School’s out!

What a difference a year can make. The MBA is all but done. On Tuesday, our Capstone team will present its Social Media Consulting Project to Aer Lingus, and that will be that: The MBA journey, as we know it, will be over.

It’s been a fantastic experience. It’s not quite so fantastic when you’re up close and personal with the workload, but in those moments when you get to stand back and reflect upon it all, it’s pretty immense how much knowledge you can absorb in one single year, and how quickly things can change.

On Thursday, I’m heading off to Yale University, to do it all over again. Thanks to the ambition of Professor Damien McLoughlin and Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh, Smurfit is now part of the Global Network for Advanced Management and thanks to the support of Yale and Smurfit, I hope I’m just the first of many Smurfit MBA Graduates who’ll experience the adventure presented by the Masters in Advanced Management (MAM) Programme over there.

Without Programme Director of  Strategic Marketing, Ciaran Doyle, picking up the phone  to me last Summer, and steering me onto the MBA (“You’d be MAD not to do it!”), and without MBA  Director, Orla Nugent, and MBA Careers, Brian Marrinan, thereafter, taking a chance on me with the IMAGE Magazine Scholarship; and Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh and Professor Damien McLoughlin now rowing in behind my application to Yale, never mind the enduring support of my family and friends,  this adventure to the US would not be happening.

As Newton once said, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”: I didn’t get here alone, I didn’t get through it alone, and I don’t go to the US alone. The support I’ve had sustains me and goes with me. Thank you to everyone who has made this adventure possible for me, in every way.

To anyone about to start the Smurfit MBA this year, enjoy it! You’re in for a great year ahead, full of challenge: The type that’s worth it. I recommend getting your hands on a copy of, “Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA”, by Peter Robinson. Read it as fast as you can, before the course begins.  It’ll get you in the right frame of mind for the year ahead (you’ll be reading fast all year!), and if you like it, I reckon you’re going to enjoy what’s coming down the tracks at you.

For anyone juggling the MBA as a possible option; know that there’ll never be a day when you’re ‘sure’ that it’s the right thing to do. I don’t think any of us were. But you’ll never find out from the side lines. Jump in. And figure it out later. I doubt, very much, you’ll regret it.

To our Lecturers: Thanks for all that you taught us. I hope, one day, we will have our revenge for cold and warm calls, case study avalanches, and sleepless nights.

To my fellow MBA Classmates: Thanks for all I’ve learnt from you during this past year: It’s been immense. I doubt there’ll be pitch-and-putt, magnetic darts, or a ‘quote board’ in Yale’s equivalent of the MBA room! (And seeing how much I featured on the latter, I won’t be suggesting they invest in one, any time soon!) I wish you the best: I hope you’ll all collectively knock it out of the proverbial park in the future.

School’s out.

What a year.

– Davinia Anderson, Full-time MBA 2011-2012

TLC Speaker Series: Tony Griffin

Tony Griffin Asks: “What Is It You Plan To Do With Your One Wild and Precious Life?” (Mary Oliver)

On Friday 30th March 2012, Tony Griffin (Guest Speaker) and Professor Damien McLoughlin (Chair) brought some straight-from-the-heart inspiration to the Thought Leaders Club (TLC) Speaker Series, in a talk entitled “One Wild and Precious Life”. Following Damien McLoughlin’s warm welcome and his usual charm and playfulness, he spoke of some tremendous achievements Tony has accomplished in his life: playing inter county Hurling with Clare from 2002-2009, winning the coveted accolade of a GAA All Star Award in 2006, and cycling 7,000 kms across Canada and Ireland, raising €1 million Euro for cancer charities. Damien stressed the point that many people dream of doing great things; the difference with Tony is that he dreamt and then made those dreams a reality.

Professor Damien McLoughlin: Thought Leaders Club Opening Address

Tony, not a man to be penned in by a podium, whisked the microphone from its stand and, for the hour that followed, challenged us to reflect upon the course of our own lives. He had no intention of asking any Friday night pub-quiz questions – a Tony Griffin question is more like; what are YOU going to do to change the world? This was the lingering ring to everything he shared with us that night and the focal point around which he framed all of his experiences: all roads led back to that one, solid question.

