And so it begins… day one of the MBA. Like everyone else arriving in for 0830 registration, I was filled with the usual sense of trepidation that accompanies any life-changing event. We all piled into LT1 after coffee and croissants, and the tentative exchanging of pleasantries. I looked around to see full-timers, execs, weekenders, mid-weekers and every other category of MBA student that could be mustered on a damp and dreary Irish summer’s morning.
The morning passed in a blur of advice, introductions and name tags. Lunch came and went as we got to know one another over a bowl of soup. And then the class we had all been dreading- the one with the homework. Professor Niamh Brennan’s class on Report Writing was being spoken about since early that morning. Nobody seemed sure if they had done the assignments properly. Some hadn’t printed them out as per instructions. Some had lost their formatting in printing. Many sensed they were going to get critiqued to within an inch of their lives. In the end Niamh (as we were to call her) was entertaining and engaging in her delivery. I successfully managed to come away with all three learning outcomes from the class, which were:
Fight the bull,
Do not write a letter to one’s mother in the passive voice, and
Email Niamh, don’t tweet her.
At least I think that’s what they were.
03 Sep 12- Week One
In a week in which we earnestly discussed Robin Hood’s strategy options in his quest against the Sherriff of Notingham, Foundation Week ended on a high note with a very enjoyable day’s team building conducted mainly on the lawns of the Smurfit Business School. Some of the panthers in the group got to cool their jets as buckets full of water spilled on their heads; the owls on the other hand suggested we do one more rehearsal of the plan before committing to the precarious 4×2 board. All told, I think everyone enjoyed the team building and especially enjoyed the excellent organiser, Fintan who made it fun, but also reflective and meaningful to the year ahead.
So with Foundation Week over, it was straight into the thick of things on Monday morning where we continued to apply ourselves to Financial Reporting and were offered a first glimpse into the world of Competitive Strategy with Prof. Pat Gibbons. They say an MBA class become close friends over the course of their studies, and Group Six certainly showed refreshing candour in outlining to Pat, and the rest of the course, what they hoped to achieve from his strategy class. Suffice it to say, I’m sure Pat never expected his insights into strategy could have such wide-ranging application!
So the assignments and presentations are coming in thick and fast. Groups can be seen forming (and possibly storming) in all corners of the building, coming to terms with the vista that presents itself to us. But hey, we volunteered for this, so let’s make the best of it.
One of the most challenging and fulfilling parts of the MBA is the significant element of group work required by the majority of our subjects. Learning to manage the different styles, cultures and timekeeping habits of our colleagues has been the source of more than one disagreement this year! But I have seen how team diversity, if properly managed, can drive a team to be greater than the sum of its parts.
I have been extremely fortunate to be part of two great work teams this year and that trend continued as I joined my friends Donnchadh, Nicole, Nihar and Philip on a team for the MBA case study competition. The process began with stiff competition from my fellow full time colleagues, and then the winner would take on a team of UCD Executive MBA students. The eventual winner would then represent UCD at the annual MBA case competition this summer in Dublin.
It is a testament to the ambition and dedication of our class that 15 students, comprising three teams (somehow) found time to dedicate themselves to this competition. We met early in the morning to be presented with a case study, and were then given 4 hours to analyse the case and prepare a presentation of our findings for a discerning panel of judges; Michael McDonnell, Prof. Pat Gibbons, and Dr. Brian McGrath.
We retired to a syndicate room when a brief period of calm while we read the case was quickly followed by a flurry of debate as we tried to corral the stampede of ideas into a coherent presentation. After the quickest four hours I can remember, we were slightly dazed, but ready to present. The MBA class of 2012 have become adept at preparing slick presentations, and the level of preparation has included an incredible adaptation of Toy Story 3, and some trademark guerrilla film making from Stephen Smith. The case study competition was excellent in forcing us to get back to basics and to present without the same level of preparation that we would usually put in. I was very impressed by all three presentations each of which dissected the case from a different perspective and offered various solutions for the company in question to move forward.
All of the teams would have done the full-time class proud, but I’m delighted to report the judges favoured our presentation, and we were awarded first prize and the right, along with the second placed team, to face the Executive MBA team in the next round.
