UCD Smurfit MBAs go to Tokyo & Seoul

Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul
Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul

On March 11th, 70 MBA students will depart for the annual Smurfit MBA International Study Tour. This year, for the first time, we will be visiting Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. The Study Tour encourages participants to immerse themselves in the business environment of these unique countries by taking them on an intensive exploration of local business practices, challenges and cultures, using company visits as the ideal setting for practical learning. It combines a variety of high-level company visits, presentations and panel discussions from leading executives, government officials and entrepreneurs, all relevant to the core management disciplines being studied on the ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ MBA module.

Harajuku, Tokyo
Harajuku, Tokyo

Along with the academic aspect of this module, there are three main outcomes that we aim to achieve throughout the week-long Study Tour:

Career Development: To develop a deeper understanding of doing business in an international context and an opportunity to network with senior executives from various backgrounds.

Skills Development: Practical exposure to innovative business case studies relevant to the core courses studied and enhance team working skills through group challenges.

Personal Development: An intensive social networking opportunity. Build strong relationships. Challenging experience – “get you out of your comfort zone”.

Asakusa Temples, Tokyo
Asakusa Temples, Tokyo

There is a strong networking and social element to the Study Tour and we have lots of exciting adventures lined up; dinner in the ‘Kill Bill Restaurant’ in Tokyo, visits to Harajuku, Takeshita Street, Asakusa temples, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok village and National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

The students will be joined by Professor Karan Sonpar, Professor Pat Gibbons, Roisin O’Loughlin (UCD Smurfit), Lyndon Worrall (Legacy Ventures) and myself. Keep an eye on the MBA Blog next month to hear how we get on in Tokyo and Seoul!

Click here find out more about the Smurfit MBA.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

Learning Outside the Classroom – China

IMG_1757

Prior to departing for China, expectations and excitement across the FT MBA class were extremely high to say the least. However, it is safe to say that each and every one of these expectations were surpassed. Our week long trip took place from May 28 to June 04 and, as an opportunity to bond with classmates alone, it was going to be something special. The cultural and experiential nature of visiting somewhere so different to Ireland and indeed the west in general, combined with the bonding experience, resulted in a week none of us will ever forget.

We began our journey in Xiamen, a port city on the south-east of China around 1 hour’s flight from Hong Kong. This ‘small’ city, home to some 2 million people, had an interesting mix of western style hotels strewn across an authentic Chinese city. Just a short stroll from our hotel lead us to market streets where you could buy street food, fish –alive or dead- and of course a beer or two. Trying to hold a conversation with the locals was difficult as Chinese is generally the only language spoken and as such the language barrier was quite severe. It must be said though that this only served to add to the authenticity of the experience and people were exceptionally nice to us and did their best to understand our charade-like descriptions of what we were looking for.

IMG_1759

During our stay in Xiamen we received exceptionally informative instruction on preparation for our Capstone projects from UCD Smurfit lecturer Professor Pat Gibbons. In addition, while operating out of the beautiful Xiamen University, we were fortunate enough to receive talks on the Chinese business and macroeconomic environment from two eminent professors; Prof Lei Ming and Prof Chen Yan. The value they both added to our understanding and appreciation of China was immense. The few hours they spent talking with us was the equivalent of reading for weeks on China and the level of knowledge transfer was something to be very grateful for. Our time in Xiamen wasn’t all work however, we received a tour of the Xiamen university campus, visited the famous Nanputuo Buddhist temple and also had a guided tour around Gulangyu island, a famous tourist resort known for its beaches, off-beat colonial architecture and a somewhat out-of-place amazing piano museum.

