Thought Leadership Club

On 23rd November, towards the end of our first semester, the Thought Leadership club organized its first event. We couldn’t have expected a better student organized event to start with. The club was really keen to organize the first event in the first semester itself. At the same time, with all the case studies, exams and assignments it was a really huge task.  Firstly to reach out to prospective speakers and then to organize the event and get others to attend the event. However, James Kelly (Full-time MBA) from our club actively reached out to Stephen Somers, co-founder of Marketplace SuperHeroes, an information product that teaches you how to start an international eCommerce business selling on Amazon, to share his experience as an entrepreneur with us. There was a lot of excitement in the full time MBA class, especially in the Thought Leadership Club, to organize and attend the event.

Stephen Somers is a 30-year-old serial entrepreneur, who has developed multiple businesses in different industries. Before becoming an entrepreneur, he worked as a data processor with a government agency by day and a musician by night. However, having studied Business in college he also had an urge to start a business of his own. Therefore, when he was introduced by his aunt to Robert Rickey who owned an e-commerce business, he found a way to achieve his dream of starting a business.

With the philosophy of “The best way to start a business is to be in business” he worked in Robert’s warehouse for 9 months without pay so that he could learn and understand the nuances of an e-commerce business. This conviction, which I guess is one of the traits of a thought leader, helped him to take risks and believe in himself. Working in the warehouse he identified inefficiencies in the existing system and observed that there was a lack of well-defined process. He also observed that the products such as TV mounts that were sold by the business had a saturated market therefore a minimal growth prospect. Consequently, he removed inefficiencies, defined appropriate processes and looked for products with unsaturated demands. After working on all these improvements he decided to start online sales on e-commerce websites. Once the online sales business started doing well, he realized that a lot of other people were trying to do the same however without proper guidance they would inevitable either fail or give up. Furthermore, he noticed that numerous “How to make money online” courses in the market were scams. This motivated him to become a THOUGHT LEADER and share his knowledge of how to start a successful online sales business with other people through Marketplace Superheroes.

With Marketplace Superheroes, they teach people how to build a 5-7 figure global online selling business through eCommerce websites by selling simple, low-competition, high profit physical products without “risking it all”. Listening to Stephen, I found a practical implementation of a lot of theoretical concepts of marketing that I had learned in the class. He used direct marketing, through Facebook, for customer acquisition. Coincidentally two days prior, in our marketing class we discussed the importance of marketing channels in any business. He let us in on his secret to successfully selling on an ecommerce website which is “don’t create demand, instead fulfil the existing demand”.  Having had a business degree and having read loads of books about business he introduced us to some business concepts such as customer conversion and value proposition.

He told us how important it is to differentiate your products in an online selling business. He started selling products with a very unorthodox method i.e. by reaching out to people and selling products that did not exist. He reasoned that most businesses first put in 6 months to develop a product and then find out that there is no demand for that product, whereas he tries to identify demand and then address that demand through his products. He also stressed the importance of focusing on a limited number of products instead of too many products to keep the business simple and efficient.

Stephen Somers has demonstrated that being a thought leader in your business differentiates you from your competitors. While others in the business were just selling basic information on how to start an online business selling on e-commerce websites. Marketplace Superheroes was sharing information how to be successful at selling online on e-commerce websites, by proper market research and inventory management. Stephen Somers spoke about his journey and his business for about 50 minutes, however he took us through a very descriptive narration about how he came into business, how he struggled,  and then how he made it successful, and currently how he is utilizing his success and knowledge to help others become successful through his startup Marketplace SuperHeroes.


At the end of the event, I realized how much these 3 months in the MBA have changed my perspective: I have developed a new way of looking at businesses. In the past 3 months I have been through numerous case studies, which have changed the way I absorb information about businesses and organizations. This change has been so significant that all through the presentation I was just relating information from Stephan Somers, about his businesses, to the concepts I had previously learned in class. Therefore, I am looking forward to finding out how the rest of the course will guide my thinking. Thank You!

Devinder Sharma, Full-Time MBA 2017-2018

Rosheen McGuckian Presentation: “Changing NTR Through Adversity”

I have earned my MBA one month after the start of the first semester. No really, I have… In my mind at least!

