From the monthly archives:

July 2011

A year ago in summer term 2010 at George Washington University School of Business I took a class on Business and Public Policy. It was an interesting exercise and I learned a lot about the tensions between the public interests and private corporate agendas, lobbying, and public relations. I have published earlier two of the individual cases I prepared for that class in the Business School Cases section of the blog.


For the group project we had to select and present a specific case on the conflict of interests between the government and a corporation and give in-depth analysis of that situation. Out of four or five groups we had in that class all but ours chose to present their cases from the point of public interest. In our group we decided to take the position of defending the corporate interests. It seemed to be more suitable for MBA students in the MBA program, not Public Policy. As a matter of fact, one of the members of our group was in Public Policy program at Georgetown University and she took this summer class at GWU through the consortium. She was the one who felt more out of place than others in the group. But I believe it was ultimately quite helpful for her too to see the issues through the eyes of business for a change.

The issue we chose was to give recommendations to Coca Cola company on fighting the so-called “Soda Tax”. The issue was on the rise about a year ago when more states were debating levying this tax, more broadly known as “Sugar Tax”. In our family we are not big consumers of soda, as we are quite concerned with all that extra sugar pumped into the beverages. Soda is semi-banned from our house, except for special occasions, and you will not find it casually in our fridge.  That’s why, like the Public Policy visiting student from Georgetown University, I felt at times like playing “the devil’s advocate”. But again, it was a great exercise. As a matter of fact, after the final in-class presentation many people from other groups commended us for taking the corporate side, as it made it more appropriate and interesting for everyone. Specifically because it is quite a controversial issue, and many people privately would probably support the public interest in the case.

A great asset to our group was one guy who worked in public relations company about a decade ago, and they were involved in presenting tobacco companies against the multi-million litigation suites. He knew all the techniques actually used by the big corporations in protecting their interests through multiple channels, including public relations. I probably learned from him as much, if not more than from the rest of the class material.

In our approach we decided to play the role of the internal consulting group within Coca Cola and present our recommendations to the upper management. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to share those final recommendations as they were prepared mostly by another group member and then elaborated by the group. However, I posted my preliminary write up for the group paper on Summary of the Soda Tax Issue.

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Back in May I promised to have a post on summer reading list for pre-MBA admitted applicants. There are a number of lists in print and especially on the internet for pre-MBA or mid-school summer reading. I have perused some of them and found them quite helpful. I often ask people to recommend books on some topics of interest to me, and I am specifically interested in recommendations based on their personal experience. There is no shortage of titles on any given subject, but given limited time resources I want to make sure that I get the most relevant, helpful, well written book – not just any book.

The list I am offering here comprises the books that I personally read, skimmed enough to get favorable impression or got recommended by people whose opinion and judgement I trust. This list is somewhat slanted specifically to the poets entering the MBA. The reason for this is that I am a poet myself and well familiar with the struggles the poets face in a quant-ladden core courses of MBA curriculum.

The four corner stones of MBA quantitative courses are accounting, statistics, economics and finance, . These courses serve as foundation for other electives when you go into concentrations and get deeper more specialized knowledge of the subject. They also permeate to some degree many other electives even outside the four core areas of expertise mentioned above.

The idea of having these books read before entering the MBA program is very simple. If you are from non-quant, non-business background the material covered in the MBA textbooks is quite advanced, and often very dry. In order to get some grasp of the advanced topics it is very helpful to have the basics out of the way. Otherwise you will be struggling to get the basics at the same time as you are required to absorb more complicated advanced topics. After all, even though you mostly get introductory and often cursory overview of the topics, they are still at graduate level and therefore require significant intellectual effort.

By having at least some foundation you will be able to concentrate on the MBA level material without the need of learning the preceeding material. This way you are more likely to do better in those quantitative courses and even have a chance to enjoy them inspite of you “poetic” nature.

Here is the list of books in no particular order with my short comments.

Accounting.

