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

New Admit Series – Part I

Sonny: Here’s a guest post from Shamik Bandyopadhyay (class of 2014) who recently started his first year in the EWMBA program. Shamik has the unique perspective of having made a decision to move to Bay Area from Seattle in order to be closer to classes and other EWMBA folks. To find out how he made the transition and what he would do differently if he had to do it all over again, read on…

 

I moved to the Bay Area a couple of weeks back. My move had been in the works for a while. As I started my applications for Haas I also started engaging with current students and alumni to get to the bottom of the question – “Are you better off commuting to Haas on weekends, or being a Bay Area local?” My conclusion was that it’s a matter of personal choice. The program is designed to be very commuter friendly. The program office and the professors go out of their way to make sure the program works for commuters.

For me, it came down to a desire to both be deeply engaged in the Haas community on a day-today basis and to work in the Silicon Valley. It was a big decision, given that I was a Round 3 applicant. I barely had a couple of months from the time when I received my acceptance letter, to the start of class. In this short span, I had to find a position in my firm’s Silicon Valley office, relocate and settle down. I learnt a lot of lessons and given a second chance I would do things differently. Let me share with you what I learnt, so you can prepare yourself better if you decided to move to the Bay Area:

  • Apply in the early rounds:  If you are planning to move to the Bay Area, apply in Round 1 or Round 2, the earlier the better. This would give you ample time to cherry-pick your job in the Bay Area, settle into your job and truly plan out and manage your relocation.
  • Get your statistics and math pre-requisites out of the way:  If you apply in the later rounds and plan to move after receiving the admission decision, get your pre-reqs done early. Start your necessary pre-req courses or take the waiver exams well before you even receive your admission decision. Finding a job and managing your relocation while trying to complete a pre-req class is definitely not fun.
  • Give yourself time to settle in: Moving to a new location and settling in is not trivial. There are a lot of little things that add up. Moving your stuff, finding a new apartment, getting your car registered, getting a California driver’s license (they make you take the dreaded written exam), getting your insurance and bank services transferred over and on and on. The list gets pretty long and you really need to find time to get all of this taken care of before the start of class, while drinking from the fire hose at your new job.
  • Enjoy the summer activities: The fun starts well before Orientation weekend. This summer there were at least half a dozen happy hours and dinners, a picnic and a few other outings for the Class of 2014 – all before we had even started reading a single page from our textbooks. These events really help you to get to know your classmates and get comfortable in your Haas community. Add to that the all-day Accounting Review Workshop, and Haas starts filling up your calendar pretty quickly
  • Enjoy the sunshine: If you are moving from some of the sunshine deprived cities and states, you need to give yourself time to just stare at the sunny blue sky. There has not been a single cloudy day in the past two weeks and I find myself just staring out of the window trying to convince myself that it can actually be sunny most everyday.

That’s all folks!!

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!

The third musketeer

You know, for the longest time, I had been living with a deep dark secret. It had been tough dealing with the innumerable life-threatening situations and all those psychotic villains with their clichéd jabs about my get-up. Thanks to the economy, I was behind on my auto and home payments, and not a day went by when the bank forgot to send me a foreclosure notice. Cutting down on my health-food to save money saw me put on a few pounds, and rendered my precious belt completely unusable. Now if you take a look at my car, home and my belt, you’d see how much pain separation from them could cause someone. Even my loyal butler decided to part ways with me. That’s when I decided I needed a new career; being Batman no longer seemed the right fit for me at my point in life. And I knew Haas would be the step towards that. Sorry it had to be this way, Robin – I can write your recommendation though if you too decide to apply to Haas.

Now since you all believe me with all your sincerity, let me introduce the man behind the get-up. The name’s Lohokare, Archit Lohokare (that surely sounded a lot cooler in my head). And what follows next is a copy-paste from my Match.com profile. Well, not really.

By day, I am a technical sales consultant in security software for IBM Corporation. After my bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from NTU, Singapore, I joined a young Silicon Valley startup, Encentuate, which was acquired by IBM in 2008. At Encentuate, I was fortunate enough to perform diverse roles in engineering, support, professional services and technical sales. I absolutely adore startups and technology, so here’s a big shout-out to all you startuppers out there. I’d love to hear more and write about you and your startup!

Before ending up in Silicon Valley, I’ve lived in several places in India, spent seven years in Singapore, a year in a number of European countries and 2 years in New York City. Besides being a source of some amazing experiences, this nomadic lifestyle has helped me perfect the art of faking stupor and appearing clueless in a new place.

