An Aspire-ational Evening

Three weeks in, Foundation week’s all but a distant memory, those glorious sunny days manhandling our fellow classmates through “spider webs” all in the name of team-building, have now replaced by the shades of grey that is the world of financial reporting. Our days now revolve around the all-important individual group meetings, dividing up assignments and readings, and with the odd bit of filming thrown in to exercise our presentation and  directorial skills. Despite mostly being filmed on iPhones, don’t let the low-fi production fool you, the performances were truly Oscar worthy.

Against the backdrop of this mounting workload, came the welcome break of the Aspire Scholarship reception. The intensity and volume of work on an MBA is well documented, and yes, this is can be a challenge to balance at times, but nothing great develops in the comfort zone. Walking through the doors of the Laurence Crowley Boardroom on Tuesday evening to meet my fellow Scholars and Alumni, was the beginning of a valuable and lasting relationship with the programme. Any nervous tension that I had rapidly dissipated. The only way I can describe the room was like one large welcoming extended family. With initial introductions and formalities complete, came the opportunity to get to know past awardees a little better.

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While many scholarships only offer a financial reward, Aspire offers so much more. Over the course of the evening, it became quite evident that the network is the most valuable and enduring aspect of the scholarship. It is an honour to be awarded this scholarship and welcomed so graciously into this talented and successful group, this year reaching the one hundred mark. Throughout the year there are events organised, with key notes from business leaders and further networking opportunities.

I first heard of Aspire from a current scholar, shortly after receiving my place on the Smurfit MBA and I would strongly encourage any prospective MBA or masters student to consider applying. I know it is early days, but I can tell that applying is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I eluded to family earlier, and that is exactly what you get, from support and assistance to friendship. Having an external network to escape to the pressures of MBA life just for a casual chat or for support is a fantastic resource. We recently had a seminar on careers and how to network, detailing the importance of a large network in business, which absolutely holds merit, but I’d take the quality over quantity of Aspire any day.

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David Dowling FT MBA 2018/19

‘Lonely Planet – The MBA Journey’

 

It is exactly one year since I completed one of the most challenging, transformative, and enjoyable journeys I could have imagined. My MBA journey started on a beach in Vietnam. A month travelling around South East Asia provided space to reflect on those latent goals that you procrastinate on until the time is right, or invariably, perfect. Like everything in life, there is no right time, there is certainly no perfect time. I decided that the time was now, and in fact, the time would be six weeks after returning from my travels. Little did I think I was about to set out on an even greater adventure, and this time round there would be no Lonely Planet to neatly signpost the challenges and highlights.

 The MBA adventure kicked off with an induction and team building week on the soggy grounds of the Smurfit campus. I imagined sharp suits and laptops but the wellies, rain jackets and blindfolds were the perfect leveller! Running around with buckets of water on what I can only describe as an adult sports day, I forged friendships that would endure long after the MBA chapter closed. There are so many more highlights since those first few days in Blackrock, and each of them, like the best adventures, were unexpected and unplanned!

 My Lonely Planet collection expanded more than I had anticipated during an MBA. Together with four colleagues, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal in Canada to represent Smurfit at the John Molson International MBA Case Competition. Next stop, the International Study Tour saw eighty MBAs travel to Japan and South Korea to learn about doing business in international markets and visit global corporate giants including KIA and Samsung. My MBA passport was stamped again when I travelled to the US to undertake a week long module in the Behavioural Science of Management with global MBAs at Yale University. Smurfit is a member of an international global MBA network which offers students the opportunity to attend a Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week at one of a number of partner business schools. International travel aside, there were so many more highlights – the class debates, the team presentations, the countless coffee breaks with your colleagues amid writing papers on GE, Coca Cola and Southwest Airlines, and the ‘odd’ beer down the Dark Horse to catch the Six Nations after class!

 The application process was straight forward. I applied online in mid-July with my CV, two letters of recommendation, my university transcripts and a short written application. At the same time I also scheduled my GMAT aptitude test for mid-August. My application was reviewed by the Board and I was called for an interview within two weeks. I interviewed with the MBA Director who assessed my suitability and rationale for pursuing the MBA. In parallel with the application process, I commenced study for the GMAT aptitude test. I received a conditional offer from Smurfit in early August pending a sufficient GMAT score. In mid-August I sat the GMAT and obtained the score I needed to get into Smurfit, and with that my MBA journey kicked off a little over two weeks later.

