Hey What do you say, let’s graduate some Knights Saturday

COBA students graduate this Saturday. To those of you that will shake my hand as you cross the stage: Well done. I have only one line of ancient wisdom for you as you cross over to alumni status: Fortune favors the bold. The Romans believed Fortuna, the goddess of luck, was more likely to help those who took risks. In other words, you make your own luck in life through your deeds. Get busy.

As I wrote last semester, we need more rituals in the COBA, pageantry that underscores who we are and what is important to us: That includes graduation. So in an effort to start a new tradition, provide inspiration to future students and make graduation more engaging, I want you all to tweet me (@pauljarley) your most uncomfortably rewarding moment at UCF… A time when you took a risk as a student and how it paid off. Please use the hash tag #ucfbusinessgrad. The best examples will be used throughout the coming year as quotes that will appear on our TV screens in BA1 and BA2. So make them inspirational and G-rated. Oh, and I’ll be tweeting some of you words of congratulations as well.

Go Knights.

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Einstein Answered Sixth Graders

I came across this a couple of weeks ago: To read it, click here. It is the best thing I have stumbled upon in a long time.

Why do I like it so much? If Einstein could find the time to write back to a sixth grader in just five days, what’s our excuse for failing to engage in a conversation, reply to tweet, or respond to an email from a student? Surely it is not that we are too busy or too important. There is also a great lesson for students: professors really appreciate good questions. Young Phyllis’ question is simple, yet profound. It begs for a response.

To answer your question Phyllis, business faculty tend to see value in hedging strategies.

An alum on the importance of networking

Dean Jarley,

I hope this message finds you well. I am Chadd A. Cole, Fall 2012 Graduate of the University of Central Florida. I am emailing you because I recently came across the blog you posted on Adler Dehner’s career search. His career search is an amazing story which showcases the power of Social Media Networking! Adler is a good friend of mine and we both share a few things in common, one being Alpha Kappa Psi and the other being uncommon career-search success stories.

I would like to share with you my uncommon career search story in hopes to inspire UCF students & graduates to get involved, develop, and essentially leverage their network! I feel, and I’m sure you’ll agree, that the network you acquire while attending a University as a graduate or undergraduate, is one of the most valuable resources offered.

I took the initiative to distinguish myself from the typical college student by developing my personal website. This website serves as an online resume portfolio that contains my mission, values, career goals, downloadable copies of projects I’ve worked on, testimonials, as well as other information to highlight my individuality. I used this to give my potential interviewers, especially out-of-state interviewers, a more personal feel of who I am, what I’ve done, and where I would like to go. The goal of this website was to boost confidence in interviewers to move forward towards investing the time and money it takes to interview someone. My website is http://www.chaddcole.com, feel free to check it out.

Many may feel as if it is difficult to develop a site such as this but there are tons of easy and free website development tools that will help give a more personal feel to people/companies you may want to reach out to. The site, http://www.godaddy.com, is just one example that offers an inexpensive product. Although some may feel that there is no need to develop a website while you have a LinkedIn account, a personal website allows the consumer to customize it and make it their own.

Before graduating I had multiple job offers, some a bit more notable than others. One of the more eminent offers was with BMO Harris Bank for a Commercial Banking Analyst position. The position with BMO Harris Bank was purely from networking. I went to Chicago during my last semester of college with the intentions of networking and checking out the local grad schools. I never imagined that this trip would result in a 65K job offer! Well that is exactly what happened. During my time there I scheduled time to meet up with local graduates and undergrads who were involved in local chapters of my fraternity or RSO’s to express my interest in the city and the job market. After much networking, a position with BMO Harris was brought to my attention and my resume was forwarded to a hiring agent. A few weeks later I was called to do a phone screening interview and the same day was offered to fly out to Chicago for an in person interview the following Monday, all expenses were paid. During the interview most of the individuals spent a good portion of their time complementing me on my website and asking me about content that was on my site. This broke the ice and made the interview much easier.

