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

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

We live in interesting times

Yesterday as I was waiting for my study group at a nearby Starbucks, I couldn’t help but look around the store with my new found MBA student-wisdom and appreciate how the “Baristas” greet their patrons with first names. Starbucks was one of the first cases we did in our Marketing class this quarter. It was fascinating to learn how retail chains such as Starbucks measure “customer satisfaction” in $$$ value and then adopt marketing strategies to translate that into top line growth!

The Marketing course this quarter is entirely case-based, including the midterm and the finals. The class discussions also include occasional videos such as the cool BMW commercials we saw the other day, when the lecture focused on non-traditional marketing. For instance, I didn’t know that one of the most important pre-launch marketing campaigns for the “Z3 Roadster” was the movie “Golden Eye”. A 1.5min appearance with double-oh-seven had resulted in an amazing bump to the car’s sales.

Accounting is the other core course for first years’, and as Tim alluded, so far it’s been Practice, Practice and brutal Practice. I have an engineering background and feel that the whole double entry accounting is pretty darn counter-intuitive. One of my classmates quipped the other day during our evening shuttle ride back from school “Accounting is an art”! To tell you the truth, I don’t think I am very comfortable as an artist…

There is one unique thing about the accounting class though. Every lecture, the Professor starts with the week’s events in the financial markets, and then proceeds to weave that into what we’re learning that day. Certainly helps with the assimilation. Oh, while on this subject, I should really mention the accounting project, the “fun” (and more work) part of this course as we were informed. It consists of financial statement analysis of a publicly traded company which is going through some kind of a financial turmoil, whether it’s due to the current macroeconomic woes or a result of market structure or downright fraud (Enron anyone?). Each project has a team of about 5 people and we’ll be presenting our findings and “recommendations” to some of the Big4 Partners in the latter half of the course.

Just as things were starting to feel very MBA-like, I was dragged back into your typical student world when I received my grade letter for the past quarter. Let’s just say that I’ve done far better in my earlier academic pursuits:-( Anyway, as I work to maximize my ROI from the Haas (ad) venture, there’s a small group of people at school working quietly and relentlessly to make sure that I don’t get distracted by things such as finding/buying books (btw the cost of books is included in the tuition fee), managing parking permits (parking near the UC Berkeley campus is a nightmare), collecting bus passes, applying for grade letters, getting student IDs and dozens of other things which are a part of the going-to-school-package. This is the EWMBA Program Office. So if you’re worried about the rigors of balancing work and school and relationships, that’s good! But rest assured that there is an ecosystem in place to help you through some of the more extraneous yet essential tasks as a student.

A parting thought since we’re in the admissions season. Round 1 deadline is November 17 and Round 2 is March 2, 2009. And for those of you closer to pushing that “submit” button, make sure that you’ve used “spell-check” on your essays. I sincerely believe that one can paint a compelling picture with an essay; do you want yours to look unkempt? And here’s an error even the spell-check won’t catch. It really is “Haas” and not “Hass” School of Business!

I haven’t had a chance to write for a few weeks so this post may appear a little busy. Just wanted to throw out a bunch of things since we live in changing times. I am talking about daylight saving. Yeah, right.

Seasons of Change

What an exciting year it has been so far. With elections over and Obama as the new President Elect, it certainly is a “time of change.” Note: I can’t help but wonder whether this phrase alone will be repeated a million times over in the next weeks/months/years–I’m already sharing in that conspiracy. 🙂

Speaking of change, since my last post, it’s already midterms in the second set of first-year Fall classes (say that ten times fast). I think I’m already looking forward to Thanksgiving and a brief break (and turkey).

For me, Accounting has been a bit dry– we’re preparing for a midterm this Saturday, and some problems take a while– but practice makes perfect, I suppose. My wife is actually a CPA– though she’s now switched to something else that is detail-oriented: pastry and baking arts (go figure)– and has been able to give me some tips. One of her best ones was to just write off mismatches as “immaterial” (don’t worry, she was joking). 🙂

From my perspective, it definitely has made sense that we understand how to read and use financials, but I share many classmates’ frustrations in learning the sometimes painful ins and outs (read: the rules and procedures).

In Marketing, there are reinforcement of concepts from our previous Organizational Behavior class (like the adoption curve, with chasm included; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, etc.), which makes sense if you expand OB to the behavior of our customers. The marketing class has also had many eye-openers for how to properly scale opinions on differentiators, create marketing strategies and identify routes to success and common pitfalls (e.g. customer vs. product-focus), etc. Speaking of which, BusinessWeek had a recent marketing-related article on how luxury brands are having to act more rational in this economy (http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/08_45/b4107060250193.htm)– it’s always nice to tie in current stuff!

By the way, we here on the blog site welcome constructive comments! Feel free to let us know what thoughts we may have piqued– or whether you agree, disagree, or have your own thoughts. Always nice to hear from other students, prospective ones or alum.

– Tim
P.S. Loved that extra hour of sleep from “Fall back” (daylight savings).