To MBA or not MBA

Filling in the application form in March, April and May (yes that’s right 3 months to finalise the initial submission) I feel demonstrates the fine art of procrastination I had mastered over the years. Fast forward to today, 6 weeks of lectures under my belt and those precious lazy Sunday afternoons lying on the sofa gone. They have been replaced with a sea of paper and an ever growing pile of ignored emails from friends (fingers crossed they are still friends).

The question is do I miss the lazy Sundays and do I need those friends? Well I may need the friends but I don’t long for those lazy Sundays. Yes some sleep without the constant mouse on a wheel running in my head screaming, OB pairs project 60%, supply chain presentation 20%, competitive strategy report 25% would be nice, but you can’t have it all.

The learning curve has been steep to date and the group dynamics intense at times, especially when feminism is brought up, which is generally twice a week in our Group.  It is however this fast paced environment that keeps me alert, no matter what the week in work was like and what obscure place in Europe I had the pleasure of visiting.

There has not been a lecture where I have questioned why did I sign up to this? I run out of work on a Friday to get to lectures (generally with minutes to spare) and eagerly await the classroom discussion tangents we will undoubtedly force the lecture to take. So far so good!

The lyrics corner

The lyrics which sum up my first six weeks are: my face above the water, my feet can’t touch the ground. Ironically my feet are on the ground.

Darren Kelly

EMBA Weekend year 1

Learning to collaborate and excel in Teams

Our journey of 1 year Full-time MBA has already got into full swing. Though, there have been numerous learning opportunities during the last one and a half month, experience of working in teams (formally known as study groups) has been the most enriching. This has enhanced our learning curve exponentially. Collectively working on various assignments, presentations, simulation exercises and case studies has helped us to learn immensely from each other’s knowledge, views and experiences. All the teams have been made very thoughtfully consisting of team members of different nationalities and varied educational & professional backgrounds.

Group work has been immensely useful as it gives the real business world experience, where we would be constantly working with number of cross-functional business teams. It has given fillip to our communication, presentation and inter-personal skills, which is the core of business management. We are learning to appreciate everyone’s ideas and opinions and excelling in the art of collective decision making in the context of varied business and management situations. In addition to intellectual stimulation, working in teams is also helping us to develop the feeling of bonding and companionship, which would be lasting for lifetime.

Smurfit MBA study teams clearly demonstrate that “Individually we are one drop, but together, we are an Ocean”.

Ashutosh Singla

Full-time MBA 2014-15

The half-way point….. of semester one

We are now half way through semester 1, or a quarter of the way through year one, or an eighth of the way through the MBA. It doesn’t matter how you put it, it’s all the same. Some of us focus on the big picture while others are taking one day at a time. When I applied for the MBA, I knew it was going to be a tough two years, but I thought if I managed my time well, I would go to lectures on Monday and Thursday nights and try and fit in a few hours of study on the nights in between, thereby I would still have my weekends to relax. During the induction week that dream was shattered. It was announced that a further 20 hours on top of lectures would be required – four hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings along with a full day on Saturday would allow us to take a full day off on Sunday. Impossible I thought to myself, I’ll never be able to do all that. Now at the week 7 mark, my average week is that as described above with the addition of approximately four to five hours on a Sunday. Personal time, what’s that?  But as Albert Einstein put it, “Time is an illusion”.

When in school or college, you know you should be spending the day studying, you watch the clock and will it to move on. Now in the MBA, I watch the clock as a reminder to go to bed and will it to slow down.  Honestly, there are days that I think my watch has broken because it has skipped a couple of hours. I now have to balance reading something really interesting versus sleeping. If you ask anyone to give one negative comment about the MBA, the response is always, “I want to read everything, but there just isn’t the time”. There are no boring topics, lectures or assignments. In fact, we are now approaching the stage that we can start to apply, in our own work situations, what we have learnt thus far. What makes it even better, is how the semester one courses seem to have been selected – they all seem to interlink in some way. What you learnt in one, does actually help with another. The MBA is like no other course that I have done before. I am interested in the topics, I want to do further research and I actually don’t mind the fact that I have missed the first two episodes of Love Hate. Before I get carried away, they are recorded and will be watched over Christmas with an entire box of celebrations by my side.

