UCD Smurfit Team Return as Molson Division Winners

UCD Smufit Molson Team with Prof. Pat Gibbons
UCD Smufit Molson Team with Prof. Pat Gibbons

The first week of January usually marks a familiar return to the rhythm of office life. For the team chosen to represent UCD Smurfit at the 36th John Molson MBA International Case Competition, the first week of January 2017 proved to be an unforgettable experience. The competition is the largest and longest established of its kind in the world. Intense preparations prior to Christmas had been interspersed with end of year exams and project submissions, but finally, the time had come to put our MBA skills to the test. With a vague appreciation of the scale of the challenge facing us, we set off for Montreal satisfied that we had put in the hard yards in honing our strategy and presentation skills. Despite this, we could never have envisioned the magnitude of the experience ahead of us, the highlight of the MBA to date for our team.

Having rang in both the Irish and Canadian New Years, we were glad to have a day of respite on New Year’s Day before the action commenced on Monday. A morning stroll through fresh snow around the historic Old Port of Montreal allowed us dispatch the Christmas cobwebs and observe the city operating at full tilt despite the inclement weather. Historically the commercial capital of Canada, Montreal remains an important centre of commerce, aerospace, finance, pharmaceuticals and technology. The 270 executive judges for the week’s competition hailed from these local industries and global giants spanning companies such as E&Y, Bombardier, Pathfinder, Royal Bank of Canada, Microsoft and IBM.

The eagerly awaited draw to group the 36 teams took place at Monday morning’s impressive opening ceremony. A nervous energy filled the room, as the business school names were drawn one by one. UCD Smurfit were drawn against five leading business schools from Sweden, the US, Canada and Mexico. Over the course of the week we would go head to head with each, in a round-robin format, tackling five unpublished business cases, including a live case. Each team would be allocated three hours to read a 20-30 page business case, carry out an analysis, and develop a strategy and implementation plan. The output in each instance would be a 25 minute PowerPoint presentation to a panel of five executive judges followed by 15 minutes of questions.

UCD Smurfit Molson Team - L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Catherine O'Brien, Tanya Kenny, Derek Anderson
UCD Smurfit Molson Team – L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Catherine O’Brien, Tanya Kenny, Derek Anderson

Day 1: Our opening round saw us drawn against the highly reputable Simon Business School from the University of Rochester in New York. The case challenged us to develop a competitive strategy for Swatch as the company faced the rise of the Apple iWatch. A strong opening performance saw us grind out a win against Simon. This victory would be the platform that gave the team confidence that we belonged on the global stage. We were off the mark.

Day 2: The famous ‘double case day’ dubbed as the toughest day of the week. First up, a global expansion and growth strategy for a complex Portuguese retailing conglomerate. A tough case, and facing very challenging opposition from LSBE of Wifrid Laurier University Canada, we were delighted to notch up another win. Following a short break for lunch, the third round saw us develop a strategy for Uber for South African market entry which we lost to tough opponents from Haskayne Business School from the University of Calgary. After three rounds we were placed 2nd in our division, just behind Sweden’s highly regarded Lund University School of Business and Economics, who were positioned to top the group and make the semi-finals. Any thoughts of coming here to get one victory had soon turned to calculating what results we required to qualify for the semi’s.

Day 3: Proceedings took a different twist, Dave McLaughlin, the General Manager of WeWork, a US shared office space start up founded in 2010 with a current valuation of $16bn, presented a live challenge from his company. We were tasked with developing a new business line for the company. To add to the pressure, having heard of UCD Smurfit, Dave selected to attend our presentation to scout for his next business innovation. We faced off stiff competition from LUND to jointly top the division with Canada’s Haskayne at the end of the day. It would be an early night for the team with thoughts firmly fixed on Thursday’s final round.

Day 4: The final division case on Thursday saw us pitted against the energetic Mexican business school EGADE and challenged to develop a growth strategy for an Indian agri business. A tough case, we debated possibilities at length and felt the pressure ramp up as the time ticked down. Despite the frantic preparations, we made an excellent presentation and impressed the judges by competently validating our strategy under intense scrutiny.

We nervously awaited the announcement of the division winners and semi-finalists as we dined on lunch. When ‘UCD Smurfit’ flashed up on the screen as division winners and semi-finalists we jumped from our seats ecstatic that our hard work had reaped reward.

