Class Rep for the year – What a year!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep, Thought and the MBA

I usually sleep soundly. A couple of years ago I found myself waking in the morning with a sense of anxiety, which I could not explain. Then one morning I woke in the middle of a dream, in which I had arrived at an exam for which I was absolutely unprepared. Well, I thought as a not particularly academic person, I will never study or sit an exam again, so I can relax. And I did. The sense of anxiety departed. How then do I find myself in the tenth month of a full time MBA; surely the epitome of all that created my anxiety?

Without delving into the details, I found myself at a point in my life where I had worked in the government, commercial, self-employed, charity and entrepreneurial sectors, over 20 years. Yet my CV did not say what I was; a soldier, a facilities manager, a property developer, a do-gooder or an  e-tailer? I entered the Newstalk MBA scholarship competition, did not win, but did secure a place on the course. I realised that the MBA was just what I needed to focus my CV, so I accepted the place and started the course in September.

So, how has that worked out for me? Apart from not yet having secured a job, it was a brilliant decision. The MBA is an amazing product, experience and challenge. Central to the MBA is understanding relationships; between people, decisions, structures, markets etc. This applies to the subject matter but also to the students. For 10 months we have been ‘mushed’ together in class, groups, at lunch and socially.

However, I believe that the MBA is essentially a course about thought, about thinking and about joining the dots. It is a slow burner. During the first seven week term we were so busy, and the subjects so seminal, that we gained five separate perspectives. The second term saw the thought, the dot joining, commence. Financial Reporting was leveraged by Managerial Accounting, Decision Making contextualised by Financial Markets & Valuations, Business Economics de-mystified by, well everything. By May, when the In Company Projects were in full flow, we were deep in the art of demonstrating ‘cross learning’s. This cross pollination of ideas is what the MBA takes away from the course, not the T Account, Black Scholes, ROI, Decision Trees or Porters Value Chain. No, the MBA graduate is a business thinker, leader and manager. She is primed for the future. He is launched into an interconnected world, with an interconnected way of thinking.

But is he/she the stereo typical arrogant MBA? I will leave you with this anecdote and let you make up your own mind. A student on the premier UCD Smurfit marketing course, the MDP, asked me “what do you do on the MBA?”. “Well” I said “they teach us to be your boss!”. I presume he got my point.

David Gosling, FT MBA Class of 2011

The Charity Chat

Undertaking an MBA changes the way one’s mind works.

In fact, right there is an example; I would previously have written “your” instead of “one’s”. Formal writing is inherent throughout the many assignments that we have done this year. But the changes have been far, far more serious than changing my word-usage.

The changes have also affected my pub chat.

Recently, sitting in Murray’s bar on Bow Lane, Dublin, I was talking to a friend about charity events. Specifically, she perceived the spending of money on charity events such as black-tie balls as a waste of money.  In other words, she proposed that the money spent on them should be put towards the charity itself, thus earning the charity more money.

In reply, I began by explaining a fundamental business concept that the price of a product or service has to exist somewhere between its perceived value by the consumer and the cost to produce that good or service:

Benefit (value to the consumer) – Price – Cost

In the case of charity events, the perceived value of a ticket to a black-tie ball is greater than the value of a ticket to a session down the pub. Of course, the costs of organising a black-tie ball are higher than the costs of organising a session in a pub.

I continued by explaining that the difference between the money that can be raised through the sale of black-tie event tickets and the costs of organising said event (especially for charity) far exceeds the profits that can be made by having the same people down in the pub for a networking session.

It was at this point I realised that I have changed. My pub arguments have become far more coherent and informed…especially given the number of pints I’d had. So I decided to sit back, relax and watch the end of the Eurovision.

– Jamie O’Connell

MBA event: “Media Relations & Reputation Management – Ignore at Your Peril”

Some of the top players in the media space gathered at UCD Smurfit on Saturday May 21st last.  This was the last in the series of events that are part of the Personal & Professional Development programme for our MBA students.

The morning was broken into two sessions:

Session 1: Value of Media Relations to drive an Organisation’s Reputation.

