The Home Stretch

The upcoming semester will be my last at Haas. Thus begins the bittersweet moments of near-graduation. It will be sweet to taste the lap of victory and celebrate no more classes, homework or group projects. But, of course, it will be bitter also to think of missing out on hanging with and seeing classmates/friends who’ve shared in the journey.

For second years, now’s the time to really drill down and see what classes you want to take in the upcoming year and a half, if you haven’t already. It really helps to plan accordingly, so that your time here is as productive as possible. The fun times will come with, if you let it.
Admittedly, it’s been a difficult, though incredible, winter break. My wife and I just had our first child over the break period (good timing in student terms? 🙂 ), which comes with so many happy moments, coupled with huge lapses in sleep. It reminds me why we come to business school though: to build upon ourselves and the world around us — whether it be in developing products, people, companies, or economies; all of it relates to simply making a better place that our children and our children’s children will enjoy and cherish. Sure– there will be scandals, crashes, and worse– but hopefully we take away the best of business at Haas and the “good will” personality, emblazoned upon our four principles (one of which is “Beyond Yourself”).
As always, onward… good luck 2nd year’s at MPAR– simulations and partying ahead. I’ll leave my fellow students (and blog readers) with another quote (or rather song lyrics):
Oh, these times are hard
Yeah, they’re making us crazy
Don’t give up on me baby
— For the First Time, The Script

Until the next time,
– Tim

Happy Holidays!

The end of the first semester and the three week long school vacation has brought some well deserved free time for us all. As I was driving on the gorgeous 17 mile drive a couple of days ago, my thoughts went back to the semester starting with orientation weekend in August and all the fun we’ve had over the last few months getting to know each other. Now this being the holiday season and all, I had to pull over by the scenic road-side and break into a song, which, from what I can recollect, had a carol-like ring to it and went something like this:

As an exciting first semester is drawn to a close,
You feel the passage of time, as it dramatically slows.
And you remember the day, not so very long ago,
You said yes to Haas, and then downed a Bordeaux,
Not knowing how you’d manage your precious time,
As you said your vows, to the MBA part-time.

The memories of the orientation weekend play in your head,
Those new faces you smiled at, the accents you misread.
Shooting the tennis-balls at your team’s architectural wonder,
Heaving a sigh of relief, as the Chateau refused to go under.
The Coors case analysis, right after that delectable dinner,
You knew right then, in Haas, you’d chosen a winner.

For your first group assignment, in the “Leading People” class,
You interviewed accomplished leaders, without a safety glass.
Studying supply demand and game theory in Economics course,
Made the engineer in you, love the dark side of the force.
Accounting made you delve closer into your investments-stocks
Those financial statements, after all, weren’t a complete black-box.
And you loved Marketing, in all its great glory,
For it taught you there was a method, to selling a story.

As you look forward to a year, brand new,
You know you’ve bid that initial fear adieu.
And you catch yourself smiling in your clairvoyant mirror,
For you know that the destination is so much nearer.

Happy Holidays everyone and see you all next semester!

A call to action…

Disclaimer: Overly dramatized and laced with Indian Bollywood style-masala (spices) for readability and boredom prevention.

“Third place to the team with the fantastic ideas on investing in mobile payments” – I heaved a sigh of relief on hearing the announcement by the judges at the 2010 Apple Technology Challenge organized by Haas Technology Club. We were still clinging on to the hope of finishing in the top two at the competition whose question was to suggest a strategy for Apple to invest its $51B cash reserves.

“The second prize goes to the team with a great array of ideas on re-investing in the current Apple ecosystem and further developing the current market”. There was just one prize left, the first prize. Instinctively, my head turned down towards the floor, recollecting the three near-all-nighters our team had spent that week working on our idea’s presentation to the Apple product marketing executives.

Two weeks earlier, our team, Sam Kanakamedala, Shone Tran and I, Archit Lohokare, had been selected as one of the five finalists at the Apple Technology Challenge for the seemingly flabbergasting (not my words) proposal that Apple should spend a part of its $51B cash reserves acquiring Tesla Motors, the electric car company. The idea was a product of some very animated brainstorming over a few cups of coffee at a Starbucks between a software engineer, a product marketer and a technical salesperson.

Flashes of those all-nighters came back to me as I stole a glance at my team members. We knew our idea had strong merit, but backing up ideas with hard facts and data was important. Pouring over 20+ research reports on car telematics, infotainment, electric vehicles, Apple and Tesla from sources like Gartner, IDC, ABI research, Consumer Electronics Association, Frost & Sullivan, iSuppli, etc, we had managed to develop credible projections of the total addressable market, future market growth, opportunities, competitive analysis and a whole slew of consumer survey analyses to support our proposal.

