“If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain”


As semester two draws to a close, and the finish line is starting to come into focus, now is the perfect time to reflect on what has been one of the biggest decisions of my life thus far – surrendering the 9-5 to return to education and the MBA.

There have been highs, there have been lows, and many sleepless nights either as a result of excessive studying or excessive partying!

Even as I write this entry, on the sunniest day of the 2017 thus far, the thoughts of getting over the finish line provide enough motivation to skip paying “respect to the man in the ice-cream van” for one day and keep the head in the books (H.P. Baxxter).

Without doubt, getting to spend seven days with my colleagues, immersing ourselves in Japanese and South Korean culture was the highlight. The historical significance of these countries, as well as being modern day industrial powerhouses, was such a fantastic journey to take with such close friends.

Figure 1 War Memorial - Seoul
War Memorial – Seoul

Taking in everything those cities had to offer, from the sushi to the singing at a karaoke bar ensured there was sufficient, and much needed, down-time to a very hectic schedule.

Soaking up authentic Asian culture
Soaking up authentic Asian culture

But it won’t stop there. No sooner will our exams finish in May that we will be back in the air once more to experience Iceland for a consulting trip and the excitement is palpable! “On the road is where we come alive” (David Brent).

The whirlwind nature of the programme so far shows no signs of stopping, and who would like it any other way?

Patrick Whelan ~ Full-Time MBA

UCD Smurfit MBAs go to Tokyo & Seoul

Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul
Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul

On March 11th, 70 MBA students will depart for the annual Smurfit MBA International Study Tour. This year, for the first time, we will be visiting Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. The Study Tour encourages participants to immerse themselves in the business environment of these unique countries by taking them on an intensive exploration of local business practices, challenges and cultures, using company visits as the ideal setting for practical learning. It combines a variety of high-level company visits, presentations and panel discussions from leading executives, government officials and entrepreneurs, all relevant to the core management disciplines being studied on the ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ MBA module.

Harajuku, Tokyo
Harajuku, Tokyo

Along with the academic aspect of this module, there are three main outcomes that we aim to achieve throughout the week-long Study Tour:

Career Development: To develop a deeper understanding of doing business in an international context and an opportunity to network with senior executives from various backgrounds.

Skills Development: Practical exposure to innovative business case studies relevant to the core courses studied and enhance team working skills through group challenges.

Personal Development: An intensive social networking opportunity. Build strong relationships. Challenging experience – “get you out of your comfort zone”.

Asakusa Temples, Tokyo
Asakusa Temples, Tokyo

There is a strong networking and social element to the Study Tour and we have lots of exciting adventures lined up; dinner in the ‘Kill Bill Restaurant’ in Tokyo, visits to Harajuku, Takeshita Street, Asakusa temples, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok village and National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

The students will be joined by Professor Karan Sonpar, Professor Pat Gibbons, Roisin O’Loughlin (UCD Smurfit), Lyndon Worrall (Legacy Ventures) and myself. Keep an eye on the MBA Blog next month to hear how we get on in Tokyo and Seoul!

Click here find out more about the Smurfit MBA.

Avril Donohue ~ MBA Alumni Relations, Communications & Events

Theme: Preparation!


It’s an October day on campus at Smurfit Graduate Business School, and the MBA Class of 2017 have been at UCD for six weeks. The international students are getting to grips with the mercurial Irish weather and the Irish students are slowly coming to terms with Mayo’s disappointment in the All-Ireland. Summertime is officially over and it’s time to prepare for winter.

Preparation seems to be a theme this week!

First and foremost is preparation for the workplace. I’m a career changer: I studied medicine as an undergraduate, working as a junior doctor before coming to UCD. One of my priorities this year is explore my career options post-MBA.  Happily, Smurfit is making that task very easy.

At the start of term the Careers team circulated an MBA vacancy with a global brand, and I spent much of my Monday evening gearing up for a phone interview next week. There was plenty more to learn about potential employers on Tuesday, as a stellar lineup of firms sent representatives to Smurfit for the Audit & Consulting Recruitment Fair. With the graduate milk-rounds starting, we have a valuable opportunity to do some research ahead of the MBA hiring cycle.

