The Final Hurdle

EAT, SLEEP, HURDLE, REPEAT! Four words that come to mind when I reflect on the relentless yet rewarding cycle of the last two semesters. However, here we stand in semester three, the end is now in sight and the MBA blinkers are beginning to come off. The full time cohort has recently commenced our final hurdle – our capstone project. The landscape has changed suddenly and dramatically. We are now out of the confines of the Smurfit campus. The lecture halls, library and the MBA suite have since been replaced with the architecture of the “real world”. This is the time when we get to put into practice all the learning that took place over the previous two semesters. Strategy, marketing, finance, economics, accounting, operations etc. have all come into play in the thinking that goes into our final assignment.

This time in the “real world” coincides aptly with the class trying to determine/finalise our future careers. The next six weeks will undoubtedly fly by as quickly as the previous ten months. Where will we all find ourselves in September when the next round of eager “newbies” commence their MBA journey? When I look back on the photograph below, taken at the MBA ball last September, celebrating with the outgoing class the finale of their MBA experience, the people in the snapshot barely knew each other. In that moment, we had no idea how quickly we would bond as a class and become a strong support network for each other.


When I returned to Dublin last July, after eight years abroad experiencing all the world outside of Ireland had to offer, I looked forward to settling back into Dublin life, rekindling old friendships, spending time with family and partaking in impromptu adventures at the weekends. However, this all-consuming, immersive learning experience quickly surrounded me like a new blanket and everything else soon took second place.

Now, at the final hurdle, we can finally exhale and reflect on the multitude of activities that took place since we first trooped through the timber frame, arched portal of Carysfort Avenue to greet the smiley, fresh faces of our new cohort. Since then, we muddled through the multitude of academic material, attended glamorous black-tie balls,  jetsetted off on class trips around the world and partook in the many clubs and societies (including the off-the-books, Thursday night “Integration Club”). We shared the high and lows, the early mornings and the sleepless nights, the cups of coffee, glasses of wine and the pints of Guinness.  Our new family. Our new friends. Our new advisors. And in some ways, our new competitors!

We learned at an incredible rate, about the big, bad world of business and the hidden-deep-inside understandings about ourselves. We appreciated the skills and expertise of others and the little surprises that happen along the way – like scoring a try at your first rugby training session!. We got tired and frustrated and we needed good people around us to listen and support us through. People are what make the MBA go round. No one can prepare you in advance, for what is like to do an MBA programme. You need to live it to appreciate it.

With all the said, we now must not fall at the final hurdle. We need to land right where we want to be, with the ideal job – “winner all right”.

Lydia Collis, Full Time MBA 2018-2019

Vroooooming in Lisbon…!

As the second semester came to an end, the fact that our MBA days are numbered, loomed above us. Time has come for one of the most critical aspect of our course – the Capstone project to commence, in which we are assigned in groups to consult both emerging and established companies in some of the real-time challenges that these organisations are facing presently. The first leg of the Capstone project was kicked off at the picturesque Lisbon, Portugal, one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. Fortunately, I had opted not to take the module in the week before the Capstone, therefore, I had arrived at this beautiful country a week before our project start date. I took a host of road-trips across the southern (Algarve) and the northern part of the country (Douro Valley, Porto, Braga etc.) before I joined my colleagues for a week in Lisbon. The entire team was put at up the very chic Sana Lisboa, which was close to the heart of the city and a walking distance to most of the major tourist trails.

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Me and my team of consultants (Ha! – we were working there, I swear..) were assigned to help GoCars – Lisbon, arrive at a go-to market strategy for new and probable destinations to expand into. The project had to be delivered in a strict timeline, therefore, the first three days were all hard work to assist the company by all tangible means. We believed that we were quite enterprising in coming up with a rank-based algorithm to help the organisation decide on new destinations, based on certain quantifiable metrics weighed along with finer qualitative factors. The company head was very interested in our suggestions and so were our module coordinator. But, the best part of this entire routine was driving around the tourist trails of Lisbon, in business attires, in a funnily enough yellow-coloured, two-seater GPS-enabled vehicle. The company were kind enough to offer us free test drive of their product and we made sure that we enjoyed our ride to the fullest and also being the centre of attraction to tourists, while we vroomed past them in our loud motorised cars. All in all, a satisfied beginning to our Capstone endeavours. Now back to Dublin for the next round.

