Global Network Week 2017 – A Visitor’s Perspective

As a Yale EMBA student graduating in 2018, I had the opportunity to attend “The Future of Food” module at University College Dublin as part of the June 2017 Global Network Week (#GNW2017).

This fascinating exchange programme provides students with insights into the inner workings of key industry players in the food and beverage space and attracts both international students from several top participating schools in Shanghai, Berlin, Madrid, as well as students local to Dublin. As an international student, I am truly grateful for the warmth and thoughtfulness from both our programme coordinator, Elaine Aherne, as well as a number of our fellow Irish students in welcoming us to both Dublin and UCD.

GNAM outside

In my opinion, this week-long course is perfectly structured for many reasons. First, the sheer range of case studies covered in the short span of a week exposes participants to food and beverage related strategies, trends and marketing techniques that are very easily transferable to any industry segment. Professor Damien McLoughlin led a diverse set of discussion topics from Brexit to emerging technologies in the food industry, and challenged us to consider both the market and non-market factors influencing decisions within each organisation we examined as part of the cases.

Second, the guest lectures interspersed through the week were excellent and provided intriguing insights into the decision-making processes utilised by executives across a slew of organisations in the food and beverage sector. During the week, the CEO of Greencore, CTO of Ocado and Director from UniGrain, were just a few of the company executives we heard from and engaged with.

Finally, daily product samplings (Skelligs, Keogh’s etc.) and company site visits, such as those to Jameson, Guinness, Kerry Foods and the Ballyknockan House Cookery School ensured we were always engaged and looking forward to what the next day would bring.

Overall, a fantastic program that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to spend the global network week learning about the latest innovations and bleeding edge technology in the food industry while having some good old-fashioned Irish fun as well.

Raahul Kumar, Yale EMBA student

Golf in Historic Surroundings – A Day in the Luscious Parklands of Luttrellstown Castle

 

Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.

Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results. 

Sir Ernest Shackleton

Just ahead of our recent exams and final assignments, we set out for a day’s leisure in the peaceful and historic surrounds of Luttrellstown Castle. While the golf was at best mediocre, we were fortunate to get some fine weather for the day and had the opportunity to catch up with classmates at the “19th hole” to reflect on our endeavours over the course of the MBA programme.

MBA Luttrellstown - 3 Golfers

Many esteemed graduates note that doing an MBA is like “going on a journey” and the mediocre standard of golf on the day ensured that we got to see more of the tracks and trails that Luttrellstown has to offer than most regular golfers. In conjunction with the challenges posed by the variety of elements of our MBA programme, the championship course we played also provided many obstacles with a lot of water features to be overcome among other challenging features.

The MBA Golf Society will hold its main event of the year in the splendorous surrounds of the K Club on Saturday, July 1st. The day will be held in aid of the UCD Ad Astra Scholarships/UCD Foundation and Cardiac Risk in the Young. Details of how to enter are on Eventbrite at:

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ucd-smurfit-mba-golf-society-classic-tickets-34792133207?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing

Ciarán O’Shea,

Executive MBA.

The End of Exam Life?

Traolach Meme

As we move through the last set of our exams for Semester 2, I sit back and wonder. These will complete the exams we have to take for our MBA, so … is this the end of my exam life forever?

Having left college in 2003 I always figured that I would end up doing further education at some point. So I never thought of those as my last exams. However, having gotten up from my child-like seat in the cavernous exam hall on Saturday, after squeezing all my knowledge on financing new ventures in to a booklet for the previous 2 hours, I think I might have actually sat the last exam of my life.

Now this isn’t a lament on the differences between rote learning and whatever the other type is. I have been pretty successful in the Irish exam system which I feel sets a high benchmark for success and gave me great technical knowledge that I leveraged in my professional career internationally. This is more the realisation that after an MBA I don’t think there is much more additional education one can pursue to advance your career. True, there are other exams such as the CFA or Series 7 if you want to be an analyst (and there are probably more that I haven’t even thought of). But they are all career specific and not of the lecture/exam format that we love so much.

This is just one more thing to realise whilst doing an MBA; that it is the culmination of a lifelong learning journey. The first exam I can remember sitting was over 30 years ago, as a 6 year old, and I sat exams every year for the next 20 years. I liked exams so much I decided to take the scenic route through my undergrad and stay for an additional year so that I could enjoy the exam experience a few more times!

