How I benefited from my MBA

Former students discuss their experiences in business school

Lizzy Hayashida, Trinity College, 2018, Change Donations

How did the MBA affect your career?

I actually started a company with another Trinity MBA student out of the programme. We met there and just clicked. We were placed in the same team and the project we started for our entrepreneurship module, we carried that on since and that’s now our company. We raise money for charities and nonprofits. I was expecting the course to be very business-orientated, which it definitely was, but the focus they put on personal relationships and how to interact with people who are potentially different from you was an experience. I always wanted to start a business but I couldn’t do it on my own. I recognised that in myself and I was hoping that it would build on that desire and give me the confidence to do it. And hopefully I would meet somebody who would be a great business partner. It did all that for me, which is great. Everything that I’m doing now came from the MBA. The idea, my business partner I met through the MBA, the relationship between ourselves and the business happened because of the MBA. The support of Trinity to help us get the company off the ground, and any mentorship that we needed, has been invaluable.

Dr Ui May Tan, DCU, 2019, VHI Ireland


What was the best thing the MBA had to offer?

“It’s all down to what kind of goals you were looking to. Because I was dealing with a lot of corporate clients, one thing I felt as a doctor that I was lacking, despite understanding the business, is that I didn’t have a business degree to support that. It helps me to integrate my life and my business together. Every single topic was helpful. I’m a doctor so imagine someone who doesn’t know anything about business going into an area where accounting, finance and marketing is all part of it. The gist of it and a lot of the reasons behind why we do it were all unknown to me. With the course itself, it has taken me to extremely new levels. You’re talking about HR functions, you’re also talking about the logistics of how technology plays into it, how strategy, operation, they all intertwine with each other. The best thing about the course is that it all makes sense. They are all related either one way or the other and it connects the dots just perfectly. Because I had no degree in business, I didn’t understand, but now it’s like a walk in the park, everything is just all laid out there on the table.

Conor Grogan 2018 UCC Emerson

What interested you in studying it?

“There were three reasons why I wanted to do the MBA. I went to Trinity in Dublin and I did engineering there, and I pretty much straight away moved to Cork and I’ve been working in the pharmaceutical industry down there. I would constantly be going up and down to Dublin to see former colleagues and I kind of realised that I had an almost stronger network in Dublin than I had in Cork. So I thought to help me get that would be to do some sort of education thing, and meet some educated people outside of my sector. One of the reasons for doing the MBA was to expand the social network. Second, I wanted to go back to college. I was probably about 35 when I started thinking about it. A mid-life crisis is probably too strong of a word, but you’re seeing all these younger guys coming onto the scene and I’m in IT as well, so you’ve got guys coming out with more relevant degrees to the technology that’s out there at the moment. The last one was just professionally bringing myself along. I was very much a project engineer and I didn’t particularly want to go into project management so I was thinking the best way to do it is to get into an operational role.

Klaus Gottsche 2019 NUI Galway, Mathworks

Did anything surprise you about the MBA?

“I was quite open-minded about what the MBA would lead me to. As it turned out, I changed my goal and industry and I actually changed halfway through the course. I think where the course surprised me was it allowed me to appraise and to acknowledge the opportunities that came along. Many people look at an MBA in a very binary way; like if I sink these fees, what pay rise will I get, or what will I get out of it. And that’s a very natural approach. The course helps you look at things differently, you size things up in new ways, you make different choices, you approach risk differently, you’re more confident in your own abilities. The world just seems a bit bigger. And they are hard to quantify, but I think a lot of people tend to go a different route than they initially thought. I think there’s a secret sauce that helps people get in touch with their own abilities a bit more. People say they emerge more confident. You’re matching yourself against your peers, you’re public speaking most weeks, you’re making decisions that are impactful privately. There is a very strong personal developmental aspect where I think the theory complements the practice.”

Darren Connolly, 2019 TUDublin LinkedIn

Was it difficult to balance a MBA with your personal life

“To say it wasn’t difficult would be a lie. There were challenges definitely in balancing work life, college life and home life. You need to go into it with the right mindset and you have the right people on board in your life, which in my case was my wife and child. I made sure they were aware of why I was doing it and the sacrifice that would come with it. If the people around you are prepared to support you in that journey I think it definitely alleviates some of that pressure. But it is challenging and I do think the effort and impact on your life needs to be outweighed by the purpose for doing it and the expectations. Mine was part-time so there were times when, in terms of workload, there were peaks and troughs throughout the MBA itself. Specifically why I chose TU was because of the relevance and applicability of the MBA to your actual work. A lot of the projects you would do throughout the course would be focused on particular problems in your organisation. That really benefited me because I was able to balance that against the areas I was prioritising in my job and essentially kill two birds with one stone.

Sharon Cunningham, 2015 UCD, Shorla Pharma

What was the biggest takeaway you had from your course

“It taught me the power of the network. Back then, I was very academically focused and my only formal education would have been with very much like minded people, with similar backgrounds, similar career goals and so on. With the MBA, there were classmates with diverse backgrounds, coming from a wide range of specialties, industries and sectors. They had a wide-ranging age, experience and background. That brought about very fresh thinking for me personally. The experiences from all over the world, in multiple business sectors, and the networking opportunity that that brought about for me was very powerful. Even still today, four years later, we still have our WhatsApp group, we are still very much in touch, which is hugely beneficial to me running my own company. I probably didn’t think far enough outside my own discipline. The whole class room experience is really enhanced by virtue of the fact that you are interacting with people from such a diverse background. The wealth of real world experience supplementing the academic education that that brings is really powerful. I have a like-minded co-founder with a very complementary skill set. Having said that, I would very regularly contact somebody from the class and bounce something off them.

Siobhan Ryan 2014 University of Limerick UiPath

How did the MBA affect you personally?

“I almost feel like I came at the MBA from a slightly different journey. For me, it was actually I had taken time out of my career to raise kids. So for me, the best part of the MBA, was all about re-engaging with the workforce and building that confidence. I think what it did was it gave me the courage to negotiate well going back. I went back at a good level and I went back with a good salary. That was hugely beneficial for me. If I had to pick one word about the MBA it would be confidence, it was really about confidence. Even if you’ve taken a hiatus, it gave me the confidence to say ‘actually no, that 15 years of this career that I had is still hugely valuable’. I’ve also updated my skill set but I would actually wonder if I did go back without doing that MBA, then what that outcome would have been. One or two of the interviews, I do remember that some people would make reference to my six year break. Maybe someone else who is going for that job didn’t take a career break, but they only had 8 years experience to my 15. You just learn to change the conversation and reframe it.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times