Smurfit – great for socialising

And so we’ve all arrived back safe and sound from our international study trip. About thirty five members of the full-time class went to Brazil with the balance opting for China.

The trip turned out to be a fabulous experience. We learned a lot about the Brazilian economy and society. Of course, there was an onus on the travelling group to take a holistic approach to sampling Brazilian culture.  This sampling of the culture ranged from sipping caipirinhas on Ipanema to some of the group attending a local football game. These extra-curricular activities could be viewed as burning the candle at both ends but we would like to look on it as making the most of the trip.

The other group seemed to have just as interesting a time although based upon the photographs of their trip we seemed to get the better weather – hats and coats for them, shorts and flip-flops for us!! One of the more unexpected benefits of the trip has been the manner in which it allowed us to get to know each other even better. This is especially true for those of the people who were not part of the same study group up until now.

What I would like to understand is how the students of MBA programmes with classes of more than 250 manage to get to know each other. With that many in a class, it must be difficult to get to know everyone’s name!  Within Smurfit, the class is less than fifty so everyone knows each other a lot better. This makes for a great atmosphere and a more rounded experience.

-Donal O’Sullivan

A jamming visit to the favela of Rio

Last week, a group of MBA students went on an epic trip to Brazil, as part of our International Study Programme. It started in Sao Paulo with visits to Walmart and Natura, amongst others. Then we all headed to Rio de Janeiro, hoping to catch some sun and fun! The days passed so quickly; we had so much to see, so much to do! The one day, which really made the trip, was Friday, 18 March 2011. After a very impressive session with Deloitte, we all got on the bus to go to Vigário Geral favela (slum).

Eve, our guide for this part of the trip briefed us about the place we were going to visit. It was a slum area, known to be a very violent place and a hub for drug dealing. In the past, there have been horrifying instances of gang wars and young children becoming a part of the circuit. With all that at the back of our heads, (and instructions not to click pictures without permission!) we reached the favela.

There we were greeted by a hundred kisses from a woman, who owns a restaurant based in the middle of the favela, cooks all the food herself, is more than 50 year old and still has a dummy pacifier in her mouth, most of the times! The food was delicious! The variety was commendable.  Good food and warm hugs from the lady herself made us happy, but none of us knew what to expect ahead!

Smurfit MBAs and Afro Reggae dancers

Continue reading A jamming visit to the favela of Rio

Brazil, an amazing country – A Vietnamese comparison

We were back from Brazil three days ago but I still feel the strong energy of that country.  Before getting on the Smurfit MBA International Study Trip, I always thought of Brazil as a home of football and samba with many beautiful beaches and one of the key emerging markets. However, there is actually much more than those in Brazil. If I have to tell everything I have learned from this trip, it would be a lengthy report or say a learning journal which I need to write later on as a part of the course.  Nevertheless, there were three things that impressed me most in terms of comparison between my home country, Vietnam which is also an emerging country, and Brazil.

Vietnam mainly relies on agricultural exports and Brazil is our main competitor in many areas, especially the coffee market where we are only  second to Brazil. Therefore,  my initial perception of Brazil was more of an agriculture-based country rather than a service-based one. And then I was impressed by knowing Brazil’s services now accounts for 66% of the economy while agriculture contributes only 20%. Moreover, most of their population (193 million, the fifth largest in the world) is now living in urbanised areas. For instance, Sao Paulo, our first destination in Brazil, is a huge modern city with 20 million inhabitants.



Sao Paulo - a modern city
Sao Paulo - a modern city



In addition, I had an expectation before the trip that Brazilian would have many characteristics in common with the Western people as Brazil used to be the Portugal’s colony for over 300 years. However after the trip, it turned out not to be true. In fact, Brazilians are group-orientated and collective. They collaborate in group and compete as a group. These characteristics are very close to Vietnamese ones.

More interestingly, I got a chance to go to an open market in Sao Paulo. It was just a small normal area with many small shops selling foods, stuff and the like. When I worked around, I saw that most of the shops accepted payments by credit cards even if they sold 4-5 Real stuff (approximately €2). I found out later on from the tour guide that almost everywhere in Sao Paulo they do the same. I was very surprised at that time as the number of electronic payment in Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnam’s largest city, is still  very small as compared to the cash payment. This has been a challenge in Vietnam hence seeing how Brazil overcame it really impressed me.


– Khoi Le,



Sao Paulo - open market
Sao Paulo - an open market



Smurfit MBA Int’l Study Trip – China

Life is just returning to normal after our return from China which was one of the two MBA study trip destinations for 2011.

