SURVIVING THE TERM

Sometimes, all you need to do is take a break and have fun!

My name is Richlove Ampofowaa Frimpong, from Ghana and currently studying MSc. Operational Research and Management Science. Well, it has been five months since I came to Lancaster University and I can confidently say these months have some of my favourite memories yet in life. I have learnt so much within this short period of time, met some of the most amazing people in the world, had some pretty bad days and some amazing good days and tried new things like standing in the snow (yeah, that’s a big deal for a young African lady!).

Well, Term 1 passed by like a whirlwind. I still remember how enthusiastic we all were on the first day of class and then by the time we realised, voila, it was Week 10 and we could take a break. As a student, I have realised that it is so easy to get stressed and lost especially during the mid of the term when you start getting courseworks and deadlines and then have to manage it with your class schedule. After careful thinking and conversations with my friends and some of my lecturers and academic supervisors, in this blogpost, I will like to share a few tips on how to survive the term.

  1. Plan each day of the week

Just a few days ago, I realised that I hardly got any work done when I left my activities for the day to chance. Being able to allocate time for the activities in a day helps you stay organised and also forces you to make sure you get those things done. Most of us use smartphones and hence can use the planners on our phones as a medium for planning our days. You must also make room for surprises that might spring up in the course of the day. I usually plan my week during Sundays and what I do is I use the ilancaster app to get my timetable for the week into my S-planner (Samsung is clearly the best phone!) and then decide on the times when I want to get some work done after class and add it to my schedule. The feeling of crossing out your planned activities after you have accomplished them can be likened to winning a gold medal during the Olympics. It’s definitely worth the try.

  1. Know what kind of student you are

A friend of mine told me during my undergrad that in uni, you must study smart not hard and I think I have come to agree with him. We just have 24 hours in a day, filled with classes, courseworks and also some personal activities and so in order to stay on top of our game as students, we need to figure out what works for us. Let’s see if my experiences can give you a clear idea of what I mean. I find it difficult studying for very long hours. So what I do is, I usually take walks when I get tired from studying or working on an assignment and then come back to it and get it done. I have a friend who works better at dawn and makes it a point to wake up very early to study. Another friend of mine happens to grasp things better when she makes her own notes in class. After all, “a short pencil is better than a long memory”. Being able to tell what works for you as a student will help you form the right strategy to handle your school work

  1. Ask for help if you are struggling

As I mentioned earlier on, I had some bad days and I was struggling with my schoolwork. There are so many wonderful people especially in LUMS that you can talk to if you are having a hard time. Being able to adjust to a new country, a different educational system or returning to school after working for a while can be challenging and demanding and sometimes advice from friends, colleagues, lecturers and the Effective Learning Team in LUMS could help save you a lot of trouble. If you do not understand a concept or topic from a class, ask your coursemate or go and see the lecturer for help. It is better to make an effort than to just give up.

  1. Be open-minded! Group work is not that bad.

The reaction we as students have when the lecturer tells us as part of our coursework, there will be a group work and the groups are not self-selected is always priceless: Students don’t like that at all. I must admit that groupwork can be challenging but also it’s a great avenue for learning from people. Being open-minded and willing to listen to other people’s opinions and finding a constructive way of having discussions could lessen the pain of group work. At the end of the day, all the members of the group want one thing: to get good grades in a course. Coming from different countries, with different mindsets and different ways of communicating, it is essential that you learn how to clearly communicate your thoughts and also try to understand people when they are communicating. However, if you do not find a structured ways of going about groupwork, you might end up using all the time discussing and arguing out points without necessarily achieving the objective of that particular assignment. That being said, as a group, you must find ways of making sure you do not spend all the hours you have arguing and discussing but try things like sharing the responsibilities of the work, identifying your strengths as members of a group and using these to help achieve the purpose of the assignment. I’ve made some very good friends through group works and it’s been amazing.

  1. Eat well, Rest well and HAVE FUN!!

In order to stay healthy for the term, we must make sure that we eat well and get enough rest. It is very easy for us to be caught up in our schoolwork such that we begin to neglect our bodies and forget to take good care of ourselves. Sometimes, all you need to do is take a break and have fun. Travel around, hang out with friends, play games, go for events. There are so many things you can do to help reduce the pressure from school and be re-energised and motivated to keep up with your schoolwork.

As Pele once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”, I think we should find ways to enjoy our courses, relate to them, build more interests in them and these can help us get our work done.

Have a wonderful term!!

 

Management Science: modules I’ve enjoyed the most

StudyingDuring my Masters at MSc Management Science and Marketing Analytics programme I’ve been studying 10 modules in total – 4 in Autumn and 6 in Spring. Below is the list of my favourites.

