The MBA Programme – a chance to observe, experiment and grow in a global context

Prior to entering the MBA Programme at Smurfit, my classmates and I were given a recommended reading list which included a book titled “Snapshots from hell – The Making of an MBA”. The book was a witty and enlightening journal of Stanford MBA graduate Peter Robinson’s experience in his MBA and the more I read through it, the more I could relate to my own experience at Smurfit MBA, which is, to my own opinion, an experience that exceeded my expectations in many ways.

Travelling the world

The Smurfit MBA prepared us for a global career especially through the international experience that can be hard to find in any other MBA programmes. For the past 10 months on the full-time MBA I have visited New York, Washington D.C., Santiago de Chile, Lima, Cusco (Peru) and up next Reykjavik (Iceland) – a travel itinerary that satisfied my thirst for exploration to the core.  Through the Global Network Advanced Management programme, I went to New Haven, Connecticut to participate in the Yale School of Management‘s “Behavioural Science of Management” course. Through the Doing Business in International Markets module I flew to Santiago, Chile and Lima, Peru to gain more insights about the business in South America and had the chance to visit one of the seven wonders of the world. Through the IBM Case competition, our four-member-team travelled to Washington D.C. to compete with seven other prestigious business schools. And in our nearest International Consulting Project, we will be flying to Reykjavik, Iceland to offer a route-to-market solution for an Icelandic pharmaceutical company. Exceeding all of my expectations, the Smurfit MBA experience gave me the most intensive exposure to go global in the shortest period of time.

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Friendship and Support

The true evidence of friendship and peer support manifested in the revision period when I received tremendous support from my MBA cohorts. Quite reserved and independent by nature, I slowly grew to be more confident to reach out to people thanks to my MBA colleagues, as well as the MBA Programme Office members being always open to support me whenever I have difficulties with the subject or consult with me on difficult decisions. I could never thank my classmates enough for late night studies over Skype, which helped me crack the frameworks and models of Supply Chain Management and Managerial Accounting. Along with the MBA Programme Office members and Professors for last minute feedback on our business case presentation right before flying to Washington D.C. Up to this point, the famous saying “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” can’t ring any more true to me.

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A Transformational experience

Reflecting on my past 10 months living in Ireland, I was astonished at how much the MBA programme has grown me intellectually as well as personally. It is truly a transformational experience where I had the chance to observe, learn, experiment, get feedback and be more confident to experiment again. This helps me to be able to deeply relate with OPERA model in Managing Negotiations in cross-cultural context: Observe – Probe – Experiment – Reflect – Action.  After 10 months, I feel more confident and excited enough to get out there in the world and make changes with the new perspectives I have gained.

Realising the fact that 5 years of work after college graduation for me was spent at full speed with business trips after business trips, campaigns after campaigns and results after results, I was so thankful for the decision to take my one year of MBA experience slowly and immersive with learning, reflection and heart-warming friendships. Up to this point when there are 9 weeks until the end, I finally came to understand that it is the journey that matters, and it’s the people that gave me such a wonderful journey.

Huyen Tran FT MBA 2017/18

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Life in the Emerald Isle

A cook to prepare food, a maid to clean my house, a chauffeur driven car to take me around, clothes washed and ironed for me to wear, this was how life was for me back in India. Fast forward a few months, I found myself in Dublin, learning to cook even the most basic stuff, vacuuming my floor and putting clothes to the laundry, all of this in the middle of an intense start to the MBA program. Life had certainly taken a 360-degrees turn.

However, as time progressed, with the help of my roommates – Himanshu, Anita and Bhavya, who are also in the MBA program, I was able to settle in quickly. Suddenly, the place seemed familiar, I discovered the food I cooked was edible and I could manage to keep my place clean enough so as to not get kicked out from the on-campus accommodation.

