‘The World travelled road to Washington’

MBA case competitions are a quintessential part of the MBA experience for many ambitious students. Eoin and I found a Case Competition titled ‘IBM Case Competition, The Challenges of Digital Strategy’.  The final of which would take place in the McDonough School of Business part of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. USA. After a quick discussion about the suitability of the competition, we set about putting together a team of complementary skillsets, attributes and personalities, a team we felt could go to Georgetown and win- enter Huyen and Marcelo.

2018 was the seventh year of the IBM-Georgetown Case Competition. Each year a real case based on a U.S. government department is produced. In 2017 this was the Department of Defense, the 2018 case that we received was based on the problems facing the National Park Service (NPS).

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For the first round we were required to submit a five minute video submission detailing our strategy to resolve a case study based on the real life problems facing the National Park Services, problems which included a $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. This was a challenging case with a deadline that clashed with our International Business Trips. The Friday before setting out on our respective adventures we filmed a segment together in Smurfit, as can be seen in the photograph below:

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Karan Sonpar and Pat Gibbons were extremely generous with their time and gave the team fantastic support with the case throughout. With Karan and Pat helping us we began to wonder was destiny conspiring for us to advance to the second round in Georgetown. To produce a quality strategy to this difficult case, every spare minute was utilised by all team members on both sides of the Pacific Ocean with a major part of our round 1 solution being solved on the back of the buses which took us from the company visit to company visit. Our Global Virtual Team experience from semesters 1 and 2 was also put to good use with Skype calls taking place, not easily with a packed schedule and 12 hour time difference between Hanoi and Lima, but where there is a will, there is a way.

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We decided that the theme of our video submission would be that we travelled the world searching for the best solutions to solve the NPS problems, below you can see photos at the various locations where we filmed.

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Returning to Dublin on Friday 23rd March 2018, still jet-lagged we met up on Saturday to finish our submission, upload to the video on YouTube as per the case requirements and inform Georgetown. Twelve days later our belief that we had been produced a quality solution was vindicated when we were one of the 9th out of the 30 plus teams who entered to be chosen to compete in the finals in Georgetown. After an excited talk with the team and the MBA Programme Office we accepted our place in the final, little did we know then what we had let ourselves in for over the next 12 days!

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For the following 12 days, we all had to step out of our comfort zones, further than any point so far in our MBA experience to date. The second round case built on the first round, however teams were allowed to build on what they had already produced in round 1 or tear up their existing strategy. As a team we decided that our strategy from the first round would not be good enough to win and so we essentially started again. The team dynamic was really good, we were all on a mission to produce a winning strategy for the NPS, apart from attending lectures all team members spend every minute of our time on the case. Two days prior to the competition, one day before flying to Washington D.C. we were pushed to the limit. We presented 3 times that day with an evolving presentation, receiving feedback from the MBA Programme Office, academics and our fellow classmates. That Wednesday night after 10 days of internal debate, external feedback and not enough sleep we settled on our presentation (well most of it anyway!).

Thursday morning we got to the airport and our 12:55 flight with United Airlines was cancelled! We go to the United Airlines desk, let them know that we can’t wait for the next flight which is tomorrow because of the competition and we were put on the 12:30 flight with Aer Lingus.

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We arrive in Dulles International Airport at 15:30 EST and call an Uber to our hotel. After some shopping for essentials in a dollar shop and a fine meal in KFC, we return to practice for the following day’s competition, just after midnight and having been awake for over 24 hours we called it a night.

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Friday morning we started the day right with Pancakes, butter, bacon and eggs, the breakfast of champions, except Marcelo who had cereal, toast and two cups of coffee! On the way to Georgetown we got excited when we drive past the Pentagon and spot the Washington Monument, which prior to the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world and is managed by the NPS, one of many NPS sites that we were set to visit over the weekend.

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We arrived at Georgetown to a warm welcome from the competition committee. One thing I have not mentioned thus far is that all teams throughout rounds 1 and 2 had to remain anonymous until the final results were given, to prevent any potential bias from the judges. After registering, conversing with our competitors and a welcoming address from IBM and Georgetown, we were shown to our private room and told to make ourselves feel at home and that we would be called at 10:50, the countdown was on! For the most part we relaxed, did a small amount of practice got mentally prepared for the competition, 10:50 came and we were escorted to the lecture theatre, in front of us was 5 judges from IBM, the three teams who had presented already that morning and some Georgetown students, all keen to see what strategy the most culturally diverse team in the competition would propose to IBM and the NPS. Our 15 minute presentation was timed to perfection, we answered all the questions to the satisfaction of the judges and at 11:15 left the lecture hall to a round of applause. We were on cloud nine and slowly floated back to our room full adrenaline and the joy of performing to our ability under pressure.

