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

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

Relationships

First, congrats to those who got accepted in Round 1. Well done! I hope you had a great time at the New Admit reception and got a chance to meet some of your future classmates.

There seems to be a common theme this semester as I go through my two classes. The metaphor of relationships appears over and over – almost in every lecture. For example, my Entrepreneurship class talks a lot about the relationship between the founders of a company and their venture capitalist. Our professor refers to the choosing of the right VC and the right company as a courting relationship where the VC may test the entrepreneurs by seeing how they react to them not calling back or how they respond to various demands.

In Pricing, we talk about relationships in terms of signaling. If you lower prices, you may be signaling to your competition and competitors that you mean war. This might serve as a pre-emptive action resulting in the competition not releasing a new product. Likewise, if you demand something from your spouse, your pre-emptive position may get you what your want, or not.

Just think, the things you learn in business school go beyond your business life…they could affect your relationships at home or with a loved one. In any case, the life applications are endless 🙂

May we Live in Interesting Times…

This has been one heck of week. The current editors (including yours truly) of the eZine, the Haas EWMBA Magazine, bowed out and the new team of Shadab Nazar (1st year) and Amber Ulrich (2nd year) took charge. We wish them all the best! Incidentally Anlei (our fellow blogger) was one of the editors last year before she ran for office 🙂

eZine is a collection of events/news/announcements of perceived interest to the EWMBA community and a great source (biased opinion) to keep abreast of what’s happening in and around Haas. It was a thrill-ride editing it last year, and I’m gonna miss those tens of hours spent pouring over articles every week 😦

Another event of note that’s happening this Sunday is the kick-off meeting for the incoming EWMBA Association. The Executive team has been busy planning the event with a tonne of help from the Program Office (a big shout out for Beth, our Director of Student Affairs and Dave, our Executive Director for the EWMBA program). The kick-off represents a unique opportunity where all the EWMBAA Committees get together and formalize the annual goals to improve our overall experience at Haas. More on this next week with hopefully some pictures from the kick-off!

With so many things going on it’s easy to forget that I’m enrolled in 11 credits worth of classes this semester. Yeah, unbelievably I’ve made my most intense Academic Semester at Haas till date. With the eZine work ramping down, hopefully I’ll be able to pull it off. It’s good to see Tim every week in the FIA class and I couldn’t agree more with his take on it. I don’t really have a soft-skill class this semester with Competitive Strategy, LBO, Business Law, Risk Modelling rounding off my course-load. But each of the classes has so far provided some cherished memories. One of ’em which bubbles up is our quiz from Business Law from two weeks ago. Each of us had to pick up a question out of a hat and then answer it in front of the class (I think last time I took an exam like this was in high school). Anyway, I got to babble about the landmark case on Brown vs Board of Education, hahaha.

Before I sign off, can’t help but blurb on the Haas@Work engagement, the details of which are perhaps best left for another post. It culminated a few weeks ago with a team presentation in front of the CTO for a $100B HealthCare Conglomerate! That’s the access you get as a Haas student.

Later…

The Best Feeling

Remember the high you get after the last exam of the semester? I have it now and it feels good.

I turned in my Microeconomics (ME) final take home last night and submitted the final paper for Leading People (LP) this afternoon. This officially concludes Fall Term-A.

So what did we learn? We learnt that even people who make completely crazy choices are considered to be rational as long as their preferences are complete and transitive – that’s from ME. The LP class taught us that if you are not deliberate about building the culture within your organization, then the culture builds itself – and this is usually bad, m’kay? Of course we learnt much more than that thanks to our brilliant professors – Nancy Euske (LP) & Shachar Kariv (ME). We’ll miss you!

On top of that, our cohort got the weekend off – which means no flying today. Awesome, right? Today was supposed to be the in-class finals day. But since LP does not have a final exam, our ME prof gave us an option to go with a take home exam instead of an in-class exam. No guesses for what we chose.

I can feel a huge sigh of relief rippling through my entire cohort and from Facebook, I know exactly what they are thinking. Here’s what some of them had to say today.

Ankit says ‘The feeling after finals is incredible! Loving an awesome Saturday in Seattle :-)’
[Ankit is a fellow Microsoftie who also commutes from Seattle. I will write more about how we coordinate our travel arrangements in a later post.]

Lahary says ‘It feels good seeing the kids swim after all these weeks 🙂 I’m realizing how much I miss my Saturdays…’
[Lahary is a Senior Program Manager at HP and has two kids aged five and three. She will forever have my admiration for the amazing job she does of juggling work, family, kids & school]

Sandeep says ‘Final OB paper and micro-econ finals done! Leaving civilization and driving towards the coast for some RnR at some BnB. Should I go north to Mendocino or go south towards Cambria. How indifferent am I towards them? What is my budget and can I use mixed Nash here. Darn, I need to get micro [out of] my head…’
[Sandeep is a Project Lead at Cisco and as you can see he already drank the ME kool-aid. You do us all proud, Sandeep!]

To my cohort, I have only one thing to say to you tonight – Enjoy the free weekend, Over-achievers. You deserve it!

I hope the rest of you are making the best of this weekend as well – and while you do that, I’m going to go watch the Netflix movies that have been laying unwatched all week.

Good night!
– S

This post was written while listening to ‘Blame it’ by Jamie Foxx

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.

1499 is not enough

Like many other students, I did not get into Teck Ho’s Pricing class. It is one of the most popular classes at Haas. My bid was 1499 out of a possible 1500 bid points. It’s not encouraging when Jen Sang, Siu Yung and Tim are all shaking their heads when you ask about getting into the Pricing class as a second year student.

I decided to try for the class anyways and I was turned away at the door. I can try to get into the class next year. However, there is no guarantee that Dr. Ho will be teaching the class next year.

I suppose that some entrepreneurial MBA student could create a black market for bid points. After all, third year students may not need to use all of their 3000 bid points and could sell the excess to the second year students. It would be a very good arbitrage opportunity. Of course it would be hard to figure out what value to assign to the bid points if you haven’t taken Pricing.

ADDENDUM:
It turns out that 1499 was the winning bid for Pricing. However, when there are multiple people with the winning bid, those students will be randomly selected for the spaces available for the class. Alas, I was not one of the chosen ones.