Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sloan 2008’s East Coast Study Trip

Reporter : S. B.
Each year, as part of the Sloan curriculum, the Sloan class travels to Washington DC and New York to meet leaders in federal government and financial industry. This year, our class had the privilege to visit some top notch institutions and meet their exceptional leaders. Some of the movers and shakers that we met in Washington DC included Ben Bernanke (Federal Reserve Board Chairman), Hank Paulson (Secretary of Treasury), and Carolina Barco (Colombian Ambassador to USA). In New York, we visited leaders of the NYSE Euronext, and the CEOs of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Ernst & Young, among many others.

Hearing Mr. Bernanke was a special treat. He discussed the current liquidity crisis and the Fed’s response. But he also provided an interesting analysis of ‘The Wizard of Oz’—apparently the story is an allegory of the Federal Reserve at the turn of the 20th century. Did you know that the scarecrow represented farmers and that the tin man represented industrial laborers who were desperate for lubricant (currency)? Also, Dorothy was the average American girl, the yellow brick road was the gold standard which led to the Emerald City (Washington or, alternately, New York’s financial district), and the wizard was the U.S. President, who in the book is terrified of evil witches... Needless to say, our class found our interaction with the Fed Chairman to be very informative and entertaining.
We also had the chance to meet with Mr. Cal Dooley (Sloan 1987), an actual Washington lobbyist and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Products Association (FPA). Mr. Dooley discussed the unintended consequences of alternate sources of energy and energy independence, such as large spikes in the cost of food which disproportionately affect the poor. Then, during her speech to our class at the Colombian Embassy, Ms. Carolina Barco eloquently described Colombia’s steady progress under President Uribe, as well as the need for a US-Colombia free trade agreement. It was therefore interesting to find, once we got back to Stanford, that Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager was fired due to his association with the Colombian free trade agreement.

After we finished our last meeting in DC, we traveled on Amtrak Acela to New York City. We had a car reserved for our class and the entire trip was a lot of fun filled with socializing, coordinating social activities with business meetings, and to downing some ..ahem.. adult beverages. The change in time zones was probably the least enjoyable part of the trip. On most days, the first appointment of the day for us would be at 9 AM EST. This meant that we had to leave our hotel by 8 AM, which in turn meant we had to wake up at 7AM- but that is 4 AM California time! Even some of the morning people were having a tough time. However, large doses of coffee infusions along with cat naps on the bus between meetings helped. On the upside , partying late into the night, which happened often, was easy. By the time hard-partying New Yorkers were ready to call it a night, we were just getting started.

Our visit to NYSE Euronext was very interesting from a number of angles. First, we had to go through a pretty rigorous security gauntlet. The security folks were cordial, even though some of them walked around the building with M4 carbines. Then we had a great interactive session with Larry Leibovitz, the Chief Operating Officer of NYSE. He walked us through all the challenges the NYSE had to overcome in transitioning from a private, member-operated entity that relied on market-makers, to its present form as a global public electronic exchange. At the end we got a chance to tour the trading floor of the stock exchange- the “sanctum sanctorum of capitalism”. Fox Business Channel and CNBC had permanently-stationed people on the floor, and we could still see left-over signs for the now defunct CNNfn channel.

Then the meeting with Susan Lyne, the CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), provided useful insights regarding hiring and firing decisions. Before joining MSLO, Ms. Lyne worked for Walt Disney Pictures and Television where she was chartered with turning ABC around. She was responsible for green lighting a number of shows for ABC including “Desperate Housewives”, “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy”. Unfortunately she was fired before these shows aired. She did not exhibit any bitterness, however, and gave us useful philosophical frameworks to use when being fired, and hopefully, when doing the firing as well. We asked on what it took to be successful when working for a visionary demanding founder; her answer ‘communication and more communication’.

We ended our trip with a visit to offices of Ernst & Young (E & Y) and meeting with Jim Turley its CEO. When he walked into the conference room, he made it a point to shake hands and to remember all our names and nationalities. He also knew the names of all major corporations around the world, the names of their leaders, and their relationships with E & Y. We then had a great Q & A session. For example, he explained the challenges of his first front-line manager job as being a lone fire hydrant in a 50-dog town. His next job was similar expect that there were far more dogs. He also discussed his philosophy towards making tough decisions. He thinks it’s better to act on them immediately and move decisively rather than postponing the decision, hoping that the situation will get better. He compared that to being forced to eat a sandwich filled with “very unappealing material”. If, during the course of your career, you are forced to eat such a meal, it is better to Koichi Zaiki and Robert Jungerhans have fun in Washington eat it in one bite rather than nibbling on it. Needless to say, visiting with Mr. Turley was an awesome way to finish an excellent study trip.

