Successful People Never Reach Their Goals Alone


On 22nd November, the Women of the MBA Group and their guests came together to explore the importance of mentoring and how both mentoring and networking can be crucial to career development. The group were delighted to welcome speakers Irial O’ Farrell, Evolution Consulting & Mary Cronin, Thousand Seeds.

We heard how mentoring is a two way relationship, and that we all need someone to inspire us to do better than what we know. An interesting statistic shared at the event from a WXN survey was that 91% consider mentoring critical to career advancement. Irial advised us on the benefits of having a sponsor that is not our line manager. We should develop relationships with people outside of our own function or department, who will promote and recommend us and introduce us to their network. Hearing stories from Irial and Mary on how mentors have helped them get where they are today left us in no doubt of the importance of mentors and sponsors. Attendees, both male and female included current students, recent graduates and more experienced graduates of the MBA programme. Those of us in more senior positions were reminded by Kevin Spacey that “if you are lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down!”


The focused networking session had us at different times interacting with one another, sketching like Van Gogh and sipping on wine by the roaring fire! We were reminded to attend networking events with a plan and a goal, even when sometimes that goal may not be clear. If you don’t know what you are looking for it is harder to find! And during those awkward initial conversations, be interested before you are interesting!

We were left with the final words from Mary; “It is not the mountain we need to conquer, but ourselves”. In today’s world with all the noise and potential burnout, we need to decouple the chaos, challenge our self-limiting beliefs and trust ourselves. We can make the most of ourselves by believing in those tiny inner sparks of possibility and turning them into flames of achievement.

Ruth Mc Avoy ~ Executive MBA, Year 2

Launch of Women’s Network WMBA

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

As a current MBA student in Smurfit, I was recently involved in setting up a women’s network on campus – the Women of the MBA. Last Friday, 17th June,  we successfully launched the group at an event attended by both male and female, past and present students of the MBA.

We were delighted to host a panel discussion with four exceptional female Alumni:  Grainne Barron, Founder & CEO Viddyad; Mary Lambkin, Professor of Marketing, Smurfit; Marcella Flood, Head of Digital Transformation, Allianz Worldwide Care & Orla Nugent, MBA Programme Director, Smurfit.

The theme of the night was how the Smurfit MBA can empower women to become leaders and take a seat at the table. We heard stories of the challenges of being female in Silicon Valley, stories of how an engineering background evolved into a career in academia, and of how being the eldest in your family gives you a natural advantage when it comes to being a leader! All of our speakers spoke candidly and openly about their journey to where they are today. It was a very engaging discussion which sparked some lively conversations during the Q&A.  A common thread running through all of the stories was the importance of self belief and hard work in achieving your goals. Another prevalent theme on the night was the importance of eliminating gender as an issue for the benefit of future generations.  This is why I believe it is so important that we get together to build networks such as the WMBA.

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

The MBA here at Smurfit has empowered so many great female leaders and it is a great time to be a woman in business with such initiatives as the 30% club. The WMBA hope to work on a number of initiatives to support female students and will host further networking events in the coming months for both male and female Alumni.

As the seanfhocail goes Ní neart go cur le chéile – There is no strength without unity. By coming together in unity we can keep this conversation going, men and women alike, to increase awareness and affect change collectively.

Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June
Women of the MBA group networking event, Friday 17th June

Ruth Mc Avoy ~ Executive MBA

Who run the world? GIRLS!

WMBA Lunch at the weekend
WMBA Lunch over the weekend

Looking around our current MBA classes, we see a group that is mainly male dominated. Recognising the power of the women in our MBA classes, we recently set up a Women of the MBA group to connect both current students and alumni with one another, to create a community, to network and to have fun!

The issue of gender bias is widely debated and by getting together as a group we hope to further debate these issues and break through the fear and the barriers that so many women face. Psychologist Pauline Clance, coined the term “Imposter Syndrome”, after an interviewee in their research study said she “felt like an imposter, here with all these really bright people”. She suggests that it is particularly prevalent and intense among high achieving women. We, the WMBA, are high achieving women! The idea for setting up this group partly stemmed from a discussion among a few of our classmates on the Imposter Syndrome and how we can support each other within the MBA.

Groups like the WMBA encourage us to discuss these issues, get over our fears and raise awareness of gender bias. While we hope to get an official launch event with Alumni and current students off the ground soon, we have attended some external events together including IMAGE breakfast events, the Smurfit 30% Club event and more recently we had a lunch for current EMBA and FT MBA female students.  Our LinkedIn group allows us to share events, articles and spark interesting online conversations.

Finally, we are conscious that we do not want to exclude all the wonderful gentleman in our classes and create a gender divide! It is even rumoured that some of the current male students refer to the WMBA as our “secret society”, so I hope this unveils some of the secrecy (we’re not actually talking about you!) and we will definitely welcome you to our future events…

Ruth Mc Avoy ~ Executive MBA

The Power of Positivity…How to increase your brain power by 31%?

