Archive for February, 2012

Women Leading Women: Veterans Share their Professional Development Experience

February 27th, 2012 by under Leadership and Managing Human Capital, Professional Development. No Comments.

The Value Proposition is ecstatic to have Julie Mullins, MBA ’12 guest blogging this week about a professional development event featuring one the Smith School’s most accomplished alumni, Lisa Anders, MBA ’95:

Lisa Anders, MBA '95, has over 18 years of construction managment experience for public and private clients.

It’s no secret that women have a history of being minorities in leading business roles. According to Catalyst, women in the US collect nearly 60% of the four-year degrees, but hold around 14% of senior executive positions at Fortune 500 companies. However, on Friday February 10, the Women Leading Women event was held at Smith to celebrate just the opposite.

With energetic and confident words from the evening’s moderator, Dr. Joyce Russell, to the encouraging life stories of Lisa Anders (Smith MBA ’95), the evening had an undeniably positive vibe. As women flooded Frank Auditorium from all over Maryland, DC, and Virginia, whatever feelings of the week’s pressures were lifted after embracing the enthusiasm of the room.

Lisa Anders was inspirational, to say the least. Her words touched a chord with me as she spoke of following her passion in life. As a little girl, Lisa had a dream of working in construction. Despite this being a male-dominated industry, she followed that passion to the job she currently holds as the VP of Business Development for McKissack and McKissack. It is here that she works on large, meaningful projects such as her most prolific role as the Senior Project Manager for the recently completed Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

A few key takeaways that Lisa provided to break through the glass ceiling:

  • There are many differing personalities in the workplace. Take the time to listen to and understand each individual to properly tailor your message. This earns respect regardless of the audience.
  • Seek out projects and opportunities that interest you. You can do this by fostering relationships and making key personnel aware of your interests/focuses/goals.
  • Don’t ever shy away from your dreams. Don’t settle for less just because you think society says one thing or another about the path you have chosen. Lisa liked building.  She could have shied away from the construction industry because it is a male-dominated industry. Instead, she has added diversity to the field, which brings about new strengths, skills, and ideas.

Smith School MBA alumna Lisa Anders discussed leadership and professional development at the 2012 Women Leading Women event.

The night was completed with a wine and cheese networking reception, providing the opportunity to meet and chat with new faces, bringing together the area’s current and future leading women. This was an inaugural event, but the 200 women and men (but let’s be honest, it was mostly women) who attended can attest to the fact that it should be a lasting tradition at the Smith School.

To see it for yourself, watch the video of the event.

Prior to her most recent accomplishment, project managing the MLK Memorial, Lisa Anders MBA '95 worked on projects at the National Archives, the Pentagon, and Oriole Park at Camden Yard


International Week 2012

February 20th, 2012 by under Articles for the Smith School. No Comments.

International Night is Always a Blast!

Smith is having its annual International Week event this week – we’ll have dumpling making contests, a talent show, and lots and lots of food!

Last week, I also saw some really hilarious and extremely talented performances by the University of Maryland Chinese Student and Scholar Association for Spring Festival.  Performers included some of Smith’s MS Supply Chain students who sung and danced.  Good Job!



A Semester in Design Thinking

February 15th, 2012 by under Consulting, Marketing, Strategy, Supply Chain and Ops. No Comments.

This semester isn’t just about experiential learning, but it’s also about thinking about design problems and the design approach

Tech Comm – In my Technology Commercialization team, I suggested that we use a Storyline approach to help us research market segments.  We decided that our internal assignment this week would be to come up with 10 situations/problems faced by potential customers and how our technology solves their problem.  Once we identify the situation, their pain (financial, physical, time, etc.), and the cost of their current solution, we can try to quantify the differential value of our offer to them.  This not only helps us set price, but also gives us a sense of the overall size of the market, and the kind of competition and barriers to entry we may face.  Thanks to Prof. Kannan’s Pricing for Sustainable Competitive Advantage course for teaching me this customer centric approach to quantifying market value.

We cut up our storylines on sheets of paper and moved them around a 3×3 grid we stuck on the whiteboard, where Time to Market and Market size were the two dimensions.  This helped us identify common themes (e.g. chronic disease treatment) and challenges (e.g. FDA approval) within the time frames and gave us a sense of how we should prioritize our research and the commercialization plan.

Hult Case Competition – I’m also participating in a case competition to develop new approaches for the One Laptop per Child program to help it reach its goal of reaching 10,000,000 children in the next five years.  With a dream team of classmates with experience in education, venture capital, and bottom of the pyramid product development, we’ve been brainstorming around the product offer, distribution, and funding model by beginning to question our assumptions about the user experience.  We’re trying to focus on the user experience and think about “how might we” rather than the prescriptive “how should we.”

USAID – For my supply chain engagement, my research team is developing an operational model that must serve more than just our client, USAID.  We must also think about how to write a case analysis for an audience of case competition MBA students.  Identifying and modeling goals, constraints, and levers in a manner discrete enough to be quantifiable, yet flexible enough to permit creativity is our challenge.  I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far and I’m looking forward to synthesizing the results.

