Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Final farewells

A little over a year ago, I commenced this blog feeling excited and intrigued by the MBA year that lay ahead.  I was particularly intrigued to see what the examined MBA life would bring and whether all the hype around MBA’s was justified.  Having now had the full experience, I can truly say it defies the hype and certainly worth doing for anyone who has the interest and fortunate circumstances.

People have differing thoughts on where the value lies from an MBA.  I think the value can be summarised under three areas:

1.         Knowledge: There is no other course that condenses so much about business, finance and management into one or two years; and does it so effectively. The structure and environment makes getting through the enormous content possible. Inevitably, the knowledge extends way beyond business and I now find that most things I now come across, whether in the news or general conversation, can be related back to something covered in the MBA.  Of course, the trick is to know that not everyone wants to hear things being related back to an MBA!       
2.         General/Personal Development: You quickly recognise that a lot of the value lies beyond the content.  MBA’s are very much focused on the development of the overall individual and Cranfield justifiably prides itself on this focus.  The development comes from the formal subjects, psychometric testing, structured feedback as well as the inevitable development that happens when you are in a challenging environment.
3.         People: You meet so many impressive people from such diverse backgrounds (the cohort, lecturers, faculty staff, alumni, students from other courses and cohorts from different MBA schools) that you inevitably develop as a result.  It’s a vast ‘melting pot’ of great people whom you have the privilege of working with and learning from.    

I have been asked about the process of choosing an MBA School.  Here was my personal criterion:
·       Full-time:  I wanted to do a full-time MBA because I personally like to fully immerse myself in a project. With this bias in mind, I would strongly encourage anyone to do their MBA full time if circumstances permit.  It allows you to give the MBA the attention I think the investment deserves.
·       One year course: There is the two year option, but I personally felt two years too long a period to be out of the workforce.
·       Overseas:  Part of the MBA benefit is being out of your usual bubble and being in a new culture enhances that benefit.  Being away from your home environment where day to day life can be busy also allows you to maximise the complete MBA experience.   
·       Appropriate demographics:  Schools have different cohort demographics ( average cohort age, years of industry experience, a specific subject or industry focus, predominantly international or domestic cohort) so it is worth working out what suits you.  I wanted a school with an internationally diverse cohort with older average age and longer industry experience.  The appropriateness of the school can be gleaned by visiting it/speaking to the current students and sensing how much the school and students resonate with you.

All in all, Cranfield clearly ticked the boxes for me and I feel very fortunate to have not only made that choice but to have had the full Cranfield MBA experience.

In terms of coming up with a short list of possibilities, the rankings is an obvious place to start.  There are only two major full-time MBA rankings (The Financial Times and The Economist) that directly compare schools from around the world.  Business Week and Forbes create separate lists for the U.S. and the rest of the world, while US News & World only focuses on the U.S. market. compiles the results of the big five MBA rankings of the last 12 months to produce the Premiership.  For a comprehensive summary of Cranfield rankings go to the following Link.  (Some of the main ones are as follows: Cranfield is ranked 12th in the EU on (,  ranked Top 10 in Forbes’ ranking of the Best Business Schools outside the US ( and ranked 38 in the worldwide FT ranking of full-time MBA programmes and number 11 for Career progress (  You learn that there are inevitable limitations with rankings and while they are a starting point, I believe you need to give much greater weight as to how a school fits your personal circumstances and preferences. 

For those Australians who are considering doing an overseas, full-time MBA definitely get in touch with the Cranfield Australian Alumni as there is a large, active alumni who you can easily meet up with to find out more.  I went through this process and found it extremely valuable.  There is also information on the site about the Cranfield Scholarships available to Australians; including the annual CAASF Scholarship, currently the most financially valuable MBA Scholarship in Australia!  Good luck in your searching and eventual MBA. 

Well it’s now time to sign off this blog......after a few quick thanks.     

To the 2012/13 Cranfield Full Time MBA Cohort, thank you for sharing the amazing journey – it was one hell of a ride. How will we ever forget our year at Cranfield: those early starts walking into the forum to get to the morning lectures, catch ups between lectures around the coffee machines and later over dinner and drinks at The Social, late night football in the sports hall, team work in the Syndicates, Tuhin’s Q&A, MK, MIRC, LR3 and LR5, 122, QOITS, WACS, MBAT and the long list of subject acronyms (OSC, EOS, SDS.....).   We not only gained a vast wealth of knowledge and experience but a great bunch of life-long friends.  