Arnab Roy (FT MBA ’19)

International Consulting Project in Lisbon!

As part of the MBA program at UCD we had the opportunity to travel to Lisbon, Portugal for a 3 day crash course in consulting. The intent behind this trip was twofold. First, it offered us exposure to a culture that most of us were not familiar with, and second we had the opportunity to work closely with our Capstone team. This trip took place right after our finals, so needless to say we were all excited for the opportunity to have some hands-on learning exposure in a country with sun and pastel de natas!

We arrived on Sunday, and our project kicked off on Monday. This was a great way to settle in and bond with classmates before the real work began. It was sunny and hot, and we went on a tour of the city, had a great Portuguese meal, and just explored. Lisbon is a beautiful place, and I feel fortunate that we had the opportunity to see it from both a tourists’ eye, and from a business perspective.

On Monday we met our assigned companies. We worked in our Capstone groups with local start ups who had real business problems that they were looking for support on. While it was a school project for us, for them it was something that they were working on for years, and they expected true value from our time. It offered us an opportunity to work closely with a Portuguese company and put our MBA learnings to use. They were generous with their time and attention, and even took us out to some lovely lunches throughout the week. We spent 3 full days at the company speaking to employees while simultaneously researching and developing our proposed solution.

In the end we presented our solution to their leadership team, and they were grateful for our insights. It seemed to go very well for both sides. For them it was an opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes on a long-term problem, and for us we were able to get real world consulting experience on an issue that we could likely face in our future careers. It was a genuinely good feeling to get recognition from a company who was so enthusiastic about the work they were doing.

Once our ideas had been pitched we were able to fully relax. The program was set up so that we could book end our consulting project with some exploring and cohort bonding, and we definitely took advantage of that. We had a group dinner, a night on the town, and explored the top sites. All in all it was both a challenging and fun experience!

Alex Brown, FT MBA 2018-2019

Georgetown Case Competition

Ciara, Colm, Ger, Swathi and I were delighted to be chosen to represent UCD Smurfit at this year’s IBM Georgetown case competition, which took place in Georgetown University, Washington DC. The competition involved developing an innovative digital strategy for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). FEMA is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security and its primary purpose is to coordinate the federal response to disasters that overwhelm local and state authorities such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires. We were able to use our diverse backgrounds from engineering, finance and medicine to formulate a solution that considered the needs of all relevant stakeholders including victims, governmental and non-governmental partners, and FEMA itself. Our solution centred on reducing complexity and increasing the speed of access to critical information on the FEMA website and app, as well as proposing virtual reality educational modules for emergency response staff.

In the run up to the competition we were fortunate to have a number of prep sessions with past students, faculty mentors and Paul Slattery, our coach in presentation skills. One of my main goals for my year in the FTMBA has been to work on improving my presentation skills and through the additional sessions we received from Paul in advance of the competition, I feel that my presentations have come on leaps and bounds!


We flew to Washington on Thursday April 11th and checked into our hotel next to the historic Capitol Building. The competition began early on Friday morning and we arrived to the McDonough School of Business all set for a morning of final preparation before our afternoon presentation. Unfortunately, as we were the second to last group, we were unable to sit in on any of the other finalist’s presentations. The other competitors came from notable schools such as John Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Hong Kong University and Georgetown itself. We presented to a panel of 5 judges, all working for IBM and consulting with FEMA. We were thrown some tough questions at the end of the presentation but were happy with our performance overall. We had the chance to watch some presentations from a design challenge that had been happening concurrently before the case competition winners were announced. We were amazed when our team’s name was called as the first place winner! We were the first international team to ever win the competition! The competition was extremely well organised and provided a great opportunity to learn, to challenge ourselves and to mix with other MBA students.


We were free then to relax and enjoy all the sites of Washington DC for the rest of the weekend! We whizzed around on electric scooters that are dotted all over the city and visited all the major landmarks along the National Mall, such as the Washington and Lincoln memorials, as well as the White House, Arlington cemetery, Capitol Hill and the Library of Congress. We also got to visit the Natural History museum, Air and Space museum and Hirshhorn modern art museum.


