Revisiting great GNAM memories in Yale

What is the best time for writing a reflection after a new experience? For some people, it would probably be right after the experience when the memories are still fresh and vivid. For me, it’s before the exams.

Our brain is amazing. When we’re not having fun, it either makes us want to go to sleep or reminds us of the good times. Being in the middle of the hectic revision period myself, I find it a perfect occasion to reflect on one of my best experience in Semester 1 as a Smurfit MBA student – the Global Network Week (GNW) at Yale.

  1. The morning walk on Yale campus:

When you’re too lazy for the gym but enthusiastic enough to take some amazing photos, I would recommend booking accommodation at a location not too close to Yale SOM as you can enjoy a long morning walk while contemplating some of the best American architecture of the last hundred years. Though we also had the campus tour on the GNW schedule, in which we were introduced to the history of famous spots such as the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Silliman College, Sterling Memorial Library and the Old Campus. It was an exotic feeling to be immersed in the tranquillity and ancient feeling all by myself in the middle of picturesque Georgian and Gothic buildings.

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  1. Cramming for Financial Reporting at Book Trader:

Coming to the GNAM with me, besides my 5 other MBA cohorts from Smurfit,  was a friend called ‘Financial Reporting’ with an exam coming the following week. I struggled to find a quiet place to cram for my Financial Reporting until I found Book Trader – one of Yale students’ most favourite spots in New Haven. Not only offering great coffee and cheap books, the place is ideal for those who prefer a quiet space to study, but not so isolated  that you can fall asleep.

  1. The lectures:

If someone asked me about what opened my eyes during one week at Yale I could go on forever: the lecturers, the class debates, the panel discussions, etc. Neuroscience and behavioural psychology were my areas of interest and they were the main reason why I signed up for GNW at Yale.  However it was not until I attended the classes that I realized the enormous possibilities to influence people and businesses with findings about the human brain. From Framing Effects, Context Effects and Choice Architecture lectures, we learned that consumer judgements and choices greatly depend on the context, and marketers could use this knowledge to nudge consumer’s decisions by structuring defaults, feedbacks, incentives and product design. In the Negotiation Mindsets lecture we learned the research-based steps and tactics to “carve out a larger slice of the pie”. And last but not least, from a panel discussion with the directors of lpsos and PepsiCo, we learned how behavioural science has become such an important resource for business decision making, especially in communications, product assortment, packaging design and in-store display.

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  1. New Haven’s “apizza”: 

Home to a number of Italian families in the twentieth century, New Haven offers some of the best pizza in the United States. Thin-crusted, charred and crispy, the pizzas brought by Yale SOM’s GNAM organizing team was a real feast!

  1. Getting connected with friends from around the world:

If the karaoke night, drinking nights and on-campus reception created opportunities for us to relax and reach out to one another and form new friendships, the lunches and dinners enabled us to have passionate conversations about things such as other’s interests, goals and experiences. In one meal I was fascinated to become a “trial customer” of a Berkeley fellow’s latest business venture, exchanged ideas about how learning from GNAM shed new light on our understanding of the business. In another, we were carried away with discussions about hiking trips in Machu Picchu with friends from Chile, Austria, Hong Kong and Spain.

To my amazement, GNAM is definitely not only about lectures and networking. It is also about exploring the world from different perspectives, exploring yourself, and feeling connected to different parts of the world.

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Huyen Tran, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

The Journey So Far…

It all started in August 2017. I cannot believe that 3 months of this MBA journey have past already, and the first semester is about to end. I can honestly say that so far it has already been an amazing journey. It started with foundation week, which was a small trailer of the big picture waiting for us. The first day of foundation week was our introduction. However, it was the second day which was the main highlight, when Fintan Ryan made us do some outdoor team building activities. We not only had fun doing those activities but also got to know each other very well. The whole class participated with enthusiasm and were able to successfully complete the Jedi run. It gave us a glimpse of how we would be expected to work together in the coming months.

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After foundation week, our course started with the Financial Reporting module, taught by Prof. Niamh. She started off the lecture by telling us that her name is pronounced as “Neeve” …which was the first Irish culture shock for me. She is one of the best professors I have ever come across. She is enthusiastic in her approach to teaching, which I really like. Niamh, if you are reading this, please don’t let this affect my grades ( :D :D).