 A Chartered Engineer by background, prior to the MBA I had over seven years’ experience in the utility industry across asset development, trading, strategy and innovation. Since completing the MBA, I have taken up a new role as a Manager in Accenture’s Resources practice where I work with utility sector clients on strategy and transformation projects. The skills which I gained during the MBA from leadership and strategy execution to client consulting have proved invaluable as I navigate my new role.

 While I believe everyone sets out on the MBA in pursuit of their own personal goals, I will share a few of my reflections and insights. A substantial portion of the learning on the MBA is attained through working in teams with colleagues from varied backgrounds. Embrace the diversity and opportunity to explore diverging perspectives. There will be different styles, there will be conflicting views and there will be frustrations – be open to different approaches and use the opportunity to truly understand and test your own leadership style. The leadership development aspect of the MBA was one of the most enriching elements of the journey. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, go first, have a shot, challenge your self-perceptions – you are there to learn and to push boundaries – nothing grows in a comfort zone. Take time and make the effort to bond with your colleagues. Your colleagues soldier with you and support you every step of the way. The MBA network has been one of the biggest enduring benefits, and the value of being able to tap into the network you formed while at Smurfit is immeasurable.

 To those sitting on the fence procrastinating and considering if the time is now, take the leap and put in the application; there will never be a perfect time. To those who have already secured their place, you are about to embark on an incredible journey, it will challenge you on so many levels but you will grow in equal measure. Enjoy every step of the journey!

Catherine O’ Brien EMBA 2015/17

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Can Amazon be stopped?

I attended a great event for prospective, current, and alumni students of the MBA programme at UCD Smurfit last week in the St Stephens Green Hibernian Club and the topic caused me to pause for thought afterwards. As an alumnus from the 2016 class who moved from a career as a military officer to one in the technology industry, I could not help but lean on all of my experiences in how I thought about this issue.

Amazon have become hugely successful to the extent that they account for 44% and growing of all eCommerce in the US and major corporations such as Walmart appear to face extinction as Amazon increasingly move into their territory. They achieved this by identifying fifth wave of innovation technologies such as the internet and digital networks in the 1990’s and utilising them to become the ultimate example of centralisation, due to having a single storefront in their website and a highly integrated supply chain. This allows them to drive down costs and capture efficiencies for their high volume low margin business model better than the likes of Walmart – who conventional wisdom used to state, could not be stopped. Until they were – by Amazon.

A basic principle of strategy is that you should not choose to take on your competitor where they are strong but identify where they are weak and compete there, because if you compete on their terms, you will probably lose. So, what is Amazons weak spot?

Being a bit of a history buff I was able to draw a link with a podcast I recently listened to about the Gallic Wars whereby the Roman Empire fought a devastating war of conquest to defeat and subjugate the Celtic tribes of Gaul with the result that three million Gauls died or were enslaved. At this time, Rome was a highly centralised hierarchical civilisation that developed complex economic and military systems that integrated scientific knowledge to expand its power and influence. The Gauls on the other hand were a decentralised confederacy of tribes based on common culture, language, and traditions that bound them together.

Vercingetorix led the Celtic tribes in revolt, but when Caesar amassed a huge army to fight them, he correctly refused to fight them on their terms in a pitched battle that would allow the Romans to deploy their strengths in command and control, siege warfare, and engineering. Instead, Vercingetorix fought a sort of large-scale guerrilla war whereby he outmanoeuvred the Romans to avoid their strength and attacked their weakness that was a large and complex supply chain. This seriously hindered their ability to sustain themselves in the field and fight as the highly centralised Roman system could not compete against a decentralised and fluid opponent. For some reason Vercingetorix changed his strategy and then decided to fight a pitched battle, which predictably the Romans under Caesar won, and the war was subsequently lost.

So the historical question is; if Vercingetorix had continued to fight as a decentralised force could he have beaten the highly centralised force that was the Roman Empire under Caesar? More applicably, is the way to stop Amazons hyper centralised empire through hyper decentralisation and what are the sixth wave of innovation technologies that could enable this?

