A Walk Down Memory Lane of Recent Irish Economic History

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Kevin Cardiff of the European Court of Auditors addresses the Dean’s Speaker Series

The Dean’s Speaker Series had another event last Wednesday when Kevin Cardiff of the European Court of Auditors and also Auditor of the European Stability Mechanism visited Smurfit School. The Dean, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh welcomed Mr. Cardiff to Smurfit. Mr. Cardiff is a decorated senior civil servant and regaled attendees with a detailed summary of economic history in recent decades, spanning the 1992 currency crisis and various iterations of the ERM up to the recent financial crisis of 2008 and beyond.

In a detailed address resembling memoirs, Mr. Cardiff described the tribulations of the 1992 currency crisis in fine detail – featuring newspaper clippings of the big events at the time including the days of major turmoil for Sterling and the Púnt, including the devaluation of the Púnt. He also touched on the advent of the Maastricht Treaty and the departure from the single currency of certain countries in its early days.

Black Wednesday

Mr. Cardiff described in detail the events of the 16th of September 1992, when the United Kingdom withdrew from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. What happened on this day was that Sterling had come under pressure from speculators who had begun a massive sell-off and the UK Government raised interest rates from an already high 10% to 12% with a promise that they would raise further to 15%, in a scenario that was unfolding by the hour. One of the causes of the acuteness of the crisis was the rules of the ERM, particularly that the Bank of England were required to accept any offer to sell Sterling.

The eventual advent of the European single currency was also addressed by Mr. Cardiff. He highlighted the widening of fluctuation bands via the Brussels Compromise of 1993 and Stages II and III of ERM, when mutual exchange rates between member currencies became fixed and the physical currency was introduced in the form of notes and coins.

Mr. Cardiff also gave a detailed review of the events of the financial crisis of 2008, including key developments in relation to the recapitalisation of financial institutions, which he also deals with in his book, “Recap”.

A short question and answer session followed Mr. Cardiff’s address, when the recent event of Brexit was noted and a discussion was had around the future for the European Union. All in all, the event was a thought-provoking and interesting perspective on recent economic history and food for thought in terms of what will happen next in the EU with respect to both regulatory developments and the overall structure of the Union.

Ciarán O’Shea ~ Year 2, Executive MBA

MBA Rugby World Cup 2017

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All great journeys start somewhere. In our case we started on a wet Wednesday night in early February on a triangle of waterlogged grass adjacent to the UCD all-weather pitches.  There was no room at the inn, we were forced to set up in the dimly lit corner stealing whatever light we could from the American football team training on the pristine surface just 10 metres to our left. We started off as the underdogs and remained so for the duration of this journey, just the way we like it.

The committee had first met the previous week to discuss the possibility of organising a team to attend the 37th MBA Rugby World Cup in Dansville, Virginia. Smurfit have attended the tournament for the past 18 years and we wanted to keep this tradition alive. We outlined the list of tasks we had ahead of us and set to work. It was no mean feat, we had 8 weeks to organise training facilities, a trainer, flights, accommodation, insurance, jerseys, corporate sponsorship and most importantly an actual team.

One of the major turning points and key to our success was the introduction of our Head Coach David “Manners” Mahon. Not much was known about him at the time, although there was a rumour he once fought superman and the loser had to wear his underwear over his pants. He managed to transform us from a bunch of misfits (half of whom had never played rugby before) into a well-oiled try scoring machine. We trained hard for 8 weeks and unfortunately, due to the intensive regime Manners insisted on, we lost a few soldiers along the way, ending up with a bare contingent of 15 lads and 7 ladies travelling.

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With much blood, sweat and tears shed by the committee in getting the logistics in order, the day of departure arrived and we all set off for Danville, Virginia (some arrived sooner than others due to a storm over New York). Upon arrival we discovered we were sharing a hotel with the Harvard team which allowed great networking opportunities (the balanced scorecard was a popular topic of discussion to break up those awkward shared elevator journeys).

