A better way to research a case study

Many people believe that case preparation is often a big challenge in group work. However, there are some alternative ways to work with case studies. One of our group assignments was about Yo! Sushi, a small but expanding chain of restaurants that serves Japanese-style food using a conveyer-belt restaurant design.

After our first meeting for case preparation, we asked ourselves should we not go to the restaurant to have a clear view of what we are going to present. This was a good idea. This helps to understand the offering in more detail, and how the menu and ordering system works. More importantly, by doing this, our relationship within the team grows better and stronger.  The assignment became much easier.

Would you like to try the same way?

Ba Nguyen.  FTMBA 2014.



UCD Smurfit MBA Entrepreneurship Club kicks off a new season in Google HQ.

The UCD Smurfit Entrepreneurship Club put together an introductory event on 8 October. Over 35 current and recent MBA participants attended. The event was hosted at the Google Docks building on Barrow Street with an incredible line-up of speakers and club member who stepped up to make it happen. When you see them, thank these incredibly generous individuals who provided the substance to the event and helped to coordinate everyone and everything on a VERY short timeline.

One of our own, Mathilde Miravete EMBA 2015, did a fantastic job securing Google as the venue and also MC’d the panel. Michael Culligan pulled double duty on the panel, providing an introductory overview and discussing the types and availability of funds in Dublin. Eamonn Sayers provided an overview of the Incubator environment at the Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC), discussing the benefits of close working environment for entrepreneurs. Our NDRC representative, Gary Leyden, discussed his LaunchPad programme and that an Accelerator slightly differs from an Incubator by focusing on projects closer to viable start-up status. individuals who provided the substance to the event and helped to coordinate everyone and everything on a VERY short timeline.

Bringing social responsibility to the discussion was Darren Ryan from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI). He gave us an overview of how SEI is working to make a difference through entrepreneurs and redefining success by social impact. Brendan Cremen provided an academic supported Incubator at NovaUCD, which leverages the school’s researchers, leaders, and investors.

Our attendees found the event an incredibly useful introduction to the entrepreneur landscape. Pawel Ostropolski enjoyed that a “broad range of the entrepreneurship landscape” was covered from physical products, to IT solutions, and process change through social process reform ideas. Sundar Balasubramani enjoyed the chance to meet and network with Gary and Eamonn. David Keirnan found that “The discussions outlinedpractical steps to take a business concept to reality. Advice on the do’s and do not’s for start-up enterprises was given by highly experienced people working in the field.”

Being Google, we also got some swag in the form of stickers, diary pads, and pens. After the formal Q&A everyone enjoyed canapés with wine kindly sponsored by the MBA Office.

In all, a great introductory event that provided everyone a feel for some of the major players in the Entrepreneur scene in Dublin in such a beautiful setting overlooking Dublin city from Google headquarters.

The next meeting of UCD Entrepreneurship Club is scheduled for 31 October at 7:30p in the Pillar Room.


Pete Kloehn,  MBA Entrepreneurship Club Chair 2013-14.

FTMBA 2014.

Work on sharpening up the softer skill set! (aka the UCD Smurfit MBA Leadership Development Programme).

They say time flies when you’re having fun. It also seems to fly when you’re up to your neck in project work. Well, perhaps more accurately, when you feel like you’re up to your neck in project work. In fairness we’ve had a relatively balanced distribution of fun and hard work to date. A bit of hard work is good for us.

Everyone in the class had something of a shock when we each listed out all of our assignment deadlines, put dates against them and sorted them into date order. In reality the work load, while heavy, is very manageable with a group. It actually feels good to be dealing with a heavy workload again. Yesterday I found myself booking rooms and sending mails that related to meetings and work that will be done two to three weeks down the line, knowing that I needed to get those tasks done now to facilitate the future work. Of course that’s the normal way of things when you’re busy in a job and it was good to feel back to having that sense of purpose and drive.

