Happiness Is Never Easy by Trystan Powell – FT MBA Student

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With three months of the MBA completed and the first set of exams finished I thought now would be a good time to reflect on my experience so far.  The MBA experience so far has been a complete mishmash of emotions ranging from anxiety and despair to euphoria. My expectation before I started was that I would be challenged and pushed to breaking point in all areas of my life.  I was effectively putting my life on hold and saying goodbye to my family for one year. With three young children, all under the age of eight minimising the disruption and impact on them was the number one priority for me.  In order to study I would be travelling four hours a day to and from Crieff and working part time with my current employers while studying full-time.

My biggest anxiety other than time management going into the course was the travelling.  I didn’t need to worry about the commute, I have handled it relatively well and benefited from well-placed assignment weeks and study weeks.  The biggest challenge for me has been the group work, it is the source of the most frustration but also the biggest learning and satisfaction. There is no way to plan or prepare for the learning experience provided by the group work.  Being thrown together with a different group each class with a whole mix of backgrounds, cultures, languages, personalities and experience is demanding in all aspects.  After the initial awkward introductions, due to the time demands it soon becomes clear the people who you will naturally gel with and work well with and those who you might not work as well with or may in some cases just plain dislike.

The part that I was not expecting is how important it is to try your best to work with and gel with those who you don’t naturally warm to.  There is no time to get embroiled in petty differences and only hampers your ability to produce your best work if these differences dominate.  There is no way to ignore or pretend these differences don’t exist and it is important to be authentic but the biggest learning experience for me has been to learn to value others opinions when you don’t agree with them.  In some situations, there doesn’t have to be a wrong answer it is just a case of making the best choice.  I am generally a person who receives validation and satisfaction from being right and having to suppress this urge to look at all perspectives and angles of a situation and minimise my own personal bias in my judgements has been a real challenge yet also very rewarding.  When working as a group has been a challenge and there has been difference of opinion the sense of achievement and satisfaction when you persevere and create something of value is not something I was expecting or prepared for.  I was not anticipating just how much the MBA has broadened my perspective, helped me realise the depth of my bias and weaknesses and on a more positive note helped to appreciate my strengths and building my confidence.

At times, it has felt like the longest three months of my life as assignments, exams and other pressures all mount up and you are not quite sure how you will find the time to complete everything required.  Now as I look back I can’t quite believe that the three months have passed as it only seemed like yesterday we were all meeting each other for the first time trying to suss each other out.  The MBA has exceeded expectations on many levels, there have been some highs and some real lows but overriding emotion is contentment and happiness. I’m not sure whether that happiness comes from the learning or the sense of achievement as you receive better than anticipated assignment results.  The one thing I am sure of is I am looking forward to a well-earned break and time with my family and then embarking on the next stage of the course.  Any doubts or fears about embarking on an MBA have long disappeared I feel like I have learned so much about myself, been pushed out of my comfort zone, made some good friends and am a better person for the experience.  Bring on 2017!

How effective collaboration is essential in achieving success by FT MBA Steven Balfour

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With my background in both project management and drilling rig management set in an international backdrop I was used to working as part of a large multinational team but there was a clear hierarchy and reporting structure.  In coming back into the learning environment to do the full-time MBA at Strathclyde I found the situation to be different to my previous industry in that all the MBA participants are effectively starting on a level playing field however they are still working towards a common goal.

There is a vast range of professional backgrounds within the cohort, each having their own objectives and goals for the MBA.  The mix of experience and skillsets means everyone has something to contribute to the lectures and the group work, which make up a large proportion of the course.
Being effective in the group situation is key and with many strong characters, differing styles, personality types as well as varying cultural backgrounds it can be challenging.  The structure of the course is very deliberate and the start of the first term featured the learning manager class as well as a session on cultural intelligence (CQ).  The learning manager class was run over three days and featured some very useful ‘tools’ and techniques for working in groups as well as highlighting some of the common pitfalls and biases to be aware of.  We were given the opportunity to reflect on our varying learning and influencing style preferences as well as to practice facilitation making sure everyone was given the opportunity to provide their input.  The aim of this exercise was to understand the varying group dynamics, eliminate error by viewing from alternative perspectives and to capture creativity.  The cultural intelligence session is relatively new with Strathclyde being one of the first business schools to incorporate this into their MBA course.  We were taught that to be able to function effectively in a variety of cultural settings it is important to adapt and understand how culture can shape behaviour.  The cultural aspect is becoming increasingly important in today’s global business environment.

