The student perspective on an MBA open event

Open event taken from first floor landing, note the funky lighting

Last night I was fortunate enough to be a participant on a panel discussion with regards to the MBA for prospective students. I am in my second year of the mid week EMBA. It is the first time that I participated, last year I was too worried about my exams to give the time. However, this year I think I have relaxed more into the course and also have the self confidence to know that I will be OK exam-wise.  The evening began with a presentation given by Gillian Durnin, MBA Admissions Manager, Orla Nugent, MBA Programme director and Brian Marrinan, MBA Careers Director. It was great to see so many people interested  in the MBA, but disappointing to see so few women in the audience. It was the same when I came for the MBA evening 18 months ago. I had the same questions and worries as expressed by those present. It was nice to be in a position to advise on my experiences to date on the course. Other panellists were current students from the first year Exec and weekend courses, a second year student from the weekend course and two students that have survived the MBA and lived to tell the tale, so a broad perspective was given. The main areas of concern were the GMAT (a big one for the majority of us), the costs not only financially, but also the time commitment and the required juggling with home and work life. Brian was able to advise on the return on investment career-wise for the course. For me the most interesting part was meeting people afterwards and having the opportunity to speak on a one to one basis. For one prospective student, they had come to the evening not sure if they wanted to choose this course or another, but after the information session, they felt more inspired to pursue the MBA. I wish everyone that decides to pursue the MBA the best of luck in their endeavours. It is a lot of hard work, don’t think otherwise, but there are a lots of rewards that go with it too.

Muireann Cullen

Midweek year 2

MIJE – Masters in Juggling Everything

The only thing I ever knew about spreadsheets was how to spell it. And if I typed in a hurry, there was a fairly good chance I’d get it wrong.

Coming from a journalism background, the thoughts of studying financial modules brought me out in a cold sweat. I didn’t know my EBIDATA from my ROI and I felt much more comfortable quizzing a head of state or covering a murder trial than using a calculator.

Fast forward three months and not only can I use Excel, I can actually read spreadsheets and financial statements. And acronyms are now my new language. Instead of my eyes glazing over when I hear of ROCE or EPS or WACC, I’m now comfortable with the terminology. And I also know that HRM has another meaning other than Her Royal Majesty.

One the many lessons I’ve learned since taking the plunge to do an MBA is that not having a financial background is no hindrance. Sure, it would make Financial Reporting a little easier, but having a background in writing means that I don’t baulk at being handed a 2,500 word project. Give me an interesting topic and 5,000 words to write and I’ll give you a work of art (almost) in a few hours. And as for deadlines? I’ve never met one that I didn’t like to sail close to.

Aside from finance, there’s so much else to learn and juggle – strategy, human resources, operations, economics, marketing….the list goes on.

Maybe the MBA title is what misled me into thinking only people with a background in business and finance ever did the course. Perhaps it’s time for a new title that could give a more accurate interpretation of what it’s all about?

Masters In Juggling Everything (MIJE)

Masters in Time Management (MITM)

Masters in Getting By On No Sleep (MIGBONS)

Masters in Networking and Job Hunting (MINJH)

I’m not sure they’ll ever catch on but they might help explain a little of the madness of the rollercoaster journey of an MBA student.

Edel Kennedy


UCD Smurfit MBA supports Plan Ireland

To celebrate ‘International Day of the Girl’ on 11th October, Plan Ireland held its Because I am a Girl Ball in the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Dublin.

Because I am a Girl is Plan International’s global initiative to educate girls across the developing world. To do this, Plan International identify the key barriers to girls’ education – child marriage forced labour, sexual violence, early pregnancy and more – and break them.

Susi Geiger & Eva Wedenberg

The focus of the campaign is girls, because a girl in the developing world faces overwhelming odds from the day she is born. But Plan is reversing these odds, they have reached a crucial tipping point and are making real progress. More girls than ever are being given the chance of education and the tide is turning. More and more of today’s mothers have seen the value of education. Fathers, communities and governments are following.

Associate Professor, Susi Geiger, was amongst the attendees at the ball; “Every girl has the right to an education. It’s apt that the female MBA staff support this great cause (and we have a great night out while doing so)!”

Over the next four years, Because I am a Girl projects will support four million girls to get the education, skills and support they need to move themselves from poverty to opportunity.

Elena Ranguelova & Roisin O'Loughlin

Plan Ireland held the ball in support of this initiative and both the Smurfit MBA team and students supported the event and enjoyed a wonderful evening at the ball.

Adela Perez & Caragh Curran

Support from events such as the ball allow Plan to implement projects that tackle some of the biggest challenges that girls face in developing countries. They believe that supporting girls is one of the best investments we can make in the world today. Removing barriers for girls’ means, not only a better life for them, but a safer, healthier and prosperous world for us all. To find out more information or to support to the cause, click here

Avril Donohue

MBA Senior Programme Coordinator

The joys of beginning EMBA year 2

Lazy weekends, Saturday afternoons filled with sporting drama, the World Cup, drinks with friends – we’re just a month into Year 2 of the EMBA and all of the above seem like distant memories.