Following lunch, the team took a well-earned rest in preparation for battle in the semi-final that evening, where we would face the American University of Beruit (Lebanon) and Queensland University of Technology (Australia). We were tasked with developing an integration strategy for a LinkedIn acquisition. The semi-final ran very close with eventual 3rd placed finalists Queensland winning our semi-final. Emotions were mixed at the announcement on Thursday night. We were disappointed to have narrowly lost out on a place in the final but incredibly proud of our achievements in topping the division and beating off strong competition to reach the semi-final.

Despite the packed daily case schedule, the competition organisers ran a full programme of evening events which allowed participants to experience Canadian culture, make new connections from all over the world and kick back after long days of competition. Attending Montreal’s home of ice hockey at the Bell Centre to see Canada play the Czech Republic was one particular highlight. The games’ roots are professed in some quarters to originate from ancient hurling, still though, nothing comes close to a day out at Croke Park! Thursday night’s movie theme party saw us trade business formal for superhero costumes with some of our team discovering hidden super powers at the karaoke machine! The final banquet dinner on Friday night celebrated the end to an incredible week. Canadian university, Memorial, were presented with the Concordia Cup. As one of six division winners, we were also presented with a cheque in recognition of our performance.

As we face into the final semester of the Executive MBA, we look forward to further challenges and further adventure as we visit Japan and Korea on company visits later this year. Molson has however been the stand out experience of the MBA to date and the learning, laughs and friendships forged will remain indelibly engraved in our memories as we wistfully reflect on our time at Smurfit.

We were expertly guided throughout the week and in preparation by Professor Pat Gibbons and we would like to express our deep gratitude to Pat for his encouragement, time, and expertise. We would also like to acknowledge and thank Paul Slattery for his guidance on presentation skills and Ro Downing and all at Smurfit for supporting the team from the outset. The competition itself was also excellently organised and hosted by Concordia University’s John Moslon School of Business and great credit and thanks is due to the organising committee who looked after us so well during the week.  A final note of thanks to the UCD Alumni Association Montreal Chapter and local business community representatives who hosted a reception for us during our stay.

To the next generation of MBAs, ‘the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity for growth’.

Go forth and seize the opportunity.

Catherine O’Brien ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

On behalf of: Derek Anderson, Anne Marie Barcoe, Tanya Kenny and Declan Walsh.

Canada Bound: Preparing to Represent UCD Michael Smurfit at the John Molson International Case Study Competition

The UCD Smurfit Molson Team. L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Derek Anderson, Tanya Kenny, Catherine O’Brien. Picture Jason Clarke.
The UCD Smurfit Molson Team. L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Derek Anderson, Tanya Kenny, Catherine O’Brien. Picture Jason Clarke.

Sunday 18th of December and it is two days after the end of some of the busiest weeks of the Executive MBA to date. With Semester 1 of Year 2 complete, most students could be found making up for lost time with family and friends, Christmas shopping, or simply enjoying their freedom again. All except for our team of five daring Executive MBA students who traded Dundrum Shopping Centre for a small meeting room in The Radisson St Helens Hotel. Acting as a team of consultants, we were challenged to dissect a case on McDonald’s proposed global turn-around strategy within three hours, followed by a 25 minute presentation outlining our proposed strategy and rationale. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from the MBA to date, we set to work confident we could solve McDonald’s strategy dilemma. The Smurfit MBA team’s preparations for the John Molson International Case Study Competition 2017 were truly in full swing.

The journey began on October 11th when the second year Executive MBAs were invited to participate in ‘trials’ to establish the UCD team that would travel to Montreal to participate in the competition. Organised by John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal, the competition is the largest and longest established business case competition of its kind in the world. It takes place in Montreal every January and is a round-robin tournament consisting of seven rounds of unpublished business cases over five days. A total of 36 international universities will be represented in 2017 including teams from Canada, America, Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Chile, Sweden and Germany.

The UCD team was selected following individually prepared presentations on a sample case on microfinancing in rural India. We were informed by Smurfit School that we would receive all the support we required and determined to make the most out of this opportunity, we set about  honing our strategy and presentation skills.

First up was an intense session on strategy analysis with Professor Pat Gibbons. Pat is the team’s coach and will travel to Montreal to provide guidance and support throughout the competition.

Next up, Paul Slattery took the team for a master class on how to present, prepare Power Point slides and communicate effectively with an audience, in this case the local business executives who will act as judges in Montreal. For anyone who has had a class with Paul Slattery, they will appreciate how valuable a session in such a small group proved to be. The evening with Paul was challenging but thoroughly enjoyable, provoking more than a few laughs from the group along the way as we perfected the art of corporate story telling amongst other skills.

