Capstone Project – The Final Hurdle

The Importance of Team Dynamics

We’re well and truly under way with Semester 4. As noted already by Niall Twomey in his recent post, this is the semester that reflects your personal choices. I have heard varying comments in relation to ‘having more time’ on our hands, which is clearly a relative comment. With my choices of Negotiations Skills, Corporate Governance, Management Consulting (by audit) and Managing Sales Relationship I cannot associate with this view, but that’s my choice I guess!

Notwithstanding the workload ahead of us in Semester 4, teams are also beginning to consider the Capstone project that will ultimately bring a close to this 2 year adventure. It’s quite amazing to hear the variety of projects being considered. I certainly never anticipated working on a project relating to sustainable food systems, and how Ireland (through a partnership of Irish Government agencies including Enterprise Ireland) can export expertise in this crucially important area which is expected to grow significantly in the years ahead. I know very little about sustainable food systems right now, but along with my Capstone colleagues and armed with some key MBA learnings, that is sure to change in the coming months. It is with a little trepidation and excitement that teams are proceeding in trying to define exactly what they hope to achieve with the Capstone project. It strikes me that first and foremost, before any considerations around the actual topic, getting the right team dynamic is the most important ingredient in order to ensure a smooth journey from now until July!

It’s hard to think about the end given that we’ve only started Semester 4, but as my wife keeps telling me, the evenings are getting longer, you’re just not seeing them as you’re in Smurfit most of the week! While not entirely true, I choose my battles wisely.

Paul Dunne ~ Year 2 Executive MBA

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

MBA Green Juice

You are what you eat, or so the old saying goes. If this is true, by the end of Semester 1, I was tea and toast with chocolate on the side. Nobody can prepare you for the first term of an MBA including the devastating effect on your diet!  Stress, exhaustion and not enough hours in the day made it difficult to maintain a healthy diet. A different approach is needed for Semester 2!

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is a documentary on Netflix about a man who lives on vegetable and fruit juices for 60 days. He improved his health significantly, even managing to impede a debilitating immune disorder. If juicing can help cure chronic illness then it can supplement the diet of a malnourished MBA student! Packed full of vitamins, enzymes, minerals, quick to prepare and easy to drink while studying, it offers a much needed health boost to a dodgy diet. Give it a try, particularly if you rely on caffeine and/or sugar to make it through the long days.

Below is my favourite green juice. It’s great for energy and large enough to replace a meal or share!

MBA Green Juice ®

8 leaves kale

2 handfuls of spinach

4 celery stalks

1 cucumber

1 inch fresh ginger

1 pear

1 carrot


Emma Burke ~ Executive MBA

The Tyranny of Choice

"The Tyranny of Choices"

One of the great benefits of the UCD Smurfit Executive MBA is the ability to select from a wide range of optional subjects that make up your final semester. Friends who have previously completed the Smurfit MBA all remark on how the final semester was the most enjoyable as you get to pick subjects which appeal to you the most. There are various motivations at play when picking your subjects. It could be that they are topics you already have a passion for, feel they are areas you need to improve on, or may even form the basis for a career transition. Like Renata Salecli’s book “The Tyranny of Choice”, where she provides an example of the anxiety she experiences when trying to choose from an overwhelming selection in a cheesemonger (each to their own!), when you are faced with so many different options, choosing can become something of a dilemma.

With one weekend gone I couldn’t be happier with my choices. Here are my subjects and why they are important to me. Negotiations will me help bolster an area I know I am weak in and the negotiation duels should be great fun, Financial Statement Analysis provides knowledge on how to value companies which is vital if you are looking to work on the investment side or hoping to grow your own company’s value, Managing Sales Relationship is an area which will help broaden my commercial focus and I expect the international trip to China will be the semester highlight allowing students to experience how business and trade is conducted within the Chinese economy.

So with the choices made, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get down to business. The final semester should be interesting!

Niall Twomey ~ EMBA Year 2

The Home Straight

The Home Straight

Arriving in the 4th semester of the exec MBA we have completed 12 modules, 328 hours of class, an average of more than twice that in readings, assignments and projects. Every one of those hours has taken its toll over three long semesters. However, entering the home straight, energy and enthusiasm are at levels not reached since our block week 18 months ago!

