The Clark’s Sandwich – a comforting constant in a hectic MBA week

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I find myself in week four of the second semester of my 1-year full-time MBA. The weeks just fly by and one week does not resemble the next. With three electives on top of my core modules, I run from one thing to the next: I jump on a video conference with our Yale counterparts to manage a virtual plant as part of our Supply Chain module; try to negotiate a good deal to buy a new biotech manufacturing site in my negotiations elective; am torn between Friedman and Mackey on the purpose of business in my Business Ethics class; come up with a business model for a new venture in Entrepreneurship; juggle fixed, variable, direct and indirect costs in Management Accounting; create a ‘Elena 2030’ vision with my executive coach; take a breath and literally run to the next thing.

And yet, there is a comforting constant in the hectic MBA week. Every day, at 1.30pm on the dot, the door to the MBA room opens and ten very excited (mostly male) MBA students cannot wait for the highlight of their day: the sandwich and soup deal from the Deli around the corner. I have to admit that I do sometimes join in because you cannot beat a good sandwich for lunch – may my sourdough-loving German ancestors forgive me. The comforting thing about it is, however, not so much the sandwich itself (and the obligatory basil and tomato soup), it is the fact that no matter if you buy a sandwich, bring your own lunch or just enjoy a coffee after eating in the cafeteria – every day you get to spend a peaceful 30 minutes in the MBA room with a mix of interesting, genuinely nice people who always have a good story to tell.

An MBA is an intense experience and it is a tough and sometimes scary decision to leave a great job to go back to being a full-time student for a year. Building on what Cathal wrote in his blog entry below (check it out, well worth reading!), what makes this year a lot easier and very enjoyable is the people you get to spend it with. In Germany we say ‘geteilte Freude ist doppelte Freude, geteilter Schmerz ist halber Schmerz’, which translates to ‘shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is halved sorrow’. This definitely applies to an MBA. To make it a little less dramatic, let’s replace sorrow with stress. Sharing this experience with a great group of people is definitely double the fun and half the stress!

Elena Nock ~ Full-Time MBA

MBA: Mediocre But Arrogant?

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When I first told a good friend that I was going to do an MBA he responded, in true Irish fashion, by swiftly cutting me down to size. He responded by saying “Why would you bother? You do know it stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, don’t you?” As much as I knew that this wasn’t the generally accepted view of an MBA, I could not get the idea out of my head during both the application process and the run up to the start of term 1. I had a genuine fear that the class would be full of cutthroat, pompous narcissists. Thankfully, after a few weeks I could say that our very diverse class (73% of which are international students) was certainly not arrogant but instead a very down to earth one that quickly gelled into a close-knit unit. This was critical in putting me at ease about the year ahead.

The fact that I am a constant worrier meant that it was not long before my focus moved to the Mediocre part of the phrase. Did we lack arrogance because we had no reason to think highly of ourselves? Were we inferior to those that attend the top ranked business schools such as those of the Ivy League, LBS, IE etc.? Was Smurfit only able to attract mediocre candidates? After all you don’t need to be in the 700 (GMAT) club to gain entry. I was scheduled to go to Yale in mid-October for the GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) Global Immersion Week so I knew that would be a good opportunity to gauge the abilities of our school against some of the schools that are perceived to be the finest in the world.

The Yale trip was a fantastic opportunity. The chance to briefly attend an institution that is known across the globe and is synonymous with excellence was an honour. Upon arrival it didn’t take long to realise that many of these students had an air of arrogance about them but more importantly it did not take long to realise that we were every bit as good as them. I’d go so far as to say we were better than the majority of them and we were far more craic. Being able to see this comparison really reassured me about my decision to choose Smurfit. The fact that I didn’t feel the need to sell my kidneys to cover the considerably lower tuition fees was an added bonus.

