Tag Archives: Masters

The one where it’s masters not bust

It was the 14th March 2011 and I was sat in a hotel room in Hong Kong panicked about finding people to interview for the research project of my Masters. At that point I said that by September 2011 I was either going to get a Masters or Bust and it was from there this blog started.

Now as Mr Burns (Robbie not C. Montgomery) famously said “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley” at so it was that by November 2011 I was entering the 3rd year of my 2 year course having failed an exam (by 3%) and my dissertation (by a mind boggling 1%). Having watched my friends and peers from my course celebrating their results I felt to put it mildly….glum. I wasn’t bust but I did have another year of study ahead.

Having passed a resit exam I have spent most of November on tenterhooks awaiting my dissertation result which would basically decided whether I entered year 4 (and some form of padded room) or finally got to declare a result. It was yesterday afternoon sat in a workshop with a group of civil engineers (who let me tell you aren’t that civil when they’re not happy about their break out topics) that I got an e-mail explaining in overlong detail that I had in fact passed my dissertation (by a whisker). I now get to add a few more letters to my name and if I was one of those people who put them on my business card I now could…but I don’t, so I won’t!

To describe it as a colossal anti-climax would be understating it and in reflecting over undergraduate results (jumping around, hugging and boozing) or my CIPD results (hugging and boozing) it didn’t have the same impact but I suppose it’s another tick in the box and life continues pretty much as it was.

I remember saying at the end of my CIPD that if I ever suggested studying again that someone needed to find a gun, take me out and shoot me…and this time I mean it – if I ever suggest studying again please form an orderly queue!

P.S. Anyone got an ideas on what I can rename the blog to? 😉

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The one where it ends

Or so I thought….

For some reason I was in bed last night thinking of literary opening lines and some of the greats.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

“All this happened, more or less.”

“Call me Ishmael”

“Marley was dead to begin with.”

Rather than being from a novel (as the above are) my favourite comes from a play for voices and it is:

“To begin at the beginning”

If I begin at the beginning, this blog started in a hotel room in Asia, in the middle of March of this year when I was in a state of panic regarding recruiting participants for my Masters project and the first post said by September 1st it was get a Masters or bust….

Over the next few days I wrote some follow up posts to help the recruitment process and slowly but surely got engaged with the process of blogging and 34 posts later here we are. September 1st beckons and I am sat in the same hotel this all started in. I fly back tonight and I have some tinkering and tweaking to do on my project dissertation but the back is broken and I WILL hand it on time.

My original plan had been to write this blog until my dissertation was done then end with a swansong post crediting all the people who have helped and supported the process. Then sign off with a ‘thank you very much and good night’

But two things happened which have changed that plan:

  1. I have found this really enjoyable and a great way to get nonsense out of my head and structure some of my more random thought
  2. I failed one of my exams (by an infuriating 3%) so I will NOT be getting a Masters this year and neither am I bust as I get the opportunity to resit next June

Therefore, the blog will continue with the random sharing of my thoughts and occasional rants but in the meantime I still want to credit all the people who have helped and supported my project. So in alphabetical order they are:

  • Kevin Ball
  • Paul Bullock
  • Fran Burnford
  • Alison Chisnell
  • Lily Haines-Gadd
  • Rob Harrison
  • Andy Jones
  • Katie McNab
  • Leighanne Miles
  • Neil Morrison
  • Judy Payne
  • Gillian Symon
  • Charlotte Thom
  • Kirsty Walden
  • Sophie Watson

Thank you all so much for your help in various ways. If you don’t know why you are being thanked ask 🙂

A few collective mentions:

The #ConnectingHR community who have supported this blog and helped spread the word throughout the process

The company in India that turned my transcriptions around in record speed (15 hours of interviews is no mean feat!)

Particularly, the participants of my project, who remain nameless for ethical reasons but if you are reading this, thank you very much and you will be sent a copy of the project once it’s marked

And finally:

To my boss, Sue Malti. She provided both the impetus and funding for me to study and although I have regretted the decision on numerous occasions and I am sure hindsight will soften the blow and if and when I finally achieve a degree it will be a source of considerable pride. Thanks!

