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, http://berc.berkeley.edu/) 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

Life as a Second Year….

So the perception I had before I came to Haas was the MBA students had nothing but time on their hands. I mean, compared to working full time, going back to school was supposed to be the life of leisure – nothing but sleeping in, working out, pleasure reading, and vacations. I learned very quickly that this is not the case in my first year! Between reading for classes, working in study groups to get projects done, recruiting for internships, getting to know your fellow classmates, and taking advantage of all the top speakers coming to campus, I found myself busier that I had ever been working (albeit, having a lot more fun than working). But this was surely just a first year phenomenon, right? Once I got “promoted” to being a second year, I would be through all of it and have nothing but time on my hands….No Way!

Here is just a list of the things that have kept me busy around campus during the last two weeks:

Class – Second year classes are no cake walk! They get into deep into the subject matter and require a lot of prep. My Real Estate Finance class dug into the financing of the Rockefeller Center Buildings in 1986 and 2001 – talk about a lot of detailed prospectus reading!

Clubs – I’m involved in both the Consulting and Finance Club. This week both clubs had firm nights – so I was busy helping set up, welcoming the companies, and paying the tab on both Tuesday and Thursday nights. This is in addition to 2 hours of exhausting networking.

Talking to Applicants – I’m one of the 8 Haas Student Ambassadors and a lot of people are getting serious about applying. We’ve had tons of people at our information sessions and I’m having a lot of phone conversations about Haas. I absolutely love the position and always happy to talk about life here, but it takes a lot of time!

Golf – OK, nobody is going to cry for me with this one. I organized a beginner series of golf lessons for me and 6 classmates. This is a nice break on Wednesday afternoons, but I’m finding that between the lessons and practicing at the driving range, this golf thing is really take some hours. I figure that a lot of business is done on the golf course, so although I don’t get credit for this class, it could be the most enjoyable class I have this year…

Speakers – We do a great job getting some really big name speakers to come to campus. Just two weeks ago my favorite author, Michael Lewis, gave a talk about his new book The Big Short and some of his thoughts about Liar’s Poker and the finance industry in general. He also talked about the sequel to Moneyball that he’s currently working on. We also had an Entrepreneur’s Forum last night hosted by the Lester Center. I got to hear about some start-ups pitches and listen to two CEOs who hatched start-ups in the food industry.

Social – Just hanging out with my classmates. Seeing how my fellow second years are doing in their full-time interviews and getting a chance to meet all the new first years. There are so many cool people that you want to know and see how their doing – I find that I can talk all night, but sooner or later I need to go home and get some sleep before I have to get to class the next morning…

So what’s my advice for people who are applying? When you get into B-School, take some off before. Quit your job in May and travel or just relax for 3 months because when you get here, it’s no vacation…not even when you’re a second year with a fulltime job offer!

—Chuck Doppelt

Online Worlds

In yet another CEO event, yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with Craig Sherman, CEO of Gaia Online, as part of my Media & Entertainment class. Gaia Online is one of the most successful social networks/online worlds in the US, mostly populated by teens and (very) young twens.

Craig discussed many of the aspects of monetizing online properties, we were able to challenge him on strategic decisions and he gave us great insights into how young people use social platforms and how their particular use patterns can be used to deliver unique value to both users and advertisers.

Another very interesting speaker in a class that brings in some of the leading experts in the digital media space into the classroom.


Looking back

With my two years at Haas are coming to an end, I have recently started to reflect back on my time here in Berkeley and on the intense period of time ever since I have started applying to business school.

When I started the application process in the summer of 2007, I spent a long time thinking about my goals for business school. I will use this post (warning: long post) to share some of those goals and whether I was able to achieve those goals here at Haas. In case you don’t want the read through all the details, here is the short summary: Mission accomplished.

Like most people applying for an MBA program, I wanted to develop and refine my leadership skills. In my career goals essay I wrote that I wanted to “
improve my interpersonal skills and gain confidence leading teams through applying my leadership skills in clubs and through classes…“. Let’s see: I ran for and won an elected office, held speeches in front of 240 classmates and really enjoyed the leadership communications class, the Peers @ Haas coaching program and my Power & Politics class. As a member of the MBA Association, I was the voice of the international student community and led a workshop at the Graduate Business Conference. I organized events for the international student community, led a consulting team, and developed and delivered a communication skills workshop. Confidence building? You bet. Improve my interpersonal skills? Absolutely. Applying my leadership skills? Sure.

International exposure
From my application:
“The program will allow me to meet people from different backgrounds, to learn from their experience, and to contribute my own perspective. At the same time electives like the International Business Development program, international study trips and the possibility to spend time at a business school in another country will help me to build on my existing international experience and to improve my understanding of doing business all over the world.
I went to class with students from more than 40 countries. I traveled to Japan with some of my Japanese classmates and really got to know the country and its culture, worked in Finland (IBD) and Italy (Internship), and explored Mexico. I worked on project teams with people from at least 5 countries and lived with housemates coming from 4 countries and moving to 4 (different) countries after graduation. I also worked on case studies dealing with companies from at least 10 countries, learned from professors from countless places all across the world, and saw speakers from a variety of countries who are doing business all over the world. Oh, I also spent 2 years in the US. For me, that counts as international exposure. Meet people? Check. Build international experience? Check. Improve my understanding of doing business all over the world? Check again.

Business fundamentals
Even though I had worked as a management consultant for two years before coming to Haas, with my background in Computer Science, I felt I could use a more structured and formal introduction into business and economics. I also really wanted to better understand the various functions within a company, and the different economics and strategic challenges of various industries. “At the current point in my career the Berkeley MBA will give me a solid foundation to take on new business challenges of various sizes and shapes: It will be a good opportunity to deepen my understanding of business fundamentals
Without going into too much detail about my classes here: Check. I also worked on consulting projects in mobile communications, social networks, payment services, building materials, and renewable energy. Check again.

I won’t copy anything from my applications essays, because that would sound really cheesy, but I met a bunch of wonderful people here at Haas and have been able to build up an extremely strong network and to make great friends. Fortunately some of my good friends are going to Europe after graduation, but I am sure I will stay in touch with many of my class mates in the years to come.

Giving back:
I knew I would get a lot out of my years at Haas. Over my two years at Berkeley, it also became increasingly clear, that I wanted to give back to the wonderful community and to contribute to the success of the Haas School. I was amazed by how much every single one of us was able to do to make Haas a better place and by how much room the administration gave me and others to improve the student experience at Haas, to support our classmates, and to form a stronger community.

To sum things up: Has Haas delivered? Yes. Has the program enabled me to achieve my goals and aspirations? Yes. Have I been able to grow during my two years? Absolutely. So once again, mission accomplished.


Marketing 2.0

We had our second session of my “Marketing in Web 2.0” class this week. The class is taught by Andreas Weigend, formerly the chief scientist at Amazon.com and and a respected expert in data-driven marketing and what he calls the social data revolution.

The class is an introduction into the world of emerging social media and the use of social media and social data for marketing and business. Importantly, the class is not just a lecture, it is very much a hands-on experience: I am now on Twitter (even though I still get all the hype around it), we work with Andreas on developing improvements for important elements of the social web, and will implement a social media campaign for a cause of our choice, trying to use all the instruments discussed in class to generate buzz and engagement.

Andreas also brings in some of his friends: Experts from industry working on the forefront of social media. Pretty cool and one of the great things about going to school in the Bay Area.