Incredible Hospitality That Will Be Remembered for Life

After receiving the schedule of the GNAM week (Global Network for Advanced Management), hosted by UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, and exchanging a couple of letters with the Module Manager Elaine Aherne, I realised we, the MBA students had two PDF documents; each approximately 60 pages, plus a Harvard business school case to read before class started. With nervousness and anxiety, I could not imagine the week-to-come was going to be the one of the highlights of my MBA program.

 Day 1: Not so stormy, but sluggish day

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                                          Photo source: Wikipedia

On Sunday, we found out that school had to be cancelled because hurricane Ophelia, the biggest hurricane to hit Ireland in 50 years and whose name I would always remember, was about to hit the island on Monday. As a result, other than quickly hitting the market to stock up on groceries, the rest of Monday was sluggish with awkward naps induced by time zone differences. The “storm” surprisingly had a very  mild impact on Dublin. There was very little rain and the strong wind only lasted for few hours. So after all the waiting, our program finally started early on Tuesday morning!

Day 2: Professor Damien and the Happy Pear

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Our first speaker of the week, Professor Damien, came to talk to us about the strengths and weaknesses of the Irish food industry. While being anxious about cold-calling during the lecture, we learned that agriculture was an important underlying component of the Irish economy. The lecture was engaging and involved critical thinking about corporate strategy, competitive advantage, and evolution/growth of a company with its competitive advantage. Then came the Happy Pear, whose presentation was voted the most popular presentation of the week. Not only did we get to understand the importance of living and breathing values and mission when growing a new venture, we were also fed with delicious treats. Dining at the Church Road café in Greystones and touring around the factory made us realise again how tough it is to grow an idea into a business. It’s a long journey but the Pear did it!

Day 3: Council for competitiveness, Qualtrics, Draper Investment, and LinkedIn

Ireland is one of the few countries with a governmental division dedicated to competitiveness. From Professor Peter Clinch, the chair of National Competitive Council, we learned that only through an increase in productivity and efficiency, can the country  sustain its competitiveness and continue growing.

Qualtrics and LinkedIn are both data-driven companies. On the surface, they might seem to have little to do with data; however, it is only with the data they are able to collect, store, process, and analyse, they are able to provide clients with powerful insights about the market. This will be the trend in the up-coming century.

In the lecture entitled “The importance of innovation” Mr. Brian Caulfield, Managing Partner at Draper Esprit, thought us that innovation is not equivalent to invention. Innovation is changing the conventional practices in meaningful ways.

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                    Johnny Foxes – The Highest and Happiest Pub in Ireland

We were so fortunate to have had the chance to visit the highest pub (altitude-wise) in Ireland, Johnny Foxes. At first, the dining area seemed crowded and loud, but once the ensemble started to play, Irish dancers started to perform, and people had plenty to drink, the Irish energy filled the entire room. On the other side of the room was a group of elderly visitors. The UCD GNAM crew were so energetic that by the end of show, even they joined us in the party and stood up to move around with the groove.

Day 4: Irish Economy and Intel in Ireland

On Thursday, Professor Jim Power took us through macroeconomic factors influencing the Irish economy, including politics, growing trend of protectionism, BREXIT, etc. We learned that the imbalance of wealth between big corporations and workers might soon create tension and it is the corporations’ responsibility to take actions and tame the sense of the anti-corporations (for example, pay more taxes). After Professor Power’s lecture, Mr. Eamonn Sinnott, the GM of Intel Ireland came to talk to us about Intel’s strategic location in Ireland, its unceasing leadership in microprocessor manufacturing, and its strategic bets (ie. AI, Automated Driving/ADAS, 5G, and Virtual & Merged Reality).

Literary Pub Crawl

As we gathered in the oldest pubs in Ireland, the two actors took us back in time with their superior acting skills. In the old pubs, under The Campanile of Trinity College, and in front of the Saint Andrews Church, we immersed ourselves with Irish literature and of course, beer and Irish pub food. The day was long and the road was wet, but nothing could beat the warmth inside the pubs from other pub-goers and from the UCD GNAM team.

