Another 38 Suitcases in Another Hall

UCD Smurfit students with Irish Ambassador to Argentina Jackie O'Halloran
UCD Smurfit students with Irish Ambassador to Argentina Jackie O’Halloran on our first full day

My friends all tell me that I have the best answer to ‘what’s the last thing you did before everything shut down?’, and I have to agree: the last thing I did before shutdown was accompany 36 MBA students and Professor Karan Sonpar on their Doing Business in International Markets study tour to Buenos Aires. I asked the students to share some of their memories–and favourite photos–from that experience:

Colourful storefront in La Boca
Colourful storefront in La Boca

I always had this dream of going to Argentina someday because of its history, politics and of course football. My best memory of visiting Argentina would be visiting the tomb of Eva Peron and visiting La Boca. Of course one of my top experiences of all time would include the Friday night Tango. It was unreal. With a little too much alcohol in the belly, I was finding it difficult to comprehend if the entire performance was real. I would definitely go back to Buenos Aires to re-live the memories. 

Subhajit Dasgupta, FTMBA Student

Welcome dinner at La Malbequeria
Welcome dinner at La Malbequeria

Apart from the amazing food, wine, and tango show, my favorite part was talking with the locals on the street. They were very willing to express their insight of the local economy and were extremely interested in our outsiders’ opinion of their country. This reinforced the importance of understanding the human element behind business theory. 

Caroline Shakour, FTMBA Student

It was an amazing and culturally rich experience from the moment we landed on the Sunday morning. The Argentine people were warm and very welcoming despite all the country has been through politically and economically over the last few decades.

The closing night exhibition at Tango Porteno
The closing night exhibition at Tango Porteno

Buenos Aires in particular was very European but with a Latin tango twist!!

One night six of us had dinner costing over 10,000 pesos – it was crazy as we were counting the notes in 500 denominations – first real experience of such wild inflation.

–Peter McGarvey, EMBA student

A last-minute tour to Buenos Aires' solid waste management plant, which includes a wildlife preserve built on top of a landfill.
A last-minute tour to Buenos Aires’ solid waste management plant, which includes a wildlife preserve built on top of a landfill.

Unexpectedly, one of the visits which I most enjoyed was the visit to the waste management plant. It was interesting to see how the different types of waste are handled and how the landfills can be covered in grass and made to look like nature reserves when full. I think having tours to sites such as this really emphasises the need to reduce waste production and recycle. It is something I think everyone should see. 

Keelin O’Connor, FTMBA Student

The first thing which I learnt about Argentina after reaching there was that it is pronounced as Arr-khen-tina (stressing ‘r’ more). The natives of the place pronounce it that way. In fact, while pronouncing any word which contains the syllable “r”, ‘r’ is stressed upon heavily. 

Steaks and sausages being prepared for our lunch at Estancia Santa Susana
Steaks and sausages being prepared for our lunch at Estancia Santa Susana

Agriculture forms 60% of the economy of Argentina. Also, in Argentina, maximum taxes are paid by the people who are involved in the farming sector. Hence, Agriculture is a very important part of the economy of Argentina. It was very interesting to know that the popularity of a meat depends upon how cheap it is and how many resources are used to produce it.

From Empanadas to Beef steak, from Boca to River Plate, from the stay in Alvear Art Hotel to the Tango dance, everything has been perfect. Amazing food, lovely people, and a rich culture. Another thing was “Empanadas”. Empanadas are common in the culture of Latin America. They are filled up with cheese, or beef, or some other kind of meat. They have the shape which are similar to that of “Ghujiyas” in India.

Aishwarya Mehrotra, FTMBA Student

Hard at work.
Hard at work

We had our last day in Argentina at Sumando Energías – Service Learning Project. Our one-day workshop was to learn how to take advantage of solar energy by building a solar heater and a shower for a family of five. One of the best parts was that all the raw materials used came from industrial and/or domestic waste. So we were converting or reusing what would have otherwise gone into landfills. We were divided into tables each having a simple task like cutting and shaping bottles or assembling the painted bottles.  It was interesting to see how the process unfurled. When it started, everyone just picked a table and did whatever was closest to them. There was not a lot of coordination amongst the different tables.

Hard at work
A student team

However, as we started working, we fell into some sort of pattern. For example, in the table I was at, we rearranged ourselves so that we were working in a sequence. One would cut the bottle, then pass it to the next person to shape it, then it would be passed for sanding and finally to the person stapling it. And after that, we were so much faster. It was like seeing a real-life operations change take place.