With our foundation sessions complete, it was agreed that real life practice cases would be the best way to develop our skills. Our first practice case revealed to us the scale of the challenge we were facing within a tight three hour preparation window. It highlighted many areas for development; we lacked structure, time efficiency and a clear direction. This led to a sense of panic during our preparations as the clock ticked down and this was apparent to Pat from our rapidly cobbled together presentation slides. However, we surprised ourselves in getting through the presentation fluidly. Whilst we had some doubts about the arduous challenge facing us, they were quickly eradicated at this point as we knew we could only improve with practice.

Over the next few weeks we worked rigorously to evolve as an effective team under time pressure and developed a clear process for tackling case studies. Our rate of improvement as a team has been incredible and has only been matched by the rate of learning as individuals. Speed reading, effective group brain storming, clear communications, strong Power-Point slides and strategic thinking have all been key takeaways for the group.

The preparations are now complete and all that is left for us is to execute our plan. The team travel to Canada confident that our committed preparations will bear fruit as we represent UCD on the world stage. In reality, we are unsure of what to expect from our competitors but ultimately; win, lose or draw we are satisfied that we have already learnt more about strategy, presenting and most importantly team-work than would ever be possible in a classroom. It has truly been a fantastic experience to date, and we look forward to jetting off to Montreal to put our MBA skills to the test.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Professor Pat Gibbons for the huge amount of time and advice he has given, Paul Slattery for his guidance on presentation skills and finally Ro Downing and all at Smurfit School for facilitating this invaluable experience and providing all the support we could have wished for.

The competition runs from the 1st – 6th January and a further blog post will follow in relation to our experience in Montreal. Hopefully we will be talking about the first UCD team to win the John Molson International Case Study Competition. One has to believe to achieve.

Declan Walsh ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

On behalf of: Derek Anderson, Anne Marie Barcoe, Tanya Kenny and Catherine O’Brien

Herding Cats

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Peter Thiel once said “Tell me something you know, that nobody else understands”. What I know, is that Google is an old age pensioner and online advertising is old hat.

You see, 2 years ago I knew I wanted to work in Tech, IoT to be specific, and I knew I wanted to work in Advertising but I hadn’t yet had my lightbulb moment. Looking for change and a way to open doors or create options, I started an MBA. I was full of enthusiasm about the future but with a healthy dose of nervous anticipation. So what does this have to do with herding cats? I’ll get to that.

Year 1 passed in a busy blur of challenging learning and making good friends. If you have a natural curiosity and passion for learning, the MBA doesn’t fail to disappoint. But be prepared to work, and work hard. It’s certainly not easy, but it is extremely fulfilling. The quality of the lecturing is far beyond what I experienced previously, and everyone wants to do their part to not let their team down. Interestingly, I have since found that many of the qualities required for an MBA are the same qualities required from an entrepreneur; stubborn perseverance, a passion for learning, flexibility and intelligence to name a few.

I was always quite entrepreneurial; my mother loves gardening and when I was a child she taught me about the benefits of ladybirds on her roses (They eat Greenfly). I had an 8 year old lightbulb moment and proceeded out to the adjacent corn field, collected a box of Ladybirds and sold them door to door at 10p each for our neighbours’ gardens. I’d like to say I reinvested the profits or retained some capital, but Kearn’s sweet shop was my downfall! During Semester 1 of the MBA, a good friend of mine installed a home control system; I don’t have space here to tell the full story, but suffice to say that through really good timing, a twist of faith and a little bit of luck, I had a 35 year old lightbulb moment. I already had a 400 page business plan (I know!) completed when I approached the UCD Entrepreneur in Residence. Suffice to say she didn’t mince her words, the plan went into the bin and she quickly pulled me out of the rabbit hole and back on the right track.

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You see, I realised that the future of Advertising is the Internet of Things, but not in the way everyone else seems to understand it. Thus I reached a crossroads, one of those very rare moments in life where you can do something huge, something global that will change the world forever. This is one of the most significant things about the Smurfit MBA that nobody ever mentions; it gives you what I like to call with admiration an ‘American attitude’. A belief that no challenge is too big and no matter what you want to achieve, the world is your oyster and you can do it. Being surrounded by really capable, driven people, breeds a belief in yourself and a belief in others. A belief that hard work and perseverance will prevail. I started talking to prospective customers and with my partner Manuela formed Promo Pads. And I jumped in! Thus began the cat herding.

