My Exciting Smurfit MBA Journey So Far

I have worked as a mechanical engineer within the power industry for the past 17 years and decided to do the full-time MBA to build on my business experience. Although I have only completed the first semester so far, I can already say that the UCD Smurfit MBA course provides an excellent set of business tools and has already opened many opportunities. 

It was a bit daunting to get back into student life after so long away, but the orientation week and support from the college made the process seamless. The classes are small, so you get a great chance to develop a bond with each class and can easily interact with the professors.

ken-at-berkeleyI have had some great experiences in the MBA. I got the amazing opportunity to participate in the GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) week at Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley–you can learn more about that week here.

I currently interact with students throughout the world via an online course on Corporate Entrepreneurship at EGADE business school at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, which is also facilitated by GNAM.

The UCD MBA Entrepreneurship Club, which I serve as a board member, has proved to be a great opportunity. The college has assembled an advisory board from government agencies, SMEs, and start-ups, to provide connections for the club members. We have arranged one event so far that brought in Conor Hanley to give us a fascinating talk about his entrepreneurial adventures within the medical device arena.

students-with-ambassadorIn November, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Edward F. Crawford visited the Smurfit campus to speak about his fascinating entrepreneurial journey. He met specifically with members of the Entrepreneurship Club before the presentation.

Participation in the MBA includes access to Executive Coaching and an assigned business mentor. I am taking full advantage of both options. The coach acts as a sounding board and offers help with my career direction. The mentor, provided through Career Services, is an experienced UCD alumni from the power industry, so will be another great resource.  

I have also arranged to put what I’ve learned in the MBA directly into practice by providing some consultancy work to an energy company based in UCD’s start-up hub UCD Nova.

As the MBA programme at Smurfit has an international focus, I am preparing for a trip to Argentina next month for the hands-on ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ module. In June, we’ll travel to Lisbon, Portugal for a week of consulting assignments with local businesses.

I could not more highly recommend the UCD Smurfit MBA. It provides an exceptional opportunity to build your business and personal skills, while becoming part of an extensive alumni family. 

Kenneth Power, FTMBA 2019-2020

How Negotiation Helped Me Turn one Wheel into a Whole Bike

How can you use an MBA to help you negotiate the price of an old bike?

The answer is, simply, by enrolling in one of the many electives offered as part of the UCD Smurfit MBA program: “Managing the Negotiation Process”. Personally, I always felt that I am not very good at negotiation; but after attending this course, I feel more and more confident about my abilities as a negotiator. 

Experiential learning in Negotiation class.
Experiential learning in Negotiation class.

The course’s first pillar is to build self-awareness about our strengths, weaknesses, biases, and even the myths in which we believe. After doing my first self-reflection for the module, I found out that I am described as a ‘satisfier’, which means that I am not too ambitious when engaging in negotiation. I focus too much on being fair, thus letting the other party get the bigger piece of the pie.  

“You Need to Be Either Tough or Soft” ;  “Good Negotiators Are Born”; “Good Negotiators Take Risks”;  “Good Negotiators Rely on Intuition”: here are some examples of the myths in which I believed in the past, and which I now know are wrong. The course helped me understand myself as well as improve  my negotiation skills.

Many people think that negotiation is all about instinct, but it is also wrong. Negotiation is a logical process. The second pillar of the course is to give us a clear analytical process which if followed correctly should lead to a Win-Win situation. Yes, a Win-Win situation! Many people think that a successful negotiation should be a Win-Loss: False. A Win-Loss situation is usually unsustainable, especially if it is with a supplier, a client, or even a partner.

After my bike was stolen, I decided to buy another one, because riding is one of the most efficient means of transportation in Dublin. My criteria were that the bike should look as old as possible to avoid being stolen again, and that it should have a fair price. I found what I was looking for in a bike store downtown. The only issue was that it was priced twice the budget that I had planned for. Thus, I decided to apply my newly acquired negotiation skills. 

One of the first things that I learnt is that negotiation is never a fixed pie. It is a variable pie. Therefore, I was looking to expand the pie, so both the shopkeeper and I can find a win in the situation. While discussing with the shopkeeper, I shared with him information that completely changed the course of the negotiation: I told him that I still had the tire of my old bike. For me, the tire had zero value; but the shopkeeper had a different perception of the same tire. He probably can use it to repair other old bikes, or sell it as it is.  

This example perfectly shows that a negotiation is not a fixed sum and that a

Win-Win.
Win-Win.

Win-Win situation may arise if both parties are open to communicating effectively. Knowing from my first self-reflection exercise that I am a ‘satisfier’, I decided to maximize my part of the pie as well and accept the deal only if the shopkeeper cut the price by half, which – happily – he did.

