Semester 1

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I still can’t believe it’s already been three months since I’ve started doing my MBA in Smurfit Business School! It seems like just yesterday I was back home in India thinking about which colleges to apply to, sending out applications, sorting out my Visa issues and deciding on a travel date. The whole anxiety of going to a new foreign country, making new friends, starting college once again and literally starting a whole new chapter in my life kept me awake at nights thinking whether I am making the right choice or not. But here I am three months down the line and I couldn’t have made a better decision!

From the moment I stepped out of the airport to date, it has been a roller-coaster ride. Each day in college has been unpredictable- making new friends, quarrelling over assignments etc. Though we have a timetable, we can still not be certain of when we are going to come back home each day. Every week is different from the previous week with new tasks and experiences. However, the best week for me so far was the GNAM Global Network Week in which we had an opportunity to meet students from different colleges across the globe. That week, we got an opportunity to extend our network beyond college as well as a chance to experience the Irish culture with events like a trip to “The Happy Pear” and trip to Guinness Storehouse.

Circa two weeks after GNW, we had our first end of term exam in the Financial Reporting module. It’s only been three months since the start of MBA and we have already completed two modules- GNW and Financial Reporting- so you can imagine the pressure of being an MBA student! The stress at times is immense but then it’s something we had already prepared for. This month is going to be the most hectic so far. We already have all our assignments lined up for submission and then end of term exams before we can finally get a Christmas break!

The best part about the whole experience is the feeling that I am a student once again and that thought makes me feel young. After obtaining my undergraduate degree and starting work, I never thought I’d have the patience to study once again and particularly a hectic programme like the MBA! Though it’s hectic, you’re not in it alone. Though the stress may be intense, you’ll always see an MBA student with a smile on their face. All the best to everyone for the upcoming exams! We’ve come through so far so we will survive this as well!

Aparna Godara ~ Full-Time MBA

Theme: Preparation!

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It’s an October day on campus at Smurfit Graduate Business School, and the MBA Class of 2017 have been at UCD for six weeks. The international students are getting to grips with the mercurial Irish weather and the Irish students are slowly coming to terms with Mayo’s disappointment in the All-Ireland. Summertime is officially over and it’s time to prepare for winter.

Preparation seems to be a theme this week!

First and foremost is preparation for the workplace. I’m a career changer: I studied medicine as an undergraduate, working as a junior doctor before coming to UCD. One of my priorities this year is explore my career options post-MBA.  Happily, Smurfit is making that task very easy.

At the start of term the Careers team circulated an MBA vacancy with a global brand, and I spent much of my Monday evening gearing up for a phone interview next week. There was plenty more to learn about potential employers on Tuesday, as a stellar lineup of firms sent representatives to Smurfit for the Audit & Consulting Recruitment Fair. With the graduate milk-rounds starting, we have a valuable opportunity to do some research ahead of the MBA hiring cycle.

Wednesday was entirely devoted to job-hunting skills with the fantastic Daniel Porot. We were in capable hands, learning from a speaker who works with 12 of the world’s top 20 MBA schools. I’ll have a chance to put M. Poirot’s advice into practice at the second recruitment fair of the week, which focuses on general business functions rather than professional services.

Planning a little more proximally, I’ve been finalising my travel plans for Global Network Week. Due to Smurfit’s membership of the Global Network for Advanced Management, full-time MBA students (and second-year EMBAs) get to spend a week in October participating in the GNAM Global Exchange. Many students opt for the programme hosted right here at UCD, others go to Yale, and a further cohort heads to IE in Madrid. Earlier this week, the destinations for our spring study tour were confirmed as Tokyo and Seoul; 32 of us came to Blackrock, but we’re getting to see the world!

Next Saturday, nine of us will fly out for an immersive exchange at Yale School of Management, studying Behavioral Economics, Marketing and Finance. We just received our schedules, which include a company visit day in New York. Some lucky scheduling means we’ll be able to catch up with UCD business alumni at the New York chapter’s annual benefit dinner, and find out exactly where our MBAs (and alumni connections) can take us.