Over the last few months the business has pushed ahead at an incredible pace, and I switched into survival mode on the MBA. People talk about the intensity of start-ups, but you don’t really understand it until you live it. A Global tech start-up only amplifies this further. When we’re not building sales leads speaking to customers or project managing with our development team, we’re planning our International expansion strategy or optimizing our market positioning and financial forecasts. Everything needs to be done yesterday, but the MBA gave me a basis of knowledge for areas where I previously had no experience. Every minute of life is filled with either MBA work, incubator work or now vastly more importantly, real business. I have developed a new level of disdain for procrastination, because I simply don’t have any time. Keeping everything balanced really is like herding cats. In fact, I’m writing this blog in my car for a short break before a business meeting. But yes, we’re building something amazing and loving it.

So I launched into MBA Year 2 with the business ramping up into what feels like 7th gear, and having secured a place on an incubator. You see, anything I’ve ever had to do, I’ve always just got on with it. Procrastination frustrates me. However, the MBA has provided new insights about the ways that other people like to work; it turns out that not everyone wants to get the 5 week assignment 90% finished in week 1, just so it’s off the desk. But it also turns out that ‘getting on with it’ is what a start-up needs. If you have a start-up idea, the best advice I can give you is stop thinking and start doing. It won’t build itself and if you truly believe in it, then the train is leaving the station no matter what.

I would like to think that without being on the MBA, I’d be in the same position I am now. But realistically it was the overall environment of UCD Smurfit that prepared me mentally for this. In an ideal world the business would have been started after the MBA, but once-in-a-lifetime opportunities don’t tend to wait around.

I come from a military background. In the military, leaders sometimes have to be tactically clever, sometimes they need patience, and sometimes they need to charge headlong down the middle of the battlefield with nothing but smoke for protection. A good business analogy is Uber’s headlong rush to global domination. Well, I always did like smoke…although mirrors are a good complement. So back to what I know and nobody else understands; I’m unashamedly using this blog to plant Promo Pads flag at the top of the hill. Hello Google. We’re coming.

Diarmaid Murphy ~ Executive MBA

The Sunday Business Post – MBA Scholarship

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School
UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School

The Sunday Business Post, in association with UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, is offering one exceptional candidate the chance of a lifetime; An MBA scholarship to an upper value of €34,500, for the Full-Time or Executive (part-time) MBA Programme, starting in late August 2017.

Over four weeks from Sunday October 30th to Sunday November 27th, applicants for the Scholarship must complete Stage 1 of the Scholarship Application Process, which involves completing a short entry form and answering 3 GMAT questions correctly.

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Entrants who answer the 3 GMAT questions correctly and who also fulfill the minimum UCD Smurfit MBA entry requirements, will be invited to complete Stage 2 of the process which involves completing a full application to the Smurfit MBA Programme, if they have not already done so.

Candidates deemed eligible to be considered for the MBA Programme will then be invited for interview,  with an overall winner selected by a panel of judges.

Before commencing your Scholarship entry, please review the entry criteria and terms & conditions which can be found here.

How to Apply

To enter the Sunday Business Post MBA Scholarship 2016 you must complete the online entry form by the deadline of Sunday November 27th.

Click Here to Enter

Participants who fulfill the minimum entry requirements for the Smurfit MBA, as outlined above and who answer the 3 GMAT questions correctly, will be eligible to progress to Stage 2 of the competition.

If you have any questions about the MBA Programme or application process, please email mba@ucd.ie

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

UCD Smurfit MBA Foundation Week

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When I joined the military 10 years ago, we had to complete an induction week. The week was designed to give us a ‘soft landing’ into the organisation and dismay any anxiety or fear. Now, ten years later I have completed a similar week as part of the EMBA Programme in UCD Michael Smurfit Business School and the induction week seemed to have quite a different objective; a hard landing!

If I was to walk away from the Programme now, the week, as a standalone undertaking, would have been worth attending. Although ‘life-changing’ may be a little dramatic, it certainly challenged me, questioned some of my long-standing beliefs, taught me several practical life-skills and allowed me to meet some truly interesting people.

The Why Marketing Lecture with Prof Damien Mc Loughlin
The Why Marketing Lecture with Prof Damien Mc Loughlin

Although I have attended college before, UCD Michael Smurfit feels different when you arrive. The campus feels modern and all the staff (and fellow students) are particularly friendly. After arriving we received our ‘welcome pack’ and then sat through a series of presentations. The faculty introduced themselves and very soon the message was clear; hard work was the name of the game and there would be no hiding from it. The straight forwardness was refreshing; we all knew where we stood.

