Monday, March 29, 2010

Ericsson CEO's speech at #casecomp2010

Here is the speech that Hans Vestberg gave during the last night of the case competition. He touched upon the history of Ericsson, and the founder's 100-year-old belief that communication is a basic human need. He then discussed some stats about mobile communications, and how people continue to find novel ways to make use of the technology.

It's crazy when I think that this time last year I was sitting in my office, all by my lonesome, probably updating some Perl scripts or working on server bugs.

Part 1

Part 2

Our presentation is being featured on the Slideshare homepage!

I've gotten a few emails from Slideshare that our case competition slides are being featured on the homepage, first via the "Hot on Twitter" section and now in the main section.

I wish that we had recorded our presentation. The slides just don't do it justice.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

35 hours awake....1 presentation!

I am in the hotel room with my team, most of whom are already asleep. We were awake for 35 hours for the Boston University International Tech Strategy Business Case Competition.  The event was hosted by BU and sponsored by Ericsson.  Although I wish that I could describe the experience in detail, my body is rapidly failing me given the lack of sleep.  Suffice to say that we had an amazing time.

The case was basically "What should Ericsson's strategy be in the impending Sea of Connectivity (aka Internet of Things)?"  We spent 24 hours researching, ideating, and putting together a presentation that we delivered to a panel of 4 judges, who were all Ericsson executives.

Here is our executive summary.
In the next decade, 50 billion devices will come online in the global “Sea of Connectivity”.  This unprecedented level of connectivity will result in an extraordinary level of challenges with partner relationships, device interconnectability, and network infrastructure.  Given these challenges, Ericsson is uniquely positioned to orchestrate a networked ecosystem where it becomes the data gateway via strategic partnerships.  Ericsson’s expertise and leadership in this industry will allow it to create new business models to capitalize on increased data consumption, develop open interconnectability standards to allow devices to communicate, and deploy the high-speed, global network infrastructure necessary to make this vision into a reality.  This innovation will lead to unprecedented benefits on a global scale for Ericsson and its partners.
And the slides from our presentation.  Please keep in mind, the slides were used purely as a visual supplement to our oral presentation, so they don't tell the whole story.
Unfortunately, Slideshare doesn't handle animations at all, so there are some missing "slides."  If you want the full experience, then I'd recommend that you download the presentation via the "Menu" option in the widget above.

Presenting Team Tokyo 2010!

Myself, Pranav, Justin , Rob

This was the kind of weekend that reminds me of how lucky I am to be going through this unbelievable and memorable experience.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Follow us at the BU Case Competition!

Tomorrow morning I fly out to Boston to meet up with my team for the Boston University International Tech Strategy Case Competition.  I am extremely excited about the competition, because it looks like it is going to be an extremely challenging/entertaining experience.

On Thursday night we have the opening reception, where we get our initial instructions and a chance to meet the other 15 teams from all over this fine, beautiful globe.  Friday morning we are presented with the case.  After we get the case, we have 24 hours to research the problem, develop a solution, and put together our presentation, which we have to give on Saturday morning.  From what I've seen, it is entirely possible that we won't get much sleep during the competition.

You can follow our progress throughout the competition via their blog, which they have already started updating, their Twitter account, @CaseComp, or our team's Twitter account, @KelloggCaseComp, which I'll be tweeting on!  They also have a Facebook page, which they may use as well.  As you can see, they are all over the social media.

The 5-class Option

At Kellogg, you can take 3-5 classes every quarter for the standard tuition fee.  If you opt to take more than 5, then you have to pay more; if you take less than 3, then I think you lose full-time student status, which has ramifications for all of your student loans.  The norm is to take 4.  If you follow the standard schedule, then your class load for each quarter would look like this:
  1. 5 classes (this includes the MORS class that you take during CIM)
  2. 4 classes
  3. 4 classes
  4. 4.5 classes (includes the pre-term SEEK class, which is business ethics)
  5. 4 classes
  6. 4 classes
You only need 24.5 credits to graduate, so you can actually opt to take 3 classes during one of your quarters.  From what I've been told, it is common to use that 1 credit of leeway to reduce the workload during either the 2nd quarter, when you are recruiting for internships, the 4th quarter, if you are recruiting for a full-time job, or the 6th quarter, if you want to take it easy at the end.