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Photo Credit: Tushar Gandhi from IIMB, India

Day 5: Innovation in the Performance Art Industry and Use of Body Language as Communications

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At the Abbey theatre, we got to go on the main stage. The stage had been designed by the arts director for the play that was on-going, Ulysses (A live trailer can be found here). Because the stage is considered as the intellectual property of the artists, we were not allowed to take pictures of the stage. However, the mere experience of walking on the stage was once-a-life-time experience on its own. The coach led the UCD GNAM team through a series of exercises and games which actors would frequently play during routine practices. By the end of the two-hour session, the UCD GNAM team was more aware of the messages we can convey to people around us by body languages, including the way we vocalise, walk, hold a posture, etc. The team then went on to learn more about the history of Abbey theatre and how innovations had changed the theatre industry in Ireland. We learned about how immersive theatre was started and how nowadays, the performers asked for more than just the audience sitting in front of the stage, shifting from passive participation to taking part in the story and furthermore, playing a role in the story. After a well-balanced mix of hands-on experience and intellectual insights into the theatre arts, we were fed with delicious lunch at the theatre before moving on to our next, and last stop, the Guinness Storehouse.

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      Photo Credit: Benjamin Benhamou, from Sauder School of Business, Canada

The Guinness Storehouse is one of the most highly rated sites to visit in Ireland and it is not over-rated at all. The team broke into smaller groups and toured around the Storehouse. After a long week, of meeting new friends, learning, immersing ourselves in the Irish culture, nothing can be more perfect as an ending than a pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar, the rooftop bar of Guinness Storehouse with a panoramic view of city of Dublin.

Closing Remarks

The week, even though shortened by hurricane Ophelia, was full of valuable learning, be it through lectures, site visits, or theatre performance. Professor Patrick Gibbons and Module Manager Elaine Aherne put a lot of thought into designing the program and making sure that all of us from different parts of the world felt welcomed and returned to where we come from with new insights about Ireland. All of us from the UCD GNAM team would like to thank Professor Gibbons and Elaine dearly for the memories we have from the program.

Yvonne Li, MBA Candidate 2018, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia

iMadrid – The Global Perspective

Two weeks on from GNAM and we are back into daily challenges of the MBA. During semester one midterm, three fabulous students and I travelled to the world class IE Business School for a week long GNAM course titled “Europe at a Crossroads: Complications, Implications, and the Way Forward”. Ian Rafferty has eloquently captured the course content and adventures, so I will focus on a theme of a global future. The learning from this week was to take a step out of your routine to look at the world and what lies ahead.

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Two topics stood out to me from this week – the first was Brexit and Catalonian independence and the second was modern transport in Madrid. There is a strong link between these topics which may not be obvious . . . bear with me!

The European union and the Euro has provided stability and opportunity to millions of people in lower GDP countries while opening a vast new labour force and export market to higher GDP areas. In my opinion, this is unquestionably a win-win relationship and has raised the GDP of all countries in the union.

The push for independence from the UK and Catalonia could be classed as a rise against globalisation. The UK is a net contributor to the EU and Catalonia is a net contributor to Spain meaning they pay more tax than the funds they receive. These areas feel that they would be able to progress and prosper by themselves however this is a narrow outlook. Working together is the only way that Europe can stay relevant on the global stage.

The Dublin transport system could learn a lot from Madrid and as an engineer, Madrid was fascinating to travel around. We witnessed electric busses, vans and the highest concentration of electric cars that I have ever seen. One of those electric cars was being driven autonomously in a trial by a government organisation. There is an electric bike rental system that made commuting and sightseeing a pleasure in the Autumn sun. Lastly, my highlight of the trip was using Uber to have a Tesla smoothly and silently glide us home.

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Madrid is ahead of many cities with these initiatives, but others will follow. We will witness huge environmental benefits but also social impacts as millions of skilled drivers are dislodged from the workforce. This transport transition is the tip of the iceberg with the rise of machine learning. We could see more resistance to technology and globalisation which in turn would cause further separation and unrest. Europe and indeed the world are at a perpetual crossroads and the only option is to work together to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

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“REFUGEES WELCOME”, a sign of Madrid’s commitment to global progress. With that, back to the books – the world will still be in a state of flux next year.

Eoin Carroll, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

The Run From Singapore To The Oratory

Although there are a couple of actual marathon runners in this year’s batch, I think it is safe to say we all, in a way, have been getting the hours in for a different kind of marathon. Coming out of a GNAM week which was packed with new people, new locations and new experiences and finding ourselves in a hurry to study for the first exam of the year sure felt like running 42k. Travelling the farthest away from home, that is Smurfit Graduate School of Business, to a tiny little island called Singapore with a total of 28 hours spent in flight, we weren’t only thinking about the things we would get to see but also thinking about the cash flow statement question on the Financial Reporting exam that we were going to be facing immediately after the return flight home.

