Japan Will Challenge Everyone’s Perspective

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The Orient sparks my imagination. It is just two days until we depart for Japan and South Korea on our MBA international Study Tour. The number of assignments due before our flights is stacked – my team works day-by-day prioritizing which fires to fight – yet each time we submit a report or presentation my excitement builds. Of all the countries in Asia, Japan captures my imagination the most: a high-tech world melted into politeness and respect of their past. The kid in me yearns for the latest Nintendo Switch, the engineer in me longs to travel the bullet train over its flat seismic terrain, while the adult foodie in me craves everything on offer! But if I’m honest – we only have two days and three nights in Tokyo before we fly to South Korea. I am a man who focuses on his priorities – my inner Anthony Bourdain wins breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Tokyo
Tokyo

In Dublin – we don’t have the bullet train – we have the Dorsh! Our green train with its loyal base of daily commuters is one of Ireland’s greatest public transport success stories. And, yes we do have some! Our Dart snakes up and down Dublin Bay where the views can simply make your day, but it’s nowhere near as memorable as the Dub’s quick wit overheard on the Dart. I was delighted to discover that our first field trip in Tokyo is to J-Trec: the manufacturer of our lovely DART. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about manufacturing processes in a heavy industry, the Japanese productivity philosophy and (fingers crossed) high-speed trains. In between our field trips, my class and I hope to experience as much Japanese culture as possible: the sights, the sounds and sheer culture differences that stop you dead in your tracks.

Myeongdong, Seoul
Myeongdong, Seoul

The focus of my MBA journey is not to be railroaded by the desire to purely amass textbook knowledge. It is about learning from my classmates’ different perspectives, the challenges they place on you to justify your idea or opinion – there is no better group to call a spade a spade – and the opportunities to improve your soft skills and behaviors to grow as a leader. Yet I have this gut-feeling Japan will challenge everyone’s perspective.

Shane Mc Carthy ~ Full-Time MBA

Teams – A Hybrid Approach

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Undertaking an MBA was something I had considered for a long time. However, with my career progressing and being in my mid 30’s I has thought that the time to take on this challenge had passed me by. Realising that I wanted to change my career path, I spoke with friends & colleagues, and made enquiries into what options and programmes were available to me. I quickly realised the Full-Time MBA in Smurfit Business School matched exactly what I was looking for.

After 10 years in the banking industry, giving up my job (and salary!!) for a year was a scary prospect. However, unlike many of my classmates, being from Dublin was advantageous in terms of not having to move, which made things easier for me. Returning to full time education after a gap of 10 years certainly took some getting used to, but after 2 to 3 weeks of a settling in period I was back in the student mind-set.

There is a wide diversity in the class in terms of experience, industry, and nationality. Adapting to different people’s way of doing things takes time and includes some trial and error – but I am always learning. An engineer and a banker certainly have different ways to tackle the same problem! However, what I have learned is that there are many ways to successfully complete a task. Quite often a hybrid approach between team members proves to be the most efficient way of achieving success.

The past 4 months have flown by. It has been tough at times and the hours have been long, however I have learned a huge amount both academically and personally and I have met some great people along the way. Semester 1 is complete, however there is still a long road ahead and I am looking forward to the challenges that 2017 will bring.

I have really enjoyed the MBA experience to date, but having said that I am certainly enjoying the Christmas break! Lots done – even more to do!

Mark Kavanagh ~ Full-Time MBA

Herding Cats

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Peter Thiel once said “Tell me something you know, that nobody else understands”. What I know, is that Google is an old age pensioner and online advertising is old hat.

You see, 2 years ago I knew I wanted to work in Tech, IoT to be specific, and I knew I wanted to work in Advertising but I hadn’t yet had my lightbulb moment. Looking for change and a way to open doors or create options, I started an MBA. I was full of enthusiasm about the future but with a healthy dose of nervous anticipation. So what does this have to do with herding cats? I’ll get to that.