Having completed these sessions, we could then seek to apply the learnings as part of our group assignments for the proceeding classes.  With multiple assignments and different groups running simultaneously, managing time along with the collective effort is a skill, invariably WhatsApp group chat and Dropbox are used to coordinate and collaborate effectively.

So far the group assignments and tasks have proved to be an excellent learning experience for me as there is always the opportunity to gain something from the interactive discussions and my fellow group members.  Being able to reflect on the group experience has only added to the learning process and feel my ability to work more effectively in the upcoming group assignments has improved as a direct result.

You are a General Manager of an international organization, why do you need MBA ? by Bahrain MBA Alumni Luai Alagha

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“You are a General Manager of an international organization, why do you need MBA?”

This was the question I heard when I enrolled in Strathclyde MBA program. I have been asked the same from my family, my friends, and my colleagues at Aramex.  It took me several months after I enrolled, to start asking myself the same question, it was hard to study, work & be a father for 4 kids.  I could not answer the question in a proper way those days, I even asked myself sometimes; what have you done to yourself Luai ?

After finishing the MBA, I can spend hours answering the same question, now I can go back to anyone who asked me and tell them that I gained a treasured life & work experience, I had a wide range exposure to large transactions, learned working under pressure and handling work load.  Although I was capable in performing my job accurately; I knew I was also able to take more responsibility and was eager to be assigned to a higher position where I could be more satisfied with my career.

The MBA helped me enhance my understanding of the big life picture, by building solid ground of how to look at things using various lenses and in a rational way of thinking that overcomes rushing into conclusions based on facts and figures. Truly, the challenge to me was in understanding the fact that a strategy is neither a process nor a checklist that has to be followed, but it is a perspective that is built and supported by analyses, evaluation and judgments.  It provided me with an effective framework for assembling, organizing and making sense of a volume of information gathered.  Also it helped me think through ideas generated in the conversation more effectively.

I have really gained a lot from undergoing this course, filling the gap between theory and practice.  Adding to that, my understanding has shifted from an initial understanding of entrepreneurial Leadership to a practical point of view that entrepreneurship and innovation within an organization is a lifestyle not a job to be done whether we like it or not.  I will ensure to have a continuous Entrepreneurial Leadership support and implement it to the growth of the company.  An important note to myself; if I am not an Entrepreneurial Leader myself, then I don’t expect others to share ideas and support the entrepreneur life style.

My biggest achievement during the course, was making friends, I can proudly say that; I have friends & connections all over Bahrain & Saudi Arabia.

Finally, learning & knowledge limit is the sky, and not monopoly to the young generation or junior management, it is that an MBA entrepreneur not only breathes life into the company, but they also drill their values, desires, and work ethics.  If they cannot make and keep commitments, neither will the company or the employees.  It is important to be able to put forth what I have learned, gained & acquired during my course, and reflect that on my family, friends & work, to make it a better place for everyone.

A special thank you for Milushka & Elvin and I would like to thank everyone at Strathclyde University who made my dream true & turned me into a better person…

 

MBA and PG Virtual Fair – Thursday 26th May

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Thinking of doing an MBA?  Why not take part in the next PG & MBA virtual recruitment event on Thu 26th May. This will be ideal opportunity to chat with our Admissions and Admin teams, discuss your requirements and find out about the scholarships we have on offer.  Chat rooms open at 2pm (BST)  http://ow.ly/VOdt300pgKe

The Glasgow Surprise by FT MBA student, Bruce Lule

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When I joined Strathclyde Business School, it was clear that the faculty would bolster my ability to achieve my ultimate career goal to establish a framework that can enable the development of bespoke derivatives to meet the unique financial demands of burgeoning Sub-Saharan economies.