When I look at the paragraph above I only now realise the sheer volume of exams I must have sat so far in my life. So it is probably high time I do say goodbye to exam life. The path that we take through life and on the road to an MBA takes many forms, but we all have endured the unenjoyable (or enjoyable, if you’re masochistic) experience of exams. This is a global common bond for all students and I guess, like everything, it has to come to an end at some point.

So it is there in an exam hall in the RDS Simmonscourt, on Saturday 13th May 2017, that I close a large chapter in my personal journey – and that of EXAM LIFE.

Traolach O’Connor, Full Time MBA 2016-2017

Finding Value in Diversity

As we enter the summer term of the full time MBA programme, I have come to realise how much diversity I, and my classmates, have been exposed to over the past nine months.  Before I decided to undertake an MBA, I had heard some MBA graduates mention this point about “diversity” but I had underestimated the learning experience that diversity can offer.

In an MBA, diversity takes on many forms.  Firstly there’s the diversity found within the cohort itself.  This is a combination of cultural diversity (in our full time cohort of 32 students there are 10 nationalities), there’s age diversity and indeed diversity in our educational backgrounds and experiences!  The result is a multitude of perspectives that contribute to some very thought-provoking classroom discussions.  Coming from an engineering background myself, I have really enjoyed learning about other people’s previous work experiences and pre-MBA careers in various fields such as marketing, e-commerce, finance, IT and the entertainment industry. It has also helped me to realise how valuable diversity can be when it comes to problem-solving.

Class Photo - AisO'Hall

Secondly, the vast range of modules also presents another element of diversity.  From accounting, financial analysis, economics and strategy to negotiation skills, ethics and executive decision-making!  The volume of information is over-whelming but the skills obtained will not only be relevant to our future careers, but will be also be helpful in others areas of life, whether one realises this at the time or not!

Thirdly, the prospects we’ve had to immerse ourselves in, outside of the classroom, pose yet another realm of diversity.  An international learning module to Japan and South Korea in March provided a unique opportunity to learn about new cultures, about doing business in Asia but also to get to know our part-time MBA classmates.  I was also lucky enough to travel to Yale for the Integrated Leadership Case Competition in April, with three other classmates.  This trip enabled us to meet other MBA students from 12 different business schools around the globe.  Over the course of three days in Yale, it was refreshing to see how all students were genuinely interested in one another and embraced the diversity around them by exchanging anecdotes about their MBA experiences and offering each other helpful advice regarding post-MBA decisions.

AisO'HallBlogPic2

To complete the international experience, we still have a week in Iceland to look forward to, where we will be working as consultants for a number of different companies.

For me, it took time to realize the value that all this diversity could bring, and I believe that I will continue to see its benefits over the coming years, in both my career and personal life.  I am certainly more open now to looking at things with a different lens, than I was nine months ago.  With this in mind, my advice for anyone considering undertaking an MBA is to truly consider its significance, not only from a career standpoint but from a non-career perspective too.

Aisling O’Halloran, Full Time MBA 2016-2017

Newstalk MBA Scholarship

Newstalk, in association with UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, is offering one exceptional candidate the chance of a lifetime – an MBA scholarship to an upper value of €34,500 for the full-time or executive (part-time) MBA programme, starting in late August 2017.

Over three weeks from Monday April 24th to Sunday May 14th applicants for the scholarship must complete a short online entry form.

Previous Newstalk MBA Scholarship winner, Peter Hynes, discusses the impact that winning the scholarship has had on his career and personal development, and offers advice to anyone considering applying to the Newstalk MBA Scholarship at UCD Smurfit School this year.

“If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain”

31665-Dolly-Parton-Quote-The-way-I-see-it-if-you-want-the-rainbow-you

As semester two draws to a close, and the finish line is starting to come into focus, now is the perfect time to reflect on what has been one of the biggest decisions of my life thus far – surrendering the 9-5 to return to education and the MBA.

There have been highs, there have been lows, and many sleepless nights either as a result of excessive studying or excessive partying!

