Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost half way through our first semester but you know what they say, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’! The last few weeks have been intense to say the least. From written assignments to numerous presentations, it seems like there is something due for submission every day.

On Monday, we completed our first module – Business & Society. This was an eventful class with every session very different from the next. One day we were discussing blood diamonds and on another the ethics within FIFA.

We’ve had a couple of interesting and interactive sessions as part of our leadership development programme. Most notable, was Daniel Porot’s full day event which provided a very unique look at job search strategies and the unsolicited approach to job hunting. He also highlighted how easily you can build your network by simply talking to your peers. I think most of us left the session with a very different mindset than when we went in. This week we have a networking event with Brian Marrinan who was so eager to talk to us, he even came in a day early!

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Thursday marks our final financial reporting class with Niamh Brennan. It has been a very demanding module that has helped us realise that accounting is not black and white – it’s grey, grey, grey! Although we will miss Niamh’s 8.30am lectures, we all eagerly anticipate her end of module exam in a couple of weeks (if you’re reading Niamh, be nice 😊).

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It’s not all work though. Next week we embark on the GNAM programme, which we are all really looking forward to. Many of our class will be travelling to different universities all around the world while some have chosen to remain in UCD. Technology, food and culture are on the menu for those who stay in Dublin, welcoming many international students to the city and the Blackrock campus. Along with five classmates, I’m very excited to be travelling to Yale SOM where we will study the behavioural science of management. To make sure we don’t think we’re on holiday, Yale have been very kind to send us on several advanced readings.

Our MBA class has a wonderful mix of personalities which makes all the early mornings and late nights worthwhile. Six weeks in and it feels like I’ve known everyone for six years! I don’t know if that’s because we’ve spent so many hours together, or the constant alert from all our WhatsApp groups! Seriously though, with the weeks going by so quickly – don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

Karl McEntegart, Full-Time MBA 2017/2018

A Roller Coaster Ride

Aaannddd… We are into week 6. It seems like a year already! As I sit to pen down my thoughts about this roller coaster ride, I can’t help but ponder a question: Did I make the right decision by pursuing an MBA? The first thought that crosses my mind is, indeed! The journey so far has been a perfect blend of surprises, reality checks, setting goals, broadening horizons and what not. I have really been surprised by how quickly my perspective has changed. Be it at school or at home, our topics of discussion have changed from petty personal issues to deciding companies’ strategies. The house of 4 ambitious MBA aspirants living together has turned into a battlefield these days, or maybe a BBC discussion forum (*sigh*)!!!

The journey began with Foundation Week, allowing me to put faces to names I had known for over a month. It was a hectic week. Though, I did enjoy losing millions in the business simulation. Boy, I would have been behind bars if I was running a real business that way. Fintan Ryan, the mover-and-shaker, introduced us to our study groups, which we saw changing into teams.

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In week 2, I was recovering from the trauma of an intense and demanding Foundation Week. I was hoping that life would now get simpler. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come. While financial reporting continued to haunt us, Competitive Strategy made me realize that if I were to be a CEO of a company, it would definitely go bankrupt in a couple of hours. The Eureka moment- “marketing is certainly not my cup of tea!” The week ended with Friday night dinner followed by endless dancing at Sams Bar only to find my legs crumbling the next morning. Woaahh!!! Let’s plan the next party soon.

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The next two weeks were all about completing assignments, chasing deadlines and delivering presentations.

“Presentation”, this word freaks me out. Paul Slattery to the rescue. The class cannot thank him enough for his inputs and feedback on our presentation skills. We all agree that our presentation skills have developed by leaps and bounds.

By now, we started chasing (more like bugging) Zoe for the extra-curricular clubs. Oh, and how can I forget the session with Brian McIvor who made us introspect about our strengths, weaknesses, transferable skills, personality traits and our values.