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In the second semester, one knows that one can get through the various modules, no matter how challenging they appear to be. With optional modules available, I learnt immensely from modules such as ‘Negotiations’ and ‘Strategy Execution’ which are relevant to my career path. In this semester, you realize that the end of the course is not far away and start preparing for life, after the MBA. In my case, I was mentally preparing to returning back to my business and the learnings that I could potentially implement. Having set up my own company three years ago and having made a million mistakes along that journey, I am extremely satisfied with the learnings from the MBA and know that I can contribute massively to my business once I get back.

For me personally, it has been that the relationships that I developed further that matters to me the most. Starting with my roommates, to my classmates who were on the trip with me to South America, it has been a pleasure to get to know them better. On the recent international business trip to South America, I fell sick because of the altitude and was diagnosed with Vertigo, a condition due to which I could not balance my body and as a result, could not stand or walk. It was with the help of classmates on the trip, especially, Thom and Himanshu, that I survived and was able to make it back safely to Dublin.

I was happy to get involved in some of the MBA clubs in the last few months. Recently, as part of the social outreach team, we visited the Carysfort National School, where we conducted a ‘Bizworld workshop’. We essentially introduced these kids to the business world, explaining some of the basic business terms and concepts. We explained, in simple terms, things like, how to identify a problem and come up with an innovative solution, how to set up a company, how to assign company roles and finally, how to make an effective business plan. We then, made them understand the world of funding and trained them to pitch their ideas.

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On the final day, these kids had the opportunity to pitch their idea to ‘Dragons’ (some members of our team who played the role of a VC) and get investments. They also pitched their ideas to the students from the previous grade to get funding. The entire social outreach team was mind blown with some of the ideas that came up. The level of creativity shown by these students in coming up with an idea, choosing a company name, designing a logo, creating marketing collateral, was way beyond what we expected. It was an eye-opener for me and a very satisfying experience.
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I was also fortunate to explore the country in the last few months with my family. Visits to Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, reiterated the fact that I chose the right country to study. If I had visualized paradise all my life, this would be it. Of course, I cannot finish before I mention the amount of fun I’ve had enjoying the nightlife in Dublin. Come Friday night, my Instagram stories are filled again, I wake up at 8am on Saturday morning and it suddenly strikes me… I have strategy class in an hour – and off I go again!

Jayanth Veerendra, Full  Time MBA 2017/18

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‘The World travelled road to Washington’

MBA case competitions are a quintessential part of the MBA experience for many ambitious students. Eoin and I found a Case Competition titled ‘IBM Case Competition, The Challenges of Digital Strategy’.  The final of which would take place in the McDonough School of Business part of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. USA. After a quick discussion about the suitability of the competition, we set about putting together a team of complementary skillsets, attributes and personalities, a team we felt could go to Georgetown and win- enter Huyen and Marcelo.

2018 was the seventh year of the IBM-Georgetown Case Competition. Each year a real case based on a U.S. government department is produced. In 2017 this was the Department of Defense, the 2018 case that we received was based on the problems facing the National Park Service (NPS).

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For the first round we were required to submit a five minute video submission detailing our strategy to resolve a case study based on the real life problems facing the National Park Services, problems which included a $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. This was a challenging case with a deadline that clashed with our International Business Trips. The Friday before setting out on our respective adventures we filmed a segment together in Smurfit, as can be seen in the photograph below:

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Karan Sonpar and Pat Gibbons were extremely generous with their time and gave the team fantastic support with the case throughout. With Karan and Pat helping us we began to wonder was destiny conspiring for us to advance to the second round in Georgetown. To produce a quality strategy to this difficult case, every spare minute was utilised by all team members on both sides of the Pacific Ocean with a major part of our round 1 solution being solved on the back of the buses which took us from the company visit to company visit. Our Global Virtual Team experience from semesters 1 and 2 was also put to good use with Skype calls taking place, not easily with a packed schedule and 12 hour time difference between Hanoi and Lima, but where there is a will, there is a way.

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We decided that the theme of our video submission would be that we travelled the world searching for the best solutions to solve the NPS problems, below you can see photos at the various locations where we filmed.