My Sloan life...

Reporter: Alex Jensen,

Here we are entering May and I find myself in two minds about our sloan year coming to an end. Part of me is gripped with a kind of panic at not having the community of 53 confidantes only a spontaneous conversation or hug’s length away. Another part of me is really ready to launch back into my company and start adding value again. I have spent some quality time recently reflecting on what my major take-outs are from this year and I realize with delight that I’ve actually made progress on all the objectives I came with. I have renewed my passion for making a difference in the world of energy; I know how I will communicate who I am to a team of 1000 people; I no longer recoil from words like power, success and ambition. But there have been other benefits that I hadn’t foreseen. I have been utterly compelled by my entrepreneurial classmates who had the imagination to create a vision, the guts to fail and the self-belief to succeed. I needed some of that and I thank them for their inspiration. I have also been inspired by my female classmates who have shown me that you can be both feminine and powerful; a good mother and a tough leader; strong-willed and humble. I leave Stanford confident that my yin and yang are better balanced than ever. I can’t wait to test it all out in the workplace.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ask Sally – Sally Answers your questions

Reporter : S. B.

In our returning articles, Sally Pierce, the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-perceiving overseer of the Sloan program will answer your questions. As we all know there are no ‘stupid questions” but you are free to make assumptions about the person that asked the question.

If you have additional questions that you would like to ask Sally, please e-mail them to ‘you know who’ or ‘whose name shall not be spoken’.

Dear Sally, I am having a lot of fun in the Sloan program. This is great. I never realized it would be this much fun. – Wildly Optimistic

Dear W.O., It is called Stockholm syndrome. You can look it up on Wikipedia or ask Hakan about it. By the time you are done with your mid-terms, you will start thinking that this has been the best year of your life and that you will miss the classes, your classmates and even us. Fortunately, these effects will go away after years of therapy. Hope this helped.

Dear Sally, I am looking forward to the Latin Party. But it keeps on getting postponed. When is it eventually going to happen?. – Party Hardy

Dear P.H., I have been with the Sloan program long enough to notice some trends with the parties. All the Sloan parties will have bad 80s music, The Asian party will have karaoke, the Indian party will start late and end late. With regards to the Latin party, it will happen when it happens and clocks and calendars are not very useful in predicting it. Like with fine tequila, you will have to be patient. It will be worth the wait. Hope this helped.

Dear Sally, Why is the Sloan program so hard? We spend almost all our waking time studying, reading cases, working on assignments/project reports and yet it still does not seem enough. Am I missing something? – Think I am an Admissions Mistake

Dear T.I.A.A.M, You are not an admissions mistake. We are not supposed to discuss this but your question sounds so sincere and so I am disclosing this for the very first time. The Sloan program is a social experiment to determine how far a person can be pushed before they break. So everytime you seem to get a grip on your workload and you have not broken down, we increase your workload.

But lately, I noticed that we may be getting close to a breaking point. Marie, Sandy, Virginia and I talked to Dean Robert ‘Milgram’ Joss and we told him, “Bob we need to stop this. I think you have all the data you need for your research already. We have pushed this class past their breaking point. Last week, we saw Brian Tice in the Sloan lounge, curled up in fetal position. He was shaking and muttering that he would rather be in Fallujah avoiding sniper fire. If Brian is close to breaking, then the more sensitive people like William must be in a serious downward spiral.” As he has done in the past, he told us in a very even mode “Please continue. The experiment requires that you continue. It is absolutely essential that you continue”. So we came back and added more work. Hope this helped.

Dear Sally, My partner has noticed that since I joined the Sloan program, my ..err… drive has gone up substantially. I have been trying to figure this out and I think I may be accidentally ingesting huge amounts of Viagra. Besides attending classes, the only thing that has changed from my pre-sloan days is the M & Ms that I eat in your office. Are you sure those M & Ms are not spiked? – Excited & Delighted

Dear E.D., The only thing that you will find in my M & Ms are love and some empathy mixed with chocolate, sugar, nuts and approved coloring. There is a far simpler explanation for your increased...let’s say, perkiness. At the Sloan program, you spend hours sitting on your behind in classes in small cramped spaces. Most people do not realize how much of an aphrodisiac this can be. The seats in the MBA classrooms are not as comfortable as the ones in the Sloan classroom and have you noticed how much more ‘driven’ the MBAs are. Hope this helps.