Playing A Game You Can Win

It will surprise no one that deans read a lot. So when people are looking to buy me a gift, the first choice is usually a book. A few weeks ago, I finished James Clear’s Atomic Habits. It’s main focus is on how small changes in your habits can lead to big performance gains. It then goes on to give you methods to change your habits to get desired results. It’s a good read, but the chapter that got my attention was on something a little different — it was on how to choose a game you can win.

Clear started out as a professional baseball player, so he has a fair number of sports examples throughout the book. He starts the chapter of interest by comparing the greatest swimmer of all time, Michael Phelps, with one of the greatest marathoners of all time, Hicham el Guerrouj. Guerrouj is 5 feet 9 inches tall. Phelps is 6 foot 4. They are as different physically as one can imagine except for the fact that they share the exact same inseam. This means Phelps has a freakishly long torso and arms. Guerrouj, on the other hand, is mostly legs. He is made to run. Phelps is made to swim. Neither would do well at the other’s sport. They needed to pick the right one.

Choosing the right game to play involves some trial and error, but Clear offers some strategies here as well: Are there things you like to do that others see as work? Does time fly by when you do this thing? Does this come naturally to you? Do you get better than average returns while doing this than others putting in the same work? If you answer yes to these questions, this is a game you can consistently win.

Why am I telling you this? Because you are searching for a game you can win right now. Most students who enter the college don’t have a clear idea about what they want to do when they graduate. Others aspire to a major where they will have a great deal of difficulty succeeding … they are like Michael Phelps trying to be a distance runner rather than a swimmer. The college’s pre-core, primary core and professional development courses are designed to help you figure out where your interests intersect with your abilities in ways that create above average returns for you in the job market. As you go through these courses, you will do relatively well in some and less well in others. Look for the ones where you can answer “yes” to the questions Clear suggests. When you think you have found one, try to get an internship doing it. If it still feels good and the boss loves your work, you have found a game you can win. If instead, the course doesn’t interest you, you struggle to get a decent grade or your internship didn’t go well, pivot and try something else. Hardly anyone gets this exactly right the first time. It’s more important to find a game you can win than consistently underperform out of a stubborn belief you will be the first 6’4” marathoner to win at the Olympics.

Start Learning What You Will Do This Wednesday at Welcome to the Majors…

When someone becomes part of something that is different from what they have experienced, it is a good idea to mark this change with an event that signifies their movement into unfamiliar terrain.  Ideally that event should also help them better understand what will be expected of them going forward.

This is why we do Welcome to the Majors each semester in the College. This semester’s edition runs this Wednesday.  The College of Business is different than what students have experienced to this point in their education. How different depends a bit on where the student is coming from, but one way it is different for every new student is the importance we place on “doing” here here in the College of Business. Up until this point, the typical  student has probably thought that college was about acquiring knowledge so that they could  “be” something– an accountant, or a financial analyst, for example.  So you expected to sit and learn– meaning you would attend class, passively consume lectures and correctly repeat what you were taught on exams.

The basic message of Welcome to the Majors is to let you know that you have entered a different experience where that strategy won’t be enough for you to succeed. The College of Business is a professional school. We believe the ultimate purpose of business education isn’t knowledge, but action. Don’t misunderstand: Knowledge is important. But if you don’t learn how to do things with it, it’s not very useful. In short, knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. In our College, you must do. This starts at Welcome to the Majors where we encourage you to think about what you want to do in your career rather than what you want to be. It continues in our core courses where we ask you to work in teams to solve real world problems and in our professional development courses where you need to invest time in getting out of your comfort zone and do things that will help you develop your professional network. We want you to leave us with a track record of doing because we know that will get you a great job offer before graduation.

All of this will require a change in your mindset. Welcome to the Majors is just the start of that process. It will introduce you to the many opportunities you have in the college to embrace doing, connect with amazing people and get to where you want to go. To accomplish this you need to come ready to dive in. Fortune favors the bold.

How the Majors Stack Up: 2018-2019

At the end of each semester, a number of students finish their primary core and are admitted into a major.  At the end of Spring 2019, 679 students found out what major they will be going forward…

Majors

As has been the case for the last several semesters, Integrated Business admitted the most students, followed by Finance and Accounting.  In fact, the order of the majors really hasn’t changed in the last couple of years.  Congrats to all of our new majors.

Charge On!

