My GNAM Diary: A Week at Berkeley School of Business

A hidden benefit of doing a full-time MBA in UCD Smurfit comes in the form of GNAM week. “GNAM”, or Global Network for Advanced Management, is a network of leading global business schools who aim to drive innovation and create value by connecting with one another and sharing resources with their stakeholders over a week-long exchange in October.

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-43Of the 20-odd schools offered, the programme entitled ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ in the Berkeley School of Business blew me away. I was like a child on Christmas morning finding out that I had been accepted into this programme, which promoted itself as a deep dive into the Silicon Valley Innovation Ecosystem.

Prior to the program, we were assigned to groups and allocated an emerging Silicon Valley start-up company: in my case, water quality monitoring device firm “Osmobot”. I looked forward to a total immersion into the world of innovation and investment through the eyes of a start-up entrepreneur, hoping that by the end of the week long program, I would have a better sense of which identity—investor or entrepreneur—best suited me.

Arriving and Acclimatizing 

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-50After approximately 8 hours in transit from Dublin, Ken and I landed in Berkeley on Friday afternoon. The chill vibes of California’s student district were exactly what we needed to decompress after a busy 6 weeks of MBA_hood in UCD. The next day’s sparkling sunshine saw us through a walking tour of Berkeley campus–where I hugged a golden bear and got the impression that studying in Ireland could not hold a candle to the US experience. We concluded the day in the campus’s botanic gardens, where I particularly enjoyed the ‘medicinal gardens’, reminding me of my forsaken profession as a pharmacist. Ken reckoned the exhibits weren’t a patch on the Glasnevin equivalent. Sunday’s light hangover dissolved over brunch with our classmate Grace, who lured me out of Berkeley and onto a bike in San Francisco. It is hard to describe the feeling: freewheeling along the water’s edge in brilliant sunshine, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background!

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-42Day One 

After a jovial welcome reception in Haas School of Business on Sunday evening, we presented eagerly for breakfast and our first lectures on Monday morning. We spent the first half of the day focusing on entrepreneurship, customer identification, and company adaptation, while second half introduced us to Venture Capitalism. Practical examples from the faculty’s own experiences complemented detailed theory.

8ccd4e6f-ec6e-4a8e-aafe-33471ab4ace1Day Two 

Tuesday morning commenced with detailed and structured exploration of our allocated start-ups. Later, Professor David Charron interviewed a panel of venture capitalists from the Bay Area, who explained some hard truths about their careers–including expensive mistakes and missed opportunities.

The afternoon stole the show for me. Hopping on a luxury bus and heading downtown to San Francisco, we enjoyed some free time during which we made a visit to Union Square. Thereafter, we went to meet successful start-up, Ginger.io, which deals with mental ill-health using a tech platform, and met founder Karan Singh. We next went to tech super-power Salesforce’s office. Their luxurious office block—resembling a mini-theme park with friendly mascots and animal-themed merchandise on sale in their entrance area–dazzled even the locals among us.

Day Three 

During a lecture on building consumer profiles, Professor introduced the concept of diverging and converging: building ideas individually, and then bringing them together, towards improving a team’s creativity.

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-451While Monday and Tuesday had ignited my entrepreneurial gusto, the introduction to VC demonstrated that when it comes to investment, the investor tends to have the stronger hand. This stimulated two streams of thought. Firstly, perhaps being a VC is in fact a lower risk pursuit than being an entrepreneur? and secondly, being a good entrepreneur actually necessitates having a good understanding of investment models.

 Day Four 

On Thursday morning Stephen from Catering introduced me to the purple potato, which he served with other exotic varieties, seasoned and roasted – an awakening for my Irish taste buds, though I have long identified as a “potato expert”.

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-461In class, Dr. Vivek Rao guided us through refining the value proposition of a company – namely by assessing its desirability, viability and feasibility. From Vivek’s lively session, I understood how the “who” the product/service is just as important as the “how”.

Day Five 

Friday was the day the light shone on our diligent assignment work and presentation planning. We each pitched our classmates (“investors”) for fictious investment in our allocated start-up companies. We made a hard sell for our shrimp farm water-quality monitor (Osmobot). After 5 days of exploring founder Zach Stein’s product and business plan, I felt genuine passion towards the Osmobot and confidence regarding its future prospects. My classmates appeared marginally less convinced than my teammates and I, and we received no direct offer of $5 million for our proposed 20% company share!

