I am a poet and I didn’t know it

When we embarked on our MBA, there were a few books that were recommended to us to give us a flavour of what the journey would entail. One such book was “To Snapshots from Hell by Peter Robinson”, a tale of a previous presidential speechwriter’s journey on the Stanford MBA. He defined the non-mathematical students as poets, people like himself as well as marketing types, artists etc who were non-mathsy. He could do well to add Makeup Artists to that category too as I was also in the group that struggled with any of the math related subjects like Corporate Finance and Financial Reporting. To be fair I also own and run a Hair and Makeup Talent Agency, so thought I would have a grasp of these subjects, but they are on another level to what you would experience running a small business.


As I quickly got lost in the workload of the MBA and group work, I struggled to keep on top of the more technical subjects. Above is some of our team on the last day of working together, we decided to go for dinner to celebrate, we don’t look too bad! I would encourage any Poets thinking of persuing the MBA to try and do an introduction course on Maths & Accounting, in order to give you a starting chance. The first few months of the MBA is like taking part in the Bull Run in Pamplona. You signed up for it, so you can’t complain, but taking part is like running down a narrow cobbled street with other participants, trying to stay amongst the group, but not get mutilated by a giant herd of bulls(deadlines) as they come at you left, right and centre.


Just when you think you are getting somewhere, you have handed in your project, around the corner comes another deadline ready to decapitate you if you take your eye off the proverbial bull! Also, like the festival, once you get through the trauma of the event, you are filled with a sense of elation, pride and achievement that you have come out the other side, relatively unscathed.


It isn’t all doom and gloom though. There were plenty of highs, including getting to know some fantastic people and enjoy some down time. Here I am at the Image Business Awards with the lovely Shitandi, Suzanne and Ankita. It was so nice to get glammed up and be inspired by some fantastic women in business.


I also managed to bring Shitandi out of her digs in “Proby” to explore a bit of the countryside that Ireland has to offer. Here we are pictured on top of the Hell Fire Club with Dublin City in the background. The mix of people in the MBA is one of the truly best features of the course. With all the different cultures and perspectives, you learn so many alternative ways of thought. I am delighted that I took on the challenge of the MBA and feel like I am getting a well-rounded education that will serve me well into the future. The leadership development and career coaching are particularly good in Smurfit and something that I think really compliments the course well. We have done a lot of teamwork analysis including SDI training and 360 feedback which is invaluable in developing yourself as a leader.

As I look to the next semester with anticipation, I shout ¡Viva San Fermín! He is the Patron saint, who blesses and guides the runners of the bull run as they set out on their treacherous journey. If he can protect them from raging bulls then I am sure he can look out for me as I head out on the next stage of my journey!

Emma Farrell, FTMBA 2018/19

The perfect (Smur)fit!

On August 27th, 31 students from North America, Europe, Africa and Asia came together for the first time. Excited to embark on this crazy adventure called the Smurfit MBA – wondering what our classmates would be like, who we would be working with in study groups and who our new friends would be.

Less than seven weeks later, it was time for us to be exposed to a whole new set of MBA students from schools across the world. Who would we meet? What would our classmates be like? Who would our new friends be? Some members of our Smurfit class set off to locations such as Vancouver, New Haven and Madrid, and some stayed in Dublin to warmly welcome students from other MBA programs to our home in Dublin. As a Canadian who spent the last decade living in Western Europe, I chose to attend the module offered at Fudan University of Management in Shanghai, China.

Enthusiastic about the opportunity to experience a new culture, eat dumplings and meet more inspiring MBA students, I bade goodbye to Dublin for the week and set off for Shanghai alone.


Navigating a big city in China proved to be harder than I had anticipated, which was the general consensus among the other GNAM students in Shanghai – and became a great source of entertainment for my friends back home and in Dublin. I honed my skills in pointing and gesturing, as I learned more about the evolving Chinese business culture and took in the sights, history and dumplings.

While there were no local Fudan students in the course with us, I met students of all ages and backgrounds from top business schools such as ESMT, IE, EGADE, UBC Sauder, Yale and IIM. I learned about these people, I learned about the MBA degrees that they were pursuing, and I learned that MBAs are not all created equal even across the top programmes in the world. Not every school has a Leadership Development Programme that includes a personal coach, career counseling and events in full swing within the first two months and a Programme Manager who genuinely cares about the students she is minding. (Hi Aga! We appreciate you!)

