Monday, March 23, 2015

In the Consulting Academy, working with clients builds invaluable experience

By Ellen Gartner-Phillips, MBA ‘15

Last year I was assigned to a project engagement with a local veterinary hospital. We spent the Academy Week mapping out the engagement: Meeting and building a relationship with our client, scoping the work we would be doing, laying out a project plan and timeline, and finally presenting the week’s work to the client.  It was a long process, but really set us up for success moving forward after spring break.

As a second-year student, I have the privilege of working as a Subject Matter Expert for this year’s Academy. While the first-years I am working with didn’t require a lot of guidance through their Academy Week process, it was pretty awesome to reflect back and realize how much I have learned in the short year and a half that I have been here at Kelley and with my internship at Deloitte.

The Academy Project does an excellent job of preparing students for the summer internship. For me specifically, I gained invaluable experience in the nuances of client interaction and storytelling.

Client Interaction

While my previous work involved a lot of client service, I was not familiar with formal project management and scoping.  Our client initially came to us with a list of project ideas, and we learned quickly that many of those project requests were symptoms for a more central need that should be approached first.

Figuring out how to best communicate our process, rationale, and defined scope to our client and receiving buy-in for our approach was an important takeaway for me.  Having had the client interactions we did and working with a great team, I felt much more confident going into my work last summer.

Telling a Story with Data

While the recommendations we made were supported with data supplied by our client, it was a great learning experience having to figure out how to support some of our more qualitative recommendations.

Throughout the process we received feedback from our advisors. “That sounds promising, but how do we know that’s going to work?” Having to really dig for support led us to make more refined recommendations that were in the end much more impactful for our client. There are many ways to look at data, and it is in the story that you can make an impactful and implementable solution.

I was impressed with my first-year team’s organization, thoroughness, and professionalism. I am excited to see what they will be able to deliver to their client through the course of the project.

Best of luck to this year’s Consulting Academy!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Tackling real business challenges in the Consumer Marketing Academy

By Lyndsay Hoban, MBA'15
Each spring semester, first-year Consumer Marketing Academy students are given the opportunity to replicate the summer internship experience through an 8-week project that tackles real business challenges from some of the country’s top brands.

As a second-year in the program, I was given the opportunity to serve in an advisory role to one of the project teams, just as junior managers will do over the summer at each student’s respective internship. After completing my own summer internship with Dr Pepper Snapple Group and experiencing both sides of the CMA project, I’ve been able to better reflect on just a few of the characteristics that make the opportunity so valuable:

The emphasis on consistent reflection

It’s easy to draw logical conclusions and recommendations from research, only to realize later that the data was not as impactful as it may have initially appeared. Throughout the internship process, it is crucial to continually review the findings and ask myself, So what? Where are the true impacts on firm performance or consumer behavior? What inputs are making the biggest difference? By routinely meeting with junior and senior managers played by second-years and faculty members, CMA teams learn the importance of regular gut checks.

The importance of a logical and persuasive narrative

The final project is not just a collection of PowerPoint slides, but a convincing story. My goal for the end of the summer was to have the CMO leave the presentation going, “Why aren’t we doing that already?”

The Who-What-How framework established by the CMA project allows students to develop a persuasive argument by fully understanding the mindset and demographic of the target consumer, the functional or emotional benefit the product or service is offering that consumer, the tactics to employ to communicate to those consumers, and the ultimate size of the prize from winning that consumer. By breaking each piece down into smaller assignments and memos, students learn to give each component the attention it needs.

The ability to hit the ground running

The semester flies by, as will an actual summer internship. One of the things stressed during the CMA project is the importance of incremental goals and benchmarks, as well as the importance of gaining stakeholder feedback through the process.

One of the most valuable takeaways from my experience as a first-year was the plan I created for myself to use my first week on the job. At which point will your scope of recommendations start to narrow? During what week will you begin to build the final deck? When should senior managers see my research? If given only 10-12 weeks to make a positive impression, you need to use that time wisely.

Although second-year advisors are instructed to provide only limited coaching and allow the teams to reach their own conclusions, there is one point I have to stress–take this thing seriously. These projects are like elaborate dry runs and are something other MBA programs do not have; something that gives Kelley students an incredible advantage over the summer.

Good luck teams, make us proud!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Latin conference added valuable diversity to our Kelley experience

By Luis D. Contreras, MBA'15 and IGOE Global Fellow

Kelley’s Institute for Global Organizational Effectiveness (IGOE) and the Latin MBA Association recently organized the fourth annual Latin Week, or Semana Latina. “Building Bridges” was the event’s theme, with a great selection of speakers that gave us different perspectives on how to do business in Latin America and how to understand the challenges of launching entrepreneurial ventures in the region.

Doing business in Latin America entails complexity, from understanding different macroeconomic and international finance situations within the region, as Associate Professor Juan Carlos Hatchondo illustrated, to comprehending the challenges of dealing with counterfeit products and how that affects a company’s strategies, as Augusto Bedoya, MBA ’00, Director of Emerging Markets at Oakley, explained to us.

