To return to university after a gap of ten years since last attending a lecture or class is a daunting experience. To do so in tandem with your 9 to 5 and family responsibilities is bordering on insanity. Six months in to the Executive MBA, I don’t feel less insane for my decision but thankfully I am glad I lost my senses for those moments whilst filling in the Smurfit School application form! Surprisingly however, the satisfaction and benefits of my decision have not been derived from what I had previously assumed.
The decision to attempt to find 480 hours a semester in addition to work and family life was brought back to me in recent weeks, when receiving my semester 1 results. I must admit the most surreal experience of the Executive MBA to date has been waiting to sit an exam in the UCD RDS Exam Hall the week before Christmas with 18 year old first year undergraduates! I never knew I had such levels of ignorance of youth and self-consciousness of my own age in equal measure!
It was not the doing of the exams however that has triggered my reflection but rather the arrival of the results themselves. It has made me revisit why I decided to return to school in the first instance. Most organisations today ask a similar question as to what I did, which centre on the theme of what does success look like in any given situation.
What surprised me the most was the answer that I arrived at. It is very easy once in an academic environment to gauge one’s performance and success based on the quantifiable grade at the end of your module of effort, learning and long hours. This grade takes on a surprising level of significance not just for the student but also their peer group, friends, family and associates. What surprised me about my reflection is that whilst the grades I received were gratifying, they are not the reason that I or my classmates are here.
Each weekend I am surrounded by 21 extremely driven, intelligent, curious and accomplished individuals. In a wider sense there are nearly 100 equally impressive colleagues in the other classes of the 2013 Smurfit MBA Class. The insight, learning and enjoyment we are providing to each other through the facilitation of our lecturers is truly incredible. This is an aspect which may be outlined by numerous institutions as a sales point but it is the experience of this richness of experience on the Executive MBA which is challenging, stretching and ultimately enlightening.
And to the question of what success looks like to me on this MBA, it revolves around a new way of thinking and appreciating issues I face every day and this success is as dependent on my classmates and their contribution to the programme as much as it does my own or that of our lecturers. So to my classmates I say thank you and let’s continue to challenge each other as we make the most of this unique lifetime learning opportunity.
– James O’Rourke, EMBA Week-end 2012-14