Our International Political Economy class discussions have really heated up over the past few weeks. The topics are intentionally provocative and Jean-Pierre does a good job of mixing class time between his expert knowledge and our inter-student debate. As we have 44 countries represented in our class, it's like participating in a mini-UN. Before our eyes we see age-old conflicts unfold between individuals.

For example, between our one Israeli student and two Lebanese students we saw the Arab-Israeli conflict play out last week. Each student had "facts" supporting an assertion that the other side was to blame, each pointed out the death and destruction wrought by the other, and each refused to back down. It was exactly the same thing that happens between countries. Both sides know that the only way to resolve the conflict (the original source of which may be long forgotten) is to step back and offer peace/goodwill but instead they just escalate the rehetoric.

On the one hand, it is frustrating. We aren't here to argue about who is right and who is wrong; we are here to learn a better way. On the other hand, though, it is instructive to witness the individual interactions and learn from them about the inter-country/inter-ethnic-group interactions and reactions.

It is also interesting to see the nationalism and defensiveness come out during these discussions. For example, I asked a question today about China's investment policy in Africa. China (and Africa too) claims that it is a no-strings-attached policy. This is contrasted with the historical Western policy of lending money or making investments but requiring democratic, human rights, economic, and other reforms in return. According to our African students, Africans prefer China's approach.

My question was about whether Chinese investments were really better for Africans or, given the presentation we had just heard about Africa's history of corruption and leaders embezzling government funds, were they just bribes by a more palatable name. I.e. by not attaching any strings was China just giving corrupt leaders more leeway to take the money for themselves? It was an honest question asked to understand the situation better, not an attack on China. The first response I received, from the presentation group, was fair and rational. However, it was then followed by several responses defending China. At the root of most of these arguments was, "It's no worse than what the West has done in the past."

This is, of course, a classic "tu quoque" fallacy: "Something we are doing is OK because, hey, you're doing it too." The objective isn't to point fingers; it is to find a better solution! I ran into a similar situation when conversing with a Chinese classmate about China's massively increasing polution levels that are predicted to lead the world in just a few decades. The rebuttal was, "Yeah, but the US currently leads the world--why do you want to accuse us of wrong-doing?!" I wasn't accusing anyone of anything; I was pointing out a trend that, now that it had been identified, we have an opportunity to reverse before it is too late. Can we please stop dwelling in the past and start finding ways to make the world a better place?!

Still, there is learning in these discussions. Perhaps the logical fallacies are not soley the fault of the arguers. Perhaps the way I present my questions is perceived as confrontational or accusatory. Perhaps I could find better ways to communicate across cultural boundaries, resulting in greater productivity in such discussions. I'm sure such learning could be applied not just to the individual interaction level but also to the group, company, and country interaction levels as well. I will collect feedback and work on it; I owe at least that much to my current and future colleagues.


Third-of-the-Way-There Update

When I left the US for Switzerland, many people asked to be updated by email every once in a while about how I am doing over here. I finally sent out my first update, one third of the way through the program. The content was as follows:

To those who expressed interest in receiving periodic updates from me, here is my first. As I near the end of my fourth month in Lausanne, I feel incredibly positive about my decision to come here. This program is exactly as advertised: intense, international, very personal, and 100% focused on leadership. On paper it was exactly what I was looking for; in reality is has turned out to be that and more.

Highlights so far have included (roughly chronologically):
· Outdoor leadership/group dynamics exercises in the snowy mountains
· Very personal, very deep analysis of myself, my subconscious, how I behave, how I react, what motivates me, etc. by psychologists, psychoanalysts, transactional analysts, Jungian analysts, professors, leadership coaches, career coaches, and amateur students—and amateur me!
· Very personal, sometimes painful, but incredibly useful feedback from peers, professors, and coaches regarding my leadership style and effectiveness
· Lunch every day at a campus restaurant that would give even the finest private restaurants a run for their money
· Learning so much from my classmates—89 successful business leaders from 44 different countries and a wealth of professional/educational backgrounds
· Contributing my own experience/perspective to their learning
· Running along the gorgeous lake with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop
· Excellent courses, cases, and projects from world-class faculty
· Developing personal relationships with said faculty
· Weekend-long, sleepless group exercise to test our performance under extreme stress (another one is scheduled for next weekend!)
· Visits from friends and loved ones—especially my birthday weekend in Lugano
· Helping the CEO of a fledgling startup software company analyze its market, choose an appropriate strategy, raise money, and implement the recommended strategy
· Helping the CEO of a huge, global chemicals company save hundreds of millions of euros by optimizing its supply chain and procurement organization

