Planes, trains and automobiles – a journey with the EMBA

Planes, Trains & Automobiles…a great film. John Candy and Steve Martin get stranded over the Holiday season and have to use all means of transport to get home for Thanksgiving. In EMBA Year 1, the same applies. We are scrambling to complete our journey to end of semester 2. Now at the midterm, we are what’s fondly referred to as “half way to half way”. We’ve covered Planes in the case studies on AirAsia and WestJet airlines. Got the Trains on the weekly trips on the DART out to an increasingly sunny coastal Blackrock. We’ve looked at the closest thing to Automobiles with more case studies on the motorcycle industry from Honda and British Motorcycle Industry to Ducati and Harley Davidson.

I think the thing that strikes you in Year 1 semester 2 is that while semester 1 was all about working with your teams, working on your presentations and reports, and learning the basic building blocks to build on in next term. Semester 2 is a much more joined up case-based learning approach, with a lot more overlap between subjects as the weeks progress. You draw your own conclusions on the case at hand with the guidance of the lecturers, class discussions, and the wisdom of your fellow classmates. You feel more comfortable assuredly advising on the best actions to take. To put yourself in the seat of that C-level executive sweating over a project’s success or failure, or as the head of a ailing company in a increasingly competitive industry.

Its midterm now, half way through our second semester. The mental battle of convincing yourself to bound over that next hurdle continues. Nearly half way to half way, and you know with the help of our team mates, you might just make it.

Stephen Cox

EMBA 2015

Stephens linkedin profile is at

Stephen Cox

Who Makes the Headlines? Journalism by Bloggers or Journalism by Journalists

News used to be simple: we read it in the paper, heard it on the radio or saw it on TV. Now, it emanates from all angles. Traditional mass media outlets are replaced, or at least complemented, by websites and blogs, some operated by one or two people, others operated by whole teams, but most of which offer news both for free and, most importantly, faster. It’s no longer necessary to wait by the newsagent’s door until he arrives with the bundles of papers in hand. Our news is not neatly packaged into the rectangular confines of the newspaper page, nor the few minutes afforded on radio or TV. It is packaged how we want it.

With the arrival of the internet, news changed shaped, grew swifter. Now, it’s essentially instant. Within seconds, an image can be uploaded, and viewed by people on the other side of the world. In some cases, celebrities have uploaded comments or photos, then removed these within seconds. In most cases, such momentary hesitation proves futile. While the presence of cameras in modern society might recall George Orwell’s 1984, the variety and the great number of multiple inputs that feed modern media are very much the opposite.

The citizens of the world may now determine what constitutes news, whether it be something trivial or something important. In the latter case, certain news organisations may be influenced by political affiliations, and so may choose not to report certain news, or to present it in a biased manner. Citizen journalism, of course, avoids this. After all, how could thousands of bloggers across the world be persuaded to follow a particular line for political or monetary reasons? Although this form of news delivery supports many of journalism’s traditional principles, such as the freedom of expression and transparency, the communication revolution has allowed many citizen journalists to deliver information directly, by escaping the traditional gatekeepers. Because everyone is connected, all at once, no-one assumes charge or, more importantly, responsibility. False information can spread, such as the relatively recent fabrication involving a terrorist attack on the White House. Essentially, citizen journalism has called into question the reliability of news sources.

Of course, some still appreciate the art of the journalist. Maybe this is where the future survival of traditional journalism lies. In a similar way that book publishers claim to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, in relation to self-publishing and traditional publishing, newspaper journalists may choose to be associated with the selection process, and thus with quality and reliability. Only then decisive appreciation for their work and skill may observed. The death of paper itself may be impossible to avoid, due to matters of economics and convenience, but that’s a different issue. No matter what is the future for public attitudes towards journalism by bloggers and journalism by journalists, and whether people are prepared to pay for their news, it is likely that, when reference will be made to a story “breaking”, we will be probably referring to information transmitted via social networking websites. Fully formed news articles will only be able to follow in their wake.

– Natasha Ibanez, FT MBA 2012/13

FT MBA 2011 alum, Brandon Chatreau, and Canadian start-up Dashbook

FT MBA 2011 alumn, Brandon Chatreau and Canadian start-up Dashbook which just graduated from from Montreal accelerator FounderFuel is featured today on Venture Beat – Congratulations Brandon!!

