Archive for September, 2010

September 28th, 2010 by under Entrepreneurship, Public Policy, Triple Pundit. No Comments.

Triple Pundit is based the idea of the Triple Bottom Lines of Business: Society; Finance; and the Environment.

I recently joined my fellow Smith School students to blog on Triple Pundit, the premier blog and digital community discussing and reporting on how economic, social, and financial performance are interrelated

You can read my first post on how zoning and public transportation policies shape our urban development and what opportunities these create for entrepreneurs.

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Smith in BusinessWeek: Interview with Sam Kang

September 28th, 2010 by under Admissions, Reflections. No Comments.

Sam Kang, Director of Full-Time MBA Admissions, Smith School of Business. Source: Smith School of Business

The latest issue of Businessweek featured Sam Kang, Smith’s Director of Full-Time MBA Admissions, discussing the Smith MBA community and the admissions process.

As a current first year MBA at Smith, I completely agree with Sam’s assessment of the collaborative atmosphere of the school. When I visited a year ago, the collegial orientation of the students really stood out to me. Building such strong relationships is good for our networking, team building, and education.

I would also agree that all of my classmates and I are extremely driven toward achieving our career goals and that passion – as Sam put it – translates well into our individual and group outcomes.

Kudos to Sam and Admissions Office for this great communications placement.

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What Not to Do during Virtual Meetings

September 26th, 2010 by under Career Search, Professional Development. No Comments.

Stay Focused during Virtual meetings. Source: Royalty Free Photograph

I just got back from the National Black MBA Association Career Fair in Los Angeles, CA.

It is difficult to substitute talking with recruiters in person for other modes of communicating, especially when being interviewed.  Even though the flight was long and expensive, I made the strategic decision to miss a day of classes to attend.  It was definitely worth it (more about the fair later once I’ve collected my thoughts).

Yet, when we are unable to meet people in person (whether they be recruiters, clients, or collaborators), a skype or phone appointment may be the next best thing.

The New York Times published a timely Q&A this weekend about how to best present ourselves during virtual meetings.  Some key points in the article that I had not considered before:

  • Don’t wear stripes! (They cause the camera to constantly refresh)
  • Avoid the rude-sounding impact of voice delay by saying “Question” and waiting a couple of seconds before continuing
  • If you are going to the bathroom, be sure to turn off your head set…….ewww…..

From my own experience, I’d add:

  • In a group meeting, introduce yourself before speaking (especially important for audio-only meetings) so that other’s can identify you with your questions/comments
  • If you want to look professional, make sure you dress your bottom half properly too…you don’t want get up and have people see you in your boxer shorts (For the record, I heard about such an experience and did not have to learn this one the hard way ;O) ).
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"B-School Primer" PLUS Part VI: Take Leadership in a Club

September 17th, 2010 by under B-School Primer PLUS. No Comments.

Net Impact Conference. Source: Net Impact

At Smith, there are so many opportunities as a first year to take leadership in MBA clubs.  The Consulting Club practices business cases and brought in Marc Cosentino, a case interview expert and author of Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation, to run some cases with us.  Net Impact is preparing to send a large delegation to the national conference at the Ross School in Ann Arbor.  The Health Care Business Association is hosting speakers.  The Energy Club is growing and developing a podcast.  The Supply Chain and Operations Club will be brining in a professor to talk about careers in those functionalities next week on Sep. 22.

Each of these clubs need to fill spaces on their boards.  Participating in them positions us to be the first people who meet the practitioners we invite and the other MBA students we meet.

Next Time: Get out of the Bubble

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Deloitte to Hire 250,000 Workers over Five Years!

September 15th, 2010 by under Career Search, Consulting. 2 Comments.

Deloitte. Source: Deloitte

Yesterday’s Financial Times reported that Deloitte will begin hiring an average of 50,000 new workers per year for the next five years!!!

Good thing for Smith students that their recruiters recently visited last week.

Smith attracts a wide variety of companies who are always recruiting for new talent, including Bank of America, Campbells, GE, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and W.R. Grace.

Yesterday, CEO Mayo Shattuck of Constellation Energy spoke as a part of the series.  Former speakers have included the CEOs of CalVert, FedEx, and Intuit.

This year, CEOs from The Baltimore Ravens, The Carlyle Group, Hughes Network Group, KPMG, and SAIC will headline the lecture series.

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Class…In Real Life: Buying a Home

September 13th, 2010 by under Finance, Real Estate. 2 Comments.

Source: AP Photo/Richard Vogel

One of our assignments for Financial Mangement seemed a lot more relevant this weekend in light of a Washington Post article about the financial questions people should be asking when purchasing a home.