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I was fascinated by the concept that as both an entrepreneur and a VC, you are constantly placing bets. From my cosy life as a pharmacist, where actions are generally deemed right or wrong by legislation, I felt an explosion of excitement at the risk involved in pursuing either entrepreneurship or VC. My risk-averse life experiences initially inclined me towards VC, but what really invigorated me was the concept of growing a simple idea into a business with the potential to have an exponential impact on the world.

The week concluded with a self-reflection session lead by Sara where we focused on “designing a life you love”. In a team setting, we explored our values and motivators as well as our view of work and of the world. Though challenging at times, this session ultimately provided clarity of thought. The humanity and morality of my classmates shone through. I shocked myself by shedding a few tears, in mourning for the meaningful work in healthcare that I have put on hold as I advance into the unknown of life beyond an MBA.

Final Ponderings 

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-48From exemplary lecturing and first-hand encounters with successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, to sharing state of the art facilities with a group of 49 other MBA students, there was nothing not to love about the whole Berkeley Haas experience. Returning to Ireland, I feel as though little seeds of ideas are beginning to sprout in my mind. Suddenly, anything feels possible as an entrepreneur. When I make my success in business, I know I will think of my GNAM experience as the week when the scope of life’s possibilities opened in front of me.

Siún Tobin, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

I was wrong.

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It all began so calmly. Eager and well-dressed, we met for the first time in the main hall of the business school campus. Flags of the world decorated the ceiling above us as we scanned the room with anticipation and nerves. There were a lot of suits in various shades of dark blue –these were MBA students.

I made it!

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I used to believe the beginning of something is always the hardest. If you can survive the first day –you’re half-way there. I left the first day of foundation week, with a relaxed-looking half-filled schedule and real excitement about the people I met. This MBA thing is going to be ok, easy, I got this.

I was wrong!

The second day arrived, and it was in my first Financial Reporting class that I realized how very wrong I had been. As the week continued, I grappled with the fact my Philosophy degree would not help me build a Balance Sheet. Turns out, I was not half-way there. In fact, “there” seemed to be very far away.

The weeks continued and my half-filled schedule took on a very different dimension, filling up with wonderous-sounding (although totally mysterious) activities like “Presenting for Success”.

img-20191104-wa0018Two months up; two exams down; two presentations out, four assignments in; a thousand Irish raindrops survived; and having discovered new grey hair—can’t turn back now.

img-20191103-wa0017As I write today, braced for the avalanche of upcoming deliverables, I know that I am not the same person that arrived on the first day. Certainly, I am less naïve (less arrogant). The UCD MBA is not easy—it is substantial. In addition to the practical tools gained, it is pushing me to grow and confront my own nature. Would not have guessed that I’d do an MBA to realize I’m a Panther-Peacock. Uncomfortable, but also true. I didn’t imagine that the MBA would be a crash course in team work. I certainly didn’t imagine that I’d join the rugby club.

img-20191026-wa0005As the only loud African woman in my class I also could not have imagined the kindness and support I have experienced here: the exceptional people I have met and the genuine friendships I have made. I am incredibly luckily that I will suffer, and survive, the remaining ten months of this program with a wonderful mix of people. It will not be easy and it will certainly be rainy but I am ready. We got this!

img-20191018-wa0010Sláinte all my Panther-Peacock-Dolphin-Owls… but NOT the Ostriches

Kendi M’Mbijjewe, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

Presentation Skills Session with Paul A. Slattery & the Team

“Omne Trium Perfectum’

This is the rule of three, which states that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying or effective than other numbers.

For example;

  • 1 second pause during the presentation speech helps the audience to hear,
  • 2 second pause helps them to process, and
  • 3 second pause helps them to feel

And remember, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

  • With 1 second eye contact, they know
  • With 2 second eye contact, they see
  • And with 3 second eye contact, they feel

Any eye contact of more than 3 seconds becomes a stare and gets creepy.. :-P

That’s one of the many lessons we learned from our session with the presentation skills team which includes three members Paul A. Slattery, Marie Lord and Ilaria Dondero

The team is led by Paul, who is the Founder & Managing Director of NxtGEN and an adjunct lecturer of the MBA leadership development program at UCD Michael Smurfit Business School.