Within a week, we got 2-3 assignments and got the first flavor of this intense course. Although we are busy all the time, whenever we get time we all hang out together. The best thing about our class is that we have only 33 students and everyone knows each other. With such a small group, it’s easy to hang out. Our main hang out point or ‘adda’ as we call it in India is the ‘Three Tun Tavern’. Whenever we get time out of our busy schedule we all chill out there.

Before coming here I had stage fright but the Presenting4Success sessions from Paul Slattery came to my rescue. The sessions helped me a lot to boost my confidence. Almost every module in our course had 1-2 presentations for each group. I applied the knowledge gained from Paul’s session in these presentations and now I am more confident and less nervous while giving presentations. Life in the MBA is challenging with a lot of reality checks, but I’m loving these challenges. This is what I am here for and I’m getting it. Everything that I do, as  part of this curriculum, is helping me improve personally and professionally. It was hard at the start to face these challenges, but now I have adapted myself to it.

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The main highlight of the  last 3 months was the Global Networking for Advanced Management (GNAM) week. It was the most amazing experience of the MBA so far. It came as a breather for all of us as we were so busy attending lectures and doing assignments. We needed a break from our studies and we got one. Although, we had a Financial Reporting exam the following week after GNAM, no one restricted himself/herself from enjoying the week to fullest.

During GNAM week, all the participating schools sent students in groups of 3 or 4 to other participating schools. I attended GNAM week in Smurfit itself. In the GNAM week, Smurfit had students from some of the best B-schools such as Yale, IE Spain, ESMT Berlin, IIM Bangalore, Sauder, Fudan and many others from around the world.

I had lot of fun during this week and made some new friends from many different business schools and expanded my network. During this week, we had lot of  guest speakers from different industries. For example, we had a speaker from LinkedIn, who is the head of all HR related operations for the EMEA region.

On the fun side of this week, the main highlights were; a visit to Johnny Foxes Pub, taking part in Dublin’s Literary Pub crawl, and a visit to the Guinness Storehouse.

On one evening, we went to Johnny Foxes, one of Ireland’s highest and oldest pubs. I really enjoyed the time spent here. It was the first time I saw a live performance of Irish music and dance. The music and dance performances were fantastic. The evening was awesome, and we also got to do some dancing.

The next evening, we went on Dublin’s literary pub crawl. The pub crawl was hosted by two talented and famous Irish theatre artists. They showed us some of Dublin’s oldest pubs and narrated some of Dublin’s history during the pub crawl. It was an amazing evening for me as it was my first experience watching a live theatre performer.

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During the GNAM week all the students mingled with each other really well and had a lot of fun. No cultural and regional barriers stopped us from having fun with each other.

As the GNAM week ended, I switched to study mode because the toughest exam of the semester, Financial Reporting, was approaching. For 3 days, I cut myself off from the whole world and studied for the exam. In the end, it went well. Now it all depends on Niamh to know how well it really went.

After the exam, during the first week of November, the whole class planned to go to Loftus Hall, Ireland’s most haunted place, and Glendalough. The day was very well spent. It was our first proper outing together, although we always hang out every now and then. During this outing, I got the opportunity to see some of Ireland’s beautiful countryside. Loftus Hall was a scary place, but none of us apart from Nadisha got scared. It was hilarious to see Nadisha so scared and running away as fast as she could ( :D :D).

On the night of Halloween, Thom and Nicole threw a party for us. A big thank you to both of them for being such lovely hosts. I had a great time.

This MBA is turning out to be the time of my life. I am learning so many new things, facing challenges and getting reality checks. I am eagerly waiting our study trips to Santiago, Lima, and Iceland next semester. While it is already an amazing journey so far I am waiting in anticipation for more fantastic moments to come.

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Manish Mosalpuri, Full-Time MBA 2017-2018 

A Home Away from Home

This year’s Smurfit MBA Class are a diverse cohort from different parts of the world. Although it has only been two and a half months it already feels like we’ve known each other for a long time! It is amazing how a group, made up of such varied cultures have learned and found a way to work together so coherently . Each and every one has something unique to offer and I can’t believe I’m saying this so early in the programme but it has become my safe place to explore and try something new each day.

After an intense GNAM week at different universities, we had an even more difficult week with our first exam on Financial Reporting. Immersed in balance sheets and income statements the week went by and we completed our first module in the MBA! As such, we deserved to unwind and celebrate, and what better way than celebrating Halloween together! Thom and Nicole were kind enough to host us all at their place. It was a fun-filled evening with music, dancing, food, and wine, and can only be described as a truly wonderful experience.

