Back to School Again



2015 classes commenced earlier this week


After finishing the module 1 exams in December there were many days and nights of celebration at regaining my free time. Friends and family I had ignored over the previous three months were contacted and reminded that I was alive.  The celebrations lasted for two weeks before the New Year was upon us with the promise that this year will represent the new me.

The new me would be able to do it all; tackle a full time job, part time MBA, take on hobbies, maintain contact with friends and do it all without feeling wrecked. Fast forward to today, 2 and a half weeks later and reality has hit; work is as mental as ever and the MBA has started back with talk of presentations, exams, continuous assessment and self development. The first thing to fall out are the friends, I shall see you again maybe for Paddys Day but definitely sometime in June!

As part of the first weekend back in the MBA we completed an SDI workshop – Strength Deployment Inventory. It allowed us to assess our own motivational value system (MVS) and our team members’ MVS while also looking at how this changes when faced with conflict. I found this workshop really interesting and learned a lot about myself and the extreme personalities in the class. After the first weekend of lectures that dreaded feeling of going back to school is gone and it has reconfirmed why I decided to go back to education.  I am really looking forward to the interactive ethics lectures, developing my understanding of HR in the form of HR strategy, and enhancing my finance abilities through Management Accounting and Corporate Finance.

The next hurdle is getting the module results for the first semester this week, fingers crossed I get them and can fully focus on enjoying both the education side of Semester 2 and the networking side of the MBA. Roll on the next 3 months!

Darren Kelly

Weekend EMBA YR1

We Do Get a Break!

Many of the posts on this blog touch on the aspect of time, and how little of it we have when immersed in the MBA. It is true that the workload is intense and takes up much of your time. Each semester consists of 12 busy weeks of lectures, assignments, group work etc. This is then followed by a week of exam prep and then the exams themselves.

However, the good news is that there is a break! This year, the Year 1 Executive MBAs finished their last Semester 1 exam on December 12th and we return for Semester 2 on January 16th, meaning there was a solid month’s break for us to enjoy and regain our strength! At the end of Semester 2 we will commence a nice long summer break. Year 2 will then follow a similar structure, except that it will be followed by the Capstone project.

Anyone considering the Exec MBA may be a bit daunted by the notion of undertaking the MBA for “2 years”. Hopefully, you may take some solace in the above information! The best way to view the MBA is to break it into its semester-long sprints. After each sprint you can enjoy a bit of downtime and relaxation. Of course, for those of you who just can’t get enough, there is plenty of additional reading and online courses for you to enjoy in your spare time!

Ciarán Reilly

EMBA Weekend Year 1

MBAs in China – First Stop on Their Journey

Yesterday, 61 Smurfit MBA students, two staff members, and two professors arrived in China for a week of cultural immersion, corporate visits, and experiences they will not soon forget. The group began their trip in Shanghai where they hosted a Welcome Dinner, met Smurfit MBA alumni living locally and MBA students from the Fudan University School of Management, and visited CELAP.

Tonight will be their first chance to explore Shanghai. Let’s hope they take advantage and make sure to get enough sleep to adjust to the time change!

Keep an eye on this page over the next few weeks for details of their experience…

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

How did he find the time? Alum Dave Graham on his award winning first novel.

I took the UCD Smurfit EMBA from 2010 to 2012 and this is a short piece about how the time-juggling demands that the course places on people were a great help in getting my published book over the line this year.


Just as a brief background to how I came to be published. I had started writing ‘Incitement’ ( see http://www.davidgrahambooks.com/incitement/ ) around the time our second child arrived. I’d finished the book, submitted it to what I thought were likely agents, got serially rejected and then pretty much tore the book apart and rewrote 75% of it. The problem was I never got around to resubmitting it between work, family and starting the MBA. Then one day driving to work, I was listening to The John Murray Show on RTE 1, Ireland’s national radio station. A piece came on asking whether you’d ever written a book that hadn’t been published. The competition was being run in conjunction with The RTE Guide and the prize was a publishing package. When I got to the office, I thought about it for a while, decided ‘why not’ and submitted the book with no expectation whatsoever.


A couple of months later, I received a phone call saying I’d made a shortlist of five from over 500 entries. I still didn’t feel I’d go further in the competition but was pleased with that. Then in August, the five finalists were invited to go on air while two of the three judges discussed the books and announced the winner. To my surprise I won and, just like that, my book was going to be published. Well, not quite, there was quite a bit of work to be done between edits, cover design and preparing to promote the book.


