An Experience of a Lifetime – John Molson International Case Competition 2014

Oh, what have we done!”  As December dawned, the realisation of what our team had committed to was finally hitting me.  Whilst undertaking final lectures, finalising projects, preparing for exams and thinking ahead to the annual dilemma posed by Christmas presents, we were also preparing for a case competition, trying to find sponsorship and planning our journey to Montreal.  In hindsight, it was lunacy!

The UCD Smurfit Team with Professor Pat Gibbons (second from left)

The John Molson International Case Study Competition is the preeminent MBA case competition and it provides an opportunity for MBA students to benchmark their learning against the best that other global schools have to offer.  It is truly global with schools from Australia, Brazil, Israel, US, Canada and Sweden to name but a few.

Thankfully, everything came together prior to the Christmas holidays with Aer Lingus and Molson Coors Ireland seeing our cause as a worthy one and providing the necessary sponsorship.  Also, having some seasoned travellers in our midst was a great assistance when plotting the best route to Montreal via Boston and a road trip.

Whilst driving from Boston to Montreal between a polar vortex and the worst snow storms that have hit the North East in a decade, we realised that things were conspiring with us for once (although we were still happy to have chosen the largest vehicle in North America to transport us).  This got us in good spirits from the off and provided ample time for some craic and team bonding!  Arguably, the most interesting moment came when we passed a man seated on a snow mobile at the side of the road with a rifle resting on his legs…  One of those eternally peculiar spectacles!

When we arrived in Montreal, it was straight to business, buying the requisite stationery and attending the opening ceremony where we discovered that we would be competing against Universities from Nanyang, Singapore, Wilfred Laurier, Kent State & Lund.  From here it was onwards to the seemingly endless barrage of cases, presentations, questions, and conversing with new acquaintances.

Who would have known that you could learn so much about yourself in a 3 hour period?  Time has never flown by as quickly as the time that we spent in the preparation room.  Reading, understanding, analysing, synthesising, discussing, agreeing, recommending, debating and implementing a case regarding a strategic proposal for a company should be given more time!  However, we were confident in our own ability and ultimately we learnt that as a team, we are rock solid (a point where others noticeably failed).  If we were ever going to crack, it would have been when PowerPoint crashed with only 10 minutes of preparation time to go in one of the cases, however the team stepped up to the mark and we performed admirably to complete the task in front of five high level executives acting as judges.

At a fancy dress night out - networking while looking good

Completing five case studies in four days is unfathomably taxing on both the body and mind.  However, it wasn’t all work, as we had ample opportunities to get to know the other competitors, their entourage and the organisers through events as diverse as an ice hockey match, a networking dinner and a fancy dress party, not to mind the specially organised hospitality suite in the hotel!  It was a fantastic experience overall getting to know people ranging from students in Kaiserslautern to a coach from Singapore.

With the weather transpiring against us, we had to cut short our last evening in Montreal to make a midnight dash for Burlington, USA ahead of the imminent freezing rain which the resident Canadians advised us would shut down all efforts to travel out of Montreal for a few hours.  Thankfully, it all worked out and we arrived safely in Boston in time for Aer Lingus to deliver us safely back to the Emerald Isle.

Video of the UCD Smurfit Team at Molson Case Competition 2014

Shaun O’Keeffe

EMBA 2014

Ireland

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

UCD Smurfit MBA takes part in Yale Global Network Immersion Week

One of the highlights of the course thus far was a week spent at Yale University with students from all over the world as part of the Ivy League business school’s Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM).


UCD Smurfit MBA feeling bullish on Wall Street

As a member of the GNAM, UCD Smurfit offers MBA students the chance to attend one-week programmes at various leading business schools throughout the world. These programs are organized around a specific theme combing in-class instruction as well as some company and cultural visits.

Eight students from UCD Smurfit (after a weekend of far too much Mexican food in New York) attended, with the topic being “From Madison Avenue to Wall Street – Everything you need to know about Behavioural Economics”.   The lectures were genuinely fascinating, the topic is about applying Psychology to Marketing and Finance and the professors worked hard to make the lectures as human and entertaining as possible.


