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

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:


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

Smurfit MBA Programme – more than just Image

We are certainly in the thick of it now. Both MBA class of 2019 and EMBA class of 2020 have descended on Smurfit campus and it really feels as though we are here to stay. Give us a year, maybe two, and we will be ready to take on the world. Our introductory weeks to the world of business have been both intense and stimulating; and they have had to be. We have been invited to open our minds to unfamiliar territory, new subjects and theories, that many of us have not yet encountered in our working lives. Having completed just one year of Business Studies in secondary school, I am not only studying the modules on our syllabus, I am learning a new language. Duolingo, eat your heart out.

Since our introductory week at the close of summer, we have been acquainted with an abundance of brilliant, accomplished and engaging individuals. It is infinitely clear that these people want to be here – they want to teach us and show us the way. And they are just as eager to guide us on this journey as we are to follow them. Our lecturers thus far have been stupendous; they have been patient and supportive. In the typical sense, the lecture hall is reminiscent of my undergraduate years; there is oblivion of new before me, but I feel comfortable with it. My questions are welcomed with open arms. And, in contrast to my years as an undergraduate, I value my time in the lecture hall, I rarely check the clock. I am totally immersed in my new surroundings.

In many ways, it is a privilege to be here. Not only because I am in one of the top performing schools in the world but also because of the people surrounding me. My classmates as a whole have been open, honest, human and willing to help. We are a diverse bunch from a vast array of backgrounds – finance, law, medicine, sales, engineering and pharmacy, to name just a few. Each individual brings something new to the table and we continue to actively learn together. My study group cements our thoughts and ideas and facilitates further self-development. Every interaction is an education and, with Wonder Woman as our class representative, we can only imagine how fruitful the next two years will be. The bar has been set sky high.

Outside of the classroom and away from our study groups, we are invited to partake in all the extracurriculars Smurfit has to offer. The opportunities to network and expand our own worlds have been numerous. We have been strongly encouraged to join the tag rugby team and represent Smurfit on the world stage in Danville at the MBA Tag Rugby World Cup. We were invited to join those graduating from the MBA and EMBA classes of 2018 at their graduation ball. There has even been talk of the summer consulting trip next year. Getting involved is an essential part of the experience and I am excited about the prospect of expanding my horizon.

The transition to part-time student and fulltime juggler has been made almost seamless by the dedicated team the Smurfit school have chosen to oversee our progression through our MBA. Our programme managers and coordinator, the director, all have made themselves available to us since the introductory week and have continued to be active in our week-to-week schedules since. Apart from being professional at all times, approachable when a doubt arises, these people have been supportive and kind. But then, this does suit the overall climate here at Smurfit. Like our lecturers, they are helping us to navigate through the sometimes choppy waters that come with returning to education. We are lucky to have you onboard.


The challenge of balancing work and life now demands I up a gear to include MBA on my action plan. Graduates tell me that our time management skills will improve as we move through the year; this is somewhat of a relief. With classes dominating Monday and Thursday evenings, work and all its associated pressures are confined to most other days and weekends. Giving myself permission to zone out is imperative. I continue to need to run, swim and cycle my way through the week. UCD’s gym and swimming pool have been welcome distractions and yoga helps when the Irish weather restricts my movements to the house. My friends, also, are an endless source of good clean fun. They have been not only encouraging of my decision to take the unconventional route, but some are as excited as I am about the world that is now at my fingertips.


I feel fortunate in many ways. If it wasn’t for the scholarship provided by Image magazine to study in Smurfit, I would have struggled financially to keep myself afloat over the next two years. My sister was in Image once. Unfortunately, I will not be involved in the same capacity and I will never be able to fully repay the cost of the Smurfit experience. But I will endeavour to work hard, remain open minded and be the best self I can possibly be with the help of this great team. I am one in a group bright, driven and inspiring people and I am infinitely grateful for that.

