This Year’s Marketing Blitz

February 5th, 2012 by under General, Smith School. 1 Comment.

Well, the Super Bowl has come and gone (congrats, Giants!), which means that the biggest commercials of the year have aired. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, they’re also now all available to be watched in perpetuity! Here’s a gallery of them (via Mashable), including my personal favorite, the newest trailer for Marvel’s upcoming film, The Avengers.

Thoughts and comments? What was your favorite commercial from yesterday? Let me know – later this week, I’ll take a look at how viral these have gone and stack up what YouTube says the most-viewed clips are and compare them to what you readers liked the most.

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New Year, New Goals, New… Weather?

January 21st, 2012 by under General, Smith School. No Comments.

Well, I’m back! And I hope everyone had a delightful holiday break. Somehow, I managed to weather the hazards of air travel, a week-long family reunion, Los Angeles, and more air travel, only to find myself arriving amidst quite the snowstorm.

Looking out over the snowy expanse of my apartment’s parking lot this morning, I find myself feeling optimistic about this new year. As a Smith MBA, the second semester is my first chance to take elective courses, and I’ll be diving in bright and early Monday morning with a lecture on social media in internet marketing. I’m excited (admittedly more so about the course itself than the horrifyingly early start time, considering my internal clock is still set to Pacific time), as this is finally my chance to bring my skill set and expertise to bear on the sorts of problems that really need to be examined in the modern business world. What can investors reasonably expect for social media-derived ROI? How can end-users sort out genuine interaction from artificially generated SEO copy? And when will companies start offering useful coupons on Facebook?

Over the next few weeks, as the semester takes off and I start cutting my teeth on some of these marketing humdingers, I’ll take a look at recent trends in business-related social media news. If you have any questions or anything interesting catches your eye, feel free to leave a comment!

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Coming Down to the Wire: Unconventional Study Tips for MBAs

December 12th, 2011 by under General, Smith School. No Comments.

If there’s one thing that every student here at the Smith School can agree on, it’s that finals are about as utterly brain-draining as, well, some sort of thing that grabs your brain and drains out all of your thoughts. I’d say “like an Uwe Boll movie,” but that may be too niche and atopical of a reference. Anyway, it’s finals season here, and that means that stress levels are running high as students flit from room to room, hoping to shore up their fortresses of knowledge with a few last-minute applications of desperate studying.

Since I only just finished up my BA, this feeling of last-minute academic panic is fairly familiar to me, although it’s been some time since I had to cram for quantitative coursework. Still, I know that the majority of my peers (and you future Smith students that might read this at some point) have spent more time away from school than I have, and their good study habits may have gotten a little rusty, so with that in mind here are a few pointers that have helped lower my stress level considerably!

  1. Don’t cram – spread it out! Studies that I can’t find public links to at the moment tend to agree that shoving facts into your brain at the last minute really isn’t an efficient way to learn a subject. If you break a subject down into more manageable chunks over a longer time – say, an hour a day over the week before an exam – your brain stores the information in a much more useful way. Manage your schedule well and you’ll be sure to have enough time to go over those last troublesome concepts before the test, as opposed to desperately skimming the chapter and hoping you’ll retain some of it. Knowledge isn’t pasta – you don’t throw it at the wall and hope a few pieces stick!
  2. Get comfortable, but not too comfortable. Different people enjoy different studying environments. Some like the quiet of a library, and some veg out in front of the TV at home. Personally, I put my feet up on my desk, throw on a pair of noise-canceling headphones, and block out distractions with the soothing sounds of speed metal. Find an atmosphere that lets you focus – but not one so comfortable that your mind starts to wander. And don’t let yourself get distracted by the internet, either! Use it as a study tool if you have to, but if like me you tend to get sucked into the mire of social media, I might recommend installing a browser extension that limits the amount of time you can spend on sites like Facebook. Here’s a list of plugins for Safari as recommended by Mashable – and don’t worry, there are just as many out there for Chrome and Firefox!
  3. Use your brain or lose it. This ties back in with #2 – namely, that cramming and rote memorization aren’t very good ways to retain knowledge. There’s all sorts of talk about the magic of “memory palaces” in the media, thanks to the attention from Jonathan Foer’s hit book “Moonwalking with Einstein” and the reference in a recent episode of the hit BBC miniseries Sherlock, but you don’t need to be able to perfectly reconstruct every detail of your accounting textbook in order to do well on the final. Use tricks like mnemonic devices or word association to help you remember closely associated concepts or difficult phrases. And above all else, practice, practice, practice!