There are several advantages to taking 5 classes during a quarter.  First, you gain some option value.  This would allow you to take a lighter workload during both the 2nd and 4th quarter, if it is necessary for recruiting.  Second, you are able to take more classes, and that means more electives.  If you don't test out of any core classes, then you can only take 15 electives during your 2 years in the program.  This may sound like a generous amount, but there are a lot of interesting classes, and they seem to add new ones every quarter;  it's kind of ridiculous how many options there are.  Finally, taking more classes means that you get more for your money, and hopefully that you learn more.

Of course, there are also disadvantages to taking 5 classes.  First, you end up with more work to do, so you may have to sacrifice some time from the other parts of the experience: extracurricular, social, or family (if you have one).  Second, you have to spread your bid points out more, so you may not be able to take all of the classes that you want, particularly ones taught by rockstar professors.  Third, your grades may suffer.   Everyone says that grades don't matter in grad school, but after 16+ years of hearing otherwise, it might be hard to let go of this notion.  Finally, you don't have as much time to pursue other interests or dive deep into any of the courses you are taking.  I found myself having to skip some readings, even when it was for a topic I was really interested in, to keep up with the work.

After last quarter, I now know that 5 classes is definitely manageable, but it was still pretty rough.  I was constantly changing between the work for the different classes, and the act of juggling it all can be stressful.  Fortunately, I had a few classes that had light workloads, and my classmates took the initiative of driving the work (setting up meetings, keeping us on track, etc) in all of my groups.  Furthermore, I have completely deprioritized socializing, so it was a lot easier for me to stay on top of the work without ever getting bogged down or stressed out or missing out on much sleep. 

That said, I would definitely not recommend this approach (not taking advantage of the socializing) for anyone unless you've had a heart-to-heart with yourself about what you want to get out of your Kellogg experience.  There are a lot of downsides to being a hermit in grad school, like missing out on cool opportunities because you don't know the people that know about them.  For example, I would have missed out on the Boston University Tech Case Competition, which I will be participating in the next couple of days,  if I hadn't known the students that formed a team via KWEST and the Consulting Club.  I think that I've managed to mitigate this risk a bit, but I'm certain that I'm still catching some of the downside.

I've registered for 5 classes again this quarter, but I'm still worried about the workload.  I've heard that 2 of the classes are intense, and the other 3 are wildcards.  The only thing I'm certain of is that I'll be spending plenty of more hours in the Fortress of Solitude to stay on top of it all. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don't Stop Believin'

Hi all!

I am on vacation this week, so I've been taking full advantage of the downtime to recharge my batteries before the next quarter, which could be a tough one! It's great to take a break, though I'm not resting too much, as I have the Boston University International Tech Strategy Business Case Competition at the end of this week and plenty of other To Dos to keep me occupied.

I ran into this amazing cover of one of the Kellogg anthems, "Don't Stop Believin'", and I thought I'd share it.  If you read up on the background behind the PS22 Chorus, it is truly inspirational.  I've been checking out their back catalog for the past hour or so, and my face has been bursting with smiles.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Much Love for JoCo

I just wanted to share a song that I've been digging a lot the last month or so. It has catapulted itself into my 2nd most listened-to song in iTunes, out of 5979.

The song is called "A Talk With George" by Jonathan Coulton, and I stumbled onto it when I decided to pick up his last album, Best.Concert.Ever.  I didn't expect to enjoy the album so much, but I instantly loved it; it has 17 of my 20 most played songs.

The song is about a fictional conversation with George Plimpton, a famous American journalist (non-fiction).  The basic message is to live your life to the fullest, and it, along with Jonathan Coulton's bio (he quit his job as a programmer to become a full-time musician), really struck a chord with me.

