Facing My Fears

Team 7
Team 7

I have two fears, spiders and heights! When filling out our team charter during the foundation week we were asked for our fears, some had a fear of failure, some death or illness and other quite profound and meaningful fears. Please excuse my scepticism as a medic, but most of those things are inevitable so they were not top of my list. What did make the sceptic doctor’s list was spiders and heights.

To help our group hit the road running we decided to do a team bonding activity. Well done to Daire for the suggestion! I had imagined a few drinks but being that two of us live a considerable distance from Dublin that was not the easiest to organise. So out to Extreme Sports in Santry with us for a sky climb. Sorry, what… a SKY CLIMB??? Can you imagine the horror on my face when I heard! I had thought of every excuse under the sun to cancel but I couldn’t! One of my team members remembered my fear and the group kindly offered to change the activity, but there was no way I could lose face! I knew deep down it was an irrational fear but it was a very real one, but I simply could not back down.

Total Horror!
Total Horror!

So shaking one Wednesday afternoon, I began the drive from the Midlands to Santry! I got there a little early, just to try to prepare myself, (punctuality is not a strength of mine!), but that did little to relay my fears. As i stood looking up at this course almost twenty meters high a sense of nausea overtook me.

We each got strapped into the harness and began the climb up the tower, I had an impending sense of doom! Something akin to what the prisoners on the green mile might feel! I realised I had another fear, I wasn’t ready to die! My team mates were fantastic about it, they quickly realised that this was no ordinary fear but a real earth shattering, freeze on the spot kind of fear! What made the climb a even worse was the fact that there was two levels! I was weak at the knees, praying for a hurricane to land but my prayers were not answered!

Our instructor was amazing and helped me every step of the way, literally every step because as soon as he let go of my hand I froze! But what really made the difference was the kind words of support and encouragement I was getting from my team mates, they really wanted me to finish and really didn’t want to let them down.

Elegance and Agility from Findan and Laura
Elegance and Agility from Findan and Laura

I am proud to say that I completed the course, not in the most stylish of manners, I was like a sack of potatoes compared to Laura’s gymnastic type manoeuvres. But between the team fighting for me and sheer determination I came out the other side, with a slightly less fear of heights and a new group of friends!

This is how I envisage the EMBA to work out, we all will have our moments when we need that little extra bit of help and encouragement from others, but together we will all get each other to the finish line!

Christine Kiernan, Laura Tunney, Daire Nolan, Findan Cox ~ Executive MBA, Team 7

The Monte Carlo Simulation, Chicago Real Estate, Modelling Competitions and Creating Sensitivities


The title covers some of the topics covered in today’s Excel session with Aidan Corbett of Kubicle, and while it wasn’t as exotic as the title sounds, it was another of the practical classes that deliver “real world” practical learning and know-how, as part of the MBA Leadership Development Programme. The challenge with Excel training in the full-time MBA class is that there’s a huge gap in terms of competencies in the class. Some of the class have come from quantitative backgrounds with high levels of expertise in Excel, while others like me, need all the practice that we can get.

Today’s session was a deep-dive into financial modelling and construction of the different elements that make up the models. We were challenged to advise a real-estate investor on his proposed purchase of an apartment in Chicago, along with the construction of a model to base our recommendations on. Besides giving us the practical steps on how to build the model, Aidan explained the processes and steps that make the model flexible and robust. Most importantly however, Aidan explained how this type of exercise feeds into the decision-making process, especially when it comes to advising clients while working in management consultancy.

I spoke to some of my classmates after the session, and despite the big gap in competencies when it comes to proficiency in Excel, it was clear that everyone got something out of the class.

