Incredible Hospitality That Will Be Remembered for Life

After receiving the schedule of the GNAM week (Global Network for Advanced Management), hosted by UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, and exchanging a couple of letters with the Module Manager Elaine Aherne, I realised we, the MBA students had two PDF documents; each approximately 60 pages, plus a Harvard business school case to read before class started. With nervousness and anxiety, I could not imagine the week-to-come was going to be the one of the highlights of my MBA program.

 Day 1: Not so stormy, but sluggish day

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                                          Photo source: Wikipedia

On Sunday, we found out that school had to be cancelled because hurricane Ophelia, the biggest hurricane to hit Ireland in 50 years and whose name I would always remember, was about to hit the island on Monday. As a result, other than quickly hitting the market to stock up on groceries, the rest of Monday was sluggish with awkward naps induced by time zone differences. The “storm” surprisingly had a very  mild impact on Dublin. There was very little rain and the strong wind only lasted for few hours. So after all the waiting, our program finally started early on Tuesday morning!

Day 2: Professor Damien and the Happy Pear

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Our first speaker of the week, Professor Damien, came to talk to us about the strengths and weaknesses of the Irish food industry. While being anxious about cold-calling during the lecture, we learned that agriculture was an important underlying component of the Irish economy. The lecture was engaging and involved critical thinking about corporate strategy, competitive advantage, and evolution/growth of a company with its competitive advantage. Then came the Happy Pear, whose presentation was voted the most popular presentation of the week. Not only did we get to understand the importance of living and breathing values and mission when growing a new venture, we were also fed with delicious treats. Dining at the Church Road café in Greystones and touring around the factory made us realise again how tough it is to grow an idea into a business. It’s a long journey but the Pear did it!

Day 3: Council for competitiveness, Qualtrics, Draper Investment, and LinkedIn

Ireland is one of the few countries with a governmental division dedicated to competitiveness. From Professor Peter Clinch, the chair of National Competitive Council, we learned that only through an increase in productivity and efficiency, can the country  sustain its competitiveness and continue growing.

Qualtrics and LinkedIn are both data-driven companies. On the surface, they might seem to have little to do with data; however, it is only with the data they are able to collect, store, process, and analyse, they are able to provide clients with powerful insights about the market. This will be the trend in the up-coming century.

In the lecture entitled “The importance of innovation” Mr. Brian Caulfield, Managing Partner at Draper Esprit, thought us that innovation is not equivalent to invention. Innovation is changing the conventional practices in meaningful ways.

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                    Johnny Foxes – The Highest and Happiest Pub in Ireland

We were so fortunate to have had the chance to visit the highest pub (altitude-wise) in Ireland, Johnny Foxes. At first, the dining area seemed crowded and loud, but once the ensemble started to play, Irish dancers started to perform, and people had plenty to drink, the Irish energy filled the entire room. On the other side of the room was a group of elderly visitors. The UCD GNAM crew were so energetic that by the end of show, even they joined us in the party and stood up to move around with the groove.

Day 4: Irish Economy and Intel in Ireland

On Thursday, Professor Jim Power took us through macroeconomic factors influencing the Irish economy, including politics, growing trend of protectionism, BREXIT, etc. We learned that the imbalance of wealth between big corporations and workers might soon create tension and it is the corporations’ responsibility to take actions and tame the sense of the anti-corporations (for example, pay more taxes). After Professor Power’s lecture, Mr. Eamonn Sinnott, the GM of Intel Ireland came to talk to us about Intel’s strategic location in Ireland, its unceasing leadership in microprocessor manufacturing, and its strategic bets (ie. AI, Automated Driving/ADAS, 5G, and Virtual & Merged Reality).

Literary Pub Crawl

As we gathered in the oldest pubs in Ireland, the two actors took us back in time with their superior acting skills. In the old pubs, under The Campanile of Trinity College, and in front of the Saint Andrews Church, we immersed ourselves with Irish literature and of course, beer and Irish pub food. The day was long and the road was wet, but nothing could beat the warmth inside the pubs from other pub-goers and from the UCD GNAM team.

