‘Lonely Planet – The MBA Journey’

 

It is exactly one year since I completed one of the most challenging, transformative, and enjoyable journeys I could have imagined. My MBA journey started on a beach in Vietnam. A month travelling around South East Asia provided space to reflect on those latent goals that you procrastinate on until the time is right, or invariably, perfect. Like everything in life, there is no right time, there is certainly no perfect time. I decided that the time was now, and in fact, the time would be six weeks after returning from my travels. Little did I think I was about to set out on an even greater adventure, and this time round there would be no Lonely Planet to neatly signpost the challenges and highlights.

 The MBA adventure kicked off with an induction and team building week on the soggy grounds of the Smurfit campus. I imagined sharp suits and laptops but the wellies, rain jackets and blindfolds were the perfect leveller! Running around with buckets of water on what I can only describe as an adult sports day, I forged friendships that would endure long after the MBA chapter closed. There are so many more highlights since those first few days in Blackrock, and each of them, like the best adventures, were unexpected and unplanned!

 My Lonely Planet collection expanded more than I had anticipated during an MBA. Together with four colleagues, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal in Canada to represent Smurfit at the John Molson International MBA Case Competition. Next stop, the International Study Tour saw eighty MBAs travel to Japan and South Korea to learn about doing business in international markets and visit global corporate giants including KIA and Samsung. My MBA passport was stamped again when I travelled to the US to undertake a week long module in the Behavioural Science of Management with global MBAs at Yale University. Smurfit is a member of an international global MBA network which offers students the opportunity to attend a Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week at one of a number of partner business schools. International travel aside, there were so many more highlights – the class debates, the team presentations, the countless coffee breaks with your colleagues amid writing papers on GE, Coca Cola and Southwest Airlines, and the ‘odd’ beer down the Dark Horse to catch the Six Nations after class!

 The application process was straight forward. I applied online in mid-July with my CV, two letters of recommendation, my university transcripts and a short written application. At the same time I also scheduled my GMAT aptitude test for mid-August. My application was reviewed by the Board and I was called for an interview within two weeks. I interviewed with the MBA Director who assessed my suitability and rationale for pursuing the MBA. In parallel with the application process, I commenced study for the GMAT aptitude test. I received a conditional offer from Smurfit in early August pending a sufficient GMAT score. In mid-August I sat the GMAT and obtained the score I needed to get into Smurfit, and with that my MBA journey kicked off a little over two weeks later.

 A Chartered Engineer by background, prior to the MBA I had over seven years’ experience in the utility industry across asset development, trading, strategy and innovation. Since completing the MBA, I have taken up a new role as a Manager in Accenture’s Resources practice where I work with utility sector clients on strategy and transformation projects. The skills which I gained during the MBA from leadership and strategy execution to client consulting have proved invaluable as I navigate my new role.

 While I believe everyone sets out on the MBA in pursuit of their own personal goals, I will share a few of my reflections and insights. A substantial portion of the learning on the MBA is attained through working in teams with colleagues from varied backgrounds. Embrace the diversity and opportunity to explore diverging perspectives. There will be different styles, there will be conflicting views and there will be frustrations – be open to different approaches and use the opportunity to truly understand and test your own leadership style. The leadership development aspect of the MBA was one of the most enriching elements of the journey. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, go first, have a shot, challenge your self-perceptions – you are there to learn and to push boundaries – nothing grows in a comfort zone. Take time and make the effort to bond with your colleagues. Your colleagues soldier with you and support you every step of the way. The MBA network has been one of the biggest enduring benefits, and the value of being able to tap into the network you formed while at Smurfit is immeasurable.

 To those sitting on the fence procrastinating and considering if the time is now, take the leap and put in the application; there will never be a perfect time. To those who have already secured their place, you are about to embark on an incredible journey, it will challenge you on so many levels but you will grow in equal measure. Enjoy every step of the journey!

Catherine O’ Brien EMBA 2015/17

catherine-o-brien-emba-mba-graduation-photo-2017

 

 

“Ice to meet you – the Reykjavík files”-Global Business Environments Iceland Trip 2018

The international orientation is one of the outstanding draws for Smurfit School’s MBA programme. With global case study competitions, modules in other Global Network of Advanced Management schools and international study trips already in place, the previous year’s MBA class had gone to Iceland for the Global Business Environment module.

kirsten-icp-3

That first visit was such a big success that our year had heard a great deal about it long before the email to enroll for it landed in our inbox during the first semester. Fast forward through the second semester and the exams, and we found ourselves back in a classroom in Blackrock with Prof. Karan Sonpar.

