We were gently warned during the week one induction course that our lives would change drastically both during and following the MBA. For many of us, that meant our freedom as we knew it was over – at least for the next two years anyway. Starting with the GMAT, followed by year one of the EMBA, the last twelve months have been thought provoking, exhausting and exhilarating.


Just a few weeks ago, we were in the midst of exams while counting down the days until we could stop and take a deep breath and finally relax. The thought brings to mind a famous quote by Nelson Mandela – “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. I have certainly cast off my chains and will make the most of a summer that will inevitably be a sprint rather than a marathon.

The final part of the quote however continues to resonate. My new found freedom, and possibly the added impact of the result of the recent equality referendum, has led me to reflect on equality and inevitably that infamous glass ceiling. There have been many articles and debates about gender inequality over the last number of years. However, the result of the recent referendum has told us that, in Ireland at least, most people place a high value on equality.

While deciding which MBA program to undertake, if any at all, the ratio of men to women struck me as unusually unbalanced and slightly daunting. However my mind was set at ease following the Smurfit open evening in collaboration with Image Magazine. The room was filled with approximately 100 young enthusiastic, intelligent but slightly tentative women. In the mid-week EMBA class alone, the male to female ratio is approximately 5:1 a similar ratio to most business schools. Only four of the top twelve business schools have 40% or more female students.


While I had reservations initially, I made it through the entire first year without really considering the fact that I was in the minority. The MBA for far too many years has been incorrectly portrayed as a ‘boys club’ full of intense rivalry and competition and an ongoing giant battle of egos. I cannot say, with certainty that no competition occurred within the course however I can attest to the fact that it was limited to a healthy rivalry between groups and even classes. For some reason, the mid-week and weekend EMBA classes insist on sitting at opposite ends of the room any time they are together. I must admit though, that this is probably purely down to familiarity rather than anything else.

While chatting with friends over the past twelve months, it struck me that maybe not as many women as men want to reach the top tiers of business or give up their ‘freedom’ for two years. Those sentiments were echoed by the female partners at the Big Four Accounting Practices interviewed by the authors of an article that continues to resonate with me any time gender inequality or the infamous glass ceiling is mentioned.


That article, “Through the Glass Ceiling” was co-written by UCD’s Niamh Brennan and Claire Miller for the February 2014 issue of Accountancy Ireland, honestly and genuinely questioned gender inequality. It is not a feminist’s portrayal of the world but a realistic and welcome authentic view of women in business.

Something I have often contemplated but was reluctant to voice is the suggestion that the focus by firms on diversity & engagement in recent years may have introduced an element of positive discrimination favouring women. The need to satisfy certain quotas isn’t equality, and certainly makes bad business sense. So after years of fighting for equality, have we gone a step too far? Who wants to be promoted purely because they are male, female, black, white, young or old rather than on merit? It is time the focus is reengineered to equality rather than filling quotas or being seen as being a diverse employer. At the end of the day, the best person for the job, team or Board should be chosen.

In summary, my initial concern about being one of a small group of women among a big group of aggressive egotistical men on the MBA program was completely unfounded and entirely unjustified. At Smurfit I have been treated by the MBA program staff, the lectures and my course colleagues with the upmost respect and absolute professionalism and have never been positively or negatively discriminated. While only half way through the journey, I can also honestly say that the friends I have made and continue to make during my MBA will be friends for life.

Dorothy Chestnutt ~ Executive MBA, Year 1

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

Pic Paul Sharp/SHARPPIX

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!


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.


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.


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

So, 126.28km later and we’re back to the Books! – Wings for Life World Run!

Life moves so fast… We are at the end of Semester 2 and there are so many events on! I have finally recovered from the race to get this blog together :)


On Sunday, the rain stopped just in time for over 2,000 runners to run as far as they can from Dún Laoghaire south to the heartland of Wicklow. Having been launched in 2014, the Wings for Life World Run is the only race in the world where the finish line actually chases and catches the athletes! What is refreshing about this event is that 100% of the race proceeds fund spinal cord injury research. You can still donate to the foundation today!

MBAs from the Full Time and Executive classes got together with alumni and friends to run for World Sports Team.

Instead of punishing our brains, we punished our bodies by taking on the gruelling hills in support of World Sports Team. All of us proudly support the growth of this global network of sportspeople which helps those affected by catastrophic sports injuries. We faced a few challenging ascents on the course, but these cannot be compared to the challenges endured by those who cannot run. Join the team at

It was great to have an opportunity to be involved with the Wings For Life Foundation and World Sports Team’s missions. Collectively, the team – Karen, Eva, Elaine, Cormac, Tomas, Cathal, Niall, and Lindsey – ran 126.28km!

Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full-Time MBA

The Final Frontier – Well Almost!


It’s exam time again. Our 2nd Semester classes are just over and we are marching straight into our final exams this week (after a short break termed as ‘Revision Week’). Though, the exam times are always filled with hectic activity, I am feeling less stressed this time. This seems to be the impact of continuous ongoing assessments which have helped to build a strong foundation in all of the modules. The types of assessment techniques used at Smurfit seems to be as varied as the term ‘Variation’ itself ; ranging from class participation, individual assignments and journals, group case studies and projects, class presentations, and even a “Class Quiz on Ethics in Business”.

The support system provided by Faculty, the MBA office staff, as well as my classmates is immense. I always have an assurance that whenever I may face any difficulty while preparing a topic, the help is within arm’s reach. This provides that extra confidence which makes studying for exams a smooth and enriching experience. Sometimes, an e-mail response from my classmates is even swifter than a ‘Google search’.

