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.


Beginning of a new journey.

Every once in a while, I look back on the journey in life so far and look ahead to what the future has to offer. One of those introspective trips planted the seed of thought of changing the status quo.  I could feel a void that a change in job/role or internal organizational training couldn’t fill.

The business side of a venture has always interested me and I felt that an MBA from a world-class institution would lay a strong foundation to build a career upon.  Having lived in Ireland for almost six years now, the UCD Smurfit MBA was at the top of my list.  A bit of information gathering over internet, talking to alumni and attending a breakfast lecture session helped me make up my mind.

As I’m gearing up for a change of direction, here is my take on the expectations from the MBA @ UCD Smurfit.


  1. Experience a world-class business education.
  2. Learn from diverse peers both inside and outside of the classroom.
  3. Build a good network of people with shared interests.
  4. Get a wider perspective on business to enable my transition to more commercial focused roles from my past operational focused ones.
  5. Have a bit of fun and form great friendships for life.


So this is me, Sundar (you may try Sundaresan Balasubramanian for a tongue twister), a Full-Time MBA student with nine years of global work experience in telecom with the likes of Ericsson and Verizon, looking forward to an amazing journey ahead.


Sundaresan Balasubramanian,

FT MBA 2014.

UCD Smurfit MBA Golf Captain’s Day – perfect end to a spectacular first year!

The first year of the UCD Smurfit MBA Golf Society has drawn to a close. And what a way to finish; under the watchful gaze of the Sugar Loaf, in the beautiful environs of Powerscourt House and Gardens, the scene was set for some dramatic golf. Admittedly, with the members blessed with blue skies and farmer tan generating sun bursts during the previous two rounds, both Cormac and Andrew decided to up the ante(in both weather and prize stakes) for this final outing! Rain and a €250 blue book voucher (thank Michael McDonnell for the latter and God for the former) were the driving forces for the day on 23rd August last.

Another increase in participation helped to reinforce the Society’s existence as a fun and enjoyable networking medium for the UCD MBA crew. That aside, the 11 prizes up for grabs produced game faces unseen since the 2007 Ireland England Six Nations match in Croke Park (God Save Our Queen). Unfazed by his five point deduction, Dave Joyce strode into the clubhouse a mere 10 minutes before his tee time, while Declan Griffin, unfazed by fashion, opted for an Eleanor O Higgins inspired ensemble (somehow he wins both worst and best dressed male for his delightful chalk blue-green pants!!)

Others followed suit with consistent bravado, including the dark horse from the third outing, Dave Kelly and the epitome of calm, Jim Gannon. With all eyes on the prize(s), Dave Flynn, Gareth McCluskey, Chris O Connor and Dave Feighery took to a sodden first tee. These golfing stalwarts approached the round like titans of industry: aggressive, risk taking and at times completely delusional. Dave Feighery, our resident 6 foot 3” man mountain could not handle the pace, opting to pull up at the 12th, leaving the remaining three to battle through one of our tougher challenges since Brian McGrath revealed his project schedule in Semester 2! The greens were slick AND quick, hard to read, and left all from this and other groups scratching their heads. With hands shaken and a resignation that the course had somewhat defeated them, the remaining three decided “to hell with club rules, we’re hitting the Members’ Bar”, a theme which was followed by subsequent groups.

New members David Slevin, Deirdre McHugh and Caroline MacKell (all very welcome, especially the new Ladies) joined MBA Golf Society pro Charlie Weijer as the next Group out. Charlie showed the newbies how it was done on the front nine with an impressive 19 points. However, his round faltered on the Back Nine, leaving his playing partners a little underwhelmed with his chances of winning Top Prize. Deirdre McHugh on the other hand, notable for her unrelenting frugality, chose value for money over low scoring (300 shots is a new course record!!). Of course I’m joking, and she has already stated that the new season will bring an invigorated ferocious golfing legend (with no excuse of lagged MBA exhaustion). Caroline MacKell, in the absence of our two times reigning Lady Champion, Emma Fagan, commanded attention with some delicate chips and exquisite putting to take 28 points into the Clubhouse, claiming the coveted Captain’s Ladies Prize. David Slevin, unable to keep up with the champagne golf on display, opted to copy Dave Feighery and exit before the end of the round. Don’t worry, he’ll be back next year.

