Saturday, February 16, 2008

Midway through Term 2

It's now the end of week 6 in Term 2 and it's gone surprisingly fast. We all have new teams this term and it's been interesting to start the team process again, this time with people that you at least sort of know. My team this term is Devan - a Malaysian accountant whose been working in the UK for a few years, Deepti - an Indian program analysts, Jenny - a Taiwanese IT project leader, Philip - an English automotive engineer and Eric - a Taiwanese/American marketing manager.

The group is very different from my last group and it's interesting to realise that you play different roles within different groups and need to use different teamworking skills to get things done. This team is very organised and we're getting through the workload pretty well together. I suspect that the real test will come this week. Our project management subject is all taught in one week - this week coming - and involves a project simulation. The idea is that 15 minutes represents a week in the life of a project and we need to submit action forms to manage resources, labour, procurement etc. According to all reports, it's a very intense week and can get quite stressful so we'll see how it goes.

I was also participating in the L'Oreal business challenge for the last 8 weeks or so. In teams of 3, we had to manage a portfolio of brands in a simulated business world and submit decisions every week which represented 6 months of real time. It was a really interesting learning activity - think I learnt more from that than the whole marketing subject actually. You had to forcast sales volumes, build production capacity, decide on advertising and promotions budget, manage distribution channels and decide which brands to launch, retire or upgrade. My team missed out on a place in the semi-finals by only 2 spots but it was still worth it. One team from Cranfield is through to the next round and is currently developing a business plan as their next submission.

Other things - I've resurrected my German to a sufficient standard to pass my Level 2 requirement. I am going to keep going with it though to try and improve it further (my vocabulary is still quite poor). Cranfield put us all through a professional management level assessment centre which was a very useful experience. I did a couple of assessment centres at the end of my undergrad but they were a long time ago and this was slightly different because it was aimed at management level. We've got a lot of feedback from it (including 360 degree feedback and a couple of other career tests) and I've organised a follow up appointment with careers to talk about the results.

One achievement for me for the term has been organising the launch of the Cranfield chapter of Net Impact. This is a network of students and professionals interested in Corporate Responsibility (CR) which is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for businesses. I organised a debate between our chair of CR and an emeritus accounting professor who is a real synic about these issues. It was a really good evening with about 100 people turning up for it.

The biggest social event this term was Burns night. It started with a day of sports competition with London Business School - rugby, basketball, football and ladies touch rugby. We started playing touch rugby at the end of last term since most people here have never heard of the game, let alone know how to play. We didn't have a huge amount of participation from the MBA girls but quite a lot of the partners got very involved. Our official team is 3 MBA's and 5 partners. For all of us, it's really a Sunday afternoon social activity with anyone who wants to play (guys and girls) coming to play for an hour or two so a fair few of the couples come and play together.

I thought we played really well against LBS. We tied one game and lost the other by one point which is pretty good seeing as there were 8 of us and 23 of them!!! That night, there was then a Burns supper to celebrate the Scottish poet Robert Burns complete with haggis and Scotch whisky. It was quite a strange way to spend Australia Day! We all had a lot of fun being taught Scottish dancing by the band but I think at least a few of us were surprised at the attitude of some of the LBS people. There was definitely a touch of arrogance about some (although not all) of them and I for one am very glad that I didn't go to LBS!

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