One Year On…

Decisions, decisions...


January 2015 is the one year anniversary of when I first seriously started considering taking the MBA program. I had toyed with the idea for several months before but with a new year came a new impetus to push myself and develop new skills that would help me develop professionally and personally. The initial stages of my MBA curiosity was to visit the Smurfit school website and look up the academic programme, entry process and pre-requisites. All very daunting stuff! Then I stumbled across the MBA blog. This was different to any of the other sources of information online as it was impressions of the MBA student written for their peers. The blog gave a great insight into the rollercoaster that is the MBA and it gave a window into the experience of the MBA.

Reading these blogs were the catalyst for me to move from the curiosity phase to the activism phase. Over the coming months I attended the open days, spoke to alumni and started to look at the practicalities of taking on the MBA.

Fast forward 12 months and I am one semester in and looking forward to part two with optimism. I wouldn’t have imagined a year previously that I would be sitting here writing an entry for the very blog I had been reading when first considering taking this path. There’s no doubt that the past 12 months have gone by in a flash and that the last four months in particular were a whirlwind but I do look back on 2014 as a successful year. It was the year that I stepped up the challenge and taken the bull by the horns.

As I conclude this entry I am aware that there may be some who are right now thinking tentatively about taking the first steps of the MBA journey. There’s no doubt that the experience and the sacrifices that come with the MBA is not for everyone but until you move from the curiosity phase into the activism phase you won’t know. To those people who are in the curiosity phase I would advise reading the blog entries to get a window into the MBA experience. This might be enough to nudge you into the activism phase.

David Cashman ~ Executive MBA

Banish the Nay-sayer in you

I was never much good at maths. Richard Mitchell’s mathematical blog dated October 1st inspired both my awe and a nervous skin rash. I wonder whether the labels that are slapped on you at primary school (‘satisfactory’ or ‘could improve in this area’) accompany you like an imaginary friend into adulthood. A duplicitous buddy always ready to tap you on the shoulder and whisper in your ear: Do not get ahead of yourself.  Maths is not your thing.

That same old pal accompanied me into the GMAT exam and chuckled in the corner while I tackled all those blasted quadratic equations. That was the first day of my MBA journey, when I dug the ear-plugs in deeper and drowned out the nay-sayer in me. We all have one lurking somewhere in us which we will need to learn to ignore as the pressure mounts during our studies.

Confidence is key on the MBA programme. The pace is frenetic from the outset and there is little room for self-doubt. The demanding admissions process is dual purpose: to prove that you can reach the requisite standard for the school and equally, to remind you that you deserve your place amongst your accomplished peers. You have earned your foot in the door.

Now that the door has long since shut behind me, I am still wary of numbers. Perhaps my clever classmates can explain to me how it is that 10 short weeks of study can feel like 6 months? How about my feedback to friends and family that I have learned more in this short period than I have in a year of working life?

Many of us have made these financial and personal sacrifices on a wing and a prayer to some degree. I spent months during the summer agonising over whether the hardship would be worth it and fretting about comments from a small group of (real life) nay-sayers. Everyone has an opinion about MBAs. One was that a chartered accountant doesn’t need one. Another person commented that surely I had already accomplished enough in my career and didn’t need the bother. My father asked if I might be joining the family for Sunday dinner wearing a Margaret Thatcher badge! Revenge is sweet Da.

The truth about an MBA is that you are unlikely to ever find yourself surrounded by a less homogenous group of people in a professional setting. This is never a bad thing. So far I have heard the varied views of engineers, medical and sales professionals, supply chain managers, business owners, army officers, journalists…and me. Extolling values and opinions that I never even realised I held. One classmate tells me she is proud to be able to demonstrate to her three sons that learning is an important part of life. And that they have now learned where the hoover lives in their house.

The gamble is paying off. Each week, we are offered additional courses and seminars which are above and beyond the curriculum we signed up for: presentation and interview skills courses, Excel training, personality profiling etc. I am delighted by the fact that the school – like every well-run business – strives to deliver at every turn, inviting the students’ feedback on a regular basis.

Two things I need to improve on before I report back here in Semester 2:

1. To feed myself wholesome food instead of reaching for any old fuel.

2. To learn to be less cheeky to lecturers. I don’t know what’s come over me. I must have been sleeping more as an under-grad.

Best of luck to you all for the rest of the first semester. Eat well. Rest well. Exercise. Stay positive.

And guard your good manners with ferocious intention in the absence of all of the above.

Rachael Dunne

Weekend EMBA Year 1

How will you measure your MBA experience

Image result for Professor Robert Kaplan
Prof. Robert Kaplan

You hear a lot about measurement when you sign up to do an MBA. ‘You get what you measure’ and we’ve been learning how to measure performance, variations from expected outcomes, and the strategies we can use to plan and then measure a company’s success.