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Returning to Dublin on Friday 23rd March 2018, still jet-lagged we met up on Saturday to finish our submission, upload to the video on YouTube as per the case requirements and inform Georgetown. Twelve days later our belief that we had been produced a quality solution was vindicated when we were one of the 9th out of the 30 plus teams who entered to be chosen to compete in the finals in Georgetown. After an excited talk with the team and the MBA Programme Office we accepted our place in the final, little did we know then what we had let ourselves in for over the next 12 days!

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For the following 12 days, we all had to step out of our comfort zones, further than any point so far in our MBA experience to date. The second round case built on the first round, however teams were allowed to build on what they had already produced in round 1 or tear up their existing strategy. As a team we decided that our strategy from the first round would not be good enough to win and so we essentially started again. The team dynamic was really good, we were all on a mission to produce a winning strategy for the NPS, apart from attending lectures all team members spend every minute of our time on the case. Two days prior to the competition, one day before flying to Washington D.C. we were pushed to the limit. We presented 3 times that day with an evolving presentation, receiving feedback from the MBA Programme Office, academics and our fellow classmates. That Wednesday night after 10 days of internal debate, external feedback and not enough sleep we settled on our presentation (well most of it anyway!).

Thursday morning we got to the airport and our 12:55 flight with United Airlines was cancelled! We go to the United Airlines desk, let them know that we can’t wait for the next flight which is tomorrow because of the competition and we were put on the 12:30 flight with Aer Lingus.

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We arrive in Dulles International Airport at 15:30 EST and call an Uber to our hotel. After some shopping for essentials in a dollar shop and a fine meal in KFC, we return to practice for the following day’s competition, just after midnight and having been awake for over 24 hours we called it a night.

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Friday morning we started the day right with Pancakes, butter, bacon and eggs, the breakfast of champions, except Marcelo who had cereal, toast and two cups of coffee! On the way to Georgetown we got excited when we drive past the Pentagon and spot the Washington Monument, which prior to the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world and is managed by the NPS, one of many NPS sites that we were set to visit over the weekend.

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We arrived at Georgetown to a warm welcome from the competition committee. One thing I have not mentioned thus far is that all teams throughout rounds 1 and 2 had to remain anonymous until the final results were given, to prevent any potential bias from the judges. After registering, conversing with our competitors and a welcoming address from IBM and Georgetown, we were shown to our private room and told to make ourselves feel at home and that we would be called at 10:50, the countdown was on! For the most part we relaxed, did a small amount of practice got mentally prepared for the competition, 10:50 came and we were escorted to the lecture theatre, in front of us was 5 judges from IBM, the three teams who had presented already that morning and some Georgetown students, all keen to see what strategy the most culturally diverse team in the competition would propose to IBM and the NPS. Our 15 minute presentation was timed to perfection, we answered all the questions to the satisfaction of the judges and at 11:15 left the lecture hall to a round of applause. We were on cloud nine and slowly floated back to our room full adrenaline and the joy of performing to our ability under pressure.

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In the afternoon we had lunch, networked, spoke to IBM’s HR/recruitment representative, and received a tour of the Georgetown campus. 15:20 the moment of truth arrived, IBM gave general feedback on the groups which was invaluable, given that we were all acting as IBM consultants in this round, then the top 3 were presented. Unfortunately we did not place in the top 3 but we were satisfied with our performance and extremely proud that we had gone to Georgetown to present a quality strategy to IBM on a real case and most importantly represented UCD and the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School with pride and conviction.

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After the event we retired to the Bulldog Tavern to share some refreshments with the IBM judges, the McDonough School Associate Dean and our fellow MBA competitors, who predominantly were attending business school in the U.S. but hailed from all over the world. After an entertaining evening with we set off for our Airbnb, exhausted we all fell asleep before 10 p.m. The next couple of days were amazing, the Mall in Washington and the museums which border it need to be experienced. Washington D.C. is a beautiful city and definitely worth including as part of a U.S. East coast trip.

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As a team we must thank on an individual basis, Ro Downing, Agnieszka Wisniewska, Emma Mescall, Pat Gibbons, Karan Sonpar and Bob Brennan. We would also like to thank our classmates for their feedback on our presentations and for their support in general which meant a great deal to us.