Imperial Fish Company – My consulting project with Tunisian MBAs also involves designing a marketing strategy for a start up company.  This is exciting because we can build it from the ground up and can pursue possibilities that might be otherwise constrained by opportunity costs in an established firm.  Designing a market entry while keeping in mind the long term growth and business development of the firm will certainly be a challenging task.

Negotiations – Even my Negotiations class invovles design thinking.  Last week, Prof. Langa assigned us to watch an old Frontline episode about IDEO, in addition to our regular reading and out of class negotiation assignments.  Learning from IDEO’s disciplined approach to design by brainstorming, withholding judgement, and letting ideas flow, and only later narrowing down on priorities through a collaborative process might help us think of creative alternative options that can satisfy both sides of a negotiation.  This is also a user-centric approach that requires one to think about design and value from someone else’s perspective; we can certainly use such a technique to better understand the other parties in a negotiation.   Interest based negotiation can provide the information that informs how we can grow the pie for all participants rather than splitting it in a zero-sum fashion.

This is definitely an exciting semester where all my business learnings are coming together to help me synthesize problems and construct novel solutions to real problems.


Superbowl XLVI: Ad Watch

February 6th, 2012 by under Marketing. No Comments.

I’ll admit it: I’m not a huge football fan and my ignorance and disinterest will probably damage my long term job prospects and ability to schmooze and interact.

But I will watch at least one game out of the year, and that game is the SuperBowl, mostly for the advertising.  Here are some of my thoughts on what I considered the top 5 ads:

5) Audi Vampire Campout: I’m not a fan of the recent vampire craze, but the ad highlighting (haha) Audi’s headlights was clever enough to make me take notice.  It’s always interesting to see companies take on a non-related trend (e.g. True Blood, New Moon (or whatever it’s called)), but it’s also a little depressing to see how late this ad was.  It would have been more timely a year ago, but now it seems passe.  Although it was behind trend, it succeeded in getting my attention.

4) PepsiMax Checkout: This was a great continuation of previous Pepsi SuperBowl Ads in which a CocaCola driver tries to sneak a drink of the competitor’s product.  Historical references abounded in this year’s ads (e.g. Volkswagon and Star Wars) and I think viewers feel extra rewarded by referential ads that highlight that they are in the know and part of the joke.

3) GE Commercials: The GE commercials were especially good because it highlighted US manufacturing and connected the worker to the consumer.  This was especially apparent in the evening’s first GE spot in which cancer survivors visit a medical equipment factory.

2) Clint Eastwood’s Half Time Message: Besides encouraging us with his immediately recognizable gritty voice, Clint Eastwood communicated the hardship and pride of getting back up after falling down.  The 2 minute spot by Chrysler was one the most thoughtful piece of the evening because it had the broadest message.  Focusing on Detroit, but containing a message of struggle that’s rooted in an imaginary of stubborn American hard work, the ad probably captured the biggest audience of any of the commercials.  As we learned in Consumer Behavior, emotional appeals have long term impacts on decisions and are more likely to make a call to action successful.

1) Bridgestone Basketball: This was such a clever ad that really demonstrated product quality.  Designing tire rubber for a basketball, you can clearly hear the difference between the bounce of a regulation ball and the Bridgestone special.  A shocking contrast that captured my attention with clever delivery.  Despite the enduring effect of emotional appeal, sometimes you just have to see it to believe it.


A Busy Busy Weekend….

February 2nd, 2012 by under Consulting, Entrepreneurship. No Comments.

These first two weeks of the semester have been as exciting as they have been arduous.


As part of a group of MBA, MPP, and Bioscience Ph.Ds, I am developing a business and commercialization plan for some exciting technology that has been developed by professors and students at the University of Maryland.  I can’t go into the details, but it’s an exciting biosciences project that allows me to leverage some experience from a past internship at Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute (CHORI).

We’ve got a great team, though, also consisting of a Bioscience Ph.D., an MBA, and an MBA/MPP.


I met my Tunisian counterparts for the first time on Saturday!  We had a half hour training in cross-cultural communication and consulting.  It was a great opportunity to not only get to know the Tunisian students, but also, to meet Uruguayan students who are participating in two other projects with the Smith School.  The Tunisian students are very talented and experienced.  I’m really looking forward to working with them.

Over the winter break, I started studying Arabic so that I’d be able to get around when I am in Tunisia.  This will be a great project to combine all of the experiences I’ve had so far in Marketing, Supply Chain, and Strategy.


We had a full day Consulting Boot Camp led by a McKinsey partner.  This Boot Camp brought together over 100 Smith, Tunisian, and Uruguayan MBAs participating in the Smith Consulting Practicums.  I had heard much of this framework last year when preparing for my consulting engagement with Syngenta, but reviewing key tactics for eliciting client communication and sharing success (and horror) stories with each other about past experiences was a fun and valuable.