Augusto also shared with us that, even as a Peruvian, doing business in Brazil represents many more complex challenges than just learning a new language (Portuguese). The cultural differences are very significant, particularly in the way Brazilians do business. In a very engaging talk, he shared from his experience how important it is to understand these differences to really be able to do business and achieve project goals successfully.

While doing business in Latin America brings complexity, it also means opportunity, particularly when venturing as an entrepreneur.

We learned that TaxiTico, an app developed by Jose Pablo Vega, MBA’12 and former IGOE Global Fellow, targeted the Costa Rican market, filling the need for a geolocation taxi service (think Uber in the United States). In a place where landmarks are used in lieu of addresses and “150 meters northwest of McDonald’s” can be the only directions you’ll have, a geolocation taxi service was not only convenient, but necessary. Jose Pablo—aka “JP” for the Kelley family—talked about his journey as a young entrepreneur and how he made an idea come true by addressing a latent opportunity in the Latin American market.

Jesus Ponce de Leon, MBA/PhD’87, CEO and owner of JPdeL Associates and China 4b2b, gave an amazing talk around entrepreneurship, technology, and how he keeps finding untapped opportunities in Latin America, the US, and China. He showed us a prototype of a solar-powered air cooler that makes air conditioning possible for low-income families in countries like Mexico, where residential electricity costs are similar to the US, but with a minimum wage that is almost 12 times lower.

Phillippe Bougard, MBA‘91, who works as Eli Lilly’s Regional Commercialization Director for Diabetes in Emerging Markets, also highlighted the Latin American markets’ challenges and the inherent need to adapt US-based strategies to regional strategies, dealing with different regulatory environments and even marketing communication rules in all these countries.

It was interesting to see how all the speakers agreed not only that to do business in Latin America it is important to understand local idiosyncrasies and economic challenges, but also that by doing this, huge opportunities can be found and developed.

Thanks again to the Latin MBAA and Institute for Global Organizational Effectiveness for supporting these types of events that allow us to enrich our Kelley experience in so many different ways.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lessons from Sue Spence, VP of Sourcing at Fed-Ex

Reggie Butler
Sue Spence, Vice President of Sourcing at Fed-Ex, left me with a few takeaways after her presentation to the Kelley MBA Supply Chain Academy:

Analytics aren’t everything when making sourcing decisions as a global supply chain leader.

Fed-Ex believes global companies have a responsibility to help the communities in which they operate. This can be achieved in many ways, such as hiring local companies instead of national corporations for janitorial services. It is also important to give minority companies a chance. For example, Fed-Ex contracted a veteran owned cleaning company to maintain their offices and stores in one of its core cities instead of going with the cheapest bid for the job.

Don’t just make changes for the sake of making changes.  

Many managers transition into companies and make quick changes to prove they’re doing something. Spence came in with a strategy. She used analytics to figure out how to make changes that would have a lasting impact on the company’s bottom line, such as streamlining the way Fed-Ex pays vendors, making it easier to track company spends. She’s also making sure that if Fed-Ex has a contract with suppliers, employees use those suppliers because of the negotiated rates.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Comparison of Campuses

By Dan Dillard
1st-year Kelley MBA

It may have been the Kelley-branded umbrella that sealed the deal. It was a rainy day, my first day visiting the Kelley School of Business, and the lady at the front desk was kind enough to give me the umbrella as a parting present.

No, that feels a little silly saying my MBA fate came down to something as trivial as an umbrella.

Maybe it was those lengthy phone calls with a couple of first-year students, a faculty member, even a Kelley alum.

Actually, you know what it was? It was Experience Weekend – getting the chance to taste what life could be like as a Kelley MBA student.

The reality is, it wasn’t any one of those things. It was all of them–a thousand little signs that made it crystal clear where I needed to be. And then, there may have been a thousand signs at another premier business school (which shall remain nameless), that made it equally clear where I should not be.

After months of deliberation I had the benefit of visiting each of my top two schools within 24 hours of one another.  Here’s an honest comparison of the visits.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

5 things I've learned about leadership and community as a Kelley MBA

1st-year MBA Kyle DeLapp walked in the St. Jude Children's Hospital Walk-A-Thon with corporate leaders and a St. Jude patient and his family. From Left to Right: Ron Allen, former Chairman and CEO of Delta Airlines; Mike Davis, Mayor of Dunwoody, Georgia; Kyle DeLapp; and Patrick Ungashick, CEO of White Horse Advisors.

By Kyle DeLapp
1st-year Kelley MBA

Recently, I was invited by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to participate in the Local Heroes Program, part of their annual Walk-A-Thon in Atlanta, because of a water rescue I was involved in several years ago in the Gulf of Mexico.

