Archive for April, 2009

Kellogg serial, day three: Eddie

April 30, 2009

Over the course of the week, Which MBA? will be following the fortunes of five MBA students from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, as they graduate into one of the toughest jobs markets in memory.

Day three: Eddie
My job search began some 18 years ago when I saw Patrick Ewing, centre for my beloved New York Knicks, battle Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the NBA playoffs. I was 10 years old and hoped I could someday play professional basketball. Little did I realise that I would get the chance this summer—not as a player, but as a businessman.

The journey began when I was admitted to Kellogg more than a year ago. I thought business school could help me make the change from engineering to the world of marketing. More ambitiously, I hoped to find work in the sports business, a notoriously difficult industry to break into but one that seemed to offer a happy marriage between my professional and personal interests.

As the autumn quarter tipped off, I found myself inundated with company information sessions, networking nights, professional school club events and informational interviews with second-year students fresh from their summer internships. The career choices seemed plentiful but, as we all now know, the actual opportunities would become scarcer by the day.

I remember a specific workshop run by the school’s career management department that focused on conducting “independent” (off-campus) job searches. The counsellor asked attendees to start the session by writing down what our ideal job the following summer would be. I wrote “marketing strategy for a major sports entity.”

For the next six months, I dug and clawed through as many resources as possible to learn more about relevant roles within the sports industry. I subscribed to weekly industry reports and emailed at least 50 alumni and contacts of contacts. I set up phone calls with people who were second- and third-degree connections on LinkedIn, reached out to professors—at Kellogg and beyond—who specialised in sports research and, of course, scoured the employment and client-work history of my classmates. Some contacts were great, some were “one and done” encounters and others were non-responsive. My determination grew as the job market contracted; after all I had a genuine personal interest and investment in what I was seeking.

In March, I caught my break. A marketing and business operations role at the NBA found its way to me and I successfully navigated through the recruiting process. Eight months ago I didn’t even know that this department and role existed, but diligence and an unwavering focus on the sort of job, and industry, that would make me happiest ultimately landed me the dream summer internship. There was no established roadmap to guide me on how to do this, but rather only instinct and determination. I hope my story can motivate other current, or future, MBA students to follow their passions before anything else, regardless of the economic climate.

Kellogg serial:
Day one: Daianna
Day two: Reeves
Day four: Jorge
Day five: Sultan

Back to:
Which MBA online
The Economist’s Business Education page

Breaking rank

April 29, 2009

US News & World Report has published its annual ranking of American graduate business schools. Harvard tops the list followed by Stanford, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The rankings are based on a peer review by business school deans and on the opinion of recruiters, as well as on data such as salaries, GMAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages. According to a report in Business Week, US News was left red-faced after business schools got advance notice of the ranking after eagle-eyed students spotted it in the background of a video released by the magazine a day before the official announcement.

Back to Which MBA online

Kellogg serial, day two: Reeves

April 29, 2009

Over the course of the week, Which MBA? will be following the fortunes of five MBA students from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, as they graduate into one of the toughest jobs markets in memory.

Day two: Reeves
The conventional wisdom is that business school is not the place to “find yourself.” Throughout the recruiting process, you need a story: where you’ve been, what you hope to gain at school and how this will help you achieve those future goals. This can be difficult when you come from an unconventional background.

After graduating from West Point, I spent seven years as an Army officer, including time in Iraq and South Korea, flying the UH60 Black Hawk helicopter. With no corporate experience, it was a challenge to identify what career path would best suit my skill sets. So I scripted a story and passionately stuck to that script until I was accepted at Kellogg. Deep down, I thought that getting into a top business school would be the most difficult part; figuring out what I’d do afterwards was not as much of a concern.

When recruitment started, consulting looked promising. It would allow me to be industry and functionally agnostic; it would expose me to multiple industries; I would work with many bright minds; and, given the recession, it offered some of the most handsome compensation packages going. I jumped in with both feet. I was the first-year director of the consulting club and acted as a project leader for a pro-bono consulting team that worked with a local business. I went to as many recruiting events and information sessions as my schedule could handle. I hit case preparations with focus and intensity.

But after the dust settled, I ended up without a summer job offer. Looking back, I made two mistakes. First, I underestimated how deep the recession would be, and how it would affect the number of offers and profile of successful candidates. Fewer positions led firms to take fewer risks on career switchers. The second mistake was focus—both on consulting exclusively and on only a handful of firms in particular.