I glanced at the timetable once again for week 5 and it looked like an easy going week. Reality-check!, “Easy going life in MBA” is the best oxymoron after “Happily Married Man”! The week completely drained our energy; Comparing Accounting Policies of 5 companies and UFO Moviez case-study being the main culprits. For heaven’s sake, why can’t companies keep their balance sheets clean so that I can have my sleep? I slept for 14 hours this Saturday in order to revitalize myself.

I experienced the essence of what diversity brings to the table through my study group. At one end, it has a novice like me, who is all over the place, and on the other end, it has some really organized people. Their attitude has inspired me to plan things well and to keep myself organized. However, it is a continuous process and will take time. I keep trying though.

Fintan Ryan strikes back with yet another mind-boggling session of team building, facilitating the feedback barter in our team. We have retained our values; however, we have defined new goals and challenged ourselves to take up roles we are not comfortable with, to emerge as a stronger team than before. More than understanding the subject, we are trying to understand each other’s perspective in every assignment we do. From being the best team in the presentation skills class to scoring a C in our competitive strategy assignment, we have experienced it all. Yet, we continue to strive for excellence.

While we all start the 6th week of this exhilarating journey with assignments continuing to create chaos in our lives, we are revitalized by careers consultant Daniel Porot. Daniel comes with a bag full of witty strategies for job hunting, negotiations and networking, having an impactful presence and a whole lot of it. He has made sure that we hit the bull’s eye in choosing our careers. Our financial reporting course is finishing soon and we are gearing up to prepare ourselves for the Corporate Finance course.

I look forward to the GNAM week later this month after which I have to balance both sides of the balance sheet in the Financial Reporting exam.

As I draft the concluding paragraph of my experience at Smurfit, I share a mixed feeling of excitement and anxiety, enthusiasm and apprehension, euphoria and melancholy. More often than not, I miss home. Fortunately, I have really amazing flat-mates who are also my classmates. In them, I find a family away from home (more because they cook delicious food!!! And I am always hungry :-p). Dublin has been treating me well so far. While I write this ending note, my mobile beeps and a message flashes up- “Halloween Party is on!” Let’s scare the ghost of  the MBA. See you guys at the Halloween party.

 

Dhananjay Bairagi, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

 

 

 

 

Team Coaching

“You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?”

                                                                                            — The Breakfast Club

 

It’s hard to believe that just one month ago we were enjoying a fun day of team building exercises that required leadership, teamwork, logic and patience. On this day, we were introduced to our Semester 1 study groups for the first time. Each group drew up a team charter, to clarify direction and common goals, while establishing boundaries. My team found no significant commonalities amid ourselves, yet we took immediate comfort in our differences, instantly recognising that they made us stronger. Like every study group, we are diverse, with not only distinct career experience, but also different nationalities; Irish, Canadian, Vietnamese and Indian. My team came from unique industries; from program management to teaching to technology management to marketing. We now have four approaches to business administration, four flavours of strategy, four perceptions, and the chance to see each challenge from four distinct angles. Nevertheless, in time all great teams will face hurdles.

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Fast-forward 30 days, and we participated in a team coaching session at the Talbot Hotel. Since our team work is continuous throughout the year, it was important to debrief using a lessons-learned approach. Each team had the benefit of a coach to facilitate the afternoon session. We were provided with the opportunity to discuss openly as a team what we feel our issues have been, and then had the chance for one-on-ones with each team member to discuss what went wrong, what went right, what may be improved, and ways the improvements can be made. It was interesting to hear my teammates’ first impressions of me. The team coaching session helped us identify ways to improve our time management and teamwork efficiency. It was the perfect opportunity to reflect over the first month and recognise mistakes, errors, and failures, and make any necessary adjustments to our team charter.

Now that we have a better understanding of our colleagues’ individual strengths, weaknesses and personality types, it will be interesting to see how we evolve from here!

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The days are long, and the years are short. After several 12 hour days at Smurfit, numerous hours spent in the syndicate rooms (for which we all received warning emails for overbooking!), social events, and communication outside of school hours, it feels like we’ve known each for months! With the close-knit nature of the program, I think it’s obvious to us all, that many life-long friendships are developing, and I’m looking forward to the countless adventures we will experience together throughout the year!