Even as I write this entry, on the sunniest day of the 2017 thus far, the thoughts of getting over the finish line provide enough motivation to skip paying “respect to the man in the ice-cream van” for one day and keep the head in the books (H.P. Baxxter).

Without doubt, getting to spend seven days with my colleagues, immersing ourselves in Japanese and South Korean culture was the highlight. The historical significance of these countries, as well as being modern day industrial powerhouses, was such a fantastic journey to take with such close friends.

Figure 1 War Memorial - Seoul
War Memorial – Seoul

Taking in everything those cities had to offer, from the sushi to the singing at a karaoke bar ensured there was sufficient, and much needed, down-time to a very hectic schedule.

Soaking up authentic Asian culture
Soaking up authentic Asian culture

But it won’t stop there. No sooner will our exams finish in May that we will be back in the air once more to experience Iceland for a consulting trip and the excitement is palpable! “On the road is where we come alive” (David Brent).

The whirlwind nature of the programme so far shows no signs of stopping, and who would like it any other way?

Patrick Whelan ~ Full-Time MBA

Reflections on the MBA Journey and the Road Ahead

Humanity
Random acts of kindness. The greatest lesson from the MBA – our humanity.

 

“Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards” Kierkegaard

 Forecasting is a doomed art! Those who try to predict the future invariably fail miserably. What I can forecast though is I will have mixed emotions of happiness but also sadness when this journey finishes. And boy has it been a journey! I decided to undertake the MBA because of a love of learning, for self-improvement and as a challenge: it was my treat to myself after a decade labouring as a consultant in the HSE. I also wanted to try to improve healthcare for all people within the HSE and I believed the MBA would give me skills to help achieve that goal. So was it the right decision?

It soon became apparent to me there are two tracks on the EMBA –those with and without children and partners. Where the course is a challenge for all of us, the real casualties of the MBA are the children and partners who suffer long absences, deadlines, cramming sessions for exams and late night skype calls. In the middle of my third semester my son said: “Dad, I don’t like the MBA, it means we don’t talk as much before I go to bed”. A stake through my heart! In fact my greatest stress throughout the course was, as we neared the end of the first lecture, would it end in time for me to talk to my son before he went to sleep.

It has been one of the most enjoyable learning experiences in my life. Academically highly educational with some truly inspirational teachers, a rich social interaction, life-long bonds made with team members forged through collective suffering, and most surprisingly of all, self-discovery. The Myer Briggs and 360 assessments really made me understand my motivations, passions and most of all my limitations. I also became aware that how I perceive and hear myself is very different to how others see and hear me. I gained wisdom through this course managing to avoid grade fixation and focussing on the journey itself; I feasted on the marrow of the MBA and mined the minds of the lecturers and classmates all washed down with at times contentious, but always good-spirited debate. The MBA was always about the journey to me, not the final arbitrary tabulation of effort.

So what of the future? We are clearly living in interesting and disruptive times. Moore’s law tells us computing power doubles every 18 months and we are at the dawn of AI displacing many millions of jobs as evidenced by the Fukoki-company outsourcing to IBM Watson Explorer recently. Other disruptive innovations including Crispr Cas 9 genome editing, 3D printing, driverless cars, internet of things, solar panel covered streets to power lights and cities, will all revolutionise our lives. We will live longer more affluent lives but will this necessarily translate to better quality lives? “Machinery which gives us abundance has left us in want, knowledge has made us cynical and cleverness hard and unkind, we think too much and feel too little, more than machinery we need humanity, more than cleverness we need kindness” (Charles Chaplin).

Equally compelling is the lurch to the political right, religious wars, economic stagnation with endless QE, lack of political leadership and the potential for further banking collapses with bail ins. But I have great hope for the future despite all these tumultuous events. That hope arises partly from my MBA experience because of the people I met. Simple acts of kindness: a mass card for a bereaved family member, baby hampers for a bouncing new arrival, organising a medical appointment for a child, and help for a classmate struggling with an assignment. An encouraging word, a kind smile, a nod that all will be okay.

This journey has made me wiser, walk softer and try to be kinder. Because the MBA isn’t about grades, it isn’t about degrees, it isn’t about money. It’s about people, the struggle you endure with them, learning from them and most importantly the friendship you give and graciously receive from them. I thank my classmates and lecturers for the wonderful two-year conversation we have enjoyed. Most of all I thank my family for tolerating this journey and carrying me along the way.

