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

Bidding for Spring

It’s a pretty chilly morning, but that’s not why I’m thinking about spring…it’s actually time to bid for spring semester classes!

After the first year of all-required core classes, your schedule becomes (almost) completely wide open. Since the Berkeley MBA is a general management degree, there are no set classes for concentrations. This means you can go as broad or as deep as you want, in whatever interests you.

This semester, I took negotiations, strategic brand management, and Problem Finding / Problem Solving (a required 1-unit design thinking course) and as I look to the options for the next semester, I’m realizing how few classes really remain. Since each semester is 6 units, and most classes are 3 units, I really only have 6 more classes to take, so I need to pick wisely!

I find so many classes appealing, it’s actually really hard to decide. As a second year, I get 1,500 points to allocate to my first choices of classes – third years get 3,000. There are two rounds of bidding for spring – so if you don’t get into the classes you want the first round, you get another chance for the second round. Plus, most classes have an add/drop period once the semester starts, so you get a third chance to get in off wait lists as well. The amount of points required to get into a course varies each semester, depending on what’s offered and student interest, so it’s hard to know exactly how to bid. But I was able to get into my classes on the first round last time, so I’m hoping my luck will hold for the spring!

Tonight we have a presentation on electives during the dinner break – so we’ll get to hear from various professors about the classes they’re offering – so we can decide wisely. I already have some thoughts on what I want, but I’m definitely keeping an open mind!

-Jennifer Caleshu

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

Experiential Learning

One of the highlights this year so far is the interactivity of my courses. For Problem Finding / Problem Solving I took a Learning Styles Inventory which indicated I am a concrete learner (as opposed to abstract). This basically means I learn through hands-on experiences, as opposed to observation. So, the more I get to actually try new things as I learn them, the better!

In Problem Finding / Problem Solving with Professor Sara Beckman, we’ve been using Design Thinking techniques to try different frameworks. This often involves Post-Its (see my Information Map above). I particularly like how the large format (my map is approx 3 feet x 4 feet) and temporary nature of the post-its encourages you to “play” with concepts. There’s something very freeing – and qualitatively different – from typing on a computer. It’s messy, and less ‘final’ – and even though in this case it’s not necessarily something you’d share with others because it’s too messy – it still helps me visualize connections and make new insights that I may not have had without it.

In Negotiations class with Professor Holly Schroth (which yes, is as great as everyone says it is!), we actually practice negotiating every. single. class. This is absolutely a discipline you can’t learn without doing, so each week we’re given a case and a role to play. Some of the cases are between two people, others are multi-party. You have to be very well prepared – the rule of thumb is that you prep five times as long as the negotiation is supposed to take. This week, we’re working on a ‘shadow negotiation’ which means we connect with other class members outside of class to “pre” negotiate before the actual negotiation – it’s both part of the prep work by learning what’s important to your negotiating partners, and actively influencing them by sharing what’s important to you. It’s been very illuminating to try on the roles and practice your technique live, and with immediate feedback, each week.

In Strategic Brand Management with Professor Lynn Upshaw, my team just turned in our Customer Experience Audit. We picked a brand (Gap in our case) and analyzed their brand position, customer touchpoints, and marketing strategy and made some recommendations. It’s been very illuminating to look at a brand in real time – one of the comments we made in our paper was how so many of the postings on Gap’s Facebook wall are of fans posting pictures of their children in Gap clothing. And yet, it seemed Gap wasn’t participating in that outpouring of loyalty – no ‘likes’ or comments on the photos. And lo and behold, today Gap posted a photo album of their favorite fan photos! So it’s nice to see an insight acted upon (even if Gap had no idea we made the insight.)

– Jennifer Caleshu

The second year beckons!

Back to school, as the summer draws to a close,
I reminisce over the first year, and my satisfaction shows,
For twas’ a year of new friends and learning intense,
And new vistas interesting, discovered through the Haas lens.

As I step onto the hallowed steps of our alma mater,
I sense new confidence, and hear conversations smarter.
A renewed excitement ignites the ambient air,
For the second year has renewed the first year’s dare.

Now, it’s not everyday that you see a roomful of adults ecstatic about having woken up bright and early on a Saturday morning after a week of intense work. But that was precisely the sight I was greeted with as I entered the classroom for Corporate Financial Management, the first class of my second year.

This semester, I plan to take Corporate Financial Management (CFM) and Negotiations and Conflict Resolution. Although CFM was an obvious choice for the quant jock/finance enthusiast in me, I’m particularly excited about Negotiations. Having transitioned into a new product management role in my organization, I can clearly see the need for sprucing up my negotiating and conflict resolution skills. And guess what, true to my enthusiasm, I’ve already started on my required reading for the course!

And yes, club activities have already begun. The Haas Tech Challenge this year has VMWare as its primary sponsor, and Amazon and Salesforce.com as its platinum and gold sponsors respectively. All you Cloud Computing enthusiasts, fire up your thought engines – the event starts end September!

So here’s to a brand new year, fellow Haasies, one that shall pave new roads for us all!

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.

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!

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!