Celebrating Lunar New Year in Dublin

Vietnamese Student Body

On February 2nd 2017, our Vietnamese study body organised a warm celebration of Lunar New Year with international students, Irish families with adopted Vietnamese children and members of the Vietnamese community in Dublin.

Lunar New Year is a very meaningful occasion for many Asian countries such as China, Korea and Vietnam, etc. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is called Tet, which means the ‘feast of the first morning of the first day’. Tet is an important occasion for family reunions, when we cherish the success of past year, let the troubles go and look forward to happiness, success and good fortune in the upcoming year.

Quiz contest about Vietnam’s facts
Quiz contest about Vietnam’s facts

As an organising member, I was glad to see many international students interested in the event. We welcomed over 300 guests despite the heavy rain over the whole day. All the efforts spent over the last 3 months seemed to be rewarding when we engaged with participants through traditional games, when international students enjoyed and took pictures in our traditional dresses or when they attentively watched the performances. Looking back, I was reluctant to take the role as Event Director due to a heavy schedule in the first semester and unfamiliar study environment. But now I felt all the experience I had was such a great one. There were moments of tension the ‘ brain-storming’ stage, yet we had gone a long way to learn how to be flexible in our plan, to be appreciative of each other’s ideas, to give more than to take and to put ourselves forward.

Myself in ‘ao dai’ - traditional dress
Myself in ‘ao dai’ – traditional dress

When I first landed in Dublin 4 months ago, I was impressed by a small little thing – signage. All are written in English and Gaelic. Although nowadays, Gaelic is becoming less popular among young people, the presence of Gaelic in almost all public areas is such a great reservation of culture and traditions. Recent years in my home country have seen debate over whether Lunar New Year should be combined with New Year holiday in the Gregorian calendar. Advocates would point to economic loss and overspending during such a long holiday. For me, I still hope that every year we will still celebrate Lunar New Year and that our people will never lose tradition because of a so-called cost-benefit analysis. Simply, globalization and revolution are not to be carried out at the expense of intrinsic values. 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

 Khanh Nguyen ~ Full-Time MBA

Teams – A Hybrid Approach

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Undertaking an MBA was something I had considered for a long time. However, with my career progressing and being in my mid 30’s I has thought that the time to take on this challenge had passed me by. Realising that I wanted to change my career path, I spoke with friends & colleagues, and made enquiries into what options and programmes were available to me. I quickly realised the Full-Time MBA in Smurfit Business School matched exactly what I was looking for.

After 10 years in the banking industry, giving up my job (and salary!!) for a year was a scary prospect. However, unlike many of my classmates, being from Dublin was advantageous in terms of not having to move, which made things easier for me. Returning to full time education after a gap of 10 years certainly took some getting used to, but after 2 to 3 weeks of a settling in period I was back in the student mind-set.

There is a wide diversity in the class in terms of experience, industry, and nationality. Adapting to different people’s way of doing things takes time and includes some trial and error – but I am always learning. An engineer and a banker certainly have different ways to tackle the same problem! However, what I have learned is that there are many ways to successfully complete a task. Quite often a hybrid approach between team members proves to be the most efficient way of achieving success.

The past 4 months have flown by. It has been tough at times and the hours have been long, however I have learned a huge amount both academically and personally and I have met some great people along the way. Semester 1 is complete, however there is still a long road ahead and I am looking forward to the challenges that 2017 will bring.

I have really enjoyed the MBA experience to date, but having said that I am certainly enjoying the Christmas break! Lots done – even more to do!

Mark Kavanagh ~ Full-Time MBA

Canada Bound: Preparing to Represent UCD Michael Smurfit at the John Molson International Case Study Competition

The UCD Smurfit Molson Team. L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Derek Anderson, Tanya Kenny, Catherine O’Brien. Picture Jason Clarke.
The UCD Smurfit Molson Team. L-R: Declan Walsh, Anne Marie Barcoe, Derek Anderson, Tanya Kenny, Catherine O’Brien. Picture Jason Clarke.

Sunday 18th of December and it is two days after the end of some of the busiest weeks of the Executive MBA to date. With Semester 1 of Year 2 complete, most students could be found making up for lost time with family and friends, Christmas shopping, or simply enjoying their freedom again. All except for our team of five daring Executive MBA students who traded Dundrum Shopping Centre for a small meeting room in The Radisson St Helens Hotel. Acting as a team of consultants, we were challenged to dissect a case on McDonald’s proposed global turn-around strategy within three hours, followed by a 25 minute presentation outlining our proposed strategy and rationale. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from the MBA to date, we set to work confident we could solve McDonald’s strategy dilemma. The Smurfit MBA team’s preparations for the John Molson International Case Study Competition 2017 were truly in full swing.

