Bursting the MBA bubble

Our International Study Trip ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ brought us to Singapore and Hanoi with visits to a number of organisations including Citigroup, Amazon Web Services, Caterpillar as well as the Irish Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the Embassy of Ireland in Hanoi. We had the chance to listen to senior executives of both local and expatriate backgrounds, including a number of Irish expats. The focus was on how they succeeded in business, with insight into the cultural nuances, adapting to the country and the way things are done. We travelled as a large group of both full-time MBA and Executive MBA students together with Professor Patrick Gibbons and Roisin O’Loughlin from UCD Smurfit Business School. Much of the advice and counsel focused on building relationships and the need to invest in and nurture those relationships. Culture, language and traditions may vary in different parts of the world but people still value people who have shared ambitions, ideas and values.

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*Picture by Eoin Carroll

Singapore oozed sophistication, calm and control with their increasingly wealthy economy and well developed infrastructure.  Hanoi’s frenetic energy couldn’t have been a greater contrast with the noise and excitement and vibrant night life as we drove to our hotel on arrival. We spent a lot of time together; travelling, visiting companies, eating, sightseeing, shopping and even some socialising.

The intense goldfish bowl of the MBA means you spend a lot of time in each other’s company, at lectures, group work, social events and in both structured and ad-hoc meetings. Having come together just six months previously we soon found ourselves spending much of our lives in each other’s pockets. Almost all the deliverables are developed as group projects so that, not only is the MBA an accelerated learning experience covering the academic content, but you build strong relationships with your class.  We see each other at our worst, but also at our best; under pressure when numerous assignments are due at the same time; trying to understand a subject that may be completely out of our comfort zone; sharing the expertise in the class and, with the collective efforts of the whole class focused on a weekend deadline -and a large pizza delivery needed to sustain us through the night. There is the immense satisfaction of achieving those deadlines with seconds to spare, supporting each other through presentation after presentation, asking the right questions and applauding appropriately; celebrating exam survival and success, and, of course, some days it is just about keeping each other going and helping each other make it to the next deadline. And even after all that time spent working so closely, many of us chose to extend our International Study Trip and spend a week’s holiday together afterwards.

As we listened to our international business colleagues talk about the importance of relationships in their different corporate environments, it may be worth reflecting on what we have achieved ourselves. Our class has become our primary network, our support network and our current, and no doubt, future career network. With such an international class, our networks are far-reaching; future business leaders, future business partners, mentors, business confidants, coaches, friends; those who can help us make the next biggest decision. Travel broadens the mind, widens the experiences, and helps us learn from international colleagues. But, sometimes it also makes us appreciate the international network we have built for ourselves in such a short time.

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*Picture by Eoin Carroll

Lucy MacAuley, Full Time MBA 2018-2019

The Tale of Two Cities

Decades ago along the sands of time, Latin America gave birth to two children, Chile and Peru. Both were born with rich Spanish blood and long mountains running down their back. Skin that sparkled brilliantly from the varied numerous minerals hidden beneath its surface, mostly copper and soil rich for food production. Two beautiful children whose fingers and toes were dipped in the blue Pacific Ocean. When Chile became of age, his independence took him to boarding school. He learnt to play by rules no matter how difficult they seemed. He met other boys there and he was instructed on how to treat everyone independent of another. A bank that is fully owned by the state should operate fully independent of state influences. It should do no business with other state agencies to keep it free from financial risk. Chile also learnt to engage in fair competition, no companies are subsidized by the state and regulation allows for participation in free trade for all. Chile learnt to wake up early, dress in uniform, make his bed, walk down the hall in silence and show up for his classes. Children are assigned a social number at birth at the state bank and start carrying a debit card that allows for basic transactions at the age of 14 years. The citizens of Chile do not compromise with the police and it can be seen in the order on the road and obeying of traffic laws. Buildings meet strict regulation building codes which ensures they withstand even a major earthquake. Earth tremors that are the norm in that part of the world do not easily frazzle Chileans-unless the tremor is big enough that one cannot get up to a standing position, they smile and continue to have lunch.

