MBA Capstone Consulting Project Company Event

MBA Students Listening to Company Pitches
MBA Students Listening to Company Pitches

An integral component of the MBA programme is the Capstone Consulting project which is completed by our full-time students over a six week period in the Summer semester. This project fuses all the component learning of the MBA at the final stages of the academic year. It is an opportunity for companies to collaborate on a strategic project with our MBA students and for students to implement what they have learned over the course of the MBA in a very practical sense. Our MBA students work with companies to address strategic or operational business issues that a company wishes to address but currently do not available resources to do so. It is an invaluable opportunity for students to gain experience in sectors that they may not have worked in prior to commencing the MBA.

MBA Student Ryan Nuanes, Muireann McCarthy and Jack Mac Giolla Bhride networking with David and Stephen Flynn, owners of ‘The Happy Pear’
MBA Student Ryan Nuanes, Muireann McCarthy and Jack Mac Giolla Bhride networking with David and Stephen Flynn, owners of ‘The Happy Pear’

Working in teams of three to four, MBA students are highly motivated and bring diverse personal and professional experience to the teams. Companies have actively engaged with the Capstone Consulting Project for over 7 years which is testament to the value and benefit that world-class organisations place on this initiative and many students have secured jobs post MBA with the company that they complete their project with. The end of the project initiative culminates with the submission of a full report including methodology, analysis and recommendations for the company.

Liam Doyle (MBA Class of 2014), Managing Director at Clink Hostels, networking with Ying Wu, Thao Nguyen, Paul Kelly and Minh Le Tran Hai
Liam Doyle (MBA Class of 2014), Managing Director at Clink Hostels, networking with Ying Wu, Thao Nguyen, Paul Kelly and Minh Le Tran Hai

The MBA Programme Office liaises with a diverse range of organisations to compile a selection of interesting, thought provoking and challenging projects that offer opportunities for personal and professional growth to our students. Last night, the MBA Programme hosted a successful Company Networking Event in which organisations pitched their project ideas and networked with the MBA students to answer any questions that they had. We are delighted to have 19 companies involved in the process this year across a range of industry sectors including Tourism & Hospitality, Retail, Finance, Not-for-Profit, Fin-Tech, IT, Start-Ups and more. Feedback from the event has indicated that this networking event has changed the opinions of some students and that they would like to complete a Capstone project in a sector that they didn’t think they would be interested in. Students being open to different options and using the MBA programme as a medium to explore these options through their academic, project based and leadership development curriculum is one of the key strengths of the UCD Smurfit MBA programme. The students will commence their project work in June and we look forward to seeing the results in early August!

Yvonne Harding ~ Full-Time MBA Programme Manager

Would You Choose Vietnam? (If you had another chance)

Some Life

In advance of the MBA International Study Tour, we had to vote for two out of three destinations. Among the three options – UAE & India, South Africa and Vietnam, most people selected the first two. As a Vietnamese student, it was a sad result for me (though I did not vote for my home country because we were encouraged to choose another place for our trip). I know that a few people were interested in Vietnam, but the final result proved that Vietnam was not as attractive (to our class) as the other two. Therefore, I write this blog to give you some interesting points about my home country that will probably change your mind.

Binh Ba
Binh Ba

1.Global opportunities:

It should be the first and the most important reason when considering Vietnam as an option for the study tour. As a developing country with the advantages of the low labor cost, Vietnam has been attracting numerous global companies. You can find a branch office of Unilever, P&G, McKinsey, Deloitte, Microsoft and several other international names either in Hanoi or Saigon. Those companies are open with international applicants and you – great MBA candidates – will definitely have many choices there. Furthermore, if you want to start up a business, especially in IT or Production, Vietnam is an ideal place with good human resources and reasonable cost of setting up.

2. Low cost of living:

You might not believe, but many locals can live (not very comfortably but in a basic standard) with 200 to 300 euro a month. The lawful minimum wage for workers in Vietnam is VND3.5 million (about 150 euro) per month, so if you spend more than 200 euro a month, you are richer than many other people.

3. Diverse Foods:

Have you ever tried Vietnamese spring rolls or Pho (noodle)? They are assumed as the best dishes of Vietnam, but that is probably not true. We have tons of different foods, from Broken Rice, Hue Beef noodle, Banh Mi, Banh Cuon, Bun Cha, to Café Sua Da. If you don’t require a high star restaurant, you can find those foods in many places with just 1 to 2 euro. And if you question about the taste? Just ask Pooja, Tar or Arka, they will tell you how the foods are.