Therefore, I was able to apply the process I learned during the module in one of the simplest negotiations of our daily life–and it worked. That is how the MBA helped me negotiate the price of my bike.

The MBA gives you a new set of lenses so you can see the world differently. The skills that we gain apply not only in the  business world, but also in our daily life.

Yassine Jelassi, Full-time MBA 2019-2020

From the Newsroom to the Boardroom, as told to Business Because

If you’re reading the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School blog, chances are you’re thinking about how an MBA can help you progress in your current career–or find an entirely new one.

A UCD Smurfit MBA alumna recently talked to MBA Guidance website Business Because about how her degree helped her transition from her journalism career to a position in the sustainable energy industry.

edel-kennedy-headshot

After years as a journalist at the Independent, Edel Kennedy was ready to bring her storytelling and communications skills to the business arena. In order to do that, she needed to enhance those skills with training in areas such as accounting, finance, and business strategy.

Edel completed her studies in 2015 and now serves as Head of Marketing at UrbanVolt, a ‘full solution sustainability partner’ that works with large companies to help them rapidly reduce their carbon footprints.

You can read more about Edel’s journey from the newsroom to the boardroom here!

California Dreaming: The GNAM Video

To complement Siún’s introspective diary in the previous post, our UCBerkeley GNAM students Siún Tobin, Grace Bergin, and Kenneth Power have documented their Northern California week in an edited video describing their experiences and what they learned:

The Classified Series from Berkeley Haas’s magazine recently interviewed Siún for an article about the week, titled ‘Teaching Students to Think like Entrepreneurs and Investors‘. Clearly still flying high from her exchange experience, Siún told the paper, ‘Now I feel like the sky’s the limit.’

My GNAM Diary: A Week at Berkeley School of Business

A hidden benefit of doing a full-time MBA in UCD Smurfit comes in the form of GNAM week. “GNAM”, or Global Network for Advanced Management, is a network of leading global business schools who aim to drive innovation and create value by connecting with one another and sharing resources with their stakeholders over a week-long exchange in October.

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-43Of the 20-odd schools offered, the programme entitled ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ in the Berkeley School of Business blew me away. I was like a child on Christmas morning finding out that I had been accepted into this programme, which promoted itself as a deep dive into the Silicon Valley Innovation Ecosystem.

Prior to the program, we were assigned to groups and allocated an emerging Silicon Valley start-up company: in my case, water quality monitoring device firm “Osmobot”. I looked forward to a total immersion into the world of innovation and investment through the eyes of a start-up entrepreneur, hoping that by the end of the week long program, I would have a better sense of which identity—investor or entrepreneur—best suited me.

Arriving and Acclimatizing 

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-50After approximately 8 hours in transit from Dublin, Ken and I landed in Berkeley on Friday afternoon. The chill vibes of California’s student district were exactly what we needed to decompress after a busy 6 weeks of MBA_hood in UCD. The next day’s sparkling sunshine saw us through a walking tour of Berkeley campus–where I hugged a golden bear and got the impression that studying in Ireland could not hold a candle to the US experience. We concluded the day in the campus’s botanic gardens, where I particularly enjoyed the ‘medicinal gardens’, reminding me of my forsaken profession as a pharmacist. Ken reckoned the exhibits weren’t a patch on the Glasnevin equivalent. Sunday’s light hangover dissolved over brunch with our classmate Grace, who lured me out of Berkeley and onto a bike in San Francisco. It is hard to describe the feeling: freewheeling along the water’s edge in brilliant sunshine, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background!

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-42Day One 

After a jovial welcome reception in Haas School of Business on Sunday evening, we presented eagerly for breakfast and our first lectures on Monday morning. We spent the first half of the day focusing on entrepreneurship, customer identification, and company adaptation, while second half introduced us to Venture Capitalism. Practical examples from the faculty’s own experiences complemented detailed theory.

8ccd4e6f-ec6e-4a8e-aafe-33471ab4ace1Day Two 

Tuesday morning commenced with detailed and structured exploration of our allocated start-ups. Later, Professor David Charron interviewed a panel of venture capitalists from the Bay Area, who explained some hard truths about their careers–including expensive mistakes and missed opportunities.

The afternoon stole the show for me. Hopping on a luxury bus and heading downtown to San Francisco, we enjoyed some free time during which we made a visit to Union Square. Thereafter, we went to meet successful start-up, Ginger.io, which deals with mental ill-health using a tech platform, and met founder Karan Singh. We next went to tech super-power Salesforce’s office. Their luxurious office block—resembling a mini-theme park with friendly mascots and animal-themed merchandise on sale in their entrance area–dazzled even the locals among us.