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Photo Credit: Tushar Gandhi from IIMB, India

Day 5: Innovation in the Performance Art Industry and Use of Body Language as Communications

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At the Abbey theatre, we got to go on the main stage. The stage had been designed by the arts director for the play that was on-going, Ulysses (A live trailer can be found here). Because the stage is considered as the intellectual property of the artists, we were not allowed to take pictures of the stage. However, the mere experience of walking on the stage was once-a-life-time experience on its own. The coach led the UCD GNAM team through a series of exercises and games which actors would frequently play during routine practices. By the end of the two-hour session, the UCD GNAM team was more aware of the messages we can convey to people around us by body languages, including the way we vocalise, walk, hold a posture, etc. The team then went on to learn more about the history of Abbey theatre and how innovations had changed the theatre industry in Ireland. We learned about how immersive theatre was started and how nowadays, the performers asked for more than just the audience sitting in front of the stage, shifting from passive participation to taking part in the story and furthermore, playing a role in the story. After a well-balanced mix of hands-on experience and intellectual insights into the theatre arts, we were fed with delicious lunch at the theatre before moving on to our next, and last stop, the Guinness Storehouse.

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      Photo Credit: Benjamin Benhamou, from Sauder School of Business, Canada

The Guinness Storehouse is one of the most highly rated sites to visit in Ireland and it is not over-rated at all. The team broke into smaller groups and toured around the Storehouse. After a long week, of meeting new friends, learning, immersing ourselves in the Irish culture, nothing can be more perfect as an ending than a pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar, the rooftop bar of Guinness Storehouse with a panoramic view of city of Dublin.

Closing Remarks

The week, even though shortened by hurricane Ophelia, was full of valuable learning, be it through lectures, site visits, or theatre performance. Professor Patrick Gibbons and Module Manager Elaine Aherne put a lot of thought into designing the program and making sure that all of us from different parts of the world felt welcomed and returned to where we come from with new insights about Ireland. All of us from the UCD GNAM team would like to thank Professor Gibbons and Elaine dearly for the memories we have from the program.

Yvonne Li, MBA Candidate 2018, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia

iMadrid – The Global Perspective

Two weeks on from GNAM and we are back into daily challenges of the MBA. During semester one midterm, three fabulous students and I travelled to the world class IE Business School for a week long GNAM course titled “Europe at a Crossroads: Complications, Implications, and the Way Forward”. Ian Rafferty has eloquently captured the course content and adventures, so I will focus on a theme of a global future. The learning from this week was to take a step out of your routine to look at the world and what lies ahead.

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Two topics stood out to me from this week – the first was Brexit and Catalonian independence and the second was modern transport in Madrid. There is a strong link between these topics which may not be obvious . . . bear with me!

The European union and the Euro has provided stability and opportunity to millions of people in lower GDP countries while opening a vast new labour force and export market to higher GDP areas. In my opinion, this is unquestionably a win-win relationship and has raised the GDP of all countries in the union.

The push for independence from the UK and Catalonia could be classed as a rise against globalisation. The UK is a net contributor to the EU and Catalonia is a net contributor to Spain meaning they pay more tax than the funds they receive. These areas feel that they would be able to progress and prosper by themselves however this is a narrow outlook. Working together is the only way that Europe can stay relevant on the global stage.

The Dublin transport system could learn a lot from Madrid and as an engineer, Madrid was fascinating to travel around. We witnessed electric busses, vans and the highest concentration of electric cars that I have ever seen. One of those electric cars was being driven autonomously in a trial by a government organisation. There is an electric bike rental system that made commuting and sightseeing a pleasure in the Autumn sun. Lastly, my highlight of the trip was using Uber to have a Tesla smoothly and silently glide us home.

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Madrid is ahead of many cities with these initiatives, but others will follow. We will witness huge environmental benefits but also social impacts as millions of skilled drivers are dislodged from the workforce. This transport transition is the tip of the iceberg with the rise of machine learning. We could see more resistance to technology and globalisation which in turn would cause further separation and unrest. Europe and indeed the world are at a perpetual crossroads and the only option is to work together to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

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“REFUGEES WELCOME”, a sign of Madrid’s commitment to global progress. With that, back to the books – the world will still be in a state of flux next year.

Eoin Carroll, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

The Run From Singapore To The Oratory

Although there are a couple of actual marathon runners in this year’s batch, I think it is safe to say we all, in a way, have been getting the hours in for a different kind of marathon. Coming out of a GNAM week which was packed with new people, new locations and new experiences and finding ourselves in a hurry to study for the first exam of the year sure felt like running 42k. Travelling the farthest away from home, that is Smurfit Graduate School of Business, to a tiny little island called Singapore with a total of 28 hours spent in flight, we weren’t only thinking about the things we would get to see but also thinking about the cash flow statement question on the Financial Reporting exam that we were going to be facing immediately after the return flight home.

It was very exciting to set foot in a southeast Asian country for the first time and the excitement really doubled after seeing the renowned Marina Bay Sands Hotel from a distance. It instantly led me to question what our hotel would look like in comparison to this shrine to engineering excellence and infinity pools. At this point in the cab, I turned to my colleague Mr. Condon and asked for a begging confirmation, we will have a pool, right?