The trip was absolutely fantastic and I would encourage next year’s students to apply so Smurfit can defend the title next year! A big thank you to everyone in the school who helped us along the way!

Carla Peters, Full Time MBA 2018-2019 


“Diversity: The art of thinking independently together” -Malcolm Forbes

India is separated from Ireland by  numerous countries, 4979 miles and a world of traditions. I applied to a foreign university with the sole purpose of broadening my horizons. Prior to my MBA, I had received all my education in India and I thought that a different perspective on education would be insightful and interesting,  along with the course content itself. So far, I have not been disappointed.


I arrived in Dublin on a Friday evening and was just in time to attend the Smurfit Welcome Dinner for MBA students. After an 18 hour journey to a new country, with a considerable time difference, coupled with meeting 30 new people I was left  feeling completely overwhelmed. I definitely needed the weekend to recover.

As the course work and my roles and responsibilities got clearer to me, I realised that the approach to education in Ireland was very different from the one I had experienced in my home country. The focus and approach of the system in Ireland is on what we learn, how we learn,  and how we can apply it in real life situations. The most beneficial part of this approach is the way we are marked for each subject. The scores are usually dependant on a number of factors; including class participation, team work, assignments, mid-term exams and finals. The focus is on what we learn and how well we perform during the whole semester rather than how well we can cram and write in a two hour exam.

Another important cultural difference I found is the social factor involved in the whole experience. Socialisation is a big part of student life, and culture and social involvement is considered to be as important as classroom participation. Knowing your way around Dublin and getting comfortable with commuting through  the city is as vital as knowing your course work.

Arunima De, FTMBA 2018/19

Assumptions are the Devil!

The greatest leaders in the world stand on the shoulders of giants. To make true change happen we need to learn from the change makers, the thought leaders and those that have gone before us trying to break down barriers. When I learned we would have a Thought Leadership Society I immediately knew I would love to get involved, little did I know that I would end up helping to run the committee.

With no information left from last years committee members, I initially had no idea of how I would be able to get the society off the ground.  After a few brainstorming sessions with the other members of the team, we decided the only way to find out what was the best way to move forward was to reach out to our fellow students and see what they would be interested in learning. So our first event was created; the Thought Leadership Society Mixer. On a cold crisp evening after finishing one of our exams, we congregated outside the MBA Clubhouse for nibbles and drinks. We had set up little questionnaires for our fellow cohort, to learn who they would like to hear from and what subjects most interested them.


Ankita, pictured above, can be seen handing out the surveys. The most interesting part of the survey was that there was an interest in our class hearing from each other. It was nice to see the respect and reverence and I think this spoke to the quality of the students in our cohort. Also, there was an interest in debating topics within the college, rather than just being lectured to. This was an interesting idea that I for one would not have thought of, had we not opened this up to the wider group. It just shows that consumer research pays off!!

The first event was a great success and a lovely time to catch up with each other without the pressures of exams and college bearing down on us. There was a great turn out and hopefully this is be a good sign for future events. We look forward to scheduling many events for the following year and look forward to having a good debate and discussing far-reaching topics from the thought leaders in Ireland and beyond.


Following our mixer, some of the Society headed to Belfield to see the UCD Orchestra perform which was the cherry on the top of a fantastic day. I would highly recommend fellow students to check out some of the great events on the main UCD campus too.


Emma Farrell, FTMBA 2018/2019

More than Books and Numbers

As part of the Smurfit MBA application, each hopeful applicant is asked what his or her unique contribution to the MBA class would be. I remember thinking long and hard about this question, vacillating between thinking “of COURSE, I have something special to offer the class!” and feeling intimidated by my own imagination of the impressive feats and accomplishments about which the other applicants were surely writing.

From day one of the MBA, it became clear that I was right about both of the above.

What I did not consider was the purpose and outcome of this unique contribution “competition” for acceptance to the Smurfit MBA programme. Asking that the candidates prove themselves to be exceptional and inimitable ensures that throughout the year, we will learn as much from each other as we do from our first-rate professors and module coordinators. Seven months into my MBA experience, I still never cease to be amazed by my peers. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to collaborate with such incredible people.