Joe Carmody, Director at Edelman presented a lecture based on The Edelman Global Trust Barometer:  The State of Trust in corporations, media, NGO’S and Government, finishing with quite an intensive and lengthy Q&A.

Session 2: Why Media Relations is critical to your business. This second session saw a panel discussion followed by a Q&A between the panel guests and audience. The event was held in the magnificent Laurence Crowley Boardroom. The panel were:

Jim Glennon, Chairman (Edelman) – Former Fianna Fáil TD, Senator, former Irish rugby international as well as a long-established media analyst on the game in both broadcast and print media.

Tommy MacDonnell, Director (Ogilvy & Mather), one of Ireland’s leading communications companies. A regular contributor to the national media on issues relating to brands and reputation. Previously with Saatchi & Saatchi  International working in a number of global markets.

Ann O’Dea, Director & Editor in Chief (Business & Leadership) – Founder-director of Whitespace Publishing Group whose publications include businessandleadership.com, responsible for the group’s executive magazines and strategy in new media. Was responsible for the development of siliconrepublic.com back in 2002, today Ireland’s leading technology website.

The Chair, Jim Glennon, led topics on strategic alignment of a company’s profit targets and its purpose to the new expectations of business leaders to the new rules of PR in today’s technology-driven world and personal branding.

Breaks throughout gave the attendees and panel a chance to mingle and network.

Full time MBA student, Rob Downes, spoke highly of the event, saying “it was a wonderful opportunity to hear such highly regarded experts discuss topical and relevant issues during these times.”

Pictures from Media Day 2011

– Text: Megan Molloy FT 2011 & Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager

– Photos – Nargiza Kalmamatova

The MBA Rollercoaster Experience™

Apparently a picture speaks a thousand words, but I find a confusing chart takes those words and puts them into an indecipherable language that only the overly-enthusiastic engineer, who created it, can understand. Thus, the genesis of my MBA Rollercoaster Experience™ Chart:

Click on the chart for details

As I come towards the end of my MBA at Smurfit, I’ve tried to capture the emotional car wreck of the MBA and chart the journey along three main variables: ‘Fear & Uncertainty’, ‘Motivation & Enthusiasm’, and ‘Self Development’.

Fear & Uncertainty:
Obviously this starts high as I entered the unknown. I gave up a full-time job in a time of recession, I was investing a huge amount of money – some of which I didn’t have, and I was entering a class of strangers – all of whom I feared would be hard-nosed business types. It got worse. Lecturers randomly asked questions, the workload at the end of the first week seemed insurmountable, and my genetic inability to remember names was just plain rude! Luckily things got better once the first round of exams were over. Our class really gelled and celebrated achieving our quarter-MBA. As the year has progressed things have got so much better: we manage work together better, we aim to beat deadlines by weeks, and confidence springs from our newly acquired knowledge. The end horizon does bring with it the need to scavenge for hard fought careers, but we are now MBAs and we have less to fear than we did!

Motivation &Enthusiasm:
In a class of achievers, it’s hard not to succumb to the competitive motivation. I’ve had just one slump in February, when the motivation for yet another module was zapped from me. International trips and the support of my team, pulled me through!

Self Development:
Every moment on the course is an opportunity to learn, but learning takes a different pace in terms of self development throughout the year. The first few weeks are particularly introspectively enhancing as team situations, new concepts and subjects are thrust upon you, and a place in the class dynamic is carved out.

So is the MBA worth it? Well, to answer this, I’ve listed out just some of the things that I’ve done, but never would have without the MBA:

  • Written a blog (this is number six!).
  • Interviewed for a job by the CEO, CFO, CCO, and Company Secretary of a major Irish plc.
  • Thought about a life/career beyond engineering (and even pharma!).
  • Discovered the joys of ferreting for ‘weasel-words’ and ‘jiggery-pokery’ in Company Annual Reports.
  • Networked with strangers.
  • Developed a self-confidence in my business acumen (or should that be over-inflated sense of myself?).
  • Met a group of strangers from all over the world, who are now my friends.

