TLC Speaker Series: Tony Griffin

Tony Griffin Asks: “What Is It You Plan To Do With Your One Wild and Precious Life?” (Mary Oliver)

On Friday 30th March 2012, Tony Griffin (Guest Speaker) and Professor Damien McLoughlin (Chair) brought some straight-from-the-heart inspiration to the Thought Leaders Club (TLC) Speaker Series, in a talk entitled “One Wild and Precious Life”. Following Damien McLoughlin’s warm welcome and his usual charm and playfulness, he spoke of some tremendous achievements Tony has accomplished in his life: playing inter county Hurling with Clare from 2002-2009, winning the coveted accolade of a GAA All Star Award in 2006, and cycling 7,000 kms across Canada and Ireland, raising €1 million Euro for cancer charities. Damien stressed the point that many people dream of doing great things; the difference with Tony is that he dreamt and then made those dreams a reality.

Professor Damien McLoughlin: Thought Leaders Club Opening Address

Tony, not a man to be penned in by a podium, whisked the microphone from its stand and, for the hour that followed, challenged us to reflect upon the course of our own lives. He had no intention of asking any Friday night pub-quiz questions – a Tony Griffin question is more like; what are YOU going to do to change the world? This was the lingering ring to everything he shared with us that night and the focal point around which he framed all of his experiences: all roads led back to that one, solid question.

In 2007, from his student quarters in Canada, swamped by the grief of having lost his father to cancer, he was sent a video clip by a close friend about the inspirational story of father and son team, Dick and Rick Hoyt. Watching that video, something clicked. He was inspired. He wanted to turn pain into fuel: to turn an end into a beginning. He innately understood the power of, what he describes as, the ‘irrational’ heart to draw from its inner reserves to achieve feats the likes of which the ‘rational’ mind cannot even conceive. Staring at a map of Canada he happened to have on his wall, the idea struck him to cycle 7,000kms across the country and to raise as much money as possible to help others to fight the disease which had taken its toll on his departed Dad. Told his dream was impossible, at best, and insane, at worst (he didn’t even own a bike!), he remained undeterred. Tony shared with us the footage from his epic journey up and over the Rockies (“…which are actually a bit bigger than you’d think when you get there!”) and his belief that intuition can guide us to the places we need to be, to the experiences we need to have, and to the people we need to discover; if only we learn to feel life a little more and think about life a little less.

Davinia Anderson & Tony Griffin Listening to Professor Damien McLoughlin’s Mischievious Banter

These days Tony has a new mission. Having watched this incredible documentary about the life of Jim Stynes, Tony was inspired to set up the Soar Foundation with Co-Founder Karl Swan, to do for the youth of Ireland what Jim’s Reach Foundation has done for the youth of Australia. After a number of trips to Australia, to learn the process directly from Reach, Tony and Karl are bringing the model home to Ireland. With the tenacity that took him across Canada coupled with the will to impact the lives of others in a meaningful way, no one is more determined to pull it off. Let’s hope that Ireland Inc. recognises that this is the type of initiative that can empower the next generation of youth to dream and realise their dreams, in this still great country of ours.

My thanks must go to Tony Griffin, for a wonderful talk and his sage-like counsel, to Professor Damien McLoughlin for being a dynamic host, full of good cheer, to Denis Shikunov TLC Camera Maestro, to Michael McDonnell, Mary O’Dwyer, Orla Wrynn, and the great Team in Services (especially Lucas and Dan!) for all their help to get the show on the road: you all make the TLC possible!

– Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2011/12

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TLC Speaker Series: Mark Pollock

Mark Pollock: On the Art of Making it Happen

On Friday 2nd March 2012, Mark Pollock (Guest Speaker) and Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh (Chair) brought us an incredible second talk in the Thought Leaders Club Inaugural Speaker Series, entitled: “The Art of Making it Happen”. Dean O’hOgartaigh welcomed us all to the talk and encouraged us to remember that no one is untouched by problems: they come in various shapes and sizes, weights and severities, at different times in our lives. He reminded us that having problems is not remarkable- but how we deal to deal with them can be.

