case study competitions, modules in other Global Network of Advanced Management schools and international study trips already in place, the previous year’s MBA class had gone to Iceland for the Global Business Environment module.

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That first visit was such a big success that our year had heard a great deal about it long before the email to enroll for it landed in our inbox during the first semester. Fast forward through the second semester and the exams, and we found ourselves back in a classroom in Blackrock with Prof. Karan Sonpar.

Besides being reminded how important it was that a strategy not only sounded good but had to be implementable, we focused on learning how to work more efficiently as a team. We were all experienced professionals, had worked with different study groups during the past year and had read a preparatory book on teamwork. So, huddled in our project groups, we were happy to tackle an exercise that left us pretending to be stranded in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash. And it quickly became obvious that nobody in the room was as seasoned a team player as they had undoubtedly believed. I, for one, would have died horribly following the fictitious accident, had I had to make the decisions by myself. But thanks to Paul’s real-life survival training and some quick and creative thinking from Monika, Freda and Darren, we made the right decisions and survived to our imaginary rescue.

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Back in real life, on a Sunday not long after, it was time to set out for Iceland. Upon arrival, a visit to the Port Festival in the fishing town of Grindavik and the famous (and stunning) Blue Lagoon put us in holiday mood. Too soon, Monday morning arrived and it was down to business. Taxis arrived for all the groups and we took off to meet our client, an Icelandic travel company, in person for the first time. Given our lack of consulting experience, we were unsure of how well our preparations and our call with the team of the Conference and Incentives Department at the company had equipped us. But as soon as we met the team on site, things started falling into place. Many questions were answered, some additional ones cropped up but, most importantly, an understanding of the company and their needs quickly evolved, and ideas for our deliverable of a marketing plan started to develop.

The three days we had with the company went by (too) quickly and we spent a long and tense Wednesday evening finalising our presentation. After a conversation with our academic adviser Prof. Eamonn Walsh had sparked improvements to our ideas, we needed to overhaul some of what we would talk about the next morning. While other teams were visibly in the same situation (the hotel lobby looked like an exam prep room), we really started to feel the pressure mounting with the time to our presentation seeping away faster and faster while we were fine-tuning how we would put our thoughts into visual queues.

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With Monika, one of the year’s marketing aces, in our group we were confident in our ideas, and we had certainly rehearsed enough to know that we were communicating our suggestions creatively and coherently. But as with everything involving an audience, it is impossible to know what everybody would think, and we were still slightly apprehensive going into the presentation. Fortunately, the client’s reaction was extremely positive and we felt the proverbial weight fall off our shoulders.

group-pic-a-kirsten-icp-1Group members: Paul Donnelly, Monika Ghita, Darren Yourell, Freda Mahon, Kirsten Dottermusch

The remainder of the day as well as our Friday tour of Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Strokkur Geyser felt like a holiday we desperately needed. However, what we embraced and appreciated most about the week was the practical opportunity the consulting project provided. Applying the knowledge that we had acquired during the first year, encountering the pitfalls we were so confident we would avoid but successfully finding solutions as a team when we did not, were significant and rewarding steps towards fulfilling the expectations and ambitions the course programme instills in us.

Kirsten Dottermusch, EMBA 2017/19

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Can Amazon be stopped?

I attended a great event for prospective, current, and alumni students of the MBA programme at UCD Smurfit last week in the St Stephens Green Hibernian Club and the topic caused me to pause for thought afterwards. As an alumnus from the 2016 class who moved from a career as a military officer to one in the technology industry, I could not help but lean on all of my experiences in how I thought about this issue.

Amazon have become hugely successful to the extent that they account for 44% and growing of all eCommerce in the US and major corporations such as Walmart appear to face extinction as Amazon increasingly move into their territory. They achieved this by identifying fifth wave of innovation technologies such as the internet and digital networks in the 1990’s and utilising them to become the ultimate example of centralisation, due to having a single storefront in their website and a highly integrated supply chain. This allows them to drive down costs and capture efficiencies for their high volume low margin business model better than the likes of Walmart – who conventional wisdom used to state, could not be stopped. Until they were – by Amazon.

A basic principle of strategy is that you should not choose to take on your competitor where they are strong but identify where they are weak and compete there, because if you compete on their terms, you will probably lose. So, what is Amazons weak spot?

Being a bit of a history buff I was able to draw a link with a podcast I recently listened to about the Gallic Wars whereby the Roman Empire fought a devastating war of conquest to defeat and subjugate the Celtic tribes of Gaul with the result that three million Gauls died or were enslaved. At this time, Rome was a highly centralised hierarchical civilisation that developed complex economic and military systems that integrated scientific knowledge to expand its power and influence. The Gauls on the other hand were a decentralised confederacy of tribes based on common culture, language, and traditions that bound them together.