Day Three 

During a lecture on building consumer profiles, Professor introduced the concept of diverging and converging: building ideas individually, and then bringing them together, towards improving a team’s creativity.

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-451While Monday and Tuesday had ignited my entrepreneurial gusto, the introduction to VC demonstrated that when it comes to investment, the investor tends to have the stronger hand. This stimulated two streams of thought. Firstly, perhaps being a VC is in fact a lower risk pursuit than being an entrepreneur? and secondly, being a good entrepreneur actually necessitates having a good understanding of investment models.

 Day Four 

On Thursday morning Stephen from Catering introduced me to the purple potato, which he served with other exotic varieties, seasoned and roasted – an awakening for my Irish taste buds, though I have long identified as a “potato expert”.

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-461In class, Dr. Vivek Rao guided us through refining the value proposition of a company – namely by assessing its desirability, viability and feasibility. From Vivek’s lively session, I understood how the “who” the product/service is just as important as the “how”.

Day Five 

Friday was the day the light shone on our diligent assignment work and presentation planning. We each pitched our classmates (“investors”) for fictious investment in our allocated start-up companies. We made a hard sell for our shrimp farm water-quality monitor (Osmobot). After 5 days of exploring founder Zach Stein’s product and business plan, I felt genuine passion towards the Osmobot and confidence regarding its future prospects. My classmates appeared marginally less convinced than my teammates and I, and we received no direct offer of $5 million for our proposed 20% company share!

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-46

I was fascinated by the concept that as both an entrepreneur and a VC, you are constantly placing bets. From my cosy life as a pharmacist, where actions are generally deemed right or wrong by legislation, I felt an explosion of excitement at the risk involved in pursuing either entrepreneurship or VC. My risk-averse life experiences initially inclined me towards VC, but what really invigorated me was the concept of growing a simple idea into a business with the potential to have an exponential impact on the world.

The week concluded with a self-reflection session lead by Sara where we focused on “designing a life you love”. In a team setting, we explored our values and motivators as well as our view of work and of the world. Though challenging at times, this session ultimately provided clarity of thought. The humanity and morality of my classmates shone through. I shocked myself by shedding a few tears, in mourning for the meaningful work in healthcare that I have put on hold as I advance into the unknown of life beyond an MBA.

Final Ponderings 

photo-2019-11-06-14-55-48From exemplary lecturing and first-hand encounters with successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, to sharing state of the art facilities with a group of 49 other MBA students, there was nothing not to love about the whole Berkeley Haas experience. Returning to Ireland, I feel as though little seeds of ideas are beginning to sprout in my mind. Suddenly, anything feels possible as an entrepreneur. When I make my success in business, I know I will think of my GNAM experience as the week when the scope of life’s possibilities opened in front of me.

Siún Tobin, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

I was wrong.

img20191103104240

It all began so calmly. Eager and well-dressed, we met for the first time in the main hall of the business school campus. Flags of the world decorated the ceiling above us as we scanned the room with anticipation and nerves. There were a lot of suits in various shades of dark blue –these were MBA students.

I made it!

img20191025214916

I used to believe the beginning of something is always the hardest. If you can survive the first day –you’re half-way there. I left the first day of foundation week, with a relaxed-looking half-filled schedule and real excitement about the people I met. This MBA thing is going to be ok, easy, I got this.

I was wrong!

The second day arrived, and it was in my first Financial Reporting class that I realized how very wrong I had been. As the week continued, I grappled with the fact my Philosophy degree would not help me build a Balance Sheet. Turns out, I was not half-way there. In fact, “there” seemed to be very far away.

The weeks continued and my half-filled schedule took on a very different dimension, filling up with wonderous-sounding (although totally mysterious) activities like “Presenting for Success”.

img-20191104-wa0018Two months up; two exams down; two presentations out, four assignments in; a thousand Irish raindrops survived; and having discovered new grey hair—can’t turn back now.

img-20191103-wa0017As I write today, braced for the avalanche of upcoming deliverables, I know that I am not the same person that arrived on the first day. Certainly, I am less naïve (less arrogant). The UCD MBA is not easy—it is substantial. In addition to the practical tools gained, it is pushing me to grow and confront my own nature. Would not have guessed that I’d do an MBA to realize I’m a Panther-Peacock. Uncomfortable, but also true. I didn’t imagine that the MBA would be a crash course in team work. I certainly didn’t imagine that I’d join the rugby club.