Strathclyde’s MBA course, which focuses on organisational strategies on both a micro and macro level, has helped me discover the importance of multidimensional analysis and evaluation, forward thinking, and objective aligned planning in the creation of strategies that enable companies to achieve their objectives within the world’s growingly complex and competitive markets. Furthermore, Strathclyde’s highly experienced lectures that regularly work with renowned institutions such as Rolls Royce and the UK Government Department of Health, regularly demonstrate how theoretical business strategies can be effectively implemented and supported in practice.

 

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Bruce (seen here on the left) enjoying a drink with fellow students

Given Strathclyde’s reputation, the highlighted aspects of the MBA course did match my expectations. However, what I wasn’t expecting was how much I would enjoy living within Glasgow, which has been a pleasant surprise. Through my time living in the city, I have learnt that Glasgow is a calm and friendly city, surrounded by beautiful parks and scenery. It is very easy to get around Glasgow by foot, train and cabs, and there are so many different recreational activities to enjoy within the town. From restaurants that serve a diverse range of international cuisines and drinks, to traditional and modern museums and art galleries, there is a lot of opportunity to explore new and exciting experiences within the town. Glaswegian’s further add to experience by making socialising within Glasgow very easy as they are friendly, positive and jolly people, ready to jump into any conversation.

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Socialising with MBA classmates

Therefore, as I continue to develop towards achieving my career goals at Strathclyde, I am pleased that I am completing my studies within the fun and friendly Glasgow. The town has definitely added another splendid aspect to my MBA experience.

Q&A with MBA Academic Director, Dr Sean Ennis.

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Here Dr Ennis answers questions on the day to day aspects of attending classes here at Strathclyde as a full-time MBA student;

1) Why should MBA students attend class? Are they better off learning off campus most of the time, e.g, going to company visits?

MBA students attend class because it is the working laboratory for them and an opportunity to review and assess the relevant concepts, theories and frameworks that relate to each subject. They come from disparate backgrounds, many from a non-business degree qualification.

They bring a large body of collective experience and wisdom to the party and the seminars are the ideal opportunity to share experiences, learn from peers and the facilitator of the seminar.

With the Strathclyde MBA they also make company visits and meet guest speakers from industry at the various seminars. We place great emphasis on theory and practice and indeed many of the students who apply for our MBA highlight this as an important criterion when making their decision as to where to study.

In short, a good learning experience for an MBA student involves a combination of approaches of which the classroom setting still plays an important part. While online learning and blended learning has an ever-increasing role to play in education, the high level of personal interaction that can be generated in a classroom setting should not be under-estimated.

2) How much time are MBA students spending in class? Is there a percentage figure? What do schools believe is the ideal figure?

I would say that this is a difficult issue to quantify and will vary across business schools. The more relevant question probably is what is the blend of learning experiences that the students are exposed to during their MBA journey with a business school?

At Strathclyde we are introducing more blended learning classes: where students work in a virtual and physical learning environment. Links with other partners mean that students can take up the option of taking elective classes in other business schools. Corporate visits also take them outside the classroom. For our full-time class, the classroom setting still plays a very important role in the learning process.

3) Nowadays, are MBA students motivated to attend classes, lectures and seminars on campus, say compared to previous years, given that it is possible to stream lectures, or watch these later? Has there been a significant fall in class attendance and if so, when did this happen?

I would say that this is definitely happening in the case of under-graduate programmes. This is due to many of these students increasingly working part-time or even full-time in order to finance their studies. The availability of streaming and the posting of lecture presentations also has led to a decline in attendance at under-graduate level.

This has not happened in my experience with MBA classes. Firstly these students are paying “big money” to study for an MBA. They are more motivated: many are taking are year out from their employment or in some cases have resigned their positions in order to acquire an MBA.  We have not noticed any significant fall in attendances, certainly not in my time as Director of the programmes.

4) Is your school is using innovative classroom teaching methods to make it more interesting and relevant for students to attend and participate in class? E.g, holding lectures and seminars off-campus.

I like to think that we are using a variety of techniques to stimulate and challenge our MBA class on the Strathclyde MBA. We do use off-campus lectures. We have also introduced what we call a “Friday Forum” for each one of our core classes. At the end of each class e.g. Marketing Management, we invite a company to come into the class and make a presentation which raises a problem or issue in that subject area. The class, working in groups, generate presentations to the client. This is a positive learning experience for everyone.

