Bad rep

May 18, 2009

The Economist recently mused on whether those chief executives most implicated in the current financial crisis deserved a second chance in corporate life (see article). In an interesting twist, two, it seems, have found their way onto the advisory board of a research centre advising on corporate reputation. The appointment of former chief executives Andy Hornby of HBOS, a failed British bank, and John Tiner of the Financial Services Authority, the much-criticised UK regulator, to the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation has raised some eyebrows. Although the original invitations were made last year, prior to their troubles, Jacob Turner, the president of the Oxford Union Labour Club, is quoted in Cherwell, Oxford’s student newspaper, as saying: “The phrase ‘corporate reputation’ might be a contradiction in terms these days, but the least they could have done might be to select someone who is not a bastion of exploitative capitalism.”

However, when it comes to learning about the pitfalls of corporate reputation—which is generally considered by boards as one of the major areas of corporate risk—the executives who have made the biggest mistakes might just make the perfect teachers. Indeed, faculty at the centre believe that, although appointing tarnished executives may not have been part of their original brief, it may have become a lucky beneficiary of their demise. Certainly the views of Andy Hornby on the importance of protecting a firm’s reputation is going to be a far bigger draw now than would have been the case 12 months ago.

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Local knowledge

May 18, 2009

Twenty-two higher education institutions in British Columbia have signed an accord to offer more business education to First Nation Canadians. Research from the province’s Ministry of Advanced Education has suggested a need for greater participation in business programmes by Canadian aboriginals, something that faculty from University of British Columbia (UBC) agree with. “Aboriginal graduation from high school is well below the provincial average,” says Dr Jo-Ann Archibald, UBC’s Associate Dean of Indigenous Education. “This means that aboriginal participation and completion in post-secondary business studies requires a comprehensive programme [to encourage them]”

UBC has been championing the cause through its Ch’nook Aborigial Business Education Programme. Its Advanced Management course, which seeks to teach business from an aboriginal perspective, recently graduated its third class. UBC says that sometimes the aboriginal perspective can be a matter of simple geography: many Ch’nooks come from the interior north corner of the province, which is home to the oil, gas, forestry and mining sectors, while many others are from coastal areas where fishing and tourism are common. However, according to John Claxton, director of the programme, although many of the skills needed for business are universal across cultures, Ch’nooks can develop thier own unique, successful approach. “We start by working to dispel the stereotype that all businesses are identical in terms of the motivators behind business activities,” he says. “This makes it easy for students to see how their values can impact their business practices.”

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Second time lucky

May 12, 2009

Timothy Smunt is to be appointed the new dean at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business. Mr Smunt, who will take up the position in August, is currently a professor at Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management. He is taking over from V. Kanti Prasad, who has been associated with the school for over 30 years and has served as dean since 2002. The school had to abort its original search for a new leader last year, after it failed to identify a suitable candidate.

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Double first

May 11, 2009

Harvard Business School has topped its second major ranking in the space of two weeks. After heading US News & World Report’s list of American graduate business schools (see article), it has now also retained its crown as the world’s best provider of non-degree, executive-education courses according to the Financial Times. Swiss school IMD came second in the overall ranking, which combines the results of separate ratings of schools’ open-enrolment and customised programmes. Duke University’s Fuqua school and Spanish institution IESE were joint third. In the individual categories, Harvard topped the open-enrolment section, while—for a seventh consecutive year—Fuqua won out for its customised programmes.

With executive education budgets being cut by companies as the recession bites, these are tough times for business schools. The FT says that a 20% drop in demand for non-degree courses is being commonly reported by the top schools, while a report from Icedr, an industry research body, says that 60% of companies have reduced their training and development budgets. The paper says that open-enrolment programmes seem to have to been hit harder than customised ones. With one of the major issues being a moratorium on air travel at many companies, schools are having to change their models away from campus-based programmes, in favour of delivering more programmes at companies’ headquarters or remotely using distance learning technology.

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French lessons

May 8, 2009

As the Anglo-Saxon economies reap their hubristic deserts, and the French bask in a told-you-so glow (see article), now might be just about the perfect time for ESC Rouen School of Management to launch its new MSc, Marketing with French Excellence, focussing on how to market “with a French touch”. The programme, which is taught entirely in English, will focus on areas of French renown, such as the luxury goods market, the nuclear industry and high-speed rail. It is aimed at executives hoping interested in working for a French business, be it nationally or internationally.

