A ride of a life-time

We had our last class of the semester today.  Looking back, it has been a roller coaster ride for the last 4 months. Initially, it was a challenge for me to comprehend the abstract aspects of business, particularly marketing. I couldn’t agree more with Damien McLoughlin’s (our marketing professor) remarks on females excelling in marketing. To push the button to switch on the right brain takes a lot of effort for people like me who have always had a digital mindset of looking at things.  But I can’t be happier at this stage for having taken that effort to broaden my perspectives and learning that everything in business is not “black and white” as I used to believe.

I have learnt so much in the last four months that I wonder if the quantum of learning is equivalent to my academic learning of years. At one time, particularly while writing journals and assignments one after another, I felt like giving up. But there was support from my own study group and colleagues in the class and above all it was my own determination that kept me going. And here I am looking forward to the challenges of the next semester. Although restless to go back home for Christmas, I am as eager to return for the rest of my MBA, a fun-learn ride of a life time.

– Nihar, FT MBA 2011/2012

RIP Steve Jobs

I learned of the passing of Steve Jobs at 1:32am IST. An email was sent out by one of my classmates stating “RIP Steve Jobs” with a YouTube video of his famous One More Thing tagline. Sadly, there will be no more “things” from Steve Jobs, but his legacy will live on for decades to come.

As an MBA student, Apple and Steve Jobs are regular players in many of our classroom discussions. I have only been in the program for a little over 4 weeks and am already at a loss to count how many times he has been used an example. Whether we are discussing the attributes of a good presenter, strategy in supply chain management, or innovative thinking, he can be used to illustrate any of these points, for better or worse.

The irony that he never actually completed more than a semester of college while we are all spending thousands of Euro/Dollars/Rupees, etc. is not lost on us. It seems to be in line within the pattern that the greatest innovative thinkers of today (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg) are not born in a classroom. Perhaps even, arguably the opposite.

Last week one of my MBA colleagues sent out the famous Stanford graduation speech as motivational reminder of the strength of perseverance (most likely in the face of our first group paper for Corporate Financial Reporting which had many of us rethinking our decision to pursue an MBA). This speech got me thinking about the leadership style of Steve Jobs, and how it both hurt and helped him in his professional journey. Continue reading RIP Steve Jobs

What’s an MBA to Do!

So, I am now an MBA. My desire to consolidate 25 years of work experience has been achieved. The CV is now ‘interesting’ and business relevant. So:  Job Hunting. To be honest, when I finished the course I wasn’t sure I want to work for anybody. I spent the past 10 years in self-employment. Nor did I know what I wanted to do with the rest of my work life. I looked at Not for Profit and Facilities Management, but in addition to there being a lot of qualified people in the job market, neither felt right.

Two months after finishing the course 38 of my 45 strong class are in jobs. It’s not that the remaining 7 are less capable; in fact I regard some of them as the most capable and talented of my class. No, I think they find themselves in a somewhat similar position to me. They may not have been Laser focused on specific areas of work like the other 38. Like me, they know what they want to do, but in a slightly more vague way. So what’s an MBA to do?

In my case it seems that not worrying too much helps. Not beating myself up about how few responses I have received. About the Not for Profit job that I wanted, but was probably not what I needed. Realising that Facilities Management was not going to be any more interesting to me now than it was when I left the sector. It seems that patience is more a necessity than a virtue for the MBA graduate who wants to change career direction.

In the end my decision on career path came from a series of random events.  My wife was offered a job in Singapore ‘out of the blue’, so we are moving the family there for three years. In looking at the job market there I saw some jobs in Recruitment and realised that with my experience, personality, and MBA, I might be suited to Executive Search. My wife, who works in HR agreed. So I am now focused on this area.  I doubt I could easily find a suitable Search role in Dublin, while Singapore is a far larger market and the Irish community is quite strong there.