Ok so now that we know that the Smurfiteers are as good as any MBA students, maybe it is that all MBA students are mediocre? I guess this really comes down to the perception of what an MBA graduate is. Some people who enter an MBA programme do it because they believe that companies will be lining up at the finish to throw money at them. Anybody with an ounce of sense knows that this will never happen. So why is it that certain hirers believe that by taking on an MBA graduate they are getting some super human that will revolutionize their business? If people think like this then they might think that MBAs are mediocre. Maybe that is how the rumour started.

The truth is that an MBA will not revolutionize you. How could it? Does any other degree work such magic? Of course not. What an MBA will do is equip you with a vast array of skills across many disciplines. These will not make you a subject matter expert but they will give you an edge in whatever field you choose to work. You may not use these skills immediately but at some stage I’m sure that they will be invaluable. You will only be mediocre if you do not commit to the programme and do not soak everything in.

Cathal Murphy ~ Full-Time MBA

The Importance of Teamwork

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When I decided to put my music business on hold and to take a year out of life and return to college at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the raw intensity of what was to come. Even after 15 years of intense work in the Hollywood entertainment industry, MBA life often seems to be an exercise in survival training for business more than academic learning. Part of me feels that this is the point of it all. From the beginning, the high pressure environment has created a strong bond between the Full-Time MBA students. We realise that supporting each other is the cornerstone of our fast evolving class culture, and this family attitude increases the chance of us making it through the year relatively unscathed!

Teams, teams and more teams

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From the start, teamwork has been a huge part of our MBA experience. We work in assigned teams, in self-selected pairs, and as individuals. We also share ideas as a class on a regular basis. The thing about assigned teams, as you can well imagine, is that there’s no choosing who you get. At the start of Semester One, I think a lot of us collectively held our breath before meeting our teams after hearing all the rumors about teams being customized to create minor conflict to challenge us. I feel I have been very lucky. I have four teammates from different backgrounds, countries and cultures who support each other and have been there for each other every step of the way. It has been a great support to me personally.

I’ve actually been discovering a lot of hidden things about teamwork that will benefit me for many years to come. So many of us are being reminded that there is a lot more to it than simply having a meeting and then going our separate ways to work on tasks. For example:

  1. What are our individual and collective strengths?
  2. How can we learn from and with each other?
  3. How do we engage with each other?
  4. How can we align our goals or expectations?

Virtual Teamwork at Smurfit

Recently, we were hit with a new challenge – working in virtual teams across the various Executive MBA and Full-Time MBA classes. The task seemed simple: collaborate through virtual communication and make a video about the experience. In reality, it proved to be an engaging challenge. Trying to agree on simple things such as an online platform or when everyone is free is apparently harder to do with teammates you don’t know or see!

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We tested the virtual team experience in a “safe psychological environment” (a phrase heard a lot in our class) and had a lot of fun doing it. When two of us attended Global Network Week in Yale’s School of Management for example, we took the time to organise a Skype call from Yale with our teammates back in Ireland to give us an authentic international Global Virtual Team experience.

Our final video project revolved around interviews with fellow Global Network Week students and our own team discussing our experiences.

The MBA Leadership Development Programme

There is a growing awareness among many of us, that developing our ability to work with and lead a team of diverse individuals is a far more significant part of our growth as future business leaders than simply getting the top grade in an MBA exam. It’s proving to be an interesting psychological transition. The ego wants to be selfish and to focus on what is best for the self, yet we see time and time again that the collective delivers better decisions and outcomes.

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The Leadership Development Programme (LDP) focuses on the skills necessary to help us. It IS all worth it. This voyage of self-discovery feeds our emotional growth, and our capacity to be more productive both individually and collectively. At the end of the day, we unquestionably need to understand who we are, before we can lead others in the future. To help us understand our psychological preferences and our emotional strengths and weaknesses, we have done a barrage of personality tests such as an ESCI 360 Peer Review and a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test based on C. Jung and I. Briggs Myers type theory.

