The Beginning of a New Phase

This week another phase of my life is coming to an end. I submitted the Capstone Project Report, the last assignment of the MBA. Myself, Eoin, Emrecan, and Cathal were the first team in the class to submit the report. We did our project with a start-up company called Mobstats. The company provides an artificial intelligence (AI) solution for sport clubs to increase fan engagement. Our project was to develop the company’s business plan, particularly focused on market and competitor analysis, marketing and sales plan, pricing guidance, risk assessment, and financial projections.

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The Capstone Project is a unique opportunity to put in practice all the learning from the MBA in a real business environment. Especially for students pursuing a career in consulting, the experience reflects what they would face when dealing with clients, from setting the scope of the project through the engagement letter, to delivering the final product using different frameworks. The diverse background of my team combined with the experience we had in the international consulting trip to Iceland surely maximized the learning from the Capstone Project.

Now that we are ready to go back to the real world, a new phase begins. New expectations, challenges, and goals are now being set by each colleague in the MBA class. Some colleagues have already accepted a job offer, others are still doing interviews, some are starting their own business, others will travel the world before returning to the world of business, and a few will continue their student journey. Regardless of the situation, we all share the same sense of accomplishment from successfully finishing the MBA.

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An important stepping stone was achieved, but we all know that our journey does not end here. New challenges will involve as much effort as required in the MBA. Everything we learned throughout the MBA will help us to succeed in the next stages of our career. However, we need to be aware that our learning process does not end with the three letters on our CV. We all need to be open to continue to learn as the world continues to change.

 Marcelo Cardozo de Mello Boccuzzi FT MBA 2017/18

Celebrating Ireland’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women, 2018

With exam stress a distant memory, the recovery of my social life underway and hints that a heatwave was coming to Ireland, to say I was happy the summer had arrived was an understatement. First year had been more enjoyable and rewarding than I had anticipated,  however there was certainly a need for some well-deserved time off. Despite this, the invite to the WXN Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Ireland awards ceremony came as a welcome reminder as to why I had taken on the challenge of an Executive MBA in the first place.

I didn’t need to be asked twice to attend the awards ceremony in the Intercontinental Hotel, Dublin. The glad rags were on and I was ready to celebrate some of the most inspirational women this country has to offer.

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Founded in Canada in 1997, and expanded to Ireland in 2008, the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) is dedicated to the advancement and acknowledgement of women in leadership roles across a diverse range of industries. The WXN awards ceremony recognises and celebrates the accomplishments of incredible and inspirational female leaders in business, arts, sport and entertainment, entrepreneurship, not-for-profit ventures and the public sector.

The accomplishments of these 25 women are truly inspirational, each one a trail blazer in her own field. The interviewees were candid and sincere in their responses while Senator Joan Freeman had the audience’s undivided attention such was her ability to capture our attentions. She spoke about the female traits that women bring to leadership roles including compassion, acceptance and love. These are traits which are needed in senior leadership roles and she encouraged us all to strive towards achieving our goals.

Of course, like all MBA activities the awards ceremony provided an opportunity to network, this time with our counterparts from the different MBA streams. Now more than ever the differences in full timers and executives MBA journeys was evident. For the first-year executives, it was a great opportunity to get the inside track on which choice subjects to pick next year while the full timers were full of excitement (and perhaps nervousness) for life post-MBA.

Having reached the milestone of completing first year, I am inspired by these 25 women to return to year two and set the bar even higher for myself to ensure I reach my full potential. Until then however, I am happy to take a well-earned break and enjoy the Irish heatwave for as long as it lasts.

Teresa Dillon, EMBA 2017/19

“They think its all over…. it is now”

2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a Smurfit MBA reception attempting to debate the future of big brands and the importance of innovative communication with Damien McLoughlin. I’m going to be nice to myself and call it a draw – but irrespective of the outcome, it made me think of what a journey this MBA has been. 2 years ago I do not think it would have been me in front of that crowd. After the talk, several potential 2018/19 MBA students approached me to gain some insights and find out the best and worst bits of completing an Executive MBA. It caused me to think about it properly, possibly for the first time as it has been a whirlwind 2 years. Outside of the Executive MBA, I have moved job, moved into a new house and any day now our 3rd child will arrive into our family. So it’s been hectic. But it’s been a positive experience too.

