University College Dublin

Getting Back on the Horse - I need to Write

18-Story Accenture building located at One Fre...

So... it's been a while hasn't it?  So many things change with time; school has started, my internship has ended, I'm applying to jobs, I have offers - there's so many things that have moved forward in my life since the last time I made time to write here.

I'm not going to apologize for not writing - I've been filling my time well, I promise you that much.  This summer I worked for Accenture, a global consulting firm, doing systems integration and technology consulting for EMC.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and has given me much more than employment, but confidence, ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and perspective.

One thing that has been missing, however, has been the thrill that I get from writing on a regular basis.  Back in Ireland, I was writing for the University College Dublin paper - the observer.  In addition, I was blogging often, podcasting weekly, and had all the time in the world to engage audiences online.  In contrast, the summer has been amazing but busy - I barely had time to deal with anything outside of work and a rather interesting social life.  My goal is to write every day, either here on Jamesmconnors.com or over on Collegetechcentral.com but hopefully both.  I want this to be a part of my life that doesn't go away anytime soon.

So best of luck to me and best of everything to all of you - thank you for continuing to read and stay involved!

15 Days To Go

I promise that I will write more... I promise, promise, promise.

As the headline says, our program has 15 days remaining before we leave the Emerald Isle for the harsh realities of the United States. I don't mean that to be a negative statement but rather a sobering fact. We've been in a world where a dollar means nothing, where cars run on the wrong side of the road, where it rains every day (almost). Returning to Boston is going to be a shock to our system much the same way arriving in Dublin was - but we're "normal here" (not many of us are actually normal to begin with so... I'm not sure how to put that into thought, sorry).

Our impending departure illicits a whole plethora of emotions, mostly panic. There are a mulitude of things to wrap up here before I can even think about heading home. Our internships have projects that need to be delivered (more on mine in a few), we have a portfolio and research project for BU that no one has even looked at. On top of that, I just don't want to leave. I like the abstract world that we live in. My decisions here don't necessarily have real-world impact. Allow me to unpack that.

First, our grades don't matter. They do, but they don't. Whatever mark that we earn from University College Dublin is then passed through a matrix to yield a conversion to the "American" system. That matrix tells me that a 70% is an A... you tell me if you wouldn't laugh a little bit. Euros are funny money. Long past are the days that we were converting the currency in our minds. Pints are well over $7 USD and just hopping on the bus feels like an investment (over $2.70 each way). On top of all that, I speak differently. It's sloppy, inprecise, and sort of bugs me. I'll say something such as, "Oh, he was acting like a fool, like" and my questions no longer have the proper syllabic emphasis, e.g. questions don't end with your voice being "high" we sort of put it in the middle.

Did I mention that my rambling has gotten worse? That sentence was how many lines long... geez.

The moral of the story is that we're changed but it's as if we're in a playground. Our choices here don't impact our career (in theory). Mostly, I'm thinking of my internship with that thought. I'm using this experience as an opportunity to practice being at a real internship, practice for Accenture and EMC this summer. It's actually really helpful to see what I'll be able to get away with and what won't fly even whenconsidering what the different expectations will hold. I guess it's like I get to expell all the bad habits now... to include blogging while at work (oops).

So now that the kvetching is over, let's talk shop a little bit. I've been living in another culture for so long, I sometimes forget that all of you are sort of watching this game from the bleechers. I love Ireland. Despite the ups and downs in my personal life and the various other concerns that have come up, this semester will go down in my Wikipedia page as one of the best experiences ever. I am eternally grateful to my parents, Paul, Laura, and Brian, for their unending support, latenight phonecalls (my time, not theirs) - I could not have been here in Dublin without their support.

By the way, remember that melodramatic post a while ago about needing to find that "BIG" answer... some sort of wholistic change?  Well I found it.  Let me tell you a secret - it was with me the whole time.  Basically, I got a dose of reality - some would call it a good smattering of perspective.  Not only have I finally grown to see my parents as good friends instead of those people that try to embarrass me all the time, but I've found myself.  I've found the internal value in myself that doesn't require external validation for me to know that I'm me and that's really ok.