 

Laura Cunningham, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

Rosheen McGuckian Presentation: “Changing NTR Through Adversity”

I have earned my MBA one month after the start of the first semester. No really, I have… In my mind at least!

The “masterclass” delivered by Rosheen McGuckian, CEO of NTR, was all eight modules rolled into one. (Ok, an MBA requires you to do more than 8 modules, but what do I know, this is only my first semester!) She was all eight modules compacted into a single glass, drank up in one gulp that delivered an immediate kick to the centre of my brain. It was corporate governance, strategy, financial reporting, business ethics and more wrapped up in one honest, authentic, thought-provoking one-hour session.

In those 60 minutes, a good number of case studies and countless class hours came together in my mind like numerous puzzle pieces joining into one big picture as she recounted her business management journey.  How what started as a seemingly great strategy, gave way to a very difficult ride. Then dealing with the opposition that arose from that. The passage to adaptation, the investment in change, making hard decisions, the place for personal reflection and ultimately, turnaround and business success.  I was surprised, incensed, inspired, provoked, appeased, disappointed, hopeful, fearful and educated. She muddied my mind and then offered clarity and wisdom in such a simple, practical and real way. She was nothing short of everything and anything that the real business world is.

I took this MBA course because I am looking to enter the competitive business world and Rosheen McGuckian was my MBA experience personified. So indeed, after meeting her, I do feel like I earned my MBA. In the very least, a good part of it! I simply cannot wait to see which speaker I get to engage with next.

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Elizabeth Kiathe, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

A Professional Connection Built on the Global Network

Recently, Workday, the U.S.-based human and financial capital resources company, was expanding its global footprint and needed to build out its talent in Dublin. Nathaniel Hundt, a 2013 graduate of Yale SOM, and a business development analyst at the company, was looking for someone with on-the-ground knowledge to help execute a new product.

“We were building a new product for our customers, which are all over the world, and our design process emphasised going out and talking to folks that don’t live in the U.S. to help source ideas and gain empathy. Our development process was similarly global,” Hundt says. “So I thought back to my experience with the Yale Global Network for Advanced Management. Can I use the network to find another connection for an open position at Workday?”

Hundt was shaped by his Global Network experience. He was at Yale when the network was founded in 2012, and was among the first students to participate in Global Network Week, then known as Immersion Week. He travelled to Koç University in Turkey, an experience that showed him the value of being exposed to diverse ideas and cultural approaches.

“What’s happening in one part of the world is definitely impacting what’s happening in another part of the world,” he says. “I think of it like inputs: the more access you have to these information inputs, the more access you can get to better solutions.”

Fast-forward to Hundt’s time at Workday, a provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. He contacted UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School’s careers department. That’s when he learned about Cian Collins, who was getting his MBA, and was already interested in the position at Workday.

The two got together over breakfast in 2015. It turned out that Collins, a 2015 graduate of Smurfit who had worked at Twitter, had also been shaped by the Global Network—and by Yale SOM. In 2015, he travelled to Yale to participate in the student-run Integrated Leadership Case Competition alongside students throughout the network.

Collins and his team prepared on weekends for months leading up to the competition, and took home the best team dynamics award. “The competition was an amazing experience, and I was thrilled to have won that award but never expected what it could lead to,” Collins says. “It was invaluable meeting Nate, and I never would’ve done that without that connection.”

Collins was a strong Workday candidate—he had global experience and had worked for Twitter as the social media giant was expanding its operations. But their shared experience through the Global Network is what helped Collins and Hundt bond.

“He thought highly of that experience and that stood out to me,” Hundt says.

That encounter led Hundt to recommend that the company hire Collins. Now Collins works as a product manager at Workday, developing HR tools that allow managers in different countries to find the tools necessary to employ foreign workers.