So, the post MBA scramble to get a job may soon be over for me. What have I learned? Well, use the time on the course to consider your options, listen to Brian Marrinan and start job searching early to get a sense of what you want/don’t want; don’t panic when the course finishes as may take time to find the right job (for some it may be back to the area they were keen to exit; as funds are short; for other it may be a case of getting in at a lower level/salary than envisaged to get a start in a new industry) but most of all life is quirky and we must keep our eyes and ears open, we must network and we must ‘chance our arm’ a bit.  And I know all of this because the Smurfit MBA graduate is a formidable package. A package which may not fully reveal itself for months or even years, but which is all about innovation and measured risk taking.

Good luck to all; whether in/out of/or considering entering, the world of the MBA student. It is certain to me that we change during the one/two years, and become better able to read life, not just business. As one lecturer sad to me ‘Everyone on an MBA is in crisis of some sort. The course helps in facilitating life change of one sort or another.’ Let the change begin!

– David Gosling, FT MBA Class of 2011

Final Two Classes

As the end of the MBA draws near, my classmates and I had to ask ourselves a final academic question – which two electives would we choose to complete the program? While I was tempted by Strategic Brand Marketing and Design and Artist-like Thinking in Business, I ended up selecting Entrepreneurship in Practice and Mergers and Acquisitions – two topics I’ve been intrigued with from a distance but haven’t had much direct experience with. In both cases, I’ve been truly pleased with my decision.

Entrepreneurship in Practice was taught by John “the serial entrepreneur” Cashell, a man with more stories about starting businesses than anyone I’ve ever encountered. Throughout the week, our class was given a crash course on the “dos and don’ts” of entrepreneurship, as we listened to John talk about his experiences developing new ideas, creating teams, designing business plans, and acquiring finance to make it all come together. Furthermore, we visited numerous companies throughout the week – small start-ups such as HeyStaks Technologies and Equinome, and large multinationals such as Intel and Microsoft – learning about the entrepreneurial process in both environments.

In the Mergers and Acquisitions course my classmates and I have enjoyed the great opportunity of learning from a visiting professor from the University of Denver, Dr. Donald Bergh. Dr. Bergh comes to Smurfit with 27 years of experience in M&A’s, both as a practitioner and as an academic. This experience has been obvious to us all, as the week has been full of valuable discussions, presentations and lectures on a topic that has arguable influenced more people than any other organizational action.

As a result of both classes, my classmates and I have been given yet another couple of tools that will enable us to achieve success in our future business pursuits.

– Patrick Hillis

Class Rep for the year – What a year!!

So there I was, in September 2010, sitting in  my class , Mid-Week Executive MBA; I think it was a Thursday night.  Roisin O’Loughlin, the EMBA Programme Manager, comes in and announces to the class that we need to elect a Class Representative (Class Rep) for the year:

They will be a conduit for information between the staff and the sudents”, she says.  In my own mind, I was expecting a vote to elect someone. Before you can say “Decision Making” , I am proposed and elected as Class Rep.  Done deal!!  So, thats how I came to the role; by the “democratic” will of the Mid-Week Executive MBA class of Year 1.

I must admit, though, it has been a thoroughly fulfilling role and it is a role that I would recommend to anyone on entering into the MBA programme either Full-Time or, as in my case, the part-time EMBA.

The academic year between September and May has flown by and it is now June as I put down my thoughts to paper on the role of the Class Representative and take time to reflect on the year that has been. It really has been a fast year but, I can honestly say, a massively challenging year. But, ultimately, it has also been rewarding and satisfying. The MBA is always about developing the person as we are expected to broaden our thinking from the tactical or micro into the global and strategic. This is the type of thinking that we are now expected to be equipped with as students of the top business school in Ireland.

The role of Class Representative is a key leadership and management role that is given to one of the students.  As Class Rep, your role is one of liason between the lecturers, programme management staff and fellow class members.  All of the above assist with the smooth running of the many moving parts that make up an Executive MBA Course at UCD Smurfit. From a Personal Development aspect, the role has been excellent, as it gives you good practice at putting simple management procedures into play when acting in the role within the class.

