A Canadian in Dublin

This is my first attempt at having a consistent blog, so I hope you all bare with me. Let me first start off by stating that I have had this entry started since the first week of the programme, and it is only now that I am able to complete it. This is pretty indicative of what life is like in the MBA. There is always lots of work, group meetings, and even more readings. Now, coming from a corporate background the work and volume of meetings are commonplace. As for the readings, that is an entirely new ballgame! Having been 5 years removed from my undergrad I did not expect this, it consumes a good portion of the “free time” I can muster.

But I digress, back to the point of this blog: to share my experience of a Canadian coming to university in Dublin. With that said, it is best to start off at the beginning of my time here in Dublin.

I landed in Dublin, on a surprisingly sunny and warm Sunday morning in August (what I now know is even more rare than I initially thought). As I sat on the bus passing the River Liffey, it dawned on me… “I’m here”. Now as theatrical as this may sound, this was several months in the making. From researching MBA programmes, to writing the ever popular GMAT (which still haunts my dreams), to the long and arduous application forms. It is a process which takes months to do, and I had successfully accomplished it.

Continue reading A Canadian in Dublin

One month in

It is now 1 month since we arrived in Ireland. What a month! Looking back it is quite amazing how much can happen in just 30 days!

On arrival, Dublin was a foreign place with foreign people for my wife and I coming from South Africa. Today, we already have a local pub and diner, and I can quite confidently tell you the names and nationalities of all 40 of my full time MBA classmates, who I now call friends.

How did we move so quickly from feeling like foreigners to feeling at home? I can only attribute it to something quite special about the Irish culture and the Smurfit School in particular.

Our prior knowledge of Irish culture extended as far as the Irish pubs back in Johannesburg, renowned for their jovial character. I previously attributed this to the ale consumed in the pubs, but I now see it more as an outworking of the lively and social way of life lead by most Irish people. We could not have guessed the state of the economy through our interaction with the Irish people. Be it from an offer of the estate agent to store our bags for us, the solicitor who asked us to just drop the 10euro we were short in the post box sometime, or the ‘out of country’ lady writing down her full lineages contact details if we were ever to be in the area. The Irish are a welcoming people.

This ‘not wanting to disappoint’ attitude of the Irish does come with some risk however, as we were warned in the MBA foundation week. If an Irish person advises that it is a 5 minute walk somewhere, it is probably closer to 15 minutes, and if it is mentioned to be a ‘long’ 5 minute walk, it is closer to 30 minutes.

The Smurfit School for its part is particularly good at assisting foreign students to relocate and integrate. They do need to be, as 65% of our MBA class are international students, coming from all continents excluding Antarctica and Australasia. A specific highlight of my short time here has definitely been the foundation week that the business school holds for full time MBA students before the start of lectures. This provided valuable time for our diverse 40 person MBA class to get to know one another in a social setting and quickly turn acquaintances into friendships.

The course work so far has lived up to its reputation of being challenging and stimulating, and the external talks and events have been high class. Of particular interest to me has been the personal development focus of the Smurfit course and I look forward to much self discovery ahead.

Although it is still early days and the assignments are only starting to pile up, I can quite confidently say that I am looking forward to the coming 11 months, if the 1st is anything to go by.

-Neil Krige, FTMBA 2012/13

Is anyone regretting taking the MBA yet?

While having lunch today with a few classmates, Michael (the MBA LDP Manager) joined our table and asked how we were doing. All three of us laughed.

Is it because we’re really happy that we’re doing the MBA?

Is it because we needed the adrenaline and positive hormones we got from the laugh to ease our stress?

Rani, who was sitting with us, remarked, “One of the biggest myths in doing the MBA is that you’re going to have free time.” And I agree with him 100%. I thought I would take some time off working on a full-time job and enrich myself intellectually at a ‘normal’ pace. I have been proven wrong in a few instances :-D . But I think most of us still think we made the right choice to do our MBA..

Here’s why I think I’ve (still) made the right choice by taking an MBA:

1.    Special campus for graduate students

a.     Dropped by the student union to get some used books for class a few weeks ago and walking through the throngs of young students, I felt very thankful that the MBA is housed in a campus for graduate students. It feels different culturally, intellectually and makes studying feel more serious in the more peaceful and quiet environment.

2.    Case studies, thinking

a.     I love the intellectual challenge posed in analyzing and breaking apart the cases for most of the classes. This is apart from the obvious lessons and motivational values that I get from reading about these great companies (just to name a few: Ideo, Honda, Cemex).

