Come Dine With Me!

I love eating.

Two bowls of ice cream for lunch…sign me up.

A crispy layer of fat on a pork roast for dinner…table for one please.

An entire box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese just because…don’t mind if I do.

But there is more to it than spurts of gluttony. It’s not just food but the whole experience of eating a meal that I love. For me, the emotional component to eating is a powerful thing.

So when you add good company and conversation to the mix I’m the happiest boy in town. And that is what happened the other night at the Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines. Thanks to our classmate, Captain Ken Barry, the Fulltime UCD Smurfit MBAs and I had the privilege of dining in the Officers’ Mess on the army base.


UCD Smurfit FT MBA 2014 Cathal Brugha Barracks SEM1


Don’t get me wrong here, the gravied lamb shank with buttery mashed potatoes was delicious but what really filled me up was the chance to relax and chat with my classmates over a good meal outside of school.

We’ve been on our UCD Smurfit MBA journey for over a month now and everyone needed a chance to refuel. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters during this experience. When you get too wrapped up in assignments you can forget that when the modules are done the real leftovers you take with you are the people and friendships you find along the way.

The friendships are side dishes that come with your MBA entrée. You didn’t order them when you came in but your meal wouldn’t be complete without them.



Tony Downs & Kim Cathal Brugha Barracks SEM1








Tony Downs,

FT MBA 2014.

Work on sharpening up the softer skill set! (aka the UCD Smurfit MBA Leadership Development Programme).

They say time flies when you’re having fun. It also seems to fly when you’re up to your neck in project work. Well, perhaps more accurately, when you feel like you’re up to your neck in project work. In fairness we’ve had a relatively balanced distribution of fun and hard work to date. A bit of hard work is good for us.

Everyone in the class had something of a shock when we each listed out all of our assignment deadlines, put dates against them and sorted them into date order. In reality the work load, while heavy, is very manageable with a group. It actually feels good to be dealing with a heavy workload again. Yesterday I found myself booking rooms and sending mails that related to meetings and work that will be done two to three weeks down the line, knowing that I needed to get those tasks done now to facilitate the future work. Of course that’s the normal way of things when you’re busy in a job and it was good to feel back to having that sense of purpose and drive.

Given the workload, some people in the class have been challenged and frustrated by the amount of time that is scheduled for personal and team development (Leadership Development Programme) but I feel this is one of the best elements of what we are experiencing. Having come from large, tiered and management driven organisations I’ve seen how important it is for teams to work well. Without the teams functioning, an organisation doesn’t function. The teamwork development aspects of the MBA will certainly stand to candidates when they get back out into the real world. The course is a great opportunity to take time to develop and reflect on team and interpersonal skills in a supportive environment where you can get feedback from peers and experts. Don’t get me wrong, when there are grades on the line in a class of achievers, temperatures rise and tempers fray but that is exactly the emotional live-fire environment needed to work on sharpening up the softer skill set.

I’m looking forward to getting involved with the Thought Leaders and Entrepreneurs Clubs and putting together some interesting events. While club activity will keep me busy, my other project commitments outside of the course are reducing so I’ll even have a little time for sports in the coming weeks. I’m going to do my best not to pack on the MBA pounds that we’ve been warned about. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself!

The Team 5 Massive has survived our first few projects and has grown as a team from the experiences. Our first presentation is coming up next week so it will be fun to get the team up and present to the class. Fun, tough, exhilarating and nerve-racking no doubt. Of course, that’s what this experience is all about; getting stuck in and doing our best. Speaking of which, my 8.30 lecture is about to begin…

Liam Doyle.

FT MBA 2014

MBA Welcome Dinner.

The whirlwind of the UCD Smurfit MBA life kick started right from the first day of classes, so having a night off just to get to know the faculty, staff, everybody, and their loved ones outside of the classrooms were quite refreshing.