Maybe our journey isn’t ending, maybe it’s just beginning…

Colin McMahon ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

Almost at the Finish Line

Finish Line Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds and Sky.
Finish Line Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

My scope of career expectations was very limited and I was pretty content with what I was doing at the time until the day the notion of MBA struck my little head. And suddenly there was a burning flame in me to move out of that zone and look beyond my horizon. But then for some reason, I preferred working for a few years before I could dive into an MBA curriculum. And then after 6 years’ experience it was time to shift gears. With a decent GMAT score and a reasonably good career profile, UCD turned into a dream option for me and I hardly had any doubts in choosing it over the other offers. Its critical to note that I had, by now, commenced fostering ambitions of moving into C-suite in years to come.

And here is the beginning of the struggle!!!

Let me now pull myself straight to the classroom from the office desk. It was difficult to adapt, honestly, and to go back to the study table after six years. Moving to a different city, rest aside a different country, can bring along a lot of challenges and changes, all of them bombard on your head at the same time. But that’s how one evolves and that has never been a headache for me. Luckily, I got a nice apartment along with my fellow Indian folks from the class. The foundation week was a nice “get-to-know-act” to start with and it helped lots of us to get to know each other well, even though I ended up remembering only the names of a few, still very poor with names ☹. We had a great outdoor activity on the very first day. Oops!! That was the second day as the Irish embassy too, like me, was late in giving me my visa (pun intended).

I believe and really advocate the fact that my study group was outstanding. The group had fantastic people who were committed and sincere and I learned highly from them. We made sure that our group protocol was maintained and respected by each one of us. We always planned well before the due dates and on many occasions, we were way ahead of other study groups (source – internal informers). Also, it’s worth mentioning the couple of beer chit-chats we had at The Dark Horse. Aisling, Conor, Elena, Linh hope you guys are having an exciting time!!

Coming back to my own learnings and experiences, let me turn objective and retrospective. Was I happy to do the MBA? Absolutely yes!! Did I start off well? I guess yes!! Was there a sense of disappointment over time? Guess so!! Reasons unknown. Did I get complacent over time? Yes truly!! That was the first mistake I made as I couldn’t resist the temptation and feeling of taking things for granted. From a Team dynamics perspective, I realized I didn’t put my best foot forward at certain instances. On the academic front, I wish there were more practical sessions implementing the classroom theories, though I was particularly impressed by the case study based approach in some of the modules. Luckily, there were always bagful of assignments to apply the classroom concepts. As they say, “knowledge is a waste until it is applied”.

Over the last nine months or so, I have realized the importance of maintaining your own identity among the students. It also justifies the admission criteria of bringing your own uniqueness to the MBA cohort. So, this is one of the key take-aways for me, something that I had forgotten to be mindful of. Time and again, we kept hearing, in the career and networking sessions, the essence of selling yourself and that can be best achieved if you stick to your own scheme of things with a pinch of improvisations. And here comes the most heard phrase – Network, Network, Network!!!

Networking is still an alien concept back in India and understandably I used to be short of words, rest aside ideas, when it came to networking with strangers. According to a typical definition, “networking is the art of creating, growing, and nurturing your personal, social, or professional connections”. I had no idea if it was an art or science or some uncanny professional act. I would feel like I was bidding for myself in those must sell situations!! My takeaway – There is no way one can learn professional networking unless it is practiced. I guess I am still nurturing this skill but there is a huge difference between how I connect now and how it used to go, let say, six months back.

So, what’s next? I am into my last three months of MBA and can’t wait to wear my office shoes again but this time with a bit more shine and gloss. I would say I have made my share of mistakes over the course of time and learned from them. Now it’s time to stop contemplating and put things into action. I am hoping the next three months are going to be more exciting than the last nine months. Hopefully, the Irish weather too stays lively. Give me some sunshine, give me no rain!!!

Wishing myself and everyone in the MBA cohort very good luck for a prosperous career!!!

Vishal Sharma ~ Full-Time MBA

A Walk Down Memory Lane of Recent Irish Economic History

ecoa

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

1

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.

2

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.

3

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