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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Bizworld’s Dragons Den

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Ruary Martin, Full Time MBA 2017/18

 

The Hidden Heartlands

The clocks went forward and suddenly there was light at the end of the tunnel. The finish line of the MBA came into sight and, with that, an obvious emphasis among the MBA cohort on prospective careers. On our return from the well documented International study trips, students endeavoured to surmount the endless MBA workload, while allocating sufficient time for networking opportunities. Factory visits had presented valuable learning abroad and I recognised the opportunity to organise a similar visit because of my family involvement in Xtratherm – an insulation manufacturer in Navan, Co. Meath. Conscious that semester three will offer significantly less time collectively as a class, there was no time like the present. Wednesday, 25th April, was identified as a rare vacancy in the MBA calendar. Although we did obliterate an organised golf outing (apologies Ian), the date was confirmed, and preparations began.

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Exam concerns and assignment overload resulted in some having to withdraw from the trip, but an enthusiastic 21 students travelled to Navan – a first for many. Karl McEntegart, a full time MBA student, has developed a reputation for meticulousness on comparable company visits and this trip was no exception. He travelled alone and was ready (as expected!) to interrogate Xtratherm Sales Director, Martin Groome, when the rest of the MBA contingent arrived. We were directed to the board room where Martin presented us with a comprehensive overview of the company, its evolution to date and the obstacles it encountered to achieve the market presence it has today. Martin emphasised the importance of relationships in the industry and their dedication to offering “more than just insulation”.

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Refuelled by coffee and refreshments, the diverse array of products came to life in the 3D demonstration room. The factory walk-through reiterated the learning from our ‘Operations’ module, attempting to maximise value and eliminate waste in all complexities of the manufacturing process. Although I have visited Xtratherm on many occasions, I am ever intrigued by its continuous improvement and management’s vision for growth. My father has always been a role model of mine, and today, I was extremely proud to illustrate to my classmates what is achievable when a collaborative group, with a hunger for success and a willingness to learn, is established. Xtratherm has exceeded all expectations and its acquisition by UNILIN in 2016 is recognition for the value created by three individuals who started out with what was only a dream.

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I started by highlighting that the finish line of the MBA is in sight and I will also conclude with that thought. There have been times on this programme when I felt I was past insanity and I questioned my decision to endure such a rigorous programme. However, as the end line nears, I feel a sense of lonesomeness for my classmates. We have been to the trenches and back and created bonds that I genuinely hope last a lifetime. But in reality, each individual will pursue their own personal career, wherever that might take them. Where will everyone be in six months? I do not know – I suppose I better make the most of the next three!

John Keegan, Full Time MBA 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

 

The End of Exam Life?

Traolach Meme

As we move through the last set of our exams for Semester 2, I sit back and wonder. These will complete the exams we have to take for our MBA, so … is this the end of my exam life forever?

Having left college in 2003 I always figured that I would end up doing further education at some point. So I never thought of those as my last exams. However, having gotten up from my child-like seat in the cavernous exam hall on Saturday, after squeezing all my knowledge on financing new ventures in to a booklet for the previous 2 hours, I think I might have actually sat the last exam of my life.

Now this isn’t a lament on the differences between rote learning and whatever the other type is. I have been pretty successful in the Irish exam system which I feel sets a high benchmark for success and gave me great technical knowledge that I leveraged in my professional career internationally. This is more the realisation that after an MBA I don’t think there is much more additional education one can pursue to advance your career. True, there are other exams such as the CFA or Series 7 if you want to be an analyst (and there are probably more that I haven’t even thought of). But they are all career specific and not of the lecture/exam format that we love so much.

This is just one more thing to realise whilst doing an MBA; that it is the culmination of a lifelong learning journey. The first exam I can remember sitting was over 30 years ago, as a 6 year old, and I sat exams every year for the next 20 years. I liked exams so much I decided to take the scenic route through my undergrad and stay for an additional year so that I could enjoy the exam experience a few more times!

When I look at the paragraph above I only now realise the sheer volume of exams I must have sat so far in my life. So it is probably high time I do say goodbye to exam life. The path that we take through life and on the road to an MBA takes many forms, but we all have endured the unenjoyable (or enjoyable, if you’re masochistic) experience of exams. This is a global common bond for all students and I guess, like everything, it has to come to an end at some point.

So it is there in an exam hall in the RDS Simmonscourt, on Saturday 13th May 2017, that I close a large chapter in my personal journey – and that of EXAM LIFE.

Traolach O’Connor, Full Time MBA 2016-2017

Balancing the Turtle and the Hare

Well, the ‘Hare’ here is my new born self from the fast paced MBA life, and ‘Turtle’ is my slow and analysing inner original self. I have been thinking of writing this blog for a while, but then again the ‘Turtle’ wouldn’t let me. Ever since I have started this journey of MBA, and it has been one semester already, I have been trying to fight a constant battle with my procrastination. For someone like me who has an engineering background, proactive behaviour just does not come naturally (unless of course if it is to do with something technical or related to problem solving), and last minute pressure situation or ‘Emergent Strategy’ as some of you would like to call it is circumstantially the best suited.

On one hand, the ‘Turtle’ inside would invariably force me to critically analyse the details, take one step at a time, know all the facts, and not to move on until I grasp the concept. On the other hand, the newly born ‘Hare’ wants me to change my habits and get on with things at a fast pace, plan in advance for everything and the most dreadful of all, multitask.

Last three months or so have been a ride for me, trying to balance between the ‘Turtle’ and the ‘Hare’. And, boy oh boy was it fun.