Honestly, it sometimes feels like we are doing a new test every second week!

Moving Forward

So what is next for me? I think most of all, I simply look forward to continuing on this voyage of self discovery and enjoying the remainder of my MBA experience.

Ciaran Hope ~ Full-Time MBA

 

Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM)

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Two months into UCD Smurfit Full-Time MBA and every day still remains a mix of anxiety, excitement, pressure and loads of memories. The icing on the cake was Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) week – perfect stress buster for learning, meeting people and sharing experiences.

The module hosted by UCD this year was “The Three Pillars of Innovation in Ireland – Technology, Food and Culture” with an aim to drive innovation and create value by connecting leading global business schools, their resources and their stakeholders. We had 40+ students from EGADE Mexico, ESMT Germany, IE Spain, IIMB India, Sauder Canada, and Yale U.S.A and last but not least UCD Ireland.

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Day 1: Rushing through the gates in anticipation of not being late, it felt like the first day of school all over again, from collar name tags to the printed schedule of the week to new puzzled faces in the lecture theatre. Professor Patrick Gibbons, the module co-coordinator addressed us and introduced the students to each other in a unique way, following which we had interactive sessions about the future of Irish beef industry, Challenges of Internationalization and Branding of Irish food. Apart from the amazing lunch, there was a welcome reception in the evening where all the students socialised over wine & cheese.

Day 2: The day started with reflections on the previous days’ learnings. Apart from sessions on Foreign Direct Investment, Innovation in customer Insight and Ireland’s competitiveness, the highlight of the day was a power packed presentation by ‘The Happy Pear’ twins and a visit to their café and production unit in Greystones. It felt like we were on a class picnic and I never knew I would actually like vegan food that was served at the café (being a hard core non-vegetarian!). The experience was really good due to my personal interest in the food production industry.

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Day 3: By now all students knew each other quiet well, with no more introductions, “Hello, I am Prathibha, attending the MBA programme at UCD” and questions “So, which country are you from? “or “ Which business school are you attending?”. Thus began another day planned very well with lectures on the venture capital environment, Google Inc, developing Irish industry and the Irish economy-performance & prospects. A Dublin Literary pub crawl was organized for us (believe me I never knew what a Literary pub crawl was until then). It is a walking tour of Dublin’s historic pubs conducted by two actors who introduce the famous writers and enact scenes from their works. Moving from one pub to another, sharing stories, small talk, drinks and food just made the day even more worthwhile.

Day 4: After a long night, it was really hard to wake up in the morning and reach college by 8:45am for an overview and review session. But still, everyone were present right on time looking all energetic to attend sessions on Innovation, Operations in Ireland, International TV & film industry and Intellectual Property. A farewell dinner was planned out at Johnnie Fox’s which is known as Ireland’s ‘highest’ pub. The night was filled with traditional Irish dance and music and a delicious three course meal.

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Day 5: Today there were no classes; an entire day of outdoor activities was organized starting with a trip to the Abbey Theatre, National Theatre of Ireland. There was a small talk about the history of the theatre and development of Arts followed by an acting exercise. Due to some confusion, I reached the wrong entrance of the Guinness Store house and had to go all the way round to another entrance, only to be received by some smiling faces who happily commented on how late I was and kept them waiting. This was my first brewery experience which tells the tale of Ireland’s famous beer. Along with tastings and beer samples there is a rooftop gravity bar on the 7th floor with 360° views across the Dublin’s magnificent skyline. As this was the last day of the GNAM week, everyone decided to meet up for one last time for some drinks.

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Thus the incredible GNAM week concluded with goodbyes, new friends and valued memories.  Thanks to Elaine Aherne, module manager for organizing everything and always being there with us. Back to classes again, need to do a load of assignments and also have an exam coming up next week. All the best to me and my class!

