September 4th 2012

I previously never thought much of the term time management, regarding it as a cliché and innate but with the list of group presentations and reports  beginning to gain momentum this week, I now realise it will be a valuable skill to develop and employ.

Foundation week was very well organised with a good mix of practical information on the course requirements,  how to utilise the IT services fully and the prohibition on booze and barbecues on campus as well as the team building exercises which were good fun with the ‘occasional’ difference of opinion and squaring up amongst some of the participants.

This week has plunged us into the full rigours of the programme and totting up in my head the hours that will have to be committed to assignments or study as well as the non-academic stuff, I feel  my waking hours will have to be extended. Looking forward to our first meeting with Brian Marrinan about careers tomorrow.

No regrets!

– Cathal O’Ceallaigh, FT MBA 2012/13

The Trials and Tribulations of Foundation Week

Exhilarated. Ecstatic.  Relieved.  All of these emotions struck me when I received the email stating that I had been accepted for the Executive MBA.  Completing the admission process had involved an amount of effort, studying and self reflection but it was not without its joyful moments (such as achieving the required GMAT score).  Shortly afterwards, I received details of the login for the incoming student website – a myriad of information.  This outlined what to expect when we arrived in UCD and is intended to set you up for the coming years.  Admittedly the site confused at times!  Surely it gets easier from here?!?

Anticipation. Excitement. Terror.  Day 1 of Foundation Week and I didn’t know what to expect as I drove from Cork.  Having joined the LinkedIn group for the Executive Class, I had an idea of the calibre of people I would be rubbing shoulders with.  An exciting mix of people from all walks of life, all at the top of their game.  What was a lowly engineer doing in this illustrious company?!  Thankfully, within minutes of arriving in UCD, my apprehension transformed to enthusiasm due to the friendliness of the faculty and fellow classmates alike.

Day 1 began well with general introductions to some of the faculty, their areas of expertise and their aims for the year ahead.  However, we were brought back to earth with a bang during Dr Brian McGrath’s lecture when the full weight of the academic expectations for the students was set out… 32 hours study per week in addition to lectures and the demands of employment, surely that couldn’t be right?!?  When would we sleep?  The sense of panic in the hall escalated when the requirements for a top grade were outlined… Devouring the contents of the library during our ‘spare’ time!  Uh oh…

The fear returned in the afternoon!!  Any lecturer who sets an assignment for students before the course begins is obviously not to be trifled with.  And 2 minutes into Prof Brennan’s Report Writing lecture proved exactly as expected.  Following a vigorous beginning to the lecture, a poor unsuspecting student in the front row was labelled “Fool!”  The student was unfortunate to be feeling the brunt of Prof’s forceful point regarding the use of acronyms!!  This, of course, was sarcasm, and was delivered humorously, however it did focus the collective mind of the class!

Trepidation. Fun. Camaraderie.  Team building with Fintan occupied half of Tuesday and all day Wednesday.  Tuesday’s highlights included a blindfold and plenty of physical contact.  No it wasn’t based on a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey… as a team, we were constructing three concentric heptagons with rope while blindfolded!?!  Tuesday also entailed deciding which animal represented our Communication/Leadership style – with the Peacock’s among us loving the attention!! Wednesday began with a team challenge involving water, with our poor volunteer, Tom, getting soaked but we successfully navigated the task.  The rest of Wednesday involved a large team task.  After a slow start, where it appeared that someone would be sacrificed (literally), a Chairman was appointed, a plan was put in place and we successfully worked together as a team to complete the task.  By the end of this, we had been divided into our Study Groups for Semester 1.  I was on a team that I could definitely relate with – 3 fellow engineering graduates.  Happy days!

As an aside, I recently read Peter Robinson’s “Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA”.  Not a book for the faint-hearted MBA student.  However, it does provide an interesting perspective on what can be involved in completing an MBA.  The abiding phrase which I will take through my studies from the text is the motto “illegitimi non carbarondum est. Don’t let the bastards grind you down”!!