The journey began on October 11th when the second year Executive MBAs were invited to participate in ‘trials’ to establish the UCD team that would travel to Montreal to participate in the competition. Organised by John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal, the competition is the largest and longest established business case competition of its kind in the world. It takes place in Montreal every January and is a round-robin tournament consisting of seven rounds of unpublished business cases over five days. A total of 36 international universities will be represented in 2017 including teams from Canada, America, Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Chile, Sweden and Germany.

The UCD team was selected following individually prepared presentations on a sample case on microfinancing in rural India. We were informed by Smurfit School that we would receive all the support we required and determined to make the most out of this opportunity, we set about  honing our strategy and presentation skills.

First up was an intense session on strategy analysis with Professor Pat Gibbons. Pat is the team’s coach and will travel to Montreal to provide guidance and support throughout the competition.

Next up, Paul Slattery took the team for a master class on how to present, prepare Power Point slides and communicate effectively with an audience, in this case the local business executives who will act as judges in Montreal. For anyone who has had a class with Paul Slattery, they will appreciate how valuable a session in such a small group proved to be. The evening with Paul was challenging but thoroughly enjoyable, provoking more than a few laughs from the group along the way as we perfected the art of corporate story telling amongst other skills.

With our foundation sessions complete, it was agreed that real life practice cases would be the best way to develop our skills. Our first practice case revealed to us the scale of the challenge we were facing within a tight three hour preparation window. It highlighted many areas for development; we lacked structure, time efficiency and a clear direction. This led to a sense of panic during our preparations as the clock ticked down and this was apparent to Pat from our rapidly cobbled together presentation slides. However, we surprised ourselves in getting through the presentation fluidly. Whilst we had some doubts about the arduous challenge facing us, they were quickly eradicated at this point as we knew we could only improve with practice.

Over the next few weeks we worked rigorously to evolve as an effective team under time pressure and developed a clear process for tackling case studies. Our rate of improvement as a team has been incredible and has only been matched by the rate of learning as individuals. Speed reading, effective group brain storming, clear communications, strong Power-Point slides and strategic thinking have all been key takeaways for the group.

The preparations are now complete and all that is left for us is to execute our plan. The team travel to Canada confident that our committed preparations will bear fruit as we represent UCD on the world stage. In reality, we are unsure of what to expect from our competitors but ultimately; win, lose or draw we are satisfied that we have already learnt more about strategy, presenting and most importantly team-work than would ever be possible in a classroom. It has truly been a fantastic experience to date, and we look forward to jetting off to Montreal to put our MBA skills to the test.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Professor Pat Gibbons for the huge amount of time and advice he has given, Paul Slattery for his guidance on presentation skills and finally Ro Downing and all at Smurfit School for facilitating this invaluable experience and providing all the support we could have wished for.

The competition runs from the 1st – 6th January and a further blog post will follow in relation to our experience in Montreal. Hopefully we will be talking about the first UCD team to win the John Molson International Case Study Competition. One has to believe to achieve.

Declan Walsh ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

On behalf of: Derek Anderson, Anne Marie Barcoe, Tanya Kenny and Catherine O’Brien

Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM)

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Two months into UCD Smurfit Full-Time MBA and every day still remains a mix of anxiety, excitement, pressure and loads of memories. The icing on the cake was Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week – perfect stress buster for learning, meeting people and sharing experiences.

The module hosted by UCD this year was “The Three Pillars of Innovation in Ireland – Technology, Food and Culture” with an aim to drive innovation and create value by connecting leading global business schools, their resources and their stakeholders. We had 40+ students from EGADE Mexico, ESMT Germany, IE Spain, IIMB India, Sauder Canada, and Yale U.S.A and last but not least UCD Ireland.

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Day 1: Rushing through the gates in anticipation of not being late, it felt like the first day of school all over again, from collar name tags to the printed schedule of the week to new puzzled faces in the lecture theatre. Professor Patrick Gibbons, the module co-coordinator addressed us and introduced the students to each other in a unique way, following which we had interactive sessions about the future of Irish beef industry, Challenges of Internationalization and Branding of Irish food. Apart from the amazing lunch, there was a welcome reception in the evening where all the students socialised over wine & cheese.