Thanks to the extraordinary Cranfield School of Management lecturers who passed on their knowledge and industry experience with aplomb, always there to help and handle all the questions and debates thrown at them.  Thanks to the great School of Management staff that do all the work behind the scenes to ensure the year runs smoothly.  Thanks especially to Graham, David and Pam who were the foundation of support for the year. 

Finally a huge thanks to my wife Becky and son Xavier for their amazing support.  Particularly Becky who earned the much more impressive certificate of ‘Partner of an MBA’er’ (whilst also raising a baby).  Impressive!  Thank you.  As for Xavier, as much as I thought I’d learnt a lot from the year, I have nothing on this little guy – while I wrestled with formulas and frameworks he was digesting much more content, without taking notes, using a computer, studying or even asking questions.  Thanks to both of them for reminding me what’s most important in life.  

Until the next blog somewhere in the future, here’s to the examined life! 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

And now, the end is here

Well sadly the year of living the MBA has officially come to an end!  I would like to provide a wrap-up of events in the last weeks, before finishing with a final post. 
The last few weeks of the MBA were a mix of completing reports, a couple of exams and some traditional Cranfield MBA end of year events.  On the assessments side I had something like 15 different items due. 
On the events side there was a lot of fun to be had.  One of the last hotly anticipated events is the annual Cranstock battle of the bands night. ‘Cranstock’ gave us a final taste of the rich musical talent from the guys in the cohort who have chosen to pursue an MBA rather than the dull life of a rock star.  We also had appearances from the faculty and the alumni, showing us that they still have what it takes.  The highlight of the night was the headline act, Diminishing Returns, our cohort’s premier band who were jamming for the last time, well supported by inspired dancing and back up vocals from the rest of the cohort.  Perhaps induced by the liquid refreshments, the night became a poignant turning point as we started to realise we were nearing the end of the MBA.
Next on the calendar was more of a physical test: The Three Peaks Challenge, a well known British challenge where participants attempt to summit the highest peaks of Scotland (Ben Nevis – 1,344 metres), England (Scafell peak – 978m) and Wales (Snowdon – 1,085) within 24 hours.   Walking up and down three peaks in 24 hours is challenging but battling weekend traffic across Scotland, England and Wales really ups the ante.  A group of twenty of us headed up to Fort William the night before ready for an 8am start on Ben Nevis.  Ben lived up to its reputation as one of the wettest places in the UK, with rain and cold weather on the peak.  Six hours later we got on board the bus on schedule and headed for Scafell. We reached the summit of Scafell at 9.30pm in darkness and in wonderful rain and cold. We arrived at Snowdon at 4am in darkness and managed to summit at 6.30am accompanied by our ever-present rainy cold weather. Amazingly six of us who survived all three peaks walked into the car park, the designated finish line, 23 hours and 58 minutes after starting in Scotland – time management to a tee! 
A regular on the Cranfield MBA diary is the two day Capstone Conference. The first day of the conference started with some spirited sports competition between our original term one stream teams with the Blue stream absolutely dominating the event (go Blue!).  With sporting endeavours complete we celebrated our phenomenal year with speeches, videos and awards.  On Day 2 we had guest speakers, predominantly alumni including Sanjay Kapoor, former CEO Bharti Airtel, Andy Harrison CEO Whitbread and former CEO EasyJet, Hillary Sears Chairman of MS Society and Chairman KIDS and Sir George Cox.  It was great to see successful alumni putting the MBA experience into good practice. Inspiring stuff!
The final event with everyone was the End of Year Ball held in the same location we had gathered a year earlier as strangers.  Now we were partying as lifelong friends celebrating a great accomplishment.  Every student will have their own personal MBA journey however inevitably there are common ups and downs along the way for everyone, whether in the form of getting through the content, illnesses, family events or at times supporting friends going through their own challenges.  This shared journey plus the nature of the Cranfield full time MBA means that incredibly strong bonds are formed within the cohort.  Needless to say the End of Year ball was a fantastic night celebrating a great year together. 
Of course after we sobered up we had to complete our final reports but hey after a year of the examined life what’s in a four thousand word report or two - too easy!  Before we knew it we were doing our final report word count, Turnitin submission and making that well known trek to Grad Admin office to hand in a another masterpiece.  And yes the Cranfield MBA had finally come to an end…… but not this blog; see you soon for the final post.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The splendid summer of studying

This post is long overdue, written a while ago, covering June and July (accidentally belated in posting) here it is in all its splendour.

