During the year I have been crafting a personal development plan or “PDP”, as seen in my last post. In this, I have listed various competencies which I have sought to actively improve upon. This will, I hope, help with an upcoming “competency based interview”. But not only that, it also highlights specific competencies or skills deemed important in terms of overall personal or career development.

I was prompted to devise this (PDP) plan by a lecturer in DCU. The module is called Next_Generation Management or “N_G_M”, and was split into four themes; Personal and Career Development, Global and Societal Awareness, Research and Digital Media and Communication.

Key to this module where PODs. The Term POD is an acronym for personal opportunity for development. Each student was set a challenge to achieve 40 PODs, which in some way offered an opportunity to develop various competencies or skills. Examples of PODs include for example; classes, seminars, webinars, mini-conferences, competence development workshops, presentations, assignments and other initiatives, associated research and reflective writing.

What I would like to do with this blog post then is to present a reflective journal on my key learning throughout the year, and crucially how such learning will help me in my future career.

I have thus split this blog into five sections, one for each theme and a final section for an overall perspective on my competency development.

Section 1: Personal and Career Development

1.1 Overall Reflection

Description

I will now reflect upon my overall learning from the theme; personal and career development. In so doing, I call upon instances of learning derived from; lectures, activities, assignments, associated feedback and POD‟s. Throughout, I will highlight competency development, particularly where this relates to my personal development plan.

Competency Development

Self-Analysis

Personal and Career Development is important to me. I want to be the best Dara Boland I can be, working in the best suited post. To quote the mantra of DCU; “the pursuit of excellence” is my goal. I therefore, sought to tap into, what Martin E.P 2002, describes as a “universal desire to attain happiness and self-maximisation”.

This has always been my attitude, yet, prior to N_G_M_, it existed only in an Abstract sense. The opposite of Abstract is concrete. N_G_M_ then, allowed me to chart a concrete roadmap to personal development. Throughout the year, I held a tremendous feeling of incremental self-improvement.

Similarly, I had always approached career development with an attitude of optimism. I value success. My passion for success however, was not only unfocused and difficult to measure, but undefined. The self assessments were particularly helpful here. I can now say that success, for me, comes from achieving happiness and leading a fulfilling life.

Analysis of Your Learning in Context

In the past people relied on the organisations or companies to decide their career paths and faith, however today things are different and we ourselves are masters of our own faith (Drucker, 1999).

Arthur, Khapova & Wilderom, 2005 discuss how career paths are becoming increasingly unpredictable. Mitchell, Levin & Krumboltz 1999 postulate that it is becoming more difficult to make informed, rational career choices. I decided to apply for this Masters whilst living in New York. I was working in a bar and was content. Yet, as I looked around me, I saw few career opportunities and I lacked a clear goal.

If you dont know where you want to go, you will probably end up somewhere else” (David Campbell cited in Gubbins, 2010).

I felt an urgency to act, and signed up to e-commerce. Even upon beginning my studies, I lacked clear focus. My initial plan was to complete the course and then travel (leisure) around Australia. This focus difficulty is highlighted by Simon (1983) where it was written that people are often unable to make rational career choices because they do not have all the facts, and possess neither a consistent value system nor sufficient reasoning skills. This is referred to as a bounded rationality which favours the adoption of a short term perspective.

According to Bailey, Hughes and Moore, 2004, although employers expect new graduates to have an abundance of knowledge, skills and intrinsic motivation, this is far from certainty. My skills have been bolstered, yet so too has my motivation. According to Geurts & Meijers, 2009 the lack of a clear career wish, or “identity” often accompanies people with low motivation. Plane 2009, states that such an existence can lead to random career choices.

I have since devised a revised PDP, this time charting a route which includes working in Google Ireland for 2 years (at which stage I will request a move to a foreign Google division for one year – e.g. San Francisco, Sydney or Hong Kong) and subsequently setting up my own digital marketing venture in Ireland.

Linkage

In my undergraduate position (Marketing, Innovation & Technology, DCU) I had attended several career guidance seminars. Having experienced N_G_M_, I now feel that traditional career guidance offered little benefit to me. I say this because, upon completion of MECB, my career choices will multiply, and the consequences of such choices become increasingly important, ultimate responsibility lies with me.

Thus where N_G_M_ succeeded was not necessarily in providing better information, but really, in allowing me to gather my own insights and transform them. This was achieved by developing personal and career competencies, and turning them into meaningful knowledge and actions, with regards work, self and career.

As the internal locus of control told me, I believe I control my own destiny. Patton, Bartrum, and Creed (2004) illustrate how an internal locus of control can shape career planning, self-knowledge, knowledge of work attitude, and better career choices.

Evaluate

Baker 2009 writes that academic qualifications are not enough anymore, that employers are now, more than ever, interested in personal skills and personality traits. As mentioned, I seek employment with Google (sales). Having completed the first round of interviews, I have yet to respond to a question re: for example, my grades, or even my technical skills. Instead, they asked; “who is Dara, what makes him tick, does he have an entrepreneurial flair?”

Upon entering the first few classes, I, admittedly, did not participate to any great extent. Mittendorff, 2010 discusses how often students lack motivation in reflective career assignments, especially where they are part of a curriculum. Perhaps owing to the theoretical nature of many of my modules, I failed to make the association between my personal reflections and real life.

However, I soon realised that the career-orientated approach taken was different to what I had been familiar with. I began to learn that here, I could make my own choices to, e.g. develop competencies, and I felt more motivated. I also felt that I was in a position to give more direction to my career path. If I were to sit the course again, I would embrace the merit of reflective learning earlier in the process.

