Friday, February 6, 2015

Current Student Spotlight: Natalie Jayne Curts


Natalie Jayne Curts
(MBA Class of 2016, Supply Chain, Entrepreneurship & Corporate Innovation Major)

Name: Natalie Jayne Curts
Hometown: Noblesville Indiana
Career Prior to Kelley: Before coming to Kelley I lived in China for roughly six years, and in that time I’ve had a number of different roles that shared a common thread of marketing and team building.  My greatest professional accomplishment has been establishing and running my own business since 2010 – a trading company that specializes in manufacturing high quality craft works in China primarily for Western design firms.  Our most successful product offering is customized instruments, particularly acoustic and electric guitars. 
While living abroad I’ve been able to grow a global network of amazing friends and business contacts that has allowed me to take part in some serendipitously random opportunities! I've worked as the CEO and marketing director for a Chinese factory with over 1000 employees where I was the only foreigner that could speak Mandarin, been a part-time travel writer, led English communication and soft skills workshops to Chinese executives, and even made my big break as a commercial model for a local office supplies company and a Beijing hair salon! I've loved the variety of experiences I've had and I’m thankful for how they've shaped me.

Why did you decide to get an MBA? Pursuing my MBA had been a plan in the works for a very long time.  As an undergrad I knew I wanted to do business in China and decided to first focus on becoming fluent in Mandarin and gaining a deeper understanding of the culture.  I am excited by the unconventional, and learning about business from experience was a challenge I enjoyed.  I knew all along that a MBA education would allow me to build upon the experiences I had and help me to fill in the gaps, but I didn’t expect how hard it would be to leave my company to come back to school.  What allowed me to come back and get my MBA was finally realizing that no matter what I did my company would never be as ready as I wanted.  I accepted that leaving the company I had painstakingly created was another great risk, but in the end I made the decision to just go for it; the payoff of a Kelley MBA has been totally worth it!

Why did you choose Kelley? Well, I’m from just north of Indianapolis, so I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t aware of the Kelley school.  I was really sold on the school when I met with the admissions councilors during their international tour in Shanghai.   

What is your favorite Kelley experience so far? Honestly, it’s a tough call. But the most delightful surprise for me has been the support, encouragement and learning offered by my beloved supply chain academy.  We have two directors, Carl and Dan, who bring such wonderfully complimentary backgrounds to the academy experience.  I’ve learned such a great deal about applying in the real world concepts learned during the core through the excellent events they've planned, a rich academy week experience, top speakers, data analytics seminars, introduction to the wide range of supply chain topics and, not least of all, a full day learning leadership in the forest by playing paintball.

What do you do to maintain a school/life balance? The core was rough on all of us, but I have made such wonderful friends at Kelley that I find myself continuously surrounded by positive energy!  I am however a natural introvert, so for me it is very important to have time alone to recharge.  In the mornings as often as possible I try to set aside 20-30 minutes of personal reflection time over breakfast and a nice, dark cup of coffee.  Days where I start off with intentional reflection about the true direction of my life are always the sweetest.  In the evenings as often as possible I always try to make time for a nice long jog.

Advice for women looking to go to B-school? The best advice I can offer is a quote that I’ve kept dear to my heart over the past several years by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “All that is really worthwhile is action.  Personal success or personal satisfaction are not worth another thought.” We are all called to do great things in life, consider deeply what your calling is, what you need to get there and whether getting a MBA is a necessary part of that.  If it’s meant to be, it will.

One fun fact about you: I translated a couple of CDs from Chinese into English for some underground rock and folk bands in Beijing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Transitioning into the consulting world: how the Kelley MBA prepared me for success

by Urvashi Marda, Senior Consultant – EY (Kelley Alum, Class of 2014)

Pre-Christmas festivities at my hotel in NJ
First off Happy New Year Everyone! Hope you had a fulfilling 2014 and are excited to start with another great year at Kelley (I am so jealous!!). I cannot believe that it has almost been a year since I graduated from the MBA program. I remember my conversations with my buddies from the Class of 2013 around this time last year. I was listening to all their fun work stories and I noticed how all their stories had a common theme - the never ending learning curve! I have been working with EY as a Senior Consultant for over 5 months now, and I completely agree with my MBA predecessors. Every situation is unique and novel in the real world – no two clients or projects are the same. I am learning something new every single day! When I look back at my experiences at Kelley I realize that it is not the formulae and frameworks I learned during my MBA that differentiate me at the workplace, but it is in fact all the unique experiences I had both inside and outside of the Kelley classroom. Here is my attempt on listing out my top 5 valuable takeaways from the Kelley MBA: 

1. The importance of a Personal Brand: Most of the time in business, Perception is Reality. Me, Inc. introduced me to the term “Personal Brand” and since then it has never left my side. One of my initial activities at EY was to determine my goals and align them with my personal brand. And in the past few months, all my activities have been geared toward building and enhancing this brand.


Volunteering at a school with my EY colleagues in Chicago
    2. The power of discipline: I believe it is implied that most of us coming into business school understand Discipline 101, and our experiences at the business school such as learning from our peers, setting up glorious calendar invites, waking up at wee hours to accommodate meetings but not forgoing that last drink at Kilroy’s - give discipline a whole new meaning. Trust me, this doesn't end. My outlook is still donned with a color-coded calendar and yes, I make sure that I do not miss any of the happy hours!