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Vietnamese Dishes

4. Amazing landscape:

Vietnam has 63 provinces/cities and each has a different landscape that you will definitely be attracted. While Saigon and Hanoi are dynamic and cosmopolitan cities which would be enough for one week of studying, you can spend an extra week exploring Sapa, Dalat, Ninh Binh, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Da Nang, and many other amazing places. The cost of traveling between the places is not very expensive, just from 5 to 100 euro depending on the type of transportations and the distances, but I promise that it will be more affordable than in any place in Europe. Each place will give you a different impression and you should have to shout “Wow, Amazing!” when you see those breathtaking views.

Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai province, Vietnam (photo taken from my friend’s Facebook)
Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai province, Vietnam (photo taken from my friend’s Facebook)

 

 Trang An, Ninh Binh, Vietnam (photo taken from my friend’s Facebook)
Trang An, Ninh Binh, Vietnam (photo taken from my friend’s Facebook)

There are so many things about our country that I want to tell you, but frankly my English sucks and too many deadlines are waiting for me. If I have a chance, I will share more about that. If my words are not convincing enough, this is a video that can help you have an overview of our country. Just take a quick look, you will love it!

Well, would you choose Vietnam if you had another chance?!

Nhan Nguyen ~ Full-Time MBA (and lover of Vietnam)

The Smurfit MBA – A Diverse & Rich Learning Experience

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As a marketer, I have to learn how to tell an exciting, relevant, and believable story about the products, the brands and of course, the companies. As a person, I am a keen listener. Through stories, I learn not only the tellers’ interests, perspectives and experience in life but also a tonne of random facts – all of which are equally interesting to me. For all of the years I have spent working and travelling around the world; I have been told many great stories, yet very few of them could be exciting as the stories I have heard from my mates in the MBA Programme.

From memorable social experiences to nights out on the town, from the context in Asia, Europe to the Americas (continent not country!), all those narratives not only gave me some good laughs but also taught me so many things about the world – one of them is that funny accountants exist! And two of them happen to be in my class. How cool is that!

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Diversity (70% of our class are not from Ireland) and rich experience (average of more than five working years and some wiser ones have worked for twenty years) would be the things that I appreciate the most from the MBA experience at Smurfit. Very often, I – a Vietnamese – drink American beer (illustration purpose only, my favourite is Irish now) with Indian classmates; and we will soon travel to Africa and China together.

The world seems much smaller to me because of the experience here. And now, during group discussions, when someone speaks up, I no longer think “oh, a different opinion…” I think “oh, a different perspective that I should listen to.”

Duc Le ~ Full-Time MBA

The Difference Between Learning & Understanding

 

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After a hectic term of lectures and projects in the six modules of the Full Time Smurfit MBA Programme, my first feeling about end of terms exams was abject fear. With my background in Psychology, English and Foreign Language, I’ve made it through an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree without ever having to take an exam with right or wrong answers. The prospect of finding success in MBA exams, with their numbers and complex theoretical models, hid behind an impenetrable wall. I didn’t know what to do.

In the past, any time I have tried to cram objective information, I have had a lot of trouble. I’ve found that it doesn’t suit the way my mind works. In order to learn even basic concepts, I have to indulge my curiosity and find understanding. I realised quickly that I would have to adjust my studying technique to something that would work for me.

My resolution through the process was to learn as much as I could during my weeks of study and exam review. The MBA is a choice I made for myself and my career and I realised early on that focusing on rote memorisation would do little to serve me in the future.  To get the most out of my exam preparation, I decided to learn through applications of concepts, thinking through ways that they could be applied in the real world. For some courses, I went through case study notes. For others, I was able to find more information through research on how MBA concepts work in the real world.

When I shifted my exam study goal from learning to understanding, I got a lot more out of my hours of preparation. It remains to be seen whether this paid off with my grades (they aren’t posted yet!), but I definitely felt confident and calm walking into each exam. More importantly, I know that I learned a lot more than I would have if I had crammed information in my brain that didn’t mean anything to me.

I couldn’t go as far as to say that I enjoyed studying for exams, but I did get a lot out of the process and I now have a solid understanding of my first six modules in the Smurfit MBA programme. Although I would be delighted to get good grades, the real hope is that I will be able to use this information and understanding later in my career. In the meantime, I am really enjoying a few weeks off.

Elsa Heffernan ~ Full-Time MBA

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Has It Only Been 17 Weeks?

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Yesterday marked the official end to the first semester of the Full-Time MBA Programme. Unfortunately, as is often the case with college courses, this meant a series of written exams testing us on the various modules we have completed over the previous 12 weeks of lectures. It has been ten years since my undergraduate exams, and what made it all worse was the eerily familiar halls of the RDS.

At this point, it feels appropriate to reflect on the first semester and my experience so far in the Smurfit FT MBA. Firstly from an academic standpoint, the subjects are so broad in nature. Having completed an undergraduate Engineering Degree, many subjects were math based, and those that weren’t linked in with those that were math based. Here, I have been exposed to Financial Reporting, Strategies for Human Resources, Performance Driven Marketing, Operations & Supply Chain Management, Competitive Strategy and Business Economics (Game Theory). In this time, I (as well as my fellow classmates) have had to digest in the region of 90 case studies and articles. I can honestly say that I have never been this stretched before.