I hope these tips are useful! Got any good study habits (or things to avoid) of your own? Let us know in the comments section! Good luck, and happy studying!

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Smith Student Entrepreneurs: Comrade Brewing

November 23rd, 2011 by under Entrepreneurship, Smith School, Student Entrepreneurs. No Comments.

Hunter S. Thompson, that legendary font of slightly eccentric wisdom, once said that “good people drink good beer.” He’s not the only American legend to have good things to say about it, though. Some of America’s greatest political leaders had a few things to say about beer.

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
- Benjamin Franklin

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.
-Abraham Lincoln

Beer is, in other words, an important part of American history and tradition. Today, as America’s craft brewing industry is heading into its fifth year of double-digit growth, it’s also an important part of our economy. That growth won’t continue, though, without a new generation of visionary brewers.

 

David Lin, MBA

David Lin, first-year MBA here at the Smith School of Business, is one of those visionaries. With experience working for several breweries out west in Denver, Colorado, David has begun putting together his own special blend of talent and resources in order to start Comrade Brewing. At last week’s Pitch Dingman competition, David took home the $250 Audience Choice Award. After the competition, I had the chance to ask David a few questions about beer, entrepreneurial spirit, and the Smith School. Here’s what he had to say.

Z: How did you decide on pursuing an MBA at the Smith School?

David: Having done a campus visit to all the schools I was accepted into, the Smith School really treated my visit as a business. The professionalism and hospitality made me feel that Smith was the right school for me.

Z: What initially got you into brewing?

David: Having lived in Texas, the liquor laws were eccentric to say the least. I had started to gain an appreciation for beer, but the legislation was very prohibitive in terms of the type and quality of beer that I was able to purchase in Texas, so I decided that it would be easier to make my own.

Z: What about it hooked your interest?

David: The hobby itself was fairly novel. Making your beer at home at the time sounded preposterous. During undergrad, I would not have called myself a fan of beer, but I was drinking the types of beers that were the most accessible at the time. At a homebrew class, I tasted a home brewed pale ale. I had an epiphany when I thought to myself, “Is this what real beer is supposed to taste like?” I was hooked.

Z: What’s your point of differentiation – both as a brewer and an entrepreneur?

David: I think what separates us it the quality of beer. We have a staff that is continuing to gain experience. The craft beer industry is still in its infancy, and it is a very dynamic environment. We want to create beers that are extraordinary as well as pushing the envelope on what a beer can be. In addition, the comrade theme is something that is well integrated. Numerous breweries have a catchy name, but don’t follow through with the concept to complete the brand.

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Z: What’s the story behind Comrade Brewing?

David: It was the summer of 2009, and like many stories, it involved some cute girls at the bar, who had smart aleck remarks. As the saying goes, the rest was history.

Z: How do you plan to leverage your MBA with your plans for Comrade Brewing?

David: There are numerous breweries opening up with little to no experience in the craft beer industry. I hope to leverage the MBA with my experience in the brewing industry to create a brewery that is as dynamic and innovative as the industry itself.

Z: What’s your opinion on the state of the craft brewing industry?

David: The customer is starting to awaken from the doldrums of what is widely available. The craft beer industry is extremely fragmented. You have the west coast versus the east coast brews. If the east coast regulation was more conducive to fostering new businesses and the formation of new breweries, I think the east coast would be on par with the west coast in terms of the quality and variety of beer, but the strangle hold of Prohibition is still strong and pervasive to this day. There has been significant progress, but there is still a monumental amount of work to do.

Z: What are your favorite beers?

