MBA Time: A Year in Review

By Robyn Evans, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

Robyn EvansWhat a year it has been. From  the first unit, Leadership Practice & Development (LP&D), I have journeyed through a number of subjects (with many others), including a unit undertake in China, and am now ending with Managing People & Organisations.  So many buzz words and phrases run through my mind such as “creating glue”, “personality type”, “strength based performance”, “the business model canvas”, “net present value”,  “cultural competence”, “Ni hao” and many more (too many for a blog).

The year has gone very quickly, and Associate Professor Mike Jenner was right about what he said to us in LP&D – this experience is in some sense in its own world. We call it MBA time. The rate at which we learn and apply these concepts is fast paced and requires much energy and facilitation. Even though this can be challenging, it is certainly a great way to learn and gives us the ability to practice our new found concepts in the workplace.

There have been friendships formed, many late nights, much stress, a few clashes, the anxious wait for marks and the excitement of the annual MBA Ball to end the year. Many have changed jobs, some even careers; one went to war and others had babies. Who would have thought all that would happen in a year. Yet it does. (If you feel tired, you know why now).

However, the excitement doesn’t end here.I In some ways, the MBA is a new season, a season where we all cross paths (some more than others) and then journey into the next season with one another. Whether we are right there cheering each other on, or just following on social media, the MBA has enabled us to cross paths, develop relationships and connect professionally.

Very importantly, this program has enabled personal and professional growth to new heights and prompted me to think even further about my career potential. The investment into women has been a great asset of this program, and something I hope continues to grow.

So while my MBA journey has a little more time to go, I look forward to the new students adding colour to the already established MBA masterpiece next year. We have all in some way contributed to the colour and texture of this masterpiece called the MBA, and I look forward to seeing this artwork develop as we journey and build into the future.

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Step 1: Commence MBA. Step 2: Change jobs.

By Carla Harris, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

C_HarrisSound familiar? Call it a coincidence, but there seems to me a positive correlation between starting your MBA and shortly after getting a new job. Sure this makes complete sense –  we’re meeting new people and making new connections. Combined with being in a point in our lives where we’re clearly after a change in our careers in some way, it’s a bit of a no brainer. As Hugh discussed in his recent blog, the MBA provides you with a suite of skills that manifest their benefits prior to your MBA’s completion. Still, I find it amusing.

People are often fascinated by my career. Let me re-phrase; they’re not so much interested in my actual jobs (I’ve seen many a pair of eyes glaze over when explaining what I do, or did, for a living) but more when they find out my career path that there’s always further intrigue. I’m what you might call a ‘branding challenge’. I started my career as a scientist – I have a “PhD in weeds” – and in one foul swoop ended up an Executive Manager for the Federal Government at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. There’s often immense interest as to how I went from chopping down trees to talking to triple j about the gender pay gap.

Admittedly, there is a considerable disconnect between plants and gender, so making the jump was very considered and required a lot of soul searching. Given that changing jobs seems to be such a feature of the MBA experience, here’s how it happened:

  1. Get real with where you’re at: First, I had to recognise that I needed to make a change, and a big one. Not just moving to another research lab within the university, or another university elsewhere, but something BIG. This was one of the most challenging parts because so much of my identity was wrapped up in what I did, and walking away from a decade of research made me feel I had failed.
  2. Work out what you don’t want: Next, I figured out what it was that I didn’t like about my job. Once I realised that these things wouldn’t be remedied by moving to another organization, but actually a seismic shift in job type was required, I could then focus on the next step.
  3. Work out what you do want: I then identified what it was that I did like about my job – what do I want to use from the skills I currently have? This was a great help in narrowing the kinds of jobs and industries that might be a better fit.
  4. Think laterally: Often we have a narrow field of vision about what we can do with our skills. So I had to be a bit out of the box with how could transfer my skills to a new area.

And the result? I’ve never looked back, my work is engaging, tangible and a perfect match for me. It was a scary thing to do, but the benefits have well have been well and truly realised.

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Global EMBA – Classroom 2.0

By Nathan Morsillo FCPA, current student in the Global Executive MBA and CPA Global Executive MBA Scholarship recipient

As I write this I am midway through Module 3 in Nathan 2014Bangalore enjoying occasional battles with wireless connections, rickshaws and lots of curry. A perfect time to write a quick post about the Global Executive MBA whilst nearing the half-way point.

During my EMBA journey, I have been reflecting on the theory and findings behind the Learning Pyramid. The Learning Pyramid, researched and created by the National Training Laboratories in Betel, Maine, suggests a 10%-30% retention rate on behalf of students for lectures and demonstrations, but 75% if students’ education involves ‘practising by doing’. Although the Learning Pyramid has had its detractors, as a principle, the experiential nature of the EMBA at the Business School has proven to me that having more of the doing is the way to go.

