The MBA + Part-time Job Combo

So, you’ve decided to pursue an MBA at UCD, hoping for a thrilling academic adventure. But wait, there’s a twist! It would be best to juggle a part-time job to keep your savings intact. Don’t worry: We’ve got some first-hand insights from MBA students who’ve walked this path of multitasking madness. So, buckle up and prepare to navigate the wild world of part-time jobs and the MBA!

My Personal Experience

I have been working in a famous Irish supermarket as a sales assistant. My part-time job paved the way for me to learn completely new skills I never thought I would try my hand at. Getting out of my comfort zone and choosing to upskill myself was nothing less than an achievement. Some of the skills that I picked up are better planning (planning is very important in inventory management), time management and better customer interaction & engagement. These skills will enrich my personality and add dimensions to my persona (hopefully).

Timing is Everything

Starting a part-time job while managing your MBA coursework requires careful consideration. At the start of the programme, you may find yourself drowning in modules and assignments, desperately trying to grasp the basics. There are better times to add another variable!

The consensus among seasoned multitaskers is to hold off on the part-time job until you’ve settled into your MBA routine. While the MBA timetable may seem to have free spaces, it’s important to remember that these are dedicated to coursework tasks like group meetings, reading, research, and homework. The schedule is designed to handle the significant workload of an MBA program. Seasoned multitaskers advise against taking on a part-time job alongside your studies, particularly during the program’s initial stages. Trying to juggle too much can result in a messy situation and hinder your ability to engage and excel in your coursework fully.

Jobs as Diverse as Your Classmates

You’d be amazed at the vast array of part-time jobs your MBA cohorts will embrace. There’s something for everyone, from supermarket shelf stackers to pizza parlour wizards, physiotherapists, nurses, movie side actors and warehouse warriors. Remember, many of these gigs require physical labour, so get ready to flex those muscles with your brainpower.

Filmmakers at work.
Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

The Art of Multitasking

Once you’ve taken the plunge and secured a part-time job, it’s time to put your multitasking skills to the test. Prioritisation would be your new best friend. Seriously, it cannot be stressed enough how crucial it is to prioritise your MBA work effectively. 

If you need help keeping up with readings, fear not! Explore the wonderful world of PDF-to-audio reader apps. Who knew your MBA journey could be filled with a symphony of readings?

Embrace the Irish Work Culture

Working part-time during your MBA will introduce you to the vibrant and lively Irish work culture. You’ll get first-hand experience interacting with people from different countries and cultures, broadening your horizons while stacking shelves or delivering pizzas. You might even learn a few choice phrases in various languages. Bonjour, ciao, and dia duit!

Financial Freedom and Fancy Purchases

One perk of taking on a part-time job is the newfound financial independence—no more hesitation before buying those fancy items you’ve been eyeing. Just remember to resist the urge to splurge your hard-earned cash on too many unnecessary treasures. Saving money is essential, even amid your MBA journey.

Photo from work, by the author

Not Everything is Hunky-Dory

Sometimes you will have to deal with people who may not be as polite as your co-workers from your pre-MBA life. However, it is for you to stand your ground and take on challenges as they come – you need to stand behind your work and build confidence in your abilities. You will surely come out on the other side as a stronger individual.

It’s Not All Doom & Gloom

While the MBA + part-time job combo may sound daunting, it’s not all bad news. The challenges you face will make you more resilient in handling heavy workloads. You’ll become a multitasking maestro, and prioritising your work will become second nature. Think of it as a crash course in professional development with a side of financial stability.

The Camaraderie of Cohort Gems

One of the silver linings of pursuing an MBA is the incredible support and camaraderie you’ll find among your classmates. In group projects and assignments, everyone is generally happy to adjust their schedules to accommodate their part-time job. But care must be taken to ensure that when pursuing part-time work, students keep in mind that they will also have responsibilities to their classmates and study team members. Therefore, consider yourself blessed if surrounded by a batch of true gems, ready to conquer the MBA journey together.

