Anyone will tell you, I am a meticulous planner. When I left my undergrad in 2013, I outlined goals for the next 5 years and strove to achieve every one of them. In 2019 I decided I would do an MBA starting in 2021, which would leave enough time to save and buy a house (very ambitious). I had everything mapped out short of what I was going to eat for breakfast in the morning.

For almost everyone globally, our lives were turned upside down when governments announced lockdowns in March 2020. My future plans had a spanner thrown in the works. I was supposed to get married in September 2020, enjoy a year of marriage, and then start my MBA course in Smurfit in 2021 (pending successful application of course). After a couple of months of baking banana bread and being bored, I sat down in my garden and realized that this was not going to happen. All plans were being pushed out, including the big day.

A sliced loaf of banana bread on a wooden cutting board
I can’t claim credit for this – all my wife’s doing!

I made the decision then and there to fast forward my application and then work out how I would adapt to the situation if I got accepted. I had worked for the same organization since I left my undergrad degree, and was absolutely terrified of leaving the safety of a steady job to become a full time student again. However this was exactly why I chose to the MBA: to push myself out of my comfort zone, to challenge my pre-conceived notion of what my “place” in the world is, and to have those difficult & awkward conversations on what impact do I want to have on my environment.

A group of MBA students in the garden outside a pub
Semester 1 Study Group 5 enjoying Christmas pints outdoors between lockdowns

Doing the MBA was an opportunity to change career direction into Fintech, an area I am genuinely passionate about. Despite the remote-learning situation, I spearheaded the revival of the Fintech society and made a point to build an environment where students could share their perspectives on Fintech or similar. We arranged industry-leading speakers to talk about Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Ethical Banking, and Sustainable Finance; we have more speakers scheduled for the summer months. If I were to give any advice to people considering doing an MBA, it would be to get involved in societies: it’s an excellent way to broaden your network, both internally and externally.

In retrospect, changing my plans to fast-forward my MBA was the best thing I could have done. At the time of writing, my wife and I (we got married despite COVID, who needs a big wedding!) have just had our first trimester scan of our first child, who is due to arrive in early November – just in time to finish up the MBA!

Baby Mathews coming 7th November!

Although my classmates & I have missed out on international travel this year, I believe that we have developed the additional communication skills required to remotely influence that will be so prevalent in our future professions. In this sense, adaptability has been the soft skill that we as an MBA cohort will have in abundance and be able to apply to our chosen careers. I can truly say the MBA experience this year has been transformational and would recommend it to anyone that is seeking to develop both personally and professionally.

Kevin Mathews, FTMBA Class of 2021