Dear friends, the summer is here. All of the ambassadors are out for interns; we would be back in October, hopefully we can bring you some fresh stories in our intern; anyway, you still can leave you comments or suggestions here. Hope to see you again in the fall. Enjoy a nice summer! UC Davis–MBA
DISCLAIMER: I wrote this post after finishing my first year in the MBA program, and my last job was in the military. It’s going to be heavy on the freedom fries and light on the political commentary, so buckle up tight!
(Unless that phrase offends you, in which case I totally agree that seatbelts are an egregious affront to the Third Amendment and ghostriding the whip should be taught in public schools.)
So a little backstory… I was in the Army for five years before school. Ask any of my classmates and they’d tell you, “He was in the Army for five years before school.”
I’m not bringing up my military service to make myself look good. Yes, I used to holler the preamble to the Constitution while fearlessly leaping from airplanes. Yes, I rode the nose of a space shuttle and launched voter registration pamphlets with pinpoint accuracy. No, I never knock at doors… because freedom rings.
I humbly mention my background because the military is a place where personal integrity and initiative are highly valued. And the GSM produces hard-charging professionals ready to tackle real-world problems as a team, something that I am very grateful to be a part of.
This past quarter my classmates Vienna, David Z.,Erik and I teamed up in one of the most intense courses the GSM has to offer. Together, we took on MGT 285: Time Series Analysis and Forecasting… also known as “Stats III: Return to Camp Crystal Lake.” That meant late nights, grey hairs, and a killer grasp of analytical techniques that have real-world applications.
Without a doubt, this class required a huge personal investment. But sometimes you have to pay an emotional price to emerge victorious on the other side. Like the old Army saying goes, you can’t make a cheese omelet MRE without throwing away the cheese omelet.
Anyone in Stats III was put through the wringer – losing sleep, wrestling with Minitab and Excel, constantly rewriting reports, Wikipedia’ing “R-squared” for some dim glimmer of hope, and becoming very familiar with working under extreme frustration.
But as a team, we got through it. We counted on each other to back each other up and make progress on the reports, and to meet each other’s deadlines. We learned exactly how to integrate each of our individual strengths for maximum efficiency. We communicated quickly and clearly, and challenged each other to build solid conclusions from our data. As my classmate Shareghe aptly put it, our “emotional stamina” was enhanced to the fullest.
And our sense of cooperation didn’t stop at the team. There were plenty of late nights that saw different class members stick their heads in the doorway of a neighboring study room to ask for advice on regression methods. We didn’t worry about competing for grades, since the intense nature of the class demanded that we all count on each other as a cohesive unit.
To me, that experience embodied a quality that so many organizations strive to achieve. Our success as a class lay not in our individual grades, but because we all truly wanted each other to accomplish our goals. No matter how busy we were, we always wanted to help each other understand and succeed in our collective mission.
And that makes the bald eagle of my heart soar with pride.
This week wraps up my first year of business school. As my classmates and I have been getting ready to disperse for summer internships, I’ve been reflecting on how supportive we have all been for each other.
When I entered business school, I expected to come across at least a few sharp-elbowed, hyper-competitive, grade-grubbing classmates. You know, the kind that only care about their own progress and self-image. With such a small class size, it would be easy to have a culture of over-achievers who are stepping over each other, hoarding contacts and information to snap up the best internships for themselves. Much to my relief, this hasn’t been the case at all!
In fact, our tight knit community as a small class size was one of the main reasons I chose to attend UC Davis, and this aspect of the GSM has proven itself priceless day after day. Particularly in our hunt for summer internships, I have had so much support from classmates. The generosity and willingness to help each other succeed really is something to be proud of. My friends at school have been there for me every step of the way – sharing a contact here, a recommendation there, a link to a job posting, and even a shoulder to cry on.
I think at the end of the day, we all know that any one person’s success is all of our success. It behooves us to collaborate, to build and strengthen bonds, and to support each other. This is something I’ll be feeling thankful for and truly missing all summer long.
See you in the Fall!
Individual and Group dynamics. Not only is it a core class that first years will take in Spring quarter but it’s also something GSMers must consider in their day to day lives as future leaders. Having led an Admit Day and coordinated a speaking event with the VP of global marketing for The North Face I’ve had my opportunities for leading groups this year. Most students will come into the program with some level of leadership and will certainly lead groups while attending the GSM but it’s insightful knowing how exactly your actions as a leader motivate a team.
