Coming Soon – But an Executive MBA won’t get me into…

Just a preview

But lately a lot of the people that I have been talking to about GEMBA (or other Executive MBA programs) have been confiding in me that they are worried that an Exec MBA will not give them the skills to change career fields or make a run at Mckinsey Bain or BCG (MBB henceforth).

HOGWASH (its my word of the day…just kidding)

I’ll respond to that question sometime in the next week.


Who is your favorite professor and why?

I was talking to my one of my friends last night about how well he is doing raising money for his start up when he asked me out of the blue “which one of your Darden professors is the best” (or did he ask me which one I liked the most). And then while I was thinking – he asked “why…what makes that person so special.”

Wow…talk about a show stopper of a question – I honestly had never stopped to ask myself if I had a favorite professor (or favorite class) at Darden. I’m not sure if the reason for that was because I was too busy running around doing work, enjoying life, or trying to complete my Darden work.  Or maybe it was because I have found something interesting in each and every class that I have taken so far.

Well anyway – being the good consultant – I told my friend that I had never thought it that way and that I really didn’t have a favorite professor or class.  What I did tell him was that I had enjoyed about 95% of the classes that I had taken so far.  I was able to answer his 2nd question though – “why did I like that person’s class.”

What makes all of the classes at Darden so great are the professors (shocker)….here’s what Darden professors do to set themselves apart from others (let’s call this Darden’s secret recipe).

Well for starters – they get to know you as a person, they get to know your family, they  get to know your professional history, your company’s history, how you are doing in your career, where you have worked, what you have done, etc?

Effectively they get to know you the same way your parents or best friends know you.

When you are in class – its almost like you’re taking a class with a friend.  And that friend – well he is tailoring his class to your style of learning, to your history, and to your goals.

Its actually pretty cool.

As an example – pretty much all of my professors know that I work for Accenture.  Yet I only remember telling one or two professors where I worked.  Yet they all know – and now when they’re in class they’ll occasionally mention that XYZ topic could apply in the consulting world.


Operations Class starts off with a bang

Thought I would let everyone know that we had our first Operations class with Elliott Weiss last week.  During the first class – he let us know that this week we would be going through an online simulation to quickly understand what operations professionals do in the real world.  He told us that for 1 week we would be split into several teams…each team would be competing against the others to determine who could run a very simple factory the most effectively.

Well during the class he warned us that this game would make us competitive and it could lead to us becoming addicted the game (i.e. checking the simluation’s website for updates at weird hours of the night).

During this speech – I was thinking to myself, “right…like I’m going to get addicted to a silly simulation…I have a job to finish, a life to have, and TV to catch up on”

Yeah…i’m not addicted to this game at all…nope I wasn’t up last night at 2:45 am analyzing the data trying to spot trends in our data…Nope its not 3 minutes until 1:00 am (GMT – 5) and I’m not sitting at my desk waiting to see the next update from the simulation.

Nope I’m not addicted to this game at all…

By the way – if you’re interested here is the link to the game

Learning about China – in a GLE kind of way

Last week someone asked me what I thought of the Global Leadership Explorations (GLE) class.

Actually before I give my thoughts on GLE – let’s share what Darden thinks about GLE.

That description really gives Darden a lot of leeway with what they could (and have done) with the GLE class.  So let’s talk about my thoughts about the class – the GLE class in my view is really about exposing you to a country’s culture.  You are exposed to that culture in several different ways

– presentations about a country’s culture from professors from our partner schools

– presentations from CFOs, CEOs, etc

– social outtings (dinners, theaters, etc)

– exploration of museums, parks, etc

– books, cases, assignments, etc

That’s the general gist of what has been going on – at least on paper.  But you know what, I want to talk about the Term 3 GLE (the China term) classes and readings.  Tomorrow is our first GLE class of the term and i’m excited because not only are we diving into a case about doing business in China (first lesson learned from this case – get a good translator) – which is great but we’re also looking at other HBR articles about doing business in China.

I’m also excited because during tomorrow’s class – we’re going to be incorporating what we’ve learned from reading one of the books that Darden sent us for this term’s GLE.  Ok…see that’s an added bonus of Darden’s case based learning system.  It is not like Darden said go read this book and answer these specific questions – its more like Darden said go read this book, and then these extra HBR articles and THEN go and apply what you’ve learned to this case.

Cool isn’t it!!!!

Finally – I should point out that we have 2 or 3 other books to read about China and we have presentations coming up from some of the authors of these books.

