Thursday, 27 September 2012

Why study for the Royal Holloway MBA ?

Royal Holloway MBA 2011/12 students at the end of their programme talking frankly about why they wanted to study for the MBA. 

Reasons to study for an MBA ?

Why study for an MBA ? 

As academic Director for the prestigious Royal Holloway MBA this is a question I get asked quite a lot.  Glass ceiling ?  Change of direction ?  Broadening in preparation for a C-suite role ?

High Flyer ?

The School of Managements dedicated MBA careers advisor asked the MBA group exactly this question "Why study for an MBA ?" and this is what he got in response, graphically displayed using the highly visual word cloud application.  The simple to use web tool strips out common words from a body of text and displays duplicated words in proportion to the number of mentions, essentially the more mentions, the larger the word.

The careers advisor team was awarded a rare teaching, recognising the Royal Holloway careers team innovation of designing and delivering a day long assessment centre experience for 200 post graduate students which saw MBA students role play recruiting line managers in a very realistic range of selection exercises that included a one-to-one interview and group discussion exercise.

Why study for an MBA ? Happiness, personal growth & thinking differently

Analysis of the MBA cohorts feedback on why they had chosen to to study for an MBA was summarised thus:
  • Desire to buy into the MBA brand

  • Learning theory from experts

  • Worried about reaching the glass ceiling in their corporation – wanting the keys to the Exec toilets

  • Build credibility· Share an international collective learning experience

  • Seeking a return on investment – salaries in some countries can triple if you have a MBA

  • Change of lifestyle / career break

  • Set up a new business

  • Making new friends & learning about new cultures

  •  Career development, industry exposure & networking

  • Personal growth & happiness

  • Making a difference

  • Turning dreams into reality

  •  Learn leadership and management skills

  • Learning to think differently

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Campus updates - new academic year

Summer seems to have just blown by.  The Long Grass of summer did not seem to arrive this year, for a variety of reasons.  I describe this notion of long, sunny days with few deadlines and lots of freedom to undertake those not urgent, not important items that always seem to be left untouched on the to do or action list, despite being 'worthy'.

My summer starts after the MBA International Management/ MSc International Management Distance Learning plenary session has taken place at the Royal Holloway, University of London campus in Egham.  So why did summer pass so quickly ?  On campus we had an exceptionally strong year with post graduate students and this saw me supervise double my usual number.  We had weeks and weeks of rain and cool weather, so spring in Jun and July rather than hot and balmy, but fortunately this was resolved (thanks to the excellent planning and management provided by Lord Coe and the London 2012 Olympic team) and we have a great buzz about the place over the Olympic periods.  Surprising to see so many (often stereotyped as grumpy, aloof, uncommunicative) English people volunteering to support the games.  70,000 or so I vaguely remember, successful evidence of a great Cameron government "initiative" to boost our under funded public services.  Umm. 

Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula, South Wales
The genuinely warm and effusive greeting provided to Olympic visitors was surprisingly amazing, and will have done British Tourism a big favour, as even I was impressed and felt welcomed.  So just at the point of getting used to the sun, being outside and having a good feeling for outdoor dining, September was upon us and my children had to return to school.  We moved house and managed to get a few days by the sea in beautiful (but a bit too cloudy and rainy) Gower peninsula in Wales, and as I write I am surrounded with unpacked boxes, full of stuff I probably don't need and we definitely have no where left to put it.  Wham ! Bam  ! - summer over, nearly before it started. 

I have now spent a couple of days back on campus (dissertation marking return, a hernia inducing pile) and have been delighted to find out that the Green Mermaid has made her way onto our hallowed turf.  Many of my colleagues find fault with Starbucks, but unfortunately I love successful global brands - I want to know why they are - and the standard Starbucks coffee is a flavour I love.  Expect to see me more often at Cafe Jules in the International Building over the coming term....

The old boiler house (at one point under consideration for an MBA dedicated facility) boasts a new glass atrium roof, I think it might be an exciting new drama space.  And lastly, in what might be a scam cost saving activity from poor old Royal Mail (you'll notice now that many of what should be bright red post boxes are rather faded and past their best), we have a golden post box.  To mark our involvement (Royal Holloway was voted the friendliest Olympic village) and the success of many of the rowing and paddling competitors that used our facilities we have been allowed to paint our post box gold. 

In case you are unfamiliar with the UK post box design, this one betrays its age showing GR under the crown (George Rex - Latin I think for George King).  Post boxes installed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II (since 1952 - 60 years ago) will show ER (Elizabeth Regina - Queen), George VI was the present Queens father. Given the rise of the internet and competitor courier services, I wonder how long the British innovation (universal pre-paid delivery service) will continue ?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

It ain't what you say, it's the way that you say it !

Justin's beloved VW Beetle
A story I heard on the radio inspired me to write this short piece on academic writing style.  The story was of a middle aged, professional man who had hired a white van to help his mother move.  Dressed in suitably casual clothes he parked up his hired white van on the forecourt of a Jaguar dealership to pick up a brochure for a new model.  Whilst flicking through the brochure an attentive sales person walked over to him and told him it was ok to look at the brochure, but that he should not take it away with him.  Bitter sweet revenge was enacted on the dealership when a few weeks later the white van man returned in his brand new £65,000 Jaguar to explain that the poor customer service he had received had seen him buy his new car from another dealership.  (BBC Five Live, 7 Dec 2010)
Would you try to sell this man a Jaguar ?