Most students blog about their successes but I’m going to share with you an experience about my failure as a leader. Prior to business school whenever I had the opportunity to lead I felt as though I had to have everything under my control, that the successes and failures of the group were solely my responsibility. How naïve. First of all, it was naïve to believe I could control for all factors. Second of all, I was naïve in thinking that a team’s success was based on a single person. The word “team” should have been the first indicator.
When I was a lead for planning a speaker event this year I went into my default style of leadership and required everyone on the team to follow my strict orders. As I learned in group dynamics class, I was being a “directive” leader. I hounded the group, wanting to know the breakdown of exactly what they were planning and what they had already accomplished. Timelines were required for even the most minuscule of tasks. What I should have done was “empower” everyone on the project. I had completely neglected the fact that the task force was composed of the most capable people at the GSM. They were All-Stars at their respective companies and I was treating them like individuals who have never had a project assigned to them. In a way I was disrespecting their competencies; I was indicating that I didn’t trust them to handle simple tasks. In that way, I failed as a leader.
I won’t be making that mistake again.
Luckily, these are fixable attributes and I make it my mission to become a stronger and more effective leader for future projects.
Getting involved with Zasaka this year was a true highlight of my entire Graduate School of Management experience – and it proved that UC Davis was totally the right school for me.
One of the main reasons I decided to get my MBA at the GSM was the sustainability and entrepreneurial culture that seemed to be widespread across campus.
The Big Bang! Business Competition is just one of the many programs here at UCD that helps keep that culture alive and well. The competition is run by the amazing UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They provide opportunities year round to work on new business ideas and meet great people (like the Zasaka team: Carl, Sunday, Rashmi, and Julia!).
I first got excited about Big Bang! when planning my move from Boston to California in 2012. That year’s winner was an improved solar power technology and the People’s Choice Award winner was a technology for asphalt roads that captured energy from the sun and the pressure of passing vehicles. How cool!
Then in my first year at the GSM, I took Marc Lowe’s New Business Ventures, where student take business ideas from startup to VC funding to 10x. I worked on a team that developed a news platform for college-aged millennials. We took it all the way to the Big Bang! Semifinals! The judges asked seriously hard questions about finances, differentiation, and operations that kept us learning more at every step in the competition. I found out through the process that I had built some great skills by that point in my MBA! It made me eager to stay involved with entrepreneurship on campus and further tailor it to my interests.
This January I first met the incredible Zasaka team through the course, D-Lab, taught by Kurt Kornbluth in the UCD Program for International Energy Technologies. The class was developed by the UCD Energy Efficiency Center (EEC) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). What an incredible 10 weeks! We broke into seven teams that used small business ideas with innovative design and technologies to address real problems in developing countries with international partner communities. The projects from our class and a few past years are here: http://piet.ucdavis.edu/?page_id=12
At this point I knew absolutely nothing about post-harvest grain storage and crop yields in Zambia. Nothing! Through weeks of research and regular conversations with the Zasaka founders, our team helped develop a financial model, stakeholder analysis, and go-to-market recommendations. We built an understanding of the governmental climate of Zambia, lives of smallholder farmers, and crop trends.
I had grown to love this little company.
So, I took the Zasaka team up on their offer to join their Big Bang! group. Countless financial models, value chain descriptions, crop cycle explanations, and amazing team conversations later, Zasaka was pitched to the Big Bang! judges.
Five pitches, 10 judges, and 150 audience members later, we were honored to win both the Ag and Food Innovation and People’s Choice awards!
The competition and team Zasaka confirmed some of the main lessons I learned at the GSM. Seek out difficult feedback and constantly iterate. Get the right people in the room. And keep pushing yourself to take on challenges inside and outside of the classroom.
Thanks to so many sustainability and entrepreneurial leaders, we have a culture that can’t be beat here at UC Davis. I’m excited to stay involved with Zasaka in the years to come and wish all future Big Bang! competitors the very best of luck!
The coolest thing I’ve noticed about being an MBA student is how much it shifts your thinking into a business mindset. I read the news, watch movies, and overhear conversations these days and I can’t help but think of the concepts we’ve been learning in our classes. When we take the time to stop and think about it, it’s incredible how much knowledge we’ve been able to absorb in such a short period of time.
For example, a recent superhero movie had a plot device of big data being collected from social media that can “predict the future of every American.” I immediately thought of our Time Series Analysis class and joked that I’d like to have seen their p-values! Of course my date thought I was a giant nerd, but that should have been obvious already since I took her to a movie about men in tights saving the world.
