Back to the real world – for a while

Everyone in the class is back in real world at the moment. We’re in the middle of our company projects. Having a normal nine-to-five job has been a nice break from the intensive study.

From my own point of view, I have had some of my option modules running in the background which is annoying. It still feel as if I’m in college. I should have been a bit more strategic in my choice of subjects. But then again some of my classmates were very busy with their extra subjects back in February and March so it all evens out over time.

Regarding being back at the coalface….A surprise, and a pleasant one at that, has been how much of the material that I have learnt on the course has been applicable in the few weeks I have been on the project. Who would have known that in the real world Prof Brennan’s accounting notes or Prof Gibbons’ frameworks were actually used? I’m even looking into applying Dr Mac Fhionnlaoich’s real option theory to RnD expenditure.

An even bigger surprise has been that the material has come back to me which has been helpful. Maybe I have learnt something worthwhile on my year off!!

– Donal O’Sullivan


In pursuit of the ‘Big Idea’!

What is the best process to produce the Big Idea? Is it more art than science?  Can the application of tools and models bring forth from the chaos, the simple compelling idea? And is this process best enabled by the lone wolf or pack of wolves?

In architecture it’s said that great buildings which capture the zeitgeist of the times come from 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. This  same  principle could also be applied to creating  sustainable business platforms.

In the realisation of architecture, 99% of the time spent on the blood, sweat and tears is involved in influencing others. From convincing a client to be brave, the authorities to be visionary, inspiring collaboration between the right expertises, to develop a solution that is within budget and then be the guardian of its integrity, as it’s executed on site by builders. The real test for architecture is how it’s occupied, used and perceived and it’s legacy for society, if any.  Yet, it’s a slow and ultimately noble process that can create vestibules of permanence that celebrate the passing of time.

So why  would I venture outside my profession as an architect to pursue an MBA? Several reasons, but the main one is, although it is a beautiful profession, staying in business and been able to practice architecture is a huge challenge, especially when the opportunities for architects are diminishing in this ‘new world ‘we find ourselves.

Twelve years ago when I began my journey into architecture, I would never have conceived a need to do an MBA. I probably had no idea what it was or its relevance to my end goal. Architecture was going to provide me with every opportunity that I desired. But in 2007, following two years working in an award winning practice, the reality of the business environment in which architecture was conceived made me re-evaluate my strategy of my goals. I made the decision at that point to take a position with a commercially orientated office , as it had the ability to make money as opposed to the majority of vocational practices. As the alarm bells of the recession began to toll, I realised then that I would need to expose myself to as many experiences as possible, as specialisation in boutique extensions and family houses was not sustainable. Three years later in 2010 the company eventually went into liquidation following a very painful process of redundancies and cost cutting measures.

While experiencing this implosion, I began to realise the relevance of an MBA and the attractiveness of learning the skills to create a business model around a profession which has  a creative output at its core. Continue reading In pursuit of the ‘Big Idea’!

The Company Project

We full-timers now find ourselves mostly finished with classes, but still very busy. The company project is what we do in lieu of a thesis and is a lot more practical. Instead of simply researching a theory we get to go out into the real world (scary after six months of school!) and solve a real company problem. We are, essentially, cheap consultants.

The company project is a great opportunity to push ones boundaries and try something new. Coming from an electronic engineering background, I wanted to challenge myself in an area with which I was unfamiliar, and signed up for a project involving strategy for Ogilvy Ireland. My partner on this project, Gemma Ginty, found it through the CEO of the Ogilvy Group, JP Donnelly. JP is also a Smurfit MBA alumnus and a board member of the Smurfit School.

The first and most important thing that needs to be done when helping a customer to solve a problem is understanding that problem. In order to really understand a business problem, one first has to understand the business itself. To that end, we spent the first week of this project reading a lot of background material on the advertising business and the challenges it now faces due to social and technological changes. This immersion in the business not only gave us a deeper understanding of the industry, but also added to our credibility when speaking to people involved with that industry. Continue reading The Company Project

A Small Win

From time to time we ask ourselves whether this MBA program was of any use for us. Do we understand different aspects of business better? Did we gain any knowledge that would be practically applicable? And of course if our investments of money, time and efforts were worth it…

Those are not easy questions. Probably we’ll be able to answer them only after couple of years.

However last week an interesting happened to me. My brother told me that he was planning to write a business plan. He had an idea and there were potential investors for realizing it. So he asked if I have any tips for writing a business plan. First of all, I should say that I was proud that my extremely intelligent ‘Big Brother’ was asking my advice. That is the influence of an MBA status I suppose )))

And I surprised myself how eager and excited I was about that topic. First of all I told him everything I knew about business plan writing from our Strategy class (see related links below) . Those were quite practical tips on structure and style of a business plan, do’s and don’ts, etc. Besides, I recalled that one of guest speakers of MBA Entrepreneurship Club gave a good advice that “presenting to investors you are selling the idea, not numbers or anything else”. So the key is to really believe in your idea, be confident and inspired – and inspire others.  I also suggested different options on promotion and distribution channels referring to the discussions we had in Sales Relations class.

