Having completed my MBA on exchange at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India I returned to my homeland, South Africa via the United Kingdom, to pursue my dream of spreading www.redsockfriday.com around the world. I was awarded the Ideas for the Future scholarship at Smurfit for this initiative and during my Smurfit MBA the concept was formally launched on redsockfriday 9th April 2010.
Just over 10 months later there are over 1,200 redsockers worldwide in 43 different countries and we continue to work towards the dream of connecting all passionate positive people in the planet by wearing redsocks every Friday wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing! Each sock that is sold through the site, part of the sale goes towards various redsocker charities which we are actively involved with. We are also involved with various global events such as the Comrades Marathon (Unogwaja2011) and the Put Foot Rally. All information and ways to get involved can be found on www.redsockfriday.com
Recently I was lucky enough to be interviewed on two national television shows in South Africa talking about the redsockfriday UNOGWAJA2011 which 4 redsockers are attempting later this year, involving a 1,730km cycle from Cape Town to Durban in 10 days followed by running the gruelling 89.1km Comrades marathon.
Being part of the Smurfit MBA class of 2010 gave me a great platform to start to realise my dream.
Ireland is described by Lonely Planet as, “one of Europe’s gems, a scenic extravaganza of lake, mountain, sea and sky that’s gorgeous enough to make your jaw drop.” This jaw dropping natural beauty leaves many with their chins on the floor when you add a fascinating history, literary giants such as Yeats and Joyce, music icons such as U2 and an island full of people that are world renowned for their ability to have a good time.
What does this mean for me, you ask? Well, 2 things to be sure:
1) it means that my year long education on the Smurfit MBA is coupled with the one of a kind experience of living on the “Emerald Isle” – a remarkable opportunity to say the least. In six short months, I’ve been fortunate to travel north, south, and west, taking in the beautiful sites and meeting extraordinary people;
2) it means that nearly everyone I know from back home who wants to visit Ireland is doing their utmost to plan a trip to visit my wife and I. Thus far, we’ve welcomed five visitors and have 10 with trips planned for the spring! We’ve been joking recently that it feels like we’re running a B&B, and I need to use some of my newly acquired management skills to turn a profit on all this tourist traffic. Still haven’t figured out how to broach the subject with family members… “You see, Mom, the thing is… uh… nothing’s free in this world and I need to think about the return on investment for this apartment”… ;-).
Eadine Hickey is a Coach on the Full-time and Executive MBA programmes in the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. She has previously worked as an Executive in the Financial Services industry and has worked in organisations such as GE and Accenture. Eadine has written a reflection on the coaching programme for the full-time MBA coaching programme.
Phase 2 of the full-time MBA coaching programme is complete with Phase 3 to follow in June. As such, it is an interesting time to take a look at the progress of the coaching programme and see how it is supporting the MBA’s through this intensive year. As a Smurfit MBA alumnus, I am well aware how hectic the full-time Smurfit MBA programme is and it is amazing to get 3 snap-shots with each student during the year and see how their lives progress. Whilst each coaching session is intense and many different topics are covered, there is the sense from the coach’s perspective that these guys are on a roller-coaster ride and we join them on that ride at three intervals along the way.
Throughout the year there are high’s and low’s, some of these are predictable, and some less so. What we, as coaches, endeavour to provide however is the support to deal with the tough times and a challenging environment where they can bounce ideas and figure out how to navigate the rest of the journey through to employment, setting up their own business or whatever the future might hold for them.
Typical topics covered in coaching include:
Creation of a personal learning agenda for the MBA year (personal development as distinct from academic)
How to market themselves
Most suitable career
Reflection on individual and group psychometrics and what they mean.
The Smurfit MBA Programme is like a laboratory in many ways providing the students with the opportunity to experiment and try new behaviours and get feedback from class-mates in a safe environment. Whilst much of the focus of an MBA is inevitably on academic content, the coaching programme provides a valuable opportunity for the student’s to focus on themselves and their own development during the course of the year. This year’s class is an incredibly supportive group and I have found a huge willingness for them to seek help and feedback from within their group. It is a journey of self-development for all, so it is more than acceptable for individuals to seek assistance from their teams in order that they might further their learning agenda. By getting this feedback, many have dispelled concerns they might have had whilst others have received invaluable insights into behaviours they are choosing now to adapt in order to improve their effectiveness.