Deepak Sharma

Full-time MBA

Widen your horizons

When I took the decision to leave a stable and secure job, to devote one full year to my MBA journey at Smurfit Business School, I never thought that it would have such a life-changing impact. I think all my classmates would be echoing the same feelings.

Though we used to have quite a versatile work profile during our jobs; however, now I realize what actually versatility means in practice. Life is much bigger and there is lot to do and achieve. All the components of MBA right from Classroom Lectures (they are not just lectures but a completely participative experience especially during lots of Case Studies and class discussions), Individual and Group Assignments, Literature Reviews (I never thought that there would be a component of PhD thesis also in the MBA, which would refine my literary and research skills and some day may even inspire me to write a book), simulation games (to have real world business experience), PowerPoint presentations, MBA Clubs, Speaker events (we had quite inspirational and entrepreneurial speakers to interact with us during last 3 months), Network immersion week (the week seemed to bring almost the entire world to a single Smurfit classroom), Coaching Sessions (which have helped us to define our objectives and aspirations more clearly), Career Sessions (which introduced us to wide range of career options, which we never could have explored during our regular jobs), Sessions on Leadership and Communication skills, and so on. Careers sell has always been guiding us for attending more and more Career events and to do a lot of Networking, which again has helped us to reach out to people from various industries, sectors and fields and keep on continuously expanding our network. So, our learning does not end in the Business School premises, it extends much beyond that.

As soon as I start wondering is there anything left to experience, we are presented with entirely  new event or a new dimension of Smurfit MBA program, which helps towards further expanding and widening our horizons and enable us to become not just a world class manager but also a complete human being.

I have always been inspired by the quote One cannot discover new oceans, unless one leaves the fear of losing sight of the shore”. Smurfit MBA reinforces my belief that one year taken out of work is well spent on exploring new opportunities, widening your horizons and finding a new meaning for your Career and Life.

Ashutosh Singla

Full-time MBA 2014-15

Top 10 MBA insights

  1. It’s good to be busy!
  2. Time management is over-rated.
  3. Coffee is your friend.
  4. The MBA room has no windows for a reason.
  5. Jiggery pokery is frowned upon.
  6. If you haven’t read the case study, read the case study.
  7. If you have read the case study, speak jiggery pokery authoritatively.
  8. The early bird catches the worm…but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  9. Michael Porter’s 5 forces. Discuss.
  10. Perfection is the enemy of good enough (Aaaaghhh!)

On a more serious note, it is a week to exams and we are all quite busy. But in a good way ;)













Cathal Small

FT MBA class 2015

My final week of 1st semester, year 1

A glass one-quarter full or three-quarters empty?  I argue my MBA study is a now a quarter of the way. I wanted to use this blog as an opportunity to reflect on where I am, what I have learned – as quite frankly I have not had the chance to do so since the beginning of term. Strategy, operations and supply chain, finance and organisation behaviour all mixed together is truly the stuff of fantasy.

As expected, the last eleven weeks of term has been intense and feels like a revolving door of assignments, reading materials and reports. Combine all that with a busy full time job commitment – it truly has felt like a sprint now approaching the finishing line of first semester. Indeed, it has been an interesting journey. The lecturers have been great; my team members have been remarkable making the whole experience much more enjoyable. Coming from a Mathematical Science background where I hardly had any reason to put together a report, I have successfully written one report and collaborated on a few more.

What have I learned in the past few weeks? It is like being thrown in the deep-end, I realise time management is a critical skill for any MBA student. There is ample study material and it is important to prioritise and effectively manage reading, otherwise a candidate may sink quite literally. Organisation behaviour has truly opened my eyes to my soft side; I am now genuinely conscious of respecting how other people feel. Also, I was able to identify strategic and tactical areas of improvement for my company and articulated ideas to the senior management team. The result, more work as I have now been added to a project team to assess and implement opportunities for growth in the organisation.

On the horizon is my exams – I have not done an academic examination in five years so I am sure it would feel like a trip down the memory lane, my old college days. Going to an exam hall with hundreds of other students not knowing what to expect will be interesting. There is one thing in sight that keeps me going, the Christmas break; the much needed lifeline before we go at it again January next year.

Olumuyiwa Farayibi

EMBA Weekend year 1


Topic of the week…. Organisational Behaviour

Ask any of the Year 1 Executive MBA students this week what it as the forefront of their minds and most of them are likely to respond with an answer relating to the pairs project on the Organisational Behaviour (OB) module of the programme! That will be the case anyway for the weekend EMBAs, who are scheduled to submit the project later this week.

The OB pairs project makes up 60% of the grade for that module and represents the largest body of continuous assessment work in Semester 1. Working in pairs, it requires you to undertake an applied research project. Choosing one of the organisations you work for, you carry out an organisational assessment of an OB related topic or issue. The aim is to carry out a meaningful study and deliver some useful recommendations to the organisation at the end of the process.

For me, the OB module has been one of the more interesting modules of Semester 1. Much of my education to-date has consisted of subjects in the areas of engineering, science and maths. Some people from a similar background may view OB as one of those “softer” or “fluffier” subjects. However, I have found it to be one of the most relevant modules and one that you can immediately start to apply in any work environment. It has been fascinating to learn more about organisational topics such as: employee engagement, motivation and dissatisfaction, dysfunctional teams, power and politics, and leadership.

During lectures you often find yourself thinking of real life examples, from your own organisation, of the topic under discussion. You start to believe you have the solution to all of your company’s OB related issues! However, you also develop an appreciation for the complexity of these issues and how they vary from organisation to organisation, and from individual to individual. Unsurprisingly, there is no simple answer! Nevertheless, what you learn on the OB module gives you some tools to analyse and understand why people behave the way they do in work.

Ciarán Reilly

EMBA Weekend Year 1