It was very exciting to set foot in a southeast Asian country for the first time and the excitement really doubled after seeing the renowned Marina Bay Sands Hotel from a distance. It instantly led me to question what our hotel would look like in comparison to this shrine to engineering excellence and infinity pools. At this point in the cab, I turned to my colleague Mr. Condon and asked for a begging confirmation, we will have a pool, right?

…And yes, we did.

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I didn’t pack my bag for Dublin having thought of the possibility that I would be exposed to a 35 degrees Celsius heat with a small but effective touch of 95% humidity somewhere along this exciting year. I guess it was clear that we were a little under-prepared that Monday morning, which marked the first day of lectures, with both of us in the Smurfit GNAM Party sporting the only jackets in the country. Oh well… Most importantly I had already went out to buy swimming shorts as soon as I had set my bags down in room 1104 in a crazed rush the day before.

The days passed by in a hurry. Starting with a warm welcome breakfast, going through to the eye opening first lecture about emerging markets in Asia, how we didn’t know what to do with them and how Prof. Pasha was able to teach us through a fascinating case study. Having completed the city tour, provided by the National University of Singapore,  we saved the Marina Bay Park and the illustrious mega trees for later. All the while getting to know people from Nigeria, Trinidad Tobago, Costa Rica and Indonesia, listening to exciting travel/vacation plans of the group coming all the way from Mexico and catching a familiar feeling with fellow Turkish students visiting from Istanbul.

After a full week of learning about Asian markets and the logic behind Singapore’s rise to being one of the most prominent countries in the current financial markets there was still a question as to why a beer would cost double that of in Dublin. I mean they had breweries, they weren’t importing. I know because we had a refreshing visit to the birthplace of the famous Tiger Beer. Maybe it was because there were a lot of taxes attached to it in order to provide for the outstanding growth and keep everybody in the island working without compromising efficiency due to alcohol related hiccups… or maybe it was just because the common folk, with all that wealth, were able to actually afford it.

Still thinking of the Indian food that I enjoyed with our new friends on Diwali (Deepawali as Singaporeans call it) night, which was celebrated in great fashion in Little India, we embarked on our journey back, with cabin bags full of strategy cases and past exams courtesy of Mrs. Brennan.

Despite having the longest flight of my life and experiencing Singapore for the first time, the marathon wasn’t over yet. Even though we didn’t choose Singapore Airlines, which we had had the opportunity to learn everything about during our GNAM Week, there were still a lot of choices for movies on the screen in front of us. Unfortunately thought there was  no time to waste as we were returning back to our first exam this year. I opened up the books, which held the keys to financial reporting, all the while catching curious, questioning looks from people wondering what important things I must have going on instead of watching the latest Spiderman movie. I’m sure Pete can relate to this, having caught the same flight as I did. Eventually closing my eyes for a quick nap towards the end of the flight, I felt like I opened my eyes in the oratory-turned-exam hall finishing that unconventional 3rd question.

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As I look back on the past two weeks, I feel that we passed important milestones in our MBA run. These accumulating experiences lay the roots of our academic and also introspective trees growing ever so slightly each time we leave a comfort zone behind. Still the marathon continues and I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, experiencing challenging sprints that are tasks and deadlines. To conclude, I would like to congratulate all my colleagues that powered through these last weeks and wish them well for the upcoming figurative 42k’s. And for those who are curious: Those “trees” at Marina Bay are just amazing.

 

Emrecan Kercek, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

GNAM Week in IE Business School Madrid

ian-rafferty-2Its Monday after the GNAM week and the WhatsApp group is still hopping. Jean Luc from Cameroon says how much he enjoyed meeting everyone, Huseyin from Turkey is still receiving compliments on his salsa dancing on Friday night and the Nigerian girls post a photo of their arrival back in Lagos.

GNAM and GNW are two of the first of many confusing acronyms you hear when you join the Smurfit MBA class. GNAM stands for the Global Network of Advanced Management which was launched by Yale School of Management in 2012. It is a network of 29 leading business schools from diverse regions, cultures, countries and economies in different stages of development. Its goal is to drive innovation and create value by enabling students, staff and alumni of member schools to connect and develop institutional and personal relationships.