Each MBA candidate in the Class of 2019 brings valuable and unique experiences to the class. Oh boy, are my classmates impressive.

I learn things each day from someone who has a black belt in karate, from someone who has climbed Kilimanjaro (twice!), from someone so well connected that he just may be the Godfather of Dublin. I learn from talented musicians, artists and poets, bloggers, travellers – all generous, kind and funny spirits who masquerade as stud managers, medical professionals, business owners, and orthopaedic racehorse surgeons (among other disguises) by day.


How about this – a PhD in Optical Engineering, specialised in the behaviour of photopolymer organic holographic material, with a killer GMAT score, a great sense of humour, compassion without limits, who is on the Board of Directors for a child trafficking charity in Nepal? That’s exactly the type of “unique contribution” that I feared competing against during the Smurfit MBA application process!

The Umbrella Foundation is a non-profit NGO and registered charity in Ireland, working to alleviate the impact of trafficking, poverty and war on children and their families in Nepal. It was established in 2005 in response to the growing number of illegal “orphanages” neglecting children’s most basic rights of food, education, safe shelter, healthcare and love. As a responsible and ethical organisation, The Umbrella Foundation works to prevent further trafficking and operation of corrupt children’s homes in Nepal.


Inspired by my extraordinary classmate who contributes so much to my life, our class and the greater community, I decided to make a unique contribution to my own MBA experience here in Dublin. This past winter, I have trained and raised money for the Brawl for Nepal 2019 – a charity boxing match in aid of The Umbrella Foundation.

For me, the Smurfit MBA is not just learning about corporate finance, organisational behaviour and supply chain management. This incredible experience is also learning how to ask for help, how to support those who need help, figuring out the best place to flag down a taxi home at 3:30am in town, being able to the differentiate an Irish bar from an English bar by name alone, how to throw a mean right hook and how to keep myself entertained in A&E!

We are more than just sales directors, model managers, engineers and communications specialists – we are marathon runners, painters, boxers and friends. This is the Smurfit MBA.


Carmela Reyes, FTMBA 2018/2019

Happy Days

December had dawned. Lectures had ended. Assignments were submitted. Our semester one was on the verge of being over. My MBA class was perfectly poised to start preparing for the exams and 24 hours per day felt too short.

The MBA Alumni Christmas Dinner in the first week of December gave us the perfect opportunity to relax from our preparations and enjoy a lovely evening over mulled wine networking with the UCD MBA alumni at The Merrion hotel. The evening was filled with inspiration by an enlightening speech from Mr. David McCourt. We were meeting alumni who had walked this MBA journey before and we listened to their successful stories. It was a memorable and magnificent experience, followed by a few, if not more than few pints of Guinness in the beautiful Dublin city after the Christmas Dinner.


MBA Alumni Christmas dinner
From left to right: Himanshu Kamat, Shubham Sahai, Gerard Finneran, Akhil Khare

As exams neared, the walls of the MBA Suite at UCD Smurfit began appearing colourful with Corporate Finance formulae and supply-demand graphs for Business Economics. Preparation was in full swing and soon, it was show-time. The exams were challenging and for someone like me who thrives on challenges, I loved every moment of it.


Semester One Celebrations at Nolita

With the exams finished Guinness would have been the most spoken word throughout the cohort. Celebrations were in order. Christmas songs were filling the hearts, and decorations were bringing smiles. Immediately after the exam we had plans to celebrate the end of Semester One at Nolita. As always, after dinner Guinness was a tradition.

Most of my MBA friends had made plans to go home, including me. I decided, however, to leave a little later as I wanted to relax and travel around this beautiful country. Some of us planned a trip to Galway, and I was particularly excited to visit places from Ed Sheeran’s music video Galway Girl. It was the perfect trip to unwind from the hectic routine and enjoy the Christmas markets and happy vibes on the streets.



I am now entering this Christmas break with mixed feelings. The MBA at Smurfit is like riding a thrilling rollercoaster that one never wants to get down from. But here I am, seatbelt unbuckled for a month until the next ride begins, and a chance to reflect on the MBA journey through Semester One and to travel home, carrying the excitement for the next ride – Semester Two.

