Littlefield Technologies

It started as the final assignment for our EWMBA 204 – Core Operations class. It ended up as a three-day addiction and obsession. It took over all discussions on the EWMBA 2014 Facebook page. Several throwdowns, challenges and a nail biting finish later, the winner was crowned at 11:05PM yesterday night. It was over… the Littlefield Technologies simulation was complete.

Littlefield Technologies is an online simulation of a high-tech factory that brings together all the concepts from EWMBA 204. It runs for continuously for 3.5 days simulating an entire production year at the factory. In teams of four, we became the operations managers of the factory, making decisions regarding inventory purchases, factory capacity and capital investments, order sizes and contract types; all with objective of ending the simulation with the highest possible cash balance.

The simulation really brought home everything that we learnt through the semester. It also challenged us to use our core analytical skills in accurately predicting demand, supply and factory utilizations. With the simulation running continuously, it became an obsession to refresh the internet browser every few minutes to check on the status of our factory. Some of us stayed up into the wee hours of the morning just to make sure out factory stayed on track. Many strategies, regressions, moving averages and trendline analyses later, we ended up in 10th place. Oh well!! We did not end up on top, but we learnt a lot. The Littlefield simulation turned out to be one of the most exhilarating experiences in the EWMBA so far.

And now, time to head back to the non-simulated world …

That’s all folks!!

-          Shamik

Multitasking

If there is one thing you really get good at as you progress along the EWMBA road, it is multitasking; or rather, learning to switch between different tasks and make a lot of progress in short bursts. Fall B has proved to be more challenging than Fall A and things have also picked up quite a bit at my workplace. All of this has really brought out a need for thoughtful orchestration of my daily to-do list.

Financial Accounting is definitely something that becomes natural only after a fair amount of practice. Learning accounting feels somewhat like learning a new language with its own grammar, rules and non-intuitive nuances. It takes a bit of getting used to. However, it has definitely given me a fresh perspective on analyzing earnings reports and announcements. My ears perk up every time I hear about really rosy “non-GAAP” earnings or “one-time charges and write-offs”.

Marketing has been a blast – from truly understanding how customers value products, to critiquing companies tripped by the inventor’s dilemma, to learning about strategies for sustaining long-term product differentiation. To top it all – a business case on marketing and pricing contact lenses for - wait for it - chickens. For our marketing project, my team has been working on developing a market entry plan for a startup in the cosmeceutical industry. The level of access to the company, the quality of industry reports available via the Haas business library and the heated debates on strategic marketing options, have made each and every one on the team feel like a product marketing manager on the company payroll.

Well, its Friday night and time to hit the books…

That’s all folks!!

-          Shamik

One-twelfth

This is my first post as an official student blogger, and my second on this blog if you count my guest post. I am a first year student in the weekend (OSKI) cohort.

It is hard to believe that we are done with Fall A. Yesterday, as I stepped out of Andersen Auditorium after completing the EW201 finals, I realized that a twelfth of the journey was already complete. In this short span of eight weeks I already feel like I am part of an amazing new community – there is a true sense of family in each of the cohorts at Haas.

I was taking two core classes in Fall A – Microeconomics (aka“Economic Analysis for Business Decisions”) and Organizational Behavior (aka “Leading People”). The course on Microeconomics provides an introduction to competitive and non-competitive markets, optimal production and consumption theories and also touches upon game theory. For those who have taken Econ 101 in their undergrad, let me assure you that this course is way more real world, with class discussions revolving around the application of the theoretical concepts to real world firms and business scenarios. We discussed everything from the way Google models its AdWords auctions for maximizing profitability to the way Disneyland prices its entry fees.  And for all you movie buffs, we do study the theory behind this.

Want to play with Lego blocks, role play a day in the life of a NASCAR pit crew, critically analyze an hour-long movie clip in class – then Leading People is definitely the choice for you. The course truly brings organizational behavior concepts to life through engaging class discussions and a ton of in-class activities. A lot of what you learn seems obvious, but the frameworks and principles help you think about, analyze and apply these concepts on your day-to-day job. This is one course where you can apply what you learn on Saturday, at work the very next Monday.

Let me wrap up by taking a shot at answering a question that I get asked most often: “How many hours a week do you spend on your MBA?” This was also my favorite question for seniors and alumni when I was going through the application process. So, for the last few weeks, I have been keeping track of my Haas activities and here is what the data looks like…

As Kai Ryssdal would say, “Let’s do the numbers..” – Mean number of hours spent per week (excluding classes) was 7.78 hours, with a standard deviation of 3.27 hours. A week-long vacation around Labor Day would explain the lack of hours between Aug 28th and Sep 3rd. Also, you can observe the increase in time spent on the team project towards the later weeks.

So, what can you conclude from the data above? As any MBA student worth his salt would tell you, it depends. This is just a single data point out of hundreds who have been and are part of the EWMBA program. The specific amount of time spent on Haas activities vary from person to person. And yes, it looks like the numbers above do line up with what you will hear generally which is between 8-15 hours spent per week depending on the deliverables for that week.

That’s all folks!!

