CASH

December 2nd, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

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Thanksgiving is both a blessing and a curse! It’s a blessing because I get a chance to see my family in New York and gorge myself full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and dessert. It’s a curse because it lulls you into perpetual weekend mode, which makes it difficult to quickly get back into the swing of school.

Oh, and what a time it is in school. Classes are coming to an end and assignments are coming due. It’s a good thing I have some CASH to keep me engaged and motivated…let me explain.

CASH does not refer to the standard currency that will hopefully fill my wallet in more bounty than it does now. No, CASH, in my case, refers to the Action Learning Project I am working on for my Teamwork and Integration course.

Specifically, over the course of the Fall semester I have worked with the Baltimore CASH Campaign to develop a business plan to expand their tax prep operations. I have become more knowledgable about low-cost tax prep service than I ever thought possible, and learned a lot about the city I call home.

The project culminates next Friday with a client presentation. Our group of 15 plans to “wow” our clients and deliver a fully integrated set of recommendations on how CASH can remain financially viable with a low-cost tax prep service.  From staffing to overhead to operations to marketing, our business plan will lay out a path for a successful business expansion.

Wish me luck!

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VCIC Champion

November 25th, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

If you have entrepreneurs knocking down your door for financial support, come to me and let me help you invest.  After this weekend, I am officially qualified!

Last Thursday and Friday I spent an inordinate amount of time in the case rooms on-campus. Why, you ask? I had joined a team participating in the Venture Capital Investment Competition – VCIC for short. Our objective was to review three business plans from early stage companies and invest in exactly ONE of them. There was a lot of due diligence, market research, and many questions for the entrepreneurs. In the end, our team – Team Slap Chop – won the event.

Not only did we win for best team, but also for the team the entrepreneurs most want to work with. Now it’s on to Pittsburgh in February for the regional competition where we’ll take our human capital and imaginary fund to compete against some of the other b-schools this side of the Mississippi.

Wish us luck!

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Charity Golf Tournament – MBA Goes Social

November 11th, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

My past two weeks have been jam packed with extracurricular activities. Nowadays, I find that my out-of-the classroom activities are consuming as much time as my coursework obligations. This does not mean I am not learning, rather it speaks more to the holistic (i.e., theoretical and experiential) education you get at Smith. I love this aspect of the program.

To give you a flavor flash of one event I was involved in…

Over the past three months, I have been organizing a charity golf tournament for the MBA community. From finding a viable location, to identifying what type of tournament would work best (lowest score vs. best ball), I was responsible for putting this event together.

My work culminated in a fantastic day of ‘captain’s choice best ball,’ at Glenn Dale Golf Course in Glenn Dale, MD. It had great impact too. Approximately 40 MBA students and their friends participated, and together we raised about $800 for charity. Additionally, there were prizes for the longest drive, shot closest to the pin, and lowest overall team score. Everyone raved about the event and is clamouring for an encore this Spring.

This is only one type of extracurricular activity hosted by the Smith School for MBA students, but speaks to the social aspect of our program. Also, I believe my experience organizing this medium sized event, helped supplement my teamwork and integration course learnings and allowed me to apply them in a practical setting.

Also, I told you there were a number of events I have been part of over the past few weeks.  Stay tuned and over the next couple of days I’ll fill you in on what’s been keeping me busy.

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Hook and Ladder CEO

October 14th, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

“A great beer that gives back”

That is the tagline of Hook and Ladder Brewing Company’s product branding, and how Matt Fleischer, CEO and Founder of Hook and Ladder, introduced his product to our Entrepreneurship and New Ventures class this past week. We had the priviledge of hearing how Matt created his business plan, marketed the idea to University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship (the first investor in his now rapidly expanding business), and began growing his company. Matt also explained some of the challenges he has faced during the past few years building his management team, working with his Board of Directors, and managing his passion for selling his company’s beer with selling the concept to the public. It was fantastic insight into how an idea goes from paper to production and the problems an entrepreneur faces along the way.

“A penny in every pint, and a quarter in every case”

As Matt explained business is not only about making money, but also being socially responsible. Hook and Ladder is focused not only on producing a high quality craft beer, but also giving back. The company donates a penny for every pint of Hook and Ladder beer and a quarter for every case sold to local firefighter burn centers/charities. Is there a better reason to enjoy a beer?

http://www.hookandladderbeer.com/Public/Login.aspx

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Negotiations and Power

October 7th, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

It recently became apparent to me that I am a tough negotiator. During a recent Negotiations and Power classroom exercise, I was chosen to “role play” the part of an employer who was being asked for a raise by a junior employee.

A fellow classmate and I “dueled” it out in class to the cheers and jeers of our fellow classmates. I used ever single distributive negotiations tactic I could think of…I laid on guilt, bewilderment, questioning, and surprise to help empower my position in the discussion. In the end, we came to a stalemate, but I found that even though I was “role playing,” I was incredibly entrenched in my character’s position.   There was no way that I would make any concessions to my opponent.  My competitive streak definitely got the better of me.

 However, there were learnings from the exercise; it provided me first-hand experience with a raise negotiation situation and insight into my personality style in conflict. Introspectively, both these lessons will pay dividends in the very near future, as I prepare for my career after b-school and partake in salary negotiations.

In my mind the best way to learn is not only through theoretical teachings, but also through experiential application, and my Negotiations and Power class is just one of many examples at Smith where real-world situations are applied to theoretical lectures and readings.

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Learning from experts

September 30th, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Yesterday I had the priviledge of hearing Vijay Ravindran, Chief Digital Officer of the Washington Post, wax poetic about the monumental task he has in front of him and how he has initially framed his strategy for doing the unthinkable…turning the digital side of newspapers into a steady profit center.