Our team’s debates about how to organize the presentation started playing in my head. Focus on the strategic aspects, not on tactical considerations. Answer the fundamental questions with conviction and simplicity – “Why Car?” and “Why Tesla?” Obsessively working on each slide figuring out how it was transitioned into, and transitioned out of. What kind of questions could we expect on each point, and how could we credibly and honestly answer them. We had to remember that this was, for all practical purposes, a strategy presentation to the product marketing executives at the largest technology company in the world. And we were first year part time MBA students.

The night before the presentation then flashed before me – 3 a.m. and we were midway through rehearsing our presentation. By the end of the night, each of us knew the presentation by rote and had the numbers in the slides on our fingertips. And we were dead tired. I closed my eyes for a bit.

On opening them again, I was back in the O’Neill room at the Haas Faculty Club looking down at the floor. The world was seemingly at standstill and the only sound I heard was the judge saying, “The winner of this year’s Apple Technology Challenge, is TEAM TESLA”! That was our team’s “Miss World” moment – the moment where you stand up instinctively, round your lips into an “O” and then cover them with the palms of both your hands. We had won!

To end on a more serious and heartfelt note, yes, there was a lot of work and a lot of luck involved. I am not, from even the remotest perspective, an authority on b-school competitions. However, the purpose of this post, in all honesty, is to educate our blog readers that Haas and b-school competitions in general are serious business, and to be treated just as you would treat your job. Ideation and out-of-the-box thinking is great and absolutely needed, but as in the corporate world, these competitions will see probing questions from the judges on the validity and coherence of your ideas. Lastly, and probably most importantly, the team, its enthusiasm and its synergy make a monumental difference.

My EWMBA brethren, this is a call to action. So spread your wings, form your teams and attack these competitions head on. I promise you’ll enjoy every moment of it and come out, at the very minimal, with strong friendships, new confidence and great business analysis skills!

For those of you interested, here’s the collateral (slide deck, executive summary, and an acquisition strategy pitch-book) we developed for the competition. We were also helped greatly by a fantastic video developed by Blue Penguin Pictures run by Shone’s close friend Alan Chern, who we cannot be more thankful to. Comments and critical review welcome!

The past few weeks…

So, I’ve had a really busy and interesting month at Haas and couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. But then, I went on this long motorcycle ride with my procrastinating self, and got back from Wonderland only today.

Good memories of the Haas Scotch night organized by HAN SF last week; at least of the first 30 or so minutes. Not sure if I can remember much after that, wink wink. The evening began with an interesting comedy of errors, which involved one of my Haas classmates and me missing the Caltrain first at Lawrence Station, then at Sunnyvale, and finally getting on at Mountain View after a mad rush through South Bay back roads. The event was at the SWIG bar in San Francisco, and boy, was the bar full! It was truly fantastic to see so many students and alumni actively network on a weekday night. But then again, with 150 types of Scotch Whiskey, I wasn’t too surprised! I promise I (was) stopped at 20. Err, 30.

Now I do attend events that don’t just involve “I’alcool” (pardon my French). I, for one, have been interested in the field of clean technology for quite some time. Attending the third Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum a few weeks ago was an amazing experience. Listening to accomplished VCs talk about where the current investments are being made, what types of technologies are in a “bubble” and which ones have true potential was an insightful eye-opener. I doubt I’ve heard a more articulate segmentation of the clean tech market from anyone before.

And then there have been a couple of interesting competitions I’ve participated in. Give my team your best, folks, we’re in the finals of the first Apple Tech Challenge organized by the active and fun Haas Technology Club. I haven’t had so much fun brainstorming ideas in a long time. And tomorrow is the first round submission of the VCIC competition. Talk about an interesting life!

Last night, I had a dream. I was 10 years old. I went up to my Dad and told him, “I want to be an Accountant when I grow up”. What followed next resulted in a call to Child Services in the dream, so I’ll leave the specifics out. Just kidding! Yep my friends, I dream of accounting these days. That’s how much fun and insanely exciting our class on Financial Accounting Analysis is. I still look back at our midterm group paper submission and am amazed that we learned such sophisticated analysis of financial statements in no time. In all honesty, it’s been one of the best classes I’ve taken till date. And guess what, Prof. Udpa has his own facebook fan page!

So there, that’s a quick snapshot of my past few weeks. And yes, James Bond called me yesterday asking if he could get my life.

Oh, the possibilities…

Frequent advice for those applying to MBA programs is “Know what you want, so you can get the most out of your program.” And as you may have read in my intro, I have definitely approached my time at Haas with a pretty defined path and set of goals: develop my skills in managing the double bottom line (mission and money) and become an Executive Director at a cultural not-for-profit. So while I haven’t had to make many choices yet (the first year core is completely chosen for you), I have joined the Board Fellows program and often consider how to apply my classwork to my daily work at the museum.

