A Walk Down Memory Lane of Recent Irish Economic History

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Kevin Cardiff of the European Court of Auditors addresses the Dean’s Speaker Series

The Dean’s Speaker Series had another event last Wednesday when Kevin Cardiff of the European Court of Auditors and also Auditor of the European Stability Mechanism visited Smurfit School. The Dean, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh welcomed Mr. Cardiff to Smurfit. Mr. Cardiff is a decorated senior civil servant and regaled attendees with a detailed summary of economic history in recent decades, spanning the 1992 currency crisis and various iterations of the ERM up to the recent financial crisis of 2008 and beyond.

In a detailed address resembling memoirs, Mr. Cardiff described the tribulations of the 1992 currency crisis in fine detail – featuring newspaper clippings of the big events at the time including the days of major turmoil for Sterling and the Púnt, including the devaluation of the Púnt. He also touched on the advent of the Maastricht Treaty and the departure from the single currency of certain countries in its early days.

Black Wednesday

Mr. Cardiff described in detail the events of the 16th of September 1992, when the United Kingdom withdrew from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. What happened on this day was that Sterling had come under pressure from speculators who had begun a massive sell-off and the UK Government raised interest rates from an already high 10% to 12% with a promise that they would raise further to 15%, in a scenario that was unfolding by the hour. One of the causes of the acuteness of the crisis was the rules of the ERM, particularly that the Bank of England were required to accept any offer to sell Sterling.

The eventual advent of the European single currency was also addressed by Mr. Cardiff. He highlighted the widening of fluctuation bands via the Brussels Compromise of 1993 and Stages II and III of ERM, when mutual exchange rates between member currencies became fixed and the physical currency was introduced in the form of notes and coins.

Mr. Cardiff also gave a detailed review of the events of the financial crisis of 2008, including key developments in relation to the recapitalisation of financial institutions, which he also deals with in his book, “Recap”.

A short question and answer session followed Mr. Cardiff’s address, when the recent event of Brexit was noted and a discussion was had around the future for the European Union. All in all, the event was a thought-provoking and interesting perspective on recent economic history and food for thought in terms of what will happen next in the EU with respect to both regulatory developments and the overall structure of the Union.

Ciarán O’Shea ~ Year 2, Executive MBA

Road to the World Cup

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How many people get the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Not many. How many people would like the opportunity to play in a World Cup? Everybody you would imagine? Surprisingly that is not the case. Apparently many are only interested if it’s an all-expenses paid free ride.

This year we were much later getting started than the groups of other years. This was probably due to each of us waiting for someone more experienced than ourselves to take charge. Eventually, fearing that it would not go ahead at all I decided to have a go at getting it started. This was quite successful, 9 likeminded MBA students attended the first meeting with the collective goal of getting to Duke. We formed a committee and ran through a basic outline of tasks that were critical to success. These were focused on two main streams: fundraising and training. We knew we needed MSc students for not only numbers but also for skills. We quickly held meetings with those interested to get them on board.

As January drew to a close we were acutely aware of the need to get training immediately. This presented two main challenges. The first was finding an experienced coach to train us and the second was finding a rugby pitch to train on. We interviewed Warren Gatland but he said he was too busy preparing for the Lions tour and Joe Schmidt said he was fully committed to Ireland setup. Luckily we secured the services of David Mannion (Current Monkstown & Ex Leinster Juniors Coach). Securing a pitch was more difficult. Unfortunately we were told categorically by the IRFU that the Aviva was off limits until the summer and the GAA told us no more rugby would be played in Croke Park unless the World Cup 2023 bid was successful. We looked closer to home. We were denied a spot in Belfield due to the high volume of activity on the pitches including believe it or not American Football. Fortunately, through our coach we secured the use of Monkstown’s ground for training.

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Obviously sending a team to the U.S. is not cheap. There is the cost of flights, accommodation, transfers, insurance, tournament entry, jerseys, medical equipment, food amongst other things. Fundraising is key to the success of it all. The earlier you start, the easier it will be. It’s certainly not an easy task. Begging people, even Alumni, for money is a challenge in itself. It’s even harder when they say no. Although you are asking on behalf of the college it is still quite difficult not to take the rejection personally. Nevertheless, you must pick yourself up and ask again. We are hugely grateful to all of our sponsors, particularly Sinnotts Bar for being our main sponsor, they backed us early when finances were looking bleak. Without them we would almost certainly not be going.

We also held a table quiz. We hit up our family, friends and classmates to dig deep into their pockets and back us financially. The response was overwhelmingly brilliant. People came in their droves and the venue was packed to the rafters. It’s great to see that those who know us believe in us.

