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

A lot done, more to do

A lot done, more to do. No, I am not resurrecting a Fianna Fail tag line, I am summing up my first 6 weeks of the EMBA. It’s hard to believe that only a few months ago I was flicking through the glossy course prospectus. Smiling faces and glowing testimonials expounded the virtues of the qualification. But was this course for me? Trundling along on a train to Cork one Saturday morning, I decided to complete my application. Buzzwords such as “challenge”, “opportunity” and “diversity” peppered the final version. These words have now come back to haunt me.

Induction week is a distant memory at this stage. Perhaps that is due to those memories having been pushed to the back by a plethora of readings on motivating teams, Honda and the motorcycle industry and the innovative IDEO design process. Hard to believe but I already managed to incorporate some of this new knowledge into my day job. I am not sure who was more surprised, the client or me, when I was able to discuss with him the challenges faced by the motorcycle industry AND it sounded as if I actually knew what I was talking about!

In looking for inspiration for this blog, I read the contributions of some of my classmates. Like Ruth, I have developed a greater appreciation for time. Balancing work commitments, a personal life (?), class attendance and course work can be challenging. A spare 5 minutes has become a precious commodity. 5 minutes is an opportunity to read a few more lines of an article. 5 minutes is an opportunity to send an email to a client. Over the last 6 weeks I have learnt a secret. Do you want to hear it? Ok, but keep it to yourself and whatever you do, DO NOT tell the opposite of the specie….here it is… can multitask!

Don’t get me wrong; the course has not been all work and no play. Our local public house, The Dark Horse, welcomes weary first and second year EMBA students on a Thursday night. Marking the end of another week of lectures, it offers students a forum to chat, unwind and network (it’s all about the networking!). But more importantly for us first years, it gives us an opportunity to grill the second years for tips and tricks on surviving the year.

Looking at my color-coded calendar, red (warning!) is a prevalent color for the coming weeks. We have just completed a project on financial accounting and are due to give a group presentation this week. Projects on organizational behavior and strategy will also be worked on in the coming days. For a third party looking in, the workload may appear daunting. For those of us on the inside, the workload is heavy but manageable. It is only manageable by virtue of a supportive employer and collaborative classmates. A lot done, more to do? Absolutely. The next number of weeks will be challengeable, but if they are as interesting as the last 6, it will be manageable.

Cormac Kelleher

EMBA Midweek year 1

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 Secret Ingredient”

So what do you do when school’s out for summer and the first year of your exec MBA is over…?

You start to push the boundaries where you work, build new teams across departments, apply the learning AND hit the media.

That’s what I’ve been up to. I joined a fundraising team in our hospital and helped to create a cookbook to raise much needed funds for family rooms on site.

Continue reading “The Secret Ingredient”

UCD Smurfit MBA Day out at the K Club.

UCD Smurfit MBA Golf Society Blog update for their latest outing:

Derek “the Scallywag” Scally, you dark horse!!! As a 1981 UCD Smurfit MBA Alum, and one of the true gentlemen from the Golden Era of MBA education (please note: finishing a course that did not contain an “Ethics” module), he continued to set the K Club alight in what were some challenging conditions to take home UCD MBA’s 50th Anniversary Prize. Derek was graciously joined by his dear 1981 MBA colleague and friend, Norbert McDermott and his fellow Meath brother in arms, Donal Coyle (who won the wonderful “Monkey’s Ass” Visitor’s Prize). Alongside an always entrepreneurial (both on and off the golf course) Joe Kenny, this foursome could be heard chuckling their way through the 18 holes and well into the 19th. The highlight of this group came when Joe attempted a Crazy Golf style shot across one of the many bridges traversing the water on the 12th. Derek, we all agree, you deserved the victory, keeping it simple throughout.

Continue reading UCD Smurfit MBA Day out at the K Club.

Annual MBA BBQ 2014

The annual MBA BBQ took place this last weekend in the grounds of the School.  We had a great turnout with 120 adults and 50 children in attendance and although the sun only saw fit to shine for about 30 seconds towards the end of the afternoon the day was still bright and warm enough to almost convince us that it was mid-summer.    Many thanks to Adrian and the team from the restaurant who put on a great spread and kept the food, drinks and ice cream coming.  The only disappointment on show was when the cornettos ran out but there were still choc ices and brunches so all was not lost.  While the mums and dads of the MBA settled down to discuss life, the universe and everything (including some die-hards talking about the MBA) the entertainers from Sillybilly put on their usual show and kept the little guests happy and occupied for the afternoon.

Entertainers from Sillybilly keep the younger crowd busy while mummy and daddy network


A report from the golf battlefront

Andrew Bourke playing in the sand

Luttrellstown, the venue for Becks’ wedding, graciously hosted the second event of UCD’s MoneyBAGS (the new name for the UCD MBA Golf Society). A 24 strong field (our second largest turnout ever) took to the course fully inspired by Jordan Speith’s unexpected lead in the third round of the Masters. Expectations were high in spite of the low course temperatures and the talk in the clubhouse was all about one person, that’s right, Liam Doyle. Who would have thought the Golf Society would become so big that it would attract one of Ireland’s finest rugby players away from going to Danville for the MBA World Cup!!!

There was also a welcome return for Charlie Weijer after his glorious front nine at the Captain’s Day in Powerscourt last August. He joined the first group on the tee box which also consisted of Pamela Fay (still traumatised after her counselling session with Andrew Bacon), Gerard Murphy (the man renowned for his steely resolve) and James Sammon (our resident Casanova). Charlie, yet again, commenced his round in exemplary fashion, with crisp clean drives and instinctive pitches, which spurred on his competitors. Rumour has it James was a little forlorn considering his usual playing partner had been moved to Group 6… We’ll make sure Jessica plays with you next time James ;0).

