The Final Hurdle

EAT, SLEEP, HURDLE, REPEAT! Four words that come to mind when I reflect on the relentless yet rewarding cycle of the last two semesters. However, here we stand in semester three, the end is now in sight and the MBA blinkers are beginning to come off. The full time cohort has recently commenced our final hurdle – our capstone project. The landscape has changed suddenly and dramatically. We are now out of the confines of the Smurfit campus. The lecture halls, library and the MBA suite have since been replaced with the architecture of the “real world”. This is the time when we get to put into practice all the learning that took place over the previous two semesters. Strategy, marketing, finance, economics, accounting, operations etc. have all come into play in the thinking that goes into our final assignment.

This time in the “real world” coincides aptly with the class trying to determine/finalise our future careers. The next six weeks will undoubtedly fly by as quickly as the previous ten months. Where will we all find ourselves in September when the next round of eager “newbies” commence their MBA journey? When I look back on the photograph below, taken at the MBA ball last September, celebrating with the outgoing class the finale of their MBA experience, the people in the snapshot barely knew each other. In that moment, we had no idea how quickly we would bond as a class and become a strong support network for each other.

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When I returned to Dublin last July, after eight years abroad experiencing all the world outside of Ireland had to offer, I looked forward to settling back into Dublin life, rekindling old friendships, spending time with family and partaking in impromptu adventures at the weekends. However, this all-consuming, immersive learning experience quickly surrounded me like a new blanket and everything else soon took second place.

Now, at the final hurdle, we can finally exhale and reflect on the multitude of activities that took place since we first trooped through the timber frame, arched portal of Carysfort Avenue to greet the smiley, fresh faces of our new cohort. Since then, we muddled through the multitude of academic material, attended glamorous black-tie balls,  jetsetted off on class trips around the world and partook in the many clubs and societies (including the off-the-books, Thursday night “Integration Club”). We shared the high and lows, the early mornings and the sleepless nights, the cups of coffee, glasses of wine and the pints of Guinness.  Our new family. Our new friends. Our new advisors. And in some ways, our new competitors!

We learned at an incredible rate, about the big, bad world of business and the hidden-deep-inside understandings about ourselves. We appreciated the skills and expertise of others and the little surprises that happen along the way – like scoring a try at your first rugby training session!. We got tired and frustrated and we needed good people around us to listen and support us through. People are what make the MBA go round. No one can prepare you in advance, for what is like to do an MBA programme. You need to live it to appreciate it.

With all the said, we now must not fall at the final hurdle. We need to land right where we want to be, with the ideal job – “winner all right”.

Lydia Collis, Full Time MBA 2018-2019

Vroooooming in Lisbon…!

As the second semester came to an end, the fact that our MBA days are numbered, loomed above us. Time has come for one of the most critical aspect of our course – the Capstone project to commence, in which we are assigned in groups to consult both emerging and established companies in some of the real-time challenges that these organisations are facing presently. The first leg of the Capstone project was kicked off at the picturesque Lisbon, Portugal, one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. Fortunately, I had opted not to take the module in the week before the Capstone, therefore, I had arrived at this beautiful country a week before our project start date. I took a host of road-trips across the southern (Algarve) and the northern part of the country (Douro Valley, Porto, Braga etc.) before I joined my colleagues for a week in Lisbon. The entire team was put at up the very chic Sana Lisboa, which was close to the heart of the city and a walking distance to most of the major tourist trails.

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Me and my team of consultants (Ha! – we were working there, I swear..) were assigned to help GoCars – Lisbon, arrive at a go-to market strategy for new and probable destinations to expand into. The project had to be delivered in a strict timeline, therefore, the first three days were all hard work to assist the company by all tangible means. We believed that we were quite enterprising in coming up with a rank-based algorithm to help the organisation decide on new destinations, based on certain quantifiable metrics weighed along with finer qualitative factors. The company head was very interested in our suggestions and so were our module coordinator. But, the best part of this entire routine was driving around the tourist trails of Lisbon, in business attires, in a funnily enough yellow-coloured, two-seater GPS-enabled vehicle. The company were kind enough to offer us free test drive of their product and we made sure that we enjoyed our ride to the fullest and also being the centre of attraction to tourists, while we vroomed past them in our loud motorised cars. All in all, a satisfied beginning to our Capstone endeavours. Now back to Dublin for the next round.

Arnab Roy (FT MBA ’19)

I can’t believe it’s almost over!

I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about my last 10 months in Ireland and mostly about the MBA. I’ve had amazing experiences and of course others that I wouldn’t want a repeat of. The silver lining here is the lessons and memories. What I’m certain of though is that I am not the same person that landed in Dublin, August of last year. I am definitely a much more sophisticated version of myself.