Another notable interview would be one with BB&T. This job position was brought to my attention from a colleague in a UCF RSO. He spoke highly of the company and their leadership development program(LDP). I reached out into my network to find someone connected to someone who went through BB&T’s LDP. Once I found someone they were more than happy to assist me in the process. This was an extremely long process that consisted of a phone interview, an interview in the BB&T building in downtown Orlando, and finally a two-day interview at their headquarters in North Carolina, all expenses paid.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, and my puddling is full of benefits of networking. Although both of these companies decided to move forward with me because I was a “stand-out” candidate, a lot of the leg work of standing out was helped by a formal introduction from those within my network. I would not have known of the positions nor made it through the interviews without the assistance of those people within my network!

Make it About Them

Angel L Ramos (@thenewapproach) asked me to blog about effective networking tips.

Angel, you have discovered a topic where I must admit that I don’t think I have much to say. I work with three professional networkers: Bridget Downes, Kelly Dowling and Tiffany Hughes. Having the pleasure of watching them for a year and looking for what makes them so successful, I think it comes down to this:

Networking is like a first date… If you want a second date, make it about them.

The risk in this strategy is that they might always want it to be about them. When that happens, you need to know that it is time to move on.

Bridget, Kelly and Tiffany–feel free to chime in.

Repost Wednesday: MBA or EMBA?

It is a question I get frequently this time of year. If you are less than five years from your undergraduate experience, the answer is “neither.” Go do something interesting, gain experience and perspective, and then go to graduate school. We will still be here.

If you have been out five years and have an undergraduate business degree, don’t go back to your alma mater. Chances are you will get some familiar professors, sharing many of the same insights as they did when you were an undergraduate. Yes the material will come at you faster and in a more sophisticated manner, but you will get more value from a graduate degree if you attend a different institution. If you have been out of business school ten years or more, the faces and topics will have changed enough that attending the same school won’t result in a redundant experience.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s get down to answering the question at hand. Whether you choose the MBA or EMBA route depends on your prior experience, where you are in your career, how much you can afford to spend, and the type of time commitment you can make in pursuit of your degree.

MBA programs were created to get engineers ready to move into management positions in large scale industrial enterprises. The scope of the MBA has expanded over time, but it is still a primary way people with “bench experience” gain the education necessary to move into general management positions in their industry or profession. Thus, MBA programs stress accounting, finance, management, and marketing skills. This emphasis on operational skills is one of the reasons I discourage business majors from pursuing a MBA shortly after they graduate: they should have gotten these skills from their undergraduate program. As time goes on, new topics and a need to refresh skills make investment in a MBA worth the time and money for people with an undergraduate business degree, but there is little return from rushing into such a program.

EMBA programs were initially designed to “fast-track” managers identified by their companies as “rising stars” into upper-echelon positions. Today many EMBA students are experienced managers looking to change companies or careers, but the curriculum still focuses on fostering strategic thinking and managing change within the organization. Think of the difference this way: A MBA gives you the ability to analyze data and make operational decisions. An EMBA gives you the strategic perspective and knowledge to use the information from operational reports to direct the future of the business in productive ways.

Notice that neither the MBA or EMBA gives you deep technical training in a specific functional area.Two-year MBA programs give students a greater opportunity to specialize by providing tracks, but if your goal is a deep understanding of one functional area (e.g., accounting, MIS), you are better off in an advanced masters program that specializes in your area of choice.

MBA and EMBA programs also differ in delivery formats and cost. MBA programs are offered either in “day” or “evening” formats. Day programs typically require people to quit their jobs and enroll as full-time students with the expectation of completing their degree in one or two years. This is usually an easier choice for young professionals without significant family commitments. Older folks are more likely to choose evening programs, because they allow students to keep their jobs and pursue their degree after hours on a part-time basis. This provides people with better cash-flow, but comes at the expense of extending the time to degree. This is a significant tradeoff. My experience has been that if students don’t complete their degree within three years of enrolling, they rarely finish. Life events get in the way.

