Diary of an MBA #5: The joys of Mandarin and other challenges

3 December 2010
Chris Atkins, author of Supply Management's Diary of an MBA blogThe MBA at Durham Business School continues apace with our final few lectures in HR, finance, marketing, economics and strategy ahead of the Christmas break before returning in January for exams. My fellow students and I are currently working away on a finance assignment comparing the financial performance of two companies from the perspective of an investor or supplier (naturally I chose the latter). Having scrutinised annual reports in detail for the first time I'll treat credit reports with some degree of scepticism when I go back to assessing supplier financials in the world of work. I found them to be well wide of the mark. As part of our course we are required to learn a new language from scratch. Since I already had some basics in the major European languages and an interest in international sourcing I thought I'd have a go at Mandarin. Although good fun it is hardly straightforward! There are four tones for each vowel with subtle differences in pronunciation which make for none too subtle differences in meaning when incorrect. It's all too easy to attempt "my name is Chris and I like football" and end up saying "I stand on bananas and drink elephants every day" (or something equally ridiculous). A Mandarin teacher's job is certainly never dull. Being in and around a business school there's always lots of interesting semi-extra curricular activities to get involved with. In January there's a Dragon's Den type competition running whereby business students can pitch to be put forward to a regional final with investors. I have an idea involving knitting and mobilising the nation's grannies but it unfortunately still has a few fundamental flaws to figure out. In the new year we start our 'elective' modules so I have just submitted my choices; international HR, consulting, global strategy and, so I can get stuck in to some purchasing, supply chain management. I've also selected the 'international enterprise project,' which involves a field trip to Sri Lanka to carry out some research on a development/social enterprise issue. I'm keen to do something around helping small companies there meet the requirements of supplying large companies in the UK, so I'd be keen to hear from anyone with advice or experience in this sort of area.
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