The tournament’s first game on Saturday saw the men’s team face SMU from Texas in a riveting contest. We demonstrated our dominance early when Cameron Kenny, who ate the hotel out of weetabix earlier that morning, decided to take on the SMU team himself and ran over for an early try. Dazzling footwork from full back Craig ”Joey Carbery” Kennedy led to two more tries which finished the game early. Our next opponents were Columbia Business School, where man of the match Kevin Lynam took the ball and barged past three stunned Columbia forwards to get us on the scoreboard early. Tries from Darragh ”Biceps” O’Neill and Eoghan “Stringer” Cudmore closed out the game and we marched on to face Wharton in our final game of the day. This was a tougher contest but we prevailed in the end through excellent forward play from the impassable trio of Jan Ullman, David Camp and Colin Dunne. We finished the group stages top seed with an impressive tally of 28 tries.

The newly formed women’s team had a rocky start losing their first touch rugby game to London Business school (A) who allegedly had 76 substitutes, which they used after every try. However, nothing like a defeat to ignite a spark and something happened in that post-game huddle that inspired the ladies to go on and win their next three games against Wharton, LBS B and Columbia. Talk of the first day was a try scored by Smurfit Ladies Captain Ciara Keane, getting the ball in her own half she weaved her way in and out of the Columbia defence to cross the line untouched to win the game in the dying seconds. Some compared it to the magic once conjured by a young Brian O’Driscoll. Incredible skills were demonstrated by all with some impressive team tries including an amazing diving touch by Lyn Markey. The ladies day finished with a tense drop-off game against LBS B that saw Smurfit emerge victorious after a well-rehearsed switch pass between Ciara Keane and Mary Sheehan opened up space on the wing to allow Sheehan touch down in the corner. A job well done by both teams. With sore bodies and big smiles we headed to the Danville farmers market for a BBQ and networking event with the other schools.

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We awoke Sunday morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to prepare for our quarter finals.

The men’s team had drawn Wharton, a formidable Ivy league school from Philadelphia. We had a slow start to this game but true leaders, in the form of Leigh Carr and Niall Gallagher, emerged to score excellent individual tries to see us through to the semi-final. The ladies faced Yale in their quarter final, they scored three amazing team tries with Micaela Connery Maria Barry and Lyn Markey touching down. The men now faced their biggest challenge yet matching Harvard in the semi-final. At this stage our bare panel of 15 began to take its toll and we were reduced to 13 men through injury. Exceptional defensive work from Cathal Murphy and Will Sheahan was unfortunately not enough to keep the pocket protector wearing Bostonians out. We crashed out of the competition coming 3rd overall out of 16 teams, always the underdog.

The ladies breezed through their semi-final, with an exceptional defensive display from Kerry McLaverty, to find themselves in the MBA World Cup Final against their initial defeaters LBS A. I caught a whisper of Manner’s pre-final speech, it sounded somewhat familiar, something about “inches” and “Healing as a team or dying as individuals”,  whatever it was it worked. With the sun shining down and tri-colours out in force the final began. It was a tight contest Mary Sheehan showed her resolve and came close to running over for the Irish. Alas, even great defence from Michelle McEvoy wasn’t enough to keep the Londoners out. LBS used their 76 substitutes to great effect and in the end, the fresh legs made all the difference with Smurfit having to settle for 2nd place. An incredible achievement for a group of ladies assembled hours before the tournament. What they achieved will go down in history as one of the greatest David vs Goliath stories the tournament has ever seen.

The weekend was truly an amazing experience and the committee would like to thank all of the students who travelled. You have done both your school and country proud. We would like to sincerely thank all our sponsors, especially Sinnotts Bar and Newstalk, without your generous assistance none of this would have been possible. A special thanks must also go to Orla and Zoe in the MBA programme office and everyone who attended our fundraising events, your support helped make the trip an overwhelming success.

However, the journey does not end here, both Men’s and Ladies teams have unfinished business left on that field in the woods of Virginia. The only thing that stopped both teams was a lack of resources, an issue we have plans to address. Luckily most of the team are undertaking the Executive MBA, meaning we have one more year to make things right and get Smurfit back to where it should be, Number 1.

I will finish with the words of a well-loved Irish Poet :

We’re not here to take part…We’re here to take over

Brendan Staunton, Year 1 Executive MBA

The Entrepreneurship Club

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One could argue that the main draw each Wednesday evening was the fine canapes and wine; but with over 1400 man hours of discussions and learning about entrepreneurship that were enabled this semester, the bait wasn’t really needed but was much appreciated.