My goal was in achieving continuous competency development, both of existing competencies and new skills. Of course unfamiliarity is more risky but test results show a natural aversion to minimal risk. I aimed to strive for personal development instead of playing the safe bet by doing what I know. During semester one I spent most of my time on the “known” domains of SEO rather than that of say; Market Entry. The following semester then, I had made a conscious decision to attribute more attention to the “unknown” Nootrol project over the “known” Gomcha project.

The self assessments I undertook, really honed in on key areas which would otherwise have remained unexplored. For example, the emotional intelligence assessment saw me feature in the third quartile. This indicated that I may not be sensitive enough to an emotional climate of a group. This prompted the inclusion of teamwork skills into my PDP.

Reconstruct Self-Concept

Whetten and Cameron (2007) postulate that obtaining self-awareness will increase a person’s satisfaction with oneself and health in general. Despite my initial aforementioned resistance, I now fully embrace self-assesment as a foundation for personal and career development. Having obtained feedback from workshops and associated reflections, I highlighted communication and presentation skills in my PDP. Similarly, the ISAC score sheet indicated that I should better learn to communicate my ideas to others. I thus developed such competencies by participating in the Toastmaster programme. The Green Business competition allowed me to fine tune my leadership and entrepreneurial competencies. The Suas programme represented an opportunity to develop interpersonal skills but also offered an unlikely testing ground for my sales skills. This is because I had to negotiate the children‟s acceptance, in order to build relationships with them. Learning Chinese is part of my ongoing drive to develop my language competencies. Even if my aforementioned career path was not to materialise, I will still likely encounter native Chinese speakers, wherever I work.

Result/Application

I exercised my leadership skills, throughout a range of teamwork assignments. In one such instance, the group appeared to be in disarray. I thus took it upon myself of not only deploying management activities, such as delegating work, but I also stood as a leader and motivate/inspire each team member. Here, I had a chance also, to exercise conflict management. Arguments had arisen, fuelled by the lack of productivity. I called upon the Belbin results here. Putting them out on the table, I said to them team, I am an implementer; hence, I may appear rigid in my ways. By using the Belbin team roles, it allowed to team to approach the difficulties, without resorting to personal vendettas.

Fullan (2001), writes “leadership is needed for problems that do not have easy answers. The big problems of the day are complex, rife with paradoxes and dilemmas. For these problems there are no once-and-for-all answers.” This was the case for many of the problem-based scenarios faced throughout the year, e.g. the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award. The Accenture project also allowed me to develop creative thinking skills. Zaleznik (2004) compares the role of a leader, not to a manager but rather, to that of an artist, scientist, and creative thinker. In this case, and in the Green Business plan, I called upon management skills such as organising and planning, but crucially; I crafted an idea into a credible business plan.

As club captain of my football team, I often called upon my heightened Emotional Intelligence skills. I began to sense that one player, a striker, was lacking in confidence. The rest of the team had been putting considerable pressure on him, due to the fact that he had not scored in several consecutive matches. In this instance, I pulled him to the side, and explained to him that, his place is secure, and with his talent and continuous efforts in training, the goals would come. I told him; form is temporary, class is permanent.

Having worked to develop my communication and presentation skills, I actively sought feedback from my peers. Class members noted significant improvements, particularly with regards in-class presentations.

Ultimately, I will continue my ongoing pursuit of incremental improvements upon my own personal competencies. This, I truly believe, will also aid my career development.

Section 2: Global and Societal Awareness

2.1 Overall Reflection

Description

The following is reflection on my overall N_G_M_ learning. Discussed is my heightened Global and Societal awareness and related competencies, specifically derived from a series of presentations, seminars, workshops, assignments and personal initiatives.

Self-Analysis of Learning

My PDP clearly highlights a roadmap towards an end goal; becoming a next generation leader. Thus, achieving a heightened Global and Societal Awareness, and each inherent component, represents a pivotal role in my own career and life path. I enjoyed all aspects of this, an incremental learning experience.

To succeed in my intended field (e-commerce) I required new knowledge, innovation and competence building, to face associated challenges, and to excel where opportunities exist. I first intend to work with Google (International Sales) and thus, it is important for me to attain not only a good grasp of different cultures, but also the technological advancements across nations.

A key concept learning was that of the concept of; Globalization. This discusses an acceleration and intensification of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations (Rothenberg 2003). What has thus ensued is an emergence of Global Economies, and an increase in interdependence, interconnectedness, and cultural diversity. The assumed likelihood of my working for/with a multinational IT company is almost inevitable. Therefore, this theme is also directly linked to my career development and my reaction was to heighten my Global/Societal awareness.

My attitude is that, much of this change (Globalization and Global Economies), is driven by e-commerce. A global society has thus emerged where workers compete internationally and culture and trends know no borders. The assumed likelihood of my working for/with a multinational IT company is almost inevitable, as is the instance where I will work with individuals of varying nationalities. Therefore, this theme is also directly linked to my career development and my reaction was to heighten my Global/Societal awareness. I had many chances to learn, for example, socio-cultural implications for international business. The concept of Guanxi, was discovered whilst designing a Chinese market entry strategy (Tickets.ie). Here, I expressed to management; the increased importance of relationship building. That project also underlined the importance attributable to researching global markets and going beyond a basic PESTEL analysis. Furthermore, the Chinese classes offered key insights into how to do business with foreign countries. Simple lessons were learned. For example, the Chinese have a very hierachial culture and rank is especially important when doing business. This aspect of cultural differentiation was also highlighted in the Get International (Regional Business) workshop materials (online).