In what may be a less timely development, however, the school is also launching a new campus in Paris in a joint venture with the Reims Management School. The campus will focus exclusively on executive education, something that Arnoud Langlois-Meurinne, Rouen’s dean, accepts is a tough arena given the economic climate. With firms cutting back on both staff and training budgets, there appears little appetite currently for the short, expensive executive development programmes so important for business schools’ balance sheets. However, Mr Langlois-Meurinne, believes that by including post-graduate degrees aimed at executives, such as an MSc in Legal Management, which may not be as hard hit by the recession, the schools should be able to limit their exposure.

Homeward bound

May 5, 2009

Jitendra Singh has resigned as the dean of Nanyang Business School in Singapore just two years after his appointment. The official reason given for Professor Singh’s departure was that he “faced considerable challenges on the personal front”. Indeed, The Economist understands that the professor’s family had trouble settling in Singapore and that this was a key consideration behind his return to the US. However, it was not the only reason for the decision. Professor Singh was also known to be unhappy with the paucity of funds being allocated to the school by Bertil Andersson, provost of the parent institution, Nanyang Technical University. A particular sticking point appears to be professor Singh’s desire for a new, dedicated building to house the business school.

Despite heading back to America, Professor Singh will continue his association with the business school in an advisory capacity, returning to Singapore several times a year. Gillian Yeo, currently the school’s Executive Vice Dean, has been appointed Interim Dean until a full-time successor has been identified.

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Kellogg serial, day five: Sultan

May 3, 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.

After nearly five years at a Fortune 100 technology company, I left for Kellogg in order to take a big leap forward in my career. My goal was to get a top-class education, work for a few more years in the US and then return home to the Middle East to join the family business.

Despite the subsequent drop in the Dow, my goals remain the same, though the execution has changed. Now, instead of spending a few years here to gain more work experience, I will head home soon after graduation this summer. Opportunities for international students have diminished dramatically in the US, especially for those seeking work in the financial services after conditions attached to the bank bailouts altered the rules for hiring foreign workers.

I spent last summer working as an intern at a venture capital firm. This too was not in my original plan—I focused much of my energy on getting an investment banking position on Wall Street. That didn’t work out, but I picked up the venture-capital offer along the way. It ended up being a great experience, and the guidance I received from mentors at the firm was priceless. I wasn’t sure banking was for me, but I gave it shot. The summer internship convinced me, heading into my second year at school, to pursue what I’m truly passionate about.

In June, I will leave Kellogg smarter, better connected and eager to make a difference in the world. The recession may have delayed some of my fellow students’ dreams, but these are only temporary setbacks. If there is one thing that classes have taught me, it’s to learn from adversity and always remain focused on the long term. I will re-enter the work force more confident, knowledgeable and—in these turbulent times—humble.

Kellogg serial:
Day one: Daianna
Day two: Reeves
Day three: Eddie
Day four: Jorge

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Kellogg serial, day four: Jorge

May 1, 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.

An MBA at Kellogg is exhausting; in a good way. From the first day on campus, I have been busy attending classes, writing papers, listening to speakers, leading clubs and student organisations, participating in events, networking, studying, occasionally spending time with my wife and, of course, recruiting. While the experience has been incredibly interesting and enriching, the recruiting process has turned from what was supposed to be a smooth and fun career transition—as it was for fellow Spaniards who previously went to Kellogg—into a challenging quest for El Dorado: a job offer.  

I came to Kellogg to jump from consulting to a business leadership programme at a big player in the retail, consumer goods or manufacturing industries in the US. I wanted to set off on the path to becoming a successful strategic thinker in a general management position.

Despite my efforts and several on-campus interviews, I wasn’t lucky enough to get one of these highly sought-after positions. The setbacks made me rethink my strategy. Were there aspects of my background story I could work on? Should I have done more informal interviews during the recruiting process? Some of the other hurdles I faced were pure externalities—namely, the recession and my being a foreigner.

Instead of taking a completely new direction and defining myself as a career switcher, I am now trying to leverage my previous experience when looking for positions that nonetheless are aligned with my long-term goals. For example, I have been interviewing with a non-profit environmental organisation about managing a project for a big American retailer. Something way off my radar months ago, this is the sort of opportunity that would allow me to grow into my desired professional direction while still taking advantage of my previous experience as a consultant and engineer.

During the recruiting process I have learned the importance of being flexible, quick and open. I have also learned that, unlike in the recent past, an MBA looking for opportunities to do something completely new, with no previous experience in an industry, may be chasing a mirage.

Kellogg serial:
Day one: Daianna
Day two: Reeves
Day three: Eddie
Day five: Sultan

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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

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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.

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