Thirdly, as usual, I’m preparing for next week’s classes. My long-suffering boyfriend is resigned to the fact that my weekends will be primarily occupied with pre-reading and finance homework for the foreseeable future. Finally, though, I’m getting ready for a friend’s wedding reception on Friday afternoon, which should be a lovely occasion in Georgian Dublin – timely reassurance that normal life still continues during the MBA!

Laura Donaghy ~ Full-Time MBA

Moving Across the Atlantic for my MBA

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When I decided to do my MBA at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, I was excited and naturally a bit apprehensive to leave my comfortable life in Wisconsin to move across the Atlantic to a completely new country. The transition to Ireland was a lot easier than I could’ve imagined. I have moved countries once before and it was much more difficult. Maybe it is easier because I have done it once before, but I think it has more to do with the exceedingly nice Irish people. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and inviting. To me, the people make all the difference, and this experience has proved that to be true.

The structure of the program also helps with meeting everyone in the program. Foundation week has a lot of events that get everyone involved and the Leadership Development Program gets everyone working in various small groups and as one large group so everyone really gets to know each other. Also, the group work that is involved with the various assignments starts very early on which forces interaction with the other members of the program.

The group work is very rewarding and helps with developing the best ideas possible through discussion in a small group. It is not without its challenges, but the various workshops assist in team dynamic development. The group work was difficult in the beginning getting used to all the different work styles of the various members of the program, but it definitely does improve drastically and quickly over time if it is worked on and the rewards from efficient group work is worth all the effort.

David Camp ~ Full-Time MBA

Foundation Week & the start of the MBA

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When I embarked on my Smurfit MBA journey, I said I will start a blog. I didn’t expect the workload to be so high though.

Three weeks later I am posting my first blog entry. I am still very excited to share my experience with you, and I hope you are still interested in reading it. I promise writing more often and on time in the future.

Foundation week.

The foundation week is a pre-programme part of the MBA to get everyone to know each other, and get everyone “up and running”, as they say.

It definitely involved a lot of running! From Monday to Friday we spent all day from 8.00 to 18.00-19.00 at the school. The week was so intense and beneficial in terms of learning that at the end of it, it was hard to realize that the programme itself had not even started. I felt I already learned so much! It would be easier to describe the week day by day.

Monday

Monday was a “getting to know each other day” with programme directors and staff greeting us, several lecturers giving introduction to specific fields, as well as a bit of talk on leadership and the year to come.

I was positively surprised by the quality of lecturers and by the experience of my fellow classmates. I obviously knew Smurfit is one of the top schools, but the quality of lecturing turned out to be beyond any expectations! Also I was happy to get to know my classmates. People in this programme are probably a bit older and more experienced compared to many other MBAs. It seems that the average experience among full time cohort is about 8-10 years, while among the Executives about 10-12. I was very happy to be among people older than me, even though at first felt a little bit weird, recognizing I am one of the youngest and less experienced in the class.

Tuesday

Tuesday was Financial Reporting all the day. Boring, you might say, right? Yes, not the most exciting subject on Earth, I agree! That is why our class was amazed that our professor Niamh Brennan managed to keep our attention for the whole day! Truly fascinating, and it adds to my previous comment about the quality of lecturers.

Wednesday

Team building activities. Many people have certain stereotypes regarding outside team building activities. People would picture running around, doing crazy stuff with no purpose, falling on their backs and hoping their team mates would catch them.

This workshop was very similar and very different. We did a lot of outside activities: we solved puzzles, did physical exercise, and even walked around with our eyes blindfolded trying to form a certain figure. However, a very distinct feature of this particular workshop was that it served a purpose of understanding, how teams operate. The facilitator gathered us together after every activity, and we debriefed what happened. The lessons adaptable to real life would be evident afterwards.

For example, we were given a task in groups of 4 and 20 minutes to plan, how we tackle it. Then 5 minutes into the exercise we were approached and told that the task had been changed, and we will have to perform it with other 2 groups of 4. We would spend the remaining 15 minutes still in the same group of 4, planning the task. When the time to perform comes, we would not perform well enough, of course.

Why is it so? Because we were blind to see that 5 minutes into the task our group has changed, and instead of planning in a group of 4, we should be planning in a group of 12. Now think how often you experience at your job that two departments (say sales and marketing) are doing something on their own? This funny experience in an outdoor game was a good illustration of how groups of people fail to see what are the boundaries of the team.

