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)


B-school B&B

Ireland is described by Lonely Planet as, “one of Europe’s gems, a scenic extravaganza of lake, mountain, sea and sky that’s gorgeous enough to make your jaw drop.” This jaw dropping natural beauty leaves many with their chins on the floor when you add a fascinating history, literary giants such as Yeats and Joyce, music icons such as U2 and an island full of people that are world renowned for their ability to have a good time.

What does this mean for me, you ask? Well, 2 things to be sure:
1) it means that my year long education on the Smurfit MBA is coupled with the one of a kind experience of living on the “Emerald Isle” – a remarkable opportunity to say the least. In six short months, I’ve been fortunate to travel north, south, and west, taking in the beautiful sites and meeting extraordinary people;

2) it means that nearly everyone I know from back home who wants to visit Ireland is doing their utmost to plan a trip to visit my wife and I. Thus far, we’ve welcomed five visitors and have 10 with trips planned for the spring! We’ve been joking recently that it feels like we’re running a B&B, and I need to use some of my newly acquired management skills to turn a profit on all this tourist traffic. Still haven’t figured out how to broach the subject with family members… “You see, Mom, the thing is… uh… nothing’s free in this world and I need to think about the return on investment for this apartment”… ;-).

Continue reading B-school B&B

A Coach’s Perspective

Eadine Hickey is a Coach on the Full-time and Executive MBA programmes in the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. She has previously worked as an Executive in the Financial Services industry and has worked in organisations such as GE and Accenture. Eadine has written a reflection on the coaching programme for the full-time MBA coaching programme.

Roller coster ridePhase 2 of the full-time MBA coaching programme is complete with Phase 3 to follow in June. As such, it is an interesting time to take a look at the progress of the coaching programme and see how it is supporting the MBA’s through this intensive year. As a Smurfit MBA alumnus, I am well aware how hectic the full-time Smurfit MBA programme is and it is amazing to get 3 snap-shots with each student during the year and see how their lives progress. Whilst each coaching session is intense and many different topics are covered, there is the sense from the coach’s perspective that these guys are on a roller-coaster ride and we join them on that ride at three intervals along the way.

Throughout the year there are high’s and low’s, some of these are predictable, and some less so. What we, as coaches, endeavour to provide however is the support to deal with the tough times and a challenging environment where they can bounce ideas and figure out how to navigate the rest of the journey through to employment, setting up their own business or whatever the future might hold for them.

Typical topics covered in coaching include:

  • Creation of a personal learning agenda for the MBA year (personal development as distinct from academic)
  • How to market themselves
  • Most suitable career
  • Self-confidence
  • Leadership style
  • Communication style
  • Reflection on individual and group psychometrics and what they mean.
  • The Smurfit MBA Programme is like a laboratory in many ways providing the students with the opportunity to experiment and try new behaviours and get feedback from class-mates in a safe environment. Whilst much of the focus of an MBA is inevitably on academic content, the coaching programme provides a valuable opportunity for the student’s to focus on themselves and their own development during the course of the year. This year’s class is an incredibly supportive group and I have found a huge willingness for them to seek help and feedback from within their group. It is a journey of self-development for all, so it is more than acceptable for individuals to seek assistance from their teams in order that they might further their learning agenda. By getting this feedback, many have dispelled concerns they might have had whilst others have received invaluable insights into behaviours they are choosing now to adapt in order to improve their effectiveness.

    It is testament to the MBA Coaching programme that of last year’s class 88% said they would seek coaching again in the future. In a time when people are looking for ‘quick solutions’ to problems, it is enlightening to see the value these students are seeing in reflecting on situations in order to come up with the best approach to dealing with challenges.

    An eminent figure in the field of practice and teaching of leadership, Ronald Heifetz, speaks of the value of ‘getting on the balcony’ in order to understand situations. This is in essence the opportunity that coaching provides the MBA students in the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business.




    Eadine Hickey
    Eadine Hickey




    Eadine Hickey

    Diary of a Vietnamese MBA student

    Feb 4th 2011

    “Tet – the lunar new year” is knocking the door when I start writing this entry. This year we Vietnamese students welcome our traditional “Tet” in Ireland – a wonderland in my mind. Missing home so much, I know that I will miss this land evermore when I am back to Vietnam.

