As semester two draws to a close, and the finish line is starting to come into focus, now is the perfect time to reflect on what has been one of the biggest decisions of my life thus far – surrendering the 9-5 to return to education and the MBA.
There have been highs, there have been lows, and many sleepless nights either as a result of excessive studying or excessive partying!
Even as I write this entry, on the sunniest day of the 2017 thus far, the thoughts of getting over the finish line provide enough motivation to skip paying “respect to the man in the ice-cream van” for one day and keep the head in the books (H.P. Baxxter).
Without doubt, getting to spend seven days with my colleagues, immersing ourselves in Japanese and South Korean culture was the highlight. The historical significance of these countries, as well as being modern day industrial powerhouses, was such a fantastic journey to take with such close friends.
Taking in everything those cities had to offer, from the sushi to the singing at a karaoke bar ensured there was sufficient, and much needed, down-time to a very hectic schedule.
But it won’t stop there. No sooner will our exams finish in May that we will be back in the air once more to experience Iceland for a consulting trip and the excitement is palpable! “On the road is where we come alive” (David Brent).
The whirlwind nature of the programme so far shows no signs of stopping, and who would like it any other way?
My scope of career expectations was very limited and I was pretty content with what I was doing at the time until the day the notion of MBA struck my little head. And suddenly there was a burning flame in me to move out of that zone and look beyond my horizon. But then for some reason, I preferred working for a few years before I could dive into an MBA curriculum. And then after 6 years’ experience it was time to shift gears. With a decent GMAT score and a reasonably good career profile, UCD turned into a dream option for me and I hardly had any doubts in choosing it over the other offers. Its critical to note that I had, by now, commenced fostering ambitions of moving into C-suite in years to come.
And here is the beginning of the struggle!!!
Let me now pull myself straight to the classroom from the office desk. It was difficult to adapt, honestly, and to go back to the study table after six years. Moving to a different city, rest aside a different country, can bring along a lot of challenges and changes, all of them bombard on your head at the same time. But that’s how one evolves and that has never been a headache for me. Luckily, I got a nice apartment along with my fellow Indian folks from the class. The foundation week was a nice “get-to-know-act” to start with and it helped lots of us to get to know each other well, even though I ended up remembering only the names of a few, still very poor with names ☹. We had a great outdoor activity on the very first day. Oops!! That was the second day as the Irish embassy too, like me, was late in giving me my visa (pun intended).
I believe and really advocate the fact that my study group was outstanding. The group had fantastic people who were committed and sincere and I learned highly from them. We made sure that our group protocol was maintained and respected by each one of us. We always planned well before the due dates and on many occasions, we were way ahead of other study groups (source – internal informers). Also, it’s worth mentioning the couple of beer chit-chats we had at The Dark Horse. Aisling, Conor, Elena, Linh hope you guys are having an exciting time!!
Coming back to my own learnings and experiences, let me turn objective and retrospective. Was I happy to do the MBA? Absolutely yes!! Did I start off well? I guess yes!! Was there a sense of disappointment over time? Guess so!! Reasons unknown. Did I get complacent over time? Yes truly!! That was the first mistake I made as I couldn’t resist the temptation and feeling of taking things for granted. From a Team dynamics perspective, I realized I didn’t put my best foot forward at certain instances. On the academic front, I wish there were more practical sessions implementing the classroom theories, though I was particularly impressed by the case study based approach in some of the modules. Luckily, there were always bagful of assignments to apply the classroom concepts. As they say, “knowledge is a waste until it is applied”.
Over the last nine months or so, I have realized the importance of maintaining your own identity among the students. It also justifies the admission criteria of bringing your own uniqueness to the MBA cohort. So, this is one of the key take-aways for me, something that I had forgotten to be mindful of. Time and again, we kept hearing, in the career and networking sessions, the essence of selling yourself and that can be best achieved if you stick to your own scheme of things with a pinch of improvisations. And here comes the most heard phrase – Network, Network, Network!!!