“When he’s seen opportunities, he’s alerted me to them,” Collins says. “We’ve built a friendship from a shared connection. While we work on different teams, we help out each other.”

For Hundt, the experience reinforced the value of his Global Network experience. As leaders learn more about different cultural approaches and make new global connections, he says, they only stand to benefit.

“It helped me develop my global exposure, and it definitely has taught me that my work life is an important part of who I am,” Hundt says. “It’s not just a job. With the network, you have this shared experience. It’s a foundation that can help you get through the door.”

Matthew O’Rouke, Associate Director of Communications, Global Network Office of Communications, Yale School of Management. 

1 Month Down, 11 More To Go…

I didn’t realize until I started writing this blog that I have already completed a whole month of my MBA.  A very busy month that went so fast I barely noticed it going. Before completing my Foundation Week, which was my first week in the Smurfit School of Business, I was a nervous wreck. The idea of meeting people from other nations was nerve racking especially as I had forgotten how to “speak” after working as a software developer for over 7 years. The idea that I had to talk, network and make sense was just too stressful.

Well then why did I choose to do an MBA? To get speaking, and boy have I spoken a lot since then. I will admit that the struggle was real! Irish accents are a lot harder to comprehend than I had initially thought. The Irish pace of speaking is a total contrast to mine. What caught my attention was the way they spoke words like ‘a-bu-t’(about) and ‘ha-au’(how). I found it extremely funny for the first couple of days and I just couldn’t get over it, haha!

Hmmm… so far we have learned a lot and much to my surprise I have already given 4 presentations in the first month alone. Am I now a confident public speaker who can speak on any topic; Nope! It takes time, but trust me I have come quite a long way from where I began, and to know that I still have 11 more months to complete, I am sure that I will have my own talk show by the end of it.

The study group is another experiment, where I, a north Indian, need to complete assignments with American, Irish and south Indian (it is not the same!) team members. This was not a comfortable thought for me at first, however, as we started to work together, I learnt that despite obvious differences between us there were also a lot of similarities. Especially in terms of how each one of us struggled to cope with the pressure of just too much to do in too little time. This made us understand each other and bond more.

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What has truly started to make sense to me is that with good team work and good time management you can achieve a humongous amount! Interestingly, this lesson has also come from my personal experience of travelling daily for at least three hours. I am only able to keep up with my assignments due to good time management and the team work at home between my husband and I. You might be surprised to know that even though my first month in UCD was anything but relaxing, I am very excited to experience what is coming next.

Nadisha Garg, Full Time MBA, 2017-2018

Week Two 2017

“Hell Week” 5 days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. Hell Week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain tolerance and your ability to perform under high stress. Above all, it tests determination and desire. This is the first training week for the NAVY seals, and the Smurfit MBA foundation week wasn’t far behind.

OK, so maybe I’m being a tiny bit melodramatic, but I did find Foundation Week challenging. Even though I lost my faith years ago, I was nearly tempted to say a little prayer that they would go easier on us in week two.

Over the weekend I checked my time-table for Monday week two. We have just two lectures, Niamh for Financial Reporting and Damien for Marketing. Damien was our very first lecture in “Hell week” and scared the bejesus out of all of us so I make double sure I have his pre-reading done.

Monday rolls around and everything goes without a hitch. I actually enjoy it, but Damien gives us yet another assignment, will the fun ever end? Thankfully I make it through the week unscathed and things are looking up. We have the welcome dinner on Friday to look forward to.

After the dinner on Friday night we all headed to Sams Bar on Dawson Street and the drinks were flowing. The guys from India love to dance, they were up on each other’s shoulders like they had just won a general election. It was a great night and I’m already looking forward to our next night out.

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Now I’ve been informed that it’s my turn to write a blog about week two. Great, because I just didn’t feel like I had enough work to do. I thought about doing what the Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle does; locks himself away in a remote farm house, gets high on Tramadol and runs around the house in his underwear while coming up with creative ideas, but I’m not Scottish. Instead, I decide to just have a few beers and type it at my kitchen table instead (fully clothed).

