I was wrong.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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     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.

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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.

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Grace Bergin, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

 

Presentation Skills Session with Paul A. Slattery & the Team

“Omne Trium Perfectum’

This is the rule of three, which states that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying or effective than other numbers.

For example;

  • 1 second pause during the presentation speech helps the audience to hear,
  • 2 second pause helps them to process, and
  • 3 second pause helps them to feel

And remember, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

  • With 1 second eye contact, they know
  • With 2 second eye contact, they see
  • And with 3 second eye contact, they feel

Any eye contact of more than 3 seconds becomes a stare and gets creepy.. :-P

That’s one of the many lessons we learned from our session with the presentation skills team which includes three members Paul A. Slattery, Marie Lord and Ilaria Dondero

The team is led by Paul, who is the Founder & Managing Director of NxtGEN and an adjunct lecturer of the MBA leadership development program at UCD Michael Smurfit Business School.

I am sure some people would agree that it is a difficult task attending lectures from 9 AM to 6 PM, let’s not even talk about attending a single lecture for 9 hours. We had such a session with this team on 18th of September 2019.

But the time flew like a falcon and the session was over before we knew it. Various tricks used by the team during the presentation kept everyone at the edge of their seats and energetic during the whole session, like repeating sayings and famous quotes together as one group and several mindfulness exercises, such as, sitting on the edge of the seat and deep breathing, pattern claps, stand and celebrate like you just won the race of a lifetime etc.

This one-day session had a massive impact on all of us as we improved in different aspects. The whole session went by in a flash and at the end of it we were looking for even more. I guess Paul was completely drained  from the day though as we had to carry him on our back for the group photo.

…..And I would not blame him. After all, it’s not an easy task moulding half-baked pots.

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Lalit Saini, Full Time MBA 2019-2020 

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue

These are the four objects that a bride is traditionally supposed to carry on her wedding day to bring good luck. Whilst an MBA is not yet considered one of the seven sacraments, the lucky 31 entrants to this year’s full-time programme certainly felt some wedding style jitters as they took the obligatory selfie by the front doors on the first day “back to school.” This was a solemn commitment that we were making for better or worse until August 2020 do us part.

Stretching the analogy, a bit further:

Something old   – It has been a number of years since most classmates left full time studies. The first couple of weeks saw the muscle memories slowly return – mounting assignments, stacks of readings and missed deadlines all came flooding back. From a personal point of view the greatest difference between the MBA and previous studies was quickly revealed as a focus and reliance on group work – more in tune with real world. As a result, I can now look forward to the fact that I won’t be consuming the €70 of fresher’s week Supermacs vouchers in isolation.

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                                                         Foundation Week with Orangeworks

Something new – in a wedding sense, this refers to optimism for the future and is apt to the MBA programme. Very quickly during the ice-breaking sessions of Foundation week, we found that there was a huge spread of skills and backgrounds throughout the class. Interesting people with interesting backgrounds. This was a key draw to the programme from a personal point of view and is a unique opportunity to work across cultures and disciplines.  Group think isn’t an option when the group is comprised of such a spread of folks.

Something borrowed – this symbolises borrowed happiness – whilst perhaps too romantic a notion to place on course material such as “Financial Reporting”, it does capture that as full-time students we’ve hit pause on careers to sit back and take stock with the goal of being unleashed in 12 months wiser, more efficient and more impactful.

Something blue – this can only refer to Dublin. 5-in-a-row Dublin as our international classmates quickly learned in Coppers. For close on 50% of the class, this is the first time to immerse themselves in one of the great cities of Europe. A city that has given Joyce & Guinness to the world.  As we learned during Business economics it also gave the double Irish tax treatment to the world prompting the ire of a multiple of acronyms including CCTB and BEPS.

Unlike most great weddings, our reception was held in Bray Bowling alley and it was a BYOB affair. Chat and warm beer were flowing in equal measures and it was clear that the initial goals of the program had been achieved. A disparate group had bonded and was looking forward to the year ahead. The honeymoon is over and the feared MBA stone is on the horizon.

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                                                                                                 Class Night Out 

Martin Naughton, FT MBA 19-20

 

Céad Míle Fáilte!

Just three weeks ago I was sitting in a flight, travelling half way across the globe leaving the security of everything familiar and friendly. Choosing to do an MBA is definitely a huge step both for your professional and personal growth. This decision making can be exhausting, exasperating and confusing. It was the same for me a year ago, and these are the words I lived by; ‘Go as far as you can see; when you get there you’ll be able to see farther’. Getting into UCD Smurfit was nothing short of a dream and every day since my induction week makes me proud of the decision I took.

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First Morning of MBA Foundation Week 

Three weeks have passed in a blur, starting off with a welcome lunch for international students, followed by the hectic induction week. We had sessions on Finance, Data Analytics, Persuasive Writing, Leading Cross Cultural teams to name a very few.  Each giving us insight into what would be in store for us in the coming year. Every session is a testament to the globally diverse international experience that the Smurfit  MBA is going to be. We also had several interactive group sessions such as the Die Trainers Business simulation and Orangeworks Peak Performance that got us networking with the rest of the class as well as the Executive MBA class. At the end of week one we had progressed to friends from just classmates.

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MBA Welcome Reception

Diversity and international experience are not just mere words here. In less than a month of joining the MBA program we are already gearing up for the GNAM week where we get to spend a week in a  prestigious university of our choice. We get to choose from international universities like Yale, ESMT – Berlin, IE – Spain, University of California Berkeley,  Fudan University – China etc. We are already looking forward to the two international consulting projects that are coming up in 2020. Apart from this, every single classmate of mine comes with their own unique background. We have the whole palette from medics to engineers to musicians. It just translates to thirty more sources of corporate experience, information and perspective to go with from our distinguished faculty.

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Night Out  with Classmates

Putting aside all the academic and career aspects, Ireland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And there is so much to explore and experience here. So my suggestion to everyone, keep a list of the places you want to see and make use of the sunny days (which I’ve been told is not going to last much longer).

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Scenic Views of the Irish Coastline

Sreelakshmy Koonath, Full Time MBA 2019-2020

 

The Final Hurdle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lydia Collis, Full Time MBA 2018-2019

Vroooooming in Lisbon…!

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

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

Arnab Roy (FT MBA ’19)