Out of many wonderful learning experiences in the Smurfit MBA, Masterclass sessions were very insightful. Masterclasses were not a part of the pre-defined course curriculum but were arranged on-demand as extra learning opportunities for MBA students. These were optional classes, providing flexibility to students to choose sessions of their interests. In order to boost the spirits of all of us during the COVID environment, the classes were designed with a practical approach towards the usage of those tools and concepts which would help us in our future assignments.
One such masterclass was organized on “Agile” philosophy. The class was in high demand and the facilitator had to take two sessions to accommodate all interested students.
Even though my area of expertise is operations and supply chain, with very little prior exposure to Agile concepts, my learnings were immense because of the interactive sessions chaired by a highly experienced professional, and thanks to the contribution of my many classmates who have in-depth knowledge on the subject.
We learnt the key differences between Agile and Waterfall methodology, and that both have their own use cases. It was interesting to find out that while in Waterfall methodology, resource planning is done based on deliverables and timelines, the whole focus of Agile is on available resources and timeline, and the deliverables are prioritized accordingly.
These initiatives like Masterclass and Leadership Development in the post-COVID environment are a reflection of the school’s commitment toward the overall development of MBA students and are amongst the key contributors to our experiential learning process at Smurfit.
My friends all tell me that I have the best answer to ‘what’s the last thing you did before everything shut down?’, and I have to agree: the last thing I did before shutdown was accompany 36 MBA students and Professor Karan Sonpar on their Doing Business in International Markets study tour to Buenos Aires. I asked the students to share some of their memories–and favourite photos–from that experience:
I always had this dream of going to Argentina someday because of its history, politics and of course football. My best memory of visiting Argentina would be visiting the tomb of Eva Peron and visiting La Boca. Of course one of my top experiences of all time would include the Friday night Tango. It was unreal. With a little too much alcohol in the belly, I was finding it difficult to comprehend if the entire performance was real. I would definitely go back to Buenos Aires to re-live the memories.
Apart from the amazing food, wine, and tango show, my favorite part was talking with the locals on the street. They were very willing to express their insight of the local economy and were extremely interested in our outsiders’ opinion of their country. This reinforced the importance of understanding the human element behind business theory.
It was an amazing and culturally rich experience from the moment we landed on the Sunday morning. The Argentine people were warm and very welcoming despite all the country has been through politically and economically over the last few decades.
Buenos Aires in particular was very European but with a Latin tango twist!!
One night six of us had dinner costing over 10,000 pesos – it was crazy as we were counting the notes in 500 denominations – first real experience of such wild inflation.
–Peter McGarvey, EMBA student
Unexpectedly, one of the visits which I most enjoyed was the visit to the waste management plant. It was interesting to see how the different types of waste are handled and how the landfills can be covered in grass and made to look like nature reserves when full. I think having tours to sites such as this really emphasises the need to reduce waste production and recycle. It is something I think everyone should see.
The first thing which I learnt about Argentina after reaching there was that it is pronounced as Arr-khen-tina (stressing ‘r’ more). The natives of the place pronounce it that way. In fact, while pronouncing any word which contains the syllable “r”, ‘r’ is stressed upon heavily.
Agriculture forms 60% of the economy of Argentina. Also, in Argentina, maximum taxes are paid by the people who are involved in the farming sector. Hence, Agriculture is a very important part of the economy of Argentina. It was very interesting to know that the popularity of a meat depends upon how cheap it is and how many resources are used to produce it.
From Empanadas to Beef steak, from Boca to River Plate, from the stay in Alvear Art Hotel to the Tango dance, everything has been perfect. Amazing food, lovely people, and a rich culture. Another thing was “Empanadas”. Empanadas are common in the culture of Latin America. They are filled up with cheese, or beef, or some other kind of meat. They have the shape which are similar to that of “Ghujiyas” in India.
