So How Does This Apply at Work?

Four weeks into my second MBA semester at CSUF Mihaylo, and I find myself attempting to apply concepts from the classroom to work responsibilities.  Specifically, I have been trying to find out how to apply linear programming methods to my daily tasks.  I know, it probably sounds boring, but I find the linear programs fascinating (and it definitely helps that Excel Solver does all the time-consuming computations for you).

Let me back up for a moment.  One of my classes this semester is ISDS 514 – Decision Models for Business and Economics.  The course focuses on using management science methods and programs to develop models for solving business problems by applying the appropriate software tools and accurately interpreting the results.  The material has been extremely interesting – using the data provided (usually profit margin and sales information) and taking into account specific constraints, Solver can calculate the appropriate solution for a given business problem.  Through the first several weeks of class, the problems we worked on in class consisted mainly of maximizing profits or minimizing production costs.

I’ve been intrigued by these new problem solving techniques, and attempted to apply them to my daily tasks at work.  However, I hit a roadblock and came to realize these tools don’t apply / aren’t needed for the work I do.  I am an Associate Transportation Funding Analyst for the region’s public transportation agency, and my role specifically involves securing state and federal funding for local bus and rail transit projects.  A large portion of my time is spent preparing and reviewing funding applications and ensuring projects are meet document submittal and reporting deadlines.  In my mind, these tasks don’t seem to warrant the use of Solver and linear programming methods.

However, if I was involved in determining which projects the agency should fund, then linear programming would help with developing solutions.  Solver can be utilized in binary problems that seek to evaluate which potential projects should be funded (and in the agency’s case, the projects that should be constructed as well).  There are certain political constraints that would limit specific projects from being selected over other projects, and the final determination would be limited by the amount of funding available.  On top of that, the professor began discussing the use of Solver to find solutions to Transportation, Shortest Path, and Minimal Spanning Tree problems.  I believe these strategies could be applicable to planning optimal transit system routes for our bus service or helping determine the best layout for rail stations.  As we explore these methods in greater detail, I will develop a better understanding of their structures and uses in order to eventually determine their usefulness at the transportation agency.

Classes and material like the linear programming methods I’m learning about definitely help me feel like the time and money I am spending earning my MBA is worth it.  I feel like the strategies I am learning will be applicable at my current position and in future work I do, and will ideally go a long way towards helping me grow into the most effective and informed manager I can become.

Do you have any tips for applying lessons learned in school to your role at work?  Or more specifically, do you use linear programming or Solver frequently as part of your daily work tasks?  Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Here are a couple of interesting articles I have read recently:

“5 Ways to Transforms Greece’s Economy Now” – I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been hearing about the poor state of Greece’s economy for years now.  In reality, its economy has only recently gained notoriety in mainstream media, but I rarely hear about how the economy can be fixed (other than with more bailouts).  This article offers five interesting suggestions to help get the Greek economy up and running efficiently again.

“Why Starbucks Succeeds in China” – The world is getting smaller, and companies are continuously growing their international market exposure.  This article provides a great example of how businesses should weigh local culture and tastes when expanding into foreign markets.

“The Most Important Question You Can Ask” – I found this article to be extremely thought-provoking due to the one big question it asks: Am I adding more value to the world than I am using up?  It definitely got me thinking about the resources I use every day and the lasting impact I’m having on the planet.

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