I visited Blackrock this week

I visited Blackrock this week. My first view in a while of the long dipping main street strewn with highbrow establishments such as The Wicked Wolf and the wafting of shampoo fumes from one of the twenty one hairdressers burning my eye balls – I must say it was a delight to be back. As a 2010 / 2011 MBA graduate of Smurfit, the waft of cash burning a hole through the pockets of my D&G carrot chinos while I waded over the slew of board chairmen shouting job offers at me outside Supermacs on Blackrock main street did give me a little reminder that I am pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to business in Ireland. And then I walked into a pole and woke up.

The last few months have been interesting. I have met some amazing people, in marketing, retail, sales, manufacturing, product design and event management. These people are getting on with it. They are making the best of a crippled market and using innovative thinking and creativity to get ahead.

The most impressive individual I have met is a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in probably five years, Gavin Downes. Gav, a marketing graduate of Smurfit from back in the day is a director at Modern Green, one of the most advanced Experiential Marketing agencies in Europe. Their award winning campaigns for O2 and Heineken have ensured that they attract serious talent and have an absolute blast while doing it. Their pool table, turntable, vinyl records, dog friendliness, barber on a Tuesday, fun office is a joy to visit and the welcome everyone gets is part of who they are. Modern Green are open to ideas and dedicated to turning these good ideas into measureable brand experiences for clients.

As a converted experiential marketer I have had the fortune to engage MG recently to partner with me on approaching a major international brand about what I saw as their ineffective brand strategies in Ireland and to impress on them the need to change them. You see, Experiential Marketing (XM) allows customers to engage and interact with brands in sensory ways that provide the icing on the cake of providing information. Personal experiences help people connect to a brand and make intelligent and informed purchasing decisions. People remember experiences, and this drives sales. Gavin has a great saying, “it’s like telling someone who has never tasted chocolate what chocolate tastes like and expecting them to appreciate the experience.”

The growth of XM is very important. Last week I attended Experiential Marketing Ireland’s (XMI) first session. It was a mix of Ted Talks, a gig and a Damien McLoughlin lecture -very interesting and entertaining. About 100 agency and media people attended. It was hosted by GD, and there was some cool stuff discussed around billboards that communicate individually with consumers, Jay Z’s staggering multimillion dollar book launch, Bud’s weather thing that polarised the panel and innovative thinking by Brando.ie. The main point from this symposium was, value your own work. Ireland is one of the top media and marketing nations in the world. We have the most creative and innovative people working in marketing in Ireland, all of whom are only a phone call away and we should be proud of them and proud of ourselves.

So there is hope, keep positive, keep bashing out ideas, all you need is one.

Cheers,

–  Colin Barry, FT MBA 2010/2011

(PS I’m promoting this Macklemore and Ryan Lewis gig on the 21st of October -buy tickets and come, there is a Smurfit MBA connection with one of the performing artists!!).

Follow Colin on Twitter

World in Union…

We started the MBA journey a few weeks ago and ever since day one I’ve been intrigued with the diversity of our class. With 55% of our students hailing from 10 different countries outside Ireland, you’re guaranteed to get a different perspective during lectures, workshops or bootcamps, whether the subject is Financial Reporting, Competitive Strategy or Strategic IS. This is especially true when you consider the large range of professional backgrounds also present. You’re always going to get a lightning bolt from somewhere when you throw Vets, Barristers, TV Producers, Professional Gamblers, Bankers, Traders, Lawyers, Engineers, Scientists, IT and Telecoms Professionals, Digital Journalists, Marketing Executives and a former Tank Commander into a room!

What’s fascinated me most during the last 19 days however, is the outrageously diverse range of perspectives that my new class have on life outside of the classroom. I already have countless examples which have opened my eyes to how different many of my new colleagues are in terms of outlook on life and life experiences. This is true on numerous levels. I’ve learned how sometimes Reiki is preferred to traditional medicine, reading tarot cards is favoured over blind fate and reading a persons’ energy as a means of judgingtheir personality is chosen over, well… the more old school ‘getting to know them’ technique.  It was apparent to me that this year was going to be interesting for a whole rainbow of reasons. Continue reading World in Union…

And so it begins….

