Month: November 2020

Integration Week: An MBA Sprint

It’s been about three weeks since our cohort’s first integration week, as such I’m beginning to feel emotionally prepared to put the experience onto paper.  What is integration week? As the name implies, it integrates your knowledge.

The purpose of an MBA is gaining new skills and knowledge and being able to apply them in the real world. Knowledge on the programme is taught in concentrated blocks of three subjects, delivered over a month. Integration week plays a huge role in putting practical application to the theoretical learned during these blocks in the form of an intense week-long challenge.

I won’t go too much into the nature of the assignment (that would be cheating), but you’ll receive a task and you’ll have a week in which to achieve it. However, what I can disclose are a few of the challenges you’ll likely face and some of my learnings from the process:

  • Focus – You have a week, this is a sprint, not a marathon. Perhaps not surprisingly, the task is business related, so you’ll be given a sector, country or business with a problem. There will likely be a lot of data: financial reports, annual statements, shareholder communications, etc., so it’s easy to get distracted, or find yourself down a wormhole. The problem you’ll be tasked with solving should be relatively easy to discover. Once you find it, focus on it.
  • Answer the question – something I used to hear a lot when I was younger and I’m surprised that I’m still learning this lesson. Simply answer the question. Once you’ve focused on the problem, make sure your presentation is designed to answer the questions you’ve been given in relation to the problem that you have discovered.
  • Simplicity is Key – As the design principle says: “Keep It Simple Stupid”. Remember you’re not an expert, as much as you’d like to be. The work needs to demonstrate your knowledge, and that you’ve learned to apply this knowledge, and used effective research to reinforce it.

As mentioned, this is a sprint. So you’ll be short on time – this is of course by design – time is not unlimited out there in the real world after all. At some point during the week, you will find yourselves over-debating a topic, or running over on time or word count. Concentrate on focusing, answering the question and maintaining simplicity by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Could you explain it to an alien? Is the logic undeniable? Do you have the data to back up your assumptions?
  2. What is the question? Does this sentence, slide, graph or topic answer the question or simplify the explanation? If not, you’d better move on.

In summary – focus, answer the question, and keep it simple.

Peter Walls

Peter Walls, Full-time MBA (2021)

Time to Refocus: Studying the Modular Executive MBA

 

After a long and diverse career in the automotive industry, developing from a graduate trainee to international roles with a leading global auto manufacturer, I decided earlier this year to take a break from the corporate world and return to academia to finally fulfil a career-long ambition to study for an Executive MBA.

While most friends and colleagues understood the timing and motivation behind my decision, some did question why I would need to go back into education at such an advanced stage of my career. However, my reply was always the same: although there’s no substitute for industry experience, an MBA programme would enhance the next stage of my career through three principal benefits:

1. Content

Providing an academic framework around career experience to better understand why things worked (or didn’t work!) in real-life execution, as well as exploring the most recent best practises in fields such as Business Strategy and Digital Transformation.

2. Cohort

Mixing with a diverse, international group of extremely smart people (who have absolutely nothing to do with the automotive industry!) who contribute different perspectives on business issues, as well as building a close, new network from around the world.

3. Contemplation

Taking a “time out” from a linear career path to reflect on past experiences and reassess the direction for the future, whether it be within the automotive industry or something completely different triggered by the MBA experience.

Is it living up to expectations so far? Absolutely!!

Each module has further developed an area of my knowledge gained through industry experience, whether it be a more structured understanding of finance and accounting, providing a robust framework for the development of effective business strategy or the understanding underlying issues around organisational behaviour.

Nobody could have predicted the disruption to all aspects of work, education and day-to-day life in 2020, but our cohort was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet each other during the Induction Weekend before the first national lockdown was introduced. This enabled us to get to know each other, form our new project groups and subsequently bond as a cohort during the multitude of video calls that followed as the lectures and workgroups moved online.

Any regrets? Only that I didn’t find the opportunity to embark on an MBA earlier to have been armed with these skills for a longer portion of my career. That said, given everything that has happened this year, it may turn out to be the perfect timing to stop, breathe and refocus in preparation for whatever comes next!

Ian Hucker, Modular Executive MBA (2022)

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