Besides being reminded how important it was that a strategy not only sounded good but had to be implementable, we focused on learning how to work more efficiently as a team. We were all experienced professionals, had worked with different study groups during the past year and had read a preparatory book on teamwork. So, huddled in our project groups, we were happy to tackle an exercise that left us pretending to be stranded in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash. And it quickly became obvious that nobody in the room was as seasoned a team player as they had undoubtedly believed. I, for one, would have died horribly following the fictitious accident, had I had to make the decisions by myself. But thanks to Paul’s real-life survival training and some quick and creative thinking from Monika, Freda and Darren, we made the right decisions and survived to our imaginary rescue.

kirsten-icp-6

Back in real life, on a Sunday not long after, it was time to set out for Iceland. Upon arrival, a visit to the Port Festival in the fishing town of Grindavik and the famous (and stunning) Blue Lagoon put us in holiday mood. Too soon, Monday morning arrived and it was down to business. Taxis arrived for all the groups and we took off to meet our client, an Icelandic travel company, in person for the first time. Given our lack of consulting experience, we were unsure of how well our preparations and our call with the team of the Conference and Incentives Department at the company had equipped us. But as soon as we met the team on site, things started falling into place. Many questions were answered, some additional ones cropped up but, most importantly, an understanding of the company and their needs quickly evolved, and ideas for our deliverable of a marketing plan started to develop.

The three days we had with the company went by (too) quickly and we spent a long and tense Wednesday evening finalising our presentation. After a conversation with our academic adviser Prof. Eamonn Walsh had sparked improvements to our ideas, we needed to overhaul some of what we would talk about the next morning. While other teams were visibly in the same situation (the hotel lobby looked like an exam prep room), we really started to feel the pressure mounting with the time to our presentation seeping away faster and faster while we were fine-tuning how we would put our thoughts into visual queues.

kirsten-icp-hotel

With Monika, one of the year’s marketing aces, in our group we were confident in our ideas, and we had certainly rehearsed enough to know that we were communicating our suggestions creatively and coherently. But as with everything involving an audience, it is impossible to know what everybody would think, and we were still slightly apprehensive going into the presentation. Fortunately, the client’s reaction was extremely positive and we felt the proverbial weight fall off our shoulders.

group-pic-a-kirsten-icp-1Group members: Paul Donnelly, Monika Ghita, Darren Yourell, Freda Mahon, Kirsten Dottermusch

The remainder of the day as well as our Friday tour of Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Strokkur Geyser felt like a holiday we desperately needed. However, what we embraced and appreciated most about the week was the practical opportunity the consulting project provided. Applying the knowledge that we had acquired during the first year, encountering the pitfalls we were so confident we would avoid but successfully finding solutions as a team when we did not, were significant and rewarding steps towards fulfilling the expectations and ambitions the course programme instills in us.

Kirsten Dottermusch, EMBA 2017/19

kirsten-icp-2

 

 

 

“They think its all over…. it is now”

2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a Smurfit MBA reception attempting to debate the future of big brands and the importance of innovative communication with Damien McLoughlin. I’m going to be nice to myself and call it a draw – but irrespective of the outcome, it made me think of what a journey this MBA has been. 2 years ago I do not think it would have been me in front of that crowd. After the talk, several potential 2018/19 MBA students approached me to gain some insights and find out the best and worst bits of completing an Executive MBA. It caused me to think about it properly, possibly for the first time as it has been a whirlwind 2 years. Outside of the Executive MBA, I have moved job, moved into a new house and any day now our 3rd child will arrive into our family. So it’s been hectic. But it’s been a positive experience too.