If the last two weeks are anything to go by, this is going to be an amazing year. I will be travelling to Istanbul for a week in October as part of our GNAM and our class will be travelling to Singapore/Vietnam or South America as part of our study trip in March. I can’t wait! I definitely feel I have made the correct decision by doing the MBA, but only time will tell. I’ll let you all know at the end of the year.

Ian Ahern, MBA 2017-2018

 

The Week That Was In It

The 1st of September is traditionally the first day of school but for us (this year’s MBA class) that day’s metaphorical 5.30pm bell marked the end of Foundation Week, and what a week it was.

Monday morning had made palpable everything we had been meticulously preparing for; writing essays, submitting applications, sitting our GMATs after tense weeks of studying and sending in piles of documentation to rival even German paperwork. Before we received a warm welcome from the MBA programme management team and Prof. Karan Sonpar, the Academic Director of the programme, we had nervously started chatting to complete strangers with whom we would soon be spending more time with than with our families and friends. I had felt sorry for myself for the early start but my self-pity immediately abated upon hearing that some of the students had landed from India just the night before, only to stagger into UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business tired and jet-lagged that morning.

Our anticipated, but nonetheless fascinating, mix of nationalities included students from, among others, Greece, Kazakhstan, India, US, Canada and South Africa. And while there were the typical crowd of engineers, accountants, sales managers and marketeers, what completed our illustrious band of MBA candidates were doctors, teachers, pilots and a number of graduates from other disciplines not traditionally associated with a business degree.

For our first challenge we embarked on analysing the case study which we had been assigned in preparation for what turned out to be an entertaining class with Prof. Damien McLoughlin. He made it clear that bowing your head was the surest way to be called upon but judging by our time with him this is going to be a likely prospect anyway.

The day was completed by introductions to Report Writing and Persuasive Writing. Instructing on the former, Prof. Niamh Brennan drove home that a report was only ever as good as its presentation and that receiving seven pages of criticism on her notes was gratifying rather than annoying. Dr Megan McGurk in turn provided some insight into how to package a simple message to make it stick with the reader.

Tuesday saw us part-timers tackle Financial Reporting where Dr. Colette Yeates patiently took us through the world of basic accounting. Buzzwords like “assets”, “liabilities” and “depreciation” were quite comprehensible in the morning before the post-lunchtime crunch seemed to make their digestion more difficult.

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Whereas Financial Reporting had united us in the goal of mastering the recording of cash transactions, Wednesday’s team building exercises with the delightful Fintan Ryan teased out our competitive side. The first exercise ensured birthdays would never mean the same before we moved on to blindfolded chaos. In smaller groups we tackled tasks such as “Ski Slopes”, “Get the message” and the very appropriately named “Spiderweb” (which despite initial reservations turned out to be a lot more manageable than the “Jigsaw”). The part-timers then reunited for the overall task of making the Jedi return. I shall not say anymore on this so that Fintan can torture future classes with his challenges. Despite the playful approach we left enlightened with the useful understanding that theoretical knowledge does not guarantee successful application under pressure. Or, as one student summarised his team’s work “Things were going really well until other people started chipping in.”

Thursday awaited with a business simulation which reminded us of a less colourful Monopoly as we were purchasing fake materials with fake money, taking out fake loans and paying fake employees. The main aim of the activity was to show the complex task of running a business, trying to balance financial and production forecasts with the overheads. The day was a complete success as most of us produced spectacular losses in year one but were much improved by year two.

Friday came and with it arrived not only sleepy students but lessons on listening and personality types by the insightful Ann Flaherty and Damien Killen. One of the things we took away from a class debate was the realisation of how many negative associations the word “banker” now evokes.

And there could have been no better way to finish this demanding week than with the already infamous Paul Slattery. He gave us pointers on how to present (or rather how not to) and as he did so, entertained, challenged and encouraged everybody.