In the Toastmasters blog post I illustrate Global Thinking. Here, I discuss statism and how Governments communicate with citizens. For instance I highlight instances where specific phraseology is used, in order to build a carefully crafted PR message. Discussed there is: “Global Banking Crises” and “War on Terror”. Also discussed is how I learned to become a leader and communicator amidst members of all nationalities, both key competencies within my PDP.

My Out on Your Own blog post highlights how Bobby Kerr‟s entrepreneurial successes can be attributable to his societal awareness. Kerr had noticed a societal trend; a lack of take out culture and thus targeted a gap in the market. I would hope that as I heighten my Global and Societal Awareness, I too will be more receptive to potential entrepreneurial ventures. Entrepreneurial skills are a prominent part of my PDP.

I was delighted to heightened my cultural/societal awareness when volunteering for SUAS Mentoring Programme. This prompted significant personal development by transforming me into a more active citizen. Discussed in the associated blog post is; inequality in education (here re: Ballymun) as, a Global issue, which spreads far across countries and cultures. This activity also allowed me to develop my relationship building skills, which is, considering my intention to work in sales, of crucial importance to my ongoing development.

Linkage

I called upon my Marketing degree to discover; the Mason and Hayes Green Business Competition was an example of cause-branding. The company sponsored a worthwhile social project, which may also have resulted in positive business implications. In this case, the marketing value amassed could materialise in a social pay-off. According to Cone et al 2003, those corporations whom best “demonstrate a sense of social responsibility” are thus likely to “stand out in a world of increasingly undifferentiated services”.

I have worked on numerous Science Communication projects. I am passionate about promoting and engaging the public in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Thus, I enjoyed the EU Commissioner Quinn and the Dr. Stephen Chu talks, as I witnessed a master class in public engagement.

In the An tSli Ghlas event, Commissioner Quinn, discussed the project as an “exercise in collaboration”. Here she discussed the “knowledge triangle”; research, education and innovation and further discussed the essential role in which Government and Business will play in The Green Way project, an initiative centred around green technology (Business in Society). As a Science Communicator, I have an interest in how political leaders engage with society about science.

Furthermore, I have an academic background in Innovation, and greentech may represent future career opportunities for me. This is therefore of significant relevance to my PDP. The seminar allowed me to develop upon my critical thinking skills, particularly in light of the Commissioners comments about a supposed “high level of public engagement” in science. Nobel Lauriat and Social Entrepreneur Dr. Stephen Chu, further emphasised the importance of Government. In my associated blog post I note; “the future of the economy and national security is inextricably linked to one challenge: energy”. Dr. Chu discussed how Government should support businesses to be environmentally and socially active, by putting various reward systems in place.

During my marketing degree, I learned a lot about CSR, but always as a profit driving initiative. Archie B Carroll presents the CSR Pyramid in the article “The Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility: Toward the Moral Management of Organizational Stakeholders.” He discusses four kinds of social responsibilities which constitute total CSR: economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic.

The SUAS Programme, in which I volunteered, benefitted from DCU‟s social responsibility. Here I discuss CSR as a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis. This is, at least in part, because they are increasingly aware that responsible behaviour leads to business success. Corporate reputation can be defined in terms of a number of attributes that form a buyer‟s perception as to whether a company is well known, good or bad, reliable, trustworthy, reputable and believable (Levitt, 1965). I agree and thus made a recommendation that Suas seek corporate sponsorship from local businesses (e.g. Musgraves, Lidl and IKEA).

Having attended an Ethics talk (Professor Patricia Barker) I learned that modern society favours graduates whom embody an ethical approach. Here I learned that ethics deals with values, good/bad, right/wrong. Following the David McKernan, Java coffee seminar then, I discovered that businesses cannot avoid involvement in ethics, for much of what they do, and what they don‟t do, represents a potential subject of ethical evaluation. Java appear as an ethical entity. They give 11% of net profit towards philanthropic initiatives and are sustainable (e.g. carbon neutral roaster). Mr. McKernan also highlighted recycling and energy saving initiatives undertaken. He said that Java embodies his own ethical stances. As such, corporate accountability is determined by a corporate governance structure within the company; a set of non-binding principals, standards or best practices, that relate to the internal governance of the organisation, all of which, he says, have high standard of ethics at their core. However, he also acknowledges that a highly competitive market exists, and reputation is of upmost importance. CSR can be viewed as an element of sustainability marketing and thus by engaging voluntarily in Social Responsibility initiatives; companies can gain positive views from the public as well as becoming sustainable (Belz and Peattie 2010).

This concept of corporate accountability can also be viewed in my Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow competition entry which puts forward my new IT system which directly responds to internal corporate governance inefficiencies, within the Public sector. As an entrepreneur, I will now also, ensure future ventures operate under a strong code of ethics.

Evaluate

I found this theme to be of most enjoyment. I believe my heightened awareness has fuelled my overall personal/career development. I would, however, have enjoyed it should N_G_M_ have dedicated at least two classes, specifically to the theme. I had held a misconception regarding Global/Societal awareness, which could then, have been discovered earlier in the process; I had approached this theme as representing voluntary work and thus did not understand the full breadth of the theme.

As an individual, I no longer think solely in terms of my own existence and prosperity, but I understand that what I possess could have a Global impact. For example, whilst on the India N_G_M_ trip, I researched how I could help improve the lives of those in developing countries. I have since made a conscious decision to work with Camara, an organisation that deploys technology to improve education in Africa. (I encountered the founder of Camera, Mr. Gary McDarby at an eSoc event. A Biomedical Engineer and Neuroscientist by trade, he is a serial social-entrepreneur). Volunteer work, which calls upon my technical knowledge, will thus feature as a prominent part of my career path. (I have since applied for an Online Executive/Social Media position within the charity Barnardos.)

