Global Network Week 2017 – A Visitor’s Perspective

As a Yale EMBA student graduating in 2018, I had the opportunity to attend “The Future of Food” module at University College Dublin as part of the June 2017 Global Network Week (#GNW2017).

This fascinating exchange programme provides students with insights into the inner workings of key industry players in the food and beverage space and attracts both international students from several top participating schools in Shanghai, Berlin, Madrid, as well as students local to Dublin. As an international student, I am truly grateful for the warmth and thoughtfulness from both our programme coordinator, Elaine Aherne, as well as a number of our fellow Irish students in welcoming us to both Dublin and UCD.

GNAM outside

In my opinion, this week-long course is perfectly structured for many reasons. First, the sheer range of case studies covered in the short span of a week exposes participants to food and beverage related strategies, trends and marketing techniques that are very easily transferable to any industry segment. Professor Damien McLoughlin led a diverse set of discussion topics from Brexit to emerging technologies in the food industry, and challenged us to consider both the market and non-market factors influencing decisions within each organisation we examined as part of the cases.

Second, the guest lectures interspersed through the week were excellent and provided intriguing insights into the decision-making processes utilised by executives across a slew of organisations in the food and beverage sector. During the week, the CEO of Greencore, CTO of Ocado and Director from UniGrain, were just a few of the company executives we heard from and engaged with.

Finally, daily product samplings (Skelligs, Keogh’s etc.) and company site visits, such as those to Jameson, Guinness, Kerry Foods and the Ballyknockan House Cookery School ensured we were always engaged and looking forward to what the next day would bring.

Overall, a fantastic program that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to spend the global network week learning about the latest innovations and bleeding edge technology in the food industry while having some good old-fashioned Irish fun as well.

Raahul Kumar, Yale EMBA student

The End of Exam Life?

Traolach Meme

As we move through the last set of our exams for Semester 2, I sit back and wonder. These will complete the exams we have to take for our MBA, so … is this the end of my exam life forever?

Having left college in 2003 I always figured that I would end up doing further education at some point. So I never thought of those as my last exams. However, having gotten up from my child-like seat in the cavernous exam hall on Saturday, after squeezing all my knowledge on financing new ventures in to a booklet for the previous 2 hours, I think I might have actually sat the last exam of my life.

Now this isn’t a lament on the differences between rote learning and whatever the other type is. I have been pretty successful in the Irish exam system which I feel sets a high benchmark for success and gave me great technical knowledge that I leveraged in my professional career internationally. This is more the realisation that after an MBA I don’t think there is much more additional education one can pursue to advance your career. True, there are other exams such as the CFA or Series 7 if you want to be an analyst (and there are probably more that I haven’t even thought of). But they are all career specific and not of the lecture/exam format that we love so much.

This is just one more thing to realise whilst doing an MBA; that it is the culmination of a lifelong learning journey. The first exam I can remember sitting was over 30 years ago, as a 6 year old, and I sat exams every year for the next 20 years. I liked exams so much I decided to take the scenic route through my undergrad and stay for an additional year so that I could enjoy the exam experience a few more times!

When I look at the paragraph above I only now realise the sheer volume of exams I must have sat so far in my life. So it is probably high time I do say goodbye to exam life. The path that we take through life and on the road to an MBA takes many forms, but we all have endured the unenjoyable (or enjoyable, if you’re masochistic) experience of exams. This is a global common bond for all students and I guess, like everything, it has to come to an end at some point.

So it is there in an exam hall in the RDS Simmonscourt, on Saturday 13th May 2017, that I close a large chapter in my personal journey – and that of EXAM LIFE.

Traolach O’Connor, Full Time MBA 2016-2017

Balancing the Turtle and the Hare

Well, the ‘Hare’ here is my new born self from the fast paced MBA life, and ‘Turtle’ is my slow and analysing inner original self. I have been thinking of writing this blog for a while, but then again the ‘Turtle’ wouldn’t let me. Ever since I have started this journey of MBA, and it has been one semester already, I have been trying to fight a constant battle with my procrastination. For someone like me who has an engineering background, proactive behaviour just does not come naturally (unless of course if it is to do with something technical or related to problem solving), and last minute pressure situation or ‘Emergent Strategy’ as some of you would like to call it is circumstantially the best suited.

On one hand, the ‘Turtle’ inside would invariably force me to critically analyse the details, take one step at a time, know all the facts, and not to move on until I grasp the concept. On the other hand, the newly born ‘Hare’ wants me to change my habits and get on with things at a fast pace, plan in advance for everything and the most dreadful of all, multitask.

