The full-time MBA social committee organised a trip to Leitrim Quay as a last weekend away before we started into our company projects. Unfortunately, some of the guys that signed up were unable to make it, due to course workloads and the MBA rugby world cup that was happening the following week in Duke University (which Smurfit won! Go team!).
However, some of us were able to head down. On the night of Thursday 31st March, five of us headed down to check the place out and, more importantly, grab the nicer beds. We arrived late, so it wasn’t until the following morning that we were up and about and playing with the boats.
One of the Vietnamese girls from the class, Tham Nguyen, had never driven a vehicle in her life. So we decided that a very slow boat on the river Shannon was good place for her to start. And she loved it! We, of course, loved it too because it meant that we could sit back and drink beers while Tham guided the craft for us.
One of the hallmarks of the Smurfit MBA is the international study trip that every fulltime student takes part in each March. In the programme brochure, the trip is described as an opportunity to “visit a dynamic market and enhance your global perspective.” While these would both be true statements, after my recent experience in China, it’s my suggestion that Smurfit add a few more adjectives to the description such as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘monumental’ to illustrate the overall opportunity the trip provides. Indeed, after a quick informal poll from my classmates, I’d say the most common word they used to describe the experience was: ‘epic’.
The trip was filled with highlights on both a professional and personal level. From the space age city of Shanghai (felt like visiting the future) to the booming cultural and political capital of Beijing, we were treated with a line-up of interesting meetings, presentations, tours and networking events with local and international businesspeople.
Although I could go on and on about some of these experiences, there was one event in particular that I’d like to share about: The Irish Ball. In honor of St. Paddy himself, every year the Irish expat community in China throws a huge black tie event in Beijing. This year, the event was attended by 750 people and it was easily one of the coolest parties I’ve ever been to. Champagne reception, 5 course meal highlighting Irish cuisine, Guinness/open bar, with musicians and dancers flown in from Ireland – the place was electric. At one point it occurred to me while I was standing in a crowd of people (fresh off a really embarrassing attempt at Irish dancing!) watching the Irish rugby team dismantle the English in the cup of nations tournament – I’m from the US, studying in Ireland for the year, and right now I’m having the best Paddy’s day of my life in Beijing surrounded by loads of new friends from all over the world.
“Fifty percent of your career success depends on networking” that’s one of the first statement we heard on MBA.
We even have been proved of power of the networks on one of the sessions organized by our Career Service. There is a website called The Oracle of Bacon. If you enter a name of any actor, they will show you the number of movies through which your actor is linked to Kevin Bacon, who is also an actor. The amazing thing is that you can enter the name of an actor who is from a different country and even from different generation, but he will still be linked to Kevin Bacon. And it’s not because Kevin Bacon is a very popular actor or had played in enormous number of movies. I think he was taken just as an example in order to show that you can link anyone to anyone. And the practical use of this example is that you can link to anyone you want. All you need is just to tell your friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors and etc that you are looking for someone who know that person. They say that usually acquaintances are even more useful for networking than your close friends. So feel free to tell your hairdresser or a man from grocery shop what you are looking for. You never know who will give you the precious contact.
Finding the right person is only half of the success. Next step is to talk to that person, and preferably make good impression. There are rules like, don’t talk too much about yourself and in general don’t talk too much. Active listening! At the end of the day it all seems to be common sense – be nice, be polite, be interesting and don’t forget to listen. However, even knowing all the do’s and don’ts it’s not that easy, because you can never have one key for communication with everybody. My answer is practice. During this year we had lots and lots of opportunities for networking – presentations, receptions, interviews, sessions, study trip… in fact, any event can be your opportunity for networking. Our facilitator of Effective Networking, Tony Newton said that even after years and years of business experience he is still a bit nervous before meeting new people; but you would never say that when you look at him.
The panel’s selected, the fees are paid, the flights, transportation and accommodation are booked and the gear is on its way (they hope)… the UCD Smurfit Rugby Club is going to the MBA Rugby World Championships.