Year 1 passed in a busy blur of challenging learning and making good friends. If you have a natural curiosity and passion for learning, the MBA doesn’t fail to disappoint. But be prepared to work, and work hard. It’s certainly not easy, but it is extremely fulfilling. The quality of the lecturing is far beyond what I experienced previously, and everyone wants to do their part to not let their team down. Interestingly, I have since found that many of the qualities required for an MBA are the same qualities required from an entrepreneur; stubborn perseverance, a passion for learning, flexibility and intelligence to name a few.

I was always quite entrepreneurial; my mother loves gardening and when I was a child she taught me about the benefits of ladybirds on her roses (They eat Greenfly). I had an 8 year old lightbulb moment and proceeded out to the adjacent corn field, collected a box of Ladybirds and sold them door to door at 10p each for our neighbours’ gardens. I’d like to say I reinvested the profits or retained some capital, but Kearn’s sweet shop was my downfall! During Semester 1 of the MBA, a good friend of mine installed a home control system; I don’t have space here to tell the full story, but suffice to say that through really good timing, a twist of faith and a little bit of luck, I had a 35 year old lightbulb moment. I already had a 400 page business plan (I know!) completed when I approached the UCD Entrepreneur in Residence. Suffice to say she didn’t mince her words, the plan went into the bin and she quickly pulled me out of the rabbit hole and back on the right track.

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You see, I realised that the future of Advertising is the Internet of Things, but not in the way everyone else seems to understand it. Thus I reached a crossroads, one of those very rare moments in life where you can do something huge, something global that will change the world forever. This is one of the most significant things about the Smurfit MBA that nobody ever mentions; it gives you what I like to call with admiration an ‘American attitude’. A belief that no challenge is too big and no matter what you want to achieve, the world is your oyster and you can do it. Being surrounded by really capable, driven people, breeds a belief in yourself and a belief in others. A belief that hard work and perseverance will prevail. I started talking to prospective customers and with my partner Manuela formed Promo Pads. And I jumped in! Thus began the cat herding.

Over the last few months the business has pushed ahead at an incredible pace, and I switched into survival mode on the MBA. People talk about the intensity of start-ups, but you don’t really understand it until you live it. A Global tech start-up only amplifies this further. When we’re not building sales leads speaking to customers or project managing with our development team, we’re planning our International expansion strategy or optimizing our market positioning and financial forecasts. Everything needs to be done yesterday, but the MBA gave me a basis of knowledge for areas where I previously had no experience. Every minute of life is filled with either MBA work, incubator work or now vastly more importantly, real business. I have developed a new level of disdain for procrastination, because I simply don’t have any time. Keeping everything balanced really is like herding cats. In fact, I’m writing this blog in my car for a short break before a business meeting. But yes, we’re building something amazing and loving it.

So I launched into MBA Year 2 with the business ramping up into what feels like 7th gear, and having secured a place on an incubator. You see, anything I’ve ever had to do, I’ve always just got on with it. Procrastination frustrates me. However, the MBA has provided new insights about the ways that other people like to work; it turns out that not everyone wants to get the 5 week assignment 90% finished in week 1, just so it’s off the desk. But it also turns out that ‘getting on with it’ is what a start-up needs. If you have a start-up idea, the best advice I can give you is stop thinking and start doing. It won’t build itself and if you truly believe in it, then the train is leaving the station no matter what.

I would like to think that without being on the MBA, I’d be in the same position I am now. But realistically it was the overall environment of UCD Smurfit that prepared me mentally for this. In an ideal world the business would have been started after the MBA, but once-in-a-lifetime opportunities don’t tend to wait around.

I come from a military background. In the military, leaders sometimes have to be tactically clever, sometimes they need patience, and sometimes they need to charge headlong down the middle of the battlefield with nothing but smoke for protection. A good business analogy is Uber’s headlong rush to global domination. Well, I always did like smoke…although mirrors are a good complement. So back to what I know and nobody else understands; I’m unashamedly using this blog to plant Promo Pads flag at the top of the hill. Hello Google. We’re coming.

