Archive for March, 2009

Exploring new ways of doing business-using the socially and environmentally friendly approach!!

March 30th, 2009 by under Events. No Comments.

I was very happy when our spring break began but even before I could settle down, I realized it had got over. I did go for a hiking trip to the Hanging Rock State Park and Pilot Mountain State Park, both in North Carolina, with my friends during the break but I could have used a few more days for just chilling out, doing nothing much productive. Anyways, the second term of our second semester has just begun and already I find myself running around. There is so much going on everyday: some events, sessions, club meetings, leave aside the classes and the enormous amount of readings, and not to forget-my summer internship search is still ON.

One of such events held lately worth mentioning is the first Social Enterprise Symposium, organized on the 26th of March, 2009 under the aegis of the Smith School’s Initiative for Social Value Creation. The Symposium is a student run program established to introduce novel approaches for leaving a lasting impact and creating social change around the world, with the private, public and non-profit sectors coming together to enable sustainable social and environmental change. Given the huge disparity between businesses and business schools in the area of social and environmental responsibility, the initiative for Social Value Creation has been undertaken to establish the University of Maryland as a leader in this area through this incubator of change makers with innovative ideas for improving the society.

The keynote session was addressed by Mr. Steve Fludder, Vice President for Ecomagination, GE’s company-wide business strategy driving innovation and growth of profitable environmental solutions. Following the keynote, the attendees selected sessions from amongst the numerous workshops with topics ranging from green technologies to socially responsible investing and micro-finance. These break-out sessions were conducted by speakers representing organizations such as Deutsche Bank Microcredit Development Fund, Marriott International, Booz Allen Hamilton, CARE, Finca, Grameen Foundation etc.

Dean Anandalingam welcomed the audience, and emphasized the need for organizations to be sensitive to how technological and business process innovations transform local economies, impact local environments, affect political processes, and change the ways in which  communicate around the world. Adding on, he mentioned about another successfully running program in this direction, the Social Venture Consulting initiative, through which the Smith school engages with selected non-profits to provide MBA students with practical consulting experience and an opportunity to give back to the community.

I too had undertaken a voluntary project for a non-profit under this initiative during the fall semester last year and this reference by the dean made me more proud of the work I had done. Through the project, I and another MBA student, Vivek Srivastava, partnered with Grassroots.org, a national organization providing free online services to over 1,000 non-profits in the US, and prepared a strategic marketing and revenue generation plan for a non-profit working towards helping women in recovery, women who have been victims of drug use, and assisting them in regaining control of their own lives and putting together their families. Our project was spread over 3 months and personally I learned a lot through the project and was also able to contribute towards creating change in the society. The director of the non-profit was very happy with our work, especially because of the challenges the project inherently presented which we had not foreseen. It truly was one of the most satisfying projects I have ever done.

Anyways, the symposium was a huge success and the attendees gave a tremendous feedback about it. Further, the career fair following the workshops offered knowledge about and also opportunities in the area of social and environmental change and sustainability. As for myself, I enjoyed every single bit of the event and am very proud to be a part of a school, a community, which believes in not just demonstrating thought leadership in this domain, but is also prepared for and is committed to leading the world to creating positive environmental and social change through new ways of doing business.

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Social Networking and the Impact on Your Job Search

March 11th, 2009 by under General. No Comments.

The Office of Career Management (OCM) at the Smith School organized a week-long event starting February 23, 2009, the Network and Connect Week, during which the students got the opportunity to interact with peers, alumni and explore other vital resources, which can have a lasting impact on the student’s career search. Additionally the students got to learn more about the art of networking which plays a crucial role in obtaining jobs, more so in the current downturn economy when employment opportunities are very limited.

Given the focus on networking, the importance and role of online social networks in this direction cannot be underplayed. The emergence of online professional and social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter etc. has transformed the art of networking and has added more platforms for people to communicate and connect with each other in a relatively informal environment. Some companies realized this fact early on and invested highly in positioning and establishing themselves on these digital platforms.

Ernst & Young is recognized as one of the leaders in this direction who launched their page on Facebook in July 2006 in order to enable students (at that time Facebook was predominantly a student network) to easily and informally pose questions and share their experiences, connect with recruiters, network amongst peers, and most importantly allow them to learn about the culture of the firm through videos, employee testimonials and stories around the firm’s important initiatives.
Ernst & Young has always been a preferred recruiter at the University of Maryland which has a strong alumni presence in the firm. Given the focus of the Network and Connect Week on networking and for the firm’s being a leader in not just leveraging social networks but also being a top global player in its domain, the OCM dedicated an event in collaboration with the firm.

Dan Black, the National recruiter for the Americas- Ernst and Young, participated during Network and Connect Week on Tuesday, February 24th.  Through his session titled Social Networking and Recruiting, Black shared insights on Social Networking and the impact of such emerging trends on the student’s job search.  Ernst & Young has been awarded the “Best firm to launch your career” by business week and is acknowledged as a fun-place to work and through Facebook the firm has succeeded in demonstrating its commitment towards helping career launchers and further closing the gap between the recruiters and the employees by providing a user centric platform to communicate and share.