We had our last day in Argentina at Sumando Energías – Service Learning Project. Our one-day workshop was to learn how to take advantage of solar energy by building a solar heater and a shower for a family of five. One of the best parts was that all the raw materials used came from industrial and/or domestic waste. So we were converting or reusing what would have otherwise gone into landfills. We were divided into tables each having a simple task like cutting and shaping bottles or assembling the painted bottles. It was interesting to see how the process unfurled. When it started, everyone just picked a table and did whatever was closest to them. There was not a lot of coordination amongst the different tables.
However, as we started working, we fell into some sort of pattern. For example, in the table I was at, we rearranged ourselves so that we were working in a sequence. One would cut the bottle, then pass it to the next person to shape it, then it would be passed for sanding and finally to the person stapling it. And after that, we were so much faster. It was like seeing a real-life operations change take place.
I think I speak for all of us when I say that we all learned a lot about flexibility and professionalism from watching our travel partners, the educational travel company The Austral Group, adapt to circumstances that changed by the day as the world came to grips with the spread of Covid-19.
From the first day, companies faced increased restrictions on large meetings, and Austral quickly and efficiently replaced what had been cancelled with new tours and company visits. Where possible, the team replaced physical meetings with virtual visits to our hotel conference room. Juan, Sofia, and the team also dealt with a variety of flight booking changes, as Argentina moved to restrict travel and some Smurfit travelers (myself included) found that the school closings in Ireland made it imperative that we get home as soon as possible.
Experiencing such an historic moment definitely added an educational layer to our visit to this historic city.
–Kathryne Del Sesto, Project Manager, UCD Smurfit MBA Programme Office
My MBA journey thus far has provided me with so many new insights. One of the lessons I have valued the most was not taught in the classroom or by faculty, but by my peers. I have been lucky this term to be part of a project team made up of a diverse set of backgrounds: a doctor, an engineer, an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist; and myself, a solicitor. Whilst I have worked in multi-disciplinary teams in my past career as a solicitor, this team takes it to a whole new level. Not only do they each have something different to offer during our team meetings, but each individual has also taught me so much.
The following are some of the lessons that I have learned:
Empowerment– Each member of our team has a voice when it comes to making a team decision, and never has to doubt their opportunity to share that voice.
Trust and Respect– Trust makes each individual member stronger. We can rely on each other’s abilities and strengths, which in turn has allowed us to achieve our goals. Furthermore, we respect each other’s input during discussions and listen to each other.
Diversity– We recognise, and utilise, each individual’s strengths, talents and skills. Each team member has a specific skill set, background and way of thinking that brings something different to the table during discussions and results in a more effective team.
Honesty– No one is afraid to offer their opinion if they are unhappy with any aspect of a task. We can openly discuss and agree on common goals. This allows us to work effectively and efficiently on tasks.
Fun– From day one when we were completing our team charter, we made a specific note to ensure that we had fun during the semester. We were conscious that the workload can get intense but that it was important to inject some enjoyment in to our schedule. We are only two months in to semester 2 and have already organised a team hike to Seefin Passage Tomb in Co. Wicklow! It is important to realise that there is a life outside of college and this helped us to bond as a group.
Celebrating Achievement – As a team, we recognise the need to collectively celebrate every success along this journey, whether that be by words of support following a presentation or going for drinks after submitting a report. This has helped us to remain motivated and increased team morale.
At the beginning of term we were asked to choose a team name. We chose Generosity of Spirit. Reflecting now on this name, I can see that a successful team is just that: a team where everyone can feel empowered to share the very best of themselves.
Dear MBA aspirants, if you have an admit to start in 2018, take a deep breadth before you dive into the most exciting days of your lives. While an MBA is said to provide compounding returns over many years, now is the time for you to embrace an experience you will cherish forever. You’ve just finished a warmup marathon, through your GMAT, ‘money’ planning, essays, scholarship application, LORs and interviews. As the dust settles, start watching Excel videos and work on Prof. Niamh Brennan’s pre-course assignment. Then, grab a pint @ #TheDarkHorse or #ThreeTon… down Carysfort Ave. for a head-start into your MBA life! If you’re moving into Dublin for the MBA, forget pints and start house hunting.