The opportunity to get a first-hand interpretation of experiences from industry stalwarts, serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business gurus and a class of peers with a common hunger to solve a problem, any problem, has been truly beneficial.

The UCD Entrepreneurship Series, brought to fruition by The UCD College of Business and The Smurfit MBA Entrepreneurship Club, has been a successful collaboration under the stewardship of the Entrepreneur in Residence Majella Murphy and the MBA students. The legacy of which we hope continues into the future.

This year we saw the journey of UCD alumni, as they tackled the highs and lows of setting up their own establishments and heard their account of navigating the often-misunderstood entrepreneurial landscape. From idea generation, problem resolution to monetization, the forum has not only dealt with the necessary guidelines and tools but also efficaciously highlighted the bravado of the human spirit.

Two of the events gained substantial fame, the first was the visit of Patrick McGuinness and the latter comprised of a panel of Venture capitalists. Not surprisingly though, since two of the greatest fears before pursuing down this route seem to be the risk and raising finance. Patrick, the man behind the phrase FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, spoke of transitioning into entrepreneurship through a 10% approach (time, energy and funds) while the Venture Capital event dismissed several urban legends that we all perceived existed in the game.

Some of us came into the MBA with entrepreneurship experience and others came in with entrepreneurial ambitions, but rest assured most of us now have the aspiration to pursue our own path someday soon.

Entrepreneur. Chart with keywords and icons
Entrepreneur. Chart with keywords and icons

Schedule of events

From UCD Smurfit to Startup CEO

Journeys from UCD Smurfit to Startup CEOs.

  • Lukas Decker (Coindrum)
  • Ronan Byrne (Clearsight Innovations)
  • Stephen Quinn (Jobbio)

Their personal journey, the hows and whys, the choices and sacrifices, the highs and lows.

Inside the Incubator @ GEC

Insight into the Guinness Enterprise Centre, their offerings, introduction to current start-ups residing there and the opportunities to get involved.

Social Enterprise Scaling – CoderDojo

Bill Liao, CoderDojo’s first angel investor, as he recounts the story of the rapid global growth of their movement.

Unspoken Lessons from Failure

“It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”.

The 10% Entrepreneur

Choosing between the stability of a traditional career and the freedom of entrepreneurship?

Inspiring Creativity & Innovation @ Google

How does Google manage to generate, create, innovate and launch new products and services in an endless flow?

The Best Source of Funding Depends on…

“The best source of funding depends on where the company is at in their journey, what their needs are and the terms on the table for any particular deal.”

Hear three of Ireland’s leading and most respected Venture Capitalists and Advisors:

  • Brian Caulfield
  • John O’Sullivan
  • Michael Culligan

Joined by two entrepreneurs:

  • Neal O’Gorman (Artomatix)
  • Myles Murray (PMD Solutions)

Innovation – Accenture-style

With the launch of their Centre for Innovation, “The Dock”, hot off the press, what is Accenture’s strategy and structure around Innovation and what role does The Dock play in that?

Join Eva Maguire, designer of the internal innovation ecosystem at The Dock, to find out how they plan to make it work! 

Social Entrepreneurship: A Serious Consideration

Have you ever considered that a social enterprise may not be much different from a commercial one?

  • Emma Walshe (COO Foodcloud)
  • Kate Dobbyn (MD Seachange Foundation)
  • Sinead McCool (Enactus Ireland)
  • Gain insight into what pursuing a social enterprise entails.

Real examples of what it takes to be successful, the challenges, the supports available and how sustainability can be achieved.

BREXIT: Opportunity or Threat for Irish Entrepreneurs?

“Turning the challenge of Brexit into an opportunity: How are entrepreneurs and their representative bodies preparing for Brexit?”

A stellar panel of entrepreneurs and senior representatives from government bodies for an insightful discussion on the impact Brexit, how and what contingencies have been developed, and what the government and the entrepreneurial representative and support bodies are doing to assist with the impact it will have on the entrepreneurial community in Ireland

  • Donal Hayes, Director, Tipperary Cheese
  • Paul Byrne, CEO, Currency Fair
  • Eamonn Molloy, Assistant Secretary, Britain & NI Affairs Section, Department of the Taoiseach
  • John McGrane, Director General, British Irish Chamber of Commerce
  • Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager, Financial Services & BPO, Enterprise Ireland

To find out more about the Smurfit MBA and various MBA Clubs, click here.

