Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Royal Holloway 2012 Cohort - Who we are ?

Royal Holloway Founders building seen through Windsor windows
Once again our MBA course has been highly attractive to students from all over the world. The 2012/13 cohort of 35 (pictured above) has grown 20% on the previous year, in spite of a 30% reduction in applications. Changes to the post study work visa arrangements have seen applications drop off significantly from India, a historically strong market. Early anecdotal evidence shows that Royal Holloway MBA has been successful at attracting more, high caliber students whilst many institutions have seen their programme enrolments reduce.  

The gender balance is fairly even with 54% women and 46% men, wholly appropriate for a College that is proud of its historical origins as a Victorian ladies college. This is an important and unusual feature of the Royal Holloway MBA programme. At other leading UK MBA programmes and as seen with AMBA accredited Universities data the MBA gender breakdown usually sees around a 70% male and 30% female blend, indicating that the MBA is often a more masculine dominated course. AACSB, another global programme accreditation body, shows parity across the sexes when looking at all masters degrees.

Our students' varied business backgrounds

An essential entry requirement is extensive work experience, again the sheer variety evidenced in the MBA work profiles is very impressive. It includes; digital marketing, project management, IT, banking, insurance, finance, accounting, aviation, NGO (United Nations) administrative, entrepreneurial, charities, beverages brand manager and Disneyland.

Royal Holloway is proud of its AMBA accreditation which requires MBA students to have at least three years postgraduate work experience. This experience will come to bear towards the end of their year-long programme when they are required to work in groups as management consultants and recommend a viable solution to a real business problem set by one of our industry partners.

Where do our students come from?

The 35 students hail from 21 different countries; USA, UK, Bermuda, India, Russia, Senegal, South Korea, South Africa, China, Japan, Colombia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Turkey, Latvia, Israel, Canada, and Mexico providing a truly international learning experience. It is believed that this is the first time all of the populated continents of the world have been represented on the full time Royal Holloway MBA.
The Royal Holloway MBA 2012/13 Cohort - Where do they come from ?


National Press coverage of The Royal Holloway MBA

Study Pods in the School of Management Foyer
One of my personal targets for this year was to see if we could get some coverage of the campus MBA programme in the national press.  The distance learning programme had received coverage from both the FT and Telegraph, as the trend towards non-traditional full time study was a popular news theme.  

Sadly, my attempts to generate interest from internal newsletter type pieces had brought no returns.  In my previous corporate existence supplying some reasonable copy (using tactical quotes from the right senior people you wanted profile with) and an appropriate photo always brought results, and the right photo could mean placement on the front or back covers.

Not in the UK national press it seems.  

Once I took a step too far and used an embarrassing photo of a close colleague in a social context (wearing a silly hat) without his permission.  I have learned my lesson here - always, always, ask for permission if you are going to use images of people - we all tend to be a bit particular on how this is done.

The rule on photos was always "no line ups" and this has stayed with me since then - although you will notice in this blog a number of "prohibited" line up photos, most because we all seem to want to have such photos and the editorial guillotine operated on MBADirector  is not as exacting as it might be. 

I must thank Tanya Gubbay and the three featured MBA students for helping make this happen. coverage of three current campus MBA students, which went in the Asian and North American editions of the paper, so truly global.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

"Don't post a silly picture of me on Linked-In, I'll never get a job !"

MBA 2011/12 Graduation

I must say I was slighty sceptical about the re-introduction of winter graduations for post graduate students.  The thought of driving rain and freezing temperatures and not putting the extravagant Picture Gallery and Chapel centre stage as the location made me have some serious reservations.
Gone.  Totally dispelled.  And as our head of school is often keen on impressing, "evidence based decision making is key ! ".  Resulting on the relatively short gap since Royal Holloway MBA students have submitted their dissertations (end of August) there was an impressive 60% attendance at the ceremony today.  With a surprising number flying in especially for graduation, this made for a fantastic group who seemed to have a really fun time together.