After months of fundraising, training and preparation, the Club is finally in a position to send a team to Duke to participate in this year’s competition. Intending to uphold and build on the fine traditions and reputation of the Club, twenty-eight players will depart Dublin Airport on Thursday 7th April. Bound for North Carolina, these players, and their coach Barry Gibney, will pitch there skills against the best teams from around the world with the sole aim of regaining the title last won in 2009.
Throughout the competition, the Club will be providing continuous updates on their progress using Twitter and @SmurfitRFC. So if you are interested in how they are doing, just log on and follow them.
On Thursday 24th February, the students of UCD Smurfit finally went to the dogs.
As part of its fundraising campaign to send a team to the 2011 MBA Rugby World Championships, the UCD Smurfit Rugby Club organised an event at the Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium. This event was intended to provide our international classmates with an unique cultural experience whilst also facilitating a networking and teambuilding environment for the students from the different classes. And, from the Club’s perspective, this event succeeded on both fronts.
For all who have never intended a Shelbourne Park ‘night’, it involves watching eleven races where six greyhounds race each other whilst trying to catch an electric ‘hare’. Furthermore, just to add to the occasion, alcohol, food and gambling are also included for good measure. On the night, we had a reserved area on the restaurant level of the grand stand where we had a fantastic view of the track and a warm environment in which to socialise and network.
From a fundraising perspective, the Club would sincerely like to thank its partners – CRH, O2 Ireland, Largo Foods and Mason, Hayes + Curran, without whose support, it would not have been possible. Furthermore, the sponsorship kindly provided by Smurfit Kappa added that extra bit of spice to the eight race in which Diarmuid O’Keefe won the €500 buster prize that was on offer.
Congratulations to Diarmuid and all involved in making this a memorable experience.
And so we’ve all arrived back safe and sound from our international study trip. About thirty five members of the full-time class went to Brazil with the balance opting for China.
The trip turned out to be a fabulous experience. We learned a lot about the Brazilian economy and society. Of course, there was an onus on the travelling group to take a holistic approach to sampling Brazilian culture. This sampling of the culture ranged from sipping caipirinhas on Ipanema to some of the group attending a local football game. These extra-curricular activities could be viewed as burning the candle at both ends but we would like to look on it as making the most of the trip.
The other group seemed to have just as interesting a time although based upon the photographs of their trip we seemed to get the better weather – hats and coats for them, shorts and flip-flops for us!! One of the more unexpected benefits of the trip has been the manner in which it allowed us to get to know each other even better. This is especially true for those of the people who were not part of the same study group up until now.
What I would like to understand is how the students of MBA programmes with classes of more than 250 manage to get to know each other. With that many in a class, it must be difficult to get to know everyone’s name! Within Smurfit, the class is less than fifty so everyone knows each other a lot better. This makes for a great atmosphere and a more rounded experience.
“Tet – the lunar new year” is knocking the door when I start writing this entry. This year we Vietnamese students welcome our traditional “Tet” in Ireland – a wonderland in my mind. Missing home so much, I know that I will miss this land evermore when I am back to Vietnam.
There are thousands of reasons that make me love this country. My first impression is Irish people, who are very warmhearted and friendly. You can easily get acquainted with people and talk with them, even on the buses or in the streets. I still remember a cold winter day, when I got lost on Moorehampton Road. Thank God, an old lady passed and asked if she could help. She took me to the nearest bus to get home and told me about Ireland in the past. Her stories conjured me up an old Ireland with family ties, catholic norms and community spirit. Above all, I feel the very human nature of Irish people when they communicate and do charity, as in a lyric of my favorite song: “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure, they steal your heart away”.
It’s the Friday of the fifth week of term 3 and as I wind up catching some sleep, the thoughts of the months gone by flash through my head. From my first day at Smurfit until today, there is a significant difference at the way I look at a situation in work scenario. Earlier, it was just limited to my team, my project and to my personal excellence. MBA has helped me develop a holistic view of the business arena. The curriculum design at Smurfit helped us in slowly but steadily developing this view.
