Looking back: The first year of the MBA

hugh-simpsonBy Hugh Simpson, current student of the University of Sydney Business School’s MBA program

Looking back on the first year of the University of Sydney Business School’s MBA, I can’t believe what I was able to achieve and how much the cohort grew as a cohesive unit. We managed to take on six units this year and the one trend was that it was all experiential through either realistic case studies or real-life projects that would bring measurable impact to our clients.

‘Leadership and Professional Development’ was the first chance for us to meet one another and after a few weekends of team building, leadership exercises and great experiential training, with Associate Professor Mike Jenner and his team, we returned to work with a great set of new skills in our leadership tool box.

Associate Professor Tony Webber then took us for ‘Data Analytics’ and despite being a little unsure of how I would perform under the direction of a former Chief Economist at QANTAS, I can now confidently say that what I learnt has added value to my professional skills, but also my employer.

During the short winter session, Professor Pennie Frow and Donnel Briley, took a smaller group of us through ‘Innovation in Strategic Marketing’ with where we engaged the more creative sides of our brain. This much needed break after a semester of analytics saw the cohort tackle co-creation in organisations and how to effectively build and manage brands.

Our first overseas experience with the MBA was a live consulting project in Shanghai. The cohort grew closer together as we tackled real-life business problems in an overseas market. Under the guidance of the Business School’s Professor Hans Hendrischke and Bruce McKern, we were able to engage with local companies and gain unparalleled insights into the Chinese business environment. This was one of the best academic and professional experiences I have ever had.  You can read more about our Shanghai experience.

Our feet were barely back on the ground after China and the rest of the cohort was getting stuck into the ‘Financial Management’ unit with Dr Nigel Finch. Although I didn’t complete this unit, the students that did said that instead of it being boring accounting, it was a unit that instructed them in the practical use of financial management tools as effective strategies for change. Dr Finch continued a common theme through this MBA by engaging students in experiential case-study learning whilst drawing on his own experiences from Australia to Mongolia.

The last unit for the year was ‘Strategies for Growth’ with Professor Nick Wailes and Professor Suresh Cuganesan. We started off building our strategy tool kit with crowd-sourcing, Porters, blue-ocean, business model canvas and Design Thinking. In the second half of the unit, Suresh took us through how to implement and monitor our brilliant strategies whilst undertaking a real-life strategy project with the CSIRO.

In late November, the cohort came together to reflect at the inaugural Embassy (GEMBA and MBA student association) ball at The Establishment. It was great opportunity to continue building our personal and professional networks, but also to thank our partners for their understanding and support through what has been an extremely busy and rewarding year.

We can’t wait for 2014 and what it will bring.

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