Des Warner ~ Full-Time MBA

Jiggery Pokery to Tomfoolery


When I embarked on this MBA journey, I was cautioned to “Be afraid”. That warning was not aimed at the MBA Programme but at the Jiggery Pokery done in financial statements. Six weeks into the course and that fear has turned into appreciation for the quality of education I have received to date. I realised soon after the start of the MBA Programme, that I am surrounded by some very talented and intellectually curious minds. My peers in the programme who bring with them a wealth of experience and diversity have made these first few weeks exciting, despite the heavy workload.

From convincing my class to invest in a runaway alarm clock to sending game theory ‘moonshots’ that there may be free cookies in the MBA room, this course has taught me a lot. The pace at which the course progresses is recognised when you sit to write your first blog and realize it’s October. The Deans’ words from the welcome dinner ring true “Thank your partners for letting you do this MBA, they are doing this MBA with you”. When I get home and have a stack of case studies and readings with me, I do thank my wife for being patient while I optimise the supply chain for dinner.

So I am ready to learn more and no amount of tomfoolery, barriers to entries or Cournot games are going to stop me or 40 of my peers from being successful on this journey.

Ashish Babbar ~ Full Time MBA

Prof. Prabhu Guptara talks Business Ethics at Smurfit

Prof. Prabhu Guptara (Source - Wiki)
Prof. Prabhu Guptara (Source – Wiki)


Six weeks into the MBA Programme, students have discussed and deliberated the malfeasance, fraud and buck-passing policies adopted by companies such as Enron, Arthur Andersen, HealthSouth, FreddieMac, Lehman Brother etc. As future business leaders, we have occasionally questioned if we are at the brink of ‘ethical business crisis’?

Last week, many of our questions were answered. The Smurfit MBA Thought Leadership Club couldn’t have timed its next speaker session more aptly.

Prof. Prabhu Guptara, Executive Director, Relational Analytics Ltd (Cambridge), came as a respite!

He discussed Business Ethics and the importance of maintaining high-integrity for leaders. He explained the dynamics of democracy and capitalism that influence decision making for various CEOs. He emphasized that as future leaders we should keep true to original values. High integrity CEOs had a multi year return of 9.4%, while low integrity CEOs had a yield of just 1.9%.

Prof. Guptara referred to reform movements that united ordinary people to fight the atrocities of corrupt rulers. He strongly believes that in this dynamic society as people get more aware of social, environmental consequences and whistle-blower protection rights a positive wave of change will come.

Pooja Dey ~ Full Time MBA

Reward and Sacrifice


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

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

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

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


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

Keith Boyle ~ Executive MBA

Just the Beginning


Five presentations, five writing assignments and more than twenty reading materials, how much time do you think you need to finish all of these? – We have just five weeks.

This is how my MBA programme started. It is never a relaxing beginning but a difficult one, sometimes even a bit stressful. However, it is substantial, interesting, and most importantly, makes you feel that everyday counts. Especially looking back at all of the outcomes to date, I myself even can’t believe we have finished so many tasks in such a short space of time. It is not until I started the Smurfit MBA Programme that I realised I can push myself this hard. The magic five weeks have taught me, changed me and enlightened me.

I have gained a lot of knowledge within the five weeks. Although I can’t call the lectures  pleasant just yet, as I still have to try my best to keep up with the professors’ pace in almost every class, I can now read through the scary financial statement with certain senses; I understand what 5Cs or 5 Forces is; I know how to evaluate the cases by scientific approaches.

I have changed my way of managing multiple tasks and managing time. I don’t waste any minute in the day – if I have five minutes before my next appointment, I read cases instead of wandering. I don’t spend a lot of time surfing on Facebook now. I don’t watch soap operas any more. I concentrate most of my time on studying. The amazing thing is, although this journey is obviously much more tense than my life before the MBA, I am so energetic because I know I am doing something meaningful with my time.


The last but most inspiring thing is, I am enlightened a lot by the professors, by the MBA Office Team and by my classmates – my friends now. I really can’t think of any place else where you can meet so many interesting people from different backgrounds and cultures. The diversity enables us to learn from each other and thus complete the understanding of other cultures, the entire world and life.

