After our massively successful trip to China it’s back to the grindstone at Smurfit. Since returning many students are commenting just how close to the end of lectures we are, with essentially only four weeks of classes remaining. While this idea dawned on me several days ago I was heartened to see some of our class presentations this week which were really of a very high quality (they had numbers, they had words, the material all fitted together, they worked!). It would be truly interesting for us to sit down as a class and watch some videos of ourselves presenting last autumn, I’m sure we’ve all really come a long way.
Asides from the few weeks of lectures remaining, we have two weeks of exams and the Capstone project. This project will put us out in small teams into the real world to work with companies on consulting projects. I’m slightly concerned how my body clock is going to react to early mornings as leading in to exam season I’ve started studying into the night-time and waking up late but apart from this I’m definitely looking forward to applying all that I’ve learned. I’ve heard rumours that real companies are more complex than what can be described in 15 pages of a Harvard Business School case study! Anyway, the experience should be a great final hurrah and a real chance to gain experience in a new business sector.
It’s scary to think we are nearly half way through the second term. The first term seemed to progress far slower with the workload being quite evenly distributed throughout the week. This term classes are mostly at the beginning of the week, which is presumably designed to allow you time to network with businesspeople and focus on job hunting. While this makes a lot of sense it’s less fun than the first semester when the entire class had similar schedules and we could eat lunch together most days and go to the pub on Thursday evenings.
However all good things must come to an end and the reality is that an MBA is very much an applied degree during which you’re supposed to get outside the classroom and out into the real world to meet businesspeople and work on real business challenges as much as possible. Whatever we are missing in terms of socialising together in recent weeks I’m sure we’ll more than make up for during the China trip which is only a few weeks away.
In my experience travelling together is an excellent way to bond and while going through airports with very little sleep and suffering being away from home comforts can be difficult, such experiences are great bonding and learning opportunities. I think the whole class is really looking forward to the trip (for those with families the sudden burst of freedom might be truly shocking!) and even though I’m sure we’ll all be tremendously jet-lagged by the time we get back we’ll be an even more unified cooperative class for the rest of the year.
So the second semester has begun and classmates are generally looking and feeling relaxed after a one-month break (possibly the longest period of time any of us will have off for a long time to come). While the second semester brings a lighter course load for some of us compared to the first, most of us are using any spare time to network and find a suitable job for after the MBA. The mandatory courses for this term seem to have a more quantitative slant than those we studied last term but we also have two option modules so everyone has something to feel positive about. In terms of looking forward, the class is already talking about the upcoming trip to China in March, where, being from an Irish school, we plan to strike a balance between hard work and good fun!
One major change this term is that we all have new teams (the classmates with whom you do many of your academic assignments). Most people had really positive experiences with their first semester teams, but classmates are nevertheless happy to experiment with working with new people. After one semester of Smurfit’s excellent Leadership and Development Programme we are all feeling well equipped to deal with whatever the new year throws at us!
One of the highlights of the course thus far was a week spent at Yale University with students from all over the world as part of the Ivy League business school’s Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM).
As a member of the GNAM, UCD Smurfit offers MBA students the chance to attend one-week programmes at various leading business schools throughout the world. These programs are organized around a specific theme combing in-class instruction as well as some company and cultural visits.
Eight students from UCD Smurfit (after a weekend of far too much Mexican food in New York) attended, with the topic being “From Madison Avenue to Wall Street – Everything you need to know about Behavioural Economics”. The lectures were genuinely fascinating, the topic is about applying Psychology to Marketing and Finance and the professors worked hard to make the lectures as human and entertaining as possible.
Aside from the lectures a highlight of the week was studying with (and going out every night with) students from Mexico, China, the US, Israeland many other countries. Being able to contact people from these countries for business purposes (or better yet, for fun!) anytime we are in their country (or they are in ours) will be a real asset for the rest of our lives.
And I think I even survived the Financial Reporting accounting exam in Dublin a few days after I got back!! Or maybe that’s just the jet-lag talking….
You don’t come on the UCD Smurfit MBA to practice things you’re already good at and avoiding falling into this trap has been a key priority for everyone thus far. When you’re pressed for time (as everyone is with such a big workload) the inclination is to get the accountant on your team to do the accounting and to get the marketer to do the marketing. But what would be the point in that?
The MBA is all about developing you into a better-rounded professional so this means you have to become comfortable doing things that you don’t have much prior experience of. Coming from an international journalism and communications background moving over to “dealing with the numbers” in Corporate Finance and Financial Reporting has been truly challenging for me but after the initial shock I can say the experience has been worthwhile and I’m now much more prepared to analyse things from a quantitative perspective.
I hope the people on the course from a more quantitative background are feeling similarly positive about crossing over to more “woolly” subjects and that we are all using our experiences to make each other stronger
The culmination of Foundation Week was a fun two days of team building with Fintan. After going through the nuts and bolts of libraries, IT systems and all the other practicalities of the year ahead it was great to enjoy untypically Irish sunshine in which to gallivant on the school’s idyllic campus and learn about each other in an informal setting.
Without giving away too much for next year’s intake, you can expect to be blindfolded, jump through spider-webs and try your hand at ad hoc Civil Engineering. The physical activities were mixed in with analysis of personality types and how these characteristics can work in harmony (or stifle productivity if not properly managed). People arriving late to any of the sessions can expect to be punished in creative ways!
With such a diverse student group team building is challenging but having some laughs and stepping out of a normal classroom environment really works and you feel closer to every one of your classmates after surviving the two days of tasks. Everyone is encouraged to find their voice and to try out as many team roles as possible and for me the proof of how successful the whole process was is the fact that people are still laughing about the adventures we had and everyone seems to know more about their own team working style and is enthusiastic to develop into more well-rounded contributors.