Wednesday was entirely devoted to job-hunting skills with the fantastic Daniel Porot. We were in capable hands, learning from a speaker who works with 12 of the world’s top 20 MBA schools. I’ll have a chance to put M. Poirot’s advice into practice at the second recruitment fair of the week, which focuses on general business functions rather than professional services.

Planning a little more proximally, I’ve been finalising my travel plans for Global Network Week. Due to Smurfit’s membership of the Global Network for Advanced Management, full-time MBA students (and second-year EMBAs) get to spend a week in October participating in the GNAM Global Exchange. Many students opt for the programme hosted right here at UCD, others go to Yale, and a further cohort heads to IE in Madrid. Earlier this week, the destinations for our spring study tour were confirmed as Tokyo and Seoul; 32 of us came to Blackrock, but we’re getting to see the world!

Next Saturday, nine of us will fly out for an immersive exchange at Yale School of Management, studying Behavioral Economics, Marketing and Finance. We just received our schedules, which include a company visit day in New York. Some lucky scheduling means we’ll be able to catch up with UCD business alumni at the New York chapter’s annual benefit dinner, and find out exactly where our MBAs (and alumni connections) can take us.

Thirdly, as usual, I’m preparing for next week’s classes. My long-suffering boyfriend is resigned to the fact that my weekends will be primarily occupied with pre-reading and finance homework for the foreseeable future. Finally, though, I’m getting ready for a friend’s wedding reception on Friday afternoon, which should be a lovely occasion in Georgian Dublin – timely reassurance that normal life still continues during the MBA!

Laura Donaghy ~ Full-Time MBA

MBA Study Trip to China


Semester 2 has come to an end with the final exam taking place this evening and our full-time MBA class can look forward to a busy and exciting Summer Term. After a brief reprieve from the pressures of Semester 2 exams students will take a block module in Financial Statement Analysis next week. The students will then travel to China from May 28th to June 4th and for many this will be their third and final International experience as part of the MBA programme. International Study Trips are a critical component of the international experience offered by the MBA Programme and are aimed at exposing students to the opportunities and challenges of managing in an International climate. The rapid emergence of China as an economic power offers attractive opportunities and poses competitive challenges to many firms. The International Study Trip to China provides an insight into this considerable economic achievement as well as its cultural and institutional practices. 

The group will be accompanied by myself and Professor Pat Gibbons, Jefferson Smurfit Professor of Strategic Management at UCD. First we will travel to Xiamen where Pat will deliver a Preparatory Capstone Consulting Project module in Xiamen University. This short, informal course is designed to introduce students to the comprehensive and integrative nature of the final Capstone Consulting project and to identify and explore some approaches to the execution of the project that will offer value to the client and to the participants. In addition the students will have guest lectures from faculty in Xiamen University. We will have an opportunity to experience some cultural activities and taste some of the local cuisine in Xiamen over four days before departing to Hong Kong. 

Xiamen University
Xiamen University

In Hong Kong students will partake in Company Visits from a diverse range of sectors including Manufacturing & Luxury Retail, Consulting, Real Estate and Education, Technology & Entrepreneurship. We will visit some of Hong Kong’s most recognised industries allowing students to explore local business practises, challenges and cultures and to apply a framework of international strategy to companies operating in China. Students will have an opportunity to develop their career connections through networking opportunities both at the company visits and at the final dinner at The Peak Lookout which will be attended by MBA Alumni residing in Hong Kong.

Keep an eye on the MBA Blog for further student updates about our trip to China!

Yvonne Harding ~ Full-Time MBA Programme Manager

MBA International Study Tour 2016 – An SA Essay


As an Exec MBA, it’s quite a decision to go on the international study tour. Between expense, college workload, work commitments, annual leave and further time away from general joy, it’s easy to see why my classmates found the decision less than straight forward. As one put it: “it’s a bit of a hard sell to the wife, to trek off to South Africa for a jolly while I’m not even taking her out for dinner.” Fair point. Although I bet she still hasn’t got that dinner.

