Executive MBA Family Day

It’s easy to forget that your class mates are actually people with lives outside of the this world with husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends and children – and not merely fellow captives trying to help you get through the many, various assignments! So with the goal of getting to know our class mates a little better and having some harmless fun we conceived of the idea of the eMBA Family Day.

We are a time poor group at the moment with little capacity for extravagant party planning so our core focus in getting the event organised was to pool everyone’s talents and resources to see what we could come up with. Before we knew it we found we had an ‘Egg Hunt Director’, Jenn Boyer (EMBA Weekend), who brought significant experience from her childhood in the US, a jewellery designer class mate with a flair for face painting (Claire McAllister, EMBA Weekend), and the offer of a 7 feet tall dragon costume from a class mate’s marketing department! With these various resources and the support of the MBA office the eMBA Family Day Egg Hunt and Picnic was launched!

The path of the MBA student is never smooth and despite the fact that almost every Saturday that the weekend group has spent in Blackrock has been bathed in glorious sunshine, the day of the egg hunt coincided with the torrential rain and floods in Dublin. Not a group to be easily defeated, we brainstormed, innovated, discussed and debated and quickly relocated the party indoors and crated an indoor Easter woodland.

More than 15 families with over 20 children and even a few grandparents attended the event, eating approximately 2 metric tonnes of chocolate! The children were very excited to meet the eMBA Easter Bunny (graciously played by James O’Rourke, EMBA Weekend) and were a little astounded to encounter the eMBA Friendly Dragon (a stunning performance by Steve Kelly, EMBA Weekend). Despite our various obstacles and limited time we were delighted with the success of the event and are already looking forward to a bigger and better event for Year 2.

In addition to the kid’s enjoyment it was great to see the partners of the eMBA class mates spend some time together in such a fun setting – to commiserate over their missing spouses in some cases, to regale everyone with tales of practice presentations in front of the fire in others! There is a life outside of the eMBA, even if it’s sometimes easy to forget, so it’s good to give ourselves a little reminder every once in a while so that we remember why we’re doing this.

– Ciara O’Brien, EMBA Weekend 2012-14

What’s in a Grade?

To return to university after a gap of ten years since last attending a lecture or class is a daunting experience. To do so in tandem with your 9 to 5 and family responsibilities is bordering on insanity. Six months in to the Executive MBA, I don’t feel less insane for my decision but thankfully I am glad I lost my senses for those moments whilst filling in the Smurfit School application form! Surprisingly however, the satisfaction and benefits of my decision have not been derived from what I had previously assumed.

The decision to attempt to find 480 hours a semester in addition to work and family life was brought back to me in recent weeks, when receiving my semester 1 results. I must admit the most surreal experience of the Executive MBA to date has been waiting to sit an exam in the UCD RDS Exam Hall the week before Christmas with 18 year old first year undergraduates! I never knew I had such levels of ignorance of youth and self-consciousness of my own age in equal measure!

It was not the doing of the exams however that has triggered my reflection but rather the arrival of the results themselves. It has made me revisit why I decided to return to school in the first instance. Most organisations today ask a similar question as to what I did, which centre on the theme of what does success look like in any given situation.

What surprised me the most was the answer that I arrived at. It is very easy once in an academic environment to gauge one’s performance and success based on the quantifiable grade at the end of your module of effort, learning and long hours. This grade takes on a surprising level of significance not just for the student but also their peer group, friends, family and associates. What surprised me about my reflection is that whilst the grades I received were gratifying, they are not the reason that I or my classmates are here.

Each weekend I am surrounded by 21 extremely driven, intelligent, curious and accomplished individuals. In a wider sense there are nearly 100 equally impressive colleagues in the other classes of the 2013 Smurfit MBA Class. The insight, learning and enjoyment we are providing to each other through the facilitation of our lecturers is truly incredible. This is an aspect which may be outlined by numerous institutions as a sales point but it is the experience of this richness of experience on the Executive MBA which is challenging, stretching and ultimately enlightening.

And to the question of what success looks like to me on this MBA, it revolves around a new way of thinking and appreciating issues I face every day and this success is as dependent on my classmates and their contribution to the programme as much as it does my own or that of our lecturers. So to my classmates I say thank you and let’s continue to challenge each other as we make the most of this unique lifetime learning opportunity.

James O'Rourke



– James O’Rourke, EMBA Week-end 2012-14


Welcome Second Leg of MBA

It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining; the trees and grass are green with only a slight wind is blowing. It’s been more than two weeks since the start of a new semester for the full time MBA class. We’ve begun our option classes this semester, with only five core classes ongoing, including the overseas study trip due in March. The earliest class starts at 11 am this semester, good news for the owls among us.

We received our last semester’s results on Wednesday during the first week of class. I still feel a bit incredulous that I had actually completed studying seven subjects in three months. This semester, thus far, feels a lot less hectic compared to the last one.

A few of the class members mentioned that they felt like there was a lack in work/study-life balance last semester and wanted to re-prioritize their lives. Personally, I had occasional very high stress levels adjusting to the amount of work required last semester, along with my two young children and other domestic responsibilities. The ‘stress’ points were usually when the internet wasn’t working at home, had two or three assignments due and my beloved little ones were still running around the house when they should have had their morning bath.

I do feel that I was stretching myself a bit, and at some points wondered whether I would ever get to the end of the program! But I rationalized that it’s only for a short duration and I might as well juggle everything as best as I can. And it really depends on what we are looking for during this one year. Some of us may be using it as a stepping-stone, to network and get a better job while others may wish for academic excellence.

We all wrote down in our application essays what we wished to achieve during the MBA, though some people may have changed expectations and goals, but these objectives guide our decisions during the school term. For me, it has also meant forgoing taking any formal positions and attending most networking events because my aim is understanding with academic excellence while juggling a family, and bringing up and educating two future leaders (aka my children! ;)).

One of the great aspects of the MBA is that we get personal coaching which has helped us gain clarity into our own lives amidst the hectic MBA schedule. I’ve had two wonderful sessions with a first class Smurfit MBA alumnus. Coming out of the coaching session last Wednesday, I have asked myself a question that I felt I knew the answer, but perhaps I should ponder more on. I always have big dreams for my family and myself. But do I want to aim for eight things and only achieve 90%, or should I aim for only five things and achieve 100% on all of them? It’s a tough question. I would love to say I want to aim for eight things and achieve 100% but that would be stretching myself too thin and would definitely be bad for long-term health.

So to reach a middle ground, I will have to ask myself, out of those eight things that I want to achieve, which ones are the most important to me? What are my ‘key performance areas’ for this year? And for the long term? What are the strategic differentiators that I want to develop in myself? I know my priorities are my religion, my family and then only my career/ studies, but how much percentage do I devote to each of these, and how much do I have left for other things?

Deep breath.

Hard and tough questions to answer.


– Nur Zahirah M Sukran, FT MBA 2012/13