Following our stay in Xiamen we took a short flight to Hong Kong. It is difficult to describe in words just how awesome Hong Kong is. On approaching Hong Kong Island from the airport one could be forgiven for wrongly thinking that the skyscrapers around us were the city centre itself, when in fact they were just the fringes. The sheer depth and width of buildings all around is incredible and the container port alone is jaw dropping. It is safe to say that the scale of this place has dwarfed anywhere else I’ve ever seen. While in Hong Kong we made a number of company visits and received highly interesting and informative talks from Invest HK, Memorigin, CBRE, Heidrick and Struggles, Snapask, Hack Horizon and even Huawei. These talks provided a wide breadth of understanding for everyone on various aspects of doing business in HK and China. We received valuable insight into such areas as the wildly volatile HK property market, entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, and the challenges that the Huawei brand faces internationally as a rapidly growing technology firm from China. In the evening, students were free to explore the city at their leisure and some of the highlights were the laser show that takes place each night over the city which can be observed from the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui, the bustling night markets on Kowloon, Lan Kwai Fong (the ‘temple bar’ of Hong Kong), and last but certainly not least the spectacular views high up on the Peak lookout.

IMG_1806

The Full Time MBA Programme is undoubtedly an incredibly rewarding and challenging journey. Having the opportunity to visit China and experience all the great things we did this week as well as the bonding we were able achieve as a class just cements the sheer magnitude of this life experience. This week really brought home to me the value of doing an MBA beyond what you learn in the classroom. It really is a life-changing experience and memories like those we have from China will forever remind us of just how amazing the entire experience has been.

John Ryan ~ Full-Time MBA

Xiamen & Hong Kong 2016

FT MBA Class 2015-16
FT MBA Class 2015-16

At the end of May, the full-time MBA class took a week-long trip to Xiamen and Hong Kong to learn more about doing business across the globe, specifically the dynamic business environment in China.  We found the trip both academically enlightening and culturally fascinating.  To that end, here are a few takeaways from whirlwind, three-day trip to Hong Kong:

Travel like the locals

With 7 million people packed into the roughly 275 square kilometers, Hong Kong is crowded.  One can expect the roads to be congested most hours of the day, save late nights and early mornings.  Follow the lead of the locals and make use of the efficient, extensive, and economical public transit system.  While the MTR trains are the most widely used form of transit, visitors shouldn’t overlook the double decker trams, ferries across Victoria Harbour, and of course the tram up Victoria Peak.

Michael Niland, John Ryan, Patrick Farrell, Ryan Nuanes, FT MBA 2015-16
Michael Niland, John Ryan, Patrick Farrell, Ryan Nuanes, FT MBA 2015-16

Buy an Octopus card

Hong Kong pioneered the use of the reloadable transit card back in 1997, and it is still in use today. While these cards are common enough in transit systems across the world (such as Dublin’s Leap card and London’s Oyster card), the Octopus card is accepted as a valid form of payment at a variety of stores across the city, such as Starbucks and 7-11.  So even if you don’t plan on using the transit system much during your stay, running through the preloaded credit on the card should be no problem.

3

Take in some culinary treats

With over 50 Michelin-starred restaurants, Hong Kong has amazing food for almost any budget or culinary preference.  Some members of the MBA class were able to grab dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, one of the least expensive Michelin-starred restaurants in the world with meals available at less than €10 per person.  Our only regret is that we didn’t have time for a return trip! 

4

Enjoy a night on the town

During our short stay, most of our free time was at night and the MBA class took full advantage of that!  From strolling through the night market, to taking in some jazz at a speakeasy, to dancing in the nightclubs of Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong seems to have something for everyone.  Word of warning: with the average pint at roughly €10, a long night can quickly turn into an expensive endeavor.

5

Don’t forget to look up!

As we go about our daily lives, it’s easy to get lost in what is right in front of us (or more likely, what is on our phones).  Perhaps the most impressive feature of Hong Kong is the sheer scale of the city.  Whether walking through the gritty lanes of Mong Kok or the well-kept streets of Central, the most interesting views are probably above street level.

Plan a return trip

Despite the compact and dense nature of the city, Hong Kong is deceptively large.  The MBA class only had limited time over three days to explore the city.  Upon arrival back in Dublin, I know more than a few of my colleagues were asking “when can I go back?”

