Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

MBA Wrap-Up

So as some of you may know, my keyboard gave out just as I was starting to write my thesis.  The 'n' key stopped working entirely (do you have any idea how often we use the letter n in the English language?!?!) and the o key chose to make up for that lack by offering two os (ohs?) for every one push of the key.  And then occasionally the x, c, and command keys would choose not to work.

And then on top of it - I'm a touch typist.  So I was often well past the word before I realised there was a problem.  It's the first time in my life strong typing skills were actually a negative.  BUT - I couldn't send my computer away for two weeks, so I managed with a combo of cut and paste, lots of editing, and the occasional back up of a bluetooth keyboard (less helpful given that I almost always write with the laptop on my lap, thus no space for said keyboard, but really - I don't actually *need* to be able to see the screen if I can trust all the keys to work ;)

Anyways - I really wasn't sure how it'd go as the expectations were fuzzy at best and unrealistic at worst, but I ended with a 92, so I'm going to say I guessed right.  And it turns out I pulled the top mark of the term, so I was pretty pleased about that ;)

Seriously - they sent me a certificate and everything ;-P

So it'll be a few weeks yet before they've done all the administrivia, but really, I'm done.   And it's sorely anticlimactic really.  I'm starting to understand why graduation ceremonies are a thing (in non-covid times, AIB has grad ceremonies too - the first Canadian one was supposed to be last year. Alas...  2020 happened).  We had plans to at least go out to dinner to celebrate, but even that didn't work out.   It's a little depressing in its way.  Ah well - first world problems at their finest ;)

Overview of the whole experience in purely the order in which they occur to me:

- almost every class had a very practical component where the learnings were applied to your own org (or whatever business you chose to study).  I found this super helpful and made the learnings immediately applicable even for courses that are nothing to do with my real life.  I used RBC for courses where a big organisation and/or publicly available data were useful (eg finance, corporate governance) and learned a ton there.   So, excellent.  I used a fictional tack store for a couple courses where I needed a much smaller org and a traditional business would make life easier (eg operations -- bank operations is a whole world in itself and way beyond the scope of one course!).  And lastly I used a riding school based on a combination of GRS and one other school I have respect for for courses I could just play with (eg Marketing - I had a blast with that course).

- teaching quality varied wildly and the good profs don't seem to stay long.  And even within one course, the expectations and requirements of the various profs vary wildly.  This can be particularly confusing when study groups cross classes as the instructions for completing assessments are different.

- those study groups were awesome.  Whether for clarity, discussion, further learning, or just suffering through together, the WhatsApp groups got me through the degree.

- full time work and full time school at the same time is not a good life choice.  I can go pretty hard for quite a long time (GRS anyone?), and I actually *like* school, but by the end I was really burnt and completely disengaged.

- I have zero patience for operational issues in a business school.  The fact that Every. Single. Term. I had to fight to get a course changed because two were in conflict is a real problem.  You can only take two at a time.  With the courses they offer it is literally possible to offer every single class so that it doesn't conflict with another and is still available in a time that works with both Canadian and Adelaide timezones (I know - it took me like 5 mins to put it together to prove it could be done).   Similarly, course selection is not clarified and courses are only offered once a year.  Totally reasonable that the student be expected to plan that out -- BUT, they need to be told about it.  It was only a fluke that I found out in time to manage mine effectively.

- that being said, if you escalate high enough, problems get resolved.  Sr leadership does appear to actually really care what their students think.  I'm not sure that messaging trickles down all the way, but at the top of the house, it's there.

- the first course was *horrible* - they wanted fluff and personal reflection.  Actual academics was penalised.  And even the fluff I ended up writing was fictional because the truth wasn't fluffy enough for them.  I almost quit then.  Fortunately that was the only course like that.  But if I hadn't pre-paid the entire degree, they would've lost me there.   And it was a course on a topic I'm passionate about, so it wouldn't have been a hard sell.

- the focus on career experience rather than academic experience for admission leads to many students without academic experience.  This was rapidly frustrating and boring as the questions asked were repetitive, irrelevant, and the opposite of thought provoking.  It was not something I expected to find aggravating, but here we are.  Compared to my last Masters at UofT where the expectation was that all students maintain grades above 80, there I always felt everyone else was smarter than I was (go imposter syndrome!) but also that I was in an environment where I’d always be challenged and where I could grow and evolve very quickly.  Conversations were interesting, challenging, and face paced.  Here… mostly it was a test of patience.  That being said - the three people I learned the most from are all non-academic types and from varied backgrounds.  And one in particular beat me in grades as often as not (we're both competitive enough that it was a thing -- I honestly think he won overall, but I won the final project so that counts extra ;-P).  With those couple people I had some great discussions and from them I learned a ton.  But that was three out of the entire cohort.  Multiple cohorts actually since until the last few courses, I was changing groups every time since I was doing double-speed.

- write a forum post and comment on someone else's is the worst assignment ever.  If you really want me to publish my work online, I have no objection.  But forcing me to read through other students' work until I finally find something worth responding to is neither appropriate nor contributing to my learning.  Unless you fix the point above first and get everybody working to a similar level of competency; at that point, maybe.  But it took me forever to find something meaty enough to write a useful response to.  And the only comments I ever received were things like "that's really insightful" or "I never thought of looking at it like that" -- pleasant, but super unhelpful and still not contributing to learning.  All that exercise did was demonstrate to me how big the gap in competency is.

- I did LOVE that we weren't stuck with one cohort and could speed up (or slow down) if needed.  That is often not a choice in MBA programs, so it was a definite win here.

- Most courses did an excellent job of offering really up to date literature, videos, and learning materials.  Not all, but certainly the ones that are changing quickly (eg - AI), everything was to the minute current.  They're well curated and there are a lot of sources, so I greatly appreciate the amount of work that went into that.  And in many cases I was able to repurpose sources for use at work.

So yeah - it was an experience.  Some good, some bad, lots of indifferent.  But I learned some stuff and picked up both my MBA and my PMP which are letters people in my line of work tend to care about.  And somewhere in the process managed to land a job I really enjoy.   So overall I'm deeming it a win.

Onto the next adventure!


Insightful :-P.

This does resonate a lot, I did an online MBA with the Open University from 2015 - 2019 (which I could have accelerated, but chose not to). They did manage to somewhat overcome the issue of getting people to the same level by making the first required course extremely academically rigorous - and it culled more than half of the original cohort.


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