MBA Conferrings 2011

Wednesday 7th December saw the 2011 class being conferred in the O’Reilly Hall in Belfield.  It was a great occasion for all the graduates and their families some of whom had flown in for the day and a fitting event to mark all the hard work and effort put in by the MBA participants from the beginning of the applications process, in some cases year ago, to the handing in of the final assignment and putting the pen down in the final exam.  The conferral was a joint one between the MBA and the Masters in Accountancy programmes.  The ceremony itself was conducted by UCD President Hugh Brady and Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh.  The address was given by Dr. Tony Brabazon, Director of UCD Smurfit Business School.

As usual the run up to the conferral was marked by lots of running around getting gowns and scanning of the hall to locate family, not an easy task in such a large hall.  After the official part of the day was successfully completed by graduates the 670 men, woman and children present adjourned to the O’Reilly Conservatory for the Conferring Reception.  There were lots of introductions of family to class mates, photographs taken with classmates and family with a rather splendid Christmas tree as a back drop and discussion of everyone’s plans for the evening.  A couple of the classes had arranged group meals or events for after family meals were over.   By all accounts some people didn’t finish celebrating until the early hours of the following morning.

Congratulations to the UCD Smurfit class of 2011 from all in the MBA Office.

– RoisinO’Loughlin | EMBA Programme Manager | MBA Office










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

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

After the Wake-Up Call

Whilst writing my last blog I had what can only be described as a wake-up call. I had to start looking for a job. The whole class seemed to have undergone a similar epiphany. So much so, Brian, the MBA Career Manager, is a person who is very much on demand. My classmate, David Lawton covers the pressure of going back to work in his latest blog. I’d recommend it.

Strangely, though, job hunting is not the most pressing issue on my mind. What seems to be more pressing for me now is not securing my future but that we’re well over half way through the course. In just one week the last full set of exams will be completed. After that it’s just our international trip, the company project and the final summer term in June. Where has the time gone? It just seems like yesterday that we started out on the journey.

In a state of panic I’m trying to extract as much value as possible from the remainder of the course. Stay tuned to see how I get on. My future career can wait!!

– Donal O’Sullivan








A pleasant surprise

While I was deciding whether or not to do an MBA, and where, one of the things I considered was the ranking of Smurfit (recently up 78th worldwide in the FT and 31st worldwide in The Economist.) I also thought about the academic content of the programme and the anecdotal reputation of the School.

One thing I didn’t give too much notice to was the specific careers and personal development day that we have every Friday. This day focuses on each student as an individual, and leading professionals from the worlds of neurolingustic programming, personality type testing and time management are brought in to share their specialist knowledge with us. The process is highly interactive, and generally gives very good and personalised feedback to the students. The results are that after less than two terms, most fellow MBA students now have a good idea about their inner drives, specific skill sets and even in what types of career their personal motivators would be most likely to be satisfied.

There’s even a one on one personal coach set up for students to discuss anything they like, in my case how to best network nationally and internationally and how to best target specific career opportunities. It could just as easily be used by the student to talk about their personal experiences on the course, additional help they need or confidential issues they may have.

The whole area of personal development, whilst something a lot of people will have some experience with, takes on a whole new dimension of usefulness when it’s a full time integrated subject. For me, it’s been one of the standout experiences of the course so far.

– Andrew Higgins

Back to work preparation



My MBA class’  return to the labour market is several months off yet, but it is something that is on everyone’s mind (well, that and our international trips to China or Brazil!)

In years past, Smurfit graduates have always done extremely well gaining full employment after three months from graduation. But in these more chastened times, when even a Vanity Fair reporter scoffs at our country’s past spending excesses, the confidence that one might have approached the jobs market has evaporated, and in its place a dire sinking feeling.

But all is not lost. We are given every opportunity and tool to equip us for the daunting task of winning our dream role.

Mock Interviews: Getting it right before the first time

Continue reading Back to work preparation

Back For More…

So here we all are back at Smurfit School after a well-earned break. The time off for Christmas and New Year has recharged everyone’s enthusiasm, so much so that most people didn’t mind coming back. But when we were back, we were back. There was no allowance for easing ourselves back into the routine – we were straight into assignments, readings, presentations and more readings and more assignments. The time off we enjoyed seems like a distant memory now.

Getting the Job

One slight difference I have noticed this term has been the increase in mutterings about jobs and applications and “what are you going doing next year?”  Surely it’s much too early for that I thought (and hoped).

However in reality it’s not too early. At the end of this term, it will be March and we will be going on our International Trip. Before we know it, April will be upon us and then the panic will set in! And if we are to be honest with ourselves, it is the reason we signed up in the first place. Whether it was to get a leg-up in our chosen profession or for a change in job, it was all about the career at the end of the day.

So onwards and upwards as we commence our search for gainful employment in earnest! I had better make my way to the Careers Office.

– Donal O’Sullivan