After starting the MBA programme, time has a different meaning to me. On the one hand, every single day becomes so long and the calendar looks endless; on the other hand, the time flies and five weeks feel passed in the blink of an eye. It is a brand new experience in life and it is just the beginning. People say ‘A good beginning is half the battle’. I can’t wait for the adventure that follows in the year ahead.

Minjuan Wang ~ Full Time MBA 

Zurich Insurance CEOs share Leadership Perspective with Smurfit MBA Students


One of the most relevant and appealing events at Smurfit is the MBA Leadership Talk Series. The MBA candidates have great aspirations to make impact in the business world and The MBA Thought Leadership Club provides excellent environment to supplement just that.

On Friday October 2nd, Mr.Martin Senn, Global CEO and Mr.Patrick Manley, EMEA CEO of Zurich Insurance were the coveted speakers who officially kicked off the first session of the series. Both visited Smurfit to share insights from their personal and professional journeys.

As MBA candidates we found it really insightful to hear their inspiring stories of cultural diversity while working in different continents from Americas to Asia, maintaining a positive attitude in challenging situations both truly manifesting the significance of leadership skills.

Mr.Martin Senn - Global CEO Zurich
Mr.Martin Senn – Global CEO Zurich

Mr.Senn candidly talked about his experience as a soldier for Swiss army and how he learnt to see the silver lining even in the most challenging situations. He called this phenomenon ‘Artist of Life’. He inspired students with thought provoking ‘coin story’ that his mentor told him. The closer we keep the coin to our eye the lesser we see. He advised that leadership is not about chasing money but great good of society and maintaining integrity.

Mr.Manley discussed the key ingredients required to be a great leader. He highlighted that leadership is about credibility. He mentioned a number of things including ‘therapy to let go’…with companies aggressively adding more portfolios, a CEO needs to learn to extract only relevant information from the clutter. Mr.Manley also mentioned that it is the leader’s responsibility to hire people he can trust and not micro manage a team’s every move.

He succinctly gave us MBA candidates a tip that it is imperative to be vigilant followers as we move to the corporate world to take on leadership roles.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity of being in this company. What a great start to the MBA program!

On behalf of the club I would like to thank Mr.Brian Hunt, Head of Regulatory Affairs at Zurich Insurance, who was instrumental in making the event a success and of course the MBA Programme Office that supported us in this endeavor.

Pooja Dey ~ Full Time MBA

Since I Had Our Sweet Reprieve


We’re now somewhere between a month and a year into the EMBA, take my word for it, I’m quite sure it’s less than a year. Although, if we’re counting new memories and experiences instead of days than it’s way more than a year’s worth. But that’s beside the point, the point is that after this uncertain amount of time into the program I – shush now, not too loud – I took a break! I know, given the reading list I was horrified as well. But this was vital in reaffirming something my mouth said without telling my brain a while ago –

‘of course we’ll still spend loads of time together during the MBA’.


So I went to London for the weekend. Great city etc. etc. Which brings me to Gerard Manley Hopkins. Let me explain. I can’t for a moment purport to be a literary aficionado. For example, Microsoft had to spell check three words in that last sentence and aficionado was only one of them. Having said that, last week I had a flashback to some lines of a Hopkins poem I must have read in secondary school. If you’d asked me before the MBA I would have flatly stated that I have never read any of his poetry, I think my brain is tilling the fields preparing to learn new stuff and it’s dredging up long forgotten facts. I digress. I had a satori moment (think back to our session on presentation skills), a moment of understanding. This trip to London was my “sweet reprieve” that Hopkins was alluding to. Admittedly Hopkins was talking about a dying man in his poem (sorry, so morbid) but he could have been describing a man’s experiences in an Executive MBA. Bear with me.

Sickness broke him“, did I mention that I got Man-Flu since starting the MBA?