I am sure some people would agree that it is a difficult task attending lectures from 9 AM to 6 PM, let’s not even talk about attending a single lecture for 9 hours. We had such a session with this team on 18th of September 2019.

But the time flew like a falcon and the session was over before we knew it. Various tricks used by the team during the presentation kept everyone at the edge of their seats and energetic during the whole session, like repeating sayings and famous quotes together as one group and several mindfulness exercises, such as, sitting on the edge of the seat and deep breathing, pattern claps, stand and celebrate like you just won the race of a lifetime etc.

This one-day session had a massive impact on all of us as we improved in different aspects. The whole session went by in a flash and at the end of it we were looking for even more. I guess Paul was completely drained  from the day though as we had to carry him on our back for the group photo.

…..And I would not blame him. After all, it’s not an easy task moulding half-baked pots.

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Lalit Saini, Full Time MBA 2019-2020 

MBA Graduation Ball 2018 – The End and The Beginning

And so it came to pass that the MBA class of 2018 gathered in the beautiful Thomas Prior Hall in Ballsbridge, to mark the conclusion of their studies at the Graduation Ball. While this was a pre-emptive acknowledgment, with final results not due to be released for another four days, the graduates-in-waiting turned out in number with unwavering confidence that they had successfully navigated their Capstone project and final modules.

On the surface, this was an opportunity for classmates who have not seen each other for a few months to get dressed up, pat themselves on the back and to have a good boogie.  In fact this event meant much more than that.

The ball marked the end of one or two years of immensely hard work and sacrifice; not just for the students, but for their partners, children, parents and friends. It marked the end of a journey of learning; about oneself, about teamwork, about leadership and about change. It marked the end of engaging lectures, expanding horizons and student discounts.

But it also marks a beginning. For many, the beginning of new jobs or roles, for others, the beginning of applying what they have learned in the workplace and the wider world.  There is a justified sense of optimism and confidence in this group in what they can achieve and the impact they can make as alumni.

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During the MBA, our classmates became our second family. Some weeks we spent more time with them than our first family. The bond and camaraderie forged through the demanding experiences of the MBA are strong. These are people we will always have time for, support and feel connected to.  While oceans may imminently separate us as a group, we will follow each other’s paths with interest and pride.

This year, the committee decided to support Fr. Tony Coote, a former Chaplin of UCD in his ‘Walk While You Can’ campaign. Fr. Tony is raising awareness and funds for Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Research Motor Neurone, having been diagnosed with MND in March of this year. Through the generosity of those at the ball, the sponsors and contributors of raffle prizes, nearly €4,000 was raised for this worthy cause. If you wish to make an on-line donation you can still do so via our iDonate fundraising page: www.idonate.ie/MBABallWhileYouCan2018.

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I would like to congratulate and thank my fellow committee members Stuart Garrett, Mary Sheehan, Gwen Morgan and Lucy MacAuley for their hard work in making the ball a fantastic success.

I would also like to congratulate and thank my classmates for making the decision to pursue their MBA, for their help and support along the way, for what they have taught me and each other, for the experiences we have shared and for their companionship on our journey of change and our new beginning.

“If we stay where we are, where we’re stuck, where we’re comfortable and safe, we die there. We become like mushrooms, living in the dark, with poop up to our chins. If you want to know only what you already know, you’re dying. You’re saying: Leave me alone; I don’t mind this little rathole. It’s warm and dry. Really, it’s fine. When nothing new can get in, that’s death. When oxygen can’t find a way in, you die. But new is scary, and new can be disappointing, and confusing – we had this all figured out, and now we don’t. New is life.” Anne Lamott

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Ian Rafferty FT MBA 2017/18

Smurfit MBA Programme – more than just Image

We are certainly in the thick of it now. Both MBA class of 2019 and EMBA class of 2020 have descended on Smurfit campus and it really feels as though we are here to stay. Give us a year, maybe two, and we will be ready to take on the world. Our introductory weeks to the world of business have been both intense and stimulating; and they have had to be. We have been invited to open our minds to unfamiliar territory, new subjects and theories, that many of us have not yet encountered in our working lives. Having completed just one year of Business Studies in secondary school, I am not only studying the modules on our syllabus, I am learning a new language. Duolingo, eat your heart out.