I left you with an update on the international business trips in my last post.  As we all returned from our various international locations, we realised we were all gathering for the last four terms of our MBA.   Now we are worldly wise and MBA wise, also feeling slightly nostalgic knowing that an extraordinary year would soon be coming to an end.  However, there was still more to come: new subjects, guest speakers, career events, sports events and of course, the usual assessments and examinations.  An additional welcome factor of term four was that the UK was bathed in glorious sunshine –having one of the best summers for many years – hallelujah!  It was such an amazing summer; I almost felt I was back in Australia, where the summer days are consistently hot and the national sporting stars are winning everything – ahem! I shall stop there and get back to where I was, ah yes! term 4.

In true form, the term started with an examination – not the usual finance or strategy type subject but in this case potentially my favourite subject - Spanish. I say ‘potentially favourite’ because I sensed that learning Spanish whilst travelling through Spain: sampling local pintxos, tapas, ceverez and tintos, after a day of relaxing in the sun (with a siesta thrown in) beats ‘Accounting’ hands down.  The reality of sitting in class, squeezed between lectures and course work, was not quite the same but it all proved to be a valuable worthwhile experience.  The amazing thing about an MBA year, you exist in some sort of time-warp where you fit in a colossal amount of stuff (mainly by reducing sleep hours) so albeit, whilst in the time-warp why not throw in a new language as well?  Makes perfect sense! 

The next event on the calendar in July was the 22nd Annual Cranfield Regatta held down in Portsmouth.  Twenty crews made up of Cranfield’s cohort and alumni, European Schools and a US business school, Kellogg, took part in the two days of racing on the world famous Solent.  Following a great day of sailing on the Saturday, all the crews landed on terra firma to celebrate with a party.  On the following Sunday morning the crews returned for final racing.  Unfortunately, the weather on Sunday was more conducive to learning Spanish in Spain; a cloudless day, hot sun, still seas and hardly a wisp of wind.  This resulted in more swimming and sun-bathing than sailing; with only one race completed on the day the LBS were crowned as the final victors.  Overall, it was yet another well organised annual Cranfield Regatta culminating in a sensational weekend for all.

Back on campus, we had the second mock press conferences of the year.  The Press Conference involves your team of six members, being handed a folder of information regarding a scandal that has broken out involving your company.  This results in an urgent press conference scheduled in exactly one hour’s time.  After quick preparation and allocation of roles, you face predatory professional press journalists (well versed and rehearsed in the ways of the media) ready to put you through your paces and draw out as much emotion and reaction from you as possible.  Of course, as well taught Cranfield MBA’s we would ensure we never create such scenarios in the first place but being so learned we may be called on to save others!  The whole experience provided us with fantastic media training and was a great opportunity for us to draw together and apply our learning thus far. 

Another July event firmly in the annual Cranfield MBA Schedule is the Odgers Prize.    The Odgers Prize is one of the major annual awards presented to the full time MBA student judged to have the most potential for a highly successful career in management.  It was established in 1987 by Ian Odgers, a Cranfield alumnus (MBA 1965) and Partner of UK’s pre-eminent executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.  The finalists, based on nominations from students and faculty were: Andrew Harrison-Chin, Dee Keshwara, Emma Buckland, Martin Aria Tinocco and I.  We all had the priceless experience of presenting to and being questioned by a five person panel consisting of Franks Horowitz, Cranfield School of Management Director; Graham Clark, Full-Time MBA Academic Director; David Simmons FTMBA Admissions Director; Kester Scrope, Managing Partner of Oders Berndston and Cranfield alumnus (MBA 2001) with Emma Buckland coming out as the final very well deserved winner.  Congratulations Emma!   