Road to the World Cup

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How many people get the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Not many. How many people would like the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Everybody you would imagine? Surprisingly that is not the case. Apparently many are only interested if it’s an all-expenses paid free ride.

This year we were much later getting started than the groups of other years. This was probably due to each of us waiting for someone more experienced than ourselves to take charge. Eventually, fearing that it would not go ahead at all I decided to have a go at getting it started. This was quite successful, 9 likeminded MBA students attended the first meeting with the collective goal of getting to Duke. We formed a committee and ran through a basic outline of tasks that were critical to success. These were focused on two main streams: fundraising and training. We knew we needed MSc students for not only numbers but also for skills. We quickly held meetings with those interested to get them on board.

As January drew to a close we were acutely aware of the need to get training immediately. This presented two main challenges. The first was finding an experienced coach to train us and the second was finding a rugby pitch to train on. We interviewed Warren Gatland but he said he was too busy preparing for the Lions tour and Joe Schmidt said he was fully committed to Ireland setup. Luckily we secured the services of David Mannion (Current Monkstown & Ex Leinster Juniors Coach). Securing a pitch was more difficult. Unfortunately we were told categorically by the IRFU that the Aviva was off limits until the summer and the GAA told us no more rugby would be played in Croke Park unless the World Cup 2023 bid was successful. We looked closer to home. We were denied a spot in Belfield due to the high volume of activity on the pitches including believe it or not American Football. Fortunately, through our coach we secured the use of Monkstown’s ground for training.

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Obviously sending a team to the U.S. is not cheap. There is the cost of flights, accommodation, transfers, insurance, tournament entry, jerseys, medical equipment, food amongst other things. Fundraising is key to the success of it all. The earlier you start, the easier it will be. It’s certainly not an easy task. Begging people, even Alumni, for money is a challenge in itself. It’s even harder when they say no. Although you are asking on behalf of the college it is still quite difficult not to take the rejection personally. Nevertheless, you must pick yourself up and ask again. We are hugely grateful to all of our sponsors, particularly Sinnotts Bar for being our main sponsor, they backed us early when finances were looking bleak. Without them we would almost certainly not be going.

We also held a table quiz. We hit up our family, friends and classmates to dig deep into their pockets and back us financially. The response was overwhelmingly brilliant. People came in their droves and the venue was packed to the rafters. It’s great to see that those who know us believe in us.

We made it crystal clear from the beginning that players would need to cover their own flights. Although this was not the ideal situation, it was useful for separating out those who were serious about competing and those who were just looking for a free ride. This was tested further when it came to paying for the flights where more people dropped out. Thankfully we had a core group that believed in one another and in our ability to get this off the ground and they all committed their money. I believe the group is stronger because of this and we know that those who have committed are serious.

With less than a week remaining until the tournament, now our focus is on player management, specifically how we will need to be smart to try and avoid injuries and keep our composure whilst playing numerous games in the heat. Hopefully the next blog I write will be telling positive tales of the tournament. A ferocious amount of work has been done by everybody to get us this far. Please wish both teams (men’s and women’s) well.

Cathal Murphy ~ Full-Time MBA

The Icing on the Cake

 

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Tokyo, Japan

After a grueling first semester and when it again began to look all too busy in the second half of the MBA, there came this opportunity to travel down to the Asian giants – Japan and South Korea. The experience could not have been more insightful had it not been earned from within their courtyards. It was time to unleash how Japan has been the front-runner in giving leading technologies, manufacturing methods and services across the globe. It was time again to get acquainted to how South Korea, after having gone through such a tortured past amidst the hostility of North Korea, picked up itself in becoming a leader in telecommunications, electronics and auto-mobile industry. Finally, the pleasant wait was over when the MBA caravan landed in Tokyo on March 12th.

The build-up to this trip was such that some students reached Dublin airport long before the departure. Although the journey took more than a day to reach with jet-lag started playing its role in disturbing our sleep cycles, there was no dearth of enthusiasm in the MBA cohort. Tiresome flight, sleepy eyes and even a bad stomach could not deter me to dwell out on the streets of Shinjuku on the first night. As I had lived in Japan 4 years back, it made this trip even more nostalgic personally and relevant to my travel diary.