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. Aside from the toll taken by the constant barrage of work, there are some additional downsides to being here:
· I miss my friends and loved ones. The people here are wonderful and I’m sure that many of the relationships I’m forging will last a lifetime. However, they are no substitute for the wonderful people already in my life.
· I miss my alma mater. Although I still serve on several Rice alumni organization boards remotely (via email and conference calls), it’s not the same as being involved in person. This year will be the first that I have missed Beer Bike, Commencement, and—probably—Homecoming. Missing baseball season is tough enough (The Owls are currently ranked #4, go Rice!) but football season will be even harder.
· There is not time to do everything I want to do while I’m here. I spend most of my time working at school or on school-related activities. As a consequence, my French isn’t improving much, I haven’t met too many locals, and I really haven’t traveled at all. For that matter, there are some courses on which I am not focusing as much as I would like, again due to time constraints. A great deal of this program seems to be about forced prioritization: you can’t do it all so you’d better figure out what really matters to you and do that really well.
· My wine consumption is down—WAY down. Certain informants keep me apprised of the menus of the wine dinners at the Petroleum Club of Houston so I can at least live vicariously through them. However, Lausanne is so beautiful that it’s a crime not to be spending each sunset on the lake with a picnic dinner and some great wine. Once I have a chance to come up for air I may have to make up for lost time!

One question I receive from a number of people back home is “What will you be doing after IMD?” December, after all, isn’t that far away. We spend a significant amount of time here working with coaches to think strategically about our careers. What careers, roles, industries, and geographies are the best fit for our personalities, ambitions, motivators, lifestyles, skills, and values?

My goal is to leverage my success in leadership and entrepreneurship to make a big, positive impact on the world. This could be by staying in technology but leading larger and more global organizations. Or I am also open to working in areas that match with my interests and experience: energy (especially alternative), nanotechnology, the arts, wine, football, and space exploration. A great fit, even in an established company, would be a role that entails some form of entrepreneurship and innovation--perhaps an American company with a new initiative to go international or vice versa to build on my international background.

Another path that interests me is venture capital. I could use my entrepreneurial experience and the constant influx of new projects would appeal to my desire for a dynamic work environment. It probably wouldn’t offer many leadership opportunities but there may some firms that take a more “hands-on” approach with their investments by providing a management team. I’m still investigating this option.

I believe that the US (Houston, Austin, San Diego, and Silicon Valley are most likely.) will be my ultimate destination but I am open to taking the “scenic” route and working in Europe (UK, Italy, France, or maybe even Switzerland) for a while first. This is all very much in flux so I offer no guarantees that it won’t have completely changed by my next update!


The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful

Today marked a momentous turning point: I went to school with no coat! The weather was warm and the sky clear. At the risk of jinxing us, I think Spring is here to stay after numerous false starts. The whole weekend is predicted to feature similarly gorgeous weather. Naturally this is probably the most work-laden weekend we have had so far. Still, we will all find ways to sneak out of the dungeons, I'm sure. For me, it will be beach volleyball again!


National Garlic Day

Happy belated National Garlic Day to all! Fortunately for my classmates, especially those who sit around me, I will wait until this evening to celebrate. Of course, I celebrate garlic pretty much every day, so today isn't all that out of the ordinary!

I finished 1989 this morning and it was not a great year for American popular music. On the brighter side, Guns N' Roses was coming on strong. However, this was more than offset by the arrival of New Kids On The Block, which marked the official start of the Boy Band era. It is with a heavy heart and serious anxiety about things to come that I continue the musical odyssey into the 90s.


International Consulting Project

The results are in! This evening we received our assignments for our International Consulting Projects (ICPs). The ICPs are projects wherein groups of four or five IMD students work on a major strategic project for companies around the world, reporting directly to CEOs or other top management. Each group works closely with an IMD faculty member with relevant expertise.

I was chosen for a supply chain strategy project at a global chemicals/materials company headquartered in Switzerland, near Zurich. My group will be great; there are just four of us, including a German (who is in my current study group), a Zambian, and a Colombian. They are all great guys who are both competent and experienced.

Our faculty member is Corey Billington, our POM professor and a former VP at HP. I'm really excited to work with him as he has a wealth of recent, real-world experience and he really likes to think big. Shall we tackle a project that will make billions of euros of difference to the client's bottom line? BRING IT ON!

Although I was diappointed by the lack of wine-, football-, and space exploration-oriented projects, there were some other pretty cool possibilities, including:
  • luxury car market entry in France
  • international fundraising strategy for an African non-profit
  • product strategy for DuPont in Asia
  • market entry for an emissions-free scooter startup in Germany
  • growth strategy for a services firm in Quatar
  • geographic expansion strategy for Norelco/Nivea in the Netherlands
  • european marketing strategy for a UK chocolatier

There was even a project for a Danish company looking to open operations in Arkansas--wooooooooooooooooooo PIG SOOOOOIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

As I find out more about the project I will keep you all updated!

