“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
Irena Stropnik MBA (FS) is Director & Team Lead, Optimization at Scotiabank with over 21 years of progressive experience in banking operations in branches, regional support, large processing units and most recently optimization projects. Her commitment to excellence energizes and inspires those who work under her leadership. Irena continues to practice and apply the strategic mindset that she developed during her tenure as an MBA student. Her response to Dr. McLarney’s recent post gives profound insight on scholarship within the context of business endeavours.
In reading through Dr. McLarney’s open letter to our alumni community, I couldn’t help but reflect and think back to my first days in the MBA (FS) program. Excited about pursuing something new and challenging myself, and then there was nervousness – was I smart enough, could I learn, how about the other students – would I be able to keep up with them?
As I made my way through my first course, I gained confidence in the fact that I could do the work and I could learn at this level. That was freeing in many respects as the ‘mark’ would take care of itself and I could then open my mind to actually learning – more than the theory, more than just answering assignment or exam questions, but actually learning and creating a better understanding of the world around me because of that learning.
For me, and for most people I have observed, applying a new theory is highly tactical when you first try to use it. But then as you gain more experience through working with it and applying it to the real world you gain a much deeper understanding of the theory and what it means…I love those moments when I can understand or explain something in everyday terms but knowing there are years of research and knowledge invested in the scholarly theory and in my ability to learn and apply that theory.
I was often surprised by some of my fellow students who only seemed to care about their marks and what course content would be on the exam – many didn’t seem to want to think about anything else. I suspect that there were many reasons behind this thinking and I don’t know if they realized that they were selling themselves short by not embracing the experience and the tremendous opportunity to learn both from our Professors and from their fellow students.
I currently lead a team that engages our business partners using Lean Six Sigma methodology – my Lean journey started three years ago and the learning continues every day. On the surface, the theory can seem quite simple and highly tactical so many try to run through our program, fill in all of the templates and drive out a recommendation as fast as they can. Once they’ve done that once or twice, they think they know it all and want to move on to another assignment. The challenge is that it’s not that straightforward and you can’t apply the exact same approach to every business. You need to understand both the intricacies of the methodology, but also of the business to really be successful. You need to think about the objectives of the engagement, how best to achieve those objectives and how to work with the business and communicate with them to be most effective – one of our goals is to help the business think differently about what they do and how they do it.
That’s a different level of understanding and application that takes years of practice, ongoing learning and a sense of humility and purpose where you always need to strive towards perfection (doing it exactly right) but knowing that you will never get there – to me, this is the difference between marks and scholarship.
“You’re invited. Bring a guest, meet alumni, students and the CFAME team, and enjoy wine, appies, prizes & gifts.”
It’s Vancouver’s turn to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the MBA (FS). Watch for Moragh MacAulay’s invitation coming out early next week and mark your calendars for April 25, 2017. This is going to be a great event.
“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me.”
“My work was about creating new knowledge, defining my scholarship – not about getting an A.”
Dr. Carolan McLarney, Professor
Faculty of Management
International Business was my opening MBA (FS) course. In my first e-mail to Dr. McLarney back in 1999, I asked how would I know whether I was on track with my studies. Rather than highlighting “marks”, she suggested that I give voice to my ideas, solutions, arguments, which were to be based on solid research and objective analysis but tempered with humanity and compassion. It was a liberating answer.
Fast forward to 2017, I asked Dr. McLarney to recall her advice on the importance of scholarship. She graciously agreed to share her thoughts in an open letter to our alumni community.
I first want to congratulate everyone who has made CFAME Connection a reality. This is a great opportunity for our alumni community to share knowledge and experiences.
Rebecca shared with me the email below that I had sent her in the early days of her first course: International Business. As I read what I had wrote to her I began reflecting on my time here at Dalhousie as an educator, researcher and scholar. I have included both the original email and my current thoughts on “marks vs. scholarship:
From Fall 1999:
“A discussion on marks vs scholarship really struck a chord within me. Not for the obvious reason, my profession, but rather I was reflecting on my days as a doctoral student.
When I had made the decision to pursue a PhD. I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. I remember my conversation with David, my Managing Director, centered on my desire to teach. He said I could stay with the firm and teach part-time if I wanted to, or I could pursue a doctorate and come back and consult and teach. So, for me I had a wonderful safety net in my toolbox as I entered my PhD. Once I entered the program, it quickly became evident to me that completing a PhD had nothing to do with teaching and we were told very early on to drop that dream. My office mate Ed, who now is my writing partner also wanted to teach, so we became this little band of undercover teachers. All these years later Ed and I still write and still teach with passion and commitment.