From my experience of the Exec’s they will no doubt raise the bar further and it is up to us to match them if we are to go on to face the other MBA’s from across the country and live up to the achievements of last year’s team.
One of the things that attracted me to the UCD Smurfit MBA over other post graduate business courses was the emphasis on personal development (PPD). Above all else, I wanted to find a course that stimulated me, challenged me and gave me new perspectives on the challenges we face in business.
We had the opportunity to do some personality tests back in SEM1 of YR1. I have done exercises like this in the past, which I did not find particularly enlightening. However, this was a whole different ball game. While I consider myself to be quite self-aware, I was surprised by some of the findings that arose from this period of personal discovery that occurs in the first phase of PPD.
Following one of the personality tests called Strength Deployment Inventory, we were put into groups with other individuals with similar personality types. I remember the group members looking at each other with quizzical expressions. We felt we were quite a diverse group and we were surprised that we shared similar traits. The facilitator went through the typical personality traits with us – our strengths, how those strengths could become weaknesses and how we tend to respond under pressure. He outlined factors to watch out for in terms of our interactions with other personality types.
Certain personality types have different preferences in terms of styles of communicating and making decisions. Some people like to have only high level information – they are the types of people who only want the key information in bullet points in an email. Others like to have much greater detail about the process of how something will work.
This type of knowledge about yourself and the people around you is very valuable in terms of how you work together effectively in managing Highly Effective Teams and progress issues.
Today, on my way back from my trip to Glendalough, Wicklow on a rainy day, I feel that I love my MBA friends, my room in Proby House and my flatmates more than ever before. And I want to say my thank you to all people around me who make my time meaningful and invaluable in every single moment.
My special thank to Rikke who has been organizing everything for us since we arrived here in Dublin in August, to my classmates who comes here to share and learn for whatever reasons, my Group 6 who helps me to get things done together, and Linda who encourages and motivates me to study Continue reading The importance of friendship to an MBA
Six weeks into the MBA, I am still trying to find my feet on this program. Speaking for myself, I truly enjoyed the hard work, fun of group work, excellent class discussion, international atmosphere, the positive energy and a lot more. Its only when I listed them down I found there are so much being offered in my MBA class from both lecturers and classmates. While it seems it is unbelievable that six weeks have passed, I am still trying to juggle among articles, case studies, reading, assignment, presentations and my beloved sleep. We were told on day one of the foundation course, the rule of this game is “how much you put into it, how much you get out of it”. I can now totally see the point. As suppose for everything else you do in your life, this rule always holds true.
One of the key strengths of the Smurfit MBA programme for me is how collaborative it is. This weekend served up a few reminders on the importance of teamwork. On the academic side, my learning group had to tackle three projects based on case studies from the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. I was team leader on two of those, which involved compiling the insights of my colleagues and I to deliver an analysis of the challenges being faced by the firms in those areas and our recommendations on how best to overcome them. This effort was in no small part helped by this being an era where smartphones are ubiquitous and resources like Dropbox freely available, so we were able to update the projects in real time throughout the weekend.
While I was very proud of what a team of 5 people from India, Ireland and Vietnam achieved this weekend, outside of college life I also felt a great sense of pride in the achievements of a team of 15 Irish people on Sunday morning, as we secured our place in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Having won all four of their pool games, including a historic victory over Australia, Declan Kidney’s side has shown that, with the right mix of determination and co-operation, a team can achieve great things. Let us all learn from that example!
Ah yes, another wonderful Saturday. It would be like almost any Saturday except for the fact that I have a very busy day. Holding a full-time job and being a part-time MBA means that Saturday morning is no longer a day to sleep in, but a day to get some much-needed work done. Today, there is a full schedule. In the morning I will be collaborating with my group on some group projects. In the afternoon, a networking workshop awaits me on the other side of town. But for now, let’s figure out how we can efficiently restructure the supply chain for the world’s leading pasta maker… Barilla. In bocca al lupo!
