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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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

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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.


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