I didn’t go on any international trips during my 2 years so maybe my highlights are more mundane than those who experienced Reykjavik, Lima or Yale. For me, a large highlight is the fact that I have been in a position to implement so many of the learnings I have made directly into my work. Not only is this very professionally satisfying but it keeps the entire programme relevant and current. Take Group work as an example. Group work never appealed to me – but the setup of the programme forces you to engage with it from Day 1. With Semesters, Global Virtual Teams, Block Week assignments and Capstone, I have been involved with 8 Groups during the 2 years. Not only have I have learned a huge amount about working with teams, from basic communication to the setting of roles, but I have also learned an awful lot about myself. I hope I have added something to the Groups I was in too. They are more than capable of letting me know if I haven’t. I can use these experiences, both positive and negative, in my current job. The current and real life experience focus of the EMBA, driven by not only the lecturers experience and their use of current case studies but more so by the discussions and arguments that took place between my fellow classmates, each with lots of experience in completely different industries to me, help shape this.

Surreally, my last act in my Executive MBA (apart from Capstone of course), was to cook a chicken casserole in Ballyknocken House along with Catherine Fulvio and a group of business students from Smurfit, Yale, Haas Berkeley, IE Madrid, Egade Mexico, Fudan China and Hitotsubashi Japan as part of the ‘Future of Food’ GNAM Block Week. A memorable experience to round off a memorable 2 years. It’s time for the next chapter now. Reintroduce myself to normal life – I’m looking forward to not feeling guilty about sitting down and watching TV without a nagging thought I should be reading something.

On Day 1 of Initiation week in August 2017, the first person I met on the course was Osgur Ó Ciardha.  It was fitting that he was also on the Future of Food week and so we bookended the 2 years nicely. Since we first met he has secured a new job and become a TV star! I look forward to hearing of many more success stories from my classmates into the future.

Robert Slattery, EMBA 2016/18

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Women’s 21st Century Leadership

Susan McDonnell and Oonagh O’Grady joined a cohort of MBA students from around the world at Haas Business School, University of California, Berkeley in early June for an intensive 5-day module titled Women’s 21st Century Leadership. This module was offered as part of the Global Network for Advanced Management week.

Professor Laura Kray in her introduction to the week outlined how the reality remains that the career paths of men and women still diverge in complex yet systematic ways. With more women in the workforce than ever before – and even more joining top leadership ranks – the need for women’s voices to be heard has never been greater. Professor Kray put out a “call to arms” at the outset of the course – What will YOUR role be in advancing gender equality?

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The programme was designed to help us to promote gender equality in the workplace but also to cultivate our own authentic leadership style as women. Authenticity is a key pillar of modern leadership. We were thought that teaching women to act like men in order to get ahead is misguided. It ultimately results in women becoming overly focused on their self-image and not on the leadership task at hand. This course sought to over-write outdated scripts about power and push past the usual stereotypes, for example, the perceived need for women to “fit into” a masculine world.

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Our first guest speaker, Haben Girma, was utterly inspiring and personified the concept of a growth mindset. Haben was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, is on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was named by President Obama as a White House Champion of Change. She advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities and encourages us all to resist society’s low expectations of those with disabilities. Instead she asked us to choose to create our own pioneering story. She provided us with a master class in public speaking on the first morning despite being born deaf-blind. During the presentation, she received constant feedback from her interpreter who typed a description of the happenings in the room. We then had a chance to ask Haben questions through a keypad which translated our queries to braille.

