The joys of beginning EMBA year 2

Lazy weekends, Saturday afternoons filled with sporting drama, the World Cup, drinks with friends – we’re just a month into Year 2 of the EMBA and all of the above seem like distant memories.

You know what? I hardly miss them. There’s something invigorating about meeting up with classmates after a few months apart, re-living the ups and downs of Year 1, and facing into a whole new set of challenges that Year 2 is sure to bring. New modules, new faculty, new teams, and a year of deadlines, presentations, projects and late nights to sharpen the mind – bring it on!

September brings a real buzz to the Smurfit campus, with a host of fresh faces and ‘deer in the headlights’ looks in abundance. I know exactly how that feels – like many EMBA candidates, it had been quite some time since I’d been in a classroom setting. It takes a little while to adjust and find the focus that is required to deliver on what seems like an insurmountable body of work. But focus you must. The good news is that it gets easier to find that focus as you practice it (not that the workload gets any easier!) Couple that with the learning acquired, and you’ll find that concepts that seem like double-dutch at the start of the semester become instinctive by the time it draws to a close.

The learning on the MBA is about stepping back and seeing the bigger picture. Regardless of your current position, the concepts you learn will allow you to recognize the dynamics that exist in both your own firm and others, and give you an understanding of why firms do what they do (rightly or wrongly!) Analysis is the name of the game, and you’ll learn how to recognize how firms derive their competitive advantage, and what they do to sustain it in an ever-changing marketplace. Balance sheets, income statements, capacity utilization, weighted average cost of capital, organizational culture – get comfortable with them, as these will be your friends for the foreseeable future!

The EMBA really is a shared experience that fosters a unique and lasting bond among classmates, whether you’ve worked together in a team or not. Everyone brings something to the table that you can leverage to your benefit. Work hard, learn from all around you, question everything. Embrace it, and most of all – have fun. I know I will!

Scott Lindsey

Weekend year 2

Feelings on returning to the MBA frey

September 1st 2014 marked “back to school” for primary students and MBA students alike. I am now at the end of week 2, year 2 and it still amazes me how quickly you forget things that you simply don’t want to remember! One would assume that after two semesters I would recall how time consuming this programme is but alas, I again got a shock when we were introduced to the course outlines for each of our four modules last week (namely, Global and Corporate Strategy, Strategies for HR, Investment Management and Performance Driven Marketing).

My evenings from September 1st to September 4th inclusive were tied up with the MBA. Classes are every Monday and Thursday. I had an inaugural meeting with my newly assigned group on Wednesday (groups of 4/5 people are assigned by the college and change every semester) and on Tuesday I attended an MBA event on entrepreneurship in the Hibernian Club on Stephen’s Green. Needless to say I was happy for the weekend to arrive!

Although I may sound as if I am feeling sorry for myself (which, of course, happens on occasion) the truth is that I am thoroughly enjoying my time on the programme. I was looking forward to catching up with all my classmates last week (some of which have gotten married, given birth, bought houses etc. since May) and getting back into the routine of student life. When ‘student life’ gets too much, the Smurfit School organise an array of evening events to cater for all interests. Last week I attended the aforementioned entrepreneurship evening, next week I will be working one-on-one with a CV coach and on September 30th we are invited to an evening with Dr. Michael Smurfit. That’s not to mention all the MBA club events that are initiated by current students.

Time has never been so precious. . . I am already on the countdown for Christmas!

Aoife Mc Mahon

EMBA Midweek year 2

“The Secret Ingredient”

So what do you do when school’s out for summer and the first year of your exec MBA is over…?

You start to push the boundaries where you work, build new teams across departments, apply the learning AND hit the media.

That’s what I’ve been up to. I joined a fundraising team in our hospital and helped to create a cookbook to raise much needed funds for family rooms on site.

Continue reading “The Secret Ingredient”

The MBA summer exams kick off in the RDS

UCD exams in progress

MBA exams are taking place this week and so along with thousands of other UCD students members of the current EMBA and FT classes are joining the mass invasion of the RDS complex in Ballsbridge, Dublin which is where most of the university’s exams take place these days.  It isn’t exactly an intimate setting but it gets the job done in the most efficient manner.

This exam session  is the last hurdle before the summer break for the year 1s and the capstone project for the year 2s so everyone is keen to get them successfully out of the way.

Over the next couple of weeks thousands of students will take hundreds of exams in all disciplines.  We wish them and everyone doing MBA Management Accounting, Corporate Finance or Managing the Negotiations Process exams the best of luck this week.

