My first 2 weeks as an EMBA student

Hello, Jen Ward here. I am delighted to share my experience with you of the UCD Smurfit EMBA programme so far. Some of the lecturers said that after Foundation week we would understand why the UCD Smurfit School runs the best MBA programme in the country and it’s very true. Aside from the outstanding taster lectures and first week of core modules, after just 2 short weeks the people in my class already seem very familiar and I for one, feel fully immersed in the MBA learning experience. Here are just a few of the highlights so far:

Week 1  – Foundation Week.

The foundation week was not at all the gentle introduction to the MBA programme I had expected. Instead we were immersed in a jam packed daily programme of lectures, class discussions and networking activities from 8-6pm each day. On Monday we met a range of faculty members who would be delivering the MBA courses and co-ordinating the programme. We received our first insight into the MBA approach to learning from Professor Niamh Brennan, who gave us very clear instructions on the Do’s and ABSOLUTELY Do Not’s of Report Writing! We also had an informative presentation from recent MBA graduates who gave us some tips on how to work effectively in our teams.

On Tuesday, comfortable clothes and shoes were the order of the day. Little did we know that they were required because we would be carrying water on our heads, making giant body shapes blindfolded, solving oversized jigsaw puzzles and carrying some of our fellow class mates through giant spider webs before the day was out. It was an unusual but incredibly effective way to accelerate the process of getting to know each other and to break down the formalities of a big group of people that had just met for the first time the previous day!

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MBA Team Building Day

On Wednesday we had an 8 hour crash course in Financial Reporting from Dr. Colette Yeates, where I quickly realised that I was going to have to do a lot of work in this course having never had the opportunity to study Finance before!

On Thursday, alongside the fulltime MBA class, we were introduced to 4 quirky German and Dutch trainers that would transport us into a realm best summarised as a cross between Monopoly and the Hunger Games! Our mission was the profitable management of a manufacturing plant – sounds dull… it wasn’t! Each financial quarter flew by between copious tea breaks, and for many of the teams, our eagerness to win sales quickly drove our companies into the red. After being schooled in pricing strategy and cost of sale by DieTrainers, we fought our way out of bankruptcy as best we could. Needless to say, some of us have a lot to learn before we are unleashed on the real world!

We met Lucy Butters on Friday for a fascinating lecture on Cultural Intelligence. We learnt how it feels to be uncomfortable in a situation by having a conversation with someone less than 5 inches from each other and how to be adaptive in our communications to connect better with culturally diverse groups of people. The 2nd Year EMBA students shared some of their experiences of the course so far during a networking lunch. The final session of the week was a highly engaging workshop with Paul Slattery on ‘Presenting for Success’, which pushed each of us out of our comfort zone and towards satori – enlightenment no less! “Perfect is not the destination but the journey” was the resonating quote of the day.

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MBA Welcome Dinner 2018

Week 2  –  Semester 1 begins.

It’s now week two, and it has been tough figuring out how to balance a busy work schedule, getting to class on time, homework assignments and keeping up with family and friends. Sometimes I wonder how I will be able to fit everything in, but my motto has always been to tackle things day by day and week by week, and before long I will be in the swing of it. Taking on the classroom environment, the broad subject matter and the leadership development program is the opportunity of a lifetime and I am so grateful to have been accepted onto the programme. Although there is a lot to do, each and every experience has been interesting, challenging and worthwhile. The whole class are an incredible group of talented individuals and I know we will help each other though the countless readings, reports, assignments and presentations! I’ll leave you with this:

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Bye for now!

Jen Ward Mid-Week EMBA 2018/20

 

Céad Míle Fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes

What a great phrase this is, as well as being perfectly apt to describe what the beginnings of this MBA year has been for us all. Between the community in this village, fondly known as Dublin, and the many new faces being introduced in the halls of Smurfit, there have definitely been a hundred thousand welcomes.

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Most people run to the sun, but not me. Coming from Cape Town, South Africa, I packed my bags and headed north to begin a new chapter in Ireland. A warm welcome from my hosts made me instantly feel at home in my new surrounds. With a few days to spare I used the time to explore Dublin and productively “stalk” the profiles of my new classmates. Who were these people venturing on this journey with me? Are they crazy? Am I crazy? Let me not answer the latter.

And so, Foundation Week was here. Day one of school. Again, a hundred thousand welcomes. The feelings of excitement, curiosity, nervous energy and perhaps slight caution were all thrown together as we began our new walk together.

