Since I Had Our Sweet Reprieve

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We’re now somewhere between a month and a year into the EMBA, take my word for it, I’m quite sure it’s less than a year. Although, if we’re counting new memories and experiences instead of days than it’s way more than a year’s worth. But that’s beside the point, the point is that after this uncertain amount of time into the program I – shush now, not too loud – I took a break! I know, given the reading list I was horrified as well. But this was vital in reaffirming something my mouth said without telling my brain a while ago –

‘of course we’ll still spend loads of time together during the MBA’.

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So I went to London for the weekend. Great city etc. etc. Which brings me to Gerard Manley Hopkins. Let me explain. I can’t for a moment purport to be a literary aficionado. For example, Microsoft had to spell check three words in that last sentence and aficionado was only one of them. Having said that, last week I had a flashback to some lines of a Hopkins poem I must have read in secondary school. If you’d asked me before the MBA I would have flatly stated that I have never read any of his poetry, I think my brain is tilling the fields preparing to learn new stuff and it’s dredging up long forgotten facts. I digress. I had a satori moment (think back to our session on presentation skills), a moment of understanding. This trip to London was my “sweet reprieve” that Hopkins was alluding to. Admittedly Hopkins was talking about a dying man in his poem (sorry, so morbid) but he could have been describing a man’s experiences in an Executive MBA. Bear with me.

Sickness broke him“, did I mention that I got Man-Flu since starting the MBA?

Hmm… “he cursed at first“, yes I’ve definitely done that, and not just at first.

However I have not yet “quenched thy tears“, perhaps that comes after the next case study?

Now let me get back to work at my “grim forge” of a desk.

Please don’t misunderstand me, my experience in the EMBA so far – meeting wonderful new people and exploring new concepts – has wildly surpassed any expectations I had starting out. But, dear reader, having experienced it I must recommend that you take your own “sweet reprieve” from time to time, the MBA readings will still be there when you get back.

Might I suggest that you avoid analysing poetry on your break?!

Donal Bailey ~ First year EMBA

The MBA Experience Curve

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Week 5 and who would have known a glossy magazine or a good thriller has been swapped for the Harvard Business Review and the New Yorker! (Thank you Megan).

Week 1 informed me that most experience curves reflect the joint effects of learning, technological advances and scale all of which feature in my MBA experience to date.

Coming from a science background the learning growth has been enormous already, the clues are there: my accountant husband smiles with delight as I engage wholehearted in the debate of rules-based versus principles based accounting standards. Although, as a Welshman I do wonder if his smile is more related to a recent sporting event.

I am not an avid fan of motorcycling nor have I played Wii or Xbox but now I can hold my own in a conversation on market shares in these industries. I do look forward to exploring the online dating industry in an upcoming assignment particularly when one of our team has expressed he will sign up – all in the name of experimental research of course. The strong focus on team work has been a brilliant contributor to the learning curve as well as laughs as we engage in great healthy debate at late hours and produce assignments. My favourite to date has been the complementors debate and whether the hot dog can survive without the bun.Personal_Development_300

Learning doesn’t stop at the acquisition of knowledge, as I embark on my own self-development journal, the exploration of my values, personality and emotional intelligence is yielding insightful information aiding my professional work.

Technological learning is also growing at a rate of knots, who knew there was an App to read PDF articles as you drive, proving time management tips are invaluable in the MBA experience.

This leads me to scale, in this context it is volume, where would we be without the volume of reading and assignments to add to the overall learning experience.

Only last night in the midst of Tie-gate we discovered in the forecasting world that the Donegal football team may be seen as a coconut and that Ruth is a Taurus like myself.

It really is the MBA that keeps on giving; my credit card bill is the lowest it’s been in a decade. Late night shopping ..ahem I mean …class ..on a Thursday is a blessing.

With the news of exam dates last night, resilience, endurance, stamina are all key words as I move into week 6.