P.S. [Kudos and celebrity to anyone who correctly identifies all the opening lines!]

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The one with the milestones

If you’ve read this blog from the start then firstly, I doff my cap to you and your carriage clock is in the post but secondly, you’ll recall that it started with me talking about what was in front of me: the end of my Masters course. At that point if I recall correctly (and I do because I’ve just been back to read it) I had an essay, 2 exams and a dissertation/project to finish. The good news is the essay is done (it was about diversity and gender and spawned a post all its own which you can find here). In just under a week all that will remain will be my project as my exams are next week and I say this for all to see: I will never revise for anything EVER again….

I am one of those awful people who leave things to the last moment (if you read any psychological profile on me it will contain the phrase ‘is energised by last minute pressure) which makes any form of academic preparation a gut wrenching nightmare. Things will trot along nicely and at some point I will have the “I haven’t done enough” moment, I will feel sick and from somewhere my memory will gain stickiness that belays its normal average function. With just over 4 days to the first exam, this moment has not yet happened and nothing is sticking. Crap.

But I digress; the reason for writing this was not to complain about my random revision foibles. The milestone will be the end of the exams and hopefully I will be far too drunk (or preparing for something in work that I’ve forgotten) to write about this but the other milestone was a meeting with my project supervisor. To be technically correct she is my second project supervisor as my first supervisor took a sabbatical (oh to be an academic) but the meeting went well and I came away feeling encouraged and on the right track….ish

In the course of the meeting she asked if I would take part in an open day for potential students and as part of that conversation she asked a question that loads of people have asked me (in various tenses), “Have you enjoyed it?”. The answer I gave is pretty consistent with the answer I give/have given everyone which is “I hate it at the time but enjoy it with reflection”. She then went on to ask me what was the most challenging part and got the following list:

  1. Having to read 6 journal articles a week whilst working and travelling for work (I must have been drunk if I thought reading whilst travelling was going to be my thing – jetlag and theory DO NOT mix)
  2. Learning to think and process things differently. This may sounds a grandiose statement but getting my head around the academia of it all has really hurt
  3. The discipline of writing essays and structuring thought constructed around published thought.
  4. The terminology (more of that in a moment)
  5. Putting my pride to one side and admitting to REALLY not understanding things but balance this with the comfort of others being in the same boat
  6. Finally, and most importantly, keeping all of this in context of the rest of my life: work, social, relationships, friends, chores etc

Probably the defining moments in terms of both terminology and pride was our first weekend workshop held at a conference centre (latterly known as the Gulag) in Buckinghamshire. Having been issued with 5 articles to pre-read we went to our first lecture and from there our first discussion group.

A brief aside. Have you ever heard anyone use or used yourself the term “paradigm shift”, e.g. ‘we need a paradigm shift in strategy’. Next time you hear someone use it, claim 20 points at lingo-bingo and then ask them this: “what do you mean by paradigm?”

Our first lecture opened by defining some paradigms, both in terms of their ontology and epistemology. STOP. If you’ve never heard those words before, are you thinking “what the hell do they mean?” Are you wondering if you should know them? Are you wondering if everyone else knows them? I was, and it was only 9.12am on a cold grey Saturday morning. I have wiki linked the two words so feel free to have a look if you fancy it but that was defining moment #1 in terms of terminology and pride.

In the ensuing group discussion we have to go through the 5 articles we had (of course) pre-read and categorise them by paradigm. We didn’t do well. However, the 1 article we all nailed and I felt really comfortable with was the one from the Harvard Business Review so it wasn’t all bad. Ahhh but it was because on the arrival of our group tutor it turned out that academically speaking the HBR article was simple, trite, lacking in substance, not peer reviewed etc etc etc and basically if that was the one you made sense of you were doomed….

This was defining moment #2 but lead to my breakthrough and comfort in realising why we were doing this as a group – no one else got them either! BRILLIANT! As it turned out the rest of the room felt equally alienated, panicked and shared a sinking feeling. And you know what? The course tutors knew it too! It was later admitted that they started us with some of the most complex ideas and material both to future proof us for the rest of the course but also that from there it only ever got easier (or at least was the same).