3rd place: Marketing Analytics
This was the core module of my subject. It was taught in both terms, although in Autumn it was called ‘Introduction to Marketing Analytics’. Taught by Nikos Kourentzes, this course was rather practically oriented and although it gave some theoretical knowledge about concepts like 4P, brand power or promotional modelling, it was mainly focused on data analysis. During this course I’ve done conjoint analysis, clustering, multidimensional scaling, promotional modelling, regression analysis, forecasting newly launched product with statistical approaches. I’ve used SPSS and R extensively. It gave me good understanding of how to make data-driven marketing decisions and taught that marketing is not only about creativity and advertising – there is massive data analysis behind the scenes that actually helps companies make right business decisions about promotion and positioning.

2nd place: Forecasting
Centre for Forecasting located in Lancaster University is the No. 1 forecasting centre in Europe. One of the key factors that made me come and study in Lancaster was my passion for forecasting subject. And undoubtedly it was one of the best in the course. Interesting lectures, well-structured workshops, excellent delivery of a new and sophisticated material. This module was organised very thoroughly, not to mention that it was taught by the well-known scientists in the forecasting field – John Boylan and Robert Fildes. Eventually my dissertation project was related to short-term electricity demand forecasting, and this module and people helped me a lot. By the way, you’ll learn R programming language during this module.

1st place: Spreadsheet Modelling
This was a fantastic module run by (in my humble opinion) the best teacher in the department – Adam Hindle. It was a well-structure course that implied no prior Excel knowledge. In the beginning I was a bit biased given my 2-year analytical experience with a company where I’ve been using Excel extensively – what new can I learn at this module? However, although this course started from very basic things such as operation with simple formulas, design of tables, structuring information, etc., it was constantly speeding up – the pace was good, and each new task was more difficult the previous one. At one moment of time I was surprised to find myself writing codes in VBA, performing macro, solving optimisation tasks in a Solver add-in and composing pivot tables.

Research projects and dissertation in Management Science department

Dmitrii dissertation

For master students summer is literally the hottest period in a year – this is the time of writing a dissertation. What is it like in Management Science department? Are there any guidelines and tips to perform well? What are the client-based and research-based projects? These are the topics to be discussed in this post.

Projects allocation
Studying in Management Science department requires you to show good academic records, regular and on time attendance, confidence in English, great interpersonal skills and motivation. These features will contribute towards your success in getting summer project of your interest. University outsources around 50 client-based projects with such famous brands as Lego, GfK, Johnson & Johnson, Jaguar Land Rover, etc. All projects are being presented on a particular day in the beginning of May. Based on what they’ve heard, students compose a list of 7 prioritised projects and submit it to a programme director. Cover letter might be attached as well. Then, the programme director allocates projects to students taking into account those features mentioned in the beginning of this section.
Students should understand that client-based projects imply a lot of responsibility. This is a chance to shine and demonstrate analytical skills you’ve learned throughout the year, negotiate with different stakeholders , mitigate risks and maintain information flow between yourself, your manager from the company and your supervisor from Lancaster. Literally, it’s a kind of consultancy experience, so be ready to move to another city in England.
Apart from the client-based projects, there are some research-based projects, most of which are located in Lancaster. This work is more academic and probably would be a cup of tea for prospective PhD students.
If by any reason you don’t want to work on a project in England, you can find one on your own. It can be located anywhere in the world, however you’ll have to discuss it in advance with your supervisor and programme director. So, as you can see it’s all quite flexible.

Tips and hints

  1. Start early. Seriously, start as soon as possible. You might think that you have 3 months ahead, but this is just an illusion as time passes by really fast! The earlier you start, the better for yourself.
  2. Read articles. Read at least 2-3 articles per week, and simple mathematics proves (3 articles * 4 weeks * 3 months = 36) that by the end of the day your reference list will have looked impressive. Well, I’m joking. It’s not about how many references you have, it’s about the quality of your paper. Properly chosen articles contribute towards better understanding of an issue, thoroughness of approaches used and level of detail in your work. Client will be pleased.
  3. Keep a diary. It would be better if your diary was an electronic document, which eventually could become your final dissertation. Keeping record of what you’ve been doing will prevent you from forgetting important pieces of information. This habit will also help you structure your thoughts and re-consider your work.
  4. Be fair. If you face difficulty, don’t be afraid of telling it to either your manager or supervisor. They are here to help, and without knowing the matter they won’t be able to do so.
  5. Rely on yourself. Although both Lancaster University and clients are supportive, this is entirely your project and the result depends only on you! Use your initiative, try to solve issues, stay confident and pro-active. If you don’t know something – google it, read papers. If you find yourself stuck, move some steps back and start over in another direction.

The world is your oyster, as well as your dissertation. Wish you good luck! Just do it.

 

A skillset of a management scientist

Dmitry opportunities

Being a master student implies huge responsibility, especially when studying in a TOP-8 university in the UK and TOP-1% worldwide. Is there value for money, what knowledge and experience do you get, and most importantly – how can you use those skills in a real life? Those are the questions to be answered in this post.

