Beyond the MBA: A Post-Break Reflection

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During the Christmas break, I finally had the opportunity to stop and look at the last four months of my life and try to make sense of them. The pace of the MBA sucks you in at great speed and leaves little room for standing back for a moment and looking at the big picture: at what’s being built besides the knowledge, the practical skills, and the busy schedules. There is a wealth I have discovered in the MBA, beyond the numbers and the opportunities that the future holds, and that is the richness of the people that integrate the whole MBA experience.The promise of professional and cultural diversity in the MBA was one of the elements that most attracted me to the Smurfit MBA Programme, but envisioning it does not truly reflect the intricacies of such diversity. Of course we expect engineers to think differently from bankers, or the Irish to have different dinner habits than Mexicans or Indians, and the confirmation of those expectations is not a surprise to anyone in our modern world. However, it is the closeness that is built out of the habit of spending every day together that brings the most surprises. The spirit in the MBA room, from buying supplies collectively to sharing snacks during long days spent working on projects, is always a rewarding one. Teamwork also brings the opportunity for closeness and insight about others, even if that is through overcoming conflict.

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There is much to be learned about communication and bridging the gaps of cultural and professional differences, from different working styles to varying understandings of politeness or humour. For me, part of both the challenge and the beauty of the MBA have been those bridges and connections. During foundation week, we had a talk about the importance of listening and a workshop on the Myers Briggs personality types. I remember those very clearly, not only because I found them valuable for my professional career, but also for my everyday interactions with people, and as obvious as “listening is important” may sound, we often forget how to do so once we are subjected to stress, pressure, and deadlines. I have often sat down with friends in the course rethinking our means of communication in terms of the different personality types and cultural backgrounds.

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Theory and practice go hand in hand, so giving us the tools to enter into such a diverse group in order to be able to have a broader understanding of each other enriches all of us, if we allow it to happen. Day after day, the learning I’ve experienced has happened both in and outside of the classroom. I stepped away from my comfort zone in the humanities to try to analyse companies and financial statements, but I have also happily listened to my colleagues’ stories about their careers and have tried to comprehend their working styles and how we can complement each other.

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After being on a break for a month, I realized I have changed during the short time I’ve been part of the MBA. My professional and personal horizons have broadened due to the new material I’m learning, and equally (or even possibly more so) from the people I have met. Their ambition, motivation, and passion are contagious, and even if there are points on the road when I feel tired, anxious, or scared, it is through the hope that we share for a better future that I am driven forward. I am certain that the new term will bring more of this knowledge and experience and I can only hope that we can continue to inspire each other during and beyond the MBA.

Andrea Martinez ~ Full-Time MBA

A Special Day to Mark the End of Semester 1

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Yesterday was a special day which marked the end of Semester 1. I went to the graduation ceremony of my friend. Congrats to her for achieving the degree of MBA at Smurfit Business School. The ceremony took place in O’Reilly hall at the Belfield campus. When I arrived there, a group of graduates were taking pictures on the grass. Happy laughter and cheerful voices were among them.

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The ceremony was formal and solemn. I was so touched by the speeches of the President and the Dean. I felt honoured to be a student at Smurfit. I pictured myself wearing the robe and standing on the stage next year. I will be really excited and delighted.

After that, I ran back to Blackrock to meet my fellow MBA colleagues for our yummy ‘Lucky Pot’. We brought the popular foods from our home country: Irish stew, Irish coffee, American fudge, African curry and melktert, German Pizza, Mexican salsa and tortilla chips, Chinese steamed bun and haw flakes and so on.

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We shared the recipes and made jokes about the unique cuisines. It helps us to chillax from the intense study for a moment. Time flies, 12-weeks of classes went so fast.

Good luck everyone and I hope we can achieve the grades we are aiming for in our upcoming exams.

Jingjie Ma ~ Full-Time MBA 

Theme: Preparation!

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It’s an October day on campus at Smurfit Graduate Business School, and the MBA Class of 2017 have been at UCD for six weeks. The international students are getting to grips with the mercurial Irish weather and the Irish students are slowly coming to terms with Mayo’s disappointment in the All-Ireland. Summertime is officially over and it’s time to prepare for winter.

Preparation seems to be a theme this week!