David: Whenever I’m at a bar, I am always looking I haven’t had. I think that perfection is something that can never be attained, and the strive for perfection is more important than the end result. I have no specific recommendations, but I do suggest that breweries continue to innovate and evolve to the meet and exceed the ever-changing expectations on what good beer should be.

Z: How can people support the craft beer industry?

David: Do a little research. Beer is something that you consume and the customer should be aware on the types of products they are putting in their body as well as where the product comes from. With the easy access to information today, it takes no time at all to realize which company is selling you pure marketing versus a company that is providing a locally produced quality product.

 

You can check out Comrade Brewing’s Facebook page if you’re interested. Stay tuned here for more interviews with entrepreneurially-minded Smith students!

Happy Thanksgiving! And to my non-American readers, have a happy Thursday.

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November’s Pitch Dingman Competition

November 17th, 2011 by under Entrepreneurship, Smith School. No Comments.

Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week here at the Smith School of Business, and that (not coincidentally) coincided earlier this evening with November’s Pitch Dingman Competition. For those of you who didn’t read my piece on last month’s event, here’s a quick breakdown on what Pitch Dingman is all about.

The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship is a part of the Smith School, and is home to entrepreneurs and consultants who give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, helping them with business pitches, plans, and even how to get in touch with angel investors. Every month, the Dingman center hosts a competition where teams pitch a product or business in hopes of winning $2,500 in prize money, plus a bonus $250 prize for the audience’s favorite competitor.

This month, we had five teams competing:

  • Beagle, a mobile task-sourcing app developed by a team of University of Maryland undergrads
  • Community Ladders, a social enterprise aiming to bring solid financial consulting to communities
  • Comrade Brewing, a proposed tasting-room style brewhouse from my friend and fellow Smith MBA, David Lin
  • NeverBoredU, an event calendar website and mobile experience from another team of Maryland undergrads
  • And finally, Saylo, a “hyperlocal digital chat layer” designed to create semi-anonymous communications between people at specific events or locations

Of course, not everyone can win, otherwise it wouldn’t be a competition. Still, all five teams gave fantastic pitches, and I encourage you to check out their websites and apps!

This month’s winners were:

  • Comrade Brewing took home the $250 Audience Choice Award
  • Saylo was the runner-up, receiving $500
  • And NeverBoredU won the $2,000 total prize

So congratulations to the winners! If you’re reading this, and you think you have a brilliant, money-making idea, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship holds Pitch Dingman office hours every Friday from 11AM to 1PM at their offices in Van Munching Hall. Check out the Dingman Center’s website or shoot them an email for more information. The next Pitch Dingman competition will be February 17 at 11AM, and I encourage you to come by and watch!

Also, stay tuned for a special interview next week with David Lin, where we’ll talk about the Smith School, entrepreneurial spirit, and of course, his beer.

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Diwali Night at the Smith School

November 6th, 2011 by under General, Smith School. No Comments.

Sometimes I have to marvel at the sheer diversity among the students here at the Smith School. Almost half of my cohort is comprised of international students, and the rest of us hail from just about every corner of the country you can imagine. Part of what boggles my mind is how absolutely foreign Maryland must seem to some of us. I know that in the three months since I moved here, I’ve been repeatedly perplexed and frustrated by the weather, the traffic, the food, and the local bureaucracy… and I only came from California! Imagine what some of my friends here from India or Korea must think!

With that in mind, I understand the value of having a little taste of home. Last week, the International MBA Association hosted a party to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. This year, Diwali technically fell on the weekend before Halloween, but what with the chaos of the week before as we all scurried hither and yon to get ready for the new classes, I suppose putting off the festival made sense.

So what is Diwali? Nominally, it’s a “festival of lights,” (the name is a contraction of a Sanskrit term that translates to “row of lamps”) which tempts an analogy to Hanukkah. The context of the celebration is one of spiritual rebirth, which brings Easter to mind. And, well, if you’d been among the throng of revelry at Van Munching Hall last Thursday night, you would have been witness to a dance party and buffet that put any church service I’ve ever attended to shame.