Royal Holloway 2011/12 MBA cohort.  Picture: Sigrun M Wagner
The ceremony was described as appropriately formal and smoothly run.  No scrimping on style for the big celebration of successful learning journeys completed.  Trumpetted by bearskin soldiers in their immaculate uniforms the College Principal reinforced the quality of their masters degree, reminding us that Royal Holloway placed 119th out of 6,000 in a recent evaluation of the worlds best universities.  The graduation ceremonies at Royal Holloway (I've done several now as you might imagine) deliver all the right ingredients in just the right measures, pomp, purpose, and lots of preened photo opportunities, using the stunning Founders building as a back drop. 
This years MBA cohort achieved particularly strong results with 3 distinctions (70%+) and 10 merits (60%+) and were the first ever group to have undertaken a week long international study visit (in conjunction with our partner business school institution at Stockholm University).  They were also recognised for the ground breaking off campus business consultancy engagement that was undertaken with senior management from Thorpe Park, one of the 93 business units that comprises the Merlin Group, second only to Disney in the amusements sector.
After all the formality in the Monkeys Forehead (a favourite with students each and every year) the MBA group, packed full of happy, smiling faces, were celebrating their achievements, with a chance to let their hair down a bit and to plan their next reunion !
In the pub, Amir's plea to those taking photos "Please don't post a silly picture of me on Linked-In, I'll never get a job if you do !"  personally, I think it's ok to celebrate the achievement of an MBA....

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Christmas MBA Alumni Event 2012

Royal Holloways unique Victorian art collection in the stunning Picture Gallery


The last day of term saw the Royal Holloway MBA cohort celebrate in some style with a sumptuous luncheon alumni event organised brilliantly by Fiona Redding.

Not quite the traditional Christmas turkey dinner
The dedicated School of Management Alumni officer role is still relatively new and it is particularly gratifying to see how the heady mix of current MBA students with alumni and industry guests is now building a momentum of its own. 

Current MBA students were feeling a sense of relief (having just handed in their last piece of assessed work for the term, an HR essay) and also tiredness, as the end of term has seen them work particularly hard on a variety of group presentations, individual course work and in class tests.

It was great to hear of plans for candidates to be reunited with their families over the Christmas period.  Many had plans to travel throughout UK and continental Europe.

We were also pleased to see a strong representation from the various business partners we have worked with in the last year.  Several were keen to explore opportunities to offer internships, work placements and full time roles.  With a range of very interesting people present, all with a passion for the College and the MBA programme it was not surprising that there was some extensive networking taking place.

Royal Holloways highly renowned choir performing added a very special feeling to the proceedings

MBA 2012/13 Candidates Huiya Chuang and Eri Yazawa (who kindly allowed her photos to be used in this blog) with Royal Holloway MBA Director Justin O'Brien

Market Research at the Movies

The Hobbit in 3D - market research experience

My wife was pretty annoyed today at being given in a very confusing manner pens and sheets of paper for a market research company looking to evaluate different consumer reactions to the 3D and 2D versions of the new Hobbit movie, released this week.  Because I teach market research at Royal Holloway and use the movie industry as the context for one seminar, I was, naturally, keen to participate and hoped to bring home a blank copy for more detailed analysis.  (Students never far from my thoughts !)

Gollum: The MOST engaging eyes, brilliant CGI
Motivated, encouraged and plain nagged to arrange a family visit by our 10 year older son, we assume a function of peer inspired buzz was behind this behaviour.  Some class mates were going on premier evening after school, we felt this was a bit too much, given the 2:45 run time. 

We could not book opening weekend seats in flat screen mode, generally I do not like 3D because I have to put glasses over my own glasses and mostly because the movement scenes make me feel sick, without moving in my chair it is just the feeling that a roller coaster gives me.  This blog is not a movie review site (check out IMDb if you lust after movie news) so, suffice to say this was a great family movie experience, we all loved it. 

I am always putting my own MBA into action and whilst I completed the first form (I was given a single sided form, the crucial motivator email data capture for free stuff was missing) I found myself in that terribly academic manner tutting at some of the question formulation and several of the response box options did not let me share my opinions effectively. 

New Zealand scenery a prime draw

I felt pity for the coding team (mostly tick box closed responses were required) when trying to analyse the consumers hand written descriptions of the three best scenes.  I was surprised at the numbers of questions that seemed to offer up comments on length of the movie and the action scenes.  (I love the scenery of New Zealand that is an integral part of this film franchise).

Whilst chatting with the market researcher, waiting for toilet formalities to be completed, he gave me permission to take some blank forms (ethically I was in the clear) and he also offered the different colour forms (exactly the same questions, just printed on different coloured paper).  Proof that engaging in conversation with strangers can bring benefits.  It is clear that in addition to the internal bench marking (including questions asking if we would by DVDs and Blue Rays) that would perhaps give an indication of the commercial success of the movie, perhaps the most important research objective was to measure the difference between customer satisfaction across the two and three dimension formats.  The reading I have done on this suggests that the jury is still out on whether 3D is the winning format.  I do not plan on buying a 3D TV any time soon.

Innovative Air New Zealand strenthen beauty visit us credentials
Wellington Airport boasts movie associations
The campus MBAs  are now off on a well earned Christmas break, heads buzzing with ideas for what their dissertation topic might be.