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In the afternoon we had lunch, networked, spoke to IBM’s HR/recruitment representative, and received a tour of the Georgetown campus. 15:20 the moment of truth arrived, IBM gave general feedback on the groups which was invaluable, given that we were all acting as IBM consultants in this round, then the top 3 were presented. Unfortunately we did not place in the top 3 but we were satisfied with our performance and extremely proud that we had gone to Georgetown to present a quality strategy to IBM on a real case and most importantly represented UCD and the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School with pride and conviction.

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After the event we retired to the Bulldog Tavern to share some refreshments with the IBM judges, the McDonough School Associate Dean and our fellow MBA competitors, who predominantly were attending business school in the U.S. but hailed from all over the world. After an entertaining evening with we set off for our Airbnb, exhausted we all fell asleep before 10 p.m. The next couple of days were amazing, the Mall in Washington and the museums which border it need to be experienced. Washington D.C. is a beautiful city and definitely worth including as part of a U.S. East coast trip.

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As a team we must thank on an individual basis, Ro Downing, Agnieszka Wisniewska, Emma Mescall, Pat Gibbons, Karan Sonpar and Bob Brennan. We would also like to thank our classmates for their feedback on our presentations and for their support in general which meant a great deal to us.

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To conclude everyone in the team pushed themselves to the limit for the IBM-Georgetown Case Competition. When the case was released two days before the International trip the easy thing would have been to say it can’t be done, but we said let’s have no regrets and give it our best effort. The lesson here is if there is something you want, don’t look for or accept excuses, keep trying, be brave, keep learning from your efforts, engage with the right people and you will get where you need to be, we promise you and you will be a better person for it.

James Kelly, MBA Full Time 2017/18

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THE YALE TALE

Remember the first time you fastened your seat belt to drive your first car? Nervous hands on the steering wheel with the feet juggling among 3 pedals?  – The thrill to drive, fear of failing, anxiety to know what’s next. It felt like a now or never moment, didn’t it?

Well, this is exactly how I felt on being selected to represent UCD in the Yale case study competition. I was thrilled, excited and proud to be part of the amazing UCD team. Given the style of the competition, it was obvious that as a team, we needed to be at our very best on the D-day to create an impact. The panel comprised of seasoned industry leaders and it was our job to ‘wow’ them with our ideas and solution. We took the bull by its horns and came home with the ‘Best Team Dynamics’ award, which meant that we were energetic, positive and adapted well to change. Hurrayyyy!! Let’s rewind a bit and talk more about the process and competition.

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In this competition, challenge was to solve a raw case. A raw case is very similar to a real-life situation resembles an actual client problem. The information related to the case is presented in various formats and sources. The ask in the competition was to parse through all the information to define the ‘Exam Question’, analyze the data to recommend a solution and implementation plan in just 6.5 hours!!! I know! There were 14 teams from all over the world to compete in this competition.

Preparing for this competition was like an additional module in itself. The 2nd semester makes it a little tough as everyone in the team had picked separate optional modules and finding a common available time slot during the week was not an easy task. Given the time constraints to solve the actual case, it was important for us to function well as a team, play to each other’s strengths and work around the weaknesses. Zoe was very generous to help us through the SDI, to identify what will function best as a team for us. Coming together was just the beginning. We aimed to do a ‘Come dine with me’ amongst us to learn more about each other in an informal setting, but given the routine commitments, it was not easy to find time for it. Instead, we used International trip in March as a step in that direction. We met alumnus to learn about their experience, things that went well and key lessons.

As we know, it takes a lot more than a single person who is in the ring to win a game.  We had exceptional support from Roisin Downing. Be it motivational talks, keeping us on the ground running or working around all the logistics. We never had to worry about a single thing. Ro, you are a star!!

“We all need people who give us feedback, that’s how we improve”. Strategy classes with Karan Sonpar gave us valuable tips on solving the case and structuring the presentation.  We had excellent support from our classmates, who were the judges of our practice sessions and provided us with great feedback.

How can I forget about the presentation skills sessions with Paul Slattery? We not only learnt about fundamentals of good presentation, but also about being at ease around each other. It was during these sessions that we truly came out as a team. We had a team huddle and a team song.  No matter how exhausted we used to be from our classes and assignments, we came out energetic after his sessions. His passion, energy and enthusiasm always inspired us to go the extra mile. Paul, you are incredible and an excellent teacher.