In 2007, from his student quarters in Canada, swamped by the grief of having lost his father to cancer, he was sent a video clip by a close friend about the inspirational story of father and son team, Dick and Rick Hoyt. Watching that video, something clicked. He was inspired. He wanted to turn pain into fuel: to turn an end into a beginning. He innately understood the power of, what he describes as, the ‘irrational’ heart to draw from its inner reserves to achieve feats the likes of which the ‘rational’ mind cannot even conceive. Staring at a map of Canada he happened to have on his wall, the idea struck him to cycle 7,000kms across the country and to raise as much money as possible to help others to fight the disease which had taken its toll on his departed Dad. Told his dream was impossible, at best, and insane, at worst (he didn’t even own a bike!), he remained undeterred. Tony shared with us the footage from his epic journey up and over the Rockies (“…which are actually a bit bigger than you’d think when you get there!”) and his belief that intuition can guide us to the places we need to be, to the experiences we need to have, and to the people we need to discover; if only we learn to feel life a little more and think about life a little less.

Davinia Anderson & Tony Griffin Listening to Professor Damien McLoughlin’s Mischievious Banter

These days Tony has a new mission. Having watched this incredible documentary about the life of Jim Stynes, Tony was inspired to set up the Soar Foundation with Co-Founder Karl Swan, to do for the youth of Ireland what Jim’s Reach Foundation has done for the youth of Australia. After a number of trips to Australia, to learn the process directly from Reach, Tony and Karl are bringing the model home to Ireland. With the tenacity that took him across Canada coupled with the will to impact the lives of others in a meaningful way, no one is more determined to pull it off. Let’s hope that Ireland Inc. recognises that this is the type of initiative that can empower the next generation of youth to dream and realise their dreams, in this still great country of ours.

My thanks must go to Tony Griffin, for a wonderful talk and his sage-like counsel, to Professor Damien McLoughlin for being a dynamic host, full of good cheer, to Denis Shikunov TLC Camera Maestro, to Michael McDonnell, Mary O’Dwyer, Orla Wrynn, and the great Team in Services (especially Lucas and Dan!) for all their help to get the show on the road: you all make the TLC possible!

– Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2011/12

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TLC Speaker Series: Mark Pollock

Mark Pollock: On the Art of Making it Happen

On Friday 2nd March 2012, Mark Pollock (Guest Speaker) and Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh (Chair) brought us an incredible second talk in the Thought Leaders Club Inaugural Speaker Series, entitled: “The Art of Making it Happen”. Dean O’hOgartaigh welcomed us all to the talk and encouraged us to remember that no one is untouched by problems: they come in various shapes and sizes, weights and severities, at different times in our lives. He reminded us that having problems is not remarkable- but how we deal to deal with them can be.

Mark Pollock then took to the podium for the next hour. Simply put: he blew us all away. It is hard to put into words the quality, intricacy, and depth of the story he shared with us and to accurately convey the level of insight, awareness, humour, tenacity, and courage he displayed; not only in his story, but in his remarkable telling of it. It is one thing to paint a picture, and quite another to paint one so magnificently well.  His is a masterpiece of human courage triumphing over adversity. It is clear to see why he is renowned as an international public speaker and how he has inspired the business community to face down its own challenges, at a time of such deep unrest and uncertainty.

After a decade of sporting achievement, which started out with winning silver and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in rowing (having gone blind at the age of 22), and which culminated in being the first blind man ever to reach the South Pole, Mark’s life changed suddenly in a way no one could ever have expected. He fell from a second story window, broke his back, and became paralysed from the waist down.

Mark now faces the challenges of spinal cord injury and conventional medical wisdom. He is  testing the limits of what is possible with the support of the Mark Pollock Trust which enables him to regain his strength with Project Walk in the US and which gives him access to Berkeley’s  ongoing developments in the field of robotic leg technology.

