Features

Welcome Back

Dear Students:
Do you feel the energy that comes with a campus that’s – once again – teeming with people? Fall quarter 2014 is out of the gate, with more than 1,800 Anderson students across different programs charging full speed into another academic year. A warm welcome to our new students, and welcome back to those of you returning to campus. Summer was busy for us, as I’m sure it was for you. We celebrated a few commencements and sadly parted with graduates we won’t be seeing regularly on campus. And we put the finishing touches on new MBA, FEMBA and EMBA cohorts that are each comprised of remarkable individuals.

Judy Olian, Dean

Judy Olian, Dean

Your summer, I am certain, was also busy and interesting, whether working at internships or full-time jobs, or planning the transition into Anderson. Hopefully, there was also time to rest, relax, refresh and reconnect with family and friends. It’s now time to delve deeply into the learning process that is the hallmark of the Anderson experience. Learning covers many facets – exposure to conceptual frameworks and a knowledge base about the various functions of management, the discipline to analyze organizational or market challenges, increasing your knowledge of emergent trends in business, refining and structuring your own business ideas, and digging deeply into your values and disposition in order to become more self aware, and ultimately  a better leader.

These learning goals are front and center as we continuously innovate in our courses and programs. This year will bring several new developments including new senior associate deans for both MBA and FEMBA programs: Mark Garmaise, Professor of Finance; and Margaret Shih, Professor of Management and Organizations, respectively. We’ve hired five excellent assistant professors with PhDs from Columbia, Berkeley, Stanford, Wharton and UT Austin. Spend some time getting to know them and their viewpoints.

For MBA and FEMBA, we are launching our new Google collaboration, a course taught by marketing Professor Sanjay Sood called “Digital Marketing Strategy”, featuring Google execs and new Google cases. FEMBA GAP program participants are working with their first companies from Sweden. Students also will have a new automated system for recording and documenting their research, the OSCAR System, thanks to GAP Fellow Oscar Rodrigues. The EMBA and GEMBA Asia Pacific students combined forces this summer taking classes together for the first time, during the August Elective Block.

On the career-search front, Parker Career Management Center has a new eBook version of their Parker Binder, which provides a wide range of information from critical steps in the career search process to industry-specific overviews, so you can take it with you wherever you are. We’re in the process of making major changes to our website. Over the next few months, you should see a total overhaul. The MBA and FEMBA sites are complete, with the rest on the way. You might also have noticed my new communiqué. We’re excited about our new look, so please check it out.

We talk about the character of the Anderson community – that we share success, think fearlessly and drive change. These are shared qualities that drew you here in the first place, attracted us to you, and create a natural connection to the 36,000 Anderson alumni who embody these qualities in their careers and communities. Let’s continue to realize these qualities in our actions, and in the plans we pursue – as a school and as individuals.

The faculty and staff are here to support you in your transformative journey at Anderson – to stretch your understanding and world view, and to discover and refine your life’s purpose. As always, I truly value your ideas and feedback and want to hear them. Connect with me, whether on email (judy.olian@anderson.ucla.edu), during my office hours, by scheduling an appointment, or when we bump into each other around Anderson. Some of our very best ideas come from you.

Here’s to a great year.
Judy Olian, Dean

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Making the Welcome Back Transition to Business School: An International Student’s Perspective

BY MASAYUKI MATSUMURA, CONTRIBUTOR

One year has passed since I started my journey here at UCLA Anderson. Looking back over the past 12 months, I can conclude that it has been one of the most fulfilling years of my life. But I’d be lying if there weren’t some difficult moments. Transitioning to life at Anderson as an international student can be challenging. The school does a good job of providing resources for international students to adapting to life in Los Angeles through obvious channels, such as forming good relationships with classmates and getting involved in school life. However, there are two additional ways that helped me transition to life at business school that I would like to share in this article.

 1. Join a trip

Group travel is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of your classmates and to make new friends early on. These shared experiences act as icebreakers, and spending several days off campus with classmates enables you to discover sides of these new acquaintances that you may never see on campus.

Discovering cultural differences through these shared experiences helps to shape your impressions of these differences, usually in a positive way. In the past year, I’ve joined both the pre-orientation Canoe Trip up the Colorado River and the Israel Spring Break trip. At the pre-orientation trip, my best memories were simply sitting around a campfire and playing a game through which we revealed our past heroic and foolish stories. Carlos Noriega Belausteguigoitia (Class of 2015 from Mexico) probably wins the award for the most outlandish stories that night. Jumping from the cliff into the Colorado River is another memory from that trip that I will never forget.

Attending that pre-orientation trip gave me a chance to know more than ten classmates before school even started, which was very helpful when classes and extracurricular activities began to pick up. It is always encouraging when you are in a new environment and you have someone that you can talk with and rely on.

The Israel trip also provided several simple, but lasting memories. While staying in the desert, we spent time watching the stars and catching sunrise at a Bedouin camp. Visiting Jerusalem and experiencing religious culture and tense relations between different religions was also an eye-opening and memorable experience.

Masa and friends outside the classroom

Masa and friends outside the classroom

But the best part about the spring trip was that I was able to expand and deepen my relationship with the classmates I had gradually come to know over the year. By winter quarter, it’s easy to fall into a group of fixed relationships – learning team, section mates, “secondary learning teams” an so on. However, on the Israel trip I was able to broaden my horizons again and get to know classmates that I had rarely interacted with before, including second years. Throughjust these two trips, which accounted for just two weeks’ time, the relationshipsI had with my classmates were dramatically enriched.