MONTREAL — What if you could take Flipboard, Pulse, or Google Now and platformize it?

That’s exactly the question Dashbook, a 12-week-old startup graduating today from Montreal accelerator FounderFuel recently asked. Very recently, apparently.

“The world is bigger than Google now,” co-founder Brandon Chatreau told me this morning. “And it’s more open.”

The premise behind apps like Flipboard and Pulse is aggregation of all the information you care about from social sites and media, and presentation in a beautiful, integrated app. Google Now takes a similar concept — bringing key information together — and takes a more task and local-oriented tack, bring you weather, appointments, news, and traffic information.


Leadership dilemmas

Among the big things that Smurfit offers is the opportunity to learn about and enrich ourselves. One of these points came during the conflict resolution and mediation workshop carried out in February this year. We had to role play a few different conflict situations and see what we learnt from these interactions.

In one of the situations, I was the leader of a project where the team had three staff with excellent competencies and the fourth member was a new staff in the company. My leadership style is very much a mentoring-coaching-facilitating style, so during the (pretend) conflict, I tried to listen as much as I could to what the team members had to say and asked them how they thought the issue should be solved. Time ran out, and we weren’t able to fully close the issue.

The feedback I received from one of my role-play group mates was – “you’re the nicest leader” before she shot the steel bullet, “I was waiting for you to give the direction, but you never did.” She was frank, and I really appreciate that. This comment hit a really strong cord in me because in my previous life, the first time I had people formally report to be at work, that was the same feedback I felt they were giving me (though they never said it aloud, in retrospect, I knew sometimes they needed my direction more than my ears).

Leadership is very contextual. Despite the amount of literature doled out on the importance of being humble leaders, facilitating leaders, coaching leaders, empathetic leaders, at times a leader has to be what he has to be – give the directions strong and clear. The question is, sometimes you don’t know which situation you are in, and which role you should play. And often, just reading Harvard Business Review articles or Academy of Leadership journals don’t prepare you for the real role you have to play when you’re in those shoes. In the real world, you just have to learn to lead and think on your feet. Read, do, think, get feedback, improvise and keep getting better.

Nur Zahirah M Sukran

– Nur Zahirah M Sukran, FT MBA 2012/13

Good Luck Brian Marrinan!

This week, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) announced the shortlists for the 2013 Awards for Excellence. These competitive awards attract nominations from across the HE Careers sector in the UK and from the Irish Universities and the ITs.

Brian Marrinan, MBA Career Manager

We are delighted to announce that MBA Career Manager Brian Marrinan has been shortlisted along with two others for the AGCAS Outstanding Individual Contribution Award. Brian is the only nomination from outside of the UK for any of the awards.

These are some of the reasons why Brian was nominated,

“Brian has shown absolute dedication to creating links that pair the Smurfit Business School with the very best of industry in Ireland and abroad. It is out of these links that UCD MBAs secure access to top-tier companies for Capstone projects and for employment opportunities. I am grateful to Brian for creating the opportunity for me to demonstrate my abilities to my current employer. Brian understood my interests, strengths and motivations, and contributed hugely towards the value that I continue to gain from my Smurfit MBA.”
– Paul Buckley FT MBA 2012

“I decided to do an MBA as I wanted to make a radical change in my career. Right from the get go, one of the best parts of our year was the careers and personal development programme which Brian ran. Every Friday we had an amazing array of speakers, life coaches and career advisors spend time with us. Brian put extraordinary effort into getting the mix right.
However, what stands out for me most, was the degree of personal care and attention Brian gave each of us. His door was always open and he supported, advised and pushed us as we struggled through next steps.
As I went through the arduous interview process with McKinsey, Brian was a fantastic coach and supporter. He really set me up for success.
Brian is an exceptional careers manager, an advisor, support and friend. I will always be very grateful to him for helping me to find a new career and path post MBA.”
– Barbara O’Beirne FT MBA 2011

– Rikke Budolfsen, MBA Programme Manager

“Cracking Coke” in Galway

Last Saturday morning (29 June), while many of you were catching up on the conversations between the buccaneers at Anglo exposed in the “Anglo Tapes”, I was advising the board of Directors at Coca-Cola on what they should do with their recent acquisition of Coca-Cola Enterprises!