Module 1 – leadership was a tour-de-force, with over 30 speakers over a 2 week residential. Morning, noon and night, leadership was explored, reflected on and applied in contexts like contemporary art galleries, the music conservatorium and in military traditions. In each of these, crucially, there was also room to get to know and learn from other cohort members.

Module 2 covered some of the more standard MBA topics, including integrated management, marketing, finance, and the business model canvas. It also involved a consultancy as a vehicle for learning, working closely with a non-profit working in the disability services sector.

Module 3 found us in India. We met a huge range of entrepreneurs and innovators, and learnt about massive changes and opportunities happening here in a very, very different context.

Thanks are due at this mid-point to Associate Dean (Executive Management Education), Professor Richard Hall and the University of Sydney Business School for assembling a great cohort, a quality program and getting more of the doing into our learning. It’s been a lot of hard work, but equally great fun so far – bring on the last few modules. At the end of the year we’ll be off to Silicon Valley in the USA to explore ‘Managing Growth’ before heading to London and Languedoc, France for our final residential module, “Turning Around Mature Businesses.”

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How my MBA boosted my career, before graduation

By Hugh Simpson, Management Consultant, EY, and current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

Hugh SimpsonCandidates start their MBAs for a wide range of reasons, and for me it was either to take a step up in my existing career or take a step out into a new industry. I only have one subject to go in my MBA and this week I start in my ideal role at EY in management consulting, which is a step up in consulting, but also movement into a new focus.

My journey towards self-actualisation and achievement of career goals was by no means a smooth one, but made much easier with the help of the MBA program. Leadership and Professional Development is the first unit in the MBA and involved completing a ‘Reflected Best Self’ and ‘Ideal Job Summary’ as part of the assessments. These activities highlighted to me that I no longer desired a future within the niche consulting area I had worked in for 3 years.

I always intended to wait until the end of the MBA to decide what I would do next, but a year into the MBA, I started the Personal Career Management Plan with Lisa Tarry from the MBA’s dedicated Careers Office to help decide upon and action my next steps.

Over a 12 month period, Lisa led me through a range of coaching sessions and assessments, such as Career Leader and Strengths Finder, to really understand my unique value proposition. We conducted research on potential targets from within and outside my network which all led to leveraging skills from my MBA marketing subject to develop my personal brand.

Lisa’s resume and interview preparation coaching was beneficial as I reached interview stages for two global consulting firms and a senior NSW government position. Despite having progressed through to the final stages at all positions, I was not successful and forced to review and learn from the experiences. I reverted back to my key strengths and value proposition and realised that maybe these roles weren’t what I really wanted because it’s is not just about whether you’re good enough for the company, but also whether or not the company is good enough for you.

After months of persistence and a number of set backs, I was introduced to a partner at EY and we started the process for a Manager position in their advisory business line. The role was in an area that leveraged my past experiences perfectly and gave me the opportunity to develop new skills whilst continuing to grow my career. During the interviews, I had the chance to meet a number of people from the team in Sydney, which included everyone from consultants to partners, and I started to see myself being part of that team.

The recruitment process was long and often uncertain, but the day I received my offer, all that hard work had paid off. I am certain that without the skills learnt in the MBA program, support from staff and faculty and ultimately the guidance received from Lisa, I don’t think I would be kicking off the next phase of my career in a role I’m excited to start.

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Time out to be challenged, develop and reflect

By Hayes Montgomery CPA, current student in the Global Executive MBA and CPA Global Executive MBA Scholarship recipient

Hayes 2014What a privilege it is taking time out of work with a group of like-minded and motivated professionals in an intensive and experiential learning environment.

At this point, roughly half way through the University of Sydney Business School Global Executive MBA program, I am amazed by the experiences I have already had and excited about those still to go. Through the modules on Leadership, Integrated Management and now Developing New Opportunities, we have covered a range of topics from more traditional business functions like finance, supply chain and strategy, through to more contemporary topics like design-thinking, big data and even mindfulness.

Leaving work and family behind for two weeks at a time (five times in 18 months!) is obviously a challenge, but the benefit of that time out to really absorb the material, focus on the projects (applying our learnings working with real business clients) and take time to reflect on what we are learning, and how we each are individually developing, has been immensely valuable.

I’ve just returned from Bangalore, where we were looking at creating and developing new opportunities in an emerging market, meeting local partners & consumers, and determining how our Australian business could enter the Indian market.

Dealing with the different social, cultural, regulatory and structural differences in India creates an environment where we can apply our learnings in a highly complex and dynamic environment.  This is an ‘in the deep-end’ approach that is equal parts challenging and of course good fun.

For people contemplating this program, you will most certainly be challenged personally, professionally and academically, but you will also be immensely rewarded. The University of Sydney Business School Global Executive MBA is an incredible way to learn and extend yourself, your career and your horizons. I am grateful to the Business School and CPA Australia for the opportunity to participate in such an innovative program.

