Transition

It had to come to an end. A month of glorious holidays: meeting friends I’d neglected since last September; reading magazines, Christmas bestsellers, anything but case studies; and watching oodles of box-sets and movies. To ease myself back into MBA mode for Semester 2 – which according to cruel rumours was going to be even tougher than Semester 1 – the last cinema trip was to see ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ I’m not sure that much of the film would tally with our previous Business and Society module but it definitely sparked my interest for the upcoming Competitive Strategy and Corporate Finance modules!

Semester 2 kicked off at 9am on a rainy Saturday morning with a personal development seminar. We were presented with the results of survey No. 734* and I discovered that I’d been a lone ‘blue’ (altruistic – nurturing leadership style) in a team with three ‘reds’ (assertive-directing leadership style). On paper that combination shouldn’t work but somehow, in reality, it did. If I was to hypothesize, I’d say my team mates brought out my latent competitive streak, whereas I kept them from trying to outdo each other! However I think it’s mostly due to the fact that my former team mates are very hard working, smart, encouraging people, and good fun to be around.

One of the reasons I wanted to do an MBA was to see if – having worked in the non-profit sector for 10 years – I was up to the challenge of working with people from completely different professional backgrounds and mindsets. Being arbitrarily assigned to teams of people who you’ve never met before and being dependent on the team for a significant percentage of your overall results lets you meet that challenge head on. I was sorry that after getting on so well with my team in Semester 1 that we would now have to go our separate ways. All too abruptly we were assigned our new teams for the next 12 weeks. Nothing like an MBA for keeping you on your toes.

This time our new team have the benefit of knowing each other a little bit in advance. We’ve sussed each other out in class and we all implicitly know that working together is essential to success. We can get down to business quickly. Which is just as well as those rumours have proven correct: Semester 2 is tough. Brilliant, but tough. We’re less than a month in and all of us EMBA-ers are juggling work, multiple assignments, and a rainforest’s worth of readings. Not to mention the surveys. It’s a bit overwhelming, but luckily I’ve got another great team around me, a strong Wolf Pack.

*Possibly an exaggeration, but only a slight one.

Deirdre Mangaoang

EMBA Midweek 2015

L’Oréal, Sodexo, Imerys…oh my!

The Carnet Alliance is a group of 12 business schools, including UCD Smurfit Business School, which develops links between employers, students and schools.

Recently, I participated in The Global Talent Day, an event organised by EDHEC in Paris, France, with the help of my Career Manager. The event brought together business schools from Ireland, France, England, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Scotland to meet with French companies including L’Oréal, Sodexo and Imerys.

As well as attending a series of company presentations, the event provided an opportunity to discover a wide range of sectors through roundtable discussions and question and answer sessions.

Through meeting other students, developing new branches of networks, and obtaining feedback from a recruiting firm, I gained direct contact to domestic firms and took advantage of the multi-national event.  I made the most of the network with the help of Smurfit.


Erwan Le Pavec

FTMBA 2014

France

Coaching to the Finish Line

Coaching provides a safe space for MBA participants to explore challenges that may be causing interference by focusing on personal development in a programme that is by nature competitive and challenging. It allows space for thinking, reflection and exploring more of the emotional intelligence aspect of leadership.  Now in my second year of coaching MBA participants at UCD Smurfit, I have found the participants to be very smart people from a range of countries, backgrounds and industries.

All have a shared ambition to be the best that they can be and to reach their potential. There is a formula in coaching from The Inner Gameby Tim Gallwey which reads:

Performance = (potential – interference)

At the heart of the coaching work that I do is a conversation. This conversation is led by the coachee’s agenda and my primary role is to listen and understand the coachee’s story. That story can include career development, values, patterns in their working life, motivation, managing stress and managing opportunities.

For the coachee, the sessions provide time and space to talk out loud about what is top of mind for them, in other words what is their inner game. We all have an inner game, so exploring aspects of this with a coach allows the coachee to bring into focus what they are thinking about and how they can work on it.