Some of you might be in the process of getting an admit. If you’re nearly there, hold on tight, as you’re nearly there. On the list of admissions requirements above, I’ve mentioned GMAT first, not that it’s the toughest thing but it needs more time and is a qualifying requirement before you look any further. If you think GMAT is tough, wait for Orla Nugent’s interview and you’ll find out (btw, Orla is super cool)! In August, if you’ve just realised there’s something called GMAT, it’s really ok. We all have our times of realisation.
The GMAT is more than Math and Verbal; it’s a test of nerves. So, pressure doesn’t help. Heard of time-pressure? Still, sit the test if admissions deadline permits you to. Generally, people buy ‘Official Guides’ (best recommended) and start solving questions in the order they are printed. Try this instead. For Math – make mixed sets of 10 questions (5 P.S + 5 D.S) and solve them in approx. 20 mins. For Verbal, make mixed sets of 9 questions (3 S.C, 3 C.R, 1 R.C Passage with 3 questions) and solve them in approx. 15 mins. This gets you closer to the actual flow. On Verbal, SC concepts/rules are numerous; CR and RC have fewer question types and can be largely covered in this short time span. Decide wisely on allocating time to these sections; think of your return on investment (time). Most important, take it easy!
P.S: The GMAT needs months of preparation based on individual’s schedules. Worst case, give it a shot now, and know that you’ve started preparing on-time for the 2019 intake.
It is exactly one year since I completed one of the most challenging, transformative, and enjoyable journeys I could have imagined. My MBA journey started on a beach in Vietnam. A month travelling around South East Asia provided space to reflect on those latent goals that you procrastinate on until the time is right, or invariably, perfect. Like everything in life, there is no right time, there is certainly no perfect time. I decided that the time was now, and in fact, the time would be six weeks after returning from my travels. Little did I think I was about to set out on an even greater adventure, and this time round there would be no Lonely Planet to neatly signpost the challenges and highlights.
The MBA adventure kicked off with an induction and team building week on the soggy grounds of the Smurfit campus. I imagined sharp suits and laptops but the wellies, rain jackets and blindfolds were the perfect leveller! Running around with buckets of water on what I can only describe as an adult sports day, I forged friendships that would endure long after the MBA chapter closed. There are so many more highlights since those first few days in Blackrock, and each of them, like the best adventures, were unexpected and unplanned!
My Lonely Planet collection expanded more than I had anticipated during an MBA. Together with four colleagues, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal in Canada to represent Smurfit at the John Molson International MBA Case Competition. Next stop, the International Study Tour saw eighty MBAs travel to Japan and South Korea to learn about doing business in international markets and visit global corporate giants including KIA and Samsung. My MBA passport was stamped again when I travelled to the US to undertake a week long module in the Behavioural Science of Management with global MBAs at Yale University. Smurfit is a member of an international global MBA network which offers students the opportunity to attend a Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week at one of a number of partner business schools. International travel aside, there were so many more highlights – the class debates, the team presentations, the countless coffee breaks with your colleagues amid writing papers on GE, Coca Cola and Southwest Airlines, and the ‘odd’ beer down the Dark Horse to catch the Six Nations after class!
The application process was straight forward. I applied online in mid-July with my CV, two letters of recommendation, my university transcripts and a short written application. At the same time I also scheduled my GMAT aptitude test for mid-August. My application was reviewed by the Board and I was called for an interview within two weeks. I interviewed with the MBA Director who assessed my suitability and rationale for pursuing the MBA. In parallel with the application process, I commenced study for the GMAT aptitude test. I received a conditional offer from Smurfit in early August pending a sufficient GMAT score. In mid-August I sat the GMAT and obtained the score I needed to get into Smurfit, and with that my MBA journey kicked off a little over two weeks later.