More Rice at IMD

Today in Entrepreneurship we analyzed a case with a Belgian protagonist named Louis (silent "s"). When Benoit asked what management team Louis brought to the company he was acquiring, the answer was "Louis, Louis, Louis, Louis, and Louis." Naturally this made me want to get up and dance to "Louie Louie" (#99 song of 1964 by The Kingsmen), Rice's unofficial fight song. Go Rice!

Speaking of Rice, my best friends from there are dropping like flies. One of them recently became engaged (Tanti auguri!) and another now has a serious girlfriend for the first time since . . . well, since I've known him. What does it say when, as soon as I leave, they start pairing up? Was I holding them back while I was there?? Oh well, good for them--and for their girls who have found such great guys!

Presidential Visit

Yesterday I was honored to have an old classmate of mine swing into town for a brief visit. Robert Arthur Lundin (or, as many of you will remember him: "Blah blah blah blah blah, me me me me me, Robert Lundin") was the president of Wiess back when I was president of Lovett and we shared some great times together. I was a terrible tour guide for him but we had a good time just poking around the city and catching up. Pictures of fondue on the lake, the Museum of Historic Lausanne, and the Carnival de Lausanne are here. Thanks for coming, Robert; it was great to have someone in town who still knows me as Guido!


Beach Volleyball is BACK

Last night I skipped what was sure to be a great party to stay in and get some work done. There were three reasons for this painful decision: 1. My scholastic and extracurricular work has piled up; I really needed a productive weekend to catch up. 2. Tomorrow I will have an old friend in town, which will kill what is traditionally my most productive day of the week. 3. Today I would be spending a significant amount of time playing beach volleyball.

This last reason is the focus of this post. Mario, a Brazilian classmate, and I will represent IMD in the beach volleyball tournament at the MBAT in three weeks. Unfortunately, before today, neither of us had played in a long time and we had never played together. One of the weekends before the MBAT is another Integrative Exercise so our time to practice together was running thin. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Mario for making time today; he was able to squeeze in two games with me between a late project meeting and a train to Lucerne--that's dedication!

The weather was GORGEOUS today so I would have been really disappointed if we hadn't been able to play. As we started there was definitely a lot of cobwebs to dust off and we went down 6-1. Unforced errors and heavy breathing were abundant! As we came around individually and began gelling a little as a team we staged a comeback but still wound up losing 21-18. We turned it around and beat the same team soundly in the second game, 21-10. By the end we were both moving, reacting, passing, setting, hitting, and--most importantly--communicating better so I felt encouraged by our progress. If we can find a few more times to practice before the MBAT I think we'll be a force to reckon with.

Mario had to race off and catch a train but some of the people there invited me to stick around and keep playing. I played for three hours before taking off myself and met a few local girls and guys. It sounds like many of them are there every weekend so I look forward to getting back into a Third Coast-like culture. As small as Lausanne feels I'll probably bump into them on the street too--I bumped into another IMD student and his partner on my walk home from the courts.

The sand here is harder and more abrasive than I'm used to (It also doesn't scald my feet!). Still, it felt great to dive in it for the first time in a long time. I came home, took a long, hot shower, tended my torn-up forearms, elbows, and knees (which reminds me of playing football at Rice on new artificial turf during the UPS strike that prevented our elbow and knee pads from arriving), and am now pleasantly exhausted from sun, exertion, and running/jumping in sand.

Beach volleyball is BACK in my life and that makes me happy.

Financial Aid

An anonymous reader posted a comment recently asking how IMD's full-time MBAs afford the program, which isn't cheap. Tuition and fees come to ~$75,000 (increasing to $80,000 for next year's class). Living expenses are estimated at ~$30,000 on the year (Switzerland isn't cheap either.) and then, of course, is the fact that most of us aren't earning any income in the meantime. After discussions with students, discussions with financial aid office personnel, and some research on the Web (http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/rankings/full_time_mba_profiles/imd.html and http://www.imd.ch/mba/finance/), I am finally prepared to respond.

First, we have ~10 students who are sponsored by their previous employers. This means their tuition, fees, and--in many cases--expenses are paid for. Many of them are still participating in the career services activities and it will be interesting to see if they return to their sponsoring companies.

For the rest of us the first oppotunity for financing is through scholarships. IMD offers many (although American males aren't eligible for most of them) plus there are myriad others available from third parties. Another 20+ of our class is on scholarship.