The “masterclass” delivered by Rosheen McGuckian, CEO of NTR, was all eight modules rolled into one. (Ok, an MBA requires you to do more than 8 modules, but what do I know, this is only my first semester!) She was all eight modules compacted into a single glass, drank up in one gulp that delivered an immediate kick to the centre of my brain. It was corporate governance, strategy, financial reporting, business ethics and more wrapped up in one honest, authentic, thought-provoking one-hour session.

In those 60 minutes, a good number of case studies and countless class hours came together in my mind like numerous puzzle pieces joining into one big picture as she recounted her business management journey.  How what started as a seemingly great strategy, gave way to a very difficult ride. Then dealing with the opposition that arose from that. The passage to adaptation, the investment in change, making hard decisions, the place for personal reflection and ultimately, turnaround and business success.  I was surprised, incensed, inspired, provoked, appeased, disappointed, hopeful, fearful and educated. She muddied my mind and then offered clarity and wisdom in such a simple, practical and real way. She was nothing short of everything and anything that the real business world is.

I took this MBA course because I am looking to enter the competitive business world and Rosheen McGuckian was my MBA experience personified. So indeed, after meeting her, I do feel like I earned my MBA. In the very least, a good part of it! I simply cannot wait to see which speaker I get to engage with next.


Elizabeth Kiathe, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

Disruptive Innovation Talk: When not playing by the rules is a good thing!

L-R: Ciaran O'Shea, Fintan McGovern, Aileen Butler, Bryan Hickson, Vincent Cooney, Kieran Harte, Pooja Dey, Sreekanth Nagabhushana
L-R: Ciaran O’Shea, Fintan McGovern, Aileen Butler, Bryan Hickson, Vincent Cooney, Kieran Harte, Pooja Dey, Sreekanth Nagabhushana

On Wednesday 17th of February the Smurfit MBA Thought Leadership Club hosted a talk on Disruptive Innovation to provide students a better view of current disruptive trends and how they shape the fourth industrial revolution that is arguably well underway. Three distinguished industry leaders addressed the audience: Bryan Hickson, Senior Manager, IT Advisory at EY, Kieran Harte, General Manager, Marketing at Uber, and Fintan McGovern, CEO, Firmwave (Smurfit Exec.MBA, 2012). They provided valuable insight on how they felt the industry was shaping up to the changing economic landscape, what they were doing to ensure their firms remained at the leading edge of the innovation curve, and what the future has in store. Two current students, Ciarán O’Shea (Exec.MBA 2017), and Sreekanth Nagabhushana (Full-time MBA 2016) welcomed speakers, hosted the evening, and facilitated a lively panel discussion and Q&A.

Bryan Hickson from EY kicked things off by talking about cloud computing initiatives in his organisation and how the cloud was creating lean and agile software architecture, and compressing solution delivery lead-times from months to weeks. As a techie myself, I had expected Bryan to extol the virtues of cloud computing and how it is going to be the way of the future, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him provide a reasoned argument about how the cloud computing needs vary based on system and security requirements, and I wasn’t aware of the regulatory challenges associated with going ‘cloud only’. It is not often that I hear consultants provide such a balanced view without championing the current trend ruling the industry; Bryan’s impartiality really increased his credibility and the effectiveness of his talk.

Kieran Harte told us the story about how two friends were able to turn a language barrier in a foreign city into a $60 billion business. His savvy and eloquent presentation about the origin of Uber in Paris, and the true purpose of Uber—to increase car utilisation from an average of 4%, and to ultimately make personal vehicles obsolete had the audience enthralled. Kieran claimed that Uber were not disrupting the taxi market, they were creating a more flexible public transport system, especially in markets with unreliable or undeveloped public transport services. He also pointed out that the shared economy business model will change the way people work and think about business, which was definitely a point to ponder for future executives and budding entrepreneurs in the audience.

Our final speaker for the evening, Fintan McGovern is yet another success story from the Smurfit MBA. Having completed his MBA in 2012,  Fintan spoke about globe-hopping post-MBA, including stops in Mozambique and St.Lucia before starting his own venture in Dublin. Today Firmwave is going strong and is growing from strength to strength in the ‘Internet of things’ space and shortening development by enabling rapid prototyping. Fintan spoke at length about his company’s vision and mission, and how by ‘sitting on the edge of cloud’ and engaging in ‘edge analytics’ they are helping clients increase their competitiveness. The talk was inspiring for students who want to beat their own path after completing their degrees.