img-20191026-wa0005As the only loud African woman in my class I also could not have imagined the kindness and support I have experienced here: the exceptional people I have met and the genuine friendships I have made. I am incredibly luckily that I will suffer, and survive, the remaining ten months of this program with a wonderful mix of people. It will not be easy and it will certainly be rainy but I am ready. We got this!

img-20191018-wa0010Sláinte all my Panther-Peacock-Dolphin-Owls… but NOT the Ostriches

Kendi M’Mbijjewe, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

Making Connections

A couple weeks before we were set to begin orientation week, we were able to submit our preferences for the mysterious “GNAM.” We were to spend a week in October away from our regularly scheduled programming, attending a course at a member school belonging to the Global Network for Advanced Management. We received our placements quickly, and just as quickly forgot about them, as classes started in earnest. After all, we had studying and assignments to think about!

Sure enough, the time came for us to head to our respective corners of the globe to gather with other MBAs and complete the modules we had chosen two months prior. Our classmates attended sessions at ESTM in Germany, Koç University Graduate School of Business in Turkey, Haas School of Business in the US, UBC Sauder School of Business in Canada, Fudan University School of Management in China, and a strong contingency stayed to participate in the course at Smurfit. I was among four Smurfit students who spent our week at Yale in the US, learning about the Behavioural Science of Management.

To say it was an incredible week would be an understatement. We received five lectures from leading professors in the field, whose topics ranged from Making Better Decisions Using Behavioral Science to Negotiating Mindsets. Mid-week we visited an investment firm in a nearby town and learned about Behavioural Finance: how psychology affects investors and the markets or financial analysts, and subsequently, the markets. Most importantly, we shared the experience with our new friends from around the world. We spent our evenings socialising, and those from Ireland got a taste of life in America. One of our Irish friends even tried his first fried pickle.

Many of the other attendees were nearing the ends of their programmes and getting ready to start the next phase of their professional careers. They understood the hard work of doing an MBA and the mindset it required. They gave us advice, encouragement, and a window into our near futures. At the end of the week, we promised to visit each other soon, connected on LinkedIn, and then Instagram, because LinkedIn felt too stiff and professional for the bonds we had forged. Despite having only spent a week together, I have no doubt that we will continue to be part of each other’s professional and personal networks as we move onto the rest of the MBA and through our careers.

 

Bailey Talkington, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

 

Go Explore!

An MBA degree is not just about classroom and networking. We are currently on a one-year-break from our career and life, to decide on what we should do on the next ten. It is now the time to explore choices, long-term-plans and places; and talking about places, Ireland has the best to offer.

County Wicklow is a approximately 1-hour drive from Blackrock and it hosts a very beautiful and amazing landscape. Nothing else beats driving to the countryside on the weekend alongside some friends, to look at the lush green scenery and clear blue sky. For international students, you could rent a go car and find someone who has an international license. That worked well for us.

Our trip started by driving to Glendalough to visit the alluring upper lake. The weather was fortunately not too cold and the sky was clear all day long. We took pictures on the bank of the lake, started our hike uphill, and reached the mountain top to enjoy the dazzling view from a different perspective.

img20191006130028

00000portrait_00000_burst20191006135440543

We then drove on a scenic drive route via Sally Gap to visit Powerscourt Waterfall, the highest waterfall in Ireland. The park closes at 6 and we were a bit late when we arrived there. However, that did not stop us from running our way to the foot of the waterfall and having a good time in the park. A lady who lived nearby said that we could swim on the river above and it was a very cozy place to have BBQ with family and friends. I will definitely come there again to explore those options.

img20191006165721

Exhausted but satisfied, we ended our journey with a delicious dinner in Bray. Afterwards, we walked along the coast line while watching the sun set on the horizon. What an incredible journey!

img20191006181422

Erik Hormein, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

Taking Care of Yourself

Moving to another country isn’t easy. Even if you speak the language, there’s a new city and culture to learn as you leave your old life behind. You’ll get a room but it won’t be home, not yet. No art on the walls, no books you’ve had forever, a different view out the window. Now, moving is exciting, don’t get me wrong! Everyone talks about the fun parts or the big challenges (visa, housing, etc), but it can be stressful in 1000 little ways.