The highlight of this semester for most people will be the international trip. For those of us remaining here to keep the home fires burning, Managing the Negotiation Process provides an intriguing way of passing the semester. The course lecturer (Stephen Boyle) has a reputation built over the last number of years, with alumni from over 7 years ago praising the course. The class has been split into two groups of 3 person teams, randomly being paired against each other for live negotiations (with the two teams representing different parties in the negotiation. Friendships developed over the past 18 months will be cast aside for the 2 hour battle. Preparation and quick thinking will be a teams’ best assets.

Home straight it is, will we miss it when it is all over?

Brian Shields ~ Year 2 Executive MBA

Back to School Again

2015 classes commenced earlier this week

After finishing the module 1 exams in December there were many days and nights of celebration at regaining my free time. Friends and family I had ignored over the previous three months were contacted and reminded that I was alive.  The celebrations lasted for two weeks before the New Year was upon us with the promise that this year will represent the new me.

The new me would be able to do it all; tackle a full time job, part time MBA, take on hobbies, maintain contact with friends and do it all without feeling wrecked. Fast forward to today, 2 and a half weeks later and reality has hit; work is as mental as ever and the MBA has started back with talk of presentations, exams, continuous assessment and self development. The first thing to fall out are the friends, I shall see you again maybe for Paddys Day but definitely sometime in June!

As part of the first weekend back in the MBA we completed an SDI workshop – Strength Deployment Inventory. It allowed us to assess our own motivational value system (MVS) and our team members’ MVS while also looking at how this changes when faced with conflict. I found this workshop really interesting and learned a lot about myself and the extreme personalities in the class. After the first weekend of lectures that dreaded feeling of going back to school is gone and it has reconfirmed why I decided to go back to education.  I am really looking forward to the interactive ethics lectures, developing my understanding of HR in the form of HR strategy, and enhancing my finance abilities through Management Accounting and Corporate Finance.

The next hurdle is getting the module results for the first semester this week, fingers crossed I get them and can fully focus on enjoying both the education side of Semester 2 and the networking side of the MBA. Roll on the next 3 months!

Darren Kelly

Weekend EMBA YR1

Roll On China!

Beijing - First stop for the MBA students participating in the International Study Trip

I’m writing this after attending my first two classes of semester 2, year 2 of the EMBA. There is no doubt but my enthusiasm for attending class has reduced significantly when compared to 15 months ago! However, on the up-side I am six months away from completing the programme and that is a huge motivation to continue!

There was a very different feel to this afternoon’s classes. Firstly, we were all there by choice (we can choose from a range of modules in the final year) and secondly there was a mixture of three class groups in the room (EMBA mid-week, EMBA weekend and MBA full-time students). These two factors led to a much larger class and a different lecture dynamic.

This semester will largely be evaluated based on individual assignments. This is in contrast to much of our course work in previous semesters which was primarily group based. While I thoroughly enjoyed working on teams in the past, I am also looking forward to gaining back my Saturday mornings which had previously been ear-marked for group work!

Shanghai - Second stop

Personally, I am only attending three classes this semester. For my fourth module I will be participating in the Emerging Markets International Study Trip to China. Already, I feel that it will be a highlight of the programme. There is a buzz amongst classmates when we discuss the trip and we are very much looking forward to receiving the itinerary that the MBA Programme Office staff have arranged for us. Roll on China on March 7th. . .

Aoife McMahon

Year 2 Executive MBA Class

We Do Get a Break!

Many of the posts on this blog touch on the aspect of time, and how little of it we have when immersed in the MBA. It is true that the workload is intense and takes up much of your time. Each semester consists of 12 busy weeks of lectures, assignments, group work etc. This is then followed by a week of exam prep and then the exams themselves.

However, the good news is that there is a break! This year, the Year 1 Executive MBAs finished their last Semester 1 exam on December 12th and we return for Semester 2 on January 16th, meaning there was a solid month’s break for us to enjoy and regain our strength! At the end of Semester 2 we will commence a nice long summer break. Year 2 will then follow a similar structure, except that it will be followed by the Capstone project.

