Time To Relax and Rejuvenate!

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With the exams now well and truly behind us at this stage, it feels like the WEMBAs (Weekend Executive MBAs) can breathe a sigh of relief. Chatting to the class last Saturday following our final Competitive Strategy exam, our (largely exhausted) conversations were along the lines of what we’ve learned so far this year, whether it was what we expected and how far we feel we’ve come (with some renditions of Teresa Mannion’s ‘don’t make unnecessary journeys’ thrown in!). In a sense, it feels like it’s been ages since Foundation Week, and on the other hand, it feels like time has flown. Either way, it’s been hugely enjoyable. A quarter down already!

We’ve learned to juggle work and personal lives, to prioritise, to engage with team-members, to speed-read, to manage deadlines – the latter being skills that we all had coming into Smurfit, but which have been honed for sure, during the past four months. The benefit of group work has allowed us all to lean on eachother when it got particularly busy, and is an amazing support when it feels a little overwhelming (which it definitely does at times!). Thanks Team ECHO :)

I didn’t think this time last year, that by now I’d have learned about Honda or Stephen King’s strategies, cashflow statements and principles-based accounting, boiling frog analogies (don’t think I’ll ever forget that one) or ‘job-shops’ in supply chain! Over Christmas, when I have time to take stock, it’ll be nice to consider everything we’ve all achieved. Perhaps I’ll catch up on some of the articles I didn’t get a chance to read…or perhaps not!

Here’s to more great, busy times next year.

Grace Milton ~ Executive MBA, Year 1

The Executive MBA & Work-Life Balance

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I cannot complain, as I was warned.

During our first week, we had a presentation from a gentleman from the MBA Association of Ireland. At the end he wished all of the full timers “Best of luck”, but to the EMBA group he just laughed and said “God help you!’

The hardest part of the EMBA for me so far has been managing the work-life balance; to be honest even having the word ‘life’ in there is a bit misleading. I had many discussions with EMBA alumni who all described it as the most difficult but enjoyable two years of their life. So I thought I was prepared for the workload. About seven weeks in I had a mini-breakdown, where I thought “What the hell have I done?” “All that money!” “All that time!” The only comforting part was the fact that everybody else in my class seemed to be feeling the same way.

One of the main reasons for my doing an EMBA at this time in my life, was figuring that my 18 month old daughter would not miss me too much. As long as I can be there for dinner and bed time, as well as an hour or two at the weekend, it is enough for her at the moment. Anyway, she seems more interested in Barney, In the Night Garden, Tangled, Frozen, or whatever structure she can fashion into a climbing frame or a horse.

Although the time commitment is more than I thought it would be, I am enjoying it even more than I thought I could. I have been exposed to so many new things, including: online dating; Zara (as I have never considered it before); the reality that narcissistic managers do exist and how to recognise them; a company called ‘Bananas’ (that doesn’t sell bananas); amongst many others.

The most important part of the EMBA journey to date is how it has made me think about things in different ways – including how I see myself, and the impact that I can make (or not), depending on my own personality and behaviours.

It was around this time last year that I made the decision to tackle the EMBA. So to anybody reading this who is considering the EMBA: start your GMAT preparation, attend one of the UCD Smurfit MBA Open Days and then go for it.

You won’t regret it.

Ger Kenny ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

Time Management – The “Hidden” MBA Module

Time-Management

Well, OK, maybe it’s not so hidden, six weeks (yes, six!!) into our first semester but its presence and importance weren’t as clear to me at the start of the semester as perhaps they should have been!

Navigating the mix of group and individual assignments, which differ in content, nature and proportion of overall grade, is a challenge that needs to be met head-on. Add to this the volume of required reading, the need to devote sufficient time to group communications and, let’s not forget, the need to actually maintain a life outside the EMBA (i.e., family and job!) and we now have the framework for a hands-on module in advanced Time Management!

We may not get credits for it but I seriously doubt that success in the other four will be achieved without achieving a pass (at the very least) in this one. Thankfully, we’re all in the same boat and the class is very open about sharing the various tools that are being developed to get us through this challenging element of the course. For me, it’s important that I use this to ensure that the non-EMBA elements of my life don’t dwindle too much, so, while I find myself using all elements of the four core modules at work, Time Management is currently the only one I’m using at home. I’m particularly focused on getting enough time with three young kids who still think it’s hilarious that their Daddy is back in “school” and has to do “homework” – perspective is everything!