Strathclyde and its MBA has a major strength in the area of strategy. Our classes in this area also are very client-focused. The role of companies in this block of classes ensures that the students “learn by doing”. The involvement of companies in this area means that students have an ideal opportunity to apply some of the concepts and frameworks learnt in the class-room setting to the realities of the market-place.

5) Are there too many distractions in class? E.g. a student may bring a laptop to class, play games online (Candy Crush) and not pay attention to lectures. Does your school have a policy of banning laptops and mobile phones in class? It there a new classroom etiquette in this tech age?

This is an issue; particularly in an environment that is multi-cultural. We set the agenda during the first week by laying down the ground-rules. Mobile phones are banned. Laptops are allowed; many students download slides and work with them during the presentation. With the odd exception I find that students are amenable to this form of etiquette. After all they are coming from a background of working in companies which also have an etiquette about how business should be conducted. If I find someone paying games on their laptop, I will tend to shame them by asking them if they are enjoying it! It tends to put them off doing it again as it usually draws some derisory comments from their colleagues in the class.

 

 

My first six months of the Strathclyde MBA by Jan McGhie, Flexible learning MBA student

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Name: Jan McGhie    Jan McGhie Staff Profile

Occupation: Widening Access Adviser at the University of Strathclyde

Background: BA (Hons) Marketing and Business Law, M.Ed. Education Studies, both from the University of Strathclyde

My background is quite different to my colleagues on my course, as I have worked at the University for over 10 years now, straight after I graduated from my undergraduate degree, so I don’t have experience of a number of different jobs across different sectors.  I’m a member of the Widening Access Team at the University and our goal is to ensure that under-represented groups do not experience barriers in accessing higher education, such as individuals from areas of social and economic disadvantage or care experienced young people.  I primarily work with schools pupils in primary school, right through to the Senior Phase at secondary school and I coordinate outreach activities both here on the University campus and in schools all over the West of Scotland.

I decided that the Flexible MBA was more suitable for me as I can plan attendance at the intensive weekends around my workload and other commitments.  From the application process and right through to getting started on the programme, the staff in the Business School have been extremely supportive, particularly Karen McMillan, who has been very helpful with all of my queries!

I finally started the MBA in October 2015, only a few months after completing my M.Ed. dissertation and after 3 years of part-time study.  When I started to tell friends that I had been accepted on to the MBA, a few were confused with my rush to return to study so soon, but I explained that it had always been an ambition of mine to study for an MBA and the opportunity to do so at Strathclyde was such a privilege.  I’m very fortunate that my family and friends are incredibly supportive of my decision to pursue my MBA and in addition to networking, the knowledge and experience I have gained in the last six months alone has confirmed for me that I have made the right decision.

I have completed one module fully so far, in Operations Management, and I’m now looking to my assignment for Managing People in Organisations.  In addition to this, my group are writing up our work for Exploring the International Business Environment, focusing on applying the scenario method to our chosen country.  I doubt you could have told me this time last year that I would be researching geo-political tensions and the impact of population growth in Azerbaijan!

All three classes have been so different in terms of structure and delivery and the discussions are always lively in my particular cohort, which makes them so enjoyable.  The course really pushes your thinking beyond your prior knowledge and the application of the theory to the real world makes it far more realistic (I can’t look at self-service checkouts in the same way again…)

My work involves meeting a lot of young people who are put off the idea of higher education for a variety of reasons, but sometimes it is because they don’t have a support network behind them and people to ask what they think might be those ‘silly questions.’  Part of my job, and by working with our student mentors, is to show them not only the opportunities that higher education can bring, but also the support that is available, so if they do decide to go to University, they can picture themselves there in the future, feeling comfortable and confident in the path they have chosen.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t have the inevitable first day nerves in the Operations class but I was made to feel so welcome and included by the MBA staff and fellow students, that any worries were quickly allayed.  This has continued throughout each module and has increased my own confidence in my ability as a result.  I know there are still busier times ahead in progressing through further modules, assignments and exams, but I am confident that the formal and informal support networks of the course will make it a little easier.