I believe our strengths as a team came across well in Yale when we were preparing for the case. We were just being ourselves; comfortable in sharing our view points and having a healthy discussion on all the points. The assessor in our room judged us on the basis of communication, collaboration, decision making and team management. We were natural at this. It is really critical to have a good camaraderie and belief in each other, and that gets projected automatically.

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We won the ‘Best Team Dynamics’ award. We didn’t win the case-study competition but we came back with lots of learning and a beautiful, life-long memorable experience. We were not the winners but we didn’t lose either. The friendships we made, the learning we had and the insights we gained were our trophies from Yale. It is absolutely true that it is not winning or losing that makes a competition worth, but the overall experience or (like we say it here in Ireland) ‘craic’ that you have around it.

Deepti Jindal, MBA Full Time 2017/18

deepti-yale-3Sauyith Cueva, Deepti Jindal, Robert P. Brennan, Ian Rafferty and Ruary Martin represented UCD Smurfit at Yale Integrated Leadership Case Competition, 2018.

It isn’t often that you get to represent your Country in a World Cup

On the 12th April we travelled to Danville, Virginia to represent UCD Michael Smurfit Business School as the only Irish University competing in the MBA Rugby World Cup. A group of 44 MBA and MSc. students left Dublin, having trained every Friday night since September, the men’s team playing contact rugby and the women playing touch rugby.

Great team work, coaching, organisation and planning, brought us together as two competitive teams and one complete unit proud to represent Smurfit against the best universities in the world. Even better when you can bring home the silverware; the men’s team brought home the world cup, while the women’s team came third.

The women’s team of nine, were tasked in September with learning touch rugby from scratch. Combined with the team’s determination and motivation and our coach Dave Condon’s endless patience and encouragement we found ourselves in Danville.

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Training on Friday afternoon in Danville was our first taste of the heat and sunshine; it was going to be a hot weekend ahead. Friday night we got our briefing; three games on Saturday and four games on Sunday through a round robin competition; each game lasting 20 minutes….…or so we thought. Our first win on Saturday morning settled the nerves and helped to solidify team work. The second game was tougher, ending in a draw. To our dismay, we realised that no game could end in a draw, so we went to extra time with a twist – every second play each team dropped a player, until only three players remained per team and a winning try was scored. After 20 gruelling additional minutes, our determination and team commitment shone through when we scored the winning try to take all the points from our second game.  Our third game of the day was the toughest yet. We were up against the largest squad in the competition and unfortunately, injuries and fatigue took their toll. Although we fought hard, we lost our first match of the competition.

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As day two began, our bodies were sore and with 50% of the team carrying injuries we dug deep to win our first match. We were given a walkover for our second game, which gave us some well-earned time to rest up before two games back to back to finish the tournament. Our third game was the toughest of the day, especially with exhaustion and injuries starting to take over. It was our second loss of the tournament. The last game was beginning to feel like mission impossible – we were down to three fully fit players and six walking wounded. At this point it was our team spirit that carried us through to motivate each other to finish the last game on a high. After surviving 20 minutes with virtually no substitutions, the game ended in a draw. This meant we went into our second drop off in as many days. Team work was key and I have never seen commitment and resilience like it; everyone was exhausted and carrying injuries, but we wanted to end with a win. Sheer willpower, fitness and relentless determination brought us the winning try to end the match after 25 additional minutes and absolutely nothing left in the tank.

The women’s competition was fierce and was fought hard; thanks to Wharton, Ivey, Yale/Cornell, Columbia and congratulations to London Business School on their win.

Overall an absolutely brilliant experience that we will never forget, and we couldn’t ask for a better group of people to share it with.

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Lyn Markey EMBA Mid-Week and Lucy Mac Auley MBA Full Time 2017/18

Smurfit MBA- ON THE HORIZON

In the blink of an eye, 8 months have passed. As we return from our International trip and begin to re-immerse ourselves into our regular routines of lectures and assignments, I realize that we are into our final lap of MBA. It is now time for me to reflect on how my life has changed in the span of those 8 months.

Among managing multiple assignments, writing journals, job hunting and other things; what has really encouraged the collaboration and team work among my cohort are the clubs at Smurfit. These clubs provides us an opportunity to step beyond the realms of our regular jobs and gain first-hand experience of managing a team, while also managing an event.  I take pride in being a member of the Smurfit Entrepreneurship Club, which provides a stage for aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as serial entrepreneurs to learn from each other’s experiences.