I heard about programmes that had hundreds of students each year, and I had a newfound appreciation for the close-knit nature of the Smurfit programme. We arrived at Smurfit strangers, and only seven short weeks later, I found myself missing the cheerful Irish accent, my Indian, Kenyan, South African and Japanese MBA family in Proby House, my brilliant and funny study group and all 30 faces that I had come to know so well in such a short time.


Now another seven weeks have elapsed since that alternate universe MBA experience in Shanghai and I can say that I’ve come to appreciate the UCD Smurfit community and Dublin even more with time.

In Switzerland, we say “daheim si isch ke Ort…sondern äs Gfüeu” (home is not a place, rather a feeling). I am thankful for the “Céad Míle Fáilte” (hundred thousand welcomes) I have received daheim at Smurfit and look forward to continuing this adventure.


Carmela Reyes, FTMBA 2018/19

The Tempest

“Our revels have endeth.”

We have reached the end of a challenging yet very rewarding semester one. But the storm clouds have arrived. And (if I may quickly jump between plays) Shylock’s pound of flesh has come due. It’s exam time. And unlike Antonio, who managed to find a legal loophole, we must lift our shirts and pay what’s due.

“Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.”

Our first exam is Corporate Finance, which may explain why my brain has turned to Shakespeare to escape from all the WACC’ing it has been receiving. The Merchant of Venice does cover a lot of the core principles of finance. Bonds and repayments are key actors in the drama. OCC is a central theme. And if Antonio had carefully considered his capital budgeting, taking proper account of the risks associated with 16th century shipping to establish his risk matched discount rate, he may not have had to use as much of his equity (ie shares in his body parts) as leverage for the debt. Better capital structuring would have saved him from a potentially painful divestment. You could say it is a perfect example of Modigliani and Miller second proposition, where the return or cost of equity increases as the percentage of debt increases.

But the bigger question is, why does exam-time encourage one’s mind to wander? I have now pondered the principles of finance contained within Shakespeare’s works, but I’m pretty sure this will be of zero benefit for my exam. I will draw some solace from John Coates’ “The Hour Between Dog And Wolf”, where he notes that switching tasks or thought processes can offset mental fatigue. But I will also humbly ask our professors to consider Portia’s closing argument on behalf of Antonio…

“The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.”

Once more unto the breach, dear MBA candidates, once more.


Christopher Upton, FTMBA, 2018/19

An Evening with the Most Inspiring Ladies

Whilst pursuing my MBA from Smurfit, I got an opportunity to attend the “IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards, 2018”. Sounds like some academy award function? Well it was no less! In all of its glitz, glamour and dazzle, women from all across Ireland were celebrated for their dedication towards their work and their entrepreneurial skills in every field from social to digital media. Ironically the event was hosted on 19 November, “International Men’s day”, in the Clayton Hotel, Burlington.


It was my first opportunity to go to such even. I was excited about meeting women who had excelled at their respective domains. I was stumped by the grandeur of the venue, with the decorated pink and gold colours for the event. Every woman was dressed to the nines, beaming with pride due to being nominated for an award or due to being there to support their colleagues in their nomination or some where there like me to be inspired. Every table in the ballroom was finely decorated with feathers, candles and pearls and a beautiful gift was provided in the form of a bracelet with “success” monogrammed on it.

Sitting there listening to their stories, we could feel the fire in their heart, their determination and passion which has got them this far. Their stories exuberated that age is just a number, you can start anytime in your life and glory comes when every setback is dealt with through perseverance and most importantly by keeping your head high when things get tough.

One of the most profound messages I took away from the night was when Anne Harris said on stage: “anger dies, love doesn’t, in the professional and the personal, and respect and more respect is the way to bridge that gap.”

This event was one of the many of the milestones in my MBA journey, teaching and inspiring me to the core. It was not a celebration of just a few successful women, but the celebration of every woman’s perseverance, the battles they have fought and the support they have received in fighting these battles in the business world


I hope to return to such an event, not only to make my mark my time on the MBA at Smurfit, but also as a mark of my imprint on the Irish business world upon graduation.

Ankita Aggarwal, FTMBA 2018/19


Weathering the Storm

My MBA journey began by running into school panting for breath, just in time for Economics class. The first thing I noticed – apart from the beautiful campus and the amazing cohort of students I was with – was that I was shivering despite wearing four layers of clothing. I realized then that I was going to get colder weather than I had bargained for. Not one to be put off by a few spells of rain and a breeze, I plunged into my modules.


This would soon change however, as the year progressed, and the temperature dropped in Dublin. Term one spanned over 4 months – fall and the advent of winter. Leaves morphed from green to beautiful shades of tan, auburn and orange. Trees soon shed these leaves, strewing the ground with gold medallions of crackle that the dogs loved playing in. Bare branches and sprightly conifers greeted me each morning as I made my way to class, determination in my stride and a cup of hot chocolate in hand.

