Changing roles and the EMBA

One of the basic assumptions in undertaking an executive MBA is that you will have the time required to complete it. I have found the most difficult element of the executive programme is to find the balance between work, study and life. Ideally your role or job is stable, consistent in its demands and allows you the time required for the MBA. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

What happens if you do change role and work takes over? It is possible to survive the change and the additional workload. It does mean that some reprioritisation needs to be done. I had to re-prioritise this semester due to a new challenging role with a lot of travel. Some of the changes that may need to be made are:

·          Devote less time to the MBA, focusing on the core readings and learnings.

·          Prioritise assignments as early as possible, breaking down the work into as small components as possible. This makes it easier to keep chipping away at things.

·          Fit in work where possible, I use flights to get through some of the weeks reading, I have downloaded the ebook versions of our text books in order to have access to them all the time.

If Semester 1 was about teams and learning to balance work, life and the MBA, Semester 2 is about survival. We have 10 of the 12 weeks completed. Everyone is focused on the end of semester, motivating ourselves in whatever way possible. Despite the increasing levels of tiredness in the class, the banter is still alive and well. I enjoy the classes on Fridays and Saturdays, we have a great group of people in the class that keep each session interesting and engaging. If nothing else, the class provides a brief escape from the stresses of the week in work.

Brian Shields

EMBA Weekend Year 1

Breaking Through the Career Ceiling

Why I did an MBA:

Before the MBA I was working as IT consultant on multi-million European-wide deals. When we were finalising these deals, I found myself in a room with the EMEA heads of HR, finance, marketing etc. I was representing the EMEA lead for consulting. I was keeping up with these high-power conversations, but only just. I had hit a career ceiling and to progress my career further, I needed to break out of my consulting zone and get on the same level as these domain specialists.

The Smurfit MBA was how I did this.

What my head knew but my heart denied:

The content of an MBA isn’t difficult; it’s the breadth and depth of knowledge that you have to consume in a compressed time that’s the challenge.

What everyone says, but I didn’t believe until I got there:

You learn quite a lot from your classmates, and yes – you get out what you put in. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and you will be rewarded.

What I learned most:

Over the years, I had already worked out many of the concepts from the MBA in my own head, from first principles. The MBA put structure and a formal nomenclature on the fuzziness, allowing me again to work with other domain leaders.

What shocked me about the MBA:

In the last 5-10 years before the MBA I had gotten used to being the “smartest guy in the room”. In the first couple of weeks in Smurfit, I realised I was in the lower 50-percentile of the class. This was quite a shock to the ego.

My favourite moment on the MBA:

We had a presentation from the conductor of a concert orchestra. I didn’t engage initially – I wasn’t going to apply for the job. But he slowly explained his role: to coordinate 80 primadonnas, all who believe they are better at their job than he is at his.  All who think they could work better without him, all who wanted to give their own 90 second opinion, some of whom were just passengers, and somehow his role was to add value so the whole was significantly better than the sum of the parts.

EUREKA! I realised these were the same challenges that I faced in my role as a programme manager, and therefore certain knowledge and skills are fungible.

It was these insights that were the highlights of the MBA.

What I did with my MBA

I was hired by a major IT organisation to improve their “Value Engineering:” to create business propositions for large deals, especially where the CIO was convinced.  The CFO & CEO needed to see some financials, albeit based on the technology, and with real numbers before getting on board.

The job offer was routed through the Smurfit MBA Careers Office and the mandatory requirements for the position included an “MBA from a top European business school.”

Luke Beare

Full-time MBA 2009

Senior Director | Industry Strategy & Insight, Oracle