Can Amazon be stopped?

I attended a great event for prospective, current, and alumni students of the MBA programme at UCD Smurfit last week in the St Stephens Green Hibernian Club and the topic caused me to pause for thought afterwards. As an alumnus from the 2016 class who moved from a career as a military officer to one in the technology industry, I could not help but lean on all of my experiences in how I thought about this issue.

Amazon have become hugely successful to the extent that they account for 44% and growing of all eCommerce in the US and major corporations such as Walmart appear to face extinction as Amazon increasingly move into their territory. They achieved this by identifying fifth wave of innovation technologies such as the internet and digital networks in the 1990’s and utilising them to become the ultimate example of centralisation, due to having a single storefront in their website and a highly integrated supply chain. This allows them to drive down costs and capture efficiencies for their high volume low margin business model better than the likes of Walmart – who conventional wisdom used to state, could not be stopped. Until they were – by Amazon.

A basic principle of strategy is that you should not choose to take on your competitor where they are strong but identify where they are weak and compete there, because if you compete on their terms, you will probably lose. So, what is Amazons weak spot?

Being a bit of a history buff I was able to draw a link with a podcast I recently listened to about the Gallic Wars whereby the Roman Empire fought a devastating war of conquest to defeat and subjugate the Celtic tribes of Gaul with the result that three million Gauls died or were enslaved. At this time, Rome was a highly centralised hierarchical civilisation that developed complex economic and military systems that integrated scientific knowledge to expand its power and influence. The Gauls on the other hand were a decentralised confederacy of tribes based on common culture, language, and traditions that bound them together.

Vercingetorix led the Celtic tribes in revolt, but when Caesar amassed a huge army to fight them, he correctly refused to fight them on their terms in a pitched battle that would allow the Romans to deploy their strengths in command and control, siege warfare, and engineering. Instead, Vercingetorix fought a sort of large-scale guerrilla war whereby he outmanoeuvred the Romans to avoid their strength and attacked their weakness that was a large and complex supply chain. This seriously hindered their ability to sustain themselves in the field and fight as the highly centralised Roman system could not compete against a decentralised and fluid opponent. For some reason Vercingetorix changed his strategy and then decided to fight a pitched battle, which predictably the Romans under Caesar won, and the war was subsequently lost.

So the historical question is; if Vercingetorix had continued to fight as a decentralised force could he have beaten the highly centralised force that was the Roman Empire under Caesar? More applicably, is the way to stop Amazons hyper centralised empire through hyper decentralisation and what are the sixth wave of innovation technologies that could enable this?

Blockchain anyone? I guess we will see…

Conor Connolly, EMBA 2016

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Celebrating Ireland’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women, 2018

With exam stress a distant memory, the recovery of my social life underway and hints that a heatwave was coming to Ireland, to say I was happy the summer had arrived was an understatement. First year had been more enjoyable and rewarding than I had anticipated,  however there was certainly a need for some well-deserved time off. Despite this, the invite to the WXN Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Ireland awards ceremony came as a welcome reminder as to why I had taken on the challenge of an Executive MBA in the first place.

I didn’t need to be asked twice to attend the awards ceremony in the Intercontinental Hotel, Dublin. The glad rags were on and I was ready to celebrate some of the most inspirational women this country has to offer.

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Founded in Canada in 1997, and expanded to Ireland in 2008, the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) is dedicated to the advancement and acknowledgement of women in leadership roles across a diverse range of industries. The WXN awards ceremony recognises and celebrates the accomplishments of incredible and inspirational female leaders in business, arts, sport and entertainment, entrepreneurship, not-for-profit ventures and the public sector.

The accomplishments of these 25 women are truly inspirational, each one a trail blazer in her own field. The interviewees were candid and sincere in their responses while Senator Joan Freeman had the audience’s undivided attention such was her ability to capture our attentions. She spoke about the female traits that women bring to leadership roles including compassion, acceptance and love. These are traits which are needed in senior leadership roles and she encouraged us all to strive towards achieving our goals.

