The Trials and Tribulations of Foundation Week

Exhilarated. Ecstatic.  Relieved.  All of these emotions struck me when I received the email stating that I had been accepted for the Executive MBA.  Completing the admission process had involved an amount of effort, studying and self reflection but it was not without its joyful moments (such as achieving the required GMAT score).  Shortly afterwards, I received details of the login for the incoming student website – a myriad of information.  This outlined what to expect when we arrived in UCD and is intended to set you up for the coming years.  Admittedly the site confused at times!  Surely it gets easier from here?!?

Anticipation. Excitement. Terror.  Day 1 of Foundation Week and I didn’t know what to expect as I drove from Cork.  Having joined the LinkedIn group for the Executive Class, I had an idea of the calibre of people I would be rubbing shoulders with.  An exciting mix of people from all walks of life, all at the top of their game.  What was a lowly engineer doing in this illustrious company?!  Thankfully, within minutes of arriving in UCD, my apprehension transformed to enthusiasm due to the friendliness of the faculty and fellow classmates alike.

Day 1 began well with general introductions to some of the faculty, their areas of expertise and their aims for the year ahead.  However, we were brought back to earth with a bang during Dr Brian McGrath’s lecture when the full weight of the academic expectations for the students was set out… 32 hours study per week in addition to lectures and the demands of employment, surely that couldn’t be right?!?  When would we sleep?  The sense of panic in the hall escalated when the requirements for a top grade were outlined… Devouring the contents of the library during our ‘spare’ time!  Uh oh…

The fear returned in the afternoon!!  Any lecturer who sets an assignment for students before the course begins is obviously not to be trifled with.  And 2 minutes into Prof Brennan’s Report Writing lecture proved exactly as expected.  Following a vigorous beginning to the lecture, a poor unsuspecting student in the front row was labelled “Fool!”  The student was unfortunate to be feeling the brunt of Prof’s forceful point regarding the use of acronyms!!  This, of course, was sarcasm, and was delivered humorously, however it did focus the collective mind of the class!

Trepidation. Fun. Camaraderie.  Team building with Fintan occupied half of Tuesday and all day Wednesday.  Tuesday’s highlights included a blindfold and plenty of physical contact.  No it wasn’t based on a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey… as a team, we were constructing three concentric heptagons with rope while blindfolded!?!  Tuesday also entailed deciding which animal represented our Communication/Leadership style – with the Peacock’s among us loving the attention!! Wednesday began with a team challenge involving water, with our poor volunteer, Tom, getting soaked but we successfully navigated the task.  The rest of Wednesday involved a large team task.  After a slow start, where it appeared that someone would be sacrificed (literally), a Chairman was appointed, a plan was put in place and we successfully worked together as a team to complete the task.  By the end of this, we had been divided into our Study Groups for Semester 1.  I was on a team that I could definitely relate with – 3 fellow engineering graduates.  Happy days!

As an aside, I recently read Peter Robinson’s “Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA”.  Not a book for the faint-hearted MBA student.  However, it does provide an interesting perspective on what can be involved in completing an MBA.  The abiding phrase which I will take through my studies from the text is the motto “illegitimi non carbarondum est. Don’t let the bastards grind you down”!!

Thursday began with an entertaining class where we analysed the economic woes of Robin Hood and his Merry Men!  This gave most people their first taste of Case Study learning – a very new concept to most!  Thursday afternoon also introduced the class to a new concept – exercising our voice (and gestures)!  Paul, the communications guru, began the class with a bag on his head (literally) and concluded by transforming the class into a literal mix of friends and enemies.  The class was hugely entertaining and the intended message from the class was heeded by all – to be a good presenter, you must constantly reassess and work on your presentation skills.  The alumni tips which were delivered at the end of Thursday did little to allay people’s fears about time commitment, they did however provide people with an insight into what to expect.  Most importantly, the presenters provided students with the belief that the MBA qualification is achievable!

Relief. Anticipation. Enthusiasm.  The week finished with a taste of real subject work with an Introduction to Finance.  As an engineer surrounded by numerous people with finance experience, I must admit that I definitely wasn’t looking forward to being found out here!  The lecture began, I listened and astonishingly I understood (most of it anyway)!!  This was a welcome surprise, maybe I wouldn’t be left too far behind!

Following the interesting and diverse events of Foundation Week, I left UCD on Friday evening believing “I can deal with this”!  Onwards and upwards…

-Shaun O’ Keeffe
Executive MBA Student 2012-14