I was lucky enough to be in attendance at a special two day conference by Prof. Robert Kaplan, Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School, when he was in Ireland earlier this year.

Not only is Prof. Kaplan a widely acclaimed academic rock-star, and adored guru of MBAs everywhere, but in person he is truly an inspiration. At 74 years of age he is bright eyes, tan skin and lean physique. He exercises daily, clearly looks after himself, and still loves to travel.

His mind is sharp and inquiring; he asked lots of questions, was happy to chat and was evidently interested in understanding what was going on in Ireland, the challenges we face and what we are doing about it.

He remains passionate, interested and excited by his academic work. And he he’s not nearly done yet; there is so much more to learn and understand he says. That to me was inspiring.

Meeting him got me thinking about how we get to be like that. What’s the secret of the successful septa- and octo-genarians whose energy levels could put many half their age to shame? Michael Smurfit; UCD Smurfit Business School founder, Rupert Murdock and Warren Buffet are all still very engaged in their respective fields in their 70s and 80s.

As I edge further into year two of the MBA, I can’t help but wonder if the decisions we make now and in the months ahead will shape what we’ll be like when we reach that life stage.

If we’re lucky, given increasing life expectancy and extending ages of retirement, most of us will have at least 30, and maybe 40, years of career ahead of us post-MBA. Chances are you’ll only do an MBA once and so surely this is one of the best opportunities we get to reflect on and plan what we want those 30 or 40 years to be like.

In addition to the academic learning we are steeped in, this is the other part of the MBA experience. That we are actively encouraged to think about who we are, how to be the best version of ourselves and how to bring out the best in others. This applies not just in our careers but in all parts life.

If you need a framework (yes, we talk a lot about those on the MBA) for further examination of this you could do worse than read Clayton Christensen’s ‘How Will You Measure Your Life’. Another Harvard stalwart, we can learn a lot from Christensen’s reflections on his life post-MBA and the direction his classmates, and later his students, have taken over the course of their lives. The book is based on a final session he conducted with his Harvard MBAs each year and, while aspects of his personal values may not be to everyone’s liking, there are some really interesting observations and theories in this book that I think most MBA students will appreciate.

Christensen reminded me that you chose the life you want. You work hard at it and you need to measure it regularly to identify any deviations from the plan. But also that in reappraising your progress you may find that deviating from the course may be where the most exciting opportunities lie. Whatever happens, the MBA is providing us with the tools we will need to put in place strategies and action plans that will serve us well for the journey.

Kirsten Connolly

Weekend year 2

Choosing the right MBA

Undertaking an MBA programme is a significant decision to make. So when you understand that it is your real desire, try to research your choice of programme and business school as thoroughly as possible. In this post I will outline some of the facts which require attention, such as the international accreditation, continuous presence in both prestigious top 100 rankings, and national leadership. These facts may certainly influence your final decision, but they are not crucial. That is why I want to describe to you a couple of things which helped me to form my preference of MBA programme.

The first one happened when I visited Smurfit Business School last year. The only thing I knew was that somewhere in Blackrock there was a university which offered a top MBA programme. There I met one member of admission team. During our conversation and a little excursion through the university building I got quite a distinct picture of the programme and of the School itself. There I could really feel the spirit of the School and was seriously impressed with their professional approach, which I could see in every little detail. So my first advice to individuals interested in an MBA programme is to go and see the campus, speak with people and ask questions.

The second piece of advice I would offer relates to alumni of UCD MBA programme. In order to explore the School more deeply, I wrote to some graduates of last years class and asked them to express their opinions. They didn’t want to advertise UCD MBA programme, but they wanted to provide me with their knowledge and help me to make the right decision. The key is to find and write to current alumni, speak with them, and again, ask questions. Facebook and Linkedin are quite helpful in this case and I found alumni more than willing to assist..

In conclusion, I can say that these things really work and that I am reassured and absolutely happy with my programme choice. If some readers of this blog are curious about UCD Full-Time MBA programme, please, feel free to write to me and ask your questions!

Daniil Matcoian

Full-Time MBA 2014-2015

‘Well behaved women seldom make history’ – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I wondered what to contribute to the MBA blog page but then saw a fellow MBA student dropped the ‘F’ bomb in a recent blog. Not the cool ‘F’ bomb, but feminism, which can kill a cool conversation in an instant! Don’t roll your eyes yet, bear with me.

Most definitions of feminism will include some reference to equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

Sheryl Sandberg tried to address the second point by requesting that we ‘lean in’ at work and ‘sit at the table’ instead of waiting to be asked.  Do we need to do the same when it comes to the MBA experience?

I was genuinely surprised by the ratio of men to women in my MBA class at almost 5 to 1. We can assume that women are accepted equally by UCD so why the low turnout? Are women reluctant to invest the time and money? Perhaps they are they hesitant to ask for support from their employers or partners at home? Maybe they have better things to do on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday… you get the picture. I hear women talking about MBAs all the time so why aren’t they doing it?