After the presentations guests engaged in a lively and interactive panel discussion and Q&A with an engaged audience. The impact of regulation was a recurring theme. Kieran spoke further about Uber’s plans for the future and regulatory challenges Uber has faced in Ireland, and about the looming threat posed to its service by copycats and driverless cars. Bryan spoke further about how organisations could leverage cloud computing technology to make software development a much faster and agile process. Ultimately, all speakers highlighted how strategies employed always placed the customer at the centre of solution development and delivery.

We would like to thank all the speakers for taking out time and sharing their knowledge and opinions with us, and we hope the audience can apply some of the inspiring and motivating ideas in the future.

Arka Banerjee & Vincent Cooney ~ Full-Time MBA

Joe Schmidt inspires Smurfit MBA candidates with Leadership Talk on ‘Managing High Performing Teams’

Joe Schmidt - Photo Credit - Jason Clarke
Joe Schmidt – Photo Credit – Jason Clarke

Last Thursday, Joe Schmidt, the double Six Nations winning Irish rugby coach, talked to Smurfit MBA candidates on ‘Managing High Performing Teams’ at the St. Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club.

He chip-kicked the event by praising his team for being natural athletes who work hard and give their everything to the sport. As a coach, he believes in giving players the freedom to evolve and self-lead themselves. In a team, individuals need to do their job right to win the team’s trust.

Joe Schmidt & David Cashman. Photo Credit - Jason Clarke
Joe Schmidt & David Cashman. Photo Credit – Jason Clarke

Executive MBA candidate and MC for the evening David Cashman steered the talk by discussing Schmidt’s extensive experience in leadership as a coach and strategies for glorious back-to-back Six Nations wins.

Schmidt emphasized the importance of investing in the people that these players are by the route of giving constant feedback. Team members feel assured that they are being noticed and that the leader is invested in them that yields better dividend.

He also spoke about his recruitment style; Besides observing a player’s game, Schmidt studies the player’s attitude too. He said that a player’s game can be improved by the right training but a player’s attitude or DNA cannot be changed. It is not about provinces, it is not about red or white jerseys – he says his foremost task is to pick the 15 best Irishmen who should represent ‘the green jersey’.

Photo Credit - Jason Clarke
Photo Credit – Jason Clarke

He highlighted that a player can lead his team by being emotionally intelligent and unselfish enough to drive younger players – qualities that Paul O’Connell possessed which is why it will be difficult to find his replacement.

Schmidt anecdotally mentioned that many young coaches seek tips from him to be professional coaches. He chuckled and said that they don’t know how tough his job is. And on a serious note, he added that it all depends on the way we invest in our people.

Schmidt delivered an inspiring talk on leadership that had the audience on its feet, clapping most of the time, whistling and roaring in approval.  His address was candid and replete with humour making this event one of the most popular leadership talks of the year.

Joe Schmidt and Dean Ciaran O’hÓgartaigh with MBA Thought Leadership Club committee members – Vincent Cooney, Pooja Dey, David Cashman, John O’Brien, Paul Murphy & Aileen Butler. Photo Credit - Jason Clarke
Joe Schmidt and Dean Ciaran O’hÓgartaigh with MBA Thought Leadership Club committee members – Vincent Cooney, Pooja Dey, David Cashman, John O’Brien, Paul Murphy & Aileen Butler. Photo Credit – Jason Clarke

The event was curated by the MBA Thought Leadership Club, Smurfit School, UCD. There are a few people we would like to thank without whom this event would not have been of this magnitude – Dean Ciaran O’hÓgartaigh for supporting the event, Yvonne Harding from the MBA office for providing guidance and advice, Executive MBA candidate Conor Drudy for helping to set up Joe Schmidt for this leadership talk.

We wish the Irish Rugby Team the very best in chasing the three in a row!

Pooja Dey ~ Full-Time MBA

Digital Leadership Talk : Tête-à-tête with Industry Leaders

The Smurfit MBA Thought Leadership Club organised a Digital Leadership Talk to examine digital business strategies adopted by top companies. The event witnessed a stellar lineup of speakers – Mr. JP Donnelly, CEO at Ogilvy & Mather Group; Mr.Kevin McDonald, Country Manager at Zomato and Mr. Gearoid Buckley, Online Marketing Manager at LinkedIn who shared their experiences and valuable insights as industry leaders. The evening brought on endless conversations around how brands attract, interact and maintain engagement with their consumers in today’s technology-filled world.