    There are thousands of reasons that make me love this country. My first impression is Irish people, who are very warmhearted and friendly. You can easily get acquainted with people and talk with them, even on the buses or in the streets. I still remember a cold winter day, when I got lost on Moorehampton Road. Thank God, an old lady passed and asked if she could help. She took me to the nearest bus to get home and told me about Ireland in the past. Her stories conjured me up an old Ireland with family ties, catholic norms and community spirit. Above all, I feel the very human nature of Irish people when they communicate and do charity, as in a lyric of my favorite song: “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure, they steal your heart away”.

    Continue reading Diary of a Vietnamese MBA student

    The need for ideas

    Inspiration is just what you need in February, a month that I equate with Tuesday.

    To try to kick us into gear, the MBA Entrepreneurship Club brought two top class speakers to the college to discuss ‘How To Bring Your Business On-line’. The first speaker was Raomal Perera: Founder of two successful Irish-based tech firms that were acquired over the past eight years, he is about to embark on his third technology venture. The second speaker was Ciaran Crean: Managing Director and co-founder of micksgarage – an eTailer with 1 million car parts & accessories for sale.

    Raomal enlightened us on how he had become a serial entrepreneur and how starting on the path to entrepreneurship can lead to all sorts of unplanned adventures. Ciaran spoke on how micksgarage was founded and how they had successfully brought it to where it is. The interesting part was how they had done it with little or no financial support demonstrating how the idea is critical. There was a keen debate afterwards as we questioned them on there key to successes. Its through these sort of engagements that we can see how the real world operates outside of the cosy walls of Smurfit and the Avoca Bar, home to many an idea.

    – Colm O’Reilly

    A Wider Perspective

    It’s the Friday of the fifth week of term 3 and as I wind up catching some sleep, the thoughts of the months gone by flash through my head. From my first day at Smurfit until today, there is a significant difference at the way I look at a situation in work scenario. Earlier, it was just limited to my team, my project and to my personal excellence. MBA has helped me develop a holistic view of the business arena. The curriculum design at Smurfit helped us in slowly but steadily developing this view.

    The first term was focussed on building the foundation. It focussed on understanding the firm, introduction to general management, Financial Reporting and Operations. All this was very beneficial in bringing everyone from diverse backgrounds, to the same page. As mentioned in my previous blogs, the range of experience in the class is very impressive and term 1 gave us a chance to get familiar with it. Being the first term on the course, it all seemed like a mad rush and I was left wondering will I ever get to know people around! But the group assignments, class discussions and get-togethers all helped in binding us all together.




    UCD Smurfit MBA Class of 2011
    UCD Smurfit MBA Class of 2011




    Then came term 2! I thought I was better prepared to handle this term, with my experience of term 1 to support me, but I was wrong. This term had a different approach. It focussed on looking into the market. Modules like business economics, marketing, financial markets and valuations broadened our perspective to look at the industry and how the firm fits in the industry. Not to mention the unending submissions and presentations!

    After the speedy semester 1 (though I think the entire MBA course is pretty fast paced!), came the welcome winter break. Having known each other very well, spending time together was always much fun. The day exams ended, we all went out to celebrate. We exchanged Christmas presents, courtesy the Secret Santa game! It was a much needed break and we all made the most of the opportunity.




    UCD Smurfit MBA Students in Christmas Spirit
    (from left) David G, Amneet, Nick, Tham and Diarmuid in Christmas spirit




    Semester 2 began in January and this time the focus of the modules was on building strategies. We also had a range of options to choose from, depending on our personal areas of interest. Corporate Finance, Negotiation Dynamics, Global Strategic Management, Strategy for Human Resources, all these modules take us a step further. We are not only learning the strategies but now are expected to apply them to situations.

    Later in the course we shall be a part of a company project which will test our acquired skills in the real world scenario.  I am hoping that will be a very enriching experience, especially for people wanting to switch industries. This is the last week of formal lectures for Semester 2 before we face the exams! The thought of the upcoming study trip to Brazil keeps coming to my head but I know I need to focus on studies for the next 2 weeks! And the Leitrim weekend trip after the spring break. Ok, I better focus! ;)

    – Amneet Kaur