Ashutosh Singla ~ Full-Time MBA

BIZ Factor’s Social Entrepreneurs of the Year


The MBA Social Outreach Society was proud to see Dublin and Limerick primary schools compete for BIZ Factor’s Social Entrepreneurs of the Year yesterday. Six schools competed by submitting their business plans and giving a two minute pitch to a panel of judges in Dublin Castle. Everyone involved was buzzing with excitement to see the hard work in action! The MBA class were especially happy to mentor the future business leaders.


Thanks to Pete, Prachi, Sarah, Cathal, Deepak and Enda for their time and energy to prep the young entrepreneurs on USPs, market research, and value propositions!

Alum Steve Kelly was also showing his support with YoungHorizons by sponsoring a prize!

We all encourage you to volunteer for BizWorld!

Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full-Time MBA

Wings for Life World Run


Red Bull Wings for Life Run is happening on 3 May 2015 in Dun Laoghaire. The MBA Social Outreach Society and MBA Golf Society have joined forces to run on behalf of World Sports Team.

The concept is, you set a goal/distance and try to reach it before the chaser car gets to you! It’s a pretty cool/fun run that takes place all over the world.


This run aims to raise awareness and funds for people who can’t run. Moreover, the spinal chord research and support aligns well with World Sports Team’s mission to build a network for people who suffer catastrophic sports injuries.

By the way, your goal doesn’t have to be huge! If you are interested in joining us you can register here and then join the team once you’ve completed registration.


Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full Time MBA

International Women’s Day 2015


We’re all members of the MBA family but we’re also supporters of women and their achievements. Last month, we celebrated those achievements and helped raise awareness of the issue of equality by wearing purple to the classroom. Purple symbolises justice and dignity, two values strongly associated with women’s equality. Thanks to all who took part – #makeithappen

Lindsey Nguyen ~ Full Time MBA

Entrepreneurship Club Visit LinkedIn’s EMEA HQ


On April 1st, Smurfit’s MBA entrepreneurship club visited LinkedIn Dublin, the EMEA HQ of this fast growing tech company.

This event was a great occasion to mix-up with other students as 50 MBA students attended, coming from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Trinity and Dublin Institute of Technology.

Smurfit MBA Students at LinkedIn EMEA HQ Dublin
Smurfit MBA Students at LinkedIn EMEA HQ Dublin

Our alumna, Barbara Gilleran (thanks for organising!) gave a great introduction on LinkedIn, and how to take our LinkedIn profile to the next level. This was followed by a presentation of Asha Mistry, specialized on MBA recruitement, who gave us insights about the different positions and how the organisation is structured. Finally, Frank Hattann, Sales Director, gave a good overview of Linkedin vision and ambition moving forward.

So… Don’t forget: 93% of recruiters use Linked-In to vet profiles!

Mathilde Miravete ~ Executive MBA

China; A Nation of Contradictions

Visit to the Great Wall - March 2015

China is a nation of 1.3 billion contradictions.

It is governed by a Communist party but is fundamentally capitalist. It wants to open up more to the world, but censorship is everywhere. The government has vowed to crack down on internal corruption and yet, instead of focusing their attention within their own borders, they have reportedly asked the British government for help in extraditing around 50 ‘foxes’ who have fled to the UK.

These discrepancies were to the forefront of my mind as myself and around 60 class colleagues departed for Shanghai and Beijing on an eight day intensive study tour as part of the MBA programme at UCD’s Smurfit School.  While we could only hope to see a snapshot of the country in such a short period of time, we were keen to absorb as much information as possible about the local culture and how to operate within their business environment. It is likely that many of the class will be working within the Chinese market after graduation, or dealing with Chinese counterparts. So any experience or insight gained as part of the Doing Business in Emerging Markets module, could prove invaluable.

The steel making process at BaoSteel

During the trip we visited a number of companies including CICSO, youku, ChinaHR and BaoSteel. The difference between the indigenous Chinese companies and those which were owned and/or operated by Westerners, was marked. In the West we are accustomed to a certain level of candor – and irreverence – but that is not part of the Chinese culture. While this is something Western business people struggle with, it is also something which we must accept. The way they do business is very different and as ingrained within their culture as our methods are within ours.

Take for example, the different ways in which business deals are struck. While in the West we prefer to get down to business and agree a legal contract as quickly and efficiently as possible, business is done differently in the East. They prefer to build a relationship first, with negotiations taking a long time – and even when a contract is signed, it could be changed. While the these methods seem diametrically opposed, it is testament to the desire of companies and individuals on both sides to do business – and make money – that they somehow surmount their differences and go into business together.


But of course, the entire module wasn’t only about business – it was also about finding out more about the culture (via shopping and visiting restaurants), climbing the Great Wall of China, and finally, finishing the week on a high at the Beijing St Patrick’s Day Ball. There were some sore heads on the flight home the next morning, but we also brought back with us some new insights into China, and a desire to learn more about emerging markets and the possibilities which exist within them.

Edel Kennedy ~ Full Time MBA

Mindful Quotes For The Aspiring MBA Student

Henry Ford

  1. Wisest is he who knows he knows nothing (Socrates).
  2. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right (Henry Ford).
  3. Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom (Aristotle).
  4. Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another (JFK).
  5. A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did this ourselves” (Lao Tzu).
  6. Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect (Mark Twain).
  7. Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence (Robert Frost).
  8. Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision (Peter Drucker).
  9. Study the past if you would define the future (Confucius).
  10. It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change (Charles Darwin).
  11. Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens (Jimi Hendrix).
  12. A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do (Bob Dylan).

Cathal Small ~ Full Time MBA Student