A Chartered Engineer by background, prior to the MBA I had over seven years’ experience in the utility industry across asset development, trading, strategy and innovation. Since completing the MBA, I have taken up a new role as a Manager in Accenture’s Resources practice where I work with utility sector clients on strategy and transformation projects. The skills which I gained during the MBA from leadership and strategy execution to client consulting have proved invaluable as I navigate my new role.
While I believe everyone sets out on the MBA in pursuit of their own personal goals, I will share a few of my reflections and insights. A substantial portion of the learning on the MBA is attained through working in teams with colleagues from varied backgrounds. Embrace the diversity and opportunity to explore diverging perspectives. There will be different styles, there will be conflicting views and there will be frustrations – be open to different approaches and use the opportunity to truly understand and test your own leadership style. The leadership development aspect of the MBA was one of the most enriching elements of the journey. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, go first, have a shot, challenge your self-perceptions – you are there to learn and to push boundaries – nothing grows in a comfort zone. Take time and make the effort to bond with your colleagues. Your colleagues soldier with you and support you every step of the way. The MBA network has been one of the biggest enduring benefits, and the value of being able to tap into the network you formed while at Smurfit is immeasurable.
To those sitting on the fence procrastinating and considering if the time is now, take the leap and put in the application; there will never be a perfect time. To those who have already secured their place, you are about to embark on an incredible journey, it will challenge you on so many levels but you will grow in equal measure. Enjoy every step of the journey!
The international orientation is one of the outstanding draws for Smurfit School’s MBA programme. With global case study competitions, modules in other Global Network of Advanced Management schools and international study trips already in place, the previous year’s MBA class had gone to Iceland for the Global Business Environment module.
That first visit was such a big success that our year had heard a great deal about it long before the email to enroll for it landed in our inbox during the first semester. Fast forward through the second semester and the exams, and we found ourselves back in a classroom in Blackrock with Prof. Karan Sonpar.
Besides being reminded how important it was that a strategy not only sounded good but had to be implementable, we focused on learning how to work more efficiently as a team. We were all experienced professionals, had worked with different study groups during the past year and had read a preparatory book on teamwork. So, huddled in our project groups, we were happy to tackle an exercise that left us pretending to be stranded in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash. And it quickly became obvious that nobody in the room was as seasoned a team player as they had undoubtedly believed. I, for one, would have died horribly following the fictitious accident, had I had to make the decisions by myself. But thanks to Paul’s real-life survival training and some quick and creative thinking from Monika, Freda and Darren, we made the right decisions and survived to our imaginary rescue.
Back in real life, on a Sunday not long after, it was time to set out for Iceland. Upon arrival, a visit to the Port Festival in the fishing town of Grindavik and the famous (and stunning) Blue Lagoon put us in holiday mood. Too soon, Monday morning arrived and it was down to business. Taxis arrived for all the groups and we took off to meet our client, an Icelandic travel company, in person for the first time. Given our lack of consulting experience, we were unsure of how well our preparations and our call with the team of the Conference and Incentives Department at the company had equipped us. But as soon as we met the team on site, things started falling into place. Many questions were answered, some additional ones cropped up but, most importantly, an understanding of the company and their needs quickly evolved, and ideas for our deliverable of a marketing plan started to develop.
The three days we had with the company went by (too) quickly and we spent a long and tense Wednesday evening finalising our presentation. After a conversation with our academic adviser Prof. Eamonn Walsh had sparked improvements to our ideas, we needed to overhaul some of what we would talk about the next morning. While other teams were visibly in the same situation (the hotel lobby looked like an exam prep room), we really started to feel the pressure mounting with the time to our presentation seeping away faster and faster while we were fine-tuning how we would put our thoughts into visual queues.
