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.


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.


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.


“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

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.


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