The writer, William Arthur Ward, once said that “adversity causes some men to break; others to break records”. For those of us who heard Mark speak, it is not just the impressive list of sporting records that will stay long in our memories, it is the impact and quality of a man, whose spirit is inspirational, in its own right. By continuing to fight the good fight, Mark encourages us all to to reflect upon our own lives, challenges, and choices- and to do the same.

Dean of the Smurfit Business School, Ciaran O’hOgartaigh: TLC Opening Address

My thanks must go to Mark Pollock for leaving such an indelible mark on the students of Smurfit Graduate Business School, to Dean Ciaran O’hOgartaigh for his support in chairing this event, to Denis “TLC Photographer” Shikunov and Linh ”TLC Poster Girl” Thi Bao Nguyen (MBAs of 2012), and to the MBA Programme Office and  Services Team for their continued support in helping to make these TLC talks happen.

The next speaker in the series is Tony Griffin on “One Wild and Precious Life”, chaired by Professor Damien McLoughlin, on Friday 30th March 2012, 7-8pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Smurfit Business School.

– Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2012 and Founder of the MBA Thought Leaders Club

TLC Speaker Series Kicks Off

Mr. Tony Spollen: On the Bigger Balance Sheet in Life

On Friday 17th February 2012, Mr.Tony Spollen (Guest Speaker) and Professor Pat Gibbons (Chair) kicked off the Inaugural MBA Thought Leaders Club (TLC) Speaker Series to sustained applause, in Lecture Theatre 1. Following a warm welcome to mark the official launch of the TLC Speaker Series, Pat Gibbons turned proceedings over to Tony Spollen, who delivered a thought provoking talk entitled “Lessons from Life”. I am sure it will stay with many of us for years to come. We were treated to a breadth of insights, experiences and stories; the distillation of a lifetime’s wisdom, encouraging us to live life to our full potential, to cherish our health, to focus wholeheartedly on the present- and to remember, above all else, the bigger Balance Sheet in life. Chatham House style rules apply at these events, so only those in attendance will truly appreciate what was shared with us that night, and will have a sense of the character, courage, and leadership required to so generously share so much, with so many, in such a meaningful way. A palpable silence pulsed throughout the talk- the likes of which I have never experienced- and the prolonged applause spoke for itself. This is the first in a series of talks which I hope will leave a lasting impression on us during our experiences on the MBA, and will create the space to have a different kind of discourse- about life, inspiration and realising potential.

Mr. Tony Spollen and Prof. Pat Gibbons: The Devil is in the Detail

They say that a rocket takes 90% of its energy just to get off the ground and only 10% of its energy to travel the remaining distance. On the basis of this 90/10 rule, I’d especially like to thank Tony Spollen- not only for the special message he shared with us on Friday, but for his invaluable guidance leading up to the event, to Professor Pat Gibbons for his immediate support of the initiative, to my classmates – Denis Shikunov (full-time Russian/part-time TLC photographer), Linh Thi Bao Nguyen and Justin Thomas (the Vietnamese/American SWAT Team of poster campaigns) – and to the MBA Programme Office and Services Team for their facilitation and forbearance of my ongoing efforts to turn their respective offices into TLC HQ!

The next speaker in the series is Mark Pollock on “The Art of Making it Happen”, chaired by Dean O’hOgartaigh, on Friday, 2nd March 2012 at 11-12pm, in the Lawrence Crowley Boardroom, Smurfit Business School. The rocket is now launched; may the inspiration continue.

Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2012 and Founder of the MBA Thought Leaders Club

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The Intangibles

As Semester Two dawns, I find myself stumbling back from family fun and Christmas antics, out of step with the normal rhythm of everyday life on the MBA. The fuzzy focus induced by the beautiful shock of an extended period of rest and relaxation – better known as the return to feeling human again – has induced a state of jet leg, after the rocket launch that was Semester One. Like a newly broken young horse brought in from the field, flighty at the squeak of unfamiliar tack, the sway of cold stirrups against its belly and the aversion to this new found weight on its back; part of me is in high-rebellion against the prospect of hitting the books again. I am glad, though, to be back at school: all 60% of me that has galloped back in from the field, anyway. Any day now, I’m hoping that the remaining 40% of my brain, focus and willpower will catch up, so I can get fully stuck into the semester that can only be known as: Round Two.