First and foremost is preparation for the workplace. I’m a career changer: I studied medicine as an undergraduate, working as a junior doctor before coming to UCD. One of my priorities this year is explore my career options post-MBA.  Happily, Smurfit is making that task very easy.

At the start of term the Careers team circulated an MBA vacancy with a global brand, and I spent much of my Monday evening gearing up for a phone interview next week. There was plenty more to learn about potential employers on Tuesday, as a stellar lineup of firms sent representatives to Smurfit for the Audit & Consulting Recruitment Fair. With the graduate milk-rounds starting, we have a valuable opportunity to do some research ahead of the MBA hiring cycle.

Wednesday was entirely devoted to job-hunting skills with the fantastic Daniel Porot. We were in capable hands, learning from a speaker who works with 12 of the world’s top 20 MBA schools. I’ll have a chance to put M. Poirot’s advice into practice at the second recruitment fair of the week, which focuses on general business functions rather than professional services.

Planning a little more proximally, I’ve been finalising my travel plans for Global Network Week. Due to Smurfit’s membership of the Global Network for Advanced Management, full-time MBA students (and second-year EMBAs) get to spend a week in October participating in the GNAM Global Exchange. Many students opt for the programme hosted right here at UCD, others go to Yale, and a further cohort heads to IE in Madrid. Earlier this week, the destinations for our spring study tour were confirmed as Tokyo and Seoul; 32 of us came to Blackrock, but we’re getting to see the world!

Next Saturday, nine of us will fly out for an immersive exchange at Yale School of Management, studying Behavioral Economics, Marketing and Finance. We just received our schedules, which include a company visit day in New York. Some lucky scheduling means we’ll be able to catch up with UCD business alumni at the New York chapter’s annual benefit dinner, and find out exactly where our MBAs (and alumni connections) can take us.

Thirdly, as usual, I’m preparing for next week’s classes. My long-suffering boyfriend is resigned to the fact that my weekends will be primarily occupied with pre-reading and finance homework for the foreseeable future. Finally, though, I’m getting ready for a friend’s wedding reception on Friday afternoon, which should be a lovely occasion in Georgian Dublin – timely reassurance that normal life still continues during the MBA!

Laura Donaghy ~ Full-Time MBA

Has It Only Been 17 Weeks?

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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

Vietnam Culture Night Part 2

Michael Smurfit Business School provides not only an excellent academic background but is also very culturally diverse. In the college, we have good opportunities to explore different cultures from many international student communities.

Tết or Vietnamese New Year, is the most important celebration of Vietnamese culture. On the first day of the first month of the Vietnamese calendar, we, Vietnamese students at Michael Smurfit Business School, successfully organized the special event called “Vietnam Cultural Night”. The main purpose of the event was to introduce Vietnamese culture and promote “Only rice is not enough,” a charity program that raises funds to provide food and cooking services in elementary schools of poor highland mountain regions.

During the event, guests were served different kinds of Vietnamese traditional foods. Some highlights of Vietnamese cultural activities that happen during Tet through the traditional costume shows, traditional dances and music provide the insights about Vietnam. The most interesting activity was the Kid Corner which enabled Vietnamese adopted children to understand about their original point. The event is one of the most meaningful activities during our one year in the Smurfit Business School.


Ba Nguyen

Full-time MBA 2014

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Reflecting through Limericks

As a conclusion to the first semester of the MBA, please enjoy this trio of limericks.


Reflections on Semester One

Time flies by so quickly. It’s hard to believe.

Seven modules are done, and now some reprieve.

After many hours of study

With a group or a buddy

Seems like yesterday we first met with Niamh.


New Colleagues and Friends

There once was a guy from the States

In Ireland he made some great mates

At the start of the year

Had a loneliness fear

But now he gives thanks to the Fates.


Ode to Kerrygold*

My friends oft hear when I start to mutter,

“I just really need some of that butter.”

After days good or bad

What can perk up a lad?

The thought gets my heart going aflutter.


With a colour so gold and yellow

My taste buds can’t help but say, “Hello”

I haul out the tub

Give bread a quick rub

And presto, I’m one happy fellow.


I have travelled thousands of miles

To the emeraldest of  isles

And the best thing I’ve found,

I could eat by the pound

Is Kerrygold. It’s always worthwhile.


Anthony Downs

FT MBA 2014

*The author has no affiliation with Kerrygold. He’s just an enthusiastic consumer.