I didn’t go on any international trips during my 2 years so maybe my highlights are more mundane than those who experienced Reykjavik, Lima or Yale. For me, a large highlight is the fact that I have been in a position to implement so many of the learnings I have made directly into my work. Not only is this very professionally satisfying but it keeps the entire programme relevant and current. Take Group work as an example. Group work never appealed to me – but the setup of the programme forces you to engage with it from Day 1. With Semesters, Global Virtual Teams, Block Week assignments and Capstone, I have been involved with 8 Groups during the 2 years. Not only have I have learned a huge amount about working with teams, from basic communication to the setting of roles, but I have also learned an awful lot about myself. I hope I have added something to the Groups I was in too. They are more than capable of letting me know if I haven’t. I can use these experiences, both positive and negative, in my current job. The current and real life experience focus of the EMBA, driven by not only the lecturers experience and their use of current case studies but more so by the discussions and arguments that took place between my fellow classmates, each with lots of experience in completely different industries to me, help shape this.

Surreally, my last act in my Executive MBA (apart from Capstone of course), was to cook a chicken casserole in Ballyknocken House along with Catherine Fulvio and a group of business students from Smurfit, Yale, Haas Berkeley, IE Madrid, Egade Mexico, Fudan China and Hitotsubashi Japan as part of the ‘Future of Food’ GNAM Block Week. A memorable experience to round off a memorable 2 years. It’s time for the next chapter now. Reintroduce myself to normal life – I’m looking forward to not feeling guilty about sitting down and watching TV without a nagging thought I should be reading something.

On Day 1 of Initiation week in August 2017, the first person I met on the course was Osgur Ó Ciardha.  It was fitting that he was also on the Future of Food week and so we bookended the 2 years nicely. Since we first met he has secured a new job and become a TV star! I look forward to hearing of many more success stories from my classmates into the future.

Robert Slattery, EMBA 2016/18

robert-slattery-ballyknocken-house

Reliving the Danville Dream- MBA Rugby Team 2018

It all started with that initial presentation from Brendan ‘Mac Daddy’ Staunton in E101 in the Smurfit building. Followed by a wet and windy Friday night in Monkstown Rugby club where record numbers turned out for the first training session taking by Oisin ‘Crusher’ Farrell. It was the start of the long journey that would inevitably leads us to be crowned world Champions!

With numerous fundraisers and multiple emails sent to companies, the day was finally upon us, the 12th of April was the flight to Charlotte airport! After organising training facilities, two coaches (Tom ‘Nolo’ Nolan & Oisin ‘Crusher’ Farrell), flights, accommodation, insurance, jerseys, all 44 of us (men and women’s teams) were set to play in the 38th MBA Rugby World Cup in Dansville, Virginia. Smurfit have attended the tournament for the past 19 years and wanted to keep this tradition alive; winners on numerous occasions.

A key competitive advantage we had was the inclusion of one of our coaches on the trip ‘Nolo’, wise beyond his years, his knowledge played an important role in our success. This was clear when he turned players who have never played before into try scoring & tackling machines, having never made a tackle in his life before.

The tournament’s first game on Saturday saw us rise at the early hour of 7am to face Yale. The marker was well and truly laid down early with Cameron ‘No Hands’ Kenny landing a massive hit in the first phase of rugby. Slick hands and direct running allowed Gavin ‘I want to be a centre’ Bolger to finish under the posts for our first score of the competition. Neatly converted by the man who doesn’t miss Jack ‘I actually missed two easy kicks’ Duffy and our player of the tournament. The dominance was further shown by running in three tries before half time, and this also included Cameron ‘No Hands’ Kenny being rather easily stripped of the ball as he went to touch it down under the posts! Some say that it was inexcusable, and they would be right to say so! Fantastic performances from some men who have never played rugby before, Dermot ‘I love teeny bopper songs’ Murphy & Padraig ‘Podge’ Curry.

After witnessing the comfortable win over Yale, Columbia decided it would be best for their players welfare if they conceded; mostly since Patrick ‘I tackle like a train’ Hinkson put up some strong tackles against the Yale players. A set score of 35 nil was awarded to us!