Vercingetorix led the Celtic tribes in revolt, but when Caesar amassed a huge army to fight them, he correctly refused to fight them on their terms in a pitched battle that would allow the Romans to deploy their strengths in command and control, siege warfare, and engineering. Instead, Vercingetorix fought a sort of large-scale guerrilla war whereby he outmanoeuvred the Romans to avoid their strength and attacked their weakness that was a large and complex supply chain. This seriously hindered their ability to sustain themselves in the field and fight as the highly centralised Roman system could not compete against a decentralised and fluid opponent. For some reason Vercingetorix changed his strategy and then decided to fight a pitched battle, which predictably the Romans under Caesar won, and the war was subsequently lost.

So the historical question is; if Vercingetorix had continued to fight as a decentralised force could he have beaten the highly centralised force that was the Roman Empire under Caesar? More applicably, is the way to stop Amazons hyper centralised empire through hyper decentralisation and what are the sixth wave of innovation technologies that could enable this?

Blockchain anyone? I guess we will see…

Conor Connolly, EMBA 2016

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Celebrating Ireland’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women, 2018

With exam stress a distant memory, the recovery of my social life underway and hints that a heatwave was coming to Ireland, to say I was happy the summer had arrived was an understatement. First year had been more enjoyable and rewarding than I had anticipated,  however there was certainly a need for some well-deserved time off. Despite this, the invite to the WXN Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Ireland awards ceremony came as a welcome reminder as to why I had taken on the challenge of an Executive MBA in the first place.

I didn’t need to be asked twice to attend the awards ceremony in the Intercontinental Hotel, Dublin. The glad rags were on and I was ready to celebrate some of the most inspirational women this country has to offer.

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Founded in Canada in 1997, and expanded to Ireland in 2008, the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) is dedicated to the advancement and acknowledgement of women in leadership roles across a diverse range of industries. The WXN awards ceremony recognises and celebrates the accomplishments of incredible and inspirational female leaders in business, arts, sport and entertainment, entrepreneurship, not-for-profit ventures and the public sector.

The accomplishments of these 25 women are truly inspirational, each one a trail blazer in her own field. The interviewees were candid and sincere in their responses while Senator Joan Freeman had the audience’s undivided attention such was her ability to capture our attentions. She spoke about the female traits that women bring to leadership roles including compassion, acceptance and love. These are traits which are needed in senior leadership roles and she encouraged us all to strive towards achieving our goals.

Of course, like all MBA activities the awards ceremony provided an opportunity to network, this time with our counterparts from the different MBA streams. Now more than ever the differences in full timers and executives MBA journeys was evident. For the first-year executives, it was a great opportunity to get the inside track on which choice subjects to pick next year while the full timers were full of excitement (and perhaps nervousness) for life post-MBA.

Having reached the milestone of completing first year, I am inspired by these 25 women to return to year two and set the bar even higher for myself to ensure I reach my full potential. Until then however, I am happy to take a well-earned break and enjoy the Irish heatwave for as long as it lasts.

Teresa Dillon, EMBA 2017/19

“They think its all over…. it is now”

2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a Smurfit MBA reception attempting to debate the future of big brands and the importance of innovative communication with Damien McLoughlin. I’m going to be nice to myself and call it a draw – but irrespective of the outcome, it made me think of what a journey this MBA has been. 2 years ago I do not think it would have been me in front of that crowd. After the talk, several potential 2018/19 MBA students approached me to gain some insights and find out the best and worst bits of completing an Executive MBA. It caused me to think about it properly, possibly for the first time as it has been a whirlwind 2 years. Outside of the Executive MBA, I have moved job, moved into a new house and any day now our 3rd child will arrive into our family. So it’s been hectic. But it’s been a positive experience too.

I didn’t go on any international trips during my 2 years so maybe my highlights are more mundane than those who experienced Reykjavik, Lima or Yale. For me, a large highlight is the fact that I have been in a position to implement so many of the learnings I have made directly into my work. Not only is this very professionally satisfying but it keeps the entire programme relevant and current. Take Group work as an example. Group work never appealed to me – but the setup of the programme forces you to engage with it from Day 1. With Semesters, Global Virtual Teams, Block Week assignments and Capstone, I have been involved with 8 Groups during the 2 years. Not only have I have learned a huge amount about working with teams, from basic communication to the setting of roles, but I have also learned an awful lot about myself. I hope I have added something to the Groups I was in too. They are more than capable of letting me know if I haven’t. I can use these experiences, both positive and negative, in my current job. The current and real life experience focus of the EMBA, driven by not only the lecturers experience and their use of current case studies but more so by the discussions and arguments that took place between my fellow classmates, each with lots of experience in completely different industries to me, help shape this.