I stumbled across this Ted Talk recently and I found it truly inspiring and dare I say life changing…

In it Shawn Achor, a Harvard graduate, describes how we can rewire our brains for positivity and in doing so increase our performance levels, brain power and lifespan.

A positive mindset results in:

23% greater energy in the midst of stress,

31% higher productivity,

37% higher levels of sales,

40% higher likelihood to be promoted,

and improved our longevity.

The good news is we can train our brain to happy and more positive just as we can train our bodies. The even better news is its not nearly as challenging as pumping iron or pedalling it out in a spin class. It’s just a matter of developing a few good habits in our daily routine. Achor summarises his recipe for success in the Ted Talk but has written many books on the power of positivity which are worth a read if you get the chance.  Achor’s training plan is very simple… it nearly sounds like something you wise old granny would have taught you…

  1. 3 Gratitudes: List 3 things you were grateful for today.
  2. Random Act of Kindness: Compliment someone on on their outfit, applauded a colleague on a job well done, buy someone a cup of tea…
  3. 10 minutes of Exercise: Teach you brain that behaviour matters
  4. Keep a Journal: Take 2 minutes a day to write a few sentences on a positive experience, so that you can relive it
  5. Meditation: You don’t need to find your innerself but take 5 minutes in the day to sit in silence and allow the world to past you by.

Watching this Ted Talk was the best twelve and a half minutes I have spend this year. I have found a huge difference in my attitude to life and to others as well as my capacity to deal with the increased pressures of taking on a new role as well as the MBA this year.

Dawn Reilly

EMBA Midweek year 1

The student perspective on an MBA open event

Open event taken from first floor landing, note the funky lighting

Last night I was fortunate enough to be a participant on a panel discussion with regards to the MBA for prospective students. I am in my second year of the mid week EMBA. It is the first time that I participated, last year I was too worried about my exams to give the time. However, this year I think I have relaxed more into the course and also have the self confidence to know that I will be OK exam-wise.  The evening began with a presentation given by Gillian Durnin, MBA Admissions Manager, Orla Nugent, MBA Programme director and Brian Marrinan, MBA Careers Director. It was great to see so many people interested  in the MBA, but disappointing to see so few women in the audience. It was the same when I came for the MBA evening 18 months ago. I had the same questions and worries as expressed by those present. It was nice to be in a position to advise on my experiences to date on the course. Other panellists were current students from the first year Exec and weekend courses, a second year student from the weekend course and two students that have survived the MBA and lived to tell the tale, so a broad perspective was given. The main areas of concern were the GMAT (a big one for the majority of us), the costs not only financially, but also the time commitment and the required juggling with home and work life. Brian was able to advise on the return on investment career-wise for the course. For me the most interesting part was meeting people afterwards and having the opportunity to speak on a one to one basis. For one prospective student, they had come to the evening not sure if they wanted to choose this course or another, but after the information session, they felt more inspired to pursue the MBA. I wish everyone that decides to pursue the MBA the best of luck in their endeavours. It is a lot of hard work, don’t think otherwise, but there are a lots of rewards that go with it too.

Muireann Cullen

Midweek year 2

MIJE – Masters in Juggling Everything

The only thing I ever knew about spreadsheets was how to spell it. And if I typed in a hurry, there was a fairly good chance I’d get it wrong.

Coming from a journalism background, the thoughts of studying financial modules brought me out in a cold sweat. I didn’t know my EBIDATA from my ROI and I felt much more comfortable quizzing a head of state or covering a murder trial than using a calculator.

Fast forward three months and not only can I use Excel, I can actually read spreadsheets and financial statements. And acronyms are now my new language. Instead of my eyes glazing over when I hear of ROCE or EPS or WACC, I’m now comfortable with the terminology. And I also know that HRM has another meaning other than Her Royal Majesty.

One the many lessons I’ve learned since taking the plunge to do an MBA is that not having a financial background is no hindrance. Sure, it would make Financial Reporting a little easier, but having a background in writing means that I don’t baulk at being handed a 2,500 word project. Give me an interesting topic and 5,000 words to write and I’ll give you a work of art (almost) in a few hours. And as for deadlines? I’ve never met one that I didn’t like to sail close to.

Aside from finance, there’s so much else to learn and juggle – strategy, human resources, operations, economics, marketing….the list goes on.

Maybe the MBA title is what misled me into thinking only people with a background in business and finance ever did the course. Perhaps it’s time for a new title that could give a more accurate interpretation of what it’s all about?

Masters In Juggling Everything (MIJE)

Masters in Time Management (MITM)

Masters in Getting By On No Sleep (MIGBONS)

Masters in Networking and Job Hunting (MINJH)

I’m not sure they’ll ever catch on but they might help explain a little of the madness of the rollercoaster journey of an MBA student.

Edel Kennedy


How will you measure your MBA experience

Image result for Professor Robert Kaplan
Prof. Robert Kaplan

You hear a lot about measurement when you sign up to do an MBA. ‘You get what you measure’ and we’ve been learning how to measure performance, variations from expected outcomes, and the strategies we can use to plan and then measure a company’s success.