NUI Galway was the generous host of this year’s annual MBA Association of Ireland (MBAAI) Inter-Business School MBA Strategy challenge. The challenge is open to all MBA students from business schools across Ireland.

Four teams competed, with representation from MBA programmes at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), Griffith College Dublin (GCD), Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School (UCD).

At 10:15am, all teams were presented with a contemporary Harvard Business School case study on Coca-Cola.

At 10:30am, just as the Lions rugby team were getting ready  to roar, each team was directed to a separate meeting room where we were caged for four hours to ‘crack the case’ and prepare a presentation before returning to present to the judging panel.

During these four hours my team -Richie Somerville, Benjamin Bechtolsteim, Neil Krige, Robert Farrell and I- used the analytical tools discussed during the MBA modules at UCD to analyse the information we were given, identify the problem to be solved and propose a recommendation for implementation within Coca-Cola’s business.

Those four hours felt like minutes. The environment emulated that of everyday businesses, where leaders are challenged to identify, comprehend and solve complex business issues under intense pressure.

The presentations were very diverse, with each time taking a very different perspective on the case. I’m sure the variety was appreciated by the judges!

In the evening, we all convened at the Westwood Hotel in Galway where the MBAAI had arranged a drinks reception followed by a beautiful dinner. It provided an excellent opportunity to enjoy a well-deserved drink whilst getting to know the teams from DIT, WIT and GCD. The sunshine was an added bonus!

Just before dinner, my team were announced All-Ireland Strategy Champions 2013, reclaiming the title for UCD! The road to Galway involved two-rounds of internal competition, testament to the high calibre of students in both the full-time and executive MBA programmes at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business. After months of preparation with Richie, Robert, Neil and Benjamin, it was a real honour to win. We were presented with a glistening Waterford crystal trophy – a new companion for the MBA World Cup trophy in the MBA Trophy Cabinet!

The event showcased the ingenuity, strategic thinking and diverse perspectives of the participants and provided an endorsement of the quality of MBA programmes in Ireland’s business schools. Amidst the widespread media coverage of bad leadership in Ireland, it is encouraging to see a fresh wave of leaders equipped to make a difference and contribute to rebuilding Ireland’s reputation.

Thank you to Professor Pat Gibbons and Michael McDonnell at UCD for helping my team along the way. Thank you to MBAAI and NUI Galway, particularly James and Christine, for arranging a super event and for making us feel so welcome.  We look forward to returning the favour by welcoming teams to Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock for next year’s competition!

– Therese O’Rourke, FT MBA 2012-13

Therese and her new "hat"

Testing Our Mettle in Galway

Have you ever pondered the value chain of Coca-Cola – the world’s most recognised brand?

For six hours last Saturday, this question captured our full attention. Team Smurfit analysed the case, presented our proposal to a panel of judges, and then awaited the result of their deliberations. We were in good company. The MBA programs from Waterford Institute of Technology, Dublin Institute of Technology, and Griffith Collage fielded teams that presented their own version of what Coca-Cola should do, given a critical decision facing the CEO. Our strategy toolkit was put to the test.

The occasion was the annual MBA Association of Ireland Strategy Case Competition. Like the Eurovision, last year’s winner becomes next year’s host. Following their success in 2012, NUI Galway provided all of the competitors with warm hospitality.

A cardiac stress test is used in hospitals to measure the heart’s ability to respond to external stress in a controlled environment. The MBA stress test must be the case competition. With just four hours to read a case, analyse the data, and prepare a series of recommendations, you feel the pressure. Cooked up in a classroom for four hours provides the ideal controlled environment for the Storming Stage of team development.

When it counted this past weekend, our team passed the stress test. We are delighted to bring the winner’s trophy back to Smurfit.

Special thanks to Pat Gibbons, our strategy guru, Michael McDonnell, our coordinator (& travel budget finder), and the extended MBAAI organising team, who organized a fantastic occasion.