– David Lawton

Networking: Learning the Basics

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

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

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

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




Some interesting links:

Ten rules of networking

The Elevator Pitch

A blog about a person who has 16000 contacts


– Nargiza Kalmamatova

A Coachee’s Perspective.

I was delighted to hear that we were being offered a chance to be coached as part of the UCD Smurfit EMBA programme as I had never experienced coaching before. Having spent my career to date working in a number of large multi-national organisations, coaching has always been considered very useful to do but unfortunately business priorities always seemed to get in the way.

I had heard very good feedback about coaching in general and so approached the sessions with a very open mind.   On the EMBA here at UCD Smurfit,, all students are offered the chance to participate in this Leadership Coaching Programme which is one of the final parts of our PPD Programme.  It takes place in the final semester for us, which is Year 2 Semester 2.  Those who sign up are assigned a top professionally trained business coach.

My initial session with my coach was more of a getting to know you session. This was important to do, so my coach could get a sense of where I am now and put some context around future sessions we would have.

My second session, when the coaching started proper, was a hugely positive experience with some very concrete actions resulting come the end of the session. It stimulated some very sound ideas on a specific topic that I had set out at the start of the session. The benefits of the sessions so far have been many.  

First and foremost it is a great opportunity to stand back and take stock. Too often we get caught up in my hustle and bustle of everyday life without having the chance to step back and take a look from the outside in. It was also a great opportunity to bounce ideas off my coach with a view to clearing a path to where I wanted to go with respect to a particular subject.

– Sinéad Bailey – EMBA 2009/2011  


A day in the life of an MBA student at UCD Smurfit

People often ask me what a typical day as an MBA student at UCD Smurfit looks like. It’s a difficult question to answer, because in reality there is not just one hard and fast set routine for a student at Smurfit. Most days start with lectures at 830am and continue with lectures for the rest of the day. Often there is group work to do in the afternoon and evenings, and after that later in the evening again, reading for the next day’s classes. During the evenings the MBA clubs meet, and bring in guest speakers from the world of finance, sustainability, marketing, consulting and many others. These evenings give students a real world perspective on issues discussed in class, along with a further chance to make connections in fields students have a particular interest in.

On Fridays, as mentioned before, there are the personal development classes and coaching and interview practice sessions. These are designed to improve the MBA student’s ability to translate the learning of the classroom into tangible, real world benefits in the mind of future employers. These mock interview sessions also provide an opportunity to network with experienced business professionals and develop a sense of the business needs their company’s are experiencing.


The days of leading up to the exams, are usually the most “focused” of the term. Typically emails will be whizzing around with helpful links to explain concepts in slightly different (perhaps more comprehensible) ways, or containing attachments with people’s own summarised notes (which are near universally excellent.)

Weekends are usually spent catching up on some sleep and reading ahead for the weeks upcoming lectures. Many MBA students also catch up on individual assignments, which can get de-prioritised during the rush to complete multiple group assignments in a short time during the week. The good news is that there’s usually time for some relaxation as well, and the MBA class often meets up on the weekends to go hill walking, pub crawling or even cruise boating!


In short there is no typical day, but there are enough constants day to day to keep things familiar, and enough variety to keep them from ever seeming dull.


– Andrew Higgins, Full-time MBA 2010/2011

A Coach’s Perspective

Eadine Hickey is a Coach on the Full-time and Executive MBA programmes in the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. She has previously worked as an Executive in the Financial Services industry and has worked in organisations such as GE and Accenture. Eadine has written a reflection on the coaching programme for the full-time MBA coaching programme.

Roller coster ridePhase 2 of the full-time MBA coaching programme is complete with Phase 3 to follow in June. As such, it is an interesting time to take a look at the progress of the coaching programme and see how it is supporting the MBA’s through this intensive year. As a Smurfit MBA alumnus, I am well aware how hectic the full-time Smurfit MBA programme is and it is amazing to get 3 snap-shots with each student during the year and see how their lives progress. Whilst each coaching session is intense and many different topics are covered, there is the sense from the coach’s perspective that these guys are on a roller-coaster ride and we join them on that ride at three intervals along the way.