Two from two and up next was SMU, with the lads ready to go after feeling robbed by not getting to play Columbia. Sean ‘I got some Sun’ Brew laying down early markers with running direct lines and clever off-loading allowed Matthew ‘I’m not warming up its roasting out’ Scaife to grab his first try of the competition. He also bagged one for himself. Tom ‘I’m the coach so I’m playing this game as captain’ Nolan togged out to allow some players rest. He missed a tackle! A special note to Brendan ‘Mac Daddy’ Staunton, who with the longest run up in history for a kick landed one from an extremely tight angle following our last try scored by Gav ‘I was robbed of top try scorer’ Bolger.

whatsapp-image-2018-04-25-at-14-13-31

The first day was coming to a close, bodies were sore and our toughest challenge LBS was up! Jack ‘I don’t miss’ Duffy landed an early 3 points to put Smurfit on the board. This was cancelled out by two penalties by the LBS out half. With tensions high, fatigue setting in and a disallowed try from Rob ’41 not out’ Becker, a much-needed piece of team brilliance allowed Gav ‘I sneak a lot of tries’ Bolger to finish well under the posts. With our backs against the wall LBS managed to sneak a last-minute try, which was converted, to finish winners on the day 13-10. That signalled the finish to the Saturday and the feeling of disappointment that we experienced after that game, we knew we weren’t going to allow it to happen again.

Following the disappointing end to the group stages on Saturday, the Men’s squad begrudgingly awoke at 6:45am on Sunday morning. Our Quarter-Final vs Columbia A kicked off at 9am, and, owing to the controversy experienced with Columbia the previous day, the lads were ready for action. There was a true sense of animosity to be felt on the pitch as the boys put in a clinical and physical performance against a team who, well let’s just say they should have stayed in bed that morning.

The Quarter-Final victory vs Columbia meant we were to play the old enemy, London Business School, in the Semi-Final, at 1pm. The loss to LBS late the previous evening had no impact on the confidence in the team, we were even more motivated to get the win. A piece of brilliance from Peter “I never eat carbs” Condon, displaying scintillating speed and strength to score under the LBS posts, as well as two well kicked penalties and a conversion from Jack “I don’t miss” Duffy, brought the score to 13-0 to Smurfit with 9 minutes to go on the clock. What was to happen in those last 9 minutes epitomised what UCD Michael Smurfit rugby was all about. Through blood, sweat and tears (tears from assistant coach Niall Connolly) and true heart and courage, Smurfit held out a 42 phase onslaught on their own try line to deny LBS any points, winning the match 13-0 and booking themselves a place in the Final. Special mention should go to Stephen MacCarthy who, after sustaining hyper-extension of every finger on his left hand, went back on to put in a serious defensive shift, only to be injured and ruled out of playing in the remainder of the tournament.

A shock result in the other Semi-Final between tournament favourites, Ivey and Wharton, meant Smurfit would face Wharton in the Cup Final. We knew how physical Wharton were going to be, considering the sheer size of their forward pack and how dominant they were against Ivey. Even though we were the smaller side physically, our intelligent and unparalleled defensive effort, including a vital turnover on the brink of the half-time whistle from Ronan “Factor 50 please” McDonagh, meant we led 3-0 at the break. The lads were visibly shattered, and who could blame them, they had accumulated 200 minutes of game time in 28 degree heat! In moments such as these, however, true leaders come to the fore to galvanise a team, to push them that small bit further. In this case, Peter “Jazz Hands” Condon delivered a half-time team talk Al Pacino could only have dreamed of delivering. The message was clear: ‘20 minutes, of everything you have left, and that cup, that piece of silverware we’ve worked all season for, is ours.’

In the final 20 minutes of the tour, the lads displayed some of the best rugby I certainly have ever had the pleasure of witnessing, and showed why they were deserving champions. Second half tries from Rory “Go on Blackrock!” Doyle, Dermot “Wheels” Murphy and Hubert “One Can Wonder” Gallagher, as well as two penalties from reliable Duffer and only what one can describe as the most spectacular conversion kick from Brendan “Mac Daddy” Staunton, which, may or may not have been, in front of the posts.

Special mention must go to the man of the match of the final, Eddie “The Langer” Beechinor, whom, with a serious ankle injury sustained in the quarter-final, put in a performance fellow Munster man, Paul O’Connell, would have been proud of. This dedication from Eddie epitomised the character of not only the Cork man, but the character and determination of each and every member of the squad.

It truly was an honour and privilege coaching this great bunch of lads. I have made some great friends and have amazing memories of what was a spectacularly unforgettable trip. This really was a squad effort, all 34 playing members contributed in spades and it is an achievement they should be immensely proud of.