Diarmaid Murphy ~ Executive MBA

A Special Day to Mark the End of Semester 1

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Yesterday was a special day which marked the end of Semester 1. I went to the graduation ceremony of my friend. Congrats to her for achieving the degree of MBA at Smurfit Business School. The ceremony took place in O’Reilly hall at the Belfield campus. When I arrived there, a group of graduates were taking pictures on the grass. Happy laughter and cheerful voices were among them.

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The ceremony was formal and solemn. I was so touched by the speeches of the President and the Dean. I felt honoured to be a student at Smurfit. I pictured myself wearing the robe and standing on the stage next year. I will be really excited and delighted.

After that, I ran back to Blackrock to meet my fellow MBA colleagues for our yummy ‘Lucky Pot’. We brought the popular foods from our home country: Irish stew, Irish coffee, American fudge, African curry and melktert, German Pizza, Mexican salsa and tortilla chips, Chinese steamed bun and haw flakes and so on.

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We shared the recipes and made jokes about the unique cuisines. It helps us to chillax from the intense study for a moment. Time flies, 12-weeks of classes went so fast.

Good luck everyone and I hope we can achieve the grades we are aiming for in our upcoming exams.

Jingjie Ma ~ Full-Time MBA 

Home from Home!

Moving to another country is never easy; especially when it is your first time. My journey started with my enrolment in UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. I started my preparation with a lengthy visa process and then scheduling my arduous travel accordingly. I am from the northern part of India which is one of the most scenic places in India: Jammu & Kashmir. Like Ireland, there are lots of lakes, rivers and mountains.

My Home Town
My Home Town

Amidst many differences between India and Ireland, there are similarities also. We both share the same tri-colour in our respective national flags: Saffron, white and Green. Both nations have emerged through similar historic experiences. Moreover, Indian constitution resembles Irish constitution more than any other constitution in the world. When Indian constitution was being drafted, Eammon De Valera was frequently approached. There is uncanny similarity between the Irish pronunciation of numbers and pronunciation of numbers in Hindi and between old Irish and Sanskrit. Also, it is amazing to know that Irish time is the same as Indian time, which pretty much means, not on time.

Ireland
Ireland

Well all the hassle becomes easy if you have good company, warm welcomes and friends around you. We can learn to be happy with very little things in life. My first day in Dublin made quite an impression, while taking bus to my temporary accommodation, I went off the route. The driver pointed to the correct location and dropped me there. It is not just me; one of my Indian colleagues had a similar experience. He (guess who) was stranded because someone robbed him but then a complete stranger helped him with the travel fare and guided him home. I have to say Irish people are very warm, which is something that they share with us.

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A diverse classroom and welcoming staff made the transition easier. Next was our culturally and functionally diverse study group. I have a spread of different cultures (Irish, Kenyan, Chinese and Indian) and experience (Engineer, Music Composer, Chef and Sales Analyst). It may be perceived that we would have a lot of differences but unexpectedly there are not, making it easier to overcome the cultural lag and innate hesitation. Out of the blue was the GNAM Global Network Week, a week full of learning, fun and frolics. We engaged with students across 10 different Business Schools. This provided the level of exposure and networking platform to expand one’s perspective. The surprises don’t end here. Everyone here seems to love Indian food. In addition to that, the food may be very different here but there’s still the sort of bickering and slanging going on that I’m used to. In future, I would love to stay here in Ireland after my studies. For now, I hope my stay here is pleasant and I am looking forward to more surprises and to explore more of Ireland.

Medhav Gondi ~ Full-Time MBA

Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM)

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Two months into UCD Smurfit Full-Time MBA and every day still remains a mix of anxiety, excitement, pressure and loads of memories. The icing on the cake was Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week – perfect stress buster for learning, meeting people and sharing experiences.

The module hosted by UCD this year was “The Three Pillars of Innovation in Ireland – Technology, Food and Culture” with an aim to drive innovation and create value by connecting leading global business schools, their resources and their stakeholders. We had 40+ students from EGADE Mexico, ESMT Germany, IE Spain, IIMB India, Sauder Canada, and Yale U.S.A and last but not least UCD Ireland.

