The Trinity MBA Blog

Maximizing your potential without stepping out of work

/ by Meghan O'Toole

Class connectivity, global teamwork, excellent technology, Flexible Executive MBA participant Meghan O'Toole outlines the benefits of distance learning and how it’s shaping her as a leader.

Meghan O’Toole is Founder and Principal of MKO Collaborative, an engagement and communication company in Boston. She began her career on the Public Affairs team at the US Embassy in Dublin, and has since led employee engagement, learning and development, and communication initiatives for public and private sector organisations. Prior to launching her business, Meghan managed global employee experience and community engagement programmes at Amazon.

Why did you choose the Flexible Executive MBA?
The Flexible Executive MBA was exactly the type of programme I was looking for at this point in my career. The programme model, robust curriculum, and excellent technology offers flexibility without sacrificing quality. I had been researching part-time MBA programmes for years, knowing that I didn’t want to step away from my career, but never found one that checked all the boxes as this programme does. The launch of the Flexible Executive MBA was also perfectly timed as the way we work professionally has completely transformed over the past two years. This programme feels like a great opportunity to prove that we can transform the way we learn as well. Learning and working in tandem, I can apply the theoretical knowledge I gain in real-time to lead more effectively.

Why Trinity?
Aside from Trinity’s excellent international reputation and the quality of education, I am energized by the business schools focus on “Transforming Business for Good,” which was the theme of their 2021 Business Forum. Having worked in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and community engagement for large companies, I’m a big believer in the concept of shared value and the importance of growing businesses while simultaneously having a positive impact on the community. Trinity Business School’s commitment to ethical leadership shines through the MBA curriculum, and I knew I’d gain an even deeper understanding of these elements of business that are most important to me (and our future!).

Describe the distance learning experience?
Despite being more comfortable with in-person interaction, the transition to distance learning has been seamless. I’ve been working on global teams for several years and find the same rules of engagement apply when working on group projects with my classmates. We set clear objectives, use tools that enable collaboration and transparency, and stay mindful and respectful of the fact that we’re working across several time zones to get deliverables over the line. I feel very connected to my classmates through excellent technology, and I’ve found that live sessions from the Matrix room are as (if not more) dynamic than a class in a traditional lecture hall as we can see the lecturer, presentation, and each other simultaneously. We’re all tuned in from our respective homes or offices, or occasionally from more exciting locations – I heard one classmate joined a project meeting from a boat in the Seychelles.

How has the programme expanded your global network?
When I started my own business last spring, I quickly realized how much I missed being part of a global community at work. While I can establish great relationships with clients, I’m someone who thrives as part of a team. The nature of this MBA programme fills a lot of that void for me. We work on teams regularly, we spend time connecting with each other, and many of us have been able to meet in person. I don’t feel less of a connection because we’re not in the same room, and I think we’ll have a more expansive network at the end of the programme due to the geographic and cultural diversity of the Flexible Executive MBA candidates.

What are the key ingredients for success on the Flexible Executive MBA?
Time-management is key. I sometimes pride myself on being a “last minute wonder” because I work well under pressure, but to be successful with this programme I need to keep those behaviours in check. The project-led approach means we’re often working in teams; our success is collective success, so we need to meet deadlines, communicate well, and stay accountable.

Each module session is open for two weeks. When a new set of sessions opens for me in the Canvas platform on a Sunday evening, I’ll pull up my calendar, go through each module, and map out how I’m going to tackle the work over a two-week period using an assignment tracker in OneNote. Sometimes my schedule falters a bit and life happens, but my checklist generally keeps me on track.

Have you had an opportunity to put your learning into practice and apply it to your work?
Yes. For me the course content has been applicable since day one. Despite working in corporate environments, I never had any formal business education. My BA is in English, and my MA is in Screenwriting, so everything I’ve learned over the years has been in practice. Understanding the foundational theories underlying the practice instills greater confidence as I continue to build my own business and look to level-up in my career. I find that the MBA is a very versatile degree. I’m confident that the take-aways from this programme will be applicable wherever my career takes me.

What have you learned about yourself as a result of the Flexible Executive MBA?
I’m purpose-driven and the ability to live my values at work is critical to my engagement and success. From the beginning, this programme has emphasized the importance of leaning into our strengths. For me, this has felt grounding and a bit like a compass which will continue to guide my journey and support my evolution as a leader.

Tags: Distance Learning, Flexible Executive MBA

Meghan O'Toole

Written by Meghan O'Toole