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*Chile

On the other hand, at Independence, Peru decided to explore the world. He wanted to live young and free with no rules. He made fast and easy friends who fell in love with the copper color of his skin, the mountains down his back and rich soil. They offered to show him the way to live and lead him and he gladly accepted. Peru has embraced leaders with such diverse origins including Irish and Japanese, something not many countries can attest to. These leaders invited Peru to parties where they filled his cup with wine and laid a table of sumptuous food. Peruvian food is acclaimed to be one of the best cuisines in the world due to the influences from all over the world that has led to a wonderful fusion of tastes. Peru’s friend’s played music and his intoxicated body stood and danced to their tunes. His mineral rich skin sparkled and everyone wanted to run their hands over it. Peru’s land is mined not just for copper, but gold and is the world’s highest producer of silver. Peru spent his days sleeping off his hangover and getting up just in time to get dressed for the next party. The party had to keep going and Peru played his part to ensure it. It is the highest producer of illegal cocaine and counterfeit American dollars. His friends that clapped and cheered were actually laughing and mocking as he stumbled in intoxication. Peru has had an unfortunate selection of leaders who have rummaged through it, amassing riches from its copper and mineral rich economy, engaging in boundless corruption that has steeped Peru’s economy in a hole where only a few benefit at the expense of the masses. 10 companies own 70% of the current economy while the population struggles with sub- standard education and a failing healthcare system. The lack of rules has filtered down to the street where even crossing the road is a hazardous fete as road rules are more of an option than an obligation.

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*Peru

Eventually after a couple of decades, Chile left the closed walls of the boarding school and ventured out into the big wide world. He saw people wearing interesting clothes, driving cars and living life as they wanted to and not as instructed to. Wide eyed, Chile began to embrace difference and question the rules cautiously. He learnt to drink wine and dance some nights away. But he finds that most days, he still prefers to stay within the rules he had learnt to follow those many years ago.  Chile is concertedly opening up its doors to the world and signing free trade agreements to encourage the world to come and explore Chile as they too learn from the world.

Peru, after may hungover days woke up and his sober mind realized he needed to break away from his friends. He started to set rules in place to guide him. He started staying in some days instead of going out and with a clear mind he began to strategize. He cut off some of his past friends and some friendships are still being assessed. The current president is under motion to vacate the presidency while the former president and his wife are in jail for corrupt practices they engaged in while in office. Other corrupt presidents before these, unfortunately have managed to get away after a sizeable payoff. Peru continues to grapple with the need of necessary rules for a thriving economy but are determined to make meaningful change. Meanwhile, tourists continue to flock to it to enjoy its sumptuous delicacies and dance to its hip swaying tunes that it perfected in its youth. Chile still comes alive several nights of the week where the streets fill with men and women looking for some delicious wine and fun.

Chile and Peru, siblings and neighbours, similar yet still different. Still growing and learning. Adapting to embrace the good and shift the bad. Still beautifully Spanish, still captivating suitors with their beautiful mineral sparkling skin and rich soil, encompassing captivating mountains and fingers and toes dipped in the Pacific Ocean.

Elizabeth Kiathe, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

UCD Smurfit MBA Graduation Ball

The MBA Classes of 2017 traded caps and gowns for glitz and glam within a few days in early December. On Saturday December 9th, the eagerly anticipated Smurfit MBA Graduation Ball 2017 was held in The Hilton Hotel, Charlemont, Dublin.

With over 130 people in attendance, the black-tie event was thoroughly enjoyable and the perfect way for the graduating classes to celebrate reaching the MBA finish line together with partners and friends who provided support throughout the journey.

grad-pic-4The event, which raised €7,000, was organised by 2017 MBA graduates: Anne Marie Barcoe, Ciarán Hope, Tanya Kenny and Catherine O’Brien. Following the lead of last year’s class, it was decided to use the event as an opportunity to raise funds for charity. The class elected to once again support Spinal Injuries Ireland, and this year it was decided to also support Friends of St Lukes Cancer Care Rathgar. Both charities are very worthy causes, and the vital funds raised on the night will contribute to the important work they do to support their patients and families, so details on how the donation will be used are outlined below.

A charity raffle was entertainingly compered on the night by MBA graduates Fenton Murphy and Marcus O’Dwyer. The very generously donated raffle items generated much interest with hotel stays, rugby tickets, sports jerseys and electrical items among the prizes on offer. There were also spot prizes awarded for Best Dressed Lady (Christine Kiernan) and Best Dressed Gent (Brian McGrath).