Friday

Thursday was a business simulation that I will not go into details about just to save your reading time. One distinct feature about that day was that it was my birthday, which I celebrated by getting a 2 for 4.25 EUR salad deal from Marks and Spencer.

Friday was another day full of highlights. First we had a workshop on listening and personality types (Myers Briggs). I think it might be because of the background of trainers in psychology, but they delivered the best workshop on listening and personality types I have ever seen (out of at least 3). The personality types was a more interesting part. They explained what it means, how it affects the working preferences, as well as sources of stress for various types. We didn’t do the test, but they explained each component and two extremes so well that my self-assessment completely corresponded to the results of the test I took later.

After lunch we had a presentation skills workshop. Again, when you have attended several poorly delivered presentation skills workshops, there is not much to expect. However, this one was brilliant! I did a lot of debating during my undergrads, and speaking in public is never an issue for me. I learned loads of useful tips and information from the workshop. It was not only the information, but also real time interaction, practicing, and coaching that turned the knowledge into practice. Now that we also had a second workshop in week 2 of studies, I see that not only me, but every single person in the class massively improved their presentation skills.

Cheers Smurfit for the fun and beneficial week! Thumbs up for the quality! We ended the week with a visit to a local pub, as Irish traditions require.

First weeks of studies

I am now in my third week of studies, and I will not lie, if I say I have mixed feelings about it. The quality is outstanding and beyond any expectation! People in class, lecturers, learning environment, and leadership workshops contribute massively to my development. I feel like an empty book shelf, gradually being filled with new skills and knowledge. I will write separate entries on the class, subjects/lecturers, and the leadership development part of the programme. The downside to this is that I find myself studying literally for 12-14 hours on most days. “Gotta run and keep going” I suppose! At least I know that all the effort put into studies will benefit my development.

I think it is enough of reading for the first entry. In the future, I promise to write shorter articles. I plan to write on several topics: (i) why I chose Smurfit; (ii) about the class, lecturers/subjects, and other components of the programme, so that people considering MBA in the future are better informed about Smurfit; (iii) about scholarship opportunities here and at other institutions, and why you don’t necessarily need to pay 100K+ for a degree.

Cheers for now!

Nikita Pusnakovs ~ Full-Time MBA

Check out Nikita’s Blog ‘MBA In Ireland’ here

The Irish Times Executive MBA Scholarship

 

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UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is delighted to partner with The Irish Times to offer readers the chance to win a scholarship to cover full tuition fees for a part-time Executive MBA at UCD Smurfit School, worth €30,700.

Over four weeks from Friday January 15th to Monday February 8th applicants have the chance to answer 3 GMAT questions. Applicants for the scholarship must answer the three questions correctly, submit a short form, complete a short essay and submit a copy of their CV.

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Those who answer the questions correctly will be asked to submit a full MBA application form if they have not already done so. These will be assessed and successful candidates will be invited for interview. The best candidate will win the overall scholarship prize.

Hear from previous Irish Times Scholarship winners:

 

How to Apply:

Entrants to the scholarship competition must complete the online application form before the deadline of Monday 8th February 2016.

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As part of the application process you will be asked to submit (a) personal information, (b) your current CV, (c) employer information (if applicable), (d) education/qualifications (e) a 400 word essay and (f) answers to 3 GMAT questions.

APPLY NOW

Before commencing your application, please review the entry criteria and terms and conditions.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Marketing & Events

Reward and Sacrifice

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Heat is one of my favourite films of all time. It’s a classic tale of cops and robbers, except with everything turned up to eleven. Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino both give stellar performances as antagonist and protagonist, ably assisted by Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore. Meanwhile, director Michael Mann brings the plot of high-stakes crime to life with a sober crispness that has each scene brimming with energy. It’s arguably his magnum opus, and I urge you to watch it if you haven’t already. Handy tip: if anyone levels accusations of laziness at you while watching it, you can tell them that it’s an artistic study of the risk/reward curve.