Now I would normally spend a few sentences talking about the support of groups, pride coming before a fall or something that neatly ended this but I’m not going to. Why? Because my gut has just started wrenching and I need to revise!

And no I’m not taking part in the open day. My decision not hers fortunately 🙂

 

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The one where its about reflection

When I was 6 years old I wanted to be a Builder… I wrongly understood my Dad to be one (he wasn’t)

When I was 11 years old I wanted to be a Journalist…I had seen “All the President’s Men”

When I was 14 years old I wanted to be an Accountant… then realised it involved lots of numbers and having attention to detail

When I was 16 years old I wanted to be a Doctor…then realised there were easier ways to get a Mercedes and I like my sleep too much (the white coat would have worked for me though)

When I was 23 years old I had a degree (in Biochemistry) but with no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up…

I’m now 36 and seem to have ended up doing something I love without much of an idea how I got here and the nagging fear that if I went back and told the 16 year old me how it would play out if he wouldn’t have run in the other direction!

Why share this?

As you will know if you’ve read some of the other posts, I am currently in the process of finishing a Masters degree and am completing a research project. It involves interviewing senior business people about their achievements as Corporate Entrepreneurs.

So far I have completed one interview, with a guy who used to work for one of the largest retailers in the world (you won’t have to think hard to work it out). It was a nerve racking but seriously enjoyable interview which ended up (probably against protocol) being more a conversation. This guy had done some fascinating things, in circumstances which were probably the antithesis of standard corporate operations for the specific and many other corporations. What was really surprising was his comment at the end, “it’s been really interesting taking the time to reflect and explore this stuff”

Since then I have spoken to several more of my “recruits” and there seems to be a theme emerging on how much people are looking forward to reflecting on their careers and not just over a beer. It seems many of them have charged through their careers with a great deal of momentum but not much direction and being able to have an agenda-less conversation with someone (who isn’t trying to lead them, manage them or recruit them) seems to really appeal.

Personal reflection is a whole other subject and I wouldn’t want to be seen as advocating a session of navel gazing but if there is a take home from this post then it’s don’t wait to be recruited for a Masters project to reflect on your career. You may be amazed at how enjoyable it is and you never know it could inform your future decisions…

Now where did I leave that white coat?

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So it’s get a Masters or bust…

In September 2009 I started a Masters degree at Birkbeck College, University of London. I am now on the home straight and with several big deadlines looming – especially the handing in of my research project on August 31st 2011.

I’ve seen various people using blogs to talk about things they are dealing with (job hunting, marathon running) and have decided to try and use this to deal with all the nonsense going on in my head with respect to my project. The details of the project will be discussed (try and remain calm) but wanted to start with a little context…

It was during a discussion of Exec Education (I work in L&D for a corporate) that my boss asked me if I had thought of doing any further study (I have a first degree in Life Sciences and did the CIPD diploma) and the idea appealed to me, for several reasons:

1. I was new in a role which was very exposed and I was feeling out of my depth in terms of the content – I felt I lacked subject matter expertise and knowing myself as I do, I know I am at my best operating from a position of confidence

2. Knowing that at some point I would want to climb the slippery ladder, that some academic validation would not go amiss

3. The fact that my boss was open to supporting it felt like a gesture of support and endorsement

4. I hadn’t REALLY thought it through…

Following several conversations with friends and colleagues (especially 1 supplier for whom I have a great deal of respect) I settled on Birkbeck because it was well respected, came well recommended and had a distance learning option (my work commitments make it difficult to do ‘2 nights a week’). On attending on the open day the words which I recall but should have really should have sought to understand more are “it’s a very academic course”. More of that later!

So here I sit 18 odd months later having passed (and only passed, no glory for me it seems) several essays, some exams and having attended 5 weekend workshops (slogs) with 1 essay, 2 exams and THE PROJECT left to finish – so from here until August 31st, it’s Masters or bust….

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