A group of students smiling together in the Common Room at UCD Smurfit
At work in the UCD Smurfit Common Room

Where to Find Part-time Jobs

To discover part-time opportunities, check websites like Indeed and Jobs.ie. For a more proactive approach, visit local shops and personally hand in your resume. If you’re interested in supermarket chains, apply through their websites. Lastly, don’t forget to tap into your network of friends already working part-time—they can offer valuable assistance.

In the fantastic journey of the MBA program, taking on a part-time job might seem daunting. However, you will survive this adventure armed with time management skills, a multitasking skill, and the willingness to prioritise. Remember, it gets a little more accessible daily, but you must consistently put in the effort. So, embrace the MBA, conquer your part-time job, and emerge from the MBA as a multitasking warrior with a bright future.

Roshen Sunil, FTMBA Class of 2023

Bella Italia

In March 2023, a group of 21 Full Time and Executive MBA Students traveled to Italy with Professor Karan Sonpar for the Doing Business in International Markets study tour. There, they heard from experts and executives in fashion, food and beverage manufacturing, luxury brand management, financial services, and technology sectors ranging from data analytics to aerospace engineering. Here’s what the students had to say about the experience.

The Italy travel group in front of the Milan Duomo

The Italy Study Tour was an incredible experience visiting the offices of Campari, Enterprise Ireland and Piaggio. The presentations were insightful and the visit to Insoore showed us the innovative start-up culture in Italy. A great opportunity to learn about the luxury brand industry, heritage marketing, and competitive advantage of nations. In addition to the valuable business insights gained from the Italy Study Tour, the quality time spent with my MBA batchmates was truly unforgettable. The opportunity to bond over delicious Italian cuisine and explore the beautiful cities of Milan and Rome together was a highlight of the trip. A truly enriching experience both professionally and personally. Abhinav Agastya, FTMBA Class of 2023

FTMBA Student Ananya Singh submitted this photo of herself & two classmates during the Duomo Rooftop Tour the first day in Milan
A group of Indian, Chinese, and European young people standing in a sunlit lobby smile for the camera.
MBA Students wait eagerly for their tour of fintech startup Insoore to begin.
A white man takes a selfie of a group of students standing with their luggage on a street in Milan
EMBA Student William Boyd took a selfie as the group assembled for the train journey from Milan to Rome.

Experience is the teacher of all things.’ – Julius Caesar.
The international business trip to Italy was an invaluable experience I would carry for my life. The trip provided an opportunity to immerse in a new culture, try local foods, visit local landmarks, and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the diversity of the world. I was able to meet business leaders and learn from the experts in the field. I got a chance to visit local companies and industries to learn about their operations and business models and to observe the challenges and opportunities they face in the global market. Overall, I found the experience was more tangible, and I could see how the theories we learnt in the class apply in the real business world. Ananya Singh, FTMBA Class of 2023

FTMBA Student Blessing Ehinomen Ebare poses with a matching Vespa at the Piaggio Showroom in Milan.
A white woman accepts an Aperol Spritz from a bartender.
The visit to Campari Group wrapped up with aperitivo hour in the company’s function space.

Did you know that more than 85% of businesses in Italy are family-owned? This makes up about 784,000 businesses and accounts for around 70% of employment in the country. These businesses include the Said chocolate factory, the well-loved Borsalino, specialists in Italian luxury hats,  the luxury Italian fashion house D&G and Piaggo, the Italian motor vehicle manufacturer to mention a few.  If there is one thing all these companies share in common, it’s the appeal to lifestyle, culture, and joy of life which Italians are known for.

