The Difference Between Learning & Understanding

 

college-student-studying-clipart-Girlstudying

After a hectic term of lectures and projects in the six modules of the Full Time Smurfit MBA Programme, my first feeling about end of terms exams was abject fear. With my background in Psychology, English and Foreign Language, I’ve made it through an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree without ever having to take an exam with right or wrong answers. The prospect of finding success in MBA exams, with their numbers and complex theoretical models, hid behind an impenetrable wall. I didn’t know what to do.

In the past, any time I have tried to cram objective information, I have had a lot of trouble. I’ve found that it doesn’t suit the way my mind works. In order to learn even basic concepts, I have to indulge my curiosity and find understanding. I realised quickly that I would have to adjust my studying technique to something that would work for me.

My resolution through the process was to learn as much as I could during my weeks of study and exam review. The MBA is a choice I made for myself and my career and I realised early on that focusing on rote memorisation would do little to serve me in the future.  To get the most out of my exam preparation, I decided to learn through applications of concepts, thinking through ways that they could be applied in the real world. For some courses, I went through case study notes. For others, I was able to find more information through research on how MBA concepts work in the real world.

When I shifted my exam study goal from learning to understanding, I got a lot more out of my hours of preparation. It remains to be seen whether this paid off with my grades (they aren’t posted yet!), but I definitely felt confident and calm walking into each exam. More importantly, I know that I learned a lot more than I would have if I had crammed information in my brain that didn’t mean anything to me.

I couldn’t go as far as to say that I enjoyed studying for exams, but I did get a lot out of the process and I now have a solid understanding of my first six modules in the Smurfit MBA programme. Although I would be delighted to get good grades, the real hope is that I will be able to use this information and understanding later in my career. In the meantime, I am really enjoying a few weeks off.

Elsa Heffernan ~ Full-Time MBA

Click here to find out more about The Smurfit MBA

Has It Only Been 17 Weeks?

5229168721_01852a8db3_z

Yesterday marked the official end to the first semester of the Full-Time MBA Programme. Unfortunately, as is often the case with college courses, this meant a series of written exams testing us on the various modules we have completed over the previous 12 weeks of lectures. It has been ten years since my undergraduate exams, and what made it all worse was the eerily familiar halls of the RDS.

At this point, it feels appropriate to reflect on the first semester and my experience so far in the Smurfit FT MBA. Firstly from an academic standpoint, the subjects are so broad in nature. Having completed an undergraduate Engineering Degree, many subjects were math based, and those that weren’t linked in with those that were math based. Here, I have been exposed to Financial Reporting, Strategies for Human Resources, Performance Driven Marketing, Operations & Supply Chain Management, Competitive Strategy and Business Economics (Game Theory). In this time, I (as well as my fellow classmates) have had to digest in the region of 90 case studies and articles. I can honestly say that I have never been this stretched before.

Another benefit I’ve experienced here is in relation to the people; my classmates. We are a diverse group, with students coming from Canada, China, Ireland, India, Mexico, Vietnam and the USA. Each person brings with them a unique perspective built upon their culture and their previous working and educational experience.

During the first semester, I had the opportunity to study for a week in a partner University. My choice was “Behavioral Economics, Marketing and Finance” in Yale’s School of Management. This was a great experience, and made all the better by the pre and post trip to New York City.

The daunting thing is that yesterday marks the end to our introductory phase to the MBA. Next semester brings with it, new modules and electives, two international study tours, and the chance to partake in a case study competition to be held in Yale. I had been considering an MBA for a long time, so much so that the original GMATs I completed were no longer valid when I finally did apply for admission to Smurfit. Despite the pressures and stresses associated with going back to college (and foregoing a salary), I am immensely happy I chose to do it.

Peter Hynes ~ Full-Time MBA

A Day in the Life of a Full Time MBA Student

timthumb

The alarm clock goes off at 7am. Your first thought is that you’re a student and that you can have a lie on. Then you realise that you’re not a student, but an MBA candidate so the normal student rules don’t apply!!! Time to get up.

Over breakfast you look at your calendar for the day.  How many classes do you have? How many group meetings? Have you done all the necessary pre-reading and prep work? The answer to these questions will let you know what type of day to expect.

Arrive at campus at 8.00. Classes start at 8.30 so you have 30 minutes to get everything in order. If you have finished the pre-readings, you sit back, relax and chat with your classmates. If you haven’t completed the pre-readings, you quickly flick through them, hoping to get an overview so the class won’t be a complete waste of time. (Not that I need to do that!)