So we talked for an hour and developed a draft plan of what to do. During next two days we were exchanging ideas. And after that my brother sent me the draft of his presentation to investors. It was really catchy and interesting, plus creative and original. I cannot imagine what would happen if my brother took a full MBA course, if he got the point so easily just after listening to my summarized tips!

Leaders should celebrate small wins in order to motivate their team (this is again from one of our courses, Leadership).  I am celebrating my own small win these days. I had a chance to see that my learning from MBA can work in practice.

– Nargiza Kalmamatova

Useful links:

How to write a great business plan, W. Sahlman (article ; full paper)

Are you sure you have a strategy?, Hambrick and Fredrickson

How to present to investors

The art of telling your story

Honing your investor presentation

Irish Aid Seminar in Limerick

These days, Dublin is in spring time with beautiful flowers blossoming everywhere and sun is out until 9PM. I have also finished most of my classes at school and been working for company project. My school is recruiting for MBA 2012. It is also the time when Irish Aid gathers all fellows, who receive scholarship from Irish Aid, at the headquarter of Irish Aid in Limerick.

Though I have been in Ireland for 8 months, this is my first time to visit the office of Irish Aid, my sponsor. At 7AM, I was ready at the office of ICOS (Irish Council for International Students) from which our bus headed to Limerick. It took us 3 hours by bus to travel from Dublin to Limerick.

Irish Aid Department of Foreign Affairs Riverstone House is located at 24 Henry Street in the centre area of Limerick. This is the second year that Irish Aid holds this event and it hopefully will become an annual event for fellows to meet up with each other and with Irish Aid staffs.

This seminar was to discuss key issues in the 9 partner countries (in white) and the areas Irish Aid is working on: Poverty and Hunger; HIV/AIDS and Health; Development; Environment; and Education. These focuses are delivered by three main programmes: Fellowship, IDEAS (Irish Development Experience Sharing) and Strategic Cooperation.

We are explained three reasons that Ireland gives aid to developing countries are Moral Obligation, Self-interest and International Commitment. Irish children are educated these values from primary schools. At the moment, the budget for Official Development Assistance is made up 0.53% GNP of Ireland. 15% of the budget for Vietnam goes into capacity building in IDEAS programme which aims to share lessons of Ireland’s economic and social development with Vietnam. Programme commenced in 2009.  Irish Aid does not directly train fellows, but they have partnership with UCD Smurfit Business School.

Continue reading Irish Aid Seminar in Limerick

Doing the in-company project in India – a gateway to opportunities

Although the in-company project was due to start only in April, right from the last week of January, I started looking out for projects with Digital Marketing companies in India. I had my reasons for wanting to do the project in India. First, my goal was to return to India. Second, I wanted to use the 7 week period to also explore post-MBA job opportunities in India. If I don’t find suitable opportunities in India within these 7 weeks, I will then be able to look out for potential roles in Dublin when I return to Ireland in June for the summer term. But to know about the job market in India, I will have to spend some time in India and explore! So the in-company project was a good opportunity.

The reason I wanted to do my project with a digital marketing company was because all my professional experience has been in this industry, and I’m keen on going back to the same industry and using my acquired skillsets. Therefore, I approached quite a few digital marketing companies and about 4 of them were happy to offer me a project. I was overwhelmed by the response and had the opportunity to pick the best of the four available project offers.

I’m currently in India doing my project, and the experience and exposure have both been great so far. Adding to this, my efforts toward finding a suitable job have also been fruitful. At the moment, I have about two offers, well almost, and both of them are currently in the salary negotiation stage. I’m, therefore, really glad that I chose to do my project in India.

So far, my classmates have been very helpful in passing on all the important information shared with the class back in Dublin, my second home. Therefore, I don’t think I’ve missed out on anything important, at least up until this point, thanks to my wonderful classmates. Right now, all that’s in my mind is to finish the project successfully and within the 7-week deadline. More to come in about 2 weeks’ time after there’s been more progress with the project!

Until then,please all wish me luck!

– Diana Vincent

From the Rugby World Cup

Consistent with its fine reputation and playing in a manner that befitted the best traditions of their club, the 2011 UCD Smurfit Rugby Team delivered many spirited performances to regain the MBA Rugby World Championship.

Required to play 220 minutes of championship rugby, in 30+ degree heat and against three of the top four teams in the competition in one day, UCD Smurfit overcame injury and fatigue to win the World Championship for the ninth time since 2000.

Described by their coach, Barry Gibney, as having the most heart of any team he ever coached; the team fronted up to every challenge thrown at them, with the same intensity as the one before, to deliver one of the most memorable Championship victories of recent years.