The night started off with a drinks reception in which full-time MBA and EMBA students mingled and shared our experiences so far into the programs.  We, the FTMBA students, quickly found out that our schedule faded compared to the hectic work-study-family balancing act of EMBAs.

Moving forward to the dinner, watching a video of the very first alumni talking about their time at UCD Smurfit 50 years ago made us appreciate better the rich history and excellent tradition of the school.

As a mini-representation of how accessible and diversified the program is, half of my table was international students from the US, Malaysia, China and Vietnam, the rest consists of Irish students and even a professor. The multitude of differences between nationalities, age, background and experiences made for an amazing sharing session. Ciaran and Orla even made sure to visit all tables and ensure we all had a good time.

To cap off the night, we went down to the Dark Horse, a local watering hole, and celebrated Pete’s birthday. Congratulation, Pete!


Cong VU,

FT MBA 2014.

No Wonder Dubliners Walk So Fast

I would like to use this blog post to set the record straight about a common misconception about the Irish.  Despite what you may have heard, read, or seen; the Emerald Isle’s beverage of choice is in fact coffee.  As a new MBA student you are told that you’ll be drinking lots of coffee to get through the year.  What they neglect to mention is that they try to get you hooked on it from the start.

The UCD Smurfit MBA Foundation Week started early last Monday morning with all the new students, both full-time and part-time, gathered in the Main Hall mingling and making small talk.  Everyone was exchanging names and nationalities and work histories over cups of coffee, generously provided by the university.

There were speakers and info sessions and team building activities throughout the week.  And the whole time coffee was never more than two hours away.  The unspoken question on everyone’s mind was, “How long until the next break?”  Not because everybody needed a fix (although for some that’s exactly why) but the coffee break became something more.  It was chance to speak with your classmates and bond with new people over something familiar.  Despite our diverse backgrounds it was the simple, shared experience that brought us together.

Perhaps that is the Irish way: coming together for a chat and getting to know each other.  The coffee is just an excuse to get together.

The foundation has been laid.  The relationships are growing.  And the coffee is still flowing.


Tony Downs,

FT MBA 2014.


Beginning of a new journey.

Every once in a while, I look back on the journey in life so far and look ahead to what the future has to offer. One of those introspective trips planted the seed of thought of changing the status quo.  I could feel a void that a change in job/role or internal organizational training couldn’t fill.

The business side of a venture has always interested me and I felt that an MBA from a world-class institution would lay a strong foundation to build a career upon.  Having lived in Ireland for almost six years now, the UCD Smurfit MBA was at the top of my list.  A bit of information gathering over internet, talking to alumni and attending a breakfast lecture session helped me make up my mind.

As I’m gearing up for a change of direction, here is my take on the expectations from the MBA @ UCD Smurfit.


  1. Experience a world-class business education.
  2. Learn from diverse peers both inside and outside of the classroom.
  3. Build a good network of people with shared interests.
  4. Get a wider perspective on business to enable my transition to more commercial focused roles from my past operational focused ones.
  5. Have a bit of fun and form great friendships for life.


So this is me, Sundar (you may try Sundaresan Balasubramanian for a tongue twister), a Full-Time MBA student with nine years of global work experience in telecom with the likes of Ericsson and Verizon, looking forward to an amazing journey ahead.


Sundaresan Balasubramanian,

FT MBA 2014.

Out with the old and in with the new!

Would you believe it?  Another year has come upon us.  The expression groundhog day has been used a number of times in the past weeks.  The new incoming MBA classes have completed both the Foundation Week (an intensive induction programme) and their first week of lectures culminating this evening with the annual Welcome Dinner.

Now that everyone is in the door, we invite all our MBA participants and their partners to dinner to celebrate the successful transition on to the UCD Smurfit MBA.   This dinner hosted by the MBA Office takes place on the first Friday night of the new semester.

