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

A View From the MBA Finish Line

Nothing worthwhile comes easy. The MBA has certainly not been easy but it has been hugely worthwhile. This week marked the finish line as we handed in the final ‘capstone’ project, the culmination of our learnings over two years applied to a real company problem. I have anticipated the feeling of elation for months, but it has come inextricably entwined with mixed emotions. I primarily feel an enormous sense of achievement and satisfaction that I have realised a long held personal ambition. There is also a certain relief in knowing that I am finally free of the constant attrition of assignments, reading, lectures, exams and the Saturday morning dash out the N11 to Blackrock. Unexpectedly, there is also a strange accompanying sense of disappointment that a journey which I have enjoyed beyond expectation, has come to an end.

A journey shared is all the sweeter, and the most enjoyable element of the last two years has been working with, and getting to know, such an exceptional bunch of people. The intensity of the MBA bonds the class in an indescribable way. From team building in a rainy field in Blackrock to Honda, Coca Cola, Southwest Airlines, and GE, to karaoke in Tokyo, we have been on a roller coaster journey together. There have been ups and downs for everyone as we have struggled to balance work and personal lives with the demands of the course.  The unfettered commitment of the group to supporting each other, and ensuring that everyone made it to the finish line together, has been remarkable. Your classmates challenge you, they set the bar high, they expect more, they drive you, but more importantly they teach you and support you.

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Catherine O’Brien, 2nd from left, with MBA classmates

The MBA teaches you all the fundamentals of business management from corporate finance to management accounting, organisational behaviour, strategy and negotiations. But this is not where the growth lies. I attended an event last year where I was struck by a comment made by one of the speakers, who highlighted how comfort zones are nice but nothing ever grows there. Simple but powerful, it stuck with me. The MBA has offered the opportunity to step up and out of your comfort zone in so many different ways, and I am delighted that I have pursued every single opportunity. From representing UCD Smurfit at the John Molson international business case competition in Montreal, to presenting to global MBA colleagues in Yale, I have enjoyed every opportunity to grow and learn.

The self-learning which comes through the leadership dimension of the MBA is one of the most valuable aspects of the course. Through group work and end of semester peer feedback and reflection, you learn about your style of interacting in teams, your style of leadership, your strengths, and preferences. You learn about the preferences of others, that there is no one right way, and that ultimately our differences drive us to achieve so much more.

As I reflect on the MBA journey, I won’t miss the unrelenting workload, but I will unquestionably miss the challenge and the self-development. Above all else, I will miss the class debates, the sharp wit of my classmates, and the laughter imbued post mortems over a few drinks down in the Dark Horse.

To the faculty and programme office at UCD Smurfit, on behalf of myself and my colleagues, thank you for doing your very best to look after us, to inspire us, and to challenge us.

To my MBA colleagues, I am privileged to have undertaken this journey with you, to have learned from you, and to now count you as friends who I know I can call on as we all move forward in our respective careers and lives. May I wish you all the very best with the next chapter.

Catherine O’Brien, EMBA 2015-2017

Wind Downs and Tee Offs – The MBA Golf Society Classic

After a busy final semester, full of long days invested in the MBA Capstone project, the MBA Golf Society Classic had arrived. Once again the stunning K Club in County Kildare – home of the 2006 Ryder Cup – played host to the annual event. This year’s chosen charities were the UCD Ad Astra Academy and CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young).

Teams arrived to the clubhouse early to prep their gear, take in the scenes and get some vital practice on the range. Attire was varied – just like the golfing abilities! From the man-in-black Cadwell to Mr “Del Monte” Hope donning police sunglasses and a quintessential panama hat. Regardless, rumour had got around that this year’s prizes were worth leaving it all on the course, and focus was on the golf and not the outfits. Competition was on!

Father and son duo Padraig and Cameron Kenny were up first. Broad-shouldered Kenny Jr, an integral part of the Smurfit MBA Rugby World Cup Team back in April, was pipped as the favorite to win the Business Performance Perspectives Longest Drive on Hole 7. He wasted no time smashing his first up Fairway 1 against a strong wind.