On a personal note, my best fortune of the MBA experience was getting to befriend and team up with Benjamin Bechtolsheim, Therese O’Rourke, Robert Farrell and Neil Krige. We had a great time working together, and we share the victory with each other and our school.

To the 2014 Smurfit MBA cohort we pass on the baton!

– Richie Somerville, FT MBA 2012/13

The winning team (L-R): Robert, Therese, Richie, Maeve O Connell (incoming President Elect MBAAI), Neil and Benjamin

Claiming the Arctic

So, when you think of global warming, you think of sea levels rising? Well, why do the sea levels rise? Because of melting ice as well as ocean water temperature increasing and so on. Now, take into consideration another consequence of melting ice on a large scale: new sea routes and natural resources will be open to international trade. But who has control of this no man’s land? Under international law, no country currently owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The five surrounding countries –  the Russian Federation, the United States (via Alaska), Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland) – are limited to 200 nautical miles (370 km/230 miles) adjacent to their coasts. In 2007, the Russians planted a flag at the bottom of the ocean, claiming a huge, unexploited, resource-rich section of the Arctic, despite Canada also claiming the region. Tensions have since simmered.

As the ice recedes year-by-year, the Arctic’s significance as a global transport link and a source of natural resources grows stronger. The Russian government estimates that the Arctic region harbours approximately a quarter of the world’s oil and gas. In early 2011, at an Arctic conference held in Norway, U.S. Rear Admiral Dave Titley stated: “We believe that sometime between 2035 and 2040, there is a pretty good chance that the Arctic Ocean will be essentially ice-free for about a month.” Connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific will reduce transit times considerably. Russian scientists are striving to prove that the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,240-mile underwater mountain range that cuts across the Arctic Ocean, is geologically part of the Russian mainland.

Denmark also has interests in claiming the ridge, suggesting it is an extension of Greenland, which is a self-governing province of Denmark. On the other hand, Canadian scientists assert that the Lomonosov Ridge belongs to the North American land mass. Interest is increasing throughout the world, even among countries such as China, Italy, Japan and Korea, which are far from the Arctic. The Arctic Council (which technically has no legal status) granted “observer” status to six nations, including China. Although the council’s initial aims were about environmental protection, it has more recently spoken of “the central role of business in the development of the Arctic”. Despite all of this, Ireland seems uninterested or unsuccessful in playing a role in the future of the Arctic, although it is by far closer to it than, for example, China or Italy.

The Arctic Council has become the primary body tasked with handling disputes between Arctic countries. Its current members are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. Some established agreements include: international search and rescue co-operation procedures; the establishment of a permanent secretariat in Norway; and a process for granting non-Arctic states permanent observer status within the council. The latter can be viewed as a clever attempt to pacify the EU and China, without actually acknowledging their interests in the region. It is interesting that a primary criterion for becoming a permanent observer is to first accept Arctic countries’ sovereignty over certain parts of the region.

Ireland, it appears, is being left behind. It is still not an observer member of the council. Perhaps this demonstrates a lack of foresight. Understandably, there are plenty of present-day issues occupying the Irish government! The freeing of the Arctic, in a manner of speaking, will in time become headline news, even before countries begin to reap the full benefits. However, organisations, in addition to countries, can become observer members of the Arctic Council. It could be argued that Ireland is indirectly involved through scientific and other intergovernmental organisations such as United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, or through the EU, which is being considered for observer status.

The whole affair has the potential of resulting in economic, political and environmental consequences that will ripple around the world. Ireland is seemingly allowing the opportunity to influence to pass by. By the time it decides to act, it may be too late. It may be a case of not being able to exercise any worthwhile influence. Nevertheless, politicians must be aware of the issue, and must address it in the public arena. Whatever is Ireland’s role in the future of the Arctic, especially as a nearby neighbour, it is clear that rivalry for the region, with its direct shipping routes and untapped natural resources, will heat up on the world stage, perhaps even quicker than the melting ice itself.

– Natasha Ibanez, FT MBA 2012/13 

A day in the life of an MBA student/ wife/ mother

Before coming to UCD for my MBA, I did a few searches on the internet to find out what a day in the life of an MBA would be like. Having two children and seeking the ever so unreachable work-life balance, I wanted to get a feel of how much time I would have to spend on school work vs the time I could spend with my family and my other projects.