2. Learn a new sport

Learning to surf has enhanced my life at business school in several ways. Surfing enabled me to be mentally and physically sound, which in turn helped me to focus on my academic and socia activities. I started surfing in November of last year for two reasons: 1) I was curious about the experience, and 2) I needed exercise.

Surfing has given me more than I could have expected. In addition to the physical exercise, you can relax simply by going to an awesome beach and floating on the water.The waves wash away my daily pressures and concerns. Riding on a wave is so smooth and relaxing that it is easy to get hooked on surfing (though as a beginner sometimes I could only catch waves once or twice a day). Similar to the Anderson sponsored trips to the Colorado River and Israel, surfing allowed me to get outside of my comfort zone and meet new people. There are a number of other classmates that are interested in surfing and it is not difficult to find a group to go with you. Surfing provided me with yet another opportunity to hang out with my classmates, share the same experiences, and build my network beyond my circle of friends.

To conclude, two powerful ways to form lasting connections with classmates as an international student are to join those well-organized  MBA trips and to get involved in a sport in the area or through the university. By doing these two things in my first year, it greatly helped my transition to business school.

While I recommend these two methods, you don’t necessarily have to join all the trips or become a pro surfer –what you choose to do should depend on you own interests. But be sure to find ways to quickly and deeply connect with your new peers.

My own personal recommendation to those who are considering
joining a trip during spring break: the Japan America Business Association (JABA) is already planning a legendary Japan Trip for Spring Break!

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Diversity: Everybody’s Business

BY LIN YANG – SECTION EDITOR

Lin Yang

Lin Yang

Those who watch Mad Men will remember a scene from Season 3, where Pete Campbell, an advertising executive, corners an unsuspecting African American elevator operator to ask him why he purchased his RCA-brand television. In the 1960s, Black men and women were all but banned from the ranks of management, and those institutional barriers forced awkward confrontations, like that of Pete Campbell’s, for the sake of “market research.” Diversity at Anderson is experiencing a similarly awkward phase. A workshop at orientation and a couple of Organizational Behavior classes barely scratch the surface of the issue. Most students know discrimination is bad, but do not know what it means to celebrate and harness diversity. Often, the lesson is about avoiding lawsuits, rather than building an environment that allows those of a different race, gender, or sexual orientation to thrive.

This is precisely why Anderson students ought to participate in identity clubs and the events they sponsor. Anderson’s identity clubs, which include Out@Anderson, Latin American Business Association, and Asian Management Students Association, to name a few, play a critical role in building a community that is inclusive to all. These clubs host events that allow students to experience a different perspective. They educate and share everything from local business knowledge to cultural nuances. They help us understand those who are different from us. And they show us how to have a whole new level of fun. Not only is it enriching to participate, but it makes business sense. The fact is, our world is changing. There are now more women than men who go to college, which means the spending power of women will rise. China will become the world’s largest economy by the end of this year. Even conservative politicians, such as those in Arizona, bow to the economic power of the LGBT community. “You need people with cultural competency in these areas, who have a facility with diversity, and understand whatever market they’re trying to enter,” said Kim Freeman, the assistant dean for diversity initiatives. Understanding these markets starts now, and involves not only clubbing in Japan, but getting to know diverse communities right here in Los Angeles. However, the reality is, diversity is usually not the first priority for many business school students. Perhaps many of us want to believe that business is inherently meritocratic and market driven. Or maybe due to the fact that board rooms do not reflect the racial and gender makeup of our society, diversity’s importance is not emphasized. Many identity clubs have trouble attracting even members of their own group to join. For instance, the 2015 full-time MBA class has 17 students who checked the Latino box on their applications, but only five joined the club, according to Mayra Munguia-Herrera, the president of the Latino Management Students Association. “Those who go into businesstend not to be vocal,” said Munguia-Herrera. “They are more internally focused on doing what they need to do to accomplish their professional goals, but not so much their community goals.” This problem has been compounded from the admissions side, where it has been an uphill battle to find enough qualified minority and women candidates to apply. Dean Judy Olian, speaking at the White House in April, called it “a major, national performance issue” that women are still underutilized and underappreciated in the US professional workforce. Assistant Dean of Admissions Alex Lawrence, in a February blog post, lamented that “the pipeline is limited” for African Americans and Latinos on the MBA track. Many were the first in their families to go to college, and have no idea that an MBA is even an option, nor what careers they lead to.

So far, the push for embracing diversity through identity clubs at Anderson has been done in silos. Recently, ASA added the VP of Diversity and Inclusion position to try to tie all these efforts together. “There are so many individual efforts going on, including Parker, Women’s Business Connection, and Admissions,” said Jessica Kimball, who current serves in the diversity VP role. “But from the student side, there hasn’t been one cohesive effort to move all of this together.” That will change next year. Even though many clubs are small, they are striving to make a big impact in 2014-15, banding together to host a “Diversity Series,” a succession of events aimed at getting discussions of race, gender, and sexual orientation out in the open. These clubs will also work closely with both the Admissions Office and Parker CMC to build a pipeline of students from underrepresented groups coming in, and graduates going out.

The hope is that all students at Anderson will support this effort by either joining clubs, participating actively in these events, or helping the administration with its diversity recruitment and career initiatives. If all of us give diversity a second look, we will be closer to our classmates, and ready to take on a diverse and changing world.