…And yes, we did.

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I didn’t pack my bag for Dublin having thought of the possibility that I would be exposed to a 35 degrees Celsius heat with a small but effective touch of 95% humidity somewhere along this exciting year. I guess it was clear that we were a little under-prepared that Monday morning, which marked the first day of lectures, with both of us in the Smurfit GNAM Party sporting the only jackets in the country. Oh well… Most importantly I had already went out to buy swimming shorts as soon as I had set my bags down in room 1104 in a crazed rush the day before.

The days passed by in a hurry. Starting with a warm welcome breakfast, going through to the eye opening first lecture about emerging markets in Asia, how we didn’t know what to do with them and how Prof. Pasha was able to teach us through a fascinating case study. Having completed the city tour, provided by the National University of Singapore,  we saved the Marina Bay Park and the illustrious mega trees for later. All the while getting to know people from Nigeria, Trinidad Tobago, Costa Rica and Indonesia, listening to exciting travel/vacation plans of the group coming all the way from Mexico and catching a familiar feeling with fellow Turkish students visiting from Istanbul.

After a full week of learning about Asian markets and the logic behind Singapore’s rise to being one of the most prominent countries in the current financial markets there was still a question as to why a beer would cost double that of in Dublin. I mean they had breweries, they weren’t importing. I know because we had a refreshing visit to the birthplace of the famous Tiger Beer. Maybe it was because there were a lot of taxes attached to it in order to provide for the outstanding growth and keep everybody in the island working without compromising efficiency due to alcohol related hiccups… or maybe it was just because the common folk, with all that wealth, were able to actually afford it.

Still thinking of the Indian food that I enjoyed with our new friends on Diwali (Deepawali as Singaporeans call it) night, which was celebrated in great fashion in Little India, we embarked on our journey back, with cabin bags full of strategy cases and past exams courtesy of Mrs. Brennan.

Despite having the longest flight of my life and experiencing Singapore for the first time, the marathon wasn’t over yet. Even though we didn’t choose Singapore Airlines, which we had had the opportunity to learn everything about during our GNAM Week, there were still a lot of choices for movies on the screen in front of us. Unfortunately thought there was  no time to waste as we were returning back to our first exam this year. I opened up the books, which held the keys to financial reporting, all the while catching curious, questioning looks from people wondering what important things I must have going on instead of watching the latest Spiderman movie. I’m sure Pete can relate to this, having caught the same flight as I did. Eventually closing my eyes for a quick nap towards the end of the flight, I felt like I opened my eyes in the oratory-turned-exam hall finishing that unconventional 3rd question.

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As I look back on the past two weeks, I feel that we passed important milestones in our MBA run. These accumulating experiences lay the roots of our academic and also introspective trees growing ever so slightly each time we leave a comfort zone behind. Still the marathon continues and I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, experiencing challenging sprints that are tasks and deadlines. To conclude, I would like to congratulate all my colleagues that powered through these last weeks and wish them well for the upcoming figurative 42k’s. And for those who are curious: Those “trees” at Marina Bay are just amazing.

 

Emrecan Kercek, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost half way through our first semester but you know what they say, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’! The last few weeks have been intense to say the least. From written assignments to numerous presentations, it seems like there is something due for submission every day.

On Monday, we completed our first module – Business & Society. This was an eventful class with every session very different from the next. One day we were discussing blood diamonds and on another the ethics within FIFA.

We’ve had a couple of interesting and interactive sessions as part of our leadership development programme. Most notable, was Daniel Porot’s full day event which provided a very unique look at job search strategies and the unsolicited approach to job hunting. He also highlighted how easily you can build your network by simply talking to your peers. I think most of us left the session with a very different mindset than when we went in. This week we have a networking event with Brian Marrinan who was so eager to talk to us, he even came in a day early!

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Thursday marks our final financial reporting class with Niamh Brennan. It has been a very demanding module that has helped us realise that accounting is not black and white – it’s grey, grey, grey! Although we will miss Niamh’s 8.30am lectures, we all eagerly anticipate her end of module exam in a couple of weeks (if you’re reading Niamh, be nice 😊).

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It’s not all work though. Next week we embark on the GNAM programme, which we are all really looking forward to. Many of our class will be travelling to different universities all around the world while some have chosen to remain in UCD. Technology, food and culture are on the menu for those who stay in Dublin, welcoming many international students to the city and the Blackrock campus. Along with five classmates, I’m very excited to be travelling to Yale SOM where we will study the behavioural science of management. To make sure we don’t think we’re on holiday, Yale have been very kind to send us on several advanced readings.