Conor Burke ~ Executive MBA 

The Home Straight

The Home Straight


Arriving in the 4th semester of the exec MBA we have completed 12 modules, 328 hours of class, an average of more than twice that in readings, assignments and projects. Every one of those hours has taken its toll over three long semesters. However, entering the home straight, energy and enthusiasm are at levels not reached since our block week 18 months ago!

The highlight of this semester for most people will be the international trip. For those of us remaining here to keep the home fires burning, Managing the Negotiation Process provides an intriguing way of passing the semester. The course lecturer (Stephen Boyle) has a reputation built over the last number of years, with alumni from over 7 years ago praising the course. The class has been split into two groups of 3 person teams, randomly being paired against each other for live negotiations (with the two teams representing different parties in the negotiation. Friendships developed over the past 18 months will be cast aside for the 2 hour battle. Preparation and quick thinking will be a teams’ best assets.

Home straight it is, will we miss it when it is all over?

Brian Shields ~ Year 2 Executive MBA

Running to the Corporate Finish

It is hard to believe that we are just over half-way through our second semester in Year 1. We are now all settled into our ‘new’ teams and working our way through our submissions and plans for the second half of the term. However this semester is more balanced towards individual assessment rather than group submissions and our first mid-term exam of the course took place on Saturday last in Corporate Finance. The mid-term was worth 20% of our overall grade and was definitely effective in focusing my attention on what we have covered in the module so far.

The Corporate Finance module has taught us many calculations, including how to determine the future and present values of cash flows and the cost of capital for a business. We have also focused on assessing market risk and return, and how to evaluate various investment opportunities for a business.

However as those of you familiar with this area know, there is a lot more to Corporate Finance than formulas and calculations.  This was reflected clearly in our mid-term exam of which at least half of the content was based on theory from the module material.   One needed to know the functions of financial markets and intermediaries and why market investors are not concerned with individual stock risks, as well as be able to calculate the value of a perpetuity, in order to successfully demonstrate their knowledge gained on the topic.

I found my revision of the module material during the last few weeks invaluable, while not infallible, in clarifying the module concepts and enabling me to embrace the topics we are due to cover in the next part of the term with a much greater appreciation.

We are all busy with the demands of the MBA and it is difficult not to regularly focus on what submissions are due. However this directed module revision has reinforced the importance of taking a point in time during the semester to reflect on my understanding of each module. Mid-term break seems like the perfect time to avail of this opportunity so luckily that is fast approaching.

Elaine Berkery

EMBA 2015

Ireland

Looking Forward to Looking Back

With a new year upon us, I’ve been reflecting on the highs and lows of 2013 which included completing my first semester of the mid-week Executive MBA (EMBA).  Given that I questioned my sanity on a number of occasions during semester 1, I am pleased to say that the EMBA was close to the top of my list of highs.

In my experience, maintaining a sensible balance between study, work, and a personal life was the largest challenge of the past 3 months. Be it lectures, readings, assignments, team meetings or guest speakers, the MBA can consume all of your time! In the case of the MBA, the old saying of “you get out what you put in” is certainly true, however the ability to prioritise and effectively manage your time is key.

Aside from the academic benefits of an MBA program, some personal highlights to date have been:

  • Attending an entrepreneurship club event which had a number of guest speakers from Irish start-ups
  • Participation and insight gained in class group presentations
  • Attending a series of guest speaker panels organised by a group of MBA alums, with a particular highlight being the visit of Des Traynor of Intercom.
  • The Leadership Development Programme events

Above all, the essence of the MBA program is the people (legends) you meet, be it team mates, classmates or those in the alumni network.  In just 3 months, the MBA has provided numerous opportunities to meet and work with exceptionally talented people. As a group, the midweek class has learned a great deal outside of academics, such as:

  • Tina is an awesome electric guitarist.
  • Not all pharmacists are boring!
  • Tullow Oil is the greatest company to work for in the history of the world, ever.
  • Frankie works in a bank.

So as we embark on semester 2 in just over a weeks’ time, where we will have new teams and no doubt new challenges, three pieces of advice I have are:

  • Manage your time & work hard but make sure to maintain a work/study/life balance
  • Attend as many extra-curricular MBA events as possible (and in particular the monthly guest speakers organised by Joe Kenny)
  • And, most of all, enjoy yourselves!


Over and Out

Michael O’Dwyer

Midweek EMBA 2015

UCD Smurfit EMBA ascends global MBA rankings

Some good news this week,  the UCD EMBA is now placed 81st in the Financial Times global rankings for 2013.

The Irish Times picked up on the breaking news quickly –  “The Dublin university, which is the only Irish business school included in the global rankings, has moved up seven places in the rankings from last year, up to 81.”  Read more here.