The first term was focussed on building the foundation. It focussed on understanding the firm, introduction to general management, Financial Reporting and Operations. All this was very beneficial in bringing everyone from diverse backgrounds, to the same page. As mentioned in my previous blogs, the range of experience in the class is very impressive and term 1 gave us a chance to get familiar with it. Being the first term on the course, it all seemed like a mad rush and I was left wondering will I ever get to know people around! But the group assignments, class discussions and get-togethers all helped in binding us all together.
Then came term 2! I thought I was better prepared to handle this term, with my experience of term 1 to support me, but I was wrong. This term had a different approach. It focussed on looking into the market. Modules like business economics, marketing, financial markets and valuations broadened our perspective to look at the industry and how the firm fits in the industry. Not to mention the unending submissions and presentations!
After the speedy semester 1 (though I think the entire MBA course is pretty fast paced!), came the welcome winter break. Having known each other very well, spending time together was always much fun. The day exams ended, we all went out to celebrate. We exchanged Christmas presents, courtesy the Secret Santa game! It was a much needed break and we all made the most of the opportunity.
Semester 2 began in January and this time the focus of the modules was on building strategies. We also had a range of options to choose from, depending on our personal areas of interest. Corporate Finance, Negotiation Dynamics, Global Strategic Management, Strategy for Human Resources, all these modules take us a step further. We are not only learning the strategies but now are expected to apply them to situations.
Later in the course we shall be a part of a company project which will test our acquired skills in the real world scenario. I am hoping that will be a very enriching experience, especially for people wanting to switch industries. This is the last week of formal lectures for Semester 2 before we face the exams! The thought of the upcoming study trip to Brazil keeps coming to my head but I know I need to focus on studies for the next 2 weeks! And the Leitrim weekend trip after the spring break. Ok, I better focus! ;)
Irish hospitality is the stuff legends are made of! Indeed, one of the highlights for an international student on the Smurfit MBA is the opportunity to experience Ireland alongside a group of remarkably welcoming Irish nationals, coming from what seems to be every square inch of the island. This aspect of the program would naturally be missing from the Smurfit brochures, but I can assure you that myself and the other international students – comprising 50% of our overall group and coming from the US, Canada, India, The Netherlands, Germany, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan – have been so grateful for the way our Irish counterparts have received us.
An example of this legendary hospitality came over the winter holiday when my wife and I were invited to spend Christmas in the west of Ireland with my classmate and fellow blogger, Christopher Kitchin, on his family’s sheep farm!
In order to appreciate the uniqueness of this experience, it’s imperative that I mention how I’ve often been described as ‘the epitome of an urbanite.’ Christmas on the farm provided me with the opportunity to break away from this description as I set aside my affinity for cement and tall buildings to feed sheep, ride a Quad bike, collect firewood, picnic on the beach, and sleep in a house that was built over 100 years before my state was founded (how’s that for history?!)! More important to the experience than any of those details was the opportunity to spend Christmas with a group of remarkable people, and the graciousness with which our hosts welcomed us into their home and traditions. Needless to say, Christmas with the Kitchin family was a one of a kind experience for a city boy from the States!
After its acclaimed debut in 2010, Bellinter II took its rightful place as the first highlight in the social calendar for 2011. The thought of staying at Bellinter in Co. Meath was a welcome escape from a cold and dark Dublin where the return to classes reacquainted us with triangularised sandwiches which have become our twice weekly staple. In fact, demand was such that spaces began to fill up within minutes of circulating the invitations. The ever glamorous Siobhan O’Dowd put her talents to full effect by bringing together a diverse panel of speakers, which included Eddie O’Connor, founder of Airtricity – which was sold in 2008 for €1.8bn and current founder and CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power; Norah Casey the newest dragon on the Den and CEO of Harmonia, Ireland’s largest magazine company; David McWilliams, Economist, Journalist, Broadcaster, Best Selling Author…… with even more titles to be revealed very shortly. Also speaking were property developers Paddy & Simon Kelly.