Next up, the team led by Chairman of the MBA Rugby Team, Cathal Murphy, with fellow Full Time MBAs Conor Hurley and Traolach “Tray” O’Connor. Also joining them was Chris Cadwell a welcome guest best known for strength training the Smurfit MBA Rugby Team at The Edge in Clontarf. A solid all-round team that knew they had a strong chance of taking home the prizes.

Finally, a mixed team of Full Time MBA students Ciaran Hope and Colin Dunne, Part Time MBA Ciarán O’Shea and MBA alum Mark Good. Paddy Power wasn’t sure what odds to give this group after their wild range practice. There was plenty of experience in the team though with O’Shea a well seasoned MBA Golf Society member and Hope an Irishman with a distinguished Los Angeles golfing career. Hope apparently took up golf so he could rub shoulders with LA’s rich and famous – unfortunately his stories of LA golf will have to be left on the K Club’s fairways. Mark Good, no stranger to an MBA Golf society outing, was striking his irons well on the range and looked like a contender for the NxtGEN Executive Training Closest to the Pin on Hole 17. Dunne started strong in this group leading the round with a par. However, it looked like his team-mates had left all the steam on the range and couldn’t match his three stable-ford points.

The wind persisted throughout the front 9 with Good convinced every hole was against it. This may, however, have been something to do with the zig zag route he took up a few fairways. The wind didn’t stop the sun shining with O’Shea making sure he was topped up with sunscreen while explaining that the Swallow Quarry rock and water feature on the 7th hole had been artificially constructed at a substantial cost. The Civil Engineers among us found it hard to believe but agreed that anything is possible with enough capital.

As suspected, Cameron Kenny hit big off the 7th to land himself the prize for the Business Performance Perspectives Longest Drive. Sharp shooter Mark Good heard that the prize for the NxtGEN Executive Training Closest to the Pin was 12 golf balls and so decided that he was going to take this on to replenish his stock, having lost a few to his wild drives. Sure enough, with a smooth 7 iron, he was the only player to hit the green and landed the ball just 17 feet from the pin to take home the prize.

Following the discussions about the rock features, there were a few attempts to check whether the water features were real; confirmed by the splashes, with the Swallow Quarry swallowing up many a golf ball. Murphy laid up on the 18th fairway to chip over the water onto the green. His chip on was perfectly in line with the pin and the palatial clubhouse in the backdrop. Unfortunately Murphy had under-clubbed marginally and the splash short of the green crushed his hopes for par. The 18th was good to the other teams though. Kenny Jr managed to hit a 240-yard shot over land and water with a strong cross to find the green and set him up for par. O’Shea chipped from off the green with precision aim and weight in front of a captive audience on the clubhouse veranda to see it roll slowly in from distance for par.

With not much between the scores the winning team of Murphy, O’Conor, Hurley and Cadwell took away the main prizes. Dunne, Good, Hope and O’Shea weren’t disappointed to take 2nd place after such an enjoyable round, while Team Kenny was still in shock after Kenny Jr’s 240-yard diamond.

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The Winning Team (L-R Chris Cadwell, Conor Hurley, Traolach O’Conor and Cathal Murphy)

An extremely enjoyable round of golf in a beautiful setting with some great company. Soon we’ll be handing over the reigns of MBA Golf Society to next year’s MBA Class and I’m already looking forward to playing a few of their outings.

Colin Dunne, Full Time MBA & Golf Society Captain 2016-2017

With sincere thanks to the following:

Business Performance Perspectives

http://www.pamelafay.ie/

 

NxtGEN Executive Training

http://nxtgen.ie/

 

The Edge Clontarf

http://www.theedgeclontarf.com/

As We Grow … as a Team

In early summer 2017, the Full Time MBA class and first year EMBA class travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland for Smurfit’s first MBA International Consulting Project.

We (Lorcan, Louis, Niall & Peter) teamed up with As We Grow, an indigenous design company specialising in the design of children’s (and, as we later found out, women’s) clothing – a sector none of us had any experience in. We were originally tasked with the rather broad scope of re-designing their business plan and growing their international online sales to ISK 100 million within 3 years. (To date, their sales streams had been heavily focused on wholesale and distribution.)

