From the monthly archives:

June 2012

Last Tuesday I received an invitation through the Facebook group of GW PMBA students to a Net Impact Networking event hosted by Honest Tea. When I read about the sponsors of this event – DC Net Impact and their mission: “…to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world”, and William James Foundation – I got interested. Then I read brief introductory information about the hosting company – Honest Tea, “one of the leading “8 Revolutionary Socially Responsible Companies”, and got even more intrigued. So I decided to attend this event, thankfully it was held not too far from my home.

There were two aspects of this networking event that I appreciated specifically. First, I learned about Honest Tea. Until this Tuesday I had seen the Honest Tea products in the stores, but neither paid much attention to them, nor ever had real interest in the company behind it. As for the name, it seemed a bit gimmicky to me. And although I like to drink tea, I prefer it in its original hot form – the idea of iced tea in a bottle was never too appealing to me. As for their teabags, it was just one of many brands on the shelf and I had other brands I already liked. So when I learned from the invitation that Honest Tea is a local company with strong social and environmental impact I thought it would be cool to check it out.

At the event I had a chance to meet and talk with a few Honest Tea employees, including Seth Goldman – the company’s TeaEO. One of the aspects especially interesting for me was how the company managed to maintain their “socially responsible” philosophy, which they had since the foundation, in the wake of the company’s acquisition by Coca Cola last year. I became aware of this paradoxical situation in terms of attitudes to corporate social responsibility from my classes during the MBA program: smaller companies driven by the convictions of their founders may want to have greater positive impact on society and environment, but often lack resources and expertise to do so. The big companies, on the other hand, have all resources, but, driven by the consideration of the bottom line, often implement elements of corporate social responsibility only as a marketing tool or in response to some embarrassing and widely-publicized blunder. In the case of Honest Tea though, they had enough conviction from the founders to pursue social agenda from the start and were financially stable enough by the acquisition time to support their philosophy.

Indeed, when I talked to people from the company, this contradiction became apparent. As one person said, they had to make a conscious effort to make sure they were speaking the same language when they talked with Coca Cola about their philosophy. As for now, it seems that Honest Tea has managed to maintain significant control over their pre-acquisition culture, though some compromises had to be made, such as cancelling the employees ownership in the company, for example.

The second aspect of the event that I liked was the chance to meet interesting people driven by social and environmental agenda. There were a few entrepreneurs with budding businesses whose ideas were very aspirational. One of them was Twice as Warm startup. There were also many students, interns, business people, and volunteers from the sponsoring organizations. Meeting and talking with all these people was very stimulating and encouraging.

There was one conversation with a principal of Nuspace Consulting that was particularly interesting to me. He mentioned that he graduated from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and I remembered that this University is the place where Appreciative Inquiry has been developed. I learned about this methodology in my introductory class to Consulting. We had a guest speaker from the company that has integrated Appreciative Inquiry in their consulting business. I remembered that lecture because Appreciative Inquiry was a very different approach from traditional problem solving philosophy. So it was great to see another company adhering to the same principles. As a matter of fact, the person from Nuspace was a student of the professor at CWRU who came up with Appreciative Inquiry originally.

“Doing well by doing good” has become my conviction sometime during the MBA program at GW.  Unfortunately, many of the socially-minded startups are not doing so well for a variety of reasons. That’s why seeing a successful company such as Honest Tea first hand was a great encouragement.

One last note on the power of personal connection and “the story”.  As I said, before this meeting I did not care about Honest Tea because I did not know anything about them and their “story“. Now I am going to check out their teabag products at the store, and maybe even occasionally get their bottled tea for refreshment. And their name does not appear “gimmicky” anymore, now that I know their story.

This is just a reminder about the importance for businesses to have and promote their story, and maintain as close and personal relations with existing and prospective customers as possible.

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It has been interesting to hear and observe some of the reactions of my part-time MBA fellow graduates in the wake of the graduation. The recurring theme in verbal exchanges from some of my former classmates is, “what are you doing now with all the free time you’ve got?” Another popular one: “Are you looking for a new job now that you’ve got your degree?”

I admit, these questions might be specific to part-time MBA graduates, and not as relevant for the full-timers. The reason for this is that in the past three (two years for Accelerated MBA) we all have been juggling the full-time job with the studies, personal and family obligations, so our free time was almost non-existent. Many of my classmates had reasonably-paying jobs even before starting an MBA, so they leverage their degree to get a promotion or/and a pay raise with their current employers, and therefore they are not looking for a job. Some of us got a new job or a promotion while still doing MBA part-time, therefore we are not pressured to look for a job right after school.

That’s why for these two groups of students who, as I have a sense from conversations and social media updates, make up close to three quarters of the graduated class, the issue of this suddenly available free time is quite overwhelming, in a good sense though. Also, as I mentioned in one of my recent posts, with graduation there is a certain sense of loss of purpose. We have been hustling our ways to the degree, chronically busy with job/school stuff, so we did not have much time to reflect on “what’s now?” question. Now we have time for some self-reflection.

