Teamwork – The Importance of Resolution

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I’m one month into the Full-Time MBA experience and my mindset has shifted drastically from what I thought going into this experience. I came in thinking about the grades I wanted to get and courses I wanted to take. I knew that team work would be important but I didn’t give much consideration as to how important it would be and the drastic impact it is having on my overall experience.We spend time in our groups talking about recent classes, discussing cases, talking about the news, project work and brainstorming. Now that is a lot of different types of discussions and takes place for each of our six classes; we spend an astronomical amount of time together. A large part of this programme is teamwork: deliveries you have as a group and learning from your team members sometimes more so from the textbooks and classes you have.onemonth

The Smurfit MBA Programme is structured in such a way that allows you to form deep bonds quicker than you normally would with a work colleague or new friend. This is particularly true with your specific work team (5-6 people) which you deliver each group project with in each of your courses. In addition to the deeper connections, this environment also allows for hard discussions and conflict to arise rapidly; the challenge is to work through and resolve these issues. Resolution is necessary not just because you have multiple deliverables to still get together to try to sweep issues under the rug, it is because these relationships are important for this year, after this year is over and for the rest of your life and career.

The MBA Programme Office Team do a tremendous job in providing tools to facilitate team work, better understanding yourself and others. We are learning more about ourselves through programmes which give information on: your personality, strengths, work outlook, communication style, coaching and opportunity for reflection. We are also learning more about how to work in a team: team dynamics, personal and work sharing opportunities and dedicated time devoted to team development.

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Yesterday, my group was submitting a second strategy paper (hard to believe we have already delivered two assignments!) and reflecting on how much we have learned in this short time from our first paper to our second paper. One of the best experiences so far is the opportunity to work with a great group of people, learn from each other, challenge each other and ultimately grow together and separately. I am happy to say my main focus is no longer on the grades but on the learning and developing I’m getting as I go through this programme, which I’ll take with me long after this year is over.

Carley Wasechek ~ Full-Time MBA 

Freedom!

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We were gently warned during the week one induction course that our lives would change drastically both during and following the MBA. For many of us, that meant our freedom as we knew it was over – at least for the next two years anyway. Starting with the GMAT, followed by year one of the EMBA, the last twelve months have been thought provoking, exhausting and exhilarating.

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Just a few weeks ago, we were in the midst of exams while counting down the days until we could stop and take a deep breath and finally relax. The thought brings to mind a famous quote by Nelson Mandela – “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. I have certainly cast off my chains and will make the most of a summer that will inevitably be a sprint rather than a marathon.

The final part of the quote however continues to resonate. My new found freedom, and possibly the added impact of the result of the recent equality referendum, has led me to reflect on equality and inevitably that infamous glass ceiling. There have been many articles and debates about gender inequality over the last number of years. However, the result of the recent referendum has told us that, in Ireland at least, most people place a high value on equality.

While deciding which MBA program to undertake, if any at all, the ratio of men to women struck me as unusually unbalanced and slightly daunting. However my mind was set at ease following the Smurfit open evening in collaboration with Image Magazine. The room was filled with approximately 100 young enthusiastic, intelligent but slightly tentative women. In the mid-week EMBA class alone, the male to female ratio is approximately 5:1 a similar ratio to most business schools. Only four of the top twelve business schools have 40% or more female students.

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While I had reservations initially, I made it through the entire first year without really considering the fact that I was in the minority. The MBA for far too many years has been incorrectly portrayed as a ‘boys club’ full of intense rivalry and competition and an ongoing giant battle of egos. I cannot say, with certainty that no competition occurred within the course however I can attest to the fact that it was limited to a healthy rivalry between groups and even classes. For some reason, the mid-week and weekend EMBA classes insist on sitting at opposite ends of the room any time they are together. I must admit though, that this is probably purely down to familiarity rather than anything else.

While chatting with friends over the past twelve months, it struck me that maybe not as many women as men want to reach the top tiers of business or give up their ‘freedom’ for two years. Those sentiments were echoed by the female partners at the Big Four Accounting Practices interviewed by the authors of an article that continues to resonate with me any time gender inequality or the infamous glass ceiling is mentioned.

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That article, “Through the Glass Ceiling” was co-written by UCD’s Niamh Brennan and Claire Miller for the February 2014 issue of Accountancy Ireland, honestly and genuinely questioned gender inequality. It is not a feminist’s portrayal of the world but a realistic and welcome authentic view of women in business.

Something I have often contemplated but was reluctant to voice is the suggestion that the focus by firms on diversity & engagement in recent years may have introduced an element of positive discrimination favouring women. The need to satisfy certain quotas isn’t equality, and certainly makes bad business sense. So after years of fighting for equality, have we gone a step too far? Who wants to be promoted purely because they are male, female, black, white, young or old rather than on merit? It is time the focus is reengineered to equality rather than filling quotas or being seen as being a diverse employer. At the end of the day, the best person for the job, team or Board should be chosen.

In summary, my initial concern about being one of a small group of women among a big group of aggressive egotistical men on the MBA program was completely unfounded and entirely unjustified. At Smurfit I have been treated by the MBA program staff, the lectures and my course colleagues with the upmost respect and absolute professionalism and have never been positively or negatively discriminated. While only half way through the journey, I can also honestly say that the friends I have made and continue to make during my MBA will be friends for life.

Dorothy Chestnutt ~ Executive MBA, Year 1

The Final Frontier – Well Almost!