Last three months or so have been a ride for me, trying to balance between the ‘Turtle’ and the ‘Hare’. And, boy oh boy was it fun.

Deepak Sharma

Full-time MBA

Widen your horizons

When I took the decision to leave a stable and secure job, to devote one full year to my MBA journey at Smurfit Business School, I never thought that it would have such a life-changing impact. I think all my classmates would be echoing the same feelings.

Though we used to have quite a versatile work profile during our jobs; however, now I realize what actually versatility means in practice. Life is much bigger and there is lot to do and achieve. All the components of MBA right from Classroom Lectures (they are not just lectures but a completely participative experience especially during lots of Case Studies and class discussions), Individual and Group Assignments, Literature Reviews (I never thought that there would be a component of PhD thesis also in the MBA, which would refine my literary and research skills and some day may even inspire me to write a book), simulation games (to have real world business experience), PowerPoint presentations, MBA Clubs, Speaker events (we had quite inspirational and entrepreneurial speakers to interact with us during last 3 months), Network immersion week (the week seemed to bring almost the entire world to a single Smurfit classroom), Coaching Sessions (which have helped us to define our objectives and aspirations more clearly), Career Sessions (which introduced us to wide range of career options, which we never could have explored during our regular jobs), Sessions on Leadership and Communication skills, and so on. Careers sell has always been guiding us for attending more and more Career events and to do a lot of Networking, which again has helped us to reach out to people from various industries, sectors and fields and keep on continuously expanding our network. So, our learning does not end in the Business School premises, it extends much beyond that.

As soon as I start wondering is there anything left to experience, we are presented with entirely  new event or a new dimension of Smurfit MBA program, which helps towards further expanding and widening our horizons and enable us to become not just a world class manager but also a complete human being.

I have always been inspired by the quote One cannot discover new oceans, unless one leaves the fear of losing sight of the shore”. Smurfit MBA reinforces my belief that one year taken out of work is well spent on exploring new opportunities, widening your horizons and finding a new meaning for your Career and Life.

Ashutosh Singla

Full-time MBA 2014-15

My final week of 1st semester, year 1

A glass one-quarter full or three-quarters empty?  I argue my MBA study is a now a quarter of the way. I wanted to use this blog as an opportunity to reflect on where I am, what I have learned – as quite frankly I have not had the chance to do so since the beginning of term. Strategy, operations and supply chain, finance and organisation behaviour all mixed together is truly the stuff of fantasy.

As expected, the last eleven weeks of term has been intense and feels like a revolving door of assignments, reading materials and reports. Combine all that with a busy full time job commitment – it truly has felt like a sprint now approaching the finishing line of first semester. Indeed, it has been an interesting journey. The lecturers have been great; my team members have been remarkable making the whole experience much more enjoyable. Coming from a Mathematical Science background where I hardly had any reason to put together a report, I have successfully written one report and collaborated on a few more.

What have I learned in the past few weeks? It is like being thrown in the deep-end, I realise time management is a critical skill for any MBA student. There is ample study material and it is important to prioritise and effectively manage reading, otherwise a candidate may sink quite literally. Organisation behaviour has truly opened my eyes to my soft side; I am now genuinely conscious of respecting how other people feel. Also, I was able to identify strategic and tactical areas of improvement for my company and articulated ideas to the senior management team. The result, more work as I have now been added to a project team to assess and implement opportunities for growth in the organisation.

On the horizon is my exams – I have not done an academic examination in five years so I am sure it would feel like a trip down the memory lane, my old college days. Going to an exam hall with hundreds of other students not knowing what to expect will be interesting. There is one thing in sight that keeps me going, the Christmas break; the much needed lifeline before we go at it again January next year.

Olumuyiwa Farayibi

EMBA Weekend year 1


Topic of the week…. Organisational Behaviour

Ask any of the Year 1 Executive MBA students this week what it as the forefront of their minds and most of them are likely to respond with an answer relating to the pairs project on the Organisational Behaviour (OB) module of the programme! That will be the case anyway for the weekend EMBAs, who are scheduled to submit the project later this week.

The OB pairs project makes up 60% of the grade for that module and represents the largest body of continuous assessment work in Semester 1. Working in pairs, it requires you to undertake an applied research project. Choosing one of the organisations you work for, you carry out an organisational assessment of an OB related topic or issue. The aim is to carry out a meaningful study and deliver some useful recommendations to the organisation at the end of the process.

For me, the OB module has been one of the more interesting modules of Semester 1. Much of my education to-date has consisted of subjects in the areas of engineering, science and maths. Some people from a similar background may view OB as one of those “softer” or “fluffier” subjects. However, I have found it to be one of the most relevant modules and one that you can immediately start to apply in any work environment. It has been fascinating to learn more about organisational topics such as: employee engagement, motivation and dissatisfaction, dysfunctional teams, power and politics, and leadership.