It is testament to the MBA Coaching programme that of last year’s class 88% said they would seek coaching again in the future. In a time when people are looking for ‘quick solutions’ to problems, it is enlightening to see the value these students are seeing in reflecting on situations in order to come up with the best approach to dealing with challenges.
An eminent figure in the field of practice and teaching of leadership, Ronald Heifetz, speaks of the value of ‘getting on the balcony’ in order to understand situations. This is in essence the opportunity that coaching provides the MBA students in the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business.
“Tet – the lunar new year” is knocking the door when I start writing this entry. This year we Vietnamese students welcome our traditional “Tet” in Ireland – a wonderland in my mind. Missing home so much, I know that I will miss this land evermore when I am back to Vietnam.
There are thousands of reasons that make me love this country. My first impression is Irish people, who are very warmhearted and friendly. You can easily get acquainted with people and talk with them, even on the buses or in the streets. I still remember a cold winter day, when I got lost on Moorehampton Road. Thank God, an old lady passed and asked if she could help. She took me to the nearest bus to get home and told me about Ireland in the past. Her stories conjured me up an old Ireland with family ties, catholic norms and community spirit. Above all, I feel the very human nature of Irish people when they communicate and do charity, as in a lyric of my favorite song: “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure, they steal your heart away”.
Inspiration is just what you need in February, a month that I equate with Tuesday.
To try to kick us into gear, the MBA Entrepreneurship Club brought two top class speakers to the college to discuss ‘How To Bring Your Business On-line’. The first speaker was Raomal Perera: Founder of two successful Irish-based tech firms that were acquired over the past eight years, he is about to embark on his third technology venture. The second speaker was Ciaran Crean: Managing Director and co-founder of micksgarage – an eTailer with 1 million car parts & accessories for sale.
Raomal enlightened us on how he had become a serial entrepreneur and how starting on the path to entrepreneurship can lead to all sorts of unplanned adventures. Ciaran spoke on how micksgarage was founded and how they had successfully brought it to where it is. The interesting part was how they had done it with little or no financial support demonstrating how the idea is critical. There was a keen debate afterwards as we questioned them on there key to successes. Its through these sort of engagements that we can see how the real world operates outside of the cosy walls of Smurfit and the Avoca Bar, home to many an idea.
It’s the Friday of the fifth week of term 3 and as I wind up catching some sleep, the thoughts of the months gone by flash through my head. From my first day at Smurfit until today, there is a significant difference at the way I look at a situation in work scenario. Earlier, it was just limited to my team, my project and to my personal excellence. MBA has helped me develop a holistic view of the business arena. The curriculum design at Smurfit helped us in slowly but steadily developing this view.
The first term was focussed on building the foundation. It focussed on understanding the firm, introduction to general management, Financial Reporting and Operations. All this was very beneficial in bringing everyone from diverse backgrounds, to the same page. As mentioned in my previous blogs, the range of experience in the class is very impressive and term 1 gave us a chance to get familiar with it. Being the first term on the course, it all seemed like a mad rush and I was left wondering will I ever get to know people around! But the group assignments, class discussions and get-togethers all helped in binding us all together.
Then came term 2! I thought I was better prepared to handle this term, with my experience of term 1 to support me, but I was wrong. This term had a different approach. It focussed on looking into the market. Modules like business economics, marketing, financial markets and valuations broadened our perspective to look at the industry and how the firm fits in the industry. Not to mention the unending submissions and presentations!
After the speedy semester 1 (though I think the entire MBA course is pretty fast paced!), came the welcome winter break. Having known each other very well, spending time together was always much fun. The day exams ended, we all went out to celebrate. We exchanged Christmas presents, courtesy the Secret Santa game! It was a much needed break and we all made the most of the opportunity.