The funds raised by Smurfit MBA graduates, current students, alumni, Aspire scholars, and Smurfit school staff, together with partners and friends, means we are all part of doing something very positive. Sincere thanks for the incredible generosity by all who attended the event.

The committee would also like to acknowledge the generous support of all those who helped in the run up to the ball, especially our prize donors and sponsors.

MBA Graduation Ball 2017 Committee

Anne Marie Barcoe | Ciarán Hope | Tanya Kenny | Catherine O’Brien

Spinal Injuries Ireland will use the donation to grow their national Peer Support programme entitled ‘Someone Like Me’. When patients have returned home, after completing their rehabilitation at the NRH, SII works alongside them and their families to support full integration into their local communities. More information available https://spinalinjuries.ie/ or follow them on Facebook @SpinalInjuriesIreland

During 2018 The Friends of St Luke’s Cancer Care are fund raising for  some very important projects across the Network which include; Child and Adolescent play areas for their paediatric service. St Luke’s is the only centre that provides Paediatric Radiation Therapy, Gated VMAT Radiotherapy, 3D Bolus Printer for treatments, PICC line ultrasound system for the Day Ward and many other projects. More information available https://www.friendsofstlukes.ie/ or follow them on Facebook @friendsofstlukes

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The Clubhouse

The Professor Michael MacCormac Room, or more popularly known as the MBA suite, is considered by some, if not all MBA students as their second home inside the Smurfit School. Accessed by a secret code, the suite has been a constant hangout spot for the 2018 full-time MBA class for the past few months.

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However, if you expect a room full of students quietly drowning their minds in homework and books, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, if you want some quiet study time for yourself, this is the last place you would want to be. The MBA Suite is the common gathering area for study group meetings, club discussions and on rare occasions, 5-day pre-examination revision bootcamps.

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More importantly, the MBA suite is a place where you can unwind when the pressures of academic life and unknown future job prospects get you down. Stocked with full kitchen equipment, the suite is where everyone catches up over pre-packed lunches or a cup of coffee. No one stays silent for too long as people would constantly arrive and start a conversation.

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I’m grateful to have cohorts who are willing to share their thoughts and experiences and to have a place to hold these exchanges. Looking back at the past five months, I found that the best conversations I’ve had with my classmates happened here. It’s great to know that there’s a place where one can relax and have fun with people who are as stressed out as you are. If your colleagues are laughing in the MBA suite, it’s a good reason to kick back and not stress out too much over academics.

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Joanna Villanueva, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

All Set for the Second Innings

anupam-pic-1It has been five months into in the Smurfit MBA programme and the change couldn’t be any bigger. From the ‘tropical monsoon’ type climate in India to the cold, temperate oceanic climate in Ireland; from machines and client-first attitude in business to personal individual development, from learning to work in small core teams to open exchanges with a very diverse group in the MBA class, even from being in my first semester to the second. It has been a wow journey.

As someone who loves variety, I have been in awe of the intense fast-paced environment and have loved the engagement with intellectually curious and culturally diverse people. The learning has been endless and so has been the joy. I have not only worked hard but also thought hard. It has been a considerable part of investment and I feel transformed. I finished the first semester feeling content but the thirst has deepened to experience what the second innings has in store for me. It’s a new day, new group, new semester, new challenge in the New Year. I’m looking forward to the fun and constructive group time with Bhavya, Elizabeth, Lucy and Thom though I will thoroughly miss my earlier teammates. Each of them brought a wonderful personality to the team. Joanna was our organizer and our beloved social butterfly. She taught me to be focused (an instance: one should see her type). Ruary was the motivating factor of the team, often extracting a “eureka” insight that wowed us all. I adored him and his quality to keep calm and work tirelessly taking the team along. Manish, being super energetic, taught me to live life king size and work silently while I learnt versatility from Bob. He was the seasoned, witty manager, who calmly worked in alignment to the team.