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Penny Kreitzer, an accomplished stage actress, thought us tips to improve our leadership presence through the strengthening of our voice and stance. She also thought us a five-step grounding exercise which she assured us would become second nature through practise.  Christine Carter shared the secrets of “How to Achieve More By Doing Less” by highlighting a number of limiting beliefs and unmasking the truths instead:

  • Limiting Belief #1: busyness = importance

Truth: In fact, the truth is that busyness equals cognitive overload – Single tasking is the way to go

  • Limiting Belief #2: Doing nothing is a waste of time

Truth: Our brains benefit when we waste time – it’s called strategic slacking

  • Limiting Belief #3: More is better

Truth: Often less is more – acknowledge abundance using gratitude

We learned about the “Future of Work” from Sally Thornton and in particular about the work-life blend as opposed to work-life balance. Carolyn Buck‐Luce outlined how we needed to “Celebrate the Leader Within” and introduced us to the secret to her success – The Decade Game. This involves her outlining at the start of each decade her purpose for the next decade. The key questions she asks herself to define her decade strategy are – why are you on the planet? And how would you like to be known by the world at the end of this decade? She recommended that you thought about your strategy as a multi-level computer game where you set targets or levels to achieve every 90 days. With regards to executive presence, she noted how gravitas accounted for 67% of an executive’s presence. Gravitas includes things like grace under fire, decisiveness, ability to read and command, ability to inspire others and the importance of integrity, authenticity and reputation.

Our final guest speaker Sanez Mobasseri helped us analyse our social network under the 5 pillars – depth, breath, structural configuration, dependencies and perceived status of contacts. She also thought us that building and maintaining your network is a lifelong task and that connections need to be made before you actually need them.

The third day of the course entailed two company visits to tech multinationals located in San Francisco.  First up was DocuSign, an electronic signature technology and digital transaction management services company. Chief People Officer, Joan Burke and a number of members of a group called Women at DocuSign joined us to explain what makes DocuSign a great place to work. They outlined how diversity and inclusion was driven from the top by their CEO Dan Springer who was motivated by his experience of being the son of a single mother. This shines through in the company’s HR policies and in particular with regards to maternity and paternity leave which are much more generous than US standards.

We then travelled across town to Uber’s offices where Bernard C. Coleman, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, talked to us about the journey the company has gone through over the past year since the highly-publicised Susan Fowler case. Along with a panel of Uber employees involved in Women and Diversity initiatives, he outlined some of the innovative diversity and inclusion programmes they have introduced.

On the final day, we presented our research project finding on topics which included – Gender differences in values, attitudes, and beliefs – Implicit bias and its consequences in organisations – Women working with women – Work-life balance and Engaging men on gender equity.

No MBA experience would be complete without a networking opportunity and this trip provided this in abundance. We were part of a truly international cohort with representatives from US Business Schools – Haas and Yale as well as people who had travelled from Ghana, Mexico, Russia, Spain, UK, Portugal, Denmark, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and China. Not only was there diversity in geography but also in industries with all of the major industries represented as well as NGOs and the Art industry. Most importantly the class contained a number of male colleagues who leant a balanced and insightful voice to the week.

We both feel we gained a new level of confidence and greater sense of ownership over our own leadership development. We also feel we are now more able to diagnose multiple causes of gender inequality, better equipped to develop techniques for influencing others, and understand the critical role of mindsets in collaborating effectively with others to lead change. We also now have a full itinerary of class reunions scheduled for the coming years….first stop Ghana in 2019!

Oonagh O’Grady, EMBA 2018

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The MBA Programme – a chance to observe, experiment and grow in a global context

Prior to entering the MBA Programme at Smurfit, my classmates and I were given a recommended reading list which included a book titled “Snapshots from hell – The Making of an MBA”. The book was a witty and enlightening journal of Stanford MBA graduate Peter Robinson’s experience in his MBA and the more I read through it, the more I could relate to my own experience at Smurfit MBA, which is, to my own opinion, an experience that exceeded my expectations in many ways.

Travelling the world

The Smurfit MBA prepared us for a global career especially through the international experience that can be hard to find in any other MBA programmes. For the past 10 months on the full-time MBA I have visited New York, Washington D.C., Santiago de Chile, Lima, Cusco (Peru) and up next Reykjavik (Iceland) – a travel itinerary that satisfied my thirst for exploration to the core.  Through the Global Network Advanced Management programme, I went to New Haven, Connecticut to participate in the Yale School of Management‘s “Behavioural Science of Management” course. Through the Doing Business in International Markets module I flew to Santiago, Chile and Lima, Peru to gain more insights about the business in South America and had the chance to visit one of the seven wonders of the world. Through the IBM Case competition, our four-member-team travelled to Washington D.C. to compete with seven other prestigious business schools. And in our nearest International Consulting Project, we will be flying to Reykjavik, Iceland to offer a route-to-market solution for an Icelandic pharmaceutical company. Exceeding all of my expectations, the Smurfit MBA experience gave me the most intensive exposure to go global in the shortest period of time.