Continue reading A report from the golf battlefront

Tips From a 1st Year Executive MBA

Living on a dairy farm in Kerry with my husband and our three children may be miles away from the MBA, yet the MBA has been a great experience and I have really enjoyed the course.

Based on my experience, here are some tips for those undertaking an MBA to make life run more smoothly:

  1. Avoid reading ‘Snapshots from Hell’ by Peter Robinson. It is a moany account of a man doing a full time MBA in the US – I struggled to find one meaningful snippet in the entire soliloquy. If you want a taste of the course speak to a current students or read any of the posts in this blog.
  2. Buy a slow cooker. Prepare vegetables and meat in the morning. Peg them into it and leave for approximately eight hours. Lovely dinner with minimal effort.
  3. Keep hubby/partner happy. Have a ‘date night’ each week.  This is hard to fit in amongst all the other commitments but when you asked you husband/partner to support you on this mad endeavour I don’t think either of you realised the time commitment involved.
  4. Don’t bring a copy of the latest strategy case report to bed (not so conducive to point three).
  5. Do not introduce your au pair to your brother. When they fall in love and move in together it is not helpful.
  6. Reserve Sunday for family time – take the kids swimming, go out for lunch, read the paper, enjoy a little bit of normal life and do not do any course work.
  7. Don’t moan about the work load. Nobody wants to listen to it. Everyone has obligations and commitments. Yours aren’t more important. If you fancy a moan-fest refer to point one.

To put it all in perspective on a recent play date I overheard one of my daughter’s friends boasting that her mother was taking her to Eurodisney. My daughter (not to be outdone) promptly replied that her mommy was training to be a smurf!

Catherine O Leary

EMBA 2015


Staying on Track

Semester two is tough. It is not tough because the workload is greater than Semester one. Nor is it tough because the courses are more challenging. In fact, for a vast majority of the class the workload is lighter for the option modules. It isn’t the obvious things that make Semester two tough. It is the growing realisation of the need to figure out where the next stage of my life, post-MBA, is going to take me. Deciding what and then moving onto the how should be the focus of my time. It is, let’s face it, the reason anyone embarks on an MBA. Whilst some of the academic staff may not wish to admit it, the academic parts of an MBA course are a means to an end. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to learn and plenty to stimulate the intellectual curiosity, but the MBA is a springboard into a potentially new and exciting career.

Semester two is tough. There are so many pulls on your time and it is too easy to neglect the longer and longer shadow being cast on a future career. Many will say this is simply down to time management, and there is a certain degree of validity in that assertion. There is more complexity to it, however. Using the year in an MBA is, as has no doubt been noted by my colleagues previously, a unique opportunity to explore a totally different career path. However, this requires a depth of research and contact building that could in its own right be a full time job. Notwithstanding the HR strategies to get you around, the Activity Based Costing in Managerial Accounting and Investment Management classes that leave you mentally exhausted, trying to forge a new career is a considerable challenge.

Semester two is tough. As more and more gets thrown at you from preparing for the trip to China to extracurricular activities to assignments and late night classes, many things can knock you down. The prospect of developing an exciting new career from September is enough to motivate you to keep bouncing back off the canvas. But it is easy to lose track, no matter how often you are reminded of the real reason you are doing an MBA.

As the days get longer and (hopefully) the sun starts to get warmer, it is a great time to revaluate priorities and at the same time maintain the commitments you have made to family, friends and colleagues. That is the challenge.

Jim Radmore

Full-time MBA 2014

United Kingdom


It had to come to an end. A month of glorious holidays: meeting friends I’d neglected since last September; reading magazines, Christmas bestsellers, anything but case studies; and watching oodles of box-sets and movies. To ease myself back into MBA mode for Semester 2 – which according to cruel rumours was going to be even tougher than Semester 1 – the last cinema trip was to see ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ I’m not sure that much of the film would tally with our previous Business and Society module but it definitely sparked my interest for the upcoming Competitive Strategy and Corporate Finance modules!

Semester 2 kicked off at 9am on a rainy Saturday morning with a personal development seminar. We were presented with the results of survey No. 734* and I discovered that I’d been a lone ‘blue’ (altruistic – nurturing leadership style) in a team with three ‘reds’ (assertive-directing leadership style). On paper that combination shouldn’t work but somehow, in reality, it did. If I was to hypothesize, I’d say my team mates brought out my latent competitive streak, whereas I kept them from trying to outdo each other! However I think it’s mostly due to the fact that my former team mates are very hard working, smart, encouraging people, and good fun to be around.

One of the reasons I wanted to do an MBA was to see if – having worked in the non-profit sector for 10 years – I was up to the challenge of working with people from completely different professional backgrounds and mindsets. Being arbitrarily assigned to teams of people who you’ve never met before and being dependent on the team for a significant percentage of your overall results lets you meet that challenge head on. I was sorry that after getting on so well with my team in Semester 1 that we would now have to go our separate ways. All too abruptly we were assigned our new teams for the next 12 weeks. Nothing like an MBA for keeping you on your toes.

This time our new team have the benefit of knowing each other a little bit in advance. We’ve sussed each other out in class and we all implicitly know that working together is essential to success. We can get down to business quickly. Which is just as well as those rumours have proven correct: Semester 2 is tough. Brilliant, but tough. We’re less than a month in and all of us EMBA-ers are juggling work, multiple assignments, and a rainforest’s worth of readings. Not to mention the surveys. It’s a bit overwhelming, but luckily I’ve got another great team around me, a strong Wolf Pack.

*Possibly an exaggeration, but only a slight one.

Deirdre Mangaoang

EMBA Midweek 2015