It has taken 23 club members, 7 months and to enlist 7 speakers to bring, “ON THE HORIZON” to life. The event was marked with the presence of prestigious speakers from a range of diverse and thriving sectors such as Heathtech, Fintech, Renewable Energy and Artificial intelligence- with the focus on addressing the inevitable Industrial revolution 4.0. As an MBA student, I feel blessed to be in the presence of some of the brightest and forward-thinking minds of the country.

I will admit when we first discussed about the event, I couldn’t have anticipated from that this event concept would grow into one of the most memorable experience of the MBA for me. It was a wonderful experience to witness my MBA colleagues collaboratively sweat to make this event a success.

The Entrepreneurship club provided me with the necessary breaks from the  MBA. I learned a lot about my colleagues during the club meetings through sharing our entrepreneurial experiences, which at times were both insightful and overwhelming. Personally, it gave me a platform to share my initial ideas to a critical and well-informed group for their expertise. I am sure that in today’s world, nowhere else I would be getting such valuable and trusted advice for free.

The idea of “On the Horizon” event, began with industries our club wanted to know more about, in the context of exploring entrepreneurial drive of Dublin. Our interests in Healthtech, Fintech, Renewable Energy and Artificial intelligence became the pillars of this event. The roadmap our event was not smooth, as I realized quite early and it wasn’t easy for us as students to attract such renowned speakers to our event. However relying on our Irish colleagues networks proved really helpful, as did the Smurfit MBA brand behind us in order to help us get the ball rolling. 

We are a club of budding entrepreneurs and wanted our innovative event to live up to the Smurfit name, doing us both proud. Not a single person shied away from their responsibilities, from the event preparation and guidance, with continuous suggestions to improve the event coming from colleagues and club members alike.

What came to me as a surprise to me was the experience that I gained as it challenged my thought process. I was a staunch believer of the fact that an individual requires a certain level of education before they can channelize themselves into setting up a business. My belief was contradicted, when I witnessed a group of school going students in the age group of 7-11 pitched themselves as CEO, CFO and COO. Furthermore, one of the teams had also prepared and shot an advertising campaign for their product. The event witnessed an inspiring array of entrepreneurial talent from school going kids, to our key note speaker- Oliver Tattan, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Genebox. I would like to thank the speakers, MBA Programme Office and my fellow club members that helped to make this event a huge success.

Ayush Nagpal, Full Time MBA 2017/18

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Golf in Historic Surroundings – A Day in the Luscious Parklands of Luttrellstown Castle

 

Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.

Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results. 

Sir Ernest Shackleton

Just ahead of our recent exams and final assignments, we set out for a day’s leisure in the peaceful and historic surrounds of Luttrellstown Castle. While the golf was at best mediocre, we were fortunate to get some fine weather for the day and had the opportunity to catch up with classmates at the “19th hole” to reflect on our endeavours over the course of the MBA programme.

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Many esteemed graduates note that doing an MBA is like “going on a journey” and the mediocre standard of golf on the day ensured that we got to see more of the tracks and trails that Luttrellstown has to offer than most regular golfers. In conjunction with the challenges posed by the variety of elements of our MBA programme, the championship course we played also provided many obstacles with a lot of water features to be overcome among other challenging features.

The MBA Golf Society will hold its main event of the year in the splendorous surrounds of the K Club on Saturday, July 1st. The day will be held in aid of the UCD Ad Astra Scholarships/UCD Foundation and Cardiac Risk in the Young. Details of how to enter are on Eventbrite at:

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ucd-smurfit-mba-golf-society-classic-tickets-34792133207?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing

Ciarán O’Shea,

Executive MBA.

Use your UCD Smurfit MBA to pursue that dream.

Ciara O’Brien (weekend eMBA 2014), founder of iSave, recently joined UCC’s start-up accelerator Ignite.

My advice to new MBAs is to really make the most of every resource that’s available to you within the MBA system. While there’s lots to learn from your core modules and lecturers, don’t forget to look outside the curriculum to find other opportunities. Two years is quite a short time frame to achieve big things!

My only regret from the MBA is that I didn’t seek out those opportunities even sooner.  Starting the course is such an overwhelming experience – learning to deal with the teams, assignments and exams.

In year 2, once I kick-started my start-up idea, the various MBA structures were a huge asset. Michael McDonnell brought me the UCD Student Innovation Fund (which we subsequently won!), Brian Marrinan connected me with MasterCard’s start-up accelerator which was invaluable and Bruce Martin, entrepreneurship lecturer, supported me to refine iSave’s value proposition even though I wasn’t in his class!