Thursday began with an entertaining class where we analysed the economic woes of Robin Hood and his Merry Men!  This gave most people their first taste of Case Study learning – a very new concept to most!  Thursday afternoon also introduced the class to a new concept – exercising our voice (and gestures)!  Paul, the communications guru, began the class with a bag on his head (literally) and concluded by transforming the class into a literal mix of friends and enemies.  The class was hugely entertaining and the intended message from the class was heeded by all – to be a good presenter, you must constantly reassess and work on your presentation skills.  The alumni tips which were delivered at the end of Thursday did little to allay people’s fears about time commitment, they did however provide people with an insight into what to expect.  Most importantly, the presenters provided students with the belief that the MBA qualification is achievable!

Relief. Anticipation. Enthusiasm.  The week finished with a taste of real subject work with an Introduction to Finance.  As an engineer surrounded by numerous people with finance experience, I must admit that I definitely wasn’t looking forward to being found out here!  The lecture began, I listened and astonishingly I understood (most of it anyway)!!  This was a welcome surprise, maybe I wouldn’t be left too far behind!

Following the interesting and diverse events of Foundation Week, I left UCD on Friday evening believing “I can deal with this”!  Onwards and upwards…

-Shaun O’ Keeffe
Executive MBA Student 2012-14

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

The MBA Welcome Dinner 2011

This year’s MBA Welcome reception and dinner took place on Friday night last in the restaurant on the UCD Smurfit campus and was pronounced (by us) a great success with lots of positive feedback from those who attended.

For the MBA Office staff, this annual dinner traditionally marks the end of the busiest period of the year with all that goes into the beginning of a new academic year and the arrival on campus of fresh, new MBA participants to begin their MBA.  For incoming MBA particpants it marks the end of a significant period of preparation, change and in some cases moving across continents and it is a celebration of the achievement of each and every individual participant which recognises that they have worked very hard already to gain a place on the programme of their choice and that they have successfully made it through the Foundation module and the first full week of lectures, no mean achievement in themselves.

As partners are also invited to this event it is an opportunity to welcome them to Smurfit and to show them where their loved one is going to be spending a significant period of time over the next year or two -and to thank them in advance for their support.   The only danger noted by attendees was that the good food, company and ambience of the candlelight restaurant might give the wrong impression to their significant others who might think they were having too good a time and not really suffering for their MBA at all.

The Welcome Dinner was attended by 160 guests, including members of the Full-time MBA programme and Executive MBA year 1 classes and their partners.  The dinner was also attended by a large number of the academic staff and all the members of the MBA Office.  The official welcome was given by Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Dean of the UCD School of Business and Orla Nugent, MBA Director.

-Roisin O’Loughlin, MBA Programme Manager

Pictures courtesy of Bui Thi Hien Anh

Day 1-3 of the MBA Programme

Day 1 -Aug 29, 2011

As a former project manager I have an appreciation for a project plan. Specifically, I enjoyed the satisfaction of overseeing a project and achieving significant milestones. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t rival the thrill of hitting the game winning shot, riding a motorcycle, or participating in a fantasy football draft (all which I have experienced), but achieving milestones are always satisfying. This post launches the moment my wife Amy and I had been waiting for and what brought us to Ireland in the first place, the beginning of the MBA program orientation week.

It was a day of welcoming. After 8 hours my class had been officially welcomed into the school by the Dean, MBA Program Manager, Admissions Manager, Academic Director, and International Director. I learned that 55% of our class was international, that UCD Smurfit was a leading European and worldwide program, and that I had 39 other classmates in the full-time MBA students. Most importantly I learned that this was the right place for me to pursue my MBA.

The day ended with dinner and drinks at a nearby pub for international students. I still chuckle when thinking of myself as an international student as an American, but I happily joined 20+ other students from Vietnam, China, India, Canada, and Japan in the opportunity to enjoy our first pub date!