I applied for IMD's Global Future Leaders scholarship (the only one for which I was eligible), thinking that it would be a great fit. After all, my entire purpose in going to IMD was to learn to be a better global leader. When I failed to win it, I was at first crestfallen (Was I not the future global leader I thought I was?) but I gradually dealt with it. I was coming to IMD to learn and this validated that I still had plenty to learn in exactly my area of interest. Furthermore, it reinforced a lesson I thought I had learned before: that I can't just slap something together and expect it to reflect my capabilities, passion, or even message. I wrote my application essay on the flight back from my interview, exhausted and uninspired but up against an immediate deadline. It was lackluster and it received the appraisal it deserved.

It wouldn't be the last time I had to cope with performance disappointment at IMD but I am learning (slowly but surely) that it is OK to fail; some of the best learning comes from failure. IMD allows us to fail (and, in fact, ensures that it will happen) in a relatively consequence-free environment. This way we are not only more prepared to succeed in the "real" world, we are also more prepared to turn our future failures into constructive learning.

With sponsorship and scholarships out of the way, the final two methods of financing are through debt and savings. Due to the very high average work experience (7 years) and highish average salary of entrants ($75,000), many students have adequate savings to self finance. Due to the tax advantages of taking out student loans, however, some of us choose to take out debt anyway; I did.

Average salaries upon graduation are in excess of $130,000 (plus signing bonus) so I would strongly discourage anyone from letting price be a barrier to application. Even considering foregone salary, it doesn't take long for the IMD MBA to pay for itself in absolute monetary terms. However, I would also discourage anyone from applying just to increase his/her earning potential. The real value of the IMD MBA is enhanced self awareness, teamwork, leadership, performance under pressure, and cultural understanding. While these happen to be highly valued in the market place, they can have a tremendous impact in your nonprofessional life as well. So don't come to IMD to earn more money; come to improve yourself and augment your ability to make the world a better place. That is more than worth the price!

Olga, I hope this answered your question. Please let me know if you have any more questions and thanks for reading!


Good and Bad

The weather here has been beautiful the past couple of days. Yesterday after class I went for a run along the lake. Instead of running a specific distance for speed, sometimes I run a specific duration and try to cover the most ground possible while keeping my heart rate below a certain threshold. Yesterday was one of those days so, as I jogged along, I suddently found myself in another commune--I was covering more ground than I was accustomed to at that heart rate. By the time my 45 minutes was up, I had crossed a significant barrier: 5 miles, the greatest distance I have ever run in one stretch! That probably seems insignificant to most of you but it's kind of a big deal for me.

1987 features the introduction of Kenny G to the American popular music scene.
And Bruce Willis--I'm assuming "Respect Yourself" (#89 of 1987) had something to do with Moonlighting.
Where Kenny G is, Michael Bolton can't be too far behind. I see dark days ahead.

Career Services

A major part of this program is career services. We spend significant time not just focusing on the "how" aspect of finding our next career but, more importantly, the who/what/where/why. What fields really motivate us and which of our skills are most valuable? How can we merge those and other factors, such as culture, to identify the ideal industries, companies, geographies, and roles for ourselves? Then how can we identify (or create!) opportunities that meet those criteria and secure them?

This has all been incredibly interesting so far and I will keep you updated as I progress along my own path. However, in the meantime, let me share with you the results of another career services function: marketing the MBAs! They have recently published the Class of 2008 Profile Sheet. This is seen by executives and recruiters at all of IMDs client companies so I'll hope it finds itself in the right hands. For example, if someone out there is hiring for the CEO position of the first NFL franchise on Mars, I'll be expecting your call . . .


We have begun two new classes this Mod that start with "IP." The first, Innovation and Product Design (which I first covered in March), is taught by American professor David Robertson. David comes from the software world so I'm naturally very interested in his class. His most compelling feature, though, is his utter lack of tolerance for superficial comments in class. When someone raises his hand to speak and then says something which David doesn't think goes deep enough, his comment is usually met with a condescending "AND . . . " or a probing "OK, sounds good, but HOW?" It was a bit shocking at first but I think it has had the intended effect of fostering real analysis instead of consultant speak.

The most interesting takeaway from IPD so far is its focus on all the other types of innovation in a company besides just innovation in the product itself. Innovation at the supply chain or business model levels, for example, tends to provide much more value than product innovation. As someone who is not necessarily all that creative himself, I also really like our study of how to foster innovation with corporate structure, process, and culture. The study groups are now pitted against each other in a competition to create the most innovative bag for IMD students. It sounds pretty simple but it seems that 90 students from 44 countries and diverse educational/professional backgrounds are capable of coming up with some wildly different ideas. I can't wait to see the final results.