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Friendship and Support

The true evidence of friendship and peer support manifested in the revision period when I received tremendous support from my MBA cohorts. Quite reserved and independent by nature, I slowly grew to be more confident to reach out to people thanks to my MBA colleagues, as well as the MBA Programme Office members being always open to support me whenever I have difficulties with the subject or consult with me on difficult decisions. I could never thank my classmates enough for late night studies over Skype, which helped me crack the frameworks and models of Supply Chain Management and Managerial Accounting. Along with the MBA Programme Office members and Professors for last minute feedback on our business case presentation right before flying to Washington D.C. Up to this point, the famous saying “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” can’t ring any more true to me.

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A Transformational experience

Reflecting on my past 10 months living in Ireland, I was astonished at how much the MBA programme has grown me intellectually as well as personally. It is truly a transformational experience where I had the chance to observe, learn, experiment, get feedback and be more confident to experiment again. This helps me to be able to deeply relate with OPERA model in Managing Negotiations in cross-cultural context: Observe – Probe – Experiment – Reflect – Action.  After 10 months, I feel more confident and excited enough to get out there in the world and make changes with the new perspectives I have gained.

Realising the fact that 5 years of work after college graduation for me was spent at full speed with business trips after business trips, campaigns after campaigns and results after results, I was so thankful for the decision to take my one year of MBA experience slowly and immersive with learning, reflection and heart-warming friendships. Up to this point when there are 9 weeks until the end, I finally came to understand that it is the journey that matters, and it’s the people that gave me such a wonderful journey.

Huyen Tran FT MBA 2017/18

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Life in the Emerald Isle

A cook to prepare food, a maid to clean my house, a chauffeur driven car to take me around, clothes washed and ironed for me to wear, this was how life was for me back in India. Fast forward a few months, I found myself in Dublin, learning to cook even the most basic stuff, vacuuming my floor and putting clothes to the laundry, all of this in the middle of an intense start to the MBA program. Life had certainly taken a 360-degrees turn.

However, as time progressed, with the help of my roommates – Himanshu, Anita and Bhavya, who are also in the MBA program, I was able to settle in quickly. Suddenly, the place seemed familiar, I discovered the food I cooked was edible and I could manage to keep my place clean enough so as to not get kicked out from the on-campus accommodation.

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In the second semester, one knows that one can get through the various modules, no matter how challenging they appear to be. With optional modules available, I learnt immensely from modules such as ‘Negotiations’ and ‘Strategy Execution’ which are relevant to my career path. In this semester, you realize that the end of the course is not far away and start preparing for life, after the MBA. In my case, I was mentally preparing to returning back to my business and the learnings that I could potentially implement. Having set up my own company three years ago and having made a million mistakes along that journey, I am extremely satisfied with the learnings from the MBA and know that I can contribute massively to my business once I get back.

For me personally, it has been that the relationships that I developed further that matters to me the most. Starting with my roommates, to my classmates who were on the trip with me to South America, it has been a pleasure to get to know them better. On the recent international business trip to South America, I fell sick because of the altitude and was diagnosed with Vertigo, a condition due to which I could not balance my body and as a result, could not stand or walk. It was with the help of classmates on the trip, especially, Thom and Himanshu, that I survived and was able to make it back safely to Dublin.

I was happy to get involved in some of the MBA clubs in the last few months. Recently, as part of the social outreach team, we visited the Carysfort National School, where we conducted a ‘Bizworld workshop’. We essentially introduced these kids to the business world, explaining some of the basic business terms and concepts. We explained, in simple terms, things like, how to identify a problem and come up with an innovative solution, how to set up a company, how to assign company roles and finally, how to make an effective business plan. We then, made them understand the world of funding and trained them to pitch their ideas.