We’re supposed to use our newly learned knowledge of annuities to calculate what the monthly payments would be for our dream car and house.  I hadn’t realized before that from the perspective of the lender, mortgage payments and car loans are essentially annuitites.  The bank or dealership is basically buying an annuity from the buyer – lending/paying money now in exchange for a fixed set of payments in the future.

We’ve begun complicating the basics with consideration for taxes (and according to the lecture notes for this week – inflation).  The WP article covers both of these factors and also capitalization rates, which I learned about in my last job studying the commercial real estate market.

In related news, check out this really fascinating and related article that came out in the NYT today about resale fee covenenats that developers are putting in the sales of their new homes, allowing them to collect a percentage of the resale price.  Developers, driven by a dearth of cash and projects in the pipeline, are looking to get current funds by collatoralizing/securitizing future cash flows from resale fees (often for as long as 99 years!).

While these “capital recovery fees” might be helpful to developers in the short run, I suspect that they will add hidden costs that will make the housing market more inefficient because both sellers and buyers will be taken unawares. It will take a long time for buyers to adjust to this (assuming they even figure out that these new covenants exist in the house they are considering for purchase). Then, even if they are aware, it will cause property prices to inflate because sellers will increase their ask price in order to make up for the money lost to the resale fee.

Furthermore, if and when the economy improves to the point when developers don’t have to rely on these fees any more, they will still be using them in covenants because it will be a source of cash they don’t want to give up.  By that point, they may be dependent upon the fees as a source of cash, and when the economy tanks again, they will be even more unprepared.

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"B-School Primer" PLUS Part V: Figure out your Work Personality, Strengths, and Weaknesses

September 11th, 2010 by under B-School Primer PLUS. No Comments.

One of the Orientation Exercises we went through at Smith involved a DISC Assessment, which provided feedback on our cognitive personalities.  The assessment measures four dimensions of personality: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.

These assessments are not THE TRUTH about us, but they do offer insights into our style of interaction, leadership, and collaboration – they give us something to reflect upon.

At Smith, I’m learning that one of the considerations for building a team is finding people whose working styles complement my own.  As one of the very few (only ~10 of us!) people who were highly Steady, it’s recommended that I find people whose strong will, persuasiveness, and calculation complement my patience and goal-oriented focus.

As a side note, I think my assessment results of low D, high I, very high S, and high C were pretty on target.

Next Time: Take Leadership in a Club

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I Just Got a Good Kick in the Pants…: Lessons from a Case Interview Workshop with Marc Cosentino

September 8th, 2010 by under Career Search, Consulting. 1 Comment.

…and never felt better!

Marc Cosentino Throws Down the Gauntlet. Sep. 2009. Source: Smith School of Business

Last night, a number of first and second year MBAs attended a Case Interview Workshop led by Marc Cosentino, a former Associate Director of Career Services at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  Cosentino is an authority on case interview, having prepped more than 8,000 Harvard alumni and written over 100 cases himself.

Case interviews help interviewers “evaluate the process the candidate employs to structure a competent approach to derive a solution.”*  Interviewers examine the structure you use to organize your thoughts, how you articulate/present your thoughts, and how you quantify the question.  Case questions are used to vet candidates in many fields, not just consulting.

I had done case questions in the not-for-profit sector, but I was unfamiliar with the breadth of topics that could be covered in a business case interview – from strategy scenarios (e.g. entering new market and developing pricing strategies) to operation scenarios (e.g. increasing sales, turning around firm performance).  Cosentino provided an overview of how to perform during a case interview and then ran us through three case questions.

For me, the biggest takeaways from the workshop were:

  • Write your notes on the page using a landscape orientation that divides the page into two section: Case Notes and Case Objective
  • Lay out your notes and get your interviewer to lean in and turn them from an interviewer into a client
  • Always look for/ask about trends over time to inform your analysis
  • Don’t repeat information that has already been given to you.  Transform it into something useful and new (e.g. a drop in stock from $54-$49 is ~10% drop).
  • Star the most important points so that you can more easily identify them when summarizing the case
  • Think about External Factors (e.g. economy, the market, industry) before assuming the problem lies within the firm (e.g. adjust products, pricing, etc.)
  • Format your thoughts on the page so that they are readable
  • Missing a zero (i.e. a power of ten) when multiplying/dividing is unforgiveable
  • Be Coachable and listen to the interviewer’s feedback, which is meant to guide you
  • Write up a summary table that acts as your “final slide” to conclude your discussion
  • Getting good at cases requires constant practice – don’t go rusty after you get your internship!