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Day 1: Rushing through the gates in anticipation of not being late, it felt like the first day of school all over again, from collar name tags to the printed schedule of the week to new puzzled faces in the lecture theatre. Professor Patrick Gibbons, the module co-coordinator addressed us and introduced the students to each other in a unique way, following which we had interactive sessions about the future of Irish beef industry, Challenges of Internationalization and Branding of Irish food. Apart from the amazing lunch, there was a welcome reception in the evening where all the students socialised over wine & cheese.

Day 2: The day started with reflections on the previous days’ learnings. Apart from sessions on Foreign Direct Investment, Innovation in customer Insight and Ireland’s competitiveness, the highlight of the day was a power packed presentation by ‘The Happy Pear’ twins and a visit to their café and production unit in Greystones. It felt like we were on a class picnic and I never knew I would actually like vegan food that was served at the café (being a hard core non-vegetarian!). The experience was really good due to my personal interest in the food production industry.

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Day 3: By now all students knew each other quiet well, with no more introductions, “Hello, I am Prathibha, attending the MBA programme at UCD” and questions “So, which country are you from? “or “ Which business school are you attending?”. Thus began another day planned very well with lectures on the venture capital environment, Google Inc, developing Irish industry and the Irish economy-performance & prospects. A Dublin Literary pub crawl was organized for us (believe me I never knew what a Literary pub crawl was until then). It is a walking tour of Dublin’s historic pubs conducted by two actors who introduce the famous writers and enact scenes from their works. Moving from one pub to another, sharing stories, small talk, drinks and food just made the day even more worthwhile.

Day 4: After a long night, it was really hard to wake up in the morning and reach college by 8:45am for an overview and review session. But still, everyone were present right on time looking all energetic to attend sessions on Innovation, Operations in Ireland, International TV & film industry and Intellectual Property. A farewell dinner was planned out at Johnnie Fox’s which is known as Ireland’s ‘highest’ pub. The night was filled with traditional Irish dance and music and a delicious three course meal.

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Day 5: Today there were no classes; an entire day of outdoor activities was organized starting with a trip to the Abbey Theatre, National Theatre of Ireland. There was a small talk about the history of the theatre and development of Arts followed by an acting exercise. Due to some confusion, I reached the wrong entrance of the Guinness Store house and had to go all the way round to another entrance, only to be received by some smiling faces who happily commented on how late I was and kept them waiting. This was my first brewery experience which tells the tale of Ireland’s famous beer. Along with tastings and beer samples there is a rooftop gravity bar on the 7th floor with 360° views across the Dublin’s magnificent skyline. As this was the last day of the GNAM week, everyone decided to meet up for one last time for some drinks.

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Thus the incredible GNAM week concluded with goodbyes, new friends and valued memories.  Thanks to Elaine Aherne, module manager for organizing everything and always being there with us. Back to classes again, need to do a load of assignments and also have an exam coming up next week. All the best to me and my class!

Prathiba Fernandes ~ Full-Time MBA

Theme: Preparation!

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It’s an October day on campus at Smurfit Graduate Business School, and the MBA Class of 2017 have been at UCD for six weeks. The international students are getting to grips with the mercurial Irish weather and the Irish students are slowly coming to terms with Mayo’s disappointment in the All-Ireland. Summertime is officially over and it’s time to prepare for winter.

Preparation seems to be a theme this week!

First and foremost is preparation for the workplace. I’m a career changer: I studied medicine as an undergraduate, working as a junior doctor before coming to UCD. One of my priorities this year is explore my career options post-MBA.  Happily, Smurfit is making that task very easy.

At the start of term the Careers team circulated an MBA vacancy with a global brand, and I spent much of my Monday evening gearing up for a phone interview next week. There was plenty more to learn about potential employers on Tuesday, as a stellar lineup of firms sent representatives to Smurfit for the Audit & Consulting Recruitment Fair. With the graduate milk-rounds starting, we have a valuable opportunity to do some research ahead of the MBA hiring cycle.

