Foundation Week & the start of the MBA


When I embarked on my Smurfit MBA journey, I said I will start a blog. I didn’t expect the workload to be so high though.

Three weeks later I am posting my first blog entry. I am still very excited to share my experience with you, and I hope you are still interested in reading it. I promise writing more often and on time in the future.

Foundation week.

The foundation week is a pre-programme part of the MBA to get everyone to know each other, and get everyone “up and running”, as they say.

It definitely involved a lot of running! From Monday to Friday we spent all day from 8.00 to 18.00-19.00 at the school. The week was so intense and beneficial in terms of learning that at the end of it, it was hard to realize that the programme itself had not even started. I felt I already learned so much! It would be easier to describe the week day by day.


Monday was a “getting to know each other day” with programme directors and staff greeting us, several lecturers giving introduction to specific fields, as well as a bit of talk on leadership and the year to come.

I was positively surprised by the quality of lecturers and by the experience of my fellow classmates. I obviously knew Smurfit is one of the top schools, but the quality of lecturing turned out to be beyond any expectations! Also I was happy to get to know my classmates. People in this programme are probably a bit older and more experienced compared to many other MBAs. It seems that the average experience among full time cohort is about 8-10 years, while among the Executives about 10-12. I was very happy to be among people older than me, even though at first felt a little bit weird, recognizing I am one of the youngest and less experienced in the class.


Tuesday was Financial Reporting all the day. Boring, you might say, right? Yes, not the most exciting subject on Earth, I agree! That is why our class was amazed that our professor Niamh Brennan managed to keep our attention for the whole day! Truly fascinating, and it adds to my previous comment about the quality of lecturers.


Team building activities. Many people have certain stereotypes regarding outside team building activities. People would picture running around, doing crazy stuff with no purpose, falling on their backs and hoping their team mates would catch them.

This workshop was very similar and very different. We did a lot of outside activities: we solved puzzles, did physical exercise, and even walked around with our eyes blindfolded trying to form a certain figure. However, a very distinct feature of this particular workshop was that it served a purpose of understanding, how teams operate. The facilitator gathered us together after every activity, and we debriefed what happened. The lessons adaptable to real life would be evident afterwards.

For example, we were given a task in groups of 4 and 20 minutes to plan, how we tackle it. Then 5 minutes into the exercise we were approached and told that the task had been changed, and we will have to perform it with other 2 groups of 4. We would spend the remaining 15 minutes still in the same group of 4, planning the task. When the time to perform comes, we would not perform well enough, of course.

Why is it so? Because we were blind to see that 5 minutes into the task our group has changed, and instead of planning in a group of 4, we should be planning in a group of 12. Now think how often you experience at your job that two departments (say sales and marketing) are doing something on their own? This funny experience in an outdoor game was a good illustration of how groups of people fail to see what are the boundaries of the team.


Thursday was a business simulation that I will not go into details about just to save your reading time. One distinct feature about that day was that it was my birthday, which I celebrated by getting a 2 for 4.25 EUR salad deal from Marks and Spencer.

Friday was another day full of highlights. First we had a workshop on listening and personality types (Myers Briggs). I think it might be because of the background of trainers in psychology, but they delivered the best workshop on listening and personality types I have ever seen (out of at least 3). The personality types was a more interesting part. They explained what it means, how it affects the working preferences, as well as sources of stress for various types. We didn’t do the test, but they explained each component and two extremes so well that my self-assessment completely corresponded to the results of the test I took later.

After lunch we had a presentation skills workshop. Again, when you have attended several poorly delivered presentation skills workshops, there is not much to expect. However, this one was brilliant! I did a lot of debating during my undergrads, and speaking in public is never an issue for me. I learned loads of useful tips and information from the workshop. It was not only the information, but also real time interaction, practicing, and coaching that turned the knowledge into practice. Now that we also had a second workshop in week 2 of studies, I see that not only me, but every single person in the class massively improved their presentation skills.

Cheers Smurfit for the fun and beneficial week! Thumbs up for the quality! We ended the week with a visit to a local pub, as Irish traditions require.

First weeks of studies

I am now in my third week of studies, and I will not lie, if I say I have mixed feelings about it. The quality is outstanding and beyond any expectation! People in class, lecturers, learning environment, and leadership workshops contribute massively to my development. I feel like an empty book shelf, gradually being filled with new skills and knowledge. I will write separate entries on the class, subjects/lecturers, and the leadership development part of the programme. The downside to this is that I find myself studying literally for 12-14 hours on most days. “Gotta run and keep going” I suppose! At least I know that all the effort put into studies will benefit my development.

I think it is enough of reading for the first entry. In the future, I promise to write shorter articles. I plan to write on several topics: (i) why I chose Smurfit; (ii) about the class, lecturers/subjects, and other components of the programme, so that people considering MBA in the future are better informed about Smurfit; (iii) about scholarship opportunities here and at other institutions, and why you don’t necessarily need to pay 100K+ for a degree.

Cheers for now!

Nikita Pusnakovs ~ Full-Time MBA

Check out Nikita’s Blog ‘MBA In Ireland’ here