Mark Pollock then took to the podium for the next hour. Simply put: he blew us all away. It is hard to put into words the quality, intricacy, and depth of the story he shared with us and to accurately convey the level of insight, awareness, humour, tenacity, and courage he displayed; not only in his story, but in his remarkable telling of it. It is one thing to paint a picture, and quite another to paint one so magnificently well.  His is a masterpiece of human courage triumphing over adversity. It is clear to see why he is renowned as an international public speaker and how he has inspired the business community to face down its own challenges, at a time of such deep unrest and uncertainty.

After a decade of sporting achievement, which started out with winning silver and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in rowing (having gone blind at the age of 22), and which culminated in being the first blind man ever to reach the South Pole, Mark’s life changed suddenly in a way no one could ever have expected. He fell from a second story window, broke his back, and became paralysed from the waist down.

Mark now faces the challenges of spinal cord injury and conventional medical wisdom. He is  testing the limits of what is possible with the support of the Mark Pollock Trust which enables him to regain his strength with Project Walk in the US and which gives him access to Berkeley’s  ongoing developments in the field of robotic leg technology.

The writer, William Arthur Ward, once said that “adversity causes some men to break; others to break records”. For those of us who heard Mark speak, it is not just the impressive list of sporting records that will stay long in our memories, it is the impact and quality of a man, whose spirit is inspirational, in its own right. By continuing to fight the good fight, Mark encourages us all to to reflect upon our own lives, challenges, and choices- and to do the same.

Dean of the Smurfit Business School, Ciaran O’hOgartaigh: TLC Opening Address

My thanks must go to Mark Pollock for leaving such an indelible mark on the students of Smurfit Graduate Business School, to Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh for his support in chairing this event, to Denis “TLC Photographer” Shikunov and Linh ”TLC Poster Girl” Thi Bao Nguyen (MBAs of 2012), and to the MBA Programme Office and  Services Team for their continued support in helping to make these TLC talks happen.

The next speaker in the series is Tony Griffin on “One Wild and Precious Life”, chaired by Professor Damien McLoughlin, on Friday 30th March 2012, 7-8pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Smurfit Business School.

– Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2012 and Founder of the MBA Thought Leaders Club

No Skills. All Heart. Dream Big.

The UCD Smurfit Rugby Football Club has grown into one of the most successful business school rugby football clubs in the world. It has won the national championship title 9 times since 2000 and is the current reigning champ. Spring semester classes were in full swing with plenty of readings and assignments, yet I found myself attending the first rugby practice of the year. How did I end up there having never played, trying to make a championship team you might ask? I blame the MBA for convincing me too well that I am a capable, equipped leader who basks in the unknown! The goal is to make the team and participate in the 2012 World Rugby Tournament in Durham, NC from April 13-15 2012. Read my humble beginnings on this journey below.

First Practice

“Where did rugby come from?” Our rugby Coach barked the question directly to me as the team huddled together after our first drill. As an American having never played rugby before I had no clue, so I quickly responded “the Irish”- but this unfortunately proved to be incorrect. I soon learned from our rugby Coach the correct answer, “It all started with William Webb Ellis who picked up the ball and ran with it in 1823 as a student at Rugby School of Warwickshire, England…” I shifted my running shoes in the wet grass as he continued the story while I frantically tried to memorize the facts for any future pop quizzes.

On the dimly lit field during this cold night of practice, my new found MBA confidence was certainly getting a healthy challenge.  Starting with being the only guy not wearing cleats, then struggling to put on the practice jersey only to discover that it was actually torn all contributed to the initial experience.