One candidate is going to look at the brand of his country.  I think it is interesting to note how brand New Zealand is being show cased thanks to Kiwi director Peter Jackson's choice of is home country as the back drop to this interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkein's writing. 

Air New Zealand (home market size: 4 million) have a strong record in developing creative advertising concepts that have an enduring appeal that often has traction in the world of social media, for example this video.  Safety video or viral communications asset ?

Country of Origin (CoO) effect is an important brand marketing concept that Royal Holloway MBA students are likely to cover.  A simple image search shows a fully integrated marketing campaign (IMC) in action around this movie, with South Islands main airport (Wellington) investing in three dimensional models of Hobbit characters to clearly identify itself as the gateway to Hobbit country.  Even the Kiwi post office looks likely to cash in on Hobbit mania with its range of promotional stamps featuring key characters.  I applaud brand New Zealand for cleverly exploiting this movie franchise. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Guest Speaking at The Royal Marketing Society

Having played a small role in helping the Royal Marketing (student society) form last year, I was delighted and rather honoured to be asked to be a guest speaker at one of the regular society meetings.  I am a keen advocate of a strong marketing society and feel that the committee this year has done an amazing job, especially when you consider that Students Union funding only applies to societies that have been up and running for a year.  (I guess a sensible viability test and filter)

Some of these students are even smiling !

Given that the target audience for the Marketing Society are undergraduates who have typically followed the Marketing Management module I run a regular big lecture slot on (with my marketing colleague Andy Whalley) I was expecting a low turn out for my session.  I braced myself for less than a handful of hardy souls.  In fact, I was doubting the logic in inviting me in the first place.  Can you really have a full time marketing lecturer deliver a guest speaker slot at the marketing society ?  Anyway...

Having worked on marking and lesson prep during the day and seen my family arrive home, it felt entirely incongrous to be going to campus to run a 1900 talk.  Campus was surprisingly buzzy, busier than I've seen it during the daylight period.  It was quite exciting.  I was quite nervous.  I did not know quite what to expect.  I was not at all sure what I had prepared would work, as clearly in a voluntary, beyond class setting the rules of the game are very different.  Firmly out of my comfort zone and regretting agreeing to particpate, I wore my favourite green hoody, with plenty of space to hide in if things went pear shaped.  Perhaps it was the stage fright of a stand up comedian I was feeling.  You know the material, you've done the gig scene for ages.  Yet every new audience provides its own particular challenge.  I often liken lecturing to the role of the stand up comedian.  I like to watch the good, the bad and the ugly to understand different approaches and unpick why some don't work as well as others.  I digress.

However, Nathan (founding society president) and the executive committee had done a sterling job in marketing the event (I guess there is a clue in the name !) and they had ensured that there was quite a large group of students in attendance.  Given a very challenging topic that felt it might be dangerously heavy on the dry stuff that doesn't work, I decided to focus my efforts on sharing with the student group (which, pleasingly included four current Royal Holloway MBA students) a light hearted career profile, the global McDonald's story that got me into academia and case study on my own global vs local marketing struggle as British Airways Sales and Marketing Manager for Russia, from back in the day when this was a hot new topic.

Royal Holloway MBA Director, Justin O'Brien
As ever, I used my own particular lecturing style, based as it is on my strongly held belief that engaging the audience is the critical objective.  "Fun Learning" is how I describe it.  I am not funny and really cannot tell jokes - but trying to find different ways to surprise, entertain, amuse and enlighten the group in front of you is always an exciting challenge.  Getting a reaction is crucial to see if it is working.  

My objective is not to (using the European learning metaphor) to fill lots of empty jugs with knowledge, but (UK style) seek to light a fire that will never go out.  I hope to inspire a natural curiosity, to enable others to look at the world in a different way (often using marketing tools and concepts) and give enough to inspire interest to go away and learn more.  I (amusingly appropriate here) remember vaguely research that suggested that 50% of information is forgotten within an hour and by the end of the week most people would be lucky to remember even 10% of any given lecture without using some form of revision.  Thus creating highly memorable 'peaks' of learning, amazing stories or facts, humourous (remember - I don't do funny) anecdotes from which personal learning journeys can commence is the modest objective I set myself.  Feedback suggests this approach generally works quite well.

Gratifyingly, the Royal Marketing session was completed, a few good questions, a few people leaving once the hour slot was done and several thank yous (now that did feel a bit strange).  A quick pint of Guiness in the pub with a hard core and back to reality.

Wonder if I will get invited back to do something next year ?