Archive for March, 2012

One MBA Student’s Spring Break Observations

Considering CSUF is on spring break this week, I expected (or at least hoped) for more relief from my MBA coursework.  That’s not the case.  I have a significant amount of work on my plate this week, but having the week off of class in the evenings should help alleviate some of the stress.  So for your entertainment, I am providing a brief summary of the work I need to complete over spring break.

My information systems course has a variety of assignments due next week.  On top of the weekly chapter I need to read and practice problems I should attempt, I also must complete a group project.  Our group must analyze a fictional cookie company, determine its optimal production mix, and decide whether to expand into new baking products.  Several of the group members worked through the computations on Excel and I am writing the summary report.  The report needs to be structured like a business memo, so it is taking a little longer to complete than I anticipated.  I am inserting charts and writing analysis as I go, but the charts in particular are taking a long time.  I’m sure I’ll finish putting this together and then find out there was an easier way to create the charts than my strategies.

My information systems management course also has several assignments due by next Thursday.  I have my standard assignments that must be completed, which include reading a textbook chapter and preparing for a case study.  The case study addresses whether Airtel, Ltd., an Indian mobile phone company, should outsource its capital expenditures for its information technology.  The case will tie in directly with the chapter that’s been assigned, but I will also be expected to incorporate topics from previous chapters as well.  Finally, I have to select one of the four previous case studies we’ve discussed during class, and turn-in a write-up that answers four questions tailored to the case.  I am leaning towards doing my write-up about the IBM case, but haven’t settled 100% on which one I will do.

I realize this wasn’t a terribly exciting post, but as you can tell I’ve got a lot of work to complete before next week.  Hopefully things go smoothly, but if anything exciting happens I’ll probably be writing about it in a future post.

Here is an article I read recently that I found quite interesting:

“From $3.75 an Hour to $1 Million a Year” – This inspiring article, direct from CSUF’s business blog, tells the story of Tchicaya Missamou, the owner/founder of The Warrior Fitness Camp, Inc.  Mr. Missamou escaped war-torn Congo and eventually ended up in the United States, where he has created a successful business and fantastic life for himself.  His story is inspiring, and definitely makes me want to do something with my own life.

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Can Current MBA Students Take Over the Business World?

When I look around at my fellow CSUF MBA classmates, I sometimes wonder which of them will become business executives and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Stanley Bing is a Fortune Magazine writer who this week published a tongue-in-cheek article titled “B-School Confidential” – it takes a look at millennials and asks whether the current crop of MBA graduates will be prepared to lead global Fortune 500 organizations.  He identified nine character traits (he couldn’t think of a tenth) that he believes describe the millennial generation.  Some of Mr. Bing’s descriptions of millennials include:

  • They have short attention spans.
  • They seem to believe that they are the first to know anything on any subject.
  • They want to know what’s in it for them, and how much money they can make in the short-term.
  • They are impatient with the pace of progress.
  • They’re subject to the whims and vagaries of every passing fancy in technology, management, and finance.
  • They don’t have any loyalty.
  • They believe business is a rational occupation, subject to rules they pick up in their reading.
  • They are smart, attractive, and likable, and secretly believe that they will succeed on their good looks and charm.

Mr. Bing’s article paints a picture of millennials that is less than flattering.  But I will admit, as a millennial myself, I agree with a couple of his assessments (however serious they may or may not be).  More so than any of the above items though, I personally worry about my generation’s ability to carry on meaningful conversations.  When I say meaningful conversations I mean those in which both people are actively listening to what the other person is saying, and are providing responses and input based on the topics currently being discussed.  I can’t describe how many times I’ve witnessed my peers (and I’m guilty of this myself) either talking about something completely unrelated to the topic at hand or waiting for someone to finish before just jumping in with whatever two sense they want to share.  The latter situation seems worse to me, because often I can tell the other person isn’t even listening – they are thinking about what they want to say next and then strike when there’s a pause in the conversation.

This is dangerous for potential future business leaders.  Business revolves around relationships and conversations – those with customers, employees, peers, suppliers, regulators, etc.  If individuals cannot conduct meaningful conversations, or even listen actively when another person is talking, how can they be expected to grow and nurture the relationships that are so important to business success?

Do you think Mr. Bing’s tongue-in-cheek criticisms were accurate, or was he way off base?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Finally, here is an article I read this week that I found interesting:

“Student Consultants Give Businesses New Insights” – This article from CSUF’s business blog describes some of the consulting work senior undergraduate and MBA students do for Orange County small businesses.  This was one of CSUF’s major draws for me, and I’m looking forward to my opportunities to work with local businesses.

What Are My Spring Semester MBA Courses Like?

Back in September, I published a post describing the two CSUF MBA courses I was taking during the fall semester.  Now that I am almost two months into my spring semester, I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my observations and advice about both of my current classes.

ISDS 514 – Decision Models for Business and Economics is taught by Dr. Pasternack.  Considering my current work experience is in the public sector, I’m finding the material in this course to be extremely relevant to business situations (time will tell if I end up needed it in a work setting, as we are learning specific decision models).  The majority of course time is spent taking notes and practicing problems for a variety of topics including linear programming, PERT and CPM analysis, decision trees, and later we will even be getting into forecasting.  Dr. Pasternack details the underlying concepts behind these models, but we learn how to do all the calculations in Excel (using Solver).  The amount of reading can vary from week to week, but chapters are assigned one at a time and can average around 25 pages or more.  The material in the textbook is a little dry to me, but there are numerous examples that help illustrate the homework problems and prepare me for the exams.  Homework is not graded, and the final course grade consists mainly of exams and a couple of group projects.  So far, I’ve especially enjoyed learning how to maximize production output and project schedules using Excel, and this course has been one of the first I’ve taken that begins to demonstrate how powerful a business tool Excel really can be when utilized correctly.

The instructor for MGMT 515 – Management of Information in the Corporate Environment is Professor Fraser.  This is easily my favorite course this semester, and that’s because of the case studies we do in class.  These case studies tie real-world business situations into the concepts we read in the chapters, which makes the class both extremely challenging and rewarding.  I haven’t ever experienced a course that required me to apply so many analysis tools to a specific problem (Porter’s Five Forces, business models, sustainable advantages, etc.).  On top of that requirement, the concepts we cover in the textbook must also be used to support any arguments we make during the discussions.  I find that if I don’t prepare enough, I feel lost and have a hard time keeping with my classmates’ back-and-forth discussions.  The final course grade will be determined by oral and written case study performance, in addition to attendance and a final exam.  I feel that Professor Fraser does a great job moving discussions along, and makes sure the students don’t get too bogged down on one single idea.  We explore multiple sides of each case, and I am finding it difficult to tackle a problem that seems to have so many solutions.  The case studies are teaching me how to apply the concepts learned in the textbook, develop arguments (and support them) using limited information, and then stand by my statements during discussions with classmates.  I think this course may end up being one of my favorites as CSUF even though I still have 3 more semesters to complete.

I’ve also been thinking about adding a new page to the Orange County MBA blog that provides some objective information about each course I’ve taken so far.  That information would include the average amount of reading per week, elements that make up the final grade, and the professor’s classroom teaching style, major concepts covered in the class, etc.  If you feel like this would be useful, or have a suggestion about how to tweak the idea and make it better, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here is an article I read this week that I found interesting:

“Would You Invest in This Kid?” – This Harvard Business Review article explores the importance of intellectual property right protection in business investment and growth, and in particular why it will be important in developing nations (particularly those in Africa).