Blockchain anyone? I guess we will see…

Conor Connolly, EMBA 2016

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“They think its all over…. it is now”

2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a Smurfit MBA reception attempting to debate the future of big brands and the importance of innovative communication with Damien McLoughlin. I’m going to be nice to myself and call it a draw – but irrespective of the outcome, it made me think of what a journey this MBA has been. 2 years ago I do not think it would have been me in front of that crowd. After the talk, several potential 2018/19 MBA students approached me to gain some insights and find out the best and worst bits of completing an Executive MBA. It caused me to think about it properly, possibly for the first time as it has been a whirlwind 2 years. Outside of the Executive MBA, I have moved job, moved into a new house and any day now our 3rd child will arrive into our family. So it’s been hectic. But it’s been a positive experience too.

I didn’t go on any international trips during my 2 years so maybe my highlights are more mundane than those who experienced Reykjavik, Lima or Yale. For me, a large highlight is the fact that I have been in a position to implement so many of the learnings I have made directly into my work. Not only is this very professionally satisfying but it keeps the entire programme relevant and current. Take Group work as an example. Group work never appealed to me – but the setup of the programme forces you to engage with it from Day 1. With Semesters, Global Virtual Teams, Block Week assignments and Capstone, I have been involved with 8 Groups during the 2 years. Not only have I have learned a huge amount about working with teams, from basic communication to the setting of roles, but I have also learned an awful lot about myself. I hope I have added something to the Groups I was in too. They are more than capable of letting me know if I haven’t. I can use these experiences, both positive and negative, in my current job. The current and real life experience focus of the EMBA, driven by not only the lecturers experience and their use of current case studies but more so by the discussions and arguments that took place between my fellow classmates, each with lots of experience in completely different industries to me, help shape this.

Surreally, my last act in my Executive MBA (apart from Capstone of course), was to cook a chicken casserole in Ballyknocken House along with Catherine Fulvio and a group of business students from Smurfit, Yale, Haas Berkeley, IE Madrid, Egade Mexico, Fudan China and Hitotsubashi Japan as part of the ‘Future of Food’ GNAM Block Week. A memorable experience to round off a memorable 2 years. It’s time for the next chapter now. Reintroduce myself to normal life – I’m looking forward to not feeling guilty about sitting down and watching TV without a nagging thought I should be reading something.

On Day 1 of Initiation week in August 2017, the first person I met on the course was Osgur Ó Ciardha.  It was fitting that he was also on the Future of Food week and so we bookended the 2 years nicely. Since we first met he has secured a new job and become a TV star! I look forward to hearing of many more success stories from my classmates into the future.

Robert Slattery, EMBA 2016/18

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International Consulting Project -Iceland June 2018

72 individuals comprising of academic staff, full time and executive MBA students travelled to Iceland in early June for the International Consulting Project. For the full-time students this formed a core component of their studies while the executive students could elect to undertake this module.

We arrived in Iceland on Sunday 3rd June, immediately leaving the airport for a visit to the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s key tourist attractions. After visiting this incredible site, we went to the hotel where we got ready for our first group dinner at Bryggjan Brugghus. Delicious food and a couple of drinks were had and then we were off to bed, ready to get going early the next day.

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On Monday morning there was a line of taxis outside the hotel waiting to take us to our respective companies, it was like a scene from the apprentice. During the day we consulted with our company and worked on developing a plan of how we would achieve the outcome they desired over the next three days. Arriving back to the hotel after our initial day’s work, we met with our academic supervisor for a debrief. Recounting the activities of the day, our supervisors provided us with plenty of advice and guidance to help us prepare for the second day of consulting.

The second day of our consulting project required students to build on the information gained from their client companies and move towards satisfying the requirement as per the engagement letter previously completed by each group.

Wednesday was the last day of consulting with our client companies before delivery of the final presentation to both the company and our academic supervisors. Finishing touches were completed on the project and once finalised, groups got working on their presentations. This went long into the night for many groups with everyone wanting to deliver as good a final product as possible.