Tuesday involved a day-long team building exercise. I found myself at the edge of my comfort-zone before the end of the day, leading the class in the final challenge. I had been determined not to risk exposing myself to a position like this so early on but here I was. In the military, standing out early in a course of training is usually a bad thing. I expected that leading a group of natural leaders like those who might enroll in an MBA Programme, would lead to a ‘too many chiefs’ situation. Surprisingly there were no counter-ideas or subversive actions after I voiced my plan. Each individual acknowledged the action required to achieve the teams objective and played their part diligently. I have never experienced a team of this size come together and operate with such efficiency, in such a short time.

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The rest of the week saw us meet our study groups, complete a day-long business simulation, practice our presentation skills and learn about our personality styles and those of others. I left on Friday, looking forward to seeing my new classmates again and in particular working with my new study group.

No one could say they weren’t challenged, no one could say they didn’t learn something new and it’s pretty clear what lies ahead: hard work, the development of great friendships and the opportunity to overcome huge challenges.

To quote Gordon B. Hinckley – “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds”.

Gearóid O’Briain ~ Executive MBA, Year 1

A Smurfit MBA’s Startup – Hospital Contact

Dr Joe Sheehan, Radiologist Registrar,Ger Bowens from MSD, and Dr Donal Reddan pictured at the launch of the WNWHG App outside Galway University Hospital. Photo: Reg Gordon
Dr Joe Sheehan, Radiologist Registrar,Ger Bowens from MSD, and Dr Donal Reddan pictured at the launch of the WNWHG App outside Galway University Hospital. Photo: Reg Gordon

As a 22-year-old with two Bachelors of Science degrees to my name and 1 year of medical school under my belt, joining the MBA class of 2009 at Smurfit was the greatest risk of my very early career. That risk turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. For the first year of the MBA, the Celtic tiger was still roaring and I got a first-hand look at how not to do business. In the classroom, we were learning the bedrock principles of business and outside the walls of the school that bedrock was being broken by far too many people. To this day I can almost pinpoint when I realised it was all about to crash. We had just gathered for our first lecture on a sunny spring Friday and I was reading the cover of the financial times to see that RBS had announced a rights issue. I asked our economics professor about it and we then spent the first twenty minutes of class discussing what a rights issue was and what it all meant. From that point on, we had a separate Harvard business case study being played out in real life on a weekly basis. I remember thinking to my myself at the time that this is the best learning experience of my life and to this day I still believe that.

Since graduating from the MBA, I have gone on to finish medicine and am nearing completion of my training as a Radiologist in Galway. I have continued to use the skills I learned in the MBA on a daily basis as a director on the board of the Galway Clinic and as a co-founder of a company called Hospital Contact. Hospital Contact is a start-up and is the place where my MBA has been most useful. As a student, I concentrated heavily on entrepreneurial studies and took all the electives the school offered. Those classes opened my eyes to the fact that a start-up is hard work with little early payoff. But I also realised, through that second year of MBA discussions, that the company that sticks it out through the hard times will flourish in the good times. Hospital Contact makes healthcare related smart phone apps with our flagship app used by over 10,000 healthcare professionals in Ireland. The world of tech is full of ups and downs, but as my start-up now begins to flourish I know that without my Smurfit MBA the company might not have lasted through the past two years. Thank you Smurfit for the great education and happy 50th birthday to the Smurfit MBA.

Joe Sheehan ~ Executive MBA 2009

MBA International Study Tour 2016 – UAE & India

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Visit to University of Dubai – Dr. Eesa Mohammed Bastaki takes a selfie with the Smurfit MBA group

On a wet, windy and dark night in September, having just returned to year two of the EMBA after having had the summer off, signing up for the 2016 MBA International Study Tour was a no-brainer. The trip came highly recommended from alumni, promoted as a once in a life time experience – eight days away from regular course work and assignments and the office for the EMBAs – four days in Dubai followed by another four in Mumbai.

We departed from Terminal 1 Saturday evening, March 12th and arrived in Dubai in the early hours of Sunday morning. There was no time for jet lag and once we had checked into our hotel, we were straight onto the coach to go to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. The centre strives to remove barriers between people of different nationalities and to raise awareness of the UAEs local culture, customs and religion. Our host Nasif attempted to break down the barriers to allow us to ask the questions we would otherwise have been too apprehensive to ask. For example, “why are Emirati men allowed to have multiple wives but women are only allowed one husband”. His response was, let’s just say, eye opening.