Since our introductory week at the close of summer, we have been acquainted with an abundance of brilliant, accomplished and engaging individuals. It is infinitely clear that these people want to be here – they want to teach us and show us the way. And they are just as eager to guide us on this journey as we are to follow them. Our lecturers thus far have been stupendous; they have been patient and supportive. In the typical sense, the lecture hall is reminiscent of my undergraduate years; there is oblivion of new before me, but I feel comfortable with it. My questions are welcomed with open arms. And, in contrast to my years as an undergraduate, I value my time in the lecture hall, I rarely check the clock. I am totally immersed in my new surroundings.

In many ways, it is a privilege to be here. Not only because I am in one of the top performing schools in the world but also because of the people surrounding me. My classmates as a whole have been open, honest, human and willing to help. We are a diverse bunch from a vast array of backgrounds – finance, law, medicine, sales, engineering and pharmacy, to name just a few. Each individual brings something new to the table and we continue to actively learn together. My study group cements our thoughts and ideas and facilitates further self-development. Every interaction is an education and, with Wonder Woman as our class representative, we can only imagine how fruitful the next two years will be. The bar has been set sky high.

Outside of the classroom and away from our study groups, we are invited to partake in all the extracurriculars Smurfit has to offer. The opportunities to network and expand our own worlds have been numerous. We have been strongly encouraged to join the tag rugby team and represent Smurfit on the world stage in Danville at the MBA Tag Rugby World Cup. We were invited to join those graduating from the MBA and EMBA classes of 2018 at their graduation ball. There has even been talk of the summer consulting trip next year. Getting involved is an essential part of the experience and I am excited about the prospect of expanding my horizon.

The transition to part-time student and fulltime juggler has been made almost seamless by the dedicated team the Smurfit school have chosen to oversee our progression through our MBA. Our programme managers and coordinator, the director, all have made themselves available to us since the introductory week and have continued to be active in our week-to-week schedules since. Apart from being professional at all times, approachable when a doubt arises, these people have been supportive and kind. But then, this does suit the overall climate here at Smurfit. Like our lecturers, they are helping us to navigate through the sometimes choppy waters that come with returning to education. We are lucky to have you onboard.

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The challenge of balancing work and life now demands I up a gear to include MBA on my action plan. Graduates tell me that our time management skills will improve as we move through the year; this is somewhat of a relief. With classes dominating Monday and Thursday evenings, work and all its associated pressures are confined to most other days and weekends. Giving myself permission to zone out is imperative. I continue to need to run, swim and cycle my way through the week. UCD’s gym and swimming pool have been welcome distractions and yoga helps when the Irish weather restricts my movements to the house. My friends, also, are an endless source of good clean fun. They have been not only encouraging of my decision to take the unconventional route, but some are as excited as I am about the world that is now at my fingertips.

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I feel fortunate in many ways. If it wasn’t for the scholarship provided by Image magazine to study in Smurfit, I would have struggled financially to keep myself afloat over the next two years. My sister was in Image once. Unfortunately, I will not be involved in the same capacity and I will never be able to fully repay the cost of the Smurfit experience. But I will endeavour to work hard, remain open minded and be the best self I can possibly be with the help of this great team. I am one in a group bright, driven and inspiring people and I am infinitely grateful for that.

Danielle Courtney, EMBA 2018/20

 

A lot to look forward to

The difficult decision of giving up an enjoyable job to pursue a full-time MBA is now a distant memory. Since commencing the MBA a month ago, there has been little opportunity to look back. The weeks have been full of new experiences and intense learning – exactly why I chose to take time out to pursue the best MBA that Ireland has to offer. The diversity in the class is incredible. The full-time MBA candidates have backgrounds ranging from medicine to finance and engineering. There is also a real sense of the global aspect of the Smurfit MBA, with candidates from countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America.

There is a lot to look forward to in the year ahead. It’s only two weeks until the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week kicks off and our class disperses around the globe. GNAM comprises of 30 leading business schools and gives MBA students the opportunity to study and network with counterparts in other GNAM schools. I will be joining 7 of my classmates in Yale School of Management for a module on behavioural science of management. With the itinerary now sorted, we have managed to squeeze in two nights in NYC. It promises to be an enjoyable week.

There is no less than three additional international trips planned for the busy year ahead. The international study tour (doing business in international markets) next March will see MBA candidates spending time in Asia (Singapore & Vietnam) or South America (Chile & Argentina) to learn about their respective business and cultural contexts. Next up, for those who subscribe to the not-so-intense training, will be the MBA Rugby World Cup in Danville, Virginia. An event which many past MBA’s describe as the best experience of a challenging year. Finally there will be the international consultancy project next June, where we will get to test out the skills we developed during the programme. If you’re considering a Smurfit MBA, ensure your passport is up to date, because you will need it.

