End of term and the exams are just around the corner! Hard to believe that we are two thirds of our way through the programme. It is now time to crystallise all the learning since January and demonstrate our understanding of the academic concepts in the final exams. Perhaps more important however is the impending commencement of the Capstone or company projects. There was an impressive list of applications with projects for the MBA Consultancy Initiative and I look forward to once again collaborating with colleagues on our chosen project in the summer and practically apply what we have learned throughout the year. For me this is the highlight of the programme and the opportunity to apply our new skills and toolkits to real, day-to-day, and longer-term business problems.
Have noticed some weary looking people in recent weeks in the MBA class, which is testament to the effort everyone is putting in to contribute to and take from the programme. For many of us, we have put our professional and personal lives on hold for the past year and our families have had to deal with the highs and lows and occasional mood swings. Some would use the term light at the end of the tunnel to describe the imminent completion of the programme but I feel that that suggests that it was all toil and no reward during the year, which is not true. The finish line analogy of a long-distance run is more apt as the year has been about pacing oneself with periodic bursts of activity around exams and assignment due dates.
I wish all my classmates the very best of luck in the exams and I would like to thank our lecturers for the effort and commitment they put into the teaching of the modules.
Reflecting on our recent international study trip to Brazil, I am enthused by the prospects for the country. Our opening visit to FIA provided us with an excellent macroeconomic overview of the country and its forecasts. The young population (38% below the age of 20) bodes well for the country in providing a large labour force to fund retirement obligations that will only increase as the standard of living rises and life expectancy increases. In the short term however, this demographic structure creates significant costs for the state in education and healthcare. There are bottlenecks in infrastructure and skills (only on average 7.5 years of schooling) which if not dealt with with harm growth prospects and make inflation more difficult to control.
The visit to JWT, an advertising agency, in Sao Paolo, was a very informative one with interesting statistics on consumer habits and crucially the rise of the middle class or migration from social class C to B over the past decade. The country is short-circuiting the communications changes that have evolved in more developed countries by information and advertising being accessed through mobile smart devices from a strong traditional television base, thereby bypassing the switch to PC/laptops seen in North America and Europe 10-15 years ago. The rate of change in Brazil is much greater than for more developed markets and this poses great challenges for enterprises, such as Pernod Ricard whom we also visited in Sao Paolo, to keep pace with these consumer trends and stay in the game.
We had a very interesting meeting with the Brazilian development bank, BNDES, in Rio de Janeiro, where they outlined the major projects being funded across the country, solely or in collaboration with commercial financial institutions. Their portfolio was extensive and wide covering private enterprise and trade, education, transport and infrastructure and health. They are committed to modernising the country and making it more competitive but have tall hills to climb. I was struck by one of their immediate projects being the arenas for the World Cup and the surrounding infrastructure. Being in both domestic international airports in both cities, I couldn’t help feel how underprepared they were for the influx of football fans next year and that it was now too late to really modernise the airports at this stage but they might just have to grit their teeth and hope for the best.
The announcement , or ‘noting’ in the case of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, of a satisfactory conclusion to the technical discussions between the Irish government and the European Central Bank on the infamous promissory notes issued by the Irish state to cover the future liabilities of the former Anglo-Irish Bank has to broadly welcomed. However, the debate is in full swing about the perceived benefits that will accrue to the state as a result. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s assertion that the state will save €20 billion over the lifetime of the arrangement until the new bonds mature are predicated on a number of assumptions. Obviously, inflation and interest rates will affect the value of the bonds over that time period as well as economic growth projections.
There is no such thing as a free lunch and it was wholly unrealistic to expect that this debt would be expunged, essentially transferring the cost to others. Proportionate burden sharing was clearly the only show in town and just as the Irish public has been justifiably angry by the burden of bank debt imposed on it, the other 99% of European Union citizens would be fairly enraged by completing having to cover debts incurred here in Ireland. The devil will be in the detail of this agreement to estimate the savings and benefits for Ireland.
Despite the ambiguity over the numbers, the external stakeholders and players in Irish economic affairs believe this to be a good deal, with Irish long-term bond yields plummeting last week to levels not seen since 2007. The consensus is that at least Irish public debt situation will not get worse and may be possibly more sustainable, particularly if European and global economic growth returns. However, this is only one side of Ireland’s debt mountain, the other side being the level of private debt that has been incurred by every man, women and child in the state. This will also need to be tackled and unfortunately, macroeconomic factors such as low growth and high unemployment are not favouring any efforts to address this as many struggle to meet mortgage repayment and other obligations. Hopefully the new personal insolvency arrangements introduced by the Irish government will start to bear fruit over the next 2-3 years but a combination of debt restructuring and debt write-offs will be needed as well as increased employment to start to significantly eat into Irish private sector debt.