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We soon realised that they had more basic and fundamental problems to address and reasoned that the main issues we could assist with were:

  • optimisation of their online presence
  • clarification of their differentiating factor
  • selection of new markets to target

After further discussions with the company, we agreed that selecting new markets to target wasn’t a priority so we dropped this point of business from the project but agreed to prioritise the whole area of brand awareness instead.

We soon learned that what customers like about As We Grow was:

  • The simplicity of the garments
  • Classic designs
  • The concept of its production
  • That they are made in Iceland

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We provided the client with a presentation comprising real, practical recommendations that we felt addressed:

  • Development and improvement of their digital sales strategy
  • Optimisation of their branding
  • Optimisation of their website
  • Correction of some operational issues
  • Improved communication of their story

One of our key learnings was that relevant industry experience or knowledge can be very valuable. One of us had two contacts operating in this industry and we set up relevant communication channels. While we may not have agreed with or used their advice verbatim, it expeditiously put us on the right path and saved us a considerable amount of time. It was also interesting that these two contacts had very differing views of the online arena, and our learning from this was that companies can have different views on the exact same market; it simply depends on their goals, priorities and, ultimately, company strategy.

Two rounds of study groups and learnings from our Global Virtual Team were great preparation for the team-working dynamic of the trip. For Year 2 of the MBA, we feel that our team-working skills are much improved by the experience and this will be a real benefit when dealing with more study groups and more GVTs over the remainder of the course.

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All in all, we found the Iceland trip enjoyable, eye-opening and a great experience from start to finish. While it’s not untrue to say that Iceland is expensive, this is but a fleeting observation because the real value derived from this trip was the richness of the Icelandic culture, the beauty of its scenery, and the bonding of an MBA class – the class… of 2018.

Niall Gallagher, Executive MBA 2016-2018

Icelandic Perspectives

In early summer 2017, the Full Time MBA class and first year EMBA class travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland for Smurfit’s first MBA International Consulting Project.

For the first time this year, the International Consulting Project was part of the MBA curriculum.  For the for the full-time class, it was automatically included in the curriculum and an optional module for the first-year executive classes. This exciting addition to our busy year entailed a trip to Reykjavik to undertake a four-day consulting project for an Icelandic company.

Upon arrival, we stopped at the Blue Lagoon for a warm Icelandic welcome in the form of a swim in the scenic 37º Celsius lagoon. It was a great icebreaker and the ideal situation to have social interaction between the different cohorts on the trip.

We were divided into groups of four, each group assigned to a different company. Our group consulted for a high-tech fishing gear sales and manufacturing start-up, whose objective is to instigate and benefit from a paradigm shift in bottom trawl fishing. Our team was tasked to undertake analysis on the existing shrimp industry and provide them with a route to market strategy. The four days of consulting were intense and we were under immense pressure, but it turned out to be a very valuable learning experience.

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Having the opportunity to work for four days in an Icelandic company and getting to know some of the local people gave us a unique perspective of the country, its people and how business is done there. This was further supplemented by an event hosted by the Reykjavik University’s MBA, whose programme manager gave us an introduction followed by two presentations by their alumni who are both entrepreneurs.

Our group was fortunate enough to finish early on the Thursday after our presentation, giving us enough time to rent a car and do the Golden Loop (a popular tourist route covering some of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks). This was truly a great experience, seeing the natural beauty of Iceland. We managed to stop at the Thingvellir National Park rift valley, Strokkur Geyser, Gullfoss waterfall and Kerið volcanic crater – and still make it back to Reykjavik in time for the group farewell dinner at the iconic Harpa building.

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This quick afternoon trip only gave us a taste of the spectacular scenery Iceland has to offer, and I can completely understand why its tourism industry is booming. I will certainly go back to see more of this spectacular country, with the Northern Lights hopefully included in my next trip.

The International Consulting Project was a memorable, insightful and challenging experience.  Looking back on the MBA programme, this was definitely one of the events that I will never forget. I also believe that it added tremendously to my MBA learning experience as I could apply various academic aspects learned during the year. It also provided me with a good idea of what it’s like to work as a consultant and was great preparation for our Capstone team.

Barnus Beyers – Full Time MBA 2017

Bringing It All Together

In early summer 2017, the Full Time MBA class and first year EMBA class travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland for Smurfit’s first MBA International Consulting Project.