We made it crystal clear from the beginning that players would need to cover their own flights. Although this was not the ideal situation, it was useful for separating out those who were serious about competing and those who were just looking for a free ride. This was tested further when it came to paying for the flights where more people dropped out. Thankfully we had a core group that believed in one another and in our ability to get this off the ground and they all committed their money. I believe the group is stronger because of this and we know that those who have committed are serious.

With less than a week remaining until the tournament, now our focus is on player management, specifically how we will need to be smart to try and avoid injuries and keep our composure whilst playing numerous games in the heat. Hopefully the next blog I write will be telling positive tales of the tournament. A ferocious amount of work has been done by everybody to get us this far. Please wish both teams (men’s and women’s) well.

Cathal Murphy ~ Full-Time MBA

The Icing on the Cake

 

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Tokyo, Japan

After a grueling first semester and when it again began to look all too busy in the second half of the MBA, there came this opportunity to travel down to the Asian giants – Japan and South Korea. The experience could not have been more insightful had it not been earned from within their courtyards. It was time to unleash how Japan has been the front-runner in giving leading technologies, manufacturing methods and services across the globe. It was time again to get acquainted to how South Korea, after having gone through such a tortured past amidst the hostility of North Korea, picked up itself in becoming a leader in telecommunications, electronics and auto-mobile industry. Finally, the pleasant wait was over when the MBA caravan landed in Tokyo on March 12th.

The build-up to this trip was such that some students reached Dublin airport long before the departure. Although the journey took more than a day to reach with jet-lag started playing its role in disturbing our sleep cycles, there was no dearth of enthusiasm in the MBA cohort. Tiresome flight, sleepy eyes and even a bad stomach could not deter me to dwell out on the streets of Shinjuku on the first night. As I had lived in Japan 4 years back, it made this trip even more nostalgic personally and relevant to my travel diary.

Imperial Palace Tokyo
Imperial Palace Tokyo

The formal itinerary commenced with three guest lecturers speaking at large on Japanese business ethics, bureaucracy, the national politics, and how they managed to live a satisfying life in Japan though they were all from much more liberal and free societies. I found the words from Mr Michael Cucek, one of the speakers, extremely insightful in uncovering how Japanese politics thrives and it was very surprising to know that political families have been at the forefront in shaping the politics in Japan. The next event at NTT DoCoMo R&D centre was no less than looking in the near future as they showed some of their revolutionizing prototypes. It would be unfulfilling not to mention the dinner at “Gonpachi” restaurant. Though I don’t have a great taste for fish, I must admit I absolutely loved their salmon. For those who doubted the Japanese style of partying, they had a shout out at the Karaoke later.

View from The Observatory, Shinjuku, Tokyo
View from The Observatory, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Time to fly across to the neighbouring South Korea.

The very first impression I made of South Koreans was that they were a bit more relaxed and flexible than the conservative Japanese. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic with bright sunshine during the next three days which was quite unusual according to our tour guides, Grace and Jenny. Being an ardent lover of cars, I particularly looked forward to visiting KIA Motors. KIA had recently announced to start manufacturing in India and luckily, I got a good 5 minutes’ chat with the presenter conversing on the same topic. I don’t think I would have ever got this opportunity to hear directly from KIA’s official. Thanks to this trip!

Night Market in Myeongdong
Night Market in Myeongdong

The itinerary was so tightly packed that people would have taken some 3-4 days of good rest to recover back to the Dublin time zone. Here, I would like to make a specific mention to Mr Karan Sonpar who selected the destinations for this trip, Ms Avril Donohue and Legacy Ventures for organising and making this week memorable. Of course, the tour guides in Tokyo and Seoul also as they were outstanding in terms of the depth of knowledge they had about the respective countries.

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Samsung Innovation Museum, South Korea

It was hard to condense down the scintillating week into limited words, but words would never be enough to express this great time that we, the Smurift ambassadors, had across the Pacific. This was truly the icing on the cake!

Vishal Sharma ~ Full-Time MBA

Japan Will Challenge Everyone’s Perspective

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The Orient sparks my imagination. It is just two days until we depart for Japan and South Korea on our MBA international Study Tour. The number of assignments due before our flights is stacked – my team works day-by-day prioritizing which fires to fight – yet each time we submit a report or presentation my excitement builds. Of all the countries in Asia, Japan captures my imagination the most: a high-tech world melted into politeness and respect of their past. The kid in me yearns for the latest Nintendo Switch, the engineer in me longs to travel the bullet train over its flat seismic terrain, while the adult foodie in me craves everything on offer! But if I’m honest – we only have two days and three nights in Tokyo before we fly to South Korea. I am a man who focuses on his priorities – my inner Anthony Bourdain wins breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Tokyo
Tokyo