Having regrouped and refocused, I find myself pursuing a very different path. More directly leveraging my previous military experience, I am now speaking with aerospace and defence companies. Although it has taken a while to come to this conclusion, I am excited and optimistic about the possibilities that lie ahead. Switching careers is difficult enough at the best of times, but add in the recession and this now has to be my best chance of finding a great job.

Kellogg serial:
Day one: Daianna
Day three: Eddie
Day four: Jorge
Day five: Sultan

Back to:
Which MBA online
The Economist’s Business Education page

Kellogg serial, day one: Daianna

April 28, 2009

Over the course of the week, Which MBA? will be following the fortunes of five MBA students from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, as they graduate into one of the toughest jobs markets in memory.

Day one: Daianna
Last summer, The Economist called business schools “ports in a storm,” (see article) such was the surge in applications from prospective students seeking to ride out the recession. Almost a year on, students have seen an economy that looked bad when they first applied grow much, much worse. As the spring term comes to an end, rumour has it that nearly half of my fellow MBAs are still without summer internships or full-time offers. Fierce headwinds face us as we sail back out into the world.

Whatever the initial motives for enrolling, few go to business school without the belief that an MBA will put them on a fast-track to bigger and better things upon graduation. That’s certainly what I had in mind when I left my job, salary and friends to move to Chicago to pursue a two-year, full-time MBA at Kellogg. I wanted to expand my business skills at a top-ranked school in order to change from a career primarily at non-profit organisations to a more traditional role at a prominent company in the private sector.

I began classes in autumn with an open mind about potential career paths. Within a couple of weeks, the recruiters descended in droves. Regardless of what they might say, no company presentation, coffee chat or reception is truly “non-evaluative”, so in order to impress, students must quickly become passionate about a particular industry or function. Like many of my classmates, and business school students the world over, I developed an affinity for consulting.

The bright, friendly associates and partners spoke of intense personal development, exposure to senior executives and generous compensation. And because they fancied themselves recession-proof, many firms projected hiring plans equal to those from the previous year.

But it was not to be. Despite hours and hours of networking—I used Excel more often for tracking contacts than I did for finance class—and intense preparation for the elaborate, multi-stage interview process, firms were ultimately extremely conservative in their hiring and it was difficult to get them to see past my “non-traditional” background. I quickly overcame the disappointment, though—I knew I was far from alone.

Then, a marketing class made all the difference. It made me think about my personal brand—the unique attributes that set me apart from the pack. Before business school, I spent years advising companies on environmental sustainability, a task that gave me enormous personal and professional satisfaction. I stepped back to reflect on what truly motivates me, as many other students are doing as the well-worn finance and consulting paths lose their lustre. I now see an opportunity to combine my existing skills with what I am learning at the world’s top marketing school to carve out a position in the emerging field of sustainable brand strategy. In many cases, I’m trying to sell companies on something they don’t yet know they need, and relying heavily on my professional network to unearth positions that will never appear on any business school’s job board.

It is exciting, exhilarating and exhausting. Agility, resilience and seeking opportunities in adversity are often themes that feature in the cases we study in class; they are also proving important to the job hunt. This voyage won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing usually is.

Kellogg serial:
Day two: Reeves

Day three: Eddie
Day four: Jorge
Day five: Sultan

Back to:
Which MBA online
The Economist’s Business Education page

Oil exploration

April 21, 2009

Warwick Business School is launching a Global Energy MBA in May. Aimed at those already working within the energy industry, the programme will tackle the dual challenges of how to meet demand for oil and gas and how to bring on alternative, renewable sources of energy to help combat climate change. According to the programme’s academic director, David Elmes, the MBA will also help students get to griups with a recent shift in responsibility between countries and companies. “Companies who would have accessed funds from banks or markets are now pinning their hopes on government stimulus packages,” he says. “The risk is that the momentum to sustain today’s energy sources and develop alternatives is stalling.”

The MBA is delivered over three years, combining week-long seminars and self-study.

Back to Which MBA online

Latin lesson

April 21, 2009

The University of Miami School of Business Administration is hoping to further expand into Latin America after it announced plans to offer its Executive MBA programme in Puerto Rico. The proposed programme, which is awaiting approval from the Puerto Rican government, would be taught at the headquarters of El Nuevo Día, a local newspaper and partner of the school.

Unsurprisingly, given its location, the Miami school already has strong links to the region. Its Master of Science in Professional Management and Executive MBA programme, which is run on its Florida campus, is taught entirely in Spanish and targets executives working in Latin America. It has also established several partnerships with Latin American business schools, including Universidad de San Andres in Argentina, the University of São Paulo in Brazil, and CENTRUM Católica in Peru.