Anyone considering the Exec MBA may be a bit daunted by the notion of undertaking the MBA for “2 years”. Hopefully, you may take some solace in the above information! The best way to view the MBA is to break it into its semester-long sprints. After each sprint you can enjoy a bit of downtime and relaxation. Of course, for those of you who just can’t get enough, there is plenty of additional reading and online courses for you to enjoy in your spare time!

Ciarán Reilly

EMBA Weekend Year 1

Class of 2014 Graduation Ball

Class of 2014 Graduation Ball

On Friday December 5th, we saw the MBA Classes of 2014 receive their well-deserved graduation awards at the conferring ceremony in UCD O’Reilly Hall.

Following this, on Saturday December 6th, we attended the Smurfit MBA Graduation Ball 2014. The ball was organised by the graduates and took place in The Morrison Hotel, Dublin.

One of the greatest things about working in Academia is the privilege of seeing our students, year after year, achieve one of their greatest life goals, and the past weekend was no exception.

The Blues Brothers

The graduation ball was a huge success; with a champagne reception, delicious four course meal, a free prize draw and a night of fantastic music from the Blues Brothers which saw everybody dance the night away, it was the perfect way for our former students to celebrate the monumental achievement of becoming a UCD Smurfit MBA Graduate.

Emma Fagan, Alan Leahy, David Addie, Cormac Dunne

Class of 2014 Graduation Ball

Aisling O'Keeffe, Andrew Bacon, Lorcan McFadden, Claire McAlister

Ciaran Hynes, Claire O'Sullivan, Andrew Bourke

Congratulations to each and every one of our graduates and best wishes for your future adventures! Although you are no longer students, no matter where life takes you post-MBA, you will always be connected by the UCD Smurfit Business Alumni, keep in touch!

MBA Team: Shannon Coco, Avril Donohue, Orla Nugent, Michael McDonnell

Big congratulations again and best wishes for a bright future!

Avril Donohue

The MBA Team

The classes of 2014 depart the building

Last Friday 5th December saw the graduation of the MBA classes of 2014 at a very pleasant conferring ceremony in the O’Reilly Hall in Belfield.  As ever it was a privilege to see those MBA participants who had worked so long and hard finally achieve their aim of being a graduate of the programme.

After the conferring ceremoney itself we all attended a reception in the adjacant atrium to the hall and former class mates caught up with each other, introduced friends and family and discussed plans to the evening which were to start with dinner in various parts of the city and would end up who knows where.

Well done MBA graduates of 2014, we wish you well and please keep in touch.

Widen your horizons

When I took the decision to leave a stable and secure job, to devote one full year to my MBA journey at Smurfit Business School, I never thought that it would have such a life-changing impact. I think all my classmates would be echoing the same feelings.

Though we used to have quite a versatile work profile during our jobs; however, now I realize what actually versatility means in practice. Life is much bigger and there is lot to do and achieve. All the components of MBA right from Classroom Lectures (they are not just lectures but a completely participative experience especially during lots of Case Studies and class discussions), Individual and Group Assignments, Literature Reviews (I never thought that there would be a component of PhD thesis also in the MBA, which would refine my literary and research skills and some day may even inspire me to write a book), simulation games (to have real world business experience), PowerPoint presentations, MBA Clubs, Speaker events (we had quite inspirational and entrepreneurial speakers to interact with us during last 3 months), Network immersion week (the week seemed to bring almost the entire world to a single Smurfit classroom), Coaching Sessions (which have helped us to define our objectives and aspirations more clearly), Career Sessions (which introduced us to wide range of career options, which we never could have explored during our regular jobs), Sessions on Leadership and Communication skills, and so on. Careers sell has always been guiding us for attending more and more Career events and to do a lot of Networking, which again has helped us to reach out to people from various industries, sectors and fields and keep on continuously expanding our network. So, our learning does not end in the Business School premises, it extends much beyond that.

As soon as I start wondering is there anything left to experience, we are presented with entirely  new event or a new dimension of Smurfit MBA program, which helps towards further expanding and widening our horizons and enable us to become not just a world class manager but also a complete human being.

I have always been inspired by the quote One cannot discover new oceans, unless one leaves the fear of losing sight of the shore”. Smurfit MBA reinforces my belief that one year taken out of work is well spent on exploring new opportunities, widening your horizons and finding a new meaning for your Career and Life.

Ashutosh Singla

Full-time MBA 2014-15