The Biggest Surprise on the MBA…

When you begin your MBA journey you are facing into the world of the unknown. You may anticipate some of the challenges and benefits that are to come but many will present themselves from the blind spot of your consciousness throughout the program. In the words of Donald Rumsfeld,

There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.

I have encountered many unknown unknowns during my MBA journey. One such example is the reality that everyone in your peer group has something important to offer and nobody is even close to being the definitive article. This was exactly the sort of fluffy MBA speak that I turned my nose up at before I drank the Kool-Aid myself.

I previously held the view that relatively few people in this world have something truly great to offer and the rest would make great employees. I also engaged in a very black and white mental grouping of the two demographics. I, like many other incumbent MBA participants reviewed the LinkedIn profiles of my classmates before the first day of the program. I made a mental note of the winners and losers and set off to be proven right. The fact that having that sort of outlook put me in the loser category early on was entirely lost on me. Over the next six months or so I was proved wrong on a daily basis. I began to realise that there was significant talent in everyone and everyone was a potential superstar given the right context.

I now firmly believe that you could give me any two of my classmates at random, be they engineer or marketer, red or green, extrovert or introvert and I could easily give you a scenario where one could deliver more value to a project than another. I’m not saying that there aren’t stronger and weaker candidates in the MBA world, of course there are. But every student can outshine everyone else some of the time and there is certainly no one who can outshine everybody else all the time. After you realise this you become more comfortable in your own flaws. You also realise that there may be one small area of expertise that you are truly great at, and you start trying to figure out how to make it a career.

If a company chairman had asked me one month into the program if there was anyone in my class I would recommend as a CEO for his company. I would have said, “yes, x y and z would do a great job for you” before even asking what his company did. Now the first thing out of my mouth would be, “Well what do you need? I have someone for every situation.”


Trevor Whelan

Full-time MBA 2014

Ireland

Vietnam Culture Night

Let’s remember and be proud of yourself and your ethnic identity. We often feel lost in a complex and large world. However, you will feel consoled if you have a knowledgeable background of your ethnic cultural heritage. It gives you a historical root, a sense of your place in the present and a unique permanent though this world is always changing.

– Le Hong Diem, MSc Strategic Management & Planning, UCD Smurfit

Traditional Costume “Ao dai” Performance

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, though living far away from home, Vietnamese MBA students in Dublin were involved in organizing a successfully special and meaningful event – Vietnam Culture Night. The event’s purpose, along with introducing and promoting Vietnamese culture, was to raise funds to support poor children in mountainous areas of Vietnam through the programme, “Only rice is not enough.” The event attracted more than 400 international friends, expatriates and Vietnamese students in Ireland.

Guests attending the event enjoyed the traditional foods of Vietnam such as Gac sticky rice, spring rolls, salt roasted chicken, Vietnamese salad, and a traditional five fruits tray garnished with apricot, peach blossom and Lunar New Year calligraphy. The entire space of the event was decorated with red and yellow symbolizing “luck” and “prosperity”. International friends were excited to take memorial pictures in Vietnamese Tet space and enthusiastic to participate in quizzes about Tet traditions in Vietnam.

I want to send best wishes to the MBA program staffs and my classmates in the new year!

Chuc mung nam moi!

Happy Lunar New Year 2014!


Hung Nguyen

FTMBA 2014

Vietnam

Haaaaaave you met Emma Jordan*?


The author and Emma Jordan on a recent class trip to Galway. Don’t be fooled, Emma Jordan doesn’t get cold; cold gets Emma Jordan.



I didn’t wake up last Wednesday thinking I’d be taking on a leadership role within the full-time MBA class. But the programme is full of unexpected twists that you have to be prepared to handle as they come your way. That’s an important lesson for anyone thinking about doing an MBA or just living in general, I suppose. Flexibility is a beneficial skill and when opportunities present themselves it’s sometimes best not to over analyse the situation. Just go with the flow.