The pressure and intensity of the end of first semester exams seem like a distant memory after a long Christmas break. I hope everyone in the class enjoyed it as alumni have said that it’s probably the last time we’ll get 4 weeks in a row off again at that time of year. The provisional results of the semester exams should be released next week so hopefully everyone has cleared the bar. Looking back at the first semester, the learning curve was steep but I can truthfully say that I have never learned so much new theory and concepts both from the MBA academic staff and my fellow students at any other time during my academic or working life. The challenge this semester, I feel is to consolidate this new knowledge and integrate this into the remaining modules and the Capstone project in the summer.
Sorry to see Becca Baumann leave the class at Christmas to take up a post in the US. I have no doubt that her career will go from strength to strength if her earnest engagement in class discussions is anything to go by. Hopefully she will be able to complete the MBA at a later date there.
Looking forward to the opening lecture by Professor Walsh in Financial Statement Analysis tomorrow afternoon and the first session on the International Study Trip with Professor Gibbons in the evening. I sense the evenings being less free than they have been over the past few weeks.
Back after the mini-break in October and two modules, Financial Reporting and Business & Society, completed with two new modules, Corporate Finance and Performance Driven Marketing, in their stead. Corporate Finance has introduced some concepts that I wasn’t aware of prior to this and I thought our first group technical problem was a valuable learning experience in how finance isn’t as precise as I might have thought but involves making significant assumptions. Performance Driven Marketing is very interactive with Professor McLoughlin not letting anyone shy away and hide behind the classroom desks. The case studies are very insightful and a great method of explaining frameworks.
The juggling of multiple project balls is well and truly being tested and refined at the moment and the arrival of Daylight Saving Time did not have any appreciable effect on my sleep-wake cycle. I feel that the learnings from the individual modules are starting to become integrated and enhancing participation in the various classes.
Have not decided yet which optional modules to sit next semester, which will depend on availability. I hope that the information evening next week will help to crystallise my thoughts on this.
Looking forward to some interesting evening events in the next couple of weeks. The lecture on “How innovation and science policy can inspire entrepreneurship to solve real world problems” in TCD next Wednesday has a good line-up of speakers and delegates, so hopefully I can still get a place at it. The MBAAI are holding on “Innovation and the MBA” event on Wednesday, November 21st, with three speakers who have applied the skills learned during their MBAs to entrepreneurship. Particularly interested in the talk by Ross O’Neill, CEO and founder of MuteButton, on the non-invasive technology he has developed to treat tinnitus.
4 weeks have gone by in the Full time programme. I definitely know about 10 times more about the topics than prior to the course.
We have had some great group presentations to date in Financial Reporting about auditing challenges and limitations, ethical dilemmas and questionable practices in Business and Society, and others in Strategic Information Systems and Operations and Supply Chain Management, all with the requisite degree of wit and humour to impart the desired take-home messages. I definitely believe that the use of case studies and interactive group and class discussions is more effective in delivering and helping me retain the tsunami of content powering towards me.
A good rapport has built up in the class as everyone realises that we’re all in this together and that a rising tide is a better way of lifting the boats than naked individual ambition, although personal motivation is still crucial to success on the programme.
Had a really enjoyable evening at the Annual MBA Alumni Reception last Friday night in the Conrad Hotel. It was great to see a good spread of current students, very recent alumni and more mature alumni present to engender good discussion and interaction. Kingsley Aikins spoke passionately about the need to build networks and bridge to other networks to be successful in one’s career and his own career is testament to that. Prof O’hOgartaigh illustrated thestrength of the UCD Smurfit brand and the school alumni and exhorted the current students and recent graduates to avail of these links in building our careers. Had a couple of “quiet” drinks afterwards with some of my classmates in Dicey’s Bar in Harcourt Street before bailing out at a respectable hour.
I previously never thought much of the term time management, regarding it as a cliché and innate but with the list of group presentations and reports beginning to gain momentum this week, I now realise it will be a valuable skill to develop and employ.
Foundation week was very well organised with a good mix of practical information on the course requirements, how to utilise the IT services fully and the prohibition on booze and barbecues on campus as well as the team building exercises which were good fun with the ‘occasional’ difference of opinion and squaring up amongst some of the participants.
This week has plunged us into the full rigours of the programme and totting up in my head the hours that will have to be committed to assignments or study as well as the non-academic stuff, I feel my waking hours will have to be extended. Looking forward to our first meeting with Brian Marrinan about careers tomorrow.