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Why a part-time MBA could unlock your potential

DCU’s post-graduate programmes produce evidence-based, data-driven managers

The word ‘upskill’ is impossible to avoid these days. In almost every industry employees know they need to keep ahead of trends for fear of being usurped by a younger, more knowledgeable colleague.

Add to this the fact that the world we live in is extremely fast paced, constantly changing and evolving. Nowhere is this more evident than in industry. Sometimes employers and the people who work for them run into challenges whilst trying to stay ahead of the curve.

Dr Claire Gubbins, Executive MBA Programme Director at Dublin City University (DCU), says it is very difficult for a person with a defined set of skills to keep up with the ever changing world of business, unless they are constantly adapting.

So how can they do that? “I am a big advocate of people engaging in continuous learning. I say this both from the prospective of formal educational programmes as well as learning through experience,” Dr Gubbins says, citing the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world we live in. “I would argue that there are two competencies that are missing in a number of organisations and they are adaptability and learning agility. The only way to develop those two competencies is to engage in continuous professional development or education.”


Taking on a new course is a great way to upskill, Gubbins says and a Masters in Business Administration gives participants many new competencies. DCU’s constant connection between industry and academia, research and practice makes it particularly appealing to post-experience candidates.

DCU’s MBA is just one of many part-time postgraduate programmes on offer at DCU Business School, which include an MSc in Human Resource Strategies, and an MSc in Investment, Treasury and Banking, among others. Participants come from every walk of life and range in age from 30 to 60 plus.

Dr Gubbins says this mix of people adds to student’s learning as the majority of assignments are based on a participant’s own organisations. “It’s about constantly taking material that’s delivered in the classroom back to your organisation to use, to either solve a current problem or to analyse something about that organisation and that way there is evident learning and application.

“The benefits of that; the participants learn from and make use of what is covered in the classroom because they’ve applied it in real life and the companies who support their MBA are getting returns on their investment throughout the two years of the programme.”

A key element of this MBA, that is unique to DCU, is the fact that they produce evidence-based, data-driven managers.

“There is a lot of talk about data analytics, data driven decision making, at the moment. Our MBA programme is grounded in this approach. We’re not aiming to create statisticians or data analysts per se. Participants just need to know how to read that type of data correctly and use it to inform their decision making. We have material being provided to us from Carnegie Mellon University in the United States where we work with a number of the key founders of this evidence based management approach.”

Gubbins says this means MBA’s aren’t just relying on soft, vague information in order to make their decisions. They’re learning how to read data more efficiently, identify the best available data and use it for quick better-informed decision making.

A leadership development component is also part of the programme with participants self-assessing and partaking in objective assessment activities by our trained assessors and our psychology faculty in order to develop their leadership skills. “We have the top group of organisational psychologists and HR academics in the country with the greatest amount of research done in this area.”

Recently the University was awarded AACSB accreditation, a stamp of approval that highlights DCU Business School as one of the top business schools globally.

“It’s a particularly notable achievement for DCU on the basis that it is quite a young university and for us to have achieved this in such a short period of time is testament to what we have and can achieve.”

Gubbins concludes with an important piece of advice to would-be participants.

“I would tell applicants to highlight to their employer that not only are they providing support for that individual to develop their leadership competencies and their knowledge competencies around areas like finance, strategy, accounting, economics which ultimately will enable that person deliver more to the business. I think in addition to that the business that supports this participant is gaining a return on investment along the way through the applied nature of the programme.”

Barry Gavigan

My MBA journey: "It's about horsepower not brain power and I think that anyone who doubts their ability to do it, my advice would be to go for it"

Taking on two years of part-time study, whilst working in a full time job and raising a young family is no small task, but as Barry Gavigan (40) found out, it can be very rewarding and can also lead to greater things, career wise.
Gavigan has a degree in engineering from the University of Limerick and works for British Telecom. With years of management experience under his belt, he decided to go for a new job but wasn’t even shortlisted for interview. He began to ask the question, why?
The feedback he was given showed he was pigeonholed into engineering. He decided to take back control and have his management experience formally recognised in the form of a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Dublin City University in 2013.
It wasn’t all plain sailing and he encountered many “peaks and troughs” along the way, but ultimately the hard work paid off.
“It’s a significant investment, both financially and of personal time. The family have to be brought in to it. I had a 4 year old, 2 year old and a newborn in the middle of it and I also changed jobs internally. It does involve a lot of personal sacrifice but it’s not one of these excruciating scenarios, and there are peaks and troughs, like your work life. The real ability is to cope with the workload and stay on top of it. It did mean sacrificing nights out and getting up early to study before the kids got up. It was a trade-off but good support from home was vital.”
As an MBA is usually paid for, or part paid for by the employer, it’s vital that they give full support. “My employer was extremely supportive. The MBA required a half day on Thursdays and other times outside of that, so the employer needs to be very committed towards it as well. British Telecom was very accommodating and flexible. It’s a two-way street, my commitment to them was that my work wouldn’t suffer and they got flexibility out of me in other ways.”
Gavigan says the MBA has broadened his mind and made him understand the value of carrying out a task in a certain way. “You recognise why best practice is used,” he says.
It has also got him a new job in another sector, something he says the MBA gave him the confidence to go for.
Peer learning is another key element of the course and he says the insight into other industries is invaluable. “People frankly and honestly share their experiences and rationale behind why a business has taken a certain line.”
He says he would advise anyone considering the masters to “stop procrastinating” and get on with applying.
“It’s about horsepower not brain power and I think that for anyone who doubts their ability to do it, my advice would be to go for it. Everyone who did it had busy lives and busy jobs but they all juggled it and managed it.”
For more on DCU Business School's full and part-time Master's degrees visit: dcu.ie/businessmasters