The 1st of September is traditionally the first day of school but for us (this year’s MBA class) that day’s metaphorical 5.30pm bell marked the end of Foundation Week, and what a week it was.
Monday morning had made palpable everything we had been meticulously preparing for; writing essays, submitting applications, sitting our GMATs after tense weeks of studying and sending in piles of documentation to rival even German paperwork. Before we received a warm welcome from the MBA programme management team and Prof. Karan Sonpar, the Academic Director of the programme, we had nervously started chatting to complete strangers with whom we would soon be spending more time with than with our families and friends. I had felt sorry for myself for the early start but my self-pity immediately abated upon hearing that some of the students had landed from India just the night before, only to stagger into UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business tired and jet-lagged that morning.
Our anticipated, but nonetheless fascinating, mix of nationalities included students from, among others, Greece, Kazakhstan, India, US, Canada and South Africa. And while there were the typical crowd of engineers, accountants, sales managers and marketeers, what completed our illustrious band of MBA candidates were doctors, teachers, pilots and a number of graduates from other disciplines not traditionally associated with a business degree.
For our first challenge we embarked on analysing the case study which we had been assigned in preparation for what turned out to be an entertaining class with Prof. Damien McLoughlin. He made it clear that bowing your head was the surest way to be called upon but judging by our time with him this is going to be a likely prospect anyway.
The day was completed by introductions to Report Writing and Persuasive Writing. Instructing on the former, Prof. Niamh Brennan drove home that a report was only ever as good as its presentation and that receiving seven pages of criticism on her notes was gratifying rather than annoying. Dr Megan McGurk in turn provided some insight into how to package a simple message to make it stick with the reader.
Tuesday saw us part-timers tackle Financial Reporting where Dr. Colette Yeates patiently took us through the world of basic accounting. Buzzwords like “assets”, “liabilities” and “depreciation” were quite comprehensible in the morning before the post-lunchtime crunch seemed to make their digestion more difficult.
Whereas Financial Reporting had united us in the goal of mastering the recording of cash transactions, Wednesday’s team building exercises with the delightful Fintan Ryan teased out our competitive side. The first exercise ensured birthdays would never mean the same before we moved on to blindfolded chaos. In smaller groups we tackled tasks such as “Ski Slopes”, “Get the message” and the very appropriately named “Spiderweb” (which despite initial reservations turned out to be a lot more manageable than the “Jigsaw”). The part-timers then reunited for the overall task of making the Jedi return. I shall not say anymore on this so that Fintan can torture future classes with his challenges. Despite the playful approach we left enlightened with the useful understanding that theoretical knowledge does not guarantee successful application under pressure. Or, as one student summarised his team’s work “Things were going really well until other people started chipping in.”
Thursday awaited with a business simulation which reminded us of a less colourful Monopoly as we were purchasing fake materials with fake money, taking out fake loans and paying fake employees. The main aim of the activity was to show the complex task of running a business, trying to balance financial and production forecasts with the overheads. The day was a complete success as most of us produced spectacular losses in year one but were much improved by year two.
Friday came and with it arrived not only sleepy students but lessons on listening and personality types by the insightful Ann Flaherty and Damien Killen. One of the things we took away from a class debate was the realisation of how many negative associations the word “banker” now evokes.
And there could have been no better way to finish this demanding week than with the already infamous Paul Slattery. He gave us pointers on how to present (or rather how not to) and as he did so, entertained, challenged and encouraged everybody.
We would like to thank the MBA programme team for organising this week so well. Now that we have had a glimpse of what is ahead, with lectures, trips and what is sure to be a steady and challenging stream of assignments, projects and presentations, we are terrified but equally thrilled to be part of MBA class of 2018/2019.
Kirsten Dottermusch, Executive MBA 2017-2019