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To conclude everyone in the team pushed themselves to the limit for the IBM-Georgetown Case Competition. When the case was released two days before the International trip the easy thing would have been to say it can’t be done, but we said let’s have no regrets and give it our best effort. The lesson here is if there is something you want, don’t look for or accept excuses, keep trying, be brave, keep learning from your efforts, engage with the right people and you will get where you need to be, we promise you and you will be a better person for it.

James Kelly, MBA Full Time 2017/18

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Surprising Application of MBA learning

The general expectation from the MBA program is to develop your leadership skills and prepare you for management roles. Our LATAM experience showed us how these MBA concepts could also transcend to other interesting aspects of personal life.

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After day-long seminars with important speakers, we were eager to experience the thriving nightlife at Santiago, Lima and Cusco. The odds were stacked against us as we had limited dancing abilities and very little knowledge of the local language.

The lessons learnt from our last semester, it all came back to us! On the dance floor, we strategically identified potential dance partners by scanning the environment through the lens of segmentation targeting positioning concept, which was taught by the three musketeers of marketing – Damien, Andrew and Marius. We reminded ourselves about McNutt’s lesson on Nash equilibrium and realized that it was better to cooperate than compete with each other on the dance floor.

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On analysis of our interactions with the local people, we realized that our competitive advantage was that we hailed from India – the exotic land of the Taj Mahal and Khajuraho temples! We tactically played this trump card, which turned out be a great ice-breaker and kept the conversation flowing.

News of our happening nightlife spread like wild fire to the other end of the globe where the other half of our bunch was chilling in Hanoi. This experience taught us the true meaning of Chinese whispers. Our innocent dancing with the local women was distorted into creative, hilarious stories which made us men of questionable character! Overall, those two weeks were truly a highly immersive cultural experience. This has boosted our confidence of our ability to effectively handle international client relationships by overcoming language and cultural barriers.

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On returning back to Dublin and resting on that weekend, we were directly thrown into early morning day-long sessions of Operations and Supply Chain Management with the effervescent George Onofrei. We had interesting presentations covering companies across a wide range of sectors – Ebay, Dominos, Zappos, Sonae, Amazon, Zara and Cincinnati Hospital. Some of the teams entertained us by offering us pizzas and fruits. However, my team member John Keegan stole everyone’s thunder when he introduced his mother as a guest appearance during our presentation on Cincinnati Hospital. Our first group presentation turned out to be very successful and we look forward to building on that momentum.

Osmund Allan, MBA FT 2017/18osmund-1

 

MBA International Trip – A True International Experience

I had the opportunity to visit South America for the first time as part of the MBA International Study trip. Narcos, Machu Picchu and football were few of the things I knew about South America. This International study trip was my opportunity to have a real taste and feel of the continent, while also understanding a different culture. This helped me to link the theoretical knowledge that I learnt in the MBA programme, to its market application in an unfamiliar country. The main reason of doing an International MBA was to obtain a global experience. This trip added the icing on the cake.

Santiago is one of the most developed cities in South America. However, it is also a city which lies in a highly active seismic zone, as earthquakes in Chile are a routine occurrence. I was astonished to find that the Chilean infrastructure is so strong and dependable and that the Chilean people are unperturbed unless an earthquake measures higher than 6.5 on the Richter Scale. I also had the opportunity to visit one a non-profit organisation- Fundacíon Vivienda, which makes temporary houses for earthquake affected people. I fortunate to meet with to Miguel Mora, the Operations Director of the firm. We discussed on how we could make use of the residing materials from the houses.

We also met a lot of renowned speakers like Nicolas Verdesoto, who manages investor relations at Banco Estada, the State Bank of Chile. He explained the Chilean economy and its fiscal policies. We had the privilege of visiting one of the finest vineyards in the world- Vineyard Veramonte in Casablanca and of course, we bought some bottles for ourselves!

After a few exciting days in Chile, we flew to Lima, Peru for the second leg of our journey. And guess what, we met the CEO of Vivo Air, one of the cost leaders in the Aviation Industry. He spoke about the history, the company strategy going forward, their beliefs and how being a cost leader gives them a competitive advantage.

