One Semester Done Already!

I can’t believe how quickly this semester has flown by! As of last Monday I was on holiday, and have actually spent the last week up at Lake Tahoe with about 30 Haasies. We had a huge house just a few minutes from both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, the 2 resorts where our season passes worked. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of snow yet, but we had a great time. We generally spent the morning on the slopes, before relaxing at our house around the bonfire or in one of our 2 hot tubs! It was an excellent way to kick start the holidays.

Now everyone is heading off on treks all around the world (South East Asia, Brazil, Columbia … the list goes on), and I’m off to explore California – Christmas in LA with family, followed by surfing in San Diego, and snowboarding at Mammoth for New Year’s. What an amazing place!

Prior to the holidays beginning, it was a busy few weeks for all of us. On top of working hard in our classes and studying for exams, other aspects of campus life did not slow down. Our ‘Golden Egg’ cohort competition came to an end, with my cohort (Go Gold!!) winning the competiti0n thanks to an extremely strong win in No-Shave November and the total number of service hours, and second place in the Walkoff – the final event that involved putting together skits in the theme of Haasily Ever After. Company and club events also continued – in just the final week of class I attended the GigaOm Net:Work Conference in the city as a volunteer (and got to meet all of the speakers from Bay Area tech companies such as Google and, and went to visit Facebook HQ in Palo Alto.

Semester then wrapped up with a masquerade ball in the city where everyone had an amazing night. It has been a wonderful first semester – I’ve learnt a lot, had heaps of fun and made lots of great friends. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again in January.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


And there goes Fall A…

Ahh…I’ve finally given my apartment the cleanup it’s needed. Those who know me know that the state of my desk is all too often a reflection of my state of mind. If that is, in fact, true then this week should be much better than last!

I’ve restocked the refrigerator and even replaced the “emergency food” I resorted to in order to keep me going last week during finals (not that I don’t like canned tuna, frozen pad thai and canned clam chowder normally!).

It’s just hard to believe that Fall A has already come and gone. As you may know, the way the first semester runs in the full-time program here at Haas is that the semester is split into two 7-week terms. Fall A this year included Microeconomics, Data & Decisions, Leading People, and Leadership Communications. Being used to 15-week semesters from undergrad, it was a bit of a whirlwind. But, we still managed to get through a lot of content and it’s perfect for giving everyone in the class an overview of the different business areas they may want to further explore come spring and 2nd year.

The first two days of this week have been spent in a Career Management Conference where the Career Management Group has arranged for a range of panels, speakers and sessions to help first years further explore career options and also begin to focus in on specific targets for internship recruiting which will kick off early in the spring semester. The two-day conference also included very practical things like extended drop-in hours for resume reviews, mock interviews and even a “photo booth” for each of us to get a current professional photo taken.

Tomorrow we have a day of review sessions – Finance in the morning and Financial Accounting in the afternoon – to serve as a quick refresher before we dive right into Fall B (Financial Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Problem Finding Problem Solving) on Thursday. The brief hiatus from classes in the first half of this week has been helpful for all of us, I think, to get things back in order, think about recruiting and also prepare a bit for Fall B. With how hectic even just these last couple of days has been (without classes!), I know that Fall B will no doubt be just as packed as Fall A and hopefully just as memorable!

Leadership Communication & Ferran Adrià

As most of the other first-years, I’ve been spending the last few days racing against the clock to get some decent studying before Fall A finals. They’ve arrived so quickly, all of a sudden! It’s OK though, I tell myself, they’ll be finished as quick as they came. Hopefully….

In the meantime, I just wanted to write a few quick lines to reflect on two events that have recently taken place in the Andersen Auditorium.

The first one is yet another tribute to a very popular Fall A class: Leadership Communication. We have definitely been put outside our comfort zones in this one, and we’ve learned about public speaking and human relations in a very unique and experiential way. Check out the picture below, for example: during a class, all 60 of us participated in an exercise in order to prove that not only will people treat you differently according to your perceived status within society or your organization, but that you are prone to adapt your own behaviour accordingly. In practice, we held oversized cards on our foreheads representing our position within the hierarchy, although we only got to see the value of the card at the end of the exercise. If it looks like fun it’s because it was…

The second event took place earlier this week. It was the presentation of the “Ideas for Transformation” challenge, by famous Spanish chef Ferran Adrià in partnership with Telefonica.