I made the decision to eventually go myself for three reasons: i) you can always earn more money, but you might not always find great experience; ii) South Africa posed an incredibly unique learning environment (fairly different to Room N204, at least) and iii) it hadn’t been sunny in Ireland for 471 days. I did hesitate when only 5 of my own classmates were going – everyone else was from the full-time MBA stream and while I had caught a name or two in the handful of classes we shared this term, I really didn’t know anyone else. So to say I was nervous was an understatement, though presumably you’re not supposed to admit that, as an MBA student (who doesn’t love networking? It’s the BEST.). But it felt like an escalated version of that awful feeling you get when you first walk into a networking event – see absolutely nobody you know – and so look desperately for the biscuits.

​Regardless, it was easy to get excited about what was ahead. The educational theme of the South African trip was loosely mirrored to the Business & Society module – which I now realise is the same module that inspired a previous blog post of mine. It’s definitely a topic of personal interest for me; the delicate space between the responsibilities of business and the complexities of societal need. Post-apartheid South Africa provides a very unique socio-economic environment in which to explore the subject – but while I was expecting some interesting insights and the occasional key learning, the spectacular programme we received far exceeded my expectations. Expertly designed to allow the gradual build of a narrative of the country over the course of the week, the quality of the content was surpassed only by the passion and open sincerity of the speakers. While I can’t possibly give a complete overview in a single blog post (“over-enthusiastic MBA student breaks internet”), I would like to offer a brief window into just two organisations.

In Johannesburg, we visited Raizcorp, a phenomenally successful entrepreneurial incubator, spearheaded by Founder & CEO Allon Raiz. There is nothing like listening to a speaker who is so wholly assured that they are doing some simple, unadorned good in the world. Wincing at a roomful of MBAs’ subtle (and not so subtle) demands for the “real success” stories, he stressed to us that there is success beyond the bottom line in the context of the entrepreneur. His account of the multi-million success story was equal in enthusiasm and vigour to his telling of the local plumbing business which now thrives in the township of the owner, providing the luxury of financial independence and educational security for her family. Furthermore, Raiz’s basic framework for entrepreneurship completely contradicts the principles of what we have learnt so far in our study of entrepreneurial theory. His outward distain for anything resembling an ROI calculation is the kind of thing that goes through my mind on a daily basis in class, while I wonder if I should really be taking medieval lit or jam-making. Author of “Lose the Business Plan” he tells us that his company invests in people, not business models – for the simple logic that business models are so liable to change and reconfiguration in their initial stages that they must be immediately rendered obsolete. But the PERSON? It is their very susceptibility to flux and change that will ultimately create value – shaping the business, and indeed themselves as leader, for years to come. So why place your faith and investment in anything else?


As we moved on to Cape Town, it was hard to imagine the trip continuing at the high standard it had been. However visiting some of the not-for-profits in the region was so inspiring. One in particular, Velokhaya, has lingered for me. Working with the young boys of the township of Khayelitsha and beyond, the organisation aims to keep children in education for as long as possible through the simple discipline of owning a bike and participating in cycling tournaments. We even had the opportunity of a quick demonstration from some of the young talent enrolled today – their pride in performing for their visitors was just a showstopper. Throughout our trip, the dismal truth of the South African educational system was a prominent feature in how the racial imbalance of opportunity in the country is maintained; the continuing commitment of organisations to correct this inequity, in both great and small ways, is profound.

Coming to the end of a two-year stint on the MBA, I have to admit that I had become very ready for the close of the programme. But following the South Africa trip, I remembered what makes this experience truly special – throwing yourself into something new, uncharted and literally and figuratively outside of your world. The intellectual exhilaration of that is fairly unparalleled in day-to-day living and I know I have witnessed things on this trip that will stay with me for the rest of my life. And to be fortunate enough to share those experiences alongside an absolutely stellar bunch of people is all the more exceptional – as it turns out, I didn’t even need the biscuits.

Ruth Cranks ~ Year 2, Executive MBA