Imperial Palace Tokyo
Imperial Palace Tokyo

The formal itinerary commenced with three guest lecturers speaking at large on Japanese business ethics, bureaucracy, the national politics, and how they managed to live a satisfying life in Japan though they were all from much more liberal and free societies. I found the words from Mr Michael Cucek, one of the speakers, extremely insightful in uncovering how Japanese politics thrives and it was very surprising to know that political families have been at the forefront in shaping the politics in Japan. The next event at NTT DoCoMo R&D centre was no less than looking in the near future as they showed some of their revolutionizing prototypes. It would be unfulfilling not to mention the dinner at “Gonpachi” restaurant. Though I don’t have a great taste for fish, I must admit I absolutely loved their salmon. For those who doubted the Japanese style of partying, they had a shout out at the Karaoke later.

View from The Observatory, Shinjuku, Tokyo
View from The Observatory, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Time to fly across to the neighbouring South Korea.

The very first impression I made of South Koreans was that they were a bit more relaxed and flexible than the conservative Japanese. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic with bright sunshine during the next three days which was quite unusual according to our tour guides, Grace and Jenny. Being an ardent lover of cars, I particularly looked forward to visiting KIA Motors. KIA had recently announced to start manufacturing in India and luckily, I got a good 5 minutes’ chat with the presenter conversing on the same topic. I don’t think I would have ever got this opportunity to hear directly from KIA’s official. Thanks to this trip!

Night Market in Myeongdong
Night Market in Myeongdong

The itinerary was so tightly packed that people would have taken some 3-4 days of good rest to recover back to the Dublin time zone. Here, I would like to make a specific mention to Mr Karan Sonpar who selected the destinations for this trip, Ms Avril Donohue and Legacy Ventures for organising and making this week memorable. Of course, the tour guides in Tokyo and Seoul also as they were outstanding in terms of the depth of knowledge they had about the respective countries.

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Samsung Innovation Museum, South Korea

It was hard to condense down the scintillating week into limited words, but words would never be enough to express this great time that we, the Smurift ambassadors, had across the Pacific. This was truly the icing on the cake!

Vishal Sharma ~ Full-Time MBA

Japan Will Challenge Everyone’s Perspective

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The Orient sparks my imagination. It is just two days until we depart for Japan and South Korea on our MBA international Study Tour. The number of assignments due before our flights is stacked – my team works day-by-day prioritizing which fires to fight – yet each time we submit a report or presentation my excitement builds. Of all the countries in Asia, Japan captures my imagination the most: a high-tech world melted into politeness and respect of their past. The kid in me yearns for the latest Nintendo Switch, the engineer in me longs to travel the bullet train over its flat seismic terrain, while the adult foodie in me craves everything on offer! But if I’m honest – we only have two days and three nights in Tokyo before we fly to South Korea. I am a man who focuses on his priorities – my inner Anthony Bourdain wins breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Tokyo
Tokyo

In Dublin – we don’t have the bullet train – we have the Dorsh! Our green train with its loyal base of daily commuters is one of Ireland’s greatest public transport success stories. And, yes we do have some! Our Dart snakes up and down Dublin Bay where the views can simply make your day, but it’s nowhere near as memorable as the Dub’s quick wit overheard on the Dart. I was delighted to discover that our first field trip in Tokyo is to J-Trec: the manufacturer of our lovely DART. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about manufacturing processes in a heavy industry, the Japanese productivity philosophy and (fingers crossed) high-speed trains. In between our field trips, my class and I hope to experience as much Japanese culture as possible: the sights, the sounds and sheer culture differences that stop you dead in your tracks.

Myeongdong, Seoul
Myeongdong, Seoul

The focus of my MBA journey is not to be railroaded by the desire to purely amass textbook knowledge. It is about learning from my classmates’ different perspectives, the challenges they place on you to justify your idea or opinion – there is no better group to call a spade a spade – and the opportunities to improve your soft skills and behaviors to grow as a leader. Yet I have this gut-feeling Japan will challenge everyone’s perspective.