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After a long day of financial reporting, we had a day of being put through spiderwebs, making shapes blindfolded and trying to find some “Jedi”. Without anyone knowing each other, the beginnings of this camaraderie had begun. So far, so good.

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Next up was moving into Proby House. Here goes nothing. Six students of the MBA class moved into neighbouring apartments. The evenings were spent in a reasonably civilized manner drinking wine, introducing our best dance moves and getting to know people with different cultural backgrounds from different countries. I was in luck by landing in an apartment with an Indian and Kenyan roommate who both love cooking. Don’t worry mom – I’ll be “grand”.

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One thing that is confusing me is the Irish obsession with “Crack” (better spelt “Craic”). This comes up plenty and is seemingly always involving fun. Is this some secret the Irish have discovered to eternal happiness?

We have a diverse class from around the world, all with such interesting experiences and insight into life. Bonds and friendships seem to be forming fast as we begin to tackle the challenges of this year. We are all on the same page at “having the craic” and bettering our lives in whatever way Smurfit has in store for us.

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Hans Stauch FT MBA 2018-19

Lux et Veritas

As part of the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) programme, a group of six MBA students from Smurfit took part in in a one-week module titled “Behavioural Science of Management” in Yale School of Management in June this year. Launched in 2012, the GNAM includes 30 leading business schools from diverse regions, countries, and cultures. The GNAM offers students the opportunity to partake in a Global Network one-week course offered by a partner business school.

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There was a lot of interest in this module from fellow classmates due to the strong heritage of Yale in the field of behavioural science, not to mention the strong reputation and high ranking of the Yale MBA programme. Expectations for the module were high and we certainly were not disappointed!

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We arrived into New York City a few days before the module began to take in the sights. More importantly, we had to collect our mode of transport for the week in New Haven, a GMC Yukon Denali, a ridiculously sized car, which we affectionately christened “The Beast”. Lorcán had the honour to drive it to New Haven and peppered the journey with outbursts such as “…how am I supposed to keep this thing between the lines?”.

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The module commenced with a fantastic presentation from Professor Shane Frederick, a leading expert in the field of behavioural science and contributor to the Harvard Business Review. Shane brought us through topics including framing effects, context effects, and choice architecture – the principles that underpin how we make decisions and the techniques used by marketers to influence consumer behaviour.

Shane’s presentation included several examples of how rational consumers make irrational choices. He presented logic puzzles, prefaced with “…I’ve presented this problem thousands of times and I still don’t know if I agree with answer.” He showed us how consumers can be influenced to make purchasing choices that might not be appealing if the rational mind kicked in.

A key element of the GNAM week in Yale is the opportunity to network with MBA students from business schools across the world. The opening cocktail reception on Monday evening provided the ideal opportunity to mix and mingle with classmates from China to Ghana to Mexico. This resulted in cross-cultural learnings, a highlight of which was when Monica from Monterrey, Mexico remarked to Lorcán “You are definitely Irish.” She then turned to Johannes from Berlin, “You are Irish too, no?”. Lorcán and Johannes had to give Monica a crash course in the cultural differences between Germany and Ireland!

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On Tuesday, we were treated to a tour of Yale University. Yale University is steeped in history and has an almost “Hogwarts-like” feel to the place; college buildings are architecturally beautiful and students are allocated to certain houses in their first year via a “sorting process”. We were almost expecting to find some Bertie Bott’s Beans in the Yale gift shop at the end of our tour. Instead of finding sweets, the lads did their best to get a Yale preppy look going. Thankfully, Ciara and Fiona gave some “constructive feedback” which put an end to that.

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On Wednesday, four busloads of MBA students departed Yale for a trip to Boston to visit TD Garden, the home stadium of NHL’s Boston Bruins and NBA’s Boston Celtics. Owned and operated by Delaware North, the state-of-the-art TD Garden is a year-round, 19,600-seat arena. Members of the Delaware North management team treated us to an insightful overview of the company and its expanding global reach. Delaware North manages and provides food and beverage concessions, premium dining, entertainment, lodging, and retail at many large venues and special places. These include sports stadiums, entertainment complexes, national and state parks, airports, and casinos. If you have been to London Airport or Wembley Stadium, you have consumed concessions provided by Delaware North.

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Back in Yale, Thursday commenced with a panel discussion with students from the class. Three highly accomplished classmates spoke about their career paths, MBA journeys, and their views of leadership and working across cultures. It is always inspirational to hear how peers have driven themselves to almost dizzy heights to achieve what may appear as the unachievable.