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‘Crushing’ AMR: The Secret to Success

BY ZACH GOLDMAN – GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

AMR will be a major part of your second year at Anderson; it will have a significant impact, not only on your GPA, but on your overall experience here and your future relationships with your teammates. A little bit of forethought and discipline can ensure that you have a pleasant and successful experience. 

Why Should I Care? AMR gives you the chance to solve a real ‘MBA-level’ problem backed by the resources of UCLA. Succeeding here prepares you to succeed outside of school. 

Why does AMR matter? It’s a legitimate question as some students view Anderson’s thesis program as a collection of unimportant assignments, creating busywork in a second year that would otherwise be either a stress-free time on the beach or a marathon of recruiting. Beyond the fact that a thesis is required to graduate in the UC system and that AMR is worth 10 units (and, BTW, grades are individual, so your individual contributions matter), I suggest viewing the program as a chance to practice MBA level project management skills while making an impact that will benefit both you and your client. AMR projects can be messy, stressful and ambiguous; just like problems in the real business world. Regardless of whether you plan to go into consulting, marketing, renting surfboards on the beach in Bali, or whatever, practice with structuring an approach to a problem, executing on that approach, managing the challenges along the way and ultimately putting together a convincing deliverable will help you to succeed in your chosen field. Your AMR experience should produce real results, not only for your client, but for you as well. In addition to building relationships with your team, advisor and client, a strong performance has helped alums land jobs. For example, when 2013er Aspan Dahmubed interviewed at Amgen, the recruiter noticed that he had done research in China through AMR. Not only did Aspan have the opportunity to share a story and take control of the conversation, but he was also offered the job and now works for the company in a post that involves international projects. In short, AMR is worth caring about.

Positioning ‘FTW’ MBAs generally like to succeed; some planning related to AMR can ensure an enjoyable experience and reduce the stress level during your second year. 

Level with your teammates. Those of you currently in OB are likely learning about the importance of mutually aligned incentives. In forming or getting to know your team for what will be the largest academic component of your Anderson experience, be sure to ask some important up-front questions about where your teammates are coming from and what they want out of AMR. For example:

  • What do you want out of the AMR experience?
  •  How important is it to you to “wow” the client and/or get an A?
  • A re you anticipating any life events (like a wedding/baby) that might affect your project availability?
  •  What resources or skills do you bring to the table?
  •  What are you really interested in working on?

Asking these sometimes difficult questions at the front end of your AMR experience helps to set you up for success and can prevent some unpleasant surprises down the road.

Aaron Lee interviews Ugandan shopkeepers to discuss the feasibility and practicality of implementing their client Mercy Corps’ distribution concept.

Aaron Lee interviews Ugandan shopkeepers to discuss the feasibility and
practicality of implementing their client Mercy Corps’ distribution concept.

Prepare for three types of pressure. AMR teams commonly describe feeling three sources of pressure: i) client, ii) advisor and iii) team dynamics. In going through the process, you might sometimes feel like you have multiple bosses, but this is reflective of what many of us will experience in our postschool professions. While issues and stress in these areas are sometimes unavoidable, you can take steps to minimize friction. Client-related pressure can be minimized by clearly defining your project’s scope up front, keeping the client updated regularly as you make progress against the scope and knowing when to politely push back on out-of-scope or scope-change requests (your advisor and the program office can help with this). Friction with your advisor can be minimized by keeping your advisor updated weekly on your team’s issues and communicating candidly about project-related challenges. Finally, team-related challenges can be minimized by clearly setting expectations up front, equitably dividing roles and assignments to speak to people’s strengths and politely but honestly discussing issues as they arise.

Know there will be bumps in the road. Parts of AMR will be difficult or annoying, just like parts of projects in the outside world. If solving business problems were easy, post-MBA jobs wouldn’t pay too well. However, anticipating some of these pitfalls can be useful. Below are a few examples I observed going through the program:

Don’t half-@$$ the first six weeks — As a TA for the program, I saw some teams that really ‘phoned in’ the scoping and research planning phases of their projects. This left them exposed to major scope changes when their client or advisor pushed back on their early work and often resulted in a lot of painful scrambling toward the end, which could have been avoided by pushing a bit more on the front end.

Prepare to deal with paperwork — Because AMR is, ultimately, your thesis, some paperwork is a fact of life. You’ll need to do things like an NDA, primary research report and final written paper. The office really does try to minimize this and is always open to suggestions on streamlining deliverables. However, at the end of the day, this is an academic exercise intertwined with external businesses, so expect a few academic assignments.
Keep your advisor in the loop — Yes, I did mention this above, but keeping your advisor updated on your team’s progress, as well as any individual concerns you may have, is to your advantage. Team dynamics and individual contributions matter in grading and, since your advisor can’t see what goes on in your team meetings, it’s important to reach out to him/her with any issues worth discussing.