Day 2: The day started with reflections on the previous days’ learnings. Apart from sessions on Foreign Direct Investment, Innovation in customer Insight and Ireland’s competitiveness, the highlight of the day was a power packed presentation by ‘The Happy Pear’ twins and a visit to their café and production unit in Greystones. It felt like we were on a class picnic and I never knew I would actually like vegan food that was served at the café (being a hard core non-vegetarian!). The experience was really good due to my personal interest in the food production industry.

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Day 3: By now all students knew each other quiet well, with no more introductions, “Hello, I am Prathibha, attending the MBA programme at UCD” and questions “So, which country are you from? “or “ Which business school are you attending?”. Thus began another day planned very well with lectures on the venture capital environment, Google Inc, developing Irish industry and the Irish economy-performance & prospects. A Dublin Literary pub crawl was organized for us (believe me I never knew what a Literary pub crawl was until then). It is a walking tour of Dublin’s historic pubs conducted by two actors who introduce the famous writers and enact scenes from their works. Moving from one pub to another, sharing stories, small talk, drinks and food just made the day even more worthwhile.

Day 4: After a long night, it was really hard to wake up in the morning and reach college by 8:45am for an overview and review session. But still, everyone were present right on time looking all energetic to attend sessions on Innovation, Operations in Ireland, International TV & film industry and Intellectual Property. A farewell dinner was planned out at Johnnie Fox’s which is known as Ireland’s ‘highest’ pub. The night was filled with traditional Irish dance and music and a delicious three course meal.

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Day 5: Today there were no classes; an entire day of outdoor activities was organized starting with a trip to the Abbey Theatre, National Theatre of Ireland. There was a small talk about the history of the theatre and development of Arts followed by an acting exercise. Due to some confusion, I reached the wrong entrance of the Guinness Store house and had to go all the way round to another entrance, only to be received by some smiling faces who happily commented on how late I was and kept them waiting. This was my first brewery experience which tells the tale of Ireland’s famous beer. Along with tastings and beer samples there is a rooftop gravity bar on the 7th floor with 360° views across the Dublin’s magnificent skyline. As this was the last day of the GNAM week, everyone decided to meet up for one last time for some drinks.

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Thus the incredible GNAM week concluded with goodbyes, new friends and valued memories.  Thanks to Elaine Aherne, module manager for organizing everything and always being there with us. Back to classes again, need to do a load of assignments and also have an exam coming up next week. All the best to me and my class!

Prathiba Fernandes ~ Full-Time MBA

Global Network Week 2016

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Here at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, we are proud to be a member of the Global Network for Advanced Management, alongside other top business schools like Yale, IE and EGADE (visit GNAM website). The Global Network Immersion Week (GNW) Programme is an initiative of GNAM that is designed to provide students from participating GNAM schools with a rich foreign immersion experience.

The Global Network for Advanced Management connects member schools with diverse regions, countries, and cultures, and economies by facilitating interaction. Through one week immersion programmes and online courses, participating schools host fellow GNAM institutions for seminars, visits, and interactions within local economies.

The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School will be participating in the GNW Programme again this year, for our third year running. We will be hosting an intensive one-week course in October 2016 and June 2017 that will be attended by MBA students from both our school and all other network schools.

Global Network Immersion Week gives UCD Smurfit MBA students the opportunity to pursue intensive study at another network school, in a focused mini course that leverages the perspectives, programmes, and faculty expertise of that school. Alongside their counterparts from elsewhere in the network, students attend classes, tour local businesses, and meet with experts focused on current business problems.

In the video below, Executive MBA student Dermot Boyle & Full-time MBA student Ashish Babbar discuss their experiences of the 2015-16 Global Network for Advanced Management.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

A Smurfit MBA’s Startup – Hospital Contact

Dr Joe Sheehan, Radiologist Registrar,Ger Bowens from MSD, and Dr Donal Reddan pictured at the launch of the WNWHG App outside Galway University Hospital. Photo: Reg Gordon
Dr Joe Sheehan, Radiologist Registrar,Ger Bowens from MSD, and Dr Donal Reddan pictured at the launch of the WNWHG App outside Galway University Hospital. Photo: Reg Gordon

As a 22-year-old with two Bachelors of Science degrees to my name and 1 year of medical school under my belt, joining the MBA class of 2009 at Smurfit was the greatest risk of my very early career. That risk turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. For the first year of the MBA, the Celtic tiger was still roaring and I got a first-hand look at how not to do business. In the classroom, we were learning the bedrock principles of business and outside the walls of the school that bedrock was being broken by far too many people. To this day I can almost pinpoint when I realised it was all about to crash. We had just gathered for our first lecture on a sunny spring Friday and I was reading the cover of the financial times to see that RBS had announced a rights issue. I asked our economics professor about it and we then spent the first twenty minutes of class discussing what a rights issue was and what it all meant. From that point on, we had a separate Harvard business case study being played out in real life on a weekly basis. I remember thinking to my myself at the time that this is the best learning experience of my life and to this day I still believe that.

