Mastering life’s courses for running, wine, and business school

Life experiences and interests from abroad

With A Splash Of Cranberry May 26, 2008

Filed under: Smurfit MBA — emccan2 @ 9:50 am

Last Friday marked the last ‘real’ exam of my MBA program.  I still have some things to tidy up with my company-sponsored project and a few last electives that will go through the middle of June, but with this exam out of the way, it’s the home stretch for me now.  I decided to ride my not-so-trusty bike to the exam because I didn’t want to mess with the traffic and wanted the flexibility to shoot off straight after I handed in my exam. 

I stopped at the supermarket to pick up some food for the week and proudly crammed everything into only 2 plastic bags.  (I’m trying to be somewhat conscious of the environment.  Well, actually, they charge 22 cents per bag and I hate buying them every time I go to the store.)  I conveniently attached the two bags to the back of my bike on the bike rack and headed home.  I was about half way home when I heard some strange sweeking noise.  I pulled over to check to make sure the bags were still there and everything looked fine, so I kept peddling. 

It wasn’t but 20 seconds later that I heard something catch and then felt an explosion of liquid all over the back of me.  I screamed and pulled over and couldn’t help but laugh at myself as the poor box of cranberry juice lay victimless in the middle of the road.  My bananas were also caught in the mess and stuck in the back tire.  Fortunately, I salvaged some, but was left stuck carrying a can of strawberry jam in one hand and balancing one completely overstuffed bag on the back of the bike.  There were a few snickers and stares as I made the rest of my journey home, and I was right along with them, laughing at my silly-looking self.

Having been hit by a car, run up against a stone wall, and fallen numerous times, you would think that I’ve been through it all with my bike.  But no, the bike strikes one more time just for good riddens and used my food as a weapon against me. 


Tasmanian Pinot Noir – An Irish Recommendation May 3, 2008

Filed under: Smurfit MBA,Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 4:31 pm

This week I have been traveling around southern Ireland with my classmate, Jenny, to interview store owners as a part of our final project for the MBA.  For our project, we are analyzing the current state of a 52-store franchise business of off-license stores across Ireland.  Our recommendation, which is due on May 17th, will provide the headquarter office with methods to improve their buying power, overcome IT challenges, adjust staffing responsibilities, and improve marketing and promotions for stores.  To help with our analysis, we decided to conduct one-on-one interviews with various store owners to understand how they are or are not benefiting from being a part of the franchise.


 This week, we traveled through Wicklow to Waterford and ended our trip in Cork.  I decided to stay the night outside of Cork in a town called Ballincollig while Jenny set off to spend the weekend with family. 

Why Ballincollig?  Well, since I will be doing a lot of touristy things in Galway in a few weeks, I decided to skip kissing the Blarney stone and checking out the city so that I could relax at a nice hotel called the Oriel House.  The hotel was running a promotion with a hot stone massage, so I decided this was the ideal place to spend in Cork. 

I went venturing into the village of Ballincollig and being the wine lover that I am, stopped into several off-licenses.  There was one in particular, O’Sullivans, that carried several Pinot Noirs, so I decided to pick up a bottle to open that night.  When I went to purchase what I thought was a nice bottle of Pinot Noir from New Zealand, the store owner asked me to wait a second and consider another option.  I am always in favor of a new Pinot experience, so I followed the owner to the New Zealand selection and listened intently as he offer some other suggestions.  His last suggestion was Devil’s Corner, a 2007 Pinot Noir from Tasmania for 11.99 euros.  My previous experience with Tasmanian Pinots has not been that great, so I was hesitant to get steered into this direction.  However, when the owner described the wine as one that is silky, elegant and fruity, I had a feeling this bottle was going to be different than the others I had tried. 

And yes was he right!  This Tasmanian Pinot was just what he said it would be – very light in color, silky smooth tannins and a great deal of fruit.  It’s incredible that in such a small place as Ballincollig, a town many will never have reason to stop in, did I find such a delightful wine lover to discuss our passion for Pinot Noir.  Though I didn’t catch the store owners name, I must send a big thank you from Dublin for helping make my stay far more relaxing and enjoyable I could have imagined.


Duke Rugby World Cup Tournament April 21, 2008

Filed under: Smurfit MBA,Travel — emccan2 @ 8:11 pm

Every April, Duke University’s MBA class (Fuqua) hosts an annual Rugby Tournament that brings schools to Durham, NC from all over the world.  The women play touch rugby (non-contact or somewhat like flag-football for my American friends) and the men play full contact rugby with shortened halfs.  Beyond that, I don’t know much more of the rules or terminology. 

In November, when our MBA class began organizing our teams for the tournament, things were looking a little uncertain, especially for the men’s team.  The reason was that many of my male classmates had never played rugby before but still wanted to play.  The efforts in organizing the practices, finalizing the teams, getting sponsorship, and arranging the logistics for travel were a bit of a nightmare.  Though thanks to a lot of hard work and effort, especially at the end, we managed to send 46 Rugby players overseas for one weekend of a lot of fun and competition.


As for the women, we fared well for being out of the country for the whole month of March, but didn’t come away with a trophy.  ON THE OTHER HAND, the men stole the show!  With a team of mostly injured players and the will to win, the Smurfit Men defeated London Business School in the finals to claim the 5th straight victory at the Rugby World Cup. 




Personally, I wasn’t sure if everyone was actually going to get up in the morning and be well enough to play the tournament because of some late evenings out.  Despite my misgivings, the Irish showed their true blood and kept trucking on and pushed through some tough games while suffering from the deadliest hangovers.   






