A Crash Course in the Icelandic Fishing Industry

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.

As part of the MBA capstone, the FTMBAs, joined by some of the Year 1 EMBAs, went to Iceland to complete a week-long consulting project with Icelandic companies. Our team worked with Skaginn 3x, a food processing equipment producer that focuses on the fishing industry. As an island country with a population of approximately 300,000, the fishing industry plays an important role in the Icelandic economy. The week in Iceland was for our team a crash course in the fishing industry, as we had limited collective exposure to it beforehand.

Our consulting project for Skaginn 3x focused on their Sub-ChillingTM product, a technology that creates significant innovation in the fish processing industry. This product brings sustainability and environmental benefits to fish processors, and we were asked to develop a recommendation for how Skaginn 3x could leverage those benefits to help customers gain access to government funds or grants that would make the technology more affordable for them.

Photo1

In order to complete this project, we applied frameworks that we learned in competitive strategy, we conducted interviews with industry experts in Iceland and in Ireland, and we did an extensive amount of research during the three days we had to prepare our presentation. On the final day, we presented our findings, along with an action plan for how Skaginn 3x could further develop our research.

As an added bonus – our company was based in the beautiful Ocean Cluster House – a marine innovation centre located by the harbour in Reykjavik. This building was filled with a number of companies that worked in the marine or fishing industries, and offered beautiful views.

Photo2

After making our presentation on our last day in Iceland, our team rented a car and headed out to see the Golden Circle. We got to see a geyser, a waterfall and eat some delicious ice cream, while running into other MBA teams at every stop! As we took in the beautiful views, we were able to share our experiences and talk about our projects with our classmates, bringing the Iceland trip to a wonderful close!

Laura Shumaker, FTMBA

When the Calculator Doesn’t Have the Right Buttons

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 thought we were in Iceland to solve a mathematics problem. Five EMBA students, calculators in hand, showed up on the first day of our consulting project ready to answer a straightforward question: “How can our assigned company maintain margins in an increasingly competitive field?” Four days later, we stood in front of management to present a solution that may have seemed the answer to a completely unrelated question. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t!) Thankfully, the first year of the UCD Smurfit MBA gave us the skills needed to assess the problem from less obvious angles and confidently recommend an unanticipated course of action.

So, how did we come to answer a question that wasn’t even asked of us? We listened to our first-year lecturers, of course! Through the initial assessment, we heard Brian McGrath, who taught competitive strategy, asking “What is the company good at?” We imagined his displeasure with our wishy-washy answers until a lightbulb moment when, at last, we could all agree on a few short convincing words to describe the company’s unique strengths. Next, as we mulled over a Porter’s Five Forces analysis, Brian was in the back of our minds asking “How serious is the competitive threat to the business?” With much practice forcing ourselves away from a non-committal conclusion of “Medium, I think…?”, we found ourselves surprised to conclude that, in fact, the challenge posed by the competition was more serious than we first thought.

Pic 2

As we started to truly understand the challenge at hand, Ashley Hughes, who taught leadership and organisational behaviour, was top of our minds. We were starting to believe that internal rather than external factors might be preventing the company from reaching its full potential vis a vis competitors. So, we followed Ashley’s suggestion and asked the employees themselves. Mindful of the need for a consistent methodology, we developed a set of questions intended to probe employee incentives to behave in the best interest of the organisation. The results led us down the path to our final conclusion, in which Joe Hanley – lecturer in strategic human resources – helped us tie everything together with the concept of “Congruence and alignment,” still ringing in our ears after recent exams.

In the end, we packed our calculators away, cognisant that the absence of a “congruence” button rendered them relatively useless for this project. We will almost certainly need to bring them back out to practice other skills learned in the MBA, such as putting together a balance sheet or determining an appropriate internal transfer price. In the meantime, delivering a difficult answer to a question that wasn’t exactly asked of us proved to be one of the best learning experiences we have had to date!

Andrew Gebelin, EMBA 2016-2018

A Formal Initiation Into the World of Consulting

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.

During the first week of the Smurfit MBA, our class was asked to reveal our ‘dream job’. While my mind automatically went to Consulting, I was quite surprised by the sheer number of my classmates who had been bitten by the same bug. The stalwarts of the MBA program (Read: Orla Nugent  and Karan Sonpar), in yet another display of having their finger on the pulse, had already lined up two exciting consulting opportunities for everyone in our class – the first of which was an International Consulting Project in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Our team was paired with CrankWheel, a SaaS company that offers a browser plugin designed for quick, reliable and hassle-free screen sharing. Our consulting project entailed designing a US market entry strategy for the company. We were extremely fortunate to work closely with Jói Sigurdsson (Founder/CEO) and Gilsi Sigvaldason (Co-Founder/CCO). We couldn’t have asked for two more accomplished and accommodating individuals with whom to do this project. In addition to having a great product, they were extremely forthcoming with information that we deemed necessary to carry out our research and were always available to answer our questions and critique our suggestions. This went a long way in motivating us to deliver a project that would be useful to our clients and a source of pride for us in the years to come.

2017-06-12-external-consultants

The year-long rigorous MBA programme at Smurfit equipped us with the right tools to successfully complete a project of this magnitude. The stress on teamwork, the long hours spent researching assignments, the management frameworks learned, etc helped us over-deliver on our promises. We were also extremely fortunate to have an invested mentor in Orla. She asked us all the right questions and gently nudged us in the right direction whenever she deemed it necessary, all the while supporting and encouraging our creative freedom.

The international capstone project has been instrumental in helping me internalise the learnings from the MBA programme and understand the rigors of working in the field of consulting. It was an exhilarating experience that further strengthened my resolve to succeed in this field. The major takeaway from the project for me was the importance of having an involved and interested client. Our experience and project would have been extremely different if our client hadn’t shown the enthusiasm they did. Another important takeaway was the importance of regrouping. We realised the importance of coming back to the drawing board every few hours to report progress and set hard deadlines. It is very easy to keep researching new information to fine-tune or improve your work. However, it is essential to know when to stop, especially when you’re working to an extremely strict deadline.

This project wouldn’t have been the roaring success it was – or as much fun – had it not been for my team mates – Ciaran Hope, Khanh Nguyen, Nikita Pusnakovs. I couldn’t have put a better team together had I selected it myself.

Gursheel Parmar, FTMBA

Crankwheel also took the opportunity to write about the project on its blog.

 

Last Week We Invited External Consultants …

No, not the type you’re thinking of! We were hosting UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School students for International MBA Consultancy Week (from the 5th to 8th of June).

The goal of the MBA Consultancy Week is to provide benefits to both students and their clients. We feel this goal was definitely achieved.

These motivated, driven individuals stormed through our door and, after a brief introductory session, started applying their expertise to our business. They had to research, analyze and offer a key solution to our business case using MBA-grade skills and experience to develop practical growth recommendations.

Hopefully this exercise helped them put academic theory into action, learn practical business skills and finally, use presentation and reporting abilities in a business environment. As for CrankWheel, we really appreciate this remarkable opportunity. Nothing is better for business than an external, objective perspective, fresh insights and intriguing recommendations. Would we do that again? If possible, even tomorrow!

PS. Thanks for sharing lunch with us and for hunting for an open swimming pool in the wee hours of the morning! Big thank you and shout-out to the brilliant members of our team: Ciaran Hope, Gursheel Parmar, Khanh Nguyen and Nikita Pusnakovs!

For a view “from the other side” and a demo of the product, please visit http://crankwheel.com/external-consultants/

 

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