Changing roles and the EMBA

One of the basic assumptions in undertaking an executive MBA is that you will have the time required to complete it. I have found the most difficult element of the executive programme is to find the balance between work, study and life. Ideally your role or job is stable, consistent in its demands and allows you the time required for the MBA. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

What happens if you do change role and work takes over? It is possible to survive the change and the additional workload. It does mean that some reprioritisation needs to be done. I had to re-prioritise this semester due to a new challenging role with a lot of travel. Some of the changes that may need to be made are:

·          Devote less time to the MBA, focusing on the core readings and learnings.

·          Prioritise assignments as early as possible, breaking down the work into as small components as possible. This makes it easier to keep chipping away at things.

·          Fit in work where possible, I use flights to get through some of the weeks reading, I have downloaded the ebook versions of our text books in order to have access to them all the time.

If Semester 1 was about teams and learning to balance work, life and the MBA, Semester 2 is about survival. We have 10 of the 12 weeks completed. Everyone is focused on the end of semester, motivating ourselves in whatever way possible. Despite the increasing levels of tiredness in the class, the banter is still alive and well. I enjoy the classes on Fridays and Saturdays, we have a great group of people in the class that keep each session interesting and engaging. If nothing else, the class provides a brief escape from the stresses of the week in work.

Brian Shields

EMBA Weekend Year 1

Planes, trains and automobiles – a journey with the EMBA

Planes, Trains & Automobiles…a great film. John Candy and Steve Martin get stranded over the Holiday season and have to use all means of transport to get home for Thanksgiving. In EMBA Year 1, the same applies. We are scrambling to complete our journey to end of semester 2. Now at the midterm, we are what’s fondly referred to as “half way to half way”. We’ve covered Planes in the case studies on AirAsia and WestJet airlines. Got the Trains on the weekly trips on the DART out to an increasingly sunny coastal Blackrock. We’ve looked at the closest thing to Automobiles with more case studies on the motorcycle industry from Honda and British Motorcycle Industry to Ducati and Harley Davidson.

I think the thing that strikes you in Year 1 semester 2 is that while semester 1 was all about working with your teams, working on your presentations and reports, and learning the basic building blocks to build on in next term. Semester 2 is a much more joined up case-based learning approach, with a lot more overlap between subjects as the weeks progress. You draw your own conclusions on the case at hand with the guidance of the lecturers, class discussions, and the wisdom of your fellow classmates. You feel more comfortable assuredly advising on the best actions to take. To put yourself in the seat of that C-level executive sweating over a project’s success or failure, or as the head of a ailing company in a increasingly competitive industry.

Its midterm now, half way through our second semester. The mental battle of convincing yourself to bound over that next hurdle continues. Nearly half way to half way, and you know with the help of our team mates, you might just make it.

Stephen Cox

EMBA 2015

Stephens linkedin profile is at

Stephen Cox

Tips From a 1st Year Executive MBA

Living on a dairy farm in Kerry with my husband and our three children may be miles away from the MBA, yet the MBA has been a great experience and I have really enjoyed the course.

Based on my experience, here are some tips for those undertaking an MBA to make life run more smoothly:

  1. Avoid reading ‘Snapshots from Hell’ by Peter Robinson. It is a moany account of a man doing a full time MBA in the US – I struggled to find one meaningful snippet in the entire soliloquy. If you want a taste of the course speak to a current students or read any of the posts in this blog.
  2. Buy a slow cooker. Prepare vegetables and meat in the morning. Peg them into it and leave for approximately eight hours. Lovely dinner with minimal effort.
  3. Keep hubby/partner happy. Have a ‘date night’ each week.  This is hard to fit in amongst all the other commitments but when you asked you husband/partner to support you on this mad endeavour I don’t think either of you realised the time commitment involved.
  4. Don’t bring a copy of the latest strategy case report to bed (not so conducive to point three).
  5. Do not introduce your au pair to your brother. When they fall in love and move in together it is not helpful.
  6. Reserve Sunday for family time – take the kids swimming, go out for lunch, read the paper, enjoy a little bit of normal life and do not do any course work.
  7. Don’t moan about the work load. Nobody wants to listen to it. Everyone has obligations and commitments. Yours aren’t more important. If you fancy a moan-fest refer to point one.