Until then, I decided to put my rebellious energy to good use. I have long been trying to persuade my classmates to go rafting down the River Liffey on a brain-chillingly cold Saturday morning, with the good folks at  Last Saturday morning, it finally happened. Cars converged at an abandoned warehouse in icy Lucan and two raft-loads of MBAs and MSCs took to the water. I keep telling our Vietnamese classmates that there is no such thing as bad weather: just inappropriate clothing.  I think that after Saturday they now agree that fun in Ireland is had despite the weather, not because of it. It was admittedly hard to balance the competing interests of soaking the other boat and paddling faster than them, but we managed to pull it off. Three hours later, having successfully descended the weirs, we emerged beaming like a bunch of wetsuited crazies from a Carry On film.

Along with rafting antics, my micro mission to launch the MBA Thought Leaders Club (TLC) has also finally come to fruition. We’re now online and gearing up for an exciting few weeks. The inaugural Thought Leaders Club Speaker Series is kicking off, made possible by the generosity and support of the guest speakers (more anon) who are getting behind the TLC, and generously sharing their time and insights with us. The amount of whiteboard scribbling in the room, formerly known as “The MBA Room”, now re-branded “The C Suite” (our Marketing class with Prof.Damien McLoughlin has a lot to answer for!) has now reached epic proportions, as plans for the MBA CV Book Launch- in a few months- come into being. The TLC will channel these activities under the banner of its overarching mission to inspire, spread ideas and challenge the boundaries of what’s possible. Ultimately, we want to leave the future MBAs with a forum for sharing insights, ideas and awareness. Hopefully the Club will act as a blueprint for how to drip feed these intangibles which can’t easily be quantified, but which ultimately help to catalyse progress and change. I subscribe to Einstein’s school of thought that “not all that can be counted counts, and not all that counts can be counted”. And that’s probably the first and last time you’ll find Einstein and me in a sentence together.

Round One of the first semester was a deep dive.  Round Two of the second is all about change. Life beyond the MBA, unimaginable prior to Christmas, is now creeping back into soft focus on the horizon. Time passes like a bullet on the MBA and there’s no Sat Nav for our next steps on this journey. It’s a lot like George Joseph Moriarty’s poem says; there is just the road ahead, and the road behind. Every time I go to pay for parking in Dundrum Shopping Centre, I smile at the printed sign in front of me, as I root around for a crumbled note and iron out my ticket. There in three simple words, lies the inadvertent wisdom of a pay-parking machine: “Change is Possible”.

Davinia Anderson – FT MBA 2012

Nothing Wasted

“Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces- to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow. It turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it- and makes it burn still higher.”

Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.

Bipolar Empire - Feel That You Own It (Video)
– Davinia Anderson, FT MBA 2011/2012

Restructuring Robin Hood’s Band of Merry Men

All is not well in Sherwood Forest. A recent surge in membership has led to a strain on resources. Unrest in camp has resulted in a band of not-so merry men. Robin, Little John,  Scarlock, and Much the Miller’s son can see the tell-tails begin to flutter in the wind. A perfect storm gathers high in the clouds above. On the ground, the local Sheriff has reorganised his team and is cracking down on lawlessness.  A plot to overthrow Prince John and reinstate the imprisoned King Richard is also in sight. Robin has to weigh up the promise of future amnesty if he lends his support to the regime, against the danger to his men, should the coup fail.

As the smell of roasted venison from the campsite wafts into our classroom, John Staunton raises the clicker and points towards his final slide. Bleary eyed rookies from the Class of 2012 blink fast and wait for their lecturer’s cue. And there it is. Click: Week 3, round 99. Emblazoned before us:


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