Your Friendly Neighborhood AMR Office. The AMR office exists to help you through the AMR process. Getting to know your team positions them to better help you. From helping your individual team with project-related issues to hearing your suggestions on improving the program overall, the AMR Office’s job is to make your life better (assuming, in this case, that your life primarily revolves around AMR). Dropping by their offices (in Student Affairs, off the D-Atrium) to say hi to Chelsea, Sendy and Yixin puts a face to your name and will help these intrepid staffers with some of the following functions:

Project-related issues — From helping you to pitch a selfsourced client to getting you a room for a client call, the AMR Office is willing and able to help you with a wide range of project issues.
• Helping you avoid nasty surprises — If you have a question like “can I get reimbursed for X?” or “how can I resolve my issue with person Y?” dropping in and asking the AMR team (or program TAs) can save you from an unpleasant “whoopsie.” Don’t worry; asking questions doesn’t affect your grade…
Improving the program overall — The AMR team cares a lot about student satisfaction. Student suggestions thus far have resulted in everything
from lunchtime sessions on project-related issues to establishing Wednesday mornings as a class-free time for AMR activities.

Picture 2If you have ideas on improving the program, let them know. Finally, beyond the AMR staff , UCLA has a whole range of resources available to help you with the AMR process. See above for a quick reference of who can help you with what: As a final note, feel free to reach out to me (as the outgoing program TA) with any AMR questions I can help with; otherwise, Andersonians, go forth and crush it.

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Korn/Ferry: A look at the Past and Present

The Exchange editors sat down with Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn/Ferry International, during his April 28 visit to Anderson. Korn/Ferry was founded in 1969 by Lester Korn (MBA ’60) and it is today the world’s largest executive search company. In 1988, the Anderson School’s main convocation hall was named after Lester Korn and his wife Carolbeth.

The Exchange: Here at Anderson, most students know of Lester Korn as the namesake of Korn Hall. Can you tell us about the history of the business that Lester Korn founded?

Gary Burnison

Gary Burnison

Gary Burnison: [We] were founded about 45 years ago. And Lester [Korn] and Richard Ferry both were at Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., and they had a vision about creating a global executive recruiting company, and they got together and started here in Los Angeles. And, you know, one thing led to another. From a very humble beginning and small office until today, a company that has a market cap of a billion and a half dollars, and we’re in 40 countries…

The Exchange: In your book, The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership, you talked about leaders having blind spots that stemmed from a lack of soft skills. What does Korn/Ferry do to measure those soft skills? Is there a methodology that you have within the firm?

Gary Burnison: We’ve both developed and acquired a tremendous amount of intellectual property around really what separates great from good. A lot of it anchors around one’s leadership style, thinking style, emotional competency. All of which we believe is really trying to get at the notion of learning agility and whether people really continue to have an appetite to learn and to grow. We think that that’s the number one predictor of executive success today.

The Exchange: Do you think that can be taught? In other words, is that a skill that can be imparted in a business school setting?

Gary Burnison: Well, it can be taught, but the person has to have a willingness to grow and to learn, so it absolutely can be taught. But there’s also a piece of it that comes down to insatiable appetite to listen to music, to read all sorts of different things. One has to have the desire to do that.

The Exchange: What are the challenges of leading a public company? How has the experience been for Korn/Ferry as a public company?

Gary Burnison: It really comes down to your strategy that you have for your business. If you believe that you need access to capital, to financing, then each business owner needs to make the decision on how best to do that. So you can find friends and family, you could go to venture capital, you could go to private equity, you could go to your bank, or you could tap the public market. I really think it first starts with where you’re trying to take your business and what kind of capital do you need to foster that growth. Then, you need to make a decision on what avenues [are] going to be the best [ones] for your company. For us, we do need access to capital to make our brand more lasting and to get into other types of businesses that reinforce the flagship recruiting business, so we need access to capital for acquisitions as an example. So we’ve done almost 10 acquisitions over the last few years. If we were not public that would be very difficult for us to do.

The Exchange: You mentioned in your talk [at the Anderson Speaker Series] that your business has moved beyond just search and that now only 60% is the core recruiting business. Do you expect this percentage to change over the next few years?

Gary Burnison: Well, I think that it’s always going to be the foundation of the business. There’s no doubt about that, but I see that there’s a huge opportunity to continue to build solutions and services for what the board or CEO really thinks about it. It’s great to get really good people in the organization but it’s a whole other thing to get them to work together and move in the same direction. So we’re trying to anchor our organization not only in finding great people but finding out who they are and then getting them to work together towards the organization’s, the client’s common purpose.

 

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Thoughts on the 1st Quarter Workload, ‘Turbo Sections,’ & Online Courses

BY ANDREW AINSLIE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE DEAN

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Senior Associate Dean Andrew Ainslie

The Exchange asked me to offer up a few thoughts on a few issues facing us. I want to start by stating that this is my personal opinion. We are governed as a complex mix of a democracy, meritocracy and occasional autocracy, so no one person ever gets to decide how our curriculum works. So, that said, here are my current thoughts on a few issues that The Exchange threw my way:

Thoughts about the First Quarter Workload 

OK, what’s the problem that we face? Quarter-based schools have a huge impediment right out the gate– we have 10 weeks to get our students prepared for internships, where semester schools have 15. So there is a tendency to cram a lot into those weeks. Let’s look at what we have: three fundamental classes which are widely viewed as prerequisites for classes like operations, marketing and finance: economics, statistics and accounting. Many would also agree that accounting is directly useful for many interviews. Next, people either need finance or a case based class. We found a solution that no other top 20 school has been able to pull off (ignoring Chicago… more on that later), by letting people choose either marketing or finance in their first quarter, thereby saving one class. But when we redid the curriculum a few years ago, there was also a strong feeling among interviewers, faculty, students and recent alumni that we needed to find a way to get two more things in there – an introduction to the career process and a communications class.

