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Personal and professional development

Learning Log 1

Reflection on team working day

On Wednesday the 23rd of September 2009, the team building day out was a good learning experience for me. It gave me a good opportunity to get to know my classmates better with whom I was to spend the rest of the year in the MBA course.  I found it to be an occasion to learn from each other's experiences which is what the course is all about. This may not have been possible within a classroom kind of an environment and so the relaxed atmosphere at the external venue helped to some extent it being one of our first sessions together.

We were divided into groups and given topics to discuss on, like the education system in our respective countries and so on. To conclude each group had to make five minute presentations regarding what was discussed within the groups. I was part of different groups for each of the sessions during the day and the most interesting part was that I got to interact with people from different countries which was a completely new experience. It was a good learning experience to get to know their views about things which I thought of differently like the way things functioned in their countries and what they thought of my country.

Something that I would take ahead through this course would be that while working in a team it is not my individual performance that matters rather it is how well I perform as a team player by participating effectively to lead my team towards reaching our objective. Henceforth, I shall ensure that the team benefits from my contribution towards the achievement of the goal.

Learning Log 2

GBE Team Presentations

The Global Business Environment (GBE) module required a group presentation as part of the assessment. I was assigned into a group with my classmates who were from different countries - China, India, Britain, and Egypt. It was a new experience as I had worked in teams before at my previous workplace but not in a team that comprised of members from different nationalities. We were given a task of analysing and presenting the impact the recession had had on any two countries and we chose UK and Egypt considering our team had nationals from both these countries and these countries were unique and different from each other in terms of the impact the recession had on them.

This experience helped me to improve my knowledge about the impact of the on-going recession. Not only did it help me extend my awareness about the issue, but it made me realise how deeply rooted it was. Apart from this, I did learn to be a good team player in a culturally diverse team. We had divided the presentation into six parts and we worked on it individually and then sat together and discussed it as a group and came up with a wonderful presentation.

One aspect of this group activity that helped me a lot was to engage in a focussed discussion with the group members to reach a consensus. This helped me throughout the MBA course as each of the module lectures would require this kind of a discussion within groups.

Learning Log 3

Marketing Group Assignment

One of the tasks planned for the Marketing module was to prepare a marketing strategy for a chain of restaurants called the Cafe 21 group. As part of this, I was part of a group and we visited some of the restaurants of this chain to perform the required research. During the visit, I got the opportunity to put forward my questions about the restaurant which were discussed within my group to the owner of the chain, Terry Labourne. I was grateful for this opportunity as it was the first of its kind and a morale booster in some way as never in my life had I experienced an interview of this kind with a hotel chain owner.

Personally I am not too much into marketing but this particular case study did boost my interest towards it to some extent as it was unique in its own way. It did attract me towards the functioning and strategy imposed behind its successful operation. It was an eye-opener as I generally would not go about thinking about any restaurant as regards to its location, theme, cuisine or kind of customers it attracts. But this assignment did attract my attention towards these details.

This task essentially did improve my research skills as I had to read various market research reports and journals to find out trends in the existing eating out trends among the local people, etc. Also, I learnt new analytical models like the PEST analysis, SWOT, BCG matrix, to name a few, which were different from those which I was already familiar with previously. This will surely help me during my dissertation and also in my future work in the long run.

Learning Log 4

Finance & Investment Excel Workshop

Having a keen interest in finance, I signed up for the Finance and Investment elective module and it has only deepened my interest for the subject. One of the sessions of this module was a workshop on performing the various interest rate statistical calculations using an excel spreadsheet instead of using a calculator and doing it manually. This was quite an interesting session as I learnt how useful the excel software is and there are so many functions that it has which I wasn't even aware of. It effortlessly helps calculate the net present values, internal rate of return and various other required values to exact precision.

The method learnt was simple and led to accurate results. This learning will surely come into use in the near future during my dissertation when I would need to perform certain regression analysis of the data that I collect as part of my research and also eventually help me when I actually start working as an auditor to counter check results. The excel worksheet is a reliable tool to use and makes the process a lot simpler. It has definitely helped me learn the statistical part of the module better and will help me in due course when I need to work with large numbers and large amount of sensitive data where manual calculations will not be possible.

Learning Log 5

Case Study on Emerald publishing house

During the Leading Change module, I was given a case study on one of UK's leading publishing house - Emerald. This particular publishing house had brought about a change in their organisation in terms of the kind of journals they published. Earlier they were known for only management based journals and the change they brought about was to introduce journals in fields of science, engineering, etc.

As a study of this publishing house, I was assigned a role in a group of a PR agency and my group's aim was to convince the Emerald publishing house to hire us as a PR agent for them. This was an exciting role, as PR was a new concept introduced to me. During my visit to the company, I got an opportunity to interact with the publishing director at Emerald to solve our queries as a group so as to make an effective presentation to showcase our research and thereby attract them to hire my group as a PR agent.

