Marion started her career in the horse training industry, competing in showjumping events in California and Ireland, and managing the import and export of horses.
“I’d spent my life and career outdoors in California, and climate change was undeniable,” she explains. “Fires were getting worse, and I felt like I needed to do something different and try and make a difference in the world.”
Marion had already planned a move to Ireland with her husband and children, and knew a business education was important, “for the legitimacy.”
She chose Trinity College Dublin’s Trinity Business School because of the school’s reputation and keen focus on leadership and sustainability.
“The Trinity program just looked fantastic,” she adds. “I felt the opportunities for leadership growth suited me down to the ground.”
Leadership development during the MBA
Amanda Shantz, MBA director at Trinity Business School, explains that students take a mandatory module in leadership and organizational behavior, which is the bedrock of leadership in the program.
There are then multiple leadership touch points for Trinity MBAs throughout their degree. For Amanda, “leadership sequestered to a single module or experience misses the point.” Instead, Trinity makes sure that students can explore leadership, and what it means to be a leader, throughout the program.
The mandatory Leadership Development module explores professional skills and building a career plan, and places students in three company projects throughout their MBA. Elective modules such as Leading with Business Analytics and AI, and The Reflective Leader explore other facets of management, while students can also attend workshops on Scrum training and innovation and design thinking.
“The Leadership Development program was pretty intense,” admits Marion. “You were expected by the end of the year to have written up your own philosophy for what sustainable leadership looks like, and ask, ‘what kind of leader am I?’”
Students on the Trinity MBA develop their leadership ability further through three live company projects. Students work in groups to solve real business challenges for senior management teams of organizations. There's a strategy project, a scaling project, and a social enterprise project that has teams work with an organization focused on a social mission, such as an NGO or a Foundation with a specific social mission and purpose.
After Coronavirus hit, Trinity Business School was also forced to reflect on how well it was preparing students for ever-changing environments. “We created a new module called Leadership in Crisis,” explains Amanda. “We had guest speakers and experts come in to talk about how to think about the future.”
For Marion, this leadership element of the MBA was perhaps the most important part of her learning journey.
“I often felt like I was trying to get a Master’s in leadership,” she points out. “I think Trinity did a great job of giving us the opportunities to develop that—there was an opportunity not just to analyze your own style, but to try different ways of leading.”
Approaching sustainability on an MBA
At Trinity, all students follow a core module entitled Business and Society, which delves into the collaboration between businesses and sustainability. There’s a guest speaker every week who explains the approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their organization.
Students also take part in social enterprise projects throughout their degree, where they “not only use and develop skills, but give back to the community,” Amanda adds.
Marion had the chance to join a trip to South Africa during the program, where she explored entrepreneurship in the townships outside of Cape Town. “We met entrepreneurs in the townships and saw first hand what challenges they were facing under very difficult circumstances, and how they were problem solving—it was fascinating and inspiring,” she says.
Marion also chaired the Business of Climate Change committee at Trinity, where she had the chance to connect with her peers over the subject of sustainability and climate change.
“That’s the only way I can imagine moving forward in my life and career—to try to have an impact on the people around me,” Marion says. “You have to move forward and have hope and influence where you can.”
Building a career in sustainability
During her degree, Marion also volunteered with Friends of the Earth, and moved into a chairperson role at the group after she graduated.
However, her dream career was to work in sustainability in the private sector, and she saw the opportunity to do this when Dublin-based health technology company, HealthBeacon, reached out to ask her if she would speak at an event for them.
“I was trying to find work in sustainable finance, having lots of coffees with people, but not really getting any traction,” Marion recalls. After building her relationship with HealthBeacon, and staying in constant contact, Marion was rewarded when the company took her on as a project manager to launch their green initiative.
Marion is currently working on a project that is trying to make disposing medical waste—specifically sharps—more sustainable.
“A lot of the day-to-day is involved in helping understand the regulation around medical waste,” Marion explains. "Talking with regulators and stakeholders in the US and Europe, trying to understand what transporting and processing medical waste looks like, and how we can help put our sustainability ideas into different geographies."
For Marion, it was the Trinity MBA, and the Leadership Development program in particular, that allowed her to fill in the gaps in her business education and build a successful career in sustainability.
“The leadership piece was very important, and I think Trinity did a great job of giving us the opportunities to develop that,” she attests.