To sign off, I would like to say a few words about my superb assistant coaches, without whom, none of this would have been possible. Firstly, to Oisin “Crusher” Farrell. Oisin was with us from day one and looked after the forwards for the season. Unfortunately, due to work commitments, Crusher could not travel with us but I know the lads will join with me in extending our deepest gratitude to a man who deserves as much plaudits as anyone for this successful tour. Secondly, to Niall “Limpy” Connolly, a massive thank you for stepping in last minute for Crusher, who couldn’t play himself due to a broken ankle. To be able to bounce ideas off and gather advice from such an intelligent rugby mind is invaluable for a Head Coach, and I will be forever grateful to Niall for his help over the weekend.

Until next year,

whatsapp-image-2018-04-27-at-20-01-06

Coach Tom “Nolo” Nolan, B.Sc. Sports and Exercise Management, and Assistant Coach Niall “Limpy’ Connolly, M.Sc. Management

Saturday Group Stages Sunday Knock-out Stages
Yale- 57-0 W

Columbia B- 35-0 W

SMU- 38-0 W

LBS A- 10-13 L

QF- Columbia A-24-0 W

SF-LBS A- 13-0 W

Final- Wharton 25-0 W

 

THE YALE TALE

Remember the first time you fastened your seat belt to drive your first car? Nervous hands on the steering wheel with the feet juggling among 3 pedals?  – The thrill to drive, fear of failing, anxiety to know what’s next. It felt like a now or never moment, didn’t it?

Well, this is exactly how I felt on being selected to represent UCD in the Yale case study competition. I was thrilled, excited and proud to be part of the amazing UCD team. Given the style of the competition, it was obvious that as a team, we needed to be at our very best on the D-day to create an impact. The panel comprised of seasoned industry leaders and it was our job to ‘wow’ them with our ideas and solution. We took the bull by its horns and came home with the ‘Best Team Dynamics’ award, which meant that we were energetic, positive and adapted well to change. Hurrayyyy!! Let’s rewind a bit and talk more about the process and competition.

deepti-yale-1

In this competition, challenge was to solve a raw case. A raw case is very similar to a real-life situation resembles an actual client problem. The information related to the case is presented in various formats and sources. The ask in the competition was to parse through all the information to define the ‘Exam Question’, analyze the data to recommend a solution and implementation plan in just 6.5 hours!!! I know! There were 14 teams from all over the world to compete in this competition.

Preparing for this competition was like an additional module in itself. The 2nd semester makes it a little tough as everyone in the team had picked separate optional modules and finding a common available time slot during the week was not an easy task. Given the time constraints to solve the actual case, it was important for us to function well as a team, play to each other’s strengths and work around the weaknesses. Zoe was very generous to help us through the SDI, to identify what will function best as a team for us. Coming together was just the beginning. We aimed to do a ‘Come dine with me’ amongst us to learn more about each other in an informal setting, but given the routine commitments, it was not easy to find time for it. Instead, we used International trip in March as a step in that direction. We met alumnus to learn about their experience, things that went well and key lessons.

As we know, it takes a lot more than a single person who is in the ring to win a game.  We had exceptional support from Roisin Downing. Be it motivational talks, keeping us on the ground running or working around all the logistics. We never had to worry about a single thing. Ro, you are a star!!

“We all need people who give us feedback, that’s how we improve”. Strategy classes with Karan Sonpar gave us valuable tips on solving the case and structuring the presentation.  We had excellent support from our classmates, who were the judges of our practice sessions and provided us with great feedback.

How can I forget about the presentation skills sessions with Paul Slattery? We not only learnt about fundamentals of good presentation, but also about being at ease around each other. It was during these sessions that we truly came out as a team. We had a team huddle and a team song.  No matter how exhausted we used to be from our classes and assignments, we came out energetic after his sessions. His passion, energy and enthusiasm always inspired us to go the extra mile. Paul, you are incredible and an excellent teacher.