Sreelakshmy Koonath, FTMBA Student

Heading home
Arriving home

I think I speak for all of us when I say that we all learned a lot about flexibility and professionalism from watching our travel partners, the educational travel company The Austral Group, adapt to circumstances that changed by the day as the world came to grips with the spread of Covid-19.

The whole trip flowed like a well-executed tango.
The whole trip flowed like a well-executed tango.

From the first day, companies faced increased restrictions on large meetings, and Austral quickly and efficiently replaced what had been cancelled with new tours and company visits. Where possible, the team replaced physical meetings with virtual visits to our hotel conference room. Juan, Sofia, and the team also dealt with a variety of flight booking changes, as Argentina moved to restrict travel and some Smurfit travelers (myself included) found that the school closings in Ireland made it imperative that we get home as soon as possible.

Experiencing such an historic moment definitely added an educational layer to our visit to this historic city.

–Kathryne Del Sesto, Project Manager, UCD Smurfit MBA Programme Office

This is what we train for.

The Doing Business in International Markets Scandinavia Study Tour with the Sibelius Monument in Helsinki, Finland
The Doing Business in International Markets Scandinavia Study Tour with the Sibelius Monument in Helsinki, Finland

Eighteen of us boarded a plane to explore the cultural, economic, and structural differences of Stockholm and Helsinki. Well that was was part of it. A good week away getting to know your peers was also high on the agenda. 

By the time we returned from our study tour the world had changed. Governments were closing US and European airspace, cities across Europe were beginning to go into lockdown, and the global economy was about to experience the biggest shock since the Great Depression. Preserving life was all that was important. The financial cost would be counted later. 

Your first thought, of course, is to ensure your family and friends are safe, and that all preventative efforts are being taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. But part of your mind can’t help but think: how will this impact my industry, my company, and my job?

Anticipating a crisis such as this swayed me to take on the EMBA 18 months previously. The world will throw many challenges at us, both personally and professionally. All we can do is ensure we have a breadth of experiences and skills to take them on.

So, unknown to us at the time, we were in Stockholm and Helsinki building the relationships, gaining the experiences, and developing the skills we would need to pull ourselves and our companies out of this crisis.

The group at the Ice Bar
The group at the Ice Bar

Now I’m not sure if you can call swimming in the 2℃ Baltic Sea as crisis preparation but it surely did build character. In particular, it told a lot about people’s characters as they scrambled over each other competing to get out of the water! Thankfully we had access to one of Finland’s 2 million saunas to recover. Burgers and beers may also have helped! 

Transformation was the topic of the moment for the companies we visited. Everyone is striving to shift their focus to address a pressing issue in the way their companies react to world changes. For example, Nokia is trying to overcome the trauma from their failure to adapt to the transformation of the smartphone market, and reinvent themselves in the mobile network technology market. 

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ICEYE, a satellite radar imagining firm, is re-defining the satellite imagery market by providing governments and businesses timely satellite images to enable them to make better-informed business decisions. Their satellite images can even be used to calculate the world’s stockpiles of oil or steel! Supposedly their images can detect the height of an oil silo’s roof, telling how full it is.

Even the central bank of Finland, Bank of Finland, was looking to transform. Their focus was on restructuring the economy to ensure they can tackle the impending pension crisis.

Each company we visited was pushing the boundaries in which they operate. Over the next few months, we will all need to do the same and continue to do so. The world is ever-shifting and we need to keep shifting with it.

Ruan Dillon McLoughlin, Executive MBA 2020

Generosity of Spirit: 6 Lessons I’ve Learned About Nurturing Effective Teams

The team!
The team!

My MBA journey thus far has provided me with so many new insights. One of the lessons I have valued the most was not taught in the classroom or by faculty, but by my peers. I have been lucky this term to be part of a project team made up of a diverse set of backgrounds: a doctor, an engineer, an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist; and myself, a solicitor. Whilst I have worked in multi-disciplinary teams in my past career as a solicitor, this team takes it to a whole new level. Not only do they each have something different to offer during our team meetings, but each individual has also taught me so much.