The Journal.ie ran with an article entitled “UCD Smurfit School MBA ranked among best in world” which in 24 hours has received almost 15,000 views.  Click here to read.

You can access the school’s own announcement on Business & Leadership by following the link for the associated press release here.

A special thank you to all who participate in these rankings every year.  Your efforts contribute to growing the UCD Smurfit MBA as the brand leader in Ireland.

MBA Team.

Year 2 – The beginning of the End!?!

One year into the MBA and a year wiser, or so I think!  Having recently been reflecting on the first year of the MBA in order to advise a potential student, I reviewed the blog I wrote after foundation week last year.  It brought all of the memories (and emotions) flooding back to me:

  • the extent of work involved in applying (which was only the beginning!);
  • the exhilaration upon receiving an offer for a place;
  • the nervousness and trepidation of the first day (and week);
  • the relief when I realised we were all in the same boat; and
  • ultimately, the fun of the foundation week and the great people that are involved in the Smurfit MBA.

Looking back on that first week now, the fear of the unknown was the primary feeling which I remember leading into the week.  However, I left the week with a renewed enthusiasm (and many more friends).

My foundation week tips for incoming students are as follows:

  1. Be open to new things in order to gain the most from the week;
  2. Do not fear the unknown, if you have been accepted on the course, you are most definitely of a calibre which can complete it;
  3. Learn when to listen and when to speak up, particularly in the team building exercises which are a good approximation of group work on the MBA;
  4. Be open to meeting new people and try to introduce yourself to as many people as possible (particularly from the other classes) as these people can be of great assistance; and
  5. Have fun!

On a more holistic note, Year 1 of the Exec MBA has taught me a phenomenal amount about business (and the people underlying each business) which I would not have been able to learn elsewhere.  As a class, we have had our share of good times but we have also worked extremely hard to get through and it is the collective support which gets people through.  I can also happily report that the MBA has already had a positive impact on some colleagues’ careers as they have moved job or been promoted during the first year (primarily with thanks to the MBA).  My final thoughts on the EMBA experience,

  • Has it been enjoyable?  Undoubtedly!
  • Has there been low points?  You bet…
  • Have I learnt everything that I thought I would?  Yes, and much more on top.
  • Have I worked hard?  Even harder than I thought possible in Brian McGrath’s foundation week lecture…
  • Do I regret applying for the course? No way!
  • Would I advise others to apply?  Definitely (and I have done already)!

– Shaun O’Keeffe, EMBA Yr 2

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

Linking industry and academia

One of the benefits that I find from the Executive MBA is that I go back to my day-job on a Monday morning and “noodle” on what we have discussed in class that previous weekend. I can bounce stuff off my workmates and get a different perspective on things to take back with me to class the following weekend. This is a very practical way of grounding my MBA experience into the everyday work-life on a continuous basis and creates a vital link between industry and academia.

But in writing this blog, I began to wonder are there other less obvious opportunities for linking industry and academia?
I have worked in start-up companies for the last 7 years of my life and if there is one thing that start-ups have in common it is the lack of money available and the requirement to achieve one’s aims with the smartest use of resources possible.

Earlier in my career I spent 8 wonderful years in NUIG as an undergrad and postgrad and if there is one thing that universities have in common it is the abundance of engineering equipment available for testing, analysing and characterising materials,devices, structures, etc. etc. Surely it is logical to bridge the two and create a valuable and strategic symbiosis in the process? Of course there has been continuous links between industry and academia down through the years in the form of collaborative research partnerships, sponsored post-grads,etc. which have been hugely beneficial to all parties. Such endeavours keep third-level researchers relevant, allowing them to work on problems that are very current and applied. At the same time they have provided the sponsoring company with valuable research allowing them to develop technologies and create significant value for their products.

On a routine basis, we (in our company) have need for short-term access to calibrated test equipment such as tensile testers, torque testers, fluid analysers, FTIR, DSC, etc. etc. and have had to contract this work out to third-party vendors. An opportunity exists for some of the third-level institutions to provide such services to industry and generate a valuable revenue stream in the process. Endeavours such as Metric Ireland and Connect 2013 are important drivers for fostering additional links between industry and academia so that short-term gains and benefits can be realised on both sides.

Funding for third-level is being continually stretched and industry is constantly required to operate in ever-more-efficient means to achieve their goals. I believe a significant opportunity exists at present to align all relevant parties in pursuit of this and build sustainability of the indigenous sector into the future.

Brendan Cunniffe


– Brendan Cunniffe, EMBA (Weekend) 2012-14