I study Management Science and Marketing Analytics, so everything that follows is based entirely on this programme. I am a foreigner, and for me English education was a completely new experience from the very beginning. The crucial thing is to understand that it is difficult to study for a master degree. Really, it is difficult. Although there were not too many modules – just 4 in Autumn and 6 in Spring – the amount of material to learn was impressive.
Most of the modules were assessed based on the three assignments – individual coursework, group coursework and exam. In order to perform well in all of them you will need to have good time management skills and be able to work under pressure with strict deadlines. It does not necessarily mean that you will have no spare time on friends or extracurricular activities – for instance, apart from studying I was a student rep, a teacher of Russian and a PG ambassador which did not prevent me from getting an average mark of 69 and (fingers crossed) a distinction diploma.
Plan your work thoroughly and get the courseworks done before the deadlines. Yes, it will be time consuming and sometimes exhausting – but make no doubt, the result is worth it.

At my programme I have learned 3 new languages. Well, programming languages – VBA, R, SAS. Being able to handle massive datasets, to provide quick summaries and to give data-proven recommendations is an essential skill of a good analyst. A lot of practice is required, isn’t it? This is what you can get in Lancaster – well-structured workshops assist you in getting started, whilst the difficulty of tasks keeps growing alongside your progress. Personally, I’ve spent hours on coding and massaging the data before I could provide more or less reliable result. If you want to achieve good outcomes practice is the key to your success. Fortunately, all the facilities on campus help students do their work well – there are postgraduate zones in Graduate college and in the library, 4-screen computer lab in LUMS, plenty of computer labs on campus, projectors to rehearse your presentations, etc. On top of that, teachers are easy-going and willing to provide support whenever needed. They have open-door policy, so you could simply drop in with a question or book an appointment in advance.

I’ve mentioned earlier that some of the modules include group work. This is a great chance to develop or enhance your teamwork and leadership skills. This interaction helps to develop communication skills as well – just imaging working in a multinational group where all people are from different countries having different backgrounds and cultures. This is so cool! That’s an opportunity to speak English and make new friends – eventually, people might be the most valuable asset you’ve acquired while studying in Lancaster.

Alright, let’s summarise the skillset you can develop while doing Management Science and Marketing Analytics programme (and maybe other programmes too) in Lancaster University.

  • time management
  • ability to work under pressure
  • project management
  • result orientation
  • multitasking
  • out-of-the-box thinking
  • computer knowledge (coding)
  • public speaking
  • communication skills
  • data analysis
  • statistical analysis
  • problem solving
  • teamwork skills
  • leadership skills

Enjoy your time in Lancaster University!

Presenting my PhD research at EurOMA 2016 conference in Norway!

Hi I’m Amy and I’m in the second year of my PhD in Management Science. I’m going to be sharing some of my experiences of life at Lancaster!

Trondheim Norway Amy

LUMS encourages PhD students to go to international academic conferences to present their research to others within the field. I love travelling so I am so pleased that we have the chance to do this! Last year in the first year of my PhD, I presented at the EurOMA Sustainability Forum in Barcelona, Spain and the EurOMA conference in Neuchatel, Switzerland.

I have recently returned from 10 days in Norway for the EurOMA 2016 conference. I went with two other students in my department so it was nice to get out of the office together! The conference took place in Trondheim and brings together leading academics in the Operations Management field. I spent the first two days of the conference at the Doctoral seminar. This is an opportunity for PhD students to present and discuss their research to other students and established researchers. This was my second doctoral seminar having attended the first in Switzerland last year. It was therefore really good to see the friends I made last year and I made some new friends. I also presented my research in the main conference. The conference was made up of numerous streams and you move around listening to different presentations depending on your interest. It is really motivating to learn about other people’s research which also challenges your own thinking. It also provides the opportunity to network with leading academics in your area- often the ones you cite in your work!

It’s not all hard work though! Meeting people is one of the best parts of the conference especially other students and we socialised every evening! The food was also amazing! I have made some great friends that I know I will always keep in touch with- we are still all swapping photos and reminiscing about the fun we had!

The conference arranged a number of social activities which ranged from an amazing concert in the beautiful local cathedral to the main conference dinner. The highlight was definitely watching sunset after midnight at the sky bar! This was shortly followed by sunrise as it never properly gets dark at this time of year!

On the last day of the conference there is always the opportunity to go on a factory tour at a leading local business. This year there was the added bonus of an afternoon sightseeing in Røros a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After a week of hard work and socialising we decide to have a few days sightseeing in Oslo on our way back home where we saw Munch’s renowned ‘The Scream’ painting and did some island hopping in the Oslo Fjord!

Conferences are a fantastic experience, I have had the chance to develop research contacts with both fellow students as well as senior academics within the field. I received invaluable feedback that will help me further develop my research. I have also been able to explore Norway and created some memorable experiences.

I took the photo in Trondheim- the same view was captured and used on the cover of the conference promotional material. I always make sure I get my own version at each conference I attend! We also have a tradition that we buy a postcard from each conference location we present at to display in our office!