Networking is still an alien concept back in India and understandably I used to be short of words, rest aside ideas, when it came to networking with strangers. According to a typical definition, “networking is the art of creating, growing, and nurturing your personal, social, or professional connections”. I had no idea if it was an art or science or some uncanny professional act. I would feel like I was bidding for myself in those must sell situations!! My takeaway – There is no way one can learn professional networking unless it is practiced. I guess I am still nurturing this skill but there is a huge difference between how I connect now and how it used to go, let say, six months back.
So, what’s next? I am into my last three months of MBA and can’t wait to wear my office shoes again but this time with a bit more shine and gloss. I would say I have made my share of mistakes over the course of time and learned from them. Now it’s time to stop contemplating and put things into action. I am hoping the next three months are going to be more exciting than the last nine months. Hopefully, the Irish weather too stays lively. Give me some sunshine, give me no rain!!!
Wishing myself and everyone in the MBA cohort very good luck for a prosperous career!!!
One could argue that the main draw each Wednesday evening was the fine canapes and wine; but with over 1400 man hours of discussions and learning about entrepreneurship that were enabled this semester, the bait wasn’t really needed but was much appreciated.
The opportunity to get a first-hand interpretation of experiences from industry stalwarts, serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business gurus and a class of peers with a common hunger to solve a problem, any problem, has been truly beneficial.
The UCD Entrepreneurship Series, brought to fruition by The UCD College of Business and The Smurfit MBA Entrepreneurship Club, has been a successful collaboration under the stewardship of the Entrepreneur in Residence Majella Murphy and the MBA students. The legacy of which we hope continues into the future.
This year we saw the journey of UCD alumni, as they tackled the highs and lows of setting up their own establishments and heard their account of navigating the often-misunderstood entrepreneurial landscape. From idea generation, problem resolution to monetization, the forum has not only dealt with the necessary guidelines and tools but also efficaciously highlighted the bravado of the human spirit.
Two of the events gained substantial fame, the first was the visit of Patrick McGuinness and the latter comprised of a panel of Venture capitalists. Not surprisingly though, since two of the greatest fears before pursuing down this route seem to be the risk and raising finance. Patrick, the man behind the phrase FOMO or Fear of Missing Out, spoke of transitioning into entrepreneurship through a 10% approach (time, energy and funds) while the Venture Capital event dismissed several urban legends that we all perceived existed in the game.
Some of us came into the MBA with entrepreneurship experience and others came in with entrepreneurial ambitions, but rest assured most of us now have the aspiration to pursue our own path someday soon.
Schedule of events
From UCD Smurfit to Startup CEO
Journeys from UCD Smurfit to Startup CEOs.
Lukas Decker (Coindrum)
Ronan Byrne (Clearsight Innovations)
Stephen Quinn (Jobbio)
Their personal journey, the hows and whys, the choices and sacrifices, the highs and lows.
Inside the Incubator @ GEC
Insight into the Guinness Enterprise Centre, their offerings, introduction to current start-ups residing there and the opportunities to get involved.
Social Enterprise Scaling – CoderDojo
Bill Liao, CoderDojo’s first angel investor, as he recounts the story of the rapid global growth of their movement.
Unspoken Lessons from Failure
“It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”.
The 10% Entrepreneur
Choosing between the stability of a traditional career and the freedom of entrepreneurship?
Inspiring Creativity & Innovation @ Google
How does Google manage to generate, create, innovate and launch new products and services in an endless flow?
The Best Source of Funding Depends on…
“The best source of funding depends on where the company is at in their journey, what their needs are and the terms on the table for any particular deal.”
Hear three of Ireland’s leading and most respected Venture Capitalists and Advisors:
Joined by two entrepreneurs:
Neal O’Gorman (Artomatix)
Myles Murray (PMD Solutions)
Innovation – Accenture-style
With the launch of their Centre for Innovation, “The Dock”, hot off the press, what is Accenture’s strategy and structure around Innovation and what role does The Dock play in that?
Join Eva Maguire, designer of the internal innovation ecosystem at The Dock, to find out how they plan to make it work!