But one of the most surprising aspects of the program is my newly developing sense of all the possibilities. I knew I would be surrounded by classmates with a wide diversity of backgrounds and life experiences, and that I would be exposed to academic subjects I had never considered. However, I’m surprised to find that I’m actually enjoying accounting :gasp:! Now, I’m probably not going to switch gears and head toward finance as a career, but I’m really appreciating learning more about the arcane acronyms I’d heard on the news, and how understanding accounting choices can give you insight into how a business is run.

And about a week ago, I took the Gallup business development workshop, and found myself actually considering a career in consulting! I was completely energized throughout the workshop, and found the idea of working in a strengths-based, compensation-for-performance based firm remarkably compelling.

A number of my classmates are “career changers” and attending Haas with the goal of switching fields. I would not have put myself in that category, but I’m pretty excited to learn more about other careers where I also could be passionate about the work – even in the private sector!

Pricing Simulations, Fast Fall and Rolling Days

Looks like I’ve been MIA for a little while, but the rest of the gang has been more than holding fort. First, of course– I’m glad to see such fresh enthusiasm and want to give my own hearty welcome to our newest bloggers! Awesome posts, team, if I do say so myself.

Getting back in the swing of things, it’s been an excellent experience — doing simulations in my Pricing class this semester with our award-winning professor. Not only have we engaged in price wars (or for the bolder of us — price leadership!), but we’ve also done simulations in price matching, auctions, bid negotiations and more. My only downer is that we compete against our classmates in simulations and, while we mix teams every time, my teams seem to always come in second. And we all know that we can’t settle for that! 🙂

We’ve also had some guest speakers from companies that have leveraged our illustrious professor’s knowledge in how to price their products, and a consulting company that uses similar methodologies in evaluating pricing strategies. Incredible and fun stuff. My class team is on our way on our own group project to do the usual conjoint analysis and evaluate the pricing packages of a well-known video streaming company with our own recommendations.
As usual, it’s hard to believe how quickly time flies. We’re already looking ahead to final exams and projects, and bidding for Spring courses. I can’t start the will-miss-you shuffles yet, but I can say I had a few select Haas-mates over for a party the other day and can’t help but wonder where we’ll all be in 5 to 10 years.
I gained an extra hour from “Fall Back” (Daylight Savings) and I get this Thursday evening’s class off for Veteran’s Day. Looking forward to using that extra time (like found money) for catching up on things once again (like blogging). Good luck, fellow classmates, and Happy November!
Hope to shake things with you again soon on the blog. Until then, onward..
– T

I feel like Neo!

Okay, let me explain. Remember that scene from Matrix when Neo comes onboard and starts training. He emerges from one training session and says, ‘I know Kung Fu’. That’s exactly how I feel. Not about Kung Fu. About Mergers & Acquisitions. We just finished the M&A final and I now want to announce to the world, ‘I know M&A!’. That’s right.

After taking the 10-week course, I feel I’d know what to do if I was ever in a M&A situation – either as an acquirer or a target. Prof. George Geis did a great job structuring the class. The course project (which I thought was the best part) required us to identify an acquirer company and a target company. We then had to put together a pitch book for the execs of the acquirer company making a case for why the deal is a great idea and recommend a deal structure. As usual, I learned A TON working on the project. During the team presentations, which took place during the last two classes, each of the students was asked which deal they would be willing to support by distributing $10 million among their top 3 choices. And my team won the highest amount of money! My project team had suggested that Oracle should acquire Informatica.

Wouldn’t it be fun if the deal actually happened in real life?

Guest Blog: All aboard the Haas Express!

Sonny: This year we are trying out a new concept – Guest Blogging! We think this will help us capture interesting Haas experiences even from students who are not on the Blog Squad. Manaswini Sawant is our first contributor. She is a first year student who shares her experience of riding the Haas bus for the first time. Fun story…read on…

So, because I have a year-old convertible, I really do enjoy my drives to and from Berkeley. The weather has been superbly cooperative and I get to blast my favorite music or just listen to the wind as it rushes by.

But there are a lot of weekday events for which taking the Haas bus makes sense. Its prime carpool hours, the freeway is pretty much crowded to the point of being stop-and-go traffic in some places AND its the green thing to do.

Unlike the Hogwarts Express which only leaves from platform 9 and 3 quarters, there are 2 locations in the South Bay from which to board the Haas Bus. Once aboard the bus, there is cold bottled water, cookies and wireless connectivity (of course!).

When I told the driver that this was my first time taking the bus, he promptly whipped out a self-printed business card with his cell phone number and his supervisor’s email and phone number.

He told me to use his cell phone number to let him know if I was running late and needed the bus to wait for me. If I was happy with the service he provided, he would appreciate it if I could email/call his supervisor to let him know that. Perhaps if I weren’t in business school, I would have found this to be a little odd. But after learning all about the Art of Self Promotion (AKA Artful Bragging), it all made perfect sense to me!