For approximately an hour and a half I ran, caught, passed, and slipped my way through my first rugby practice like a deer in headlights. What I lacked in natural skills during practice, I tried to make up with social skills by asking each player to make an official introduction to the team. I started with “I’m Justin and you may not believe it but I am new to this sport.” This managed to get some good laughs and end the practice on a positive note. This would begin the dream.

Rugby Dream

I am currently raising support along with my UCD classmates to raise enough financial support to travel abroad and represent the college in the MBA World tournament in April. You may view my website at and the official team website at I welcome your encouragements! If you can’t support us financially please support us online by Tweeting #justinsrugydream as we seek to make a lasting legacy for the 2012 UCD Smurfit Rugby team!

Rugby Player in-Training,

–  Justin Thomas, Full-time MBA 2011/12

Flip That House

Before the global recession and housing bubble burst, I used to enjoy watching a programme called “Flip that House”.  The premise of the show was to follow people through the purchase, renovation and subsequent resale of properties, hopefully at outrageous profits.  My strongest impression in this show was that most projects went way over their budgets.

At this point in the semester, that’s how I feel with my time.  Something that I anticipated costing me 2 or 3 productivity hours is actually costing 5 or 6, multiplied exponentially as I have over committed and over extended to the nth degree.  I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off – or as they more succinctly say here in Ireland, like a headless chicken – between Strategic Negotiations with one group, required courses and another group, Portuguese classes in preparation of our Emerging Markets trip, fundraising for Rugby Club, and the list goes on…

‘How did I convince myself I would have time for this? I wonder in my constant scattered distraction from one million things racing through my head at a time.  I didn’t think it would take this long is the real answer.  I am way over budget on time.  Just as in “Flip That House”, though, going over budget often is what made the house really impressive.  It’s hard to say if I will make use of everything and return on my investment, but I’m glad I went for the marble countertop and parquet flooring equivalent for the brain.

Now I guess what it all comes down to, just as in the real estate market, is ‘location, location, location’.  Having been based in developing markets for years, I had decided that a change for more developed markets would do me some good and an MBA from one of the top global programmes would be just the platform from which to make that change.  Now that I’m here in the over-saturated job market, it seems that the flexibility and language skills that brought me to live in some of the remotest corners of the planet in the past may remain my competitive advantage as companies look for flexible employees whom they can send wherever they are needed.  Luckily enough for me, unlike in the real estate market, I can pick up my investments and move them to a neighborhood where people value quality craftsmanship if need be.

TLC Speaker Series Kicks Off

Mr. Tony Spollen: On the Bigger Balance Sheet in Life

On Friday 17th February 2012, Mr.Tony Spollen (Guest Speaker) and Professor Pat Gibbons (Chair) kicked off the Inaugural MBA Thought Leaders Club (TLC) Speaker Series to sustained applause, in Lecture Theatre 1. Following a warm welcome to mark the official launch of the TLC Speaker Series, Pat Gibbons turned proceedings over to Tony Spollen, who delivered a thought provoking talk entitled “Lessons from Life”. I am sure it will stay with many of us for years to come. We were treated to a breadth of insights, experiences and stories; the distillation of a lifetime’s wisdom, encouraging us to live life to our full potential, to cherish our health, to focus wholeheartedly on the present- and to remember, above all else, the bigger Balance Sheet in life. Chatham House style rules apply at these events, so only those in attendance will truly appreciate what was shared with us that night, and will have a sense of the character, courage, and leadership required to so generously share so much, with so many, in such a meaningful way. A palpable silence pulsed throughout the talk- the likes of which I have never experienced- and the prolonged applause spoke for itself. This is the first in a series of talks which I hope will leave a lasting impression on us during our experiences on the MBA, and will create the space to have a different kind of discourse- about life, inspiration and realising potential.