So as my brain expands, I’ve been told ‘gosh you are a great dinner party guest’ alas if there was time … for now I just have to be a great conversationalist at the water cooler!

Tanya Kenny ~ EMBA Year 1

A Message to All New MBA Students – ‘Hang on in There’

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Emergent strategies, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, statements of financial position, does it match volume and variety?.…..need I go on? For all new MBA students the bombardment of information will initially feel overwhelming. The good news is you are not alone, this happens to all of us at some stage. You will get through but only through hard work, there is no other way.

Time management is critical as you will soon realise you cannot do everything. Team work is important and you will begin to judge what is more important and prioritise.

Reflect, reflect, and reflect, there will be times when you have prepared for a class days in advance only to realise you have forgotten many of the critical points. A quick 10 minute refresh on the day of the class is invaluable.

I have a technology background so attending the financial reporting module was a daunting experience – Hello Collette. However now when I read my company’s financial statement I can actually understand it. This is what I call an ‘unconscious diffusion of knowledge’ as you may feel your progress is slow moving but in fact you are grasping all the important aspects.

At certain stages you will hit a low spot, your motivation will be waning and the workload will seem too much. For me it was just before the midterm break in year 1. I told myself once you reach the break take the first weekend off and do something you have really missed since you started the programme. For me it was chilling out with my children and being as juvenile as possible!

Roll on the midterm, which is week beginning the 19th of October, in case you are wondering.

Tony Bartak ~ Executive MBA – Year 2 

An Executive MBA Student’s Thoughts – Brain Soup

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Right now my brain is mush – four weeks in and work and study thoughts have merged into a big muddle. I have taken to calling some of my work team by the names of my MBA team and no one in our office knows who Derry and Kerry are! It has been a whirlwind month – your weekend suddenly has a new schedule of EMBA reading or project calls or class and while they advise you that this is normal, it really is not. I am becoming acclimatized to this strange new world and developing skim reading skills whilst grasping very quickly the importance of listening to and learning from my intelligent, friendly fellow students. Their commitment to getting the most out of their EMBA experience is enhancing my MBA experience and dare I say it – creating more than a few laughs along the way!

Cora Barnes ~ Executive MBA Year 1

Teamwork – The Importance of Resolution

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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.

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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 

Freedom!

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We were gently warned during the week one induction course that our lives would change drastically both during and following the MBA. For many of us, that meant our freedom as we knew it was over – at least for the next two years anyway. Starting with the GMAT, followed by year one of the EMBA, the last twelve months have been thought provoking, exhausting and exhilarating.

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Just a few weeks ago, we were in the midst of exams while counting down the days until we could stop and take a deep breath and finally relax. The thought brings to mind a famous quote by Nelson Mandela – “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. I have certainly cast off my chains and will make the most of a summer that will inevitably be a sprint rather than a marathon.

The final part of the quote however continues to resonate. My new found freedom, and possibly the added impact of the result of the recent equality referendum, has led me to reflect on equality and inevitably that infamous glass ceiling. There have been many articles and debates about gender inequality over the last number of years. However, the result of the recent referendum has told us that, in Ireland at least, most people place a high value on equality.

While deciding which MBA program to undertake, if any at all, the ratio of men to women struck me as unusually unbalanced and slightly daunting. However my mind was set at ease following the Smurfit open evening in collaboration with Image Magazine. The room was filled with approximately 100 young enthusiastic, intelligent but slightly tentative women. In the mid-week EMBA class alone, the male to female ratio is approximately 5:1 a similar ratio to most business schools. Only four of the top twelve business schools have 40% or more female students.

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While I had reservations initially, I made it through the entire first year without really considering the fact that I was in the minority. The MBA for far too many years has been incorrectly portrayed as a ‘boys club’ full of intense rivalry and competition and an ongoing giant battle of egos. I cannot say, with certainty that no competition occurred within the course however I can attest to the fact that it was limited to a healthy rivalry between groups and even classes. For some reason, the mid-week and weekend EMBA classes insist on sitting at opposite ends of the room any time they are together. I must admit though, that this is probably purely down to familiarity rather than anything else.