Dan Black, the National recruiter for the Americas- Ernst and Young at the Network and Connect Week

Dan Black, the National recruiter for the Americas- Ernst and Young at the Network and Connect Week

Black, emphasized upon the role of professional and social online networks as a platform to reach out to peers and recruiters, yet he cautioned the students on using the technology.  He highlighted the fact that students should be wary of the information they publish on such sites as the data can potentially be compromised and may do more harm than good. Moreover, many recruiters have been utilizing these networks to gain insights into the background and nature of an individual through the pictures posted, the status updates and the profiles portrayed through these groups. Although Black mentioned that Ernst & Young does not believe in evaluating employees through such tools yet he communicated that many firms in fact do reject around 30% of the applicants owing to background checks though such networks. He recommended that students practice discretion while posting pictures or information and also ensure that they follow best practices and guidelines for maintaining privacy and security. He said that people tend to be casual about posting compromising pictures of not just themselves or their friends but also of people they had known long ago, and also bad mouth former or current colleagues or firms without realizing the repercussions of such an act. Thus, it is imperative that we be extremely cautious while adding friends or connections on such networks, the pictures we post, the data we publish and the manner we conduct ourselves in such informal social interactions.

Black highlighted the fact that social networks can potentially help the students in connecting with recruiters and can eventually help them get a job. In fact the role of networking in the current financial crisis has been heightened and the online social networks provide the students an excellent opportunity to communicate and build long lasting relationships through such alternate avenues.

The OCM expressed gratitude for Black’s committing time and making the event a success and acknowledged Black and the two other senior recruiters who had flown-in especially for the event. The participants were glad they got this invaluable opportunity to understand the implications of using social networks and gained insights into how best they can develop strategies to make the most of such a platform in their job search.

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Understanding the Global Economic Environment

March 3rd, 2009 by under On MBA courses. 1 Comment.

I recently realized that I have not yet written about one of the most exciting subjects I have taken till date; that I have been occupied for most of my time this term even though I’ve had just three courses, is altogether a different story. Guess, it is time to amend my misdoing. :)

The Global Economic Environment, a course being taught by Professor Curtis Grimm who is a Dean’s Professor of Supply Chain and Strategy and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, has been one of the best subjects I have taken in my MBA. Being able to analyze and understand the major economic trends and events in the history of the United States, an in-depth analysis if the current financial crisis and possible solutions has been an intellectually stimulating experience. The case based study of events and circumstances has provided me tremendous insights into the application of the tools of economics and their role in defining and guiding government policies. In addition, applying the concepts and discussing about the emerging high growth economies of India and China, and those of Russia, France, Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia etc., I feel that I have been able to get an insider view of the way these economies work, partly for the Harvard case studies, partly for the amazing professor and most important for the students of my class-people from all corners of the globe.

Prior to coming for an MBA, I did not have much idea about why and how economies in other parts of the globe function, maybe I didn’t have that much interest, or I didn’t notice or maybe it did not even matter to me as much. But now I realize that having a sound understanding of the financial conditions of global economies, the drivers of these economies and the government policies and initiatives towards improving and uplifting their nation, is indispensible in the interconnected flat world. Given that organizations run operations across the globe and have supply chains spanning nations, it is imperative that we understand the socio-economic conditions of the producers, suppliers and the consumers distributed across all these economies in order to grow and run businesses profitably.

As part of the course, in addition to the cases and readings from the text book, we individually selected two cases out of the group of cases in the course and did a write-up, being guided by the questions provided by the professor. Thus, besides the insights we gain from the case, the knowledge of the subject matter out of our personal experience and knowledge, and the insights from the students of those countries, we get expert opinions by those who have done the write up. Moreover, short documentaries on the economic conditions of a particular nation at a particular point in time, through a video series called Commanding Heights, has further provided us tremendous knowledge on the topic.

The key aspect of this course is that you can relate the learning to the real world and understand why something is happening with the economy. A few weeks ago, we discussed about the current financial crisis in the US towards which we read a case study. This was after we had done the case studies on major historic economic events as the Tax Cut of 1964 under President Kennedy, the Reagan Plan of 1980 and the Tax-cut in 2001 under President George W Bush in addition to discussing the implications of Alan Greenspan’s policies in controlling the spillover of the internet bubble burst that led to the housing bubble which eventually led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis of today. As part of the case write up and during the discussion, we debated on the possible steps the government could take to help get the nation out of this crisis which has influenced economies in other parts of the globe as well.

Having learnt about the effect of the fiscal and monetary policies in context of the Keynesian economics and the past success of such tools and policies where others failed to work, I have been able to relate to how the economies of nations have performed in the past and also how these concepts can be utilized to achieve a desired outcome. Of course these concepts are subjective and the outcome depends a lot on the manner in which they are applied in addition to the uncertainty in the nature of markets and consumers. Still, they provide a fair idea of how things work and how we can try to make them work.

During the class discussion on the bailout packages being offered by the government to the banks and other firms in crisis and about the solutions to reviving credit flow in the market, we could not think of a better option than the government’s nationalizing the banks who were seeking further assistance, or overtaking them temporarily, if you may. This would be a responsible and reasonable decision compared with the options of providing financial assistance to the banks; liquidating them; the government’s purchasing the toxic assets or the government’s insuring the bad loan. In the next few days there were numerous articles on the topic and I was glad to read about the government’s considering such steps. I was convinced that the application of concepts and the learning gained in the course will prove invaluable to me through my life.

Professor Curt Grimm

Professor Grimm’s thought provoking and engaging teaching style has helped me in more than one way and I believe that after taking up more of such courses that provide so much value, I would be better positioned for taking on crucial roles in my career, roles which require knowledge of global economics and involve decision making that can have a long-term effect on organizations and also on the society.

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