Networking really does matter

As part of the MBA personal and professional development programme, we recently had the privilege of learning about the essentials of networking from Kingsley Aikins and Ed Kelly of Networking Matters. Kingsley is a former President and CEO of the Worldwide Ireland Funds and during his tenure cultivated an international network that raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cultural, community and educational projects across Ireland.

Through their four-step method, and highlighting some fascinating examples, Kingsley and Ed described how networking is a continuous process of research, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. The concept of cultivating relationships certainly raised a few eyebrows in the room, but through learning from real-life examples of patient persistence and attentive mutual respect, the rewards of such techniques became increasingly obvious.

Undoubtedly, the most challenging aspect of networking then becomes the “ask”. It is also the most important. Whether it is asking for a further contact, reference, advice or even donation, learning how to do this successfully from Kinglsey and Ed was invaluable. In closing this uniquely beneficial session, the importance of maintaining and evolving existing relationships through real and regular contact was summed up brilliantly; “A bad day on the road beats a good day in the office.” To a current MBA student however, they both sound considerably better than a long day in the library!

– David Pierce

What’s an MBA to Do!



So, I am now an MBA. My desire to consolidate 25 years of work experience has been achieved. The CV is now ‘interesting’ and business relevant. So:  Job Hunting. To be honest, when I finished the course I wasn’t sure I want to work for anybody. I spent the past 10 years in self-employment. Nor did I know what I wanted to do with the rest of my work life. I looked at Not for Profit and Facilities Management, but in addition to there being a lot of qualified people in the job market, neither felt right.

Two months after finishing the course 38 of my 45 strong class are in jobs. It’s not that the remaining 7 are less capable; in fact I regard some of them as the most capable and talented of my class. No, I think they find themselves in a somewhat similar position to me. They may not have been Laser focused on specific areas of work like the other 38. Like me, they know what they want to do, but in a slightly more vague way. So what’s an MBA to do?

In my case it seems that not worrying too much helps. Not beating myself up about how few responses I have received. About the Not for Profit job that I wanted, but was probably not what I needed. Realising that Facilities Management was not going to be any more interesting to me now than it was when I left the sector. It seems that patience is more a necessity than a virtue for the MBA graduate who wants to change career direction.

In the end my decision on career path came from a series of random events.  My wife was offered a job in Singapore ‘out of the blue’, so we are moving the family there for three years. In looking at the job market there I saw some jobs in Recruitment and realised that with my experience, personality, and MBA, I might be suited to Executive Search. My wife, who works in HR agreed. So I am now focused on this area.  I doubt I could easily find a suitable Search role in Dublin, while Singapore is a far larger market and the Irish community is quite strong there.

So, the post MBA scramble to get a job may soon be over for me. What have I learned? Well, use the time on the course to consider your options, listen to Brian Marrinan and start job searching early to get a sense of what you want/don’t want; don’t panic when the course finishes as may take time to find the right job (for some it may be back to the area they were keen to exit; as funds are short; for other it may be a case of getting in at a lower level/salary than envisaged to get a start in a new industry) but most of all life is quirky and we must keep our eyes and ears open, we must network and we must ‘chance our arm’ a bit.  And I know all of this because the Smurfit MBA graduate is a formidable package. A package which may not fully reveal itself for months or even years, but which is all about innovation and measured risk taking.

Good luck to all; whether in/out of/or considering entering, the world of the MBA student. It is certain to me that we change during the one/two years, and become better able to read life, not just business. As one lecturer sad to me ‘Everyone on an MBA is in crisis of some sort. The course helps in facilitating life change of one sort or another.’ Let the change begin!

– David Gosling, FT MBA Class of 2011

Networking and more

The PPD (Personal and Professional Development) program led by Career Manager Brian Marrinan has brought many interesting presenters to the MBA group. These aim to improve our career and communication skills and make a nice change of pace from our academic studies. PPD sessions have so far included topics such as 16PF (16 personality factors) and Career Leader which have enabled us to profile our strengths and weaknesses, jobs we are most suited to etc.