Prathiba Fernandes ~ Full-Time MBA

Global Network Week 2016

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Here at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, we are proud to be a member of the Global Network for Advanced Management, alongside other top business schools like Yale, IE and EGADE (visit GNAM website). The Global Network Immersion Week (GNW) Programme is an initiative of GNAM that is designed to provide students from participating GNAM schools with a rich foreign immersion experience.

The Global Network for Advanced Management connects member schools with diverse regions, countries, and cultures, and economies by facilitating interaction. Through one week immersion programmes and online courses, participating schools host fellow GNAM institutions for seminars, visits, and interactions within local economies.

The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School will be participating in the GNW Programme again this year, for our third year running. We will be hosting an intensive one-week course in October 2016 and June 2017 that will be attended by MBA students from both our school and all other network schools.

Global Network Immersion Week gives UCD Smurfit MBA students the opportunity to pursue intensive study at another network school, in a focused mini course that leverages the perspectives, programmes, and faculty expertise of that school. Alongside their counterparts from elsewhere in the network, students attend classes, tour local businesses, and meet with experts focused on current business problems.

In the video below, Executive MBA student Dermot Boyle & Full-time MBA student Ashish Babbar discuss their experiences of the 2015-16 Global Network for Advanced Management.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

A Most Awaited Week Off!

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The days were getting longer, the nights were getting restless and the weekends were growing boring due to pressing deadlines when the tactically placed GNAM Immersion Week trip came to our rescue. Desperately waiting for 16th October, it was getting harder to spend the last few days in class before flying to our respective locations for GNIW (Global Network Immersion Week).

And finally the day came when we, in a group of nine (one had already reached New York by this time), were at Dublin airport to fly to New York for an extravagant weekend to party hard in NY before starting with our Global Network Week at Yale SOM on Monday – Oct 19th. Landing at JFK, ‘Competitive Strategies’ were discussed among the group to leverage the most out from the Friday evening. ‘Human Resources’ are most privileged ones with god’s gift of a brain (and competencies!), which they utilized to analyze the ‘Economics’ of the places they can visit and understood the ‘Game’ that is going on between various pubs to attract customers.

After a few initial hiccups (OMG – someone left their iPhone and passport in cab) we reached Times square. Then we started looking for a place to begin our evening. Financial Accounting is not everybody’s cup of tea but fortunately we had a financial accountant who helped us find a lovely, economical bar in Times Square.

After an energised weekend in NY, we reached Yale SOM where the five-day experience had an ever-lasting impact. We enjoyed every minute of it. It was a fantastic mix of class with students representing all of the top schools across the globe. Though returning back wasn’t easy, still we were equally eager to meet everyone back in Dublin!

In a nutshell, our bodies got reenergised, our minds rejuvenated and our soul revitalised. Hope to have a repeat telecast of the same soon!

Sumit Chopra ~ Full-Time MBA

UCD Smurfit MBA Participates in Yale Global Network Immersion Week 2015

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This past week (Oct 19th – 23rd) saw students from the Full-Time MBA class participate in Global Network Immersion Week (GNIW). Global Network Immersion Week gives UCD Smurfit MBA students the opportunity to pursue intensive study at another network school, in a focused mini course that leverages the perspectives, programmes, and faculty expertise of that school. Alongside their counterparts from elsewhere in the network, students attend classes, tour local businesses, and meet with experts focused on current business problems.

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UCD Smurfit School welcomed students from Koç University (Istanbul, Turkey), Yale SOM (Connecticut, USA), Fudan (Shanghai, China), Egade (Santa Fe, Mexico) and Sauder School of Business UBC (Vancouver, Canada). The theme of the UCD Smurfit GNIW was ‘Executive Decision Making’ and sessions included Executive Decision Making: Art or Science?, Corporate Decision Making: Respective Roles of Boards and Management and Individual and Social Psychological Effects on Decision Making.

Along with contemplating some Decision Making conundrums in the classroom, students went on a Company Visit to Accenture where the Director of the Centre for Innovation, Dublin  discussed the decision making process around locating the new innovation centre in Dublin.