While chatting with friends over the past twelve months, it struck me that maybe not as many women as men want to reach the top tiers of business or give up their ‘freedom’ for two years. Those sentiments were echoed by the female partners at the Big Four Accounting Practices interviewed by the authors of an article that continues to resonate with me any time gender inequality or the infamous glass ceiling is mentioned.

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That article, “Through the Glass Ceiling” was co-written by UCD’s Niamh Brennan and Claire Miller for the February 2014 issue of Accountancy Ireland, honestly and genuinely questioned gender inequality. It is not a feminist’s portrayal of the world but a realistic and welcome authentic view of women in business.

Something I have often contemplated but was reluctant to voice is the suggestion that the focus by firms on diversity & engagement in recent years may have introduced an element of positive discrimination favouring women. The need to satisfy certain quotas isn’t equality, and certainly makes bad business sense. So after years of fighting for equality, have we gone a step too far? Who wants to be promoted purely because they are male, female, black, white, young or old rather than on merit? It is time the focus is reengineered to equality rather than filling quotas or being seen as being a diverse employer. At the end of the day, the best person for the job, team or Board should be chosen.

In summary, my initial concern about being one of a small group of women among a big group of aggressive egotistical men on the MBA program was completely unfounded and entirely unjustified. At Smurfit I have been treated by the MBA program staff, the lectures and my course colleagues with the upmost respect and absolute professionalism and have never been positively or negatively discriminated. While only half way through the journey, I can also honestly say that the friends I have made and continue to make during my MBA will be friends for life.

Dorothy Chestnutt ~ Executive MBA, Year 1

The Final Frontier – Well Almost!

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It’s exam time again. Our 2nd Semester classes are just over and we are marching straight into our final exams this week (after a short break termed as ‘Revision Week’). Though, the exam times are always filled with hectic activity, I am feeling less stressed this time. This seems to be the impact of continuous ongoing assessments which have helped to build a strong foundation in all of the modules. The types of assessment techniques used at Smurfit seems to be as varied as the term ‘Variation’ itself ; ranging from class participation, individual assignments and journals, group case studies and projects, class presentations, and even a “Class Quiz on Ethics in Business”.

The support system provided by Faculty, the MBA office staff, as well as my classmates is immense. I always have an assurance that whenever I may face any difficulty while preparing a topic, the help is within arm’s reach. This provides that extra confidence which makes studying for exams a smooth and enriching experience. Sometimes, an e-mail response from my classmates is even swifter than a ‘Google search’.

Ashutosh Singla ~ Full-Time MBA

Wings for Life World Run

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Red Bull Wings for Life Run is happening on 3 May 2015 in Dun Laoghaire. The MBA Social Outreach Society and MBA Golf Society have joined forces to run on behalf of World Sports Team.

http://www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/int/en/race-with-the-world-in-2015-wings-for-life-world-run/

The concept is, you set a goal/distance and try to reach it before the chaser car gets to you! It’s a pretty cool/fun run that takes place all over the world.

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This run aims to raise awareness and funds for people who can’t run. Moreover, the spinal chord research and support aligns well with World Sports Team’s mission to build a network for people who suffer catastrophic sports injuries.

By the way, your goal doesn’t have to be huge! If you are interested in joining us you can register here and then join the team once you’ve completed registration.

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Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full Time MBA

International Women’s Day 2015

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We’re all members of the MBA family but we’re also supporters of women and their achievements. Last month, we celebrated those achievements and helped raise awareness of the issue of equality by wearing purple to the classroom. Purple symbolises justice and dignity, two values strongly associated with women’s equality. Thanks to all who took part – #makeithappen

Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full Time MBA