Three weeks in and it already feels like we’ve been here for months. With my Science/engineering background, and having been cosseted away in a Biotech company for nearly 10 years, I’ll admit to being a (little) clueless as to what lay ahead of me academically. In fact if encouraged with the black stuff I may even admit to not having a clue as to what some of the subjects were about. So I am happy to report that the first few weeks have been a very pleasant surprise; Financial reporting– it sounds so sterile and austere, but nothing could be further from the truth. After just a few lectures we can all spot “jiggery-pokery” (copyright: Niamh Brennan) in a financial report from a considerable distance and have intermittently felt the simple satisfaction when your balance sheet lives up to its moniker. There are even some parallels with the science world; I’m amused to see an intelligent design vs emergence argument raging amongst competitive strategy boffins and I have a niggling regret that I wasn’t around in the mid-seventies to single-handedly rescue the British motorcycle industry.
But that’s just the academic stuff, far more interesting has been getting to know my classmates. It has become obvious to us all by now how much we are going to rely on each other this year. Thankfully the good folk at Smurfit were aware of this from the start and tailored the first weeks to help us bond with one another. We spent a revealing session learning about different personality types which will hopefully stop our group work degenerating into an episode of the apprentice. Luckily our class has an unbelievably diverse range of skills and backgrounds to call on; we have a former tank commander in our ranks, although hopefully those skills will not be required. I’ve been introduced to TED talks (how did I miss these?), the vagaries of the on-line poker industry and heard the first-hand accounts of an unlucky classmate’s two instances of being robbed at gunpoint. Oh and we beat Australia in the rugby, so yeah, a good few weeks!
It has been over three weeks since I discovered that I am actually doing a Smurfit MBA, it is very exciting. I remember that it was a Wednesday when our groups were announced. For a moment, I was wondering whether I can offer some girly input into all the boys’ mind (I got Fergus, Justin, Mohit and Paul in my group). So far, I have been successful, the first class I lectured to all 4 boys was to carry handbags for their ladies (I have not collected feedback yet, because I don’t dare to.).
Ok, what I really want to blog here is how brilliantly we have worked out as a team. Professor Niamh Brennan has started us well on her Financial Reporting. Personally speaking, I was thrown into the deep end with readings, homework, assignments, group work, etc. I really started tasting the MBA from the pace Niamh puts us in. Our group started working on the group assignment as soon as we discovered the assignment, Ok, it did not take long for the discovery. We had discussions, agreements, disagreements, no storming, but hard working.
By last week, we had a draft. By then, our Financial Reporting project manager, Fergus, threw a thought to the group, which is the current work looks like a B- project, shall we polish it to something like a A+? (here you need to use your imagination). Just at that moment, I felt like I am in the best group ever in my life. It was exactly what I would like to hear, challenging ourselves! All group members agreed and eager to review the draft. Paul volunteered to look into a particular session in addition to what he was already assigned to (Paul, you have done loads just as everyone else). Justin and Mohit have also gave thoughtful input in our discussion session. At 3:30, I left the syndicate room in a very happy form even though I reversed my car into a wall yesterday! I guess the wall failed to alert me because that piece of wall is not in my group.
PS: this is first blog I ever blogged in my life, so please do not laugh at me. Thank you and happy studying.
UCD Smurfit has won back the MBAAI Strategy Forum Trophy.
Our team are All-Ireland Champions after a historic win for UCD Smurfit at the annual business strategy competition held on Saturday last, June 18th in the salubrious surroundings of the St. Stephen’s Green Club in Dublin city centre.
Congratulations to our team which was made up of participants from the Executive Year 2 MBA City cohort:
Organised by the MBA Association of Ireland (MBAAI) and open to all MBA programmes in Ireland, teams of MBA students from around the country met in Dublin on Saturday (June 18th) to compete in the day-long Inter-Business School MBA Strategy Challenge.
Well done to the team who came through an internal preliminary round and put in the hard work required to reach the standard necessary to become All-IrelandChampions for 2011 and demonstrating the high calibre of participants on our programmes this year.
The wonderful Waterford Glass trophy is currently on view in the MBA Office and will be moving to the new MBA Trophy Cabinet to take pride of place beside the MBA World Cup trophy.
I hope you will join with me in congratulating the team.