Of course, like all MBA activities the awards ceremony provided an opportunity to network, this time with our counterparts from the different MBA streams. Now more than ever the differences in full timers and executives MBA journeys was evident. For the first-year executives, it was a great opportunity to get the inside track on which choice subjects to pick next year while the full timers were full of excitement (and perhaps nervousness) for life post-MBA.

Having reached the milestone of completing first year, I am inspired by these 25 women to return to year two and set the bar even higher for myself to ensure I reach my full potential. Until then however, I am happy to take a well-earned break and enjoy the Irish heatwave for as long as it lasts.

Teresa Dillon, EMBA 2017/19

“They think its all over…. it is now”

2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a Smurfit MBA reception attempting to debate the future of big brands and the importance of innovative communication with Damien McLoughlin. I’m going to be nice to myself and call it a draw – but irrespective of the outcome, it made me think of what a journey this MBA has been. 2 years ago I do not think it would have been me in front of that crowd. After the talk, several potential 2018/19 MBA students approached me to gain some insights and find out the best and worst bits of completing an Executive MBA. It caused me to think about it properly, possibly for the first time as it has been a whirlwind 2 years. Outside of the Executive MBA, I have moved job, moved into a new house and any day now our 3rd child will arrive into our family. So it’s been hectic. But it’s been a positive experience too.

I didn’t go on any international trips during my 2 years so maybe my highlights are more mundane than those who experienced Reykjavik, Lima or Yale. For me, a large highlight is the fact that I have been in a position to implement so many of the learnings I have made directly into my work. Not only is this very professionally satisfying but it keeps the entire programme relevant and current. Take Group work as an example. Group work never appealed to me – but the setup of the programme forces you to engage with it from Day 1. With Semesters, Global Virtual Teams, Block Week assignments and Capstone, I have been involved with 8 Groups during the 2 years. Not only have I have learned a huge amount about working with teams, from basic communication to the setting of roles, but I have also learned an awful lot about myself. I hope I have added something to the Groups I was in too. They are more than capable of letting me know if I haven’t. I can use these experiences, both positive and negative, in my current job. The current and real life experience focus of the EMBA, driven by not only the lecturers experience and their use of current case studies but more so by the discussions and arguments that took place between my fellow classmates, each with lots of experience in completely different industries to me, help shape this.

Surreally, my last act in my Executive MBA (apart from Capstone of course), was to cook a chicken casserole in Ballyknocken House along with Catherine Fulvio and a group of business students from Smurfit, Yale, Haas Berkeley, IE Madrid, Egade Mexico, Fudan China and Hitotsubashi Japan as part of the ‘Future of Food’ GNAM Block Week. A memorable experience to round off a memorable 2 years. It’s time for the next chapter now. Reintroduce myself to normal life – I’m looking forward to not feeling guilty about sitting down and watching TV without a nagging thought I should be reading something.

On Day 1 of Initiation week in August 2017, the first person I met on the course was Osgur Ó Ciardha.  It was fitting that he was also on the Future of Food week and so we bookended the 2 years nicely. Since we first met he has secured a new job and become a TV star! I look forward to hearing of many more success stories from my classmates into the future.

Robert Slattery, EMBA 2016/18

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International Consulting Project -Iceland June 2018

72 individuals comprising of academic staff, full time and executive MBA students travelled to Iceland in early June for the International Consulting Project. For the full-time students this formed a core component of their studies while the executive students could elect to undertake this module.

We arrived in Iceland on Sunday 3rd June, immediately leaving the airport for a visit to the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s key tourist attractions. After visiting this incredible site, we went to the hotel where we got ready for our first group dinner at Bryggjan Brugghus. Delicious food and a couple of drinks were had and then we were off to bed, ready to get going early the next day.

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On Monday morning there was a line of taxis outside the hotel waiting to take us to our respective companies, it was like a scene from the apprentice. During the day we consulted with our company and worked on developing a plan of how we would achieve the outcome they desired over the next three days. Arriving back to the hotel after our initial day’s work, we met with our academic supervisor for a debrief. Recounting the activities of the day, our supervisors provided us with plenty of advice and guidance to help us prepare for the second day of consulting.

The second day of our consulting project required students to build on the information gained from their client companies and move towards satisfying the requirement as per the engagement letter previously completed by each group.