Aside from the lectures a highlight of the week was studying with (and going out every night with) students from Mexico, China, the US, Israeland many other countries.  Being able to contact people from these countries for business purposes (or better yet, for fun!) anytime we are in their country (or they are in ours) will be a real asset for the rest of our lives.


UCD Smurfit MBA Team @ Yale 2013



And I think I even survived the Financial Reporting accounting exam in Dublin a few days after I got back!! Or maybe that’s just the jet-lag talking….



Conall Campbell,

FTMBA 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.



Taking action is really the key in getting that job.

After the rush of adrenaline while on the UCD Smurfit MBA, Playing Grownup (my post MBA start-up), and the UCD Smurfit Student of the Year award, it was difficult to switch into job hunting mode.   I made all the rookie mistakes starting out- applying for random jobs online, sitting in front of a computer rather than actively networking. Fortunately the wisdom of the UCD MBA and Brian’s preaching on networking allowed the light bulb to go off thinking back to his tennis swing analogy and doing something you love hitting that sweet spot on the racket and swinging without thinking all led me in a better direction.

First, I reached out to a local non-profit called DurhamCares to help them with a project interviewing businesses and using readings from the MBA to help them create a framework. This started to get me in front of local business leaders and build up a local reference from the non-profit who actually got me an interview with a local company that I declined because I had another offer from CrossComm. I went from getting no responses to multiple offers all starting from this decision to get involved in a cause that I loved and could add value so that started the momentum.

I learned about CrossComm through Amy, my better half, who did some part time book-keeping for them and before I knew it I received a job description for a Chief Business Development Officer position for this small  mobile app development company. The reason I think this will be of interest to the current class is that instead of creating a standard cover letter I submitted a 100 Day Plan. It impressed the CEO enough to hire me and made me more confident it would be the right fit having taken the extra time to present my ideas for the role and what I would try to accomplish in my first three months. And to wrap the story up with a bow – my first marketing sponsorship was with DurhamCares non-profit in a campaign they are doing locally so getting involved and taking action is really the key!

Justin Thomas, FT MBA 2012.



Leveraging the UCD Smurfit MBA: “I call it networking”

In his career development workshop Brian Marrinan explained it’s more effective to talk to someone you know than to send your CV to someone you don’t know. This made me reconnect with a Dutch company I’d done an internship with as an undergrad. I didn’t want to move back to the Netherlands and was keen to leverage the MBA. I mentioned this upfront and added ‘but I’m interested in something suitable in Dubai’. I have no idea why I said ‘Dubai’, but it turned out they were looking for someone with my profile in the UAE. Brian helped me prepare for the interview; Stephen Boyle gave me valuable negotiation tips and with Prof Damien McLoughlin’s advice in mind (change jobs during the MBA) I accepted the offer.

Robert Burgers (EMBA, City Centre, 2010)


My biggest fear while doing my MBA was not getting a job after the completion of the course. I heard the word “networking” several times, but didn’t believe in its power until I benefited from it. When my fiancé had a job interview in Dubai I decided to go with him to make some contacts myself. Simon Teevan, an MBA colleague and friend also searching for a job in the UAE, mentioned Robert Burgers, a principal consultant with DNV GL, who also did an MBA. I contacted Robert and we went for lunch to discuss career possibilities in the energy sector in Dubai. During the conversation we both talked about how interesting the MBA programme was and how it changed our thinking and ways of working. A few weeks later I was called for an interview and offered a job. I met only one person in Dubai and this person helped me to get a job. Some people call this destiny; I call it “networking”!

Elisa Cataldo (FTMBA, 2012-2013)


UCD Smurfit MBA Entrepreneurship Club kicks off a new season in Google HQ.

The UCD Smurfit Entrepreneurship Club put together an introductory event on 8 October. Over 35 current and recent MBA participants attended. The event was hosted at the Google Docks building on Barrow Street with an incredible line-up of speakers and club member who stepped up to make it happen. When you see them, thank these incredibly generous individuals who provided the substance to the event and helped to coordinate everyone and everything on a VERY short timeline.