3.    Classmates and teamwork amongst the bigger group

a.     The experience and maturity of the classmates, with such diverse backgrounds. I have learned so much from them and find that I fit in well with the group, as well as finding so much benefit in the conversations and reflections between classmates that I believe I wouldn’t find in a cohort with too little or even no working experience.

b.    Sincere and kind classmates. I couldn’t say this more. This morning, I spilt some coffee on the carpet. I went to the restroom to get some tissue to wipe it up, but came back realizing that Lien had already wiped it. It’s small thoughtful things done by classmates to help each other that makes school much less stressful and makes it definitely bearable and something to look forward to.

c.     We have come together as a team in great ways. It started off from the mandatory team building, the compulsory groups set by MBA office, and now we are comfortable enough to band up for reading groups.

So if you’re thinking of doing an MBA, think about why you would want to do it. For me, it’s mainly the intellectual growth, but the two other points really add to the positive experience in the school.

– Nur Zahira M Sukran, FT MBA 2012/13

Ethical Issues: Child Labor and Sweatshops

It’s been almost two weeks of classes. I’ve learned so much this past week. I’ve enjoyed my readings and knowledge gained, though I would say we are barely surviving with the amount of readings, case studies and homework.

I have updated my personal blog on a few of the readings and cases covered in class, and would like to share in this blog, the hot topic we discussed in our Business Ethics class on sweatshops and child labor.

The big question for decision makers in companies is: in conflicts of stakeholder interest – whose interest should be prioritized? And for businesses, that would usually mean – the shareholder’s interest, in the form of increased profits.

Continue reading Ethical Issues: Child Labor and Sweatshops

Surviving Foundation Week

Yes, we’ve survived the second day of foundation week. The second day has been ‘friendlier’ then the first. The first day seemed like the most daunting.  A few days before the class, we received information that we had to complete a five-page report, digest three voluminous reports and edit a 303-word piece.

My first though was, “O my God! It’s just the first day of foundation week and we already have a homework!”. Well all the best to all of us. We chose to board the MBA ship here, so we’ll just have to swallow the seawater of homework, readings and assignments.

For most international students, like me, the information was only digested the night before the assignments were due. Some stayed up until 4 am to finish them up.

Apparently, Prof Niamh didn’t individually check any of them. We were just asked us to discuss the assignments. But not doing them would have been a waste of time because of the investment we are paying to join the programme. The important part of was learning how to critique and edit our own work so the lecturers wouldn’t have such a hard time grading our reports. Or we wouldn’t be so surprised to see so many red marks in our papers. Haha.

There’s a great mix of classmates. More than sixty percent of the full time class is international. As an international student, it makes me feel more at home, though none of the students are from my home country. But the plus point is that the Irish are very friendly. So even if we didn’t have the large number of internationals, it would be easy to feel at home with the warm reception from the school and most of the locals. As the international student advisor mentioned, “The Irish are said to be friendly to make up for the rainy weather. “

– Nur Zahira M Sukran, FT MBA 2012/13

An exciting year ahead!

This week, the MBA team welcomed a new cohort of MBA students to a busy year ahead. The first week, Foundation  Week, will see the new classes get re-acquainted with the world of academia and studying after many years out of school. Equally important, this week aims to get the students know each other a lot better and build networks among the various classes.

Expect to see more stories from our new class -and our recent alumni- on this blog over the next few weeks…

An exciting year ahead indeed!

– Rikke, MBA Programme Manager

Three weeks in

Three weeks in and it already feels like we’ve been here for months. With my Science/engineering background, and having been cosseted away in a Biotech company for nearly 10 years, I’ll admit to being a (little) clueless as to what lay ahead of me academically. In fact if encouraged with the black stuff I may even admit to not having a clue as to what some of the subjects were about. So I am happy to report that the first few weeks have been a very pleasant surprise; Financial reporting– it sounds so sterile and austere, but nothing could be further from the truth.  After just a few lectures we can all spot “jiggery-pokery” (copyright: Niamh Brennan) in a financial report from a considerable distance and have intermittently felt the simple satisfaction when your balance sheet lives up to its moniker. There are even some parallels with the science world; I’m amused to see an intelligent design vs emergence argument raging amongst competitive strategy boffins and I have a niggling regret that I wasn’t around in the mid-seventies to single-handedly rescue the British motorcycle industry.