Given the workload, some people in the class have been challenged and frustrated by the amount of time that is scheduled for personal and team development (Leadership Development Programme) but I feel this is one of the best elements of what we are experiencing. Having come from large, tiered and management driven organisations I’ve seen how important it is for teams to work well. Without the teams functioning, an organisation doesn’t function. The teamwork development aspects of the MBA will certainly stand to candidates when they get back out into the real world. The course is a great opportunity to take time to develop and reflect on team and interpersonal skills in a supportive environment where you can get feedback from peers and experts. Don’t get me wrong, when there are grades on the line in a class of achievers, temperatures rise and tempers fray but that is exactly the emotional live-fire environment needed to work on sharpening up the softer skill set.

I’m looking forward to getting involved with the Thought Leaders and Entrepreneurs Clubs and putting together some interesting events. While club activity will keep me busy, my other project commitments outside of the course are reducing so I’ll even have a little time for sports in the coming weeks. I’m going to do my best not to pack on the MBA pounds that we’ve been warned about. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself!

The Team 5 Massive has survived our first few projects and has grown as a team from the experiences. Our first presentation is coming up next week so it will be fun to get the team up and present to the class. Fun, tough, exhilarating and nerve-racking no doubt. Of course, that’s what this experience is all about; getting stuck in and doing our best. Speaking of which, my 8.30 lecture is about to begin…

Liam Doyle.

FT MBA 2014

UCD Smurfit MBA Investment Competition 2013

I hope the participants are enjoying the competition so far and learning from the practical experience of trading….we’ve had a challenging market environment with infinite QE hangovers and traders doing their best to ignore the US federal shut-down… it is really interesting to see the different trading strategies at work across the competition….and now some good news; UCD MBA Office has put up with two really excellent prizes (thanks Michael);

First prize is a very nice selection of wine – this will be for the overall winner….But, that’s not all! – we also have a ‘most interesting trade’ prize of a €50 book token – to be judged by myself and an independent person from a selection of your trades that are very unusual, creative, brave or just plain stupid!….we’ll have a look at all trades but if you spot a candidate for this prize send your nominations to me, so get going on those exotic trading positions (judge’s decision is final etc. etc.).

In view of the really great prizes on offer and our busy schedules, I am extend the trading game until close of US markets on Friday 18 October 2013.


Markets re-open in under 1 hour – happy trading!


David Flynn.

EMBA 2013.

An “interesting” week.

Well, it is week 3 and things have started to get “interesting”.  The main issue I face is time management and I know that this is a major issue for the whole class. I am lucky in some respects as I am an accountant and so the financial reporting module is not as tricky for me as it is for some of the others. However, I have a wife and daughter that I would like to see at least once a day so managing my study time around that is a bit of a challenge for me.

This week has been the most “interesting” or more accurately – challenging to date. In previous weeks, I had used either Saturday or Sunday to try to catch up on any readings or work I could not complete during the week but it was my daughter’s first birthday party on Sunday and my wife and I spent most of the weekend preparing for it. I got less study done than I would have liked and we have a number of assignments to hand in either at the end of this week or the beginning of next week. As I said – “interesting”.

In reality it is all about teamwork, and trying to be as efficient during team meetings and in allocating team tasks as possible. It is a learning experience and we have a bit to go in our team before we are running smoothly. The important thing to remember is that we are all here to do the best we can and if we can keep this at the forefront of our minds at meetings, hopefully we will still be able to talk to each other before the semester is out!

I am curious about how the team dynamic will evolve as more and more work is piled on us, will we knit at a team and see the efficiencies that we gain from good teamwork or is there a risk of fragmentation? Hopefully, we will all knit and gel together. In order to try to engineer some team morale and build stronger bonds the team is going to have a “video night” in my house in the next week or so. We are going to watch The Commitments so that the foreign members of our team get an introduction to the real Dublin! I will let you know if they needed a translator and how it went in my next post.

Thady Duggan.

FT MBA 2014.

Bizworld comes on campus to run their first summer camp.

UCD Smurfit hosted a unique entrepreneurial summer camp onsite last week in conjunction with the UCD Smurfit MBA.  Children aged between 7 and 11 were brought through the entire entrepreneurial cycle from company formation, applying for jobs in their newly set-up companies to conducting market research. Members of the UCD Smurfit MBA, both students and staff, visited the camp and participated in the market research and also acted as venture capitalists while children pitched their ideas in return for seed capital (BizEuros) for their business idea.