I was fortunate to be awarded the Mwangi MBA Scholarship which is awarded to one Kenyan woman in business. The scholarship is in honour of Ms Catherine Mwangi (former Kenyan ambassador to Ireland) who lost her son – an only child – in a terrorist attack. To turn something so tragic into something that changes people’s lives is amazing. It wasn’t easy jumping through the hoops to get the scholarship but definitely well worth it. I am glad that I took on the challenge and will forever be grateful for the opportunity because it has been life-changing.

These are my highlights for the last 10 months so far, I’ll let you decide if they’re good or bad:

  1. Irish weather

No amount of research could prepare you for the weather in Ireland. You’d think that after climbing numerous mountains I’d understand what extreme weather meant. There are days where it felt like there were all four seasons in one day. My Irish classmates talk about four seasons. Maybe they meant the hotel. I know what I have experienced is rain, wind and clouds with a little sprinkle of sunshine once in a while. I am yet to experience summer despite the fact that this is the end of June. However, it would be unfair not to mention how much I enjoyed the beautiful colours of fall. Irish weather has taught me to always be prepared.

  1. Groups

I have been in nine (maybe more) groups since I started this journey. At the beginning, nothing prepares you for this especially if you land in a group of six. It is a crash course on the fine art of managing people. I love how it breaks the tendency of working in silos and experiencing first hand how effective team work really is.

3. Diversity

Prior to the MBA I had lived and worked in India and Nigeria. Additionally, I had done a bit of travel and therefore thought that I had this thing called diversity figured out. I quickly discovered that there was more to learn. The MBA class is filled with people from so many walks of life; a paediatrician, vets, engineers, an architect, business owners and as if that’s not enough, throw in seven other nationalities. My favourite part was watching people struggle to pronounce my preferred name ‘Shitandi’!

 4. Proby

Living on campus has its perks. You can wake up twenty minutes before a class and still make it to that class on time. Quick and easy commutes mean you don’t have to fight the elements to get to class. Best of all, the random lunches and dinners with classmates who live on campus. I have enjoyed delicious Indian dinners without paying a cent thanks to my very talented Indian housemates. A special mention to Carmela for the most glorious soup I have ever tasted in my life. Some of those meals shall never be forgotten.

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Proby Family

5. International trips

I’m still pinching myself because it’s hard to believe that in such a short amount of time I’ve travelled so much while doing an MBA. South America has never featured in my wildest dreams. The trip to Chile and Argentina was breath-taking. Apart from the profound lessons learnt during company visits, time spent with classmates allowed me to get to know people better. I spent time visiting vineyards, drinking very good wine, wandering around Santiago and Buenos Aires and best of all, I set my eyes on the Andes mountains. A few weeks ago, we spent a week in Lisbon working on consulting projects. Our group worked with an impressive start-up where we helped them put together a strategy to enter the Irish market. It was very satisfying seeing a happy client. Apart from the work, we enjoyed sightseeing and amazing seafood. Interestingly, I was one of the few people who didn’t like the famous custard tarts that Lisbon is known for.

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Wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina

 6. Running in Blackrock Park

Sunrise in Ireland is both dramatic and beautiful especially in Blackrock park. Running in the park was my therapy during stressful times when there was so much to do and during dark cold winter days. I still don’t believe I went out for runs in 1-degree centigrade weather. There are probably more beautiful places in Ireland, but Blackrock park is my special place.

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Sunrise, Blackrock Park

 Milka Omukuba, Full Time MBA 2018-2019 

Georgetown Case Competition

Ciara, Colm, Ger, Swathi and I were delighted to be chosen to represent UCD Smurfit at this year’s IBM Georgetown case competition, which took place in Georgetown University, Washington DC. The competition involved developing an innovative digital strategy for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). FEMA is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security and its primary purpose is to coordinate the federal response to disasters that overwhelm local and state authorities such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires. We were able to use our diverse backgrounds from engineering, finance and medicine to formulate a solution that considered the needs of all relevant stakeholders including victims, governmental and non-governmental partners, and FEMA itself. Our solution centred on reducing complexity and increasing the speed of access to critical information on the FEMA website and app, as well as proposing virtual reality educational modules for emergency response staff.

In the run up to the competition we were fortunate to have a number of prep sessions with past students, faculty mentors and Paul Slattery, our coach in presentation skills. One of my main goals for my year in the FTMBA has been to work on improving my presentation skills and through the additional sessions we received from Paul in advance of the competition, I feel that my presentations have come on leaps and bounds!