Wednesday was entirely devoted to job-hunting skills with the fantastic Daniel Porot. We were in capable hands, learning from a speaker who works with 12 of the world’s top 20 MBA schools. I’ll have a chance to put M. Poirot’s advice into practice at the second recruitment fair of the week, which focuses on general business functions rather than professional services.

Planning a little more proximally, I’ve been finalising my travel plans for Global Network Week. Due to Smurfit’s membership of the Global Network for Advanced Management, full-time MBA students (and second-year EMBAs) get to spend a week in October participating in the GNAM Global Exchange. Many students opt for the programme hosted right here at UCD, others go to Yale, and a further cohort heads to IE in Madrid. Earlier this week, the destinations for our spring study tour were confirmed as Tokyo and Seoul; 32 of us came to Blackrock, but we’re getting to see the world!

Next Saturday, nine of us will fly out for an immersive exchange at Yale School of Management, studying Behavioral Economics, Marketing and Finance. We just received our schedules, which include a company visit day in New York. Some lucky scheduling means we’ll be able to catch up with UCD business alumni at the New York chapter’s annual benefit dinner, and find out exactly where our MBAs (and alumni connections) can take us.

Thirdly, as usual, I’m preparing for next week’s classes. My long-suffering boyfriend is resigned to the fact that my weekends will be primarily occupied with pre-reading and finance homework for the foreseeable future. Finally, though, I’m getting ready for a friend’s wedding reception on Friday afternoon, which should be a lovely occasion in Georgian Dublin – timely reassurance that normal life still continues during the MBA!

Laura Donaghy ~ Full-Time MBA

Moving Across the Atlantic for my MBA

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When I decided to do my MBA at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, I was excited and naturally a bit apprehensive to leave my comfortable life in Wisconsin to move across the Atlantic to a completely new country. The transition to Ireland was a lot easier than I could’ve imagined. I have moved countries once before and it was much more difficult. Maybe it is easier because I have done it once before, but I think it has more to do with the exceedingly nice Irish people. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and inviting. To me, the people make all the difference, and this experience has proved that to be true.

The structure of the program also helps with meeting everyone in the program. Foundation week has a lot of events that get everyone involved and the Leadership Development Program gets everyone working in various small groups and as one large group so everyone really gets to know each other. Also, the group work that is involved with the various assignments starts very early on which forces interaction with the other members of the program.

The group work is very rewarding and helps with developing the best ideas possible through discussion in a small group. It is not without its challenges, but the various workshops assist in team dynamic development. The group work was difficult in the beginning getting used to all the different work styles of the various members of the program, but it definitely does improve drastically and quickly over time if it is worked on and the rewards from efficient group work is worth all the effort.

David Camp ~ Full-Time MBA

Global Network Week 2016

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Here at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, we are proud to be a member of the Global Network for Advanced Management, alongside other top business schools like Yale, IE and EGADE (visit GNAM website). The Global Network Immersion Week (GNW) Programme is an initiative of GNAM that is designed to provide students from participating GNAM schools with a rich foreign immersion experience.

The Global Network for Advanced Management connects member schools with diverse regions, countries, and cultures, and economies by facilitating interaction. Through one week immersion programmes and online courses, participating schools host fellow GNAM institutions for seminars, visits, and interactions within local economies.

The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School will be participating in the GNW Programme again this year, for our third year running. We will be hosting an intensive one-week course in October 2016 and June 2017 that will be attended by MBA students from both our school and all other network schools.

Global Network Immersion Week gives UCD Smurfit MBA students the opportunity to pursue intensive study at another network school, in a focused mini course that leverages the perspectives, programmes, and faculty expertise of that school. Alongside their counterparts from elsewhere in the network, students attend classes, tour local businesses, and meet with experts focused on current business problems.

