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!

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!

Back and trying to get over the first year hangover…

It’s officially autumn and we’re already a month into the fall term for the 2nd/3rd years. And I thought 1st year flew by 🙂

I am a 2nd year student, used to be a Gold (Tue/Thu) last year although this year I have a combination of evening and weekend electives. Part of the reason for my switch is that work has become more hectic and I can’t take off early as often. I work with a South Bay based Hi Tech company as an engineer/technical manager. Another factor for this transition was that during the 1st year I found myself missing more than a few events during the weekdays. I am hoping to alleviate this with my weekend classes this fall.

Taking 4 classes in the fall, although it’s still a net of 6 credits. The good part is that the classes are staggered so that at no point of time I have to manage all four simultaneously. In fact I’ve only been balancing managerial accounting past few weeks. M&A and Risk Management start next weekend while Designing Financial Models won’t start for another 4 weeks.

I have also been involved in a few extra-curricular activities at Haas since my first year. I am a co-chair of the EWMBAA communications committee and am one of the editors of the eZine, the EWMBA newsletter. While I was apprehensive about whether I’d be able to manage this additional involvement during 1st year, in hindsight it was great to be a part of the thriving EWMBA student government. Folks involved in this effort work hard to make our experience as EWMBA students better. My colleagues find time from their busy lives and drive initiatives to improve our experience as Haas students, whether it’s academic or social or technological or …you get my drift. EWMBAA elections are around the corner and my suggestion to the first years is to try and get involved. At the very least, see if you can volunteer for one of the committees.

In one of my previous posts I promised to compile my top-n experiences from the 1st year. Here’s my top5 aha moments from the 1st year, in no particular order.

  • Communications Class: Experience of a life-time! This two-Sunday class was an ice-breaker and helped our cohort really connect with each other. Prof Rittenberg and his GSI’s were great.
  • Workshops: Haas Career Services organizes more than a hundred workshops over the course of an academic year. Some of these are soft-skill workshops (work-life balance) while others are hard-core quant/excel domain workshops like “Training the Street” focused on financial modeling for valuation/LBO/M&A etc.
  • Parties/Henrys/Jupiter/Bennigans: Our cohort had an end-of-the-year party in the city. Good old-fashioned bar-hopping/clubbing through the night. At various times we sneaked out to Henrys during the class break. Or shared a laugh after class in the South Bay shuttle and finally ended up at Bennigans at 11 in the night after a long day. Work hard, play very hard!
  • Course Projects: Almost half of my first year courses had group projects. Good opportunity to work with a diverse set of smart people. We accomplished a lot but more importantly built long lasting relationships.
  • Not just surviving, but smelling the roses: Work, school(academics+extracurriculars), partying, family(first-baby!), I’m glad to have not just survived, but enjoyed every moment of it.

    …until later,


C is for Cookie

While first year weekenders are still enjoying the fresh powder on the slopes and visiting far away places, I concur with Deanne – the first year evening folks are back in the full swing of things.

Before class even began, we received an email from our Operations professor reminding us read the case study about cookie manufacturing for day one of class. To transition from the discussion of the syllabus to the case study, Professor Terry Hendershott showed us a clip of the Cookie Monster himself. Yes, C is for cookie, and if you take a big bite out of a cookie, it really does look a lot like the letter C.

The expectations for finance were similar. Three chapters of reading for the first class and all before we had even returned to Haas. There is no doubt that the semester has started up for the first years.

This weekend is already packed with Haas events. Saturday is the Haas Winter Careerfest – a day of learning how to network, how to brand yourself for the internet, and much more. I expect to see some of the second and third years as well as full timers participate this weekend as well. After the careerfest is the finance discussion session. And then don’t forget Sunday – an all day Statistics workshop to help us brush up in preparation for the many problem sets for ops and finance. It’s one packed weekend.

Meet, Greet and Learn

After some gruelling weeks of school, I decided to do some non-academic things. I socialized over the weekend, went to a Heidi Rossen style lunch, attended a wonderful presentation by FSG and attended a networking event by Bain/Bridgespan.

All in all, I have been meeting lots of people ,and learned a lot more about consulting. While I was aware about the traditional consulting career options, FSG and Bridgespan opened my eyes to consulting for social impact. Both of the organizations are non profit – 501(c)(3) organizations and work with cases that focus on creating a postive change in the society.

One of the more interesting aspects of going to Haas is that one has the opporuntity to learn more about different career options and choices. Given that we can participate in the On Campus Recruiting (OCR), attending different career events can help one understand the different options and choices available. I have recently started going to different information sessions. Although I may not end up going to one of these companies, meeting new people and, understanding choices better, makes this effort worthwhile.

Cheers … Dutta:)

Progression and Regression

Since I started my spending my Saturdays in Berkeley (and beautiful Santa Clara) in fall 2005, I’ve made some clear progress. I’ve gotten out of equity research and 3:30 a.m. wake-ups and into investor relations and more reasonable hours at Yahoo!. I’ve also gotten engaged, lost 10 pounds, been promoted, gained 20 pounds (for those keeping score at home, I’m up 10 pounds) and entered into a structured separation with my fiancee.

Wow, that was a rather personal tidbit to share in the introductory post. But may my personal challenges enlighten you–all too often we here in the EWMBA program intensely focus on managing the work/education balance and neglect to nurture our personal lives. Candlelight dinners go uneaten, cats go unfed, floors go unmopped–our victims are many.

To ease the tension and serve the purpose of this initial post, I’ll now add that I grew up in rural Ohio, studied communications at Northwestern, and gave up on my dream of becoming a penniless poet to attend business school. OK, back to the juicy stuff.

I can’t blame Haas for my current romantic situation (as my Facebook profile notes, “It’s complicated”). Basically, two working adults decided in their early thirties to go back to grad school and take on $200k in debt while cohabiting in a small studio apartment in a questionable neighborhood in San Francisco. What did we expect? As I learned in my real estate finance class last year, doors are valuable.

On the plus side, my beautiful regression into pseudo-bachelorhood finds me free to hang my Northwestern pennant on the wall and eat ice cream in bed (alas, I’ll likely regain that 10 pounds and then some). I’ve embraced suburban life in San Mateo, with its free laundry, infinite parking, and superb location, equidistant to Berkeley and Santa Clara.

I’m more focused on my studies than ever. I continue to learn as much from my peers as my professors (a compliment to my brilliant classmates, not a knock on the profs). And after I graduate in May, I’m confident that my Haas MBA (#2 in the WSJ, baby!) will help me earn a promotion and raise sufficient to get me a pad in San Francisco with doors and room for two people.

And a treadmill.