James researched courses and chose to do a MBA as it provided a very broad, but detailed overview of all business operations and disciplines
James Blanchfield is from Kilkenny and in 2018 I enrolled for the Executive Master of Business Administration in the WIT School of Business. A construction professional with 15 years’ workplace experience, his primary degree is in Construction Management from LIT. James has worked with Modubuild since 2008 and have recently been promoted to the role of Pre-Contracts & Proposals Director. Modubuild are an international contractor specialising in volumetric off-site modular construction and high tech fit out for data storage and biopharma sectors.
What attracted you to study at Waterford Institute of Technology?
I was not aware of the MBA course at WIT and had been accepted to the course elsewhere. Through a friend I then heard about the MBA in WIT, as I am from Kilkenny and have a young family, studying at WIT would have been logistically simpler. I made contact with Tom Egan and soon after we had a meeting.
Tom's communication and personal touches were excellent, I could genuinely sense the passion and commitment that he had for the course. Most importantly, as Tom spoke I was able to correlate the course modules to my every day and was develop a clear vision as to how the WIT MBA would assist me in developing both as a professional and as a person. Following this meeting with Tom I was sold on WIT.
What was your motivation for choosing this course?
Having repeated my Leaving Certificate and as a person who did not enjoy education, I always carried a complex about my intellect and academic ability. After completing a primary degree in LIT, I thought I was done with further education. This intellectual complex picked away at me for years, I eventually succumbed and gave in as I needed to fix the issue I was carrying. This was one of the main reasons along with my need for career development for wanting to return to education.
After making the decision to return to education, I needed to decide on which course suited me and my career goals best. My key decision making was based around which course would assist me in getting the next promotion to Director level. With the belief that another degree would be enough, I decided to throw myself right into the deep end and undertake an MBA.
I chose the MBA as it provided a very broad, but detailed overview of all business operations and disciplines.
What words of advice do you have for new students?
I enjoyed every minute of experience and looked forward to every lecture. I've made some great friends and as a group who enjoyed working together we made each other laugh making it easier and more enjoyable to get through the times when we had lots of work to do, we motivated each other to get through and succeed. I've learned how to grow but I've learned how to unlearn.
My advice to new students, have a growth mindset, allow yourself to learn, but don't be afraid to expose weaknesses, you will learn more from this. Harness the network of class mates, it is from them that you will learn most and from them you will have a network of exceptional knowledge for years to come.
What have been the highlights of your college experience?
I believe that the class spirit we had was unique, and this most likely added and aided in us all getting through the journey together. I enjoyed every moment of my time in WIT and looked forward to attending lecturers, there was a unique connection between the lecturers and us students that made it a pleasure to attend WIT. The process has changed me as a professional and as a person, it has given me the tools and knowledge that I previously did not have.
Furthermore, it has given me the leverage to progress in my career and I have just finalised a very significant promotion in work, I have also been headhunted by some sizable organisations. Most importantly, it gave me confidence and it has removed the intellectual complex that I carried for many years. I think the DBA might be something that I will explore in the years to come.
How did trips abroad add to your college experience?
As part of the MBA we undertook an International Management module, this entailed a week-long visit Suffolk University in Boston, the trip was really the highlight of the MBA. Most of the class arrived in Boston a few days early, this gave us the opportunity to do the tourist things around the city. We visited the JFK Library, Boston Common and popped into Cheers for a beer, sadly not everyone knew my name.
The learning experience in Suffolk University was top class. We were given some informative lecturers by leading academics and industry leaders. We visited GE Healthcare where we got to see their production processes and systems.
We did a number of field trips during the two years. We Visited Bausch & Lomb where we got a factory tour and a talk from their OpEx team. We had a really enjoyable trip to horse trainer, Jim Bolger's yard in Kilkenny and had a top class tour of Waterford Distillery with Head Distiller Ned Gahan. The field trips really added to the learning experience.
How did you manage your work-life study balance?
I won’t lie it was very tough, MBAs are not designed to be a walk in the park. They are designed to challenge you, in every sense. With a young family and a busy professional life for me the biggest challenge was a balance of workload and making sure I was on top of everything and to make sure my college workload did not impact on my workload. Knowing I would need to put my heart and soul into the MBA I needed to sacrifice my rugby career with Kilkenny RFC, this was a tough decision but one that was necessary.
Through the workload I made time for myself to recharge and meet friends and enjoy time my family. The camaraderie within the class and the group work made it easy to create a study/life balance. Throughout group work we ensured to make it enjoyable and fun, subsequently making it easier to get through the course.
MBA's require sacrifice, but it is well with it and they are only temporary.
How has this course helped your career development?
I have now achieved my goal and have leveraged my MBA to my benefit and have just been officially promoted to the role of director at Modubuild. After 12 years and lots of work, mistakes, success and learning I am delighted with the promotion, but I cite my MBA and my transition and development throughout the entire process, as the catalyst for the promotion.
This promotion has come with a substantial financial and package and other perks, additional responsibility and roles, all of which I believe wouldn't have been possible without WIT. The MBA has changed me as a person and as a professional.
How did your experience at WIT help get you to where you are now?
I am in no doubt that my MBA from WIT was the springboard that my career needed, without it I would have come stagnant and my career trajectory would have stalled. I cite the success of my MBA as the catalyst for my promotion is work. It has also been the catalyst for me being invited to speak at conferences and contacted by current undergraduates to give them pointers for their own dissertations and studies.
Anything you'd like to add
I cannot recommend the MBA at WIT enough, the entire experience is excellent. The relationship between lecturers and students is remarkable, they genuinely care about the student and want to see everyone succeed. I saw them not as lecturers, but as friends who were part of the fun and experience. On the MBA we were fortunate to have some of the most fantastic and knowledgeable in the game available to us. People like Darrin Taylor, Pat Ryan, Felicity Kelleher and Chris O'Riordan and more, are all true pioneers of modern thinking and go a long way to removing the stereotype that society has developed around academics.