In mentioning congratulations, hearty congratulations to fellow Aussies who have won a Scholarship and support to complete the coming 2013-14 Cranfield MBA.  Daniel George was announced as the winner of the full 2013 Cranfield Australian Alumni Scholarship while Kevin Ha received a part scholarship as “Outstanding Candidate”.  I am really excited for both Daniel and Kevin knowing that they are both in for a phenomenal life changing year.  Check out the link for more information about the winners as well as further details on this incredibly valuable annual scholarship.

That’s enough from me for this post and to finish off with a small ‘tapas’ like taste from my vast lexicon of Spanish – hasta pronto!  

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Around the world in 80 ways

What a month.  Rather than restrict ourselves to just being on campus we all spread out – across the world.  Yes this month was International business trip time as the eighty odd full timers along with the executive MBA'ers visited our chosen country for 7-8 days.  As a quick reminder we had the choice of a business trip to Brazil, China or Japan where you get to visit local businesses and Cranfield Alumni; or a field trip to Egypt, Ghana, Mongolia, Nepal or Uganda where you get to work on an actual project with a local business.   To give you a sense of the diversity of the countries and experiences on offer I have borrowed an excerpt from our farewell email (which at a minimum will provide some nice trivia for the next dinner party):
·         The distance between Kathmandu and Sao Paolo is 15,223 kilometres.

·         Japan’s PPP GDP at $37470 is 23 times higher than Ghana’s at $ 1,620.

·         China’s population is 1,347,350,015; the population of Mongolia is 2,584,000 or to put in another way, for every Mongolian there are 521 Chinese.

·         In Japan you can expect to live 82.6 years; in Uganda the average life expectancy is 54.7 years.

·         Under-five mortality rate (deaths /1,000 live births) in Egypt have fallen 68% in 20 years to 25 per 1000 births; in Uganda the rate is 91.61 deaths/1,000 live births; in Brazil it is 20 and in Japan 2.13

·         32% of Egypt’s population is under 15 years of age; in China it is 16%

·         Population density in Nepal is 466 people per sq. mile; in Mongolia it is 5 and in Ghana it is 267.

·         China’s annual CO2 emissions are 6,534,367.00 tonnes; Uganda emitted just 3205 tonnes in 2008.

·         Brazil’s rainforests cover a total area of 4,100,000 square kilometres, 20 times the total area of the Ghana.

·         In Japan there are 747,000,000 mobile phones whereas in Uganda there are approximately 9,000,000

·         The ratio of the average income of the richest 10% to the poorest 10% in Japan is 4.3; in Brazil it is 51.3

·         Sao Paulo and Tokyo are furthest away from Cranfield at 9545 and 9526 kms respectively while the nearest is Cairo at 3514 kms

I had the fortune of an extraordinary trip to China.  One of the clear learning’s from China is that it takes time to know and understand China and so after only one week there (and only visiting Shanghai and Beijing) I am reluctant to make any conclusions except to say having visited many countries through Asia nothing has been quite like China.  There is a sense that China sees itself not as an emerging country but one that is simply re-emerging after a two hundred year blip in their long term economic strength.

One of the benefits of visiting China was being able to meet with many Cranfield Alumni who have done their MBA or MSc at Cranfield.  They hosted us for drinks at both Shanghai and Beijing and often hosted us at the company visits such as GE Aviation, Cosco and Sinotrans.  We had impressive  speakers including Peter Lacy, Managing Director - Asia Pacific Region, Sustainability Services at Accenture; Peggy Liu, Chairperson, Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), Professor David Gosset - Director of Academia Sinica Europea, Director of ECCIR, CEIBS;  Simon Stewart (CBBC) who all expanded our perspective of China. 

One thing that struck me was the extraordinary statistics regarding this country: Shanghai, the largest city proper by population in the world is close to 24million (the unofficial population is supposedly many millions higher), greater than the population of my home country Australia; Pudong an area of Shanghai, east side of the Huangpu river is a built up metropolis with a population of well over 5million, and eleven times the size of the area of Paris at 1,210 square kilometres and yet was only rice paddy fields 30 years ago; there is expected to be approximately 220 cities with a population greater than 1million people by 2025; less than a decade ago China started putting in their high speed rail network and it is now the longest in the world with around 8,400km of routes; there are 6.4million university graduates each year in China…. And the stats go on and on.  I feel fortunate to have at least got a start on understanding this country and will watch with interest as it continues its re-emergence. 