Hope you enjoy it.

Boston University Tech Case Competition

I'm going to be in Boston in a few weeks for Boston University's International Tech Strategy Business Case competition.

I almost missed out on this, but fortunately, some classmates that I befriended through the Consulting Club and my KWEST trip asked me to fill in the last slot on their team.  So now I'll be representing Kellogg among 15 amazing schools:

Boston University School of Management
Eller College of Management – University of Arizona
Fudan University School of Management, China
Haas School of Business - UC Berkeley
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
IESE Business School – University of Navarra, Spain
IPADE Business School - Universidad Panamericana, Mexico
Kenan-Flagler Business School – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
London Business School, UK
Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California
McCombs School of Business – University of Texas, Austin
Queen's School of Business, Canada
Seoul National University, Korea
Sloan School of Management – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

I think it's important to make sure that you build up a good network at school so that you can hear about events that might interest you.  As I mentioned above, I wouldn't have even known about this competition if it weren't for my friends thinking of me when it came time to form a team.  From what I understand, this happens often in grad school because there are always so many things going on throughout the quarter.  Even if you choose to focus heavily on school work, extracurriculars, or whatever, allowing the socializing to fall by the wayside, make sure that you find a way to connect with your classmates.  Whether that be through clubs, social networking, or just chatting with people in class, it's well worth the cost of admission.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

MORS-450 Retention Round Slides

Last Tuesday was my last class and presentation for MORS-450, Management Communications, a class that I think will ultimately be very valuable for me.  Unlike other classes where it is hard to bridge the divide between the scholastic (unrealistically ideal) and the actual (real world), I can safely say that the lessons I learned for improving both content and style are directly applicable outside of the classroom.

I was able to use them the next night for my team's final presentation in my other MORS class, Managing People for Competitive Advantage, and I'll have at least one more opportunity to do so over Spring Break.  Although I feel like I've been able to make some great progress, I consider it only the beginning of what will no doubt be a long, ongoing process.

For my last presentation, I went with the thesis Medicare recipients should get full prescription drug coverage through the federal government.  Here are my slides for the presentation.

Like my last presentation (Raising the Minimum Driving Age to 25), the slides were completely optional, and so I treated them purely as a supplement.  Therefore, don't expect to get a 100% overview of my presentation from the slides.

In fact, they didn't even have to contain much information, given that they were not meant to be a standalone resource.  All of my arguments, statistical and anecdotal evidence, and references were included in a presentation outline that I submitted to the professor as part of the assignment.

I'm looking forward to getting back the feedback from my professor and classmates.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Finals Frenzy - Round 2

I went to my last class of the quarter today.  Unexpectedly, the microeconomics class ended with students giving the professor, who was an under-the-radar fantastic professor that I just found out specializes in social networks, a round of applause. 

Now I get to hunker down in the Fortress of Solitude to study for 2 finals and complete my take-home Marketing final, which is a case analysis.

After the quarter ends, I'll head to Cancun, Austin, and Boston (for a tech case competition).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Path to an MBA

At the bottom of the blog you will find a new, tediously hand-coded list of the classes and professors that I have taken (or will take) at Kellogg. Furthermore, each item is linked to either the course description or professor bio; I couldn't help thinking that these links will eventually all be broken as Kellogg changes their website as I added it.  This is pretty similar to what Jeremy has up on his blog.

I added the list so that I could quickly track the classes that I've taken and remember all of my professors' names (I had already forgotten 2) and so that you could know what I've taken, in case you have any questions about the classes (what the professor is like, workload, how big a binder you'll need, etc).

One thing the list doesn't convey is my changing attitude toward how to spend my time here.  Coming into the program, I was expecting to take a lot of Finance and Strategy classes, with some Entrepreneurship classes sprinkled in for flavor.  Now, I'm putting a lot more emphasis on Marketing, Management & Organizations, and Management & Strategy.  This was driven by my exposure to classes and the advice I've heard from multiple professors and speakers.

