A pleasant surprise

While I was deciding whether or not to do an MBA, and where, one of the things I considered was the ranking of Smurfit (recently up 78th worldwide in the FT and 31st worldwide in The Economist.) I also thought about the academic content of the programme and the anecdotal reputation of the School.

One thing I didn’t give too much notice to was the specific careers and personal development day that we have every Friday. This day focuses on each student as an individual, and leading professionals from the worlds of neurolingustic programming, personality type testing and time management are brought in to share their specialist knowledge with us. The process is highly interactive, and generally gives very good and personalised feedback to the students. The results are that after less than two terms, most fellow MBA students now have a good idea about their inner drives, specific skill sets and even in what types of career their personal motivators would be most likely to be satisfied.

There’s even a one on one personal coach set up for students to discuss anything they like, in my case how to best network nationally and internationally and how to best target specific career opportunities. It could just as easily be used by the student to talk about their personal experiences on the course, additional help they need or confidential issues they may have.

The whole area of personal development, whilst something a lot of people will have some experience with, takes on a whole new dimension of usefulness when it’s a full time integrated subject. For me, it’s been one of the standout experiences of the course so far.

– Andrew Higgins

Challenges and rewards

Smurfit came to me as a predestined affinity.

Thirsty for knowledge and further management development after several years working experiences, I tried to find an opportunity for MBA. Scholarship was the only feasible option for a candidate from an emerging country, like myself. And I found Smurfit and Irish Aid.

However, I was not that lucky to be selected for the scholarship. After several challenges and fierce struggles, I thought that I would give up. However, thanks to the encouragement of my fiancé, who is my husband now, I decided to go forward with the program without waiting for any other opportunities. I came to the school with mixed feelings where I felt both anxious and worried. Deep thoughts normally occupied my mind during the initial time. I only looked forward to gaining as much knowledge as possible to make up my efforts. My husband, and also my classmate ;), was the only place I could put all pressures on during those days.

Gradually, things have changed. Going along with the program, I get used to the culture and study load, I feel more comfortable now, not only in study but in social life as well. I have friends who I can talk with. Not only my husband, but I now also have Germany, US, Kyrgyzstan, Indian and Irish gals who have the same concerns with mine about the programs, life, etc. I started to approach lectures and program more softly. The presentation ways, communication methods, how to realize true facts from daily news, etc. are more valuable to me now. Besides studying, I go here and there to discover Ireland. I know more Irish and react better in specific situations both in and out the classroom ;). Especially, when Tet, the biggest event of Vietnamese, came, my Vietnamese friends and I had all classmates and lecturers to come to enjoy Tet atmostphere with special dishes and images prepared by ourselves. In Pillar Room with special smell of my mother land’s foods, we all shared the enthusiasm and I really felt I was home at that time. “All wishes may come true to all of us” was my prayer for a new year.

Time flies. It has been almost three terms. I am now more confident with what I have gained from the program and eager to be back to my home country to apply to reality.

And finally, “no life with full of roses”, a Chinese sentence, meaning to live is to take both rewards (roses) and challenges. But on my own perspective, challenges are also “roses”. MBA and my peers are beautiful roses that I have enjoyed.

Anh Pham, FT MBA Class

Multinational friends
Multinational friends - I'm the second from the left

Tet event
Me with Prof Pat Gibbons at Tet
Visiting Connemara

Smurfit MBA visits Barretstown for International Childhood Cancer Day

Yesterday, my colleague Michael McDonnell and myself were invited to Barretstown to mark the annual International Childhood Cancer Day.

President McAleese visits Barretstown
President McAleese addresses Barretstown supporters

For 17 years Barretstown Castle has been the center for the Barretstown foundation’s work with and for children with life-threatening illnesses. For the past three years, the Smurfit MBA has adopted Barretstown as their charity.

Speaking at the event yesterday was Ireland’s President Mary McAleese, who delivered a very touching and personal speech, starting of by saying that ‘childhood’ and ‘cancer’ are two words that does not sit well together and commending the work Barretstown does to show children and their families that they are not in this alone.