This of course would not be possible without the other 30 odd people in my class. Funnily enough, before commencing the MBA, I didn’t worry about the academic side of the course. I worried about the other people in the class and hoped that they would be like minded individuals that I would get on with. That fear was put to rest  after the induction week and buried not long after. Each of us have the same problems of balancing the MBA with sleep, work, and where possible friends. And believe it or not, we all want each other to succeed. This became apparent during a presentation last week when I momentarily let my attention drift away from my group’s presentation to look around the room. The expressions were all the same – everyone was willing our group make a successful presentation and not hoping that we would trip up and fail. Each of us is in this for the long haul and together as one big team rather than 30 or so individuals.

Two more weeks until mid-term and then four weeks until exam week – nine weeks until Christmas break…… not that anyone’s counting!

Dorothy Chestnutt
EMBA Midweek year 1

The view from Week 6

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see (Amazing Grace, John Newton 1725-1807).

This is how it feels after six weeks of the E-MBA programme. The fog of confusion in which I have lived for the last few years is starting to clear. What makes a company stand out from the crowd? What are they doing differently? Why do their employees enjoy going to work? Where is the meaningful information in an Annual Report? All of these questions and more are being addressed simultaneously in our first semester. There are more questions each week but at least I feel they are starting to resemble intelligent questions.

The group work is great – Carlsberg don’t do groups but if they did it would be Group 2, EMBA Weekend 2014! It is like early morning training on a Saturday, you might not want to do it, but you are not going to let the team down. Being in a team drives you to do more. You don’t want to be that person everybody talks about during the Intro Week – The one who doesn’t pull their weight, the weak link in the chain, the slacker. Although when I look around my class I am left thinking this fictitious creature must be taking the mid-week course? This person is like a unicorn or an elf, they are the subject matter of great stories but we all know they don’t really exist.

The Entrepreneurship Club – I went to my first event at the Google HQ last night. For me it was fascinating. There were talks from industry experts who explained the available supports for start-up ventures, from pre-seed capital right through to International scalability. This is not an area I have any previous experience in so I am looking forward to future events.

Now all I need is a lightning bolt moment where I think of a concept that will change the world. Maybe I will leave that to the end of Semester 2!

Barry Griffin

EMBA Weekend 2014-2016

The MBA and work/life balance – any suggestions?

Cyril Northcote Parkinson

In The Economist of 19th November 1955 Cyril Northcote Parkinson published for the first time the famous law which bears his name. From the everyday observation that work expands to fill the time allocated, he was able to prove that x = (2k^m+p)/n. Where k is the number of staff seeking promotion through the appointment of subordinates; p represents the difference between the ages of appointment and retirement; m is the number of man-hours devoted to answering minutes within the department; and n is the number of effective units being administered. Then x will be the number of new staff required each year.

In the case of application to the Smurfit MBA program, we can take x to be 38 (the number of new students every year); k to also be 38 (the number who would like to have a subordinate) and p to be one (the amount of years we spend in the program). A little simple arithmetic, and the use of a handy online logarithmic calculator, and we arrive at m = 0.8. That means that between the 38 of us, we have just 48 minutes to spend on answering minutes all year. To put it another way, we don’t have a whole lot of time to waste.

In the maelstrom of the past five and a half weeks I’ve tried to waste as little time as possible. I’d love to start up a conversation where we can exchange useful tips for efficiency and keeping our work/life balances optimal. There’s probably no magic trick that’s going to make completing the MBA easy (although if there is I’d like to hear it) but I’m sure some creative thinking and teamwork will make it bearable. I’m going to write up my bright ideas for next week. All suggestions gratefully received in the comments – maybe we could develop an MBA survival guide? I’d particularly like to hear from EMBA students. I’m sure you guys have had to be even more inventive than us full timers.