In Dublin – we don’t have the bullet train – we have the Dorsh! Our green train with its loyal base of daily commuters is one of Ireland’s greatest public transport success stories. And, yes we do have some! Our Dart snakes up and down Dublin Bay where the views can simply make your day, but it’s nowhere near as memorable as the Dub’s quick wit overheard on the Dart. I was delighted to discover that our first field trip in Tokyo is to J-Trec: the manufacturer of our lovely DART. This will be a great opportunity to learn more about manufacturing processes in a heavy industry, the Japanese productivity philosophy and (fingers crossed) high-speed trains. In between our field trips, my class and I hope to experience as much Japanese culture as possible: the sights, the sounds and sheer culture differences that stop you dead in your tracks.

Myeongdong, Seoul
Myeongdong, Seoul

The focus of my MBA journey is not to be railroaded by the desire to purely amass textbook knowledge. It is about learning from my classmates’ different perspectives, the challenges they place on you to justify your idea or opinion – there is no better group to call a spade a spade – and the opportunities to improve your soft skills and behaviors to grow as a leader. Yet I have this gut-feeling Japan will challenge everyone’s perspective.

Shane Mc Carthy ~ Full-Time MBA

UCD Smurfit MBAs go to Tokyo & Seoul

Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul
Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul

On March 11th, 70 MBA students will depart for the annual Smurfit MBA International Study Tour. This year, for the first time, we will be visiting Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. The Study Tour encourages participants to immerse themselves in the business environment of these unique countries by taking them on an intensive exploration of local business practices, challenges and cultures, using company visits as the ideal setting for practical learning. It combines a variety of high-level company visits, presentations and panel discussions from leading executives, government officials and entrepreneurs, all relevant to the core management disciplines being studied on the ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ MBA module.

Harajuku, Tokyo
Harajuku, Tokyo

Along with the academic aspect of this module, there are three main outcomes that we aim to achieve throughout the week-long Study Tour:

Career Development: To develop a deeper understanding of doing business in an international context and an opportunity to network with senior executives from various backgrounds.

Skills Development: Practical exposure to innovative business case studies relevant to the core courses studied and enhance team working skills through group challenges.

Personal Development: An intensive social networking opportunity. Build strong relationships. Challenging experience – “get you out of your comfort zone”.

Asakusa Temples, Tokyo
Asakusa Temples, Tokyo

There is a strong networking and social element to the Study Tour and we have lots of exciting adventures lined up; dinner in the ‘Kill Bill Restaurant’ in Tokyo, visits to Harajuku, Takeshita Street, Asakusa temples, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok village and National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

The students will be joined by Professor Karan Sonpar, Professor Pat Gibbons, Roisin O’Loughlin (UCD Smurfit), Lyndon Worrall (Legacy Ventures) and myself. Keep an eye on the MBA Blog next month to hear how we get on in Tokyo and Seoul!

Click here find out more about the Smurfit MBA.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

The Clark’s Sandwich – a comforting constant in a hectic MBA week

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I find myself in week four of the second semester of my 1-year full-time MBA. The weeks just fly by and one week does not resemble the next. With three electives on top of my core modules, I run from one thing to the next: I jump on a video conference with our Yale counterparts to manage a virtual plant as part of our Supply Chain module; try to negotiate a good deal to buy a new biotech manufacturing site in my negotiations elective; am torn between Friedman and Mackey on the purpose of business in my Business Ethics class; come up with a business model for a new venture in Entrepreneurship; juggle fixed, variable, direct and indirect costs in Management Accounting; create a ‘Elena 2030’ vision with my executive coach; take a breath and literally run to the next thing.

And yet, there is a comforting constant in the hectic MBA week. Every day, at 1.30pm on the dot, the door to the MBA room opens and ten very excited (mostly male) MBA students cannot wait for the highlight of their day: the sandwich and soup deal from the Deli around the corner. I have to admit that I do sometimes join in because you cannot beat a good sandwich for lunch – may my sourdough-loving German ancestors forgive me. The comforting thing about it is, however, not so much the sandwich itself (and the obligatory basil and tomato soup), it is the fact that no matter if you buy a sandwich, bring your own lunch or just enjoy a coffee after eating in the cafeteria – every day you get to spend a peaceful 30 minutes in the MBA room with a mix of interesting, genuinely nice people who always have a good story to tell.