But the way of looking at things at the GSM is also really useful in a lot of ways outside of the classroom. I used some of the negotiation tactics from our Individual and Group Dynamics class to help me get a sweet deal on a new phone. I talked with a friend of mine who was stressed out at work on how he could better organize his employees using our Managing for Operational Excellence theories. And a family member looking at starting her own business got some free knowledge courtesy of what I learned in Corporate Finance. All of these conversations went into business mode with little effort – it was just the right way to look at things.
Every now and then I’ll have a nonsensical dream where I’m trying to solve for the dividend growth rate on a basket of French fries, but besides that it’s awesome to be able to whip out b-school ideas in everyday life. Our brains are being trained to take apart problems and look at them from a business perspective, even when we don’t realize it. Even when we struggle with a class concept, or miss a point on a test, or feel like we’re in over our heads, we’re still getting stronger. The best part is, we didn’t have to get bitten by anything radioactive to become so amazing!
I recently sat down with Earl Raeshler to get some practical advice for prospective students who have made it to the next phase of the admissions process. Earl is the Assistant Director of Admissions for the GSM’s Daytime program, so this advice is coming straight from the source! He’s shared some sound advice on how to prepare for your big interview at the GSM, which I have summarized for you here.
Before I dive in to specifics about wardrobe, however, I thought I’d share an extremely important piece of insight I got from Earl – if you take anything away from this blog post, it should be this: the admissions team is looking first and foremost for candidates who can tell their story in an engaging and authentic manner. Ultimately, Earl and his team are looking at the person you will become two years down the road if you are accepted. They are evaluating you today, but also what you will look like to job recruiters when you graduate. Savvy candidates will keep this in mind every step of the way!
And now, on to the fashion! Here are some themes that came up in our conversation.
Dress to impress
While it might sound old-fashioned, this is your chance to impress the admissions team, so you want to dress appropriately for the occasion. Of course, the tricky part of this is determining what is “appropriate.” Earl says to always err towards business formal if you’re not sure. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Here are some hard and fast rules to follow:
- For women
o Women have a bit more freedom
o Pants and skirt suits are always appropriate
o Professional looking dresses are okay too, but keep it simple
o The blazer is optional, a nice cardigan will also do
- For men
o Wear a classic dark suit, white shirt and a subtle tie
o No matter what you wear, the blazer is not optional
Never, ever, ever…
Here are some things to avoid at all costs. Earl says to let your words speak for your personality in the interview. For example, if you’re really passionate about surfing, definitely feel free to bring it up in the conversation. Just don’t “wear” this aspect of your personality or you’ll risk losing points. Here are some specific things to avoid:
- Don’t be flashy (gentlemen, no bright or goofy shirts or ties; ladies, avoid funky nail art)
- Don’t wear dirty shoes—they don’t have to be brand new, but they should look clean
- Ladies, no tight forming stretch pants! Really!
- Don’t look sloppy—shirts tucked in, hair brushed
- Sport a well-tied tie
- Present the best version of yourself
- Focus on your story and how you can contribute to GSM community
At your own peril…
- Open toed shoes are controversial for women because some people think it’s unprofessional. Better to play it safe.
- Some people have pulled off wearing jeans, but Earl doesn’t recommend it. It can work but it’s a gamble!!
Some of you might be wondering, “Okay, but how much does my physical appearance really play into the admissions process?” Well, Earl admits that from an admissions standpoint it’s not really a factor unless you really show no effort. You can absolutely overcome not having fancy clothes, but you can’t overcome a bad personality.
Good luck to everyone applying!
Erik is a first year MBA student, focusing on Marketing and Business Analytics. He spent the past five years working at Walgreens as an assistant manager where he developed an interest in non-profit leadership while leading teams to raise funds for Children’s Hospital of Central California. As the president of Challenge for Charity at UC Davis, he enjoys volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, giving back to the community while also being active and outdoors.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a respite to Yosemite National Park with a few of my classmates for a day hike. We started our outing at 4 in the morning; a journey in the dark. Our goal was the top of Nevada Fall, a seven mile hike with some intense sections of elevation gain. Getting there and back again turned into an all-day affair. We returned to Sacramento ragged, worn, and exhausted. We wore the dirt and sweat from the trail, but also smiles. It was not until sometime later, reflecting upon our journey, when it occurred to me that the hike that day was analogous to the first year of my MBA experience at UC Davis.
It takes preparation and work just to get to the start of your journey. Then the real work begins. My first year as an MBA student has been an uphill struggle where the path has not always been clear. But I never had to struggle alone. The new friends I have made at the GSM have stuck together, supported each other, and taken turns leading the way to ensure we accomplish our goals. The intense focus needed to keep moving upward while maintaining one’s breath is punctuated by the type of engaging conversation that shape the foundation of life-long relationships.