While my world no longer plays like a Las Vegas slot machine, I can tell there are going to be many, many new adventures to be had and all I have to do is be patient for them.  Hopefully you all will be a part of that with me.  I intend to quintuple efforts for this blog between now and my return.  There will be a few post-return entries that will hopefully have some interesting stories.  Then I'll be archiving these posts into my other blog, http://www.jamesmconnors.com under their own tags so they don't disappear when the jamesindublin domain expires.  Thank you for stopping by - I hope to see you next time!

 

 

Irish Education or American, You Decide

This semester, I have been studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland through the Boston University Dublin Management Internship program.  Unlike many of the other BU abroad programs, we directly enroll in a host institution rather than taking classes at a Boston University student center.  This means we are taking the actual Irish classes along with Irish students as they work towards their degrees.  This interaction and firsthand experience has allowed me to gain an interesting perspective on differing educational systems. Here at the University College Dublin Quinn School of Management, the curriculum, course requirements, and credit hours are very different for equivalent degrees in the United States.  There are a number of reasons that I think the educational environment is different here.  First, students do not pay for their school tuition, the government does.  As much as it is elitist to say, I think this may contribute to student buy-in as far as the educational process goes.  Since they have no financial responsibility, as compared to US students, students may not take classes as seriously as they might otherwise if there was a financial stake in their coursework.

Second, many Irish students have a three year program to earn their Bachelor's Degree as compared to the American four year system.  When looking at the curriculums, the Irish spend their entire university career in the college of their major taking courses that relate directly to that major.  There are not the same sorts of "general education" or "elective" course requirements as we have at Boston University.  It seems that by reducing the course load of outside classes, Irish curriculums are able to graduate students a year faster than most American colleges.  I wonder whether this has an effect on the work place and hirability.  One might question maturity and experience given students are hired into firms for full time work at the age of twenty-one rather than our traditional twenty-two.

Finally, the Irish curriculum and teaching style that we are experiencing is very different from that which we are used to at Boston University.  Classes are almost exclusively lecture style with little to no classroom participation and minimal feedback.  The instructor will generally talk about notes they have prepared in a PowerPoint presentation or an Adobe PDF that then displays on a projector.  Classes tend to be about three hours long with a break in the middle and meet once a week.  In contrast, the longest class I had experienced prior to UCD was two hours, met twice a week, and was VERY interactive.  Even our large lecture style courses tended to interact either by cold-call, interactive clickers, or other real-time feedback.

I have not yet formed my opinion about what system is "better" since I have not really gone out and experienced what it is like to work alongside these students.  In a little over a week, I will be starting an internship in downtown Dublin where, among other goals, I hope to experience firsthand what it is to work in Ireland.  I personally prefer the BU system and curriculum because it works better for me, or perhaps because I have grown up with it, so to speak.

What do you think?  Does the Irish system of education sound better to you?  Is it more fun?  If you were a hiring manager, who would you rather hire?  Post a comment or drop a line to james.m.connors [dot] gmail [dot] com and let the community know what you think.

My Article (Original Version) for the UCD Observer: "Microhoo"

This piece was originally written for the University College Dublin Observer student newspaper, a bi-weekly paper written by students for students.  This version is the one that I wrote and is not the version published (they edited slightly). Last week, Microsoft announced its plans to buy out Yahoo with a 44.6 billion dollar cash and stock buyout offer.  This represents a 61% premium over Yahoo's stock price at the time of the offer.  That premium would net Microsoft some very attractive properties including Yahoo's popular photo service, Flickr.  This seemingly random announcement comes 6 months after merger talks failed last summer but soon after both Google and Yahoo! announced improvements to their online application.  Possible explanations for the timing point to the obvious, the 800-pound gorilla in room known as Google.  However, verbiage in Microsoft's letter to Yahoo! made the move sound as though Redmond had lost patience in waiting for Yahoo to submit to their monopolistic ways.

So far, Yahoo has been able to stay independent without needing a dominant company like Microsoft to hold their hand.  But let us be honest, this takeover is all about the money - online advertising money to be precise.  Steven Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, outlined "search and online advertising... new innovations in the areas of video, mobile services, online commerce, and social media" to be the crown jewels of the deal in his letter to Yahoo executives last week.  Indeed, Yahoo has the highest readership among websites with upwards of 500 million hits per month, an online search and advertising business second only to Google as well as number of other online communities.  Now just add the fact that you have knocked off the only competition between you and Google and you are looking at the same incentives the Microsoft execs are no doubt salivating over.