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On the final day, these kids had the opportunity to pitch their idea to ‘Dragons’ (some members of our team who played the role of a VC) and get investments. They also pitched their ideas to the students from the previous grade to get funding. The entire social outreach team was mind blown with some of the ideas that came up. The level of creativity shown by these students in coming up with an idea, choosing a company name, designing a logo, creating marketing collateral, was way beyond what we expected. It was an eye-opener for me and a very satisfying experience.
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I was also fortunate to explore the country in the last few months with my family. Visits to Galway, Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, reiterated the fact that I chose the right country to study. If I had visualized paradise all my life, this would be it. Of course, I cannot finish before I mention the amount of fun I’ve had enjoying the nightlife in Dublin. Come Friday night, my Instagram stories are filled again, I wake up at 8am on Saturday morning and it suddenly strikes me… I have strategy class in an hour – and off I go again!

Jayanth Veerendra, Full  Time MBA 2017/18

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Bizworld’s Dragons Den

As part of the Social Outreach Club a total of eight members from the Smurfit FT MBA recently spent two days on nearby Carysfort National School running the Bizworld programme. A form of Dragons Den crash course in entrepreneurship for Primary Schools. Having recently pitched our own business ideas at the conclusion of our Entrepreneurship module this was an opportunity to sit on the other side of the fence and listen to pitches from young entrepreneurs.

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In February six of us had met with Bizworld CEO Fiona McKeon and had been hugely impressed with her enthusiasm and the Bizworld programme she briefly outlined to us. Fresh from recent international trips to the US, Singapore, Vietnam, Peru and Chile we met Fiona again in April for a quickfire training afternoon to prepare us for the programme.

Somewhat uneasy from Thom’s horror tales of teaching we approached the school with trepidation, would we face an audience more challenging than our management accounting presentations? Jayinth, Spilios and I headed for one 6th class as Anita and Thom disappeared towards the other group. Thankfully we need not have worried as the pupils were extremely enthusiastic and by the afternoon session were eagerly working away themselves on their business ideas.

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Jayinth and I took them through their tasks for the day with Spilios regaling them with stories of his own entrepreneurial experience.  Within each 6th class the students had been broken into groups of five prior to our arrival.  Each groups task over a day and a half was to brainstorm and come up with a business idea, assign company roles to everyone, develop a marketing plan and raise finance before finally pitching their business idea to the dragons. They would aim to secure as large an investment as possible while retaining as much control over their business as they could.  They were provided their own Bizworld currency to achieve this. As we neared the end of the first day ideas included a healthy eating app, light up blanket for reading, solar powered wifi, compression pyjamas, sunshine contact lenses and remote-controlled furniture.

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On Thursday morning we returned for some last-minute presentation preparation before the pitching stage. It was clear from the pre-pitch practice that many of the students had done considerable work since our first visit on Monday. As nerves (ours more then theirs) frayed the first group got ready to meet the dragons. Armed with instructions to take a tough approach they marched into the staff room to pitch.

While Deepti and Spilios played good Dragons, Dragon Osmond took a harsher line trying to take as much of the businesses as possible. Sadly, his skills from our Managing the Negotiation Process module were no match for these wily 11 and 12-year-old budding entrepreneurs. Dragon Himanshu managed to get a present of a slice of cake from the students although having attended a Business and Society module (which considered the role of ethics in business) he assured us this had no impact on his investment decision!

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Next the students got a chance to impress their peers as 5th class students entered the classroom to listen to the pitches. Not having personally witnessed the pitch to the Dragons it was great to see the final product after the two days of work from the students.  After some robust questioning the 5th class students had an opportunity to buy a share in a company of their choosing. With the presentations finished the students repaid their loans and counted their cash. Concluding the two days we were delighted to hear many of the students would now consider setting up their own business in the future.

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We were extremely impressed with not just the students business ideas but also their presentation skills many of which would not have looked out of place in the MBA. Perhaps we will see some of these future entrepreneurs on the Smurfit MBA in a few years’ time?