Since graduating from the MBA, I have gone on to finish medicine and am nearing completion of my training as a Radiologist in Galway. I have continued to use the skills I learned in the MBA on a daily basis as a director on the board of the Galway Clinic and as a co-founder of a company called Hospital Contact. Hospital Contact is a start-up and is the place where my MBA has been most useful. As a student, I concentrated heavily on entrepreneurial studies and took all the electives the school offered. Those classes opened my eyes to the fact that a start-up is hard work with little early payoff. But I also realised, through that second year of MBA discussions, that the company that sticks it out through the hard times will flourish in the good times. Hospital Contact makes healthcare related smart phone apps with our flagship app used by over 10,000 healthcare professionals in Ireland. The world of tech is full of ups and downs, but as my start-up now begins to flourish I know that without my Smurfit MBA the company might not have lasted through the past two years. Thank you Smurfit for the great education and happy 50th birthday to the Smurfit MBA.

Joe Sheehan ~ Executive MBA 2009

Toastmasters International Pilot Session

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The word ‘’Toastmasters’’ was doing the rounds in our school since November. Some knew what it was while some did not. On Monday, the 8th of February, UCD Smurfit had its first Toastmasters International workshop at the Laurence Crowley Board Room. Facilitated by office bearers of ‘Tara Toastmasters’ club, the event had participants from MBA, MSc and PhD streams. So what is ‘Toastmasters’ all about?

‘Toastmasters’ club is one of its kind, with more than 320,000 members in over 15,000 clubs across 135 countries. It is a platform for people to develop public speaking, leadership and inter-personal skills, and heighten their confidence levels. Overtime, members reach different levels of proficiency and participate at national and international forums. How popular is the Toastmasters?

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Many MNCs run active Toastmasters clubs. Other reputed B-Schools have their Toastmasters too. Dublin has over 20 registered clubs. Students and working professionals meet at evenings and head for pints. Helps us talk to everyone, both before and after some intoxication. As it is said, ‘it’s a bit of good craic!’

On Monday, in a typical Toastmasters set-up, we heard two prepared speeches followed by ‘Table Topics’ on which the audience spoke. The evaluators, time keepers, and a Toastmaster kept our adrenaline levels high. Although table-topics tingled our bellies, the crowd pulled it off well. Apprehensions became smiles, turning towards the person speaking and wondering who’d be next. Topics such as psychology, business and romance, along with some laughter ended the session in style. Thanks to Orla Nugent – MBA Programme Director and our MBA Programme Manager Yvonne for their constant support. Thanks to the the Services Team and Smurfit Restaurant for their flawless coordination.

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”Next is what?” If we succeed in setting up the club in Smurfit, we can all become members here and invite alumni as well to join the club. Hold joint meets with Toastmasters from companies. Show the talent pool in Smurfit. Share presentations that went great in the class. Create networking space through informal talk on business, sports, humour or anything interesting. Search online for ‘’Toastmasters’’ now, share it your friends and click here if you are interested in becoming a member. It’s time to raise a toast..!

Sreekanth Nagabhushana ~ Full-Time MBA

Global Network Immersion Week – Sauder Business School, Vancouver

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As mentioned in previous posts, Smurfit is part of a global network of MBA schools, which offers you the opportunity to sit a course in another business school for a week. It’s a great experience and one worth taking if you get the chance. I chose to go to the Sauder Business School in the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. The course was entitled ‘Clean Energy and Green Infrastructure – Innovation at the Nexus of Politics and Society’. With an MSc in Renewable Energy Development and having worked in the energy sector for 7 years prior to my MBA, I jumped at the chance. It also meant I had an excuse to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in years.

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The course really struck at the heart of global economics in the context of global warming, and how greenhouse gases (GHGs) can be reduced or offset. Needless to say, the concepts are simple in principle but incredibly difficult in practice. They require buy in across the board and with many other societal pressures acting on governments around the World, the global warming issue is often pushed down the pecking order.

Carbon taxation, carbon offsetting and market-driven GHG reduction policies were explored. Examples of where these market-driven measures were working were contrasted against regions of the world were no such economic drivers existed. Furthermore it is the developed countries of world that are the largest emitters of GHGs and the developing countries that have the greatest carbon offsetting potential. As you might expect the offsetting concept is fraught with political tensions regarding economic development.