Danielle Courtney, EMBA 2018/20


A lot to look forward to

The difficult decision of giving up an enjoyable job to pursue a full-time MBA is now a distant memory. Since commencing the MBA a month ago, there has been little opportunity to look back. The weeks have been full of new experiences and intense learning – exactly why I chose to take time out to pursue the best MBA that Ireland has to offer. The diversity in the class is incredible. The full-time MBA candidates have backgrounds ranging from medicine to finance and engineering. There is also a real sense of the global aspect of the Smurfit MBA, with candidates from countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America.

There is a lot to look forward to in the year ahead. It’s only two weeks until the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week kicks off and our class disperses around the globe. GNAM comprises of 30 leading business schools and gives MBA students the opportunity to study and network with counterparts in other GNAM schools. I will be joining 7 of my classmates in Yale School of Management for a module on behavioural science of management. With the itinerary now sorted, we have managed to squeeze in two nights in NYC. It promises to be an enjoyable week.

There is no less than three additional international trips planned for the busy year ahead. The international study tour (doing business in international markets) next March will see MBA candidates spending time in Asia (Singapore & Vietnam) or South America (Chile & Argentina) to learn about their respective business and cultural contexts. Next up, for those who subscribe to the not-so-intense training, will be the MBA Rugby World Cup in Danville, Virginia. An event which many past MBA’s describe as the best experience of a challenging year. Finally there will be the international consultancy project next June, where we will get to test out the skills we developed during the programme. If you’re considering a Smurfit MBA, ensure your passport is up to date, because you will need it.

International travel aside, career progression or career change (function, company or geography) is a big reason for choosing to pursue an MBA and it’s what we look forward to in the year ahead. On this front, much work has already begun. While many of us thought our CV’s were perfected for our applications, we have learned that we have much to do. We’re lucky to have a dedicated careers manager (Mark Davies) to support us. As Careers Rep, along with Ayush Yetchina, I work closely with Mark interfacing between the careers department and the MBA class.

I was fortunate to be offered the Sunday Business Post Scholarship which covered the full cost of my tuition fees. For those aspiring to undertake an MBA at Smurfit Business School, I would definitely encourage you to take action and make it a reality. Don’t be put off by the cost of a prestigious MBA, there are financial supports available. You will face some obstacles (GMAT, Essays & Interviews) along the way, but each is surmountable and there is plenty of support to help you through. Getting in contact with past MBA candidates is a great place to start.

Gerard Finneran, FT MBA 2018/19


Presenting4Success journey

On September 19th, Met Eireann issued a nationwide “status yellow” weather alert for Storm Ernesto. But, in boarding the “boat”, the weather was not our only challenge; what we would do on the day itself also turned out to be extremely challenging. In our Presenting4Success journey, we are glad that Mr Paul A. Slattery is the captain who is coaching us. This journey lets us learn—and experience—how to present perfectly, which is vital to achieving advancement for ourselves and our ideas. Trust me, it is not that easy!

Before we boarded, most of us were confused. What kind of journey would we experience during this day? The journey began at 9 am. After a light group training on presenting for success, six study groups began their first three-minute presentations. Although these three minutes had been rehearsed before, when standing in front of everyone, you still experience fear and anxiety. After each group presentation, three groups of students offered encouragement and comments on the stage. Feedback is a gift. This gave the team a better understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. Captain Paul also guided the students on visual, verbal and vocal communication and connection with the audience. The audience also benefited from listening to and evaluating the other teams’ presentations.

We were glad that the presentations had finally ended, but we were too naïve. In reality, there were more seven-minute presentations in the afternoon. It must be admitted that the improvements would have been impossible without implementing the new knowledge and skills we had gained from the three-minute presentations.

In this second presentation, we opened with CABA, supporting our body with materials, and closed with Mas. We had less than an hour to prepare the ideas for the team presentation. During the preparation, each team had to constantly move positions and rehearse with different instructors. Even though time was pressing, everyone was inspired to achieve their potential. In addition, the team cooperation was very harmonious, and each member of the team helped the others. During this time, I am very proud to say that our volume, inflection, eye contact and stance all improved.