On one hand, it is going to be fun to travel home to meet family and friends, but on the other hand, I am going to miss my MBA friends and the MBA momentum during this break. I am as excited to return to Semester Two as I am to relax during this break. I am seeing a huge personal transformation in myself in the last four months both from a personal and professional perspective. December certainly has been an oscillation of work and fun, and this is the perfect balance.


Akhil Khare, FTMBA 2018/2019

GNAM Week in Dublin

Everyone loves to go away on holidays and meet new friends! But what about when staying at home, and meeting lots of new, exciting international friends, becomes the new holiday?

That’s exactly what GNAM week in Dublin was for me; an exciting fun-filled week at Smurfit in UCD, my home town, and where many international students from across the globe came to take the course on offer. The students came from the United States, Canada, Israel, China, Vietnam, Brazil, and Mexico to name just a few of the exotic destinations they flew in from.

The topic of the GNAM course was Digital Business Leadership. During the course we learned how some very traditional companies have incorporated digital technology into their strategy and the benefits that these companies are reaping from the integration.

The week focused on some main industry areas, media, financial services, healthcare and communications.

We had several speakers from each sector come to tell us their story of how they incorporated digital transformation into their business. These included CEO’s of the Irish Times, creator of the successful website and the CMO of AIB.

This was an excellent line-up of speakers. Each one detailed to us their experiences of incorporating digital technologies into their sector, the challenges they faced and the successes they have earned based on the hard work.

We also had company visits, on a daily basis, to companies such as Google, Intel, Facebook and IBM. Each company warmly welcomed our group and talked us through their ever changing environments and how they adapt and keep ahead of the game in their sector.


GNAM Group Company Visit to Google: Names in Lights

No holiday would be complete without good food, and at UCD they provided beautiful breakfasts and lunches every single day. We also were lucky enough to take a trip for dinner to the Wicklow mountains, to Johnny Fox’s pub for dinner, a traditional Irish experience. Another traditional Irish experience, was the pub crawl tour, where we were guided through landmark sites in the historic city.

We ended the week with an afternoon at the historic Abbey Theatre in Dublin’s city centre, where we undertook an improvisation class, aimed at business people in the workplace. It encouraged us to use our creative side and to pull together to create scenes on the stage, blended from stories we envisioned on the day. The true highlight of the day, was to be privileged enough to act out our scenes on the historic stage itself, a real honour.


Scenes from improvisation, standing on the stage at The Abbey Theatre

We finished the week in the wonderful city, with a visit to Beshoff’s for fish and chips followed by a visit to some of the historic pubs dotted around the streets. All in all, it was one of the best ‘holidays’ I have experienced in my own home city!

Sinead Sullivan, FTMBA 2018/19


Stay Engaged

It has been two days since our last final exam for the first semester- the competitive strategy case study, and I have a lot of mixed feelings about what the semester at the Smurfit Business School has been.

Coming to Ireland was a big decision. As an international student, for me, it represented leaving behind my country, my family and friends. But my curiosity to Ireland, or to Shannon, helped me to make up my mind. The first free trade zone in the world, Shannon Free Zone, has also greatly influenced the economic growth of a Chinese mega-city- Shenzhen. And, more and more free trade zones have been established in China under the Shannon inspiration.


In the orientation week at the Smurfit Business School, we were given a six-hour financial reporting pre-module lecture in one day, and I told myself the coming MBA year at the Smurfit Business School would be intensive and we would be straight down to business. The Admission Manager, Carole Deering also highlighted to me that “the year at the UCD Michael Smurfit  Graduate Business School would pass so quickly and you will be flying,” and I knew she wasn’t exaggerating.

As well as the very intensive course, there is numerous leadership coaching sessions, career consulting and various events which fill most of your spare time in the Smurfit Business School. I also found this particularly challenging for a non-native English speaking student. It was hard, or even painful at the beginning. However, the hectic schedule can even put a time management guru’s multi-tasking skills to the test. However with the help from the whole faculty, our Programme Manager Aga, and most importantly, my study team members, I had a good transition to the all-new environment and I now am on track to the coming new challenges.

I would like to encourage myself and those students who struggled with language or cultural differences, don’t panic, and stay engaged!

Chaoyue Chen 陈超越, FTMBA 2018/19