As semester two draws to a close, and the finish line is starting to come into focus, now is the perfect time to reflect on what has been one of the biggest decisions of my life thus far – surrendering the 9-5 to return to education and the MBA.
There have been highs, there have been lows, and many sleepless nights either as a result of excessive studying or excessive partying!
Even as I write this entry, on the sunniest day of the 2017 thus far, the thoughts of getting over the finish line provide enough motivation to skip paying “respect to the man in the ice-cream van” for one day and keep the head in the books (H.P. Baxxter).
Without doubt, getting to spend seven days with my colleagues, immersing ourselves in Japanese and South Korean culture was the highlight. The historical significance of these countries, as well as being modern day industrial powerhouses, was such a fantastic journey to take with such close friends.
Taking in everything those cities had to offer, from the sushi to the singing at a karaoke bar ensured there was sufficient, and much needed, down-time to a very hectic schedule.
But it won’t stop there. No sooner will our exams finish in May that we will be back in the air once more to experience Iceland for a consulting trip and the excitement is palpable! “On the road is where we come alive” (David Brent).
The whirlwind nature of the programme so far shows no signs of stopping, and who would like it any other way?
After a grueling first semester and when it again began to look all too busy in the second half of the MBA, there came this opportunity to travel down to the Asian giants – Japan and South Korea. The experience could not have been more insightful had it not been earned from within their courtyards. It was time to unleash how Japan has been the front-runner in giving leading technologies, manufacturing methods and services across the globe. It was time again to get acquainted to how South Korea, after having gone through such a tortured past amidst the hostility of North Korea, picked up itself in becoming a leader in telecommunications, electronics and auto-mobile industry. Finally, the pleasant wait was over when the MBA caravan landed in Tokyo on March 12th.
The build-up to this trip was such that some students reached Dublin airport long before the departure. Although the journey took more than a day to reach with jet-lag started playing its role in disturbing our sleep cycles, there was no dearth of enthusiasm in the MBA cohort. Tiresome flight, sleepy eyes and even a bad stomach could not deter me to dwell out on the streets of Shinjuku on the first night. As I had lived in Japan 4 years back, it made this trip even more nostalgic personally and relevant to my travel diary.
The formal itinerary commenced with three guest lecturers speaking at large on Japanese business ethics, bureaucracy, the national politics, and how they managed to live a satisfying life in Japan though they were all from much more liberal and free societies. I found the words from Mr Michael Cucek, one of the speakers, extremely insightful in uncovering how Japanese politics thrives and it was very surprising to know that political families have been at the forefront in shaping the politics in Japan. The next event at NTT DoCoMo R&D centre was no less than looking in the near future as they showed some of their revolutionizing prototypes. It would be unfulfilling not to mention the dinner at “Gonpachi” restaurant. Though I don’t have a great taste for fish, I must admit I absolutely loved their salmon. For those who doubted the Japanese style of partying, they had a shout out at the Karaoke later.
Time to fly across to the neighbouring South Korea.
The very first impression I made of South Koreans was that they were a bit more relaxed and flexible than the conservative Japanese. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic with bright sunshine during the next three days which was quite unusual according to our tour guides, Grace and Jenny. Being an ardent lover of cars, I particularly looked forward to visiting KIA Motors. KIA had recently announced to start manufacturing in India and luckily, I got a good 5 minutes’ chat with the presenter conversing on the same topic. I don’t think I would have ever got this opportunity to hear directly from KIA’s official. Thanks to this trip!
The itinerary was so tightly packed that people would have taken some 3-4 days of good rest to recover back to the Dublin time zone. Here, I would like to make a specific mention to Mr Karan Sonpar who selected the destinations for this trip, Ms Avril Donohue and Legacy Ventures for organising and making this week memorable. Of course, the tour guides in Tokyo and Seoul also as they were outstanding in terms of the depth of knowledge they had about the respective countries.
It was hard to condense down the scintillating week into limited words, but words would never be enough to express this great time that we, the Smurift ambassadors, had across the Pacific. This was truly the icing on the cake!
The Orient sparks my imagination. It is just two days until we depart for Japan and South Korea on our MBA international Study Tour. The number of assignments due before our flights is stacked – my team works day-by-day prioritizing which fires to fight – yet each time we submit a report or presentation my excitement builds. Of all the countries in Asia, Japan captures my imagination the most: a high-tech world melted into politeness and respect of their past. The kid in me yearns for the latest Nintendo Switch, the engineer in me longs to travel the bullet train over its flat seismic terrain, while the adult foodie in me craves everything on offer! But if I’m honest – we only have two days and three nights in Tokyo before we fly to South Korea. I am a man who focuses on his priorities – my inner Anthony Bourdain wins breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In Dublin – we don’t have the bullet train – we have the Dorsh! Our green train with its loyal base of daily commuters is one of Ireland’s greatest public transport success stories. And, yes we do have some! Our Dart snakes up and down Dublin Bay where the views can simply make your day, but it’s nowhere near as memorable as the Dub’s quick wit overheard on the Dart. I was delighted to discover that our first field trip in Tokyo is to J-Trec: the manufacturer of our lovely DART. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about manufacturing processes in a heavy industry, the Japanese productivity philosophy and (fingers crossed) high-speed trains. In between our field trips, my class and I hope to experience as much Japanese culture as possible: the sights, the sounds and sheer culture differences that stop you dead in your tracks.
The focus of my MBA journey is not to be railroaded by the desire to purely amass textbook knowledge. It is about learning from my classmates’ different perspectives, the challenges they place on you to justify your idea or opinion – there is no better group to call a spade a spade – and the opportunities to improve your soft skills and behaviors to grow as a leader. Yet I have this gut-feeling Japan will challenge everyone’s perspective.
On March 11th, 70 MBA students will depart for the annual Smurfit MBA International Study Tour. This year, for the first time, we will be visiting Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. The Study Tour encourages participants to immerse themselves in the business environment of these unique countries by taking them on an intensive exploration of local business practices, challenges and cultures, using company visits as the ideal setting for practical learning. It combines a variety of high-level company visits, presentations and panel discussions from leading executives, government officials and entrepreneurs, all relevant to the core management disciplines being studied on the ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ MBA module.
Along with the academic aspect of this module, there are three main outcomes that we aim to achieve throughout the week-long Study Tour:
Career Development: To develop a deeper understanding of doing business in an international context and an opportunity to network with senior executives from various backgrounds.
Skills Development: Practical exposure to innovative business case studies relevant to the core courses studied and enhance team working skills through group challenges.
Personal Development: An intensive social networking opportunity. Build strong relationships. Challenging experience – “get you out of your comfort zone”.
There is a strong networking and social element to the Study Tour and we have lots of exciting adventures lined up; dinner in the ‘Kill Bill Restaurant’ in Tokyo, visits to Harajuku, Takeshita Street, Asakusa temples, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok village and National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.
The students will be joined by Professor Karan Sonpar, Professor Pat Gibbons, Roisin O’Loughlin (UCD Smurfit), Lyndon Worrall (Legacy Ventures) and myself. Keep an eye on the MBA Blog next month to hear how we get on in Tokyo and Seoul!