There does not seem to be much of an upside for Yahoo, unless of course you forget the 61% premium Microsoft planning to pay for Yahoo's stock.  Ballmer made sure to threaten the Yahoo management team with investor power by adding rhetoric about "reserving the right to ensure investors understand the opportunity [they] are offering.  Indeed, some analysts are predicting that if Yahoo execs do reject Microsoft's offer, large investors may apply strong pressure since they face substantial returns on their investment.  So the question stands, does Yahoo have a choice?  Well, yes - sort of.  Google has expressed objections to anti-competitive nature of the potential merger and offered to "help" Yahoo! fend off the buyout in the same breath.  Other options include finding another buyer or going private by partnering with a private equity firm.

One other option would be to outsource search and advertising to Google as they have in the past, thereby making themselves almost toxic to Microsoft.  Redmond would inevitably baulk at investing in a venture that would benefit that "significant competitor" that Ballmer talks about in his internal communications and the buyout offer itself.

At a glance, this offer seems to have come out of nowhere but in Microsoft's defense, Yahoo is a very attractive purchase.  The combined entity would become a strong rival to Google's search and ad platforms while standing to shape the face of social networking.  Some industry analysts posit that the merger would create more competition despite the Google's please of foul.  Others cheer the move amidst concerns that Yahoo does not have direction or a clear idea what their business really is.  Over the years they have dabbled in social networking, messaging, email, finance, content and news creation, and now are writing software for enterprise electronic communication solutions.  A Microhoo would probably have a clearer mission for each of the respective brands while leveraging the significant engineering talent of each company.

As of press time, Yahoo! is still sitting on the takeover offer reviewing their options to find the decision that is "best for Yahoo! and our shareholders" as  Jerry Yang, CEO and co-founder writes in an internal email.  Unfortunately for Microsoft, the longer Yahoo stalls, the farther their stock prices fall.   In contrast, Yahoo's stock price has risen enough that Redmond might be forced to make a new bid.  Only time will tell but in the interim, grab some popcorn, a Guinness, and wait with bated breath.  Hopefully we will get an outcome in the next week or so.

To Belfast and Beyond

Well hey there everyone - I'm sorry that it's been a while since I've written anything on this blog.  A lot has gone on, as you can imagine so I'm thinking that I'll break it up into a couple different posts.  This one will cover our trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was an interesting trip, though not nearly what I wanted it to be.  So what did we actually do?  As I've written before, the Quinn School of Business puts on a number of great events and programs for us but this wasn't one of them.  No, this trip was a sort of add-on trip for us from the Boston University program at Dublin City University.  The few of us at UCD that went (6 of 11) were invited along on their special program as part of their Irish culture class.

I should have known this wasn't going to go well.  Originally we were told that we'd be driven up in the coach with all of them and that there'd be a short presentation and then we'd be on our own for a few (3-4) hours to explore the city.  Well, it ended up being a 1 hour presentation, followed by an hour lunch (tasty I must say), followed by 3 hours of bus touring seeing various paramilitary murals on the sides of houses or walls from back when there was such sectarian violence.  Our guide was the same guy that gave the hour powerpoint on flags and their significance to the religious fighting.

Ok, so it wasn't a total bust but it definitely wasn't what I had been hoping for.  I wanted to get to walk around downtown and see the memorials, I wanted to see the Giant's Causeway.  I had such hopes for that sort of stuff and we really didn't get a chance to get off the coach unless it was to see a couple murals all in once place.  Though, I do have to say that there was one stop where the locals came out to heckle us - including one little girl with blue hair.  But let me tell you, I never thought I'd be bothered by something here in Ireland but the 10 year old with a bottle of beer drinking in the doorway of a block house really hit me weird.  I get that it's a culture thing and that we're getting used to these new sort of cultural norms but come on!  In a country where you can legally drink at 18, what're they starting at 10 for?