Ryan Nuanes ~ Full-Time MBA

MBA International Module – Visit to China

2

For our final international module on the MBA program, the full-time class went on a study trip to China. Visiting Xiamen and Hong Kong, the trip aimed to give us an insight into the considerable economic achievement as well as the cultural and institutional practices in China. We set off on Saturday morning, flying from Dublin to Heathrow to Hong Kong and on to Xiamen. Xiamen is a beautiful coastal city in the Fujian Province in China, however being wet season, we arrived to thunder storms, lashing rain and approximately 90% humidity. Our first challenge was to make it from the airport terminal to the bus (which was parked only 50 meters away). Safe to say we all got soaked! We arrived at the lovely Lujiang Harbourview Hotel, checked in, dried off and headed back out for dinner at RongYu Restaurant where we sampled a variety of Chinese delicacies such as fried jellyfish and chicken heads. It was an interesting experience to say the least! A stroll through the city showed there was plenty more interesting food waiting for us…

1

The next morning we set off for lectures at Xiamen University. We had a mix of lectures from Smurfit’s Prof. Pat Gibbons and Xiamen University’s Prof. Lei Meng. We learnt about the growth and structural changes in China over the past two decades and how China has emerged from its hyper growth phase into a medium to slow growth phase. With the increasing growth rate of wages for low skilled labour, China is losing its competitive advantage in the manufacturing sector compared to some other Asian countries. The challenge China is now facing is how to best manage this transition. However, the government keep changing the policies to manage this transition which is causing more uncertainty in the country. After lunch we met some of the students from Xiamen who gave us tour of the impressive university campus and the nearby Buddhist temples. We enjoyed a lovely vegetarian dinner in Nanputuo Temple before returning to our hotel.

3

The next day we returned to Xiamen University for lectures with Prof. Pat Gibbons and Prof. Chen Yan. We learnt about China’s business environment and business strategy. There are many aspects to doing business in China that are significantly different to how business is conducted in the west. For example, China has a high context culture where relationships are paramount and one must pay attention to rules. Furthermore, China’s ‘face culture’ means that they don’t let people lose face in public regardless of the situation. After lunch, we took a ferry to Gulangyu Island which is the third largest island off the coast of Xiamen. A guided tour of the island showed us it’s off beat colonial architecture, lovely beaches and piano museum. With temperatures reaching 36°C and 90% humidity it was an eventful afternoon.

The next morning we returned to Xiamen University for our final lecture before saying good bye to Xiamen and leaving for our flight to Hong Kong. On the coach transfer from the airport to our hotel in Hong Kong we got a taste of the scale of the city with its stunning skyline and majestic mountains in the background. Once checked in, we enjoyed a buffet dinner in our hotel and explored the city.

The next day we visited three very different businesses – Invest HK, Memorigin and Huawei. Invest HK is an investment agency for the government of Hong Kong who promote Hong Kong as a preferred location for businesses to set up and support foreign businesses located in Hong Kong. Memorigin is a Hong Kong brand that produces tourbillion watches and Huawei is a global leader of ICT solutions. These companies gave us a great insight into Hong Kong economy and the opportunities and challenges facing businesses who operate in the region. That evening we went to Kowloon to watch the laser show from the impressive city skyline, followed by dinner and a trip to the night market.

5

On our final day in Hong Kong we visited four businesses. First up were two impressive start-up companies namely Snapask and Horizon which gave us further insight into the type of entrepreneurial activity going on in Hong Kong and some of the key challenges they face. For example, Snapask, a Learning App, explained how they needed to build a completely different product if they wanted to expand into mainland China with different payment system, login system, etc. therefore they are focusing on expanding into other south east Asian countries. We then met with CBRE Group which is a real estate service provider and a fortune 500 company. This talk enlightened us with how competitive the real estate market in Hong Kong is. Our final visit was to Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm, who explained how their business operates and gave insight into the current job market in Hong Kong. We finished off the unforgettable trip with a beautiful dinner at The Peak Lookout restaurant.

6

Muireann McCarthy ~ Full-Time MBA