The results in our first year doing this were dramatic. We jumped 20% in students placed at graduation. So any time we consider moving stuff out, we do it with great trepidation, as we would hate to backslide on that statistic.

Where might we find some wiggle room? The potential places, as I see it, are: 1) To shift some material to before the beginning of the quarter one way or another, or 2) to move the half of the communications class into the second quarter. I have been meeting with faculty, students and the administration to find ways to do this. It’s not obvious, but if we could get clever with hybrid technology, or find away to get key communications skills out really early in the second quarter or get people to skill up more, that would be great. It’s one of my biggest priorities right now, and I urge all of you to send me an email, stop me in the corridor or set up a meeting with me if you have ideas on how we can pull this off. I am in agreement with those of you who feel that this needs to change. We just need to find a way to do it without compromising students’ ability to fi nd the best possible internships.

Thoughts about Advanced and Intermediate Core Classes 

You all know the issue – it’s your first accounting class, and you’re just trying to work out what the hell a double entry system is and why anyone would do something so weird when the person next to you puts up her hand and asks some convoluted question about working capital… and you don’t even know what working capital is. In stats, you’re just working out what a standard deviation is when the engineer next to you wants to know why we lose a degree of freedom when computing it…. Huh? Statistical slavery? What are they rabbiting on about freedom for? How can you get an A when everyone seems to have taken the damn class before?

This is a problem that dogs all of us in top MBA programs. The good news is the impact over the whole MBA is pretty small. We did huge numbers of regressions of all sorts of things against all sorts of others and it turns out that no particular background makes you more ableto get a higher overall GPA. There is a slight uptick for econ and business majors but it’s smaller than you’d think. Of course, you’re going to get a bump in your econ class if you’re an econ undergrad… but good luck beating out the business undergrad in Organizational Behavior or Marketing. I also personally do wish that more people would take waivers, and one of the things thatI am looking at is ways to offer tools to help people waive out. Something like a refresher class in statistics for someone who’s done stats, so they can take a waiver and get out of the class. By the way, this would be one way to relieve some of the pressure in the first quarter that I discussed in the previous issue! But it’s hard for us to force anyone to waive and a few people will intentionally NOT waive so they can get the easy A. I really don’t know how to organize this.

So… onto the idea of “turbo” sections. The first problem is it’s a logistical nightmare. How do I schedule one person with strong stats and econ backgrounds, another with strong econ and marketing, another with strong marketing and Organizational Behavior into some complex mix of turbo and ordinary classes? How do I even tell? Is an A at school 1 the same as an A at school 2? How do I compare them? And what do I say to the person who gets a B- after I forced them into the turbo class, who says that they really should have been in the normal class and now may have missed out on their dream job because their GPA was too low? It’s an incredibly tough issue in terms of equity, perverse incentives (for people to fake out that they’re dumber than they are to get the easy A), and logistics.

No school seems to have cracked this… other than possibly Chicago. And for some reason, no one has really emulated the Chicago model. There, students do not have a structured core the way other schools do. Every time we talk about revamping the curriculum, we talk about Chicago, and perhaps one day we’ll bite the bullet and do it. It has its own downsides – designing your own curriculum and bidding for classes before you even arrive at a school has to be terrifying – but it’s definitely an option. Once more, if anyone has thoughts, let me know!

Thoughts about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS)

OK, plenty of people disagree with me on this one… but I personally think MOOCS are a total waste of time. People talk about them, but all the numbers show that very few people ever complete them. Which begs the question, why? My starting point is to observe that MOOCS are not really all that diff erent from a textbook, and indeed usually require a textbook as a backup resource. It’s incredibly hard to sit down in a room on your own and learn stuff , no matter how it’s presented. And there has to be a strong incentive.

Photo 2We offer a really strong one here at Anderson – finish your degree, get a GPA over 3.0, and you join a club where magically, on average, your salary almost doubles immediately,and you get a payback on your investment within 5 or so years… not to mention often finding a far more satisfying career than whatever you were doing before. And your fellow students offer you a combination of two seemingly contradictory ways to help you get there – they motivate you to work harder (because you’re ambitious and cannot bear the thought of not being as good as them), and they give you help in study groups. This combination of exclusive club, motivation through peer pressure and exposure to wonderfully bright classmates who can help you learn faster will always make in-class MBA’s the very best way to learn. Or put differently, I have a low opinion of MOOCS and always will.

So, does online learning have a place anywhere? Most definitely! – first, for people whose only other option is to NOT get an MBA. They’re perfect candidates for our online MBA. Second, for preskilling classes. We’re beginning to roll out increasing numbers of these types of resources. And third, to assist with the in-class experience. This is something that I personally think we need to do more of. But all of these are back-ups, not the whole enchilada. We are definitely increasing the footprint of online resources in our curriculum, but at the end of the day, we want this to be quality material designed to help you do better in a conventional MBA, not as a replacement to what you are learning with us.

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Anderson Alum Offers Advice to Students Pursuing Tech Opportunities

INTERVIEW WITH JEFF ROSENTHAL (MBA ’88)

Jeff Rosenthal

Jeff Rosenthal

The Exchange sat down with Jeff Rosenthal, a San- Francisco based expert on leadership in technology companies. We asked Rosenthal to provide perspective for Anderson students pursuing opportunities in the tech sector. Rosenthal, a Senior Partner in Korn Ferry’s Leadership & Talent Consulting Business, has published extensively on leadership effectiveness and talent management. Twenty-five years ago, while an Anderson student, Rosenthal wrote for The Exchange.