This trip also gave me the opportunity to visit one of the leading textile manufacturing firms in LATAM. I had never been to a textile manufacturing factory before. Eduardo Elias, the Director of the firm, provided us with a great insight into the process of making clothes. We also visited his industrious factory and the textile testing centre.

We stayed back in Peru for five more days to understand the LATAM culture. We explored the cities on our own experiencing the nightlife, the remains of the Incas civilisation and the natural beauty that South America possesses such as Machu Picchu and the Rainbow Mountains.

Orientating and managing cultural differences is an essential part in a manager’s work life. As an MBA graduate, it becomes essential to learn how to conduct business in a completely different environment with a variety of cultures. Furthermore, it becomes vital to understand how to harness the theories learnt during the MBA to accommodate the cultural diversity in an International setting.

Finally, I would like to thank the Smurfit MBA Office for providing us this opportunity, my group who accompanied me to make each and every day special, Karan Sonpar for his speed dating networking tips, Thom Strimbu for capturing these wonderful pictures and the tour organisers for making this trip a memorable experience.

Himanshu Kamat, MBA FT 2017/18

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The MBA: A Year of Transformation

The MBA programme has finally come to an end.  My one-year roller coaster experience has ended faster than I had imagined.

When I bid farewell to Orla, Michael and Yvonne in the MBA programme office before heading to Dublin airport, I found myself stuck by a simple question asked by Yvonne,  “How do you feel right now?”. I had a strange feeling that I never had before. I felt glad yet sad, relieved yet nervous. I am so glad and relieved that I have endured this demanding programme (not to mention the intensive 6-week capstone project that has just ended at Microsoft). At the same time, I was sad as I was about to leave Ireland and all the lovely people I met here very soon. I also felt a little nervous since the end of the MBA programme means the beginning of the real career challenges ahead, given the expectations of prospective employers for MBA graduates.

When reflecting upon the year I spent in Smurfit, I found that the past year was a truly rewarding one in terms of personal growth and knowledge gained. Other than the nice combination of the business knowledge that I have gained, I have developed a deeper self-awareness through the Leadership Development Programme (LDP). I have also learned a lot by working with classmates with different backgrounds, experiences and personalities.

On the other hand, the opportunities to gain international exposure were tremendous in Smurfit. In October last year, I studied for a week at Yale School of Management as part of the Global Network of Advanced Management (GNAM) programme. Earlier this year, our class went to China for a week as part of the “Doing Business in Emerging Markets” module. And now, I am heading to Malibu, California for a semester long MBA exchange programme in Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University, before I officially complete my MBA programme.

Going forward, I am cautiously optimistic about my future. As mentioned by my mentor, an MBA degree will not magically transform a person to what he or she wants to be. Indeed, I have to be realistic of what to expect in the near future and try very hard to pursue every opportunities that are presented to me.

However, I believe there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. After a year of immersion, I believe I am different from what I was a year ago.

The transformation has just begun.

Sai Mun Leo

Full-time class 2013-14, currently on exchange at Pepperdine University in US.

The end of the semester is nigh

After our massively successful trip to China it’s back to the grindstone at Smurfit. Since returning many students are commenting just how close to the end of lectures we are, with essentially only four weeks of classes remaining. While this idea dawned on me several days ago I was heartened to see some of our class presentations this week which were really of a very high quality (they had numbers, they had words, the material all fitted together, they worked!). It would be truly interesting for us to sit down as a class and watch some videos of ourselves presenting last autumn, I’m sure we’ve all really come a long way.

Asides from the few weeks of lectures remaining, we have two weeks of exams and the Capstone project. This project will put us out in small teams into the real world to work with companies on consulting projects. I’m slightly concerned how my body clock is going to react to early mornings as leading in to exam season I’ve started studying into the night-time and waking up late but apart from this I’m definitely looking forward to applying all that I’ve learned. I’ve heard rumours that real companies are more complex than what can be described in 15 pages of a Harvard Business School case study! Anyway, the experience should be a great final hurrah and a real chance to gain experience in a new business sector.