I was lucky enough to be in attendance at a special two day conference by Prof. Robert Kaplan, Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School, when he was in Ireland earlier this year.

Not only is Prof. Kaplan a widely acclaimed academic rock-star, and adored guru of MBAs everywhere, but in person he is truly an inspiration. At 74 years of age he is bright eyes, tan skin and lean physique. He exercises daily, clearly looks after himself, and still loves to travel.

His mind is sharp and inquiring; he asked lots of questions, was happy to chat and was evidently interested in understanding what was going on in Ireland, the challenges we face and what we are doing about it.

He remains passionate, interested and excited by his academic work. And he he’s not nearly done yet; there is so much more to learn and understand he says. That to me was inspiring.

Meeting him got me thinking about how we get to be like that. What’s the secret of the successful septa- and octo-genarians whose energy levels could put many half their age to shame? Michael Smurfit; UCD Smurfit Business School founder, Rupert Murdock and Warren Buffet are all still very engaged in their respective fields in their 70s and 80s.

As I edge further into year two of the MBA, I can’t help but wonder if the decisions we make now and in the months ahead will shape what we’ll be like when we reach that life stage.

If we’re lucky, given increasing life expectancy and extending ages of retirement, most of us will have at least 30, and maybe 40, years of career ahead of us post-MBA. Chances are you’ll only do an MBA once and so surely this is one of the best opportunities we get to reflect on and plan what we want those 30 or 40 years to be like.

In addition to the academic learning we are steeped in, this is the other part of the MBA experience. That we are actively encouraged to think about who we are, how to be the best version of ourselves and how to bring out the best in others. This applies not just in our careers but in all parts life.

If you need a framework (yes, we talk a lot about those on the MBA) for further examination of this you could do worse than read Clayton Christensen’s ‘How Will You Measure Your Life’. Another Harvard stalwart, we can learn a lot from Christensen’s reflections on his life post-MBA and the direction his classmates, and later his students, have taken over the course of their lives. The book is based on a final session he conducted with his Harvard MBAs each year and, while aspects of his personal values may not be to everyone’s liking, there are some really interesting observations and theories in this book that I think most MBA students will appreciate.

Christensen reminded me that you chose the life you want. You work hard at it and you need to measure it regularly to identify any deviations from the plan. But also that in reappraising your progress you may find that deviating from the course may be where the most exciting opportunities lie. Whatever happens, the MBA is providing us with the tools we will need to put in place strategies and action plans that will serve us well for the journey.

Kirsten Connolly

Weekend year 2

‘Well behaved women seldom make history’ – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I wondered what to contribute to the MBA blog page but then saw a fellow MBA student dropped the ‘F’ bomb in a recent blog. Not the cool ‘F’ bomb, but feminism, which can kill a cool conversation in an instant! Don’t roll your eyes yet, bear with me.

Most definitions of feminism will include some reference to equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

Sheryl Sandberg tried to address the second point by requesting that we ‘lean in’ at work and ‘sit at the table’ instead of waiting to be asked.  Do we need to do the same when it comes to the MBA experience?

I was genuinely surprised by the ratio of men to women in my MBA class at almost 5 to 1. We can assume that women are accepted equally by UCD so why the low turnout? Are women reluctant to invest the time and money? Perhaps they are they hesitant to ask for support from their employers or partners at home? Maybe they have better things to do on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday… you get the picture. I hear women talking about MBAs all the time so why aren’t they doing it?

When sharing my MBA experience with female colleagues and friends most respond by admitting it’s something they would love to do it ‘for themselves’ at some point. However they all admitted that support at home would not be forthcoming. That’s a whole other blog but maybe Sheryl had a point? Don’t ask – just do.

Whatever the reason for low female participation, it’s something I hope changes. Does that make me a feminist? All I know is that well behaved women seldom make history.

Emma Burke

Midweek year 1

Congratulations to Grainne Barron winner of MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award 2014

Word has reached us from London that Grainne Barron who graduated from the EMBA programme in 2007 has been awarded the prestigious MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award from the UK based Association of MBAs.

Andrew Main Wilson, AMBA Chief Executive: ‘This is the 2nd time in three years that UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School has won our MBA Entreprenurial Venture Award, which clearly indicates the quality of their MBA programme and its focus on creativity and entrepreneurship. This year’s winner, Grainne Barron, CEO and Founder of Viddyad, has demonstrated just how successful women in technology can be.

Grainne is CEO and Founder of Viddyad and is responsible for commercial product development internationally. She is a recognized expert in video advertising technology and has been interviewed on Bloomberg TV, TechCrunch, USA Today been quoted in the WSJ where Viddyad was listed as ‘One to Watch!’

Further information on Grainne can find it at – Profile of Grainne from Smurfit Alumni

Further information on the AMBA AWARDS event, click here.

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