Adrià wants to transform the relationship between creativity and society through the creation of El Bulli Foundation. He has selected five business schools to participate, Haas being one of them given our strengths in blending innovation and technology.

As a Spaniard myself, I grew up admiring Adrià’s boldness and foresight. Needless to say, I felt honored to share with him a few moments over lunch and during his presentation. This will be a tough challenge though, given how high up the bar is set; in the chef’s words, “if they can understand you when you explain your innovation, it’s not novel enough”.

Fall A Is Flying By

I can’t believe it, but next week it is already time for Fall A midterms (The first semester is divided into 2 halfs)! It really has been a fast paced and exciting start to B-School, both in terms of the classes and the huge amount of other things going on. I’ve been loving how interrelated the classes are – something you learned in microeconomics or statistics is suddenly the best tool to solve a case in leading people. While on the topic of leading people – I’m finding it so different to any classes I have taken before. We’re learning about management and leadership skills but in a very interactive way. Assignments often involve taking surveys with the results reviewed in class to demonstrate biases and stereotypes.

Enough about class though and more about everything else that is keeping me busy and making time fly by. Firstly there are the clubs. I’ve joined quite a number of industry and social clubs (High Tech Club, Digital Media and Entertainment, Marketing, Beer, Wine, Redwoods … I think that’s it) and am looking forward to being involved. Both in terms of organising conferences, going on treks to companies, generally networking, and of course visiting local breweries and wineries. :-) Related to the clubs, there are also optional speaker series which bring in speakers from various industries every week. I’m attending the Marketing series in Fall A and Topics in Tech in Fall B, so learning a lot!

Finally, there is the social scene – and it never disappoints. Every week there is Tuesday Night at Bears Lair, and every Thursday there is Bar of the Week. Then there are all of the impromptu events at people’s houses, Consumption events at Campus, and of course weekend trips. Last weekend for example was Labor Day long weekend. There were groups that went to Napa and Lake Tahoe and other places, but I chose to go in a group of 16 partners and Haasies to Lake Shasta, about 4 hours away, for a weekend of houseboating and wakeboarding and it was incredible … if a little exhausting :-) We had an amazing time relaxing in the sun and swimming in the beautifully warm water.

Looking forward to all that the rest of Semester has to offer.


2 Weeks Of Classes

Fall A classes finally started last week. The actual classroom experience doesn’t take up too much time in the MBA life, but there’s a lot of preparation involved; readings, cases…A very pleasant surprise came in the form of a subject called “Leadership Communication” in which we will be training our soft skills in general, and communication skills in particular, through speeches and improvisation exercises. The first class was a blast.

Club fair was also held this week, over the course of 2 lunchtimes.  It was an opportunity to talk to representatives from all the clubs present at Haas, and to better decide which ones to sign up for. Which, in my case, turned out to be a lot…

The one area I’m mostly focused on is Cleantech, and the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC, is a very active club and spans across many other schools and institutions in campus. They held their Annual Lecture this week, which gave us the opportunity to listen to Samir Kaul (Founding General Partner at Khosla Ventures) and Chris Somerville (UC Berkeley – EBI Director) in conversation about the current clean energy and technology landscape. According to them, Cleantech is one of the best fields in which to invest given its potential, its market size and demand and and the rising issue of energy dependability. Small companies, like the ones Khosla Ventures and many other firms manage and invest on, can also easily have more than one successful technology or idea within a brief period of time, unlike other sectors like Healthcare or IT. Even though infrastructure (scale) and consumer behaviour remain the main hurdles in Cleantech, and will continue to be so for years to come, small companies can innovate, and are innovating , at a very fast pace and will be able to provide the technology to bigger companies which have already got the scale, supply chain…in place. Or as I like to summarize it: Cleantech – it’s bound to happen.

Another culinary note to end this post: some of my recent out-of-class activities have included another great San Francisco’s Mission taco and pub crawl, brunch excursion to Sausalito, soaking in the sun at Russian River and hiking at Briones Reservoir. After the hike, we grabbed a fried chicken sandwich from famous Oakland spot Bakesale Betty’s- delicious!

Experiential Learning in the Classroom: What do operations and beer manufacturing have in common?