One of the highlights from the week was the diverse teaching styles of the lecturers. In the “Negotiation Mindsets” lecture delivered by Dalyian Cain, we had the opportunity to partake in a mock negotiation in pairs. As many of the Smurfit gang had already completed a negotiations module in Smurfit earlier in the year, we were quietly confident that our knowledge of “BATNAs” and “Reservation Points” would seal the deals. However, Lorcán managed to buck the trend by engaging in a technique known as “negotiating against yourself”. He blamed a language barrier with his international colleague – he didn’t say whether it was his Donegal accent or theirs that caused the trouble! Don’t tell Stephen Boyle.

Some of the other topics covered during the week included how to make better decisions using behavioural science, understanding consumer experiences, and behavioural finance.

Our final social outing of the week was to a popular New Haven bar for some karaoke. After providing background vocals to “My Heart Will Go On”, the Smurfit contingent rose to the challenge by belting out their best rendition of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. Who knew that effort can overcome not having a note in your head.

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The week concluded with a series of group presentations to the class on Friday. We had the task of providing a 5-minute group presentation showing how the principles of behavioural science could be applied to a real-life problem encountered in an organization of one of the group members. There were no boundaries to the scope of content presented by teams or how to interpret the behavioural science principles learned earlier in the week. Presentation topics ranged from a video advertisement, created in under an hour, to a presenter-led fitness dance class.

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The GNAM week was an incredibly rewarding experience. The chance to network with MBA peers from around the world, to experience different cultures, and to attend one of the world’s leading universities were all fantastic opportunities. Behavioural Science is becoming increasingly relevant in business (see Richard Thaler’s recent Nobel Prize in Economics) and we all found that the possibilities suggested during lectures were eye-opening. The experience and knowledge gained during the Smurfit MBA allowed us to actively contribute in classroom discussions. The trip was an excellent end to our EMBA journey.

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Maria Barry & Lorcán Gormley EMBA 2016/2018

Class Reps MBA Blog

What was it like being an MBA class rep?

Joanna: Volunteering to be class representatives was a great way to show my appreciation to the programme office and my colleagues. The role didn’t add as much load as I thought it would and I had loads of fun being in contact with the programme office. Closing the year as class reps have certainly been fulfilling as we arranged our goodbyes not just to our semester three professors but also to the school and staff with little tokens.

Karl: Being an MBA class rep was a great experience and I’d highly recommend future MBAs consider taking on the role. I wanted to give something back to the class and I felt being a good class rep was an appropriate way to do so. Whether it was organising a World Cup sweepstake for the class or being the voice between the programme office and the class there was always something to keep you busy.

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How did you feel when you submitted your capstone report?

J: After a 1.5 month ordeal, passing the capstone project has been a little bittersweet. There’s relief of finally finishing 10,000 words worth of work, surprise that the year of being a student is finally over and the anxiety of going back to the real world. But having 32 people who were experiencing the same thing made it easier to deal with everything.

K: I was full of mixed emotions when I submitted our capstone report. I was delighted that we had completed our final project of what was a very intense academic year. However, I also felt somewhat sad as I knew that it marked the end of what was one of the best experiences of my life to date.

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Looking back over the last year what was the best memory of the MBA?

J: The local and international trips we took for the term were my favourite memories in the MBA. The term started with the GNAM week, a great introduction to Dublin for some international students. The study trip in Chile and Peru was full of firsts as some of us got to go to Machu Picchu. Finally, the Iceland trip with everyone from the full-time class was a good bonding and learning experience as we engaged in our first consulting project.

K: It is hard to choose just one but the trip to Vietnam and Singapore was definitely a highlight. I had never visited this side of the world before and to be able to do so while visiting some of the world’s most recognised businesses such as Coca Cola was an amazing experience. The additional week many of us spent in Vietnam also made this an unforgettable and memorable experience.

What will you miss the most about the MBA?

J: The 2017/2018 full time class is comprised of the most friendly and supportive bunch. I would not have been able to go through the term as well as I have if not for them. Though we will always keep in touch, not being able to see them every day would be a huge change and what I would miss the most.

K: I was fortunate to travel abroad four times over the course of my MBA, so I’ll certainly miss all the incredible trips we went on. However, what I will miss the most is the amazing group of people I worked with and became friends with over the year. An MBA really is all about your class and I felt very lucky to be part of a remarkable group of 33 individuals this year.

What advice would you give future students? 