EMBA programs compress the time to completion and allow students to keep their day jobs by concentrating classes in a weekend format that graduates students in about eighteen months. Electives are rare. Typically everyone completes the same courses in a fixed sequence. The most popular format is to offer classes all day on Fridays and Saturdays on alternating weekends. You might also have to use some vacation to attend a few week-long segments of the program. It can be a bit like drinking water from a fire hose. Because the courses are concentrated and the students experienced, EMBA classes tend to be smaller and more discussion-based than MBA classes. Students learn as much from each other as they do from the professor and build strong bonds that last for their entire professional career. It is a rich experience that comes with a higher price tag–typically two to three times more expensive than the MBA, although EMBA costs include meals, textbooks, and frequently international travel that are not factored into MBA program tuition. EMBA grads report the payback period can be as little as a couple of years.

Which program is right for you depends on personal circumstance, but I will tell you that I am a big fan of EMBA programs. If you are at the right point in your career, can invest the time and money, and want to build connections with faculty and highly motivated people, EMBA programs are hard to beat.

Managing the Student Experience

@funsizek80 asked me to blog about ways administration can adjust operations to be an example of a customer-oriented business. @funsizek80 goes on to note that she is not referring to the COBA, but other departments because we do such a good job.

Thanks @funsizek80. The credit for our success goes to Dr. Taylor Ellis and the many people who work with him in IT, advising, career connections, and the various departments of the college. Richard, Lonny, Lynn, Bob and their staffs work tirelessly to run an effective, efficient and responsive organization in an environment where they sometimes have to tell students things they don’t really want to hear.

I don’t know enough about operations elsewhere on campus to provide administration with specific suggestions on how to improve any unit’s performance. That said, I can offer a few general observations about how we try to do it in COBA that may help others.

It may surprise you to learn that we do not view students as customers. We view them as clients. The important distinction is that while “the customer is always right,” we are in the business of providing people with our professional judgment about what is best for them in an environment that sets standards for client performance. Sometimes this is not what our clients want to hear, but it is our responsibility to apply our judgment in an manner that underscores our respect for our students as well as our duty to other stakeholders.

For the most part, improving front-line operations is not conceptually difficult. The technology and techniques for accomplishing business process responsiveness and effectiveness are fairly well-known. The problem is that this is one of those areas where culture trumps strategy and technology. If you don’t have the culture right–the strategy and operational details don’t mean much. People who are unclear about the goals, about “who is working for who,” and what behaviors are required of everyone aren’t going to perform well even when the technology and technical elements of the task are well understood.

So, it is extremely important that management do a good job of setting peoples’ expectations about what will happen when they interact with the organization. In essence, you have to tell people what they can expect and then deliver on that promise. If you break that promise, you are in a worse situation than if you had never promised anything at all. We co-create educational experiences with our students so both students and employees must be clear on their responsibilities and expectations.

I would like to think that we do a good job in COBA because we constantly explain to people the kind of student experience we wish to create and how their actions contribute to the culture we wish to foster in the college. In an organization that is rightly faculty-driven, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the key role professional and administrative staff play in shaping students’ perceptions of their college experiences. The fact is that many students have many meaningful interactions outside the classroom with advisors, receptionists, administrative assistances, counselors, career coaches, etc. If administration only focuses on what goes on in the classroom, they are missing a great deal. Since the day I walked in the door, I have preached the importance of engaging with students, getting people out of their comfort zones and collaborating to get stuff done. Everybody is expected to do this: students, faculty, staff and especially me.

The bottom line is this: if you focus on the total student experience, get a strong concept of what this should be and clearly communicate to the people who are responsible for implementing this vision their role in fostering the right environment, you are 80 percent of the way home. The remaining 20 percent is about managing everyone’s performance. Holding people accountable can be hard, but if you don’t do it, the culture will crumble, promises will be broken and none of the technology and process re-engineering matters much.

And the Winner of Our Celebrating Failure Competition Is!