Surreally, my last act in my Executive MBA (apart from Capstone of course), was to cook a chicken casserole in Ballyknocken House along with Catherine Fulvio and a group of business students from Smurfit, Yale, Haas Berkeley, IE Madrid, Egade Mexico, Fudan China and Hitotsubashi Japan as part of the ‘Future of Food’ GNAM Block Week. A memorable experience to round off a memorable 2 years. It’s time for the next chapter now. Reintroduce myself to normal life – I’m looking forward to not feeling guilty about sitting down and watching TV without a nagging thought I should be reading something.

On Day 1 of Initiation week in August 2017, the first person I met on the course was Osgur Ó Ciardha.  It was fitting that he was also on the Future of Food week and so we bookended the 2 years nicely. Since we first met he has secured a new job and become a TV star! I look forward to hearing of many more success stories from my classmates into the future.

Robert Slattery, EMBA 2016/18

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International Consulting Project -Iceland June 2018

72 individuals comprising of academic staff, full time and executive MBA students travelled to Iceland in early June for the International Consulting Project. For the full-time students this formed a core component of their studies while the executive students could elect to undertake this module.

We arrived in Iceland on Sunday 3rd June, immediately leaving the airport for a visit to the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s key tourist attractions. After visiting this incredible site, we went to the hotel where we got ready for our first group dinner at Bryggjan Brugghus. Delicious food and a couple of drinks were had and then we were off to bed, ready to get going early the next day.

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On Monday morning there was a line of taxis outside the hotel waiting to take us to our respective companies, it was like a scene from the apprentice. During the day we consulted with our company and worked on developing a plan of how we would achieve the outcome they desired over the next three days. Arriving back to the hotel after our initial day’s work, we met with our academic supervisor for a debrief. Recounting the activities of the day, our supervisors provided us with plenty of advice and guidance to help us prepare for the second day of consulting.

The second day of our consulting project required students to build on the information gained from their client companies and move towards satisfying the requirement as per the engagement letter previously completed by each group.

Wednesday was the last day of consulting with our client companies before delivery of the final presentation to both the company and our academic supervisors. Finishing touches were completed on the project and once finalised, groups got working on their presentations. This went long into the night for many groups with everyone wanting to deliver as good a final product as possible.

Thursday arrived and once again all the taxis arrived to take us to our companies. There was an air of tension about the place as individuals were rehearsing their presentations. If you were lucky enough to get a morning presentation you had the rest of the day off. Myself and a few others from our class took advantage of this and went whale watching. We saw Minke and harbour porpoise whales but unfortunately (to John’s disappointment in particular) we weren’t in deep enough water to see any Orca’s. Later that night we visited one of Iceland’s most iconic buildings, the Harpa, where we had a final reception and group dinner to wrap up the academic component of the week. Following dinner, we went to a traditional Irish pub for a few more drinks where the party continued into the early hours of the morning.

The next day, a lot of the class opted to participate in the Reykjavik sightseeing and Golden Circle tour the MBA programme office arranged for us. We departed early on Friday morning where we made stops at Gullfoss waterfall and the geysers. The tour was fantastic, and everyone was amased by the waterfall. After a long day touring the island, we returned to the Grand Hotel. By this stage most people were worn out, so some opted to have dinner in the hotel while others went out on the town.

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Our visit came to an end with an early departure from Keflavik International Airport on Saturday morning. I really enjoyed our visit to Iceland, learned a lot about what it’s like to be a consultant and have many great memories to cherish long in to the future :-)

Karl McEntegart, Full Time MBA 2017/2018

Women’s 21st Century Leadership

Susan McDonnell and Oonagh O’Grady joined a cohort of MBA students from around the world at Haas Business School, University of California, Berkeley in early June for an intensive 5-day module titled Women’s 21st Century Leadership. This module was offered as part of the Global Network for Advanced Management week.

Professor Laura Kray in her introduction to the week outlined how the reality remains that the career paths of men and women still diverge in complex yet systematic ways. With more women in the workforce than ever before – and even more joining top leadership ranks – the need for women’s voices to be heard has never been greater. Professor Kray put out a “call to arms” at the outset of the course – What will YOUR role be in advancing gender equality?