The Accounting Game. Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand. By Mullis and Orloff.

This was the book I stumbled upon on the internet. When I read reviews of it I got intrigued and decided to check it out in my local library. I already had all my accounting courses done by the time I got the book, so I mainly got it for my 12 years old daughter – a budding entrepreneur. She liked it a lot and she swallowed it in less than a week. While she was reading it we had a few discussion on the topics of accounting. One day she came to me and proudly announced that she knew what FIFO and LIFO was. I skimmed through the book and I wished I had read it before my MBA Accounting courses. It seems very simplistic, but it explains in simple terms and on simple examples many of the same things we were learning in our Financial Accounting I course. Of course, the MBA textbook was much drier, though overall I found it quite good. So if you are a poet and don’t know what FIFO and LIFO is yet, go and read the book before you get to your MBA Accounting class.  You will be glad you did.

Statistics.

Basic Statistics. Tales of Distribution. By Chris Spatz.

Yet another pain point for poets in MBA. I struggled a lot with it and was desperate to get some relatively comprehensible book to complement my MBA textbook on statistics. At some point in my desparation I ended up with two graduate level textbooks on statistics. It was quite anecdotal situation and you can read about how that happenned in this post. I eventually found a real good book. I even have a post about it somewhere on the blog, but I cannot find it now. Anyways, statistics is not going to get any easier conceptually, but this book makes it as painless as humanly possible. I supplemented my statistics course with reading through it after the fact. But it would have been so much more appreciated if I could read it before starting my stats classes. Now you have a chance to do just that.

Micro- and Macroeconomics.

Principles of Economics. By N. Gregory Mankiw.

This was the book recommended to me by my professor in Microeconomics class to brush on the foundations. This recommendation was actually a much more to the point than the “statistical fiasco” I mentioned earlier. I used it slightly while taking Microeconomics, and I am planning to skim through the chapters related to Macroeconomics before I take that class this Fall term. It is a textbook, but it is more like undegraduate level with lots of practical examples of economic implications.  To me it seemed a good supplement to my official MBA textbook on Microeconomics. I expect it to be helpful in my Macroeconomics class as well. I personally own the 3-d edition, which could be bought dirt cheap in used books on Amazon. The latest edition is over $100, but principles of economics hardly changed since the 3-d edition print date in 2004 ;-) . So I would stay with the older edition, unless the new one is required by professor in your class.

Finance.

Unfortunately I have not found a good book on introduction to Finance or at least written in simpler terms. I am sure there are some good books there, I have not really looked hard enough for them. So if anyone of the readers of this blog could recommend some introductory book to MBA Finance class suitable for poets, that would be great. Leave a comment or shoot me an email and I will add it to the list after skimming it.

As a matter of fact, the required textbook we used in our Financial Markets and Financial Management classes turned out to be the best-selling MBA textbook in all subjects – Financial Management: Theory & Practice (with Thomson ONE – Business School Edition 1-Year Printed Access Card) You can read more about best-selling MBA textbooks on PoetsandQuants.com

The last, but not the least book I will recommend to entering MBAs is Case Studies & Coctails by Carrie Shuhart and Chris Ryan. I am reading it right now and found a lot of helpful and insightful information. I skipped some sections that are not applicable to me, like finding an apartment and such. But otherwise I like it a lot. It also has a huge section on Grasping First-Year Academics to give you a head start on Marketing and Operations & Supply Chain in addition to the courses discussed in this post.

The post turned out too long. But I hope it will spare you more than one painful moment in your first year of MBA.

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In my last post on the wonders and benefits of the smart phone I currently enjoy – Samsung Infuse 4G, I intentionally omitted the drawbacks of this powerful device – just did not feel like spoiling the bliss ;-). But in the spirit of a full disclosure I need to warn the readers about some drawbacks and weaknesses, as there is no perfect mobile device ever, just the best (or tolerable) combination of trade offs based on personal needs and preferences.