Before we pass over to our new friends, the MBA Office would like to congratulate one of our outgoing MBA participants, Zahira Sukran, who has won the UCD International Blog Competition, which is a great achievement.  Zahira was a Full-time MBA on a scholarship from her home country, Malaysia, and her blog documented her personal experiences of doing the UCD Smurfit MBA and living in Dublin. She also provided regular contributions to the MBA Blog during her time in UCD Smurfit.  Her award winning blog can be found at http://mbamoon.blogspot.ie/ and a favourite of ours is http://mbamoon.blogspot.ie/2013/04/good-bye-kinsale.html

This blog  will now be taken over by a new batch of eager bloggers who will keep it alive and interesting throughout the new academic year.

A big welcome to our new bloggers for 2013-14!


Michael McDonnell.

MBA Programme Manager.


UCD Smurfit Executive MBA ranked ranked 57 in the world.

The UCD Smurfit Executive MBA has been ranked 57 in the world published on Friday 19th July by the Economist magazine.  Once more, UCD Smurfit is the only Irish MBA to make it on to this type of global listing.

According to The Economist, this inaugural EMBA ranking is based on criteria in two categories: personal development/educational experience and career development.  The Economist plans to run this ranking every two years.


– Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager

True support

In order to achieve, one must have support. These achievements vary greatly by individual, asdoes the form of support that they need to achieve. The effort required not only to attend the UCD Smurfit School Executive MBA, but also to actively participate and take full advantage of the learning opportunity is tremendous. This effort is simply unrealisable without support. There are many definitions of what support is, but in the context of my current studies I particularly like the definition that states support as; “to keep from weakening or failing”.

In my case I couldn’t even countenance attending the Executive MBA without the absolute support of my wife, children, family and friends. And recently at the Family Easter Egg hunt in Smurfit School, the strength of the family support for all students is particularly evident! We simply couldn’t achieve our ambitious goals without you all, and I wanted to take this chance to say thank you for your sacrifices and support in our endeavours.

Thinking further on the support that I have drawn on specifically for the Executive MBA, I was struck by the incredible support available and eagerly offered to all students by the UCD Smurfit School students themselves. And what I believe to be a unique strength of the school and programme, this support has been offered by the past students and alumni just as much as it has been by current students.

The strength of this support network is unrivalled, and even though I had read of it before attending the school and programme, I continue to be amazed by just how vital this network of support is. I myself spoke with past students prior to application and have continued to draw on the experience and perspective of these alumni throughout my time on the programme.

This support will only strengthen as we all continue to utilise it until and after graduate. I look forward to being in a position to extend these bonds of support to future students and for any prospective MBA students reading this blog, I would strongly recommend that you reach out and contact a current or former student for their perspective on UCD Smurfit School and the MBA.

You will be generously surprised by the response and support that you will find.

James O'Rourke



– James O’Rourke, EMBA Weekend 2012-14

Spring is in the air…

Spring is in the air and as thoughts turn towards Summer days and the Galway Races, the more forward-looking and future-focussed among you are looking even further again and asking yourselves “is this August the right time to start my MBA journey?” I was in that place exactly 12 months ago and as we steer towards the end of Semester 2 (and Year 1) I can happily announce to any prospective MBA candidates that there is light at the end of the tunnel!! Last August in our induction week, the MBA experience was quite accurately described as a “conveyor belt of work” and looking back this description was pretty much on the button. However, it’s important to realise you’re not the only person standing at that conveyor belt since you have your team-mates beside you for the most part and this makes the workload more than manageable. I had the added complication of commuting from Galway each week and this does make team-work a little more challenging since getting face-to-face time is limited to Friday mornings or Saturday afternoons. In addition, our company at the time was entering probably its busiest time as we were concluding a clinical trial in Germany so there were trips to Europe to add into the mix as well. But endless emails and conf calls every week usually keep things on track and there’s nothing like an imposing deadline to focus the mind!!! You don’t have to be Dublin-based to enjoy the full experience of MBA life at the Smurfit School.