We would like to thank the MBA programme team for organising this week so well. Now that we have had a glimpse of what is ahead, with lectures, trips and what is sure to be a steady and challenging stream of assignments, projects and presentations, we are terrified but equally thrilled to be part of MBA class of 2018/2019.

Kirsten Dottermusch, Executive MBA 2017-2019

Foundation Week 2017

In some respects, it is hard to believe that we are already a week into our MBA programme. Thinking back over the past year there have been so many experiences that felt like finish lines by themselves. Passing the GMAT, getting accepted into Smurfit Business School, wrapping up your life and work to prepare for the task ahead; every point felt like a victory.  It is only now, standing at the end of Foundation Week, that we can look back and clearly see these accomplishments weren’t finish lines but qualifications to enter the race. On your marks, get set, go!

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The real starting line came at the threshold of the grand entrance to the main hall at Smurfit. On Monday morning, one by one, eager faces presented themselves at the door and joined the growing crowd around the banks of gently flowing coffee. Everyone was happy. Everyone was aware that the people in this room would become significant in each other’s lives. When our crowd was complete, we made our way to the lecture hall to get started. We were introduced to the faces of the many helpful names we’ve been interacting with via e-mail for the past several weeks. After warm greetings from the cadre of administrators, Damien McLoughlin took over.

Damien’s presence in the room is felt by everyone. By impressions, it seems that he might have had a bit more coffee than the rest of us.  He can smell the fear in the room. All of us are a bit anxious about our very first case study class. He peppers questions around the classroom while making soft jabs. He likes some manner of sports that I, as an American, didn’t recognise; it could’ve been soccer or hurling or… who could say.  He kept turning the screw by highlighting that “his team” had beat someone else’s team in an epic victory the night before. In between the jokes and jabs are very real questions about the task at hand. I can tell you, I wouldn’t have wanted to be the one who didn’t read the case study.

After an hour and a half with Damien, we could breathe again.  We had made it through the case study and no one had died. The afternoon of the first day was much like the morning.  We spread our attention across a range of topics from Finance to the Library. We were introduced to Professor Niamh Brennan for a primer course on report writing.  I’ll talk more about her later.  I slept very well on Monday night.

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For the second day of the MBA the Executive MBAs and Full Time MBAs split up.  Foundation Week is not only about getting a peek into the programme but also it is a very small window of opportunity to quickly galvanize our team.  It turns out that if you want to accelerate team development for a group of people who are all, individually, capable of being leaders, you have to blindfold them and then tell them to hurry up. In fact, blindfolds, giant spider webs, oversized jigsaw puzzles, inner tubes, and giant Rube Goldberg contraptions were all part of the craziness of day two. Without giving too much away I will tell you that the leadership development team did a masterful job at making 30 strangers quickly feel like good friends.

The third day of the MBA was a wake-up call for me.  The voice on the other end of the phone said “Good morning, remember how you said you wanted a world-class education?  Go get it!”  After some housekeeping presentations first thing in the morning we were back in the ring with Professor Niamh. Being in Niamh’s classroom (she does prefer to operate on a first-name basis) is a bit hard to describe. If you’ve ever thought that your educational aspirations are akin to growing a garden or perhaps a sprouting tree, you might be too delicate for her class. She is an intellectual fire-hose and you had better damn well be on fire if you are going to excel in her class. Day three is a veritable blitzkrieg of Financial Reporting. The MBA cohort consists of people from every professional background, financial and otherwise. As we rounded the fourth or fifth straight hour of Financial Reporting, you could pretty clearly guess who had the chops and who didn’t based upon the looks on their faces. Personally, I looked like an Edvard Munch painting.