This tour was an 8 day intensive trip to Shanghai and then Beijing which took in a range of educational, political, business, social and cultural visits and meetings.  Between Monday and Friday we visited with a large and varying group of institutions and businesses – the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP), Bristol-Myers Squib, Deloitte, Coca Cola University, JWT, Treasury China Trust, Tesco, Motorola, the China Education Initiative, Enterprise Ireland, and Aramark. We also had a climate change panel comprising representatives from orbeo, Azure and Rhodia who are companies in the renewables business at the prestigious Chang An Club in Beijing.

In between the business and educational elements of the trip we managed to fit in a river cruise in Shanghai, a visit to the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, a walk on the Great Wall of China and under our own steam visits to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City among others and any number of markets, pubs and restaurants in both Shanghai and Beijing.Smurfit MBA Int'l Stuiry Trip 2011 - The Great Wall of China

The group celebrated St. Patricks Day twice, on the day itself in Paddy O’Shea’s pub in Beijing and then on the 19th March at the Irish Ball in Beijing run by the Irish Network China with approximately 720 members of the Irish ex-pat community in China and their friends, this ball is a major social event and is one of the largest in the region.  Some other things may have happened too during the course of the trip but it is probably diplomatic to forget them!

The word I heard most commonly to describe the trip was ‘intense’ but this was always said with some satisfaction and not a little awe at how much we managed to fit in.

– Roisin O’Loughlin, MBA Programme Manager

Smurfit MBA Int'l Study Trip 2011 - China

Smurfit MBA Int’l Study Trip -Brazil

As my colleague said in her blog post, we have just come back from this year’s MBA International Study Trips.

Each year, the Smurfit MBAs choose one of two destinations for the trip which in turn forms part of a module on Doing Business In Emerging Markets. This year, the Smurift MBAs chose to go to China and Brazil.

The Brazil group visited Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in 8 hectic days. Similarly to the China trip, the trip was a mix of educational, business, socal and cultural visits and meetings – but I guess we had the better weather in Brazil!

We first went to FIA Business School for two very interesting lectures on Brazilian economy and culture. Following that we visited the Brazilian stock exchange BM&FBovespa, retailer Walmart Brazil,  Natura cosmetics manufacturer, BNDES (development bank), Petrobras the Brazilian oil giant, and Deloitte Brazil. We also met with a number of Irish businesses and business people in Brazil as well as Enterprise Ireland’s Brazil Office.

Smurfit MBA Int'l Trip 2011 -Brazil
Visiting Afro Reggae in Rio



The social aspect of the trip was a visit to impressive social enterprise organisation Afro Reggae, who work to keep youths living in the slums of Rio out of trouble through music and education.


Continue reading Smurfit MBA Int’l Study Trip -Brazil

A Coachee’s Perspective.

I was delighted to hear that we were being offered a chance to be coached as part of the UCD Smurfit EMBA programme as I had never experienced coaching before. Having spent my career to date working in a number of large multi-national organisations, coaching has always been considered very useful to do but unfortunately business priorities always seemed to get in the way.

I had heard very good feedback about coaching in general and so approached the sessions with a very open mind.   On the EMBA here at UCD Smurfit,, all students are offered the chance to participate in this Leadership Coaching Programme which is one of the final parts of our PPD Programme.  It takes place in the final semester for us, which is Year 2 Semester 2.  Those who sign up are assigned a top professionally trained business coach.

My initial session with my coach was more of a getting to know you session. This was important to do, so my coach could get a sense of where I am now and put some context around future sessions we would have.

My second session, when the coaching started proper, was a hugely positive experience with some very concrete actions resulting come the end of the session. It stimulated some very sound ideas on a specific topic that I had set out at the start of the session. The benefits of the sessions so far have been many.  

First and foremost it is a great opportunity to stand back and take stock. Too often we get caught up in my hustle and bustle of everyday life without having the chance to step back and take a look from the outside in. It was also a great opportunity to bounce ideas off my coach with a view to clearing a path to where I wanted to go with respect to a particular subject.

– Sinéad Bailey – EMBA 2009/2011  


UCD SMURFIT IN THE SPRING: A quick look back at TERM 3

At the time of writing my previous blog as a full time UCD Smurfit MBA, I was full of questions and thoughts. It was my reflection time.

So much has happened since then even though it has only been three weeks.

First of all, we have finished our exams for Term 3! Only someone who has had seven months of continuous challenges every day and every hour can imagine the relief I feel now.  As my coach, Eadine Hickey noticed, challenges are the best motivation for me. So when I say challenges I mean something tough, but exciting that makes you move, improve and develop.