So, how do the graduates from part-time MBA program deal with this double whammy of loss of purpose and abundance, in relative terms of course, of newly found free time.

The reflections that follow are just casual observations of what I see from my classmates or experience myself.

Many people get back to their pre-MBA circles of friends and family and have more socializing time with them. Others resume or give more time to their hobbies and other interests in life. Among these graduates are also those who find new or resume old volunteering opportunities. This approach definitely may help solve both issues of time and purpose.

I know of three families who either got a baby shortly before or expect one within a few months after graduation. This will sure keep them busy for a while ;-) Babies also give great purpose.

Yet another, though smaller, still noticeable group are looking for further enhancement in their educational and professional credentials. I mentioned briefly this phenomenon of MBA enhancement in my post on MBA Bubble. I know one guy who went straight out of school to earn another Masters degree, while at least a couple of people entertain the idea of getting their PhD. Three people I know of are pursuing advanced professional certification, namely CPA, right out of business school. It is not surprising, as many of my fellow MBAs are quite a determined and purpose-driven bunch.

I am personally in the category of those part-time MBAs who got a new job while still at business school, and I am comfortable with it for the time being. So while I don’t have pressures of looking for a new one, I do have the time/purpose issues to be resolved.

So, this is how I deal with it. First, I am getting a big scoop of socializing and other activities that were put on hold or slow burner during my MBA. I intend to have more fun by exploring social landscape with family, friends, colleagues, and MBA classmates.

One of the activities I am resuming is my weekend hiking routine. While in business school I learned about the One Day Hike organized by Sierra Club. It’s a 100 kilometers (50 kilometers option available) hike, but I could not participate in it as it takes place in late April/early May – right around the end of the Spring term with finals and other deliverables due. I am definitely planning to do it next year, and hiking I do love. So this is one of those “for pleasure” things I am able to have more past my MBA. There are other activities I am planning for this summer with my family that I passed on in the last three years.

I am also planning to get a PMP (Project Management Professional) certification this fall, so I am starting my preparation for the PMP test. I am going slow on that right now, but in August, after my vacation, I will go full-throttle in studying. This will keep me busy for a couple of months. I am also thinking of picking up a marketing consulting gig on a side, but that one is only tentative at this time. If I dare into it, I will sure keep the readers posted.

So to answer the question whether there is life after MBA for part-time students, the answer is “YES!”, and life is plentiful ;-)

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Written by Ben Lee, part-time MBA student at GWSB, principal at BRL Consulting Group. Blogger at Sustainable Employees. The article was in the works for a bit and reflects Ben’s selection of courses back in April.

Yes, only 7.5 credits to go and I will have completed the MBA program at GWU.  Let’s review what has been completed: core classes, ISTM (Information Systems Technology Management) selective, SRS (Social Responsibility and Sustainability) selective, and Business Strategy class.  There is one more requirement that I have not completed: 3 elective credits that have a global focus.  Those three credits with a global focus can be satisfied by taking any international business class, study abroad or any other class that focuses on international issues.

Here is some background information about myself.  Academically, I started the program in the fall of 2009.  My preference would be to finish the program at the end of summer session, but I am open to returning to school in the fall to finish up.  Professionally, I run a human capital consulting company that provides HR solutions for small businesses.  I have also assisted in starting another business and plan on starting more businesses as well.  In previous electives, I have chosen classes that will help my business and starting businesses such as: Behavioral Factors in the Process of Change, Small Business Management, Developing Authentic Leadership, and Social Media Marketing.

With this blog posting, I’m going to take you through my process of determining my upcoming class schedule.  Both the Summer 2012 and Fall 2012 class schedules are available.  Summer registration begins on April 9 and fall registration begins April 10th (if necessary).  Here is the countdown:

T minus 6 days

My advisor sent all MBA students a Summer 2012 Elective spreadsheet.  After receiving this, I wanted to identify any class that will satisfy my global focus requirements.  At the same time, I wanted to see if I could find any other classes that interest me.

Here are the classes from that spreadsheet that interested me.  Unfortunately, none of them have a global focus:

  • Business Law -  Enterprise Organization (3 credits)  I enjoyed the business law class that I took in the program and I thought that it could be a good opportunity to learn more about business law.
  • Executive Decision Making (1.5 credits):  Any class that can give someone more tools on making better decisions during challenging situations is a plus.
  • Entrepreneurial Planning (1.5 credits):  This is an online class.  I took one online class and didn’t enjoy it one bit.  I do think I have a much better understanding of what the expectations are for online classes though.  The name of this class is right down my alley in terms of skills that I should learn should help me in the long-term.
  • Marketing of Services (3 credits):  This is an online class as well.  One area that I’m not that strong in is marketing and building a sales pipeline for my business.  This class should help me market my business help me increase sales.