Finally we parted ways with our tour guide and a few of the students that had apparently planned to stay the night in the city and we were on our way back to Dublin.  It felt like it had been a dream almost but that may have been the fact that I slept most of the way there (we had to be up at 6am... the earliest yet) and most of the way back (did I mention that we were up at 6am?).  I wish that I could have spent more time in the country because I think there's more to see and experience there than just the reminders of how recently war had gripped this otherwise developed country.

After talking with Mom and Brian, I've decided that I'm going to grab a bus north next weekend to see around with or without anyone else.  Obviously, I'll invite the rest but I'm not going to let them hold me back from seeing the country.  I really want to see the Giant's Causeway and the northern coast up there.  I've heard such amazing things.  Next post will discuss some of the coursework from this week, an Irish house party, softball, and an article I wrote for the University College Dublin Observer.  Thanks for reading!

8 Hours Until Aer Lingus Sweeps Me Away

That's right, it's now 11am EST and in 8 short hours I will be getting onto the proverbial chariot ready to whisk me away to a new world. I think I'm ready. I've done my homework, packed the bags, weighed out the luggage (It's far too heavy for sure), and said some really hard 'see you later's. This isn't going to be an easy change, I don't think, not having all the things that make everyday "normal." But isn't that the point? Study abroad, in my mind, is all about stepping outside of the normal hustle and bustle - the daily grind. Yes, I'll meet people that might not like me because of my citizenship. Yes, I'm going to have to learn to deal with people driving on the wrong side of the road (that's humor btw ;-) ). All of that is part of the experience. During my semester abroad, I'm going to have the unique opportunity to study at a new school, meet new people, do new things. I won't be condemned to walking along Commonwealth Avenue playing the life or death game of "Dodge Car" just to get to class. I'll be getting a different view of the our country, the world, and all of humanity (if everything goes according to plan).

All that said, leaving is still difficult. How do you say "Goodbye" or "See you in 6 months" to people that you've spent practically every day with? How do you express the sadness and loneliness you'll feel not having them close by? How do you tell them that everything is going to be all right and fine? You can't. It's impossible to express in words all that you wish to say. It's impossible to get that across in a few minutes of goodbyes. It's too difficult a feeling to communicate among strangers and worse - so, you do your best. You make the efforts. You show the intent and try to look at the positives.

At least this time, when I leave, I'll know when I'm coming back - a firm goal to work towards. Please, don't take that to mean that I'll be counting down the days until we leave Ireland because that wouldn't be accurate at all. In fact, I have the benefit of being so swept up in all things Dublin that I won't have much time to stew on these thoughts after I step on that plane.

On the upside, Dublin is in a heat wave at 43 Degrees F, and only light rain forecasted for our arrival :-P. Lots of rain gear and warm clothes will be the staples for fashion these next 6 months - though for my friend from Seattle, this might not be that big of a change.

Once I'm settled in at UCD (University College Dublin) I'll be able to send out a mass email pointing everyone here and updating them on how to get ahold of me while I'm abroad. As for this website, I think It's going to become a regular travel journal of sorts that I update on a regular basis (schedule unknown at the moment) but rest assured, you'll have plenty to read.

Until next time, safe travels to all and take care!

-James

A Beautiful Start to a Green Year

There's less than 48 hours before I am speeding across the Atlantic Ocean on my way towards what I am sure will be a VERY exciting semester studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland.  That's right, I, James Connors, will be spending roughly the next half year studying abroad in a the Emerald Isle.

Ok, James, big deal - why am I reading this?  Well, I'm going to be using this as sort of a travel journal.  I'll try to write often with personal experiences, insights, trip recaps and the like.  I plan to have this as sort of the nerve center for those people that want to keep up on me or as one friend put it "trans-atlantic stalk" me as I take part in this new and different place.  Check out the different pages linked above for more information about the blog, contact information, schedules and more!

Let me throw out some basics:

  • Day of departure - January 16, 1900hrs EST
  • Day of return - June 22 (Tentative)
  • Place of study - University College Dublin, Quinn School of Business (Belfield, Ireland)
  • Areas of study - Information Systems and Finance
  • How to contact me - go to the CONTACT page

Well, that's all for now.  I'm going to throw the contact information up so that the link works and then get on my way to bed.  Goodnight, everyone!  I hope that 2008 is shaping up for you all as well as it has been for me!!