Thinking of upskilling or changing your career? A business professor shares her advice
17th Mar 2023
Prof Federica Pazzaglia, Head of Management Subject Area UCD College of Business works with students every day who have decided to upskill within their career, or are in the process of making a change. Here, she shares her insights for anyone who might be considering taking the leap.
It can feel daunting if you’re considering undergoing study such as an MBA, whether it’s to get you further in your career, or to enable you to go down a different path.
Federica Pazzaglia, Head of Management Subject Area UCD College of Business knows the challenges that people, and women especially can face when confronted with this decision.
She’s shared some advice, based on her years of experience.
What are some of the biggest challenges people face when it comes to changing careers or upskilling within their industry?
Finding time within a busy schedule is often one of the first barriers for those thinking about changing careers or upskilling. To address this challenge, we have launched our Modular EMBA programme which offers flexibility to those with busy careers and/or caring responsibilities. The new programme typically requires only two days’ attendance on campus per month, with a schedule of dates that can be planned well in advance.
Without the option to study part-time, an MBA would simply not be feasible for many professionals.
We found that women especially can find the thought of balancing work, family and academic life daunting and can be hesitant to undertake an MBA. This is why we are committed to promoting the visibility of our female MBA graduates and MBA students so that through their experiences while on the programme and their achievements thereafter they can be an inspiration for others. We also connect students with female alumni who have faced similar challenges so they can share their experiences and how they worked through them to achieve their goals.
Those considering an MBA may have doubts about balancing work and life while on the programme but there is a tremendous amount of support offered by the Smurfit School such as through mentorship by former alumni, speaker events and networking initiatives. In addition, support from classmates is an integral part of the network you will develop while on the programme. Through immersive on campus monthly attendance, working on group projects and experiential activities, and participating in networking opportunities with other students and alumni, you will build a strong network of connections with your classmates. They will be experiencing the same challenges, so you know there is always someone to turn to who will understand.
UCD Smurfit School’s MBA programme is one of the oldest in Europe, and decades of experience have enabled us to uniquely tailor supports over time to ensure that our students succeed in their programme and thrive in their career trajectory.
Don’t assume that you can’t, assume that you can. We welcome you to have a conversation with us and we will guide you through how to make an MBA work for you.
What advice would you give to anyone who is considering this, but is not sure where to start?
The best way to get started is to attend one of our upcoming events to learn more about the programme and meet faculty, staff and alumni who can help answer your questions. We also offer a “taste lecture” so you can get a better understanding of what studying for an MBA will be like.
If you are unsure about the next step in your career, the MBA offers an opportunity to consider where you excel and where you find professional satisfaction. This may take you out of your comfort zone, as you explore new sectors and roles, but with access to coaches, career mentors, and the UCD Business Alumni network, you can seek advice and insight.
We have found that it is common in the early stages of one’s career to dedicate time to honing your skills and becoming a technical expert. As time goes on, however, you may be asked to take on more responsibility including for the management and development of others, or responsibility to support the growth and success of their business.
It is at that juncture that the skills learned on the MBA come in to play as you will learn to think strategically and understand how you can add value to yourself and your organisation and work on group projects and across teams, among others.
How can an MBA equip people for these changes in their careers?
The diverse MBA cohort brings together a rich blend of ideas to the classroom with students from around the globe and from a range of industries. Their specialist knowledge and professional experiences inform challenging and interesting conversations that push students outside of their comfort zone, expand their horizons and prepare them for a rapidly changing workplace environment.
Our MBA curriculum brings together cutting edge knowledge and insights in a wide range of business disciplines, opportunities for teamwork and collaboration that are central to the contemporary workplace and a focus on applied and intercultural experiences such through our international study trips and consultancy projects.This exposure to leading edge knowledge and practical insights and perspectives offers a unique opportunity for participants to develop their managerial and leadership skills needed for careers that are increasingly more diverse and globalised.
The MBA also features case studies, action learning, international study trips, integrated projects, international consultancy and global virtual teamwork opportunities. What students learn can be directly applied in their working environment and participants have told us that work and study are often intertwined as assignments require carrying out a piece of work within your or another organisation. Graduates can “hit the ground running” with knowledge and practical application of current trends allowing them to immediately contribute to their organisation.
The major Capstone project at the end of the programme tasks students to develop a solution to a problem faced by an organisation. You will master real-life challenges by applying the knowledge and skills gained throughout the programme, demonstrating your skills of analysis, problem-solving and strategy.
In addition, you will have the opportunity to join the UCD Smurfit School’s MBA Leadership Development Programme, (LDP) that focuses on the skills necessary to communicate effectively, and enhance your career and leadership style .
Empowering you to become a self-aware, insightful and influential leader, the LDP helps you to communicate more effectively, better understand your motivations and behaviour, develop your personal strengths and lead others through persuasion and influence.
What other benefits, other than the skills and information learned, does an MBA give to people who are upskilling or changing careers?
We have found that the completion of the MBA builds confidence, not only during the course, but it stands to graduates well into the future. Our alumni have shared that they don’t slip back into feelings of self-doubt but maintain confidence as they move forward.
The course builds self-belief, as well as skills, to aim for larger roles and broader ambitions.
In addition, one of the most valuable aspects of an MBA are the networks that formed during the programme and which stand to graduates well beyond their graduation, as sources of professional and personal support and friendships. The MBA Alumni Association gives students access to an elite and active global network of 4,000 Smurfit MBA Alumni – a network for life that can be counted on.
No matter where students are in their career, or professional challenges they face, graduates can reach out to this network for ideas and receive feedback from fellow alumni who have gone through similar situations or who make a connection for you. It fosters lifelong learning, and the opportunity to think about problems in different ways.
MBA participants also have access to a dedicated careers service which will assist them in developing the necessary skills for career development and advancement, including networking, CV building, career strategy and interview preparations. These services support our graduates who are upskilling or changing careers to translate the knowledge and skills gained while on the programme into the career opportunities they are aiming for.
Learn more: Women on the MBA Webinar
If you’re interested and want to learn more, don’t miss UCD’s Women on the MBA Online Webinar on Tuesday, March 21 from 7 – 8.30pm. The event will feature an overview of their MBA programme options, a talk from UCD College of Business VP for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, followed by an engaging panel discussion with current MBA students and alumni who will share their experiences of their Smurfit MBA journey and speak to the importance and impact of the MBA on their professional and personal progression. For full details and to register for the event, click here.
UCD Smurfit School Open Evening: Masters and MBA
The UCD Smurfit School Open Evening: Masters and MBA will take place on Wednesday, April 5 from 4:00 – 8:30 pm at UCD Smurfit School, Blackrock. The event will feature an overview of UCD Smurfit School MBA Programmes with MBA Programmes Academic Director Associate Professor Ciaran Heavey, followed by an MBA Taste Lecture.
The event will showcase their wide range of Business Masters as well as our MBA Programmes. Whatever your undergraduate background, they have a programme that is suitable for you. During the event you will have the opportunity to speak one to one with faculty, students and the admissions team, take a tour of our beautiful campus and attend dedicated programme presentations.
For full details and to register for the event, click here.
How to apply
To apply for the IMAGE x UCD MBA Scholarship, and see the relevant Terms and Conditions, click here. The deadline for applications for this Scholarship is April 30, 2023.