To put it all in perspective on a recent play date I overheard one of my daughter’s friends boasting that her mother was taking her to Eurodisney. My daughter (not to be outdone) promptly replied that her mommy was training to be a smurf!

Catherine O Leary

EMBA 2015


Staying on Track

Semester two is tough. It is not tough because the workload is greater than Semester one. Nor is it tough because the courses are more challenging. In fact, for a vast majority of the class the workload is lighter for the option modules. It isn’t the obvious things that make Semester two tough. It is the growing realisation of the need to figure out where the next stage of my life, post-MBA, is going to take me. Deciding what and then moving onto the how should be the focus of my time. It is, let’s face it, the reason anyone embarks on an MBA. Whilst some of the academic staff may not wish to admit it, the academic parts of an MBA course are a means to an end. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to learn and plenty to stimulate the intellectual curiosity, but the MBA is a springboard into a potentially new and exciting career.

Semester two is tough. There are so many pulls on your time and it is too easy to neglect the longer and longer shadow being cast on a future career. Many will say this is simply down to time management, and there is a certain degree of validity in that assertion. There is more complexity to it, however. Using the year in an MBA is, as has no doubt been noted by my colleagues previously, a unique opportunity to explore a totally different career path. However, this requires a depth of research and contact building that could in its own right be a full time job. Notwithstanding the HR strategies to get you around, the Activity Based Costing in Managerial Accounting and Investment Management classes that leave you mentally exhausted, trying to forge a new career is a considerable challenge.

Semester two is tough. As more and more gets thrown at you from preparing for the trip to China to extracurricular activities to assignments and late night classes, many things can knock you down. The prospect of developing an exciting new career from September is enough to motivate you to keep bouncing back off the canvas. But it is easy to lose track, no matter how often you are reminded of the real reason you are doing an MBA.

As the days get longer and (hopefully) the sun starts to get warmer, it is a great time to revaluate priorities and at the same time maintain the commitments you have made to family, friends and colleagues. That is the challenge.

Jim Radmore

Full-time MBA 2014

United Kingdom

Vietnam Culture Night Part 2

Michael Smurfit Business School provides not only an excellent academic background but is also very culturally diverse. In the college, we have good opportunities to explore different cultures from many international student communities.

Tết or Vietnamese New Year, is the most important celebration of Vietnamese culture. On the first day of the first month of the Vietnamese calendar, we, Vietnamese students at Michael Smurfit Business School, successfully organized the special event called “Vietnam Cultural Night”. The main purpose of the event was to introduce Vietnamese culture and promote “Only rice is not enough,” a charity program that raises funds to provide food and cooking services in elementary schools of poor highland mountain regions.

During the event, guests were served different kinds of Vietnamese traditional foods. Some highlights of Vietnamese cultural activities that happen during Tet through the traditional costume shows, traditional dances and music provide the insights about Vietnam. The most interesting activity was the Kid Corner which enabled Vietnamese adopted children to understand about their original point. The event is one of the most meaningful activities during our one year in the Smurfit Business School.

Ba Nguyen

Full-time MBA 2014


Vietnam Culture Night

Let’s remember and be proud of yourself and your ethnic identity. We often feel lost in a complex and large world. However, you will feel consoled if you have a knowledgeable background of your ethnic cultural heritage. It gives you a historical root, a sense of your place in the present and a unique permanent though this world is always changing.

– Le Hong Diem, MSc Strategic Management & Planning, UCD Smurfit

Traditional Costume “Ao dai” Performance

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, though living far away from home, Vietnamese MBA students in Dublin were involved in organizing a successfully special and meaningful event – Vietnam Culture Night. The event’s purpose, along with introducing and promoting Vietnamese culture, was to raise funds to support poor children in mountainous areas of Vietnam through the programme, “Only rice is not enough.” The event attracted more than 400 international friends, expatriates and Vietnamese students in Ireland.

Guests attending the event enjoyed the traditional foods of Vietnam such as Gac sticky rice, spring rolls, salt roasted chicken, Vietnamese salad, and a traditional five fruits tray garnished with apricot, peach blossom and Lunar New Year calligraphy. The entire space of the event was decorated with red and yellow symbolizing “luck” and “prosperity”. International friends were excited to take memorial pictures in Vietnamese Tet space and enthusiastic to participate in quizzes about Tet traditions in Vietnam.

I want to send best wishes to the MBA program staffs and my classmates in the new year!

Chuc mung nam moi!

Happy Lunar New Year 2014!

Hung Nguyen

FTMBA 2014