Thursday arrived and once again all the taxis arrived to take us to our companies. There was an air of tension about the place as individuals were rehearsing their presentations. If you were lucky enough to get a morning presentation you had the rest of the day off. Myself and a few others from our class took advantage of this and went whale watching. We saw Minke and harbour porpoise whales but unfortunately (to John’s disappointment in particular) we weren’t in deep enough water to see any Orca’s. Later that night we visited one of Iceland’s most iconic buildings, the Harpa, where we had a final reception and group dinner to wrap up the academic component of the week. Following dinner, we went to a traditional Irish pub for a few more drinks where the party continued into the early hours of the morning.

The next day, a lot of the class opted to participate in the Reykjavik sightseeing and Golden Circle tour the MBA programme office arranged for us. We departed early on Friday morning where we made stops at Gullfoss waterfall and the geysers. The tour was fantastic, and everyone was amased by the waterfall. After a long day touring the island, we returned to the Grand Hotel. By this stage most people were worn out, so some opted to have dinner in the hotel while others went out on the town.

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Our visit came to an end with an early departure from Keflavik International Airport on Saturday morning. I really enjoyed our visit to Iceland, learned a lot about what it’s like to be a consultant and have many great memories to cherish long in to the future :-)

Karl McEntegart, Full Time MBA 2017/2018

Women’s 21st Century Leadership

Susan McDonnell and Oonagh O’Grady joined a cohort of MBA students from around the world at Haas Business School, University of California, Berkeley in early June for an intensive 5-day module titled Women’s 21st Century Leadership. This module was offered as part of the Global Network for Advanced Management week.

Professor Laura Kray in her introduction to the week outlined how the reality remains that the career paths of men and women still diverge in complex yet systematic ways. With more women in the workforce than ever before – and even more joining top leadership ranks – the need for women’s voices to be heard has never been greater. Professor Kray put out a “call to arms” at the outset of the course – What will YOUR role be in advancing gender equality?

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The programme was designed to help us to promote gender equality in the workplace but also to cultivate our own authentic leadership style as women. Authenticity is a key pillar of modern leadership. We were thought that teaching women to act like men in order to get ahead is misguided. It ultimately results in women becoming overly focused on their self-image and not on the leadership task at hand. This course sought to over-write outdated scripts about power and push past the usual stereotypes, for example, the perceived need for women to “fit into” a masculine world.

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Our first guest speaker, Haben Girma, was utterly inspiring and personified the concept of a growth mindset. Haben was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, is on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was named by President Obama as a White House Champion of Change. She advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities and encourages us all to resist society’s low expectations of those with disabilities. Instead she asked us to choose to create our own pioneering story. She provided us with a master class in public speaking on the first morning despite being born deaf-blind. During the presentation, she received constant feedback from her interpreter who typed a description of the happenings in the room. We then had a chance to ask Haben questions through a keypad which translated our queries to braille.

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Penny Kreitzer, an accomplished stage actress, thought us tips to improve our leadership presence through the strengthening of our voice and stance. She also thought us a five-step grounding exercise which she assured us would become second nature through practise.  Christine Carter shared the secrets of “How to Achieve More By Doing Less” by highlighting a number of limiting beliefs and unmasking the truths instead:

  • Limiting Belief #1: busyness = importance

Truth: In fact, the truth is that busyness equals cognitive overload – Single tasking is the way to go

  • Limiting Belief #2: Doing nothing is a waste of time

Truth: Our brains benefit when we waste time – it’s called strategic slacking

  • Limiting Belief #3: More is better

Truth: Often less is more – acknowledge abundance using gratitude

We learned about the “Future of Work” from Sally Thornton and in particular about the work-life blend as opposed to work-life balance. Carolyn Buck‐Luce outlined how we needed to “Celebrate the Leader Within” and introduced us to the secret to her success – The Decade Game. This involves her outlining at the start of each decade her purpose for the next decade. The key questions she asks herself to define her decade strategy are – why are you on the planet? And how would you like to be known by the world at the end of this decade? She recommended that you thought about your strategy as a multi-level computer game where you set targets or levels to achieve every 90 days. With regards to executive presence, she noted how gravitas accounted for 67% of an executive’s presence. Gravitas includes things like grace under fire, decisiveness, ability to read and command, ability to inspire others and the importance of integrity, authenticity and reputation.

Our final guest speaker Sanez Mobasseri helped us analyse our social network under the 5 pillars – depth, breath, structural configuration, dependencies and perceived status of contacts. She also thought us that building and maintaining your network is a lifelong task and that connections need to be made before you actually need them.