Reconstruct Self-Concept

With a heightened Global and Societal Awareness came a heightened consciousness and cognition re: my own tacit understandings of global issues. I no longer perceive the world in accordance to suggestions absorbed from the surrounding culture. For example, I now view what I read in newspapers, subjectively.

Mentioned above was the Global Economic Crises. Prior to N_G_M_, I favoured a conservative (right) style government. A business student, and capitalist, I had my eyes set firmly on the (financial) bottom line. I believed morals where in place to facilitate a “survival of the fittest” society and trusted the free market economy. Yet now, I am more receptive to left side (Liberal) thinking. In fact, the reflective learning experienced here has helped me in transitioning to someone whom favours a community based on ethics. Evidence of this can be seen, e.g. in my own social entrepreneurship initiatives (e.g. Green Business). Similarly, in the Dr.StephenChu blog post, I call for Government intervention to entice, e.g. lower carbon footprints.

Result/Application

Kirkwood (2001) describes globally educated people as “those who possess high-tech skills, broad interdisciplinary knowledge about the contemporary world, and adaptability, flexibility, and world mindedness to participate effectively in the globalized world”. I agree with this assessment and believe I fit the description. I have conducted formal academic studies in Ireland, Canada and have travelled to all but one continent. I have a broad spectrum of technical skills, and am an active and conscientious citizen.

Throughout the year, I witnessed the parallel heightening of Global/Societal awareness and strive in personal competencies. In terms of entrepreneurial skills, I can derive a greater understanding of the market, can better spot new opportunities, and can act in a socially responsible/accountable and ethical manner. Furthermore, my Global/Societal awareness has allowed me develop a raft of competencies, including them of leadership and communication. As a next generation leader, in the globalised, dynamic field of e-commerce, I must understand the cultures of all stakeholders in order to achieve success.

Having completed the module, I continue my venture. My learning has provided me a critical lens through which I can evaluate and contextualize Global and Societal issues, including trade, technology and the environment.

Section 3: Research

3.1 Overall Reflection

 

Description

This is a reflection on overall N_G_M_ learning. Discussed is my heightened awareness and competence in Research skills, specifically derived from a series of presentations, seminars, workshops, assignments, conducting and partaking in quantitative and qualitative research and personal initiatives.

Self-Analysis

As a marketing graduate (MInT) I had been aware of various quantitative and qualitative techniques. In 2005, I was introduced to such topics, in the module; Market Feasibility Research. However, since then and until N_G_M_, I had not approached such techniques in any form of a critical manner. Thus, I was happy to revisit the area, because, as a marketer, I value research.

Analysis of Your Learning in Context

Whilst conducting my qualitative (interview) assignments I ensured the integrity of both the interviewers and interviewee as well as ensuring relevancy of research and made sure the research was only used for intended purposes. According to Bryman2007 research ethics seek to ensure the dignity and welfare of interview candidates. Cowan1992 postulate that 3 categories exist; Informed consent, deprivation of benefit and confidentiality. Whilst conducting my research, I sought to always put participants at ease and made sure there was no sense of obligation to partake. One qualitative interview was with a member of Donaghmore GAA club.

The participant was first contacted via phone, then emailed an agenda summary/topic sheet, where he replied with consent. We achieved permission from Dr John_Connolly prior to conducting the research. Upon meeting, the participant signed a consent form, which also outlined what the research was for and that all findings would only be used for that purpose. We also informed him of all individuals who will be privy to the results of the interview. Before submitting, all group members signed and included a research ethics declaration in the final report.

Planning, is a competency, very much related to my PDP. It is an essential aspect of most of my academic undertakings, yet, has been one which I had often neglected prior to N_G_M_. Throughout this year, I conducted research planning in various projects including e.g. all N_G_M_ core projects, MarketEntry and Commercialization report. Feedback sought from my qualitative assignments highlighted that “preparatory work should be better” and the lack there of negatively affected grade. Quinn 1968 offer the below research planning process.

The research element was segmented into two main components, qualitative(Dr.John_Connolly) and quantitative(Mr.Gerry­_Conyngham).

Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 2001 discuss Qualitative research as “collecting, analysing information in as many forms, chiefly non-numeric, as possible …to achieve ‘depth’ rather than ‘breath’’”. DeRuyter (1998) further highlight that “Qualitative research does not measure, it provides insight.”

Throughout the year, I conducted qualitative interviews, used covert observation techniques and participated in a focus group.

We, two group members and I, devised a Research Proposal as part of practicum research. I did not enjoy its undertaking which indicated to me that I lacked passion for that idea and thus, we have since changed idea. We scored poorly in this assignment, yet viewed it as a learning opportunity. Reflection, coupled with feedback showed that errors occurred where an inability to differentiate from practicum objectives and research objectives existed. Also, research questions where rather broad and required refining. All suggestions were taken on board and allowed to focus on improving such research competencies.

The Literature Review was supposed to be a key ingredient of this research proposal. However, we had not presented an extensive review, as very little literature could be found. I so doing I called upon Watson 1994 “A what, why and how,‟ framework for crafting research”. In the Green Business competition, I did conduct a more thorough literature review in a bid to learn/critically analyse work which had already been undertaken and thus to help identify any gaps, which could offer a framework for further research (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 2001).

Prior to N_G_M_, I had approached this process in an unstructured and sporadic nature. I would conduct field research by way of academic reading, yet often I failed to record such findings in a literature review. Thus I learned this method as a means of refining the research objectives and framework whilst simultaneously educating myself in the field of the research subject.