International travel aside, career progression or career change (function, company or geography) is a big reason for choosing to pursue an MBA and it’s what we look forward to in the year ahead. On this front, much work has already begun. While many of us thought our CV’s were perfected for our applications, we have learned that we have much to do. We’re lucky to have a dedicated careers manager (Mark Davies) to support us. As Careers Rep, along with Ayush Yetchina, I work closely with Mark interfacing between the careers department and the MBA class.

I was fortunate to be offered the Sunday Business Post Scholarship which covered the full cost of my tuition fees. For those aspiring to undertake an MBA at Smurfit Business School, I would definitely encourage you to take action and make it a reality. Don’t be put off by the cost of a prestigious MBA, there are financial supports available. You will face some obstacles (GMAT, Essays & Interviews) along the way, but each is surmountable and there is plenty of support to help you through. Getting in contact with past MBA candidates is a great place to start.

Gerard Finneran, FT MBA 2018/19

 

An Aspire-ational Evening

Three weeks in, Foundation week’s all but a distant memory, those glorious sunny days manhandling our fellow classmates through “spider webs” all in the name of team-building, have now replaced by the shades of grey that is the world of financial reporting. Our days now revolve around the all-important individual group meetings, dividing up assignments and readings, and with the odd bit of filming thrown in to exercise our presentation and  directorial skills. Despite mostly being filmed on iPhones, don’t let the low-fi production fool you, the performances were truly Oscar worthy.

Against the backdrop of this mounting workload, came the welcome break of the Aspire Scholarship reception. The intensity and volume of work on an MBA is well documented, and yes, this is can be a challenge to balance at times, but nothing great develops in the comfort zone. Walking through the doors of the Laurence Crowley Boardroom on Tuesday evening to meet my fellow Scholars and Alumni, was the beginning of a valuable and lasting relationship with the programme. Any nervous tension that I had rapidly dissipated. The only way I can describe the room was like one large welcoming extended family. With initial introductions and formalities complete, came the opportunity to get to know past awardees a little better.

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While many scholarships only offer a financial reward, Aspire offers so much more. Over the course of the evening, it became quite evident that the network is the most valuable and enduring aspect of the scholarship. It is an honour to be awarded this scholarship and welcomed so graciously into this talented and successful group, this year reaching the one hundred mark. Throughout the year there are events organised, with key notes from business leaders and further networking opportunities.

I first heard of Aspire from a current scholar, shortly after receiving my place on the Smurfit MBA and I would strongly encourage any prospective MBA or masters student to consider applying. I know it is early days, but I can tell that applying is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I eluded to family earlier, and that is exactly what you get, from support and assistance to friendship. Having an external network to escape to the pressures of MBA life just for a casual chat or for support is a fantastic resource. We recently had a seminar on careers and how to network, detailing the importance of a large network in business, which absolutely holds merit, but I’d take the quality over quantity of Aspire any day.

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David Dowling FT MBA 2018/19

My first 2 weeks as an EMBA student

Hello, Jen Ward here. I am delighted to share my experience with you of the UCD Smurfit EMBA programme so far. Some of the lecturers said that after Foundation week we would understand why the UCD Smurfit School runs the best MBA programme in the country and it’s very true. Aside from the outstanding taster lectures and first week of core modules, after just 2 short weeks the people in my class already seem very familiar and I for one, feel fully immersed in the MBA learning experience. Here are just a few of the highlights so far:

Week 1  – Foundation Week.

The foundation week was not at all the gentle introduction to the MBA programme I had expected. Instead we were immersed in a jam packed daily programme of lectures, class discussions and networking activities from 8-6pm each day. On Monday we met a range of faculty members who would be delivering the MBA courses and co-ordinating the programme. We received our first insight into the MBA approach to learning from Professor Niamh Brennan, who gave us very clear instructions on the Do’s and ABSOLUTELY Do Not’s of Report Writing! We also had an informative presentation from recent MBA graduates who gave us some tips on how to work effectively in our teams.