One of Heat’s greatest successes is marrying high-octane action with a mature reflection on sacrifice and isolation. Both antagonist and protagonist have chosen to channel their time and energy, perhaps even their life itself, in pursuit of excellence in their chosen profession. As they reach the twilight of their careers, the question that has reared its unwelcome head is whether or not what they have sacrificed is worth what they have gained. DeNiro’s character is a career criminal who has already experienced life behind bars, and is, unsurprisingly, not overly eager to return to that environment. As a result, he now lives his life by the creed of never getting attached to anything that he isn’t willing to walk out on in thirty seconds flat, should any threat arise. Given his chosen method of putting bread on the table, it’s hard to argue with his solitude-espousing philosophy. In his world, emotional attachments are a weakness that can be exploited.

As detached from our reality as the film’s premise is, the issues of reward and sacrifice that the film explores are something to which we can relate. We all volunteered to do an MBA because we believe that the subsequent reward will be worth the substantial sacrifices that we’ve made. We should all make sure, though, that the sacrifices we’re making are the right ones. Never forget that you’ve chosen to surround yourself with some of the most diverse, brightest and ambitious people you’ll ever meet. Just like Porter’s Five Forces, or an NPV model, those people will help you become a better, more insightful and more complete person.

In ancient times, the Celts used to build crannógs – dwellings built in a river or lake – to afford themselves protection. To successfully traverse the river or lake, the owners often used stepping stones that were hidden underwater, out of sight. Without knowing exactly where the stones lay, the inevitable result for any would-be intruder was, at best, an unwelcome dunk in icy water. Imagine that the crannóg is your chosen goal and the body of treacherous water is the lifetime of difficult decisions and unexpected problems that you have to negotiate to successfully arrive at your destination. The people you’ll meet while doing your MBA are like the hidden stepping stones. You can ignore them and make your journey more difficult for yourself, or you can take the time to discover more about them and see how they might be able to help you on your way.

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The importance of building your emotional and social support network cannot be overestimated. Much like investing for your financial future, the best day to start building that support network was yesterday. The second best day to start is today. In five or ten years, people in your class unfortunately won’t recall that amazingly insightful presentation you gave on EVA. They will, however, remember that you took the time to really get to know them, and they just might be there to give you a helping hand when you need it most. Michael Porter’s journal articles probably won’t be quite as quick to answer your telephone call in your hour of need.

Keith Boyle ~ Executive MBA

Wings for Life World Run

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Red Bull Wings for Life Run is happening on 3 May 2015 in Dun Laoghaire. The MBA Social Outreach Society and MBA Golf Society have joined forces to run on behalf of World Sports Team.

http://www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/int/en/race-with-the-world-in-2015-wings-for-life-world-run/

The concept is, you set a goal/distance and try to reach it before the chaser car gets to you! It’s a pretty cool/fun run that takes place all over the world.

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This run aims to raise awareness and funds for people who can’t run. Moreover, the spinal chord research and support aligns well with World Sports Team’s mission to build a network for people who suffer catastrophic sports injuries.

By the way, your goal doesn’t have to be huge! If you are interested in joining us you can register here and then join the team once you’ve completed registration.

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Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full Time MBA

China; A Nation of Contradictions

Visit to the Great Wall - March 2015

China is a nation of 1.3 billion contradictions.

It is governed by a Communist party but is fundamentally capitalist. It wants to open up more to the world, but censorship is everywhere. The government has vowed to crack down on internal corruption and yet, instead of focusing their attention within their own borders, they have reportedly asked the British government for help in extraditing around 50 ‘foxes’ who have fled to the UK.

These discrepancies were to the forefront of my mind as myself and around 60 class colleagues departed for Shanghai and Beijing on an eight day intensive study tour as part of the MBA programme at UCD’s Smurfit School.  While we could only hope to see a snapshot of the country in such a short period of time, we were keen to absorb as much information as possible about the local culture and how to operate within their business environment. It is likely that many of the class will be working within the Chinese market after graduation, or dealing with Chinese counterparts. So any experience or insight gained as part of the Doing Business in Emerging Markets module, could prove invaluable.


The steel making process at BaoSteel

During the trip we visited a number of companies including CICSO, youku, ChinaHR and BaoSteel. The difference between the indigenous Chinese companies and those which were owned and/or operated by Westerners, was marked. In the West we are accustomed to a certain level of candor – and irreverence – but that is not part of the Chinese culture. While this is something Western business people struggle with, it is also something which we must accept. The way they do business is very different and as ingrained within their culture as our methods are within ours.