International Political Economy, taught by French professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann, is all about the world's ever-changing geo-politics and their social and commercial effects. To quote a paper written by our professor (whose initials are JPL--awesome),

"As business goes global and learns the tremendous advantages of diversity, secularism and tolerance, business leaders must establish their credentials as "global citizens" and work hard to diffuse the racial, ethnic, religious and other tensions that arise. To that end, business schools must also draw on philosophy, history, anthropology, and literature to ensure that the education of the business leader has the kind of mental, moral, intellectual, cultural and emotional tools and compass necessary for being able to constructively address the great challenges humanity will face in the 21st century. "

For someone who came to IMD hoping to learn to be a more global leader, this sounds very relevant! Moreover, learning and discussing in such an international environment will add significantly to the class's value. In our one class so far the US was held out in several cases as having selfish, unproductive (at a global level) policies. It was an interesting experience psychoanalytically. I found my sense of nationalism compelling me to jump up and defend the US--even when discussing policies I didn't personally support. Much of our leadership training has involved self analysis and recognition of our subconscious, emotional responses. It was helpful in this case in my quelling my urge to argue. After all, I'm not here to incite brash debates; I am here to learn how actions may invoke responses from different countries, companies, or cultures and today I learned a lot about that.

It seems that a large organization (like a company, country, or even continent) sometimes exhibits a sort of collective conscious. This conscious has a personality and behaves in many ways like an individual human. Sending it a message may evoke an unanticipated response in the same way that miscommunication occurs between two humans. Conversely, I think there are macroscopic lessons that can be applied to the individual. The US has been a leader in the global economy and, just as it had to sit there and accept/evaluate criticism in class today, so must a CEO accept/evaluate criticism from his organization's employees, shareholders, clients, the media, etc. It is important to be able to keep a cool head and receive potentially very valuable feedback--again, our leadership stream has been very beneficial in developing this quality.

And speaking of which, today I received some very diplomatic criticism about my LinkedIn profile tagline from someone whose opinion I respect. We've been encouraged to market, market, market ourselves by career services, but how much is too much? Might a more understated approach be more effective? As with most things at this school--and in the "real" world--there is no right answer. I must make the best decision given my knowledge of the context, goals, resources, instinct, and--especially in this case--who I really am.

We have a full day of IPE tomorrow so I look forward to more humility and new insights.

Living the Startup Dream

A major component of our IMD entrepreneurship education is the Startup Project. 18 startup companies have come to IMD asking for "help." "Help" means anything from business strategy to market research to marketing to manufacturing and production optimization to HR to . . . any other aspect of business. Frequently they need help with several of these issues in order to secure loans, raise money, or even just get "unstuck". In January students selected from the 18 client opportunities and began work immediately. We are expected to deliver demonstrable value--not just a high-level, hand waving consultant report. We are expected to provide recommendations and then help implement them--essentially to work IN the startup.

My startup group (myself and four others: Turkish, Russian, South Korean, and French) is working on a company called DeskNet, which produces Sobees. They came to us without any investors, strategy, business model, clients, completed product, or many of the other things you would expect in a successful startup. Ah yes, living the startup dream! :-P But hey, they have a cool idea and we know we can help them commercialize it. We're really into the thick of it now, so I will keep you all posted about our progress over the next few weeks. I may even ask for some feedback on our ideas and options as we move forward.


Jurassic IMD

Yesterday our afternoon class was interrupted by numerous loud booms that sounded (and felt!) progressively closer and closer. Theories about the source of such tremors ranged from the boring (construction of the building next door) to the outlandish (fiesty Evian launching an offensive from the other side of Lake Geneva). As I sat watching the shock waves in my cup of water, I was positive that the booms were attributable to a Tyrannosaurus Rex that had escaped her pen. Good times.

Fortunately we had a really cool case about Palm, US Robotics, 3COM, and Handspring during Entrepreneurship so there was no time to fret. It was fun analyzing the entrepreneurial opportunities in the handheld software industry during the .com boom because my first startup was . . . a handheld sofware company during the .com boom! What amazing times those were--and were only in Austin. I can only imagine the electricity in Silicon Valley!

John Doerr's name came up again during that class and today's strategy discussion about Apple has included some talk of Intel and AMD. AMD's CEO, Dr. Hector Ruiz, is another Rice alum--go Rice!

And speaking of Rice, I wore a War Owls shirt to Saturday's ping pong tournament (pictures) but it didn't seem to help much. I won a few games but was out before the semis. This forced me to break out the football and toss it around in the gorgeous weather. Rough life!



The mid-80s have been pretty disappointing (It's basically Madonna's Immaculate Collection.) with occasional flashes of brilliance in the form of 80s classics and nostalgic movie themes. I'm in 1987 now and I was delighted to discover the following:

The #18 song of 1987 was "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany.
The #19 song of 1987 was "Mony Mony" by Billy Idol.