Student Name: Cary E Caldwell

I was working for a high volume Foreclosure and Bankruptcy law firm in 2007 as a legal assistant while maintaining a full schedule of classes. At 21 I was getting burned out since our company was downsizing and placing the file load unto me. I was doing 3 peoples jobs and was working for a very hard boss who would ask me to skip classes in order to meet deadlines.

Well one evening after a very tough day of work and school I went on my Myspace account (this is 2007 mind you) and blogged about my boss and the horrible experience I was having. Not realizing that someone in my office was one of my “friends” and had forwarded the not so nice blog to my manager.

The next day I received an email stating that I was to clean up my desk and leave my ID badge at the admin’s desk. I was devastated. I moved from my home in Florida to this Dallas, TX firm and had no real family and friends that I could rely on to get me through my schooling. So I quit college and packed up to my mother’s house. I went online and found an insurance job in Connecticut and decided I would not return to academia. After about 3 years of being the low man on the totem pole, I realized that I needed to go back to school and have a balanced work/life experience. So here I am very grateful for everything I’ve learned so far to better myself and excited about getting back to the corporate world.

Instructor’s Comments: It shows that failing to be vigilant in all aspects of your life can cost you. Particularly relevant because of social media’s increasing impact on our students and their work prospects.

Repost Wednesday: The Tigers (still) need a closer

This was true when I first wrote it at the start of the season and it is more true now…

My old friend and colleague Nate Bennett has a column in Business Week. His latest entry is about the challenges of baseball managers on teams that really have little hope of winning the World Series. The trick is to get the most out of each player while not losing your credibility about the team’s chances. If you succeed your team just might contend. Think Joe Madden and the Rays.

Jim Leyland of my Tigers has a different problem. He is expected to win. In fact his team is expected to dominate. When it doesn’t, like for most of last season, people want his head. Expectations are even higher this year: he is expect to win the Wold Series. Nothing less will do.

The problem is the Tigers don’t have a closer. Guys on teams need clearly defined roles. If you bat first or second in the order, your job is to get on base: hit, walk, hit by pitch..doesn’t matter. Just get on base. If you bat three through six, you need to drive people in. If you bat seven through nine, a hit would be nice but you are on the team to get the other team out. Starting pitchers need to go five innings and give up less than four runs. Middle relief specialists get specific types of hitters out.

Then there is the closer. His job is to get the last three outs when everyone else has already done their job. The team is ahead. You take the mound and if you do your job, the team wins. If you don’t, everyone is disappointed with you. And if you do disappoint, your job is to forget about it, go out the next day and pitch like you never ever get beat. The ninth inning is yours…act like you own it.

The problem is that Jim Leyland doesn’t have this guy. He knows it and the team knows it. He has lots of good pitchers who can get people out, but none that have had to own the ninth inning. So guys will have to play multiple roles. That is hard to do.

Some say you don’t need this, that you can close by committee. It can be one guy’s job today and another tomorrow. That is a bit like saying

The people who work for you need to know that you can close. That when they have done all that they can to set you up for success and you take the mound that you will be lights out. Frankly they deserve this and if they believe that they can depend on you to close, they will work tirelessly for you. If they doubt you, or you doubt you, you will not get their A game.

That’s why Jim Leyland needs a closer. Every team does.

Go Tigers.

The STEM Student and Business

@Austin_J_Foster is a math major. He asked me to comment on the role COBA should play in his studies. More generally, Austin wonders “Are STEM students lacking without business courses?”

Austin, your income potential and financial future ultimately depend on your ability to add economic value. This is what employers pay people to do and it is what businesses extract as profit. The better you understand the value creation process, the more likely you are to make a significant economic contribution and the more money you are likely to accrue either as an employer or as an employee. Many people with great technical skills have a deep understanding of the logic of their chosen field of science but lack a “market mindset.” They do not understand the value creation process and can spend a great deal of time making “discoveries” that have limited commercial value. (This drives employers crazy.) I have written on this topic in a prior blog post. See “Slaying the Beast” by clicking here.