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Dr. Eesa Mohammed Bastaki & Professor Pat Gibbons

After some traditional Emirati food for lunch, we were given a tour of the mosque where we were informed about prayer times and the traditional clothing worn by Emirati men and women. Emirati men wear the traditional ankle length pristine white shirt, the Kandura and Emirati women wear the black Abaya which pretty much covers every inch of their bodies. As an example Nasif asked for a volunteer to dress up in the traditional Abaya to which I gladly stepped forward – I was fairly confident this would never happen again. Nasif attempted to convince us that the black material reflected the sun light and was cooler for the women. Well, it must have been thirty degrees or more, sleep deprivation was setting in, and my conservative dress under the black Abaya, lead me to strongly disagree with this theory. I was covered head to toe, even my eyes. Nobody could see me, but I could see everything – ideal for people watching, funnily enough, was not one of Nasif’s selling points for the traditional dress. I should have put that in the suggestion box.

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Day one was almost over but it set the tone for the remainder of the week ahead. Day two consisted of trips to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, the Dubai International Financial Centre, and the University of Dubai. Day three brought us back to the airport for a meeting with Dubai Airports, followed by a trip to the Jumeirah hospitality group, the company responsible for Burj Al Arab, the world’s only seven-star hotel. We were so impressed with the Jumeirah group that we felt it was necessary to inspect one of their properties. Eight dedicated students took a trip to the Burj Al Arab at 11:30 that evening to see if it was worth all the notoriety. Unfortunately, a condition of the booking required us to sample a number of cocktails, to which we dutifully obliged. Getting up at 5am the next morning for our flight to Mumbai was not easy but just shows the true dedication to academia required of an MBA student.

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Before moving on to our adventures in Mumbai, it is important not to forget our meeting at the real estate developers, Nakheel. Nakheel are responsible for The Palm, a trilogy of man-made islands that take the shape of a cultural icon, The World, a collection of private islands that form a map of the continents of the world off the coast of Dubai, the Waterfront, the world’s largest waterfront development, which has received widespread international acclaim. We went to this meeting not expecting much. We figured we would be in a dark meeting room and presented with pictures of these famous landmarks, something we could have done on our own time. What happened next, none of us was prepared for. They took the group out on two speed boats, and gave us a scenic view of The Palm and The World – how many people can say that they travelled the world in 30 minutes? It was a little windy to say the least, but the absolutely surreal experience topped off what was truly, a once in a life time experience.

On to Mumbai, sore heads included. No sooner had we left the airport terminal building, we drove straight past the slums. I immediately questioned why I signed up for the trip – Dubai seemed an awful long way away. Our first stop was at the world’s largest open air laundrette. You will notice a reoccurring theme on this trip – the world’s largest open air laundrette, the world’s tallest building, the world’s only seven-star hotel….

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Our next stop, (this was all before we even made it to our hotel – remember, sore heads and a lot to experience in Mumbai), was at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, one of the several locations targeted in the 2008 terrorist attacks. Our guide gave us a quick tour and a brief outline of the 2008 attacks before we were back on the bus and onto the next location – the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, not where we were staying unfortunately, apparently it was fully booked! After all, it was the first stop of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s recent trip to Mumbai. While we unfortunately didn’t gain entrance at this stage, we were able to properly visit it on our last day in Mumbai where we were able to learn of the events that took place in the hotel on November 26th, 2008. If you don’t know what happened in Mumbai that day, I would highly recommend you check it out. It is such a remarkable story of truly inspirational people with extreme courage and integrity that Harvard have even written a case study about it.

Too much happened in Mumbai to outline everything but as a summary we visited some of the biggest companies in India. The speakers were exceptional and answered all of the many questions of 20 odd extremely inquisitive MBA students. The companies welcomed us in the traditional Indian way by feeding us at any available opportunity. In India, a guest is to be treated like God, which was clear from all interactions observed throughout the trip. One of the meetings that deserves to be highlighted was the trip to the OSCAR foundation (the Organisation for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) which is a not-for-profit organisation which provides high quality football coaching to underprivileged boys and girls in Mumbai and across different areas of India. OSCAR runs a unique programme that not only teaches sport to children and youths but also helps them to understand the value of education. A condition of all youths and children joining OSCAR is that they remain in school. To learn all about what the foundation was achieved since inception and the challenges it has overcome along the route is another inspiration story that all of us were genuinely privileged to experience.

It is difficult to outline any one particular meeting or incidence during the eight days that truly sums up the experience gained from going on the trip. Personally, the trip to Nahkeel and the Burj Al Arab made Dubai special, but once we stepped onto Indian soil, Mumbai stole the show. We were shown such exceptional warmth everywhere we turned. As part of our trip to the OSCAR foundation we were given a tour of the slums – this was extremely intrusive for the inhabitants, having complete strangers wandering around their homes. But the Mumbaikars welcomed us with the biggest smiles I have ever seen. Some of the group even played football with them on our last day – I could be wrong, but I think we decided it was a draw!