The role of the Class Rep is an excellent mechanism for the class to speak with the “one” voice especially if there are certain issues that need to be addressed. The Class Rep will canvass fellow students to get their soundings on an issue and then he/she will liaise with the relevant UCD Smurfit personnel. Good clear communication is an essential part of being Class Rep between fellow students and staff.

There are a few duties associated with the job.  Twice per year, once each semester, a lunch of all Class Reps and programme management staff is organised and at very nice locations i might add. This is a good chance to compare notes with the other Class Reps from the other UCD Smurfit EMBA cohorts. A good bond between the various Class Reps pays dividends when trying to organise the functions that the Class Reps organise at the end of a semester as it’s often better to unite and hit the one location. I think anyone that was at the Christmas function will vouch for this, a good example of pooling resources!

All in all, the role of the Class Rep, whether elected each semester, each term or as in my case for the duration of the academic year, is an excellent opportunity to get stuck into the running of the class and programme and it is an essential appointment. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my year as Class Rep. Year 2 is upon us soon , so roll on!  And,  I think a handover is in order, time to vote , time for a new leader of the soon to be Year 2 Executive MBA Mid-Week Blackrock for 2011-12.

Fintan McGovern, Class Rep, EMBA YR1 Mid-Week Blackrock 2010-2011      

What I learned during the MBA

With only two weeks left before finishing up the MBA I’ve started to reflect a little on what I have learned during the MBA. What little gems did I find? Perhaps the secrets which created great companies and differentiated them from just good companies? Perhaps what did I spend all this money on college fee’s, loss of earnings and a year of my life? Or even the age old question; is the MBA worth the financial and personal cost??

Before deciding to start the MBA, I read a book called “What they teach you in Harvard Business School” and the key message I got from this book was that the real source of wealth and information in the MBA class was not the academic staff but your classmates. So on the first day of the MBA I was understandably wondering who were these people I was about to sit beside and work closely with for the next year?

Quickly we launched into Semester 1 and raced through subjects as diverse as Economics (the Celtic tiger gets slaughtered!) and Operations Management where the issue of Sustainability became a class favourite. Marketing introduced the class to Professor McLoughlin which was an entertaining education in both Marketing and Life! However the highlight for me was the introduction to Strategy where we were guided (patiently) through how some of the great companies became and continue to be successful.

Continue reading What I learned during the MBA

The Charity Chat

Undertaking an MBA changes the way one’s mind works.

In fact, right there is an example; I would previously have written “your” instead of “one’s”. Formal writing is inherent throughout the many assignments that we have done this year. But the changes have been far, far more serious than changing my word-usage.

The changes have also affected my pub chat.

Recently, sitting in Murray’s bar on Bow Lane, Dublin, I was talking to a friend about charity events. Specifically, she perceived the spending of money on charity events such as black-tie balls as a waste of money.  In other words, she proposed that the money spent on them should be put towards the charity itself, thus earning the charity more money.

In reply, I began by explaining a fundamental business concept that the price of a product or service has to exist somewhere between its perceived value by the consumer and the cost to produce that good or service:

Benefit (value to the consumer) – Price – Cost

In the case of charity events, the perceived value of a ticket to a black-tie ball is greater than the value of a ticket to a session down the pub. Of course, the costs of organising a black-tie ball are higher than the costs of organising a session in a pub.

I continued by explaining that the difference between the money that can be raised through the sale of black-tie event tickets and the costs of organising said event (especially for charity) far exceeds the profits that can be made by having the same people down in the pub for a networking session.

It was at this point I realised that I have changed. My pub arguments have become far more coherent and informed…especially given the number of pints I’d had. So I decided to sit back, relax and watch the end of the Eurovision.

– Jamie O’Connell