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The programme was designed to help us to promote gender equality in the workplace but also to cultivate our own authentic leadership style as women. Authenticity is a key pillar of modern leadership. We were thought that teaching women to act like men in order to get ahead is misguided. It ultimately results in women becoming overly focused on their self-image and not on the leadership task at hand. This course sought to over-write outdated scripts about power and push past the usual stereotypes, for example, the perceived need for women to “fit into” a masculine world.

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Our first guest speaker, Haben Girma, was utterly inspiring and personified the concept of a growth mindset. Haben was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, is on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was named by President Obama as a White House Champion of Change. She advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities and encourages us all to resist society’s low expectations of those with disabilities. Instead she asked us to choose to create our own pioneering story. She provided us with a master class in public speaking on the first morning despite being born deaf-blind. During the presentation, she received constant feedback from her interpreter who typed a description of the happenings in the room. We then had a chance to ask Haben questions through a keypad which translated our queries to braille.

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Penny Kreitzer, an accomplished stage actress, thought us tips to improve our leadership presence through the strengthening of our voice and stance. She also thought us a five-step grounding exercise which she assured us would become second nature through practise.  Christine Carter shared the secrets of “How to Achieve More By Doing Less” by highlighting a number of limiting beliefs and unmasking the truths instead:

  • Limiting Belief #1: busyness = importance

Truth: In fact, the truth is that busyness equals cognitive overload – Single tasking is the way to go

  • Limiting Belief #2: Doing nothing is a waste of time

Truth: Our brains benefit when we waste time – it’s called strategic slacking

  • Limiting Belief #3: More is better

Truth: Often less is more – acknowledge abundance using gratitude

We learned about the “Future of Work” from Sally Thornton and in particular about the work-life blend as opposed to work-life balance. Carolyn Buck‐Luce outlined how we needed to “Celebrate the Leader Within” and introduced us to the secret to her success – The Decade Game. This involves her outlining at the start of each decade her purpose for the next decade. The key questions she asks herself to define her decade strategy are – why are you on the planet? And how would you like to be known by the world at the end of this decade? She recommended that you thought about your strategy as a multi-level computer game where you set targets or levels to achieve every 90 days. With regards to executive presence, she noted how gravitas accounted for 67% of an executive’s presence. Gravitas includes things like grace under fire, decisiveness, ability to read and command, ability to inspire others and the importance of integrity, authenticity and reputation.

Our final guest speaker Sanez Mobasseri helped us analyse our social network under the 5 pillars – depth, breath, structural configuration, dependencies and perceived status of contacts. She also thought us that building and maintaining your network is a lifelong task and that connections need to be made before you actually need them.

The third day of the course entailed two company visits to tech multinationals located in San Francisco.  First up was DocuSign, an electronic signature technology and digital transaction management services company. Chief People Officer, Joan Burke and a number of members of a group called Women at DocuSign joined us to explain what makes DocuSign a great place to work. They outlined how diversity and inclusion was driven from the top by their CEO Dan Springer who was motivated by his experience of being the son of a single mother. This shines through in the company’s HR policies and in particular with regards to maternity and paternity leave which are much more generous than US standards.

We then travelled across town to Uber’s offices where Bernard C. Coleman, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, talked to us about the journey the company has gone through over the past year since the highly-publicised Susan Fowler case. Along with a panel of Uber employees involved in Women and Diversity initiatives, he outlined some of the innovative diversity and inclusion programmes they have introduced.

On the final day, we presented our research project finding on topics which included – Gender differences in values, attitudes, and beliefs – Implicit bias and its consequences in organisations – Women working with women – Work-life balance and Engaging men on gender equity.

No MBA experience would be complete without a networking opportunity and this trip provided this in abundance. We were part of a truly international cohort with representatives from US Business Schools – Haas and Yale as well as people who had travelled from Ghana, Mexico, Russia, Spain, UK, Portugal, Denmark, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and China. Not only was there diversity in geography but also in industries with all of the major industries represented as well as NGOs and the Art industry. Most importantly the class contained a number of male colleagues who leant a balanced and insightful voice to the week.

We both feel we gained a new level of confidence and greater sense of ownership over our own leadership development. We also feel we are now more able to diagnose multiple causes of gender inequality, better equipped to develop techniques for influencing others, and understand the critical role of mindsets in collaborating effectively with others to lead change. We also now have a full itinerary of class reunions scheduled for the coming years….first stop Ghana in 2019!

Oonagh O’Grady, EMBA 2018

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