Quantitative research then “differs from qualitative research in a sense that it does not analyse opinions and values” (Lee, J. S. K ). “Quantitative data analysis helps researchers to answer their research questions and achieve their research objectives by expressing the opinions, attitudes and behaviours of people or characteristics of organizations in quantitative terms. Quantitative data can be a product of different research strategies, but mainly come from surveys and experiments.” (Altinay, Paraskevas 2008) The SPSS workshops and assignments allowed me to develop competencies in counting, measuring and performing statistical analysis. I felt that generally where results are measured, they are more likely to be considered reliable. I studied market feasibility research in my undergraduate studies (MInT) yet had not grasped SPSS. I now feel highly competent in its use and have highlighted it as a potentially important tool in my career development, particularly as I have a keen interest in marketing. I felt the non representation of SPSS on my CV could cast doubt on my marketing abilities. Not only did such seminars help me in submitting a high quality assignment, the knowledge gained may also be called upon in my practicum and of course my career.

I also used quantitative research methods whilst developing a commercialization plan, when evaluating my website and during the Accenture and Green Business competitions. Furthermore, I partook in various Quantitative studies, including; The Health Survey. This year and indeed my future career will require much important research to be conducted, analysed and presented, thus research and technical skills are a significant part of my PDP.

My (qualitative) research proposal was laid out with the following sections; Research Background, Research Problem and Justification, Proposed Literature, Aim of this Research and Data Gathering Approach. This best allowed for all inclusive, yet succinct and comprehendible presentation. The interview report also used such headings, whilst it offered the transcript of the interview also.

In the quantitative assignment, I was able to present the research via easy to understand tables and graphs. Research and technical skills then have both been highlighted as areas with which I strive to develop as part of PDP.

Another competency is that of entrepreneurship. One problem I often have is in communicating the merits of some of my more outlandish business ideas. Sometimes even despite my obvious conviction and passion I still fail in achieving consensus or buy in. I would also describe myself as being rather unorganized in many aspects of my life. What SPSS, for example, can offer me, is a tool to help me approach data analysis in a structured way. Furthermore, it allows for clear and concise presentation of research. Although quantitative research was conducted in the Green Business Plan, this occurred before I had completed the SPSS seminars. I believe my presentation of results could have been improved and may have been a factor in me not progressing through the final stages.

Library and information management skills are key competencies for a next generation researcher. The library and indeed library resources including databases were used for all N_G_M_ and other core assignments. I was a DCU undergraduate and as such, was quite familiar with such resources. I learned further about the online databases during the Immersion week and then refined such knowledge upon attending a Library Research skills workshop. I found such resources excellent, not only for gaining insight or forming arguments, but also in backing up my own writings with relevant material. Upon completion of MECB, I intend on purchasing an Alumni card, so as to gain continual access to such resources. According to DCU Library, 2010, this facility costs €76 per annum yet could become an excellent resource in bettering myself in any career role.

Linkage

After graduating, I hope to enter the working world. A challenge related to the post banking crises business economy relates to more stringent control measures. Where research is commissioned it is of heightened importance that research (and cost of research)is traceable, focused and measureable. Drawing from my undergraduate learning, I can say that in marketing communications, especially through digital marketing, it is becoming easier to measure a campaigns results and thus success. I can link this to the recent undertaking of the Google online challenge. Google analytics is an excellent kit which allows the administrator to, for example, track a click through rate. The trend then is in an increased need to justify, measure and present clear results in research.

Evaluate

I found the seminars and the associated learning to be a positive experience. It helped me greatly in achieving personal/career development goals, has allowed me to critically asses some of my own research in assignments gone by and will allow me to better conduct data analysis in future, including that of the practicum.

I am someone with Attention Deficit Disorder and as such much of the content covered in class was lost on me. I find passive learning especially difficult. The classes where large, and despite the lecturers excellent delivery and engagement with the audience, I felt I was not learning as much as I had hoped. The SPSS workshop however, facilitated a learn by doing approach. My particular preferred learning style, highlighted by self-assessments in the personal development theme of N_G_M_, is that of experimental. Of course, both the qualitative and quantitative research assignments still required a considerable amount of background reading, but ultimately the practical application of knowledge allowed me to approach such tasks with a greater degree of optimism.

Reconstruct Self-Concept

Initially I felt quite intimidated by the task which lay ahead, when I learned of the complexities of research methodologies. I had however, gathered quite early that I could reach a foundation level of competency relatively easily. I wanted to go beyond attaining a basic understanding and really excel in research skill competencies. I thus employed the attitude that in order to master such skills, I would have to take a long term approach. This, as such was viewed as an incremental learning experience and is still a work in progress.

I found learning to be both difficult yet rewarding. This aspect of incremental learning made it easier for me to remain persistent. I viewed the initiative by small victorious, which charted a path towards success.

Like many marketers, what excited me most is the creative, softer side of putting together marketing campaigns. I must admit that I made the fatal mistake of shying away from tracking and measuring activities, whether they be upstream (market research) or downstream (marketing communications). If such a cliché exists, I would say I‟m not really a facts and figures kind of guy, and possess a tendency to favour qualitative research. Once again, I can relate this back to personal development in that I must target such analytical competencies.

Result/Application

The result of my learning can be viewed across the associated reflections. There I illustrate increased competence across a broad spectrum of research methodologies.

Ultimately, I will continue my ongoing pursuit of incremental improvements upon my own personal/career competencies of research skills. My learning has also provided me a critical lens through which I can evaluate and contextualize others‟ research, which will in turn allow me to refine my efforts.