Female Powerscourt Golf Club Members and Staff were left a little hot and bothered upon seeing our next foursome collectively preparing for their round. Declan “smooth talker” Griffin, Seamus “I invented the Internet don’t you know” Shaw, Conor “whoops, there goes my T-shirt” Ryan and Ronan “I just did a thousand sit-ups” Sheridan hit the course, with little regard for the weather or any of these aforementioned ladies’ husbands! And the confidence of these Alpha Males showed with Declan Griffin racking up a significant 37 points, spanking the course into submission. Chest out throughout his whole round, he forced both Sherdian and Ryan to retire early and lick their wounds on the way home, while Seamus Shaw managed some impressive drives to prove he was up to the challenge. Unfortunately, similar to most combatants on the day, the greens left him frustrated and confused.

Unaware that the eventual winner on the day was ahead of them, Cormac Dunne (our future Captain), Dave Kelly (a contender for Player of the Year 2014), Andrew Bacon (the legend) and Kieran Dowling (the storyteller extraordinaire) took to the course. No one’s quite sure how this foursome, all in contention for Player of The Year 2013, would succeed or falter during the round. To ease any tension, Andrew Bacon, having found one of the many water features on the course, opted for a Seve Ballesteros style recovery shot from the lake edge (this has since been posted on YouTube, link to follow). It should also be noted that in spite of being in water TWICE on a Par 4, somehow a 6 appeared on hisscorecard!! This left Kieran Dowling laughing so hard that all he could do was relax, achieving a birdie on the toughest hole on the course (Index 1), good man. Also still laughing was Dave Kelly as he approached the 18th hole, smashing his tee shot a massive 306 yards to win Longest Drive (Mr Joyce, you can’t win everything, although admittedly yours was longer!!). Meanwhile, Cormac Dunne, “fresh” from his Gaelforce success (finishing in the top 250 athletes) used guile and panache on a course he knows well, narrowly missing a Top Three Finish.

Having patiently observed their peers entering the fray, it was time for our final group to depart to the first: Captain Andrew Bourke, David Joyce, Jim Gannon and Steve Kelly, all ready for battle. Kelly, a novice to the sport, with only two years since he first held a golf club, was still yet to grasp the gravity of how stringent the rules of golf actually are. Just off the 5th green, he declared that his foot had glanced the ball, hoping that we would tell him to play on. David Joyce, however, in keeping with the ethos of honourable play awarded a penalty to a dejected Steve (like a bold child, it’s the only way he’ll learn!!). Both Gannon and Bourke were exhibiting moments of brilliance around the course, with Andrew shooting a 2 over across 5 holes. However, a calamitous run of 3 and 4 putts left both himself and Jim out of the running for the top spot (did I mention the greens were ridiculous?!!). As this final foursome approached the 18th tee, a steely determination to end in style in front of the gallery of “fans” instilled a resolve last seen when Declan was selecting his outfit that very morning. Both Jim and David reached the green on this tricky Par 5 in two shots, while Steve and Andrew played the percentage game to attempt pars. David Joyce, knowing he needed something special to cap off a near perfect back nine, hit his second shot to within 3 yards of the hole, knocking in for a well-deserved Eagle. With the rain having finally cleared, hands were shaken and the time came to withdraw to the Members Lounge to announce the winners.

It should be noted that with an increase in the Prize Pot, a significant improvement in scores took place, with 9 people shooting over 30 points. The eventual top prize of the €250 Blue Book Voucher (graciously donated by Michael McDonnell) was awarded to Declan Griffin on 37 points, with a 2 ball for Carton House going to a very close second: David Joyce on 36 points (he actually managed to get around the course in 7 under par, impressive). Bringing up the rear with 34 points (after his penalty) was a delighted Steve Kelly (his handicap is currently being reviewed by the Committee). Longest Drive was awarded to David Kelly while David Slevin (one of our new members) achieved Nearest the Pin on the day. Ladies Prize went to a very commendable Caroline MacKell with a commanding 28 points, with Deirdre McHugh awarded a voucher for “most use of the course”! Spot prizes were also given to Andrew Bacon, Gareth McCluskey and Kieran Dowling who were delighted to have been drawn out of the hat. To round off the day, it was time to announce Player of the Year. With Steve Kelly on 33 points, Dave Kelly on 36 points, a very worthy David Joyce stood up to collect his prize. With 39 points overall across his two best rounds, he humbly received his trophy and prize.