It was a good and different learning experience as I learnt the role of a PR firm through this exercise and it therefore enhanced my knowledge altogether. It taught me that a PR firm not only maintains good relations with a company's customers but also helps boost sales of the company.

Learning Log 6

PPD session on Belbin Team Roles

The Belbin team role test proved to be a lot more helpful than I thought it would turn out to be. The test comprised of a set of questions about situations that normally arise while working in a team and asked about the actions I was most likely to perform when I came across them. While taking the test, I did not realise the relevance of the questions being asked but when the final results were shown it did portray the right results to quite an extent.

As per the Belbin test results, I was found to be more of an implementer and a specialist. I learnt that I was good at co-ordinating the work in a team by exploring new opportunities and bringing the members of the team together to work towards the common objective. I learnt of my capability to evaluate all the available options before making a final judgement about any issue and being an efficient monitor.

In order to become an effective team player one aspect that I would have to work upon would be of taking charge and shaping the direction of the team. The Belbin Team Role inspection test made me realise this and I am driving towards honing this skill by taking initiatives in the group projects that are to come in the MBA course. This would ascertain the efficacy of the test taken.

Learning Log 7

Management Consultancy Session

The three day session for the Management Consultancy module was very informative and thought provoking. It introduced me to the basic theoretical concepts behind the role of a management consultant. One thing I learnt is that to be a successful management consultant one needs to be good at his communication skills - be it verbal or written. Interviewing clients, persuading new clients, writing reports and making presentations are the core activities in a management consultant's work. Though it seemed simple to me at first, it is only after doing my own personal research about management consultancy did I realise how tough the job actually is.

Planning, interviewing, report writing and presentation skills were the four areas covered through the module and I was asked to perform each of them. It was helpful as just learning them theoretically would not help and so while performing each of these activities and having got feedback on each of these tasks I really gained a thorough insight into a management consultant's job.

One lesson that I would take ahead with me from this particular session and that will help me throughout my future is managing my time efficiently. In today's fast paced world any job I take would be every competitive and so honing my time management skills is essential and keeping this in mind I have started planning each activity for the day a day in advance. This has helped me in keeping up with my studies and also leaves me sufficient time for social activities and time for my friends.

Learning Log 8

PPD session on Team Work

One of the sessions in the PPD module was based on team work and we were divided in groups of five and assigned a task of diffusing a bomb that was placed within a circular area. The aim was to take it out from that circular area without setting it off with the help of two strings. It seemed difficult at first as the bomb was shaped like a rocket and the weight wasn't equally balanced. So every time we tried tying the knot the bomb would tilt to a side and we couldn't figure out how to do it right. Then one of the team mates suggested tying the knots at different levels, perpendicular to each other but close enough to help support and balance it vertically and thus prevent it from triggering the bomb.

We divided the roles amongst ourselves and two of us held it using one of the strings on one side and two others on the other side and the fifth team member gave instructions as to where it was to be moved. The co-ordination worked and we were able to do it right with a few trials. One thing that I learnt from this activity was that however easy or complex the task given is, with proper co-ordination among the team members every task can be accomplished.

Learning Log 9

PPD Presentation

The PPD self reflection presentation gave me a chance to reflect back on what I have learned in the past few months into the MBA course, both personally and professionally. It was a good exercise as a lot of thought went into the process. I realised how much life had changed after joining the MBA course and that I had learned a lot of things which I wouldn't have dreamt of unless I had done the course. Be it my bookish knowledge or even my general awareness about things happening around me in this part of the world.

The presentation was timed and so it was a task to fit in all my views in ten minutes. I gave a structure to the presentation and then added my thoughts on each by highlighting the instances through the course wherein I had learnt from the varied experiences. I made sure I did not over run the time allotted during the presentation and maintained eye contact with the audience and spoke in a composed manner. This presentation was one of the few instances where I have improved on my presentation skill which was one of my weaknesses that I had been facing prior to the MBA course. The course though has helped me overcome this weakness.

Learning Log 10

Operations Management

(Discovery Simulation)

During one of the sessions for the operations management module we played a Discovery simulation game wherein the class was divided into groups and each group played one particular role like supplier; order processing, production/manufacturing, quality, customer and sales. Each group had a well defined role. I was in the second level production team and I had to make the finished product after the initial fitting was made and checked by the quality department. Once the second level product was ready it had to be sent to the next quality department for checking before it could be delivered to the customer based on the requirement.

This simulation game was played for 30 minute slots and we had 4 runs altogether. At the end of the first run, there was a fault identified at the first level production because of which the final end product was faulty. This led to increasing complaints from the customer. When this fault was brought to the particular department's notice they rectified the error and the efficiency of the product improved in the following runs. This exercise taught me the basic functioning that goes on within a manufacturing sector.

The essential learning from this task was to identify the importance of each of the department's role in creating a perfect final product which at the end satisfies the customer's expectations. When one department fails to do its role as required the entire organisation can be affected as it affects the final product delivered. It was a good illustration of the management of operations within every organisation in general.

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