There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How you play this game usually makes the difference between success and failure.Tim Gallwey

Working with a coach, they explore reality, look at goals for the short term and longer, explore options for change and agree on actions for the future.

The beauty of the programme is that each coachee has access to three coaching sessions, which allows time for the coaching relationship to develop, for reflection, for actions to take place and be reviewed, and for themes to emerge.

Pamela Fay

As we start 2014 I am looking forward to my coaching sessions in the coming weeks with the MBA participants. I am excited about what actions they have taken since their last coaching session and what new challenges and opportunities we will be working on together over the coming months.

Pamela Fay is a business and executive coach. Pamela has run her own business for ten years and qualified in 2009 as a coach.

Baby Got Back – Smurfit and the School of Life

An MBA is designed to put one to the pin of their collar. For me, this was never more so the case for last few weeks of semester 1. Deadlines, assignments, heated debates, sleep deprivation and the small but not insignificant matter of the impending arrival of my first born during exam week! Suffice to say it has been a bit of a whirlwind!

Despite best laid plans of finalising group projects, submitting assignments and preparing for exams, it all changed at short notice as our baby daughter decided to arrive early for Christmas. Everything went out the window and all sleep deprivation training throughout the semester kicked in for real. Suffice to say exam preparation was difficult to say the least as concentration levels were variable. But through both the flexibility and the patience of my long suffering team members and the Programme Office, I came out the other side. Although the results have not been published yet I feel like I have passed a module in achieving a work-life balance.

Attention now turns to semester 2 and a slightly bigger juggling act than before Christmas. The balance between the academic, leadership development, networking and nappy changing is a mystery, at least until we start back. Who knows it may still remain a mystery by the end of the semester? Let’s see what awaits.

Before semester 2 suddenly creeps up on the class, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and successful new year.

PS: For any of you interested, I highly recommend it. I would not change the experience for the world, the MBA or fatherhood!


Ken Barry, Class Rep Semester 1

FT MBA 2014

Ireland

“I’m a Red-Blue Peacock-Dolphin”

Not many people would understand what the title above means, but to any UCD MBA student, it conveys insight into my qualities as a group member and a leader.

Our Wednesdays have been packed with psychometric tests and learning resources, through the Leadership Development and Careers Programmes, intended to guide us through our pursuits of new roles and new industries as we develop into leaders post-MBA.

Other blog entries have discussed the activities of the first week, when we discovered a little about how we function in groups, and animals and colours were assigned to our individual qualities. Inevitably, my results provided me the least endearing animal possible: the Peacock.

During a more recent Wednesday, we explored the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). This tool encouraged us to think about our motivational system, our behaviour, our strengths, and the ways in which we respond to conflict in a team setting. As Wednesdays go, given the introspective nature of the tasks and the need to discuss others’ strengths/weaknesses, this was the most emotionally exhausting.

From SDI, the most interesting insight I gained into leadership was the fact that “assertive” (red) leaders are not necessarily the most effective: that at times “altruistic” (blue), or “analytic” (green) will lead to better results. I’m also glad to have had the chance to actively learn from my group mates’ experience of working with me; an opportunity I have never before had in the workplace. So with pride, I announce that I am a Red-Blue Peacock-Dolphin.


Niall Ó Muiré

FT MBA 2014

Ireland


Looking Forward to Looking Back

With a new year upon us, I’ve been reflecting on the highs and lows of 2013 which included completing my first semester of the mid-week Executive MBA (EMBA).  Given that I questioned my sanity on a number of occasions during semester 1, I am pleased to say that the EMBA was close to the top of my list of highs.

In my experience, maintaining a sensible balance between study, work, and a personal life was the largest challenge of the past 3 months. Be it lectures, readings, assignments, team meetings or guest speakers, the MBA can consume all of your time! In the case of the MBA, the old saying of “you get out what you put in” is certainly true, however the ability to prioritise and effectively manage your time is key.