Richard Mitchell

Full-time class 2015

The MBAache

Apparently I am a month into my MBA experience. Not quite sure how that happened but I’ll accept it must be true; I have a fairly reliable calendar (big numbers, at least 12 point; nice, sensible Times New Roman font – nothing barbaric like Arial – and exceptional inch-width margins). So it really must be 4 weeks since I first walked through the doors for our induction week in August – and time has just flown in.

Ah, time. I am tempted to stop my blog post right here as those two words pretty much sum up my experience of the last few weeks. I have never, in all my life, valued time in the way I do now. Every spare minute must be allotted some kind of inherent ‘value’ to be acceptable. Learning that you can read – and highlight – while eating an M&S farmhouse cheddar cheese sandwich at your desk is an absolute revelation. Waiting for a train offers a window for a quick brainstorm on a notepad (or back of an IKEA receipt, depending how prepared you are for your train’s delay). A flight from London offers an uninterrupted hour’s reading time (with optional car hire or scratch card purchase). And Friday nights are now so supremely hideous, they are best not spoken about. But this is all just part of The MBAche. I can’t say that this is exactly news to me – the demands on time were fairly hammered home before I started. What IS a wonderfully welcome surprise though, is the group of people around me.

It’s not often you find yourself in a hyper-ambitious environment like this. You might perhaps meet the odd ambitious person in work, come from a competitive family background or have fiercely demanding sales targets. But you rarely find yourself totally immersed in an environment in which every single person has heightened ambitions and targeted plans for the future. Awareness of this on your first day is – I have to admit – a bit disconcerting. You just can’t imagine yourself chatting at ease with anyone like that; even if, by implication, they are actually a reflection of yourself.

So when you then find yourself standing in a field watching 4 grown men wrap an elastic band around a wonky spoon and a plank of wood in order to achieve the high glory of removing a piece of cork from a bucket of water 10 feet away – it tends to make you stop and think. Particularly when it seems, to all intents and purposes, that this might just be the most important task said men have attempted in their lives, thus far. The point of doing these team bonding events is of course to promote strong group dynamics and foster good working relationships; and while I understand that, for me the most important aspect of it was a whole lot simpler. You are reminded that – personal ambitions aside – everyone is just human (READ: children). Which is an absurd thing to need to be reminded of, but I’ve been a little busy lately.

Ruth Cranks

Weekend year 1

Foundation Week and a bucket of ice

Settling into an MBA is very similar to making a sports team. You have a large buildup of anticipation leading up to the opening of training camp and then you’re tossed head long into the thick of everything the school can throw at you. As I sat in the lecture hall on the first day of Foundation week I couldn’t help but feel relaxed that I was finally starting after all the preparation to make it to this stage. But as I soon found out, the week was a dive straight into the deep end of the pool. The hours were long and the amount of information being packed into your brain to get you ready for the official start of classes was overwhelming.

If that hasn’t scared you off then you have made it over the first mental hurdle of the year. The foundation week really feels more like a mental preparation for the semester ahead than anything else. The week was full of lectures from everyone who wanted to pass on useful information that will come in handy at some point during your studies. This overflow of information necessitates notes if you’re able to take them. But overall there is information that you begin to use right away in your first week of classes.

Getting to know your classmates that you will spend the next year or two years of your life with is essential. Throughout foundation week there are times that you get to work in these teams. It all culminates with the team building exercises’ at the end of the week. Where you work hands on at building your team and hopefully accelerating past the forming and storming stages of team building. Everyone in the class seemed to enjoy the build up to the final team task. By far this showed the ability of all members in the full time MBA of being able to work together in many different tasks.

My personal favorite activity however was the Ice Bucket Challenge that Yale University MBA was so kind enough to nominate our class for. For me, growing up next to Lake Superior were the water rarely rises above 10 degrees centigrade I knew what was coming. The best part for me was my classmates’ reaction to the water. I think the video says it all, I’m the one calmly walking towards the camera after nominating the next schools.

This year has just begun, so the only thing left to do is find out what it has in store for us. There is so much to do. Yet at the end there is what we all hope will be a new career with the title of an MBA. We all have untapped potential and now is the time that we will find out exactly what and where that is.