So if you are considering taking on a challenging journey, be it B-school or a hike, remind yourself of the following. You will be challenged and you will be tired. There will be times when your physical, mental and emotional limits are tested. But there will also be amazing food, and drinks, and friends. And at every landmark not only can you look back and see just how far you have come, but you can also look ahead to the next challenge, knowing that every bit of the struggle will be worth it. Finally, remind yourself to take a few pictures along the way, because it really is a beautiful time in your life.
April 27th marked the end of the 50th International Collegiate Business Strategy Competition (ICBSC), and five solid months of hard work running EyeCandy, for first-years Saumya, David, Roman, Sasi, and me, plus one of UC Davis’s finest professors and our advisor, Hemant Bhargava.
We formed our team back in December. While everyone else was skiing, we were reading the 200+ page simulation manual, and designing our product. At the end of January, the competition started.
Every quarter in the simulation, we had to make a series of decisions in response to the market, including pricing, advertising, sales force compensation, R&D, training, plant expansions, stock, CDs, corporate bonds, and stock sales. The decisions started at one a week, but accelerated to two a week the second and third year. In between years, we wrote a full-length strategic business plan and annual report.
Road trip! Five people, one car. After three years running EyeCandy, (3+ months of decisions and reports) we headed down to Anaheim, California for the intensive phase of the competition. After seven hours of driving, we were next to Disneyland, but we did not see much of the scenery.
We spent almost the entire competition holed up in our hotel rooms analyzing data, making decisions, preparing presentations, and writing reports. We had to submit a decision set every two hours while preparing a presentation to EyeCandy’s Board of Directors (our judges). It forced us to stop heavily relying on data, and start relying on our instincts.
On the final night of the competition, everyone sat down together for a wonderful dinner and awards ceremony.
We may not have won the competition, but we were definitely the biggest winners overall because the ICBSC allowed us to apply and integrate our classroom lessons while thinking critically about multiple, on-going aspects of business over an extended length of time. We are absolutely ecstatic that we had the opportunity to represent UC Davis and the GSM at this competition, and we look forward to advising next year’s ICBSC team.
Left to right: EyeCandy’s COO Roman Terentiev, CSO Sarah Guthrie, CEO Saumya Garg, CFO David Werner-Sexton, and CMO Sasikanth Vadlamudi
The end of the MBA program can be bittersweet. There are times where moments with classmates are so meaningful and fun that is it hard and sad to imagine we will all be moving on to the next chapter of our lives in a couple of short months. However, there are also moments of pride and accomplishment that are extremely happy, and today was one of those moments.
Each year, the GSM hosts a student awards ceremony for its top academic achievers and student leaders. The top 20% of students in each of the MBA programs and the Master of Professional Accountancy program get inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, the worldwide honors society for business students. Additionally, there are nine student fellowships given to 11 students across all of the MBA programs, and four Alumni Association awards given across all programs.
As you know from this blog, many of us wear several hats at the GSM. From family commitments, to school commitments, to extracurricular activities outside of school activities, life can get downright hectic. Sometimes, simply staying on top of things is challenging, so achieving one of these awards involves sacrifice and commitment.
As I was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma today, along with nine of my colleagues from the full-time program, I certainly reflected on my accomplishments, but I also reflected on the people who made them possible. I thought about all of the times family members worked around my busy schedule for dinners and visits. I thought about my husband who always became busier right along with me as finals approached, taking on more than his fair share of errands and chores so that I could finish projects, study, and squeeze in some sleep. Then I thought about my colleagues at school. By nature, business school is a competitive environment, but I can’t think of anyone in my class who walked across that stage today who hasn’t lent a helping hand to classmates. I believe this collaborative and inclusive community is special and rare and something that makes the GSM stand out from any other business school program. In fact, one my previous blog entries centered around this theme. (http://ucdavismba.org/2014/01/31/our-gsm-village-by-vanessa-errecarte/).
Our next big celebration is graduation, and while we will undoubtedly be reflecting on our accomplishments at that milestone as well, we will again be thinking of all the people that made it all possible. After all, during the sad moments, where is it hard to imagine going our separate ways, it is not our accomplishments that are tugging on our heart strings—we get to take those with us. What really is tugging on our heart strings is the tight knit community that made all of these accomplishments possible. So, as we all go out into the world and forge our paths, remember to take that community with you too—keep in touch, come back to alumni events, and continue to foster what makes the GSM so special. And to all of the prospective students out there, remember to foster this community from the very beginning—two years pass by quicker than you can imagine!