Wednesday was the last day of consulting with our client companies before delivery of the final presentation to both the company and our academic supervisors. Finishing touches were completed on the project and once finalised, groups got working on their presentations. This went long into the night for many groups with everyone wanting to deliver as good a final product as possible.

Thursday arrived and once again all the taxis arrived to take us to our companies. There was an air of tension about the place as individuals were rehearsing their presentations. If you were lucky enough to get a morning presentation you had the rest of the day off. Myself and a few others from our class took advantage of this and went whale watching. We saw Minke and harbour porpoise whales but unfortunately (to John’s disappointment in particular) we weren’t in deep enough water to see any Orca’s. Later that night we visited one of Iceland’s most iconic buildings, the Harpa, where we had a final reception and group dinner to wrap up the academic component of the week. Following dinner, we went to a traditional Irish pub for a few more drinks where the party continued into the early hours of the morning.

The next day, a lot of the class opted to participate in the Reykjavik sightseeing and Golden Circle tour the MBA programme office arranged for us. We departed early on Friday morning where we made stops at Gullfoss waterfall and the geysers. The tour was fantastic, and everyone was amased by the waterfall. After a long day touring the island, we returned to the Grand Hotel. By this stage most people were worn out, so some opted to have dinner in the hotel while others went out on the town.

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Our visit came to an end with an early departure from Keflavik International Airport on Saturday morning. I really enjoyed our visit to Iceland, learned a lot about what it’s like to be a consultant and have many great memories to cherish long in to the future :-)

Karl McEntegart, Full Time MBA 2017/2018

Women’s 21st Century Leadership

Susan McDonnell and Oonagh O’Grady joined a cohort of MBA students from around the world at Haas Business School, University of California, Berkeley in early June for an intensive 5-day module titled Women’s 21st Century Leadership. This module was offered as part of the Global Network for Advanced Management week.

Professor Laura Kray in her introduction to the week outlined how the reality remains that the career paths of men and women still diverge in complex yet systematic ways. With more women in the workforce than ever before – and even more joining top leadership ranks – the need for women’s voices to be heard has never been greater. Professor Kray put out a “call to arms” at the outset of the course – What will YOUR role be in advancing gender equality?

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The programme was designed to help us to promote gender equality in the workplace but also to cultivate our own authentic leadership style as women. Authenticity is a key pillar of modern leadership. We were thought that teaching women to act like men in order to get ahead is misguided. It ultimately results in women becoming overly focused on their self-image and not on the leadership task at hand. This course sought to over-write outdated scripts about power and push past the usual stereotypes, for example, the perceived need for women to “fit into” a masculine world.

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Our first guest speaker, Haben Girma, was utterly inspiring and personified the concept of a growth mindset. Haben was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, is on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was named by President Obama as a White House Champion of Change. She advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities and encourages us all to resist society’s low expectations of those with disabilities. Instead she asked us to choose to create our own pioneering story. She provided us with a master class in public speaking on the first morning despite being born deaf-blind. During the presentation, she received constant feedback from her interpreter who typed a description of the happenings in the room. We then had a chance to ask Haben questions through a keypad which translated our queries to braille.

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Penny Kreitzer, an accomplished stage actress, thought us tips to improve our leadership presence through the strengthening of our voice and stance. She also thought us a five-step grounding exercise which she assured us would become second nature through practise.  Christine Carter shared the secrets of “How to Achieve More By Doing Less” by highlighting a number of limiting beliefs and unmasking the truths instead:

  • Limiting Belief #1: busyness = importance

Truth: In fact, the truth is that busyness equals cognitive overload – Single tasking is the way to go

  • Limiting Belief #2: Doing nothing is a waste of time

Truth: Our brains benefit when we waste time – it’s called strategic slacking

  • Limiting Belief #3: More is better

Truth: Often less is more – acknowledge abundance using gratitude

We learned about the “Future of Work” from Sally Thornton and in particular about the work-life blend as opposed to work-life balance. Carolyn Buck‐Luce outlined how we needed to “Celebrate the Leader Within” and introduced us to the secret to her success – The Decade Game. This involves her outlining at the start of each decade her purpose for the next decade. The key questions she asks herself to define her decade strategy are – why are you on the planet? And how would you like to be known by the world at the end of this decade? She recommended that you thought about your strategy as a multi-level computer game where you set targets or levels to achieve every 90 days. With regards to executive presence, she noted how gravitas accounted for 67% of an executive’s presence. Gravitas includes things like grace under fire, decisiveness, ability to read and command, ability to inspire others and the importance of integrity, authenticity and reputation.

