Let’s remember and be proud of yourself and your ethnic identity. We often feel lost in a complex and large world. However, you will feel consoled if you have a knowledgeable background of your ethnic cultural heritage. It gives you a historical root, a sense of your place in the present and a unique permanent though this world is always changing.
– Le Hong Diem, MSc Strategic Management & Planning, UCD Smurfit
On the first day of the Lunar New Year, though living far away from home, Vietnamese MBA students in Dublin were involved in organizing a successfully special and meaningful event – Vietnam Culture Night. The event’s purpose, along with introducing and promoting Vietnamese culture, was to raise funds to support poor children in mountainous areas of Vietnam through the programme, “Only rice is not enough.” The event attracted more than 400 international friends, expatriates and Vietnamese students in Ireland.
Guests attending the event enjoyed the traditional foods of Vietnam such as Gac sticky rice, spring rolls, salt roasted chicken, Vietnamese salad, and a traditional five fruits tray garnished with apricot, peach blossom and Lunar New Year calligraphy. The entire space of the event was decorated with red and yellow symbolizing “luck” and “prosperity”. International friends were excited to take memorial pictures in Vietnamese Tet space and enthusiastic to participate in quizzes about Tet traditions in Vietnam.
I want to send best wishes to the MBA program staffs and my classmates in the new year!
“Oh, what have we done!” As December dawned, the realisation of what our team had committed to was finally hitting me. Whilst undertaking final lectures, finalising projects, preparing for exams and thinking ahead to the annual dilemma posed by Christmas presents, we were also preparing for a case competition, trying to find sponsorship and planning our journey to Montreal. In hindsight, it was lunacy!
The John Molson International Case Study Competition is the preeminent MBA case competition and it provides an opportunity for MBA students to benchmark their learning against the best that other global schools have to offer. It is truly global with schools from Australia, Brazil, Israel, US, Canada and Sweden to name but a few.
Thankfully, everything came together prior to the Christmas holidays with Aer Lingus and Molson Coors Ireland seeing our cause as a worthy one and providing the necessary sponsorship. Also, having some seasoned travellers in our midst was a great assistance when plotting the best route to Montreal via Boston and a road trip.
Whilst driving from Boston to Montreal between a polar vortex and the worst snow storms that have hit the North East in a decade, we realised that things were conspiring with us for once (although we were still happy to have chosen the largest vehicle in North America to transport us). This got us in good spirits from the off and provided ample time for some craic and team bonding! Arguably, the most interesting moment came when we passed a man seated on a snow mobile at the side of the road with a rifle resting on his legs… One of those eternally peculiar spectacles!
When we arrived in Montreal, it was straight to business, buying the requisite stationery and attending the opening ceremony where we discovered that we would be competing against Universities from Nanyang, Singapore, Wilfred Laurier, Kent State & Lund. From here it was onwards to the seemingly endless barrage of cases, presentations, questions, and conversing with new acquaintances.
Who would have known that you could learn so much about yourself in a 3 hour period? Time has never flown by as quickly as the time that we spent in the preparation room. Reading, understanding, analysing, synthesising, discussing, agreeing, recommending, debating and implementing a case regarding a strategic proposal for a company should be given more time! However, we were confident in our own ability and ultimately we learnt that as a team, we are rock solid (a point where others noticeably failed). If we were ever going to crack, it would have been when PowerPoint crashed with only 10 minutes of preparation time to go in one of the cases, however the team stepped up to the mark and we performed admirably to complete the task in front of five high level executives acting as judges.
Completing five case studies in four days is unfathomably taxing on both the body and mind. However, it wasn’t all work, as we had ample opportunities to get to know the other competitors, their entourage and the organisers through events as diverse as an ice hockey match, a networking dinner and a fancy dress party, not to mind the specially organised hospitality suite in the hotel! It was a fantastic experience overall getting to know people ranging from students in Kaiserslautern to a coach from Singapore.
With the weather transpiring against us, we had to cut short our last evening in Montreal to make a midnight dash for Burlington, USA ahead of the imminent freezing rain which the resident Canadians advised us would shut down all efforts to travel out of Montreal for a few hours. Thankfully, it all worked out and we arrived safely in Boston in time for Aer Lingus to deliver us safely back to the Emerald Isle.