Section 4: Digital Media and Communication

4.1 Overall Reflection

 

Description

This is a reflection on overall N_G_M_ learning. Discussed is my heightened awareness and competence in Digital Media and Communication, specifically derived from a series of presentations, seminars, webinars, workshops, assignments and personal initiatives.

Self-Analysis

Upon introduction to N_G_M_, it was this theme that captured the greatest level of personal intrigue. I have long held a passion for digital media and communication. I had entered N_G_M_ as someone with academic, personal and commercial experience with various digital media communication projects, and I relished the opportunity to build on my existing knowledge. During my undergraduate studies (MInT) I had valued my web 2.0 communication learning. However, I held an assumption that such learning would limit additional personal gain in this theme. This attitude however, resulted from a rather naïve misconception, as I quickly found that I was not quite the expert communicator, I had believed myself to be. During N_G_M_, I was delighted to discover; incorporated real-world technologies rather than merely reading about them. I was excited that, this theme went beyond the known basics of e.g. how to use digital marketing tools. In undertaking this masters, I sought to not only learn about e.g. “new media” communication yet also to fine tune my existing skills. The incremental learning experience towards maximizing the impact of digital communication, in delivering a message, was thus challenging and rewarding.

Analysis of Learning in Context/Derived Learning

The exponential proliferation of new media could not be met equally with personal growth. I do however, feel I have greatly improved key competencies, including communication and refined technical competencies. I am now highly active in online environments, and embrace this learning experience as a long-term journey. I am excited to continue such learning, as I embark on my pursuit of employment, and beyond. The necessity for continuous learning in this domain is of heightened importance, especially considering my PDP, which highlights a roadmap towards an end goal; becoming a next generation leader, in the field of e-Commerce. I also seek to utilise digital marketing in my future career. Thus, achieving heightened competence in Digital Media and Communication represents a pivotal role in my own career and life path. I enjoyed all aspects of this, an incremental learning experience.

I availed of several webinars, including those from Techspe­_ctations. One such webinar, which I participated in, via live stream was that of an “Introduction to Google Adwords”. Throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies I have built up knowledge and competencies in using the search and display network. I have twice entered the Gomcha challenge. Aside from college requirements, I have assisted a company named eX_pd8 in their Adword campaign and also ran a campaign on behalf of cashforgoldireland.ie.

Having attended the Search_Marketing_Summit(India) I began using the SEOMoz toolbar, which has helped me, e.g. refine keywords. This allowed me to develop my competencies in SEO. The N_G_M__SEO plan as well as my consultancy work with cashforgoldireland.ie allowed me to put knowledge to practise. Following my undergraduate studies, N_G_M_, Information Access module and daily reading/contributing to various SEMblogs, I now consider myself a highly competent search engine marketer.

Get_Digital allowed me to gain insights from real, live practitioners. My chosen breakout session, also offered a better understanding of cloud computing, and the advantages offered to e-commerce following its emergence.

The Social_Media_Bootcamp highlighted such media‟s merits as a vehicle, particularly for digital marketing. Already active across many of the platforms, I have since embraced Reddit and Digg following these seminar. Hootsuite is another which I felt could have helped me in professional campaigning and thus I embraced this also. In terms of e-commerce, I learned the emergence of services such as Vendorshop, via the HighTech Entrepreneurship module.

Social Media as well as other web2.0 learning(including web design) was expressed via N_G_M_ reports, personal activity, consultancy (cashforgoldireland.ie) and also through volunteer projects (DublinScience2012 and DCUAmateurBoxingClub). As Webmaster/Social Media Manager to dcuboxing.com I tested and trialled various different platforms and messages in a bid to maximise the communication impact. I called upon my existing knowledge of Google analytics to help me measure traffic impacts to changes made. I used PostRank to monitor how compelling my message was across the platforms, by monitoring a measure of engagement.

I learned of the true power of the Social/Professional Network; LinkedIn, following the associated seminar. I have since used this as a networking tool and an addition to my CV. I regularly consult LinkedIn groups such as AllThingsSocialMedia whilst conducting campaigns. Here, I also utilise the InMaps function to offer a visualized form of social network analysis.

Following the SecondLife workshop and further reading, I learned of various virtual world platforms being used to facilitate online stores and contextual advertising. In my bid for digital marketing competencies, I could utilise virtual worlds in branding; to appear “cutting edge”. It would also allow access to a new online society where publicity is cheap and the demographic is edgy and computer savvy. This may also offer an opportunity to have rich discussion with customers, employees and other stakeholders, in a more intimate way then email or phone communication. Furthermore, such platforms can be used for other communication purposes, e.g. conferences. I also used SecondLife for immersive learning, whilst learning Chinese.

The Get_Mobile event highlighted the exceptional opportunities which mobile technologies offers MECB graduates. I remember attending a Return2Sender talk five years ago, where I learned about WAP, infrared and an emerging concept of Bluetooth. Five years on, that same company put forward a presentation charting excellent marketing potential afforded by 3g connectivity. Learning about the Daft Augmented Reality (Layar) app inspired me to design an AR concept of my own. This idea stemmed from face recognition research I had been aware of. I have since presented this to Professor_Alan_Smeaton, and may pursue this opportunity as a commercial project.

Furthermore, the N_G_M__India trip showed the potential of mobile marketing. Here, I witnessed the country effectively skip a step, as they have not experienced the full spectrum of digital marketing afforded by fixed broadband penetration and web2.0 connectivity.