The trip to Dubai and Mumbai wasn’t just about academia, it was a life experience none of us will ever forget. It has also taught us to realise the many differences in cultures that are all too often misunderstood. I have a new found respect for both the Emirati and Indians – something you couldn’t possibly even begin to experience from a book.

Dorothy Chestnutt ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

An MBA… So What’s It Really Like?

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As I near the end of Semester Two of my first year I have reflected on my experience so far. I thought I’d write a post which, had I read one year ago, would have given me a real insight into what was in store for me when I was considering the MBA Programme at Smurfit Business School. So here it goes………

Semester and Grading Structure – so what do you actually do?

Each semester has 4 modules (subjects). You’ll be assigned, by the school, to your study-team with 4 other classmates which will last for each semester. Some modules will be fully graded on the basis of a combination of individual or study-team assignments. Others will be graded by means of assignment (team or individual) coupled with an end of semester exam. If you have never experienced the delight of the Exam Hall in the RDS –this pleasure awaits! Some of the team assignments involve studying a particular case study or topic and formally presenting this to the full class. Your team’s class presentations will include low cost US airline Southwest Airlines (HR Strategy aspect) and Online UK supermarket Ocado (Supply Chain aspect). Every two weeks the Competitive Strategy module will require your team to prepare a one page assessment report in response to a problem outlined in the assigned case study on topics ranging from the Asian airline industry to an online dating company. You will learn.

Skills development

The program will take you out of your comfort zone straight away. If you are a reluctant orator / presenter, the program will assist in the development of your skills. In the opening orientation week Paul Slattery will give you a small taster of his Presentation Skills Workshop. You will have an opportunity to sign up for a 1 day workshop with Paul later in Semester 1 – make sure you sign up! You will have plenty of opportunity to practice and refine your presentation skills (and gain confidence) in front of your class as part of your presentation assignments. You will develop.

Developing Skills
Developing Skills

Resilience

You’ll figure out that your resilience is put to the test. Semester 1 is “full-on” – by week 5 you will wonder if you (or anyone!) can manage the combined workload of (1) your commitments to team assignments (2) your own assignments (3) your preparation for next week’s lectures and (4) all the while doing the regular 9 to 5 day job. By week 12, you will know that somehow you made it and that you won’t have left anyone behind. You’ll figure out how to make it work, how to find time and how not to waste time.  You’ll get your reading and preparation for the next classes done before work a few mornings a week and you’ll spend one day out of the weekend between study-team meetings and assignments. Occasionally on weekends you’ll need to do more but life will go on. By Semester 2 – you’ll feel much more in control, less daunted and more organised.  You will balance.

Not just Teamwork but Friendships

You’ve heard lots about the emphasis on teamwork. Trust me, you’ll form close friendship bonds that will last beyond the 2 years of the program. You will quickly learn to trust your assigned teammates not just in the narrow sense of the course work but in a broader sense. You’ll get to know them on a personal level and them you – you’ll closely share the ups and downs of the MBA life experience with them. Just before the end of semester 1, when final exams are closely coming into focus, you’ll find that you’ve given up a whole Saturday to coach your fellow teammates and some other classmates on an exam subject that you studied before. You’re motivated to ensure that no one is left behind. You will impact.

You will belong.

 Derek Anderson ~ Executive MBA

Who run the world? GIRLS!

WMBA Lunch at the weekend
WMBA Lunch over the weekend

Looking around our current MBA classes, we see a group that is mainly male dominated. Recognising the power of the women in our MBA classes, we recently set up a Women of the MBA group to connect both current students and alumni with one another, to create a community, to network and to have fun!

The issue of gender bias is widely debated and by getting together as a group we hope to further debate these issues and break through the fear and the barriers that so many women face. Psychologist Pauline Clance, coined the term “Imposter Syndrome”, after an interviewee in their research study said she “felt like an imposter, here with all these really bright people”. She suggests that it is particularly prevalent and intense among high achieving women. We, the WMBA, are high achieving women! The idea for setting up this group partly stemmed from a discussion among a few of our classmates on the Imposter Syndrome and how we can support each other within the MBA.

Groups like the WMBA encourage us to discuss these issues, get over our fears and raise awareness of gender bias. While we hope to get an official launch event with Alumni and current students off the ground soon, we have attended some external events together including IMAGE breakfast events, the Smurfit 30% Club event and more recently we had a lunch for current EMBA and FT MBA female students.  Our LinkedIn group allows us to share events, articles and spark interesting online conversations.