I didn’t wake up last Wednesday thinking I’d be taking on a leadership role within the full-time MBA class. But the programme is full of unexpected twists that you have to be prepared to handle as they come your way. That’s an important lesson for anyone thinking about doing an MBA or just living in general, I suppose. Flexibility is a beneficial skill and when opportunities present themselves it’s sometimes best not to over analyse the situation. Just go with the flow.
Each semester the student body is responsible for choosing two class reps to liaise with the students, faculty, and administration. The requirements for class rep stipulate that one male and one female student, one of whom is Irish, the other international, must be selected for the positions.
This brings me to Emma Jordan.
Haaaaaave you met Emma Jordan?
If not, you might want to sort that out ASAP. That lady is going places. Not only is Emma Jordan a CrossFit™ enthusiast, physio turned MBA student, she is also a recently appointed class rep for the second semester of our fulltime MBA. There are big shoes to fill after the retirement of our semester one reps, Ken Barry and Kim Jones, but I have no doubt Emma Jordan will represent our class well. It should also be noted this blog post is in no way intended to curry favour with my colleague. That would be futile. Emma Jordan would see that coming from 100 miles away.
Doing some basic calculations at this point leaves us with one Irish woman rep and a vacancy. This post is long enough so yada, yada, yada, I’m a new class rep too.
The two of us are representing our colleagues for the current term. The coming months will undoubtedly have unforeseen challenges but I believe the fulltime MBAs are in capable hands. Overall this position will add to the total learning experience that is the MBA and build additional skills for the future. I look forward to the new responsibilities and serving my class. As well as learning a thing or two about being empowered, assertive, and self-assured from my counterpart.
Key takeaways from this blog post:
Be flexible. If necessary work on stretching.
Take chances. By serving others you help yourself to grow.
Don’t buy green bananas. You don’t know what the future holds when you get up each morning.
Porridge with cinnamon and a cut-up, ripe banana is a tasty winter breakfast.
That post-porridge hot flash is an added bonus when walking to college.
*Out of deference, the author only refers to Emma Jordan as Emma Jordan. Anything else would be disrespectful.
So the second semester has begun and classmates are generally looking and feeling relaxed after a one-month break (possibly the longest period of time any of us will have off for a long time to come). While the second semester brings a lighter course load for some of us compared to the first, most of us are using any spare time to network and find a suitable job for after the MBA. The mandatory courses for this term seem to have a more quantitative slant than those we studied last term but we also have two option modules so everyone has something to feel positive about. In terms of looking forward, the class is already talking about the upcoming trip to China in March, where, being from an Irish school, we plan to strike a balance between hard work and good fun!
One major change this term is that we all have new teams (the classmates with whom you do many of your academic assignments). Most people had really positive experiences with their first semester teams, but classmates are nevertheless happy to experiment with working with new people. After one semester of Smurfit’s excellent Leadership and Development Programme we are all feeling well equipped to deal with whatever the new year throws at us!
An MBA is designed to put one to the pin of their collar. For me, this was never more so the case for last few weeks of semester 1. Deadlines, assignments, heated debates, sleep deprivation and the small but not insignificant matter of the impending arrival of my first born during exam week! Suffice to say it has been a bit of a whirlwind!
Despite best laid plans of finalising group projects, submitting assignments and preparing for exams, it all changed at short notice as our baby daughter decided to arrive early for Christmas. Everything went out the window and all sleep deprivation training throughout the semester kicked in for real. Suffice to say exam preparation was difficult to say the least as concentration levels were variable. But through both the flexibility and the patience of my long suffering team members and the Programme Office, I came out the other side. Although the results have not been published yet I feel like I have passed a module in achieving a work-life balance.
Attention now turns to semester 2 and a slightly bigger juggling act than before Christmas. The balance between the academic, leadership development, networking and nappy changing is a mystery, at least until we start back. Who knows it may still remain a mystery by the end of the semester? Let’s see what awaits.
Before semester 2 suddenly creeps up on the class, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and successful new year.
PS: For any of you interested, I highly recommend it. I would not change the experience for the world, the MBA or fatherhood!
Not many people would understand what the title above means, but to any UCD MBA student, it conveys insight into my qualities as a group member and a leader.
Our Wednesdays have been packed with psychometric tests and learning resources, through the Leadership Development and Careers Programmes, intended to guide us through our pursuits of new roles and new industries as we develop into leaders post-MBA.
Other blog entries have discussed the activities of the first week, when we discovered a little about how we function in groups, and animals and colours were assigned to our individual qualities. Inevitably, my results provided me the least endearing animal possible: the Peacock.