But that’s just the academic stuff, far more interesting has been getting to know my classmates. It has become obvious to us all by now how much we are going to rely on each other this year. Thankfully the good folk at Smurfit were aware of this from the start and tailored the first weeks to help us bond with one another. We spent a revealing session learning about different personality types which will hopefully stop our group work degenerating into an episode of the apprentice. Luckily our class has an unbelievably diverse range of skills and backgrounds to call on; we have a former tank commander in our ranks, although hopefully those skills will not be required. I’ve been introduced to TED talks (how did I miss these?), the vagaries of the on-line poker industry and heard the first-hand accounts of an unlucky classmate’s two instances of being robbed at gunpoint. Oh and we beat Australia in the rugby, so yeah, a good few weeks!

– Fergus O’Dea

I love Group 5!

It has been over three weeks since I discovered that I am actually doing a Smurfit MBA, it is very exciting. I remember that it was a Wednesday when our groups were announced. For a moment, I was wondering whether I can offer some girly input into all the boys’ mind (I got Fergus, Justin, Mohit and Paul in my group). So far, I have been successful, the first class I lectured to all 4 boys was to carry handbags for their ladies (I have not collected feedback yet, because I don’t dare to.).

Ok, what I really want to blog here is how brilliantly we have worked out as a team. Professor Niamh Brennan has started us well on her Financial Reporting. Personally speaking, I was thrown into the deep end with readings, homework, assignments, group work, etc. I really started tasting the MBA from the pace Niamh puts us in. Our group started working on the group assignment as soon as we discovered the assignment, Ok, it did not take long for the discovery. We had discussions, agreements, disagreements, no storming, but hard working.

By last week, we had a draft. By then, our Financial Reporting project manager, Fergus, threw a thought to the group, which is the current work looks like a B- project, shall we polish it to something like a A+? (here you need to use your imagination). Just at that moment, I felt like I am in the best group ever in my life. It was exactly what I would like to hear, challenging ourselves! All group members agreed and eager to review the draft. Paul volunteered to look into a particular session in addition to what he was already assigned to (Paul, you have done loads just as everyone else). Justin and Mohit have also gave thoughtful input in our discussion session. At 3:30, I left the syndicate room in a very happy form even though I reversed my car into a wall yesterday! I guess the wall failed to alert me because that piece of wall is not in my group.

PS: this is first blog I ever blogged in my life, so please do not laugh at me. Thank you and happy studying.

PPS: Our A+ stands for Amazing Plus

– Christine Liu

World in Union…

We started the MBA journey a few weeks ago and ever since day one I’ve been intrigued with the diversity of our class. With 55% of our students hailing from 10 different countries outside Ireland, you’re guaranteed to get a different perspective during lectures, workshops or bootcamps, whether the subject is Financial Reporting, Competitive Strategy or Strategic IS. This is especially true when you consider the large range of professional backgrounds also present. You’re always going to get a lightning bolt from somewhere when you throw Vets, Barristers, TV Producers, Professional Gamblers, Bankers, Traders, Lawyers, Engineers, Scientists, IT and Telecoms Professionals, Digital Journalists, Marketing Executives and a former Tank Commander into a room!

What’s fascinated me most during the last 19 days however, is the outrageously diverse range of perspectives that my new class have on life outside of the classroom. I already have countless examples which have opened my eyes to how different many of my new colleagues are in terms of outlook on life and life experiences. This is true on numerous levels. I’ve learned how sometimes Reiki is preferred to traditional medicine, reading tarot cards is favoured over blind fate and reading a persons’ energy as a means of judgingtheir personality is chosen over, well… the more old school ‘getting to know them’ technique.  It was apparent to me that this year was going to be interesting for a whole rainbow of reasons. Continue reading World in Union…

Restructuring Robin Hood’s Band of Merry Men

All is not well in Sherwood Forest. A recent surge in membership has led to a strain on resources. Unrest in camp has resulted in a band of not-so merry men. Robin, Little John,  Scarlock, and Much the Miller’s son can see the tell-tails begin to flutter in the wind. A perfect storm gathers high in the clouds above. On the ground, the local Sheriff has reorganised his team and is cracking down on lawlessness.  A plot to overthrow Prince John and reinstate the imprisoned King Richard is also in sight. Robin has to weigh up the promise of future amnesty if he lends his support to the regime, against the danger to his men, should the coup fail.

As the smell of roasted venison from the campsite wafts into our classroom, John Staunton raises the clicker and points towards his final slide. Bleary eyed rookies from the Class of 2012 blink fast and wait for their lecturer’s cue. And there it is. Click: Week 3, round 99. Emblazoned before us:


Continue reading Restructuring Robin Hood’s Band of Merry Men