 J: The MBA will be one or two years of constantly being on the go. Try to get rest as often as possible. Though sleep might look like less of a priority, it’s still important to have one every once in a while. Ask for help when you need. The programme office is always open for concerns and your classmates are the best people to lean on as they would be having the same shared experience. Finally, fun is allowed on the programme. Enjoy as much as you can.

K: The best advice I would give to future students is to get involved as much as you can in your MBA. Network, participate in extracurricular activities and attend as many events as possible. The full-time programme is only one year, and it’ll be over before you know it – you truly do get out of the programme what you put in!

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Joanna Villanueva & Karl McEntegart, 

Full Time MBA 2017/2018

With less than two weeks for the MBA program to start, here’s what you can do

Dear MBA aspirants, if you have an admit to start in 2018, take a deep breadth before you dive into the most exciting days of your lives. While an MBA is said to provide compounding returns over many years, now is the time for you to embrace an experience you will cherish forever. You’ve just finished a warmup marathon, through your GMAT, ‘money’ planning, essays, scholarship application, LORs and interviews. As the dust settles, start watching Excel videos and work on Prof. Niamh Brennan’s pre-course assignment. Then, grab a pint @ #TheDarkHorse or #ThreeTon… down Carysfort Ave. for a head-start into your MBA life! If you’re moving into Dublin for the MBA, forget pints and start house hunting.

Some of you might be in the process of getting an admit. If you’re nearly there, hold on tight, as you’re nearly there. On the list of admissions requirements above, I’ve mentioned GMAT first, not that it’s the toughest thing but it needs more time and is a qualifying requirement before you look any further. If you think GMAT is tough, wait for Orla Nugent’s interview and you’ll find out (btw, Orla is super cool)! In August, if you’ve just realised there’s something called GMAT, it’s really ok. We all have our times of realisation.

The GMAT is more than Math and Verbal; it’s a test of nerves. So, pressure doesn’t help. Heard of time-pressure? Still, sit the test if admissions deadline permits you to. Generally, people buy ‘Official Guides’ (best recommended) and start solving questions in the order they are printed. Try this instead. For Math – make mixed sets of 10 questions (5 P.S + 5 D.S) and solve them in approx. 20 mins. For Verbal, make mixed sets of 9 questions (3 S.C, 3 C.R, 1 R.C Passage with 3 questions) and solve them in approx. 15 mins. This gets you closer to the actual flow. On Verbal, SC concepts/rules are numerous; CR and RC have fewer question types and can be largely covered in this short time span. Decide wisely on allocating time to these sections; think of your return on investment (time). Most important, take it easy!

P.S: The GMAT needs months of preparation based on individual’s schedules. Worst case, give it a shot now, and know that you’ve started preparing on-time for the 2019 intake.

Sreekanth Nagabhushana (Sree), FT MBA 2015/16

The Beginning of a New Phase

This week another phase of my life is coming to an end. I submitted the Capstone Project Report, the last assignment of the MBA. Myself, Eoin, Emrecan, and Cathal were the first team in the class to submit the report. We did our project with a start-up company called Mobstats. The company provides an artificial intelligence (AI) solution for sport clubs to increase fan engagement. Our project was to develop the company’s business plan, particularly focused on market and competitor analysis, marketing and sales plan, pricing guidance, risk assessment, and financial projections.

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The Capstone Project is a unique opportunity to put in practice all the learning from the MBA in a real business environment. Especially for students pursuing a career in consulting, the experience reflects what they would face when dealing with clients, from setting the scope of the project through the engagement letter, to delivering the final product using different frameworks. The diverse background of my team combined with the experience we had in the international consulting trip to Iceland surely maximized the learning from the Capstone Project.

Now that we are ready to go back to the real world, a new phase begins. New expectations, challenges, and goals are now being set by each colleague in the MBA class. Some colleagues have already accepted a job offer, others are still doing interviews, some are starting their own business, others will travel the world before returning to the world of business, and a few will continue their student journey. Regardless of the situation, we all share the same sense of accomplishment from successfully finishing the MBA.

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An important stepping stone was achieved, but we all know that our journey does not end here. New challenges will involve as much effort as required in the MBA. Everything we learned throughout the MBA will help us to succeed in the next stages of our career. However, we need to be aware that our learning process does not end with the three letters on our CV. We all need to be open to continue to learn as the world continues to change.

 Marcelo Cardozo de Mello Boccuzzi FT MBA 2017/18

GMAT Preparation- logic is king!