Each semester the student body is responsible for choosing two class reps to liaise with the students, faculty, and administration. The requirements for class rep stipulate that one male and one female student, one of whom is Irish, the other international, must be selected for the positions.

This brings me to Emma Jordan.

Haaaaaave you met Emma Jordan?

If not, you might want to sort that out ASAP. That lady is going places. Not only is Emma Jordan a CrossFit™ enthusiast, physio turned MBA student, she is also a recently appointed class rep for the second semester of our fulltime MBA. There are big shoes to fill after the retirement of our semester one reps, Ken Barry and Kim Jones, but I have no doubt Emma Jordan will represent our class well. It should also be noted this blog post is in no way intended to curry favour with my colleague. That would be futile. Emma Jordan would see that coming from 100 miles away.

Doing some basic calculations at this point leaves us with one Irish woman rep and a vacancy. This post is long enough so yada, yada, yada, I’m a new class rep too.

The two of us are representing our colleagues for the current term. The coming months will undoubtedly have unforeseen challenges but I believe the fulltime MBAs are in capable hands. Overall this position will add to the total learning experience that is the MBA and build additional skills for the future. I look forward to the new responsibilities and serving my class. As well as learning a thing or two about being empowered, assertive, and self-assured from my counterpart.

Key takeaways from this blog post:

  • Be flexible. If necessary work on stretching.
  • Take chances. By serving others you help yourself to grow.
  • Don’t buy green bananas. You don’t know what the future holds when you get up each morning.
  • Porridge with cinnamon and a cut-up, ripe banana is a tasty winter breakfast.
  • That post-porridge hot flash is an added bonus when walking to college.
  • *Out of deference, the author only refers to Emma Jordan as Emma Jordan. Anything else would be disrespectful.


    Anthony Downs

    Full-time MBA 2014

    USA


    Looking Forward to Looking Back

    With a new year upon us, I’ve been reflecting on the highs and lows of 2013 which included completing my first semester of the mid-week Executive MBA (EMBA).  Given that I questioned my sanity on a number of occasions during semester 1, I am pleased to say that the EMBA was close to the top of my list of highs.

    In my experience, maintaining a sensible balance between study, work, and a personal life was the largest challenge of the past 3 months. Be it lectures, readings, assignments, team meetings or guest speakers, the MBA can consume all of your time! In the case of the MBA, the old saying of “you get out what you put in” is certainly true, however the ability to prioritise and effectively manage your time is key.

    Aside from the academic benefits of an MBA program, some personal highlights to date have been:

    • Attending an entrepreneurship club event which had a number of guest speakers from Irish start-ups
    • Participation and insight gained in class group presentations
    • Attending a series of guest speaker panels organised by a group of MBA alums, with a particular highlight being the visit of Des Traynor of Intercom.
    • The Leadership Development Programme events

    Above all, the essence of the MBA program is the people (legends) you meet, be it team mates, classmates or those in the alumni network.  In just 3 months, the MBA has provided numerous opportunities to meet and work with exceptionally talented people. As a group, the midweek class has learned a great deal outside of academics, such as:

    • Tina is an awesome electric guitarist.
    • Not all pharmacists are boring!
    • Tullow Oil is the greatest company to work for in the history of the world, ever.
    • Frankie works in a bank.

    So as we embark on semester 2 in just over a weeks’ time, where we will have new teams and no doubt new challenges, three pieces of advice I have are:

    • Manage your time & work hard but make sure to maintain a work/study/life balance
    • Attend as many extra-curricular MBA events as possible (and in particular the monthly guest speakers organised by Joe Kenny)
    • And, most of all, enjoy yourselves!


    Over and Out

    Michael O’Dwyer

    Midweek EMBA 2015

    The Second Method

    “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” – Confucius

    It goes without saying that the quality of the lecturers in Smurfit is very high (please forgive the brown nosing!). The most useful learning interactions however, come from fellow students. There is a huge wealth of diverse experience within the class. This results in people taking different views on issues. Through debates (sometimes heated) with class members I begin to appreciate different approaches on how challenges could be addressed. Understanding that “there is more than one way to skin a cat” and broadening my thought process to incorporate a number of different viewpoints is, for me, the most valuable learning experience of the MBA programme.