Take for example, the different ways in which business deals are struck. While in the West we prefer to get down to business and agree a legal contract as quickly and efficiently as possible, business is done differently in the East. They prefer to build a relationship first, with negotiations taking a long time – and even when a contract is signed, it could be changed. While the these methods seem diametrically opposed, it is testament to the desire of companies and individuals on both sides to do business – and make money – that they somehow surmount their differences and go into business together.


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But of course, the entire module wasn’t only about business – it was also about finding out more about the culture (via shopping and visiting restaurants), climbing the Great Wall of China, and finally, finishing the week on a high at the Beijing St Patrick’s Day Ball. There were some sore heads on the flight home the next morning, but we also brought back with us some new insights into China, and a desire to learn more about emerging markets and the possibilities which exist within them.

Edel Kennedy ~ Full Time MBA

Sojourn to China – A Lifetime Experience

This sojourn to China proved to be an eye-opening experience for me as I found the tour beneficial for my career, and educational on a personal level. This international study trip is a brilliant idea to ensure that MBA students are well rounded both academically and practically. Visiting emerging markets such as China and South Africa (members of the BRICS countries) is very relevant at this time as it will assist Smurfit MBA students to appreciate different business environments, and allow them to apply what they have learnt during the tour.

The trip was an incredibly valuable experience and pivotal in my MBA journey.  It served to de-mystify China while bringing forth the true challenges of the very real global business environment that China often represents. With visits to excellent companies such as CISCO, IBM, HUAWEI, YOUKU, CELAP, and BAOSTEEL, we had the opportunity to discover what operating in China and navigating the international marketplace is truly like.

Furthermore, the trip provided a tremendous opportunity to network with and to develop closer relationships with my classmates.  Smurfit School’s ability to lay out such a well-organized and well-thought-out experience reflected the professionalism and quality of the School.  I was absolutely thrilled with the study trip.

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CELAP visit
CELAP visit
IBM visit

This International Study Trip to China was truly the pinnacle of my MBA experience. While I’ve had prior international experience working with Western European countries, I had very little previous exposure to business in China. Having the opportunity to visit on site with several different Chinese businesses, in different cities, in different industries and attend lectures given by experts in Chinese culture, technology, HR and manufacturing has dramatically broadened my understanding of both the opportunities and challenges of doing business in China. The trip provided an exceptional view of the Chinese business environment and how it intersects with culture and government. The insights I gained on this trip will certainly serve me well as a future manager in a global context.

Apart from business studies, we also enjoyed the breath-taking sightseeing, Chinese folk culture, and exquisite Chinese cuisine, all of which enriched our China tour and made it a lifetime experience.

Deepak Sharma ~ Full time MBA Student

The MBA Experience Curve


Time is Precious



It’s fair to say, that despite lots of warnings, most of us were at various stages during the first semester almost overwhelmed by the time constraints involved in holding down a fulltime job, completing an MBA and having some semblance of a personal life. We knew it was going to be a substantial commitment but nothing really prepares you adequately for it until you actually go through it.  As a result, many of us have been forced to significantly ramp up our productivity levels in order to meet our various deadlines. Fortunately we learned something about this in our first case study in Competitive Strategy. Well, sort of.

The experience curve is an idea developed by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in the mid-1960s. The more experience a firm has in producing a particular product, the lower are its costs. Bruce Henderson, the founder of BCG, put it as follows: “Costs characteristically decline by 20-30% in real terms each time accumulated experience doubles. This means that when inflation is factored out, costs should always decline. The decline is fast if growth is fast and slow if growth is slow”.

The ‘cost’ to an MBA student is undoubtedly time, which pretty much evaporates. However, all is not lost. The Christmas break, after the shock treatment of semester one, has allowed many of us to apply the various productivity lessons that we have learned. At our Christmas drinks party one classmate revealed that he recorded himself reading his notes so that he could listen to them while in the car commuting to work each morning and then to class that evening. Another classmate then revealed that she had discovered an app that reads PDF files to you, which she also listens to in the car, however saving her the time necessary to record herself reading those same notes. The MBA experience curve in action.

Conor Connolly ~ Year 1 Executive MBA