In 2012 China overtook the USA as the World’s largest emitter of GHGs. This is primarily as a result of its enormous fleet of coal fired power stations. The scary thing is that its rate of increase of GHG production is much higher than all other major contributors. In fact the other major contributors are flat lining with the exception of India. So what is the global solution to this global problem? British Columbia and western Canada may play a big role in this over the coming years and decades.

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British Columbia and the neighbouring province of Alberta have enormous shale gas reserves and the potential for exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia is very real – shortest distance to market. Per unit electricity produced LNG emits almost 50 per cent less GHGs than coal. With increasing international and national pressure (global warming and air quality), conversion of China’s coal fired power stations to gas fired power stations is one of the front running solutions to clean up China’s contribution to global warming while not impacting on its economic development. For a country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean to prove to be a major part of China’s power solution shows just how interlinked the economies of the World have become. With the Paris summit on climate change just around the corner, this subject is going to become very topical over the next weeks and months.

So that was just a snapshot of my week in Vancouver. A lot more went on that week but as they say ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour!’

Finbarr Coghlan ~ Full-Time MBA

Global Network Immersion Week at Koç University, Istanbul

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Last week we had our first international MBA travel opportunity – Global Network Immersion Week (GNIW). GNIW is an optional, one-week module in Semester 1 which allows students to take a mini course either at Smurfit or at another partner university. Each of the universities offer the opportunity to work with other international students, faculty, and companies. Three of us chose Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey, where the topic of the week was From Local to Global: Developing an Effective Global Strategy. Other classmates traveled to Madrid (IE), New Haven (Yale), and Vancouver (UBC).

The classroom portion of our experience was engaging and provided frameworks that we can easily bring back and apply to our classes at Smurfit. After a brief background on the economic and political history of Turkey, lectures were primarily case based and included both local and international companies that have a presence in Istanbul. The three of us were already experts with Porter’s Five Forces (thanks, Brian!); however, we were also introduced to additional models that we can use going forward.

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The latter half of the week was devoted to a business simulation with Unilever. We were divided into teams of six and had three rounds to build a global expansion strategy for products like personal care, food, and household cleaning. The simulation gave us the opportunity to apply what we learned throughout the week and to interact more with our international classmates (Chile, Spain, South Africa, Iran) as well as with management at Unilever.

Outside of the classroom, Koç provided additional networking events for us. These included company visits to Unilever and Turkcell (in case you were wondering where Ryan got that fancy hat). They also hosted an alumni networking evening at a restaurant with beautiful views of the Bosphorus. In addition to all of this, we still managed to fit in some free time for exploring the sights of Istanbul (please ask Carley about her favorite purchase from the Grand Bazaar). Overall, GNIW was a great experience and I would highly recommend it to future students.

Jessica Beloff ~ Full-Time MBA

UCD Smurfit MBA Participates in Yale Global Network Immersion Week 2015

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This past week (Oct 19th – 23rd) saw students from the Full-Time MBA class participate in Global Network Immersion Week (GNIW). Global Network Immersion Week gives UCD Smurfit MBA students the opportunity to pursue intensive study at another network school, in a focused mini course that leverages the perspectives, programmes, and faculty expertise of that school. Alongside their counterparts from elsewhere in the network, students attend classes, tour local businesses, and meet with experts focused on current business problems.

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UCD Smurfit School welcomed students from Koç University (Istanbul, Turkey), Yale SOM (Connecticut, USA), Fudan (Shanghai, China), Egade (Santa Fe, Mexico) and Sauder School of Business UBC (Vancouver, Canada). The theme of the UCD Smurfit GNIW was ‘Executive Decision Making’ and sessions included Executive Decision Making: Art or Science?, Corporate Decision Making: Respective Roles of Boards and Management and Individual and Social Psychological Effects on Decision Making.

Along with contemplating some Decision Making conundrums in the classroom, students went on a Company Visit to Accenture where the Director of the Centre for Innovation, Dublin  discussed the decision making process around locating the new innovation centre in Dublin.

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To balance the class-based learning the students took part in activities such as a Networking Event, a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, a Literary Pub Crawl and a wrap up lunch in Blackrock.

The class are just past the mid-way point in Semester 1 and having spoken to students who participated in the GNIW they viewed the week as a valuable opportunity to take stock and reflect on what has passed since the programme commenced in September and provided an opportunity through learning and social activities to energise for the remainder of the Semester.

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Yvonne Harding ~ Full-Time MBA Programme Manager