Social Entrepreneurship: A Serious Consideration
Have you ever considered that a social enterprise may not be much different from a commercial one?
Emma Walshe (COO Foodcloud)
Kate Dobbyn (MD Seachange Foundation)
Sinead McCool (Enactus Ireland)
Gain insight into what pursuing a social enterprise entails.
Real examples of what it takes to be successful, the challenges, the supports available and how sustainability can be achieved.
BREXIT: Opportunity or Threat for Irish Entrepreneurs?
“Turning the challenge of Brexit into an opportunity: How are entrepreneurs and their representative bodies preparing for Brexit?”
A stellar panel of entrepreneurs and senior representatives from government bodies for an insightful discussion on the impact Brexit, how and what contingencies have been developed, and what the government and the entrepreneurial representative and support bodies are doing to assist with the impact it will have on the entrepreneurial community in Ireland
Donal Hayes, Director, Tipperary Cheese
Paul Byrne, CEO, Currency Fair
Eamonn Molloy, Assistant Secretary, Britain & NI Affairs Section, Department of the Taoiseach
John McGrane, Director General, British Irish Chamber of Commerce
Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager, Financial Services & BPO, Enterprise Ireland
To find out more about the Smurfit MBA and various MBA Clubs, click here.
How many people get the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Not many. How many people would like the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Everybody you would imagine? Surprisingly that is not the case. Apparently many are only interested if it’s an all-expenses paid free ride.
This year we were much later getting started than the groups of other years. This was probably due to each of us waiting for someone more experienced than ourselves to take charge. Eventually, fearing that it would not go ahead at all I decided to have a go at getting it started. This was quite successful, 9 likeminded MBA students attended the first meeting with the collective goal of getting to Duke. We formed a committee and ran through a basic outline of tasks that were critical to success. These were focused on two main streams: fundraising and training. We knew we needed MSc students for not only numbers but also for skills. We quickly held meetings with those interested to get them on board.
As January drew to a close we were acutely aware of the need to get training immediately. This presented two main challenges. The first was finding an experienced coach to train us and the second was finding a rugby pitch to train on. We interviewed Warren Gatland but he said he was too busy preparing for the Lions tour and Joe Schmidt said he was fully committed to Ireland setup. Luckily we secured the services of David Mannion (Current Monkstown & Ex Leinster Juniors Coach). Securing a pitch was more difficult. Unfortunately we were told categorically by the IRFU that the Aviva was off limits until the summer and the GAA told us no more rugby would be played in Croke Park unless the World Cup 2023 bid was successful. We looked closer to home. We were denied a spot in Belfield due to the high volume of activity on the pitches including believe it or not American Football. Fortunately, through our coach we secured the use of Monkstown’s ground for training.
Obviously sending a team to the U.S. is not cheap. There is the cost of flights, accommodation, transfers, insurance, tournament entry, jerseys, medical equipment, food amongst other things. Fundraising is key to the success of it all. The earlier you start, the easier it will be. It’s certainly not an easy task. Begging people, even Alumni, for money is a challenge in itself. It’s even harder when they say no. Although you are asking on behalf of the college it is still quite difficult not to take the rejection personally. Nevertheless, you must pick yourself up and ask again. We are hugely grateful to all of our sponsors, particularly Sinnotts Bar for being our main sponsor, they backed us early when finances were looking bleak. Without them we would almost certainly not be going.
We also held a table quiz. We hit up our family, friends and classmates to dig deep into their pockets and back us financially. The response was overwhelmingly brilliant. People came in their droves and the venue was packed to the rafters. It’s great to see that those who know us believe in us.
We made it crystal clear from the beginning that players would need to cover their own flights. Although this was not the ideal situation, it was useful for separating out those who were serious about competing and those who were just looking for a free ride. This was tested further when it came to paying for the flights where more people dropped out. Thankfully we had a core group that believed in one another and in our ability to get this off the ground and they all committed their money. I believe the group is stronger because of this and we know that those who have committed are serious.