Good Luck to our Graduating A-Team Members

The A-Team is a group  peer advisers who work in our Office of Professional Development (OPD).  Being a peer advisor is a tough job.  Most of the people our A-Team interacts with are undergraduate students who have academic challenges, are struggling to fit academics into their busy lives, or both.  They are frequently in  the unenviable position of having to tell students things that are good for them, but that they don’t want to hear.  As a result, A-Team members learn how to have difficult conversations with people, problem solve and deal with conflict.  We can’t say thank you enough to them.   Like with our Ambassadors, a number of them are graduating this semester and I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge each of them.

Jasmine Evans started with OPD in December 2017. Jasmine will be graduating with her BSBA in Integrated Business. She brings lightness and fun to the office. She has worked hard in her time in OPD to ensure that students are cared for and that policies are enforced equitably. Jasmine was an active member of the Integrated Business Professional Association and has recently accepted an interim advising position with the OPD where she will be focusing on training and the streamlining of process and policy. Congratulations Jasmine!

Esther Moonsammy started with OPD in July 2017. She is a native of Guyana. Esther will be graduating with her BSBA in Management and a minor in Accounting. Esther has been a key player in the creation of harmony within the team. She has been an active member of the National Association for Black Accountants and  Golden Key international Honor Society.  Esther is a strong advocate for the students which is what has made her such a great advisor. She recently was offered a Tax and Audit internship with MKA. Congratulations Esther!

Harley Rowand started with OPD in April 2017. Harley will be graduating with her BSBA in Integrated Business and a certificate in Nonprofit Management. Harley has always been a strong advocate for the students, ensuring that they are presented with multiple options in order to succeed. Harley was an active member of the Integrated Business Professional Association and as the most senior A-Teamer, she has taken many new A-Teamers under her wing to ensure that they are successful in their new roles.

Zannate  Iqbal  started with OPD in July 2017. Zannate will be graduating with her BSBA in Finance. Over the past semester, she has served as the Lead A-Teamer, assisting her fellow co-workers with training and administrative duties. Zannate will be studying abroad in the summer semester in Seoul, South Korea. She has been an active member of the Financial Management Association and Art History Club and recently was accepted into a Finance MIT position with Marriott International in Dallas, TX.

Georgina (Gina) Mensah started with OPD in June 2017 as a Front Desk Agents. Gina’s personality and willingness to help students has dramatically improved the level of service that students receive when entering the office. She has been an active member of the Pre-Pharmacy Club, Lead Scholars, Knight Watch Peer Mentor Program, and National Society of Leadership and Success. She will be graduating with a BS in Health Sciences and has been accepted into the University of Tennessee’s Pharmacy program for Fall 2019.

Thanks again to all of you!  Charge On!

Eight Graduates Who Made A Difference

Every year the College graduates more than 2,000 students. Thursday is spring graduation — our biggest of the year. It is both a happy and sad time for us.  Graduation is, of course, the goal when students enter UCF, and we are happy when our students cross that hurdle. Sad because we will miss the students who have helped to make the college a dynamic place over the past few years. Chief among that group are our student ambassadors — the students who help me manage the culture of engagement we have developed here in the college. This semester we have eight graduating ambassadors.  Jennifer Johnson, who leads our ambassador program, always provides me with some insights about our graduating ambassadors and their plans for the future.  Not surprisingly, these students have used their college experience to “Get to the One.”

Anthony “Tony”  McGehee started the ambassador program in fall 2018 and was a member of the Student Engagement Committee. He was also a member of Delta Sigma Pi, the Sales Club and the Sport Business Club.  After gaining experience as an intern with The LeaderBoard Podcast, he started his own Emerging Entrepreneurs Podcast. Tony “Got to the One” in March and accepted a position as an assistant property manager with The Realty Medics.

Brianna Closs was the first ambassador to join the program in her graduating semester. Instead of winding down her level of engagement at the
college, she was actively encouraging other students and leading by example. She served on the Onboarding Committee, presented at Street Smarts and was great with inspirational elevator pitches for both the Ambassador and Professional Selling programs. Brianna is also a Professional Selling graduate.  She did an internship with Lockheed Martin and AXA Advisors and accepted a position with Gartner in Ft. Myers.

Celina Nuevo started in the Ambassador program in fall 2017 was a trifecta member by serving on all three committees: Student Engagement, Onboarding and Communication. She was also an active member of ALPFA and did an internship with Prospera and Simon Kelvington. Celina started her marketing career at DeSoto Health and Rehab, but will be taking some time off over the summer and relocating back home.