On Tuesday, comfortable clothes and shoes were the order of the day. Little did we know that they were required because we would be carrying water on our heads, making giant body shapes blindfolded, solving oversized jigsaw puzzles and carrying some of our fellow class mates through giant spider webs before the day was out. It was an unusual but incredibly effective way to accelerate the process of getting to know each other and to break down the formalities of a big group of people that had just met for the first time the previous day!

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MBA Team Building Day

On Wednesday we had an 8 hour crash course in Financial Reporting from Dr. Colette Yeates, where I quickly realised that I was going to have to do a lot of work in this course having never had the opportunity to study Finance before!

On Thursday, alongside the fulltime MBA class, we were introduced to 4 quirky German and Dutch trainers that would transport us into a realm best summarised as a cross between Monopoly and the Hunger Games! Our mission was the profitable management of a manufacturing plant – sounds dull… it wasn’t! Each financial quarter flew by between copious tea breaks, and for many of the teams, our eagerness to win sales quickly drove our companies into the red. After being schooled in pricing strategy and cost of sale by DieTrainers, we fought our way out of bankruptcy as best we could. Needless to say, some of us have a lot to learn before we are unleashed on the real world!

We met Lucy Butters on Friday for a fascinating lecture on Cultural Intelligence. We learnt how it feels to be uncomfortable in a situation by having a conversation with someone less than 5 inches from each other and how to be adaptive in our communications to connect better with culturally diverse groups of people. The 2nd Year EMBA students shared some of their experiences of the course so far during a networking lunch. The final session of the week was a highly engaging workshop with Paul Slattery on ‘Presenting for Success’, which pushed each of us out of our comfort zone and towards satori – enlightenment no less! “Perfect is not the destination but the journey” was the resonating quote of the day.

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MBA Welcome Dinner 2018

Week 2  –  Semester 1 begins.

It’s now week two, and it has been tough figuring out how to balance a busy work schedule, getting to class on time, homework assignments and keeping up with family and friends. Sometimes I wonder how I will be able to fit everything in, but my motto has always been to tackle things day by day and week by week, and before long I will be in the swing of it. Taking on the classroom environment, the broad subject matter and the leadership development program is the opportunity of a lifetime and I am so grateful to have been accepted onto the programme. Although there is a lot to do, each and every experience has been interesting, challenging and worthwhile. The whole class are an incredible group of talented individuals and I know we will help each other though the countless readings, reports, assignments and presentations! I’ll leave you with this:

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Bye for now!

Jen Ward Mid-Week EMBA 2018/20

 

Céad Míle Fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes

What a great phrase this is, as well as being perfectly apt to describe what the beginnings of this MBA year has been for us all. Between the community in this village, fondly known as Dublin, and the many new faces being introduced in the halls of Smurfit, there have definitely been a hundred thousand welcomes.

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Most people run to the sun, but not me. Coming from Cape Town, South Africa, I packed my bags and headed north to begin a new chapter in Ireland. A warm welcome from my hosts made me instantly feel at home in my new surrounds. With a few days to spare I used the time to explore Dublin and productively “stalk” the profiles of my new classmates. Who were these people venturing on this journey with me? Are they crazy? Am I crazy? Let me not answer the latter.

And so, Foundation Week was here. Day one of school. Again, a hundred thousand welcomes. The feelings of excitement, curiosity, nervous energy and perhaps slight caution were all thrown together as we began our new walk together.

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After a long day of financial reporting, we had a day of being put through spiderwebs, making shapes blindfolded and trying to find some “Jedi”. Without anyone knowing each other, the beginnings of this camaraderie had begun. So far, so good.

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Next up was moving into Proby House. Here goes nothing. Six students of the MBA class moved into neighbouring apartments. The evenings were spent in a reasonably civilized manner drinking wine, introducing our best dance moves and getting to know people with different cultural backgrounds from different countries. I was in luck by landing in an apartment with an Indian and Kenyan roommate who both love cooking. Don’t worry mom – I’ll be “grand”.

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One thing that is confusing me is the Irish obsession with “Crack” (better spelt “Craic”). This comes up plenty and is seemingly always involving fun. Is this some secret the Irish have discovered to eternal happiness?

We have a diverse class from around the world, all with such interesting experiences and insight into life. Bonds and friendships seem to be forming fast as we begin to tackle the challenges of this year. We are all on the same page at “having the craic” and bettering our lives in whatever way Smurfit has in store for us.

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Hans Stauch FT MBA 2018-19

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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