Conal Campbell

FT MBA


Little Flappy Bird vs. giant Zynga Dog!

Our MBA class just has come back from a great MBA International trip, “Doing Business in Emerging Market – China 2014”. In Beijing, we had an exciting morning visiting Zynga Inc., a giant social game company named in honor of Zynga, former CEO Mark Pincus’ late American bulldog, which transformed hundreds of millions of office people around the world to genuine farmers through a social game, Farmville and other popular games on Facebook such as Mafia Wars and Zynga poker.

UCD China 2014 – Doing Business in Emerging Market.

Recently, a tiny game – Flappy Bird – developed by the Vietnam-based developer Nguyen Ha Dong, became the special phenomenon in tech world when it climbed to the top 1st free application on both Google Android and Apple Store, a dream of even many giant technology companies which paid millions US dollars for marketing campaigns to get the top position in both Operating Systems (the author who writes this blog is also proud of being a Vietnamese guy who studies at the same technology university with Dong). While many people doubted that the top indie game Flappy Bird on Android and iOS Store can earn $ 50,000 a day, many top games have reached revenue of $ 1 billion. For example, the game Farmville has reached a revenue of $ 1 billion since early 2013 or the recent game, Clash of Clans, generates $ 2.4 million per day from Supercell Studio, a two-year-old start-up game company of Finland with only 95 members. It is quite normal in “the flat world”, a metaphor by Thomas L. Friedman in term of commerce for viewing the world as a place where all competitors have an equal opportunity. I believe that the metaphor is totally right for the mobile market where many developers have an equal chance to be successful from over the world even they are giant technology companies or dependent developers.

Flappy Bird vs. Zynga

During the meeting with the executive managers at Zynga, Flappy Bird story has been referred by my Indian classmate when he asked whether Zynga planned to make some tiny games like Flappy Bird. There are also some questions about ethical issues, i.e., many young people get addicted to the game, leading malnourished and neurological problems. The philosophical answer of the manager in Zynga quite met my moral perspective: “The addiction can happen to any field such as workaholic, alcoholic, Facebook-addicted etc… And individuals have a complete responsibility for their own actions but game developers should also limit time to play game”. Playing game in moderation is good for entertaining and socializing as Zynga stated their mission is “Connecting the World through Games”.

Coming back to the 5-star hotel, New Otani Chang Fu Gong and researching more about Zynga and Pincus, I opened my Google Market Store on my Android Phone and saw that some games from my classmate’s start-up game studio (not Ha Dong) had reached 1 million downloads. It’s amazing! Can it be a second Flappy bird earning $50.000 a day? Standing up to open the window and seeing “the emerging market” outside, I exclaimed: “I have found China and Friedman is right. The world is flat!!!”

(Some of) the (very tired) eagles have landed

The international study trip for 2014 ended last night for about half the participants in the Arrivals hall of Dublin Airport with 34 arriving home after a long days flight from Beijing.  The rest of the group will be arriving back over coming days having opted to stay on a few days to explore Beijing and the surrounding region further.  There were a lot of tired but happy people collecting their bags and already beginning to reminisce about speakers and companies we visited not to mention nights out in Shanghai and Beijing and the St. Patrick’s Day Ball in Beijing topped off by a late night watching Ireland beat France.  More detailed thoughts will follow from participants on the trip but for now all we can say is it went well and much was learned and unlearned and many perceptions and preconceived notions were changed.

MBAs in China – First Stop on Their Journey

Yesterday, 61 Smurfit MBA students, two staff members, and two professors arrived in China for a week of cultural immersion, corporate visits, and experiences they will not soon forget. The group began their trip in Shanghai where they hosted a Welcome Dinner, met Smurfit MBA alumni living locally and MBA students from the Fudan University School of Management, and visited CELAP.

Tonight will be their first chance to explore Shanghai. Let’s hope they take advantage and make sure to get enough sleep to adjust to the time change!

Keep an eye on this page over the next few weeks for details of their experience…