These are both covers of originals by Tommy James and the Shondells, one of my favorite underrated 60s bands. "I Think We're Alone Now" was the #12 song of 1967 while "Mony Mony" came in at #13 in 1968. It was fun to find these consecutive covers by different artists two decades later. Tommy James, you rock.

When I was about 6 years old, there was a local TV personality who belonged to my church. He made a series of three music videos starring members of our church to run on the local news. The first was "It's Judy's Turn to Cry" (Lesley Gore, 1963) starring me and my daycare classmates. The second was "Draggin' the Line" (Tommy James, 1971). And the last was "Too Late for Goodbyes" (Julian Lennon, 1985), which I just rediscovered as I made my way through 1985.

There, it was kind of a stretch but I tried to bring it all together with that random memory. :-)


Burning Platforms of Change

Today was our second Strategy class with Canadian professor James Henderson. He's a bit goofy, using accents and emphatic gestures in class, but he is already impressing me with how little I apparently know about strategy--which is ostensibly one of my strong suits! Jim led the case discussion of my IMD application interview (Part of everyone's application is a case preparation and discussion with other interviewees moderated by an IMD professor.) and the insights to which he led us constituted a major reason I decided to come to IMD. I found myself thinking and approaching problems in new ways; I realized that I had quite a bit to learn and, as much as I learned during my IMD interview day, I knew this was the place for me to learn it.

Today's case discussion was built around the French wine industry and what strategy it should take--as an entire industry--to fend off competition from the New World, especially Australia. Sometimes doing homework is a real pleasure; I've been preparing this case for at least 10 years!!!


Rice at IMD

Yesterday's classes featured two prominent Rice alumni. In Entrepreneurship we covered John Doerr (class of '73 and '74), one of the world's most influential venture capitalists. Later, in an etiquette class, we saw pictures of Jim Turley (class of '77 and '78), the Global Chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, who apparently knows how to dress appropriately for business events. Incidentally, both of these accomplished gentlemen were at Lovett--RRF! As a Lovetteer myself ('01 and '02), I hope one day to join them in the pantheon of distguished Rice alumni.

In the meantime I just finished playing ping pong in the snow during our lunch break. It is the 8th of April. Toto, we're not in Houston anymore.


Bring It On!

Yesterday I was the guest writer for IMD's MBA Diary. My entry was as follows (Accompanying pictures are in my FaceBook album.):

Exams are done! I know there have already been two diary entries on this subject but it is impactful enough that I believe a third is warranted. The exams, even those in the subjects that I would consider my strong suits, were not easy. Each required several hours of intense performance preceded by days of preparation. It was interesting to see how a group of overachievers approached the week. Some were driven by trying to score highly in all subjects. Some just wanted to pass. Some prioritized certain subjects and exerted minimum effort in others. By the end, though, I think we all felt we understood the material pretty well. Whether or not the faculty agree is a different story!

Regardless of the grades they will receive, I am particularly impressed with the non-native English speakers in our class. Many of our exam questions were worded such that they seemed ambiguous or confusing even to me, an American with very good command of the language (No snickering, British readers!); I can’t imagine how much of an additional challenge that must have posed for students who speak English as a second, third, or fourth language.

I am also impressed by my older classmates. Because of IMD’s high average student work experience many of our students are 10 years or more removed from academia. IMD’s intense approach to classes would be challenging even for someone still in academic “mode.” However, for someone who hasn’t pulled an all-nighter or crammed for an exam in this century, I’m sure the difficulty is amplified. These students bring other strengths to bear in exam preparation: organization of review sessions, identification of outside-IMD resources, and a wealth of experience in mobilizing to solve hard problems on short notice.

If there is one place where IMD students collaborate better than in the Dungeons, it is on the dance floor. As Mathieu and Cat have already mentioned, Friday night we blew off a lot of steam at a club in Flon. I remain wholly underwhelmed by Lausanne’s club offerings; Friday night’s locale was allegedly one of the best in the area, but even it had generic décor, uninteresting staff, and music that was popular five years ago. Despite this, going out in Lausanne is incredibly fun. Regardless of the setting, there are 100+ friends (classmates, partners, and sometimes even staff) with you and the spirit of camaraderie strong. It is a very therapeutic way to escape the IMD bubble and, with the help of a little “social lubricant” (alcoholic beverages for those who are unfamiliar with the term), sometimes the romantic tensions between classmates slip out into the open!

The rest of the weekend featured wonderful weather, fun, and “relaxed productivity.” Our IMD beach volleyball team had its first practice for the MBA Tournament that is only one month away. Given our performance, we still have a long way to go to be competitive, but I am very confident in our ability to bridge that gap. After all, since arriving at IMD, I have seen teams of French, Brazilian, Chilean, Czech, American, Canadian, Spanish, Indian, and Italian members surmount much greater obstacles!