Well, it was not all business. I did get to enjoy some Italian delicacies, tour the Campari museum, the Duomo Di Milano Cathedral, the D&G fashion house in Milan, and visit the Milan Fashion Institute, among others. It was also a great opportunity to bond with my classmates and the Executive MBA students outside the classroom setting and make new connections. I also got to appreciate a culture that was different from mine. I fell in love with Italy and look forward to visiting again sometime. Blessing Ehinomen Ebare, FTMBA Class of 2023

A soccer pitch at night, with bright lights overhead and stadium staff in orange in the foreground
A group of students arranged on their own to see a soccer match during a free evening: EMBA student Noel Quinn submitted this photo from the outing.
A group of around 20 students, faculty, and staff smile behind a banner reading UCD Smurfit School MBA in front of the obelisk in Rome's Piazza Navonna
The MBA Travelers on their walking tour of Rome

This should give you an idea of why so many UCD Smurfit MBA Students consider the International Study Tour a highlight of their year! Thanks in particular to Legacy Ventures for putting together such an engaging and rewarding itinerary.

To any prospective students reading this: Just think, next spring this could be you.

Kathryne Del Sesto, FTMBA Programme Manager

Advice to Live By

My first boss told me that “Fake it till you make it” is not a piece of good advice, because it involves pretending that you are great at something that you are not and then just hoping that you somehow get to the pinnacle of success. Since I have grown up on this advice, as many of you have, I was taken aback by this. But while thinking about writing this blog, I understood how my boss’s words changed my perspective towards life.

“It” can be any new task, habit, project or role you haven’t aced yet. And acing “it” may involve constantly fighting with your inner self. But, if you are not convinced you are initially good at “it”, you might feel an imposter syndrome kicking in and stop doing “it” altogether. My boss recommended that I replace “faking it” with  “believe in pushing your boundaries”. The suggestion was to accept that I must leave my comfort zone and convince myself I can break the glass ceilings. 

She said that when you know in the back of your mind that it’s high time you must take up a challenging project, build your self-confidence, or try out something different in the company, it is better to overpromise in a meeting quickly. In fact, per her, once you have overpromised, you need to take responsibility to not under-deliver! For example, if some co-worker comes and tells you that there is this new project that you have to take up immediately, and even though you feel like saying, “no, that is hard”, sometimes it is lovely to go that extra mile and say “yes” to that project in a 10-second “confidence window”. The 10 seconds is to ensure that before the inner voice kicks in and tells you that you can’t do the project, you publicly take ownership of it.

I have realised that this was a brilliant way to give new challenges my all while pushing my boundaries, one hard thing at a time.  My boss said that, gradually, I would see progress in that new project and finally give my best shot at the project because I have openly taken up the responsibility to do “it”.

This advice works because you might develop a new passion or skill while exploring that new hurdle. You never know your true potential; if you give in, you can ace “it” (that, too, in one go!) Even if you do not execute “it” that wonderfully, at least you have an empowering feeling that you have tried out something different. And the next time you get a similar challenge, you know exactly what not to do to crack “it” the next time! 

Me with my classmates at the Van Gogh Experience

Most recently, I applied my boss’s advice when I decided to take on the role of FTMBA Class Rep for Spring 2023. I had the least professional experience in terms of years of work experience in my MBA cohort. So, initially, in my head, I did not think of myself as serving as a class rep of such an experienced group. But I impulsively implemented the above advice.

Before becoming a Class Rep, I knew I was very approachable and always wanted to be helpful to my classmates. As I did not believe in being competitive, I did not view the role of a class rep as some position of power to boast about in an MBA. I got great help from my classmates in both my personal and professional life. So, I wanted to serve the best interests of my classmates, many of whom became “my tribe” for life. Hopefully, pushing my boundaries will bring justice to this promising role.

Needless to say, it is a leadership position for someone like me who was otherwise shy to be opinionated in class. I now use this opportunity to hone my communication skills further. Therefore, I highly recommend you take up this post once you are here.

Rajshri Chakraborty, Full Time MBA Class of 2023

Meet an Executive MBA Class Rep: Allyson Barr

What ways do you hope your career will change when you’ve earned your MBA?

My hope is that I move into a role with a wider scope, directing more of the strategy execution within a business. My background is in marketing and product management, and my ambition is to take on a Chief Operating Officer role where I can design and optimise the full end-to-end commercial journey for a business. The MBA helps reinforce my practical experience while also filling in knowledge gaps across that spectrum from creating to fulfilling demand.