 Overall it was a hugely enjoyable two days and a lovely end to the second semester before we ready ourselves for upcoming exams. Thanks go to Fiona in Bizworld and also to Carysfort National School for giving us the opportunity to present to such enthusiastic students.

Ruary Martin, Full Time MBA 2017/18

 

The Hidden Heartlands

The clocks went forward and suddenly there was light at the end of the tunnel. The finish line of the MBA came into sight and, with that, an obvious emphasis among the MBA cohort on prospective careers. On our return from the well documented International study trips, students endeavoured to surmount the endless MBA workload, while allocating sufficient time for networking opportunities. Factory visits had presented valuable learning abroad and I recognised the opportunity to organise a similar visit because of my family involvement in Xtratherm – an insulation manufacturer in Navan, Co. Meath. Conscious that semester three will offer significantly less time collectively as a class, there was no time like the present. Wednesday, 25th April, was identified as a rare vacancy in the MBA calendar. Although we did obliterate an organised golf outing (apologies Ian), the date was confirmed, and preparations began.

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Exam concerns and assignment overload resulted in some having to withdraw from the trip, but an enthusiastic 21 students travelled to Navan – a first for many. Karl McEntegart, a full time MBA student, has developed a reputation for meticulousness on comparable company visits and this trip was no exception. He travelled alone and was ready (as expected!) to interrogate Xtratherm Sales Director, Martin Groome, when the rest of the MBA contingent arrived. We were directed to the board room where Martin presented us with a comprehensive overview of the company, its evolution to date and the obstacles it encountered to achieve the market presence it has today. Martin emphasised the importance of relationships in the industry and their dedication to offering “more than just insulation”.

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Refuelled by coffee and refreshments, the diverse array of products came to life in the 3D demonstration room. The factory walk-through reiterated the learning from our ‘Operations’ module, attempting to maximise value and eliminate waste in all complexities of the manufacturing process. Although I have visited Xtratherm on many occasions, I am ever intrigued by its continuous improvement and management’s vision for growth. My father has always been a role model of mine, and today, I was extremely proud to illustrate to my classmates what is achievable when a collaborative group, with a hunger for success and a willingness to learn, is established. Xtratherm has exceeded all expectations and its acquisition by UNILIN in 2016 is recognition for the value created by three individuals who started out with what was only a dream.

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I started by highlighting that the finish line of the MBA is in sight and I will also conclude with that thought. There have been times on this programme when I felt I was past insanity and I questioned my decision to endure such a rigorous programme. However, as the end line nears, I feel a sense of lonesomeness for my classmates. We have been to the trenches and back and created bonds that I genuinely hope last a lifetime. But in reality, each individual will pursue their own personal career, wherever that might take them. Where will everyone be in six months? I do not know – I suppose I better make the most of the next three!

John Keegan, Full Time MBA 2017/18

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‘The World travelled road to Washington’

MBA case competitions are a quintessential part of the MBA experience for many ambitious students. Eoin and I found a Case Competition titled ‘IBM Case Competition, The Challenges of Digital Strategy’.  The final of which would take place in the McDonough School of Business part of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. USA. After a quick discussion about the suitability of the competition, we set about putting together a team of complementary skillsets, attributes and personalities, a team we felt could go to Georgetown and win- enter Huyen and Marcelo.

2018 was the seventh year of the IBM-Georgetown Case Competition. Each year a real case based on a U.S. government department is produced. In 2017 this was the Department of Defense, the 2018 case that we received was based on the problems facing the National Park Service (NPS).

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For the first round we were required to submit a five minute video submission detailing our strategy to resolve a case study based on the real life problems facing the National Park Services, problems which included a $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. This was a challenging case with a deadline that clashed with our International Business Trips. The Friday before setting out on our respective adventures we filmed a segment together in Smurfit, as can be seen in the photograph below:

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Karan Sonpar and Pat Gibbons were extremely generous with their time and gave the team fantastic support with the case throughout. With Karan and Pat helping us we began to wonder was destiny conspiring for us to advance to the second round in Georgetown. To produce a quality strategy to this difficult case, every spare minute was utilised by all team members on both sides of the Pacific Ocean with a major part of our round 1 solution being solved on the back of the buses which took us from the company visit to company visit. Our Global Virtual Team experience from semesters 1 and 2 was also put to good use with Skype calls taking place, not easily with a packed schedule and 12 hour time difference between Hanoi and Lima, but where there is a will, there is a way.