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We flew to Washington on Thursday April 11th and checked into our hotel next to the historic Capitol Building. The competition began early on Friday morning and we arrived to the McDonough School of Business all set for a morning of final preparation before our afternoon presentation. Unfortunately, as we were the second to last group, we were unable to sit in on any of the other finalist’s presentations. The other competitors came from notable schools such as John Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Hong Kong University and Georgetown itself. We presented to a panel of 5 judges, all working for IBM and consulting with FEMA. We were thrown some tough questions at the end of the presentation but were happy with our performance overall. We had the chance to watch some presentations from a design challenge that had been happening concurrently before the case competition winners were announced. We were amazed when our team’s name was called as the first place winner! We were the first international team to ever win the competition! The competition was extremely well organised and provided a great opportunity to learn, to challenge ourselves and to mix with other MBA students.

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We were free then to relax and enjoy all the sites of Washington DC for the rest of the weekend! We whizzed around on electric scooters that are dotted all over the city and visited all the major landmarks along the National Mall, such as the Washington and Lincoln memorials, as well as the White House, Arlington cemetery, Capitol Hill and the Library of Congress. We also got to visit the Natural History museum, Air and Space museum and Hirshhorn modern art museum.

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The trip was absolutely fantastic and I would encourage next year’s students to apply so Smurfit can defend the title next year! A big thank you to everyone in the school who helped us along the way!

Carla Peters, Full Time MBA 2018-2019 

 

Presenting4Success journey

On September 19th, Met Eireann issued a nationwide “status yellow” weather alert for Storm Ernesto. But, in boarding the “boat”, the weather was not our only challenge; what we would do on the day itself also turned out to be extremely challenging. In our Presenting4Success journey, we are glad that Mr Paul A. Slattery is the captain who is coaching us. This journey lets us learn—and experience—how to present perfectly, which is vital to achieving advancement for ourselves and our ideas. Trust me, it is not that easy!

Before we boarded, most of us were confused. What kind of journey would we experience during this day? The journey began at 9 am. After a light group training on presenting for success, six study groups began their first three-minute presentations. Although these three minutes had been rehearsed before, when standing in front of everyone, you still experience fear and anxiety. After each group presentation, three groups of students offered encouragement and comments on the stage. Feedback is a gift. This gave the team a better understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. Captain Paul also guided the students on visual, verbal and vocal communication and connection with the audience. The audience also benefited from listening to and evaluating the other teams’ presentations.

We were glad that the presentations had finally ended, but we were too naïve. In reality, there were more seven-minute presentations in the afternoon. It must be admitted that the improvements would have been impossible without implementing the new knowledge and skills we had gained from the three-minute presentations.

In this second presentation, we opened with CABA, supporting our body with materials, and closed with Mas. We had less than an hour to prepare the ideas for the team presentation. During the preparation, each team had to constantly move positions and rehearse with different instructors. Even though time was pressing, everyone was inspired to achieve their potential. In addition, the team cooperation was very harmonious, and each member of the team helped the others. During this time, I am very proud to say that our volume, inflection, eye contact and stance all improved.

In today’s Presenting4Success journey, we encountered four “waves”: how to prepare your message, how to develop it, how to deliver it and how to evaluate it. These “waves” have challenged us to step outside our comfort zone to learn the new techniques. I believe that with practice and team work, we will all become excellent skilled communicators.

Luzi Wen, FT MBA 2018/19

“What is this “work-life balance” you speak of?”

So we’re almost a month into the MBA year here at the Smurfit Business School. I can now see why the most common description from Smurfit alumni is “intense”! We’re straight into group work, assignments and classes. It feels a bit like running the wrong way up an escalator that speeds up as you near the top! If I’ve learned anything from my classmates over the last month, it’s that if any of us stumble, our classmates will be ready to pick us up and get us running again.

I was lucky enough to be awarded the “Achiever” scholarship for the year. This award is sponsored by NTR plc and covers the full course fee. Opportunities like that don’t come along often so I accepted before the college could change their mind! Like some of the other scholarships on offer, a solid GMAT score goes a long way towards selection. Anyone that has completed the GMAT knows that practice makes perfect, so I recommend prospective students should research the available scholarships early for the best possible chance to grab one.