Portrait of the Author

What skills have you learned in the programme so far that you’re most excited to take to work?

First and foremost is time management. It’s amazing how much you can take on when you are deliberate about how you spend your time, plan accordingly, and commit to that plan. When you know what your plan is you can ironically be more flexible about changes that arise – you know where the tradeoffs can be made and how to set expectations when new tasks or projects come up.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever got from a boss or coworker?

When you’re thinking about making a job or career change, make sure you’re running toward something, not running away from something. In running toward something you have the opportunity to define and craft what you want in an opportunity; in running away you’re defining your next move based on what you don’t want – which isn’t the same as defining what you want.

Allyson Barr, EMBA Class of 2023

Meet an FTMBA Class Rep: Tanveer Dosani

As a multitasking professional, I wear many hats, with sales being one of my strong suits. On my free days, I love to delve into the latest non-fiction books, keeping myself up-to-date with the latest trends and ideas. Being a die-hard fan of Marvel movies, I make sure to catch every release on its opening day. My passion for learning and keeping up with current events reflect my dynamic personality, making me a well-rounded individual with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and entertainment.

FTMBA Spring Class Rep Tanveer Dosani

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your MBA?

Looking back, there are several key things I wish I had known when I started my MBA program. One of the most important is the importance of effective time management and workload management. Balancing the demands of coursework, group projects, and other responsibilities is challenging.

One of the key things I wish I would have known that would have helped me would be to speak to more people about their experiences and insights on how to make the most of the program. I believe that speaking to other students and alumni would have given me a broader understanding of what to expect and how to manage my time more efficiently. Getting to know other people and their experiences could have also helped me in creating a network that would have been useful throughout the program.

Another important thing that I wish I had known earlier is the value of networking. While I had a fair understanding of networking, I now understand the importance of being well-prepared and intentional in building meaningful relationships with other students, alumni, professors, and professionals in my desired industry. By building these relationships, I would have been able to gain a better understanding of the industry, secure internships and job opportunities, and also gain insights into the job market.

What skills have you learned in the programme so far that you’re most excited to take to work?

As I progressed through my MBA program, I have learned a variety of skills that I am eager to bring to my professional life. One of the most significant areas of focus has been gaining a deeper understanding of crucial aspects of business, such as finances, strategy, and macroeconomics. This knowledge has equipped me with the tools necessary to make informed business decisions and comprehend the complexities of the business world. 

One of the most fulfilling aspects of the MBA program has been realizing that the most demanding tasks are also the most rewarding. Whether it was a challenging course or a complex group project, pushing myself to tackle these tasks has resulted in substantial growth and satisfaction.  I still recall the time when I had a particularly challenging course. The concepts were difficult to understand, and I struggled to keep up with the pace of the class. Here, I decided to push myself to tackle the task at hand. I put in extra hours of study, sought help from my professors and classmates, and eventually managed to not just pass the course, but also excel in it. Similarly, when I was assigned a group project, I was initially apprehensive. Coordinating with different team members, managing conflicting schedules, and ensuring that everyone was on the same page seemed like an impossible task. However, by breaking down the project into smaller, more manageable tasks, and collaborating effectively with my teammates, we were able to complete the project on time and produce excellent output.

I have also significantly improved my communication and presentation skills during my MBA program. Whether I am delivering a presentation to classmates or leading a team meeting at work, being able to effectively communicate my ideas and thoughts is essential for success. Through coursework, group projects, and other opportunities, my MBA program has provided me with ample opportunities to develop and refine these skills.

What inspired you to volunteer to serve as class rep?

I was motivated to volunteer as a class representative because I want to assist others and promote a sense of unity and positivity in our cohort. This role aligns with my personal values and provides a valuable learning opportunity as I pursue my MBA. As class representative, I have the chance to connect with a diverse group of classmates and staff and gain a deeper understanding of different perspectives within our group.