Semester 2 began in January and this time the focus of the modules was on building strategies. We also had a range of options to choose from, depending on our personal areas of interest. Corporate Finance, Negotiation Dynamics, Global Strategic Management, Strategy for Human Resources, all these modules take us a step further. We are not only learning the strategies but now are expected to apply them to situations.
Later in the course we shall be a part of a company project which will test our acquired skills in the real world scenario. I am hoping that will be a very enriching experience, especially for people wanting to switch industries. This is the last week of formal lectures for Semester 2 before we face the exams! The thought of the upcoming study trip to Brazil keeps coming to my head but I know I need to focus on studies for the next 2 weeks! And the Leitrim weekend trip after the spring break. Ok, I better focus! ;)
Whilst writing my last blog I had what can only be described as a wake-up call. I had to start looking for a job. The whole class seemed to have undergone a similar epiphany. So much so, Brian, the MBA Career Manager, is a person who is very much on demand. My classmate, David Lawton covers the pressure of going back to work in his latest blog. I’d recommend it.
Strangely, though, job hunting is not the most pressing issue on my mind. What seems to be more pressing for me now is not securing my future but that we’re well over half way through the course. In just one week the last full set of exams will be completed. After that it’s just our international trip, the company project and the final summer term in June. Where has the time gone? It just seems like yesterday that we started out on the journey.
In a state of panic I’m trying to extract as much value as possible from the remainder of the course. Stay tuned to see how I get on. My future career can wait!!
“Confidence building. Talking though ideas. Generating new solutions to problems. More Positive attitude.”
(MBA Student 2010)
One of my tasks as PPD coordinator is to set up a Coaching Programme for our students. We do this every year towards the end of a student’s programme as in many ways it is seen as a culmination of their PPD work up to this point. We offer every single MBA student here at Smurfit a personalised coaching programme. Our Coaches are some of the best Business Leadership Coaches around, some of whom have come through our very own Executive Education Coaching Diploma Programme.
We have positioned this Coaching series towards the end of a student’s MBA so that students can tie up the final threads or address the final challenges currently facing them prior to exiting their MBA. It also allows them to focus more clearly on their outputs from the MBA and ensure they have maximised all the opportunities available to them here at Smurfit. It often helps them to step back and look at things from a higher level.
One of my challenges is to ensure that students understand what coaching is. To do this, we visit the many MBA streams individually and make a short presentation to each class. We need to be very careful about this because our key message is that at the heart of good coaching is self-direction. Coaching is not mentoring and this is the true value of coaching. You are shown how to arrive at solutions yourself without being told or given the answer by someone else – a very valuable skill for any future leader.
Looking back at the Smurfit MBA Coaching Programme’s evaluation from last year, (we evaluate everything!):
– 94% of respondents recommended Coaching on the MBA to future Smurfit MBA students
– 90% of the Coachees found it useful and again the same 90% found it enhanced their PPD programme overall.
– 88% said they would consider undertaking Coaching again in the future post MBA as it was such a positive experience
Some qualitative feedback:
“I think the biggest thing I got from the process was the feeling of being supported at that level by a Coach. I knew that I could bring an issue to the table and work through it to find some way forward as opposed to endlessly searching in a thousand different places for an answer.”
“understanding my professional expectations after the MBA. better understanding of how the MBA can be applied. general career planning. understanding my leadership style.”
In the coming weeks, we hope to get impressions from a Coach and a Coachee to get the inside story!
In our second term on the MBA, we had a Leadership class. This class concentrates on what makes a good leader. We learned about the different aspects of leadership and also thought about what would happen if some of those elements were missing, i.e. what would that do for the leader’s influence over people?
It was a very discursive class, and everyone had a point of view based on previous experience with bosses or with managing and leading people. Hearing all of the different points of view was a learning experience in itself.
One day, however, we arrived in and our lecturer, Ian Walsh, had set up about 25 sheets of A4 paper on the ground in the shape of a cross. He then asked us to volunteer for an experiment. Half the class could take part and the other half could remain sitting and take notes.
