EWMBA Summer IBD draws to a close

With the last team returning home earlier this morning, the first ever IBD session for Haas EWMBA comes to a close. For the past two weeks, five teams have been busy helping for-profits and non-profits with various challenges, across three continents and five countries. Along the way all twenty of us have had an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the culture of our host nations in ways few tourists can ever dream of doing. To read more about our experiences, check out the following blog posts:













That’s all folks!!

– Shamik

An ode to EWMBA Class of 2012

On my flight back to Berkeley for commencement tomorrow. Can’t help but reflect back on the experiences from the last three years.

On one hand, time has flown by as it always does when one is having delirious fun. On the other hand, it feels like so much has happened in the past three years. We no longer live in the same world. Steve Jobs, one of our greatest inspirations, is no longer with us. USA is no longer a AAA rated country. Most surprising of all, vampires are not cool anymore *ahem*.

Some events are so dramatic that I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news. One such event that will stay with me forever was Navy SEAL 6 team taking out Bin Laden. The operation was convoluted, risky and heroic. But against all odds, the team executed it flawlessly. For days, I stayed obsessed and followed every update on the mission. After a week of irrational “event-stalking,” I stopped to wonder what about this incident got me so fascinated.

Then it hit me.

The Navy SEALs remind me of someone very close to me – The Class of 2012. In some cases, I feel my class is even more accomplished than the SEALs.

I should explain.

The Navy SEAL program is famed to be tough – physically, emotionally and mentally. Sound familiar? That was first-year MBA. Now try first year along with full-time work, commute and family.

Only about 33% of the candidates that enter the SEAL program make it through. I believe almost all of the original class will walk tomorrow.

SEALs are trained to do impossible tasks. Well so are we. I need to use only two words to make my case – Amit Paka. Amit, a classmate of mine (and a total BFF), quit Microsoft about a year ago. He moved to the Bay Area to start his own company. In the past year, he has not only envisioned Flockish and released initial versions on iPhone and Android, he has also successfully navigated his company through an acquisition by eBay. Impressed yet?

To sum up – this is what I have to say to The Class:

Be bold. Stay inspired. Do fabulous things.

Most importantly, remember me when you achieve super-success.

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

Guest Blog: Women’s Entrepreneurship

The following post is from current EWMBA student, Oscia Wilson (EWMBA’13):

The MBA program has not only encouraged me to set ambitious goals, but given me the tools to execute on them.  After taking the core classes our first year, I pulled the trigger on launching my own firm over the summer break.  I wanted to attend some kind of conference or retreat with other female entrepreneurs, to learn the kind of things that you can’t get from school, and also to share in the camaraderie of the community of women who launch companies.  Strangely enough, I looked around and couldn’t find anything for entrepreneurial women that wasn’t tech-related or in a different state.

So obviously I decided to organize one.  The first annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Retreat will take place at the Asilomar conference grounds, March 9-11.  This retreat will be great for women who are already entrepreneurs, who are considering becoming so, or whose positions involve entrepreneurial thinking.  Take three days to get away to a beautiful seaside resort where you can meet other women like yourself, choose from lots of targeted skills workshops, and come away with a peer mentoring group.  Men, what a great gift to give your wife or girlfriend for Valentine’s Day!

There will be workshops in four different areas of study:

– Technical skills [Business formation, accounting and taxes for non-accountants, legal requirement of hiring people, etc]

– Managing people skills [Best practices in hiring and firing, motivating your team, negotiating, etc]

– Holistic approach [Improving health and nutrition to be more effective, the link between generosity and prosperity, transparent business practice,s etc]

– Marketing and differentiation [Growing your client base, using connections effectively, media-based marketing, public speaking, quantifying and articulating your value to the customer, etc]

Amazing things happen when women create a supportive community for each other.  Please attend and spread the word.



Back from Abroad!

Alas, my semester abroad in Barcelona has come to an end and after four months, I’m back in the Bay Area.  It was an absolutely amazing few months, one that exceeded my expectations for the trip.  It allowed me the opportunity to travel through Western Europe, though I didn’t get to travel as extensively as I had hoped.  I managed to see much of Spain, France, and northern Italy.  But due to a very busy schedule, I left with a long list of cities still unvisited.

I also met an amazing group of people at the ESADE Business School in Barcelona.  The diversity of students from both a geographic and experience perspective was amazing.  I’m hoping that I get an opportunity to visit my extensive network of friends who are scattered worldwide!

It really was an eye-opening experience for me, especially since I’ve never lived outside of California.  The pace of live is vastly different, not to mention people’s daily schedules with dinner being eaten no earlier than 9pm.  Living without a car for 4 months was also a shock, though it’s easy to forego driving when the city you live in has an amazing subway network and distances to amenities can be measured in blocks instead of miles.

It’s been two weeks since my return and already, my daily life in Barcelona is slowly becoming a distant memory.  It has already started to feel as if I never left.    Still, I’m so glad I made the decision to study abroad, and that my work was able to accommodate my time off.  I’ve certainly created countless memories that will last for a lifetime.

Settling into Barcelona

After 2 weeks of intensive classes (M-F, 9-6pm) and now 1 week of my regular class schedule done, I can safely say I’m settled in here in Barcelona. I’d thought that I would feel much more lost, that living in a different country would be much more… foreign to me, but frankly, I’ve felt rather at home.

I have to admit that it’s rather easy for me to go through the day not speaking any Spanish. My two roommates are American, classes are taught in English, and I roam around the city through public transportation generally avoiding conversation with anyone to minimize my chances of being targeted by pickpockets. But I do still interact with many locals, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well my Spanish has held up.