Let it not be said that “Graduate school isn’t all fun and games” because that is precisely what the fourth day of Foundation Week was.  Games are a great way to learn, especially for the losers. I will go ahead and tell you that I learned a lot on day four. What was the game? It was a simulation game that brought the use of financial papers into focus. A team of game-makers (a-la Hunger Games) from Germany brought their talent to the Talbot hotel, the off-site location for the day.  In a re-mixed group of Executive MBA and Full Time MBA students, we were asked to build a company.  Each member on the team became a department head of a widget factory. Sales, Process, Procurement, and Finance, the teams competed against one another to try and flip a profit. Before lunch each team felt the stinging slap of the invisible hand as too much competition drove prices to the ground. After lunch, and after a great lesson on pricing strategy and competition, each team re-entered the market and tried to claw their way back from red to green. Most teams made it. Mine did not.

As I bring this post to a close I confess to you, dear reader, that there aren’t 1000 words in any language that could’ve done justice to describing the experience of Foundation Week at Smurfit Business School. But, I would like to offer a two-word description of the final day of Foundation Week as a gold-letter promise that the MBA programme is going to be everything we have hoped for: professional development. On Friday we discussed how to be better listeners, how to understand people better and, most importantly, how to be better communicators. We began the process of being better public speakers. The lessons on Friday made me realise that when this race is over, and I cross the finish line on graduation day, I won’t have merely learned – I will have evolved.

Thomas Strimbu, MBA 2017-2018

Lux et Veritas – The Light and Truth of our GNAM Trip to Yale University

When I first signed up for the MBA, I was aware that Smurfit is part of a global network of business schools but it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to travel and visit Yale School of Management that I fully understood the global reach and impact of this network. The Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) connects 29 leading business schools from diverse regions, countries, cultures, and economies in different phases of development.

Students from the various schools within this network can travel to and experience a week-long module in another school. This June, some of my classmates stayed in Dublin to learn more about the food industry in Ireland and play host to the visiting students; another classmate travelled to Berkley University. Along with 7 of my classmates, I visited Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut to live out our Rory Gilmore life!

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In truth, I debated whether or not to sign up for this trip. The module was not for credit and it would take place when we would be in the middle of our biggest challenge – the Capstone project. However, I could not escape the thought that this was such a marvellous opportunity – this was Ivy League! So off I went to Yale to learn all about the Behavioural Science of Management. Cut to me sipping cocktails with my classmates on a rooftop bar on *quick* pitstop in Manhattan en route, and I knew I had made the right decision and the next week really exceeded all our expectations.

The people we met were absolutely fantastic; over 70 MBA students from around the globe in one classroom sparked lively debates! Outside the classroom, we formed fast friendships and built our network with people in similar and different careers. The group WhatsApp still goes off in the middle of the night with updates from our friends in China or Mexico. Even during my final Capstone project in the last month, I bounced ideas and emails off to new friends to get fresh thoughts from a different perspective. The value of the network was immediately obvious.

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In the classroom it was fascinating to hear first-hand from academics who are often published in the Harvard Business Review or whose studies are referenced in articles or books. Each lecturer was so high energy and polished, it was like we were sitting through a sequence of riveting TedTalks!

The bat and the ball problem (A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Try Google to check your answer!) had us rethink our immediate assumptions on how we think. Shane Frederick explained to us the two ways the mind works. System 1 is our immediate intuitive way of thinking which is very difficult to override and System 2 is that slow thinking that requires more reflection. This is important to address in customer engagement, in order to capture which way they are thinking at the point of sale. (Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow goes into this in detail if anyone is interested!)

Another important lesson we learned was from Zoë Chance, whose lecture on Influence and Persuasion had us leaving the room ready to make our mark! Her one overriding message was to “just ask”. Often in life we think we are asking for something, when in reality we may not be putting it as directly as we could be – and it’s often simple enough to do!

With a variety of other interesting lectures, company visits and a campus tour, the week flew by in the most enjoyable way, totally exceeding my expectations. We are incredibly lucky that Smurfit is part of this fantastic network to get this opportunity which really was a key highlight of my MBA experience.

Ruth McEvoy, Executive MBA 2015-2017