And then, just like that, winter was here. For a girl from the tropics, this is bad news. Very few hours of feeble sunlight and piling assignments and group work were not a good combination. I grew so frustrated at not being able to wake up to dark mornings and feeling hungry and sleepy at odd times because of my disrupted body clock that I did what any MBA student would do – I analyzed the data and wrote a report.


The point of inflection on the graph is the ideal space to be – you’re motivated enough to do your work; the weather is just perfect, and the workload is something you can easily handle. The shaded area is a zone you really don’t want to get into – low motivation, terrible weather and skyrocketing workload. The red dot represents where I am at the moment.

The MBA program is however, ideal for learning how to deal with the shaded zone. I have picked up great interpersonal skills, time management skills and an enhanced ability to deal gracefully with stress. The coaching sessions and wonderful vibe of my flat-mates have ensured that I don’t fall victim to the immense workload and unpredictable weather.

All in all, this experience will make me a well-rounded individual, capable of meeting challenges head-on and working with people to surmount impossible tasks. And to think it’s only been four months!

I eagerly await the coming months for more things to learn. Almost as eagerly as I await spring.

Swathi Shenoy, FTMBA 2018/2019



Digital is dead, FinTech is Next!!!

On 7th November, UCD Smurfit FinTech Society organized its first event “Blockchain: Beyond Cryptocurrency” at the UCD Smurfit School. We had an exciting panel from Deloitte Blockchain lab and ConsenSys, Ireland to talk us through the innovations happening in Fintech and the role of Blockchain in industries such as finance, supply chain and food. The session started with the basics of Blockchain, but participation and inquisitiveness of society members drove discussion towards more complex topics on ethereum development and use of technology across sectors. To our surprise, many MBA students turned up for the event although it was happening on the day before Economics mid-term exam (Dear Jim, I wish this can be used as an excuse for my not so good performance in the economics mid-term exam). The part that was most fun around organizing the event and running Smurfit FinTech society has been meeting like-minded people who want to use or are using the Blockchain technology to power their own ventures and the aim of our Society is to bring together those people.


Also, the support that we got from Smurfit LDP and Careers office has been tremendous. Ailish Lynch, our MBA Leadership Development Manager, supported us from the very start when we pitched our idea to start a new club aimed at FinTech innovations. Mark Davies, UCD Smurfit Careers Manager also helped us to reach out to companies to help us with eminent guest speakers. There is a lot to explore in Blockchain technologies, and UCD Smurfit’s strong alumni network is of huge benefit for people who have desire to reach out to people from the field of their interest.

Shubham Sahai, FTMBA 2018/2019

Towards becoming better leaders

It’s been more than three months since I arrived in Dublin to pursue my MBA at Smurfit. The year at the business school is supposed to be nothing short of transformational, as countless others have testified before. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t take a year – I can already tell you that I have transformed holistically from the person I was three months back.photo-two

The MBA is a degree in business leadership. It has two important points of growth – educational (the theoretical aspects of business) and personal (the daily aspect of leadership). For me, that meant a solid grounding in core finance and accounting aspects that I was particularly uncomfortable with and an understanding of the practicalities surrounding marketing and strategy. Perhaps more importantly, it also meant a good hard look at myself and understanding how my particular personality can shine through and become a better leader. Smurfit provides a lot of tools and resources to help us look at ourselves and illustrates how we can become phenomenal leaders while keeping most of our personalities intact. Largely this is down to the LDP programme, the diversity of the cohort and the excellent strategy of putting students in diverse study groups.


During this “transformation”, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that you need to have fun. Our intake embody the spirit of work hard, party harder (perhaps this is obvious seeing that the course is in Dublin). The MBA is an intense course, and you would soon be running on reserves if you do not let loose regularly. In addition, a lot of the learnings and “team-building activities” happen with friends at the pubs.

I knew that the MBA was going to be a transformational journey, but I am pleasantly surprised daily at the changes I have undergone. Few of the takeaways until date – a better understanding of myself, higher confidence, better presentation skills and a healthier lifestyle. And you know what? There are still nine more months to go!

Saket Jain, FTMBA 2018/2019

1/3rd of the way through already? Surely not?

A common theme one tends to hear a lot in relation to pursuing an MBA is that of time management. Not to push a cliché too much, but it’s in disbelief I find that we are in our last week of lectures of semester one. Our midterms are complete and we’re certainly in the thick of the last of the assignments and preparation for the upcoming end of semester exams. Even whilst trying to be cognizant of the time with everything that’s been expected of us over the last 3 months, I find myself asking “where did that time go”?