  1. The number one complaint I have about my Infuse 4G is inherent to its very own strengths. To support all those benefits I was raving about, such as big and bright display, multitasking, GPS, mail polling, custom applications,  etc., this phone consumes a LOT of power. When I was talking about all the things I was able to do on my way to New York, it was only possible because the bus was equipped with power outlets and I had my power cord with me. Otherwise, the battery would drain probably in a couple of hours.

On a regular day with very modest use, such as occasional calls, regular mail checking and rare web browsing I hardly make it through the end of the day without a recharge. So it is essential to have access to charging options, whether it is a wall outlet or car-charger. If you are in the office or in the car most of the day, this should not be a big problem. However, if you are on the go, you have to be very mindful about usage of the phone if you need it to last for extended period of time without recharging.

For example, on my full day in New York when I was out and about the city all day I had to find an outlet in a coffee shop, a classroom, and the restaurant in order to stay connected for a day before returning to the hotel. Admittedly, I was using my Samsung very heavily by taking pictures, looking up information on the internet and getting walking directions via my Navigation.

Speaking of Navigation and usage of GPS, this is the most power-hungry application I have identified on my phone so far. First time I learned it when I used my navigation just out of curiosity shortly after the purchase of the phone. I did not have a car charger at that time and I turned on navigation, which requires GPS, on a short 15-17 minutes drive. My battery was drained down to about 60% of capacity in that short time. This was the day when I ran out and bought a car charger right away. A funny/sad thing is that if you use navigation in the car and have it plugged in car charger, the phone is still discharging. It happens at a much slower rate, but still the car-charger is not able even to maintain the battery at constant level. So when I needed directions on longer trips, I was turning off GPS on long stretches of the route in order to recharge the phone.

All smart-phones are to some extent affected by this “power games”, but it seems that Infuse 4G is especially week in that department. I came up with this comparison: “Samsung Infuse 4G is to other smart phones as a Hummer to other SUVs”. My wife’s IPhone 4 is not as bad in consuming power. In New York she used it about as intensively as I did and had to recharge only once. Of course, IPhone has a sad puny and not so bright screen that does not require as much power to sustain -every time I look at my wife’s IPhone I feel pity for her ;-), and she often complains about how small the screen is and how hard it is to use for web browsing because of this.

I almost forgot to mention that the champion in power conservation was my Nokia phone. I could have it without recharging for days, sometimes up to a week, I think. Of course, I did not use it much other than for calls, and for that function, I already mentioned that I am not a heavy phone talker.

2. The second complaint is not nearly as bad as the one about the power consumption, but still proved to be annoying. The resident camera application is a bit buggy. When I use a phone camera and want to turn off the screen to save battery without exiting the camera, it often freezes the whole phone. The solution is quite simple – exit the camera before turning off the screeen, but I still sometimes forget to do it to this day. And if you exit camera before turning off the screen, the next time you need to take pictures, you need to start camera again, and this takes time. If the phone gets frozen you need to do hard reset by turning off and back on again which takes time. So if you want to be ready for a quick shot, you need to keep the camera open and not turn off the screen all the time. This in  turn drains your battery. Another side note about the camera is that it takes long time between the push of the button and the actual shot. So you can forget about taking quick shots on the spur of the moment.  Again, by comparison, the IPhone 4 seems to be more responsive.

3. This one is not really a big complaint, but some unmet expectation. One of the features that I like on IPhone 4 is “face time”. I also knew from my friends that they were able to use video chat in Skype, if wi-fi was not accessible. Before getting Infuse 4G, I checked out and confirmed that there was Skype application available for Androids. Once confirmed, I did not dig deeper and assumed that I would be able to used video in Skype when I need. Turned out Skype for Androids does not support video talk as it does on IPhones. There are rumors on the internet that this video function willl be added in the future, but as of this writing it is not available. Regular voice Skype calls are no problem however.