Day one of the MBA in Smurfit Business School is done and dusted and what a whirlind of a day it has been!

This morning, as I stepped into the entrance hall which was brimming with almost one hundred new MBA candidates, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the possibilities that lay ahead.

It began with a brief introduction from the MBA faculty who gave us a comprehensive overview of the School, the support available to us and the workload that lay ahead.

While I expected a heavy volume of academic work, I was impressed by the commitment of the MBA team to develop the potential of each MBA candidate. We were told about the extensive Personal Development Programme (PDP) available to us throughout the year which includes personal coaching, leadership and other personal development tools.  It seems to me that the Smurfit Business School has struck a good balance between academic riguour and the leadership/personal development requirements of the next generation of MBA’s.

Networking is a crucial part of the MBA, and business in general, and so the first coffee break provided us with an ideal opportunity to hone our skills. In the end, it wasn’t very difficult. Everyone was very friendly and within a nano-second, people from all backgrounds – engineering, non-profits, business, technology and finance, were engaged in deep discussion. One of the benefits of the MBA is the diversity of the group which helps you see business challenges  through the eyes of someone with a different perspective than you, which can be invaluable.

One of the sessions today was entitled ‘Getting Things Done’ and we were given an insight into best practice in terms of becoming more effective managers of our time and of ourselves. While I had always sworn by a daily ‘to do’ list, what I took away from the session was the importance of deciding on what was really important and what was less so, and of taking immediate action on the important tasks. It seems simple but how often do we get caught up in the small stuff?

After lunch, Prof. Niamh Brennan brought her no-nonsense approach to the class in her report writing session. We had been asked to prepare a five page report in advance of the first day and to critique each other’s work. Critiquing the report of someone you had just met was a little daunting. However, it soon became clear that there was much to learn. While I waxed a little lyrical in my report, my colleague provided an engineer’s perspective and proposed key structural alterations that vastly improved my work. I was able to make some good suggestions for his report too.The key take-away’s for me were the importance of preparation, of clear and concise communication and of continually critiquing your work and seeking to  improve it on a continuous basis. I think the Japanese call it Kaizen.

In the afternoon, Emma Ledden of MTV fame and now a highly regarded communications consultant, along with her business partner gave us an overview of the Communications Bootcamp. For some of us, it meant the unexpected news that we would have to deliver a presentation at 7.45am the following morning with our new groups. We were told about this at 3.30pm and also that the full presentations had to be submitted by 5.30pm that evening…. They don’t call it bootcamp for nothing!

– Conor O’Donovan, EMBA City Centre Yr 1

The Symbol of the Table



The Symbol of the Table
Women of the MBA 2011: (Left to Right)- Nargiza Kalmamatova (Kyrgyzstan), Blonde Beauchamp (Boston/Haiti), Yvette Grave (Germany), Anh Pham (Vietnam), Lindsey Keefe (Boston), Gemma Ginty (Ireland), Megan Molloy (Washington), Megan Hayward (New York), Amneet Jhiete (India), Toan Do (Vietnam). There in spirit, Diana Vincent (India), Tham Nguyen (Vietnam) and Barbara O’Beirne (Ireland).




As part of the MBA we did a course in Negotiations where we learned about expanding the pie and creating ‘win win’ situations. As a final gesture towards the meeting of minds and cultures, the MBA women of 2011 translated this idea into the ritual of creating a dish and sharing it together at the table.

Thirteen may be considered unlucky, but in this context we are thirteen extremely skilled and confident women who have just qualified with an MBA. We certainly feel lucky to be in this position and with the world at our fingertips.