During lectures you often find yourself thinking of real life examples, from your own organisation, of the topic under discussion. You start to believe you have the solution to all of your company’s OB related issues! However, you also develop an appreciation for the complexity of these issues and how they vary from organisation to organisation, and from individual to individual. Unsurprisingly, there is no simple answer! Nevertheless, what you learn on the OB module gives you some tools to analyse and understand why people behave the way they do in work.

Ciarán Reilly

EMBA Weekend Year 1

Time for a breather …

So we have arrived at the mid-term ‘break’ following our first eight weeks of the MBA programme. I use the term break loosely as it really isn’t so much a break and is more like some breathing space, extra wiggle room or a chance to come up for air. I feel like the boxer who is sitting in his corner after 8 gruelling rounds. As he takes his breather the boxer must ensure that he takes on much needed water, massages his aching muscles and absorbs the tactical wisdom being offered by his trainer. Just like the boxer I will need to use the opportunity to take the wise inputs from the supporting people around me. In particular those that I haven’t seen in a while.

When I set out on the MBA I knew I was going to be busy so managing the expectations of friends and family was important. ‘I’m going to be pretty busy for the next while but I’ll catch up with you at mid-term’ I would say to many people who were asking if I was about for a pint, to watch a match or attend other social events. It was a genuine promise made at the time that I now have to attempt to keep. I also promised my body that it could regain some of the lost hours of sleep it has had to endure over the last eight weeks. The fact of the matter is that there just isn’t enough of a break to squeeze eight weeks of socialising and lost sleep into. So I will need to be resourceful and get the best bang for my buck in the time that permits. I have become quite adept at squeezing more out of less time in the last eight weeks and if nothing else my ability to effectively manage my time has improved. It’s a key skill that I will require in the next week if I am to keep those promises to family and friends.

The mid-term break has come at a good time and provides us all with an opportunity to take stock on what has taken place so far and plan for what is yet to come. The volume of material that has come at us has been intense. Like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant is how one of my classmates described it. The issue with this is not that there is so much material coming at you but more that the thirst for learning is not satisfied by only absorbing some of it. For me the break also provides an opportunity to catch up on some of the supplementary material that I missed out on during the first eight weeks. Again, I know that it will be almost impossible to catch up on all of the material in one week but I do plan to satisfy some of that thirst for learning by revising the material.

So as the bell rings and we prepare to come out of our corners for rounds nine, ten, eleven and twelve, it is important to consider that whilst the first eight rounds have been gruelling, they have also allowed us to grow and develop character. The next four rounds of the MBA promise to be as demanding as the previous rounds but it also promises to offer just as much opportunity to develop and grow. So it is with optimism that I look forward to the remainder of term but let me enjoy my breather first!

David Cashman

EMBA Midweek year 1

To MBA or not MBA

Filling in the application form in March, April and May (yes that’s right 3 months to finalise the initial submission) I feel demonstrates the fine art of procrastination I had mastered over the years. Fast forward to today, 6 weeks of lectures under my belt and those precious lazy Sunday afternoons lying on the sofa gone. They have been replaced with a sea of paper and an ever growing pile of ignored emails from friends (fingers crossed they are still friends).

The question is do I miss the lazy Sundays and do I need those friends? Well I may need the friends but I don’t long for those lazy Sundays. Yes some sleep without the constant mouse on a wheel running in my head screaming, OB pairs project 60%, supply chain presentation 20%, competitive strategy report 25% would be nice, but you can’t have it all.

The learning curve has been steep to date and the group dynamics intense at times, especially when feminism is brought up, which is generally twice a week in our Group.  It is however this fast paced environment that keeps me alert, no matter what the week in work was like and what obscure place in Europe I had the pleasure of visiting.

There has not been a lecture where I have questioned why did I sign up to this? I run out of work on a Friday to get to lectures (generally with minutes to spare) and eagerly await the classroom discussion tangents we will undoubtedly force the lecture to take. So far so good!

The lyrics corner

The lyrics which sum up my first six weeks are: my face above the water, my feet can’t touch the ground. Ironically my feet are on the ground.