You know what? I hardly miss them. There’s something invigorating about meeting up with classmates after a few months apart, re-living the ups and downs of Year 1, and facing into a whole new set of challenges that Year 2 is sure to bring. New modules, new faculty, new teams, and a year of deadlines, presentations, projects and late nights to sharpen the mind – bring it on!

September brings a real buzz to the Smurfit campus, with a host of fresh faces and ‘deer in the headlights’ looks in abundance. I know exactly how that feels – like many EMBA candidates, it had been quite some time since I’d been in a classroom setting. It takes a little while to adjust and find the focus that is required to deliver on what seems like an insurmountable body of work. But focus you must. The good news is that it gets easier to find that focus as you practice it (not that the workload gets any easier!) Couple that with the learning acquired, and you’ll find that concepts that seem like double-dutch at the start of the semester become instinctive by the time it draws to a close.

The learning on the MBA is about stepping back and seeing the bigger picture. Regardless of your current position, the concepts you learn will allow you to recognize the dynamics that exist in both your own firm and others, and give you an understanding of why firms do what they do (rightly or wrongly!) Analysis is the name of the game, and you’ll learn how to recognize how firms derive their competitive advantage, and what they do to sustain it in an ever-changing marketplace. Balance sheets, income statements, capacity utilization, weighted average cost of capital, organizational culture – get comfortable with them, as these will be your friends for the foreseeable future!

The EMBA really is a shared experience that fosters a unique and lasting bond among classmates, whether you’ve worked together in a team or not. Everyone brings something to the table that you can leverage to your benefit. Work hard, learn from all around you, question everything. Embrace it, and most of all – have fun. I know I will!

Scott Lindsey

Weekend year 2

Time to think …

There is an element of the MBA experience that gets lost in the noise of commentary on hours, deadlines, hand ins and team meetings. The full time MBA gives you back some time in your life to think. To think about what you want to do, to think about what you have done and to think about what makes you tick. Any perspective student should know the amount of hours required on the MBA programme is a often overhyped. MBA graduates you will meet remember the pinch situations where they had to work until the wee small hours of the morning for three nights in a row, or they remember a chronic three week period in semester 1 where they had 5 projects hanging over them. But the reality of the situation is that this is the exception rather than the rule. There is a steady flow of work that (if you keep on top of) is eminently manageable. The MBA experience gives you more time out then your current career. It is NOT like having a fulltime job and there IS an element of reliving that college experience where you used to have time to think, chat and pursue some new interests and side projects.

As an entrepreneur I find this time invaluable. In the “real world” It’s hard to get time to think about new business ideas and exciting innovations. In the MBA bubble you can find that time again and more importantly, when you do find that time you are far better equipped to turn day dreams into realities should you choose to do so. You start refining your ideas from the minute they pop into your head, what are the barriers to entry? Is it an attractive Industry structure? What is the value proposition? How easily would this be imitated? Do you have access to resources required? It also helps that you now have 35 new people in your life that you can bounce ideas off and develop some thoughts you have had on your career, or a business idea or even a further course of study after the MBA (God forbid!).

So don’t let talk of “surviving the MBA”, the “divorce course” and “say goodbye to your family for a year” influence your decision complete an MBA. It is challenging but doable, and if you are at a bit of a crossroads in life, the programme will give you the time and resources to figure out the grand plan for you. That plan will change daily by the way but at least you will be thinking about it….

Trevor Whelan

Full-time MBA 2014

Rugby Club Fundraises for 12th MBA World Cup Win

The new semester is in full swing now. Our new groups have been assigned and my group has already made our first presentation. We had our first night out as a group last week and enjoyed Mediterranean cuisine in Keshk, a restaurant in town. Deniz, my teammate from Turkey selected our dishes and did not put a foot wrong. It was really good to have some fun with the team and get to know each other better.

This semester is not going quite as expected however. Last semester we heard about the promised land of semester two – we would no longer be working around the clock, we would get to meet up with the friends we had neglected in semester one, Semester two is going to be easier they told us….I am pretty sure they lied. I seem to be busier than ever.

Partly this is as a result of some of the clubs I am involved in – specifically the rugby club. As Jim has already blogged, we had a great dinner in aid of the rugby club in the Pillar Room in the Rotunda Hospital. The Smurfit School has an impressive academic tradition but it also has a proud rugby tradition and we hope to continue this tradition of excellence by winning our 12th title this year! The MBA world cup will give us an opportunity to represent the Smurfit School, Ireland, Irish business, and the companies that partner with us on the world stage.

The dinner was part of a wider fundraising campaign which includes producing a match-day programme that is showcased in the Smurfit School before we head off to the world cup and also distributed widely during the world cup amongst the other teams. Many teams have fundraising challenges, so the organisers of the competition focus heavily on distributing the match-day programme as widely as possible amongst participating teams. This means that advertisers get really good value for money. As I was less involved in organising the dinner as other members of the committee (one of us is a chef!), I put my hand up to project manage the match-day programme. No pressure! If any of you out there are involved in successful organisations that want excellent exposure to the Smurfit School or to students from 25 of the top MBA schools in the world, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I am starting to realise that fundraising is a much tougher gig than I had expected! And I was expecting it to be tough. Any contributions to the team would be much appreciated! Seriously – you can donate from our home page.

Thady Duggan

Full-time MBA 2014