Thursday, January 30, 2014

Leadership Academy Pinnacle Paintball Lessons

By Brian Hathaway, Second-year MBA, Entrepreneurship 

“Visual on the hostage!” My heart was racing. After negotiating with ethically-challenged informants, overcoming the friendly-paintball-fire death of our squad leader (sorry about that, Karee), and saving the world from chemical weapons, our day at Pinnacle Leadership’s outdoor military-style training came down to one defining moment. Were enemies waiting to ambush us? How should we try to rescue the hostage? Why had I eaten so much pizza?

Unfortunately, we ended up riddling the (it turns out, unguarded) hostage with paintball bullets. Apparently firing indiscriminately in the general direction of the first noise you hear isn’t always the best idea – who knew? Hey, it was dark outside.

Even though that mission ended in failure, the day was a huge success. The Special Forces veterans of Pinnacle Leadership provided lessons on leadership, followership, trust within teams, dealing with ambiguity, and situational awareness, among many other topics. With internship season in full swing, I wanted to share some key takeaways with first-year students who may be looking for a leg up:

Learn from each experience. As individuals, as organizations, and even as a society, we tend to be inefficient at learning. The Pinnacle experience resonated because we were constantly learning from our experiences through After-Action Reviews (AARs). The day was filled with long stretches of planning followed by brief spurts of action. As a team, we grew more capable throughout the day because we relentlessly dissected those spurts, helping us to build on our successes and learn from our mistakes (and thus avoid repeating them).

Similarly, interview season quickly becomes a slog – days of waiting and preparation punctuated by brief, high-stakes interactions. It’s easy to adopt a stance of bracing oneself for the next evaluation, and/or praying for it to just be over already. My full-time job search turned around when I began to embrace each interview as a chance to learn and grow, rather than a definitive ruling on my worth as a candidate and human being. That switch was critical for my enjoyment of the process and, ultimately, my success in getting the job I wanted.

Don’t just practice your answers – practice dealing with stress, too. One of the most valuable aspects of the Pinnacle experience was being forced to act decisively under pressure. Even though we knew it was a simulation, we all felt very real pressure and anxiety throughout the mission.

It seems obvious in retrospect, but gaining experience under these conditions reminded me that interview “preparation” is about more than memorizing CAR statements. I had always been frustrated by the gap between my performance in mock interviews and real interviews. The issue wasn’t the amount of work I was putting in, but rather the type of work. After Pinnacle, I sought out situations that stretched me beyond my comfort zone – many of which had nothing to do with business or interviews. The gap between my mock performance and interview performance soon narrowed considerably.

Trust those around you. At Pinnacle, we quickly realized that no individual could accomplish a task alone. We had to trust each other – and earn each other’s trust – to get the job done as a team. Students often feel isolated during the interview process, as though they must shoulder the entire burden on their own. But the reality is that you’re surrounded by people who want to help – second-year students, #1 ranked Graduate Career Services staff, and dedicated faculty members. I’ll leave you with a simple challenge to cultivate the courage to engage these resources more consistently. As a starting point: my Outlook calendar is up to date!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mastering the On-Campus Interview

By Joe Boesen, First-year MBA, Marketing

Recruiter Question: Tell me about a time you had a vision for a project and what you did to motivate your team to achieve that vision?

MBA Answer: (Silence… then my mind races to find the best possible situation, remember all of the detailed actions and deliver the response and result… and do it with a SMILE and ENTHUSIASM!!!).

As a Kelley first-year MBA student in the midst of internship interview season, this is a familiar situation. First we practiced with our classmates, second-years and the excellent career coaches at Kelley’s Graduate Career Services, then we go in for the real deal with company recruiters, most of them senior managers and vice presidents at major firms.

Interview season is intense, hectic and emotionally draining. As you walk into each interview room, there are many big question marks and as you walk out, there are even bigger question marks (Will they call for the second round? What were they trying to get at with that one question?).

But I've also learned a good deal after my first major round of interviews and will share that below:
Career coach Paul Binder speaking with students
  1. The strong, positive Kelley Culture has thus far survived a big test. Most companies have a limited amount of spots. Some students get offers while their classmates do not. However, my classmates have been as supportive as ever. Whenever you see someone in business formal, Kelleys offer a “good luck, you’ll kill it!” comment with a reassuring pat on the back.
  2.  Even if you network with a company and really want to work there, if they don’t see you as a fit with their company and culture, you will not be given an interview or offer. It's not personal.
  3. Before interview season begins, practice, practice and practice those CARs (Context, Action, Result) responses to questions. Practice actually does help you get to perfection.
  4. Finally, once you are ready for the big interview, keep calm, smile and in the words of Core Economics Professor Phil Powell, “LOCK IT IN YA’LL.”
Wise second-years tell us that “no matter what, everything works out and people end up where they belong.” As first-years, we are still working to figure that out, but I have a hunch the second-years are right.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Glenn Close’s Bring Change 2 Mind Consulting Project

By Emily Josephson, Second-year MBA, Marketing

A couple of months ago, Glenn Close sat across from me in the Kelley School of Business’s Dean’s Office. Although she’s well known for her compelling acting and many accolades, we weren’t there to discuss her acting career. She looked around the table, and simply asked  - “has mental illness touched your life?”.

It was a unanimous yes from myself and my fellow Kelley MBA students and teammates, Kirsten Olson and Sarah Nagelvoort. The reality is mental illness is highly prevalent, although it is a subject that is taboo, hidden, and even shameful to acknowledge, as there a related stigma surrounding it in our culture. In that honest and important moment, the three of us took on the opportunity, and even the responsibility, to engage with Glenn Close and her nonprofit, Bring Change 2 Mind. The mission: fight the stigma of mental illness. The deliverables: develop and recommend optimizations for the organization’s social media strategy and donor communications strategy. The tools: our Kelley MBA education, professors, marketing expertise, nonprofit expertise, project management expertise, and drive.