The Global Network Weeks are a key tool used by GNAM in achieving this goal. The GNW allows students from member schools pursue a week of intensive study at another school in the network. Each school focuses on a current business issue and organises a mixture of class based lectures, expert speakers, company visits and of course some exposure to local culture to visiting students.

This opportunity to engage with the global network arrives early in the Smurfit MBA calendar and so it was that after just six weeks of study I was sitting in IE Business School in Madrid to begin our week studying the topic of “Europe at a crossroads: complications, implications and the way forward.” The relevance of the subject matter was immediately highlighted as our welcome by Associate Dean, Erik Schlie reminded us that in 28 minutes a deadline would expire for Catalonia to clarify to Madrid if they had in fact declared independence or not the previous week. This was history happening, live. It certainly added a frisson to the class discussions to be in the capital of a country in the middle of its biggest turmoil in decades.

Our academic guide through most of the week was Gayle Allard, a native of California who has lived in Madrid for twenty years. With experience working in JP Morgan and The Economist Intelligence Unit, not to mention a PhD in Economics, and a decade teaching MBA students, Professor Allard presented a history of Europe and the economics of the EU in a fascinating way with real life examples at every turn. Our journey moved through the Impossible Triangle of Hyper-Globalisation, to the benefits of migrants for receiving countries to the issues of debt and aging populations in maintaining growth in European economies. The great recession, Brexit, Catalexit, the Euro and the future of our very own border with Northern Ireland were the hot topics of the week. While a much deeper understanding of these issues was gained, we were reminded that while economists cannot predict the future, change will be the new constant.

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These serious topics were balanced with visits to the Bernabeu Stadium where a little football team called Real Madrid play their games, a city tour, a study of wineconomics, followed by a practical application in tasting while enjoying some traditional Flamenco music and dance. An Uber ride in a Tesla was another first, which made quite an impact on our travelling group from Dublin.

As we have found in the opening six weeks in Smurfit Business School, so much of the learning while studying an MBA is through discussion with classmates. My week in IE amplified that learning and opened my mind to the international nature of studying an MBA. I discussed Brexit with a Costa Rican studying in Yale, the history of the troubles on this island with a Georgian living in Berlin and talked rugby with a South African enjoying life in Madrid. This was truly a Global Network Week and an experience I will return to whenever an insular mind-set creeps in.

Ian Rafferty, Full-Time MBA 2017-2018

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost half way through our first semester but you know what they say, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’! The last few weeks have been intense to say the least. From written assignments to numerous presentations, it seems like there is something due for submission every day.

On Monday, we completed our first module – Business & Society. This was an eventful class with every session very different from the next. One day we were discussing blood diamonds and on another the ethics within FIFA.

We’ve had a couple of interesting and interactive sessions as part of our leadership development programme. Most notable, was Daniel Porot’s full day event which provided a very unique look at job search strategies and the unsolicited approach to job hunting. He also highlighted how easily you can build your network by simply talking to your peers. I think most of us left the session with a very different mindset than when we went in. This week we have a networking event with Brian Marrinan who was so eager to talk to us, he even came in a day early!

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Thursday marks our final financial reporting class with Niamh Brennan. It has been a very demanding module that has helped us realise that accounting is not black and white – it’s grey, grey, grey! Although we will miss Niamh’s 8.30am lectures, we all eagerly anticipate her end of module exam in a couple of weeks (if you’re reading Niamh, be nice 😊).

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It’s not all work though. Next week we embark on the GNAM programme, which we are all really looking forward to. Many of our class will be travelling to different universities all around the world while some have chosen to remain in UCD. Technology, food and culture are on the menu for those who stay in Dublin, welcoming many international students to the city and the Blackrock campus. Along with five classmates, I’m very excited to be travelling to Yale SOM where we will study the behavioural science of management. To make sure we don’t think we’re on holiday, Yale have been very kind to send us on several advanced readings.

Our MBA class has a wonderful mix of personalities which makes all the early mornings and late nights worthwhile. Six weeks in and it feels like I’ve known everyone for six years! I don’t know if that’s because we’ve spent so many hours together, or the constant alert from all our WhatsApp groups! Seriously though, with the weeks going by so quickly – don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

Karl McEntegart, Full-Time MBA 2017/2018

A Professional Connection Built on the Global Network

Recently, Workday, the U.S.-based human and financial capital resources company, was expanding its global footprint and needed to build out its talent in Dublin. Nathaniel Hundt, a 2013 graduate of Yale SOM, and a business development analyst at the company, was looking for someone with on-the-ground knowledge to help execute a new product.