There were performances from both the first- and second-year MBA classes, including a fashion show, some karaoke, and a Bollywood-style dance number. The food was an exquisite array of traditional Indian fare, and all of the good beer got drunk when I wasn’t looking. Dean Anand made an appearance, circulating among the crowd, as did everyone’s favorite Professor of Decision Sciences, Dr. Lele.

At the end of the evening, as we all began to drift off on our separate ways, I found myself thinking about this window into another culture that I’d had the chance to look through. It had certainly been a fun evening, but surely there was more to Diwali than dancing and drinking. I thought back to the concepts of spiritual rebirth, and the connotations of the term “festival of lights,” and I spent the next few days mulling it over.

In the end, from what I’ve seen, Diwali is about nourishing the candle within – and hopefully you’ll excuse the flowery metaphor. What I mean is that in a high-pressure environment like, well, real life, sometimes you burn the candle at both ends. Diwali – and other analogous festivals in every culture, is a time for contemplating that inner fire and making sure it can still continue to burn, and it’s also a time for seeking out the experiences that make that candle burn ever brighter. So we dance, we make merry, we smile, and we bring light to our own life and to the lives of those around us.

As the days grow ever darker and shorter and the gloom of winter begins to creep ever nearer, I find myself exceedingly glad to have been a part of Diwali. Even if I’m still pondering the details of it – blame my background in theology and the humanities – I always love the chance to see and experience new cultures.

Visit the International MBA Association’s website here, and click here for news on upcoming events! Their email address is IMBAA@rhsmith.umd.edu.

 

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The Third Annual Complexity in Business Conference

October 25th, 2011 by under complexity, General, Smith School. No Comments.

On October 14th, the Smith School of Business’ Center for Complexity in Business hosted the Third Annual Complexity in Business Conference in downtown Washington, DC.

The conference, which was an all-day event, featured presentations on numerous topics, all approaching various ways of applying complexity – that is, complex systems theory – to best business practices. There were too many panels for a single attendee to cover, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • The first keynote speaker, Dr. Felix Reed-Tsochas, discussed some research he had done at Oxford in tracking the growth in popularity of various Facebook applications.
  • Zakaria Babutsidze, Assistant Professor at the SKEMA Business School, detailed his theoretical model of the positive and negative interactions of paid advertising and word-of-mouth reactions on the box office performance of motion pictures.
  • David Earnest, Professor of Political Science at Old Dominion University, presented a simulation that modeled the streamlining process for firms as they increase the efficiency of supply chains. Interestingly enough, the model was based around a biology theorem regarding the effects of genetic interactions on the fitness of an organism.
  • Dilek Gunnec, a Ph.D. candidate here at the Smith School of Business, presented more social network research, and discussed the utility of social networks in developing optimal marketing strategies and increasing market share.
  • Finally, the second keynote speaker was Dr. Uri Wilensky, a professor at Northwestern University and designer of NetLogo, a software package for modeling complex systems. He discussed NetLogo’s potential as a learning tool not only in business environments, but also in the broader sense of making complexity a part of the general educational system. He made some rather compelling arguments for the system’s ability to increase peoples’ overall understanding of complex systems by overcoming what has been, until the advent of such computer modeling software, considered to be the biggest part of the learning curve – namely, advanced mathematics.

Unfortunately, due to a personal conflict, I was unable to attend the breakout sessions later in the afternoon, but I came away from the earlier panels with a new and much more in-depth outlook on how these theoretical models can influence best practices in business. The development of models that can accurately simulate the behavior of potentially chaotic forces, like consumers, has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach market forecasting.

More information about the Smith School’s Center for Complexity in Business can be located at their homepage, http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/ccb/, or you can follow them on Twitter at @smithccb.

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Pitch Dingman 2011: If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It

October 10th, 2011 by under Entrepreneurship, General, Smith School. 1 Comment.

Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

Maybe this is showing some of my personal bias, but it seems to me that nothing gets to the real core of the business school ethos than good, old-fashioned entrepreneurial competition. This past Friday, at this term’s first Pitch Dingman competition, four groups of aspiring entrepreneurs threw down in a no-holds-barred battle royale for a chance at $2,500 cash.

Marquess of Queensberry

Queensberry rules, of course.