(John O’Brien, EMBA candidate and moderator ; Gearoid Buckley, LinkedIn ;  Kevin McDonald, Zomato and JP Donnelly, Ogilvy & Mather Group) – Photo by Vince Cooney

JP Donnelly’s sleek presentation opened the evening with David Ogilvy’s quote ‘We sell or else.’ He discussed how brands today leverage digital tools to enrich the physical world and how digital transformation has triggered new opportunities for engagement by creating innovative touch points. The mantra is to decipher the customer journey and engage with him on a continuous basis.He also shared the advertising landscape in Ireland. In 2014 out of 30 top advertisers only 6 were indigenous. Out of the top 100 FTSE companies, only 50% of their websites are mobile responsive.

Gearoid Buckley from LinkedIn shared details on an interesting partnership with Mercedes Benz that is actively using LinkedIn to connect directly with customers and potential employees. He reiterated the power of LinkedIn and it’s tools e.g. Pulse – a publishing platform for brands, thought leaders, news peers that influences buyers decision. Gearoid also advised that while digital media is definitely hot however a company should dedicate time to understand demographics and which social media platforms are best fit to reach it’s target audience.

Kevin McDonald gave us a virtual tour of Zomato, one of the most successful food apps in Dublin and world over. He spoke on how the global company has embraced local needs through constant innovation. One such recent accomplishment is ‘Zomato Book’- a table management software. He emphasized that content due diligence is imperative to ensure credibility before users. Kevin also candidly shared how the company has exponentially grown despite initial challenges since its inception last year.

(The Thought Leadership team with speakers– L to R – Paul Murphy, Pooja Dey, JP Donnelly, Kevin McDonald, Gearoid Buckley, Vincent Cooney, John O’Brien, Sreekanth Nagabhushana) – Photo by Vince Cooney

The panelists engaged in an open dialogue and interactive session with the students. The event was moderated by our very own John O’Brien from the Executive MBA batch who never shied away from challenging yet topical questions such as if traditional media is going through a slow death. JP Donnelly shared his perspective that while traditional media is still the voice of brands, digital media provides a one on one interaction opportunity and brands are creating communities by optimizing on a suite of communication available. Kevin McDonald added that Zomato in India is currently heavily advertising in television to engage with the audience. He is also aware of other big online media companies that regularly participate in trade shows globally to connect with their users. Gearoid Buckley stressed that a media plan must also analyse in what ways does marketing in various platforms benefit the company’s business.

On behalf of the Thought Leadership Club and myself, I would like to thank our three speakers for taking out time for this event and sharing their opinions. Last but not the least, thanks to all of the students who made the event a success by joining us last Wednesday evening.

Pooja Dey ~ Full-Time MBA

Prof. Prabhu Guptara talks Business Ethics at Smurfit

Prof. Prabhu Guptara (Source - Wiki)
Prof. Prabhu Guptara (Source – Wiki)


Six weeks into the MBA Programme, students have discussed and deliberated the malfeasance, fraud and buck-passing policies adopted by companies such as Enron, Arthur Andersen, HealthSouth, FreddieMac, Lehman Brother etc. As future business leaders, we have occasionally questioned if we are at the brink of ‘ethical business crisis’?

Last week, many of our questions were answered. The Smurfit MBA Thought Leadership Club couldn’t have timed its next speaker session more aptly.

Prof. Prabhu Guptara, Executive Director, Relational Analytics Ltd (Cambridge), came as a respite!

He discussed Business Ethics and the importance of maintaining high-integrity for leaders. He explained the dynamics of democracy and capitalism that influence decision making for various CEOs. He emphasized that as future leaders we should keep true to original values. High integrity CEOs had a multi year return of 9.4%, while low integrity CEOs had a yield of just 1.9%.

Prof. Guptara referred to reform movements that united ordinary people to fight the atrocities of corrupt rulers. He strongly believes that in this dynamic society as people get more aware of social, environmental consequences and whistle-blower protection rights a positive wave of change will come.

Pooja Dey ~ Full Time MBA