One of my favorite aspects of Haas is the program’s continued emphasis on providing high-quality professors within a diversity of teaching methods. Perhaps the best example in the first-year core curriculum is Terry Taylor’s infamous operations course. The class is an operations exercise of its own with every segment of class broken down into carefully timed and facilitated case, lecture, and hands-on learning.
Professor Terry Taylor in preparation for “The Beer Game”
This week was one of the most enjoyed and anticipated single classes of the year… when we were introduced to “The Beer Game.” Following the principles of the production-distribution system, a class is divided into teams of eight where each player is assigned to one of four factory “roles” in the beer-making process: retailer, distributor, wholesaler, or factory. As the retailer for our team, I was responsible for fulfilling customer orders with retailer inventory and managing the team’s three key steps:
  1.  Advance the beer (RED above… fulfill orders)!
  2. Move order requests (GREEN) as completed and record inventory
  3. Place new orders for the following week…
Similar to a few other classes, such as Don Moore’s “Leading People,” we were asked to contribute $5 each to simulate a “real” competitive industry environment. In other words, the stakes were high! We named our operations “Golden Beer Brewery” and received $2 per fulfilled beer order with expenses of $1 per beer in inventory (at any stage in the process).

Each of the roles could consult amongst themselves but not interact with the upstream/downstream functions to prevent collusion on order quantity. The first several rounds were steady orders of 4 beers per week – and we were a lean machine to say the least! 

“Golden Bear Brewery” team hard at work – recording inventories
As the order quantity jumped up to 8 per week we saw quite a few changes in the behavior of our beer operations. Order quantities went up substantially (some as high as 20-30 per week) anticipating a trend of even higher orders per week to come. As the quantities increased and our orders remained at 8 per week, we acquired a lot of inventory, as did many teams, until we felt we could handle a larger quantity without a backlog (this would undoubtedly tarnish Golden Beer Brewery’s weeks of brand equity!).
As a previous pharmaceutical chemical engineer and later consultant, I fully appreciate and relate to Professor Taylor’s teaching principles and carefully orchestrated lessons in class. Previous weeks of class included the basics of process types (job shops, batch processes, and continuous flow), queueing psychology, factory physics, and exemplary cases of production systems including the well-researched Toyota Production System. My first introduction to these operational concepts was during my time at Merck in R&D and manufacturing for Gardasil (the then new HPV vaccine). Gardasil’s plant was exploring opportunities to incorporate “lean” manufacturing techniques in the plant as a pilot for the larger manufacturing facilities in vaccines and pharmaceuticals. Working with their director for “operational effectiveness” we developed a Kanban system that used designated resource bins and “signboards” for key inputs and equipment in the production process.
Sample Kanban signboard designated for one part
I find that the more I sit in Professor Taylor’s class, the more I start relating basic operational concepts to my professional and personal life. For example, is my macro homework a batch or continuous flow process? Which would increase my flow rate/flow time?
This time of year many Haas students are spending as many weekends as possible in Tahoe. While some may stick to the hot tubs during the day, many are likely strategizing how to make the most out of their season pass. How many runs can you make in a day… in a season? If you break down the steps… ski to lift, take the lift, and ski down the hill – you could easily estimate cycle times, average time in queue, flow rate, flow times, capacities, and utilization of the resort. Perhaps these metrics should be used to pick… do you choose Heavenly or Squaw? Are they pooling their queues for ski lifts to reduce variability and wasted capacity of resources?
Similarly, basics of queuing or continuous flow processes would be well-recited by many consultants who have mentally restructured TSA lines for dozens of airports across the country. This is shocking considering the Whole Foods chain in the Bay Area has figured this out, exemplifying nearly perfect best practices in business processes. With one consolidated line that feed all the check-out counters, Whole Foods makes sure that all cashiers are equally utilized with a FIFO (first-in, first-out) model. At the same time, a long consolidated line means that customers expectations are almost always exceeded as they are surprised how fast it moves (as it would with 10 check-out counters!).
By the end of the week, our entire class had completed Spring A core midterms. With a strong sense of accomplishment and Friday afternoon Consumption Function on the horizon, it wasn’t surprising that several classmates eagerly celebrated, “advance the beer!”

Emily Ewell
Haas MBA/MPH 2012