Our final guest speaker Sanez Mobasseri helped us analyse our social network under the 5 pillars – depth, breath, structural configuration, dependencies and perceived status of contacts. She also thought us that building and maintaining your network is a lifelong task and that connections need to be made before you actually need them.

The third day of the course entailed two company visits to tech multinationals located in San Francisco.  First up was DocuSign, an electronic signature technology and digital transaction management services company. Chief People Officer, Joan Burke and a number of members of a group called Women at DocuSign joined us to explain what makes DocuSign a great place to work. They outlined how diversity and inclusion was driven from the top by their CEO Dan Springer who was motivated by his experience of being the son of a single mother. This shines through in the company’s HR policies and in particular with regards to maternity and paternity leave which are much more generous than US standards.

We then travelled across town to Uber’s offices where Bernard C. Coleman, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, talked to us about the journey the company has gone through over the past year since the highly-publicised Susan Fowler case. Along with a panel of Uber employees involved in Women and Diversity initiatives, he outlined some of the innovative diversity and inclusion programmes they have introduced.

On the final day, we presented our research project finding on topics which included – Gender differences in values, attitudes, and beliefs – Implicit bias and its consequences in organisations – Women working with women – Work-life balance and Engaging men on gender equity.

No MBA experience would be complete without a networking opportunity and this trip provided this in abundance. We were part of a truly international cohort with representatives from US Business Schools – Haas and Yale as well as people who had travelled from Ghana, Mexico, Russia, Spain, UK, Portugal, Denmark, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and China. Not only was there diversity in geography but also in industries with all of the major industries represented as well as NGOs and the Art industry. Most importantly the class contained a number of male colleagues who leant a balanced and insightful voice to the week.

We both feel we gained a new level of confidence and greater sense of ownership over our own leadership development. We also feel we are now more able to diagnose multiple causes of gender inequality, better equipped to develop techniques for influencing others, and understand the critical role of mindsets in collaborating effectively with others to lead change. We also now have a full itinerary of class reunions scheduled for the coming years….first stop Ghana in 2019!

Oonagh O’Grady, EMBA 2018

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The MBA Programme – a chance to observe, experiment and grow in a global context

Prior to entering the MBA Programme at Smurfit, my classmates and I were given a recommended reading list which included a book titled “Snapshots from hell – The Making of an MBA”. The book was a witty and enlightening journal of Stanford MBA graduate Peter Robinson’s experience in his MBA and the more I read through it, the more I could relate to my own experience at Smurfit MBA, which is, to my own opinion, an experience that exceeded my expectations in many ways.

Travelling the world

The Smurfit MBA prepared us for a global career especially through the international experience that can be hard to find in any other MBA programmes. For the past 10 months on the full-time MBA I have visited New York, Washington D.C., Santiago de Chile, Lima, Cusco (Peru) and up next Reykjavik (Iceland) – a travel itinerary that satisfied my thirst for exploration to the core.  Through the Global Network Advanced Management programme, I went to New Haven, Connecticut to participate in the Yale School of Management‘s “Behavioural Science of Management” course. Through the Doing Business in International Markets module I flew to Santiago, Chile and Lima, Peru to gain more insights about the business in South America and had the chance to visit one of the seven wonders of the world. Through the IBM Case competition, our four-member-team travelled to Washington D.C. to compete with seven other prestigious business schools. And in our nearest International Consulting Project, we will be flying to Reykjavik, Iceland to offer a route-to-market solution for an Icelandic pharmaceutical company. Exceeding all of my expectations, the Smurfit MBA experience gave me the most intensive exposure to go global in the shortest period of time.