For us, this small but unique microcosm represents the world and it’s differences. The table acts as a common ground no matter what our religions or nationalities. For each of us, the act and art of making food gave us an opportunity to represent who we are and where we’ve come from and we did this with pride. Our menu ranged from Vietnamese fried spring rolls and chicken fried rice, Kyrgyz beef noodle, American brie in pastry and macaroni cheese, German potato salad, Haitian Curry, and Irish apple tart.

The ‘table’ represents the symbol of engaged exchange. In the future we will gather around different tables dotted around the world developing strategies, designing products, managing teams and deciding our own future. Although we will be in different contexts, we will continue to bring the same enthusiasm and creativity to our future challenges as we brought to this table.

As a unique group of Smurfit MBA graduates, we recognise our differences but also realise our future experiences will be similar, dealing with the challenges as young woman in business. These will range from our family expectations, stereotyping of our roles, how we fall in love and how we fulfil our dreams. We will also need to balance how society dictates how we should live, how we should behave, what our remuneration should be as business women, and how we will cope with raising children and doing the work that drives us to be successful.

We have promised each other we will meet again at another table in ten years’ time. But before we re-unite with our stories of work and life, it would be great to keep the idea of the metaphysical table intact, where we could advise and support each other as we meet our individual challenges. As we look to the future we hope to bring the same enthusiasm and engagement to our future tables, as we brought to sharing this last meal together as Smurfit 2011 MBA students.

-Gemma Ginty, FT MBA 2010-2011

The change after one-year in Smurfit School

Recall last August when arriving in Dublin, many things were strange to me: people go on the left hand-side on streets, the weather was cold even in the summer and the sun was still on my head even in the evening. In my country, Vietnam, evening means dark and no sun, summer means very hot and humid; and of course, we go on the right hand-side. All those things made me feel unusual and I asked myself how could I adapt to a new society and what should I do to perform well in the MBA?

How am I now after one year? Everything is different. I am confident walking on streets in Dublin, I am confident to be a tour-guide for my friends visiting the city. I can speak fluently about Cork, Galway, Killarney, Cobh, Dingle bay, Belfast and Giants Causeway. More than that, I also have experience of working in family farms of my classmates in Sligo and Mullingar.  I love to play football and hurling with my mates in sunny evening (you cannot say “sunny evening” in my country!). What has changed me? That is one year MBA with lovely people.

The first day coming to my class, I worried – how can I catch up with the class, how can I work with people from various countries? My concerns were reasonable because the difference in culture, the unfamiliar business environment and the language barrier were big challenges waiting for me. In the first term, those challenges accompanied with heavy workload were extremely tough. Indeed, language barrier was the major obstacle. For example, sometimes, I was confused in class discussion; and it took me double or triple times to finish all readings and assignments in comparison with others in my class. I feel that the first term was the hardest time of study in my life.

How am I now? Now I am confident to involve in discussions and presentation in my class, I understand the business customs and I am comfortable to contribute ideas from the viewpoint of people from an emerging and dynamic economy in the East. My contributions are valuable to the class because I give them the perspective from different experience and different angles. What has changed me? That is the MBA.

It is the end of June now and there are only three days left for me to finish my journey with the MBA. I am very sure that MBA in Smurfit School is my best decision ever. It is a bridge for my future, both in career and in life. I came here with a group of Vietnamese people and I am very sure that they learned a lot too. I would like to say thank you to my classmates, to the school, to all my professors and teachers and especially to Irish Aid who sponsors me for my MBA. Only three days more in the school and several weeks before coming back to Vietnam, I am very sure that I will miss Ireland and the school a lot. To me, MBA is unforgettable in my life and Ireland is my second home.

– Phuong Hoang, FT MBA 2011

Class Rep for the year – What a year!!

So there I was, in September 2010, sitting in  my class , Mid-Week Executive MBA; I think it was a Thursday night.  Roisin O’Loughlin, the EMBA Programme Manager, comes in and announces to the class that we need to elect a Class Representative (Class Rep) for the year:

They will be a conduit for information between the staff and the sudents”, she says.  In my own mind, I was expecting a vote to elect someone. Before you can say “Decision Making” , I am proposed and elected as Class Rep.  Done deal!!  So, thats how I came to the role; by the “democratic” will of the Mid-Week Executive MBA class of Year 1.