Mr. Tony Spollen and Prof. Pat Gibbons: The Devil is in the Detail

They say that a rocket takes 90% of its energy just to get off the ground and only 10% of its energy to travel the remaining distance. On the basis of this 90/10 rule, I’d especially like to thank Tony Spollen- not only for the special message he shared with us on Friday, but for his invaluable guidance leading up to the event, to Professor Pat Gibbons for his immediate support of the initiative, to my classmates – Denis Shikunov (full-time Russian/part-time TLC photographer), Linh Thi Bao Nguyen and Justin Thomas (the Vietnamese/American SWAT Team of poster campaigns) – and to the MBA Programme Office and Services Team for their facilitation and forbearance of my ongoing efforts to turn their respective offices into TLC HQ!

The next speaker in the series is Mark Pollock on “The Art of Making it Happen”, chaired by Dean O’hOgartaigh, on Friday, 2nd March 2012 at 11-12pm, in the Lawrence Crowley Boardroom, Smurfit Business School. The rocket is now launched; may the inspiration continue.

Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2012 and Founder of the MBA Thought Leaders Club

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“Do not disturb: loners do the best work”

This was a recent headline in the Irish Sunday Times reviewing the latest research suggesting that teamwork stifles creativity. This is one of many headlines I have been drawn to since my MBA journey began 5 months ago.

As I read the article it reminded me of the creative geniuses the world has produced and how their creations impacted upon society. Some of these individuals did not have University to educate them, which related to one of my recent readings for Organisation Behaviour and Decision Making Class:  “The learning organisation: Foucauldian gloom or Utopian sunshine”. During the pre-lecture discussion with some of my classmates, I stated my point that we were all like chickens being force fed case studies from Harvard. I had been wondering had any of the Lecturers ever had a student challenge the norm and bring some new insight into these cases. My thought continued to when we (MBA students) go back into the world of work will we be just applying the latest research into innovation and creativity, by bringing people into groups and hoping their creative juices flow? The Times stated that unless there are strong characters, people in groups often give into peer pressure, or sit back and let others do all the work. This is something we touched on last semester in Business and Society and we know how powerful groupthink can become.

By the way this is a blog about the UCD Smurfit MBA Charity Club but in many ways the introduction is the way the Charity Club has been operating, getting the best of both worlds in groupthink and individualism. A few weeks after the MBA started numerous groups began to bloom like daffodils in spring time, due to my interest in volunteering I decided to join the Charity Club. After the meeting with last year’s representative Fiona, Stephen and I realised that much hard work was ahead of us to get and keep people motivated and involved. Stephen came up with a great idea for cancer awareness in the first semester, so we decided to brainstorm and get the ball rolling. This ended up with the first Health Awareness Day in UCD Smurfit which we tied in with the Smurfit Society and Movember and it was a roaring success.

Since the energy levels have risen after the Christmas break, our policy of individuals coming up with their own idea, bringing them to the rest of the Club, and developing them into manageable events has continued. Presently we are organising an information lecture for business students in Belfield, fund raising for Autism Ireland, developing an idea with City Wise, helping Arc Support with marketing ideas, organising a Tarot Card fund raising event and organising a fundraising event in the Dublin Mountains for the mountain rescue association. It is very encouraging that not only are the individuals bringing these ideas to the club but that the majority of the class are also contributing.

Maybe loners do the best work but hopefully the latest research also has a place for groups as well. People are all different and the way they operate in groups varies but inevitably everyone has something useful to contribute. The MBA continues to expand my thinking and the Charity club continues to grow as a direct result of all those case studies and readings!

– Garrett Dorrian, FT MBA 2012

The Intangibles

As Semester Two dawns, I find myself stumbling back from family fun and Christmas antics, out of step with the normal rhythm of everyday life on the MBA. The fuzzy focus induced by the beautiful shock of an extended period of rest and relaxation – better known as the return to feeling human again – has induced a state of jet leg, after the rocket launch that was Semester One. Like a newly broken young horse brought in from the field, flighty at the squeak of unfamiliar tack, the sway of cold stirrups against its belly and the aversion to this new found weight on its back; part of me is in high-rebellion against the prospect of hitting the books again. I am glad, though, to be back at school: all 60% of me that has galloped back in from the field, anyway. Any day now, I’m hoping that the remaining 40% of my brain, focus and willpower will catch up, so I can get fully stuck into the semester that can only be known as: Round Two.