Shane Mc Carthy ~ Full-Time MBA

UCD Smurfit MBAs go to Tokyo & Seoul

Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul
Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul

On March 11th, 70 MBA students will depart for the annual Smurfit MBA International Study Tour. This year, for the first time, we will be visiting Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. The Study Tour encourages participants to immerse themselves in the business environment of these unique countries by taking them on an intensive exploration of local business practices, challenges and cultures, using company visits as the ideal setting for practical learning. It combines a variety of high-level company visits, presentations and panel discussions from leading executives, government officials and entrepreneurs, all relevant to the core management disciplines being studied on the ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ MBA module.

Harajuku, Tokyo
Harajuku, Tokyo

Along with the academic aspect of this module, there are three main outcomes that we aim to achieve throughout the week-long Study Tour:

Career Development: To develop a deeper understanding of doing business in an international context and an opportunity to network with senior executives from various backgrounds.

Skills Development: Practical exposure to innovative business case studies relevant to the core courses studied and enhance team working skills through group challenges.

Personal Development: An intensive social networking opportunity. Build strong relationships. Challenging experience – “get you out of your comfort zone”.

Asakusa Temples, Tokyo
Asakusa Temples, Tokyo

There is a strong networking and social element to the Study Tour and we have lots of exciting adventures lined up; dinner in the ‘Kill Bill Restaurant’ in Tokyo, visits to Harajuku, Takeshita Street, Asakusa temples, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok village and National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

The students will be joined by Professor Karan Sonpar, Professor Pat Gibbons, Roisin O’Loughlin (UCD Smurfit), Lyndon Worrall (Legacy Ventures) and myself. Keep an eye on the MBA Blog next month to hear how we get on in Tokyo and Seoul!

Click here find out more about the Smurfit MBA.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

The Clark’s Sandwich – a comforting constant in a hectic MBA week

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I find myself in week four of the second semester of my 1-year full-time MBA. The weeks just fly by and one week does not resemble the next. With three electives on top of my core modules, I run from one thing to the next: I jump on a video conference with our Yale counterparts to manage a virtual plant as part of our Supply Chain module; try to negotiate a good deal to buy a new biotech manufacturing site in my negotiations elective; am torn between Friedman and Mackey on the purpose of business in my Business Ethics class; come up with a business model for a new venture in Entrepreneurship; juggle fixed, variable, direct and indirect costs in Management Accounting; create a ‘Elena 2030’ vision with my executive coach; take a breath and literally run to the next thing.

And yet, there is a comforting constant in the hectic MBA week. Every day, at 1.30pm on the dot, the door to the MBA room opens and ten very excited (mostly male) MBA students cannot wait for the highlight of their day: the sandwich and soup deal from the Deli around the corner. I have to admit that I do sometimes join in because you cannot beat a good sandwich for lunch – may my sourdough-loving German ancestors forgive me. The comforting thing about it is, however, not so much the sandwich itself (and the obligatory basil and tomato soup), it is the fact that no matter if you buy a sandwich, bring your own lunch or just enjoy a coffee after eating in the cafeteria – every day you get to spend a peaceful 30 minutes in the MBA room with a mix of interesting, genuinely nice people who always have a good story to tell.

An MBA is an intense experience and it is a tough and sometimes scary decision to leave a great job to go back to being a full-time student for a year. Building on what Cathal wrote in his blog entry below (check it out, well worth reading!), what makes this year a lot easier and very enjoyable is the people you get to spend it with. In Germany we say ‘geteilte Freude ist doppelte Freude, geteilter Schmerz ist halber Schmerz’, which translates to ‘shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is halved sorrow’. This definitely applies to an MBA. To make it a little less dramatic, let’s replace sorrow with stress. Sharing this experience with a great group of people is definitely double the fun and half the stress!

Elena Nock ~ Full-Time MBA

Celebrating Lunar New Year in Dublin

Vietnamese Student Body

On February 2nd 2017, our Vietnamese study body organised a warm celebration of Lunar New Year with international students, Irish families with adopted Vietnamese children and members of the Vietnamese community in Dublin.

Lunar New Year is a very meaningful occasion for many Asian countries such as China, Korea and Vietnam, etc. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is called Tet, which means the ‘feast of the first morning of the first day’. Tet is an important occasion for family reunions, when we cherish the success of past year, let the troubles go and look forward to happiness, success and good fortune in the upcoming year.