In my opinion, Term 3, which is the first part of Semester 2, has been the most stressful one.  And, I’m not the only one who has observed this. Maybe it is because we are closer to finish line, which is sad and good at the same time. Maybe it is because there is a limit to a person’s energy and we are running out of it. Or maybe we had a busier schedule this term because of the Option Modules.

Nevertheless, I feel that I am on a different level this term thanks to the preparation from first two terms. I have enjoyed readings and discussions on different topics on strategy, HR, finance, negotiations, etc more than ever before. At the exams, I felt a little disappointed when questions did not cover some of the topics I was passionate about. So I tried to attach them to my answers even if it was not very relevant. And after exams, my classmates stopped me several times from talking about questions and answers saying that “this one is over now, switch to the next one”. Anyway, we have finished with exams, and still have couple of assignments to do to wrap up this term full of stress, learning and progress.

As for my choice of Option Modules, I should say that my decision to try to get a deeper understanding of different aspects of business was the right one. For example, I find Managing Sales Relations course very useful. Sales are everywhere, no matter what post you hold and what industry you are working in. And that class is special, because it considers Sales from a fresh perspective with reference to contemporary reality with its hypercompetition and incredible dynamics of markets. One of the guest speakers stated something that is applicable not only to sales people: in order to succeed you should admit the fact that in three out of four cases you will be rejected, and that’s absolutely normal.

Another interesting part of this term has been the “Mock” Interviews. I had interviews with two experienced recruiters Mark Burgess from Spirit Executive Fiona Tierney from Dalriada.  These training interviews bring you back to reality, and assess if you are ready to face ‘real world’.  All the grades and study will remain within the walls of your school. What those people outside college care about is if you are able to work hard, achieve goals, get on with people, etc. All the knowledge we acquired here can be useful only if we know how to apply it. That wasn’t news for me; whenever I heard any interesting theories I always tried to imagine how it would work in real life. The interviewers gave me valuable and insightful feedback, including advice on CV, main points for me to highlight during real interviews, some tips about career choices, etc.

And the last piece of news is about my Company Project. In my previous blogs, I confessed that even if my background and future career plans are all about finance; I would love to have a chance to do a project with a music company.  Although our MBA Careers Office provided us with a great choice of projects from which we could choose one for ourselves; I really wanted to find my own project in the music industry.

I should say that it is not easy to convince music people that an MBA project can be useful for them. Most of the companies I contacted did not even reply to my messages. It’s not surprising, because MBA and music seem to be two different worlds. However, luck was on my side and I eventually found a music company that expressed an interest. Moreover, it turned out that their idea for a project was very interesting and would allow me to apply my knowledge of strategy and marketing. But, I exchanged dozens of e-mails with the company before meeting them and coming to a consensus. Following the best traditions of adventure movies, everything was decided at the last moment, when I almost signed up for a different project. I would like to thank my coach, Eadine Hickey, and my classmate, Diarmuid O’Keeffe, who supported me in my in my idea of a project with a music company.

So here I am now, almost finished my assignments, looking forward to do my Company Project and heading towards our one-week International Study Trip to Brazil.

Oh, life is so beautiful!

–          Nargiza Kalmamatova, Full-time MBA 2010/2011



Photos: Spring in UCD Smurfit campus

Slowing Down…or am I?

Slowing Down…or am I?

(This blog is from a fulltime UCD Smurfit MBA at the Spring mid-term break, about seven months in.)


I’ve just bought some books in town …not exactly a life-changing event, but the difference now is that this is the first time in what seems like a long time (well seven months) that I’ve purchased books solely for reading pleasure. Most of my class modules are finished up for now and I’m heading to China on Saturday as part of our international study trip, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch up on some non-curricular activity.


But the experience of shopping for books in Dublin, a UNESCO City of Literature, got me thinking in a manner I would not have considered before starting my UCD Smurfit MBA.


Dublin, in common with many parts of the world has recently experienced a spate of bookstore closures.  Personally, I find this trend devastating; the opportunity to wander around the labyrinthine levels of Waterstone’s on Dawson Street (that shop has about four and a half levels fitted into two floors of space!) and discover new reads and bump into old friends has been robbed from a new generation of readers.


But what I’m learning through Strategy and Marketing classes is that this trend is inevitable. Book-selling has been commoditised, and not enough people value the bricks and mortar aspect of their local bookstore. Cost leadership rules, and Amazon excels at this.


Not only this, but the phenomenon of the long tail means that choice is ever expanding too. A simple Porter 5 force analysis would show the predicament traditional stores are in; being squeezed significantly by rivals, substitutes, suppliers, and customers, in an industry with barely any barriers to entry.


Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this, and it has become a challenge that will face many industries in the future, and by extension will face possibly me and my class colleagues. The positives are that we are equipped with the training to identify what trends are happening in our industry and make strategies to overcome future hurdles.


The importance of the business language and perspectives that we are absorbing can be daunting and frustrating, particularly around exam time. But it’s when that perspective is applied to the everyday world around us, that it bowls me over how differently I look at products, transactions, and how businesses are run. The anticipation and excitement of real-life application of strategy is immense – and the rewards could be ultimately survival in increasingly hypercompetitive markets.


Incidentally, thanks to my generous little sis’, Claire and the gift voucher she gave me (all the thoughtfulness of cash, without any of the convenience!!!), I bought:

  • The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean – science stories based around the periodic table – well I am a Chemical Engineer at heart!
  • The People’s Act of Love, James Meek – Conor’s recommendation – he texted (no web 2.0 crap here!): “v provocative book, loved it”.
  • Rich in Russia, John Updike – food for the brain I thought – really cheap issues of classic short stories from Penguin Classics.

Don’t forget – all these are available at your local book store!


– David Lawton, Full-time MBA 2010/2011

A day in the life of an MBA student at UCD Smurfit

People often ask me what a typical day as an MBA student at UCD Smurfit looks like. It’s a difficult question to answer, because in reality there is not just one hard and fast set routine for a student at Smurfit. Most days start with lectures at 830am and continue with lectures for the rest of the day. Often there is group work to do in the afternoon and evenings, and after that later in the evening again, reading for the next day’s classes. During the evenings the MBA clubs meet, and bring in guest speakers from the world of finance, sustainability, marketing, consulting and many others. These evenings give students a real world perspective on issues discussed in class, along with a further chance to make connections in fields students have a particular interest in.

On Fridays, as mentioned before, there are the personal development classes and coaching and interview practice sessions. These are designed to improve the MBA student’s ability to translate the learning of the classroom into tangible, real world benefits in the mind of future employers. These mock interview sessions also provide an opportunity to network with experienced business professionals and develop a sense of the business needs their company’s are experiencing.


The days of leading up to the exams, are usually the most “focused” of the term. Typically emails will be whizzing around with helpful links to explain concepts in slightly different (perhaps more comprehensible) ways, or containing attachments with people’s own summarised notes (which are near universally excellent.)

Weekends are usually spent catching up on some sleep and reading ahead for the weeks upcoming lectures. Many MBA students also catch up on individual assignments, which can get de-prioritised during the rush to complete multiple group assignments in a short time during the week. The good news is that there’s usually time for some relaxation as well, and the MBA class often meets up on the weekends to go hill walking, pub crawling or even cruise boating!


In short there is no typical day, but there are enough constants day to day to keep things familiar, and enough variety to keep them from ever seeming dull.


– Andrew Higgins, Full-time MBA 2010/2011

My Ideas for the Future Scholarship

John McInroy, scholarship winner of the “Ideas for the Future” scholarship 201o updates us on the progress of his winning idea. Deadline for MBA scholarship applications for 2011 is 21 March

Having completed my MBA on exchange at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India I returned to my homeland, South Africa via the United Kingdom, to pursue my dream of spreading www.redsockfriday.com around the world. I was awarded the Ideas for the Future scholarship at Smurfit for this initiative and during my Smurfit MBA the concept was formally launched on redsockfriday 9th April 2010.

Just over 10 months later there are over 1,200 redsockers worldwide in 43 different countries and we continue to work towards the dream of connecting all passionate positive people in the planet by wearing redsocks every Friday wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing! Each sock that is sold through the site, part of the sale goes towards various redsocker charities which we are actively involved with. We are also involved with various global events such as the Comrades Marathon (Unogwaja2011) and the Put Foot Rally. All information and ways to get involved can be found on www.redsockfriday.com

Recently I was lucky enough to be interviewed on two national television shows in South Africa talking about the redsockfriday UNOGWAJA2011 which 4 redsockers are attempting later this year, involving a 1,730km cycle from Cape Town to Durban in 10 days followed by running the gruelling 89.1km Comrades marathon.



John McInroy Smurfit MBA
John McInroy celebrating redsockfriday


Being part of the Smurfit MBA class of 2010 gave me a great platform to start to realise my dream.

shoOops!

– John McInroy, Full-time MBA 2009/2010

To see me in action,

Expresso live breakfast show (SABC 3)Supersport Sports Trust round up (Supersport1)