Until then, I decided to put my rebellious energy to good use. I have long been trying to persuade my classmates to go rafting down the River Liffey on a brain-chillingly cold Saturday morning, with the good folks at  Last Saturday morning, it finally happened. Cars converged at an abandoned warehouse in icy Lucan and two raft-loads of MBAs and MSCs took to the water. I keep telling our Vietnamese classmates that there is no such thing as bad weather: just inappropriate clothing.  I think that after Saturday they now agree that fun in Ireland is had despite the weather, not because of it. It was admittedly hard to balance the competing interests of soaking the other boat and paddling faster than them, but we managed to pull it off. Three hours later, having successfully descended the weirs, we emerged beaming like a bunch of wetsuited crazies from a Carry On film.

Along with rafting antics, my micro mission to launch the MBA Thought Leaders Club (TLC) has also finally come to fruition. We’re now online and gearing up for an exciting few weeks. The inaugural Thought Leaders Club Speaker Series is kicking off, made possible by the generosity and support of the guest speakers (more anon) who are getting behind the TLC, and generously sharing their time and insights with us. The amount of whiteboard scribbling in the room, formerly known as “The MBA Room”, now re-branded “The C Suite” (our Marketing class with Prof.Damien McLoughlin has a lot to answer for!) has now reached epic proportions, as plans for the MBA CV Book Launch- in a few months- come into being. The TLC will channel these activities under the banner of its overarching mission to inspire, spread ideas and challenge the boundaries of what’s possible. Ultimately, we want to leave the future MBAs with a forum for sharing insights, ideas and awareness. Hopefully the Club will act as a blueprint for how to drip feed these intangibles which can’t easily be quantified, but which ultimately help to catalyse progress and change. I subscribe to Einstein’s school of thought that “not all that can be counted counts, and not all that counts can be counted”. And that’s probably the first and last time you’ll find Einstein and me in a sentence together.

Round One of the first semester was a deep dive.  Round Two of the second is all about change. Life beyond the MBA, unimaginable prior to Christmas, is now creeping back into soft focus on the horizon. Time passes like a bullet on the MBA and there’s no Sat Nav for our next steps on this journey. It’s a lot like George Joseph Moriarty’s poem says; there is just the road ahead, and the road behind. Every time I go to pay for parking in Dundrum Shopping Centre, I smile at the printed sign in front of me, as I root around for a crumbled note and iron out my ticket. There in three simple words, lies the inadvertent wisdom of a pay-parking machine: “Change is Possible”.

Davinia Anderson – FT MBA 2012

High Society

One of the best-supported student societies among the full-time MBA class is the MBA Investment Club. The club is focused on education and events, and is a great way for students to apply the theories studied in class to real-world investments. We manage an investment fund which encourages students to put forward case studies to support the inclusion of a stock or exchange-traded fund into the portfolio or to argue in favour of closing out a position.

Once the case study is presented, shareholders in the fund then vote on whether or not to buy or sell. Given the turmoil in the financial markets, it is unsurprising that caution has been the order of the day so far, with student investors opting to have a high proportion of the portfolio in cash with only defensive businesses with strong balance sheets being considered for inclusion to date.

In addition to running the fund, we have also presented a seminar series on the financial markets from a practitioner’s perspective which was held over the course of one week earlier this term, while meetings are occasionally convened (open to all MBA students) at which investment case studies are presented along with an overview of what is happening in global equity markets.  We are hoping to arrange a number of ‘site visits’ to some of Dublin’s principal financial centres in the New Year to help further the class’s understanding of how the markets work and to give an opportunity for students to get to know and learn from some of the leading figures in Ireland’s investment community.