Not one to pass up the opportunity to escape note taking, I made my way towards the centre of the room. We were told to stand on a piece of paper, creating a cross out of four lines of six people, all facing the centre (empty) square.
The objective was to switch places with the opposing team, but only by following certain rules. These rules stated that one could only move past a person whom they are facing, and then only if there is a free square behind that other person. They are similar to the rules involved in the marble game of solitaire, but without removing “taken” pieces from the board.
Ian then told us that we had only 15 minutes to get the job done and we were then left to our own devices. The first thing that happened was that people started trying stuff out, as a 24-person group. This, rather quickly, descended into chaos because nothing that was tried was working. Splinter groups formed and began trying to solve the problem.
Off to one side, I decided to have a go at solving the problem, or at least working out an algorithm that I thought would work. I worked one out and then decided to run it past Donal, one of the other engineers in the class. He said that he’d come up with the same idea, so I was very sure of the solution after that. I managed to get my own team to line back up, along with the opposing team. I then proceeded to run the solution.
As it started to work, the din began to settle down and people got back into their positions when they realised what was going on. As the solution unfolded, the engineering/problem solving side of me began to feel elated. After I had swapped my team with the opposing team, I got to work on the two remaining teams. There were calls to stand on the desk, so I did, getting a better overview of the situation.
hile it felt very weird at first, standing on a desk giving people instructions, it started to feel a lot more natural when I realised that my classmates were trusting me to act in their interests. Organising the two groups felt great from a problem-solving perspective as well as a leadership one.
When I had finished, Ian asked me to do it again, but this time without saying any words. It was very surreal, but I managed to do it all again by pointing and gesturing at my classmates. It really boosted my own confidence to be leading people and bringing them with me towards an end goal.
The exercise really drove home the camaraderie and team-oriented nature of our class. There were no squabbling egos or attempts to wrest power. It was a clear situation of “working for the good of the team” when a trusted colleague has shown the way.
Unfortunately, we took 17 minutes to complete the task, which goes to show why some wiggle room should always be built into the critical path of any project.
In January 2011, one of the Full-Time MBA students participated in the 55km long Art O’Neill Challenge in aid of Barretstown. Here’s his story of a trek that, although it was never going to be easy, proved to indeed quite a challenge…
At midnight on 7th January 2011, approximately 500 ‘adventurers’ set off from Dublin Castle on an arduous 55km trek to the Valley of Glenmalure in the Wicklow Mountains. This trek is called the Art O’Neill Challenge and follows the route taken by Art & Henry O’Neill and Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill on their escape from Dublin Castle on 6th January 1592.
As we waited for the off under a soft Dublin sky, I took the time to relax with my fellow adventurers, don my compulsory Santa hat (a requirement for the sponsorship of a certain clasmate!) and to have a look around the square and try to comprehend why we were all gathered here. But the answer was beyond me. I then went to complete compulsory safety and equipment check, which required me to bring one or two items more than the escapees had with them 400 years ago. However, just as it was back then, the Castle gates were kindly left open for us.
Leaving the Upper Courtyard at the stroke of midnight, we set-off down Patrick’s Street in the direction of Harold’s Cross. Upon reaching Harold’s Cross, one of my fellow adventurers started to regale me with stories, one being the story of the ‘Old Bull and the Young Bull’, and then proceeded to leave me behind! Keeping up was not a concern of mine, finishing was! Walking at a brisk rate, in my trainers, I managed to cover the 15km from the Castle to the Stone Cross in 2 hours.
Turning off the paved road at the Stone Cross, we proceeded to trek the final 10km to Kippure House along a snow covered track. The trainers, which were so beneficial on the paved road, were quickly becoming the greatest obstacle to my progression. I had become ‘the human manifestation of an Irish car before Christmas.’ However, with great encouragement and assistance from my fellow adventurers, I succeeded in catching the adventurer who left me behind and in reaching Kippure House by 4am. Oh how rewarding it was to remind him of his stories! Continue reading Shane Horan on the Art O’Neill Challenge 2011