Spring quarter will be the first time that my schedule isn't dominated by Core classes, which have mostly been very interesting,  so I'm pretty stoked.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My MGMT Comm Credibility Presentation

These are the slides that I used for the big 6-minute presentation in Management Communications last week.  Unfortunately, the presentation relies heavily on the spoken word for weaving together the story, so the slides may not make complete sense when taken independently.

My thesis was that the minimum driving age should be raised to 25.  I didn't think any of the options on the list of theses was that interesting, so I chose this one because I knew it would be easy to find statistical and anecdotal evidence to make my case.

I received some great feedback from my classmates.  It mainly dealt with the content, and I took that as a positive sign that my presenting style was OK.  Here were some highlights:
  • Percentages aren't useful without a baseline.  For example, 65% cell phone usage may not be as bad if 90% of drivers in other age groups use their phones while driving
  • My 2nd argument, about traffic and pollution, wasn't as applicable to the most opposed audience (people under the age of 25) as the first argument (the high risk associated with this age group on the road)
  • My conclusion could have been stronger
  • My opening attention grabber (that 1 in 5 drivers in fatal collisions is under the age of 25) didn't seem that significant
  • Avoid using "ya'll," since it sounds informal.  Although I wholeheartedly agree with this comment, it will be really hard to address it going forward, especially once I'm back in Texas.  I didn't realize that I used "ya'll" so much until I moved out of Texas.
I have my final presentation in the class tomorrow.  I haven't been able to practice it very much because I've been trying to catch up in my other classes after going out of town a few weekends back. I'm a bit nervous because I know it is isn't as polished as it should be. Gulp.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Don't Be Late For Class At Stern

I just read this story via AndrĂ©'s latest blogpost about an NYU Stern professor's response to a student's email regarding the class' late policy, and it is spectacular.  I highly recommend you head on over and check out the story.

Here is my favorite part of the professor's email:
xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance...these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility...these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx.
Wow!  I imagine that shortly after sending this email the professor poured himself a glass of scotch, went outside, and slowly sipped on his drink while smoking a cigar.

For the record, I doubt you would ever see an email like this from a professor at Kellogg.  But if it did happen, and the class found out who it was addressed to, that student would never live it down.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Public Speaking at Kellogg

Coming into grad school, one of my priorities was to improve at public speaking. I don't know how or when it happened, but at some point in the last five years, I convinced myself that being a good public speaker would be a key differentiator (competitive advantage) in my career. Unfortunately, I didn't pursue it very much while I was at IBM, although I knew that I needed to improve. As an engineer, I rarely had to present, let alone in front of clients or a large group; situations that I can see myself encountering in the near future. Engineers (STEM types) also have to think about the common perception that we aren't very good at communicating or at interpersonal skills.

During the last 2 quarters, I've learned that if you want to focus on public speaking, you have to actively pursue it. I think that it is entirely possible to make it through the 2 years here without ever giving a presentation or speaking in front of an audience, and that is very unfortunate in my opinion.

We are rapidly moving towards an idea-based economy and words are the most effective way to communicate and sell ideas. As an entrepreneur, you'll probably have to pitch your ideas to investors at some point, as a manager you'll have to communicate with your colleagues/team daily on initiatives and projects, as a consultant you'll have to gain buy-in from your clients, etc. I just don't think it is possible to escape having to communicate well.

I have been able to improve considerably at presenting and public speaking in the last 2 quarters, and I think that it should be possible for other folks to do the same. For example, this past Monday I gave a quick impromptu speech about how I use Twitter in front of 40+ students, and the next day I delivered a 5 minute presentation in my Management Communications class. In the past, both of these situations would have freaked me out, but this time, nerves were never an issue, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences.