Being a doctoral student is a terrifying but freeing experience. An MBA does not prepare you in any way for a PhD. It is never about marks or assignments. When I started, the course syllabus was often a list of 50-70 books, 300 articles and this sentence “On (insert last day of class) you will submit a journal ready article”. It was expected that you would then submit that article the next semester to the journal you had chosen. It was a daunting experience, but one that was the best training as a researcher. My work was about creating new knowledge, defining my scholarship – not about getting an A. That was a major paradigm shift for me.
My hope for MBA students is that they will experience a “shift” when they engage in their studies. And for a vibrant alumni community I send out this reminder: that we are continually challenged by measurement systems. Instead of reaching for the mark, reach for a greater prize: scholarship. That choice has made all the difference in my world.”
Fast forward to Winter 2017
“I am now 25 years into my career as an academic and the one thing that I know is that you never finish anything completely. This may seem strange, but for me I feel I am a “practicing academic”. No lecture or paper is ever perfect; they can always be improved.
My teaching has evolved, and hopefully improved, to address the ever-changing student body. When I began teaching in the MBA-FS program the majority of the students knew of a life before the internet, today the majority know of no life before Google or Amazon (not the river). When I began, students in our program “faxed” their assignments into the OEGP office, today everything is done through our learning platform Brightspace. I have had to adapt and to adopt new ways of teaching and connecting with students. What has not changed is my belief in the power of ideas, the written word, and setting aside time to think. I always start the intensive for capstone course with this: “What I want this week to be is a time for reflection, a time to think about the past number of years you have spent in the program, and time to ponder the challenges and great opportunities that lay ahead.” This is what I hope for our Alumni, that you have continued to carve out time to think. Time to sit with a problem, an issue, an idea. Time to let your thoughts percolate. Time to let your mind wander.
When I look at my research over the years, I also see it has evolved. My early days were spent trying to get parts of my dissertation published. My dissertation was the largest research project I had ever completed. It was also the worst because it was the first. Today, and three dozen articles later, and I can say I am better. I am better at articulating my ideas, better at structuring research studies, better at reaching my intended audience. My doctoral supervisor once said to me that I was entering the most wonderful profession, “They are going to pay you to think, to write and to disseminate what you find.” He was right, but what he failed to tell me was the enormous obligation to get it right. So, I continue each day to “practice”. To think and re-think an idea. To write and re-write and re-write, again, a paper. To present paper after paper until my ideas are heard.
To all of our students and Alumni, I want to encourage you to continue to practice all that you learned in your time with us. Always take the time to reflect and appreciate all of your accomplishments.”
CFAME Connection is introducing a fresh way of ending the week. Friday Reflection will be added as an ongoing theme to remind readers to pause and take a deep breath after a busy week.
Quotes have become ubiquitous in social media venues. We are engaged by the wordsmithing and identify with the messages that are captured in short phrases. Quotes span centuries, from the ancient time of Horace: “Begin, be bold and venture to be wise” to Maya Angelou of our century: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
Knowing others have overcome challenges gives courage to embrace the unknown possibilities and opportunities waiting around the corner.
So, without further ado, this is your Friday Reflection. A special thank you to Barbara Maynard for the photo entitled: An art installation on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere in Nova Scotia.
“Be an opener of doors.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Alumni were delighted to have this opportunity to see each other again; they were very proud to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their program.” Martine Durier-Copp
The 20th Anniversary of the MBA (FS) continued westward to Calgary and Edmonton. Martine Durier-Copp and Moragh MacAulay were warmly welcomed by enthusiastic graduates who came out to celebrate this significant milestone.
The Calgary and Edmonton events brought together alumni and students from the MBA and MPAM programs. Graduates enjoyed sharing insights and describing how the program had benefited and supported their professional trajectory.
“An MPAM student was delighted to interact with an MBA in her city, and both learned about each other’s program and very different perspectives: government and industry. This is truly a strength of CFAME’s faculty and integrated programs.” Martine Durier-Copp
A special note of thanks goes to Joseph MacDonald who described the early days of the OEGP, and how it was launched, from the conceptual stage to operationalizing the program. Morven and Michelle were saluted as having contributed to the launch of the MBA (FS).