The point of all of this for me is as follows. A misapprehension on my part before the MBA started was that it was just a continuation of what we did as undergrads, i.e. attend lectures, write reports and do presentations and (hopefully) regurgitate as much as possible at the end-of-semester exam. To a degree this is accurate but there is a much bigger picture around the whole MBA experience. Yes it’s about gaining knowledge in areas that are new to you, e.g. Supply Chain Management, Corporate Finance, Accounting, etc. but it’s about developing yourself even more so. But what exactly does this mean? It’s about understanding how you interact with others, why you react in a particular way when that imposing deadline is tomorrow and you’re still a million miles away from where you need to be, do you motivate your team or do you strike fear into them, how do you react when one of your team-mates is along for the ride? Are you able to handle the stress and pressure of juggling multiple priorities and deadlines whilst still maintaining perspective and some semblance of balance in your life? It’s about learning about yourself in scenarios that are typical of what you will inevitably face on a continual basis in your working lives but you perform this self-examination in a safe environment for 2 years before you cut lose again. It gives you an opportunity to ask hard questions of yourself and fix the things that you want to fix. Don’t assume that there is an expected right answer to these questions. The only right answer is the one that’s right for you. Ultimately you want to be a better motivator, a better manager and a better team-player because it’s just easier that way.

Brendan Cunniffe

When you look to your right and see no end to that conveyor belt of work, if you’re a strong motivator and a strong team player it makes it so much more manageable when everyone wants to take a piece. As we say in Irish “ní neart go cur le chéile”, – strength in numbers folks!!


– Brendan Cunniffe,  EMBA Weekend,  12-14

Is anyone regretting taking the MBA yet?

While having lunch today with a few classmates, Michael (the MBA LDP Manager) joined our table and asked how we were doing. All three of us laughed.

Is it because we’re really happy that we’re doing the MBA?

Is it because we needed the adrenaline and positive hormones we got from the laugh to ease our stress?

Rani, who was sitting with us, remarked, “One of the biggest myths in doing the MBA is that you’re going to have free time.” And I agree with him 100%. I thought I would take some time off working on a full-time job and enrich myself intellectually at a ‘normal’ pace. I have been proven wrong in a few instances :-D . But I think most of us still think we made the right choice to do our MBA..

Here’s why I think I’ve (still) made the right choice by taking an MBA:

1.    Special campus for graduate students

a.     Dropped by the student union to get some used books for class a few weeks ago and walking through the throngs of young students, I felt very thankful that the MBA is housed in a campus for graduate students. It feels different culturally, intellectually and makes studying feel more serious in the more peaceful and quiet environment.

2.    Case studies, thinking

a.     I love the intellectual challenge posed in analyzing and breaking apart the cases for most of the classes. This is apart from the obvious lessons and motivational values that I get from reading about these great companies (just to name a few: Ideo, Honda, Cemex).

3.    Classmates and teamwork amongst the bigger group

a.     The experience and maturity of the classmates, with such diverse backgrounds. I have learned so much from them and find that I fit in well with the group, as well as finding so much benefit in the conversations and reflections between classmates that I believe I wouldn’t find in a cohort with too little or even no working experience.

b.    Sincere and kind classmates. I couldn’t say this more. This morning, I spilt some coffee on the carpet. I went to the restroom to get some tissue to wipe it up, but came back realizing that Lien had already wiped it. It’s small thoughtful things done by classmates to help each other that makes school much less stressful and makes it definitely bearable and something to look forward to.

c.     We have come together as a team in great ways. It started off from the mandatory team building, the compulsory groups set by MBA office, and now we are comfortable enough to band up for reading groups.

So if you’re thinking of doing an MBA, think about why you would want to do it. For me, it’s mainly the intellectual growth, but the two other points really add to the positive experience in the school.

– Nur Zahira M Sukran, FT MBA 2012/13