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We decided that the theme of our video submission would be that we travelled the world searching for the best solutions to solve the NPS problems, below you can see photos at the various locations where we filmed.

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Returning to Dublin on Friday 23rd March 2018, still jet-lagged we met up on Saturday to finish our submission, upload to the video on YouTube as per the case requirements and inform Georgetown. Twelve days later our belief that we had been produced a quality solution was vindicated when we were one of the 9th out of the 30 plus teams who entered to be chosen to compete in the finals in Georgetown. After an excited talk with the team and the MBA Programme Office we accepted our place in the final, little did we know then what we had let ourselves in for over the next 12 days!

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For the following 12 days, we all had to step out of our comfort zones, further than any point so far in our MBA experience to date. The second round case built on the first round, however teams were allowed to build on what they had already produced in round 1 or tear up their existing strategy. As a team we decided that our strategy from the first round would not be good enough to win and so we essentially started again. The team dynamic was really good, we were all on a mission to produce a winning strategy for the NPS, apart from attending lectures all team members spend every minute of our time on the case. Two days prior to the competition, one day before flying to Washington D.C. we were pushed to the limit. We presented 3 times that day with an evolving presentation, receiving feedback from the MBA Programme Office, academics and our fellow classmates. That Wednesday night after 10 days of internal debate, external feedback and not enough sleep we settled on our presentation (well most of it anyway!).

Thursday morning we got to the airport and our 12:55 flight with United Airlines was cancelled! We go to the United Airlines desk, let them know that we can’t wait for the next flight which is tomorrow because of the competition and we were put on the 12:30 flight with Aer Lingus.

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We arrive in Dulles International Airport at 15:30 EST and call an Uber to our hotel. After some shopping for essentials in a dollar shop and a fine meal in KFC, we return to practice for the following day’s competition, just after midnight and having been awake for over 24 hours we called it a night.

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Friday morning we started the day right with Pancakes, butter, bacon and eggs, the breakfast of champions, except Marcelo who had cereal, toast and two cups of coffee! On the way to Georgetown we got excited when we drive past the Pentagon and spot the Washington Monument, which prior to the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world and is managed by the NPS, one of many NPS sites that we were set to visit over the weekend.

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We arrived at Georgetown to a warm welcome from the competition committee. One thing I have not mentioned thus far is that all teams throughout rounds 1 and 2 had to remain anonymous until the final results were given, to prevent any potential bias from the judges. After registering, conversing with our competitors and a welcoming address from IBM and Georgetown, we were shown to our private room and told to make ourselves feel at home and that we would be called at 10:50, the countdown was on! For the most part we relaxed, did a small amount of practice got mentally prepared for the competition, 10:50 came and we were escorted to the lecture theatre, in front of us was 5 judges from IBM, the three teams who had presented already that morning and some Georgetown students, all keen to see what strategy the most culturally diverse team in the competition would propose to IBM and the NPS. Our 15 minute presentation was timed to perfection, we answered all the questions to the satisfaction of the judges and at 11:15 left the lecture hall to a round of applause. We were on cloud nine and slowly floated back to our room full adrenaline and the joy of performing to our ability under pressure.

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In the afternoon we had lunch, networked, spoke to IBM’s HR/recruitment representative, and received a tour of the Georgetown campus. 15:20 the moment of truth arrived, IBM gave general feedback on the groups which was invaluable, given that we were all acting as IBM consultants in this round, then the top 3 were presented. Unfortunately we did not place in the top 3 but we were satisfied with our performance and extremely proud that we had gone to Georgetown to present a quality strategy to IBM on a real case and most importantly represented UCD and the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School with pride and conviction.