As a class representative, I aim to bring people together and create a supportive community within the cohort by planning and organising social events, facilitating discussions, and representing the class’s collective interests. I believe that my role as class representative is crucial in fostering a positive environment for everyone. I am also excited about the challenge of solving problems and finding solutions that benefit the class. This experience will help me grow as a leader and provide me with valuable knowledge and skills for my future career. 

Overall, I am honoured to serve as class representative and am eager to make a positive impact on my classmates and the broader community.

Tanveer Dosani, Full Time MBA Class of 2023

MBA Cultural & Performing Arts Club Outing

There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.” Vincent Van Gogh

Why would you visit Van Gogh Experience as an FTMBA student? The same question ran through my head when I was planning this trip as the President of the MBA Cultural and Performing Arts Club. However, MBA has definitely taught us one thing: adapt to the unknown. With this in mind, our class went to explore what turned out to be an amazing experience that most of us will cherish for a really long time.

A group of young adults in colourful coats, smiling in front of a Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait
Some FTMBA Class of 2023 Students

In less than one decade Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, created some 2000+ artworks and a majority of his work came in his last two or three years. Van Gogh, Immersive Experience in Dublin is more than just an experience. It is a wide array of emotions, plentiful surprises and moments that are very relatable. This one-hour journey will take you to places – the life of Vincent Van Gogh and his true love for nature – by depicting them artistically in its most innocent sense.

The 3D Immersive Hall: I promise you will not want to come out of it

The Vincent Van Gogh Exhibition is a potpourri of imperfections and yet everything looks perfect and surreal. The flowers, the vase, the depiction and the story through his paintings.

Personally, his work has inspired me to embrace uncertainty and imperfections and admire individualism. His artworks depict emotions ranging from anxiety and sufferings to love and hope.

On a lighter note, the kid in us was reborn to juggle and struggle with crayons when we learnt about one another on how good (or bad, haha) we all are at sketching. It was super fun.

The Creative Space: some of the sketches on that wall belong to MBA students

I thank the administration of UCD Michael Smurfit School and their support to help us live this experience amidst the rigorous and intense curriculum.

Abhinav Chaturvedi, FTMBA Class of 2023

Why UCD?

‘Experiential. Transformational. International.’ Those were the first words that stood out to me when I looked up the official Smurfit MBA website a year ago, looking to see if the school fit into my plans, and I with it. I can never forget those words. 

If you are reading this, it means that just like I was, you are considering doing the UCD Smurfit MBA program. And you are probably wondering, ‘is this the one?’ Well, a thousand times, ‘Yes!’ And I hope to show you why through my experiences.

A wood-paneled hallway with a student walking through and flags from a multitude of nations suspended from the ceiling
My favourite part of school for the first few weeks: the ‘Hall of Flags’, as I call it

To take up studies at the UCD Smurfit MBA program, I embarked on a life-changing journey: leaving my home in Nigeria to come to Ireland. I was airborne for 2 days, arrived on Sunday evening, and started classes the following day. I do not recommend this type of travel itinerary–I promise it is not fun when it comes down to it. But I was too excited to feel the exhaustion that no doubt coursed through my body. 

Hey! I made it, I’m here now (me, dancing on the inside). In my head, as I stared at the red brick walls of the Smurfit building on day one, I said to myself, ‘Shall we begin?’

An Asian man and a Black woman in business casual dress, smiling inside the cutout of a cardboard photo booth frame, in front of the red brick UCD Smurfit main building
Study Partner Linh & I on Picture Day

A typical day at the MBA involves two classes, at most 3. Almost always, there are classes every day of the week (it’s the downer, I know. Wipes imaginary tears). The modules themselves are fascinating. What is most compelling to me, however, is that, with each module, you are not just reading books to pass an exam, you have the opportunity to take the knowledge and apply it to real-world problems.

In Leadership & Organisational Behaviour, for example, my module partner Linh and I took a real problem at a real organization and we diagnosed the cause of the massive attrition rates the organization was experiencing. The results were far beyond what we expected and we felt very proud of what we accomplished together. It felt very empowering for me. Needless to say, we scored an A on the project (again, dancing with joy on the inside).