Touch or Contact Rugby – Experiences at LBS Rugby Tournment February 20, 2008

Filed under: business school,Smurfit MBA — emccan2 @ 2:00 pm


With only 3 practices and an incredible amount of enthusiasm, the ladies Smurfit MBA Rugby team set out for London to participate in a competitive tournament of Touch Rugby with 6 other schools.   London Business School (LBS) hosted the event and other participating teams included Wharton, Columbia, Harvard, INSEAD, and IESE.  Unfortunately, our men’s team couldn’t make the event, but they plan to join the ladies when we head to Duke in April for the World MBA Rugby Tournament.   

Let me take a step back and explain how this rugby group got started.  For my friends and family in the States who are unfamiliar with Rugby, it is THE sport in Ireland and in Western Europe.  Smurfit’s MBA classes have been participating in Rugby tournaments over the past decade, including the LBS tournament in the winter and Duke’s tournament in the spring.  This year’s MBA class had just enough women to make up a team, so with much enthusiasm and some hesitation, we decided to form a team and compete this year.  My classmate Melissa’s fiance, Phillip, has been gracious enough to coach our team and is doing an excellent job.  We can’t wait to tell him about how well we did when we meet for practice again.

For just throwing together a team, we did pretty well.  We lost two matches and then won our next two, earning us a fifth place finish.  But more, we came out of the tournament with the will to improve and come out on top when we compete at Duke. 

The painful outcomes for me from the games include:  A Black Eye and the loss of my Two Big Toenails (which I had to perform surgery on when I got back to Dublin – ouch!) 

 In addition to the fun on the field, we had a great time out getting to know each other better and socializing with the other schools.  London is an amazing city, and LBS organized some great events to show us around the town.  Here are some pics from our evenings out.  I can’t wait for the next competition mid-April.  Those girls won’t even recognize us when we get there!

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REAL SCHOOL LIFE October 3, 2007

Filed under: business school,Smurfit MBA — emccan2 @ 9:54 pm

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Some people have read my posts on the hand dryers and wondered, how hard are you actually working?  Well, to refute that question, I have outlined below what life has really been like as an MBA student.

  • Last week’s average sleep rate per night was 4 hours;
  • Completed two assignments for Decision Making and Data Analysis, each taking over 20 hours to complete;
  • Developed and delivered a presentation on managing service in the service industry, highlighting the Ritz Carlton case for their 7-day launch strategy;
  •  Read over a thousand pages in print from textbooks, articles and case studies centered on the topics of strategic human resource management, general management and corporate strategy and operations management;
  • Learned the equivalent of 1.5 years of undergraduate accounting teachings over the course of 5 weeks;
  •  Sat through 5 macroeconomics lectures, with information flowing in one ear and out the other;

Don’t worry, I have managed to have a night or two out in the city, often enjoy a glass of wine to cap off the night, and have gotten back into running since my back injury.



Filed under: business school,Personal,Smurfit MBA — emccan2 @ 8:54 pm

The purpose of a good network is the source for many things, such as career management, a resource for information and valuable friendships.  Here are some examples of what my networks have done for me:

  • Prior work experiences: 
    • Taught me to not be too eager for the next opportunity because the current one may be better than you realize. (previous boss, Hallmark Cards)
  • Alumni.      
    • Connected me to C-level executives; provided sound career advice; entertained me with business semantics; became a true and trusted lifelong friend. (Gregg – you’re one of a kind!)
  • Personal:
    • Showed me how to live with a “glass is half full” mentality and to embrace spontaneity (my guardian angel)
    • Advised me not take on too much and to focus on the real joys in life (ex-boyfriend)
    • Taught me how to be a better listener (dear Chicagoan friend)
    • Helped me stay mentally focused in a competitive environment (tennis coach)
    • Showed me that giving provides more personal satisfaction than taking (parents)

It’s hard to reflect on all the wonderful people in my network without being saddened by the physical distance I am from all of them.  This particular transition has been hard.  I’m following an uncertain path, trying to determine what the next move will be, without an idea where I will find the answer.  Is there a future for me in Ireland, somewhere else in Europe, in Australia or in the US?  Will I go into the wine business, stay in healthcare, pursue pension consulting, focus more on finance or go into sales? 

The answer is and continues to be…I don’t know.  But that is where I value you, my network, because I can trust you to help me with this question. I gratefully welcome your sugygestions, contacts and antidotes on this subject because I know it will spark a new interest I haven’t explored 

You meet people who forget you. You forget people you meet. But sometimes you meet those people you can’t forget. Those are your friends.


A Real Team Building Experience September 13, 2007

Filed under: Smurfit MBA — emccan2 @ 5:26 pm

Later last week, our class of 40 MBA students went on a trip to the Avondale House, to participate in a day of team building exercises.  smurfit-school-4th-sept-2007-030.jpgWe were not provided with any information for what the day would entail, so we were a bit nervous about what we were getting ourselves into. 

Obstacles such as lowering a pole with 8 peoples’ index fingers touching the pole and constructing a mechanism to launch 4 corks into the air were the types of projects we struggled through.  After a day of team building and bonding, our MBA class of 40 got a lot closer and built a great camaraderie that we will continue to build on throughout the year.

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At the conclusion of the day we also got our team assignments for Term 1.  My team includes Robin (German), Enda (Irish) and Aaron (Irish). 

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