I believe our strengths as a team came across well in Yale when we were preparing for the case. We were just being ourselves; comfortable in sharing our view points and having a healthy discussion on all the points. The assessor in our room judged us on the basis of communication, collaboration, decision making and team management. We were natural at this. It is really critical to have a good camaraderie and belief in each other, and that gets projected automatically.

deepti-yale-2

We won the ‘Best Team Dynamics’ award. We didn’t win the case-study competition but we came back with lots of learning and a beautiful, life-long memorable experience. We were not the winners but we didn’t lose either. The friendships we made, the learning we had and the insights we gained were our trophies from Yale. It is absolutely true that it is not winning or losing that makes a competition worth, but the overall experience or (like we say it here in Ireland) ‘craic’ that you have around it.

Deepti Jindal, MBA Full Time 2017/18

deepti-yale-3Sauyith Cueva, Deepti Jindal, Robert P. Brennan, Ian Rafferty and Ruary Martin represented UCD Smurfit at Yale Integrated Leadership Case Competition, 2018.

It isn’t often that you get to represent your Country in a World Cup

On the 12th April we travelled to Danville, Virginia to represent UCD Michael Smurfit Business School as the only Irish University competing in the MBA Rugby World Cup. A group of 44 MBA and MSc. students left Dublin, having trained every Friday night since September, the men’s team playing contact rugby and the women playing touch rugby.

Great team work, coaching, organisation and planning, brought us together as two competitive teams and one complete unit proud to represent Smurfit against the best universities in the world. Even better when you can bring home the silverware; the men’s team brought home the world cup, while the women’s team came third.

The women’s team of nine, were tasked in September with learning touch rugby from scratch. Combined with the team’s determination and motivation and our coach Dave Condon’s endless patience and encouragement we found ourselves in Danville.

whatsapp-image-2018-04-17-at-01-40-11

Training on Friday afternoon in Danville was our first taste of the heat and sunshine; it was going to be a hot weekend ahead. Friday night we got our briefing; three games on Saturday and four games on Sunday through a round robin competition; each game lasting 20 minutes….…or so we thought. Our first win on Saturday morning settled the nerves and helped to solidify team work. The second game was tougher, ending in a draw. To our dismay, we realised that no game could end in a draw, so we went to extra time with a twist – every second play each team dropped a player, until only three players remained per team and a winning try was scored. After 20 gruelling additional minutes, our determination and team commitment shone through when we scored the winning try to take all the points from our second game.  Our third game of the day was the toughest yet. We were up against the largest squad in the competition and unfortunately, injuries and fatigue took their toll. Although we fought hard, we lost our first match of the competition.

whatsapp-image-2018-04-17-at-01-40-111

As day two began, our bodies were sore and with 50% of the team carrying injuries we dug deep to win our first match. We were given a walkover for our second game, which gave us some well-earned time to rest up before two games back to back to finish the tournament. Our third game was the toughest of the day, especially with exhaustion and injuries starting to take over. It was our second loss of the tournament. The last game was beginning to feel like mission impossible – we were down to three fully fit players and six walking wounded. At this point it was our team spirit that carried us through to motivate each other to finish the last game on a high. After surviving 20 minutes with virtually no substitutions, the game ended in a draw. This meant we went into our second drop off in as many days. Team work was key and I have never seen commitment and resilience like it; everyone was exhausted and carrying injuries, but we wanted to end with a win. Sheer willpower, fitness and relentless determination brought us the winning try to end the match after 25 additional minutes and absolutely nothing left in the tank.

The women’s competition was fierce and was fought hard; thanks to Wharton, Ivey, Yale/Cornell, Columbia and congratulations to London Business School on their win.

Overall an absolutely brilliant experience that we will never forget, and we couldn’t ask for a better group of people to share it with.

whatsapp-image-2018-04-15-at-21-29-27

Lyn Markey EMBA Mid-Week and Lucy Mac Auley MBA Full Time 2017/18

Smurfit MBA- ON THE HORIZON

In the blink of an eye, 8 months have passed. As we return from our International trip and begin to re-immerse ourselves into our regular routines of lectures and assignments, I realize that we are into our final lap of MBA. It is now time for me to reflect on how my life has changed in the span of those 8 months.

Among managing multiple assignments, writing journals, job hunting and other things; what has really encouraged the collaboration and team work among my cohort are the clubs at Smurfit. These clubs provides us an opportunity to step beyond the realms of our regular jobs and gain first-hand experience of managing a team, while also managing an event.  I take pride in being a member of the Smurfit Entrepreneurship Club, which provides a stage for aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as serial entrepreneurs to learn from each other’s experiences.