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After the event we retired to the Bulldog Tavern to share some refreshments with the IBM judges, the McDonough School Associate Dean and our fellow MBA competitors, who predominantly were attending business school in the U.S. but hailed from all over the world. After an entertaining evening with we set off for our Airbnb, exhausted we all fell asleep before 10 p.m. The next couple of days were amazing, the Mall in Washington and the museums which border it need to be experienced. Washington D.C. is a beautiful city and definitely worth including as part of a U.S. East coast trip.

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As a team we must thank on an individual basis, Ro Downing, Agnieszka Wisniewska, Emma Mescall, Pat Gibbons, Karan Sonpar and Bob Brennan. We would also like to thank our classmates for their feedback on our presentations and for their support in general which meant a great deal to us.

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To conclude everyone in the team pushed themselves to the limit for the IBM-Georgetown Case Competition. When the case was released two days before the International trip the easy thing would have been to say it can’t be done, but we said let’s have no regrets and give it our best effort. The lesson here is if there is something you want, don’t look for or accept excuses, keep trying, be brave, keep learning from your efforts, engage with the right people and you will get where you need to be, we promise you and you will be a better person for it.

James Kelly, MBA Full Time 2017/18

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Smurfit MBA- ON THE HORIZON

In the blink of an eye, 8 months have passed. As we return from our International trip and begin to re-immerse ourselves into our regular routines of lectures and assignments, I realize that we are into our final lap of MBA. It is now time for me to reflect on how my life has changed in the span of those 8 months.

Among managing multiple assignments, writing journals, job hunting and other things; what has really encouraged the collaboration and team work among my cohort are the clubs at Smurfit. These clubs provides us an opportunity to step beyond the realms of our regular jobs and gain first-hand experience of managing a team, while also managing an event.  I take pride in being a member of the Smurfit Entrepreneurship Club, which provides a stage for aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as serial entrepreneurs to learn from each other’s experiences.

It has taken 23 club members, 7 months and to enlist 7 speakers to bring, “ON THE HORIZON” to life. The event was marked with the presence of prestigious speakers from a range of diverse and thriving sectors such as Heathtech, Fintech, Renewable Energy and Artificial intelligence- with the focus on addressing the inevitable Industrial revolution 4.0. As an MBA student, I feel blessed to be in the presence of some of the brightest and forward-thinking minds of the country.

I will admit when we first discussed about the event, I couldn’t have anticipated from that this event concept would grow into one of the most memorable experience of the MBA for me. It was a wonderful experience to witness my MBA colleagues collaboratively sweat to make this event a success.

The Entrepreneurship club provided me with the necessary breaks from the  MBA. I learned a lot about my colleagues during the club meetings through sharing our entrepreneurial experiences, which at times were both insightful and overwhelming. Personally, it gave me a platform to share my initial ideas to a critical and well-informed group for their expertise. I am sure that in today’s world, nowhere else I would be getting such valuable and trusted advice for free.

The idea of “On the Horizon” event, began with industries our club wanted to know more about, in the context of exploring entrepreneurial drive of Dublin. Our interests in Healthtech, Fintech, Renewable Energy and Artificial intelligence became the pillars of this event. The roadmap our event was not smooth, as I realized quite early and it wasn’t easy for us as students to attract such renowned speakers to our event. However relying on our Irish colleagues networks proved really helpful, as did the Smurfit MBA brand behind us in order to help us get the ball rolling. 

We are a club of budding entrepreneurs and wanted our innovative event to live up to the Smurfit name, doing us both proud. Not a single person shied away from their responsibilities, from the event preparation and guidance, with continuous suggestions to improve the event coming from colleagues and club members alike.

What came to me as a surprise to me was the experience that I gained as it challenged my thought process. I was a staunch believer of the fact that an individual requires a certain level of education before they can channelize themselves into setting up a business. My belief was contradicted, when I witnessed a group of school going students in the age group of 7-11 pitched themselves as CEO, CFO and COO. Furthermore, one of the teams had also prepared and shot an advertising campaign for their product. The event witnessed an inspiring array of entrepreneurial talent from school going kids, to our key note speaker- Oliver Tattan, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Genebox. I would like to thank the speakers, MBA Programme Office and my fellow club members that helped to make this event a huge success.

Ayush Nagpal, Full Time MBA 2017/18

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