Hmm… “he cursed at first“, yes I’ve definitely done that, and not just at first.

However I have not yet “quenched thy tears“, perhaps that comes after the next case study?

Now let me get back to work at my “grim forge” of a desk.

Please don’t misunderstand me, my experience in the EMBA so far – meeting wonderful new people and exploring new concepts – has wildly surpassed any expectations I had starting out. But, dear reader, having experienced it I must recommend that you take your own “sweet reprieve” from time to time, the MBA readings will still be there when you get back.

Might I suggest that you avoid analysing poetry on your break?!

Donal Bailey ~ First year EMBA

The MBA Experience Curve


Week 5 and who would have known a glossy magazine or a good thriller has been swapped for the Harvard Business Review and the New Yorker! (Thank you Megan).

Week 1 informed me that most experience curves reflect the joint effects of learning, technological advances and scale all of which feature in my MBA experience to date.

Coming from a science background the learning growth has been enormous already, the clues are there: my accountant husband smiles with delight as I engage wholehearted in the debate of rules-based versus principles based accounting standards. Although, as a Welshman I do wonder if his smile is more related to a recent sporting event.

I am not an avid fan of motorcycling nor have I played Wii or Xbox but now I can hold my own in a conversation on market shares in these industries. I do look forward to exploring the online dating industry in an upcoming assignment particularly when one of our team has expressed he will sign up – all in the name of experimental research of course. The strong focus on team work has been a brilliant contributor to the learning curve as well as laughs as we engage in great healthy debate at late hours and produce assignments. My favourite to date has been the complementors debate and whether the hot dog can survive without the bun.Personal_Development_300

Learning doesn’t stop at the acquisition of knowledge, as I embark on my own self-development journal, the exploration of my values, personality and emotional intelligence is yielding insightful information aiding my professional work.

Technological learning is also growing at a rate of knots, who knew there was an App to read PDF articles as you drive, proving time management tips are invaluable in the MBA experience.

This leads me to scale, in this context it is volume, where would we be without the volume of reading and assignments to add to the overall learning experience.

Only last night in the midst of Tie-gate we discovered in the forecasting world that the Donegal football team may be seen as a coconut and that Ruth is a Taurus like myself.

It really is the MBA that keeps on giving; my credit card bill is the lowest it’s been in a decade. Late night shopping ..ahem I mean …class ..on a Thursday is a blessing.

With the news of exam dates last night, resilience, endurance, stamina are all key words as I move into week 6.

So as my brain expands, I’ve been told ‘gosh you are a great dinner party guest’ alas if there was time … for now I just have to be a great conversationalist at the water cooler!

Tanya Kenny ~ EMBA Year 1

A Message to All New MBA Students – ‘Hang on in There’


Emergent strategies, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, statements of financial position, does it match volume and variety?.…..need I go on? For all new MBA students the bombardment of information will initially feel overwhelming. The good news is you are not alone, this happens to all of us at some stage. You will get through but only through hard work, there is no other way.

Time management is critical as you will soon realise you cannot do everything. Team work is important and you will begin to judge what is more important and prioritise.

Reflect, reflect, and reflect, there will be times when you have prepared for a class days in advance only to realise you have forgotten many of the critical points. A quick 10 minute refresh on the day of the class is invaluable.

I have a technology background so attending the financial reporting module was a daunting experience – Hello Collette. However now when I read my company’s financial statement I can actually understand it. This is what I call an ‘unconscious diffusion of knowledge’ as you may feel your progress is slow moving but in fact you are grasping all the important aspects.

At certain stages you will hit a low spot, your motivation will be waning and the workload will seem too much. For me it was just before the midterm break in year 1. I told myself once you reach the break take the first weekend off and do something you have really missed since you started the programme. For me it was chilling out with my children and being as juvenile as possible!

Roll on the midterm, which is week beginning the 19th of October, in case you are wondering.

Tony Bartak ~ Executive MBA – Year 2