A huge amount in that time has happened and in my view that is the reason behind the sentiment of the whirlwind of the Smufit MBA experience. In the last 3 months I’ve lost track of the amount of new people I’ve met – possibly the most in my life in such a short space of time. After having travelled extensively by myself when I was younger, I can say that is no mean feat! With networking being such an important component of the Smurfit MBA there is no shortage of promotion of those values I can say with certainty!

Whilst we have been incredibly busy with our core modules, in tandem with these we have been attending Leadership Development Program sessions on team and individual dynamics. These sessions have focused on our individual and team styles of contribution that have certainly given me food for thought about where people fit in in teams, how we work in teams and even showing us parts of our personalities that we might not have been aware of. All this has assisted in the various teams we have been a part of and how we fit in to perform at our best.

Another highly worthwhile mention of the activities of the last few months is the GNAM (Global Network of Advanced Management) week here in Dublin which focused on Digital Business transformation. This was expertly organised by Nicola Dunnion and JP Donnelly, CEO of Ogilvy. So much was packed into the 5 days including guest speakers such as the Liam Kavanagh, CEO of the Irish Times, Tom Kinsella, CMO of AIB, and company visits to Facebook, Google and the Abbey to name only a few! The content, presentations, visits and organisation were second to none. We had some fantastic conversations and us Smurfiteers did our best to impart some local knowledge and wisdom to make our many guests from FGV São Paulo, ESMT Berlin, Koç University, UBC Sauder, EGADE, Yale, IIMB, Fudan, IE Business School and Pontificia Universidad Catolica De Chile feel welcome during their stay.


As time creeps up on us and we advance through our workload, I look forward to our Christmas break to catch up with family and friends. Equally though, I feel that having recharged the batteries I will be looking forward to the next chapter of the Smurfit MBA Journey if it’s as eventful, challenging and enjoyable as this instalment which I’ve no doubt it will be.

Mark Blake, MBA 2018/19

Global Network Week at Yale School of Management

Back in early August I remember receiving an email laying out the various choices for the GNAM Week and asking for an response “ASAP”. “GNAM”, I thought to myself – “what’s that?” The MBA course wouldn’t start for another 3 weeks and I was already behind! A cursory glance at the email told me that six weeks after starting the course we would have the opportunity to travel abroad to a different university in the Global Network, meeting MBA students from around the world, and attending lectures on various topics with experts in their fields. I checked the options and found that a course in ‘Behavioural Science in Management’ would be given at Yale University no less – ‘sounds fine’ I thought, ‘I’ll do that’ I thought, ‘that’s ages away yet’ I thought.

After what felt like five minutes, we had completed 6 weeks of lectures at Smurfit, with exams and submission deadlines looming large. At that point, I needed a trip to America like I needed a hole in my head. While I hadn’t done much research into the GNAM experience, it was impossible to ignore the allusions to and mentions of GNAM that came with nearly every interaction with MBA Alumni. It wouldn’t take long to see why they talked of it with such enthusiasm. Along with my classmates: Carla, Chris, Ciara, Ger, Hans, Lydia and Luzi I made my way to Yale – a week of educational hedonism lay ahead of us, an experience we won’t ever forget.

richard-morrisOn Monday morning we started early with a lecture from Shane Frederick.  If you’ve heard of the “Bat and Ball” question – he wrote it! If you haven’t heard of it, do yourself a favour and look it up, it’s a great one to share with your WhatsApp groups! Like all the lecturers we would meet that week, Shane is a leader in his field, highly knowledgeable and widely published. He managed to keep us on the edge of our seats for the full three-hour lecture which seemed to last minutes – delivering the punchlines to his theories with energy and conviction.

On Wednesday we took a day trip to New York, where we met with Roland Betts, the owner of the Chelsea Piers Leisure facility, former Chairman of the Board of Yale University, responsible for financing Disneys The Little Mermaid!  He treated us to a tour of his premises and engaged in a candid Q&A. He talked us through his decision to buy the piers back in the 90s, at a time when no-one wanted to visit Chelsea, explaining the difficulties he’d faced in staying afloat, particularly after Hurricane Sandy, all the way up to it becoming one of the most visited places in Manhattan. This was real insight into a real success-story, and we all finished the visit feeling energised.