Vijay’s lecture fit well into my New Ventures and Entrepreneurship class curriculum as it offered a great perspective on how to innovate within an established structure…and what a better industry to study than print media. When I think about newspapers, journalists, and editors, I think about a stodgy, old-fashioned business, which has a very definable culture focused around the art of writing. Vijay’s challenge, and the industry’s more broad challenge, is to identify viable ways to use the digital medium to generate revenue. This involves a separation from the current, perhaps out-dated, paradigm newspapers have used to make money. It was great to hear from an executive on the battlefield fighting to revolutionize the way the Washington Post does business.

Until next time…

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Guest Speaker!

September 23rd, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Jim Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, came to Van Munching Hall last week and chatted with our teamwork and integration class. Jim is an executive in residence at the Smith School of Business, so he will be spending some time on-campus.

It was a great opportunity to learn from a leader in industry. Jim spoke at length about his background as a lawyer and his foray into Southwest. It was particularly inspiring to me, a career switcher, to hear that it’s possible to change your professional trajectory and still ascend to the highest levels of management.

Jim also spoke about the issues facing him during his tenure at Southwest (2001 – 2003), and some of the quick decisions he had to make while at the helm. Specifically, Jim spoke about 9/11. Among other perspectives, he offered some insight into the changing nature of the airline industry during that time, the issues facing Southwest, and the decision making process he and his management team went through to arrive at the company’s strategic direction during those tough business and social times. At the end, Jim’s takeaway was to do what’s right for your people. He always focused on what was right for his employees and the customers.

That perspective drives the spirit of Southwest and it was great to hear specific examples of how that philosophy manifests itself in SWA’s day-to-day business.

Until next time…

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A little more about my internship experience

September 10th, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Many people have been intrigued by my internship with Activision Blizzard and have received a few questions about if there were other MBA interns, and what schools they represented; who I reported to; what was my cross functional exposure; and key takeaways.

So here’s a little more about my summer…

I was one of approximately 20 interns at Activision Blizzard (AB), and interns spanned across all functional aspects of the organization from Quality Assurance to Finance to Marketing. Of the 20 interns, however, only 4 of us were in b-school. There was one gentleman from HBS, one from M.I.T., one woman from Northwestern, and me. While we may have worked in different departments – interactive or brand – there was a lot of collaboration between and among the MBA interns throughout the summer and each of our projects were inter-related (at least a bit).

In terms of reporting and access to management, I left feeling well connected within the organization. My direct report was the Director, Interactive Marketing and we interacted daily. I also worked very closely with the Brand Management team, and occasionally worked with the Chief Creative Officer of the organization. The exposure was fantastic.

As I reflect on my experience, one key takeaway was the realization that no matter where you go to school, what’s of utmost importance in business is your ability to think. If you can analyze a situation and make an informed, educated decision, you’ll be an asset to any organization you work with.

Until I blog again…

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Transition from the boardroom to the classroom

September 9th, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

My transition from work to school has been seamless. After about two weeks of classes, it is apparant that my experience this summer at Activision Blizzard is practically applicable. I took some great insights from my experience and am applying them to my 2nd year at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Namely, I have realized that I enjoy working in small to medium sized entrepreneurial businesses. The independent work style and corporate culture of an entrepreneurial firm really appeals to my personality. As a result, to foster my entrepreneurial interests, I am taking a number of “New Ventures” type classes. I believe these courses will help accentuate my passion for entrepreneurship and allow me to better fit with small and medium sized businesses working in fast paced innovative spaces.

From a social front, Smith offers another year of intramural sports (soccer, basketball, flag football), tailgates, and Maryland Varsity Athletics. As a former professional level soccer player I really appreciate good competition and top-notch athletics…and there are few better institutions than Maryland. The school spirit is palpable around campus the week of a football or basketball game and the Smith School regularly has strong tailgate showings. Also, every Thursday we host social events. Since Smith students typically do not have classes on Fridays, we take the opportunity to start our weekends early while getting know each other outside of the classroom. Another tradition – Friday morning (11am) pickup basketball games at Eppley – has been carried over from last year and we regularly have great showings. These “events” really bind the business school together an allow us to develop strong, lasting personal relationships with our classmates and peers.

Until I blog again…Go Terps!

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My summer internship experience

September 3rd, 2009 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

I just returned to Maryland from a wonderful and engaging summer internship in Southern California.

From June 8th to August 21st, I worked with Activision Blizzard, a video game publisher, located in Santa Monica, California. My job title was Interactive Marketing Intern, but my responsibilities varied. I found myself working on a AAA game franchise, and preparing a marketing engagement plan for its next title release. More specifically, I was tasked with researching the video game market and first-person shooter genres to better understand our title’s points of differentiation and areas of opportunity. Additionally, I was asked to project manage the production of a fully functional and scalable website for the games’ announcement. Those two main thrusts of my internship provided great theoretical and practical application of what I have learned in my past work experiences and through the coursework at Smith.

From a more social perspective, the internship was a great way to meet and greet executives in the video game/entertainment industry. I had the opportunity to chat with Bobby Kotick – CEO of Activision Blizzard – and various other senior level managers within Activision. The internship also organized a leadership development day, where we heard from Ronnie Lott, former NFL player, who has managed the transition from professional sports to the business world seamlessly and with great success. There were “socials,” happy hours, launch parties, private movie screenings, and plenty of video game playing (i.e., industry research).

I could not ask for anything more from my summer in Southern California and I look forward to bringing my first-hand experience in the entertainment industry into the classroom.

Until next time…

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