“We were building a new product for our customers, which are all over the world, and our design process emphasised going out and talking to folks that don’t live in the U.S. to help source ideas and gain empathy. Our development process was similarly global,” Hundt says. “So I thought back to my experience with the Yale Global Network for Advanced Management. Can I use the network to find another connection for an open position at Workday?”

Hundt was shaped by his Global Network experience. He was at Yale when the network was founded in 2012, and was among the first students to participate in Global Network Week, then known as Immersion Week. He travelled to Koç University in Turkey, an experience that showed him the value of being exposed to diverse ideas and cultural approaches.

“What’s happening in one part of the world is definitely impacting what’s happening in another part of the world,” he says. “I think of it like inputs: the more access you have to these information inputs, the more access you can get to better solutions.”

Fast-forward to Hundt’s time at Workday, a provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. He contacted UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School’s careers department. That’s when he learned about Cian Collins, who was getting his MBA, and was already interested in the position at Workday.

The two got together over breakfast in 2015. It turned out that Collins, a 2015 graduate of Smurfit who had worked at Twitter, had also been shaped by the Global Network—and by Yale SOM. In 2015, he travelled to Yale to participate in the student-run Integrated Leadership Case Competition alongside students throughout the network.

Collins and his team prepared on weekends for months leading up to the competition, and took home the best team dynamics award. “The competition was an amazing experience, and I was thrilled to have won that award but never expected what it could lead to,” Collins says. “It was invaluable meeting Nate, and I never would’ve done that without that connection.”

Collins was a strong Workday candidate—he had global experience and had worked for Twitter as the social media giant was expanding its operations. But their shared experience through the Global Network is what helped Collins and Hundt bond.

“He thought highly of that experience and that stood out to me,” Hundt says.

That encounter led Hundt to recommend that the company hire Collins. Now Collins works as a product manager at Workday, developing HR tools that allow managers in different countries to find the tools necessary to employ foreign workers.

“When he’s seen opportunities, he’s alerted me to them,” Collins says. “We’ve built a friendship from a shared connection. While we work on different teams, we help out each other.”

For Hundt, the experience reinforced the value of his Global Network experience. As leaders learn more about different cultural approaches and make new global connections, he says, they only stand to benefit.

“It helped me develop my global exposure, and it definitely has taught me that my work life is an important part of who I am,” Hundt says. “It’s not just a job. With the network, you have this shared experience. It’s a foundation that can help you get through the door.”

Matthew O’Rouke, Associate Director of Communications, Global Network Office of Communications, Yale School of Management. 

Lux et Veritas – The Light and Truth of our GNAM Trip to Yale University

When I first signed up for the MBA, I was aware that Smurfit is part of a global network of business schools but it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to travel and visit Yale School of Management that I fully understood the global reach and impact of this network. The Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) connects 29 leading business schools from diverse regions, countries, cultures, and economies in different phases of development.

Students from the various schools within this network can travel to and experience a week-long module in another school. This June, some of my classmates stayed in Dublin to learn more about the food industry in Ireland and play host to the visiting students; another classmate travelled to Berkley University. Along with 7 of my classmates, I visited Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut to live out our Rory Gilmore life!

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In truth, I debated whether or not to sign up for this trip. The module was not for credit and it would take place when we would be in the middle of our biggest challenge – the Capstone project. However, I could not escape the thought that this was such a marvellous opportunity – this was Ivy League! So off I went to Yale to learn all about the Behavioural Science of Management. Cut to me sipping cocktails with my classmates on a rooftop bar on *quick* pitstop in Manhattan en route, and I knew I had made the right decision and the next week really exceeded all our expectations.

The people we met were absolutely fantastic; over 70 MBA students from around the globe in one classroom sparked lively debates! Outside the classroom, we formed fast friendships and built our network with people in similar and different careers. The group WhatsApp still goes off in the middle of the night with updates from our friends in China or Mexico. Even during my final Capstone project in the last month, I bounced ideas and emails off to new friends to get fresh thoughts from a different perspective. The value of the network was immediately obvious.

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In the classroom it was fascinating to hear first-hand from academics who are often published in the Harvard Business Review or whose studies are referenced in articles or books. Each lecturer was so high energy and polished, it was like we were sitting through a sequence of riveting TedTalks!