 The Exchange: What advice do you have for Anderson students recruiting for tech internships and full-time jobs? 

Jeff Rosenthal: I would say I think there’s huge opportunity in tech but maybe for reasons that are less obvious. Of course it’s a growing industry. There are startups. There are big companies getting bigger. There’s always a need for good people.

But as far as Anderson MBAs, I think there are two places where there’s a particular need [and] where these companies are having trouble finding people from other places.

One would be having good leadership skills. We know from a lot of work we are doing there’s a real shortage of leaders who are able to do the “people stuff” well, [who] have high emotional intelligence, who know how to set direction, inspire people.

There’s a shortage of skill for that in general in tech and it’s also not something that until now has been all that rewarded. But now, I think we have enough companies in tech that are saying, “Oh, we really need this and we’re in short supply.” They are quickly realizing that these skills are key to fueling their growth. We recently wrote a white paper about this called ‘The Human Bottleneck in Tech’ – which is exactly what we’re witnessing. Related to that is what a lot of our clients are calling ‘general manager talent.’ [What] they really mean by that is people who have breadth in their abilities as opposed to depth. So the ability to learn things quickly, to have a broad grasp on many aspects of the business. For example, having enough facility in marketing, sales, engineering, human resources, strategy. There are few leaders in tech companies that have that kind of breadth…

The Exchange: To Anderson MBA’s, do you recommend working for a large company with an established vrand (i.e. Amazon, Google, etc.)or a startup in getting into the tech industry? 

Jeff Rosenthal: There are huge differences between startups, mid-sized companies, and big companies. What does that really look like day to day? What do you like to do? So, to me, [it’s not a question of] “Where’s the opportunity?” but more of “What’s a fit for me?” Because opportunity is everywhere. Starting a company in your living room on a card table is a very different kind of job than working as a first time manager for Amazon.com. What I hope people would do is say, “Okay, I’ve got a lot of options, what do I really want?” I mean, “Am I attracted towards the startup mode or something in its early stage?” or “Am I attracted more towards a big company? Where do my skills match up?”

The Exchange: What do you remember of The Exchange from your time at Anderson? 

Jeff Rosenthal: I wrote for it. [People] read it and really valued it. I was in a student leadership role so I feel like The Exchange was a really important vehicle to get people excited about stuff beyond just putting a flyer on the wall… I’m glad to know that it’s back.

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Julia Stewart, CEO of Dine Equity, and Dean Judy Olian, pictured here at the Women in Business Leadership Conference on Feb. 22. The conference, “Defining Success in a Dynamic World,” was hosted by the Women’s Business Connection. The event featured workshops on topics including emotional intelligence, leadership presence, stress management and technology trends. It was attended by more than 150 Anderson students, prospective students, and alumni.

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Why M.B.A.s Should Care About Big Data 

BY PHILLIP LESLIE, UCLA ANDERSON PROFESSOR OF STRATEGY

What’s the big deal about Big Data?

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Professor Phillip Leslie

Lately, everyone seems to be talking about data analytics. But this recent infatuation raises many questions: Is it just a passing fad? Why now? Is it applicable to every industry and company? And what does it mean for today’s business-school students?

The reality is that we’ve now entered a period where companies and managers can differentiate themselves by mastering data analytics. Every M.B.A. should be asking: How prepared am I to engage with Big Data? Those who choose to be dismissive, I would caution, run the risk of being redundant in their skill sets the day they graduate.

To begin, it may be helpful to distinguish among three kinds of data analytics – namely, descriptive, predictive and prescriptive. Descriptive analytics is about harnessing real-time data to provide insight into what is happening in your business, whether it be with customers, employees, suppliers or the like. That may not sound impressive. You might think that it’s been a standard business practice for decades. In reality, however, it has taken huge investments in hardware, software and engineering talent to build this form of analytics. For many companies, this is the ongoing focus of their work in Big Data.

Predictive analytics, as the term would imply, is about predicting something, such as inventory stock-outs, call center volumes, fraudulent transactions, communications equipment failures and patient hospitalizations. The effectiveness of the approach relies on the accuracy of prediction (a high “R-squared,” so to speak). If you can predict call-center volumes, you can optimize staffing levels. Similarly, if you can predict equipment failures, you can perform maintenance or repairs ahead of time.

Prescriptive analytics is about testing causal effects. A manager’s daily task is to constantly search for and implement new approaches, like a new shipping strategy, changes to a customer loyalty program, or improvements in customer service. Prescriptive analytics is about testing whether these changes made any difference to sales, customer acquisition, new product listings, and so on. Managers must be able to distinguish between correlation and causation, as well as statistical and practical significance. This is bread-and-butter work for managers, particularly in companies that value evidence-based management or data-driven decision making (like most technology firms, for instance).

In short, regardless of what form it takes, Big Data is now so pervasive that M.B.A.s should take note. Simply use Google Trends to look for search activity for “Big Data,” and you’ll see just how prevalent the trend is. If you want to remain relevant after graduating, ignore Big Data at your own peril.