Class typically starts with a 15 minute presentation from a group. Several hours of preparation have gone into this 15 minutes, but as there are valuable marks  on offer, it’s worth it. This is followed by a class discussion on the topic. It could last another 15 minutes to an hour depending on the views of the class. The remainder of the 2 hour class, is more theoretical, although there is always a healthy level of contribution from the class, which keeps it engaging.

At 10.30, there’s a quick coffee break, before we do it all again from 11am to 1pm.

At 1pm our “official” college day is finished. Although, that’s when the hard work begins. Throughout the MBA you are assigned a group for continuous assessment. This assessment comes in the form of paper submissions, presentations and simulations. For some subjects, the group projects account for 40% of the marks. As a group, you will have on average one project a week. A project could take 6 to 20 hours per person, depending on its complexity and value.

The afternoon is spent with your group working through these projects. Every group experiences a bad week, in which they might have three projects due. Knowing the pressure the groups face, foundation week is largely focused on how to work as a team.

On a typical day, you aim to leave before 7pm. If your group have a presentation the next morning, that could be 10pm. If you have a quiet week, you might get to leave at 5pm.

Unfortunately your day doesn’t finish there. Once home you have to finish the pre-reading for the next day’s classes. The alternative is that you dedicate your weekend to the week’s pre-reading, in which case you get a few hours off in the evening.

The above cycle repeats itself for three days a week. One day a week dedicated to the long-term initiatives, careers and leadership development. Usually it’s a full day workshop on a specific topic. So far these have included Communication Skills, Team Building, Presentation Skills (extremely valuable), Career Brainstorming, Networking skills to name a few.

The fifth day acts as a buffer for rescheduled classes, networking events and club meetings. However, more often than not it is used for additional team meetings, and we’re grateful for the time to fit another one in.

As you can see, the hours are long. However if you keep your end goal in mind and stay focused, they will fly by. And as soon as you realise you’re doing this work for yourself and not the lecturers, you will enjoy it!

Donal Byrne ~ Full-Time MBA

The Monte Carlo Simulation, Chicago Real Estate, Modelling Competitions and Creating Sensitivities

video_poster_Logo-a477e8a69564060561d01f9aed01a486

The title covers some of the topics covered in today’s Excel session with Aidan Corbett of Kubicle, and while it wasn’t as exotic as the title sounds, it was another of the practical classes that deliver “real world” practical learning and know-how, as part of the MBA Leadership Development Programme. The challenge with Excel training in the full-time MBA class is that there’s a huge gap in terms of competencies in the class. Some of the class have come from quantitative backgrounds with high levels of expertise in Excel, while others like me, need all the practice that we can get.

Today’s session was a deep-dive into financial modelling and construction of the different elements that make up the models. We were challenged to advise a real-estate investor on his proposed purchase of an apartment in Chicago, along with the construction of a model to base our recommendations on. Besides giving us the practical steps on how to build the model, Aidan explained the processes and steps that make the model flexible and robust. Most importantly however, Aidan explained how this type of exercise feeds into the decision-making process, especially when it comes to advising clients while working in management consultancy.

I spoke to some of my classmates after the session, and despite the big gap in competencies when it comes to proficiency in Excel, it was clear that everyone got something out of the class.

Des Warner ~ Full-Time MBA

Teamwork – The Importance of Resolution

iStock_000026543869Small_banner

I’m one month into the Full-Time MBA experience and my mindset has shifted drastically from what I thought going into this experience. I came in thinking about the grades I wanted to get and courses I wanted to take. I knew that team work would be important but I didn’t give much consideration as to how important it would be and the drastic impact it is having on my overall experience.We spend time in our groups talking about recent classes, discussing cases, talking about the news, project work and brainstorming. Now that is a lot of different types of discussions and takes place for each of our six classes; we spend an astronomical amount of time together. A large part of this programme is teamwork: deliveries you have as a group and learning from your team members sometimes more so from the textbooks and classes you have.onemonth

The Smurfit MBA Programme is structured in such a way that allows you to form deep bonds quicker than you normally would with a work colleague or new friend. This is particularly true with your specific work team (5-6 people) which you deliver each group project with in each of your courses. In addition to the deeper connections, this environment also allows for hard discussions and conflict to arise rapidly; the challenge is to work through and resolve these issues. Resolution is necessary not just because you have multiple deliverables to still get together to try to sweep issues under the rug, it is because these relationships are important for this year, after this year is over and for the rest of your life and career.

