People are What Really Matter

‘People are what really matter.’

This simple expression sounds like an old cliché that everyone is tired of hearing, but it is impressive how we end up forgetting its real meaning throughout our lives. I wanted to restate its value in this post, remembering what really is important during the Smurfit MBA and thanking all the awesome people who are making it happen.

I started the Smurfit MBA hopeful that I would have a relatively normal year studying in Ireland, a country that presented low Covid-19 infection levels at that moment. Two weeks into the course my hopes weakened when Dublin entered in level 3 restrictions and classes went virtual. Thereafter, a series of additional restrictions and uncertainties took place, further shaking my hopes for a good normal life.

However, my hopes are stronger than before, and this is unexpected. Without the opportunities for connection we might have taken for granted in the past, my fellow students and our professors are creating new approaches for collaboration and getting to know one another:

  • Last month I read a post from an MBA Smurfit student saying that her next goal is to connect more with our classmates. 
  • Students created a coffee drop-in in the middle of the week only to chat about… well, about nothing at all. It is an attempt to replace that informal coffee-time and lunches we used to have with workmates that often was more of an obligation and now we miss it so much.  
  • A student started to invite his classmates to walk-and-talk and get to know each other better face-to-face (respecting all Covid-19 security measures). I attended yesterday, and it was amazing. My opinion is this is going to be the new trend among our MBA classmates, at least I hope so.
A smiling bearded man standing on the promenade at Dublin docklands, with the city lights and red poles in the background.
Walk and talk with a classmate

In short, it is a fact that people’s connections are harmed due to the pandemic, we are aware enough of that, but who better to deal with it than the Smurfit MBA cohort?

I realized that I have been studying every day by myself for 6 months, but never really felt alone. At first, I thought it was because of the books and the amount of learning I was getting from them. But now, I am sure it is because of all the people around me. It is because the Smurfit group also knows that people are what really matter.

So, this is a letter of thanks to the amazing people around me, students, professors, staff, executive coaching, workshop lectures and all Smurfit cohort.

Three students at a restaurant table
Pre-lockdown pizza with my first-trimester study group
  • Thanks to the professor that last week said in a Friday’s class: “ok, your faces do not look exciting after all these virtual classes, so next week we will not have online classes as usual. I will set up individual meetings with each of you to know more about yourselves, doubts, learning progress and project developments.” The meetings will still happen through Zoom, but this individualized approach changes everything.
  • Another professor stopped the class in the middle of an agitated case resolution discussion and said: “Do you really think someone is going to pay something for you for this solution?”. Of course, he was challenging the class to develop the solution further in a manner that the market would value it, which kept us attentive after two hours on Zoom.
  • Last week I was worried about my first job interview in Ireland, when I decided to ask for help from the Smurfit career manager. He was amazingly fast and there for me. We scheduled a call before my actual interview, and he showed me the points I may improve in interviews and what I should change in my approach, boosting my confidence.
  • Also last week, my executive coach convinced me that Covid-19 was one of the best things that happened to me. After that, I am sure the psychoanalysis is a powerful thing. By the way, he is also meeting in parks, in a walk-and-talk format. 
Cabinteely Park, host of the executive coaching meeting
  • In the same positive vibe, a student argued that we will burst in the Irish market because we will finish the MBA when the global economy will be recovering from the pandemic and therefore desperate for new employees.

The apex of all the processes is how our thoughts, way of thinking and beliefs are put in check by the presence of others. Every text reading, every discussion among students and professors, gives my mind something to reason about.

Our Operation Management professor said we are here to change the rules of the game. It is up to us now to change the rules for best ways to improve our personal connections.

Fernando Muller, FTMBA Class of 2021