The team defeated Harvard Business School 13 – 10 in the final, with the try coming from an inspirational chip and chase by centre David Neary. Wild scenes of emotion greeted the final whistle and, after a rousing rendition of Amhran na bhFiann, the trophy was accepted on behalf of the team by captains Rob Downes and Eoghan O’Dwyer. The trophy will now join the other trophies in the Trophy cabinet at the Smurfit School.

-Shane Horan





The winning tea




First Day in Leitrim

The full-time MBA social committee organised a trip to Leitrim Quay as a last weekend away before we started into our company projects. Unfortunately, some of the guys that signed up were unable to make it, due to course workloads and the MBA rugby world cup that was happening the following week in Duke University (which Smurfit won! Go team!).

Justin and Tham sailing the boat
Justin teaching Tham to sail the boat

However, some of us were able to head down. On the night of Thursday 31st March, five of us headed down to check the place out and, more importantly, grab the nicer beds. We arrived late, so it wasn’t until the following morning that we were up and about and playing with the boats.

One of the Vietnamese girls from the class, Tham Nguyen, had never driven a vehicle in her life. So we decided that a very slow boat on the river Shannon was good place for her to start. And she loved it! We, of course, loved it too because it meant that we could sit back and drink beers while Tham guided the craft for us.

Continue reading First Day in Leitrim

An “epic” trip

One of the hallmarks of the Smurfit MBA is the international study trip that every fulltime student takes part in each March. In the programme brochure, the trip is described as an opportunity to “visit a dynamic market and enhance your global perspective.” While these would both be true statements, after my recent experience in China, it’s my suggestion that Smurfit add a few more adjectives to the description such as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘monumental’ to illustrate the overall opportunity the trip provides. Indeed, after a quick informal poll from my classmates, I’d say the most common word they used to describe the experience was: ‘epic’.

The trip was filled with highlights on both a professional and personal level. From the space age city of Shanghai (felt like visiting the future) to the booming cultural and political capital of Beijing, we were treated with a line-up of interesting meetings, presentations, tours and networking events with local and international businesspeople.

Although I could go on and on about some of these experiences, there was one event in particular that I’d like to share about: The Irish Ball. In honor of St. Paddy himself, every year the Irish expat community in China throws a huge black tie event in Beijing. This year, the event was attended by 750 people and it was easily one of the coolest parties I’ve ever been to. Champagne reception, 5 course meal highlighting Irish cuisine, Guinness/open bar, with musicians and dancers flown in from Ireland – the place was electric. At one point it occurred to me while I was standing in a crowd of people (fresh off a really embarrassing attempt at Irish dancing!) watching the Irish rugby team dismantle the English in the cup of nations tournament – I’m from the US, studying in Ireland for the year, and right now I’m having the best Paddy’s day of my life in Beijing surrounded by loads of new friends from all over the world.

I tip my hat to the Smurfit MBA.

– Patrick Hillis

Here are a few pictures from the trip…

River cruise in Shanghai
Tour of Forbidden City
Tour of Forbidden City

Smurfit MBAs before the Irish ball

Networking: Learning the Basics

“Fifty percent of your career success depends on networking” that’s one of the first statement we heard on MBA.

We even have been proved of power of the networks on one of the sessions organized by our Career Service. There is a website called The Oracle of Bacon. If you enter a name of any actor, they will show you the number of movies through which your actor is linked to Kevin Bacon, who is also an actor. The amazing thing is that you can enter the name of an actor who is from a different country and even from different generation, but he will still be linked to Kevin Bacon. And it’s not because Kevin Bacon is a very popular actor or had played in enormous number of movies. I think he was taken just as an example in order to show that you can link anyone to anyone. And the practical use of this example is that you can link to anyone you want. All you need is just to tell your friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors and etc that you are looking for someone who know that person. They say that usually acquaintances are even more useful for networking than your close friends. So feel free to tell your hairdresser or a man from grocery shop what you are looking for. You never know who will give you the precious contact.

Finding the right person is only half of the success. Next step is to talk to that person, and preferably make good impression. There are rules like, don’t talk too much about yourself and in general don’t talk too much. Active listening! At the end of the day it all seems to be common sense – be nice, be polite, be interesting and don’t forget to listen. However, even knowing all the do’s and don’ts it’s not that easy, because you can never have one key for communication with everybody. My answer is practice. During this year we had lots and lots of opportunities for networking – presentations, receptions, interviews, sessions, study trip… in fact, any event can be your opportunity for networking. Our facilitator of Effective Networking, Tony Newton said that even after years and years of business experience he is still a bit nervous before meeting new people; but you would never say that when you look at him.

MBA Smurfit School Networking event
Networking events during our International Study Trip to Brazil




Some interesting links:

Ten rules of networking

The Elevator Pitch

A blog about a person who has 16000 contacts


– Nargiza Kalmamatova