Quiz contest about Vietnam’s facts
Quiz contest about Vietnam’s facts

As an organising member, I was glad to see many international students interested in the event. We welcomed over 300 guests despite the heavy rain over the whole day. All the efforts spent over the last 3 months seemed to be rewarding when we engaged with participants through traditional games, when international students enjoyed and took pictures in our traditional dresses or when they attentively watched the performances. Looking back, I was reluctant to take the role as Event Director due to a heavy schedule in the first semester and unfamiliar study environment. But now I felt all the experience I had was such a great one. There were moments of tension the ‘ brain-storming’ stage, yet we had gone a long way to learn how to be flexible in our plan, to be appreciative of each other’s ideas, to give more than to take and to put ourselves forward.

Myself in ‘ao dai’ - traditional dress
Myself in ‘ao dai’ – traditional dress

When I first landed in Dublin 4 months ago, I was impressed by a small little thing – signage. All are written in English and Gaelic. Although nowadays, Gaelic is becoming less popular among young people, the presence of Gaelic in almost all public areas is such a great reservation of culture and traditions. Recent years in my home country have seen debate over whether Lunar New Year should be combined with New Year holiday in the Gregorian calendar. Advocates would point to economic loss and overspending during such a long holiday. For me, I still hope that every year we will still celebrate Lunar New Year and that our people will never lose tradition because of a so-called cost-benefit analysis. Simply, globalization and revolution are not to be carried out at the expense of intrinsic values. 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

 Khanh Nguyen ~ Full-Time MBA

MBA: Mediocre But Arrogant?

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When I first told a good friend that I was going to do an MBA he responded, in true Irish fashion, by swiftly cutting me down to size. He responded by saying “Why would you bother? You do know it stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, don’t you?” As much as I knew that this wasn’t the generally accepted view of an MBA, I could not get the idea out of my head during both the application process and the run up to the start of term 1. I had a genuine fear that the class would be full of cutthroat, pompous narcissists. Thankfully, after a few weeks I could say that our very diverse class (73% of which are international students) was certainly not arrogant but instead a very down to earth one that quickly gelled into a close-knit unit. This was critical in putting me at ease about the year ahead.

The fact that I am a constant worrier meant that it was not long before my focus moved to the Mediocre part of the phrase. Did we lack arrogance because we had no reason to think highly of ourselves? Were we inferior to those that attend the top ranked business schools such as those of the Ivy League, LBS, IE etc.? Was Smurfit only able to attract mediocre candidates? After all you don’t need to be in the 700 (GMAT) club to gain entry. I was scheduled to go to Yale in mid-October for the GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) Global Immersion Week so I knew that would be a good opportunity to gauge the abilities of our school against some of the schools that are perceived to be the finest in the world.

The Yale trip was a fantastic opportunity. The chance to briefly attend an institution that is known across the globe and is synonymous with excellence was an honour. Upon arrival it didn’t take long to realise that many of these students had an air of arrogance about them but more importantly it did not take long to realise that we were every bit as good as them. I’d go so far as to say we were better than the majority of them and we were far more craic. Being able to see this comparison really reassured me about my decision to choose Smurfit. The fact that I didn’t feel the need to sell my kidneys to cover the considerably lower tuition fees was an added bonus.

Ok so now that we know that the Smurfiteers are as good as any MBA students, maybe it is that all MBA students are mediocre? I guess this really comes down to the perception of what an MBA graduate is. Some people who enter an MBA programme do it because they believe that companies will be lining up at the finish to throw money at them. Anybody with an ounce of sense knows that this will never happen. So why is it that certain hirers believe that by taking on an MBA graduate they are getting some super human that will revolutionize their business? If people think like this then they might think that MBAs are mediocre. Maybe that is how the rumour started.

The truth is that an MBA will not revolutionize you. How could it? Does any other degree work such magic? Of course not. What an MBA will do is equip you with a vast array of skills across many disciplines. These will not make you a subject matter expert but they will give you an edge in whatever field you choose to work. You may not use these skills immediately but at some stage I’m sure that they will be invaluable. You will only be mediocre if you do not commit to the programme and do not soak everything in.

Cathal Murphy ~ Full-Time MBA