With less than a week remaining until the tournament, now our focus is on player management, specifically how we will need to be smart to try and avoid injuries and keep our composure whilst playing numerous games in the heat. Hopefully the next blog I write will be telling positive tales of the tournament. A ferocious amount of work has been done by everybody to get us this far. Please wish both teams (men’s and women’s) well.
After a grueling first semester and when it again began to look all too busy in the second half of the MBA, there came this opportunity to travel down to the Asian giants – Japan and South Korea. The experience could not have been more insightful had it not been earned from within their courtyards. It was time to unleash how Japan has been the front-runner in giving leading technologies, manufacturing methods and services across the globe. It was time again to get acquainted to how South Korea, after having gone through such a tortured past amidst the hostility of North Korea, picked up itself in becoming a leader in telecommunications, electronics and auto-mobile industry. Finally, the pleasant wait was over when the MBA caravan landed in Tokyo on March 12th.
The build-up to this trip was such that some students reached Dublin airport long before the departure. Although the journey took more than a day to reach with jet-lag started playing its role in disturbing our sleep cycles, there was no dearth of enthusiasm in the MBA cohort. Tiresome flight, sleepy eyes and even a bad stomach could not deter me to dwell out on the streets of Shinjuku on the first night. As I had lived in Japan 4 years back, it made this trip even more nostalgic personally and relevant to my travel diary.
The formal itinerary commenced with three guest lecturers speaking at large on Japanese business ethics, bureaucracy, the national politics, and how they managed to live a satisfying life in Japan though they were all from much more liberal and free societies. I found the words from Mr Michael Cucek, one of the speakers, extremely insightful in uncovering how Japanese politics thrives and it was very surprising to know that political families have been at the forefront in shaping the politics in Japan. The next event at NTT DoCoMo R&D centre was no less than looking in the near future as they showed some of their revolutionizing prototypes. It would be unfulfilling not to mention the dinner at “Gonpachi” restaurant. Though I don’t have a great taste for fish, I must admit I absolutely loved their salmon. For those who doubted the Japanese style of partying, they had a shout out at the Karaoke later.
Time to fly across to the neighbouring South Korea.
The very first impression I made of South Koreans was that they were a bit more relaxed and flexible than the conservative Japanese. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic with bright sunshine during the next three days which was quite unusual according to our tour guides, Grace and Jenny. Being an ardent lover of cars, I particularly looked forward to visiting KIA Motors. KIA had recently announced to start manufacturing in India and luckily, I got a good 5 minutes’ chat with the presenter conversing on the same topic. I don’t think I would have ever got this opportunity to hear directly from KIA’s official. Thanks to this trip!
The itinerary was so tightly packed that people would have taken some 3-4 days of good rest to recover back to the Dublin time zone. Here, I would like to make a specific mention to Mr Karan Sonpar who selected the destinations for this trip, Ms Avril Donohue and Legacy Ventures for organising and making this week memorable. Of course, the tour guides in Tokyo and Seoul also as they were outstanding in terms of the depth of knowledge they had about the respective countries.
It was hard to condense down the scintillating week into limited words, but words would never be enough to express this great time that we, the Smurift ambassadors, had across the Pacific. This was truly the icing on the cake!
On March 11th, 70 MBA students will depart for the annual Smurfit MBA International Study Tour. This year, for the first time, we will be visiting Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. The Study Tour encourages participants to immerse themselves in the business environment of these unique countries by taking them on an intensive exploration of local business practices, challenges and cultures, using company visits as the ideal setting for practical learning. It combines a variety of high-level company visits, presentations and panel discussions from leading executives, government officials and entrepreneurs, all relevant to the core management disciplines being studied on the ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ MBA module.
Along with the academic aspect of this module, there are three main outcomes that we aim to achieve throughout the week-long Study Tour:
Career Development: To develop a deeper understanding of doing business in an international context and an opportunity to network with senior executives from various backgrounds.
Skills Development: Practical exposure to innovative business case studies relevant to the core courses studied and enhance team working skills through group challenges.