A search on the internet for the schools I was applying for wasn’t very promising. Only one ‘A day in the life of’ was found and it didn’t look too appealing. Despite that, I still decided to delve into an MBA hoping that it wouldn’t be as bad as the person wrote. So here’s sharing what a day in the life of an MBA student with family responsibilities looks like ;-) . By the way, I am a Muslim, and we have five prayers each day – at dawn, mid-day, afternoon, sunset and at night, so my typical day would revolve around these prayers as well as the other obligations.

The class times differ in different semesters, in the first semester most classes would start from 830 up to 2 pm, in the second semester we would start at 11am and end at 4 or 5 pm. In the summer semester, most classes are ‘block’ style, which means the classes run from 9 am to 5 pm for a specific number of days. We are also starting Capstone projects next week, so that will depend on whether the company requires your presence in their premise or for you to work on your own schedule and place.

I like to think of my day as starting at the end of the previous day, then add in my six or seven hours of sleep from there, if I can get that six/seven hours. The day usually ends at between 1145 pm to 130 am – after one to two hours of studying, cooking dinner for the family, cleaning up, reading and checking my six year old’s homework, getting my two kids ready for bed – which includes about 45 mins of chasing the two and six year olds to get them to brush their teeth, clean –up and reading a bedtime story. Once all the chores are done, I would perform the night prayer and then do my reading or assignments, so generally my bedtime would depend on when I think I’ve met my study goals for the day. Performing the final prayer before retiring helps me to refocus and reflect on what I’ve done throughout the day in preparation for tomorrow.

About an hour and a half before the actual sunrise, I would rise and perform my morning prayer. This would usually take five or ten minutes, but I would stay awake for another half hour to read and reflect the verses from the Quran and sometimes study for one hour.

In winter, the sun rises at around 8 am, so by the time I am done for my prayer, I rush off to class. But in spring and summer, I would have some time to sleep again and would wake up at 8 am to make breakfast, get my son ready for school, and depending on when I start class, send him to school. Once my son is in school, depending on the workload and class schedule  I usually spend the rest of the time between 9 am to 5 pm doing schoolwork – at times on campus, at times at home. If I am at home, I take a two hour break to prepare lunch and eat it with the family as well as perform my mid-day prayer. When I am on campus, I usually have a packed lunch while reading cases or finishing assignments and do my prayer in the multi-faith prayer room on campus.

The afternoons are then usually spent with the children or doing housework and squeezing in ten minutes for the afternoon prayer.  The time is spent sometimes studying, sometimes going out for groceries, sometimes doing NGO work. During the weekends, 50% of it is committed to do NGO work, so the rest of the 50% is divided between family, housework and studying. I don’t know how they have all managed to fit in, but God has been kind in helping us achieve our goals for the year despite the challenges along the way.

Having a family and young children who are growing up with lots of attention needs, I’ve had to be very selective on where I spend my time. This means that I haven’t attended 90% of the social, networking, club and other extra events that the school or my classmates have organized. But these are the conscious choices I made when I prioritized my goals for the year in Dublin. I have to say that despite the stretch on my time, brain, physical being and psychology, I am very happy that I’ve taken the year off to do this MBA.

Nur and Family

If you’re also a mother and you’re thinking of doing the MBA, it’s not going to be an easy journey, but it will be rewarding if it’s something that will add value to your long term goals. If you need specific feedback, I would be glad to communicate with you :-)

– Nur Zahirah M Sukran, FT MBA 2012/13

Annual Smurfit MBA BBQ 22 June 2013

The annual Smurfit MBA BBQ took place last Saturday 22nd.

There were approximately 190 staff, students and their families in attendance. In the best Irish fashion it was partially indoors as we had to contend with the occasional short but sharp summer shower but what would an Irish BBQ be without a little rain?  The sun did occasionally show itself though and a good time was had by all.

This is especially true of the younger attendees who bounced on the bouncy castle, had their faces painted, ran races and watched a great floor show provided by Sillybilly the entertainment troupe who assisted with the day, some of the adults participated in all these activities too.  A rather spirited game of impromptu cricket also took place.

– Roisin O’Loughlin, MBA Programme Manager