Alumni Spotlight – MSc in International Business

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In this edition of ‘Alumni Spotlight’, MSc in International Business graduate, Simon O’Hare, discusses how postgraduate study has enabled him to take a leading role within his family’s business and also identify invaluable opportunities in the rapidly expanding area of supply and procurement.

Name: Simon O’Hare

Course: MSc in International Business

Year of graduation: 2008

Nationality: Irish

Home Town / Country: Dublin

Tell us about yourself …

I am 29 years old and I have recently completed a second master’s course in strategic procurement. Business has always been something I have been interested in and joining the family business was always my intention from a young age.

What are you doing now?

I joined the family business several months after completing my MSc in International Business at Griffith College in January 2009. I am the third generation of my family to work in the business. The recession impacted on the business much like many other SME’s and I felt that I had attained skills that could add real value to the company. I am currently working on growing our domestic customer base while also looking to grow the business and open our first international office in the UK.

Tell us a little about the family business …

The family business, Alfred K. O’Hare & Co. Ltd., was set-up by my grandfather over 50 years ago in 1960. I was lucky enough to be involved in the 50-year celebrations in 2010. We are engineer suppliers with agencies for several well-established premium brands such as Essentra Components, Gedore and Dormer. We provide a varied range of products and services to our diverse customer base, all based on the two founding principles of quality and service.

What do you foresee as the main challenges for the business over the coming 5 years?

One of the main challenges we will face in the next 5 years will be the retirement of one of our long standing members of staff. This individual has many years experience and an abundance of tacit knowledge that we need to tap into. Managing growth will also be a challenge; we will have to be strategic in our approach and not expand too quickly. We must ensure we have processes and procedures in place to accommodate growth.     

What is it like to work in the services and procurement industry in Ireland?

The services industry is very competitive and highly price sensitive. We pride ourselves on providing high quality products and services at economic prices. With the advancements in technology customers expect their orders to be fulfilled instantly. Logistics plays a huge part in the industry and it is one which cannot be overlooked.  

Do you feel there are many job opportunities in the sector at the moment?

There are definitely job opportunities in both sectors. The procurement sector is an area that has become increasingly important over the last number of years. Procurement can really add value to a company. By procuring smarter and more effectively an organisation can increase the bottom line.

How has your postgraduate MSc business qualification from Griffith College helped you in your career?

Griffith College provided me with my undergraduate degree and postgraduate MSc course. Both business degrees assisted in building a solid foundation of skills and experience, which gave me the confidence to enter the business world. The subjects taken in each module of the postgraduate business course were geared towards the working environment and I was able to apply the material with ease once I joined the family business. The MSc in International Business opened several doors for me but as I always wanted to join the family business I opted to enter at a time I felt was right.

Why did you choose Griffith?

I decided to go to Griffith College based on the references from former students and having visited a number of the College’s open days. I was very impressed with how the College was set up and the plans that were in place for developing the Graduate Business School. I would recommend Griffith College to anyone pursuing third level education and postgraduate study.

What did you like most about Griffith?

The relaxed but professional atmosphere is what I liked most about Griffith. It was great that the lecturers knew my name and I wasn’t just a student number. I have long standing friends from Griffith, some who were classmates but others who are still lecturers at Griffith. The professional network Griffith and its Graduate Business School staff have is vast and being part of the College’s alumni is definitely held in high regard in the business world.

Did you feel prepared when you arrived and/or what surprised you?

I had researched the MSc course prior to embarking upon it but having completed my undergraduate degree in Griffith there were few surprises. At the time I was unaware of the level of detail within the content of each module and there are still times even now when I refer back to my lecture notes as they are still very relevant.

What was the highlight of your course?

There were several highlights during the year. I really enjoyed the range of modules we had each semester and the skills learnt. I found the business plan and entrepreneurship module to be a great learning curve. The research modules gave me a useful opportunity to explore the area of family business in-depth. The business faculty was able to use their extensive network to appoint a mentor who helped me reach my absolute potential. 

What’s the most useful thing you learnt / experienced whilst studying at Griffith?

Griffith equipped me with invaluable skills and knowledge that were immediately transferable and relevant to the workplace. The skills I learnt were relevant and in tune with what employers were looking for in a graduate. The close links that the College has to industry were also extremely beneficial.

Can you tell us a little about your dissertation subject and how you chose it?

I chose to investigate the work-life balance in family-owned SME’s in Ireland. It was a topic that I found extremely interesting, especially during the economic recession. I chose this topic after an insightful guest speaker from BDO Simpson Xavier discussed their role and how family SME businesses are the backbone of the Irish economy. It was a talk that I was tempted to skip but I am delighted I didn’t!

Would you recommend the course, the College and city to other students?

I would highly recommend the course to anyone pursuing further education. Griffith is an excellent college that has gone from strength to strength over the past 10 years. It is ideally located in the heart of Dublin with all the facilities you expect.  

Best bits of student life at Griffith …

I enjoyed everything about Griffith College. The best bits would have to be the banter in the student bar, the rugby team, and the annual Griffith College Ball which was always an event never be missed!

Best thing about Dublin ...

Dublin is a great city to live and study in. Dublin is attracting large multinational companies looking to hire highly qualified individuals equipped with the skills Griffith College’s postgraduate courses are providing.

Is there anything you wish someone had told you at the time you applied?

It’s going to be a tough, challenging year but it’s worth it in the end. If you commit to an MSc, you will certainly see the benefits.

What are your main tips for new Griffith Graduate Business School students?

My main tip is to take advantage of the experience, knowledge and extensive professional networks the Graduate Business School lecturers have. I was lucky enough to tap into the network and certainly reaped the benefits.

Is there anything else you can think of that is good to know about studying a course at Griffith’s Graduate Business School?

Griffith’s Graduate Business School is recognised in high esteem among industry leaders and a qualification from the College holds serious clout when applying for jobs.  

What are your plans for the future?

Once I have opened the Alfred K. O’Hare & Co. Ltd. new office in the UK I would like to return to education and maybe complete an MBA or PhD.

Interested in learning more about Procurement and Supply?

NEW for 2015: Griffith’s new postgraduate procurement course, the MSc in International Procurement and Supply Management had its first intake in February 2015 and applications are now open for September 2015. Enrol now!

Interview by Lydia Casey

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