Or take the project that my study team took up for the Marketing management module. We wrote a paper on a very real digital camera company and were able to diagnose the weaknesses in its marketing mix and its value proposition. We came up with some solid recommendations for the company at the end of the paper. I felt proud to be able to produce a value of such magnitude and feel like the Smurfit MBA has unlocked hidden potential in me.

Five smiling students around a computer keyboard on campus
With my study team, putting an assignment together

Right now, I am preparing for a pitching session that to me is the equivalent of the dragon’s den, for the entrepreneurship module. It is hard work, as much as it is exciting. But I am confident that the program is preparing me for the career I intend to pursue after the MBA.

Seven smiling students in a wood-paneled hallway in front of a huge, brightly-lit Christmas tree
Some classmates & I just around Christmastime

The Smurfit MBA is structured such that you work in teams for a large percentage of the time. This helps you increase your network, and ensures that you benefit from the strengths of your classmates as they benefit from yours. In my class of about 30, I get to work with engineers, medical professionals, salespeople, architects, creative designers, and much more. So do not worry if you do not have an accounting or business background. Working with a diverse and international cohort from a variety of backgrounds, you will learn valuable skills that will help you come out on top in your career, whatever it may be.

So why UCD? Tell me, why not UCD?

Blessing Ehinomen Ebare, Full Time MBA Class of 2023

So you need to find a place to live in Dublin

After receiving my admission letter, I was eager to begin my MBA journey. However, as I spoke with more people about job prospects and college life, the issue of the housing crisis in Dublin was frequently brought up. I initially disregarded these warnings as just another urban problem, having lived in cities that had faced similar issues before. Yet, I quickly realized that this crisis was much more severe. Each attempt to search for a place to stay was met with a daunting number of people also seeking accommodation, resulting in intense competition and exorbitant prices. Even locating a shared room was a challenge as most places had waiting lists.

Securing accommodation in Dublin is a challenging process that involves searching for potential properties and reaching out to landlords and real estate agents through various means such as email, calls, and texts. The competition is intense, and potential renters must play a numbers game. Properties listed on Daft.ie can receive over a thousand views within hours, and even with a high number of inquiries, landlords will still interview candidates and select the most suitable one. It was hard to believe until I experienced it myself that despite high rental prices and proof of financial capability, securing a place to rent is not guaranteed.

Photo by Sophi Raju on Unsplash

Arriving in Dublin with only two acquaintances, finding a place to stay proved to be a daunting task, in line with the warnings that it was harder than finding a job. Exhausting every possible avenue, I applied to all available housing websites and used social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, responding to every listing for days. Despite my efforts, finding accommodation was a constant struggle, and it took securing a temporary stay before things began to change. Eventually, I gained more viewings and connections, showing that patience, resilience, and unwavering determination are necessary to navigate Dublin’s housing crisis. Despite the difficulties, staying positive and exploring every possible option is crucial until finding suitable accommodation.

As with all the other listings, I wasted no time calling the landlord from the listing and managed to secure a viewing for the next day. During the viewing, the landlord interviewed me and familiarized me with the house rules. The following day, the landlord called to confirm that he had accepted my application and that one of the rooms was now mine. I was immensely relieved, and I stayed there for a few weeks until the housing market calmed down. Afterward, I found another place to stay with my friends. 

Here are some suggestions for a student who is looking for accommodation:

  • If you have any friends who are already living in the city or have lived there before, ask them if they know someone who is moving out and you can fill in for them. This can be a great way to get a place to stay without having to go through the tedious process of searching for accommodation. 
  • Check out UCD Residences, which is UCD’s own accommodation and is highly reliable. However, they get booked out early, so make sure to apply as soon as possible. Other student accommodations are also a good option, but they also get booked out by May or early June, so it’s best to book your place as soon as you get your admission. 
  • UCD Accommodation Pad is a platform specifically for UCD students. Landlords on this platform have experience renting out their places to UCD students, and you can leverage the UCD goodwill. If you haven’t arrived yet, you can ask a friend to view it on your behalf. 
  • Facebook groups are also a great way to find decent places to stay. However, there may be odd posts asking for exorbitant rents or scam posts. It’s important to be vigilant and carefully review the post, comments, and the profile of the account before making any commitments. 
  • If you find a temporary place, you can rent that and use that time to find a permanent one. If need be, you can fly in a couple of weeks early to search for a long-term stay. If you find a long-term stay early and don’t like it much, take up the option of that stay and once the market calms down, you can always move out. 

However, there are also some things that you should avoid doing. Never pay any amount to anyone unless you or someone you know in person and have seen the place in person. Scammers are prevalent, and it’s crucial to be cautious.

Finally, do not lose hope. Finding accommodation is difficult, but persistence and asking for help can go a long way in finding a suitable place to stay.

–Anonymous MBA Student

MBA EDI Club welcomes Melíosa O’Caoimh of Northern Trust

At the invitation of the UCD Smurfit MBA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Club, Dr Darren Thomas Baker and Executive MBA student Deirdre O’Grady Interviewed  Melíosa O’Caoimh, Country head of Northern Trust and Chair of the 30% Club for an audience of MBA students. The three discussed Melíosa’s career journey to date as well as  her views on gender balance within the workforce.

Assistant Professor Darren Thomas Baker interviews Melíosa O’Caoimh, chair of the 30% Club Chair and Ireland Country Head of Northern Trust

Having completed her undergraduate degree at UCD in Economics and Politics, Melíosa, like so many new graduates, was uncertain regarding what the next stage in her career should be. Little did she know at the time, a successful career in financial services awaited her. There was no better fit for someone who wanted to work in a business that brought about real change for people and impacted so many lives on a global scale.

Melíosa joined Northern Trust as her second role in Financial Services. At the time, the company was just starting out in Ireland, and employed approximately 80 people. Fast forward to now: Melíosa is Country Head with an employee network of 1800 staff managing over $600 billion in assets, and Ireland acts as a central hub attracting investment managers from all around the globe. Melíosa spoke passionately about her commitment to her career and how it affects so many people both nationally and globally. She feels privileged in her role to be part of something that is truly transformative.

Melíosa firmly believes that a strong work ethic coupled with ambition, resilience and an active curiosity are the key ingredients to successful career progression. She spoke about avoiding linear progression within your career, particularly in the early stages. She introduced the interesting concept of ‘meandering’ as you progress in order to gain exposure to many sectors within your organisation: this will equip you with a knowledge base that will add substance to your profile and offer greater opportunity to maximise your career potential.

Executive MBA Student Deirdre O’Grady smiles in response to a statement from UCD alumna Melíosa O’Caoimh

No successful career proceeds without difficulties along the way. Melíosa spoke about her biggest obstacle: challenging people’s perception of her. She remarked on the amount of energy it took to prove to her colleagues that at work she was present and ready to give 100% despite being a mum of four children. She also experienced a small setback early in her career when she wasn’t offered a particular role. However, she turned this into an opportunity to prove to others that she had the capabilities and was worthy of the position when she was offered it two years later. 

Melíosa strongly believes in the value of mentorship and sponsorship: ‘A lot of learning is self-navigation, you need to be the CEO of yourself’. In our careers, we often expect the right mentor to present themselves to us but the fact is that we need to seek them out based on our weaknesses. She also warns against underestimating the value of sponsorship. Everyone needs someone senior to vouch for them in order to get ahead in an organisation: ‘Having someone speak to you in the room is good, but what you need is someone who will speak about you when you leave the room’.  

Melíosa strongly advocates achieving gender balance within the financial sector. She welcomed the new mandatory gender pay gap reporting agreement, focusing on the importance of the actions that will arise from it.  She believes the main issue within top organisations is representation–however it is equally important that women are not used as a distraction for organisational issues within a company. Company leadership should focus on effective strategies for getting more women into senior roles, and should promote both gender equality and diversity. It is well established that businesses who achieve this make better decisions and perform better. 

