When you become an MBA student in IESEG two words will be the most frequently used in your daily life (especially during the 1st semester); “Group Projects!” Almost every course you take during the 1st semester (13 courses to be precise) will ask you to fulfill various duties; homework, assignments, presentations, exams but almost always it will include a group project. There are many reasons behind group projects, most importantly is the exposure to an internationally diverse environment. Another reason is to increase your learning experience as much as possible, because you are not just learning from your professors but from your peers as well. As a class of 25 students, we are coming from 15 different countries and 6 different continents, which makes our class like a small model of U.N.
Even if you are a small class it is natural to gravitate to what is familiar, you may create a group consisting of people from similar cultures; such as Spanish speaking countries or people who are native English speakers. In contrast groups for academic assignments are chosen by the school based on country of origin, culture and even work experience to create maximum diversity. As in the business world you will not be able to choose your colleagues.
In addition to the regular workload of the courses, there are 4 main module projects developed by the combination of similar courses, where you need to demonstrate the outcomes of your learnings from different courses by bonding them in a single project. For example the module project “developing a strategic mindset in a changing environment” is a challenging project where you need to apply analytical frameworks gained from the courses “Business Economics”, “Global Corporate Finance” and “Strategic Management” in a document to analyze the external environment, internal capabilities and the competitive advantages of a company of your choice for becoming familiar with real life roles of strategic analysts and consultants.
The course “People, Organizations and Change” by Professor Jacob Vakkayil was one of the first courses that was taught to us in the 1st semester and it is the only 4 credit course in addition it is taught by the academic director. More importantly it concentrates on the concept of “change”, similarly emphasized in the center of our school’s mission “Empowering Changemakers for a Better Society.” I guess that is why the module project of the course “Becoming a Positive and Transformational Leader” combined with the courses “Ethical Business Leadership” and “Positive Leadership” has been specifically designed in a way that asks students for more time and effort than other module projects to create the largest “change” as possible for themselves and for their environment. In your current role being as an MBA student in a foreign country you have some limitations especially regarding your resources, but that was the main challenge of the project and you will have to demonstrate your leadership capabilities to achieve that change. In addition to that the project was asking for a high level of creativity since it’s structure and result were not specified clearly and left open on purpose.
When talking to my colleagues about their project ideas, I stumbled upon with the most innovative idea and more importantly I was offered “to be a part of it” by building a project group. It was Beata’s idea to create a students’ blog specific to the IMBA students of IESEG and the group we created was also worthy of the “internationally and culturally diverse” notion of our class; Beata from Poland, I am from Turkey and our third group member Vivien from Hong Kong. The information given in the school websites are not enough to understand the “real student life” or “real life challenges” that students face in their ordinary days and we would be helping to prospect students by eliminating their potential questions and even concerns by sharing our personal experiences through different perspectives.
When you hear the idea of creating a student blog for a business school you would guess that it will require a lot of different competences and face many potential hurdles. We planned for the blog to be officially sanctioned through the university; directly carrying the name and credibility by being linked to the school. We also faced IT issues in creating and running the blog but our biggest challenges have been ensuring the longevity of the project, posting content consistently and maintaining entries for a duration of over six months.
In summary our journey began with the validation of the project idea and the group members by the professor through our first internal meetings. After that we contacted the communications team of our school based in Lille about the possibilities, limitations, rules & regulations and of course potential technical issues such as the domain name, how to create a webpage, required authorizations, etc. The emails and phone calls were not enough, and we had to arrange a face to face meeting. It took almost two months to overcome these issues but the teamwork within our group and the partnerships the communications department helped a lot. After the blog went live at the end of the January we planned our time schedule and even presented a status update to the professor and whole class. In February we started to publish our written entries with the frequency of 1 blog post each Sunday. When this post goes live each of us will have written a minimum of 2 blogs. We will be posting content consistently until the end of October 2019, then we will pass on the responsibility to the lucky students of next year’s IMBA.
I could write pages about the negative and positive things we had during our journey only for this project, but I think this glimpse will be enough for you. As a result, a group project will be an essential part of your student life in MBA, similar to the business life, too. While it can be challenging, it is essential to be able to cope with the cultural differences; it is also an experience that you are going to enjoy and more importantly learn a lot from.