With Monika, one of the year’s marketing aces, in our group we were confident in our ideas, and we had certainly rehearsed enough to know that we were communicating our suggestions creatively and coherently. But as with everything involving an audience, it is impossible to know what everybody would think, and we were still slightly apprehensive going into the presentation. Fortunately, the client’s reaction was extremely positive and we felt the proverbial weight fall off our shoulders.
Group members: Paul Donnelly, Monika Ghita, Darren Yourell, Freda Mahon, Kirsten Dottermusch
The remainder of the day as well as our Friday tour of Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Strokkur Geyser felt like a holiday we desperately needed. However, what we embraced and appreciated most about the week was the practical opportunity the consulting project provided. Applying the knowledge that we had acquired during the first year, encountering the pitfalls we were so confident we would avoid but successfully finding solutions as a team when we did not, were significant and rewarding steps towards fulfilling the expectations and ambitions the course programme instills in us.
I attended a great event for prospective, current, and alumni students of the MBA programme at UCD Smurfit last week in the St Stephens Green Hibernian Club and the topic caused me to pause for thought afterwards. As an alumnus from the 2016 class who moved from a career as a military officer to one in the technology industry, I could not help but lean on all of my experiences in how I thought about this issue.
Amazon have become hugely successful to the extent that they account for 44% and growing of all eCommerce in the US and major corporations such as Walmart appear to face extinction as Amazon increasingly move into their territory. They achieved this by identifying fifth wave of innovation technologies such as the internet and digital networks in the 1990’s and utilising them to become the ultimate example of centralisation, due to having a single storefront in their website and a highly integrated supply chain. This allows them to drive down costs and capture efficiencies for their high volume low margin business model better than the likes of Walmart – who conventional wisdom used to state, could not be stopped. Until they were – by Amazon.
A basic principle of strategy is that you should not choose to take on your competitor where they are strong but identify where they are weak and compete there, because if you compete on their terms, you will probably lose. So, what is Amazons weak spot?
Being a bit of a history buff I was able to draw a link with a podcast I recently listened to about the Gallic Wars whereby the Roman Empire fought a devastating war of conquest to defeat and subjugate the Celtic tribes of Gaul with the result that three million Gauls died or were enslaved. At this time, Rome was a highly centralised hierarchical civilisation that developed complex economic and military systems that integrated scientific knowledge to expand its power and influence. The Gauls on the other hand were a decentralised confederacy of tribes based on common culture, language, and traditions that bound them together.
Vercingetorix led the Celtic tribes in revolt, but when Caesar amassed a huge army to fight them, he correctly refused to fight them on their terms in a pitched battle that would allow the Romans to deploy their strengths in command and control, siege warfare, and engineering. Instead, Vercingetorix fought a sort of large-scale guerrilla war whereby he outmanoeuvred the Romans to avoid their strength and attacked their weakness that was a large and complex supply chain. This seriously hindered their ability to sustain themselves in the field and fight as the highly centralised Roman system could not compete against a decentralised and fluid opponent. For some reason Vercingetorix changed his strategy and then decided to fight a pitched battle, which predictably the Romans under Caesar won, and the war was subsequently lost.
So the historical question is; if Vercingetorix had continued to fight as a decentralised force could he have beaten the highly centralised force that was the Roman Empire under Caesar? More applicably, is the way to stop Amazons hyper centralised empire through hyper decentralisation and what are the sixth wave of innovation technologies that could enable this?
Susan McDonnell and Oonagh O’Grady joined a cohort of MBA students from around the world at Haas Business School, University of California, Berkeley in early June for an intensive 5-day module titled Women’s 21st Century Leadership. This module was offered as part of the Global Network for Advanced Management week.
Professor Laura Kray in her introduction to the week outlined how the reality remains that the career paths of men and women still diverge in complex yet systematic ways. With more women in the workforce than ever before – and even more joining top leadership ranks – the need for women’s voices to be heard has never been greater. Professor Kray put out a “call to arms” at the outset of the course – What will YOUR role be in advancing gender equality?