I’m now on my second semester with another set of people waiting to learn and give back in equal measures. The semester started with a class on Financial Statement Analysis by Professor Eamonn Walsh. In a span of a mere two hours, I knew I was in for a great experience. Surprised by Prof. Walsh’s knowledge about anything and everything under the sun, I am sure this subject will leave a lasting  impression on us all. A whole day class in Operation and Supply Chain Management by Mr. George Onofrei followed this. Attending his lecture and listening to the real life experiences of George, made me grasp and understand the fundamentals of supply chain management smoothly. With a follow-up lecture by Mr. Eamonn Ambrose regarding Global Virtual Teams (GVT) Littlefield Operations Simulation, designed to enable us to apply operation and supply chain theories in a real world setting was enticing. GVT is one of the primary focuses of this semester and the opportunity to work as a team with Yale students makes the experience even more worthwhile.

The optional module is another fascinating element of this semester. It was a hard decision to make but my gut feeling drove me towards my keen interests and I chose ‘Entrepreneurship and Managing the Negotiation Processes’ as my optional module. Taught by Prof. Raomal Pereira, the entrepreneurship class was one of the most fun and fundamentally driven classes. In the first class, we ended up formulating and finalizing three business ideas on which we plan to work for this entire semester. We are all hopeful to be able to convert the idea into reality.

Negotiation module taught by Mr. Stephen Boyle is another subject that has been one of the most popular subjects amongst our batch. We were advised by our alumni not to miss this class particularly and they couldn’t have been more right. After a lecture and an intense negotiation role-play interestingly Thom, Emrecan and I were able to sell a factory at the highest rate.

The Entrepreneur Club has helped sharpen my leadership skills and enabled me to explore and pursue new interests and old passions by becoming a member. It has been as great experience promoting new ideas and working with a group of people with different backgrounds that share the same passion.

With a satisfying result, great group mates and amazing professors this semester has already taken its flight. The trip to Peru and Chile for some and Singapore and Vietnam for others is the next big thing all of us are looking forward to.These five months flew past wherein I learnt a lot, taught somebody something (I believe), gained some things while I lost many. But it has been an exhilarating adventure. Life as I knew it had changed; and I ain’t just talking about pin addresses and food habits. Sure, living by the ocean is amazing. But I have to cycle many kilometres in the cold, prepare food, fix clogged toilets, and so much more. I have learnt so many things beyond the classroom too and I must say it has been nice. I now know what it takes for every chore to be done. Little by little, I think I have become a local. For me it started with learning the local language and has now gone way beyond understanding conversations. Eventually, I got to know when to go to the market for the best deals, find a coffee shop/pub where I know what I want before I even order. Even though I will probably never become as local as someone who grew up in Dublin, I have caught myself “doing as the locals do” and trust me being part of a new culture is a pretty awesome feeling.

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Anupam Tiwari, Full-Time MBA 2017-2018

John Molson International Case Competition: The Moment of Truth!

molson-pic1Months of intense preparation and coaching, facilitated by UCD Smurfit, had prepared us for this moment. As we took our places on stage in front of 200 plus people, we were totally in sync, a true team. We knew we could win if we made this the best show of our weeklong adventure at the John Molson MBA International Case Competition, the world’s largest business case competition for MBAs. And so, after a slow and measured breath, we assumed our temporary roles as Smurfit Consulting and dared the audience to buy into our unconventional pitch.

Exactly 3 hours and 10 minutes earlier, we had been given an unpublished case and locked in a room with no internet access, robbed of our phones, smartwatches and anything to connect us to the outside world. The challenge: How was Wal-Mart’s e-retail business to survive in the face of the ever powerful Amazon? Just as we had practiced, we methodically analysed Wal-Mart’s core competencies and opportunities, with each of the four team members developing a particular part of the analysis, solution or proposed implementation strategy. The 20 minutes of allotted time for group debate were, as always, the most intense. But with everything riding on our solution to this case, today was a flurry of ideas in which we debated the future of retail, the internet and even basic human needs for interaction. Finally, we settled on a plan and with 2 hours of furious scribbling, calculating and putting together a power point, we were ready.

2 minutes in to the presentation, we witnessed an abundance of raised eyebrows and sideways glances in the audience asking “how could they be proposing that?” As time progressed, quizzical looks changed to heads nodding in agreement, even a few smiles. At the end of our 25 minute presentation and 15 minutes of grilling from the judges, we exited the stage to resounding applause knowing that we had sold our plan. If this wasn’t going to win the competition, well, it just wasn’t meant to be.