Aside from the academic benefits of an MBA program, some personal highlights to date have been:

  • Attending an entrepreneurship club event which had a number of guest speakers from Irish start-ups
  • Participation and insight gained in class group presentations
  • Attending a series of guest speaker panels organised by a group of MBA alums, with a particular highlight being the visit of Des Traynor of Intercom.
  • The Leadership Development Programme events

Above all, the essence of the MBA program is the people (legends) you meet, be it team mates, classmates or those in the alumni network.  In just 3 months, the MBA has provided numerous opportunities to meet and work with exceptionally talented people. As a group, the midweek class has learned a great deal outside of academics, such as:

  • Tina is an awesome electric guitarist.
  • Not all pharmacists are boring!
  • Tullow Oil is the greatest company to work for in the history of the world, ever.
  • Frankie works in a bank.

So as we embark on semester 2 in just over a weeks’ time, where we will have new teams and no doubt new challenges, three pieces of advice I have are:

  • Manage your time & work hard but make sure to maintain a work/study/life balance
  • Attend as many extra-curricular MBA events as possible (and in particular the monthly guest speakers organised by Joe Kenny)
  • And, most of all, enjoy yourselves!


Over and Out

Michael O’Dwyer

Midweek EMBA 2015

Learning New Things.

Our first semester is coming to an end. Time is really flying these days. I am so eager and look forward to the next two weeks, when all is said and done, I will have one month free!!!

I heard from many former students that the first semester is the hardest semester of the course.  If what they said it right, I am about to overcome the hardest part of the course in the next two weeks!!!

After nearly four months studying here, I have learnt a lot from my classmates and my Team-mates.  There are two characteristics of my classmates that I really wish that I can apply to myself and they are the way they manage time and their self-discipline. Hopefully, I can be more disciplined and better in managing my time, even it takes time to achieve these skills, I will do my best.

I have gone through one-third of my UCD Smurfit MBA course. Hopefully, in eight months’ time, the day I leave Dublin and take the flight back to Vietnam, I will have learned many new things in comparison to the day I left Vietnam some five months ago.

Trang Do.

FTMBA 2014.

The road less travelled – giving rugby a shot.

“Please tell me you are not playing rugby but only helping out with the equipment department!” – Timothy Downs

The above quote comes courtesy of my brother in response to telling him I signed up for the UCD Smurfit Rugby Football Club. A little background info for the readers: I’m 5’8” and weigh 145 lbs soaking wet (that’s 65 kg for you Continentals). I’ve never been much of an athlete either. And sure, trying rugby for the first time is a bit out of my comfort zone but that’s kind of the point. It’s kind of the point of doing this whole UCD Smurfit MBA thing too.

I could have followed an easy path and continued working at my old job. But I didn’t want to keep living my life on autopilot. Everyday was basically the same: routine, static.  At times to spur growth you need make a drastic change to the status quo. And if I can jolt myself out of my comfortable routine I suppose I should keep that theme going throughout the rest of the year.

So, I’ll give rugby a shot. Sure, I may get knocked down and banged up on the pitch but that’s okay. Now is the time to try new things. If it doesn’t work out at least I can say I tried. So long as I finish my UCD Smurfit MBA with the same number of teeth that I started with, I’ll mark it up as a successful year.

Tony Downs,

FTMBA 2014.

The ability to work together on the UCD Smurfit MBA.

We are well into the UCD Smurfit MBA now and we have settled into a good routine. Our team work has improved and we often walk out of team meetings feeling that they were really productive. This puts a spring in our step as we try to work on the seemingly never ending stream of assignments! I would like to think that this improvement is due, in part, to the bonding work of our “Commitments” video night last month. The guys did not need subtitles in the end and enjoyed an insight into the real Dublin.

In reality, the improvement in our ability to work together is due to the work we do in our Leadership Development Programme (LDP)workshops and practice. Lots and lots of practice. The practice is just due to the workload, as we have a constant stream of meetings and assignments to hand up. The LDP helps us in a number of ways but much of it is focused on identifying our characteristics and the characteristics of our team mates. This gives us a better understanding of how we work together as a team. I found some of the results surprising, for myself but also for my team mates. Without giving it much thought, I had made assumptions about people’s reactions based on my own, which  I realise now might have been a little naive.