When sharing my MBA experience with female colleagues and friends most respond by admitting it’s something they would love to do it ‘for themselves’ at some point. However they all admitted that support at home would not be forthcoming. That’s a whole other blog but maybe Sheryl had a point? Don’t ask – just do.

Whatever the reason for low female participation, it’s something I hope changes. Does that make me a feminist? All I know is that well behaved women seldom make history.

Emma Burke

Midweek year 1

Coaching on the UCD Smurfit MBA.

The feedback has been excellent once again this year.

We offer all of our MBAs personalised one to one coaching from the very best Business Executive Coaches and it is entirely free to all of ourparticipants.  The programme fits into the personalised Leadership Development Programme (LDP) and goes from strength to strength every year.  Some stats from the latest survey:

– It got a 95% rating in terms of its effectiveness as part of LDP.

– 93% will recommend as unmissable for next year’s participants

– 63% will continue to seek coaching post MBA at their own expense.

– hot topics this year were Career Transition, Leadership Development, Managing upwards and Personal Confidence building.


CLICK ON THIS PICTURE:

Use your UCD Smurfit MBA to pursue that dream.

Ciara O’Brien (weekend eMBA 2014), founder of iSave, recently joined UCC’s start-up accelerator Ignite.

My advice to new MBAs is to really make the most of every resource that’s available to you within the MBA system. While there’s lots to learn from your core modules and lecturers, don’t forget to look outside the curriculum to find other opportunities. Two years is quite a short time frame to achieve big things!

My only regret from the MBA is that I didn’t seek out those opportunities even sooner.  Starting the course is such an overwhelming experience – learning to deal with the teams, assignments and exams.

In year 2, once I kick-started my start-up idea, the various MBA structures were a huge asset. Michael McDonnell brought me the UCD Student Innovation Fund (which we subsequently won!), Brian Marrinan connected me with MasterCard’s start-up accelerator which was invaluable and Bruce Martin, entrepreneurship lecturer, supported me to refine iSave’s value proposition even though I wasn’t in his class!

This has all been key to our success in winning seed funding, acceptance to the Ignite programme and now a potential spot at The Summit’s APLHA programme for start-ups.

So whatever your goal: take the knock-backs in your stride, seek out people who believe in your idea and can help and don’t waste any of the resources that are available to you. If you have an idea you want to pursue this is probably the best time in your life to do it. It’ll all be over before you know it!

Ciara O’Brien, EMBA 2014 and Founder of iSave.

Time to think …

There is an element of the MBA experience that gets lost in the noise of commentary on hours, deadlines, hand ins and team meetings. The full time MBA gives you back some time in your life to think. To think about what you want to do, to think about what you have done and to think about what makes you tick. Any perspective student should know the amount of hours required on the MBA programme is a often overhyped. MBA graduates you will meet remember the pinch situations where they had to work until the wee small hours of the morning for three nights in a row, or they remember a chronic three week period in semester 1 where they had 5 projects hanging over them. But the reality of the situation is that this is the exception rather than the rule. There is a steady flow of work that (if you keep on top of) is eminently manageable. The MBA experience gives you more time out then your current career. It is NOT like having a fulltime job and there IS an element of reliving that college experience where you used to have time to think, chat and pursue some new interests and side projects.

As an entrepreneur I find this time invaluable. In the “real world” It’s hard to get time to think about new business ideas and exciting innovations. In the MBA bubble you can find that time again and more importantly, when you do find that time you are far better equipped to turn day dreams into realities should you choose to do so. You start refining your ideas from the minute they pop into your head, what are the barriers to entry? Is it an attractive Industry structure? What is the value proposition? How easily would this be imitated? Do you have access to resources required? It also helps that you now have 35 new people in your life that you can bounce ideas off and develop some thoughts you have had on your career, or a business idea or even a further course of study after the MBA (God forbid!).

So don’t let talk of “surviving the MBA”, the “divorce course” and “say goodbye to your family for a year” influence your decision complete an MBA. It is challenging but doable, and if you are at a bit of a crossroads in life, the programme will give you the time and resources to figure out the grand plan for you. That plan will change daily by the way but at least you will be thinking about it….

Trevor Whelan

Full-time MBA 2014


Come and meet the MBA team at the upcoming Smurfit open evening

We have an open evening coming up on Wednesday April 9th and if you’d like to come in and meet the team, current students and alumni and attend our MBA presentation we’d be delighted to meet and talk with you, you can register at http://www.smurfitschool.ie/openevening/. The short presentation on the programme which begins at 6.30pm will cover all the basic information you might require on the programme, how it works and what it can do for you.

The video above is from a recent Smurfit MBA Experience day which provides a more in-depth look at the programme and taster lectures, if you are interesting attending the next one let our Admissions Office know and they’ll add you to the list for the next one.