Another benefit I’ve experienced here is in relation to the people; my classmates. We are a diverse group, with students coming from Canada, China, Ireland, India, Mexico, Vietnam and the USA. Each person brings with them a unique perspective built upon their culture and their previous working and educational experience.

During the first semester, I had the opportunity to study for a week in a partner University. My choice was “Behavioral Economics, Marketing and Finance” in Yale’s School of Management. This was a great experience, and made all the better by the pre and post trip to New York City.

The daunting thing is that yesterday marks the end to our introductory phase to the MBA. Next semester brings with it, new modules and electives, two international study tours, and the chance to partake in a case study competition to be held in Yale. I had been considering an MBA for a long time, so much so that the original GMATs I completed were no longer valid when I finally did apply for admission to Smurfit. Despite the pressures and stresses associated with going back to college (and foregoing a salary), I am immensely happy I chose to do it.

Peter Hynes ~ Full-Time MBA

A Day in the Life of a Full Time MBA Student

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The alarm clock goes off at 7am. Your first thought is that you’re a student and that you can have a lie on. Then you realise that you’re not a student, but an MBA candidate so the normal student rules don’t apply!!! Time to get up.

Over breakfast you look at your calendar for the day.  How many classes do you have? How many group meetings? Have you done all the necessary pre-reading and prep work? The answer to these questions will let you know what type of day to expect.

Arrive at campus at 8.00. Classes start at 8.30 so you have 30 minutes to get everything in order. If you have finished the pre-readings, you sit back, relax and chat with your classmates. If you haven’t completed the pre-readings, you quickly flick through them, hoping to get an overview so the class won’t be a complete waste of time. (Not that I need to do that!)

Class typically starts with a 15 minute presentation from a group. Several hours of preparation have gone into this 15 minutes, but as there are valuable marks  on offer, it’s worth it. This is followed by a class discussion on the topic. It could last another 15 minutes to an hour depending on the views of the class. The remainder of the 2 hour class, is more theoretical, although there is always a healthy level of contribution from the class, which keeps it engaging.

At 10.30, there’s a quick coffee break, before we do it all again from 11am to 1pm.

At 1pm our “official” college day is finished. Although, that’s when the hard work begins. Throughout the MBA you are assigned a group for continuous assessment. This assessment comes in the form of paper submissions, presentations and simulations. For some subjects, the group projects account for 40% of the marks. As a group, you will have on average one project a week. A project could take 6 to 20 hours per person, depending on its complexity and value.

The afternoon is spent with your group working through these projects. Every group experiences a bad week, in which they might have three projects due. Knowing the pressure the groups face, foundation week is largely focused on how to work as a team.

On a typical day, you aim to leave before 7pm. If your group have a presentation the next morning, that could be 10pm. If you have a quiet week, you might get to leave at 5pm.

Unfortunately your day doesn’t finish there. Once home you have to finish the pre-reading for the next day’s classes. The alternative is that you dedicate your weekend to the week’s pre-reading, in which case you get a few hours off in the evening.

The above cycle repeats itself for three days a week. One day a week dedicated to the long-term initiatives, careers and leadership development. Usually it’s a full day workshop on a specific topic. So far these have included Communication Skills, Team Building, Presentation Skills (extremely valuable), Career Brainstorming, Networking skills to name a few.

The fifth day acts as a buffer for rescheduled classes, networking events and club meetings. However, more often than not it is used for additional team meetings, and we’re grateful for the time to fit another one in.

As you can see, the hours are long. However if you keep your end goal in mind and stay focused, they will fly by. And as soon as you realise you’re doing this work for yourself and not the lecturers, you will enjoy it!

Donal Byrne ~ Full-Time MBA

The Monte Carlo Simulation, Chicago Real Estate, Modelling Competitions and Creating Sensitivities

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The title covers some of the topics covered in today’s Excel session with Aidan Corbett of Kubicle, and while it wasn’t as exotic as the title sounds, it was another of the practical classes that deliver “real world” practical learning and know-how, as part of the MBA Leadership Development Programme. The challenge with Excel training in the full-time MBA class is that there’s a huge gap in terms of competencies in the class. Some of the class have come from quantitative backgrounds with high levels of expertise in Excel, while others like me, need all the practice that we can get.

Today’s session was a deep-dive into financial modelling and construction of the different elements that make up the models. We were challenged to advise a real-estate investor on his proposed purchase of an apartment in Chicago, along with the construction of a model to base our recommendations on. Besides giving us the practical steps on how to build the model, Aidan explained the processes and steps that make the model flexible and robust. Most importantly however, Aidan explained how this type of exercise feeds into the decision-making process, especially when it comes to advising clients while working in management consultancy.