In today’s Presenting4Success journey, we encountered four “waves”: how to prepare your message, how to develop it, how to deliver it and how to evaluate it. These “waves” have challenged us to step outside our comfort zone to learn the new techniques. I believe that with practice and team work, we will all become excellent skilled communicators.

Luzi Wen, FT MBA 2018/19

“What is this “work-life balance” you speak of?”

So we’re almost a month into the MBA year here at the Smurfit Business School. I can now see why the most common description from Smurfit alumni is “intense”! We’re straight into group work, assignments and classes. It feels a bit like running the wrong way up an escalator that speeds up as you near the top! If I’ve learned anything from my classmates over the last month, it’s that if any of us stumble, our classmates will be ready to pick us up and get us running again.

I was lucky enough to be awarded the “Achiever” scholarship for the year. This award is sponsored by NTR plc and covers the full course fee. Opportunities like that don’t come along often so I accepted before the college could change their mind! Like some of the other scholarships on offer, a solid GMAT score goes a long way towards selection. Anyone that has completed the GMAT knows that practice makes perfect, so I recommend prospective students should research the available scholarships early for the best possible chance to grab one.

As class reps, a priority for myself and Carmela Reyes is making sure that everyone finds the right balance between academics and everything else, so it has been great to be introduced to the MBA clubs and societies. The presenters unanimously agreed that the highlights of their MBA years were the club events. Their enthusiasm while presenting was infectious, whether on the panel discussions for the Entrepreneurship and Thought Leadership clubs or running a Dragon’s Den style event in the local school for the Social Outreach club. Then there is the annual trip to Danville, Virginia for the MBA Rugby World Cup. This sounds like a week of “networking” broken up by the occasional flash of sporting excellence. I intend to follow the advice I was given before the year: “Sign up for everything and you’ll somehow fit it all in”!

Myself and Carmela’s other responsibilities have been to help our classmates to settle into life at Smurfit and to facilitate communication between the class and the faculty. We had our first “Family meeting” this week (well, our first one not in the pub anyway) and I saw it as a resounding success. It’s early days, but we’re off to a great start. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us.

Colm Garrick, FT MBA 2018/19


An Aspire-ational Evening

Three weeks in, Foundation week’s all but a distant memory, those glorious sunny days manhandling our fellow classmates through “spider webs” all in the name of team-building, have now replaced by the shades of grey that is the world of financial reporting. Our days now revolve around the all-important individual group meetings, dividing up assignments and readings, and with the odd bit of filming thrown in to exercise our presentation and  directorial skills. Despite mostly being filmed on iPhones, don’t let the low-fi production fool you, the performances were truly Oscar worthy.

Against the backdrop of this mounting workload, came the welcome break of the Aspire Scholarship reception. The intensity and volume of work on an MBA is well documented, and yes, this is can be a challenge to balance at times, but nothing great develops in the comfort zone. Walking through the doors of the Laurence Crowley Boardroom on Tuesday evening to meet my fellow Scholars and Alumni, was the beginning of a valuable and lasting relationship with the programme. Any nervous tension that I had rapidly dissipated. The only way I can describe the room was like one large welcoming extended family. With initial introductions and formalities complete, came the opportunity to get to know past awardees a little better.


While many scholarships only offer a financial reward, Aspire offers so much more. Over the course of the evening, it became quite evident that the network is the most valuable and enduring aspect of the scholarship. It is an honour to be awarded this scholarship and welcomed so graciously into this talented and successful group, this year reaching the one hundred mark. Throughout the year there are events organised, with key notes from business leaders and further networking opportunities.

I first heard of Aspire from a current scholar, shortly after receiving my place on the Smurfit MBA and I would strongly encourage any prospective MBA or masters student to consider applying. I know it is early days, but I can tell that applying is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I eluded to family earlier, and that is exactly what you get, from support and assistance to friendship. Having an external network to escape to the pressures of MBA life just for a casual chat or for support is a fantastic resource. We recently had a seminar on careers and how to network, detailing the importance of a large network in business, which absolutely holds merit, but I’d take the quality over quantity of Aspire any day.


David Dowling FT MBA 2018/19