      3. Being open to new experiences- Being flexible in an integral part of being a consultant, this means not only traveling to new places and working with different clients but also working with a new team for each project.  I cannot thank Kelley enough for encouraging the culture of working with different teams, for the GLOBASE and EME trips which helped many of us experience different countries - their business, culture and lifestyle, and not to forget all the perks of living in a culturally diverse college town – Bloomington!

    4. Devil Duck for the win: Prof. Semadeni’s devil duck concept is exactly what is needed at the workplace!! You need to make your presence felt at the workplace, no one wants a team member who is just a fly on the wall. I have realized that during brainstorming sessions, it is important to respectfully disagree when needed and present your thoughts/findings. This not only enriches the team dynamics but also enables the team to provide exceptional client service.

5. Collaborating is cool: One of the big differentiators at Kelley is how collaborative the culture is. And I definitely think there is no reason to shy away from it. This is a great quality that many workplaces and institutions lack. To think of it, the end goal for any consulting project is to make sure that the clients are successful and happy. It beats me how this can ever be possible without collaboration on all fronts – within the team, with other 3rd party providers, and ultimately with the clients.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: Always take some time out to have fun!!! (Emma Stone’s Cabaret in NYC with my coworkers)


Monday, December 1, 2014

From Big Data to Real Results

Kimberly talks about her experience in the third annual Institute for Business Analytics (IBA) data challenge held recently at the Kelley School of Business. 




Kimberly Barker Ralphs
(MBA Class of 2015, Marketing, Corporate Innovation
and Business Analytics Major)

These days, everyone talks about big data and how it can solve all of a business' problems from reaching customers to cutting costs. But when you get right down to it, most people don’t really know how to use big data. While it is clear that the abundance of information presents great opportunities, it is equally clear that most companies have no idea how to take advantage of those opportunities.

Over the summer, I had seen this juxtaposition of benefits and it piqued my interest in data analysis, which landed me in the K513: Data Mining class during the first block of fall classes. As the class was winding down last month, our professor, Vijay Khatri encouraged all of us to participate in the annual Data Challenge, hosted by the IU Institute for Business Analytics (IBA) and sponsored by IBM, Deloitte, and other companies.

I and a few classmates; Susana Zazueta, Isa Fung, and Brian Anderson, decided to form a team and enter the competition. The case we were presented with asked us to find a way for hospitals to reduce patient readmissions to improve overall patient outcomes and decrease hospital expenses. We used IBM SPSS Modeler software to do an initial analysis of the data and create a decision tree that identified patients at high risk of being readmitted, then we did additional analysis in Excel to determine the right cut-offs for the important variables and quantify the savings that would result from using this solution.

The number crunching was relatively straightforward but we knew that the key to our success would be our ability to connect the numbers to a solution that had real impact on the business and the people involved. Though our solution would save the hospitals a relatively small amount in direct costs, it makes a large difference when looking at the whole picture of indirect and intangible costs. 

Our challenge was to convert the raw numbers into a solution that meant something for real people

On October 31, we presented our solution to a team of judges. They liked the human angle and the balance of data and industry context. There were more than 20 teams who participated in the challenge, including both MBA and MSIS students. Each team presented to one of three sets of judges. In the end, the judges deliberated and declare a three-way tie for the winner. Our team was honored to be named one of the winners along with the team of Reesha Padmanabh, Ramanuja Atur, Sahil Sandhu, Bhupesh Bharuka and the team of Danny Oviedo, Drew Cekada, Ellen Gartner-Phillips, and Gauri Nayak.

This challenge was a great opportunity to put in practice many of the principles I have learned so far at Kelley. The key takeaway for me was that in order to find data-based solutions, you have to first, know how to run the numbers, second, understand the problem and all its consequences, and third, make it real and relatable. As I move forward in finishing my MBA and entering a new career, I’ll keep this in mind.

Thanks to Vijay Khatri, Frank Acito, the Institute for Business Analytics, and all the staff, judges, and sponsors who helped make this challenge a great experience!

Our team with the IBA directors (L-R Kimberly Barker, Susana Zazueta, Frank Acito, Vijay Khatri, Brian Anderson, Isa Fung )


Friday, November 7, 2014

Wine and Canvas Night

By Mandy Su

Mandy Su
(MBA Class of 2015, Finance and Business Analytics Major)

When I returned to B-school this year, a realization that the next few months will come and go faster than we can imagine slowly set in. Given how fast our first year of MBA went, I wanted to make the most of this year by breaking outside of the D-bar bubble and take part in activities I have never experienced before.

Wine and Canvas was something I had always wanted to do and a few other ladies had also expressed interest in it. This would provide a unique opportunity for the second year ladies to bond in a classy, cultural setting. After talking with a number of ladies, it was apparent that there was enough interest for us to host a private event.

Throughout the course of the two and half hour event, laughter and silence alternated throughout the room. Laughter as we made fun of our own artistic skills, and complete silence as we all concentrated to make the perfect stroke on the canvas. As we drank wine and painted, the ladies started to open up and share personal experiences that we never knew. For example, Kristin shared her story about how the number of continents is debatable depending on the part of the world you are in. This side story led to the personal quiz for naming all of the continents and a discussion about the perception of Americans in different parts of the world. Now how often would these types of discussions come up on a regular day? 

Through this event, we were able to bond over our art skills, wine choices, and world views. But most importantly, our time together brought us closer and we are looking forward to a second Wine and Canvas night where we can take on the challenging Sample Gate portrait. B-school is all about networking and relationship building, what better way to do that than over wine and canvas?