– Philip O’Sullivan

UCD Smurfit MBA Rugby Reception 19th May 2011

The MBA Rugby World Cup Championship Trophy was formally welcomed back to the place it has called home for nine out of the last eleven years, UCD Smurfit, at a reception on the evening of Thursday May 19th.

In celebration of the achievements of UCD Smurfit’s championship Rugby team and those who have gone before them, a brand new glass trophy case was erected in the Student Common Room and formally inaugurated at last Thursday’s event.  The trophy was proudly placed in the case by 2011 team captains Andy Kane and Eoghan O’Dwyer, and sits amongst other gold and silver shining examples of UCD Smurfit rugby triumphs in years past.   O’Dwyer thanked the team and coach Barry Gibney, saying “without Barry’s experience and the team’s tenacity and fortitude, we would never have brought this trophy home”.

Prof. Frank Roche with MBA Rugby Team Captains

Representing UCD Smurfit School at the reception were Prof. Frank Roche, School Director, MBA Programme Director Orla Nugent, and Specialist MBA Programme Manager Michael McDonnell.

Prof. Roche hailed the rugby team as a vehicle through which the different Smurfit programmes were all brought together and their role in giving strength to the UCD Smurfit School name on such an international stage.  He acknowledged the achievement as “a proud moment for all UCD Smurfit students, faculty, and alumni.”

Ms. Nugent thanked the men for their hard work and perseverance, making special note of the efforts of player Shane Horan, who single-handedly took the initiative to raise the funds necessary to send the team to the USA to compete in the 2011 MBA Rugby World Cup in Danville, VA in April with sponsorship from Smurfit Kappa, CRH, Hunky Dory’s, O2, HH&C and Dunreidy Engineering.

The challenge now passes to those who will make up the 2012 UCD Smurfit Rugby Team to emulate the achievements of the past and make a little history for themselves along the way.


– Megan Molloy FT 2011 & Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager

Photos by Nargiza Kalmamatova

A Small Win

From time to time we ask ourselves whether this MBA program was of any use for us. Do we understand different aspects of business better? Did we gain any knowledge that would be practically applicable? And of course if our investments of money, time and efforts were worth it…

Those are not easy questions. Probably we’ll be able to answer them only after couple of years.

However last week an interesting happened to me. My brother told me that he was planning to write a business plan. He had an idea and there were potential investors for realizing it. So he asked if I have any tips for writing a business plan. First of all, I should say that I was proud that my extremely intelligent ‘Big Brother’ was asking my advice. That is the influence of an MBA status I suppose )))

And I surprised myself how eager and excited I was about that topic. First of all I told him everything I knew about business plan writing from our Strategy class (see related links below) . Those were quite practical tips on structure and style of a business plan, do’s and don’ts, etc. Besides, I recalled that one of guest speakers of MBA Entrepreneurship Club gave a good advice that “presenting to investors you are selling the idea, not numbers or anything else”. So the key is to really believe in your idea, be confident and inspired – and inspire others.  I also suggested different options on promotion and distribution channels referring to the discussions we had in Sales Relations class.

So we talked for an hour and developed a draft plan of what to do. During next two days we were exchanging ideas. And after that my brother sent me the draft of his presentation to investors. It was really catchy and interesting, plus creative and original. I cannot imagine what would happen if my brother took a full MBA course, if he got the point so easily just after listening to my summarized tips!

Leaders should celebrate small wins in order to motivate their team (this is again from one of our courses, Leadership).  I am celebrating my own small win these days. I had a chance to see that my learning from MBA can work in practice.

– Nargiza Kalmamatova

Useful links:

How to write a great business plan, W. Sahlman (article ; full paper)

Are you sure you have a strategy?, Hambrick and Fredrickson

How to present to investors

The art of telling your story

Honing your investor presentation