During the Mobile and Location based marketing seminar, held in DIT, I learned of the increasing significance of e.g. Foursquare, Google latitude and Facebook places. Here, I learned really practical advice relating to; mobile SEO, QR codes and Google places. I learned new age Influencers now have the abilities of; Amplification and Ability to Publish. Noting this point, I realised the importance of pinpointing Influencers, in my own social media marketing campaigns. I thus experimented with various Social Network Analysis tools. Klout and Peer Index allow me to conduct thorough analysis of who was using my social media sites, and crucially who within such a pool was exerting significant influence. I perused a controversial necessity for web-based mobile apps and discovered that group buying platforms such as Groupon can be used for marketing purposes. I also make an extrapolation relating to geolocation marketing being used to drive predictive analytics. I feel, as such services improve, I, as a digital marketer, will use them to e.g. learn where people are going to be, thereby modifying marketing/sales efforts accordingly. My practicum is based around location based services, and thus I will further exploit such knowledge throughout the summer and potentially throughout my career.

Upon attending a GTUG (Google) seminar, it is obvious how mobile is an essential part of their long term strategy. There, the CEO of ZAPA technologies discussed the significant opportunities which NFC holds. Since then, Google have launched Google wallet. As someone interested in a digital communication career path, it is important I stay up to date, especially considering the high pace, dynamic progression.

My report writing competencies where also developed, especially through the N_G_M_ core projects and also reports such as Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow. As, I develop my technical skills, it is important I be able to communicate and present my work. In a career sense, I may have to present a report of technical nature, to a stakeholder, whom may not hail from a technical background. The SEO report, allowed me to describe, succinctly and coherently a roadmap to optimization, whilst the Accenture report allowed me to present a report inclusive of a highly technical nature.

Evaluate

I found this theme to be enjoyable and rewarding. I believe my improved competencies will fuel my overall personal/career development. I would, however, have enjoyed it should N_G_M_ have dedicated at least two classes, specifically to the theme. I had held a misconception regarding the Communication/Presentation skill elements in the course outline, which could then, have been discovered earlier in the process; I had interpreted this to encompass personal development activities re: person-to-person communication/presentation skills. A better interpretation would have been re:maximising impact of communication by presenting a well crafted message through digital media. I have been reading up on, particularly on SEO, for four years. I would have enjoyed it should N_G_M_ offer a scenario whereby students actually made changes to a website and measure results, rather than solely crafting a recommendations report. This said, I found all core materials to be highly beneficial to my personal development.

Reconstruct Self-Concept

My experience in this theme has exceeded my expectations. I took the opportunity to develop upon and put into practise my existing knowledge of social media and search engine marketing. Furthermore, in the Accenture project, I developed technical competencies such as SQL Server, Macromedia Flash and Fireworks, Dreamweaver, CSS and Javascript to better communicate a marketing message.

In the instance of dcuboxing.com, I may have focused too much attention on designing the medium, i.e. the website/social media at the expense of maximising their impact, in terms of sending a message. Where I did study analytics, I did not use such data often enough, to refine/alter the message. Furthermore, I embraced social network analysis tools late in the process and thus did not maximise their value.

Result/Application

The result of such learning can be seen in the associated reflections and also the associated websites/social media pages created. Ultimately, I will continue my ongoing pursuit of incremental improvements upon my own personal competencies of digital media communication. This, I believe, will also aid my career development. My learning has provided me a critical lens through which I can evaluate and contextualize others‟ campaigns, which will allow me to refine my efforts.

As stated, I am highly active in online environments. See:

 www.about.me/daraboland for a snippet of such activities. I have integrated much of my activity in central locations(aggregation). For example, when the user clicks on the WordPress icon, this allows them to read my blog without leaving that page.

Section 5: Overall Reflection on N_G_M_

Description

This is a reflection on overall N_G_M_ learning. Discussed is competency development across all four themes; Personal and Career Development, Global and Societal Awareness, Research, Digital Media and Communication. Such competency developments where derived from a series of lectures, presentations, seminars, webinars, workshops, activities, assignments, associated feedback and personal initiatives.

Self-Analysis

As aforementioned, Personal and Career Development is important to me. I want to be the best Dara Boland I can be, working in the best suited post. To quote the mantra of DCU; “the pursuit of excellence” is my goal. I therefore, sought to tap into, what Martin E.P 2002, describes as a “universal desire to attain happiness and self-maximisation”.

I first intend to work with Google ((International Sales) with a long term aim of establishing my own digital marketing company). Thus, it is important for me to attain not only a good grasp of different cultures, but also the technological advancements across nations.

The N_G_M__India trip showed me an example of a Global agglomeration. I am a well read individual, and could liken India‟s successes through foreign Investment, to what Ireland have experienced. In India, firms (predominantly IT) flocked inward (FDI) to avail of pools of inexpensive, yet skilled, labour, availability of support services, and associated knowledge spillovers. An interesting instance was where we attended Accenture Bangalore. Here, the international sales team underwent regular communication classes, in a bid to perfect a Western (English) accent. My intention is to work for Google, specifically in International Sales. This exercise further highlighted to me the hastening importance of excellent communication skills.

Analysis of Your Learning in Context

My internal locus of control indicates that I believe I control my own destiny, thus undertaking competency will positively affect my personal/career development. In this, a globalized world, I will likely work abroad. Inevitability exists however, where I will work with individuals of varying nationalities. Key to my ongoing entrepreneurial activity, is both quantitative and qualitative research methods, particularly where used as market feasibility research. The necessity for continuous learning in the domain of Digital media is of heightened importance. I must stay up to date, as I intend to set up my own business in 4 years.