I’m married with two young boys and run a small business, so finding the time to get the multiple edits and other pieces done was going to be a challenge. Luckily, though, the MBA had been great preparation for this. When originally considering taking the course, my wife and myself had both looked at our routines because we knew it would mean a commitment from both of us. An added complication was moving house and having the new house extended and renovated during the same time period. We cut away a lot of the extraneous stuff and really prioritized things like time with the kids, there were easy sacrifices like TV and some others that weren’t so easy and, at times, eight hours of sleep was a luxury foregone. Thing is, though, it was manageable; at times it got a little stressful but all of the work got done. So, when it came time to do the book work, what might have seemed otherwise difficult with a temptation to compromise on quality, ended up being quite doable. We just looked at it like a two month resumption of the MBA.


Funnily, the MBA helped in one other way. The book deals with a conflict between two global drug cartels which unbeknownst to the protagonists has been incited by third-parties. Part of the story deals with the issues of drug shortages, what impact they would have on demand and pricing and the possible societal impact. During the rewrites, I was able to subtly change some of these passages to have a firmer economic footing. Saying this, I should provide a disclaimer to my economics and finance lecturers, none of them ever lectured on the supply-and-demand dynamics of the international drug trade and any flaws that remain are solely mine.


The hope with the book now is that people will check it out and spread the word amongst their family and friends. To read a little about some of the books I would recommend and that have influenced my writing you can see some blog pieces at http://www.davidgrahambooks.com/category/blog/

Dave Graham,

EMBA 2012.

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

EMBA Yr 1 Social in the Officers Mess

A fifty strong gang from across all three EMBA YR1 classes elected to drop the books and let the hair down for a social night in the Defence Forces military Barracks on the 23rd of March.

The evening kicked off with a lively drinks reception in the visitors centre were everyone was enlightened on the eventful history of Cathal Brugha Barracks. There were some surprised expressions in the crowd to hear of some of the happenings inside the gates over the years. It was certainly an eye opener for those who would not have been previously familiar with the finer details of Irish history over the past century and a half.

We moved from there to the Officers Mess where we indulged in the military’s finest cuisine! It wasn’t long before the weekend [class] crew had the wine opened and began to set the pace. Spirits were high and the “craic” as one says was mighty.

The meal complete we retired to the bar to enjoy the rest of the evening.  If the event was to be judged on the amount of people who stayed until the end well it would surely be marked as a great success, with many moving to the realms of Lesson Street to perfect their dance moves once the bar closed! In all the event provided an excellent opportunity for all of us to get to know and network with counterparts many of whom we would not have seen since the induction week.


Many thanks to all who attended, no doubt we will all see out the last few academic weeks of year one with success and hopefully we will soon meet again in high spirits.

– Conor Ryan, EMBA MidWeek, 2012-14

Executive MBA Family Day

It’s easy to forget that your class mates are actually people with lives outside of the this world with husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends and children – and not merely fellow captives trying to help you get through the many, various assignments! So with the goal of getting to know our class mates a little better and having some harmless fun we conceived of the idea of the eMBA Family Day.

We are a time poor group at the moment with little capacity for extravagant party planning so our core focus in getting the event organised was to pool everyone’s talents and resources to see what we could come up with. Before we knew it we found we had an ‘Egg Hunt Director’, Jenn Boyer (EMBA Weekend), who brought significant experience from her childhood in the US, a jewellery designer class mate with a flair for face painting (Claire McAllister, EMBA Weekend), and the offer of a 7 feet tall dragon costume from a class mate’s marketing department! With these various resources and the support of the MBA office the eMBA Family Day Egg Hunt and Picnic was launched!

The path of the MBA student is never smooth and despite the fact that almost every Saturday that the weekend group has spent in Blackrock has been bathed in glorious sunshine, the day of the egg hunt coincided with the torrential rain and floods in Dublin. Not a group to be easily defeated, we brainstormed, innovated, discussed and debated and quickly relocated the party indoors and crated an indoor Easter woodland.

More than 15 families with over 20 children and even a few grandparents attended the event, eating approximately 2 metric tonnes of chocolate! The children were very excited to meet the eMBA Easter Bunny (graciously played by James O’Rourke, EMBA Weekend) and were a little astounded to encounter the eMBA Friendly Dragon (a stunning performance by Steve Kelly, EMBA Weekend). Despite our various obstacles and limited time we were delighted with the success of the event and are already looking forward to a bigger and better event for Year 2.

In addition to the kid’s enjoyment it was great to see the partners of the eMBA class mates spend some time together in such a fun setting – to commiserate over their missing spouses in some cases, to regale everyone with tales of practice presentations in front of the fire in others! There is a life outside of the eMBA, even if it’s sometimes easy to forget, so it’s good to give ourselves a little reminder every once in a while so that we remember why we’re doing this.

– Ciara O’Brien, EMBA Weekend 2012-14