The MBA Programme Office Team do a tremendous job in providing tools to facilitate team work, better understanding yourself and others. We are learning more about ourselves through programmes which give information on: your personality, strengths, work outlook, communication style, coaching and opportunity for reflection. We are also learning more about how to work in a team: team dynamics, personal and work sharing opportunities and dedicated time devoted to team development.

teamwork-lightbulb

Yesterday, my group was submitting a second strategy paper (hard to believe we have already delivered two assignments!) and reflecting on how much we have learned in this short time from our first paper to our second paper. One of the best experiences so far is the opportunity to work with a great group of people, learn from each other, challenge each other and ultimately grow together and separately. I am happy to say my main focus is no longer on the grades but on the learning and developing I’m getting as I go through this programme, which I’ll take with me long after this year is over.

Carley Wasechek ~ Full-Time MBA 

Farewell to the MBA Full-Time Class of 2014

Some of the MBA class at the farewell coffee morning with Programme Director Orla Nugent, MBA Careers Manager Brian Marrinan and Programme Manager Yvonne Harding

Today, Monday July 28th, sees the full-time MBA class submit their Capstone Project – the final assignment to be submitted as part of the MBA programme. I have had countless conversations with participants over the past number of days who can’t believe how quickly their time on the MBA has passed. Today marks the end of the programme for the participants and it is time for them to disperse in different national and international directions. Before they did head off we took the opportunity to have a farewell coffee morning this morning to reflect on the year and to look forward to the future. It has been a pleasure to work with this class as their Programme Manager and I am very excited to see what opportunities await for this talented group of individuals! We look forward to seeing the class again at their graduation in December.

– Yvonne

Time to think …

There is an element of the MBA experience that gets lost in the noise of commentary on hours, deadlines, hand ins and team meetings. The full time MBA gives you back some time in your life to think. To think about what you want to do, to think about what you have done and to think about what makes you tick. Any perspective student should know the amount of hours required on the MBA programme is a often overhyped. MBA graduates you will meet remember the pinch situations where they had to work until the wee small hours of the morning for three nights in a row, or they remember a chronic three week period in semester 1 where they had 5 projects hanging over them. But the reality of the situation is that this is the exception rather than the rule. There is a steady flow of work that (if you keep on top of) is eminently manageable. The MBA experience gives you more time out then your current career. It is NOT like having a fulltime job and there IS an element of reliving that college experience where you used to have time to think, chat and pursue some new interests and side projects.

As an entrepreneur I find this time invaluable. In the “real world” It’s hard to get time to think about new business ideas and exciting innovations. In the MBA bubble you can find that time again and more importantly, when you do find that time you are far better equipped to turn day dreams into realities should you choose to do so. You start refining your ideas from the minute they pop into your head, what are the barriers to entry? Is it an attractive Industry structure? What is the value proposition? How easily would this be imitated? Do you have access to resources required? It also helps that you now have 35 new people in your life that you can bounce ideas off and develop some thoughts you have had on your career, or a business idea or even a further course of study after the MBA (God forbid!).

So don’t let talk of “surviving the MBA”, the “divorce course” and “say goodbye to your family for a year” influence your decision complete an MBA. It is challenging but doable, and if you are at a bit of a crossroads in life, the programme will give you the time and resources to figure out the grand plan for you. That plan will change daily by the way but at least you will be thinking about it….

Trevor Whelan

Full-time MBA 2014


Inaugural Mwangi MBA Scholarship – A great opportunity for women from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania

The Mwangi scholarship which is being offered for the first time this year has been named as a mark of solidarity with the people of Kenya, and  in memory of  Mbugua Mwangi and his fiancée Rosemary Wahito who were tragically killed in the Westgate attack in Nairobi in September 2013.   Mbugua Mwangi was the only son of Ireland’s former Ambassador of Kenya, Ms Catherine Mwangi.  The Scholarship is in conjunction with the Irish Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

This scholarship is a great opportunity for female African citizens from Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania to apply for a full scholarship and stipend for the UCD Smurfit MBA for the upcoming academic year 2014-15.  The closing date is April 15th and further details and application  procedure and eligibility criteria are available at http://www.smurfitschool.ie/scholarships/mwangimbascholarship/.

We particularly encourage applications from public sector, ethnic minorities, people with disability and other marginalised groups. In exceptional cases, work experience may compensate for academic experience. This scholarship is intended to support candidates who would otherwise be unable to access overseas postgraduate opportunities.

If you are interested and eligible we encourage an application and if you aren’t but know anyone who is please let them know this opportunity is out there waiting to be won.