The programme was designed to help us to promote gender equality in the workplace but also to cultivate our own authentic leadership style as women. Authenticity is a key pillar of modern leadership. We were thought that teaching women to act like men in order to get ahead is misguided. It ultimately results in women becoming overly focused on their self-image and not on the leadership task at hand. This course sought to over-write outdated scripts about power and push past the usual stereotypes, for example, the perceived need for women to “fit into” a masculine world.
Our first guest speaker, Haben Girma, was utterly inspiring and personified the concept of a growth mindset. Haben was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, is on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was named by President Obama as a White House Champion of Change. She advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities and encourages us all to resist society’s low expectations of those with disabilities. Instead she asked us to choose to create our own pioneering story. She provided us with a master class in public speaking on the first morning despite being born deaf-blind. During the presentation, she received constant feedback from her interpreter who typed a description of the happenings in the room. We then had a chance to ask Haben questions through a keypad which translated our queries to braille.
Penny Kreitzer, an accomplished stage actress, thought us tips to improve our leadership presence through the strengthening of our voice and stance. She also thought us a five-step grounding exercise which she assured us would become second nature through practise. Christine Carter shared the secrets of “How to Achieve More By Doing Less” by highlighting a number of limiting beliefs and unmasking the truths instead:
Limiting Belief #1: busyness = importance
Truth: In fact, the truth is that busyness equals cognitive overload – Single tasking is the way to go
Limiting Belief #2: Doing nothing is a waste of time
Truth: Our brains benefit when we waste time – it’s called strategic slacking
Limiting Belief #3: More is better
Truth: Often less is more – acknowledge abundance using gratitude
We learned about the “Future of Work” from Sally Thornton and in particular about the work-life blend as opposed to work-life balance. Carolyn Buck‐Luce outlined how we needed to “Celebrate the Leader Within” and introduced us to the secret to her success – The Decade Game. This involves her outlining at the start of each decade her purpose for the next decade. The key questions she asks herself to define her decade strategy are – why are you on the planet? And how would you like to be known by the world at the end of this decade? She recommended that you thought about your strategy as a multi-level computer game where you set targets or levels to achieve every 90 days. With regards to executive presence, she noted how gravitas accounted for 67% of an executive’s presence. Gravitas includes things like grace under fire, decisiveness, ability to read and command, ability to inspire others and the importance of integrity, authenticity and reputation.
Our final guest speaker Sanez Mobasseri helped us analyse our social network under the 5 pillars – depth, breath, structural configuration, dependencies and perceived status of contacts. She also thought us that building and maintaining your network is a lifelong task and that connections need to be made before you actually need them.
The third day of the course entailed two company visits to tech multinationals located in San Francisco. First up was DocuSign, an electronic signature technology and digital transaction management services company. Chief People Officer, Joan Burke and a number of members of a group called Women at DocuSign joined us to explain what makes DocuSign a great place to work. They outlined how diversity and inclusion was driven from the top by their CEO Dan Springer who was motivated by his experience of being the son of a single mother. This shines through in the company’s HR policies and in particular with regards to maternity and paternity leave which are much more generous than US standards.
We then travelled across town to Uber’s offices where Bernard C. Coleman, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, talked to us about the journey the company has gone through over the past year since the highly-publicised Susan Fowler case. Along with a panel of Uber employees involved in Women and Diversity initiatives, he outlined some of the innovative diversity and inclusion programmes they have introduced.
On the final day, we presented our research project finding on topics which included – Gender differences in values, attitudes, and beliefs – Implicit bias and its consequences in organisations – Women working with women – Work-life balance and Engaging men on gender equity.