And speaking of international teams, as of tomorrow my study group will change from US-Czech-France-Italy-Belarus-Portugal-China to US-Uzbekistan-China-Germany-Russia-Nigeria-Spain. I will miss my old group dearly—we shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears together during Mod I—but at the same time I am very excited to work with my new group. Good luck to all in Mod II!


Why Would an American Study an MBA in Europe?

I was recently interviewed by Business Week for an article about European business schools and how they are attracting more and more American talent. The full article is here; my quotes are on the second page under the IMD section.

What do you think, how did I do? Everything I say, write, or do at IMD is scrutinized and evaluated so why not this too? How well do I represent the appeal of a European MBA as a career choice? How well do I represent IMD as a program? How well do I represent myself to potential employers (Would you want to hire me?) or potential IMD applicants (Would you want to work on projects with me?)? Please leave me a comment or shoot me an email with your honest feedback--there is no pride in authorship here!

FYI the full text of my responses to the journalist's initial questions (The rest of the interview was conducted over the phone.) is as follows. Again, criticism is welcome:

"Why did you choose a European school over an American one?
I didn’t explicitly decide on “European over American” and then find the right European program. In fact, I didn’t even decide on “business school over other options” and then find the right program. I decided to find the best opportunity for me to enhance my leadership skills and international business experience, whether that meant augmenting my then-current life with education and mentorship or doing something more drastic like changing jobs or going to school full-time.
Frankly I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the prospect of business school in general. I had a concept in my mind of what business school was like (based on myriad friends and colleagues who had attended American schools, mostly HBS, Stanford, Wharton, UT, and Darden) and it seemed . . . “fluffy.” It seemed more appropriate for people looking for major career change or who needed MBA credentials to accelerate their corporate ladder ascents. I, on the other hand, was a 28-year-old CEO of an exciting, multinational software company and I loved what I did—I just wanted to learn to do it better.
To be thorough, I included business schools in my research anyway, even though I wasn’t too enthusiastic about them. Although the American programs had much higher brand recognition in the US, my preferences pushed me toward European programs for four reasons. 1. Most of them were much shorter than the American programs. I’ve been a “sprinter” my whole life and I loved the concept of a one-year, intense program. 2. Having lived in Florence, I love Europe and am very open to the possibility of working here after my MBA. I hypothesized that a European program would put me closer to European professional opportunities. 3. My entire business education so far (in the workplace) has been in the American entrepreneurial mindset. As I contemplated taking a full year off to learn, I saw more value in being exposed to a different perspective. 4. Every business school in the world advertises itself as “international” but the European schools seemed to be much more international, both in terms of student/faculty demographics and in terms of focus, than their American peers.
Still, I wasn’t sold on business school at all (European OR American) until I discovered IMD—through Business Week’s rankings, incidentally! Between its dominant focus on leadership development, incredibly experienced and internationally diverse students, and use of international consulting projects for real world learning, I was hooked.

Did you apply to American MBA programs? If so, which? If not, why?
Although I considered Stanford GSB (specifically its Certificate in Global Management specialization) and the Lauder program at Wharton, I applied only to IMD. Had I not been admitted to IMD there still would have been time to apply to American schools and I probably would have applied to Stanford. Its entrepreneurial focus and proximity to Napa Valley would have been a good fit for me. However, as I considered my IMD acceptance offer in October of 2007, the choice between re-entering the job market in December of 2008 (IMD) versus May of 2010 (Stanford) really wasn’t much of a decision at all. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a sprinter.

How do you think an MBA from a European school will give you a leg up careerwise?
There are certainly pros and cons to having an MBA from a European school. As mentioned earlier, the European schools are certainly less well known in the US than are the American schools. However, my goal in this adventure isn’t to have a degree from a “prestigious” school; it is to develop myself, my skills, and my international exposure. At IMD I work with psychologists, coaches, and faculty to develop my leadership skills in an intensely personalized way. I spend the better part of 100 hours a week with a student body that is 90% non-American. I will spend almost half of my MBA studies working on projects for leaders of non-American companies and governments. These are opportunities that no American school can offer me.
The question remains, though: “Why is international experience so important and how will it give me a leg up careerwise?” Not to sound cliché, but we live in an increasingly global world. Teams span continental boundaries and the actions of an organization in one country may immediately impact organizations, people, or the environment in another country. It is absolutely crucial for our leaders to lead with global perspective; leading unilaterally is simply unsustainable. “Global perspective” is a great buzz word but it isn’t something that can be learned in a book or weekend seminar; it must be won through experience. As the generation of my parents retires, there will be an incredible opportunity for those in my generation to step up and fill leadership positions. Global perspective will be among the most prized attributes of leaders sought to fill those positions.