In the video below, Executive MBA student Dermot Boyle & Full-time MBA student Ashish Babbar discuss their experiences of the 2015-16 Global Network for Advanced Management.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

MBA International Module – Visit to China

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For our final international module on the MBA program, the full-time class went on a study trip to China. Visiting Xiamen and Hong Kong, the trip aimed to give us an insight into the considerable economic achievement as well as the cultural and institutional practices in China. We set off on Saturday morning, flying from Dublin to Heathrow to Hong Kong and on to Xiamen. Xiamen is a beautiful coastal city in the Fujian Province in China, however being wet season, we arrived to thunder storms, lashing rain and approximately 90% humidity. Our first challenge was to make it from the airport terminal to the bus (which was parked only 50 meters away). Safe to say we all got soaked! We arrived at the lovely Lujiang Harbourview Hotel, checked in, dried off and headed back out for dinner at RongYu Restaurant where we sampled a variety of Chinese delicacies such as fried jellyfish and chicken heads. It was an interesting experience to say the least! A stroll through the city showed there was plenty more interesting food waiting for us…

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The next morning we set off for lectures at Xiamen University. We had a mix of lectures from Smurfit’s Prof. Pat Gibbons and Xiamen University’s Prof. Lei Meng. We learnt about the growth and structural changes in China over the past two decades and how China has emerged from its hyper growth phase into a medium to slow growth phase. With the increasing growth rate of wages for low skilled labour, China is losing its competitive advantage in the manufacturing sector compared to some other Asian countries. The challenge China is now facing is how to best manage this transition. However, the government keep changing the policies to manage this transition which is causing more uncertainty in the country. After lunch we met some of the students from Xiamen who gave us tour of the impressive university campus and the nearby Buddhist temples. We enjoyed a lovely vegetarian dinner in Nanputuo Temple before returning to our hotel.

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The next day we returned to Xiamen University for lectures with Prof. Pat Gibbons and Prof. Chen Yan. We learnt about China’s business environment and business strategy. There are many aspects to doing business in China that are significantly different to how business is conducted in the west. For example, China has a high context culture where relationships are paramount and one must pay attention to rules. Furthermore, China’s ‘face culture’ means that they don’t let people lose face in public regardless of the situation. After lunch, we took a ferry to Gulangyu Island which is the third largest island off the coast of Xiamen. A guided tour of the island showed us it’s off beat colonial architecture, lovely beaches and piano museum. With temperatures reaching 36°C and 90% humidity it was an eventful afternoon.

The next morning we returned to Xiamen University for our final lecture before saying good bye to Xiamen and leaving for our flight to Hong Kong. On the coach transfer from the airport to our hotel in Hong Kong we got a taste of the scale of the city with its stunning skyline and majestic mountains in the background. Once checked in, we enjoyed a buffet dinner in our hotel and explored the city.

The next day we visited three very different businesses – Invest HK, Memorigin and Huawei. Invest HK is an investment agency for the government of Hong Kong who promote Hong Kong as a preferred location for businesses to set up and support foreign businesses located in Hong Kong. Memorigin is a Hong Kong brand that produces tourbillion watches and Huawei is a global leader of ICT solutions. These companies gave us a great insight into Hong Kong economy and the opportunities and challenges facing businesses who operate in the region. That evening we went to Kowloon to watch the laser show from the impressive city skyline, followed by dinner and a trip to the night market.

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On our final day in Hong Kong we visited four businesses. First up were two impressive start-up companies namely Snapask and Horizon which gave us further insight into the type of entrepreneurial activity going on in Hong Kong and some of the key challenges they face. For example, Snapask, a Learning App, explained how they needed to build a completely different product if they wanted to expand into mainland China with different payment system, login system, etc. therefore they are focusing on expanding into other south east Asian countries. We then met with CBRE Group which is a real estate service provider and a fortune 500 company. This talk enlightened us with how competitive the real estate market in Hong Kong is. Our final visit was to Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm, who explained how their business operates and gave insight into the current job market in Hong Kong. We finished off the unforgettable trip with a beautiful dinner at The Peak Lookout restaurant.

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Muireann McCarthy ~ Full-Time MBA