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UCLA Anderson Students Meet Warren Buffet

BY VERONICA KALYNA

On chilly January morning, 20 UCLA Anderson students – members of the Anderson Student Asset Management Fund, Student Investment Fund, and the Anderson Investment Association – began the pilgrimage to meet Mr. Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha”.  Along with students from six other U.S. universities and a group of Brazilian business students, we began the day at Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM), the first of three Berkshire Hathaway-owned company visits.  As we walked through the flagship store, we learned about the “Historic Omaha Handshake” and the two-page contract by which Buffett and Rose Blumkin, NFM’s founder, sealed the sale of NFM to Berkshire Hathaway in 1983.  Buffett’s simple business tenet of “Sell cheap and tell the truth” positioned the retailer to rapidly expand in the Midwest.

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In order from left: Veronica Kalyna (FEMBA 2015), Constantinos (Dean) Pagonis (FTMBA 2014), Nedal Alqam (FEMBA 2015), Debika Seth (FEMBA 2015), Jernine Kim (FTMBA 2014), Ksenia Yudina (FEMBA 2014), Alex Jorion (FEMBA 2015), Joseph Duronio (FEMBA 2015), M. Reza Banki (FTMBA 2014), Ryan Rosen (FTMBA 2014), Warren Buffett, Tom Morgan (FTMBA 2014), Sean Haydon (FTMBA 2014), Danielle Zainer (FTMBA 2014), Jacob Gore (FTMBA 2014), Beth Sackovich (FTMBA 2014), Kevin Zhang (FEMBA 2015), Wenting Shen (FTMBA 2014), Aylon Ben-Shlomo (FTMBA 2014), Jason Stokes (FEMBA 2015), Ignacio Silva (FTMBA 2014).

Our next stop was Berkshire Hathaway’s headquarters, inconspicuously located on the 15th floor of the Kiewit Building in downtown Omaha.  Stepping off the top floor, we entered the marble-and-wood paneled Cloud Room and enjoyed cold cans of Coca-Cola while waiting for the Oracle to arrive.  Soon after Buffett made his entrance, a two-hour question and answer session ensued.  With great candor and modesty, Buffett spoke on a wide range of topics.  While holding a 1951 Moody’s Manual, he quipped, “People who want to relive their youth buy old Playboys. I buy old Moody’s.”  Buffett spoke at length about his philosophy of investing in simple, undervalued firms with solid operations and management teams, and discussed his hands-off management style.  He also spoke about how Berkshire Hathaway’s size has led him and his long-time business partner and friend, Charlie Munger, to “hunt for elephants” – a metaphor for deals in excess of $1 billion – as smaller deals, though more appealing, do not provide significant returns to his investors.

However, not all questions were about the markets and investing.  Buffet also spoke at length about personal and social matters such as philanthropy and the pointlessness of ostentatious lifestyles among the wealthy.  Excerpts from his remarks on a wide range of topics resonated with us all:

On friends: “Associate with people you think are better than you and you’ll start behaving like them.”
On passion: “The degree to which people who love what they do jumps out so much more from the crowd.  Too many people are sleepwalking through life…you want to do something you love and do it with people you like.”
On marriage: “The most important investment decision is who you marry.”
On philanthropy: “Every life has equal value…  Do things that you know will work to improve people’s lives.”
On his approach to investing: “Emotional stability and guts.”
On his lifestyle: “You [students] and I pretty much wear the same kind of clothes, eat the same sorts of food, enjoy spending time with our friends, watch football, and live in comparable neighborhoods.  Other than travel, where I travel on a private jet, our lives are not that different.  I hope you too spend your time doing what you enjoy.”

After the Q&A session, we lunched at Piccolo Pete’s, an Omaha favorite that is also owned by Berkshire.  Here, we enjoyed the Oracle’s favorite treat, root beer floats, while feasting on steak, salad, and fries.  The root beer floats were a first for many of the international MBA students.  Before leaving Piccolo Pete’s, our group presented Buffett with a signed copy of Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham and an UCLA Anderson baseball cap, which he kindly wore during the group photo shoot.  We thanked Mr. Buffett for hosting us and as we left the restaurant, he drove off in his brown 2006 Cadillac DTS – a symbol of Buffett’s choice to live simply.

Next we visited a shopping center housing Borsheims Jewelry, a family-owned jewelry store purchased by Berkshire in 1989.  Borsheims emphasizes its Midwestern friendliness and thrift by striving for the lowest prices and unsurpassed customer service in the high-end jewelry market.  Borsheims is also the location of Berkshire’s Annual Shareholder Meeting that takes place each spring.  We had the opportunity to shop and receive the “Buffett” discount on designer watches and fine jewelry.

The final stop was to the Oriental Trading Company (OTC), a party supply distributor purchased by Berkshire in 2012.  We met Sam Taylor, OTC’s CEO and a Los Angeles native, who presented us with special edition Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger rubber duckies.  We toured the company’s impressive 1.5 million sq. ft. warehouse and distribution center, one of the largest and most efficient in North America.  Housing over 100 million items and four miles of conveyor belts, OTC processes approximately 40,000 items per hour at a 98.5% service level.  For many of us, the aisles after aisles of party supplies brought flashbacks of Operations Management and a greater appreciation for inventory management.

On our return trip to sunny California, we felt fortunate for the unique chance and couldn’t help but to reflect on the Oracle’s advice, “Follow your passion, work for a company you admire, surround yourself with people you love and who love you back.”  No words ring truer to aspiring MBAs.

M. Reza Banki (FTMBA 14) with help from Aylon Ben-Shlomo (FTMBA 14) arranged, planned and organized the UCLA Anderson trip to Omaha to see Mr. Buffett and contributed to this article. 