No MBA experience would be complete without a networking opportunity and this trip provided this in abundance. We were part of a truly international cohort with representatives from US Business Schools – Haas and Yale as well as people who had travelled from Ghana, Mexico, Russia, Spain, UK, Portugal, Denmark, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and China. Not only was there diversity in geography but also in industries with all of the major industries represented as well as NGOs and the Art industry. Most importantly the class contained a number of male colleagues who leant a balanced and insightful voice to the week.
We both feel we gained a new level of confidence and greater sense of ownership over our own leadership development. We also feel we are now more able to diagnose multiple causes of gender inequality, better equipped to develop techniques for influencing others, and understand the critical role of mindsets in collaborating effectively with others to lead change. We also now have a full itinerary of class reunions scheduled for the coming years….first stop Ghana in 2019!
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.
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.
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.
As part of the Social Outreach Club a total of eight members from the Smurfit FT MBA recently spent two days on nearby Carysfort National School running the Bizworld programme. A form of Dragons Den crash course in entrepreneurship for Primary Schools. Having recently pitched our own business ideas at the conclusion of our Entrepreneurship module this was an opportunity to sit on the other side of the fence and listen to pitches from young entrepreneurs.
In February six of us had met with Bizworld CEO Fiona McKeon and had been hugely impressed with her enthusiasm and the Bizworld programme she briefly outlined to us. Fresh from recent international trips to the US, Singapore, Vietnam, Peru and Chile we met Fiona again in April for a quickfire training afternoon to prepare us for the programme.
Somewhat uneasy from Thom’s horror tales of teaching we approached the school with trepidation, would we face an audience more challenging than our management accounting presentations? Jayinth, Spilios and I headed for one 6th class as Anita and Thom disappeared towards the other group. Thankfully we need not have worried as the pupils were extremely enthusiastic and by the afternoon session were eagerly working away themselves on their business ideas.
Jayinth and I took them through their tasks for the day with Spilios regaling them with stories of his own entrepreneurial experience. Within each 6th class the students had been broken into groups of five prior to our arrival. Each groups task over a day and a half was to brainstorm and come up with a business idea, assign company roles to everyone, develop a marketing plan and raise finance before finally pitching their business idea to the dragons. They would aim to secure as large an investment as possible while retaining as much control over their business as they could. They were provided their own Bizworld currency to achieve this. As we neared the end of the first day ideas included a healthy eating app, light up blanket for reading, solar powered wifi, compression pyjamas, sunshine contact lenses and remote-controlled furniture.
On Thursday morning we returned for some last-minute presentation preparation before the pitching stage. It was clear from the pre-pitch practice that many of the students had done considerable work since our first visit on Monday. As nerves (ours more then theirs) frayed the first group got ready to meet the dragons. Armed with instructions to take a tough approach they marched into the staff room to pitch.
While Deepti and Spilios played good Dragons, Dragon Osmond took a harsher line trying to take as much of the businesses as possible. Sadly, his skills from our Managing the Negotiation Process module were no match for these wily 11 and 12-year-old budding entrepreneurs. Dragon Himanshu managed to get a present of a slice of cake from the students although having attended a Business and Society module (which considered the role of ethics in business) he assured us this had no impact on his investment decision!
Next the students got a chance to impress their peers as 5th class students entered the classroom to listen to the pitches. Not having personally witnessed the pitch to the Dragons it was great to see the final product after the two days of work from the students. After some robust questioning the 5th class students had an opportunity to buy a share in a company of their choosing. With the presentations finished the students repaid their loans and counted their cash. Concluding the two days we were delighted to hear many of the students would now consider setting up their own business in the future.
We were extremely impressed with not just the students business ideas but also their presentation skills many of which would not have looked out of place in the MBA. Perhaps we will see some of these future entrepreneurs on the Smurfit MBA in a few years’ time?
Overall it was a hugely enjoyable two days and a lovely end to the second semester before we ready ourselves for upcoming exams. Thanks go to Fiona in Bizworld and also to Carysfort National School for giving us the opportunity to present to such enthusiastic students.