Back to Which MBA online

Opening for business

April 17, 2009

Pakistan is to get a new private business school. The Karachi School for Business and Leadership (KSBL) is being set up by the Karachi Education Initiative in partnership with the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School. It plans to offer executive development programmes from next year, with an MBA following in 2011 and an executive MBA the year after that. It is also being charged with teaching students what it takes to run a for-profit business school in Pakistan.

Pakistan has a dearth of world-class business schools. The most prestigious is probably the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, which was set up in 1955 by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Nonetheless, it, in common with other Pakistani schools, regularly gets overlooked in the major international rankings. Many students head out of the country to pursue their business education, something that KSBL hopes to address.

Back to Which MBA online

Changing course

April 15, 2009

Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business is launching what it believes is the world’s first MBA elective focusing on climate change. The course, “Business and Climate Change”, is the brainchild of Tuck professor Anant Sundaram, pioneer of a model which gauges firms’ vulnerability to fossil fuel prices. Professor Sundaram says that rather than acting as a constraint on companies, a warming planet could be a huge business opportunity: “The implications are enormous. Massive wealth will be created by companies that get in front of this issue and lost by those that do not.”

The trend towards greener MBAs has been evident for much of the last decade. What is new is the driving force behind the change: schools are becoming greener not just because it is seen as socially important, but also because it is seen as a potential competitive advantage for companies. Babson College’s Olin Graduate School of Business, for example, has introduced a “Sustainable Entrepreneurship by Nature” course. Meanwhile, New York’s Stern Business School recently announced it had officially “gone green” after it unveiled a plan to make its campus more environmentally friendly. It is also launching a “Leading Sustainable Enterprises” course.

Back to Which MBA online

Flawed research

April 14, 2009

The Boston Globe ran an interesting story over the weekend, looking at the rise of the management guru and the flawed research on which some have based their reputation. Since the publication in 1982 of “In Search of Excellence” by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman—the book widely credited with giving birth to management guru culture—business school professors and management consultants have searched for the killer idea that will lift them from the masses. To be taken seriously, many adopt what they claim to be a rigorous, scientific approach to their research.

Which is where the problems start. Business schools have always had a chip on their shoulder when it comes to rigour. They are often belittled by other university faculties, which snobbishly dismiss management as a subject ill-suited to academia. In response, aspiring gurus wrap their research in a cloak of scientific thoroughness. Only they often get it wrong.

According to the Boston Globe, when measuring what makes for a successful company, one common mistake is to study only those companies that are themselves considered successful. “In Search of Excellence” listed eight attributes which 43 succesful US companies—handpicked by the authors as examples of excellence—shared. However, there was no corresponding study as to whether such characteristics were also found in failing, or even moderately-performing firms.

The Globe’s article quotes Michael Raynor, a researcher and consultant at Deloitte Consulting, as saying: “When you take a closer look at the companies they study, the accomplishments of the vast majority are just as likely to be due to simple luck. It’s the equivalent of finding someone who flipped a coin seven times and happened to end up with seven heads and asking for her secret.” In other words, there is no control group—one of the basic tenets of scientific research.

All of which makes for a fascinating sub-plot to the perennial rigour versus relevance debate which engulfs business school research. For years professors have been accused of producing research that is esoteric and overly-theoretical at the expense of anything that is actually useful to business. But if they are not even getting the rigour right, exactly what value are they adding?

*****************
Addendum (15/4/09)
: Further to Richard King’s post below, it is interesting to note Tom Peters’ defence:

“The ‘research’ represented by the In Search of Excellence ‘product’ should never, ever be confused by the research-experimentation performed to confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity. That is not nor will it ever be the standard in the so-called ‘social sciences.'” In fact I added that I was one of the ones who think it’s a travesty to award a Nobel in economics—economics ain’t physics either.

Perhaps this goes to prove that the dual ends of relevance and rigour truly are irreconcilable?

Back to Which MBA online

Joint Finnish

April 8, 2009

Finland’s premier business school, the Helsinki School of Economics (HSE), is merging with the University of Art and Design Helsinki and the Helsinki University of Technology. The new institution, to be named Aalto University, after one of Finland’s iconic figures, architect Alvar Aalto, will open its doors to students in 2010 and will continue to offer many of the business programmes currently run by HSE—including an MBA and Executive MBA. The university says that the combination of three such prestigious institutions opens up new possibilities for multi-disciplinary education and research. Critics have voiced concern, though, that such will be Aalto’s dominance that competition in the Finnish market will be stifled.

Back to Which MBA online