Personal Development: An intensive social networking opportunity. Build strong relationships. Challenging experience – “get you out of your comfort zone”.
There is a strong networking and social element to the Study Tour and we have lots of exciting adventures lined up; dinner in the ‘Kill Bill Restaurant’ in Tokyo, visits to Harajuku, Takeshita Street, Asakusa temples, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok village and National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.
The students will be joined by Professor Karan Sonpar, Professor Pat Gibbons, Roisin O’Loughlin (UCD Smurfit), Lyndon Worrall (Legacy Ventures) and myself. Keep an eye on the MBA Blog next month to hear how we get on in Tokyo and Seoul!
During our first week, we had a presentation from a gentleman from the MBA Association of Ireland. At the end he wished all of the full timers “Best of luck”, but to the EMBA group he just laughed and said “God help you!’
The hardest part of the EMBA for me so far has been managing the work-life balance; to be honest even having the word ‘life’ in there is a bit misleading. I had many discussions with EMBA alumni who all described it as the most difficult but enjoyable two years of their life. So I thought I was prepared for the workload. About seven weeks in I had a mini-breakdown, where I thought “What the hell have I done?” “All that money!” “All that time!” The only comforting part was the fact that everybody else in my class seemed to be feeling the same way.
One of the main reasons for my doing an EMBA at this time in my life, was figuring that my 18 month old daughter would not miss me too much. As long as I can be there for dinner and bed time, as well as an hour or two at the weekend, it is enough for her at the moment. Anyway, she seems more interested in Barney, In the Night Garden, Tangled, Frozen, or whatever structure she can fashion into a climbing frame or a horse.
Although the time commitment is more than I thought it would be, I am enjoying it even more than I thought I could. I have been exposed to so many new things, including: online dating; Zara (as I have never considered it before); the reality that narcissistic managers do exist and how to recognise them; a company called ‘Bananas’ (that doesn’t sell bananas); amongst many others.
The most important part of the EMBA journey to date is how it has made me think about things in different ways – including how I see myself, and the impact that I can make (or not), depending on my own personality and behaviours.
It was around this time last year that I made the decision to tackle the EMBA. So to anybody reading this who is considering the EMBA: start your GMAT preparation, attend one of the UCD Smurfit MBA Open Days and then go for it.
So the 6 Nations Championship is upon us. For the majority of rugby fans in this part of the world, it is a fascinating and gruelling six weeks of international rugby. For those lucky few who take part in the tournament and represent their families, counties, provinces and countries, it is both physically and mentally draining. During the build up to this year’s tournament, I came upon a phrase that has been recycled from the former tennis champion, Billie Jean King. Pressure is a privilege. In a sports context this is quite an easy, logical progression. The privilege to represent your country obviously comes with significant pressure. If it’s ever forgotten by an international sports person, it is a privilege that those around them will quickly remind the athlete of. At this stage, it may seem odd as to what, if anything, this has to do with the journey through an MBA. If the reader is considering this, I strongly suggest a brief reflection on what ‘pressure is privilege’ means to you.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the bubble of completing an MBA. All the assignments, leadership development, careers and networking events can very quickly distort the wider picture and impact personal motivation. The privilege of being amongst a small band of individuals going through this journey comes with pressure. Being successful in our future careers and achieving everything we want to achieve will be a privilege. It will bring with it significant pressure. In order to reach the heights we are being prepared for throughout the course, we have to prove competence under pressure. This connection can be forgotten during the long and dark winter months as we slog through another case study or number crunching exercise.
Pressure in business should not be lonesome. At every stage there will be the support of highly talented teammates. In the sporting context, pulling everyone together onto the same page and pulling for the same cause, taking on the same pressure, is critical to success. The Smurfit MBA provides fertile ground for the individual to acquire the tools with which to succeed in this way. The focus on teamwork, pulling disparate styles and philosophies together and communicating at every stage is very similar to putting together a strong performance on the rugby pitch. Business can take a lot of the successes from sportspeople and learn significantly from them. ‘Pressure is Privilege’ should be just the beginning.