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Friendship and Support

The true evidence of friendship and peer support manifested in the revision period when I received tremendous support from my MBA cohorts. Quite reserved and independent by nature, I slowly grew to be more confident to reach out to people thanks to my MBA colleagues, as well as the MBA Programme Office members being always open to support me whenever I have difficulties with the subject or consult with me on difficult decisions. I could never thank my classmates enough for late night studies over Skype, which helped me crack the frameworks and models of Supply Chain Management and Managerial Accounting. Along with the MBA Programme Office members and Professors for last minute feedback on our business case presentation right before flying to Washington D.C. Up to this point, the famous saying “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” can’t ring any more true to me.

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A Transformational experience

Reflecting on my past 10 months living in Ireland, I was astonished at how much the MBA programme has grown me intellectually as well as personally. It is truly a transformational experience where I had the chance to observe, learn, experiment, get feedback and be more confident to experiment again. This helps me to be able to deeply relate with OPERA model in Managing Negotiations in cross-cultural context: Observe – Probe – Experiment – Reflect – Action.  After 10 months, I feel more confident and excited enough to get out there in the world and make changes with the new perspectives I have gained.

Realising the fact that 5 years of work after college graduation for me was spent at full speed with business trips after business trips, campaigns after campaigns and results after results, I was so thankful for the decision to take my one year of MBA experience slowly and immersive with learning, reflection and heart-warming friendships. Up to this point when there are 9 weeks until the end, I finally came to understand that it is the journey that matters, and it’s the people that gave me such a wonderful journey.

Huyen Tran FT MBA 2017/18

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Pre-Exam Glam

With exams looming, assignment deadlines creeping up, and end of semester emotions rising, a group of MBA students attended the UCD Business Alumni Awards on a sunny spring evening in the InterContinental Hotel, Dublin. Ball gowns and tuxes were dusted off for a night of glitz and glamour, before we earnestly began to settle into exam mode the following week – you could say, the calm before the storm!

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The annual Business Alumni Awards Dinner is one of the highlight events in the UCD College of Business annual events programme. Each year approximately 450 guests attend the Awards Dinner to celebrate and recognise the achievements and successes of graduates through the ‘Alumni of the Year’ and ‘Student of the Year’ awards.

The awards serve to recognize driven, committed, and successful alumni who have contributed to the business community of Ireland and globally. We were treated to inspiring and very personal acceptance speeches from the Alumni Award winners Padraic Ward and Michael Cullen; both spoke about their time in UCD and how those experiences laid the foundations for their highly successful careers on the global stage. What struck me personally was their authenticity, humbleness, and honesty. The Student Award winners, Jeremey Boles and Aoife Kiernan, also reflected on how their UCD experiences served as a springboard for propelling their careers forward.

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One of the key learnings I will take from my two years in Smurfit is the value and importance of the Smurfit network. I have seen firsthand the value of the network throughout the MBA programme and it was clear from the Awards Dinner that the global alumni community is very active, influential, and strong.

As my own MBA journey is beginning to draw to an end, my Google Calendar is showing positive signs of a full recovery. Opportunities to reconnect and catch up with classmates will become less frequent. The Alumni Awards Dinner is a fantastic opportunity to throw on a ball gown (or tux) and catch up with classmates and the broader global alumni community.

Being able to enjoy the late evening sun in a fancy hotel was an added bonus!

Maria Barry, EMBA 2016/18

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Life in the Emerald Isle

A cook to prepare food, a maid to clean my house, a chauffeur driven car to take me around, clothes washed and ironed for me to wear, this was how life was for me back in India. Fast forward a few months, I found myself in Dublin, learning to cook even the most basic stuff, vacuuming my floor and putting clothes to the laundry, all of this in the middle of an intense start to the MBA program. Life had certainly taken a 360-degrees turn.

However, as time progressed, with the help of my roommates – Himanshu, Anita and Bhavya, who are also in the MBA program, I was able to settle in quickly. Suddenly, the place seemed familiar, I discovered the food I cooked was edible and I could manage to keep my place clean enough so as to not get kicked out from the on-campus accommodation.

