by Anthony Roddam
Monday, 23 June – Week 1
Before commencing the European Summer School of Advanced Management (ESSAM), I spent a week travelling to a couple of cities in Europe; making the most out of the long flight across from Adelaide. I was glad that I arrived in Europe several days before the course commenced as this enabled me to relax after a busy period at work so that I could completely focus on my studies as well as acclimatising to the different time zone. The majority of students arrived the day before the course started and suffered the first few days from jet lag. After arriving in London, I caught a short train ride up to Loughborough where the first week of the program was held. It was a small university town, an hour north of London.
On our first day of classes at Loughborough, we began with a buffet breakfast with all of the traditional English favourites. We then moved into the lecture theatre which was in a large function room within our hotel accommodation where we were officially welcomed to ESSAM. Following this, our first lecture was given by Dr Cheryl Travers of Loughborough University on the topic of Understanding Self and the importance of Self Awareness. This was followed by a lecture on Understanding Others which discussed strategies to identify and interpret the behaviour expressed by those with whom we interact. Cheryl was a terrific lecturer and engaged the class from the outset and throughout her two sessions. Whilst some of the content was revision, these topics are always good to have a refresher of as you can get caught up in your everyday life and can lose your understanding of self and those around you. It was also valuable to hear about challenges some of the cohort were experiencing in their workplaces from an international perspective. Our final lecture of the day was given by Dr Angelika Zimmerman, also of Loughborough University. She discussed key cultural differences and the importance of understanding this to avoid conflict and working effectively in multi-cultural teams. Although a lot of stereotypes were discussed, I learnt that it is important to understand how different people behave and interact and that no one way is the right way. Angelika has also worked in many different countries so it was great to hear of her first-hand experiences, working with different cultural groups. After our lectures had concluded we met in the hotel restaurant where we had a 3 course dinner (something which was consistent throughout the program) and some social drinks with the other ESSAM participants.
For my elective, I completed Emotional Intelligence and Leadership with Dr David Tipton. We had 12 sessions over 3 days and I found this class incredibly valuable. Not often do you have the opportunity to spend a concentrated amount of time focusing on yourself, building on your understanding of self and developing techniques to manage your behavior. I really enjoyed the open discussions we had as a class and learnt a lot from their stories and experiences. David was a very captivating lecturer and was candid about his personal and work-life experiences. It was probably the most dynamic class I have taken part in so far in my MBA studies with various presentation media used including videos and surveys as well as a large component of class discussions. The individual assignment for this subject requires me to focus on a current area of my emotional intelligence which is deficient and will force me to challenge my thoughts and behaviours. I am excited to get this underway as I expect what I have learnt will have tangible benefits for my personal and professional life.
Following the week in Loughborough, we travelled to London by coach and we then spent two nights in London’s Olympic Park. Here we had various lectures and were given time to work on our group consulting projects. For my group consulting project, we had to investigate what business support should be provided to businesses in the east end of Glasgow to assist with the regeneration of this disadvantaged area. The regeneration of this area, called the Clyde Gateway was a key focus for the Scottish Government in the wake of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It was a very interesting project and in the two days in London we also had the opportunity to see how the 2012 Olympics had regenerated a deprived area of London. Whilst completing our project, we met with local businesses and key stakeholders in both London and Glasgow to help us complete our research and develop our recommendations.
After leaving London, we travelled by train to Glasgow and this was the highlight of the program for me. To be in a University which is over 550 years old and walk the grounds was an amazing experience. It was graduation time for the local students when we were visiting and the University was full of students dressed in cloaks, celebrating with their families which was great to see. We spent our time in Glasgow predominately working on our projects which included a number of working dinners and late nights as we were all very committed to the task and producing something that would be taken seriously by our sponsor. We did however manage to squeeze in a site visit to Linn Products who make high end music systems and local Whisky tasting. It was great to visit Linn, their factory was incredibly advanced with widespread use of automation and robotics. After the site tour we were taken to their client space which was fitted out like a home where we had a product demonstration and free time to experience the speakers in different rooms of the ‘house’. It was one of the best examples of sales and marketing I have seen.
Our last day of the program was presentation day. A lot of hours were spent preparing for this day, however it was well worth it. I really enjoyed working on the project as I traditionally work in an analytical role and this helped to develop my strategic skills. It was also great to watch the other students’ presentations and learn about their topics. The day ended with a formal dinner on the University campus and some traditional Scottish dancing which was another highlight.
I am really glad I made the decision to go to ESSAM. I had the opportunity to learn from international lecturers and an international cohort. I met a lot of great people, who through linkedin and facebook I can now keep in touch with.
I really encourage others students to incorporate an overseas program into their MBA as it is a great opportunity to learn in an intense environment, free from the distractions of your everyday life, which increased my commitment to the learning experience.