The children’s companies designed, produced, marketed and sold their unique product. In Bizworld’s case, it is a short animated movie. It culminated in parents and students visiting the ‘box office’ to view the marketing campaigns and purchase tickets for the desired movie on the final day of the week-long workshop. Children balanced the books and kept ledgers during the entire process.

Bizworld Ireland is a group of educators and business people who have come together to inspire and empower children aged 10-13 to learn about money management, critical thinking and enterprise in a fun and creative way.

Bizworld sows the seeds so children can grow their future….and the UCD Smurfit MBA is delighted to be involved!

For other stories on our involvement with Bizworld, please click here.



Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager.

UCD Smurfit EMBA ranked in TOP 20 in Europe

The prestigious EMBA programme gets widespread media coverage based on the recently announced inaugural Economist’s EMBA rankings.

The Economist’s Executive MBA ranking places the UCD Smurfit School in the top 20 in Europe. This is the first Executive MBA ranking undertaken by the Economist and UCD Smurfit is yet again the only Irish business school to be included.

In the Financial Times Global Masters in Finance ranking, the UCD Smurfit School is placed 34th this year, up one place from last year.

“We are delighted to be recognised by two of the world’s leading independent rankings for our MSc in Finance and for our Executive MBA,” said Professor Ciarán O hÓgartaigh, Dean of Business, University College Dublin.

“These rankings recognise our position as an international leader in business education and are a tribute to the great work that our faculty and staff put into the design and execution of our courses,” he said.

To read more, please go here, and here and also here.


Alum Dave Byrne uses UCD Smurfit MBA as platform to set up “Buzzoo”.

The June 2013 Business eConnect magazine (official e-zine for UCD Business Alumni) features one of the FT MBA ’12 students…

In Profile: Dave Byrne FT MBA ’12

Taking a year out to do a full-time MBA helped fill in the gaps in Dave Byrne’s (MBA 12) business knowledge and gave him the space to come up with the idea for and set up his online music technology company Buzzoo. For Byrne, the company – a social music service for bars and retailers that play background music – is the perfect combination of his dual interests in technology and business.

Byrne’s primary degree was a bachelor of science in computer applications in DCU, which he graduated from in 2001. “That really sparked an interest in technology for me,” he says. “Ireland had become a major player in IT so it was an exciting degree to be studying at the time.”

After graduating, he joined PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as a management consultant. “It sounded like it would be an interesting job and the graduate induction programme involved a three-month training programme in Florida. It was a fantastic experience and a great way to kick off my career in consulting.”

He spent two years with PwC, before the consulting arm was bought out by IBM. After two years with IBM, he moved on to Accenture for the next six years. “I had the opportunity to work with some really talented people over the years and to learn a huge amount from them,” he says. “I saw consulting as ideal for my early career because it allowed me to work across a vast array of projects in a variety of roles. Every project started as a bit of a trial by fire but you quickly adapt. I always viewed them as very good learning opportunities and the constant challenge and change kept the work very interesting.

“Consulting really teaches you to figure out how things currently work and how they can be improved. That’s the basis of most of the projects. The work brought me to some interesting locations like Arizona and South Africa.

“Consulting can be pretty demanding so I took a six-month career break in 2008 to travel around the world with my wife. It was a once in a lifetime experience and really helped to recharge the batteries.”

While technology consulting offered a good mix of technology and business, he felt there was a lot he still needed to learn. “I’d always wanted to do an MBA to fill in the gaps in my business knowledge, to learn about things like strategy, marketing, accounting and entrepreneurship. The MBA at UCD Smurfit has a great reputation so I was thrilled to get a chance to do it. I guess it was a difficult decision to leave a very good job at a very good company but I’m glad I did.”

That decision was helped by the fact that he was awarded a full scholarship. “I was on the fence up until then. I decided to go for the full-time programme to really throw myself into it and get the most out of it.”

He describes the experience of taking a year out to go back to college after 10 years of working as refreshing. “It opened up a lot of opportunity outside of what I’d done previously. I think the MBA really helps you to think about business at a higher level, to think more strategically and have more of a commercial focus. It’s a great way to look at opportunities outside the area you have worked in to date and maybe to bridge into a different career in a different area. As a learning experience, I would say it’s second to none and I think anyone in a professional career is really lucky if they can get the chance to do an MBA.