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The Smurfit MBA is an intensive experience but at the same time extremely rewarding. One of my reasons for pursuing an MBA was for personal development and it has been an absolutely incredible journey so far. With lots more left to experience and learn, I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us.

Anita Louis, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

 

The Run From Singapore To The Oratory

Although there are a couple of actual marathon runners in this year’s batch, I think it is safe to say we all, in a way, have been getting the hours in for a different kind of marathon. Coming out of a GNAM week which was packed with new people, new locations and new experiences and finding ourselves in a hurry to study for the first exam of the year sure felt like running 42k. Travelling the farthest away from home, that is Smurfit Graduate School of Business, to a tiny little island called Singapore with a total of 28 hours spent in flight, we weren’t only thinking about the things we would get to see but also thinking about the cash flow statement question on the Financial Reporting exam that we were going to be facing immediately after the return flight home.

It was very exciting to set foot in a southeast Asian country for the first time and the excitement really doubled after seeing the renowned Marina Bay Sands Hotel from a distance. It instantly led me to question what our hotel would look like in comparison to this shrine to engineering excellence and infinity pools. At this point in the cab, I turned to my colleague Mr. Condon and asked for a begging confirmation, we will have a pool, right?

…And yes, we did.

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I didn’t pack my bag for Dublin having thought of the possibility that I would be exposed to a 35 degrees Celsius heat with a small but effective touch of 95% humidity somewhere along this exciting year. I guess it was clear that we were a little under-prepared that Monday morning, which marked the first day of lectures, with both of us in the Smurfit GNAM Party sporting the only jackets in the country. Oh well… Most importantly I had already went out to buy swimming shorts as soon as I had set my bags down in room 1104 in a crazed rush the day before.

The days passed by in a hurry. Starting with a warm welcome breakfast, going through to the eye opening first lecture about emerging markets in Asia, how we didn’t know what to do with them and how Prof. Pasha was able to teach us through a fascinating case study. Having completed the city tour, provided by the National University of Singapore,  we saved the Marina Bay Park and the illustrious mega trees for later. All the while getting to know people from Nigeria, Trinidad Tobago, Costa Rica and Indonesia, listening to exciting travel/vacation plans of the group coming all the way from Mexico and catching a familiar feeling with fellow Turkish students visiting from Istanbul.

After a full week of learning about Asian markets and the logic behind Singapore’s rise to being one of the most prominent countries in the current financial markets there was still a question as to why a beer would cost double that of in Dublin. I mean they had breweries, they weren’t importing. I know because we had a refreshing visit to the birthplace of the famous Tiger Beer. Maybe it was because there were a lot of taxes attached to it in order to provide for the outstanding growth and keep everybody in the island working without compromising efficiency due to alcohol related hiccups… or maybe it was just because the common folk, with all that wealth, were able to actually afford it.

Still thinking of the Indian food that I enjoyed with our new friends on Diwali (Deepawali as Singaporeans call it) night, which was celebrated in great fashion in Little India, we embarked on our journey back, with cabin bags full of strategy cases and past exams courtesy of Mrs. Brennan.

Despite having the longest flight of my life and experiencing Singapore for the first time, the marathon wasn’t over yet. Even though we didn’t choose Singapore Airlines, which we had had the opportunity to learn everything about during our GNAM Week, there were still a lot of choices for movies on the screen in front of us. Unfortunately thought there was  no time to waste as we were returning back to our first exam this year. I opened up the books, which held the keys to financial reporting, all the while catching curious, questioning looks from people wondering what important things I must have going on instead of watching the latest Spiderman movie. I’m sure Pete can relate to this, having caught the same flight as I did. Eventually closing my eyes for a quick nap towards the end of the flight, I felt like I opened my eyes in the oratory-turned-exam hall finishing that unconventional 3rd question.

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As I look back on the past two weeks, I feel that we passed important milestones in our MBA run. These accumulating experiences lay the roots of our academic and also introspective trees growing ever so slightly each time we leave a comfort zone behind. Still the marathon continues and I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, experiencing challenging sprints that are tasks and deadlines. To conclude, I would like to congratulate all my colleagues that powered through these last weeks and wish them well for the upcoming figurative 42k’s. And for those who are curious: Those “trees” at Marina Bay are just amazing.