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To balance the class-based learning the students took part in activities such as a Networking Event, a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, a Literary Pub Crawl and a wrap up lunch in Blackrock.

The class are just past the mid-way point in Semester 1 and having spoken to students who participated in the GNIW they viewed the week as a valuable opportunity to take stock and reflect on what has passed since the programme commenced in September and provided an opportunity through learning and social activities to energise for the remainder of the Semester.

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Yvonne Harding ~ Full-Time MBA Programme Manager

Smurfit MBA Team Represent Ireland In Yale Integrated Leadership Case Competition & Take Home ‘Best Team Dynamic Award’

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How do you determine a company’s future strategy in only 7.5 hours? Simple. Put a team together, enter the Yale Integrated Leadership Case Competition (ILCC), get nominated to represent UCD Smurfit Business School, and then fly to New Haven and proudly do just that!

On Saturday morning on April 11th 2015, four full time MBAs, Cian (marketing) Collins, Peter (selfie) MacMahon, Enda (HJ) Power and Cathal (thumbs up) Small donned suits, UCD ties and pins, and entered the impressive Yale SOM (School of Management) building in New Haven, Connecticut at 7am to get to work on the case and do battle against 14 other business schools from around the globe. We were given no indication of the case content,  but weeks of practice and help from the Smurfit School had greatly helped our preparation and our confidence to ably compete. Doing the MBA program hadn’t hurt either!

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Prior to the competition, our team met every Friday morning for about two months to discuss previous raw Yale cases and to figure out who would play which role on the day. We had a diverse mix of skillsets on the team – Cathal is a strategy-focused accountant, Peter is an engineer, Enda is a project manager and Cian’s background is in Human Resources. We had all worked across multiple industries and businesses, both indigenous and global, so between us we also brought a lot of collective yet diverse work experience.

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We came to discover that the team that tells the most compelling, articulate and concise story of their strategic recommendation would emerge victorious on the day. This meant that having a killer market strategy and a well prepared slide deck  counted for little without a great presentation. Thanks to Michael McDonnell, Nxtgen’s Paul Slattery was engaged to coach us on everything that would help us get our compelling story across to the judges.

The case each of the teams had to present on related to a Mexican food producer that had been underperforming for many years. The owner needed recommendations on future strategic direction. Seven hours to determine a new strategy passes very quickly when presented with so much information but thanks to great teamwork, we formed a strong solution, created a comprehensive deck of slides and at 3pm stood in front of the judges and gave our presentation.  Only one team from each group of five qualified for Sunday’s final – from our group, HKUST (Hong Kong) qualified and went on to win the competition. The overall standard of competition was excellent – we were delighted to have come through the process and hold our own. We thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of implementing all of our MBA module learnings into a single case.

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We were also chuffed to win the ‘Best Team Dynamic’ award at Sunday’s closing ceremony. Each team had been individually observed during the pressurised 7.5 hour process to observe team leadership skills. The judges advised that our team demonstrated the highest level of distributed leadership, clear communication, and collective decision-making. They also observed it was clear we were enjoying the process without letting the pressure get to us.  Prior to going to Yale, we’d had a cracking night out and a day sightseeing in New York (Bryant Park anyone? haha) and this may have helped! To be recognised as the best performing team out of all fifteen competing teams was a great achievement for us and for everyone who had helped us in our preparation for the competition – we were delighted as it capped off a truly memorable weekend.

In hindsight, the highlight of the competition was in the people we met – a great diverse mix of students from all over the world. Everything from how the competition was run and organised by the Yale MBA students, to the facility and  the judges (one of whom took us playing football with him and his mates the next day) was top class. It was a definite highlight of the MBA so far and we hope that a Smurfit team can again qualify in 2016 and have as good an experience as we did!

Cian Collins, Peter MacMahon, Cathal Small & Enda Power ~ Full-Time MBA