Frankly, this is all I have to complain about my smart phone. As I said in the beginning, there is no perfect mobile device – just the best acceptable or tolerable combination of trade offs. Now that I tasted the real benefits of a multi-functional “over-sized” high-speed smart phone, I still choose my new badass Samsung Infuse 4G inspite of a few drawbacks, over my  old Nokia. And even the glorified IPhone is no match to what I personally need in the smart phone.

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Updated on July25, 2011. Though I was able to post a basic post including images using the WordPress for Android application on my smart phone, I still needed to do some fine-tuning of the post from the regular WP interface. Also, I posted a follow up post on the weaknesses of my smart phone.

On the bus from DC to NY

On the bus from DC to NY

In December 2009 l had a post about my new smart phone from Nokia. It was my first “smart” phone, and I was quite happy to have such a major upgrade in my wired-ness.
Over the time I became more and more dissatisfied with the phone, even though my requirements were very minimal.
Today I would like to talk about my new smart phone which reduced Nokia to becoming “smart” only if properly taken into quotes marks.
I have had my new phone for the last two months and really come to enjoy the real power of real smart mobile device. Just as I said in my post on Nokia I am
not much of a talker on the phone, but the great benefits of a smart phone capabilities are so cool that I do not really care about the phone features proper, but rather enjoy the rest of the smart package.

So about my new smart phone. On May 18 I got my Samsung Infuse 4 G. It was just three days available for sale and the very first day when I became eligible to upgrade at a discounted price. I had known about the phone and had been expecting it for about a month. My main pull to it was that it had (and still has) the biggest touch screen on the market. It is important because my eyesight has been progressively deteriorating in the last years and especially since I started my classes in part-time MBA program at GW School of Business. It came to the point that on my Nokia I could not read anything without glasses: not the names of the incoming callers, not the current time- nothing. So having a big screen and adjustable font size was very appreciable improvement. Once I got the phone I started to play around with it and learn all the features available from resident programs, as well as free and premium applications. I have really become hooked up on all the great things I can do with the phone.
Her is the short list of all the things I have come to appreciate:
* Big screen – I now can actually use most of basic functions without glasses: see the time, read the urgent emails, identify the callers, use stopwatch for exercise or grilling. None of these “simple joys” was available to me with Nokia.
* I can check all of my emails from one interface delivered to my combined mailbox on the phone. Nokia allowed to configure only mailboxes from the ISP. So except the verizon email I would have to get my other accounts via web interface. Needless to say it was cumbersome and I used it very rarely only in extreme urgency. Now I hardly go to my gmail, GW mail or yahoo account via computer – all done on the phone.
* Fast speeds of downloads or web browsing – no contest from Nokia.
* Free navigation from pretty capable Google maps. Nokia only offered the paid service from AT&T. I used it for a month while it was free. It was constant butt of the jokes. Every time I veered away from its directions it was insisting that I take “next legal u-turn”. Google quietly recalculates the route and gives new directions based on my “deviant” behavior instead of trying to enforce corrective actions.
*Multitasking!!! This post is a great example of it. I typed the whole post while sitting on the bus from DC to New York. While I was typing the post I had my navigator running in the background and I was periodically checking my location and trip progress.
All the way I was listening to Napster radio and personalized playlist, also maintained at Napster. I was periodically taking pictures with the built-in camera. I was also periodically looking up information on the web and could have up to four browser windows open at the same time. And from time to time I was answering calls from my family. All these actions were running simultaneously hiding in the background when needed, but never stopping completely.

Anyways, I just crossed to Manhattan and my stop is going to be soon. I am finishing and publishing this to post just to demonstrate how great the mobile device can be if done properly. Included in the post at the top and below are a few random pictures I took with my Samsung Infuse 4G smart phone along the way.

Posted from WordPress for Android

The bus at the rest stop on the way from DC to NY

The bus at the rest stop on the way from DC to NY

Service Area in Delaware

Service Area in Delaware

Entering New Jersey on the way to NYC from DC

Entering New Jersey on the way to NYC from DC

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