Thank you to all who joined the festivities. Martine and Moragh appreciated the camaraderie, and reconnecting with an engaged alumni community.
Next stop: Vancouver April, 25, 2017
Technology and complexity are the bold signatures of our work experience. Virtual teams, with the help of evolving communication channels, will continue to stretch the boundaries of what is possible. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed,” but our current reality seems to contradict that maxim.
How do we keep leadership rigour in a virtual environment that values speed, quick answers, fast results?
This question was given to a panel of CFAME Connection contributors, Binod Sundararajan, Nancy Fijan and Martine Durier-Copp. Please join the discussion by adding your comments. We would love to hear from readers.
Binod: Great and successful leaders intuitively understand that communication with internal stakeholders is paramount to the successful buy-in of the leader’s vision. When this communication is conducted with transparency, devoid of hidden agendas, and a faith in the abilities of the internal stakeholders, then the leaders gain trust from their internal stakeholders. There is no shortcut to this, regardless of the type of channel. Whether it be email, texting, blogs, wikis, internal bulletin boards, or social media, if the leader is consistent, on message, doing what is needed by the internal stakeholders, then the troops rally behind the leader. The communication to external stakeholders is easier, because the whole organization acts like one, and the leader has set the tone for the organizational culture. These points are relevant to the question because, if the organizational culture is such, then speed, quick answers, fast results are secondary to quality, consistency, transparency and a standard of excellence that can be unrivalled.
Nancy: I agree with Binod. Honest communication is essential. In my experience, a leader will succeed when there is clarity, commitment, tools and empathy. Clarity aligns a team on required outcomes and achievements. Every person brings a specific skillset to the table; for a team to come together, there must be an understanding of individual roles and how the team will work together to track progress and accomplish goals. A leader seeks the 100% commitment of each team member, gaining agreement to prepare, be present and be accountable. Optimum tools, at minimum, connecting by phone/conference line are essential for virtual teams to operate. Better still, virtual whiteboards for creative brainstorming, video conferences or Webex for face time/chat box capability, and Dropbox or Google docs to track collateral/materials.
The most critical element, especially in a virtual environment, is empathy. Stuff happens, especially across time zones and continents. Not everyone on a virtual team is encountering a blizzard that has shut one city down. Pitching in and helping each other out during a difficult time creates a stronger personal and team connection. Embracing the concept of iteration allows for flexibility during momentum blips whilst making the team feel like progress is still being made.
Martine: Binod’s and my research confirms Nancy’s best practices. Virtual teams face three challenges: goal alignment, knowledge sharing and motivation. We have found that major communication breakdowns and conflicts in virtual teams can be mitigated through leadership intervention. If issues do arise, members of the team and team leaders will be better equipped to take action and reduce negative team results. Trustworthiness and cooperativeness are essential for positive team relationships. Trust forms while completing tasks and allows teams to expand outside the scope of their assignment to complete a project. Effective leadership seeks to create an environment that fosters interpersonal trust, shared vision, and effective decision making.
“It was a very exciting event – our alumni are fantastic ambassadors, and the evening was most successful!” Martine Durier-Copp
The 20th Anniversary of the MBA (FS) event held at Montreal’s gaZette Restaurant on February 28, 2017 was a resounding success. It was an evening to reminisce and engage. Moragh MacAulay, Marketing & Recruitment Coordinator, delighted by the enthusiasm and camaraderie of our alumni community, noted: “It is remarkable what diverse and impressive career paths individuals have taken with their MBAs. I really enjoyed talking to all our guests.”
The festivities included recognizing significant alumni milestones. Martine and Moragh were privileged to present five-year alumni pins to Scott Delgaty and Vera Kurkdjian, and ten-year alumni pins to Annie Giraudou and Josee-Christine Boilard. Congratulations to these individuals. When we recognize milestones, we are reminded of the robust ties that bind our alumni community through the years.
The 20th Anniversary is heading west to Calgary. Mark your calendars for March 7, 2017.
Calgary and area alumni, current students and prospective students are invited to a cocktail reception at Murrieta’s Restaurant on the Stephen Ave. Mall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of blended/online graduate programs. Bring a guest and enjoy a festive evening with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, prizes & gifts.