One of the speakers, an 18-year old cancer survivor spoke about how Barretstown had helped her restore her confidence after her illness and that the Barretstown Castle was like a Hogwarts of the real world.

Good news came from consultant paediatric haematologist Prof Owen Smith who said the prognosis for childhood cancers was getting better with every year and that there was now a 85 per cent overall cure rate, rising to 90 to 95 per cent for those with childhood leukaemia.

On average three children every week in Ireland are diagnosed with cancer, about a third of them with leukaemia so the need for places like Barretstown is in great demand.

One of the fundraising initiatives for the Smurfit MBA Charity Club this year is to participate in the BUPA 10K Run for Ireland through Phoenix Park, all in support of Barretstown.

Recently, the UCD Smurfit MBA Rugby Club was selected as one of 200 clubs, by the Irish Daily Mail, to participate in their Kit for Kids promotion and the Smurfit MBA Rugby Club will similarly donate the kit to Barretstown.

If you are interested in helping the Smurfit MBA Rugby Club and Barretstown, you may drop in or send your Daily Mail tokens to the MBA Office at the UCD Smurfit School in  Blackrock.

– Rikke Budolfsen, MBA Programme Manager

A bunch of thoughts

Thoughts on the MBA Programme

Time flies, and in 5-6 months we will finish our course… Actually we’ve got only 2 weeks of regular lectures left. And then exams, international trip, and we will all go in different directions – first for doing an individual company projects, and then back to “real life”.

As I realized how close we are to the finish line, a whole bunch of thoughts came into my mind. The following are the main ones “bothering” me.

These next few weeks are our last dash in regards of regular lectures and exams, and we need to be extremely concentrated and work on maximum capacity.

Company project is a chance to experiment. For example, if you are a boring banker, who is secretly passionate about music, you have a chance to make a project for a music company.

And finally, the biggest question is What am I going to do after finishing the course? I have described my thoughts on this issue in the previous blog. And now it becomes more and more important.

So, you can see how many thoughts are going at the same time in my mind. As a result I feel like have no right even for a short break. I have ambitiously registered for three option/elective courses instead of standard two. So my lecture schedule keeps me busy over the week. Group meetings are taking place almost every evening after the lectures. And weekends are devoted to preparing individual assignments. No wonder that I have less time for socializing… However, tomorrow I am going to a walking trip to Dublin Mountains, yay!

–  Nargiza Kalmamatova

Back to work preparation

My MBA class’  return to the labour market is several months off yet, but it is something that is on everyone’s mind (well, that and our international trips to China or Brazil!)

In years past, Smurfit graduates have always done extremely well gaining full employment after three months from graduation. But in these more chastened times, when even a Vanity Fair reporter scoffs at our country’s past spending excesses, the confidence that one might have approached the jobs market has evaporated, and in its place a dire sinking feeling.

But all is not lost. We are given every opportunity and tool to equip us for the daunting task of winning our dream role.

Mock Interviews: Getting it right before the first time

Continue reading Back to work preparation

Mind-boggling how time flies

It seems like the MBA has just started and it’s the middle of term 3 already! Time just flies in this course. Readings, assignments, research and group meetings take away all your time. Sometimes when I look back at the week gone by, I wonder how is it possible to cover what we covered in that week. But nonetheless, we did! What makes this possible is not the classes, but the preparation for the classes that we are expected to do. Before we enter the class, we already have an opinion on what will be discussed in class. The class is more of a 2 hour debate and learning, rather than just sitting and attending it. That makes all the background reading so essential or else one will just sit in the class, completely lost!

The case based courses are my personal favourites. The class brings out so many angles and aspects of a case which I am sure a single person wouldn’t be able to think off. There is that definite 180º divide in opinions but the interesting part is all the middle degrees. When something countering your opinion seems so right, you can’t help but get boggled. Continue reading Mind-boggling how time flies

More than an MBA

Irish hospitality is the stuff legends are made of! Indeed, one of the highlights for an international student on the Smurfit MBA is the opportunity to experience Ireland alongside a group of remarkably welcoming Irish nationals, coming from what seems to be every square inch of the island. This aspect of the program would naturally be missing from the Smurfit brochures, but I can assure you that myself and the other international students – comprising 50% of our overall group and coming from the US, Canada, India, The Netherlands, Germany, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan – have been so grateful for the way our Irish counterparts have received us.