There is far more to an MBA experience than what you absorb in a classroom and it is learning from the experiences and skills of your peers where the MBA is most valuable. The consulting project in Iceland typified this. For our team Taramar, we worked closely with a small organic novel skincare company in Iceland looking to expand into new regions.

From start to finish the project lasted just three weeks which concluded with four days working on site with the client. Timelines were extremely tight and we knew we would have to hit the ground running if this project was to be a success. We spent two weeks prior to our trip researching market conditions, compiling data, liaising with the client on project scope and defining success criteria. Just like in the real world, no consulting project runs exactly smoothly and Team Taramar had to work through a number of trials and tribulations throughout our project. We quickly realised that defining scope and understanding exactly what a client desires is crucially important. We faced each challenge head on and a highlight for all of us was presenting our work at the end of the week to a delighted client.

As a team, we used the skills and knowledge we had acquired over the year to carry out a feasibility study. When we look back now, it is amazing the body of work that was accomplished in just four short days. But that is another characteristic of the MBA; each team gets more and more efficient as the year progresses. We assessed the market conditions, carried out a pricing study, drafted a marketing strategy, proposed a logistics solution to distribute in the new territory and used aspects of each MBA module we had completed.

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Although putting all the arduous hours of study into practice at the end of the year was rewarding, looking back it is what we learned from each other that was a real highlight. Our team was comprised of a variety of backgrounds and experiences from e-commerce, sales and commercial strategy, accounting, pharmacy and chemistry. The combined experience of the group was invaluable when developing a solution for our client. For each member in our team it was a first foray into the consulting world, and it’s safe to say we loved it!

The trip to Iceland was definitely one of the highlights of the year for all who attended. There was a sense of camaraderie from start to finish which helped to enhance the overall experience for all involved.

The opportunity to engage with faculty and members of the Full Time and both classes of the Executive MBA was thoroughly rewarding. We have all made new connections which will no doubt be invaluable in our future careers.

Suffice to say our Icelandic experience will live long in our memories!

https://www.taramarbeauty.com/

John Cassidy, EMBA 2016-2018

… the sweetest thing?

In early summer 2017, the Full Time MBA class and first year EMBA class travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland for Smurfit’s first MBA International Consulting Project.

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“…And these are the team’s recommendations for market entry with your new product”. This was the end of what can only be described as a fantastic, informative whistle-stop journey into the world of management consulting working with ORF Genetics in Iceland. It was hard to believe just three days earlier the team sat down with the company’s Head of Market Development for our project briefing in ORF’s new state of the art offices that overlook the Reykjavík skyline and the blue Atlantic ocean beyond.

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We were tasked with determining if a market exists for ORF’s new sweetener grown in a barley plant. It was a excellent opportunity to apply not only our first year of the Executive MBA’s classroom learning but also our own team’s diverse background experience to a real life scenario and business problem. We left with a sense of fulfillment and pride, confident our findings have the potential to add real value to the company.

Little did we know when we set out from Dublin airport what a wonderful experience we would have as a team but also as a wider group spending a week in Iceland working with businesses on real life commercial challenges. Not that it was all work and no play; we also managed to pack in visits to the tourist destinations of the Blue Lagoon and the famous Golden Circle which encompasses the gushing Strokkur geyser, the iconic Gullfoss waterfall and the wide open landscape of Thingvellir National Park. The visit was helped all the more by the nearly 24 hours of sunlight at this time of year at 66 degrees latitude.

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The week also included an insightful visit to Reykjavík University to hear about how to do business in Iceland from two of their business school’s alumni, Thordis Loa Thorhallsdottir, CEO of Gray Lines Tour Iceland and Viggo Asgeirsson, Chief HR Office and Co-Founder of Meniga, one of Iceland’s top Fintech companies.

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Our Iceland experience was topped off with a farewell dinner in the architecturally stunning Harpa Opera house looking out over the old harbour where all students and staff got to celebrate a successful week. We just missed out on the mountain top concert but maybe next time….

A big thank you to Professor Karan Sonpar, the faculty and MBA office for organising a wonderful trip.

Paul Donnelly, Séamus Harrington, Ciara Keane, Brendan Staunton, Paul Walsh – EMBA 2016-2018