During the N_G_M__Market_Entry assignment, I also learned that Near_Field_Communication is likely to transform the tickets Industry there. At this point I began to research NFC. Only recently have Google launched details of their NFC initiatives, which will soon launch in Ireland. NFC, I learned, could revolutionize the purchasing process. This is of direct importance to me, an e-commerce student. In this instance, my heightened Global and Societal awareness allowed me to be “ahead of the curve” in terms of emerging opportunities/technologies.

Perhaps in part due to the Global economic crises, business ethics is now high on the agenda in both the public and private arena. Accordingly, DCU have recently (April 2011) appointed Dr Simone deColle to the Institute of Ethics as the first lecturer in Business Ethics. According to the Institute Director, the appointment marked an “important step in the Institute‟s plan to engage with Irish society on integrity, corporate social responsibility and other business-related ethical issues”. (http://dcu.ie/news/2011/apr/s0411d.shtml). I am disappointed I never had the chance to take a module in ethics. I feel, such an activity would help me develop both personal and career competencies. A key motivation for me is to become a next generation leader, having and communicating an ethical stance would help me in this regard.

Another point about the Global Economic Crises is re: Global economies. Not only the rapidity of the decline but also the fact that so many seemingly diverse markets plunged at once, showed a negative consequence of Global Economies.

Linkage

Having participated in volunteer work, I will continue to act as a global citizen. Furthermore, when I establish my company, I will ensure an excellent corporate social responsibility regime is in place. Such CSR initiatives would be thoroughly researched, as I would also seek a social pay off. Furthermore, all expenditure would be measured, predominantly via quantitative measures. In fact, I would seek to use my new age Influencer status, to promote social responsibility. I would also ensure that my own CSR initiatives were published and amplified, to convey a positive brand message to the market.

Evaluate

The overall experience has been incredibly positive. Despite the long hours, and lack of free time, it is inextricably clear to me, that personal development has ensued in a prolific fashion. Yet, it must be said, that I regularly flirted with burnout. This is my criticism, in my opinion, the module would actual be more beneficial if they shaved 10% of its workload. Baker 2009 writes that academic qualifications are not enough anymore, that employers are now, more than ever, interested in personal skills and personality traits. As I intend to work in sales, it is imperative I continue developing my people skills. As an individual, I no longer think solely in terms of my own existence and prosperity, but I understand that what I possess could have a Global impact.

One derivative of this, is the development of a critical lens upon which I can approach news articles and research papers and also an ability to dissect messages via digital media.

My (Green) business idea, related to alternative, renewable energy. Unfortunately, key to progressing through the competition was an ability to outline profitability. Thus, I had to combine a motive to increase social value, with a clearly defined profit motive. According to Dees (1998) in an instances of social entrepreneurship, “the social mission is explicit and central” and wealth creation is not the central aim. He postulates that wealth creation is a by-product, solely a means (sustainability and self sufficiency) to a social end. However, the stipulations of this competition, prompted me to include profit in the goal structure. This disappointed me and I hope that next year, they allow an equal ground for those businesses for whom profit is not the ultimate goal. Research conducted for my business idea (based on solar power), allowed me to develop upon an expanding environmental awareness.

Reconstruct Self-Concept

Whetten and Cameron (2007) postulate that obtaining self-awareness will increase a person‟s satisfaction with oneself and health in general. Despite any initial aforementioned resistance, I now fully embrace self-assesment as a foundation for personal and career development.

Similarly, with a heightened Global and Societal Awareness came a heightened consciousness and cognition re: my own tacit understandings of global issues. A concern of mine, was my poor analytical competencies. Noting this, I have highlighted quantitative research as key future learning, as I have traditionally favoured qualitative research. In terms of digital media and communication, never again will I underestimate the importance of measuring online activity. Various analytical data can help me craft a better, more refined message.

According to Stewart, 1989, entrepreneurship is best thought of as an extended activity which may well be carried out by a team or a group of people. However, after attending the David McKernan Java Coffee seminar, I began to view social entrepreneurship as a completely different approach to the business of societal good. Johnson 2000, describes social entrepreneurship as an innovative approach for dealing with complex social needs. Furthermore, after completing the Nootrol assignment, I began to peruse the relationship between social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. The client was a builder, who, as a company, and a group of individuals, were participating in social enterprise, as a complementary activity.

According to a McKinsey Quarterly Report (2010), every company is now a global company and the most innovative ones are building a global and societal awareness into their DNA. I must follow suit and continue to harness the power of this assertion.

I have always had a great ambition to succeed in business. My success measure was however, generally that of financial gain. Yet, through N_G_M_ and various self assessments, I now believe that money is but one intrinsic motivation for me. Success, for me, comes from achieving happiness and leading a fulfilling life. I feel a duty, yet also gain intrinsic rewards from acting as a global citizen. I have thus designed a mission statement for Dara Boland; “to achieve success and leave the world having made it a better place”.

Result/Application

Fullan (2001), writes “leadership is needed for problems that do not have easy answers. The big problems of the day are complex, rife with paradoxes and dilemmas. For these problems there are no once-and-for-all answers.” As stated, I intend to work in the highly dynamic company; Google followed by putting my entrepreneurial competencies to use by setting up a digital marketing company. As such, my leadership skills will continue to constitute a prominent part of my artillery.

Kirkwood (2001) describes globally educated people as “those who possess high-tech skills, broad interdisciplinary knowledge about the contemporary world, and adaptability, flexibility, and world mindedness to participate effectively in the globalized world”. I will continue this winning formula of incremental improvement by frequenting various extracurricular opportunities for development followed by conducting complimentary research. I am an avid blogger, and thus I can use this publishing facility as a means of reflective writing.

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