An MBA is an intense experience and it is a tough and sometimes scary decision to leave a great job to go back to being a full-time student for a year. Building on what Cathal wrote in his blog entry below (check it out, well worth reading!), what makes this year a lot easier and very enjoyable is the people you get to spend it with. In Germany we say ‘geteilte Freude ist doppelte Freude, geteilter Schmerz ist halber Schmerz’, which translates to ‘shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is halved sorrow’. This definitely applies to an MBA. To make it a little less dramatic, let’s replace sorrow with stress. Sharing this experience with a great group of people is definitely double the fun and half the stress!

Elena Nock ~ Full-Time MBA

MBA: Mediocre But Arrogant?

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When I first told a good friend that I was going to do an MBA he responded, in true Irish fashion, by swiftly cutting me down to size. He responded by saying “Why would you bother? You do know it stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, don’t you?” As much as I knew that this wasn’t the generally accepted view of an MBA, I could not get the idea out of my head during both the application process and the run up to the start of term 1. I had a genuine fear that the class would be full of cutthroat, pompous narcissists. Thankfully, after a few weeks I could say that our very diverse class (73% of which are international students) was certainly not arrogant but instead a very down to earth one that quickly gelled into a close-knit unit. This was critical in putting me at ease about the year ahead.

The fact that I am a constant worrier meant that it was not long before my focus moved to the Mediocre part of the phrase. Did we lack arrogance because we had no reason to think highly of ourselves? Were we inferior to those that attend the top ranked business schools such as those of the Ivy League, LBS, IE etc.? Was Smurfit only able to attract mediocre candidates? After all you don’t need to be in the 700 (GMAT) club to gain entry. I was scheduled to go to Yale in mid-October for the GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) Global Immersion Week so I knew that would be a good opportunity to gauge the abilities of our school against some of the schools that are perceived to be the finest in the world.

The Yale trip was a fantastic opportunity. The chance to briefly attend an institution that is known across the globe and is synonymous with excellence was an honour. Upon arrival it didn’t take long to realise that many of these students had an air of arrogance about them but more importantly it did not take long to realise that we were every bit as good as them. I’d go so far as to say we were better than the majority of them and we were far more craic. Being able to see this comparison really reassured me about my decision to choose Smurfit. The fact that I didn’t feel the need to sell my kidneys to cover the considerably lower tuition fees was an added bonus.

Ok so now that we know that the Smurfiteers are as good as any MBA students, maybe it is that all MBA students are mediocre? I guess this really comes down to the perception of what an MBA graduate is. Some people who enter an MBA programme do it because they believe that companies will be lining up at the finish to throw money at them. Anybody with an ounce of sense knows that this will never happen. So why is it that certain hirers believe that by taking on an MBA graduate they are getting some super human that will revolutionize their business? If people think like this then they might think that MBAs are mediocre. Maybe that is how the rumour started.

The truth is that an MBA will not revolutionize you. How could it? Does any other degree work such magic? Of course not. What an MBA will do is equip you with a vast array of skills across many disciplines. These will not make you a subject matter expert but they will give you an edge in whatever field you choose to work. You may not use these skills immediately but at some stage I’m sure that they will be invaluable. You will only be mediocre if you do not commit to the programme and do not soak everything in.

Cathal Murphy ~ Full-Time MBA

UCD Smurfit Climbs Up Global MBA Rankings

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UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School’s full-time MBA programme has been ranked 70th (a rise of 9 places) in the world and 22nd in Europe, according to the 2017 Financial Times Full-Time Global MBA Rankings, published today.

The improved ranking comes just three months after UCD College of Business published an ambitious strategy, to which it has committed €65 million, targeting Top 50 Global business school status by 2020 and is a further step to achieving this major milestone.

The Financial Times Full-Time MBA rankings analyse programmes based on several criteria including: career progress; employment success; school and programme quality; faculty research capabilities; and diversity.

Graduates from the Smurfit MBA programme saw their salaries increase by 71% on average within three years of completing the course. Smurfit’s full-time MBA programme was also placed in the top 10 in Europe for value for money and 16th globally.

Consistent with UCD Smurfit School’s mission to be for the world, the Financial Times analysis of the Smurfit MBA also highlighted increased rankings in measures of diversity including female faculty representation and female student participation with rankings of 39th and 44th respectively in the top 100.

Speaking about the rankings, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Dean, UCD College of Business said: “UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School can be justifiably proud of its record of accomplishment in the FT Full-Time Global MBA Rankings, regarded by the market and peers as one of only a few highly-respected benchmarks of excellence in business education. This consistency puts UCD Smurfit School in a select group of fewer than 50 schools which have attained this accolade for 18 consecutive years. This is a great success and we are determined to do better for our students.

