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

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

Hello from Spain!

I am no longer Barcelona-bound…   I’ve finally arrived!  Indeed, I’ve been here for 10 days now and have already completed one full week of M-F, 9-6pm class at ESADE Business School.  Another class with the same schedule starts on Monday.  In addition to these two intensive courses, I’ll be taking three during the regular semester that runs from October to the week of Christmas.My transition has been an easy one so far.  Indeed, I’m better prepared with my Spanish skills than I would have thought I’d be.  The advantages growing up in LA and living in California nearly all of my life.  Additionally, I’ve subletted a room with 2 current ESADE students who are originally from the states.  Couple that with class instruction being in English, it is conceivably possible for me to get by speaking minimal Spanish.  Of course, that would kill n absolutely wonderful opportunity for me to develop my language skills.  Thus, I have purposely been out and about attempting to speak to locals, whether it be at restaurants or just on the streets.

I applaud the EWMBA program for having an exchange program, and for providing this opportunity for me to broaden my education experience.  Although only here for a semester, I can tell I will be opening myself to unforgettable experiences that will be invauable.  Additionally, I will be expanding my network to include people from all over the world..

Assuming my travel plans remain unchanged, and I stay outside of the states through the new year, this will be the longest period of time away from the US since I was three years old.  Indeed, I’ve done very limited international travel, and from the start was looking towards this opportunity to rectify that situation.  Prior to arriving in Barcelona, my fiance and I spent about 10 days traveling through France.  The absolutely unforgettable trip took us through several areas including the Bordeaux region, Lyon, as well as Avignon and Provence.

I’m already checking my calendar for an available weekend to head back, specifically to see Paris and Versailles, which we missed.  I also will try to return to Italy, the only European country I’d been to prior to this month.  Other than those locales, I have nothing set.  So if you have suggestions on where I must go, please suggest away!

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.

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!!

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 Salesforce.com 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!

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!

-Jennifer

SIB – China Video Trip Report

I’ve been asked by several students and potential applicants what international seminars are all about.

Answer: They are an opportunity to have the time of your life!

Allow the SIB-China guys to demonstrate in a fun musical format!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es3xDnAB0EE

I admit, I’m addicted! I’ve watched the video about 10 times so far and the song has been playing in a loop in the background all morning. The fun is multiplied if you know the guys in the video.

Video Highlights (you won’t know what I’m talking about unless you watch the video):

  • Prof. Schultz’s intro
  • Running man on Great Wall of China
  • Screwing the light bulb
  • Mike Han’s and Andrew Chau’s wicked dance moves
  • The Haas ladies. Such good sports!

Enjoy!

PS: SIB stands for seminar in international business, an experiential learning course that allows Haas students to learn about international business focused on a certain country. Haas conducts multiple SIBs throughout the year spanning countries around the world.

—Sonny

Graduation Day 2011

What an incredible feeling! Commencement came and went last Sunday (May 15, 2011) and Berkeley’s air filled with the stir of the Class of 2011 grads, abounding in the streets. What we expected to be a dreary and wet (read: miserable) day outside at the Greek Theatre (outside) Auditorium (pictured right) instead turned into a fairly beautiful one. As usual, the festivities were emcee’d by Dean Lyons (pictured left)

My fellow classmates and I shared a laugh, while we took snapshots together, reminiscing over the past three years and celebrating our latest triumph: to become graduate MBAs of our beloved Haas School of Business. So many of us crossed the stage with our little ones (self-included!) in our arms or by our sides. Our Part-Time program offered so many Haas Babies, that it practically brimmed with nostalgia (and wonder of how we and our spouses made it).
There were great speeches by a few selected students, and our commencement address was given by Barbara Desoer, President of Home Loans for Bank of America (and fellow Haas MBA Alum). There were many memorable remarks, but two in particular remain vivid in my brain that I wanted to share to our readers:
  • Single-Tasking. So many of us get too caught up in multitasking that we lose our focus and end up doing a poor job all around. It’s time to remember what’s important and attack it fervently with all our hearts — to single-task instead for a change. To this, I can definitely relate, having gotten caught up in meetings, while typing emails, IMing and texting. It all can get a little ridiculous.
  • Wisdom from Maya Angelou: Ms. Desoer also quoted Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That sentiment just aims us in the right direction: to think about and take action for people — that becomes the greatest gift, and the most memorable. Not money, glory, power or anything else.
For a full transcript of her speech, click here.
After the reception, many of us gathered at the Campanile Esplanade (pictured below) for some refreshments and then off to our many celebratory dinners/parties. An end to one part of our lives, but really just another first step in our journey to go beyond ourselves and be students always.
With any luck, I’ll be able to squeeze in another good-bye post. Until then, Happy Summer’ing and many blessings.
– TL