Darren Kelly

EMBA Weekend year 1

The half-way point….. of semester one

We are now half way through semester 1, or a quarter of the way through year one, or an eighth of the way through the MBA. It doesn’t matter how you put it, it’s all the same. Some of us focus on the big picture while others are taking one day at a time. When I applied for the MBA, I knew it was going to be a tough two years, but I thought if I managed my time well, I would go to lectures on Monday and Thursday nights and try and fit in a few hours of study on the nights in between, thereby I would still have my weekends to relax. During the induction week that dream was shattered. It was announced that a further 20 hours on top of lectures would be required – four hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings along with a full day on Saturday would allow us to take a full day off on Sunday. Impossible I thought to myself, I’ll never be able to do all that. Now at the week 7 mark, my average week is that as described above with the addition of approximately four to five hours on a Sunday. Personal time, what’s that?  But as Albert Einstein put it, “Time is an illusion”.

When in school or college, you know you should be spending the day studying, you watch the clock and will it to move on. Now in the MBA, I watch the clock as a reminder to go to bed and will it to slow down.  Honestly, there are days that I think my watch has broken because it has skipped a couple of hours. I now have to balance reading something really interesting versus sleeping. If you ask anyone to give one negative comment about the MBA, the response is always, “I want to read everything, but there just isn’t the time”. There are no boring topics, lectures or assignments. In fact, we are now approaching the stage that we can start to apply, in our own work situations, what we have learnt thus far. What makes it even better, is how the semester one courses seem to have been selected – they all seem to interlink in some way. What you learnt in one, does actually help with another. The MBA is like no other course that I have done before. I am interested in the topics, I want to do further research and I actually don’t mind the fact that I have missed the first two episodes of Love Hate. Before I get carried away, they are recorded and will be watched over Christmas with an entire box of celebrations by my side.

This of course would not be possible without the other 30 odd people in my class. Funnily enough, before commencing the MBA, I didn’t worry about the academic side of the course. I worried about the other people in the class and hoped that they would be like minded individuals that I would get on with. That fear was put to rest  after the induction week and buried not long after. Each of us have the same problems of balancing the MBA with sleep, work, and where possible friends. And believe it or not, we all want each other to succeed. This became apparent during a presentation last week when I momentarily let my attention drift away from my group’s presentation to look around the room. The expressions were all the same – everyone was willing our group make a successful presentation and not hoping that we would trip up and fail. Each of us is in this for the long haul and together as one big team rather than 30 or so individuals.

Two more weeks until mid-term and then four weeks until exam week – nine weeks until Christmas break…… not that anyone’s counting!

Dorothy Chestnutt
EMBA Midweek year 1

A lot done, more to do

A lot done, more to do. No, I am not resurrecting a Fianna Fail tag line, I am summing up my first 6 weeks of the EMBA. It’s hard to believe that only a few months ago I was flicking through the glossy course prospectus. Smiling faces and glowing testimonials expounded the virtues of the qualification. But was this course for me? Trundling along on a train to Cork one Saturday morning, I decided to complete my application. Buzzwords such as “challenge”, “opportunity” and “diversity” peppered the final version. These words have now come back to haunt me.

Induction week is a distant memory at this stage. Perhaps that is due to those memories having been pushed to the back by a plethora of readings on motivating teams, Honda and the motorcycle industry and the innovative IDEO design process. Hard to believe but I already managed to incorporate some of this new knowledge into my day job. I am not sure who was more surprised, the client or me, when I was able to discuss with him the challenges faced by the motorcycle industry AND it sounded as if I actually knew what I was talking about!

In looking for inspiration for this blog, I read the contributions of some of my classmates. Like Ruth, I have developed a greater appreciation for time. Balancing work commitments, a personal life (?), class attendance and course work can be challenging. A spare 5 minutes has become a precious commodity. 5 minutes is an opportunity to read a few more lines of an article. 5 minutes is an opportunity to send an email to a client. Over the last 6 weeks I have learnt a secret. Do you want to hear it? Ok, but keep it to yourself and whatever you do, DO NOT tell the opposite of the specie….here it is…..men can multitask!

Don’t get me wrong; the course has not been all work and no play. Our local public house, The Dark Horse, welcomes weary first and second year EMBA students on a Thursday night. Marking the end of another week of lectures, it offers students a forum to chat, unwind and network (it’s all about the networking!). But more importantly for us first years, it gives us an opportunity to grill the second years for tips and tricks on surviving the year.

Looking at my color-coded calendar, red (warning!) is a prevalent color for the coming weeks. We have just completed a project on financial accounting and are due to give a group presentation this week. Projects on organizational behavior and strategy will also be worked on in the coming days. For a third party looking in, the workload may appear daunting. For those of us on the inside, the workload is heavy but manageable. It is only manageable by virtue of a supportive employer and collaborative classmates. A lot done, more to do? Absolutely. The next number of weeks will be challengeable, but if they are as interesting as the last 6, it will be manageable.

Cormac Kelleher

EMBA Midweek year 1