It has taken 23 club members, 7 months and to enlist 7 speakers to bring, “ON THE HORIZON” to life. The event was marked with the presence of prestigious speakers from a range of diverse and thriving sectors such as Heathtech, Fintech, Renewable Energy and Artificial intelligence- with the focus on addressing the inevitable Industrial revolution 4.0. As an MBA student, I feel blessed to be in the presence of some of the brightest and forward-thinking minds of the country.

I will admit when we first discussed about the event, I couldn’t have anticipated from that this event concept would grow into one of the most memorable experience of the MBA for me. It was a wonderful experience to witness my MBA colleagues collaboratively sweat to make this event a success.

The Entrepreneurship club provided me with the necessary breaks from the  MBA. I learned a lot about my colleagues during the club meetings through sharing our entrepreneurial experiences, which at times were both insightful and overwhelming. Personally, it gave me a platform to share my initial ideas to a critical and well-informed group for their expertise. I am sure that in today’s world, nowhere else I would be getting such valuable and trusted advice for free.

The idea of “On the Horizon” event, began with industries our club wanted to know more about, in the context of exploring entrepreneurial drive of Dublin. Our interests in Healthtech, Fintech, Renewable Energy and Artificial intelligence became the pillars of this event. The roadmap our event was not smooth, as I realized quite early and it wasn’t easy for us as students to attract such renowned speakers to our event. However relying on our Irish colleagues networks proved really helpful, as did the Smurfit MBA brand behind us in order to help us get the ball rolling. 

We are a club of budding entrepreneurs and wanted our innovative event to live up to the Smurfit name, doing us both proud. Not a single person shied away from their responsibilities, from the event preparation and guidance, with continuous suggestions to improve the event coming from colleagues and club members alike.

What came to me as a surprise to me was the experience that I gained as it challenged my thought process. I was a staunch believer of the fact that an individual requires a certain level of education before they can channelize themselves into setting up a business. My belief was contradicted, when I witnessed a group of school going students in the age group of 7-11 pitched themselves as CEO, CFO and COO. Furthermore, one of the teams had also prepared and shot an advertising campaign for their product. The event witnessed an inspiring array of entrepreneurial talent from school going kids, to our key note speaker- Oliver Tattan, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Genebox. I would like to thank the speakers, MBA Programme Office and my fellow club members that helped to make this event a huge success.

Ayush Nagpal, Full Time MBA 2017/18

ayush-blog

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

Finding Value in Diversity

As we enter the summer term of the full time MBA programme, I have come to realise how much diversity I, and my classmates, have been exposed to over the past nine months.  Before I decided to undertake an MBA, I had heard some MBA graduates mention this point about “diversity” but I had underestimated the learning experience that diversity can offer.

In an MBA, diversity takes on many forms.  Firstly there’s the diversity found within the cohort itself.  This is a combination of cultural diversity (in our full time cohort of 32 students there are 10 nationalities), there’s age diversity and indeed diversity in our educational backgrounds and experiences!  The result is a multitude of perspectives that contribute to some very thought-provoking classroom discussions.  Coming from an engineering background myself, I have really enjoyed learning about other people’s previous work experiences and pre-MBA careers in various fields such as marketing, e-commerce, finance, IT and the entertainment industry. It has also helped me to realise how valuable diversity can be when it comes to problem-solving.

Class Photo - AisO'Hall

Secondly, the vast range of modules also presents another element of diversity.  From accounting, financial analysis, economics and strategy to negotiation skills, ethics and executive decision-making!  The volume of information is over-whelming but the skills obtained will not only be relevant to our future careers, but will be also be helpful in others areas of life, whether one realises this at the time or not!

Thirdly, the prospects we’ve had to immerse ourselves in, outside of the classroom, pose yet another realm of diversity.  An international learning module to Japan and South Korea in March provided a unique opportunity to learn about new cultures, about doing business in Asia but also to get to know our part-time MBA classmates.  I was also lucky enough to travel to Yale for the Integrated Leadership Case Competition in April, with three other classmates.  This trip enabled us to meet other MBA students from 12 different business schools around the globe.  Over the course of three days in Yale, it was refreshing to see how all students were genuinely interested in one another and embraced the diversity around them by exchanging anecdotes about their MBA experiences and offering each other helpful advice regarding post-MBA decisions.