The GMAT is not easy. Nor is it meant to be. But rather than being complicated, it is deceptively simple. It is not, as most people believe, a two-and-a-half-hour test of your quantitative and verbal skills. Instead, it measures your ability to apply logic and critical reasoning to a problem whilst under pressure: a crucial competency needed throughout the MBA and beyond.

During my time at Smurfit, I have learnt that critical reasoning is something that has been expected of me in every lecture of every module. That expectation has been upheld not only by my lecturers, but also by my fellow MBA candidates. Setting a high GMAT score as a benchmark ensures a greater standard of debate and discussion in the classroom.

The best advice anyone can give comes straight from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “don’t panic”! Here are some tips, from myself and others, on the best way to go about studying for the GMAT.

Never mistake activity with achievement, a 700 plus GMAT score requires more than 100 hours of productive study. You must know your core arithmetic and formulae through and through and constantly consider, when it comes to improving your score, what’s the most effective use of your time. I’d recommend using only one broad preparation course (Veritas Prep is just one such example) in addition to the questions in the Official Guide: using multiple courses only leads to mixed messages. Limit your study period to six intense weeks, any longer and your preparation will become stale. Pick a test date, you will make it work!

As for the exam itself, the GMAT is all about time management. If you go over the two-minute mark, make sure you know how to answer the question. Never spend over four minutes on one question for any reason: guess strategically and move on.

Time management is a crucial skill, and one you should refine by sitting practice tests beforehand. With that in mind, be sure to make use of the two official (and, crucially, complimentary) practice tests that become available upon registering for the exam, as these will best reflect your actual experience on the day.

Finally, don’t be afraid to question your intuitions. Remember, there is not one right and four ‘sort of right’ answers, but instead one right and four wrong answers. With the GMAT, logic is king!

Robert Patrick Brennan MBA FT 2017/18

‘Lonely Planet – The MBA Journey’

 

It is exactly one year since I completed one of the most challenging, transformative, and enjoyable journeys I could have imagined. My MBA journey started on a beach in Vietnam. A month travelling around South East Asia provided space to reflect on those latent goals that you procrastinate on until the time is right, or invariably, perfect. Like everything in life, there is no right time, there is certainly no perfect time. I decided that the time was now, and in fact, the time would be six weeks after returning from my travels. Little did I think I was about to set out on an even greater adventure, and this time round there would be no Lonely Planet to neatly signpost the challenges and highlights.

 The MBA adventure kicked off with an induction and team building week on the soggy grounds of the Smurfit campus. I imagined sharp suits and laptops but the wellies, rain jackets and blindfolds were the perfect leveller! Running around with buckets of water on what I can only describe as an adult sports day, I forged friendships that would endure long after the MBA chapter closed. There are so many more highlights since those first few days in Blackrock, and each of them, like the best adventures, were unexpected and unplanned!

 My Lonely Planet collection expanded more than I had anticipated during an MBA. Together with four colleagues, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal in Canada to represent Smurfit at the John Molson International MBA Case Competition. Next stop, the International Study Tour saw eighty MBAs travel to Japan and South Korea to learn about doing business in international markets and visit global corporate giants including KIA and Samsung. My MBA passport was stamped again when I travelled to the US to undertake a week long module in the Behavioural Science of Management with global MBAs at Yale University. Smurfit is a member of an international global MBA network which offers students the opportunity to attend a Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week at one of a number of partner business schools. International travel aside, there were so many more highlights – the class debates, the team presentations, the countless coffee breaks with your colleagues amid writing papers on GE, Coca Cola and Southwest Airlines, and the ‘odd’ beer down the Dark Horse to catch the Six Nations after class!

 The application process was straight forward. I applied online in mid-July with my CV, two letters of recommendation, my university transcripts and a short written application. At the same time I also scheduled my GMAT aptitude test for mid-August. My application was reviewed by the Board and I was called for an interview within two weeks. I interviewed with the MBA Director who assessed my suitability and rationale for pursuing the MBA. In parallel with the application process, I commenced study for the GMAT aptitude test. I received a conditional offer from Smurfit in early August pending a sufficient GMAT score. In mid-August I sat the GMAT and obtained the score I needed to get into Smurfit, and with that my MBA journey kicked off a little over two weeks later.

 A Chartered Engineer by background, prior to the MBA I had over seven years’ experience in the utility industry across asset development, trading, strategy and innovation. Since completing the MBA, I have taken up a new role as a Manager in Accenture’s Resources practice where I work with utility sector clients on strategy and transformation projects. The skills which I gained during the MBA from leadership and strategy execution to client consulting have proved invaluable as I navigate my new role.