Here are some things that I think anyone focused on public speaking can do at Kellogg:
  • Take on a leadership position in a club - Ideally, you'll be able to participate in a club that has a lot of events, so that you can speak in front of your classmates as often as possible.  Fortunately, I've been able to plan a handful of presentations for the Consulting Club and introduce the speaker each time.  The first time I did it, I was pretty nervous but I quickly got the hang of it.
  • Participate in competitions - This is a bit risky, but it is a great way to get some experience doing presentations.  The main issue here is that you generally don't have to present unless you make it past the 1st round, and that can take a lot of work.
  • Participate in class - There are a lot of chances to speak in class.  Professors will frequently ask the class for a piece of information before continuing, and there generally isn't a rush of people wanting to oblige. This is where you can gain some amazing experience.  First off, you may be completely wrong (I struck out 2 out of 3 times in my DECS class one day), so you quickly realize that isn't a big deal.  Secondly, when you are speaking you generally have everyone's attention, so it does a great job of mimicking the experience of presenting in front of a group.  Finally, for most folks, the hardest part of public speaking is the first 2-3 minutes, and you are basically repeating this part every time.  On the flip side, there can be a negative connotation to participating too much in class, so you'll have to find the right balance.
  • Participate in activities like Special K and Drag TG - These events normally require you to perform (and possibly make a mistake) in front of a large audience, all while being firmly outside of your comfort zone (possibly).  It's a great way to get comfortable being in the limelight.
  • Sign up for the Improv Club (their website is out of date) - This is another great opportunity to get past the fear of making a fool of yourself in front of classmates and being in the limelight.  Furthermore, it is a lot of fun, but there aren't a lot of slots, and it tends to fill up quickly each quarter.  Zip. Zap. Zoom.
  • Sign up for the Public Speaking Club - Unfortunately, this club isn't very active, but the 2 presentations that they had the first quarter were pretty useful.
  • Take MORS-450, Management Communications - I would recommend this only if you are really passionate about improving because the class is expensive (~700 bid points) and doesn't count towards any majors.  It is extremely valuable because it is one of the few avenues where you'll receive guidance on improving both content and style, as well as a lot of feedback (from your classmates).  The class also guarantees that you'll have to give a presentation weekly, and it culminates in a 5- and 6-minute presentation at the end that ties everything together.  Like most things in life, I think you'll get out what you put in, so be prepared to spend a lot of time on this class.
In the list above, I think that Management Comm, the Public Speaking club, and improv (to some extent) are the only opportunities to get feedback.

These are the opportunities that I've utilized so far, but I am certain there are others.  For example, I have to give a presentation in my other MORS class next week, and next quarter my team will have to give one in an Advanced Strategy class.  If you don't see something that appeals to you, I'm certain that you could also start something up.  I'm thinking about getting a small group together next quarter to meet, practice, and provide feedback bi-weekly.

I'll leave you with a video that I think does a good job of describing the importance of public speaking (though I can't vouch for the DVDs that they are selling). He uses a technique that we were taught in MGMT COMM: recommendation, statistic, and anecdote.

p.s. I wasn't able to find a Toastmasters club in walking distance of Kellogg. If you are in the 2012 class and you are gun ho about starting this up, I'll totally be there!

Monday, March 1, 2010

@KelloggHTC - Twitter Presentation

The Kellogg High-Tech Club (@KelloggHTC) held a presentation today on Twitter covering what it is and why students (and really anyone) should use it.  The presentation was led by the venerable @missfword, @monkbent (blog), and @jj_watson, with testimonials provided by @tomloverro (blog) and myself, @oneillo.  It was pretty well attended; I think that 40+ students were there.

It was a great presentation, and I enjoyed being a part of it.  At the end, I briefly discussed my Twitter approach, which is more about connecting with people than personal branding per se, and I mentioned some of my notable Twitter experiences: getting contacted by a company I was doing a case on, getting a free Choose Your Own Adventure book, and chatting a bit with the @lifeatdeloitte users.

It was also a great opportunity to do some more public speaking! It's crazy to think of how far I've come along since starting at Kellogg. This was probably one of the largest groups I've ever spoken in front of, and I didn't feel a trace of nervousness.

I've only recently been able to attend the High-tech Club's events.  If I weren't already so active in the Consulting Club stuff, I would have been all over the HTC during my first two quarters.