Throughout the year there are high’s and low’s, some of these are predictable, and some less so. What we, as coaches, endeavour to provide however is the support to deal with the tough times and a challenging environment where they can bounce ideas and figure out how to navigate the rest of the journey through to employment, setting up their own business or whatever the future might hold for them.

Typical topics covered in coaching include:

  • Creation of a personal learning agenda for the MBA year (personal development as distinct from academic)
  • How to market themselves
  • Most suitable career
  • Self-confidence
  • Leadership style
  • Communication style
  • Reflection on individual and group psychometrics and what they mean.
  • The Smurfit MBA Programme is like a laboratory in many ways providing the students with the opportunity to experiment and try new behaviours and get feedback from class-mates in a safe environment. Whilst much of the focus of an MBA is inevitably on academic content, the coaching programme provides a valuable opportunity for the student’s to focus on themselves and their own development during the course of the year. This year’s class is an incredibly supportive group and I have found a huge willingness for them to seek help and feedback from within their group. It is a journey of self-development for all, so it is more than acceptable for individuals to seek assistance from their teams in order that they might further their learning agenda. By getting this feedback, many have dispelled concerns they might have had whilst others have received invaluable insights into behaviours they are choosing now to adapt in order to improve their effectiveness.

    It is testament to the MBA Coaching programme that of last year’s class 88% said they would seek coaching again in the future. In a time when people are looking for ‘quick solutions’ to problems, it is enlightening to see the value these students are seeing in reflecting on situations in order to come up with the best approach to dealing with challenges.

    An eminent figure in the field of practice and teaching of leadership, Ronald Heifetz, speaks of the value of ‘getting on the balcony’ in order to understand situations. This is in essence the opportunity that coaching provides the MBA students in the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business.




    Eadine Hickey
    Eadine Hickey




    Eadine Hickey

    Leadership Coaching on the Smurfit MBA

    “Confidence building. Talking though ideas. Generating new solutions to problems. More Positive attitude.”
    (MBA Student 2010)

    One of my tasks as PPD coordinator is to set up a Coaching Programme for our students.  We do this every year towards the end of a student’s programme as in many ways it is seen as a culmination of their PPD work up to this point.  We offer every single MBA student here at Smurfit a personalised coaching programme.  Our Coaches are some of the best Business Leadership Coaches around, some of whom have come through our very own Executive Education Coaching Diploma Programme.

    We have positioned this Coaching series towards the end of a student’s MBA so that students can tie up the final threads or address the final challenges currently facing them prior to exiting their MBA.  It also allows them to focus more clearly on their outputs from the MBA and ensure they have maximised all the opportunities available to them here at Smurfit.  It often helps them to step back and look at things from a higher level.

    One of my challenges is to ensure that students understand what coaching is.  To do this, we visit the many MBA streams individually and make a short presentation to each class.  We need to be very careful about this because our key message is that at the heart of good coaching is self-direction.  Coaching is not mentoring and this is the true value of coaching.  You are shown how to arrive at solutions yourself without being told or given the answer by someone else – a very valuable skill for any future leader.

    Looking back at the Smurfit MBA Coaching Programme’s evaluation from last year, (we evaluate everything!):

    –   94% of respondents recommended Coaching on the MBA to future Smurfit MBA students

    –   90% of the Coachees found it useful and again the same 90% found it enhanced their PPD programme overall.

    –   88% said they would consider undertaking Coaching again in the future post MBA as it was such a positive experience

    Some qualitative feedback:

    “I think the biggest thing I got from the process was the feeling of being supported at that level by a Coach. I knew that I could bring an issue to the table and work through it to find some way forward as opposed to endlessly searching in a thousand different places for an answer.”

    “understanding my professional expectations after the MBA. better understanding of how the MBA can be applied. general career planning. understanding my leadership style.”

    In the coming weeks, we hope to get impressions from a Coach and a Coachee to get the inside story!

    – Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager