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 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!

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.


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,


Head is almost over water

Some of the second and third year students I’ve interacted with regard this 3rd quarter of year 1 as the most grueling one (academically) in the program. Both Finance and Operations courses are fairly intense. The curriculum requirements include several problem sets and cases, other than the midterm and final exams. In fact since the weekday cohorts started 4 weeks ago, we’ll have our mid-term exams next week. The silver lining here is that we’re getting a preview of disciplines that are essential for the functioning of any organization. And, any aspiring business professional needs to be very comfortable with both of these.

The other day we had a Finance case on the Lockheed TriStar program. This multi-billion dollar defense project from 1970s ran into cost-overruns and had revenue projections which were fairly unrealistic. (This is just a plain text read of the case, not my expertise of analyzing multi-billion dollar boondoggles 🙂 ) You’d wonder that if it was evident to every MBA-student who’s solved this case in the past decade, then why Lockheed executives didn’t realize this. Of course, not everything is black-and-white. Some of these financially unacceptable ventures are green-lighted for socio-political and strategic reasons. I can’t help but draw comparisons with the current banking-bailout. But let’s leave that for some later time. Anyway, working on such real-life cases has been really exciting.

Btw, one month into the quarter, I finally understand this finance profession joke:

Said the epitaph of a naïve banker “He who lies here wanted all his relationships to be NPV positive”

Operations Management is no less interesting in principle (as I realized after working on an NYPD scheduling case problem). Have you ever felt that the other “queue” is faster while waiting for security checkin at an airport or standing in a line at Starbucks? All of this scheduling is (can be) done via complex scheduling models. And it was news to me that in the common case, having a single queue is faster than the multiple queues we see in our daily lives. A big part of this story is apparently, perception. One line appears to be too long and 5 small lines, while slower, give us the feeling of being served faster!

The summer quarter elective list was released recently. Taking classes in the summer may be an NPV positive decision and will certainly optimize scheduling for future semesters, but I am hoping that socio-psychological reasons will prevail in the end. And I will be able to spend the summer months re-introducing my “fun” side to friends and family. Wait, I dare not day-dream; it’s just too far to be real at this time.

– Div

Decisive Indecisions

I am finally back to blogging. Classes have started but I have had the hardest time making my elective selections. This is my last semester at Haas and I have 4 units left to graduate Unfortunately, there are several exciting electives so making my last choices have been rather difficult. Ultimately, I ended up choosing Sales Management and Corporate Boards. The Sales Management class is being offered by Steve W Martin. He had conducted a day long session last year, which I really liked. Therefore, this was a very easy choice. I also wanted to take Managerial Accounting primarily because Prof. Suneel Udpa is really good and in my humble opinion one of the best professors in Accounting ( He even has a fan club on Facebook). I was also interested in Corporate Innovation- a class on new business development and corporate entrepreneurship. I ended up signing up for Corporate Boards. Once again, I have heard some great things about this class and Prof. Kathleen Connell. In a nutshell, I ended up using the add/drop system to its fullest potential including confirming my choices – 15 minutes before the deadline.

With all the drama for the elective selection over, I did get my tickets for the homecoming game on Oct 4 ( Cal v/s Arizona State). This semester is going to be exciting.

Cheers …. Dutta:)

The Irony of using a Bid Strategy to bid on Strategy

As Deanne mentioned, bidding finished last week, and it was quite stressful for me. Unlike Deanne, I didn’t get all of the classes I bid for in Bidding Round 1. Worse yet, my second preferred class was filled during Round 1 and I had to go to my third choice class for Bidding Round 2. Here’s how it works:

Incoming second and third years are allotted points. Incoming first years don’t have to worry about a thing because you have core courses that have a designated schedule.

You can bid for up to 7 units of classes in Round 1 and try to get your favorite classes by using a Bid Strategy. The EWMBA Program Staff gives guidance and instruction about bid strategies and the way to make the most of your points a few weeks before Bidding takes place. In the mean time, you spin the wheel of fortune or throw some darts at the electives chart and hope that your class and work schedule coincide such that you get the electives you want.

Any points used in Round 1 that are unsuccessful (meaning that you were outbid) are refunded to you and you try again in Round 2.

Now, I bid on Competitive Strategy and was outbid by 62 of my lucky peers. One of my classmates outbid me by two points and managed to get the class. Clearly, my Bid Strategy was not competitive enough. Doesn’t this seem to indicate that I really need the class more than the folks that got in? Hmmm….the irony of it all….

Dinner with Marshall Goldsmith

This semester has started with a bang. I am really excited about both of my electives – Brand Management and Strategy, and Designing Global Organizations. Both classes are featuring a series of industry leaders as guest speakers. Last week, we had the opportunity to hear Debbie Cantu, Vice President, Brand Marketing and Advertising at Kaiser Permanente. She is the architect of the “thrive” campaign .She shared how she has managed to turn around the Kaiser Permanente brand perception by listening to customers perspective and using a data driven approach to measure and tune the campaign.

Apart from the all the excitement in the class, I was also part of the celebration of the 1st aniversary of Peers @ Haas. Peers @ Haas is part of the “Leading through Innovation” initiative. The goal of the program is change a behaviour that will help one be more successful by following the principles outlined by Marshall Goldsmith. Marshall is a executive coach and the author of the bestseller – What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful. His techniques are remarkably simple and the program relies on working with a peer to improve the target behavior. I had participated in this program last year, and I feel that I improved significantly. The celebration included a dinner with Marshall – an interesting evening with good food, wine, champagne and lots of remarkable conversations.

I have been having a really great time since MPAR ,and things will take a serious turn shortly. However till the tide changes, I am enjoying as much as I can.

Cheers … Dutta:)

Shakespeare comes to Haas

For the past 2 Sundays, I have been taking a one-unit class in Active Communication. The class is run on Sundays because this is the only day that no EWMBA’ers have other classes, and was made up of a mix of Evening, Weekend and Berkeley-Columbia students from different stages in their degrees. The first question that others in the class asked me was – What, you’re a first year, and you’re allowed to take electives already?!?! I’m sure if you’re really keen to take additional classes, you can work something out with the Program Office, but in my case I have waived out of the core Finance class (because I have an undergrad major in Finance), so need to take some additional classes to make up the points – and Active Communicating looked very interesting.

Active Communicating is run by Dr Mark Rittenberg of Corporate Scenes, and uses principles of the theater to build communication skills relevant in the workplace – such as engaging an audience, incorporating stories in communication, active listening, giving & receiving feedback and many others. Although this class required long days (9am – 6pm) on a Sunday, all the students in the class were really energized by the engaging facilitators, and active workshop style that had us all up trying out new techniques (and even quoting Shakespeare in strange voices). I really enjoyed meeting others from the program outside my cohort, and loved taking a class that didn’t involve heavy books, lots of theories and exams – it was such a great change from the first year core classes. I’m utilizing the communication skills I’ve learnt already, and looking at communication in my workplace in a whole new light.