I was paired with a former CEO of Delta Airlines, the CEO of White Horse Advisors, and the Mayor of Dunwoody, Georgia. These people are titans of their own industries, and I was amazed at how humble and caring they were for the families of St. Jude patients. In them, I saw leaders who respected and valued community.

Over the break, I kept thinking about this event and how important community and leadership were to me as an MBA. The first semester at Kelley is packed with classes, projects, and recruitment events. Sometimes it can be difficult to find time to reflect and fully appreciate the insights and progress we have made since the onset of the program.

Here are some things I've taken away in just four months at Kelley:

1. Helping others is a two-way street 

I am always amazed at how open and willing Kelleys are to lay down whatever they are doing to help each other. Whether it is to cook a group of friends a much needed hot meal, volunteer to hold a review session for classmates who feel lost, or be there through each other’s rainy days and achievements, the act of being with that person or group helps all of us grow into better, stronger leaders.

2. Community builds perspective 

One of the Kelley School’s major strengths is its people. Being in a top-ranked program, we are fortunate to work with world-class faculty and staff, but also to learn with and from the best and brightest students from around the world. Business is global. It transcends cultural, social, and economic boundaries. By establishing diversity and culture, Kelley MBAs consistently go into the workforce more cognizant of their environments.

3. Influence is a leader’s most powerful tool 

Leadership is not just about being a good manager. Leadership influences every interaction, every presentation, and every act in our everyday lives. During the Leadership Academy call out, Eric Johnson, the head of Graduate Career Services, told us that the two most important characteristics of a great leader are the ability to coach others for self-improvement and to set a clear and motivating vision for a team or an organization. A successful leader can, and should, influence the organization both in and out of the boardroom.

4. Leaders can be found at every function and level of an organization

We are taught that the best leaders use a mixture of bottom-up and top-down management to keep their organizations cutting edge and always improving. At Kelley, I have met lawyers, consultants, athletes, entrepreneurs, military veterans, scientists, and just about every other type of professional I can name. What has been most inspiring is learning about how each person has overcome challenges in life and how they have combined that experience with the skills they've learned here.

5. Networking is the key to strong, trusting relationships

Getting a job in today’s world is an art. Technology has made applying for positions easier than ever. But the influx of applicants has put a major drain on the system and has led companies to lean heavily on applicant tracking systems where historically HR personnel ruled the roost. Establishing a healthy network of peers and professionals is the best way to establish trust and bypass these algorithms. And after the job hunting is over, that trust leads to more effective and efficient teams.

Aristotle once said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." Every day, I see my peers practicing excellence on a grand scale. It stems primarily from the tight-knit community that we continue to build and our humility to learn and grow as individuals.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What inspired my transition from corporate work to Full-Time MBA student

Jonlee Andrews, Camille Shawley and Ray Luther
at the Class of 2016 CMA Induction ceremony
By Camille Shawley, MBA'16

While navigating my career from real estate consulting to corporate retail, I realized I wanted to go beyond measuring the needle to moving the needle.  I had a passion for marketing and understanding why consumers do the things they do. 

But I was surrounded by PhD mathematicians, as well as MBAs, PMPs, CFAs—you name it, any credential you can add to a person’s name—and although I had a strong work background and education, I was constantly demanding myself to be as innovative as possible to be viewed as a trusted expert in anything I spoke about.

I knew an MBA would not only add to and sharpen my business acumen; it would allow me to feel even more deserving of a seat at the table.

If you are considering a career and lifestyle change with a full time MBA, I’d encourage you to ask yourself a series of questions to see how an MBA will aid in a transition. This was an exercise a mentor had me complete. With each question, ask if an MBA would be important in each situation:

  1. You won the lottery. What will do you with your time? How will you remain passionate, excited and curious?
  2. You did not win the lottery and you are ready for a new challenge. Can you pursue it at your current employer?
  3. You did not win the lottery and you are ready for a new challenge. Can you pursue it at a new employer?

What gave me the final push to transition from corporate work to a full-time MBA program were a series of uncomfortable moments at work. Those moments where I knew I could create change and add value, although my thoughts and ideas typically met doom. Facing high turnover within the firm, ideas often were repeated and hit roadblocks when, instead, there needed to be innovation and collaboration.

I have always been inclined to grow and learn and had always wanted to pursue a second degree.  I knew I would end up in school again—I was just waiting for a passion that I could leverage to work towards a new career goal.Fast forward one year from applying to Kelley, I am in the consumer marketing academy, CMA, and am closer to my career goal of marketing strategy and building lasting emotional connections between customers and brands.  The CMA allows me to grow my professional network with alumni in the industries and roles I am interested in.  The academy provides exposure to real business to consumer marketing successes and failures by way of discussion and case studies with working professionals (both those who visit Kelley and during Academy week when we tour corporate headquarters).  While the process to apply to an MBA program took a few years after undergrad, I am confident I am exactly where I need to be here at Kelley.