 

Emrecan Kercek, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

A Roller Coaster Ride

Aaannddd… We are into week 6. It seems like a year already! As I sit to pen down my thoughts about this roller coaster ride, I can’t help but ponder a question: Did I make the right decision by pursuing an MBA? The first thought that crosses my mind is, indeed! The journey so far has been a perfect blend of surprises, reality checks, setting goals, broadening horizons and what not. I have really been surprised by how quickly my perspective has changed. Be it at school or at home, our topics of discussion have changed from petty personal issues to deciding companies’ strategies. The house of 4 ambitious MBA aspirants living together has turned into a battlefield these days, or maybe a BBC discussion forum (*sigh*)!!!

The journey began with Foundation Week, allowing me to put faces to names I had known for over a month. It was a hectic week. Though, I did enjoy losing millions in the business simulation. Boy, I would have been behind bars if I was running a real business that way. Fintan Ryan, the mover-and-shaker, introduced us to our study groups, which we saw changing into teams.

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In week 2, I was recovering from the trauma of an intense and demanding Foundation Week. I was hoping that life would now get simpler. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come. While financial reporting continued to haunt us, Competitive Strategy made me realize that if I were to be a CEO of a company, it would definitely go bankrupt in a couple of hours. The Eureka moment- “marketing is certainly not my cup of tea!” The week ended with Friday night dinner followed by endless dancing at Sams Bar only to find my legs crumbling the next morning. Woaahh!!! Let’s plan the next party soon.

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The next two weeks were all about completing assignments, chasing deadlines and delivering presentations.

“Presentation”, this word freaks me out. Paul Slattery to the rescue. The class cannot thank him enough for his inputs and feedback on our presentation skills. We all agree that our presentation skills have developed by leaps and bounds.

By now, we started chasing (more like bugging) Zoe for the extra-curricular clubs. Oh, and how can I forget the session with Brian McIvor who made us introspect about our strengths, weaknesses, transferable skills, personality traits and our values.

I glanced at the timetable once again for week 5 and it looked like an easy going week. Reality-check!, “Easy going life in MBA” is the best oxymoron after “Happily Married Man”! The week completely drained our energy; Comparing Accounting Policies of 5 companies and UFO Moviez case-study being the main culprits. For heaven’s sake, why can’t companies keep their balance sheets clean so that I can have my sleep? I slept for 14 hours this Saturday in order to revitalize myself.

I experienced the essence of what diversity brings to the table through my study group. At one end, it has a novice like me, who is all over the place, and on the other end, it has some really organized people. Their attitude has inspired me to plan things well and to keep myself organized. However, it is a continuous process and will take time. I keep trying though.

Fintan Ryan strikes back with yet another mind-boggling session of team building, facilitating the feedback barter in our team. We have retained our values; however, we have defined new goals and challenged ourselves to take up roles we are not comfortable with, to emerge as a stronger team than before. More than understanding the subject, we are trying to understand each other’s perspective in every assignment we do. From being the best team in the presentation skills class to scoring a C in our competitive strategy assignment, we have experienced it all. Yet, we continue to strive for excellence.

While we all start the 6th week of this exhilarating journey with assignments continuing to create chaos in our lives, we are revitalized by careers consultant Daniel Porot. Daniel comes with a bag full of witty strategies for job hunting, negotiations and networking, having an impactful presence and a whole lot of it. He has made sure that we hit the bull’s eye in choosing our careers. Our financial reporting course is finishing soon and we are gearing up to prepare ourselves for the Corporate Finance course.

I look forward to the GNAM week later this month after which I have to balance both sides of the balance sheet in the Financial Reporting exam.

As I draft the concluding paragraph of my experience at Smurfit, I share a mixed feeling of excitement and anxiety, enthusiasm and apprehension, euphoria and melancholy. More often than not, I miss home. Fortunately, I have really amazing flat-mates who are also my classmates. In them, I find a family away from home (more because they cook delicious food!!! And I am always hungry :-p). Dublin has been treating me well so far. While I write this ending note, my mobile beeps and a message flashes up- “Halloween Party is on!” Let’s scare the ghost of  the MBA. See you guys at the Halloween party.

 

Dhananjay Bairagi, Full Time MBA 2017-2018