The best so far in my opinion have been the Networking sessions firstly a session by Kingsley Aikins and Edward Kelly of Networking Matters, secondly a follow up talk from Brian Marrinan to clarify and expand on it. As an example Kingsley and Edward spoke about how to gather charitable contributions for a foundation. Firstly, they recommend researching the people who both would be able to make a substantial donation and would be willing to do so. Kingsley explained that he always finds someone who he knows to introduce him, never does a cold contact and is patient, sometimes waiting for years before asking for a donation for his fund. He allows the potential donor to get involved by allowing him to give speeches and sit on boards and finally has the courage to look directly in his eyes and asks for a large sum of money. This should be very helpful to us as the MBA is all about networking.

Brian Marrinan teaching us about body language and about how different groups form in a room during a networking event

– Richard Emberton, FT MBA 2011/2012





It was not ‘just another day in my Life’…

Today is the beginning of my wonderful MBA journey; from the inception of the thought of doing an MBA till the first day of the class at Smurfit, it was all very decisive. I met many people, contacted many more over emails and over phone, did all of this just to make sure that this one step I take should make me a better person both personally and professionally. The decision to join Smurfit Business School was very strongly influenced by two factors; the first one being the reputation and strength of the course and the second being the city that made many a people fall in its love by its sheer charm, Dublin.

Before I landed in Dublin, I had many apprehensions written all over my face; Cold weather, new people, heavy work load, no Indian food and no native language were the important ones. But the moment I was greeted by an Indian friend at the airport I felt like home. The very day I went around the streets of Dublin city centre and it gave me a good insight into the culture of Ireland. With all its diversity, amicable people and rich culture, Dublin reminded me of my own country. I could find people from different countries especially India spread across the city and it was no wonder because Ireland as a country has so much to offer.

The long wait was over; 29th of August, the day after which my perspective towards things around me would never be the same, had come. I entered the campus all excited to meet my family for the next one year; I was delighted to see a well represented group of 40 people, all of them were carrying their dreams and aspirations into the class room. After meeting everyone in the class, I was directed into a lecture hall where the entire class was cordially welcomed into the MBA program. All along the day, the class was provided with loads of information required to survive the year and come out with flying colours.

That night I retired to my bed with a completely relaxed mind as all my fears were addressed; then I realised it was just not another day in my life, but it was the first day of my new journey, MBA.

– Aditya Koppula, FT MBA

And so it begins….

Day one of the MBA in Smurfit Business School is done and dusted and what a whirlind of a day it has been!

This morning, as I stepped into the entrance hall which was brimming with almost one hundred new MBA candidates, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the possibilities that lay ahead.

It began with a brief introduction from the MBA faculty who gave us a comprehensive overview of the School, the support available to us and the workload that lay ahead.

While I expected a heavy volume of academic work, I was impressed by the commitment of the MBA team to develop the potential of each MBA candidate. We were told about the extensive Personal Development Programme (PDP) available to us throughout the year which includes personal coaching, leadership and other personal development tools.  It seems to me that the Smurfit Business School has struck a good balance between academic riguour and the leadership/personal development requirements of the next generation of MBA’s.

Networking is a crucial part of the MBA, and business in general, and so the first coffee break provided us with an ideal opportunity to hone our skills. In the end, it wasn’t very difficult. Everyone was very friendly and within a nano-second, people from all backgrounds – engineering, non-profits, business, technology and finance, were engaged in deep discussion. One of the benefits of the MBA is the diversity of the group which helps you see business challenges  through the eyes of someone with a different perspective than you, which can be invaluable.

One of the sessions today was entitled ‘Getting Things Done’ and we were given an insight into best practice in terms of becoming more effective managers of our time and of ourselves. While I had always sworn by a daily ‘to do’ list, what I took away from the session was the importance of deciding on what was really important and what was less so, and of taking immediate action on the important tasks. It seems simple but how often do we get caught up in the small stuff?