Marketing experience and a strong business acumen were important skills I brought to the social media aspect of the project, however it was the drive that was the most important ingredient.  As a member of the Kelley Consumer Marketing Academy, a former advertising agency executive, and future brand manager, I am passionate about building brands and have done so for 6+ years. I am perhaps most passionate, however, when I have the opportunity to use my skills to “do good”, and that is why I decided to participate in this consulting project to help Bring Change 2 Mind message and live its mission to fight the sigma of mental illness and make positive change through the power of social media.

While this experience did help me learn more about social media, teamwork, working with a nonprofit, and the ever-changing Facebook and Twitter analytics, the most important lesson was a bit more personal. Giving has always played a role in my life, and earning my MBA has empowered me with another way to give - by bringing my expertise to nonprofit organizations I believe in to make a difference.

Through this project, we were able to do just that by delivering powerful insights and recommendations to strengthen the reach and impact of Bring Change 2 Mind’s mission to fight the stigma of mental illness. I feel it is my personal responsibility to leverage my skills and expertise to create positive change in the world, and I am thankful Kelley shares these same values to make opportunities like these possible.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Winning Formula for GE's ECLP Midwest Case Competition

From left to right in black suits: Julia Wilcox, Lucky Agarwal, Brian Thacker, Rajarsi Mitra
After bringing home the first place trophy for the third year in a row, the GE ECLP Midwest Case Competition team reflects back on how they were able to prevail under the pressure of living up to everyone's expectations. 

Brian:  When we asked one of the judges for feedback following the announcement of our victory, he told us that even though our team didn't have the most creative proposal, he and the other judges were so impressed by the way we worked together as a team in articulating and presenting our idea that we clearly rose to the top.

Our team extended beyond the four immediate members that presented in South Bend. We received invaluable input from Adam Elkington and Britta Mueller, our 2nd-year advisers, and Matt Semadeni, our faculty adviser. Without their guidance our go-to-market strategy for GE’s Predictivity® line of integrated hardware and software solutions within the power management sector would not have come close to making the impact that it did on judges, all of whom were senior-level managers at GE. 

What I’ll remember most about this experience is the commitment that each member of our extended team demonstrated toward the success of this project and the way that our preparedness clearly came through to the judges during our presentation.  It was a perfect example of the Kelley Culture in action.  Each of us was extremely committed and it was very rewarding have those sacrifices acknowledged both by our peers and by the judges in South Bend.

Rajarsi: When our team was formed, it was selected by Kelleys at GE. Never having worked together before, we found that each one of us had diverse work experience and personalities. To top it all off we had to prepare this case during our final exams week. From the onset this looked like a roller coaster ride fraught with team members getting on each other’s nerves. But this is where Kelley Collaboration kicked in; each of us understood our teammates’ unique strengths and respected their opinions. The collaboration in this team wasn't just about being helpful and respectful to each other; it was about having our eyes on the prize. We were all brutally honest about each other’s ideas – especially as my team had to keep my increasingly crazy ideas grounded in reality!

I believe this is what sets Kelley’s Collaborative culture apart – it’s about helping each other but it’s also a mix of honesty, aggressiveness and purpose with it, often pushing each other out of comfort zones to achieve collective goals.

Julia: I was at first hesitant to apply for the GE Case Competition. As a former classical musician and small business owner, I was apprehensive about plunging so far outside my comfort zone to tackle a case about the Industrial Internet, a subject I knew little about. With the encouragement from Graduate Career Services and the 2nd-year GE intern from the previous summer, I finally decided to take the plunge and apply. When I heard that I had made the team, I was struck with both excitement and fear. I was excited to work with such a strong group while also fearful that I would not be able to contribute in a meaningful way.

Over the course of the two weeks working with Brian, Lucky, and Raj, I learned a valuable lesson about teamwork that I will carry with me throughout my professional career: when tackling complex and challenging problems, surround yourself with people who have very different skill-sets that you do. I’m a creative-minded, big picture thinker driven by brainstorming ideas and exploring new possibilities. To ground myself and force myself to think more tactically, I try to surround myself with people who can bring me down to earth - people who can provide balance to my broad strokes thought process. I could not have asked for a better team for this case competition. There was one thing for sure – our team was better together than we were apart. Brian brought a vision for the overarching themes of our recommendation and an eloquently spontaneous presentation style that was recognized by the judges. Raj was the deep-dive analyst. His ability to digest information quickly and succinctly is something I truly admired throughout working with him, and it proved essential in the Q&A at the end of our presentation. Lucky’s knowledge of technology and how it could be integrated into our recommendation gave us an edge and perspective on the case that we wouldn't have had otherwise. And looking back, I hope that in the eyes of my teammates, my contribution was as equally valuable as I felt their contributions were. 

Lucky: Raj and Brian alluded to how collaboration and
teamwork played an important part in our success. Looking back at GE case comp, there are few things that stands out for me. I would say it was the self-belief that made us confident about our strategy. This self-belief was an outcome of strong foundation laid by the Kelley Core curriculum that provides you with right tools and frameworks to solve any complex problem. The way the Core transforms you is phenomenal. I am sure everyone would attest to that. The other thing which played an important role was the BMA (Business Marketing Academy). The amount of effort Fred and Eric put in our professional development is noteworthy. Getting to talk to the GE Alums for one of the Academy Fridays before the case comp was a blessing in disguise. We got to learn so much about GE internal operations that it helped us in shaping our go to market and pricing strategy. In all participating in GE case was a lifetime experience and making it 3-Peat was icing on the cake. Devil Ducks Rocks!!