I spent this weekend in wine and cava country just outside of Barcelona. On Saturday, I made a trip to Vilafranca del Penedes, where the Torres winery is. I tried several of their reds, including garnaches and tempranillos… and even a pinot! Of course, I should have looked at the label more closely before I ordered it… it turned out to be a Russian River Valley pinot from their California affiliate Maramir Estates!

Today, I spent the day at the Cava festival in St Sadurni d’Anoia, a huge festival of sparking wine producers, where 6 Euro got me 4 tastings and a glass! While both of these cities were 70 and 60 km away, respectively, they were just a mere train ride away. It was great getting out of the city after being here for 3 straight weeks. I know there are still places for me to explore, but I also feel I’ve walked a very good portion of the city now.

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

Guest Post: South African Seminar in International Business

Jennifer: Here’s a guest post from Jamie Aaronson (2013) who spent two weeks in South Africa for the Seminar in International Business. These seminars are designed to introduce the participants to the culture, history and business environment in various countries. Each 3-unit course is a combination of lectures and seminars at Haas, a one or two week study tour of the regions of interest and a major research project undertaken by each participant.

Safari sunrise on Pilanesberg Game Drive

I’ve just returned from my first Seminar in International Business (SIB). We visited Johannesburg for one week and Cape Town for the second, meeting with local and global businesses from McKinsey South Africa to ‘Silicon Cape’ entrepreneurs. Throughout, I was struck by the excitement surrounding Africa’s untapped potential as an emerging market.

Companies like Standard Bank, one of the big 4, were piloting new programs to reach the previously unbanked. One of the most interesting programs was a bank shop initiative in which informal branches were set up throughout Africa via small grocery shops already in place. These ‘Bank shops’ were on the heels of M-PESA, which, similar to PayPal, had successfully moved banking mobile via text-enabled money transfer. One entrepreneur used a phrase that particularly struck me – ‘In Africa, airtime is currency’ – implying that money and connectivity had literally converged into one.

Lerato (LoveLife) dancing with Soweto restaurant musician
Lerata (LoveLife) dancing with Soweto restaurant musician

Despite these emerging trends, it is clear that Africa still struggles with incredible resource and infrastructure constraints particularly around Internet, water, food, housing, and power. It is hard to imagine a thriving business economy when something as ‘low-tech’ as a Webinar, as we heard from one business owner, is simply avoided due to unreliable connectivity.

Two inspiring individuals we met were Fred and Loreta. Loreta was a young woman from Soweto (Johannesburg township) who could not afford university, but was rising up as a community leader within LoveLife, the AIDS prevention organization. We met Fred at a billionaire’s dinner party (just your everyday SIB); he had started the African Leadership Academy to identify and groom future leaders across the continent.

In addition to business meetings and networking events, we made time for Robben Island, the Apartheid Museum, the Mandela house, wine tasting, and safari game. While on Robben Island, we had the privilege of meeting one-on-one with Ahmed Kathrata, one of eight anti-Apartheid activists imprisoned with Nelson Mandela.

Shark Dive
Mike Romano, Jamie Aaronson, Joseph Rehrmann & Jason Lin on Great White Shark Dive, Capetown

We closed with an awards dinner (a.k.a. classmate ‘roast’) complete with traditional food, dancing, and music. Then we were let loose for one last weekend in Cape Town to shark dive, surf, watch rugby, and hike Table Mountain. The hike turned into extreme rock climbing but we luckily made it down the mountain with no more than a scratch. All in all we had an amazing trip learning about the business climate, BBE (Black Economic Empowerment) affirmative-action movement, union relations, government, culture, and the historical end of Apartheid in 1994, less than twenty years ago. As a student visitor, my hope for South Africa is that it will continue on a path of improved socio-economic conditions through effective leadership and sustainable policy enactment, enforcement, and implementation.

And…we’re back!

Well, some of us are anyway! The elective classes began on Saturday for 2nd and 3rd year weekend students – they begin tonight for the evening students. This means the first-years don’t have the campus to themselves anymore (have fun parking!) and it means you’ll be hearing more from us bloggers!

Personally, I spent the summer working and on vacation (no school!) but I am actually looking forward to getting back to class. Now that the core is done, we have almost 100% free-choice on our courses. This semester, I’m taking 7 units (a full-load is 6):

  • Problem Finding / Problem Solving – This 1-unit course is a new requirement for the program, and you should definitely go back and read Tim’s post on it from last year. Though I’m taking most of my courses on evenings, this one class is for five weeks on Saturday mornings, so I started it this weekend. I’m super psyched – it’s held in the architecture studio, not in Haas, so it’s a completely different feeling. We began by learning about the results of our Learning Styles inventory we took – I found out I’m “Accommodating” – which means I tend towards requiring concrete rather than abstract delivery methods to learn. I want to dig in and just try stuff, rather than observe and analyze. Interestingly, most MBA students tend to fall into the “abstract” half of the quadrant. We also got to go through a whole cycle of design thinking, including post-it note brainstorming and rapid prototyping using duct-tape and construction paper. Quite the shift from the high-tech Koret classroom where we spent every class last year!
  • Strategic Brand Marketing – This 3-unit course meets Tuesdays, so you’ll have to wait to hear more about it. But we do have homework going in (What do you think the most powerful brand is?), so while it’s more qualitative than quantitative, I’m going to have plenty to do.
  • Negotiations – This 3-unit course on Thursdays is very highly-rated with Professor Holly Schroth at the helm. Evidently we practice negotiating every single class. Amusingly, I also learned that our text book is Getting Past No and the textbook for the weekend version of Negotiations is Getting To Yes. Ha!

Well, more to come as we get into the year. And I’m looking forward to hearing what my fellow bloggers are taking! It’s shocking to realize, but even though I have 2 years more in the program, there are really only about 8 courses total to take once the core is done!