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In the second semester, one knows that one can get through the various modules, no matter how challenging they appear to be. With optional modules available, I learnt immensely from modules such as ‘Negotiations’ and ‘Strategy Execution’ which are relevant to my career path. In this semester, you realize that the end of the course is not far away and start preparing for life, after the MBA. In my case, I was mentally preparing to returning back to my business and the learnings that I could potentially implement. Having set up my own company three years ago and having made a million mistakes along that journey, I am extremely satisfied with the learnings from the MBA and know that I can contribute massively to my business once I get back.

For me personally, it has been that the relationships that I developed further that matters to me the most. Starting with my roommates, to my classmates who were on the trip with me to South America, it has been a pleasure to get to know them better. On the recent international business trip to South America, I fell sick because of the altitude and was diagnosed with Vertigo, a condition due to which I could not balance my body and as a result, could not stand or walk. It was with the help of classmates on the trip, especially, Thom and Himanshu, that I survived and was able to make it back safely to Dublin.

I was happy to get involved in some of the MBA clubs in the last few months. Recently, as part of the social outreach team, we visited the Carysfort National School, where we conducted a ‘Bizworld workshop’. We essentially introduced these kids to the business world, explaining some of the basic business terms and concepts. We explained, in simple terms, things like, how to identify a problem and come up with an innovative solution, how to set up a company, how to assign company roles and finally, how to make an effective business plan. We then, made them understand the world of funding and trained them to pitch their ideas.

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On the final day, these kids had the opportunity to pitch their idea to ‘Dragons’ (some members of our team who played the role of a VC) and get investments. They also pitched their ideas to the students from the previous grade to get funding. The entire social outreach team was mind blown with some of the ideas that came up. The level of creativity shown by these students in coming up with an idea, choosing a company name, designing a logo, creating marketing collateral, was way beyond what we expected. It was an eye-opener for me and a very satisfying experience.
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I was also fortunate to explore the country in the last few months with my family. Visits to Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, reiterated the fact that I chose the right country to study. If I had visualized paradise all my life, this would be it. Of course, I cannot finish before I mention the amount of fun I’ve had enjoying the nightlife in Dublin. Come Friday night, my Instagram stories are filled again, I wake up at 8am on Saturday morning and it suddenly strikes me… I have strategy class in an hour – and off I go again!

Jayanth Veerendra, Full  Time MBA 2017/18

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Bizworld’s Dragons Den

As part of the Social Outreach Club a total of eight members from the Smurfit FT MBA recently spent two days on nearby Carysfort National School running the Bizworld programme. A form of Dragons Den crash course in entrepreneurship for Primary Schools. Having recently pitched our own business ideas at the conclusion of our Entrepreneurship module this was an opportunity to sit on the other side of the fence and listen to pitches from young entrepreneurs.

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In February six of us had met with Bizworld CEO Fiona McKeon and had been hugely impressed with her enthusiasm and the Bizworld programme she briefly outlined to us. Fresh from recent international trips to the US, Singapore, Vietnam, Peru and Chile we met Fiona again in April for a quickfire training afternoon to prepare us for the programme.

Somewhat uneasy from Thom’s horror tales of teaching we approached the school with trepidation, would we face an audience more challenging than our management accounting presentations? Jayinth, Spilios and I headed for one 6th class as Anita and Thom disappeared towards the other group. Thankfully we need not have worried as the pupils were extremely enthusiastic and by the afternoon session were eagerly working away themselves on their business ideas.

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Jayinth and I took them through their tasks for the day with Spilios regaling them with stories of his own entrepreneurial experience.  Within each 6th class the students had been broken into groups of five prior to our arrival.  Each groups task over a day and a half was to brainstorm and come up with a business idea, assign company roles to everyone, develop a marketing plan and raise finance before finally pitching their business idea to the dragons. They would aim to secure as large an investment as possible while retaining as much control over their business as they could.  They were provided their own Bizworld currency to achieve this. As we neared the end of the first day ideas included a healthy eating app, light up blanket for reading, solar powered wifi, compression pyjamas, sunshine contact lenses and remote-controlled furniture.