He came into the programme without definite plans around his future direction. “I was quite open. I knew that as part of the MBA I needed to spend the year exploring the opportunities and trying to figure out what it was I was going to do afterwards.

“I’ve always felt I like to work with business and technology, which is quite a broad scope so I was looking for something that would marry those two together.”

Beginning Buzzoo

The idea for Buzzoo came to him during the year. “One day we were in a bar complaining about the music that was playing in the background. I noticed that we had our smartphones on the table in front of us and suddenly wondered if we could solve this problem with our smartphones.”

The solution itself is aimed at any business that plays background music, including bars, restaurants and retail. “It enables everyone on the premises to control the music by using their smartphone,” says Byrne. “It’s like moving the jukebox onto the smartphone so that the crowd becomes the DJ.  You can vote up the tracks you like and vote down the ones you don’t like.” The product as it is now includes an admin application that allows venues to schedule and play music from any location, while a smartphone app allows visitors to influence the playlist.

Byrne asked two of his fellow MBA classmates to come on board and, as part of the entrepreneurship module, the three developed a business plan which ended up winning the UCD business plan competition for 2012.

Byrne says that new job opportunities that came up during the course of the year made it a tough decision to launch the start-up after the MBA. “It was a bit of a risky decision, but the challenge and the excitement of it was too much to resist,” he says.

After graduation, Buzzoo was accepted onto the National Research Centre Launchpad Accelerator programme. “The programme provides investment and mentorship to help early stage digital technology companies to get their business off the ground. They’ve a top team of mentors and you’re surrounded by likeminded people going through the same process.”

Over the last year, Buzzoo has also received EnterpriseIreland support and been accepted onto and completed the Irish Times Fusion programme. In January 2013, it was selected as a finalist in the Best Irish Startup category at the Europa Awards. Most recently, the company won bronze in the Food & Drink Entrepreneurial Startup of the Year category at the Startup Awards 2013.

“We’ve built out a really solid team,” says Byrne. “We’ve built the minimum viable product and we have some great partners and customers lined up.”

Alpha-testing has now been carried out in a couple of bars in Dublin and a commercial launch is planned in the next couple of months. “We’re looking at Ireland as a bit of a testbed and the hope is that we can go to a couple of key reference sites in Ireland and then start looking at overseas markets. We’re working with a big drinks company on a proposal that would see a fully branded version for one of their products rolled out in 10 bars on a pilot. So we have the ability to offer a fully branded version of the application as well.”

Future developments of the product may include integrating video, he adds.

Outside influences

Byrne says that learning has always been a key driver for him and that he has learned the most from the people he has worked with. “My family is also a big influence on me. I’ve a great wife and I’ve two fantastic girls and they’re very important to me. Between my family and some of the guys I’ve worked with, they would be the key influences rather than a public celebrity.”

His advice for anyone considering starting a business is not to be afraid of taking risks and to give new things a shot. “If you fail, it’s no big deal. You’ll still learn from it. Sometimes the things that scare you the most are the things that are most worth doing.

“With regard to starting a new business, the first thing to do would be to talk to lots of potential customers and sketch out a one-page overview of the business using a business model canvas. Get advice from people in the know, figure out what gaps you have, build a strong team and go for it.

“I think it’s important to be as lean as possible so you can give yourself as long a runway as possible. And I think you need to experiment and be prepared to pivot the business as required.

“I’ve no idea what the future will bring but that keeps things interesting I guess. As long as I’m doing something that has a focus on business and technology I’ll be happy.”

More about Dave’s experiences on the MBA Programme

UCD Smurfit Executive MBA ranked ranked 57 in the world.

The UCD Smurfit Executive MBA has been ranked 57 in the world published on Friday 19th July by the Economist magazine.  Once more, UCD Smurfit is the only Irish MBA to make it on to this type of global listing.

According to The Economist, this inaugural EMBA ranking is based on criteria in two categories: personal development/educational experience and career development.  The Economist plans to run this ranking every two years.


– Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager

Networking Matters – Of course but only when you do it right.

Your Net worth is directly proportional to your Network.

Kingsley Aikins from Networking Matters, who we met during the course of the first semester, stressed on the importance of networking driving home the point that in a real world scenario, your ‘social capital’ could be your catalyst of change.  Is that true? Let’s see.

Everybody in the class aspires to land up with a good job with a great pay and people had started networking actively from the beginning of the second semester although we have the career office, which we are hopeful, will weave the magic wand someday. Our approach to networking is quite straight forward.

‘Spray and Pray’: This happens to be the most common and preferred way of networking. The modus operandi is quite simple. Through your active connections, references or LinkedIn, get in touch with ‘somebody’ who generally would be a professional at a management level in a brand well reckoned and then plan a chat over coffee. You go for the meet with the halo of Smurfit shining right behind and expect ‘your man’ to open a few doors instantly for you. With optimism running high, you kiss good bye and get home to tick one more box in your to-do list and the story ends. What happens there after, I have no idea but is this networking? Not the right way.

Networking is a tool well utilised only when you learn to weave it the right way. Now, having been a recruiter all my life, here’ an approach that I advocate:

  • Be clear about what you want: Chart out a career map and if not an exact one, at least know what you want to do in life. That’s a fair expectation I would have from an MBA grad. Only then you would know who to connect with.
  • Start small, start easy: Your peers are your primary contacts. Based on your canvas, look for people with similar backgrounds in the class and connect with them. Talk about your aspirations and be cognizant about theirs as well. Look at common goals and initiate self-help group to do things like sharing information, jobs, events etc. Expand your reach to the EMBA’s as they could be a better bet given the fact that they are current in the market.
  • Use a ‘warm’ handshake: When you zero in on a company of interest, look for contacts who would know a ‘somebody’ up there. Owing to the sheer might of references and in this globally connected village, I am sure you would find an alumni, friend’s friend/girlfriend or your earlier employer who would know somebody there. Use the contact to initiate a warm handshake rather than cold calling.
  • Do not meet everybody and anybody: The ‘spray and pray’ attitude might actually boomerang as people might start seeing you as desperate and that will dilute your brand. Also, you might end up with making too many connections that might not be of great use to you, not to mention the time and resources lost.
  • LinkedIn: It’s a great tool but is a doubled edged sword. Initiate contacts and try meeting up people locally. Be careful as your profile is public and as you keep adding contacts, the rest in your network would know who you are connecting with.  Example, do not add the ‘recruiter’, recruitment manager’ and ‘head of resourcing’ of, say ‘ABC’ in a short span of time. The first guy to accept; say the ‘recruiter’ will also know that you have added his boss and his boss’s boss to your network. You do not intend to give him ideas, right? For connecting with people who are out station, use ‘InMail’ which will cost you but will also leave the impression that you are serious.
  • Consultants: Do a market research to see who are the specialized search firms or consultants who hire in the space that you want to get into. Once you have a list ready, start connecting and try meeting them. Top notch search firms say an ‘Egon Zender’, ‘Hendrick Struggles’ ‘Spencer Stuart’ might not be open to see you as they work on active mandates and will be hesitant to meet a ‘student’. By the end of May 2013, you should have built a network of consultant who should be able to relate to you and will be open to pitch your profile for any suitable opening which might come up there after.
  • WIFM factor: When you meet somebody, the person who is sparing time to meet you might be a well-wisher and can be of help but also remember, there is nothing called free lunch. The guy on the other side of the table will always be interested in “What’s in for me”. So to evince interest, send the message beforehand that the meeting could be a ‘mutually beneficial’ one.  You will see better responses.

I go back to the example that Kingsley had given about the guy he worked for, Tony O’Reilly (I hope I got the name correct) who used his rugby connection to build a business spread across those countries that he played in. Networking is an art just that you need to know who to tango with. That million dollar job that you aspire for will not get advertised but will get finalized at a golf course or at a black tie dinner table. In the words of Ashutosh Sinha, my senior colleague in Deloitte, Be ‘IN’ it to ‘WIN’ it.

Sundeep Patnaik



– Sundeep Patnaik, FT MBA 2012-13