I must admit, though, it has been a thoroughly fulfilling role and it is a role that I would recommend to anyone on entering into the MBA programme either Full-Time or, as in my case, the part-time EMBA.

The academic year between September and May has flown by and it is now June as I put down my thoughts to paper on the role of the Class Representative and take time to reflect on the year that has been. It really has been a fast year but, I can honestly say, a massively challenging year. But, ultimately, it has also been rewarding and satisfying. The MBA is always about developing the person as we are expected to broaden our thinking from the tactical or micro into the global and strategic. This is the type of thinking that we are now expected to be equipped with as students of the top business school in Ireland.

The role of Class Representative is a key leadership and management role that is given to one of the students.  As Class Rep, your role is one of liason between the lecturers, programme management staff and fellow class members.  All of the above assist with the smooth running of the many moving parts that make up an Executive MBA Course at UCD Smurfit. From a Personal Development aspect, the role has been excellent, as it gives you good practice at putting simple management procedures into play when acting in the role within the class.

The role of the Class Rep is an excellent mechanism for the class to speak with the “one” voice especially if there are certain issues that need to be addressed. The Class Rep will canvass fellow students to get their soundings on an issue and then he/she will liaise with the relevant UCD Smurfit personnel. Good clear communication is an essential part of being Class Rep between fellow students and staff.

There are a few duties associated with the job.  Twice per year, once each semester, a lunch of all Class Reps and programme management staff is organised and at very nice locations i might add. This is a good chance to compare notes with the other Class Reps from the other UCD Smurfit EMBA cohorts. A good bond between the various Class Reps pays dividends when trying to organise the functions that the Class Reps organise at the end of a semester as it’s often better to unite and hit the one location. I think anyone that was at the Christmas function will vouch for this, a good example of pooling resources!

All in all, the role of the Class Rep, whether elected each semester, each term or as in my case for the duration of the academic year, is an excellent opportunity to get stuck into the running of the class and programme and it is an essential appointment. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my year as Class Rep. Year 2 is upon us soon , so roll on!  And,  I think a handover is in order, time to vote , time for a new leader of the soon to be Year 2 Executive MBA Mid-Week Blackrock for 2011-12.

Fintan McGovern, Class Rep, EMBA YR1 Mid-Week Blackrock 2010-2011      

Congratulations! UCD Smurfit MBA Team Wins Prestigious All-Ireland MBA Award


UCD Smurfit has won back the MBAAI Strategy Forum Trophy.

Our team are All-Ireland Champions after a historic win for UCD Smurfit at the annual business strategy competition held on Saturday last, June 18th in the salubrious surroundings of the St. Stephen’s Green Club in Dublin city centre.

Congratulations to our team which was made up of participants from the Executive Year 2 MBA City cohort:

UCD Smurfit 2011 MBA Association of Ireland Comp Winners. L to R: Alan Dunne, Fionnuala Healy, Siobhan O'Dowd, Maria Finnegan, Tom O'Connor

 


Organised by the MBA Association of Ireland (MBAAI) and open to all MBA programmes in Ireland, teams of MBA students from around the country met in Dublin on Saturday (June 18th) to compete in the day-long Inter-Business School MBA Strategy Challenge.

Well done to the team who came through an internal preliminary round and put in the hard work required to reach the standard necessary to become All-Ireland Champions for 2011 and demonstrating the high calibre of participants on our programmes this year.

The wonderful Waterford Glass trophy is currently on view in the MBA Office and will be moving to the new MBA Trophy Cabinet to take pride of place beside the MBA World Cup trophy.


I hope you will join with me in congratulating the team.


Well Done!


Michael McDonnell

MBA Programme Manager


Smurfit – great for socialising

And so we’ve all arrived back safe and sound from our international study trip. About thirty five members of the full-time class went to Brazil with the balance opting for China.

