The international orientation is one of the outstanding draws for Smurfit School’s MBA programme. With global case study competitions, modules in other Global Network of Advanced Management schools and international study trips already in place, the previous year’s MBA class had gone to Iceland for the Global Business Environment module.
That first visit was such a big success that our year had heard a great deal about it long before the email to enroll for it landed in our inbox during the first semester. Fast forward through the second semester and the exams, and we found ourselves back in a classroom in Blackrock with Prof. Karan Sonpar.
Besides being reminded how important it was that a strategy not only sounded good but had to be implementable, we focused on learning how to work more efficiently as a team. We were all experienced professionals, had worked with different study groups during the past year and had read a preparatory book on teamwork. So, huddled in our project groups, we were happy to tackle an exercise that left us pretending to be stranded in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash. And it quickly became obvious that nobody in the room was as seasoned a team player as they had undoubtedly believed. I, for one, would have died horribly following the fictitious accident, had I had to make the decisions by myself. But thanks to Paul’s real-life survival training and some quick and creative thinking from Monika, Freda and Darren, we made the right decisions and survived to our imaginary rescue.
Back in real life, on a Sunday not long after, it was time to set out for Iceland. Upon arrival, a visit to the Port Festival in the fishing town of Grindavik and the famous (and stunning) Blue Lagoon put us in holiday mood. Too soon, Monday morning arrived and it was down to business. Taxis arrived for all the groups and we took off to meet our client, an Icelandic travel company, in person for the first time. Given our lack of consulting experience, we were unsure of how well our preparations and our call with the team of the Conference and Incentives Department at the company had equipped us. But as soon as we met the team on site, things started falling into place. Many questions were answered, some additional ones cropped up but, most importantly, an understanding of the company and their needs quickly evolved, and ideas for our deliverable of a marketing plan started to develop.
The three days we had with the company went by (too) quickly and we spent a long and tense Wednesday evening finalising our presentation. After a conversation with our academic adviser Prof. Eamonn Walsh had sparked improvements to our ideas, we needed to overhaul some of what we would talk about the next morning. While other teams were visibly in the same situation (the hotel lobby looked like an exam prep room), we really started to feel the pressure mounting with the time to our presentation seeping away faster and faster while we were fine-tuning how we would put our thoughts into visual queues.
With Monika, one of the year’s marketing aces, in our group we were confident in our ideas, and we had certainly rehearsed enough to know that we were communicating our suggestions creatively and coherently. But as with everything involving an audience, it is impossible to know what everybody would think, and we were still slightly apprehensive going into the presentation. Fortunately, the client’s reaction was extremely positive and we felt the proverbial weight fall off our shoulders.
The remainder of the day as well as our Friday tour of Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Strokkur Geyser felt like a holiday we desperately needed. However, what we embraced and appreciated most about the week was the practical opportunity the consulting project provided. Applying the knowledge that we had acquired during the first year, encountering the pitfalls we were so confident we would avoid but successfully finding solutions as a team when we did not, were significant and rewarding steps towards fulfilling the expectations and ambitions the course programme instills in us.
Kirsten Dottermusch, EMBA 2017/19