    The most interesting and engaging part of lectures are the “show and tell” presentation of other students. This is where they take theories, frameworks and tools we are discussing and give practical examples of when they encountered problems in the past, how they addressed the challenge at the time and what they would do differently now. These stories are what stick in your mind and a memorable story acts as a trigger for all the other learning points.

    Confucius says imitation of others is the easiest way to learn wisdom. Sounds like a good idea to me.

    David Kiernan

    FT MBA 2014.

    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.



    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.

    MBA Welcome Dinner.

    The whirlwind of the UCD Smurfit MBA life kick started right from the first day of classes, so having a night off just to get to know the faculty, staff, everybody, and their loved ones outside of the classrooms were quite refreshing.

    The night started off with a drinks reception in which full-time MBA and EMBA students mingled and shared our experiences so far into the programs.  We, the FTMBA students, quickly found out that our schedule faded compared to the hectic work-study-family balancing act of EMBAs.

    Moving forward to the dinner, watching a video of the very first alumni talking about their time at UCD Smurfit 50 years ago made us appreciate better the rich history and excellent tradition of the school.

    As a mini-representation of how accessible and diversified the program is, half of my table was international students from the US, Malaysia, China and Vietnam, the rest consists of Irish students and even a professor. The multitude of differences between nationalities, age, background and experiences made for an amazing sharing session. Ciaran and Orla even made sure to visit all tables and ensure we all had a good time.

    To cap off the night, we went down to the Dark Horse, a local watering hole, and celebrated Pete’s birthday. Congratulation, Pete!


    Cong VU,

    FT MBA 2014.

    Fear of the Unknown.

    This blog entry represents my first missed deadline of the year. Not the most auspicious start I feel. It seems that everyone is feeling the pressure to some extent. Best-laid plans to keep on top of the workload and allow time for other things have been pushed aside, at least for now.

    Everyone is here because they’re good at what they do. Deadlines are tough enough when you know your job, but what about when you don’t? I think the first few weeks are about putting the first pin in the map. It won’t be in the right place, but at least it’s somewhere to start.

    Allowing ourselves to make mistakes doesn’t come naturally to most of us. For many this may be the greatest challenge. It’s a venture into the unknown, but that’s why we’re here. Now is the time to take chances, to risk being wrong. I’m looking forward to spending a whole semester making mistakes.

    On an unrelated note, now that the weather has changed for the worse the Irish MBA students are starting a winter support group for the international students. If anyone is interested we’ll be meeting in the Dark Horse at least once a week.

    Michael Noonan,

    FT MBA 2014

    No Wonder Dubliners Walk So Fast

    I would like to use this blog post to set the record straight about a common misconception about the Irish.  Despite what you may have heard, read, or seen; the Emerald Isle’s beverage of choice is in fact coffee.  As a new MBA student you are told that you’ll be drinking lots of coffee to get through the year.  What they neglect to mention is that they try to get you hooked on it from the start.

    The UCD Smurfit MBA Foundation Week started early last Monday morning with all the new students, both full-time and part-time, gathered in the Main Hall mingling and making small talk.  Everyone was exchanging names and nationalities and work histories over cups of coffee, generously provided by the university.

    There were speakers and info sessions and team building activities throughout the week.  And the whole time coffee was never more than two hours away.  The unspoken question on everyone’s mind was, “How long until the next break?”  Not because everybody needed a fix (although for some that’s exactly why) but the coffee break became something more.  It was chance to speak with your classmates and bond with new people over something familiar.  Despite our diverse backgrounds it was the simple, shared experience that brought us together.

    Perhaps that is the Irish way: coming together for a chat and getting to know each other.  The coffee is just an excuse to get together.

    The foundation has been laid.  The relationships are growing.  And the coffee is still flowing.


    Tony Downs,

    FT MBA 2014.