As class reps, a priority for myself and Carmela Reyes is making sure that everyone finds the right balance between academics and everything else, so it has been great to be introduced to the MBA clubs and societies. The presenters unanimously agreed that the highlights of their MBA years were the club events. Their enthusiasm while presenting was infectious, whether on the panel discussions for the Entrepreneurship and Thought Leadership clubs or running a Dragon’s Den style event in the local school for the Social Outreach club. Then there is the annual trip to Danville, Virginia for the MBA Rugby World Cup. This sounds like a week of “networking” broken up by the occasional flash of sporting excellence. I intend to follow the advice I was given before the year: “Sign up for everything and you’ll somehow fit it all in”!

Myself and Carmela’s other responsibilities have been to help our classmates to settle into life at Smurfit and to facilitate communication between the class and the faculty. We had our first “Family meeting” this week (well, our first one not in the pub anyway) and I saw it as a resounding success. It’s early days, but we’re off to a great start. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us.

Colm Garrick, FT MBA 2018/19

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Lux et Veritas

As part of the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) programme, a group of six MBA students from Smurfit took part in in a one-week module titled “Behavioural Science of Management” in Yale School of Management in June this year. Launched in 2012, the GNAM includes 30 leading business schools from diverse regions, countries, and cultures. The GNAM offers students the opportunity to partake in a Global Network one-week course offered by a partner business school.

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There was a lot of interest in this module from fellow classmates due to the strong heritage of Yale in the field of behavioural science, not to mention the strong reputation and high ranking of the Yale MBA programme. Expectations for the module were high and we certainly were not disappointed!

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We arrived into New York City a few days before the module began to take in the sights. More importantly, we had to collect our mode of transport for the week in New Haven, a GMC Yukon Denali, a ridiculously sized car, which we affectionately christened “The Beast”. Lorcán had the honour to drive it to New Haven and peppered the journey with outbursts such as “…how am I supposed to keep this thing between the lines?”.

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The module commenced with a fantastic presentation from Professor Shane Frederick, a leading expert in the field of behavioural science and contributor to the Harvard Business Review. Shane brought us through topics including framing effects, context effects, and choice architecture – the principles that underpin how we make decisions and the techniques used by marketers to influence consumer behaviour.

Shane’s presentation included several examples of how rational consumers make irrational choices. He presented logic puzzles, prefaced with “…I’ve presented this problem thousands of times and I still don’t know if I agree with answer.” He showed us how consumers can be influenced to make purchasing choices that might not be appealing if the rational mind kicked in.

A key element of the GNAM week in Yale is the opportunity to network with MBA students from business schools across the world. The opening cocktail reception on Monday evening provided the ideal opportunity to mix and mingle with classmates from China to Ghana to Mexico. This resulted in cross-cultural learnings, a highlight of which was when Monica from Monterrey, Mexico remarked to Lorcán “You are definitely Irish.” She then turned to Johannes from Berlin, “You are Irish too, no?”. Lorcán and Johannes had to give Monica a crash course in the cultural differences between Germany and Ireland!

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On Tuesday, we were treated to a tour of Yale University. Yale University is steeped in history and has an almost “Hogwarts-like” feel to the place; college buildings are architecturally beautiful and students are allocated to certain houses in their first year via a “sorting process”. We were almost expecting to find some Bertie Bott’s Beans in the Yale gift shop at the end of our tour. Instead of finding sweets, the lads did their best to get a Yale preppy look going. Thankfully, Ciara and Fiona gave some “constructive feedback” which put an end to that.

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On Wednesday, four busloads of MBA students departed Yale for a trip to Boston to visit TD Garden, the home stadium of NHL’s Boston Bruins and NBA’s Boston Celtics. Owned and operated by Delaware North, the state-of-the-art TD Garden is a year-round, 19,600-seat arena. Members of the Delaware North management team treated us to an insightful overview of the company and its expanding global reach. Delaware North manages and provides food and beverage concessions, premium dining, entertainment, lodging, and retail at many large venues and special places. These include sports stadiums, entertainment complexes, national and state parks, airports, and casinos. If you have been to London Airport or Wembley Stadium, you have consumed concessions provided by Delaware North.

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Back in Yale, Thursday commenced with a panel discussion with students from the class. Three highly accomplished classmates spoke about their career paths, MBA journeys, and their views of leadership and working across cultures. It is always inspirational to hear how peers have driven themselves to almost dizzy heights to achieve what may appear as the unachievable.

One of the highlights from the week was the diverse teaching styles of the lecturers. In the “Negotiation Mindsets” lecture delivered by Dalyian Cain, we had the opportunity to partake in a mock negotiation in pairs. As many of the Smurfit gang had already completed a negotiations module in Smurfit earlier in the year, we were quietly confident that our knowledge of “BATNAs” and “Reservation Points” would seal the deals. However, Lorcán managed to buck the trend by engaging in a technique known as “negotiating against yourself”. He blamed a language barrier with his international colleague – he didn’t say whether it was his Donegal accent or theirs that caused the trouble! Don’t tell Stephen Boyle.