The quality of our research and teaching is a relentless focus at UCD College of Business and requires significant ongoing investment. The additional €65 million of non-exchequer funding committed over the next five years will be key to ensuring all aspects of our mission perform to the highest international standards as we compete with the very best providers of business education in the world.”

Find out more about the MBA programme here.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

Back to Reality

Beautiful Amsterdam
Beautiful Amsterdam

Most people would agree that taking a break is nice. Taking a break from whatever your regular routine is; taking a break from work, family, school etc. As a full-time student, taking a break means total mental and physical peace. The build up to the break gives you an almost super-human ability to switch off completely. Think of it like an over-heating car. You work tirelessly through the first semester to achieve your goals and meet every deadline. At the end you begin to burn out and all you need to do it switch off, cool down and refill.

There is something about the holiday season that makes the break that much better. Once you switch off, you can wake up at odd hours of the day without feeling any guilt. Eat way more than is necessary or socially acceptable. You start to procrastinate even the less important things in life: should I wash the dishes now or later? And you experience freedom and tranquility in large doses. Taking a break is nice.

However, taking a break means that you will eventually have to get back to work, or family, or school. People will generally fall into one of two distinct categories. The closer the return date comes, the more some people find themselves pondering time travel and the speed of time. Where did the time go? How can I go back to the beginning? On the other hand, the closer the return date comes, the more restless some people become. It’s been way too long! Can we get started already? Whichever group you belong to, you realize that life simply must move on and you simply must get back. And then your mindset changes.

Back to reality. Time to set new goals and deadlines. Time to meet new people and experience new and different things. Time to get back into a routine, feeling rejuvenated and ready. You begin to look forward to the challenges and work that will surely come. You recognise that although last semester was hard, it was fun and it was worth it. You look at the person you were at the beginning of the MBA programme, and the person you are now, and this makes you look forward to working toward the person you will be at the end of the course.

That is when you appreciate that breaks are never meant to last forever. I have every confidence that the rest of this school year will be exciting, rewarding and fulfilling.

4 months down, 8 more to go.

Joanne Muchai ~ Full-Time MBA

Beyond the MBA: A Post-Break Reflection

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During the Christmas break, I finally had the opportunity to stop and look at the last four months of my life and try to make sense of them. The pace of the MBA sucks you in at great speed and leaves little room for standing back for a moment and looking at the big picture: at what’s being built besides the knowledge, the practical skills, and the busy schedules. There is a wealth I have discovered in the MBA, beyond the numbers and the opportunities that the future holds, and that is the richness of the people that integrate the whole MBA experience.The promise of professional and cultural diversity in the MBA was one of the elements that most attracted me to the Smurfit MBA Programme, but envisioning it does not truly reflect the intricacies of such diversity. Of course we expect engineers to think differently from bankers, or the Irish to have different dinner habits than Mexicans or Indians, and the confirmation of those expectations is not a surprise to anyone in our modern world. However, it is the closeness that is built out of the habit of spending every day together that brings the most surprises. The spirit in the MBA room, from buying supplies collectively to sharing snacks during long days spent working on projects, is always a rewarding one. Teamwork also brings the opportunity for closeness and insight about others, even if that is through overcoming conflict.

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There is much to be learned about communication and bridging the gaps of cultural and professional differences, from different working styles to varying understandings of politeness or humour. For me, part of both the challenge and the beauty of the MBA have been those bridges and connections. During foundation week, we had a talk about the importance of listening and a workshop on the Myers Briggs personality types. I remember those very clearly, not only because I found them valuable for my professional career, but also for my everyday interactions with people, and as obvious as “listening is important” may sound, we often forget how to do so once we are subjected to stress, pressure, and deadlines. I have often sat down with friends in the course rethinking our means of communication in terms of the different personality types and cultural backgrounds.

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Theory and practice go hand in hand, so giving us the tools to enter into such a diverse group in order to be able to have a broader understanding of each other enriches all of us, if we allow it to happen. Day after day, the learning I’ve experienced has happened both in and outside of the classroom. I stepped away from my comfort zone in the humanities to try to analyse companies and financial statements, but I have also happily listened to my colleagues’ stories about their careers and have tried to comprehend their working styles and how we can complement each other.

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After being on a break for a month, I realized I have changed during the short time I’ve been part of the MBA. My professional and personal horizons have broadened due to the new material I’m learning, and equally (or even possibly more so) from the people I have met. Their ambition, motivation, and passion are contagious, and even if there are points on the road when I feel tired, anxious, or scared, it is through the hope that we share for a better future that I am driven forward. I am certain that the new term will bring more of this knowledge and experience and I can only hope that we can continue to inspire each other during and beyond the MBA.

Andrea Martinez ~ Full-Time MBA