Catherine Butler Weir worked in operations at Microsoft before she embarked on the Executive MBA program at University College Dublin’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.
She was involved with launching the company’s latest products on the global market. Tech was her calling, but she sought a formal business and management education to take her career further—she’s now a Microsoft sales manager, working with the latest cutting-edge technologies like big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
Catherine used the Smurfit EMBA—ranked 74th in the Financial Times’ 2017 EMBA ranking—to tap into Ireland’s glowing reputation as a tech powerhouse.
With a wealth of tech companies, quick access to the roughly 500 million people that make up the EU’s marketplace, strong US and international trade links, as well as an attractive corporation tax rate of 12.5%, there’s a cocktail of MBA opportunity waiting to be consumed in Ireland.
The demand for skills is changing though. Microsoft has undergone a “comprehensive transformation journey” over the last three years, Catherine says.
“There is a high priority placed on any candidate that can illustrate they have a growth mindset,” she adds.
“Being open to other points of view, constantly growing your knowledge, challenging your own conclusions, as well as being able to adopt with conviction the perspectives of others once you have completed your own critical analysis of the situation, are all part of this mindset, and a key part of the MBA journey.”
The journey towards Smurfit started for Catherine after various conversations with alumni and recruitment contacts. “UCD Smurfit was unanimously referred to as a stellar choice,” she says.
On the Smurfit MBA the stand-out experience, she says, was the class discussion and analysis, which “promoted an even deeper understanding of the topics and theories being taught.”
In a class made up of students from the public and private sector, and spanning finance, operations, engineering, medicine, and entrepreneurship, Smurfit MBAs have the benefit of seeing “first-hand how to explore topics and theories from a truly holistic point of view,” says Catherine.
Working with students from an array of backgrounds is pivotal to the development of soft skills that are developed further on the Smurfit Leadership Development Program (LDP)—which runs throughout the EMBA, and focuses on developing the self, team, and organization.
“Self-awareness is such a key part of evolving as an individual,” says Catherine, “and the LDP prepares you for this journey by illustrating the value of knowing what motivates you, what impact you are having on others, what styles of engagement you are best suited to, and where you have gaps you need to address.”
The program also gives students an insight into the behaviors of others, and how to modify one’s own approach depending on the type of individual you are engaging with. That is a key skill in demand from tech firms like Microsoft, and one that is often missing.
“Precisely because of the prevalence of technology and technical jobs, learning how to influence and interact face-to-face is more frequently a gap in incoming MBA students’ existing skillsets,” says Roisin Downing, the MBA leadership development manager at Smurfit, “and it is arguably more important than ever.”
The LDP mirrors that demand in challenging students to deliver within ‘local’ teams, composed of their international peers. The program runs alongside the Global Virtual Teams challenge, where Smurfit MBA participants are introduced to research on what makes global teams triumph, before developing those skills with MBA peers around the globe.
Students are tested on their ability to work across regions and countries, overcoming the barriers posed by time zones and cultures—self-awareness is invaluable to success.
“This is the foundation for a lifelong-learning attitude,” concludes Roisin, “as graduates increasingly need to evolve skillsets during their careers to keep pace with tech firms who change rapidly.”