 Now it time to look at a few more programs such as Human Organizational Learning (HOL), Professional Studies and graduate programs for a class that will satisfy my international focus requirement.

  • International & Multicultural Issues in Organizations (3 credits): This class sounds extremely interesting and would fit into my

Now, I need to confirm that I can take the International & Multicultural Issues in Organizations and that it will satisfy the Global Focus.  Plus, I need to try to find out what day and time the class is going to be.  I am sending my advisor an email tonight to find out the answers to my questions.

T-Minus 5 days

My advisor responded to my email regarding the International & Multicultural Issues in Organizations and it is a study abroad class.  Therefore, that class is crossed off the list.  In my class last night, a fellow group member recommended that I take Conflict Management & Negotiation which is not offered this summer.  Based on the registration menu, the class will be offered in the fall.  If I take this class in the fall, then I must take a Global Focus class during the summer.  Right now, the plan is to take Executive Decision Making and a 3 credit class with a Global Focus this summer.  Now, I need to find that class.

T-Minus 4 days

While, I’m not quite back to square one, I really need to take a global focus class.  Ideally, that class will be in something that interests me and is something that I can utilize in the future.  I’ve looked at all the classes that are posted online and I found this class.

  • Regional Strategy – Multinationals (88434), 3 credits, module 2, online

This class is taught in the International Business school so it will satisfy my requirement.  While, I’m not that interested in the subject, this class will satisfy my global focus requirement and allow me to take the conflict management and negotiations class in the fall.  Just for kicks, I’m going to check out ratemyprofessor.com for Fernando Robles (Regional Strategy – Multinationals) and Ernest Forman (Executive Decision Making).

  • Fernando Robles:  Overall pretty good ratings.  It sounds like you can determine how you want to be graded.  It also sounds like he’s a little stubborn, but in reality who isn’t?
  • Ernest Forman:  His two most recent comments were highly favorable for him, but all the previous ones mentioned that he was trying to sell his product “Expert Choice” and he is of poor quality.

Neither ratings will sway my decision on taking these classes.  I believe, I have done the appropriate research on the classes and professors and I’m going to stick with the Regional Strategy – Multinationals class and the Executive Decision Making class in the summer and I will finish my degree in the fall by taking Conflict Management & Negotiation.

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Written by Davide Sonzogni, GWSB MBA graduate 2012.

It was almost 3 years ago when my dear friend Anna said: “You can do it, you should do it, and you will do it!”

In fact, before submitting my MBA application I was not sure if going back to school in my late thirties was a good idea. I was not sure if it was worth the time and the financial efforts required to study at grad school and work at the same time.

Well, I did it!

It is like yesterday when I decided to start the application process and I can’t believe that three weeks ago I attended the “monumental” GW Commencement on the National Mall.

I applied to GW because I liked the school’s atmosphere, and the excellent international department.

I also think that there is something really transcendent that linked GW and me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not superstitious, but there is an amazing series of coincidences that I would like to share with you.

April 30 is my birthday, George Washington took office on April 30, I received the admission letter on April 30 – because I mentioned those two facts during my interview -, I have completed my last paper on April 30 (submitted on May 2, though), and I faced the Washington Monument during Commencement while past years students faced the Capitol.

I chose the Accelerated program because it fit perfectly with my needs: a cohort format for one and half years with classes on Saturdays and one weekday evening followed by one and half semesters of electives, real world group projects, and professional students as classmates were the magic formula.

Although it was hard to keep up with the fast pace and I had to give up most of my social life, I found the learning experience energizing and motivating.

I tried to take advantage of every opportunity to grow: group projects, presentations, simulations, and even a short term study abroad trip in China.

The entrepreneurship class was one of my favorites because the professor stimulated our creativity and questioned many of our assumptions. It was a wakeup call and a source of inspiration. The international management and the international business strategy classes gave me a broad view of the evolving global situation. The excellent public policy course professor opened my eyes on many areas that I didn’t know about. The Global Corporate Responsibility class gave me the tools to view opportunities for balancing profit and sustainability. Finally, the icing on the cake was the negotiation class which was worth every penny of tuition because the professor was engaging, and the syllabus was the perfect mix of theory, group and individual experiences, and class activities.

Two years went fast and it is unreal! I have so much free time and, instead of wasting it as I did sometime in the past, now I feel so motivated to fill it with meaningful things. The words of our Commencement speaker, Brian Williams: “please take us somewhere. Please keep us moving. Push us, lift us up. Make us better”, that closed a humorous and inspirational speech, opened a new chapter of my life. It’s time to do something and to make a difference.

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Commencement Weekend – GWU Celebration

June 10, 2012

It has been exactly three weeks since the GW University-wide Commencement on May 20-th. It was another very special event, not the least reason for that was that it took place on the National Mall. As a matter of fact, GWU is the only University in the nation that has its Commencements held on the […]

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