The bat and the ball problem (A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Try Google to check your answer!) had us rethink our immediate assumptions on how we think. Shane Frederick explained to us the two ways the mind works. System 1 is our immediate intuitive way of thinking which is very difficult to override and System 2 is that slow thinking that requires more reflection. This is important to address in customer engagement, in order to capture which way they are thinking at the point of sale. (Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow goes into this in detail if anyone is interested!)

Another important lesson we learned was from Zoë Chance, whose lecture on Influence and Persuasion had us leaving the room ready to make our mark! Her one overriding message was to “just ask”. Often in life we think we are asking for something, when in reality we may not be putting it as directly as we could be – and it’s often simple enough to do!

With a variety of other interesting lectures, company visits and a campus tour, the week flew by in the most enjoyable way, totally exceeding my expectations. We are incredibly lucky that Smurfit is part of this fantastic network to get this opportunity which really was a key highlight of my MBA experience.

Ruth McEvoy, Executive MBA 2015-2017

Global Network Week 2017 – A Visitor’s Perspective

As a Yale EMBA student graduating in 2018, I had the opportunity to attend “The Future of Food” module at University College Dublin as part of the June 2017 Global Network Week (#GNW2017).

This fascinating exchange programme provides students with insights into the inner workings of key industry players in the food and beverage space and attracts both international students from several top participating schools in Shanghai, Berlin, Madrid, as well as students local to Dublin. As an international student, I am truly grateful for the warmth and thoughtfulness from both our programme coordinator, Elaine Aherne, as well as a number of our fellow Irish students in welcoming us to both Dublin and UCD.

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In my opinion, this week-long course is perfectly structured for many reasons. First, the sheer range of case studies covered in the short span of a week exposes participants to food and beverage related strategies, trends and marketing techniques that are very easily transferable to any industry segment. Professor Damien McLoughlin led a diverse set of discussion topics from Brexit to emerging technologies in the food industry, and challenged us to consider both the market and non-market factors influencing decisions within each organisation we examined as part of the cases.

Second, the guest lectures interspersed through the week were excellent and provided intriguing insights into the decision-making processes utilised by executives across a slew of organisations in the food and beverage sector. During the week, the CEO of Greencore, CTO of Ocado and Director from UniGrain, were just a few of the company executives we heard from and engaged with.

Finally, daily product samplings (Skelligs, Keogh’s etc.) and company site visits, such as those to Jameson, Guinness, Kerry Foods and the Ballyknockan House Cookery School ensured we were always engaged and looking forward to what the next day would bring.

Overall, a fantastic program that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to spend the global network week learning about the latest innovations and bleeding edge technology in the food industry while having some good old-fashioned Irish fun as well.

Raahul Kumar, Yale EMBA student

MBA: Mediocre But Arrogant?

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When I first told a good friend that I was going to do an MBA he responded, in true Irish fashion, by swiftly cutting me down to size. He responded by saying “Why would you bother? You do know it stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, don’t you?” As much as I knew that this wasn’t the generally accepted view of an MBA, I could not get the idea out of my head during both the application process and the run up to the start of term 1. I had a genuine fear that the class would be full of cutthroat, pompous narcissists. Thankfully, after a few weeks I could say that our very diverse class (73% of which are international students) was certainly not arrogant but instead a very down to earth one that quickly gelled into a close-knit unit. This was critical in putting me at ease about the year ahead.

The fact that I am a constant worrier meant that it was not long before my focus moved to the Mediocre part of the phrase. Did we lack arrogance because we had no reason to think highly of ourselves? Were we inferior to those that attend the top ranked business schools such as those of the Ivy League, LBS, IE etc.? Was Smurfit only able to attract mediocre candidates? After all you don’t need to be in the 700 (GMAT) club to gain entry. I was scheduled to go to Yale in mid-October for the GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) Global Immersion Week so I knew that would be a good opportunity to gauge the abilities of our school against some of the schools that are perceived to be the finest in the world.

The Yale trip was a fantastic opportunity. The chance to briefly attend an institution that is known across the globe and is synonymous with excellence was an honour. Upon arrival it didn’t take long to realise that many of these students had an air of arrogance about them but more importantly it did not take long to realise that we were every bit as good as them. I’d go so far as to say we were better than the majority of them and we were far more craic. Being able to see this comparison really reassured me about my decision to choose Smurfit. The fact that I didn’t feel the need to sell my kidneys to cover the considerably lower tuition fees was an added bonus.