Clearly a marketing lesson in not judging a book by its cover and to avoid using stereotypes in a customer service environment. 

Three tips for effective academic writing:

(1) Whilst content is king, style is also very important.  Referencing accurately and using an appropriate academic writing style pays dividends in assessments.  Present your work pristine and polished, not a rough diamond.

(2) Make yourself aware of what is expected before the pressure of deadlines overwhelms you.  Below are a number of writing style guides that you will find useful.  Print out some of the pages for future reference.

(3)  Read text books and academic journals to pick up the tone and feel of academic writing, over time you will bring this style and its vocabulary into your own way of writing.  Emerald, Science Direct and Business Source Complete (Ebsco) are online search engines to access a wide range of material, click 'peer reviewed' and 'full text' options where you can.  I award top marks for work that includes content from here. 

Royal Literary Fund

Edinburgh Napier University

Birmingham City University

Harvard referencing guide from Sheffield University

Monday, 3 September 2012

Getting the most out of induction week ?

Induction week can seem a bit of a breeze, with limited contact time and many sessions involving registration and fee payment and the inevitable queuing to achieve all this.  Interactions with other new students can appear too brief, and as experienced masters students it somehow does not feel the same as it did when you were a young, spritely (and probably quite inexperienced) 18 or 19 year old leaving home for the first time.  It is not the crazy excitement of undergraduate freshers week (although the campus is buzzing with this vibe), post graduates tend to be more focused on the concentrated period of time they  have to study for their masters degree. 

The Royal Holloway MBA programme expects students to hit the ground running, having made use of the long grass of the summer holidays to crack on with some of the extenisve pre-reading (see earlier entry in this blog).  The focus is very much on networking within the group or cohort as we like to term groups of students following the same study programme, thus activities are a blend of introductory sessions and team building exercises.

Royal Holloway Entrepreneurs is a popular with MBA candidates
The approach taken by Royal Holloway sees post graduate students expected to take full advantage of the guidance on rules and regulations and expectations that are flagged during intensive sessions.  Students are expected to fully familiarise themselves with the various guides and rules materials that are hosted on the Post Graduate Information Vault (google 'rhul pg info vault' to find this).  Teaching staff do not take kindly to questions pertaining to this basic level of information.

Sporting activities crucial
The induction week provides MBA candidates with the opportunity to assess their peers.  With around 30 in each class, the full time MBA programme is an ideal size, small enough to allow everyone to know each other, big enough to provide depth and bredth of experience and a wide range of personalities and skill sets.

MBA candidates often join one or two of the wide range of on campus student societies, noting that getting an appropriate study, relax, and sporting mix is crucial.   Physical activities to get out and about off campus are often great ways to help fast track team development. 

On the distance learning version of this programme much of the familiarisation takes place at an individual level, students get the chance at the end June/early July during the Introductory Plenary 1 session to personally meet with fellow students and faculty members.  

Six tips to prepare for an effective induction week

(1) Wear your name badge all week, and ideally into week 2 and 3.

(2) Smile and introduce yourself to as many people as you can.  Everyone around you is in the same situation and probably keen to make new friends.  Target 10 or more people each day.  One or two of these contacts may become life long friends....

(3) Practice a one sentence and one minute introduction.  Look to include a combination of useful and memorable facts about yourself.  "Hello, I'm Justin.  I'm into marketing, in fact it was my passion for visiting McDonald's to understand it's global product offering during my travels with British Airways and my MBA that encouraged my career change into university lecturing."

(4) Try to identify people who share interests with you, sports, socialising, cultural pursuits and look to set up a couple of activities before the end of the first week.

(5) Use a nickname if others find your name is hard to pronounce or tricky to remember. 

(6) Try to avoid drifting into default friendships with same sex, same culture backgrounds.  The international experience offered at Royal Holloway, University of London is a fantastic opportunity to develop deep understandings of the many different cultures represented. 

Dissertation Deadline has now passed !

For those following the full time version of the Royal Holloway MBA, the passing of 30 August was a very important one as it marked the end of their studies.  We have got graduation to look forwards to in December, but in terms of assessments and inputs, this was the final, final piece of work.  I heard stories of 90 minute queues for the library printer and of students running from one side of the campus to the other in order to achieve the 14:00 deadline.

I was delighted then on Friday night to meet an exclusive bunch of just finished MBAs at the White Cross, Riverside, (off Water Lane), Richmond, Surrey. TW9 1TH, my favourite pub due to a stunning river view and long family associations. It was a good chance to reflect on a hard working year that saw everyone develop and grow having been confronted by a wide variety of challenges. 
Whilst 2011/12 MBA candidates concentrate their efforts on finding exciting roles in their new careers, my focus is on marking a very large pile of dissertations and undertaking the final interviews for people thinking about starting a full time MBA on September 24th.  So far we have a cracking looking group of candidates, but I am always open to offering the odd late place to any late, late applications.