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

GNAM Week in IE Business School Madrid

ian-rafferty-2Its Monday after the GNAM week and the WhatsApp group is still hopping. Jean Luc from Cameroon says how much he enjoyed meeting everyone, Huseyin from Turkey is still receiving compliments on his salsa dancing on Friday night and the Nigerian girls post a photo of their arrival back in Lagos.

GNAM and GNW are two of the first of many confusing acronyms you hear when you join the Smurfit MBA class. GNAM stands for the Global Network of Advanced Management which was launched by Yale School of Management in 2012. It is a network of 29 leading business schools from diverse regions, cultures, countries and economies in different stages of development. Its goal is to drive innovation and create value by enabling students, staff and alumni of member schools to connect and develop institutional and personal relationships.

The Global Network Weeks are a key tool used by GNAM in achieving this goal. The GNW allows students from member schools pursue a week of intensive study at another school in the network. Each school focuses on a current business issue and organises a mixture of class based lectures, expert speakers, company visits and of course some exposure to local culture to visiting students.

This opportunity to engage with the global network arrives early in the Smurfit MBA calendar and so it was that after just six weeks of study I was sitting in IE Business School in Madrid to begin our week studying the topic of “Europe at a crossroads: complications, implications and the way forward.” The relevance of the subject matter was immediately highlighted as our welcome by Associate Dean, Erik Schlie reminded us that in 28 minutes a deadline would expire for Catalonia to clarify to Madrid if they had in fact declared independence or not the previous week. This was history happening, live. It certainly added a frisson to the class discussions to be in the capital of a country in the middle of its biggest turmoil in decades.

Our academic guide through most of the week was Gayle Allard, a native of California who has lived in Madrid for twenty years. With experience working in JP Morgan and The Economist Intelligence Unit, not to mention a PhD in Economics, and a decade teaching MBA students, Professor Allard presented a history of Europe and the economics of the EU in a fascinating way with real life examples at every turn. Our journey moved through the Impossible Triangle of Hyper-Globalisation, to the benefits of migrants for receiving countries to the issues of debt and aging populations in maintaining growth in European economies. The great recession, Brexit, Catalexit, the Euro and the future of our very own border with Northern Ireland were the hot topics of the week. While a much deeper understanding of these issues was gained, we were reminded that while economists cannot predict the future, change will be the new constant.

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These serious topics were balanced with visits to the Bernabeu Stadium where a little football team called Real Madrid play their games, a city tour, a study of wineconomics, followed by a practical application in tasting while enjoying some traditional Flamenco music and dance. An Uber ride in a Tesla was another first, which made quite an impact on our travelling group from Dublin.

As we have found in the opening six weeks in Smurfit Business School, so much of the learning while studying an MBA is through discussion with classmates. My week in IE amplified that learning and opened my mind to the international nature of studying an MBA. I discussed Brexit with a Costa Rican studying in Yale, the history of the troubles on this island with a Georgian living in Berlin and talked rugby with a South African enjoying life in Madrid. This was truly a Global Network Week and an experience I will return to whenever an insular mind-set creeps in.

Ian Rafferty, Full-Time MBA 2017-2018

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost half way through our first semester but you know what they say, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’! The last few weeks have been intense to say the least. From written assignments to numerous presentations, it seems like there is something due for submission every day.

On Monday, we completed our first module – Business & Society. This was an eventful class with every session very different from the next. One day we were discussing blood diamonds and on another the ethics within FIFA.

We’ve had a couple of interesting and interactive sessions as part of our leadership development programme. Most notable, was Daniel Porot’s full day event which provided a very unique look at job search strategies and the unsolicited approach to job hunting. He also highlighted how easily you can build your network by simply talking to your peers. I think most of us left the session with a very different mindset than when we went in. This week we have a networking event with Brian Marrinan who was so eager to talk to us, he even came in a day early!

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Thursday marks our final financial reporting class with Niamh Brennan. It has been a very demanding module that has helped us realise that accounting is not black and white – it’s grey, grey, grey! Although we will miss Niamh’s 8.30am lectures, we all eagerly anticipate her end of module exam in a couple of weeks (if you’re reading Niamh, be nice 😊).

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It’s not all work though. Next week we embark on the GNAM programme, which we are all really looking forward to. Many of our class will be travelling to different universities all around the world while some have chosen to remain in UCD. Technology, food and culture are on the menu for those who stay in Dublin, welcoming many international students to the city and the Blackrock campus. Along with five classmates, I’m very excited to be travelling to Yale SOM where we will study the behavioural science of management. To make sure we don’t think we’re on holiday, Yale have been very kind to send us on several advanced readings.

Our MBA class has a wonderful mix of personalities which makes all the early mornings and late nights worthwhile. Six weeks in and it feels like I’ve known everyone for six years! I don’t know if that’s because we’ve spent so many hours together, or the constant alert from all our WhatsApp groups! Seriously though, with the weeks going by so quickly – don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

Karl McEntegart, 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