“Never assume that you can’t, always assume that you can”: How anyone can make an MBA work for them
08th Mar 2022
Edel O’Leary, MBA Programmes Senior Manager at UCD Smurfit School tells us how their MBA offering is designed to suit a range of people, from working parents to those looking for an entire career change.
Before taking up her position as MBA Programmes Senior Manager at UCD Smurfit School, Edel O’Leary had a decades long career in various marketing and communications roles. She sees this switch from industry to education as something that helps her in her day-to-day interactions with the MBA students.
“Because I was in industry for so long I can find a natural empathy and understanding with all of the students – I have had experiences that are akin to their own careers.”
This is no small feat, given the wide variety of students that come through their doors. Not only do the three options: Full-Time MBA, Modular Executive MBA and Executive MBA each offer an alternative learning schedule, as Edel explains, everyone is coming back to study for different reasons. Some might be looking to take that next step in their career, while others are planning a complete change of direction.
No matter the circumstances, she feels one of the main benefits of each of the programmes is the chance to stop and think about yourself more broadly.
“I think what an MBA offers, and the Smurfit school in particular, is the time to think about what you’re good at. Because you work best where you’re happiest – it is important to understand what you are good at. You might find that it takes you out of your comfort zone, but just taking a little time can help you to appreciate where you really excel. Doing the MBA is the ideal time to actually explore those things about yourself that maybe you haven’t had time to think of so far.”
It’s also a chance to explore new sectors and roles, thanks to access to coaches, career mentors, and the entire network of alumni, who can all offer advice and insight. It’s an invaluable opportunity, which is why UCD Smurfit School and IMAGE are delighted to once again be offering a scholarship to one female MBA candidate for their choice of either the Full Time MBA, the midweek Executive MBA or the Modular MBA. Edel explains that encouraging female participation in the programmes is hugely important to the school.
Initiatives like the scholarship are also complemented by the variety of MBA options. “Our recent modular MBA programme has been particularly successful in attracting female representation.” she says. “We’re very happy, 43 per cent of our students are female on it in the first year of running.” As it requires attending lectures just two days a month, it can suit those who have other commitments, whether that’s work or caring responsibilities.
She emphasises that the school’s experience in running MBA programmes means that they know how to accommodate almost any personal circumstances. The Modular MBA class has already welcomed one baby this year, with another due in a few months’ time. “You should never assume that you can’t, always assume that you can,” Edel says. “Come and have those conversations with us. And we’ll guide you as to what we think would work for you.”
Although the idea of taking on an MBA might sound daunting to some, especially if their lives already seem busy, Edel says that this is rarely an issue for students once they’ve set their minds to it. “If you do want to do it, you will succeed. It’s very similar to being successful in your own work environment, it’s about ensuring you have structures around you, and calendaring your time. Once you have those, then everything else falls into place.”
The benefits of putting in the effort are also manifold, and often unlock a whole new stage in students’ careers. As Edel explains, it’s common in your early career to dedicate time to becoming an expert in your field. As time goes on, you’re given more responsibility, perhaps tasks like people management, or profit and loss responsibility, and you realise that you don’t have expertise in these areas.
“I think it’s at that juncture that the MBA really kicks in, because then you can come and learn these skills in a very safe environment. You also learn to think strategically and understand how you can add value to your organisation, working in group projects and across teams, you learn how to actually bring all of that learning to life, in whatever it is that you’re working on.”
And the growth doesn’t stop once the programme is completed, Edel explains. “No matter where you are in your career, you still have your alumni network to lean on. So if you encounter something you need to solve, alumni can pop a little message into their class WhatsApp group asking for ideas. And before you know it, you have feedback from a couple of class members who’ve gone through it before or can point you in the right direction and make a connection for you.” It fosters an attitude of lifelong learning, and the opportunity to think about problems in different ways.
How to apply
Don’t miss this life-changing and unique opportunity to undertake a global-ranked MBA at Ireland’s leading business school, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.
For full details on how to apply and the relevant Terms and Conditions, click here. The deadline for applications for this Scholarship is 1 May 2022.