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On Thursday morning we returned for some last-minute presentation preparation before the pitching stage. It was clear from the pre-pitch practice that many of the students had done considerable work since our first visit on Monday. As nerves (ours more then theirs) frayed the first group got ready to meet the dragons. Armed with instructions to take a tough approach they marched into the staff room to pitch.

While Deepti and Spilios played good Dragons, Dragon Osmond took a harsher line trying to take as much of the businesses as possible. Sadly, his skills from our Managing the Negotiation Process module were no match for these wily 11 and 12-year-old budding entrepreneurs. Dragon Himanshu managed to get a present of a slice of cake from the students although having attended a Business and Society module (which considered the role of ethics in business) he assured us this had no impact on his investment decision!

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Next the students got a chance to impress their peers as 5th class students entered the classroom to listen to the pitches. Not having personally witnessed the pitch to the Dragons it was great to see the final product after the two days of work from the students.  After some robust questioning the 5th class students had an opportunity to buy a share in a company of their choosing. With the presentations finished the students repaid their loans and counted their cash. Concluding the two days we were delighted to hear many of the students would now consider setting up their own business in the future.

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We were extremely impressed with not just the students business ideas but also their presentation skills many of which would not have looked out of place in the MBA. Perhaps we will see some of these future entrepreneurs on the Smurfit MBA in a few years’ time?

 Overall it was a hugely enjoyable two days and a lovely end to the second semester before we ready ourselves for upcoming exams. Thanks go to Fiona in Bizworld and also to Carysfort National School for giving us the opportunity to present to such enthusiastic students.

Ruary Martin, Full Time MBA 2017/18

 

The Hidden Heartlands

The clocks went forward and suddenly there was light at the end of the tunnel. The finish line of the MBA came into sight and, with that, an obvious emphasis among the MBA cohort on prospective careers. On our return from the well documented International study trips, students endeavoured to surmount the endless MBA workload, while allocating sufficient time for networking opportunities. Factory visits had presented valuable learning abroad and I recognised the opportunity to organise a similar visit because of my family involvement in Xtratherm – an insulation manufacturer in Navan, Co. Meath. Conscious that semester three will offer significantly less time collectively as a class, there was no time like the present. Wednesday, 25th April, was identified as a rare vacancy in the MBA calendar. Although we did obliterate an organised golf outing (apologies Ian), the date was confirmed, and preparations began.

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Exam concerns and assignment overload resulted in some having to withdraw from the trip, but an enthusiastic 21 students travelled to Navan – a first for many. Karl McEntegart, a full time MBA student, has developed a reputation for meticulousness on comparable company visits and this trip was no exception. He travelled alone and was ready (as expected!) to interrogate Xtratherm Sales Director, Martin Groome, when the rest of the MBA contingent arrived. We were directed to the board room where Martin presented us with a comprehensive overview of the company, its evolution to date and the obstacles it encountered to achieve the market presence it has today. Martin emphasised the importance of relationships in the industry and their dedication to offering “more than just insulation”.

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Refuelled by coffee and refreshments, the diverse array of products came to life in the 3D demonstration room. The factory walk-through reiterated the learning from our ‘Operations’ module, attempting to maximise value and eliminate waste in all complexities of the manufacturing process. Although I have visited Xtratherm on many occasions, I am ever intrigued by its continuous improvement and management’s vision for growth. My father has always been a role model of mine, and today, I was extremely proud to illustrate to my classmates what is achievable when a collaborative group, with a hunger for success and a willingness to learn, is established. Xtratherm has exceeded all expectations and its acquisition by UNILIN in 2016 is recognition for the value created by three individuals who started out with what was only a dream.

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I started by highlighting that the finish line of the MBA is in sight and I will also conclude with that thought. There have been times on this programme when I felt I was past insanity and I questioned my decision to endure such a rigorous programme. However, as the end line nears, I feel a sense of lonesomeness for my classmates. We have been to the trenches and back and created bonds that I genuinely hope last a lifetime. But in reality, each individual will pursue their own personal career, wherever that might take them. Where will everyone be in six months? I do not know – I suppose I better make the most of the next three!

John Keegan, Full Time MBA 2017/18

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