The third day of the course entailed two company visits to tech multinationals located in San Francisco.  First up was DocuSign, an electronic signature technology and digital transaction management services company. Chief People Officer, Joan Burke and a number of members of a group called Women at DocuSign joined us to explain what makes DocuSign a great place to work. They outlined how diversity and inclusion was driven from the top by their CEO Dan Springer who was motivated by his experience of being the son of a single mother. This shines through in the company’s HR policies and in particular with regards to maternity and paternity leave which are much more generous than US standards.

We then travelled across town to Uber’s offices where Bernard C. Coleman, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, talked to us about the journey the company has gone through over the past year since the highly-publicised Susan Fowler case. Along with a panel of Uber employees involved in Women and Diversity initiatives, he outlined some of the innovative diversity and inclusion programmes they have introduced.

On the final day, we presented our research project finding on topics which included – Gender differences in values, attitudes, and beliefs – Implicit bias and its consequences in organisations – Women working with women – Work-life balance and Engaging men on gender equity.

No MBA experience would be complete without a networking opportunity and this trip provided this in abundance. We were part of a truly international cohort with representatives from US Business Schools – Haas and Yale as well as people who had travelled from Ghana, Mexico, Russia, Spain, UK, Portugal, Denmark, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and China. Not only was there diversity in geography but also in industries with all of the major industries represented as well as NGOs and the Art industry. Most importantly the class contained a number of male colleagues who leant a balanced and insightful voice to the week.

We both feel we gained a new level of confidence and greater sense of ownership over our own leadership development. We also feel we are now more able to diagnose multiple causes of gender inequality, better equipped to develop techniques for influencing others, and understand the critical role of mindsets in collaborating effectively with others to lead change. We also now have a full itinerary of class reunions scheduled for the coming years….first stop Ghana in 2019!

Oonagh O’Grady, EMBA 2018

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Pre-Exam Glam

With exams looming, assignment deadlines creeping up, and end of semester emotions rising, a group of MBA students attended the UCD Business Alumni Awards on a sunny spring evening in the InterContinental Hotel, Dublin. Ball gowns and tuxes were dusted off for a night of glitz and glamour, before we earnestly began to settle into exam mode the following week – you could say, the calm before the storm!

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The annual Business Alumni Awards Dinner is one of the highlight events in the UCD College of Business annual events programme. Each year approximately 450 guests attend the Awards Dinner to celebrate and recognise the achievements and successes of graduates through the ‘Alumni of the Year’ and ‘Student of the Year’ awards.

The awards serve to recognize driven, committed, and successful alumni who have contributed to the business community of Ireland and globally. We were treated to inspiring and very personal acceptance speeches from the Alumni Award winners Padraic Ward and Michael Cullen; both spoke about their time in UCD and how those experiences laid the foundations for their highly successful careers on the global stage. What struck me personally was their authenticity, humbleness, and honesty. The Student Award winners, Jeremey Boles and Aoife Kiernan, also reflected on how their UCD experiences served as a springboard for propelling their careers forward.

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One of the key learnings I will take from my two years in Smurfit is the value and importance of the Smurfit network. I have seen firsthand the value of the network throughout the MBA programme and it was clear from the Awards Dinner that the global alumni community is very active, influential, and strong.

As my own MBA journey is beginning to draw to an end, my Google Calendar is showing positive signs of a full recovery. Opportunities to reconnect and catch up with classmates will become less frequent. The Alumni Awards Dinner is a fantastic opportunity to throw on a ball gown (or tux) and catch up with classmates and the broader global alumni community.

Being able to enjoy the late evening sun in a fancy hotel was an added bonus!

Maria Barry, EMBA 2016/18

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Life in the Emerald Isle

A cook to prepare food, a maid to clean my house, a chauffeur driven car to take me around, clothes washed and ironed for me to wear, this was how life was for me back in India. Fast forward a few months, I found myself in Dublin, learning to cook even the most basic stuff, vacuuming my floor and putting clothes to the laundry, all of this in the middle of an intense start to the MBA program. Life had certainly taken a 360-degrees turn.