Alright, maybe “no-holds-barred” is a bit of an exaggeration. It was all actually quite civilized, and there was more of an atmosphere of community than competition. The audience waited patiently, sipping coffee, and the competitors huddled in their teams, murmuring in quiet anticipation that grew as the judges entered the room.

The rules of Pitch Dingman competitions are simple:

  • Every team gets six minutes to present their idea to the panel.
  • The panel then can ask any questions of the team.
  • Rinse and repeat.

The teams were assessed according to how compelling their presentations were, whether or not they had a sizable target audience, and whether or not their angle had a marked competitive advantage. There was also an audience component – a separate $250 prize chosen by general vote after all was said and done. The competitors were:

  • ShadesForU, a student-run group designing custom University of Maryland sunglasses
  • UMD Party Operations, another group of UMD students that organize local events with a tie to campus Greek life
  • Birich Technologies, headed by a UMD student working on his MS in Chemical Engineering, which was developing an alternative biotech form of chemotherapy
  • Triton Light Technologies, a team of defense contractors working on a way to locate GPS spoofing and jamming for security purposes

All four teams gave very compelling presentations, and the room was abuzz with audience conjecture as we waited for the judges to return with their decision. After all, we all thought, there could only be one winner – but as it turned out, the judges decided to split the $2,500 pot among several teams!

  • First place, and $1,500 in prize money, went to Triton Light Technologies
  • Second place, $750 in prize money, and the $250 Audience Choice Award went to Birich Technologies
  • And coming in third, with $250 in prize winnings, was ShadesForU

So, congratulations to the winners, and indeed to all the presenters. It takes a lot of moxie to do something like Pitch Dingman, after all.

If you’re reading this, and you think you have that sort of moxie, or that brilliant, money-making idea, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship holds Pitch Dingman office hours every Friday from 11AM to 1PM at their offices in Van Munching Hall. Check out their website or shoot them an email for more information, and keep an ear open for when the next competition will be!

Until next time, business fans.

 

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Finally Feeling Oriented

August 28th, 2011 by under General, Smith School. No Comments.

So, orientation has come and gone, and I’ll readily admit my head’s in a bit of a spin – but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The orientation program here at the Smith School is a pretty intense process – a full week of seminars, workshops, socializing, more workshops, and applauding. SO MUCH APPLAUDING.

MBA Orientation Workshop
Just before this was taken, we were probably applauding for something!

But as the hubbub dies down and we all get ready for classes to start, the biggest thing I’ve taken away from this is that I’m a part of a supportive community of engaged professionals. One of the main points that speakers kept reiterating during orientation was the concept of “Terps helping Terps” – that is, that all of us at the Smith School, and indeed at the whole of the University of Maryland, are one big family. So it doesn’t matter, for example, that my background is about as far from traditional business as you can get – I’m a part of a community that’ll support me and help me through the tough times. And whenever I can help one of my fellow Terps through something, I’ll definitely give it my all.

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So, What Does a Guy Have to Do to Get a Blog Around Here?

August 20th, 2011 by under General, Smith School. No Comments.

 

So, I guess this is hello! And hellos require introductions, so let’s get to that.

Zach Huselid

My name is Zach Huselid, and I’ll probably be the first to admit that I’m the black sheep of this MBA family. I’m 23 (which, by my observation, makes me the second-youngest person in my cohort), and before coming out here to Maryland I was finishing up a BA in Pre- and Early Modern Literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz. My work background is in non-profit radio broadcasting and audio production. Lately, social media has also been the name of one of my games.

In other words, you could say I’m not your typical MBA candidate. But on the other hand, that’s the beauty of a program like the Smith School. We want our cohorts to have a well-rounded and diverse group of students from all backgrounds and comprising a wide variety of skill sets.

This blog will, for the most part, be a place for me to report on and muse about life as an MBA student at one of the best programs in the country. I’ll talk about student life, professional events, and the trials and tribulations of trying to adapt to a culture that – although friendly and welcoming – is utterly foreign to me.

Get me a pith helmet and call me Doctor Livingstone, I suppose.

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