The moment of truth: despite our knowledge that we had given it our all, we had watched a number of the other 35 teams present during the week and knew that the competition was formidable. They were, after all, some of the brightest and most engaging students from many of the world’s top business schools. By the time Smurfit was announced as the winner of the 37th annual competition at the formal dinner on Saturday evening, we had lost track for the first time that week of the slow count of breathing in and out, instead holding our breaths in anticipation. Collecting the Concordia cup on stage, it finally sunk in that all the Sundays we spent pouring over cases and being drilled on presentation skills had paid off. Indeed, we will certainly remember that moment every time in the future when we take a deep breath and pitch a crazy, innovative idea in a boardroom whose occupants aren’t quite prepared for what they are about to hear.

How did UCD Smurfit’s team solve the Wal-Mart case? Find the video recording here (third finalist presenters): https://mbacasecomp.com/media/videos-2/.

Maria Barry, Paul Donnelly, Andrew Gebelin, Ruth Lalor, and Gearóid O’Briain travelled together with coach Professor Patrick Gibbons to compete in the 2018 John Molson International Case Competition in Montreal, Canada. Professor Gibbons and Paul Slattery deserve many thanks for coaching the team

 

Andrew Gebelin, EMBA 2016-2018  and Ruth Lalor, EMBA 2016-2018

Huge Success for the EMBA team representing Smurfit at the 2018 John Molson MBA International Case Competition at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada

Congratulations to our EMBA team of Andrew Gebelin, Ruth Lalor, Gearoid O’ Briain, Maria Barry and Paul Donnelly and their Coach Prof. Pat Gibbons who performed exceptionally well to claim victory with stiff competition from 36 international business schools from over 18 countries to be crowned 2018 Champions!

The many hours of hard work and preparation of the team as well as their drive and ambition was evident throughout and demonstrated the quality of our MBA cohort. Congratulations and a huge thank you to their team Coach Prof. Pat Gibbons who spent a huge amount of his own time preparing and training this team and who has travelled with previous Smurfit teams, offering his insight, expertise and vast academic knowledge, to Concordia over the last number of years. Paul Slattery our renowned MBA Presentation Skills expert was hugely influential and invested time and offered much support to the team. Thanks also to all the academic staff, the MBA team (notably Zoe O’ Connor) and previous EMBA Molson teams who have all played an important role in this victory for our MBA Programme, the Smurfit School, UCD and Ireland.

The John Molson MBA International Case Competition is open to top business schools worldwide, and is recognized as the largest case competition of its kind. Taking place over five days this is a tough and intensive competition which requires hard work, stamina and excellent preparation. The competition format is a round-robin tournament consisting of seven unpublished business cases, the highlight of the week is a live case presentation by a major company facing a real-life business challenge. With up to three hours of preparation time, teams of students must analyse and evaluate unpublished business cases using the skills, knowledge and experience they have acquired from their respective MBA curriculum. The students must then present their detailed plan of action to a panel of judges. More than 300 business executives serve as judges, using their unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to critically assess the participants’ presentations. Teams are evaluated on creativity, insight, substance and plausibility of implementation.

Roisin Downing

MBA Leadership Development Manager

Revisiting great GNAM memories in Yale

What is the best time for writing a reflection after a new experience? For some people, it would probably be right after the experience when the memories are still fresh and vivid. For me, it’s before the exams.

Our brain is amazing. When we’re not having fun, it either makes us want to go to sleep or reminds us of the good times. Being in the middle of the hectic revision period myself, I find it a perfect occasion to reflect on one of my best experience in Semester 1 as a Smurfit MBA student – the Global Network Week (GNW) at Yale.

  1. The morning walk on Yale campus:

When you’re too lazy for the gym but enthusiastic enough to take some amazing photos, I would recommend booking accommodation at a location not too close to Yale SOM as you can enjoy a long morning walk while contemplating some of the best American architecture of the last hundred years. Though we also had the campus tour on the GNW schedule, in which we were introduced to the history of famous spots such as the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Silliman College, Sterling Memorial Library and the Old Campus. It was an exotic feeling to be immersed in the tranquillity and ancient feeling all by myself in the middle of picturesque Georgian and Gothic buildings.

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  1. Cramming for Financial Reporting at Book Trader:

Coming to the GNAM with me, besides my 5 other MBA cohorts from Smurfit,  was a friend called ‘Financial Reporting’ with an exam coming the following week. I struggled to find a quiet place to cram for my Financial Reporting until I found Book Trader – one of Yale students’ most favourite spots in New Haven. Not only offering great coffee and cheap books, the place is ideal for those who prefer a quiet space to study, but not so isolated  that you can fall asleep.

  1. The lectures:

If someone asked me about what opened my eyes during one week at Yale I could go on forever: the lecturers, the class debates, the panel discussions, etc. Neuroscience and behavioural psychology were my areas of interest and they were the main reason why I signed up for GNW at Yale.  However it was not until I attended the classes that I realized the enormous possibilities to influence people and businesses with findings about the human brain. From Framing Effects, Context Effects and Choice Architecture lectures, we learned that consumer judgements and choices greatly depend on the context, and marketers could use this knowledge to nudge consumer’s decisions by structuring defaults, feedbacks, incentives and product design. In the Negotiation Mindsets lecture we learned the research-based steps and tactics to “carve out a larger slice of the pie”. And last but not least, from a panel discussion with the directors of lpsos and PepsiCo, we learned how behavioural science has become such an important resource for business decision making, especially in communications, product assortment, packaging design and in-store display.

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  1. New Haven’s “apizza”: 

Home to a number of Italian families in the twentieth century, New Haven offers some of the best pizza in the United States. Thin-crusted, charred and crispy, the pizzas brought by Yale SOM’s GNAM organizing team was a real feast!

  1. Getting connected with friends from around the world:

If the karaoke night, drinking nights and on-campus reception created opportunities for us to relax and reach out to one another and form new friendships, the lunches and dinners enabled us to have passionate conversations about things such as other’s interests, goals and experiences. In one meal I was fascinated to become a “trial customer” of a Berkeley fellow’s latest business venture, exchanged ideas about how learning from GNAM shed new light on our understanding of the business. In another, we were carried away with discussions about hiking trips in Machu Picchu with friends from Chile, Austria, Hong Kong and Spain.

To my amazement, GNAM is definitely not only about lectures and networking. It is also about exploring the world from different perspectives, exploring yourself, and feeling connected to different parts of the world.

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Huyen Tran, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

A Practice Run – Global Virtual Teams (GVT)

One of the main attractions of an MBA is leadership development. Within the first semester of the Smurfit MBA, we were presented with two challenges to develop our leadership skills. The first was an introduction to the Leadership Development Programme which is a yearlong, standalone program that develops student’s self-awareness, team skills and organisational leadership. The second challenge was the Leadership & Organisational Behaviour module which addressed the complexity of organisational structure.

In semester two, we will be challenged with a project where we work with students from around the world in a global virtual team (GVT). This project is part of the involvement with GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) and will partner with students from EGADE (Mexico), HEC(Paris) and Yale(US). The project will involve a simulation of a production line where cooperation and engagement from all team members is critical. This follows on from the learning in the Leadership & Organisational Behaviour module which included a trial GVT project.

The trial GVT project was designed to practice working in the unfamiliar situation of having remote team members who you had not interacted with before. The task was to analyse organisational issues within a case study, review related literature and provide a plan of action for the organisation. The submission format was not your typical MBA report or presentation, instead we had to create a video to provide our recommendations. One last curveball was that we were told not to meet in person.

The case study involved a character – Greg James, who had trouble managing his global team of 45 employees in the company Sun Microsystems. A sub optimal team performance had caused a recent problem for a customer and the organisation was starting to suffer. We identified GVT issues within Greg’s team as problems in communication, feelings of separation, feelings of unequal working conditions and lack of team spirit and camaraderie. I will omit our suggested solutions!

My trial GVT team included two full time MBA members, two mid-week EMBAs and one weekend EMBA. Some of our challenges included communication channels, finding meeting times to suit everyone, changing schedules, fluctuating engagement of team members, rapidly approaching deadlines and completely different personalities. We experimented with different IT solutions to facilitate remote meeting and work flow management. After many headaches, we settled on Google hangouts and Google Drive which gave us the most hassle-free work environments. We managed to scramble together an unpolished video and submit within the timeline . . . not our finest work but the learning is far more important.