However, as time progressed, with the help of my roommates – Himanshu, Anita and Bhavya, who are also in the MBA program, I was able to settle in quickly. Suddenly, the place seemed familiar, I discovered the food I cooked was edible and I could manage to keep my place clean enough so as to not get kicked out from the on-campus accommodation.

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In the second semester, one knows that one can get through the various modules, no matter how challenging they appear to be. With optional modules available, I learnt immensely from modules such as ‘Negotiations’ and ‘Strategy Execution’ which are relevant to my career path. In this semester, you realize that the end of the course is not far away and start preparing for life, after the MBA. In my case, I was mentally preparing to returning back to my business and the learnings that I could potentially implement. Having set up my own company three years ago and having made a million mistakes along that journey, I am extremely satisfied with the learnings from the MBA and know that I can contribute massively to my business once I get back.

For me personally, it has been that the relationships that I developed further that matters to me the most. Starting with my roommates, to my classmates who were on the trip with me to South America, it has been a pleasure to get to know them better. On the recent international business trip to South America, I fell sick because of the altitude and was diagnosed with Vertigo, a condition due to which I could not balance my body and as a result, could not stand or walk. It was with the help of classmates on the trip, especially, Thom and Himanshu, that I survived and was able to make it back safely to Dublin.

I was happy to get involved in some of the MBA clubs in the last few months. Recently, as part of the social outreach team, we visited the Carysfort National School, where we conducted a ‘Bizworld workshop’. We essentially introduced these kids to the business world, explaining some of the basic business terms and concepts. We explained, in simple terms, things like, how to identify a problem and come up with an innovative solution, how to set up a company, how to assign company roles and finally, how to make an effective business plan. We then, made them understand the world of funding and trained them to pitch their ideas.

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On the final day, these kids had the opportunity to pitch their idea to ‘Dragons’ (some members of our team who played the role of a VC) and get investments. They also pitched their ideas to the students from the previous grade to get funding. The entire social outreach team was mind blown with some of the ideas that came up. The level of creativity shown by these students in coming up with an idea, choosing a company name, designing a logo, creating marketing collateral, was way beyond what we expected. It was an eye-opener for me and a very satisfying experience.
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I was also fortunate to explore the country in the last few months with my family. Visits to Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, reiterated the fact that I chose the right country to study. If I had visualized paradise all my life, this would be it. Of course, I cannot finish before I mention the amount of fun I’ve had enjoying the nightlife in Dublin. Come Friday night, my Instagram stories are filled again, I wake up at 8am on Saturday morning and it suddenly strikes me… I have strategy class in an hour – and off I go again!

Jayanth Veerendra, Full  Time MBA 2017/18

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Bizworld’s Dragons Den

As part of the Social Outreach Club a total of eight members from the Smurfit FT MBA recently spent two days on nearby Carysfort National School running the Bizworld programme. A form of Dragons Den crash course in entrepreneurship for Primary Schools. Having recently pitched our own business ideas at the conclusion of our Entrepreneurship module this was an opportunity to sit on the other side of the fence and listen to pitches from young entrepreneurs.

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In February six of us had met with Bizworld CEO Fiona McKeon and had been hugely impressed with her enthusiasm and the Bizworld programme she briefly outlined to us. Fresh from recent international trips to the US, Singapore, Vietnam, Peru and Chile we met Fiona again in April for a quickfire training afternoon to prepare us for the programme.

Somewhat uneasy from Thom’s horror tales of teaching we approached the school with trepidation, would we face an audience more challenging than our management accounting presentations? Jayinth, Spilios and I headed for one 6th class as Anita and Thom disappeared towards the other group. Thankfully we need not have worried as the pupils were extremely enthusiastic and by the afternoon session were eagerly working away themselves on their business ideas.

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Jayinth and I took them through their tasks for the day with Spilios regaling them with stories of his own entrepreneurial experience.  Within each 6th class the students had been broken into groups of five prior to our arrival.  Each groups task over a day and a half was to brainstorm and come up with a business idea, assign company roles to everyone, develop a marketing plan and raise finance before finally pitching their business idea to the dragons. They would aim to secure as large an investment as possible while retaining as much control over their business as they could.  They were provided their own Bizworld currency to achieve this. As we neared the end of the first day ideas included a healthy eating app, light up blanket for reading, solar powered wifi, compression pyjamas, sunshine contact lenses and remote-controlled furniture.

