Éamon Fennell, MBA scholarship recipient, on his academic experience

By Business & Finance
09 March 2022

Business & Finance Awards UCD Smurfit School MBA scholarship recipient Éamon Fennell discusses his MBA experience.

In my last article, I spoke about my journey of applying for the MBA in UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School. In this article, I will look back at Semester One.

During the foundation weekend for semester one, I got hit by a truck called reality! The weekend was a snippet for what lay ahead in the coming months, and it wasn’t pretty. 

A year before starting the MBA, I completed my MSc in Business Management & Leadership. The MSc gave me a good understanding of managing my time and the resources needed to complete assignments. 

Initially, I struggled with the demands of the course. My daughter was born two days after I started the MBA. In my head, I had run through the various scenarios of how I would manage this; I felt I was prepared to welcome the new addition to our family, start an MBA, manage my workload in Coca-Cola Hellenic and navigate through the challenges of Covid. The reality of the situation was that I just needed to accept that it would be a tough few months and that I could only control what was in front of me on that particular day.

Before starting something new, I always look at building a support team around me. It is good to get different perspectives from people, but it is also lovely to celebrate wins with people. Having my wife, family, friends and mentors on the journey makes the whole experience more enjoyable.

The MSc was more aimed at personal reflection and applying the learnings from the course material in real life. In contrast, the MBA focuses on the literature and working in different groups.  Whenever I start something new, like joining a team or a new company, I feel the need to prove myself. I know it is a common trait we all share from talking to people within my class. 

Our class is supportive, with many people with various experience levels, so you get a broader perspective on the materials we are studying. Within my study group for the semester, I had three colleagues who did a lot of the heavy lifting at the start until I got things settled at home with a new baby. That support is invaluable. There comes a time on this journey when we all rely on the support of other people to get us through challenging situations.

As the semester went on, our groups started to learn people’s strengths and work more efficiently through the assignments and course materials. 

Coming from team sports, I understand the value of supporting one another and using individuals’ strengths to improve team performance (horses for courses). 

During our Financial Reporting module, many of the accountants in our class made themselves available to answer questions and help work through problems. It is that selfless act that makes the experience more enjoyable. Our class is focused on making sure we all get as much out of the modules as possible by engaging in-class discussion, checking in with people, sense checking information and making sure we have a good bit of craic along the way. 

Allowing myself to be vulnerable with a new group by sharing what I was going through at the start of the MBA is not something I am used to. It was also one of the biggest takeaways from our Leadership & Organisational module. If you want to be an authentic leader, you have to let people know who you really are and not the persona you try to project in work.