The highlight of the trip came immediately after the visit to Chelsea Piers. Rather than travel back to Yale with rest of the GNAM cohort, we lucky UCD Students put on our glad rags and headed towards Central Park. Having realised that we would be in New York at the same time, the American Chapter of the UCD Alumni Association invited us to their annual  Alumni Dinner. Now, I’m a big fan of the Smurfit Campus Restaurant – those pizzas are delicious – but that evening in New York we truly got to see how the other half live! In the illustrious setting of the Metropolitan Club facing Central Park on Fifth Avenue, we were lucky enough to rub shoulders with Smurfit Alumni, Smurfit Staff, Lecturers and the honoured guests of the evening. The food was incredible and the company even better!  We were delighted to have been invited and to see how engaged the global UCD Smurfit Alumni network is.

Lectures continued on Thursday in the same vein as they’d started on Monday and Tuesday, with a highly engaging talk by Prof. Zoe Chance. On Friday the kilter changed slightly – rather than sit, listen and be entertained it was now our job to stand, speak and enlighten… We were divided into groups with students from Insead, ESMT, Sauder, IE, Koc and many other top business schools.  Each group had to deliver a presentation about a key take away from the week’s lecture series. While we mightn’t have matched what had come before us, I’d like to think that we made a solid contribution.

We Smurfiteers said goodbye to all of our new friends from around the globe and took an evening train back to Manhattan, enjoying our final GNAM dinner as a group that night. We were exhausted – the week had flashed past us and we’d done our best to keep up. It had been a program full to the brim with opportunities to learn and network, and we’d made the most of it. What had felt at the start of the week like an unwelcome distraction from the impending deadlines had morphed into something truly memorable. The books would re-emerge on the flight home, as reality began to set in.  We arrived back in Dublin, more tired than when we left, but we were a little bit wiser, more open-minded and most of all – happy we’d replied to that email marked “ASAP”.

Richard Morris, FTMBA 2018/19



MBA Graduation Ball 2018 – The End and The Beginning

And so it came to pass that the MBA class of 2018 gathered in the beautiful Thomas Prior Hall in Ballsbridge, to mark the conclusion of their studies at the Graduation Ball. While this was a pre-emptive acknowledgment, with final results not due to be released for another four days, the graduates-in-waiting turned out in number with unwavering confidence that they had successfully navigated their Capstone project and final modules.

On the surface, this was an opportunity for classmates who have not seen each other for a few months to get dressed up, pat themselves on the back and to have a good boogie.  In fact this event meant much more than that.

The ball marked the end of one or two years of immensely hard work and sacrifice; not just for the students, but for their partners, children, parents and friends. It marked the end of a journey of learning; about oneself, about teamwork, about leadership and about change. It marked the end of engaging lectures, expanding horizons and student discounts.

But it also marks a beginning. For many, the beginning of new jobs or roles, for others, the beginning of applying what they have learned in the workplace and the wider world.  There is a justified sense of optimism and confidence in this group in what they can achieve and the impact they can make as alumni.


During the MBA, our classmates became our second family. Some weeks we spent more time with them than our first family. The bond and camaraderie forged through the demanding experiences of the MBA are strong. These are people we will always have time for, support and feel connected to.  While oceans may imminently separate us as a group, we will follow each other’s paths with interest and pride.

This year, the committee decided to support Fr. Tony Coote, a former Chaplin of UCD in his ‘Walk While You Can’ campaign. Fr. Tony is raising awareness and funds for Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Research Motor Neurone, having been diagnosed with MND in March of this year. Through the generosity of those at the ball, the sponsors and contributors of raffle prizes, nearly €4,000 was raised for this worthy cause. If you wish to make an on-line donation you can still do so via our iDonate fundraising page: www.idonate.ie/MBABallWhileYouCan2018.


I would like to congratulate and thank my fellow committee members Stuart Garrett, Mary Sheehan, Gwen Morgan and Lucy MacAuley for their hard work in making the ball a fantastic success.

I would also like to congratulate and thank my classmates for making the decision to pursue their MBA, for their help and support along the way, for what they have taught me and each other, for the experiences we have shared and for their companionship on our journey of change and our new beginning.

“If we stay where we are, where we’re stuck, where we’re comfortable and safe, we die there. We become like mushrooms, living in the dark, with poop up to our chins. If you want to know only what you already know, you’re dying. You’re saying: Leave me alone; I don’t mind this little rathole. It’s warm and dry. Really, it’s fine. When nothing new can get in, that’s death. When oxygen can’t find a way in, you die. But new is scary, and new can be disappointing, and confusing – we had this all figured out, and now we don’t. New is life.” Anne Lamott


Ian Rafferty FT MBA 2017/18