There are other reasons to take the bus besides the cookies and the wireless of course. You can actually get some homework / discussion done with your fellow riders in the hour it takes to get to Haas. The air is thick with Accounting homework and Marketing case studies. And before you know it, you are on campus, well in time for classes to begin. No worries about finding parking either!

When classes are over, the bus fills up fast for the ride back home. The atmosphere now does a complete 360! Its almost like being at Henry’s but without the beer or the wine (or the fries). But …. we do have the very latest from Hollywood for our entertainment! Our bus driver offered us a selection of movies we could watch and by popular consensus, Robin Hood was chosen.

Conversations were more relaxed as people rehashed funny things that happened in class or simply watched Russell Crowe‘s antics on the tiny TV screens.

All in all, a delightful experience and one I am sure to repeat again.

All A-B-O-A-R-D!!

To Study Abroad or Not?

It’s been far too long since my last blog post, which dates back to early in the summer. I just needed a mental break from having to think about school, and the summer was the time I gave myself to relax and decompress. I had every intention of writing regularly upon the start of school, but my course-load and work schedule combined for a horrendous September. It was my own doing though, scheduling 3 classes that all started in late August, including a course that met for 4 consecutive Sundays from 9-5pm, except for Labor Day. At least I can say that I’ve found my limit in terms of the amount of course-work I should take at one time. Good knowledge for the future as I plan the next few semesters.

What these next 1.5 years has in store is very much open. I still harbor desires to study abroad. The choice of cities is somewhat limited by the few other programs around the world share the desire to exchange part-time students. There are four exchange programs available to EWMBA students, of which I would likely choose between Barcelona and Spain. I’m not saying that these programs are anything to sneeze at, and indeed, Barcelona is a top destination for me to begin with. The lack of opportunities in east Asia is somewhat disappointing though. Specifically, I would have preferred a Mandarin-speaking country such as Taiwan or China which would provide me with an opportunity to immerse myself in an environment that would improve my Mandarin.

I never considered studying abroad as an undergrad, and indeed, I never had much of a desire to travel. I was a stereotypical California kid who felt that I already lived in the best place in the world and didn’t feel the need to explore beyond the west coast, let alone a different country. I’ve since learned the value of exploring beyond my comfort zones, and thus want to take advantage of this opportunity. It’s a difficult task though, to balance the desire to expand my horizon beyond a California-centric view of the world with the need to honor my commitment to my personal and work life.

Known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns

If you know me, you may be quite surprised that I’m quoting Donald Rumsfeld here — and I promise I’m not getting political (yet) — but this infamous quote is actually very applicable to my first semester at Haas!

As I mentioned before, I’ve spent the past 12+ years in the non-profit sector, so I knew going in that there was a lot I didn’t know. I’ve never taken any sort of business class (mostly the fuzzier sciences and drama) so it’s no surprise that microeconomics and accounting are new to me – known unknowns, that is. And there’s certainly known knowns too, lest you think I’m a newbie to business (marketing for sure, and I had plenty to share in Leading People, our organizational behavior core class).

But this week I’ve been puzzling over which company to pick for the Gallup Strengths-based Business Development Workshop I’m attending. Attendees have been charged with writing up a research profile a company of our choice — a large, US-based, publicly-held company, with multiple divisions and complex business operations. I have no experience with any company like that, except from the consumer perspective! To me, this is really an unknown unknown – the strategies of such a company are very different from the three local cultural nonprofits where I’ve spent my career. Non-profits have their own complexities and there are quite a few national charities (American Red Cross, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for example), but they’re not in the scope of this project.

So how do I even begin to narrow it down? I’m not currently working in a sector that would “count” for this project – so do I go for tech, consumer goods, green, financial services, entertainment? Do I browse the listings at finance.google.com? Do I use some of my newly acquired accounting knowledge (return on equity!) to pick a super-profitable company with high margins (Apple)? How about one that produces a product I’m addicted to (Diet Coke)? Maybe one from Fortune’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For list (Whole Foods)? I’ve worked at an art-house movie theater, so maybe a big movie studio (Lionsgate) – or a big company that owns a movie studio (GE or Viacom)? Or a company with values that resonate with my own (P&G maybe?)

I also got some great advice this week from Alison Davis at the MBA-Nonprofit Connection: endeavor to apply every project in my MBA to my non-profit career goals. How can I find the angle in this project to apply the experience to the very-real differences in the non-profit sector? I’ve signed up for this workshop to explore my leadership style, and gain experience in developing strong consultative selling relationships – something I think will be very applicable in future dealings with donors and supporters.

So readers, help me out. Comment with the company you would pick if you got to choose!