The trip turned out to be a fabulous experience. We learned a lot about the Brazilian economy and society. Of course, there was an onus on the travelling group to take a holistic approach to sampling Brazilian culture.  This sampling of the culture ranged from sipping caipirinhas on Ipanema to some of the group attending a local football game. These extra-curricular activities could be viewed as burning the candle at both ends but we would like to look on it as making the most of the trip.

The other group seemed to have just as interesting a time although based upon the photographs of their trip we seemed to get the better weather – hats and coats for them, shorts and flip-flops for us!! One of the more unexpected benefits of the trip has been the manner in which it allowed us to get to know each other even better. This is especially true for those of the people who were not part of the same study group up until now.

What I would like to understand is how the students of MBA programmes with classes of more than 250 manage to get to know each other. With that many in a class, it must be difficult to get to know everyone’s name!  Within Smurfit, the class is less than fifty so everyone knows each other a lot better. This makes for a great atmosphere and a more rounded experience.

-Donal O’Sullivan

A Coachee’s Perspective.

I was delighted to hear that we were being offered a chance to be coached as part of the UCD Smurfit EMBA programme as I had never experienced coaching before. Having spent my career to date working in a number of large multi-national organisations, coaching has always been considered very useful to do but unfortunately business priorities always seemed to get in the way.

I had heard very good feedback about coaching in general and so approached the sessions with a very open mind.   On the EMBA here at UCD Smurfit,, all students are offered the chance to participate in this Leadership Coaching Programme which is one of the final parts of our PPD Programme.  It takes place in the final semester for us, which is Year 2 Semester 2.  Those who sign up are assigned a top professionally trained business coach.

My initial session with my coach was more of a getting to know you session. This was important to do, so my coach could get a sense of where I am now and put some context around future sessions we would have.

My second session, when the coaching started proper, was a hugely positive experience with some very concrete actions resulting come the end of the session. It stimulated some very sound ideas on a specific topic that I had set out at the start of the session. The benefits of the sessions so far have been many.  

First and foremost it is a great opportunity to stand back and take stock. Too often we get caught up in my hustle and bustle of everyday life without having the chance to step back and take a look from the outside in. It was also a great opportunity to bounce ideas off my coach with a view to clearing a path to where I wanted to go with respect to a particular subject.

– Sinéad Bailey – EMBA 2009/2011  


The Smurfit MBA Entrepreneurship Club – From Conception to Fruition

“It’s all about the knowledge economy, the tech industry, -no the food industry, – sorry I disagree, it will be the pharma industry”.  These are the statements we hear as we look for a glimmer of hope in the current economic climate. Who are the Entrepreneurs who will offer the spark for the future? This is the $64 million question (or should that be €85 billion). At the Smurfit School the MBA Class has started the Entrepreneurship Club to allow students both to bring ideas to the table or just for the interested spectator to hear where their future might lie.

At the inaugural meeting of the 2010/2011 Entrepreneurship Club, a number of enthusiastic students from both the Full-time and Executive MBA classes came together to design an outline for the year. There was common consensus to try and move it away from a lecture style modus operandi to more practical implementation (the mere mention of lecture had some quaking as they feared the 75 books they would need to prepare in a week for the next lecture).

A common theme was developed for the year based on the process of bringing a company to success or as the brand has become known ‘ Conception To Fruition’. Nights of trading ideas and more recently lunch time (hunger seems to bring a keenness to people’s mind), visits to UCD Nova to see the latest offerings for the future, and exchanges with recent Entrepreneurs has shown the potential that exists. Unfortunately the weather got the better of us (what a surprise in Ireland) so the Entrepreneurship  Club has had to postpone its recent big event ‘How To Finance Your Business’ (and no, this was not because we needed clearance by the IMF).   We will be following up this blog with regular slots keeping everyone posted on the progress of the Club.

Colm O’Reilly