I’m very happy with this term’s GLE experience (up to this point).

How responsive are the Professors

Hi everyone.

Recently the admissions department has been putting me in touch with people that have questions about the GEMBA program.

One of the questions that I have received recently is how responsive are the professors?  Are they available via email, via phone calls, in person, am I a number to them, will they really get to me, is the food really that good at Darden (ok…maybe I didn’t get the last question but the other ones are real questions).

So instead of recounting my answer to each question above in a long winded way – I thought I would talk about some of my out of class emails to professors (I’ve emailed them fairly often – so i’m only going to write about a few of my exchanges).

Situation: I had to help a small business create their first marketing plan.

Problem: We don’t have marketing until terms 4 and 5

Solution: I emailed our marketing professors (Wilcox and Venkatesan) with my situation and asked them if they could point me to good book and maybe a PDF.  I sent this email around 11:00 pm at night.  The next morning by 8:30 am I had received emails from both of them with the names of books that I could read to help me, PDFs to read, and offers to help out.  Talk about a quick response.

Situation: I was helping a small company price out a proposal – one of the things we were doing was trying to determine what a competitors cost of capital would be for this proposal.  The cost of capital method that I was using includes the Cost of Equity and the Cost of Debt.  Getting the first one was a piece of cake, the second one not so easy.

Solution: I emailed Professor Yiorgos for help determining the cost of debt (by the way – his answer was spot on – too bad the steps were so cumbersome that we moved onto something else).

Problem: I am trying to determine why a small business is losing money.  I would like to do a little deeper analysis on the company’s pricing / cost structure

Solution: I emailed Professor Simko – he hooked it up.  He sent me the name of a book to get (he recommended the older version so the book only cost 20 bucks including shipping) and he offered to meet me in China to discuss this in person (just so you know – he is coming with us to China for our next term abroad…its not like he was flying their just for me).

Ok…so you should begin to see a pattern here…the professors are incredibly responsive.  These interactions don’t even include the random short questions that I’ve sent them about school questions or things that are going on in the news.

Basically Darden professors are very responsive.  But don’t take my word for it – read this article from Poets and Quants.

The people of Sao Paulo

We wrapped up our week in Sao Paulo yesterday (or awhile ago – since its been about three months since I started this blog post) with a long but fun bus ride from Sao Paulo to Rio.

The 12.5 hour trip (45 minute stop for food and about 4 hour stop at Embreair for a factory tour) gave me the opportunity to reflect on the people of Sao Paulo.

Here are a few of my observations (in no real order of importance)

1.  The people of Sao Paulo are very business centric…the entire city has this aurora of commerce.

2.  The city is incredibly clean – which in turn made me feel comfortable – which in turn made me want to come back – which in turn is going to make me talk to my Senior Executive the next time I see him about getting involved with the security practice in Sao Paulo

3.   If you are in the rich part of town (or whatever you want to call it) – everyone speaks English…actually you can just about assume that if you start speaking English that they will pick it up immediately.  Talk about easy for commerce

4.  Their workforce is incredibly educated…I spent a few days with a group of recent college graduates (a few of which were going into consulting…alas not with my company) that told me that in Brazil it is common for people to go to university full time while working a 20-30 hour real job.  And by real job – they meant working in the back office of banks, economic research tanks, the marketing department of a Cosmetics company (a bit one)….oh did I mention that this one person told me that she did all of this by the time she graduated

5.  Salaries were really low (the person above made between 1100 – 1400 dollars a month American)

6.  The city of Sao Paulo is growing without a real central plan…which makes me wonder is all of Brazil growing like this?  Is there a method to their madness…can they sustain this wild / unorganized growth or will this end when “easy money” leaves Brazil?

Ok…so why have I posted my thoughts here…here’s why…most of these observations would not have been able to have been made if I had not physically been on-site in Brazil.  And has this changed me – yes…I am now a lot more comfortable with the idea of transferring to Brazil to help build our practice here (granted I haven’t asked for the transfer…yet…first I need to finish school).

Leaving for residency number 2 today

My second residency starts this Saturday in Sao Paulo Brazil at 3pm.  Flights out of DC are a bit tricky so I think the entire class is leaving today and landing in SP tomorrow.

I’m going to try to blog at least once or twice a day and will try to upload pictures where possible.  If there is anything you would like to know – feel free to leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

Here are my quickie notes so far

– I’m very good at packing (probably since i’ve worked for Accenture for so long)…it only took me two hours to pack and eat lunch.