Ok so now that we know that the Smurfiteers are as good as any MBA students, maybe it is that all MBA students are mediocre? I guess this really comes down to the perception of what an MBA graduate is. Some people who enter an MBA programme do it because they believe that companies will be lining up at the finish to throw money at them. Anybody with an ounce of sense knows that this will never happen. So why is it that certain hirers believe that by taking on an MBA graduate they are getting some super human that will revolutionize their business? If people think like this then they might think that MBAs are mediocre. Maybe that is how the rumour started.

The truth is that an MBA will not revolutionize you. How could it? Does any other degree work such magic? Of course not. What an MBA will do is equip you with a vast array of skills across many disciplines. These will not make you a subject matter expert but they will give you an edge in whatever field you choose to work. You may not use these skills immediately but at some stage I’m sure that they will be invaluable. You will only be mediocre if you do not commit to the programme and do not soak everything in.

Cathal Murphy ~ Full-Time MBA

The Importance of Teamwork

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When I decided to put my music business on hold and to take a year out of life and return to college at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the raw intensity of what was to come. Even after 15 years of intense work in the Hollywood entertainment industry, MBA life often seems to be an exercise in survival training for business more than academic learning. Part of me feels that this is the point of it all. From the beginning, the high pressure environment has created a strong bond between the Full-Time MBA students. We realise that supporting each other is the cornerstone of our fast evolving class culture, and this family attitude increases the chance of us making it through the year relatively unscathed!

Teams, teams and more teams

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From the start, teamwork has been a huge part of our MBA experience. We work in assigned teams, in self-selected pairs, and as individuals. We also share ideas as a class on a regular basis. The thing about assigned teams, as you can well imagine, is that there’s no choosing who you get. At the start of Semester One, I think a lot of us collectively held our breath before meeting our teams after hearing all the rumors about teams being customized to create minor conflict to challenge us. I feel I have been very lucky. I have four teammates from different backgrounds, countries and cultures who support each other and have been there for each other every step of the way. It has been a great support to me personally.

I’ve actually been discovering a lot of hidden things about teamwork that will benefit me for many years to come. So many of us are being reminded that there is a lot more to it than simply having a meeting and then going our separate ways to work on tasks. For example:

  1. What are our individual and collective strengths?
  2. How can we learn from and with each other?
  3. How do we engage with each other?
  4. How can we align our goals or expectations?

Virtual Teamwork at Smurfit

Recently, we were hit with a new challenge – working in virtual teams across the various Executive MBA and Full-Time MBA classes. The task seemed simple: collaborate through virtual communication and make a video about the experience. In reality, it proved to be an engaging challenge. Trying to agree on simple things such as an online platform or when everyone is free is apparently harder to do with teammates you don’t know or see!

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We tested the virtual team experience in a “safe psychological environment” (a phrase heard a lot in our class) and had a lot of fun doing it. When two of us attended Global Network Week in Yale’s School of Management for example, we took the time to organise a Skype call from Yale with our teammates back in Ireland to give us an authentic international Global Virtual Team experience.

Our final video project revolved around interviews with fellow Global Network Week students and our own team discussing our experiences.

The MBA Leadership Development Programme

There is a growing awareness among many of us, that developing our ability to work with and lead a team of diverse individuals is a far more significant part of our growth as future business leaders than simply getting the top grade in an MBA exam. It’s proving to be an interesting psychological transition. The ego wants to be selfish and to focus on what is best for the self, yet we see time and time again that the collective delivers better decisions and outcomes.

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The Leadership Development Programme (LDP) focuses on the skills necessary to help us. It IS all worth it. This voyage of self-discovery feeds our emotional growth, and our capacity to be more productive both individually and collectively. At the end of the day, we unquestionably need to understand who we are, before we can lead others in the future. To help us understand our psychological preferences and our emotional strengths and weaknesses, we have done a barrage of personality tests such as an ESCI 360 Peer Review and a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test based on C. Jung and I. Briggs Myers type theory.

Honestly, it sometimes feels like we are doing a new test every second week!

Moving Forward

So what is next for me? I think most of all, I simply look forward to continuing on this voyage of self discovery and enjoying the remainder of my MBA experience.

Ciaran Hope ~ Full-Time MBA