My end of the month summed up the eclectic mix of experiences that this MBA year has provided.  On the second last day in China I sat with a small group having a fascinating conversation with Andrew Key – Minister and Deputy head of Mission at the British Embassy in Beijing, the following day I celebrated my birthday walking a section of the Great Wall of China, the following day I was back in Cranfield reuniting with my family and the cohort at the infamous Social club, the day after I was in the old exclusive Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, London hearing a fantastic talk from Andrew Kakabadse, Professor of International Management Development at Cranfield and then the next three days in back to back lectures on topics ranging from Mergers and Acquisitions, Leadership, Implementing Change in organisations, and Advanced Negotiation.  What an extraordinary year it has been and there is still more to come.  Until next time……

Friday, 31 May 2013

Meeting and mixing in May

May has been a magnificent month of meeting and mixing meaningfully with other MBA’ers.  We started off with a trip to Paris for the annual MBA sports tournament (MBAT) hosted by HEC.  It was a fantastic experience and a must do as an MBA student if you get the chance.  There were 14 schools from across Europe and the UK and one school from the USA – Harvard.  A plethora of sports were covered: swimming, cross country, rugby, football, cricket, beach volley ball, tennis, golf, dodge ball, salsa dancing, baby-foot (foosball) badminton, basketball squash, billiards and go-karting, as well as the more cerebral sports of chess and poker and finally pétanque which falls into its own special category.  It was a great opportunity to meet fellow MBA’ers from all parts of the globe and all walks of life. 

Back at Cranfield we hosted the infamous MCL tournament (MBA Cricket league – not quite IPL standard but with similar passion).  Saïd, Manchester and Lancaster competed in fifteen overs a side matches.  The combination of the warmth of the sun, the smell of freshly mown fields, the sight of cricket whites and the sound of leather on willow made it feel like summer had arrived.  It has given a nice taster for the pending Ashes series starting in July (Go the Aussies!)

Finally we visited Saïd Business School in Oxford for the annual Pears Business Schools Partnership lecture.  The Pears Business Partnership is collaboration between Cranfield School of Management, London Business School, Saïd Business School and the Pears Foundation to promote sustainable and responsible business in society.  This year Jessica Jackley, Co-founder of Kiva and ProFounder gave a rousing talk entitled ‘An Entrepreneurial Journey: Thriving on the Unexpected’.  Previous speakers have been Stephen Green, Chairman at the time of HSBC and Sir Andrew Witty CEO of GlaxoSmithKline. Cranfield itself has been a leader in the Corporate Responsibility space, particularly following the establishment of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility headed by Professor David Grayson CBE.   In 2012 they published ‘Cranfield on Corporate Sustainability’, a manifesto on the approach to corporate sustainability management education with contributions from more than thirty Cranfield faculty and associates.  More details can be found here.

Of course it hasn’t all been sports and talks – we have been doing as much work as ever but everyone has become more adept at either balancing the work load or temporarily delaying it, only to face it at a later stage.  The next ‘later stage’ arrives in June as we finish term three and move into our final term.  There is no rest between terms this time as we are all head off overseas in different directions for the much anticipated International Business trip.  A full report on that in the next post of course…….

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

And the second half has begun

Wow time flies when you are having fun – two months since the last post – I can’t believe it.  So I left you with three weeks left in term two.  Guess what happened in those last few weeks of term?  Yes exams of course, this is after all the examined life!  However exams are hardly worth mentioning now given that they come and go relatively smoothly, so I will move onto something more exciting….

I am smiling because one exciting thing that does come to mind is the weather.  A year ago the weather would not be my first choice of exciting conversation however after going through a long cold English winter, the prospect of longer warmer days is very exciting.  While warm weather is just potential at this stage, we are at least getting longer daylight hours and more sun and it is amazing the impact it has on people’s spirits.  Bring on the warm weather!
So the first half of the MBA is over, core subjects are complete and we are now onto the next stage: electives, our international business trip and job search.   While the first half is heavily structured with daily lectures, team work, assignments, readings and case study’s, the second half whilst still busy is now flexible in terms of how our time is spent.  We are no longer sharing all of the same subjects and are no longer in formal learning teams so the schedule is very much driven by the individual. 