Working in a global virtual team is never going to be straightforward, there are no perfect solutions and there will always be hurdles to overcome. I am looking forward to working with the GVT project next semester, the added variables of schools, locations, time zones and cultures will bring our skills to the next level. With the range of theory, challenges and experiences covered during the Smurfit MBA, we should be well positioned to excel in the increasingly global environment.

 

Eoin Carroll, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

Thought Leadership Club

On 23rd November, towards the end of our first semester, the Thought Leadership club organized its first event. We couldn’t have expected a better student organized event to start with. The club was really keen to organize the first event in the first semester itself. At the same time, with all the case studies, exams and assignments it was a really huge task.  Firstly to reach out to prospective speakers and then to organize the event and get others to attend the event. However, James Kelly (Full-time MBA) from our club actively reached out to Stephen Somers, co-founder of Marketplace SuperHeroes, an information product that teaches you how to start an international eCommerce business selling on Amazon, to share his experience as an entrepreneur with us. There was a lot of excitement in the full time MBA class, especially in the Thought Leadership Club, to organize and attend the event.
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Stephen Somers is a 30-year-old serial entrepreneur, who has developed multiple businesses in different industries. Before becoming an entrepreneur, he worked as a data processor with a government agency by day and a musician by night. However, having studied Business in college he also had an urge to start a business of his own. Therefore, when he was introduced by his aunt to Robert Rickey who owned an e-commerce business, he found a way to achieve his dream of starting a business.

With the philosophy of “The best way to start a business is to be in business” he worked in Robert’s warehouse for 9 months without pay so that he could learn and understand the nuances of an e-commerce business. This conviction, which I guess is one of the traits of a thought leader, helped him to take risks and believe in himself. Working in the warehouse he identified inefficiencies in the existing system and observed that there was a lack of well-defined process. He also observed that the products such as TV mounts that were sold by the business had a saturated market therefore a minimal growth prospect. Consequently, he removed inefficiencies, defined appropriate processes and looked for products with unsaturated demands. After working on all these improvements he decided to start online sales on e-commerce websites. Once the online sales business started doing well, he realized that a lot of other people were trying to do the same however without proper guidance they would inevitable either fail or give up. Furthermore, he noticed that numerous “How to make money online” courses in the market were scams. This motivated him to become a THOUGHT LEADER and share his knowledge of how to start a successful online sales business with other people through Marketplace Superheroes.

With Marketplace Superheroes, they teach people how to build a 5-7 figure global online selling business through eCommerce websites by selling simple, low-competition, high profit physical products without “risking it all”. Listening to Stephen, I found a practical implementation of a lot of theoretical concepts of marketing that I had learned in the class. He used direct marketing, through Facebook, for customer acquisition. Coincidentally two days prior, in our marketing class we discussed the importance of marketing channels in any business. He let us in on his secret to successfully selling on an ecommerce website which is “don’t create demand, instead fulfil the existing demand”.  Having had a business degree and having read loads of books about business he introduced us to some business concepts such as customer conversion and value proposition.

He told us how important it is to differentiate your products in an online selling business. He started selling products with a very unorthodox method i.e. by reaching out to people and selling products that did not exist. He reasoned that most businesses first put in 6 months to develop a product and then find out that there is no demand for that product, whereas he tries to identify demand and then address that demand through his products. He also stressed the importance of focusing on a limited number of products instead of too many products to keep the business simple and efficient.

Stephen Somers has demonstrated that being a thought leader in your business differentiates you from your competitors. While others in the business were just selling basic information on how to start an online business selling on e-commerce websites. Marketplace Superheroes was sharing information how to be successful at selling online on e-commerce websites, by proper market research and inventory management. Stephen Somers spoke about his journey and his business for about 50 minutes, however he took us through a very descriptive narration about how he came into business, how he struggled,  and then how he made it successful, and currently how he is utilizing his success and knowledge to help others become successful through his startup Marketplace SuperHeroes.

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At the end of the event, I realized how much these 3 months in the MBA have changed my perspective: I have developed a new way of looking at businesses. In the past 3 months I have been through numerous case studies, which have changed the way I absorb information about businesses and organizations. This change has been so significant that all through the presentation I was just relating information from Stephan Somers, about his businesses, to the concepts I had previously learned in class. Therefore, I am looking forward to finding out how the rest of the course will guide my thinking. Thank You!

Devinder Sharma, Full-Time MBA 2017-2018