Some of the other topics covered during the week included how to make better decisions using behavioural science, understanding consumer experiences, and behavioural finance.

Our final social outing of the week was to a popular New Haven bar for some karaoke. After providing background vocals to “My Heart Will Go On”, the Smurfit contingent rose to the challenge by belting out their best rendition of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. Who knew that effort can overcome not having a note in your head.

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The week concluded with a series of group presentations to the class on Friday. We had the task of providing a 5-minute group presentation showing how the principles of behavioural science could be applied to a real-life problem encountered in an organization of one of the group members. There were no boundaries to the scope of content presented by teams or how to interpret the behavioural science principles learned earlier in the week. Presentation topics ranged from a video advertisement, created in under an hour, to a presenter-led fitness dance class.

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The GNAM week was an incredibly rewarding experience. The chance to network with MBA peers from around the world, to experience different cultures, and to attend one of the world’s leading universities were all fantastic opportunities. Behavioural Science is becoming increasingly relevant in business (see Richard Thaler’s recent Nobel Prize in Economics) and we all found that the possibilities suggested during lectures were eye-opening. The experience and knowledge gained during the Smurfit MBA allowed us to actively contribute in classroom discussions. The trip was an excellent end to our EMBA journey.

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Maria Barry & Lorcán Gormley EMBA 2016/2018

Class Reps MBA Blog

What was it like being an MBA class rep?

Joanna: Volunteering to be class representatives was a great way to show my appreciation to the programme office and my colleagues. The role didn’t add as much load as I thought it would and I had loads of fun being in contact with the programme office. Closing the year as class reps have certainly been fulfilling as we arranged our goodbyes not just to our semester three professors but also to the school and staff with little tokens.

Karl: Being an MBA class rep was a great experience and I’d highly recommend future MBAs consider taking on the role. I wanted to give something back to the class and I felt being a good class rep was an appropriate way to do so. Whether it was organising a World Cup sweepstake for the class or being the voice between the programme office and the class there was always something to keep you busy.

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How did you feel when you submitted your capstone report?

J: After a 1.5 month ordeal, passing the capstone project has been a little bittersweet. There’s relief of finally finishing 10,000 words worth of work, surprise that the year of being a student is finally over and the anxiety of going back to the real world. But having 32 people who were experiencing the same thing made it easier to deal with everything.

K: I was full of mixed emotions when I submitted our capstone report. I was delighted that we had completed our final project of what was a very intense academic year. However, I also felt somewhat sad as I knew that it marked the end of what was one of the best experiences of my life to date.

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Looking back over the last year what was the best memory of the MBA?

J: The local and international trips we took for the term were my favourite memories in the MBA. The term started with the GNAM week, a great introduction to Dublin for some international students. The study trip in Chile and Peru was full of firsts as some of us got to go to Machu Picchu. Finally, the Iceland trip with everyone from the full-time class was a good bonding and learning experience as we engaged in our first consulting project.

K: It is hard to choose just one but the trip to Vietnam and Singapore was definitely a highlight. I had never visited this side of the world before and to be able to do so while visiting some of the world’s most recognised businesses such as Coca Cola was an amazing experience. The additional week many of us spent in Vietnam also made this an unforgettable and memorable experience.

What will you miss the most about the MBA?

J: The 2017/2018 full time class is comprised of the most friendly and supportive bunch. I would not have been able to go through the term as well as I have if not for them. Though we will always keep in touch, not being able to see them every day would be a huge change and what I would miss the most.

K: I was fortunate to travel abroad four times over the course of my MBA, so I’ll certainly miss all the incredible trips we went on. However, what I will miss the most is the amazing group of people I worked with and became friends with over the year. An MBA really is all about your class and I felt very lucky to be part of a remarkable group of 33 individuals this year.

What advice would you give future students? 

 J: The MBA will be one or two years of constantly being on the go. Try to get rest as often as possible. Though sleep might look like less of a priority, it’s still important to have one every once in a while. Ask for help when you need. The programme office is always open for concerns and your classmates are the best people to lean on as they would be having the same shared experience. Finally, fun is allowed on the programme. Enjoy as much as you can.

K: The best advice I would give to future students is to get involved as much as you can in your MBA. Network, participate in extracurricular activities and attend as many events as possible. The full-time programme is only one year, and it’ll be over before you know it – you truly do get out of the programme what you put in!

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Joanna Villanueva & Karl McEntegart, 

Full Time MBA 2017/2018