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

School’s out!


What a difference a year can make. The MBA is all but done. On Tuesday, our Capstone team will present its Social Media Consulting Project to Aer Lingus, and that will be that: The MBA journey, as we know it, will be over.

It’s been a fantastic experience. It’s not quite so fantastic when you’re up close and personal with the workload, but in those moments when you get to stand back and reflect upon it all, it’s pretty immense how much knowledge you can absorb in one single year, and how quickly things can change.

On Thursday, I’m heading off to Yale University, to do it all over again. Thanks to the ambition of Professor Damien McLoughlin and Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh, Smurfit is now part of the Global Network for Advanced Management and thanks to the support of Yale and Smurfit, I hope I’m just the first of many Smurfit MBA Graduates who’ll experience the adventure presented by the Masters in Advanced Management (MAM) Programme over there.

Without Programme Director of  Strategic Marketing, Ciaran Doyle, picking up the phone  to me last Summer, and steering me onto the MBA (“You’d be MAD not to do it!”), and without MBA  Director, Orla Nugent, and MBA Careers, Brian Marrinan, thereafter, taking a chance on me with the IMAGE Magazine Scholarship; and Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh and Professor Damien McLoughlin now rowing in behind my application to Yale, never mind the enduring support of my family and friends,  this adventure to the US would not be happening.

As Newton once said, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”: I didn’t get here alone, I didn’t get through it alone, and I don’t go to the US alone. The support I’ve had sustains me and goes with me. Thank you to everyone who has made this adventure possible for me, in every way.

To anyone about to start the Smurfit MBA this year, enjoy it! You’re in for a great year ahead, full of challenge: The type that’s worth it. I recommend getting your hands on a copy of, “Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA”, by Peter Robinson. Read it as fast as you can, before the course begins.  It’ll get you in the right frame of mind for the year ahead (you’ll be reading fast all year!), and if you like it, I reckon you’re going to enjoy what’s coming down the tracks at you.

For anyone juggling the MBA as a possible option; know that there’ll never be a day when you’re ‘sure’ that it’s the right thing to do. I don’t think any of us were. But you’ll never find out from the side lines. Jump in. And figure it out later. I doubt, very much, you’ll regret it.

To our Lecturers: Thanks for all that you taught us. I hope, one day, we will have our revenge for cold and warm calls, case study avalanches, and sleepless nights.

To my fellow MBA Classmates: Thanks for all I’ve learnt from you during this past year: It’s been immense. I doubt there’ll be pitch-and-putt, magnetic darts, or a ‘quote board’ in Yale’s equivalent of the MBA room! (And seeing how much I featured on the latter, I won’t be suggesting they invest in one, any time soon!) I wish you the best: I hope you’ll all collectively knock it out of the proverbial park in the future.

School’s out.

What a year.

– Davinia Anderson, Full-time MBA 2011-2012

Smurfit – great for socialising

And so we’ve all arrived back safe and sound from our international study trip. About thirty five members of the full-time class went to Brazil with the balance opting for China.

The trip turned out to be a fabulous experience. We learned a lot about the Brazilian economy and society. Of course, there was an onus on the travelling group to take a holistic approach to sampling Brazilian culture.  This sampling of the culture ranged from sipping caipirinhas on Ipanema to some of the group attending a local football game. These extra-curricular activities could be viewed as burning the candle at both ends but we would like to look on it as making the most of the trip.

The other group seemed to have just as interesting a time although based upon the photographs of their trip we seemed to get the better weather – hats and coats for them, shorts and flip-flops for us!! One of the more unexpected benefits of the trip has been the manner in which it allowed us to get to know each other even better. This is especially true for those of the people who were not part of the same study group up until now.

What I would like to understand is how the students of MBA programmes with classes of more than 250 manage to get to know each other. With that many in a class, it must be difficult to get to know everyone’s name!  Within Smurfit, the class is less than fifty so everyone knows each other a lot better. This makes for a great atmosphere and a more rounded experience.

-Donal O’Sullivan