Has It Only Been 17 Weeks?


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 I had been considering an MBA for a long time, so much so that the original GMATs I completed were no longer valid when I finally did apply for admission to Smurfit.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

The Executive MBA & Work-Life Balance


I cannot complain, as I was warned.

During our first week, we had a presentation from a gentleman from the MBA Association of Ireland. At the end he wished all of the full timers “Best of luck”, but to the EMBA group he just laughed and said “God help you!’

The hardest part of the EMBA for me so far has been managing the work-life balance; to be honest even having the word ‘life’ in there is a bit misleading. I had many discussions with EMBA alumni who all described it as the most difficult but enjoyable two years of their life. So I thought I was prepared for the workload. About seven weeks in I had a mini-breakdown, where I thought “What the hell have I done?” “All that money!” “All that time!” The only comforting part was the fact that everybody else in my class seemed to be feeling the same way.

One of the main reasons for my doing an EMBA at this time in my life, was figuring that my 18 month old daughter would not miss me too much. As long as I can be there for dinner and bed time, as well as an hour or two at the weekend, it is enough for her at the moment. Anyway, she seems more interested in Barney, In the Night Garden, Tangled, Frozen, or whatever structure she can fashion into a climbing frame or a horse.

Although the time commitment is more than I thought it would be, I am enjoying it even more than I thought I could. I have been exposed to so many new things, including: online dating; Zara (as I have never considered it before); the reality that narcissistic managers do exist and how to recognise them; a company called ‘Bananas’ (that doesn’t sell bananas); amongst many others.

The most important part of the EMBA journey to date is how it has made me think about things in different ways – including how I see myself, and the impact that I can make (or not), depending on my own personality and behaviours.

It was around this time last year that I made the decision to tackle the EMBA. So to anybody reading this who is considering the EMBA: start your GMAT preparation, attend one of the UCD Smurfit MBA Open Days and then go for it.

You won’t regret it.

Ger Kenny ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

The MBA Journey



The MBA was something that I was considering for a while. I can imagine there are many people like me out there – 10+ years in the work force and not sure what you want to do in 10 years time. Feeling like you have no options other than stay doing what you are doing so you apply for a couple of jobs, ‘just to see like’ you tell yourself. I my case I did not even get an interview!

Realising that I am not attractive to other employers I thought to myself ‘what will I do if something goes wrong with what I am doing now’. I had better do something.  Exploring my options Smurfit was the obvious choice and the MBA part-time was the way to go. Smurfit put on a couple of typical MBA lectures for potential students. Before rushing into anything I attended two of these and I was hooked immediately. If anyone is serious about doing an MBA I’d advise attending these. You quickly realise it is not the boring old classroom lectures and I left the Michael Smurfit Business School after attending the lectures with the buzz of learning – it had been a long time since I had that feeling.

A few blank sheets ready for been filled in a exam.
A few blank sheets ready for been filled in a exam.

Now that I knew I wanted do the Executive MBA I started reading everything I could about the course. Did you know that there are several scholarships and bursaries offered by the Business School and their partners? Before reading I didn’t. Having my heart set on doing the EMBA I set out to get awarded one of these. The obvious one is the GMAT merit based scholarship. If you can break 700 points (out of a possible 800) the you are in with a chance to win a scholarship. It is not easy, but constant persistence and you will get there.


As I write this I am 4 weeks into the EMBA at Smurfit. It is certainly not disappointing. When you are doing something you enjoy it does not feel like work. I’m chatting with the careers team and realise I made the correct decision to attend Smurfit. The careers team here are the real deal and I know my future is in safe hands!

Matthew McAllister ~ Executive MBA Year 1

Advice on preparing for the GMAT

Some insights from Gerry Grenham who runs Graduate Management Admissions Test® (GMAT)  preparation sessions for the Smurfit school to assist our MBA candidates prepare for the test which is an element of our entry criteria. Preparation is all for the GMAT, give yourself 4-6 weeks to prepare for it to give yourself the best chance of scoring well and to familiarise yourself with the test structure and strategy.

Gerry advises that The Graduate Management Admission Test® has a number of unique features which have implications for how candidates should approach the test:

1. Computer Based

The questions are presented one-at-a-time by computer and must be answered in the order presented, without skipping any question. Candidates cannot change or return to a previously answered question. There is a heavy penalty incurred for unanswered questions. Consequently, time management and strategic answering are critical. Candidates should not spend too much on any one question (the average time should be approx. two minutes per question). To register an answer within this short time, candidates will need to quickly gauge the question level of difficulty relative to their knowledge. If deemed to be too difficult or time-consuming you should guess strategically (i.e. if one or more of the solutions presented can be ruled-out then select one of the remaining solutions at random). If the candidate has no idea of the solution then select one of the five possible answers and proceed to the next question without losing time. If there are unanswered questions at the end – guess; best to have a one in five chance of a correct answer than be heavily penalised for unanswered questions.

2. Adaptive

The test aims to ‘home-in’ on a candidate’s level of ability. It will tend to offer a number of quite straight-forward questions at the start. If the candidate gets these early questions right it progressively increases the level of question difficulty. Getting questions of increasing difficulty as you progress thru’ the test is a good sign. Remember – earlier correctly answered questions have been ‘banked’ and will boost your GMAT score. You can answer subsequent questions with increasing confidence.

3. Memory & Calculation

GMAT is designed to test general verbal and quantitative reasoning skills. It is not a memory test; it does not test knowledge of mathematic formula. Similarly, it does not test candidate ability to do complex arithmetic calculations (hence calculators are NOT allowed – candidates can only use a pen & erasable sheet supplied by the exam centre). As a consequence, numbers supplied in questions and answers tend to be ‘convenient ’ – they simplify easily by cancellation, multiplying easily in calculations and tend to have whole number factors to cut down on non value-adding calculation.

4. Concentration

GMAT demands concentration and attention to detail. Incorrect answer options supplied appear highly feasible and reasonable – the most plausible incorrect answers, corresponding to the most logical incorrect errors, are supplied along with the right answer for each question. Candidates need to maintain concentration otherwise they will be lead to a solution that appears among the list of possible answers supplied, but is in fact incorrect.

For further information the GMAT website is www.mba.com.

Newstalk scholarship for 2014 now open for applications

My colleagues in Admissions have reminded me that the MBA Newtalk scholarship is now open and accepting applications.  This scholarship is a 100% fee scholarship and is available to those considering either full-time or EMBA programme.  The closing date is 26th May so get working on that application, you know the old saying ‘If you aren’t in, you can’t win’.

Further information on the application process and entry criteria is available at http://www.smurfitschool.ie/newstalk/

By the way if you are considering doing your MBA this year, and we hope you are, get that GMAT test booked as the slots start booking up later in the summer and doing this at the last minute puts unnecessary pressure on you.