With the golf carts safely parked in the garage (and a lot were used that day by the Society), it was time for many to hit the Dame Tavern, Hogans, and eventually Copper Face Jacks (a club befitting the exclusivity of the MBA brand) for a few drinks and laughs.

It certainly has been an amazing journey for myself and Cormac. From a conversation during the Induction Week, to finishing the first year of a growing UCD Michael Smurfit Club, which we created, has been special. A massive thanks must be given to the staff of the MBA program who have tirelessly supported us throughout the setup process and indeed the financial donations we have received over the course of the year. Most importantly, the biggest thank you of all must go to you, the players. Without you, this club would not exist. We are hoping that we have created a fun environment for you to mix with fellow MBAers, take a break from the sometimes stressful aspects of the course, and most importantly, have a few laughs along the way.

Announcements of the schedule for 2014 will be available shortly on our website AND NEW REGISTRATIONS ALWAYS WELCOME!

Thank you again for all your support and see you shortly for some more golf.


Andrew Bourke, Captain, EMBA 2014.

Greens and Fairways

UCD MBA Golf Society
http://www.ucdsmurfitgolf.ie/


A day in the life of an MBA student/ wife/ mother

Before coming to UCD for my MBA, I did a few searches on the internet to find out what a day in the life of an MBA would be like. Having two children and seeking the ever so unreachable work-life balance, I wanted to get a feel of how much time I would have to spend on school work vs the time I could spend with my family and my other projects.

A search on the internet for the schools I was applying for wasn’t very promising. Only one ‘A day in the life of’ was found and it didn’t look too appealing. Despite that, I still decided to delve into an MBA hoping that it wouldn’t be as bad as the person wrote. So here’s sharing what a day in the life of an MBA student with family responsibilities looks like ;-) . By the way, I am a Muslim, and we have five prayers each day – at dawn, mid-day, afternoon, sunset and at night, so my typical day would revolve around these prayers as well as the other obligations.

The class times differ in different semesters, in the first semester most classes would start from 830 up to 2 pm, in the second semester we would start at 11am and end at 4 or 5 pm. In the summer semester, most classes are ‘block’ style, which means the classes run from 9 am to 5 pm for a specific number of days. We are also starting Capstone projects next week, so that will depend on whether the company requires your presence in their premise or for you to work on your own schedule and place.

I like to think of my day as starting at the end of the previous day, then add in my six or seven hours of sleep from there, if I can get that six/seven hours. The day usually ends at between 1145 pm to 130 am – after one to two hours of studying, cooking dinner for the family, cleaning up, reading and checking my six year old’s homework, getting my two kids ready for bed – which includes about 45 mins of chasing the two and six year olds to get them to brush their teeth, clean –up and reading a bedtime story. Once all the chores are done, I would perform the night prayer and then do my reading or assignments, so generally my bedtime would depend on when I think I’ve met my study goals for the day. Performing the final prayer before retiring helps me to refocus and reflect on what I’ve done throughout the day in preparation for tomorrow.

About an hour and a half before the actual sunrise, I would rise and perform my morning prayer. This would usually take five or ten minutes, but I would stay awake for another half hour to read and reflect the verses from the Quran and sometimes study for one hour.

In winter, the sun rises at around 8 am, so by the time I am done for my prayer, I rush off to class. But in spring and summer, I would have some time to sleep again and would wake up at 8 am to make breakfast, get my son ready for school, and depending on when I start class, send him to school. Once my son is in school, depending on the workload and class schedule  I usually spend the rest of the time between 9 am to 5 pm doing schoolwork – at times on campus, at times at home. If I am at home, I take a two hour break to prepare lunch and eat it with the family as well as perform my mid-day prayer. When I am on campus, I usually have a packed lunch while reading cases or finishing assignments and do my prayer in the multi-faith prayer room on campus.