- Shamik

It Depends

One of the most useful things I’ve learned in school is the helpful phrase “it depends.” Amazingly, there are remarkably few “right” answers, even in disciplines where you think there might be (finance, accounting, operations). Sure, there’s often a ‘right’ numerical answer, but often the way you get there or how you interpret it is up for debate.

This says to me why business school matters now – especially at Haas. One of our core values is “question the status quo” – something that I think everyone needs to do as we face the very difficult problems of the 21st century. So it’s reassuring that even in school we’re being taught to question our assumptions, to realize that you can interpret the same ‘facts’ differently. This is a creative approach to problem solving, and it’s an absolutely essential skill for leaders.
This quarter has been the most challenging yet (which is why you haven’t heard much from the first-years on the blog!) with intensive courses in finance, operations and leadership communications. And yes, there are some days where if you asked me if I were enjoying my year, I might say “it depends” – for example I’m writing this on a Friday night and then I’m going to go work on a finance problem set. Ah, student life!
But it’s heartening to know that the future leaders of America and beyond aren’t willing to settle for black and white, but know that we live in shades of gray, and our education at Haas reflects that.

Hello World!

I’m Sonny and I’m new.

I’m going to walk you through the week I just had which was eventful to say the least.

It began with an invitation from Molly Kihanya (Senior Associate Director for EWMBA admissions) to join the Blog Squad which I obviously jumped on immediately. The first thing I did after joining the team is start reading blog posts all the way from the first one dated September 2007. I’m about half way through now and what really amazes me is how different each person’s experience is even though we are all going through the same program. That’s EWMBA for you – it is what you make of it. So that was Monday.

On Wednesday, Molly set up an information session for Berkeley Part-time MBA programs at Microsoft campus in Redmond (oh btw – I live in Seattle, work at Microsoft and commute on weekends to Berkeley for classes). I was on the student panel. Lots of people (around 30-40) – which means there is a lot of interest in the Haas programs – which meant lots of questions. Last year I was one of the people asking the questions – so it felt really good to be on the other side. I wish I hadn’t forgotten to take pictures which I was planning to post here.

Then came Thursday when I found out that I’m going to move into a people management role at work. The only reason I don’t want to say I’m super-excited is because of how overused that word is at Microsoft. So let’s just say I’m super-duper excited. And could the timing be more perfect? I just finished the Leading People class also known as Org Behavior.

Speaking of the Leading People class, we had our final project presentations in class on Saturday. For the project we were asked to audit an organization (any organization), analyze a problem they are currently facing and then come up with recommendations to address the problem. The best part of the project for me was working with my team. It was amazing how well we got to know and adjust to each other’s working styles given that we were all strangers when we first started seven weeks ago. Also – I completely agree with Aaron that the first term went by way too fast. You are probably tired of hearing how quickly the time flies when you are juggling work and school – so I won’t say it (but it really does!)

Sunday was spent falling in and out of sleep in front of the TV – which helped me become human again.

I hope your week was as fun as mine was.

Until next time…
-S

This post was written while listening to ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by Black Eyed Peas.

Head is almost over water

Some of the second and third year students I’ve interacted with regard this 3rd quarter of year 1 as the most grueling one (academically) in the program. Both Finance and Operations courses are fairly intense. The curriculum requirements include several problem sets and cases, other than the midterm and final exams. In fact since the weekday cohorts started 4 weeks ago, we’ll have our mid-term exams next week. The silver lining here is that we’re getting a preview of disciplines that are essential for the functioning of any organization. And, any aspiring business professional needs to be very comfortable with both of these.

The other day we had a Finance case on the Lockheed TriStar program. This multi-billion dollar defense project from 1970s ran into cost-overruns and had revenue projections which were fairly unrealistic. (This is just a plain text read of the case, not my expertise of analyzing multi-billion dollar boondoggles :-) ) You’d wonder that if it was evident to every MBA-student who’s solved this case in the past decade, then why Lockheed executives didn’t realize this. Of course, not everything is black-and-white. Some of these financially unacceptable ventures are green-lighted for socio-political and strategic reasons. I can’t help but draw comparisons with the current banking-bailout. But let’s leave that for some later time. Anyway, working on such real-life cases has been really exciting.

Btw, one month into the quarter, I finally understand this finance profession joke:

Said the epitaph of a naïve banker “He who lies here wanted all his relationships to be NPV positive”

Operations Management is no less interesting in principle (as I realized after working on an NYPD scheduling case problem). Have you ever felt that the other “queue” is faster while waiting for security checkin at an airport or standing in a line at Starbucks? All of this scheduling is (can be) done via complex scheduling models. And it was news to me that in the common case, having a single queue is faster than the multiple queues we see in our daily lives. A big part of this story is apparently, perception. One line appears to be too long and 5 small lines, while slower, give us the feeling of being served faster!

The summer quarter elective list was released recently. Taking classes in the summer may be an NPV positive decision and will certainly optimize scheduling for future semesters, but I am hoping that socio-psychological reasons will prevail in the end. And I will be able to spend the summer months re-introducing my “fun” side to friends and family. Wait, I dare not day-dream; it’s just too far to be real at this time.