During a more recent Wednesday, we explored the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). This tool encouraged us to think about our motivational system, our behaviour, our strengths, and the ways in which we respond to conflict in a team setting. As Wednesdays go, given the introspective nature of the tasks and the need to discuss others’ strengths/weaknesses, this was the most emotionally exhausting.
From SDI, the most interesting insight I gained into leadership was the fact that “assertive” (red) leaders are not necessarily the most effective: that at times “altruistic” (blue), or “analytic” (green) will lead to better results. I’m also glad to have had the chance to actively learn from my group mates’ experience of working with me; an opportunity I have never before had in the workplace. So with pride, I announce that I am a Red-Blue Peacock-Dolphin.
This particular happy day isn’t actually Christmas day (11 more sleeps to that) but the final exam day for the Full-time and EMBA classes. The year 2 classes finished yesterday and I hope they all had a lucky Friday 13th and that the exam gods were kind. Well done to you all for getting this far and completing what needs to be done for semester 1 2013-14. Enjoy your after exam meals and get-togethers and celebrate a job well done and a hurdle surmounted.
The MBA graduation for the MBA classes of 2013 took place last Friday in the O’Reilly Hall, Belfield. It goes without saying that it was an important for the graduates and their families as it is the culmination of a long journey through the programme for them but conferring is also a significant day for those of us who work on the MBA programme. We get to know the students by name during the applications process, we first meet them during the Foundation Week module at the beginning of the programme, we all attended the Welcome Dinner given for all incoming classes, and then over the course of the next year or two year depending on the programme that there are lots of formal and informal contacts, good times and bad and all of it ultimately aimed at getting them to this day and the moment when they get that MBA parchment into their hands. It’s a great day, the end of the journey for our MBA and we all wish them to very best and hope they keep in touch with us and the School.
In addition to the graduation of the MBA and Masters in Accounting students at this ceremony, honorary degrees were also awarded to Ciarán Murray, CEO of ICON plc, and Frank Ryan, who has recently stepped down as CEO of Enterprise Ireland.
We are well into the UCD Smurfit MBA now and we have settled into a good routine. Our team work has improved and we often walk out of team meetings feeling that they were really productive. This puts a spring in our step as we try to work on the seemingly never ending stream of assignments! I would like to think that this improvement is due, in part, to the bonding work of our “Commitments” video night last month. The guys did not need subtitles in the end and enjoyed an insight into the real Dublin.
In reality, the improvement in our ability to work together is due to the work we do in our Leadership Development Programme (LDP)workshops and practice. Lots and lots of practice. The practice is just due to the workload, as we have a constant stream of meetings and assignments to hand up. The LDP helps us in a number of ways but much of it is focused on identifying our characteristics and the characteristics of our team mates. This gives us a better understanding of how we work together as a team. I found some of the results surprising, for myself but also for my team mates. Without giving it much thought, I had made assumptions about people’s reactions based on my own, which I realise now might have been a little naive.
On an academic front, it is full steam ahead for the end of the semester, deadlines that seemed so far away are now looming. But it is still great fun. The class interaction is still great, the insights from lecturers, but also my fellow colleagues, is fantastic. I am often astounded at just how smart some of the people in the room are.
Outside of the academic workload, we need to start to think about our careers, i.e. what we want to do when we grow up and leave the cocoon of the MBA. Most of us are investigating a number of industries and roles and this has been facilitated by the great work of Brian Marrinan in the careers office.
It is just hard to tear ourselves away from the books!
The end of 2013 is one of the busiest times in my life. I have just come back from Global Network Week at Yale School of Management. Right after I arrived in Dublin, I must come back to UCD Smurfit’s campus immediately to study Financial Reporting for the next examination. Whenever you open your Google Calendar, it is full of tasks from day to day.
After class in the morning, we also spend time to work in groups for the next assignments or presentations. At the weekend, we also have an abundance of readings for the following week. At first, I felt quite overloaded but Google Calendar and EverNote applications have helped me so much in time management. I did a workshop on time management as part of the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) which is part of the UCD Smurfit MBA.
Every week, I always list a series of tasks that need to be done and put all of them in To-do-list Folder in Evernote so I can open it on my smart phone. I order them from the least to the most important tasks and begin to solve in that order.
Having good time management skills helps you not only to solve all duties in class but also allows you to join in many school events.