 While I believe everyone sets out on the MBA in pursuit of their own personal goals, I will share a few of my reflections and insights. A substantial portion of the learning on the MBA is attained through working in teams with colleagues from varied backgrounds. Embrace the diversity and opportunity to explore diverging perspectives. There will be different styles, there will be conflicting views and there will be frustrations – be open to different approaches and use the opportunity to truly understand and test your own leadership style. The leadership development aspect of the MBA was one of the most enriching elements of the journey. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, go first, have a shot, challenge your self-perceptions – you are there to learn and to push boundaries – nothing grows in a comfort zone. Take time and make the effort to bond with your colleagues. Your colleagues soldier with you and support you every step of the way. The MBA network has been one of the biggest enduring benefits, and the value of being able to tap into the network you formed while at Smurfit is immeasurable.

 To those sitting on the fence procrastinating and considering if the time is now, take the leap and put in the application; there will never be a perfect time. To those who have already secured their place, you are about to embark on an incredible journey, it will challenge you on so many levels but you will grow in equal measure. Enjoy every step of the journey!

Catherine O’ Brien EMBA 2015/17

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“Ice to meet you – the Reykjavík files”-Global Business Environments Iceland Trip 2018

The international orientation is one of the outstanding draws for Smurfit School’s MBA programme. With global case study competitions, modules in other Global Network of Advanced Management schools and international study trips already in place, the previous year’s MBA class had gone to Iceland for the Global Business Environment module.

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That first visit was such a big success that our year had heard a great deal about it long before the email to enroll for it landed in our inbox during the first semester. Fast forward through the second semester and the exams, and we found ourselves back in a classroom in Blackrock with Prof. Karan Sonpar.

Besides being reminded how important it was that a strategy not only sounded good but had to be implementable, we focused on learning how to work more efficiently as a team. We were all experienced professionals, had worked with different study groups during the past year and had read a preparatory book on teamwork. So, huddled in our project groups, we were happy to tackle an exercise that left us pretending to be stranded in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash. And it quickly became obvious that nobody in the room was as seasoned a team player as they had undoubtedly believed. I, for one, would have died horribly following the fictitious accident, had I had to make the decisions by myself. But thanks to Paul’s real-life survival training and some quick and creative thinking from Monika, Freda and Darren, we made the right decisions and survived to our imaginary rescue.

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Back in real life, on a Sunday not long after, it was time to set out for Iceland. Upon arrival, a visit to the Port Festival in the fishing town of Grindavik and the famous (and stunning) Blue Lagoon put us in holiday mood. Too soon, Monday morning arrived and it was down to business. Taxis arrived for all the groups and we took off to meet our client, an Icelandic travel company, in person for the first time. Given our lack of consulting experience, we were unsure of how well our preparations and our call with the team of the Conference and Incentives Department at the company had equipped us. But as soon as we met the team on site, things started falling into place. Many questions were answered, some additional ones cropped up but, most importantly, an understanding of the company and their needs quickly evolved, and ideas for our deliverable of a marketing plan started to develop.

The three days we had with the company went by (too) quickly and we spent a long and tense Wednesday evening finalising our presentation. After a conversation with our academic adviser Prof. Eamonn Walsh had sparked improvements to our ideas, we needed to overhaul some of what we would talk about the next morning. While other teams were visibly in the same situation (the hotel lobby looked like an exam prep room), we really started to feel the pressure mounting with the time to our presentation seeping away faster and faster while we were fine-tuning how we would put our thoughts into visual queues.

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With Monika, one of the year’s marketing aces, in our group we were confident in our ideas, and we had certainly rehearsed enough to know that we were communicating our suggestions creatively and coherently. But as with everything involving an audience, it is impossible to know what everybody would think, and we were still slightly apprehensive going into the presentation. Fortunately, the client’s reaction was extremely positive and we felt the proverbial weight fall off our shoulders.

group-pic-a-kirsten-icp-1Group members: Paul Donnelly, Monika Ghita, Darren Yourell, Freda Mahon, Kirsten Dottermusch

The remainder of the day as well as our Friday tour of Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Strokkur Geyser felt like a holiday we desperately needed. However, what we embraced and appreciated most about the week was the practical opportunity the consulting project provided. Applying the knowledge that we had acquired during the first year, encountering the pitfalls we were so confident we would avoid but successfully finding solutions as a team when we did not, were significant and rewarding steps towards fulfilling the expectations and ambitions the course programme instills in us.

Kirsten Dottermusch, EMBA 2017/19

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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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