One of our own, Mathilde Miravete EMBA 2015, did a fantastic job securing Google as the venue and also MC’d the panel. Michael Culligan pulled double duty on the panel, providing an introductory overview and discussing the types and availability of funds in Dublin. Eamonn Sayers provided an overview of the Incubator environment at the Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC), discussing the benefits of close working environment for entrepreneurs. Our NDRC representative, Gary Leyden, discussed his LaunchPad programme and that an Accelerator slightly differs from an Incubator by focusing on projects closer to viable start-up status. individuals who provided the substance to the event and helped to coordinate everyone and everything on a VERY short timeline.

Bringing social responsibility to the discussion was Darren Ryan from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI). He gave us an overview of how SEI is working to make a difference through entrepreneurs and redefining success by social impact. Brendan Cremen provided an academic supported Incubator at NovaUCD, which leverages the school’s researchers, leaders, and investors.

Our attendees found the event an incredibly useful introduction to the entrepreneur landscape. Pawel Ostropolski enjoyed that a “broad range of the entrepreneurship landscape” was covered from physical products, to IT solutions, and process change through social process reform ideas. Sundar Balasubramani enjoyed the chance to meet and network with Gary and Eamonn. David Keirnan found that “The discussions outlinedpractical steps to take a business concept to reality. Advice on the do’s and do not’s for start-up enterprises was given by highly experienced people working in the field.”

Being Google, we also got some swag in the form of stickers, diary pads, and pens. After the formal Q&A everyone enjoyed canapés with wine kindly sponsored by the MBA Office.

In all, a great introductory event that provided everyone a feel for some of the major players in the Entrepreneur scene in Dublin in such a beautiful setting overlooking Dublin city from Google headquarters.

The next meeting of UCD Entrepreneurship Club is scheduled for 31 October at 7:30p in the Pillar Room.


Pete Kloehn,  MBA Entrepreneurship Club Chair 2013-14.

FTMBA 2014.

Come Dine With Me!

I love eating.

Two bowls of ice cream for lunch…sign me up.

A crispy layer of fat on a pork roast for dinner…table for one please.

An entire box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese just because…don’t mind if I do.

But there is more to it than spurts of gluttony. It’s not just food but the whole experience of eating a meal that I love. For me, the emotional component to eating is a powerful thing.

So when you add good company and conversation to the mix I’m the happiest boy in town. And that is what happened the other night at the Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines. Thanks to our classmate, Captain Ken Barry, the Fulltime UCD Smurfit MBAs and I had the privilege of dining in the Officers’ Mess on the army base.


UCD Smurfit FT MBA 2014 Cathal Brugha Barracks SEM1


Don’t get me wrong here, the gravied lamb shank with buttery mashed potatoes was delicious but what really filled me up was the chance to relax and chat with my classmates over a good meal outside of school.

We’ve been on our UCD Smurfit MBA journey for over a month now and everyone needed a chance to refuel. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters during this experience. When you get too wrapped up in assignments you can forget that when the modules are done the real leftovers you take with you are the people and friendships you find along the way.

The friendships are side dishes that come with your MBA entrée. You didn’t order them when you came in but your meal wouldn’t be complete without them.



Tony Downs & Kim Cathal Brugha Barracks SEM1








Tony Downs,

FT MBA 2014.

UCD Smurfit MBA Investment Competition 2013

I hope the participants are enjoying the competition so far and learning from the practical experience of trading….we’ve had a challenging market environment with infinite QE hangovers and traders doing their best to ignore the US federal shut-down… it is really interesting to see the different trading strategies at work across the competition….and now some good news; UCD MBA Office has put up with two really excellent prizes (thanks Michael);

First prize is a very nice selection of wine – this will be for the overall winner….But, that’s not all! – we also have a ‘most interesting trade’ prize of a €50 book token – to be judged by myself and an independent person from a selection of your trades that are very unusual, creative, brave or just plain stupid!….we’ll have a look at all trades but if you spot a candidate for this prize send your nominations to me, so get going on those exotic trading positions (judge’s decision is final etc. etc.).

In view of the really great prizes on offer and our busy schedules, I am extend the trading game until close of US markets on Friday 18 October 2013.


Markets re-open in under 1 hour – happy trading!


David Flynn.

EMBA 2013.

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.