The afternoons are then usually spent with the children or doing housework and squeezing in ten minutes for the afternoon prayer.  The time is spent sometimes studying, sometimes going out for groceries, sometimes doing NGO work. During the weekends, 50% of it is committed to do NGO work, so the rest of the 50% is divided between family, housework and studying. I don’t know how they have all managed to fit in, but God has been kind in helping us achieve our goals for the year despite the challenges along the way.

Having a family and young children who are growing up with lots of attention needs, I’ve had to be very selective on where I spend my time. This means that I haven’t attended 90% of the social, networking, club and other extra events that the school or my classmates have organized. But these are the conscious choices I made when I prioritized my goals for the year in Dublin. I have to say that despite the stretch on my time, brain, physical being and psychology, I am very happy that I’ve taken the year off to do this MBA.

Nur and Family

If you’re also a mother and you’re thinking of doing the MBA, it’s not going to be an easy journey, but it will be rewarding if it’s something that will add value to your long term goals. If you need specific feedback, I would be glad to communicate with you :-)


– Nur Zahirah M Sukran, FT MBA 2012/13




EMBA Yr 1 Social in the Officers Mess

A fifty strong gang from across all three EMBA YR1 classes elected to drop the books and let the hair down for a social night in the Defence Forces military Barracks on the 23rd of March.

The evening kicked off with a lively drinks reception in the visitors centre were everyone was enlightened on the eventful history of Cathal Brugha Barracks. There were some surprised expressions in the crowd to hear of some of the happenings inside the gates over the years. It was certainly an eye opener for those who would not have been previously familiar with the finer details of Irish history over the past century and a half.

We moved from there to the Officers Mess where we indulged in the military’s finest cuisine! It wasn’t long before the weekend [class] crew had the wine opened and began to set the pace. Spirits were high and the “craic” as one says was mighty.

The meal complete we retired to the bar to enjoy the rest of the evening.  If the event was to be judged on the amount of people who stayed until the end well it would surely be marked as a great success, with many moving to the realms of Lesson Street to perfect their dance moves once the bar closed! In all the event provided an excellent opportunity for all of us to get to know and network with counterparts many of whom we would not have seen since the induction week.


Many thanks to all who attended, no doubt we will all see out the last few academic weeks of year one with success and hopefully we will soon meet again in high spirits.

– Conor Ryan, EMBA MidWeek, 2012-14

My MBA team-work journey

Three weeks ago, in the OB class, we had a discussion about team dynamic. Listening to my classmates discussing challenges in a multi-national team reminded me of interesting team-work experiences I have since the beginning of the semester.

As I imagined, one big part of the MBA journey is for us to learn how to work in a diversified team. Just similar to how it is in real life, we are normally not allowed to choose our team members. People with different nationalities, genders, backgrounds, and characteristics are put into teams based on a mystery rule decided by the MBA Office. In these teams, the Peacocks have to work with the Dolphins, the Hubs work with the Greens, the Extroverts work with the Introverts; and it creates room for interesting yet sometimes painful experiences.

In Semester 1, I was assigned into Team 8 with one Russian and two Irish. Teamwork, as what it actually happened to us, was a real journey in which each team member had to continuously learn and adjust to work well with others. During our 5 month journey with around 20 group presentations and assignments for 7 modules, we first experienced a painful time when we had such huge conflicts that we decided “diversity does not work and we need consultation”. Frank communication and continuous commitments helped us overcome that challenge.  Adjustment to each other learning styles (for example Pavel prefers practical ideas and Richie is deeply in-love with tables and frameworks), together with initiatives such as setting agenda and controlling time for each meeting also enabled us to stay focus and work more effectively. Things became easier and easier and we managed to have more time to talk to each other outside of work. I got to know that Richie had two kittens – Gleason and Sheeran, and James’s family always eats their home-grown turkeys at Christmas.

In semester two, we have two different groups (one for Negotiation and one for the remaining subjects); and then a final group for Capstone project. I believe what we have learnt will sharpen our skills to cope with real-life teamwork issues and enable us to make the most of team dynamic in our post-MBA lives.

Thu Dieu Ngo




– Thu Dieu Ngo, FT MBA and IDEAS Programme 2012/13