- Div

Only 5 more to go

Happy New Year 2009!

It’s been a while since I posted. The first couple of weeks of December were spent tackling the Marketing and Accounting finals and I flew out of the country the day after the last exam (missing a plethora of end-of-term parties). So lots of things to ruminate about now that 1st semester is over (grades were available in the last week of Dec)

Marketing finals for the evening cohort were in the form of a WAC, or a Written Analysis of a Case. We did this in teams of 2-3. The Accounting (the course is actually called Financial Reporting) finals were a much awaited event. The class was divided into pre-assigned groups and each group analyzed the financials of a target company perceived to be in some form of financial distress. The companies chosen were from a broad spectrum, Retail to Technology to Housing to Media. The final was a 30 minute presentation and Q&A where each team was grilled on the analysis and recommendations it provided. The panel of judges was comprised of Senior Managers and Partners from Big4 accounting firms. Turned out, some of the judges were actually associated with a few companies which were analyzed!

There was a lot of creativity in these presentations and arguably, the 2 days spent on these presentations were the most rewarding ones for me in this course. While I did learn a lot of accounting during the term, these presentations provided a unique insight into 11 publicly traded companies presented by my classmates. MBA after all, is mostly learning from one’s peers!

2nd semester starts this coming week for the evening cohorts. This semester is also divided into two half-sems and in all accounts for 9 credits (1st year is 17 credits). We start with Operations and Finance (core subjects) and by some accounts this quarter is significantly more challenging than the past two. The fact that I have homework due for both of these classes before the first lecture itself is probably an indication of times to come. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Finally, just wanted to offer a couple of suggestions with respect to pre-reqs, for those of your in the process of applying to Haas. I strongly strongly recommend getting enrolled into a Statistics/Math class. Alternately sign up for the waiver exams (if applicable in your case) early. And, if by some off-chance you flunk the waiver (believe me, it happens), you will still have time to enroll into a class. I kid you not; pre-reqs are taken very seriously and if they are incomplete, you will not be admitted. It’s awful to get so close and then not make it. One last thing, if there’s anything you’d like to know about Haas, do not hesitate in getting in touch with the admissions office. This is not just for queries on the admissions process but also about life@Haas or Careers after Haas or anything@Haas. If required, the admissions folks will even help you connect with current students or alums who can answer specific questions.

And just a reminder, we’d love to hear back from you so feel free to comment!

Until later, D

Supply chains & reverse auctions

Due to the holiday this week, the Blue & Gold cohorts had a combined class on Tuesday and a guest speaker from Sun MicroSystems. It was fascinating to hear about how Sun manages their supply chain in order to compete with others in the industry who are ten times their size. Sun utilizes a number of innovative techniques such as reverse auctions and external manufacturers in locations which are both low cost and close to their customer base to minimize distribution costs. It really helped to understand some of the applications of Operations theory by hearing from someone who works in this area.

I volunteered to be the class rep for the Gold cohort for Operations, so during the break, our professor, the Blue class rep and myself went out to dinner with our guest. It was a great opportunity to gain further insights into operations in the real world. I also discovered that there is a great restaurant really close to Haas – check out Adagia – we need to take advantage of this more often (they had us in and out in 40 minutes)!

The other big positive from last night was I got back my first essay for the Writing Requirement. Before completing first year, we are required to have reached a certain standard in writing, or undergo a series of coaching sessions with the Haas writing coach. I’m really happy to have passed my first submission, just need to submit one more example of my writing before I’ve completed the requirement.

Its kind of surreal for me only being at Haas one night a week instead of two. But I think the nine weeks of bliss will fly by (we’re into the third week already). I still have to make up one extra unit of credit, but this semester is already pretty busy in the second half and I haven’t found anything I really want to take this semester that is available during my free half semester – so I’ll make it up later. Although I had planned on taking some summer classes, I think I’ll enjoy the sunshine and free time this summer.

Well – back to it – midterms next week already….

1 down, 5 to go!

For Deanne, me, and the rest of the class of 2010, it’s one semester down and five more to go. Four core courses complete and six to look forward to next semester – I’m planning on not thinking about it for three weeks. So what did I learn during these past few months?

Before we left for break, Professor Catherine Wolfram sent us a link to give us an economics refresher on the 10 Principles of Economics.

From Professor Barry Staw’s Organizational Behavior class, I learned that issues such as Groupthink are pretty serious and we, as managers, need to consider out of the box solutions to solve problems. I also learned that the smaller the font that you can read, the better off you’ll be in that class and that Haas supports overhead projectors.

In Marketing, Professor Ganesh Iyer taught us about the value of databases and that it’s important to think of the marketing mix as a whole. He also enjoys purchasing flowers during the same time of year every year and from the supplier standpoint, knowing that about your consumer is extremely valuable.

Finally, Professor Solomon Darwin taught us that in Accounting, one needs to be ethical. There is so much room for interpretation of the rules, that we are responsible for being conservative, using the matching principle, and doing the right thing.

Of course, I can’t give everything away – you need to come to Haas and learn all of these valuable lessons for yourself. And now, time for some much needed rest :)