After lunch, Prof. Niamh Brennan brought her no-nonsense approach to the class in her report writing session. We had been asked to prepare a five page report in advance of the first day and to critique each other’s work. Critiquing the report of someone you had just met was a little daunting. However, it soon became clear that there was much to learn. While I waxed a little lyrical in my report, my colleague provided an engineer’s perspective and proposed key structural alterations that vastly improved my work. I was able to make some good suggestions for his report too.The key take-away’s for me were the importance of preparation, of clear and concise communication and of continually critiquing your work and seeking to  improve it on a continuous basis. I think the Japanese call it Kaizen.

In the afternoon, Emma Ledden of MTV fame and now a highly regarded communications consultant, along with her business partner gave us an overview of the Communications Bootcamp. For some of us, it meant the unexpected news that we would have to deliver a presentation at 7.45am the following morning with our new groups. We were told about this at 3.30pm and also that the full presentations had to be submitted by 5.30pm that evening…. They don’t call it bootcamp for nothing!

– Conor O’Donovan, EMBA City Centre Yr 1

Foundation Module 2011: The UCD Smurfit MBA kicks off a new season.

Friday 02 September was the final day of the MBA Foundation Module and for those involved it has been quite an experience.  Lengthy and complex preparations have been set in place for the new Fulltime and Executive MBA classes who have been onsite here in UCD Smurfit all week.

Likewise, countless hours have been spent by the Marketing Office, Admissions, Interviewing Panels, MBA Career Manager,  and MBA Director to have everyone signed up and ready to go by Monday 29th August last: D-Day.

The MBA Foundation Module itself is designed to be a tough and an intense intro week and despite all of the information available to participants in advance through websites, interviews, the Incoming MBA Student Portal and regular updates, the full impact of the week’s workshops, activities and networking will not really hit them until they come out the other side Friday evening.

As much as possible is squeezed in; Team Building, Communication Bootcamp, Time Management & Effectiveness, IT, Study Skills, Case Study Analysis, Report Writing and MBA Club launches to name only a few.  All of these sessions launch both the Academic Programme and also the Personal & Professional Development Programme and equip all new UCD Smurfit MBAs as much as possible for the semesters ahead.

It is no wonder that the mantra for those who have been involved this week has become: ‘Start as you mean to go on’.

Stay tuned to hear from the new Smurfit MBA students…

– Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager

Class Rep for the year – What a year!!

So there I was, in September 2010, sitting in  my class , Mid-Week Executive MBA; I think it was a Thursday night.  Roisin O’Loughlin, the EMBA Programme Manager, comes in and announces to the class that we need to elect a Class Representative (Class Rep) for the year:

They will be a conduit for information between the staff and the sudents”, she says.  In my own mind, I was expecting a vote to elect someone. Before you can say “Decision Making” , I am proposed and elected as Class Rep.  Done deal!!  So, thats how I came to the role; by the “democratic” will of the Mid-Week Executive MBA class of Year 1.

I must admit, though, it has been a thoroughly fulfilling role and it is a role that I would recommend to anyone on entering into the MBA programme either Full-Time or, as in my case, the part-time EMBA.

The academic year between September and May has flown by and it is now June as I put down my thoughts to paper on the role of the Class Representative and take time to reflect on the year that has been. It really has been a fast year but, I can honestly say, a massively challenging year. But, ultimately, it has also been rewarding and satisfying. The MBA is always about developing the person as we are expected to broaden our thinking from the tactical or micro into the global and strategic. This is the type of thinking that we are now expected to be equipped with as students of the top business school in Ireland.

The role of Class Representative is a key leadership and management role that is given to one of the students.  As Class Rep, your role is one of liason between the lecturers, programme management staff and fellow class members.  All of the above assist with the smooth running of the many moving parts that make up an Executive MBA Course at UCD Smurfit. From a Personal Development aspect, the role has been excellent, as it gives you good practice at putting simple management procedures into play when acting in the role within the class.