A conversation with Melíosa O’Caoimh offered novel insights, providing the UCD Smurfit students excellent advice on career progression. She is a visionary leader, a gifted spokesperson and above all else humble in the midst of her outstanding success–in all, a true inspiration. 

From Left to Right: Assistant Professor Dylan Thomas Baker; Assistant Dean of the UCD College of Business and Director of UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School Professor Gerardine Doyle; 30% Club Chair Melíosa O’Caoimh, and UCD Smurfit Executive MBA student Deirdre O’Grady smile for the camera following an event put on by the UCD Smurfit MBA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Club

Eimear O’Reilly, UCD Smurfit Executive MBA Class of 2024

Meet an EMBA Class Rep: Fardod O’Kelly

EMBA Class of 2022 Representative Fardod O’Kelly has contributed posts in the past on applying the triage technique to work/life balance, and on the importance of resilience on the MBA. Today he gets a little more personal via our Student Profile Questionnaire:

An image of a US$50 bill, with Fardod O'Kelly's headshot in place of Ulysses S. Grant
Sometimes in-class simulations require props

What ways do you hope your career will change when you’ve earned your MBA?

I guess I may be a little atypical when it comes to career progression post-MBA in that I’m already a consultant surgeon and assistant professor, and therefore am not using this for career advancement. One of my main motivations was to gain significant business, and leadership skills in order to effectively communicate with senior management, and understand issues like strategy, investment management, supply chain, digital transformation and finance. I also wanted to use the MBA to improve my own clinical service delivery and personal development, and as an adjunctive tool for research. I would therefore hope to take a larger role in clinical leadership in the hospital setting and use it to improve healthcare delivery and to advocate on behalf of my department.

How would you spend your ideal day off?

With 3 kids and a busy household and career, there is no such thing as a day off as I’m taxiing kids to training, working or doing research, but if such a thing existed it would involve the following:

  • Send the kids and pets down to their grandparents the night before
  • Wake up really late at 8:30am. Brew some fresh coffee and go down to the store to get some fresh bread for breakfast with my better half
  • Lounge around the sitting room reading a newspaper and/or tinkering around on the piano for the morning
  • Go out for lunch with my wife and then browse a few shops and have a couple of coffees with her
  • Watch some tv for the afternoon, and then go for a walk and just chat and catch up
  • Go out for a nice meal and a glass of wine (and get a taxi home)
  • Aim to be in bed super early for about 11pm

What’s the best piece of advice you ever got from a boss or co-worker?

A former division chief (and friend) of mine once told me that no matter how good, popular or productive you are, there will always be someone you can’t please, and will never like you. Don’t be so naïve to think that everyone you meet or work with will want to be your friend. The important thing is to be true to yourself, make your own luck, and build strong friendships based on loyalty and mutual respect. 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your MBA?

I would definitely have loved to have known that I was not simply an imposter starting the MBA. I felt a huge level of uncertainty and anxiety as I had no business acumen. Smurfit is a great leveller of backgrounds. No matter where you have come from, your knowledge will be built from the ground up.

What’s one thing none of your MBA classmates know about you?

We’ve all gotten to know each other reasonably well online and in-person. Many of my interests you could probably guess from my profile, or social media. However what you won’t find is that I really love 80’s/90’s karaoke with a couple of drinks! I’ve got some firm crowd pleasers.

What inspired you to volunteer to serve as class rep?

I’ve really been continuously involved with university education since 1998 when I left school. I’ve been lucky enough on many occasions to serve as class rep, faculty convener, students union, sports union, chief surgical resident, hospital committees  etc. I have a reasonable understanding of the role, am used to advocating, and tend to be fairly direct. It wasn’t a huge jump to be a class rep in Smurfit. Furthermore, my class colleagues are a great bunch, so it’s a privilege to be able to help them in any way I can.

Fardod O’Kelly, Executive MBA Class of 2022