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 5 Things I Have Learned to Make the Most of Your Time at Anderson 

BY NATHAN ADELMAN

As I approach the home stretch of my Anderson MBA, I have had some time to reflect on some of the most meaningful lessons that I have learned as both a student and as a TA.  I believe the following ideas apply to most Anderson students, regardless of your career track.  Here is my list of the top five things to help you make the most of your time at Anderson.

1.The difference between a good MBA experience and a great one is about $10,000

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Over 120 Anderson students gather to celebrate in a traditional Japanese Enkai style party last year in Atami, Japan.

Business school is expensive, no doubt about it.  Even after paying tuition and living expenses there are many other things taking money from our wallets: clubs, trips, social events, and more. Making it even tougher is the fact that most of us are not currently working, so living on a budget is important too.  However, trying to conserve too much money could actually be counterproductive to maximizing the Anderson experience.
I believe it costs roughly $10,000 to take a good Anderson experience and turn it into a great one.  $10,000 is about the cost of 2-3 international trips plus the cost of participating in social events throughout the year.  These experiences will impart to you a global perspective, lifelong friends, and a strong business network that will benefit you for the next 40 years of your career.  So if you spread that money out over your 40-year career, it comes out to about $250 per year to significantly improve the lasting impact of your MBA.  I’m no banker but even I know that’s a pretty good ROI.

2. Not studying for a test is actually harder than studying for the test

Getting good grades has been a chief priority of mine for my entire academic life leading up to business school.  But business school is different than any of my previous academic pursuits because for my career path getting straight A’s does not open any more doors than would getting B’s.  For many of us career switchers, business school is all about landing that elusive first job in a new industry or function.
With that goal in mind, we are forced to re-prioritize the amount of time and effort we can afford to the many demands on our time.  Between class, clubs, recruiting events, and social events, I determined that, while I am here to learn, classes are actually the activity in business school that has the smallest influence on me landing my dream job.
Armed with this realization, I no longer feel the pressure to set the Anderson GPA record.  However, dealing with the feeling of not being as prepared as possible the night before the first quarter accounting final was far more difficult than studying for that final would have been if I had nothing else on my plate.
Now that I am comfortable with that feeling, it has enabled me to better manage my time and prioritize my commitments which in turn has allowed me to get the most out of my business school experience, inside and outside of the classroom.

3. Greater career focus yields more career opportunities

Nathan Adelman

Nathan Adelman

As a first year and also as a Parker Series TA this year, I have seen many students at Anderson who come to school undecided about what they want to do after school.  Without too much thought, they recruit for multiple industries and job functions, hoping to keep their options open while optimistically searching for something that they like.
I have learned that it is the opposite approach that in fact creates more opportunities: be as focused as possible.  Although this seems counterintuitive, the reasons actually make a lot of sense.
First, the more focused you are the easier it is to avoid the time-suck of attending the many company information sessions, writing extra cover letters, and applying to jobs that you are not very excited about.  All this extra time allows you to focus on specializing in your specific area of interest.  This means you actually have the time to do industry research, network with people in the industry, and get to know the companies intimately – all things that you will actually talk about in your interview!
Further, when you can articulate exactly what you want, our supportive classmates and Parker Advisors will think of you first when they come across relevant opportunities.  After all, it’s much easier to help the “Restaurant Girl” or the “The Pharma Guy” than it is to help the “Maybe consulting, maybe marketing, maybe tech Guy.”
So take the time to think about it and pick something that gets you excited, and then go for it!

4. Don’t budget your class bidding points

Class bidding strategy is always a popular debate – bid a lot of points now or save them for that special class in the future?  Well, from my experience the answer is simple: SPEND ‘EM!
There are very few classes that actually require more than a single point to get.  After all, if the class doesn’t sell out in that round, then bidding just one point gets you into the class.  If there are multiple classes that you want to take that each ‘cost’ a lot of points, odds are that the one you don’t rank first will sell out in the first round anyway, so it doesn’t matter how many points you have left if it’s sold out by round two.
But what if you absolutely need to take “People in Organizations” or Dean Olian’s class?  Well, luckily the amount of points that you are budgeted each quarter is enough to get those classes if you prioritize them.
Lastly, the points have zero redeemable cash value once you graduate but taking a good class does… so use ‘em or lose ‘em!

5. Mentors cannot be assigned, they must be found

Anderson loves setting up students with mentors. In fact, it starts right away with the admissions “buddies” you get just after being accepted.  And once you make the smart decision to come to Anderson, just about every club also has a mentorship program where they pair a student with someone experienced in the field.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Not so fast.  I have yet to find a single ‘assigned mentorship’ that was truly meaningful for either party.  I‘m not saying that it’s not possible or has never happened, but it is very rare.  I have seen that forcing – errr, assigning two people to each other rarely creates the true connection that a mentorship is supposed to have.
In my experience a genuine mentorship always starts and develops organically.  They are not assigned or forced, but rather they grow from an authentic connection on both a professional and personal level.  The relationship starts with similar goals and interests and is deepened through shared values and ambitions.
It is this personal connection that really separates an “advisor” from a “mentor”, and also it cannot be faked.  So don’t be afraid to seek out those people whom you admire and want to emulate – odds are one of them will see something in you as well.

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Nathan Adelman (back row, second from left) on a trip with Anderson friends to Nicaragua over spring break last year.

 

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