– The Brazilian visa is pretty nifty…but it took up a whole page in my passport

– Funny…I travel so often…but today at National I went to the wrong gate section entirely (I went to the US Airways gates and not the Delta gates)

– Talking about this program (and the travel that is involved) is the best conversation starter of all time…I think traveling and GEMBA has come up in every conversation I’ve had in the last six weeks

– ok they are calling my zone…have fun everyone

You can find the time to do this!!!

This is going to be a short post…but its probably one of my more important posts…its how long does a Darden EMBA take per week.

After talking it over a little bit with a fellow classmate – I’ve come to realize that Darden is taking me about 5-6 hours per week – per class

And since we take 3 classes per week – you’re looking at 15-18 hours total.

That number takes into account the following

  • studying on my own
  • meeting with my study group
  • class time

I should also say that finding this time is 100% doable…here are some ways that I’ve found the time

  • TV….I TIVO my “Must watch” tv shows and don’t watch the rest of the stuf
  • Sports…I just got into triathlons this year…but due to my limited availability around time…i’ve decided to stay at the sprint distance (hence I don’t have to train as much)
  • Magazines, reading non work/school related books, etc…highly restricted…basically I don’t read them anymore
  • Additional studying…I bought an underwater MP3 player…so now re-listen to classes while swimming
  • Additional fitness…I’ve been known to put my bike on a trainer and ride during online classes (I’m still trying to figure out the perfect way to tie my laptop to my aero bars)
  • Additional work responsibilities…I’m very picky about what types of extra work activities I take on…for example in years past I would help organize the Holiday Season Party…this year…I had to let someone else take the reins on that event (and other similar events)

So to summarize this post…it takes about 15-18 hours / week to do this program, and there are a lot of different ways to find the time to do this.

Hope this helps

My Term 1 love-hate relationship

Next week I plan to talk about how I’ve started putting what I learned in Decision Analysis to use in my work life…but before I do that…I would like to give you some background information on my love-hate relationship with DA.


Term #1 was dominated by this amazing class that some days I loved and other days I hated.  That class was Decision Analysis.  It’s a love – hate relationship because the material in the class at times can be a pain to learn / understand…but once you get it (once that click happens, or that light bulb goes off in your head)…you love it because all of these problems that in the past you thought were unsolvable suddenly become solvable.  Hence the love – hate relationship.  Below you will find an introduction to what DA is all about…it is from the class syllabus…next week I’ll post how I’ve actually started using some of the concepts that I’ve learned in DA to improve a friends response to a request for a proposal (RFP)


Here is what DA is all about (it’s from the class Syllabus)


Business decisions, both tactical and strategic, are frequently made difficult by the

presence of uncertainty in the resulting consequences.  This reality cuts across all

functions of business, each of which has devised “shortcuts” for dealing with this

uncertainty.  But all of these so-called shortcuts are grounded in the fundamentals of

decision analysis, which applies mathematical principles to the underlying economics of



In this course, we present a philosophy for framing, analyzing and proactively managing

decisions involving uncertainty, whether the uncertainty results from general conditions

or the actions of competitors.  The course will focus on making the uncertainty managers’

face explicit so that it can be objectively analyzed.  


One way to proactively manage risk is to reduce the inherent uncertainty one faces, for

example through better forecasting.  Tools and techniques to support this objective

include risk profiles, expected value, simulation, sensitivity analysis, discounted cash

flows, analytical probability distributions, data analysis, sampling theory, and regression. 


The course will also focus on proactively managing risk by recognizing and exploiting

opportunities to reduce exposure to uncertainty, for example through contingent

contracts.  Tools and techniques will include decision trees, value of information, value

of control, downstream decisions, real options, and game theory.


Professor P_rod’s twitter feed

Ok…so we don’t have a Professor named Professor P_rod in the GEMBA program…but we do have a professor named Peter Rodriguez (he teaches economics in the GEMBA program and btw is pretty cool…like all Darden professors).

If you’re not checking out his twitter feed then you’re missing out.
Also – I can’t find the exact link to it right now – but P_rod did post a link to Google’s Public Data beta program (not sure if that is the correct name of the website…but it’s something like that).  I had a lot of fun comparing different countries GDP rates (wow it’s amazing how much of the world’s GDP rate is made up of the United State’s GDP…no wonder people say that when the US sneezes…the world catches a cold)

It is a number geek’s mecca (as P_rod mentioned in his twitter post).  I recommend you A) follow this twitter feed (he updates it all the time) B) track down the URL to the Google Public Data source and then play with the data.