Finally, we are conscious that we do not want to exclude all the wonderful gentleman in our classes and create a gender divide! It is even rumoured that some of the current male students refer to the WMBA as our “secret society”, so I hope this unveils some of the secrecy (we’re not actually talking about you!) and we will definitely welcome you to our future events…

Ruth Mc Avoy ~ Executive MBA

Business Case for Corporate Investment in MBA Training

The Executive MBA is the perfect ‘next step’ if you wish to develop your business acumen, leadership and management skills to enable you to move to the next level.  It is also an ideal spring-board if you are considering a career change.

You will benefit both personally and professionally.  You will bring new ideas and fresh thinking back to your work place.  During the programme you will continue to work, meaning that all your new skills, knowledge and motivation is transferred back into your organisation after every module.

The Executive MBA course is intense and you will need the support and commitment of your employer.

Why invest in me?

Prepare a business case outlining your key contributions; include deadlines met, targets achieved, improvements made and any other achievements.

  • Develop short, medium and long-term goals linked to the business objectives.
  • Relate to your current role by identifying relevant topics and/or modules on the programme. Map the progression route as set out in your Personal Development Plan (PDP).
  • Demonstrate how your new skills and knowledge will have a positive impact on the organisation with knowledge sharing.
  • You will develop relationships with other professionals to build professional networks.

Why choose UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School?

The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is a global leader in business educationSince 2000 our Executive MBA is the only one in Ireland that is included in the Financial Times Global Top 100 MBA Rankings. The Smurfit Business School also holds triple accreditation from the US (AACSB), European (Equis) and UK (AMBA) accrediting bodies.

  • There are over 100 internationally recruited faculty members.
  • You will connect with a lifelong network of over 30,000 postgraduate business alumni and 3,500 MBA alumni located around the world. Industry links exist between the school with national and global organisations.
  • You benefit from team and project based learning which allows you to draw on the knowledge and expertise of your classmates (average 12 years practical experience). This contributes to an enriched learning experience, while developing fresh insights and problem-solving skills.
  • The global modules and international orientation are critical for operating in today’s worldwide business environment.
  • A tailored leadership development programme is a central pillar of the UCD Smurfit Executive MBA which focuses on developing ‘soft’ skills to manage the ‘self’ and others.

What impact and gains can employers expect?

At its very simplest, the Executive MBA will enable you to do a better job in your current role.  You will be prepared for new responsibilities and equipped to make a more effective contribution to your organisation.

  • Through the Leadership Development Programme you will make a positive impact on your team and your colleagues.
  • The practical-academic blend of the Executive MBA is devised and taught by a mix of business experts and academic thinkers, ensuring an injection of ‘fresh thinking’ into your organisation.
  • There is access to expert advice, cutting-edge research and valuable business contacts from a wide variety of sectors/industries and geographies.
  • Students form a greater understanding of the complexity of modern business challenges. You are better equipped to make informed decisions which can have cross functional impacts.
  • We know our graduates make considerable contributions to their organisations. They tell us that they are more confident, more valuable in meetings, calmer, more efficient and better able to relate to and communicate with co-workers in other functions.
  • The programme helps employers in their investment in managerial development. It supports the development of high potential employees and succession planning strategies.

What support do I need?

  1. Study leave is necessary to complete assignments, project work and to attend classes each week. This is usually given in addition to leave or holiday entitlements.
  2. Ask to shadow a colleague or work in a different area of the organisation to underpin study topics.
  3. Full or partial sponsorship can be provided to cover tuition fees. You may be asked to sign a retention agreement. This will oblige you to remain with your organisation for a number of years in return for sponsorship. Only agree to this if you are comfortable doing so
  4. Explore performance-based sponsorship which is dependent upon completion of a module and/or achievement of specific grades.

Next Steps:

  • Identify the decision-maker for graduate education sponsorship or speak to your line manager.
  • Schedule a meeting allowing sufficient time for a discussion. Give adequate time before internal deadlines.
  • Present a solid business case for the investment, balancing the costs and benefits.
  • Highlight your own investment in terms of time and commitment and your continued commitment to your job.
  • Have a plan as to how your workload might be handled around key exam times, how you are going to manage your deadlines and fulfilling your commitments during your time off.

An Executive MBA and a challenging job go hand-in-hand. One informs and improves the experience of the other.

We are here to help you take the next step, talk to us today on +353 1 716 8862 or email gillian.durnin@ucd.ie