Day 2+3: Aug 30-31, 2011

What do you get when a Chinese, Indian, American, and two Irish guys get together? That would be my MBA study team for the semester! As you can imagine there may be some challenges working with individuals from different countries, religious beliefs, and professional backgrounds. The college’s solution to these potential issues was to provide a variety of team building exercises during the MBA orientation week. I will highlight the two days of team building below.

Day 1 Team Building

Imagine the following scenario:

  • You are in a group of five people and the goal is to make a hexagon shape with a rope…while blindfolded
  • You are then told that your team needs to work with two other teams
  • However the three ropes are all different lengths and you can’t touch them until everyone if blindfolded
  • Confused? Well don’t worry, 40 MBA students were too and looked like a clump of spaghetti noodles rather than an organized circle of shapes.

    Day 2 Team Building

    After learning the importance of leadership and communication it was time for more team building. We were split into eight teams and given the following instructions:

  • The goal is to get the Jeidi back home
  • To accomplish this you need a guide to build the ship and materials
  • Materials will require cash
  • Cash can only be earned by a variety of “earning games”
  • The “jedi” ended up being a golf ball and the end goal was to get the ball from start to finish into a bucket. Eager to show our new-found MBA leadership skills, our groups tried coming together in a more organized fashion. The end result was a full day of strategizing, earning Monopoly money, buying random materials, and finally successfully building a track for the golf ball to find its way home in the bucket! Team building can be exhausting but rewarding!

    – Justin Thomas, FT MBA

    The Art of Communication: (The First Week MBA Perspective)

    Communication (to give it’s dictionary translation) means the act or process of communicating, fact of being communicated, the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions or information by speech, writing or signs.  Communication is something imparted, interchanged or transmitted.

    I work in Communications, my undergraduate degree was in Communications, I am a fully qualified Communicator.  On certain days I would even go so far as to call myself a Communication Expert.

    However my downfall is that I often discover that my Communications haven’t been Understood.  This is Understandable as I have no training in Understanding.  I didn’t study it in school or college and I can wholeheartedly say that I have received no on the job training in the area of Understanding.  Understanding for the uninitiated is the area of expertise where you learn how to ensure your Communication is Understood.

    This year I decided to study for an MBA at the wonderful Smurfit School of Business.  One of the reasons I chose this programme is to improve my Understanding of the Communication of my message. Where better to be Understood than in University right?  I regret to inform you that my first week was a disaster on the Understanding front.  And I sincerely hope this is not a harbinger of doom for the year ahead.  And to confuse matters doing an MBA is not just about being Understood in an Irish setting, it is also about being Understood by the cohort of international students.  In today’s world being Understood globally is vital if you want to be successful.

    So picture this, week one, our class of 40 is split into 8 teams.  In my team there is an Irish Marine Engineer, an English Trader, a Vietnamese Tax Consultant and an Indian Electronic Engineer while I am an Irish TV Producer.  Our first meeting as a team is to write our team charter, our rules of engagement as it were.  Five minutes in there’s already a problem of Understanding.  I am in the middle of addressing a critical area of team work when I spot my Indian colleague Aditya, shaking his head in disagreement.  Already we are facing our first conflict.  And as a Communicator I like to confront conflict.  It turns out that when Aditya shakes his head it actually means he is agreeing with something.  Baffling for an Irish person, I know, but common in Hyderabad!  My first glimmer of Understanding.  Men and women Understand things in different ways, as do different generations, and as for different cultures where do you start?  I’ve made progress though.  Feeling positively euphoric after week one.  I’ve made that critical first step on the road to Understanding how to Communicate myself so that I am Understood.  I might, in fact, choose to actually Understand something myself by the time I leave here. At least I’m in the right place to learn some more about Understanding.

    – Stephen Smith, FT MBA 2012

    And so it begins….