The role of the Class Rep is an excellent mechanism for the class to speak with the “one” voice especially if there are certain issues that need to be addressed. The Class Rep will canvass fellow students to get their soundings on an issue and then he/she will liaise with the relevant UCD Smurfit personnel. Good clear communication is an essential part of being Class Rep between fellow students and staff.

There are a few duties associated with the job.  Twice per year, once each semester, a lunch of all Class Reps and programme management staff is organised and at very nice locations i might add. This is a good chance to compare notes with the other Class Reps from the other UCD Smurfit EMBA cohorts. A good bond between the various Class Reps pays dividends when trying to organise the functions that the Class Reps organise at the end of a semester as it’s often better to unite and hit the one location. I think anyone that was at the Christmas function will vouch for this, a good example of pooling resources!

All in all, the role of the Class Rep, whether elected each semester, each term or as in my case for the duration of the academic year, is an excellent opportunity to get stuck into the running of the class and programme and it is an essential appointment. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my year as Class Rep. Year 2 is upon us soon , so roll on!  And,  I think a handover is in order, time to vote , time for a new leader of the soon to be Year 2 Executive MBA Mid-Week Blackrock for 2011-12.

Fintan McGovern, Class Rep, EMBA YR1 Mid-Week Blackrock 2010-2011      

Networking: Learning the Basics

“Fifty percent of your career success depends on networking” that’s one of the first statement we heard on MBA.

We even have been proved of power of the networks on one of the sessions organized by our Career Service. There is a website called The Oracle of Bacon. If you enter a name of any actor, they will show you the number of movies through which your actor is linked to Kevin Bacon, who is also an actor. The amazing thing is that you can enter the name of an actor who is from a different country and even from different generation, but he will still be linked to Kevin Bacon. And it’s not because Kevin Bacon is a very popular actor or had played in enormous number of movies. I think he was taken just as an example in order to show that you can link anyone to anyone. And the practical use of this example is that you can link to anyone you want. All you need is just to tell your friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors and etc that you are looking for someone who know that person. They say that usually acquaintances are even more useful for networking than your close friends. So feel free to tell your hairdresser or a man from grocery shop what you are looking for. You never know who will give you the precious contact.

Finding the right person is only half of the success. Next step is to talk to that person, and preferably make good impression. There are rules like, don’t talk too much about yourself and in general don’t talk too much. Active listening! At the end of the day it all seems to be common sense – be nice, be polite, be interesting and don’t forget to listen. However, even knowing all the do’s and don’ts it’s not that easy, because you can never have one key for communication with everybody. My answer is practice. During this year we had lots and lots of opportunities for networking – presentations, receptions, interviews, sessions, study trip… in fact, any event can be your opportunity for networking. Our facilitator of Effective Networking, Tony Newton said that even after years and years of business experience he is still a bit nervous before meeting new people; but you would never say that when you look at him.

MBA Smurfit School Networking event
Networking events during our International Study Trip to Brazil




Some interesting links:

Ten rules of networking

The Elevator Pitch

A blog about a person who has 16000 contacts


– Nargiza Kalmamatova

To Networking! Bellinter II

After its acclaimed debut in 2010, Bellinter II took its rightful place as the first highlight in the social calendar for 2011. The thought of staying at Bellinter in Co. Meath was a welcome escape from a cold and dark Dublin where the return to classes reacquainted us with triangularised sandwiches which have become our twice weekly staple.  In fact, demand was such that spaces began to fill up within minutes of circulating the invitations. The ever glamorous Siobhan O’Dowd put her talents to full effect by bringing together a diverse panel of speakers, which included Eddie O’Connor, founder of Airtricity – which was sold in 2008 for €1.8bn and current founder and CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power; Norah Casey the newest dragon on the Den and CEO of Harmonia, Ireland’s largest magazine company; David McWilliams, Economist, Journalist, Broadcaster, Best Selling Author…… with even more titles to be revealed very shortly. Also speaking were property developers Paddy & Simon Kelly.

Continue reading To Networking! Bellinter II