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A Sherpa, a sous Sherpa and a yak: why the G20 is relevant to you!

By Christopher Murphy, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program. Christopher is an active commentator on bilateral economic relations in the Asia-Pacific, and is an Australian delegate to the APEC CEO Summit in Beijing 8-10 November 2014.

2013_03_01 MBA (30%) 264As most readers of this blog are no doubt aware, on 15 and 16 November 2014, Australia will host the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane. What is less apparent, however, is why the gathering of dozens of political leaders, finance ministers and central bank governors is directly relevant to business school students. Using a Sherpa, a sous Sherpa and a yak, let us explore why the G20 is so important to every business student in Australia.

The G20 describes itself as “the premier forum for international cooperation on the most important issues of the global economic and financial agenda”. G20 members account for 85% of the world economy, more than 80% of global trade and two-thirds of the world’s population. As an organisation, the G20 endeavours to harmonise all geographic regions of the world; and act as a global discussion group. What is said in Brisbane on 15 and 16 November will, literally, reverberate through much of the global economy.

Despite common misconceptions, the G20 is not actually a “summit”; rather it is a series of meetings, which culminates in the Leaders Summit. On 22 and 23 February 2014 finance ministers and treasurers met in Sydney, and then again in Cairns on September 20 and 21. These central meetings are also surrounded by dozens of satellite meetings. The G20 process is held together by sherpas, who lead the “sherpa track negotiations”, and help G20 members reach the leaders summit (no pun intended). The Australian Sherpa is Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM. The sous Sherpa and yak are senior public officials who assist the Sherpa in facilitating the meetings, and preparing the G20 resolution (a document that encapsulates the G20 Leaders Summit).

If business school graduates want good jobs, then G20 member economies need to continue to implement the reforms that will achieve the G20 growth targets (currently set at 2% of global GDP). If business school graduates want to improve their own standard of living, and be able to buy cheaper food and vegetables at the grocery store, then the G20 member economies must renew their efforts for greater multilateral trade liberalisation. If business school graduates want to enjoy world-class infrastructure, healthcare and educational facilities than, G20 member economies must take determined steps toward modernizing the international taxation system.

What is more exciting than the G20 Leaders Summit? Pretty much everything. There is very little, however, that could be more relevant to our collective futures.

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The ‘Business’ in Show Business

DSC_3002Recently, Darren Distefano – Business Affairs Manager, Foxtel, and current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program - caught up with Screen Queensland as part of a Foxtel panel discussing local production and the guidelines when commissioning for subscription television. As creativity in today’s world goes hand-in-hand with commercial imperatives, we ask Darren more about his day-to-day dealings and how having a business mindset is important in television.

What do you do?

“My job is to build relationships with production companies, television distributors and talent agents.  Whether I’m working on a big glossy format or an independent documentary, it all starts in my Business Affairs unit guiding producers with Foxtel’s terms of trade and our broadcast rights.  Once the show is formally commissioned, budgets open and it’s up to the producers to manage (that’s more at a mirco level, i.e. props, runners, wardrobe, travel, etc.).”

So what happens when things don’t go to plan?

“Happens all the time!  You budget one thing then later producers ask for more money – ironically to get the ‘money shot.’ I guess it’s all about our working relationships with producers, and justifying the financial risk.  There’s also a clear line between what’s commercial and editorial, and sometimes you have to be the middleman in mitigating those boundaries.”

How important is local production for Foxtel?

“Content is king and there’s a growing demand for local stories.   Our channel line-up is aimed at key target audiences, so contrary to mass media we can be a bit more unique with our story telling.  I also oversee the international distribution strategy with our Australian content.  You’ll be surprised where our shows get sold overseas.  Getting producers to see beyond our territory is also a determining factor when commissioning the next big thing (e.g.  the ROI and NPVs).”

Why Queensland?

“Most of our business is done in Melbourne and Sydney, which isn’t a surprise from an industry perspective.  Going to Queensland was an attempt to engage with the wider production community.  Television funding bodies like FILM VIC, Screen ACT, and Screen QLD have been great facilitators in bridging local producers with the networks.  Furthermore, Queensland has been renowned for creating kids programming and digital media production, and this frontier resonates with Foxtel’s growth strategy.”

What are the key issues when negotiating with producers?

“Producers often forget that we’re not just a content provider but also a piece of technology. With the growth of internet delivery (IPTV), our programs are not just available via cable/satellite, but also on gaming devices, phones, tablets, connected TVs, and PCs.  It’s common that producers who’ve often done business with free-to-airs aren’t familiar with our rights management process.  Key to my role is making sure that they’re aware of the downstream effects especially with the necessary clearances when it comes to technology.

We’re living in an era where you’re watching in your living room, at a bus stop, then on a flight.  Just make sure you’re not caught out watching a guilty pleasure like THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF MELBOURNE – unless it’s for research of course (hah)!”

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