The Smurfit Consulting Initiative

As the Smurfit Full Time Class of 2012 near the closing stages of the MBA programme, they get an opportunity to put into action all the new tools, theories and techniques that they have learned over the year with the Smurfit MBA Consulting Initiative.

It’s an opportunity for the students to go out implementing their new working styles, make contacts and apply their learning’s over an intensive seven week period before presenting their findings to the companies and Smurfit staff. In addressing the organisation’s business task, students immerse themselves into the business environment and develop a solution that is ready for implementation.

Armed with workshops in advance on management consulting skills, research methods, leadership, project management, presenting to boards and more, students have the opportunity to improve their analytical, problem solving and communication skills by developing a solution to a real problem faced by an organisation.

These projects are an exciting time not only for the students, but for the companies involved also. This year we were once again massively over-subscribed by companies looking to gain the insights of a team of MBA’s, with many unfortunately ending up disappointed.

The students on the other hand now have the opportunity to join some of the world’s leading names across the Technology, Life sciences, Financial Services, Digital Media, FMCG, Not-For-Profit, Aviation and Energy sectors. Companies such as SAP, Microsoft, GSK and many others are this week welcoming a team to assist in solving strategic problems in their organisations.

This year also sees an exciting partnership with the Walton School of Business in the United States whereby their students will collaborate with ours for an incredibly exciting global project for Henkel.

We wish the students well as they step back into working life over the coming weeks, I know they are relishing the opportunity to get their teeth into real strategic issues and an insight into what their future working lives will be as executives in organisations large and small.

– Brian Marrinan, MBA Careers

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

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

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