I spoke to some of my classmates after the session, and despite the big gap in competencies when it comes to proficiency in Excel, it was clear that everyone got something out of the class.

Des Warner ~ Full-Time MBA

Teamwork – The Importance of Resolution

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I’m one month into the Full-Time MBA experience and my mindset has shifted drastically from what I thought going into this experience. I came in thinking about the grades I wanted to get and courses I wanted to take. I knew that team work would be important but I didn’t give much consideration as to how important it would be and the drastic impact it is having on my overall experience.We spend time in our groups talking about recent classes, discussing cases, talking about the news, project work and brainstorming. Now that is a lot of different types of discussions and takes place for each of our six classes; we spend an astronomical amount of time together. A large part of this programme is teamwork: deliveries you have as a group and learning from your team members sometimes more so from the textbooks and classes you have.onemonth

The Smurfit MBA Programme is structured in such a way that allows you to form deep bonds quicker than you normally would with a work colleague or new friend. This is particularly true with your specific work team (5-6 people) which you deliver each group project with in each of your courses. In addition to the deeper connections, this environment also allows for hard discussions and conflict to arise rapidly; the challenge is to work through and resolve these issues. Resolution is necessary not just because you have multiple deliverables to still get together to try to sweep issues under the rug, it is because these relationships are important for this year, after this year is over and for the rest of your life and career.

The MBA Programme Office Team do a tremendous job in providing tools to facilitate team work, better understanding yourself and others. We are learning more about ourselves through programmes which give information on: your personality, strengths, work outlook, communication style, coaching and opportunity for reflection. We are also learning more about how to work in a team: team dynamics, personal and work sharing opportunities and dedicated time devoted to team development.

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Yesterday, my group was submitting a second strategy paper (hard to believe we have already delivered two assignments!) and reflecting on how much we have learned in this short time from our first paper to our second paper. One of the best experiences so far is the opportunity to work with a great group of people, learn from each other, challenge each other and ultimately grow together and separately. I am happy to say my main focus is no longer on the grades but on the learning and developing I’m getting as I go through this programme, which I’ll take with me long after this year is over.

Carley Wasechek ~ Full-Time MBA 

Farewell to the MBA Full-Time Class of 2014

Some of the MBA class at the farewell coffee morning with Programme Director Orla Nugent, MBA Careers Manager Brian Marrinan and Programme Manager Yvonne Harding

Today, Monday July 28th, sees the full-time MBA class submit their Capstone Project – the final assignment to be submitted as part of the MBA programme. I have had countless conversations with participants over the past number of days who can’t believe how quickly their time on the MBA has passed. Today marks the end of the programme for the participants and it is time for them to disperse in different national and international directions. Before they did head off we took the opportunity to have a farewell coffee morning this morning to reflect on the year and to look forward to the future. It has been a pleasure to work with this class as their Programme Manager and I am very excited to see what opportunities await for this talented group of individuals! We look forward to seeing the class again at their graduation in December.

– Yvonne

Time to think …

There is an element of the MBA experience that gets lost in the noise of commentary on hours, deadlines, hand ins and team meetings. The full time MBA gives you back some time in your life to think. To think about what you want to do, to think about what you have done and to think about what makes you tick. Any perspective student should know the amount of hours required on the MBA programme is a often overhyped. MBA graduates you will meet remember the pinch situations where they had to work until the wee small hours of the morning for three nights in a row, or they remember a chronic three week period in semester 1 where they had 5 projects hanging over them. But the reality of the situation is that this is the exception rather than the rule. There is a steady flow of work that (if you keep on top of) is eminently manageable. The MBA experience gives you more time out then your current career. It is NOT like having a fulltime job and there IS an element of reliving that college experience where you used to have time to think, chat and pursue some new interests and side projects.

As an entrepreneur I find this time invaluable. In the “real world” It’s hard to get time to think about new business ideas and exciting innovations. In the MBA bubble you can find that time again and more importantly, when you do find that time you are far better equipped to turn day dreams into realities should you choose to do so. You start refining your ideas from the minute they pop into your head, what are the barriers to entry? Is it an attractive Industry structure? What is the value proposition? How easily would this be imitated? Do you have access to resources required? It also helps that you now have 35 new people in your life that you can bounce ideas off and develop some thoughts you have had on your career, or a business idea or even a further course of study after the MBA (God forbid!).

So don’t let talk of “surviving the MBA”, the “divorce course” and “say goodbye to your family for a year” influence your decision complete an MBA. It is challenging but doable, and if you are at a bit of a crossroads in life, the programme will give you the time and resources to figure out the grand plan for you. That plan will change daily by the way but at least you will be thinking about it….

Trevor Whelan

Full-time MBA 2014