I’m definitely going to check out Cosentino’s book, Case in Point, for more detailed guidance.  He also offers online case questions through Case Question Interactive (CQI).  His website also has a couple of freebies: Ways to Cut Costs and Ten Key Things You Should Know about Giving Cases.

Also, here’s a video interview of Cosentino from last year’s workshop at the Smith School in Sep. 2009.

Next Time: Tales from The Gauntlet

*Marc Consentino. “Case in Point: Case Question Workshop.” Sep. 7. 2010. Slide 4

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"B-School Primer" PLUS Part IV: Cultivate a Mentor-Mentee Relationship

September 7th, 2010 by under B-School Primer PLUS. No Comments.

Make a Connection with the Right Person who will Guide You Where you Want to Go. Source: Graur Razvan Ionut - Royalty Free Photos

I believe it’s important to identify and develop relationships with at least one person who would guide me on my MBA and career journey.  Mentors offer a look into the future by providing the benefit of wisdom, experience, and networks. 

I’ve begun to reach out to professors, speaker contacts, and second year students with news and reports that are relevant to topics that have come up in class or their work.  I believe it is extremely important that potential mentees be able to offer value back to their mentors.  This makes the exchange more fair and builds the sense of trust that comes from reciprocity.  This is true for any relationship, but especially for those from which you will be drawing upon frequently.

Next Time: Figure Out Your Work Personality, Strengths, and Weaknesses

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Startups Look Beyond Resumes or: What do Startups, Recruiters, and Michel Foucault Have in Common?

September 5th, 2010 by under Career Search, Leadership and Managing Human Capital. No Comments.

Startup IT companies are beginning to use filtering techniques besides traditional resumes and interviews, according to a Slate/Washington Post article, today. 

The job search is becoming more about resumes and in person interview. Source: John M. Fugett/istockphoto.com

For startups, finding the right employees is the number two “headache” after securing funding.  Large companies have the leeway to occasionaly hire someone who isn’t a perfect fit.  However, startups need to maximize the effectiveness of their funding. 

According to the article, which focuses on the tech sector, traditional recruiting consultants have a difficult time differentiating between technically competent applicants.  With the slack labor market, small firms that lack a dedicated human resources department may feel particularly overwhelmed by the pile of applicants before them. 

Recently, startup tech firms have turned to: 

  • Reviewing the source code of programmers who work on collaborative programming sites;
  • Video Resumes; and
  • Behavioral interviews (usually used by larger companies)

The goal of these human resource “technologies” (a la Michel Foucault) is to provide employers with a better sense of which applicants are competent and which will be the most engaged and invested in propelling the firm’s mission. 

At Smith, the Office of Career Services has repeatedly told us that when approaching potential employers its important to make sure – during the internship/job search and during an interview – that we are a good fit for the organization in terms of the value we bring and in terms of what we can expect in the firm’s mission, culture, and opportunities for advancement.  Employers don’t want an employee who isn’t engaged anymore than any of us want to work at a place that does not match our vision for how we want to spend our time and effort. 

Our class on Leadership and Managing Human Capital (BUSI 664) began with this very premise.  Beginning with readings and case studies, our first class emphasized that human capital is the key strategic resource for firms in the current economy.  Historically, firms focused on developing defensible product/market positions, but by the 1980s, globalization and industrial restructuring led firms to focus on building a durable competitive advantage through the development of organizational resources and capabilities that are difficult to imitate.  However, many firms continue to try to “implement third-generation strategies through second-generation organizations with first-generation management.”*  These “third-generation” strategies focus on cultivating employee engagement through well-defined mechanisms that align incentives and provide employees with an understanding of how their work and behavior fit into the broader business strategy. 

Even if we aren’t going into IT, the WP/Slate article articulates how this evolution in Human Capital Management impacts how we will be evaluated during interviews and on the job itself.  Furthermore, it emphasizes that the responsibility of employee engagement does not belong to management or to HR departments alone – all employees must take this responsibility, especially at startups where the costs of wasted resources are magnified. 

From the perspective of small firms considering how much resources to invest in their employees, developing an engagement strategy may pay off well.  In a study of 136 non-financial firms and their IPOs, firms that offered development programs for employees and rewards based on organizational performance were more likely to survive five years after the IPO.** 

*Bartlett and Ghoshal. “Building Competitive Advantage through People.” MIT Sloan Management Review. Winter 2002. Vol. 43. No. 2. 

**Welborne, T., & Andrews, A. (1996).  “Predicting performance of initial public offering firms:  Should HRM be part of the equation?”  Academy of Management Journal, 39, 891-919. – Thanks to Prof. Chen for a heads up on this paper. 

For an article on building leadership within tech companies, check out this Aug. 22, 2010 WSJ article

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