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It’s exam time again. Our 2nd Semester classes are just over and we are marching straight into our final exams this week (after a short break termed as ‘Revision Week’). Though, the exam times are always filled with hectic activity, I am feeling less stressed this time. This seems to be the impact of continuous ongoing assessments which have helped to build a strong foundation in all of the modules. The types of assessment techniques used at Smurfit seems to be as varied as the term ‘Variation’ itself ; ranging from class participation, individual assignments and journals, group case studies and projects, class presentations, and even a “Class Quiz on Ethics in Business”.

The support system provided by Faculty, the MBA office staff, as well as my classmates is immense. I always have an assurance that whenever I may face any difficulty while preparing a topic, the help is within arm’s reach. This provides that extra confidence which makes studying for exams a smooth and enriching experience. Sometimes, an e-mail response from my classmates is even swifter than a ‘Google search’.

Ashutosh Singla ~ Full-Time MBA

Wings for Life World Run

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

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

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

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

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

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Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full Time MBA

International Women’s Day 2015

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We’re all members of the MBA family but we’re also supporters of women and their achievements. Last month, we celebrated those achievements and helped raise awareness of the issue of equality by wearing purple to the classroom. Purple symbolises justice and dignity, two values strongly associated with women’s equality. Thanks to all who took part – #makeithappen

Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full Time MBA

MBA Rugby World Cup 2015

Carysfort Celts flying the Irish Flag at The MBA Rugby World Cup
Carysfort Celts flying the Irish Flag at The MBA Rugby World Cup

Last week, the MBA Rugby Team travelled to the United States to take part in the 35th Annual MBA Rugby World Cup.

Our team finished a creditable fourth out of 15 men’s teams, placing just behind Harvard’s A Team and ahead of fifth-placed Duke.Action Shot 3 - World Cup

Other teams that competed include Columbia, Yale and Stanford. An elite competition, in more ways than one. Well done to all involved!

Founded in 1999, the UCD Smurfit Rugby Football Club has grown from humble beginnings into one of the most successful business school rugby football clubs in the world.

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On 25 September 1999, UCD Smurfit played its first ever game against the then reigning MBA World Champions, INSEAD of France. Determined to prove themselves against the best, the team attacked relentlessly and stormed home to a comprehensive 31 – 0 victory.

Buoyed on by this result, the members of the Club set themselves the goal of competing in the 2000 MBA Rugby World Championships. Achieving this required months of hard work and endeavour and, in April 2000, their efforts were rewarded. By defeating Duke University 8 – 0 in the final, the ‘Carysfort Celts’ won the Club’s first ever World Championship title.

In the years since, the Club has continuously strived to expand and improve on the efforts of its founders. This determination to succeed has resulted in the club winning the MBA Rugby World Championship on a further 11 occasions, the most recent being on April 2013.

In addition to having a successful men’s team, the Club also has a successful women’s team. In 2006, the Club won its first World Championship title.

Aside from its on-field activities, UCD Smurfit RFC is also extremely committed to assisting causes less well off than it. For the 2014/15 season, the Club has continued its partnership with World Sports Team and assisting our community through sponsorship and other fundraising events put on by the MBA Class.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Senior Programme Coordinator

Study Tour to South Africa – Fostering the Spirit of Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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It was a couple of weeks back when we had commenced our journey to South Africa for our 8-day intensive Study tour, as part of the ‘Doing Business in Emerging Markets’ MBA module. Though, we were looking forward to whole new world of learning and experiences, we never thought that it would be such an amazing experience. The companies we visited ranged from well-established MNCs viz. Vodacom, Old Mutual plc, SABMiller plc to highly successful innovative and entrepreneurial organizations viz. Raizcorp, Synexa Life Sciences, Pick n Pay etc. The interactions with entrepreneurs and top managerial personnel helped us in understanding the nuances, challenges and opportunities of doing business in South Africa in general, and in emerging economies in particular. We also had the opportunity to interact with students of GIBS, a leading business school of South Africa and share mutual perspectives. We had Networking events with ‘Enterprise Ireland’ and ‘Business Ireland’ in Johannesburg and Cape town, which gave us an opportunity to interact with numerous successful and dynamic entrepreneurs, who have established their businesses from scratch in South Africa and today they had become a living inspiration for the aspiring entrepreneur.

South Africa was seen by our group as one of the most enterprising nations and it has therefore earned its place in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) association of emerging economies. During the tour, we also visited a few South African communities to understand cultural perspectives of the country.

It’s really amazing how much an international study tour can transform you and can foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. The diversity of the South African population and their determination to collectively work together for their nation’s progress, despite differences in languages and cultures (South Africa has 11 official languages) can be observed in its workplaces. It helped us to gain extremely useful insights about leading effectively in cross-cultural teams, inculcating teamwork and collaboration.

The Study Tour definitely gave us valuable understanding about the business opportunities in emerging markets and challenges being faced by them. This also gave us a toolkit to overcome those challenges which can be applied not only in emerging economies but also universally to foster the spirit of innovation, teamwork and entrepreneurship in the organisations we would be working in throughout our future careers.

Ashutosh Singla ~ Full Time MBA

China; A Nation of Contradictions

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China is a nation of 1.3 billion contradictions.

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

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


The steel making process at BaoSteel

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

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


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

Edel Kennedy ~ Full Time MBA

Mindful Quotes For The Aspiring MBA Student

Henry Ford


  1. Wisest is he who knows he knows nothing (Socrates).
  2. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right (Henry Ford).
  3. Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom (Aristotle).
  4. Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another (JFK).
  5. A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did this ourselves” (Lao Tzu).
  6. Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect (Mark Twain).
  7. Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence (Robert Frost).
  8. Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision (Peter Drucker).
  9. Study the past if you would define the future (Confucius).
  10. It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change (Charles Darwin).
  11. Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens (Jimi Hendrix).
  12. A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do (Bob Dylan).

Cathal Small ~ Full Time MBA Student