AisO'HallBlogPic2

To complete the international experience, we still have a week in Iceland to look forward to, where we will be working as consultants for a number of different companies.

For me, it took time to realize the value that all this diversity could bring, and I believe that I will continue to see its benefits over the coming years, in both my career and personal life.  I am certainly more open now to looking at things with a different lens, than I was nine months ago.  With this in mind, my advice for anyone considering undertaking an MBA is to truly consider its significance, not only from a career standpoint but from a non-career perspective too.

Aisling O’Halloran, Full Time MBA 2016-2017

Reflections on the MBA Journey and the Road Ahead

Humanity
Random acts of kindness. The greatest lesson from the MBA – our humanity.

 

“Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards” Kierkegaard

 Forecasting is a doomed art! Those who try to predict the future invariably fail miserably. What I can forecast though is I will have mixed emotions of happiness but also sadness when this journey finishes. And boy has it been a journey! I decided to undertake the MBA because of a love of learning, for self-improvement and as a challenge: it was my treat to myself after a decade labouring as a consultant in the HSE. I also wanted to try to improve healthcare for all people within the HSE and I believed the MBA would give me skills to help achieve that goal. So was it the right decision?

It soon became apparent to me there are two tracks on the EMBA –those with and without children and partners. Where the course is a challenge for all of us, the real casualties of the MBA are the children and partners who suffer long absences, deadlines, cramming sessions for exams and late night skype calls. In the middle of my third semester my son said: “Dad, I don’t like the MBA, it means we don’t talk as much before I go to bed”. A stake through my heart! In fact my greatest stress throughout the course was, as we neared the end of the first lecture, would it end in time for me to talk to my son before he went to sleep.

It has been one of the most enjoyable learning experiences in my life. Academically highly educational with some truly inspirational teachers, a rich social interaction, life-long bonds made with team members forged through collective suffering, and most surprisingly of all, self-discovery. The Myer Briggs and 360 assessments really made me understand my motivations, passions and most of all my limitations. I also became aware that how I perceive and hear myself is very different to how others see and hear me. I gained wisdom through this course managing to avoid grade fixation and focussing on the journey itself; I feasted on the marrow of the MBA and mined the minds of the lecturers and classmates all washed down with at times contentious, but always good-spirited debate. The MBA was always about the journey to me, not the final arbitrary tabulation of effort.

So what of the future? We are clearly living in interesting and disruptive times. Moore’s law tells us computing power doubles every 18 months and we are at the dawn of AI displacing many millions of jobs as evidenced by the Fukoki-company outsourcing to IBM Watson Explorer recently. Other disruptive innovations including Crispr Cas 9 genome editing, 3D printing, driverless cars, internet of things, solar panel covered streets to power lights and cities, will all revolutionise our lives. We will live longer more affluent lives but will this necessarily translate to better quality lives? “Machinery which gives us abundance has left us in want, knowledge has made us cynical and cleverness hard and unkind, we think too much and feel too little, more than machinery we need humanity, more than cleverness we need kindness” (Charles Chaplin).

Equally compelling is the lurch to the political right, religious wars, economic stagnation with endless QE, lack of political leadership and the potential for further banking collapses with bail ins. But I have great hope for the future despite all these tumultuous events. That hope arises partly from my MBA experience because of the people I met. Simple acts of kindness: a mass card for a bereaved family member, baby hampers for a bouncing new arrival, organising a medical appointment for a child, and help for a classmate struggling with an assignment. An encouraging word, a kind smile, a nod that all will be okay.

This journey has made me wiser, walk softer and try to be kinder. Because the MBA isn’t about grades, it isn’t about degrees, it isn’t about money. It’s about people, the struggle you endure with them, learning from them and most importantly the friendship you give and graciously receive from them. I thank my classmates and lecturers for the wonderful two-year conversation we have enjoyed. Most of all I thank my family for tolerating this journey and carrying me along the way.

Maybe our journey isn’t ending, maybe it’s just beginning…

Colin McMahon ~ Executive MBA, Year 2