Similarly, applying your skills in areas you don’t fully understand can lead to errors with massive consequences. Since you are a math major, let me give you an example from your world.

This is the Black Scholes equation. It is used to determine the value of derivatives. It won two people the Nobel Prize in economics. It is also blamed for causing the financial crisis we are still digging out from. (Google it and you can read on for weeks.) The problem had nothing to do with the math. The math is solid. The problem came about because some of the conditions on which the model is predicated, didn’t hold in the real world. Many people using the formula didn’t understand this.

The lesson for an aspiring mathematician is this: You have a very powerful tool. Math geeks are taking over the universe, including business. But, just because you can do the math, doesn’t mean you understand the substance of what the math represents. Math isn’t done in a vacuum. It is applied to a specific context. You need a deep contextual understanding to ensure that your model conforms to the “real world.” The real world feels no obligation to conform to your model. So if you want to apply math to the economy or business, you need to understand this world.

By now, you are probably thinking: “Gee, Dean Jarley I only wanted to know what business courses people like me might take to complement my interest in STEM.” If so, fair enough! It comes down to trying to develop that “market mindset” I mentioned earlier. A good start would be two courses in economics (micro and macro), a course in finance and one in marketing. This will give you a sense of how markets work and how firms respond to market signals. If you want more, consider our entrepreneurship minor. It is designed to help STEM majors understand the business creation process. Information on it can be found by clicking here.

Good luck to you Austin and thanks for the great question.

Celebrating Failure: Finalist 4

This is the fourth finalist in our “celebrating failure” competition. At the end of the post, the instructor from the student’s section explains what they liked about this entry. A vote on the winner among the four finalists will start July 10th.

Student’s Name: Taryn Watts

My particular failure story is not the result of failing a class as I have been very fortunate to never experience that type of devastation. My experience with failure has been failing to believe in the greatness of myself and my ability to achieve my goals.

After bouncing around to three different colleges, with the ultimate goal of finding something that made me happy, I neglected to believe that one day I would love the work that I decide to do. I decided after finishing most of my general education classes that I would take a few photography elective classes that were offered at my local community college. This experience opened a new world of opportunities for me and gave me hope that I could actually love what I do for a living.

After transferring to yet another college to obtain a degree in photography I began to doubt my ability as a photographer amongst other students who I felt were far more experienced than myself. I diligently finished my two year degree in Photographic Technology and discussed with my family my options for obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in something other than Photography. I blindly used the excuse of “not wanting to ‘pigeon-hole’ myself into one specific field that seemed (at the time) to be a dying art”, though in reality it was the result of me being afraid of failing in this field.

My parents bought the idea, and after much persuasion were pleased with the idea of me obtaining a business degree. With no solid plan in mind I began my journey here at UCF and took as many business electives that I thought applied to myself and the industry I have been working in for the past seven years; retail. Throughout the classes that I enrolled in, I started to doubt my ability as a business person. Sales proved not to be the thing for me and I became increasingly discouraged with myself and how much time I may have wasted in my attempt to figure out where my place in the world really is.

On a whim, I confronted my mother with the idea of taking my photography (I have been doing small side jobs for years) more serious and using the business skills I have learned while at UCF to start my own photography business and serve my local friends and potential clients. My biggest fear was that she would not accept that I did not feel as though a corporate office job was for me and whether she would feel that my time at UCF was a waste. To my surprise she was happy that I finally decided that I wanted to work in the field I once loved so much when I first started college and accepted my idea.

From this long and often times grueling experience I learned that failing to believe in yourself is the biggest failing experience a person can go through. Failing to realize that you are just as good, if not better, than those in the same field as you is what deters many people from achieving their goals. I also learned that finding something you love and turning that into a career is my own personal definition of happiness.

Instructor Comments: I think this response is the best from this section because her story is compelling (following her dreams to pursue photography as a career and confronting her parents) as well as heartfelt (she had to have courage to face herself and her parents and ultimately learned to believe in her ability). It is also believable.