    Day one of the MBA in Smurfit Business School is done and dusted and what a whirlind of a day it has been!

    This morning, as I stepped into the entrance hall which was brimming with almost one hundred new MBA candidates, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the possibilities that lay ahead.

    It began with a brief introduction from the MBA faculty who gave us a comprehensive overview of the School, the support available to us and the workload that lay ahead.

    While I expected a heavy volume of academic work, I was impressed by the commitment of the MBA team to develop the potential of each MBA candidate. We were told about the extensive Personal Development Programme (PDP) available to us throughout the year which includes personal coaching, leadership and other personal development tools.  It seems to me that the Smurfit Business School has struck a good balance between academic riguour and the leadership/personal development requirements of the next generation of MBA’s.

    Networking is a crucial part of the MBA, and business in general, and so the first coffee break provided us with an ideal opportunity to hone our skills. In the end, it wasn’t very difficult. Everyone was very friendly and within a nano-second, people from all backgrounds – engineering, non-profits, business, technology and finance, were engaged in deep discussion. One of the benefits of the MBA is the diversity of the group which helps you see business challenges  through the eyes of someone with a different perspective than you, which can be invaluable.

    One of the sessions today was entitled ‘Getting Things Done’ and we were given an insight into best practice in terms of becoming more effective managers of our time and of ourselves. While I had always sworn by a daily ‘to do’ list, what I took away from the session was the importance of deciding on what was really important and what was less so, and of taking immediate action on the important tasks. It seems simple but how often do we get caught up in the small stuff?

    After lunch, Prof. Niamh Brennan brought her no-nonsense approach to the class in her report writing session. We had been asked to prepare a five page report in advance of the first day and to critique each other’s work. Critiquing the report of someone you had just met was a little daunting. However, it soon became clear that there was much to learn. While I waxed a little lyrical in my report, my colleague provided an engineer’s perspective and proposed key structural alterations that vastly improved my work. I was able to make some good suggestions for his report too.The key take-away’s for me were the importance of preparation, of clear and concise communication and of continually critiquing your work and seeking to  improve it on a continuous basis. I think the Japanese call it Kaizen.

    In the afternoon, Emma Ledden of MTV fame and now a highly regarded communications consultant, along with her business partner gave us an overview of the Communications Bootcamp. For some of us, it meant the unexpected news that we would have to deliver a presentation at 7.45am the following morning with our new groups. We were told about this at 3.30pm and also that the full presentations had to be submitted by 5.30pm that evening…. They don’t call it bootcamp for nothing!

    – Conor O’Donovan, EMBA City Centre Yr 1

    Foundation Module 2011: The UCD Smurfit MBA kicks off a new season.

    Friday 02 September was the final day of the MBA Foundation Module and for those involved it has been quite an experience.  Lengthy and complex preparations have been set in place for the new Fulltime and Executive MBA classes who have been onsite here in UCD Smurfit all week.

    Likewise, countless hours have been spent by the Marketing Office, Admissions, Interviewing Panels, MBA Career Manager,  and MBA Director to have everyone signed up and ready to go by Monday 29th August last: D-Day.

    The MBA Foundation Module itself is designed to be a tough and an intense intro week and despite all of the information available to participants in advance through websites, interviews, the Incoming MBA Student Portal and regular updates, the full impact of the week’s workshops, activities and networking will not really hit them until they come out the other side Friday evening.

    As much as possible is squeezed in; Team Building, Communication Bootcamp, Time Management & Effectiveness, IT, Study Skills, Case Study Analysis, Report Writing and MBA Club launches to name only a few.  All of these sessions launch both the Academic Programme and also the Personal & Professional Development Programme and equip all new UCD Smurfit MBAs as much as possible for the semesters ahead.

    It is no wonder that the mantra for those who have been involved this week has become: ‘Start as you mean to go on’.

    Stay tuned to hear from the new Smurfit MBA students…

    – Michael McDonnell, MBA Programme Manager