What are your career goals?
My two major interests are leadership and entrepreneurship, both of which I have been practicing in various ways since I was a child. My professional career so far has focused on starting up small software companies in the US, which has been an incredible experience. After my MBA I anticipate focusing on executive leadership, although ideally in an entrepreneurial, innovative environment, whether that be again with start-ups or with new ventures in established companies. My long-term plan is to be CEO of a truly world-changing company in the IT, renewable energy, nanotechnology, or spaceflight industries. That said, I would settle for something a little less “world-changing” as long as it were in the wine industry! ;-)

These responses were longer than intended and I should really be reading cases right now, but hopefully this gives you some context for my thinking. Have a good morning and I look forward to our call in the afternoon."


Yay, Sports!

Although I should really be studying for Finance, I must pause and say a few words about my favorite sports teams. Today I wore an old Washington Redskins t-shirt, which reminded me that I still haven't posted about Art Monk. Monk was an amazing possession receiver for the late-80's/early 90's Redskins dynasty. He wasn't the fastest receiver in the NFL, but he was the guy you wanted on your side of the ball when it was third down. Besides, the Skins had Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders, the rest of "the Posse," for speed.

What impressed me most about Monk wasn't his playing ability; it was his class. On and off the field he was a stand-up guy in every respect. I had the opportunity to spend a little time with him at his football camps when I was growing up and I can't think of a better role model for young athletes.

Earlier this year, Art Monk was elected into the NFL Football Hall of Fame. Darrell Green, another Redskin, spent nearly two decades as the NFL's fastest man and was elected into the shrine this year as well. Although IMD is very different from the NFL Hall of Fame, I'm proud that come December I will share the distinction of "Class of 2008" with them. Congratulations, Art and Darrell and HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!

Now, on to matters of more immediate importance: Rice Baseball! My poor Owls have been struggling this season. Last weekend they broke their 40-series home win streak and this week their ranking fell to #12. That's OK, though; I'm sure they're just working the kinks out early in the season. And as you will recall from my earlier post, I'm happy as long as we beat Texas. Still, I wore a Rice Baseball National Championship t-shirt on Monday as a long-distance show of support. It worked; last night Rice beat UT in front of an Austin crowd of 6,511. I wish I could have been there--and on 6th Street afterward! Stand, cheer, DRINK MORE BEER! Go, go, GOOOOOOOO Rice!


Two Fifths Down, Three Fifths to Go

Some friends back home make fun of the way I frequently divide things into fifths: probabilities, progress, alcoholic beverages . . . anything. Well today my pro-fifthism is justified as we are 40% done with our Mod I final exams. LPO went well yesterday as we analyzed a very interesting case about leading change in uncertain times. Today Accounting went . . . less well . . . but I was impressed during my studying by how much I had picked up in class. Stewart has managed to teach me a thing or two whether he likes it or not!

To help me tune out all the clackity-clack of laptops and calculators during the exams I have been listening to Mozart on my mp3 player. As Maury, my LPO professor, is a pianist, I listened to piano concerti (especially 21 and 23) and sonatas (especially 11 and 16) during the LPO exam. During Accounting I played operatic overtures. Given how much better I think (hope!) the LPO exam went, I think I'll return to the piano tomorrow.

Tomorrow's exam is Marketing. We have already received the case on which the exam will be based and most study groups are here in the Dungeons working feverishly to dissect it. Then tomorrow we will individually present our analyses and formulate marketing plans. I'm sad that marketing is coming to an end; it was an interesting class about everything from market research to branding to comunication and distribution of products. We learned much more methodical approaches to answering marketing questions (and that most business questions have at least some marketing relevance) than I'm used to in my "put out the fire" and "if the shoe fits, wear it" software startup experience. Indeed, marketing has turned out to be much more than just "tra la la."

What we have learned is just the tip of the marketing iceberg. IMD's objective isn't to train marketers; it's to train general managers to be familiar enough with marketing concepts to manage marketers well. I'm embarrassed and disappointed that my group received a barely passing grade--the lowest grade in the class--on our Marketing Plan, the key group project of the Marketing curriculum. However, I'm not here because I have all the answers; I'm here to learn and a key part of learning is failure. Tomorrow I will deliver a much better marketing plan during our exam because I have learned from the failure of our group project. More than just enhancing my grade, hopefully this will help Martin understand that he has succeeded as a professor as well. We got him a bottle of champagne for the last day of class, but I think he will feel more rewarded by our high performance. I hope so at least, as high performance is what I intend to deliver.