An example of this legendary hospitality came over the winter holiday when my wife and I were invited to spend Christmas in the west of Ireland with my classmate and fellow blogger, Christopher Kitchin, on his family’s sheep farm!
In order to appreciate the uniqueness of this experience, it’s imperative that I mention how I’ve often been described as ‘the epitome of an urbanite.’ Christmas on the farm provided me with the opportunity to break away from this description as I set aside my affinity for cement and tall buildings to feed sheep, ride a Quad bike, collect firewood, picnic on the beach, and sleep in a house that was built over 100 years before my state was founded (how’s that for history?!)! More important to the experience than any of those details was the opportunity to spend Christmas with a group of remarkable people, and the graciousness with which our hosts welcomed us into their home and traditions. Needless to say, Christmas with the Kitchin family was a one of a kind experience for a city boy from the States!

Check out some pictures below…

~Patrick Hillis

Walking on the farm
Walking on the farm

Christopher and I at the beach picnic
Christopher and I at the beach picnic

Some new friends!
Some new friends!

To Networking! Bellinter II

After its acclaimed debut in 2010, Bellinter II took its rightful place as the first highlight in the social calendar for 2011. The thought of staying at Bellinter in Co. Meath was a welcome escape from a cold and dark Dublin where the return to classes reacquainted us with triangularised sandwiches which have become our twice weekly staple.  In fact, demand was such that spaces began to fill up within minutes of circulating the invitations. The ever glamorous Siobhan O’Dowd put her talents to full effect by bringing together a diverse panel of speakers, which included Eddie O’Connor, founder of Airtricity – which was sold in 2008 for €1.8bn and current founder and CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power; Norah Casey the newest dragon on the Den and CEO of Harmonia, Ireland’s largest magazine company; David McWilliams, Economist, Journalist, Broadcaster, Best Selling Author…… with even more titles to be revealed very shortly. Also speaking were property developers Paddy & Simon Kelly.

Continue reading To Networking! Bellinter II

MBA Entrepreneurship Club

The Entrepreneur’s Club finally got the opportunity to hold the ‘How To Finance Your Business’ session at the end of January. Free from the travails of the snow and fresh after a well deserved month off everybody was keen for new events. 4 great speakers convened to give their views on raising finance from different perspectives. Ned Gladney, Managing Director, GSW Tax and Business Advisors (a specialist firm for small & medium sized enterprises), Michael Hayden (Business Advisor Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Enterprise Board), Giuseppe Insalaco – An Entrepreneur (Smurfit School MBA Graduate) & founder of Squargo Ltd, and Dermot Berkery, Partner-Delta Partners Ltd -one of Irelands leading Venture Capital Firms (VC).

Discussion ranged from enterprise structure, to grant and seed money from local authorities to the holy grail of venture capital funding. Dermot explained how VC’s source and invest their funds and the expected win & loss rates for their investments. Giuseppe brought the entrepreneurial flavour in explaining the Do’s and Don’ts from his own journey in trying to source financing for start-ups.

The good news is all the participants reiterated that although times are tough, there is money available for start-ups. However, the cautionary warning was it largely depends on the industry. Let’s see who next from the class will be on the stage in years to come explaining their successes and woes in starting up a business.

– Colm O’Reilly

Chuc mung nam moi!

Most people know about the Chinese New Year and how it is a big event in the Chinese calendar. However, did you also know that the same is true for the Vietnamese?

Vietnamese TET

Whereas the Chinese now celebrate the year of the rabbit, the Vietnamese celebrate the year of the cat.

That is why our Vietnamese IDEAS scholarship students have invited fellow students and staff to celebrate the Vietnamese New year, TET.  This Friday will therefore see us all gather for a taste of authentic Vietnamese cuisine, storytelling, song and dance -and I’d say it is gonna be a great event. Stay tuned for an update and photos…

Chuc mung nam moi!

– Rikke Budolfsen, MBA Programme Manager