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On Thursday morning we returned for some last-minute presentation preparation before the pitching stage. It was clear from the pre-pitch practice that many of the students had done considerable work since our first visit on Monday. As nerves (ours more then theirs) frayed the first group got ready to meet the dragons. Armed with instructions to take a tough approach they marched into the staff room to pitch.

While Deepti and Spilios played good Dragons, Dragon Osmond took a harsher line trying to take as much of the businesses as possible. Sadly, his skills from our Managing the Negotiation Process module were no match for these wily 11 and 12-year-old budding entrepreneurs. Dragon Himanshu managed to get a present of a slice of cake from the students although having attended a Business and Society module (which considered the role of ethics in business) he assured us this had no impact on his investment decision!

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Next the students got a chance to impress their peers as 5th class students entered the classroom to listen to the pitches. Not having personally witnessed the pitch to the Dragons it was great to see the final product after the two days of work from the students.  After some robust questioning the 5th class students had an opportunity to buy a share in a company of their choosing. With the presentations finished the students repaid their loans and counted their cash. Concluding the two days we were delighted to hear many of the students would now consider setting up their own business in the future.

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We were extremely impressed with not just the students business ideas but also their presentation skills many of which would not have looked out of place in the MBA. Perhaps we will see some of these future entrepreneurs on the Smurfit MBA in a few years’ time?

 Overall it was a hugely enjoyable two days and a lovely end to the second semester before we ready ourselves for upcoming exams. Thanks go to Fiona in Bizworld and also to Carysfort National School for giving us the opportunity to present to such enthusiastic students.

Ruary Martin, Full Time MBA 2017/18

 

The Hidden Heartlands

The clocks went forward and suddenly there was light at the end of the tunnel. The finish line of the MBA came into sight and, with that, an obvious emphasis among the MBA cohort on prospective careers. On our return from the well documented International study trips, students endeavoured to surmount the endless MBA workload, while allocating sufficient time for networking opportunities. Factory visits had presented valuable learning abroad and I recognised the opportunity to organise a similar visit because of my family involvement in Xtratherm – an insulation manufacturer in Navan, Co. Meath. Conscious that semester three will offer significantly less time collectively as a class, there was no time like the present. Wednesday, 25th April, was identified as a rare vacancy in the MBA calendar. Although we did obliterate an organised golf outing (apologies Ian), the date was confirmed, and preparations began.

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Exam concerns and assignment overload resulted in some having to withdraw from the trip, but an enthusiastic 21 students travelled to Navan – a first for many. Karl McEntegart, a full time MBA student, has developed a reputation for meticulousness on comparable company visits and this trip was no exception. He travelled alone and was ready (as expected!) to interrogate Xtratherm Sales Director, Martin Groome, when the rest of the MBA contingent arrived. We were directed to the board room where Martin presented us with a comprehensive overview of the company, its evolution to date and the obstacles it encountered to achieve the market presence it has today. Martin emphasised the importance of relationships in the industry and their dedication to offering “more than just insulation”.

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Refuelled by coffee and refreshments, the diverse array of products came to life in the 3D demonstration room. The factory walk-through reiterated the learning from our ‘Operations’ module, attempting to maximise value and eliminate waste in all complexities of the manufacturing process. Although I have visited Xtratherm on many occasions, I am ever intrigued by its continuous improvement and management’s vision for growth. My father has always been a role model of mine, and today, I was extremely proud to illustrate to my classmates what is achievable when a collaborative group, with a hunger for success and a willingness to learn, is established. Xtratherm has exceeded all expectations and its acquisition by UNILIN in 2016 is recognition for the value created by three individuals who started out with what was only a dream.

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I started by highlighting that the finish line of the MBA is in sight and I will also conclude with that thought. There have been times on this programme when I felt I was past insanity and I questioned my decision to endure such a rigorous programme. However, as the end line nears, I feel a sense of lonesomeness for my classmates. We have been to the trenches and back and created bonds that I genuinely hope last a lifetime. But in reality, each individual will pursue their own personal career, wherever that might take them. Where will everyone be in six months? I do not know – I suppose I better make the most of the next three!

John Keegan, Full Time MBA 2017/18

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