This has all been key to our success in winning seed funding, acceptance to the Ignite programme and now a potential spot at The Summit’s APLHA programme for start-ups.

So whatever your goal: take the knock-backs in your stride, seek out people who believe in your idea and can help and don’t waste any of the resources that are available to you. If you have an idea you want to pursue this is probably the best time in your life to do it. It’ll all be over before you know it!

Ciara O’Brien, EMBA 2014 and Founder of iSave.

UCD Smurfit MBA Day out at the K Club.

UCD Smurfit MBA Golf Society Blog update for their latest outing:

Derek “the Scallywag” Scally, you dark horse!!! As a 1981 UCD Smurfit MBA Alum, and one of the true gentlemen from the Golden Era of MBA education (please note: finishing a course that did not contain an “Ethics” module), he continued to set the K Club alight in what were some challenging conditions to take home UCD MBA’s 50th Anniversary Prize. Derek was graciously joined by his dear 1981 MBA colleague and friend, Norbert McDermott and his fellow Meath brother in arms, Donal Coyle (who won the wonderful “Monkey’s Ass” Visitor’s Prize). Alongside an always entrepreneurial (both on and off the golf course) Joe Kenny, this foursome could be heard chuckling their way through the 18 holes and well into the 19th. The highlight of this group came when Joe attempted a Crazy Golf style shot across one of the many bridges traversing the water on the 12th. Derek, we all agree, you deserved the victory, keeping it simple throughout.

Continue reading UCD Smurfit MBA Day out at the K Club.

An update from MBA land

The final results are now out for semester 2 and EMBA year 1 students are now able to relax and get on with what will hopefully be a long hot summer and some well deserved time reacquainting themselves with friends and family, catching up on their recreational reading and tv shows.  The year 2s and full-time cohort in the mean time are in the final stretch with their capstone projects due in July.  We wish them good luck and hope they manage some time off in the sun at the same time.

A belated report from the MBA World cup

There is no doubt that the Smurfit rugby club has been stunningly successful in this tournament over the past few years. Consistently challenging and often winning the title is a credit to the blood sweat and tears that has been spilt by each committee and successive years of players over the years. It may appear on the surface as a straightforward endeavour – get a team together, travel and play some rugby. Much like a graceful swan, however, the legs are paddling furiously under the water to ensure everything above looks to be running smoothly. This year was certainly no exception.

Competing against some of the biggest and best known business schools in the world (Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Columbia, Kellogg, Stern etc) which all have a far larger pool of students/players to choose from, a fuller fixture list during the season (they play at least one game outside of the MBA Rugby World Cup) and shorter distances to travel. It is a considerable undertaking to try and whip together an entire club inside of six months. Building a player base, raising funds to take at least 20 people to the USA for a weekend in April and designing a whole range of kit requires a lot of work. All amongst the not small undertaking of the Full Time MBA course.

Continue reading A belated report from the MBA World cup

A report on the case competition

L-R Pat Gibbons, Mark Lawton, Paul Gardener, Trevor Whelan, Mike Noonan, Niall O Muire and Michael McDonnell

Case study competitions, as they are conducted in UCD, are a unique experiment into the intellectual, emotional and interpersonal resilience of the MBA student. A written case study of roughly 20 pages (including exhibits) is provided to teams of four or five, which then have four hours to read, analyse and discuss content, and then draw conclusions and recommendations to be presented to a judging panel.

This is a pressure cooker environment, where learnings of team dynamics fly out the window, to be replaced by raised voices, hair pulling and frayed nerves.

The team to which I belong won the Full-Time MBA case study competition. Our next task was to compete against the winning teams from the Mid-Week and Weekend Executive MBA classes.  This was an especially daunting prospect, as we had followed the success of Jim, Steve, Shaun and Peter at the Molson and Yale competitions.

By contrast, team FTMBA had two preparatory meetings in Lazy Days, a café over the road from Smurfit. Both of which descended into blind speculation on the type of case to come up, mystification of our opponents and making plans for the pub afterwards.

Despite all odds, our unpolished approach to the competition paid dividends. Team FTMBA emerged victorious: according to the judges, the strength of our argument and narrative compensated for a shaky structure.

Our success takes us to the MBAAI Case Study Competition, to be hosted in Smurfit on 21st June. This will pit us against successful teams from other MBA courses throughout Ireland. Our team will need more formal preparation to succeed here. Unfortunately for Lazy Days, our team preparatory meetings will need to be in the focussed environment of a syndicate room.

Niall O Muire

Full-time class 2014