On an academic front, it is full steam ahead for the end of the semester, deadlines that seemed so far away are now looming. But it is still great fun. The class interaction is still great, the insights from lecturers, but also my fellow colleagues, is fantastic. I am often astounded at just how smart some of the people in the room are.

Outside of the academic workload, we need to start to think about our careers, i.e. what we want to do when we grow up and leave the cocoon of the MBA. Most of us are investigating a number of industries and roles and this has been facilitated by the great work of Brian Marrinan in the careers office.

It is just hard to tear ourselves away from the books!

Thady Duggan.

FT MBA 2014.

The Journey Continues on the UCD Smurfit MBA…bringing “an improved ability to affect and lead others”.

Week 8! It is remarkable to think that we have only had 8 weeks of the course so far, it seems like I have far too many memories to fit into only 8 weeks. Flipping that around however, it’s also amazing to think that we are already approaching the end of SEM1. Time flies when you’re having fun, and, apparently, when you’re rampaging through a labyrinth of modules, workshops, projects and deadlines.

Since my last blog, I have experienced some significant highs and lows on the course. The highs are easier to succinctly describe but perhaps provide less meaty and real content for reflection. They have come in the form of positive feedback from respected professors on work I have produced and the development of social ties within the group. The lows, on the other hand, provide for, perhaps, more interesting discussion and for better learning. My lows relate to realizations that have forced me to re-frame my view of the MBA and what I will take from it.

When I decided to come on the UCD Smurfit MBA programme, I assumed that the majority of candidates would be fiery go-getters, all driven to compete healthily and push the envelope of what can be achieved. I also assumed that we would work in teams where everyone would want to get the best results possible. In short, I assumed that people on the course would be just like me. Well, we know what they say about assumptions… The reality of an MBA is far from my mental image of academic and project jousting. The reality incorporates a variety of candidates with a multitude of different personalities and goals for the course.

I have always worked in environments which rewarded and promoted those who rolled up their sleeves and got things done and this has reinforced that mode of behaviour to the extent that it is has been my default mode of engagement. While that behaviour can drive great progress, it isn’t applicable to every environment and every group of people. In many situations, it may be more important to bring the team with you or to analyse the environment exhaustively before acting. By challenging us to work with various people and on various projects the MBA teaches us, in a very real way, how to engage with different personality types and how to step outside our standard mode of engagement. This provides an enormous, if uncomfortable, learning opportunity.

The day I found out that the rest of my team did not want to achieve first class honours in the course was a day I will never forget. It was profoundly baffling how people could not aim for the best possible result. I became dizzy trying to understand it. It took quite a bit of re-framing to accept that the grade of result from an MBA is not the most important measurement of the quality of the experience gained on the course. The breadth of experience and the skills developed that round out the individual are more important.

All of the candidates on the course are high-calibre but their primary strengths lie in various different areas. By exposure to each other’s strengths and weaknesses and through honest feedback from self and others in Leadership Development (LDP) sessions, a mirror is held up showing us how we engage and the benefits and risks of our styles. Through this challenging process the quiet analyst learns to step up, the conciliatory player learns to focus on task and the dominant go-getter learns to move with the team. Interestingly, this learning is not explicitly targeted at developing better influencing skills but that is the effect. The LDP objectives pursued relate to team development and team dynamic enhancement but will translate to an improved ability to affect and lead others.

As the Christmas exams begin to loom on the horizon it is useful to note that the pressure we experience as part of the MBA is essential to keep the personal learning real. Working on our behaviours and interactions is kept relevant and effective as we do so under pressure. The pressure calls out the true selves we will call on under fire when we are back out leading industry. Sharpening our tools for those situations is the greatest benefit the UCD Smurfit MBA can offer. So, here’s to pressure, development, the challenges behind us and the challenges to come.

Liam Doyle,

FT MBA 2014.