The core subjects (Accounting, Business Law, Economics, Finance, Marketing, Operations and Supply Chain, Organisational Behaviour, People Management, Project Management, Statistics and Strategy) have created a solid foundation, while the electives now allow students to build on their existing knowledge or to develop new areas.  There is a wide choice of electives including a range of Finance and Strategy electives, as well as Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, Account management, Negotiation, Organisational change and Leadership.  There is also the opportunity to do your own individual project on an area of your choice.  I personally have really enjoyed finance and strategy and am focusing on these areas along with Leadership and an individual project.  We also continue with ‘Organisational Behaviour Personal and Professional Development’ which underpins the whole MBA.  
That leaves me with the other major item for part two: the international business experience (IBE).  This year we have a choice of going on a business trip to Brazil, China or Japan where we visit local businesses and Cranfield Alumni; or a field trip to Egypt, Ghana, Mongolia, Nepal or Uganda where we work on an actual project with a local business.  I have received confirmation that I am going to China, which I am very excited about given the increasing importance of this fast growing country, its on-going importance as Australia’s number one trading partner and the cultural experience on offer.  I look forward to reporting on this in the future. 
In the meantime its still heads down in study but with the sun shining – I can assure you that it makes all the difference!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Haggis and other International culinary delights

Let’s begin with where we left off – talking about the fun stuff between the other fun stuff called exams.  We kicked off Term 2 with the great annual Burns night event and quickly followed it up with International week.   Burns night celebrates the life of Robert Burns, the Scottish composer of poems, lyrics and other pieces that addressed political and civil issues.  Most can recite/slur one of his pieces on NYE when they have an attempt at the famous "Auld Lang Syne".  He used to be celebrated on the anniversary of his death, July 21st, but the Scottish, being upbeat as they are, switched it to his birthdate of 21st January, which being in winter makes the traditional haggis, scotch whisky and poetry all the more palatable/enjoyable.  At Cranfield we invite the London Business School to come up and compete in various sports through the day and in Scottish dancing through the night.  A great day and night was had by all. 

We followed it up with International week where all the countries represented by the cohort get to be celebrated one by one through the week.  We got to taste the countries culinary delights, hear the traditional music and experience other parts of the culture.  We started with Asia on the first night, jumped across to Europe and Africa the next night and covered the Aussies, Kiwis and America’s on the last night.  If you ever have an international week always schedule to finish with the South Americans, they know how to close a celebration in style with a Carnival party – great fun.  It quickly became apparent that everyone has great pride in their countries – and why not!  I think all of us have some great future travelling ahead of us as we visit our cohort over the coming decades.  Guys, how about 5 year reunions hosted by each country over the next 100 odd years?  Just an idea.

Other than that the term has been going well.  I am sure we have as much work as last term, if not more, but we are now adept at drinking from the metaphorical 'knowledge fire hose' of the MBA whilst still being able to drink at the social.  The subjects from Term 1 and term 2 are increasingly intersecting.  We could be covering government bonds as part of Monetary policy in economics and then corporate bonds in the next Finance lecture; reflection on Agency costs in Economics, Finance, People Management and Strategy; Operations and Supply Chain as part of the consideration for business recovery in Strategy; the Porters five forces model covered in Marketing being used in an analysis for project decisions in Exploiting Information Technology; director responsibilities dealt with in Business Law relating with business ethics in People Management.  It all comes full circle. 
Speaking of full circle, people are acutely aware of the need to return to a job to apply this great knowledge (and to earn one’s keep!) so there is now a stream of career events and visits from companies.  Congratulations to Lekgotla who was the first from the cohort to confirm a new role, in this case McKinsey’s, after he was flown to Johannesburg last weekend for his final interview for the consulting role.  Nice work mate.  I believe this means that the first 5 year cohort reunion will be held in South Africa in 2018, hosted by Lex.  Bring it on!