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? 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Business Responsibility in Emerging Markets

Reesha Padmanabh, VP Marketing of the Global Business Society shares her experience at the Business Responsibility in Emerging Markets event held at the Kelley School of Business last week.

Reesha Padmanabh
(MBA Class of 2015, Marketing & Business Analytics Major)

The Kelley School of Business Atrium was decked up with an elegant stage. There was an air of excitement as students arrived dressed sharply. Enthusiastic whispers filled the air as Curt Ferguson, the President of Coca Cola of North Africa and Middle East region, walked in. Thus began the much anticipated “Business Responsibility in Emerging Markets” event, sponsored by the Institute for International Business (IIB), Global Business Society (GBS) and Net Impact.

The IIB, Net Impact and GBS Leadership teams welcomed him to his alma mater. As VP of Marketing, GBS, I was thrilled at the opportunity of personally interacting with the leader who is responsible for all aspects of Coca Cola’s business in 33 countries selling over 1.5 billion cases of Coca Cola products annually to more than 768 million consumers from Morocco to Egypt in North Africa and Ghana in West Africa through the entire Middle East and Central Asia in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The event, attended by over 130 graduate and undergraduate students, kicked off with Ash Soni, Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs, introducing the guest speaker, his background and achievements. Curt Ferguson then took over the stage. He captivated the audience through sharing his experiences over the years. He offered insights that opened our eyes to how situations in different economies affected products and their marketing strategies, and how environmental sustainability and social responsibility were integrated in every business decision.

Curt revealed how Coca Cola undertook marketing campaigns in developing countries without being limited by political situations. During difficult times between India and Pakistan, Coca Cola worked towards building friendliness and mutual liking between citizens of the two countries through providing live communication portals. It was endearing to watch a video showing the impact of this campaign. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts_4vOUDImE)

It was fascinating to learn about Coca Cola’s 5by20 initiative towards Women Empowerment launched in 2010. Coca Cola believes that investing in women will enable economic growth and sustainable development. Through this program, over 550,000 women in 44 countries have been empowered through various programs driven by the major elements of the Coca Cola value chain.
It was especially interesting to know about a program which brought around 100 students from countries such as Syria, Jordan, Israel, Yemen and Palestine in the Middle East to Indiana University every summer to attend classes, participate in case competitions and discuss about various business opportunities in their countries. Curt, who serves on the International Committee for the Indiana University Foundation, expressed a desire to link the MBA student body at Kelley with students in those countries, in order to initiate discussions among students belonging to similar age groups and having common interests.

The floor was then opened to questions. Curt answered various queries posed by several students from different geographic backgrounds. One interesting question revolved around Coca Cola’s choice between the trademark Coca Cola glass bottle in some countries and aluminum cans in others. Curt revealed how it was reasonable to manufacture glass bottles in some regions such as the Middle East where sand was abundantly available. He also encouraged everyone to recycle Coke cans indicating how easy and economical it was to recreate a new can from a recycled one.

Curt’s talk was followed by a reception allowing students to network over food and Coca Cola products. Sarah Nagelvoort, President of Kelley Net Impact, said, “Net Impact’s goal for the event was to reach students with the message that industry leaders such as Coca Cola have recognized that social and environmental responsibility are not just another box to be checked but integral steps in doing business and creating long-term value.” Adan Abbey, President of Kelley GBS, said, “Curt's presentation was insightful and gave attendees a glimpse into the challenges and opportunities of running a business in a dynamic region of the world, the Middle East and North Africa. As a manager, keeping your pulse on the rapidly changing external environment, and not being afraid to make the tough calls, were some key messages that stood out to me.”

Overall, the event served as a fantastic learning platform for the attendees, was very well organized and greatly lauded by all.