Our MBA class has a wonderful mix of personalities which makes all the early mornings and late nights worthwhile. Six weeks in and it feels like I’ve known everyone for six years! I don’t know if that’s because we’ve spent so many hours together, or the constant alert from all our WhatsApp groups! Seriously though, with the weeks going by so quickly – don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

Karl McEntegart, Full-Time MBA 2017/2018

A Roller Coaster Ride

Aaannddd… We are into week 6. It seems like a year already! As I sit to pen down my thoughts about this roller coaster ride, I can’t help but ponder a question: Did I make the right decision by pursuing an MBA? The first thought that crosses my mind is, indeed! The journey so far has been a perfect blend of surprises, reality checks, setting goals, broadening horizons and what not. I have really been surprised by how quickly my perspective has changed. Be it at school or at home, our topics of discussion have changed from petty personal issues to deciding companies’ strategies. The house of 4 ambitious MBA aspirants living together has turned into a battlefield these days, or maybe a BBC discussion forum (*sigh*)!!!

The journey began with Foundation Week, allowing me to put faces to names I had known for over a month. It was a hectic week. Though, I did enjoy losing millions in the business simulation. Boy, I would have been behind bars if I was running a real business that way. Fintan Ryan, the mover-and-shaker, introduced us to our study groups, which we saw changing into teams.

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In week 2, I was recovering from the trauma of an intense and demanding Foundation Week. I was hoping that life would now get simpler. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come. While financial reporting continued to haunt us, Competitive Strategy made me realize that if I were to be a CEO of a company, it would definitely go bankrupt in a couple of hours. The Eureka moment- “marketing is certainly not my cup of tea!” The week ended with Friday night dinner followed by endless dancing at Sams Bar only to find my legs crumbling the next morning. Woaahh!!! Let’s plan the next party soon.

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The next two weeks were all about completing assignments, chasing deadlines and delivering presentations.

“Presentation”, this word freaks me out. Paul Slattery to the rescue. The class cannot thank him enough for his inputs and feedback on our presentation skills. We all agree that our presentation skills have developed by leaps and bounds.

By now, we started chasing (more like bugging) Zoe for the extra-curricular clubs. Oh, and how can I forget the session with Brian McIvor who made us introspect about our strengths, weaknesses, transferable skills, personality traits and our values.

I glanced at the timetable once again for week 5 and it looked like an easy going week. Reality-check!, “Easy going life in MBA” is the best oxymoron after “Happily Married Man”! The week completely drained our energy; Comparing Accounting Policies of 5 companies and UFO Moviez case-study being the main culprits. For heaven’s sake, why can’t companies keep their balance sheets clean so that I can have my sleep? I slept for 14 hours this Saturday in order to revitalize myself.

I experienced the essence of what diversity brings to the table through my study group. At one end, it has a novice like me, who is all over the place, and on the other end, it has some really organized people. Their attitude has inspired me to plan things well and to keep myself organized. However, it is a continuous process and will take time. I keep trying though.

Fintan Ryan strikes back with yet another mind-boggling session of team building, facilitating the feedback barter in our team. We have retained our values; however, we have defined new goals and challenged ourselves to take up roles we are not comfortable with, to emerge as a stronger team than before. More than understanding the subject, we are trying to understand each other’s perspective in every assignment we do. From being the best team in the presentation skills class to scoring a C in our competitive strategy assignment, we have experienced it all. Yet, we continue to strive for excellence.

While we all start the 6th week of this exhilarating journey with assignments continuing to create chaos in our lives, we are revitalized by careers consultant Daniel Porot. Daniel comes with a bag full of witty strategies for job hunting, negotiations and networking, having an impactful presence and a whole lot of it. He has made sure that we hit the bull’s eye in choosing our careers. Our financial reporting course is finishing soon and we are gearing up to prepare ourselves for the Corporate Finance course.

I look forward to the GNAM week later this month after which I have to balance both sides of the balance sheet in the Financial Reporting exam.

As I draft the concluding paragraph of my experience at Smurfit, I share a mixed feeling of excitement and anxiety, enthusiasm and apprehension, euphoria and melancholy. More often than not, I miss home. Fortunately, I have really amazing flat-mates who are also my classmates. In them, I find a family away from home (more because they cook delicious food!!! And I am always hungry :-p). Dublin has been treating me well so far. While I write this ending note, my mobile beeps and a message flashes up- “Halloween Party is on!” Let’s scare the ghost of  the MBA. See you guys at the Halloween party.

 

Dhananjay Bairagi, Full Time MBA 2017-2018