Nickolas Boyle

FT Class 2015

Early days on the MBA

As I enter week three of my journey on the Smurfit MBA Programme, I’ve only really had a chance in the past few days to stop, think and take stock of the MBA experience to date. The first few weeks were a bit of whirlwind, which began with our Foundation Week at the end of August. This ‘orientation’ type week is an excellent idea by the school and helps the students to become firmly settled in before the lectures start in earnest. As early as the end of Day 1 of Foundation Week, you could sense that most students had already gotten to know many others on the programme quite well and that any initial anxieties had been quickly eroded away! The core elements of Foundation Week taught us some valuable team building, report writing and presentation skills, all of which I feel will contribute significantly to our work on the MBA.

Now having completed the first two weeks of lectures, including our first assignment (and yes, most of us made the classic MBA-newbie mistake of spending far too long on that!), we are all well settled into our class and assignment teams. This year’s weekend class is relatively small, with only 20 students. However, this means we have already gotten to know each other quite well and hopefully we will form mutually beneficial close working relationships during the programme. Working in our assignment teams, most of us have mapped out the workload ahead for the semester, and there is a general realisation that we are only at the tip of the iceberg!

Looking forward to the adventure ahead!

Ciarán Reilly

EMBA Weekend Year 1

Learnings from year 1 for Newtalk scholarship winner 2013 Niall Twomey

One year down (almost!), one more year to go and what a year it has been! Looking back on the past twelve months the experience has been both fun and challenging. I don’t think any applicant can fully appreciate the opportunities the Smurfit MBA offers until they experience them first-hand.

The MBA is all about teamwork, and understanding your strengths and weaknesses in a team setting is vital in order to develop your career. The calibre of your fellow students is second to none. You quickly realise you are being given the opportunity to work with future leaders from different industries. Through team interactions I have come to recognise that because I have only worked in the IT sector my opinions were actually quite fixed and need to be challenged and matured. My teammates certainly helped me there.

The style of classroom learning is very different to anything I have experienced before. You are expected to have completed a large amount of self-study and research before class. This means the classroom is an interactive learning experience where you learn from your lecturer and your classmates through discussion and debate. You realise that you need to be on top of your game in order to participate, but it is a lot of fun to challenge yourself.

The academic content is just one strand of the MBA; the leadership development programme, speaker series and society events are just as important. The connections to industry mean that your network goes far beyond your classmates.

Having the good fortune of receiving the 2013 Newstalk MBA scholarship has opened up the Smurfit MBA experience to me, and one which I will always be grateful for. The opportunity to be interviewed by Bobby Kerr on his “Down To Business” show was a great way to finish off the first year.

Niall Twomey

EMBA Weekend Year 1

Planes, trains and automobiles – a journey with the EMBA

Planes, Trains & Automobiles…a great film. John Candy and Steve Martin get stranded over the Holiday season and have to use all means of transport to get home for Thanksgiving. In EMBA Year 1, the same applies. We are scrambling to complete our journey to end of semester 2. Now at the midterm, we are what’s fondly referred to as “half way to half way”. We’ve covered Planes in the case studies on AirAsia and WestJet airlines. Got the Trains on the weekly trips on the DART out to an increasingly sunny coastal Blackrock. We’ve looked at the closest thing to Automobiles with more case studies on the motorcycle industry from Honda and British Motorcycle Industry to Ducati and Harley Davidson.

I think the thing that strikes you in Year 1 semester 2 is that while semester 1 was all about working with your teams, working on your presentations and reports, and learning the basic building blocks to build on in next term. Semester 2 is a much more joined up case-based learning approach, with a lot more overlap between subjects as the weeks progress. You draw your own conclusions on the case at hand with the guidance of the lecturers, class discussions, and the wisdom of your fellow classmates. You feel more comfortable assuredly advising on the best actions to take. To put yourself in the seat of that C-level executive sweating over a project’s success or failure, or as the head of a ailing company in a increasingly competitive industry.

Its midterm now, half way through our second semester. The mental battle of convincing yourself to bound over that next hurdle continues. Nearly half way to half way, and you know with the help of our team mates, you might just make it.

Stephen Cox

EMBA 2015

Stephens linkedin profile is at https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=89985621

Stephen Cox