In case it wasn’t clear, I moved to Dublin for the Smurfit MBA – in fact, I had never been to Ireland! Oh, I’d travelled before, but I was still nervous even with my friends promising I’d love it (they were right, btw). I wasn’t dealing with a language barrier (more or less, good luck pronouncing Irish place names), but everything else was totally new. And it was exciting! It’s something I wanted to do since I was a kid, but it’s also much easier said than done.

qb-pic-1Welcome to Ireland, have some rain

Anxiety kicked in even before I moved, and the best solution I’ve found is to make a plan and make it detailed. If you don’t know something, look it up! Absolutely reach out to the Smurfit admissions/international office, but don’t forget other sources of information. Someone’s moved from your country to Ireland, is there a forum post on it? Check out your State Department’s website or your local Irish Consulate, especially for esoteric questions! Maybe your doctor can help with meds/vaccination/etc planning. Have previous students dealt with your issues before? Is there stuff to eat here that fits your diet? Are there accommodations for your disability? Will you fit in and be accepted, especially if you’re not a majority demographic? And on and on.

The benefit of planning is that when (not if!) the unexpected happens, you’ll already have knowledge and resources you can draw on. But I won’t lie, it can be overwhelming at times, and it’s that overwhelming I want to help you with.

qb-pic-2

You said it, random Dublin trashcan

I don’t know your situation, but I can tell you this: if you’re moving to another country, by yourself, to spend a year with 30 other students, be busy as all hell, and face the job market on the other side, you are officially a badass. And, since badasses can hear hard truths, I’ll say this: you won’t survive on willpower alone.

An MBA in another country is a stressful, busy, hectic, and anxiety-inducing endeavour as much as it is a fun, exciting, amazing, and novel one! When everything is crazy, PLEASE remember to take care of yourself. You cannot face the day on an empty stomach, with little sleep, if you’re off your meds, skipping exercise, ignoring your routine, or any other way you practice self care.

qb-pic-3

Team brunch is self care, right?


If you are someone who loves people, do not make the mistake I did and stay in your room all week before classes – get out, go downtown, go walk around a park! It’ll likely be summer when you get here, take advantage while it lasts! You don’t even have to talk to anyone, being around other people will lift your spirits. If you recharge away from people, take the time to get your room just the way you like it – put that art on the wall, get a duvet that’s extra comfy, rearrange your room, and afterwards go for a quiet walk somewhere green. While you build your support network here, don’t forget everyone back home who said they’d help you out. Yeah, there will likely be some serious time differences, but that’s the beauty of texting or snapchat: people can catch up anytime! Asking someone to talk if you’re feeling down isn’t weakness, it’s strength. <3

Above all, don’t forget – you’re in a new place and isn’t it awesome?? Why not find ways to make the most of it! Miss your pet? Maybe there’s a dog park or cat cafe around. Miss someone’s home cooking? I’m sure there’s a hole-in-the-wall family restaurant just waiting for you to sit down and chat with the server over something delicious. Bummed out by the grey weather? Make a point to get outside, even if just for a bit, every day – the sun still shines through the clouds (PS: if you’re not used to dark grey winters, get yourself a full-spectrum lamp. “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is real).

qb-pic-4

     After the storm you get rainbows – cliche, but true (seen after hurricane lorenzo)

I’ve only been here 2 months and already this program is a roller coaster. I’ve been happy, I’ve been stressed, I’ve stayed in my room eating pizza and I’ve gone out and found a new bar with new friends in old rain. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We don’t ride roller coasters because they’re tame, we ride them because fear turns into exhilaration and fun.

qb-pic-5

We’re cheering you on, you got this <3



QB Quinones-Bangs, Full-Time MBA 2019 – 2020

Whack-A-Mole

I remember saying to one of my classmates on the Tuesday of the second week “I can’t believe that I’ve only known you for eight days!”. Many of the MBA graduates I had spoken to before I started in August had told me about the close bonds formed with MBA classmates, but the speed at which it happened still took me by surprise. We’re into our sixth week now and we laugh and joke with each other like childhood friends.

But the introductory weeks are well and truly over now and while we’ve settled into our study groups, I’m starting to realise that the MBA is like a year-long game of whack-a-mole, but with projects, exams and adventures instead of moles. The GNAM week is just one week away, our first exams loom the following week and master plans for the MBA clubs are firing left and right.

GNAM will see our class disperse to universities across the world, attending one-week courses in fellow Global Network business schools. I’m delighted to be going to Berkeley, while classmates are heading to destinations including Yale, Shanghai, Berlin and Madrid. Though I don’t think I’ll be alone in bringing my books along for financial reporting and economics in preparation for our exams in the following week! The MBA clubs are off to a flying start and plans are afoot for events from golf to rugby to entrepreneurship talks.

There is so much opportunity in the MBA programme and even now, just six weeks in, while there’s no doubt that the marathon has well and truly begun and sleep is a distant memory, the prospect of learning so much, with so many wonderful people over the next 11 months is an exciting prospect.

grace-bergin-pic-1

Grace Bergin, Full Time MBA 2019-2020