Not to burst your bubble, but I’m not really Batman and I don’t really have a bank breathing down my neck. So let me come clean about my reasons to join the EWMBA program at Haas. To me, Haas is at the epicenter of the unique Silicon Valley technology startups phenomenon. It has a rich history of nurturing entrepreneurship and the philosophy of ‘challenging the status quo’. The versatility and diverse experience of my classmates has only reinforced my idea of what to expect at Haas. And I can’t stop raving about our professors – never have I seen such engaging teaching. I could go on.

So here I am. I am super excited to write about YOUR and my Haas experience over the next couple of years. So feel free to get a hold of me in school or drop me an email. I’m all ears. Cheers!

Please allow me to introduce myself…


I’m Jennifer Caleshu, and I’m one of the new first year EWMBA bloggers.

I’ve spent my entire career working in cultural non-profits, which is a fairly atypical path for an MBA student. I’ve produced live theater, chosen the films for an art-house movie theater, and marketed a children’s museum. I’m passionate about real experiences – the kinds of non-virtual, in-person experiences that are by definition unique – only happening at that particular place and time. I have a degree in Human Biology with a focus on Issues of Adolescence from Stanford (don’t hold it against me!). I always joked that the adolescence part came in handy when working with actors, but in truth, I never really used much of the knowledge gained in the major. Instead, I graduated and took an unpaid artistic internship at American Conservatory Theater, and never looked back!

But a couple of years ago, I started thinking about graduate school. When you don’t have a business background (I’ve never taken any sort of business class before this!), you learn on the job. And to paraphrase the well-known book, “what got you here won’t get you there.” My career goals include being the executive director of a cultural institution, but on-the-job knowledge isn’t always enough to gain the kind of strategic planning, financial acumen, and operational chops to help an institution reach its highest capacity. Many non-profit managers choose masters in arts administration, but I wanted to keep my options open. I’m passionate about the double-bottom-line (mission and profits), and knew the knowledge gained would apply to a wide variety of non-profits, and be transferable should I ever choose to go to the “for-profit” side.

So over the holidays last winter, I decided to take the plunge and apply for an MBA. As the breadwinner in my family (my husband is a stay-at-home dad to our two children, Cole age 5, and Rae, age 2), I knew I wanted to keep working, and I was committed to staying in the Bay Area. So Haas EWMBA was the best choice, and here I am! I’m in the Blue cohort, so I take class on Mondays & Wednesday evenings, and I commute from Sausalito where I work at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with the readers of the blog – and hearing the perspectives of my fellow bloggers. Please feel free to email me or comment here with any questions!

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

Hello World!

I’m Sonny and I’m new.

I’m going to walk you through the week I just had which was eventful to say the least.

It began with an invitation from Molly Kihanya (Senior Associate Director for EWMBA admissions) to join the Blog Squad which I obviously jumped on immediately. The first thing I did after joining the team is start reading blog posts all the way from the first one dated September 2007. I’m about half way through now and what really amazes me is how different each person’s experience is even though we are all going through the same program. That’s EWMBA for you – it is what you make of it. So that was Monday.

On Wednesday, Molly set up an information session for Berkeley Part-time MBA programs at Microsoft campus in Redmond (oh btw – I live in Seattle, work at Microsoft and commute on weekends to Berkeley for classes). I was on the student panel. Lots of people (around 30-40) – which means there is a lot of interest in the Haas programs – which meant lots of questions. Last year I was one of the people asking the questions – so it felt really good to be on the other side. I wish I hadn’t forgotten to take pictures which I was planning to post here.

Then came Thursday when I found out that I’m going to move into a people management role at work. The only reason I don’t want to say I’m super-excited is because of how overused that word is at Microsoft. So let’s just say I’m super-duper excited. And could the timing be more perfect? I just finished the Leading People class also known as Org Behavior.

Speaking of the Leading People class, we had our final project presentations in class on Saturday. For the project we were asked to audit an organization (any organization), analyze a problem they are currently facing and then come up with recommendations to address the problem. The best part of the project for me was working with my team. It was amazing how well we got to know and adjust to each other’s working styles given that we were all strangers when we first started seven weeks ago. Also – I completely agree with Aaron that the first term went by way too fast. You are probably tired of hearing how quickly the time flies when you are juggling work and school – so I won’t say it (but it really does!)

Sunday was spent falling in and out of sleep in front of the TV – which helped me become human again.

I hope your week was as fun as mine was.

Until next time…
-S

This post was written while listening to ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by Black Eyed Peas.

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

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).