The following are some of the lessons that I have learned:

  1. Empowerment– Each member of our team has a voice when it comes to making a team decision, and never has to doubt their opportunity to share that voice.
  2. Trust and Respect– Trust makes each individual member stronger. We can rely on each other’s abilities and strengths, which in turn has allowed us to achieve our goals. Furthermore, we respect each other’s input during discussions and listen to each other.
  3. Diversity– We recognise, and utilise, each individual’s strengths, talents and skills. Each team member has a specific skill set, background and way of thinking that brings something different to the table during discussions  and results in a more effective team.
  4. Honesty– No one is afraid to offer their opinion if they are unhappy with any aspect of a task. We can openly discuss and agree on common goals. This allows us to work effectively and efficiently on tasks.
  5. Fun– From day one when we were completing our team charter, we made a specific note to ensure that we had fun during the semester. We were conscious that the workload can get intense but that it was important to inject some enjoyment in to our schedule. We are only two months in to semester 2 and have already organised a team hike to Seefin Passage Tomb in Co. Wicklow! It is important to realise that there is a life outside of college and this helped us to bond as a group.
  6. Celebrating Achievement – As a team, we recognise the need to collectively celebrate every success along this journey, whether that be by words of support following a presentation or going for drinks after submitting a report. This has helped us to remain motivated and increased team morale.

 

At the beginning of term we were asked to choose a team name. We chose Generosity of Spirit. Reflecting now on this name, I can see that a successful team is just that: a team where everyone can feel empowered to share the very best of themselves.

Anita Puri, Full-time MBA 2019-2020

My Exciting Smurfit MBA Journey So Far

I have worked as a mechanical engineer within the power industry for the past 17 years and decided to do the full-time MBA to build on my business experience. Although I have only completed the first semester so far, I can already say that the UCD Smurfit MBA course provides an excellent set of business tools and has already opened many opportunities. 

It was a bit daunting to get back into student life after so long away, but the orientation week and support from the college made the process seamless. The classes are small, so you get a great chance to develop a bond with each class and can easily interact with the professors.

ken-at-berkeleyI have had some great experiences in the MBA. I got the amazing opportunity to participate in the GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) week at Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley–you can learn more about that week here.

I currently interact with students throughout the world via an online course on Corporate Entrepreneurship at EGADE business school at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, which is also facilitated by GNAM.

The UCD MBA Entrepreneurship Club, which I serve as a board member, has proved to be a great opportunity. The college has assembled an advisory board from government agencies, SMEs, and start-ups, to provide connections for the club members. We have arranged one event so far that brought in Conor Hanley to give us a fascinating talk about his entrepreneurial adventures within the medical device arena.

students-with-ambassadorIn November, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Edward F. Crawford visited the Smurfit campus to speak about his fascinating entrepreneurial journey. He met specifically with members of the Entrepreneurship Club before the presentation.

Participation in the MBA includes access to Executive Coaching and an assigned business mentor. I am taking full advantage of both options. The coach acts as a sounding board and offers help with my career direction. The mentor, provided through Career Services, is an experienced UCD alumni from the power industry, so will be another great resource.  

I have also arranged to put what I’ve learned in the MBA directly into practice by providing some consultancy work to an energy company based in UCD’s start-up hub UCD Nova.

As the MBA programme at Smurfit has an international focus, I am preparing for a trip to Argentina next month for the hands-on ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ module. In June, we’ll travel to Lisbon, Portugal for a week of consulting assignments with local businesses.

I could not more highly recommend the UCD Smurfit MBA. It provides an exceptional opportunity to build your business and personal skills, while becoming part of an extensive alumni family. 

Kenneth Power, FTMBA 2019-2020

From the Newsroom to the Boardroom, as told to Business Because

If you’re reading the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School blog, chances are you’re thinking about how an MBA can help you progress in your current career–or find an entirely new one.

A UCD Smurfit MBA alumna recently talked to MBA Guidance website Business Because about how her degree helped her transition from her journalism career to a position in the sustainable energy industry.

edel-kennedy-headshot

After years as a journalist at the Independent, Edel Kennedy was ready to bring her storytelling and communications skills to the business arena. In order to do that, she needed to enhance those skills with training in areas such as accounting, finance, and business strategy.

Edel completed her studies in 2015 and now serves as Head of Marketing at UrbanVolt, a ‘full solution sustainability partner’ that works with large companies to help them rapidly reduce their carbon footprints.

You can read more about Edel’s journey from the newsroom to the boardroom here!

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.

danielle-courtney-ball

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