Harsh Parekh became an ambassador in spring 2017 and was a member of both the Student Engagement and Communication committees. He is also a veteran presenter at Street Smarts.  Harsh “Got to the One” twice — once at Welcome to the Majors and again with PWC after working as an intern. He was a member of BAPS Campus Fellowship and Beta Alpha Psi and served as a campus ambassador for Becker Review. He also did an internship at Siemens. Due his academic standing and level of engagement, the college honored Harsh at Founder’s Day in spring 2018.

Joana Marinova was an ambassador for one semester in fall 2018 and was the chair of the Communications Committee.  Joana served as a resident assistant and peer tutor and was also a teaching assistant for Dr. Ray Sturm.  She landed three accounting internships with Wharton Smith and Siemens, but joined BDO for an internship in January and will hopefully transfer to BDO Seattle to start her career as a staff accountant after graduation in August.

Nayomee Baldeo was an ambassador for two semesters and served as both Co-Chair and Chair of Onboarding and Street Smarts. She was an advocate for the Integrated Business program and a member of the IB student organization. Nayomee completed an internship with Addition Financial and received a full-time position. She will be working toward a position on Addition Financial’s training and development team.

Tim Hanewich started with the Ambassador program in fall 2017 and served as co-chair of Onboarding and Streets Smarts, as well as Chair of the Ambassadors this semester. Tim served as a resident assistant, teaching assistant for Lonny Butcher, A-team member with the Office of Professional Development and worked with the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. He also had an internship with Northwestern Mutual. Tim turned down an offer with P&G to join the Microsoft team in Seattle starting in the fall.

To all of our graduating Ambassadors, thank you. You’ve done a great deal to help your fellow students get involved in their education and get on the path to successful careers. I expect all of you to do great things and to continue to be Ambassadors for UCF throughout your careers. I also expect each of you to come back and share your early career experiences with students in The EXCHANGE.  Think of it as “street smarts for the real world.” Jennifer and I would love to have you.  Each of you are and shall always be UCF Knights.  Charge On!

Administrative Professionals Rock

Wednesday is Administrative Professionals Day. Our AA’s work hard to make all of the rest of us look good. We should thank them everyday, not just on April 24th. Administrative Professionals Day always reminds me of Anne Marie. She set the standard for Administrative Pros at UCF and I think it most appropriate to repeat a blog post I wrote for her retirement party…

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Today, Anne Marie retires from the UCF College of Business. We plan on sending her out in style. God knows she deserves it. Anne Marie has worked for at least four different deans and has solved an unimaginable number of problems, both real and perceived. Most of those issues never got to the dean’s door.

Deans love this. So, it came as no surprise that when I reached out to my predecessors and asked them to help me tell her story that they responded with enthusiasm. We share a fondness for this classy woman who lightened our burdens and endured our peculiarities with style and grace. I will try to be brief, but can’t resist being a little tongue and cheek along the way while I poke some fun at me and my predecessors in an effort to highlight her many talents…

As with most good things in the College, the never shy Dick Huseman takes credit. He told me in a recent phone call that he hired Anne Marie. Dick was in need of a new executive assistant and got a recommendation from someone in the community to give her an interview. I strongly suspect that Anne Marie was interviewing Dick more than the other way around, but somehow they came to terms. My guess is that, like most things, Anne Marie figured she could fix him. 

Dick quickly learned that he had found a terrific gate keeper who kept an ear to the ground and brought an air of professionalism to the College. This latter quality is strikingly apparent in one of my favorite photos in the college archive: It is of a dashing Dick leaning against the receptionist desk next to the immaculate Anne Marie, with a young Cindy Colon (looking like Annette Funicello) seated to his left. Every time I see that photo I think: I would definitely do business with these people.

It is a truism in dean searches that they always want the opposite of the last one. I am told that Tom Keon is as reserved as Dick is effervescent. He certainly did something right as he led the College through incredible change and growth. Not surprisingly, Tom gives Anne Marie equal billing in their success, writing..

….”Anne Marie de Govia, or as I fondly remember AM, was a true partner to me for the 14 years we worked together in the dean’s office at UCF. There are many wonderful traits that I could describe but I prefer to focus on just a few. First and foremost, AM is a true professional who never accepted less than perfect for any and all work that crossed her desk. Second, as dean, everyone that had contact with the office would remark on how helpful, how friendly, and what a joy she was to interact with at all times. And, of course, how lucky I was to have her as an assistant. Finally, she was a friend. She was always there to cheer, support, and provide a warm heart and ear to listen. I still miss her. God bless, and good luck, my friend and colleague.”

When Tom departed, Caribbean English collided with North Carolina speak. No one can smooth over a tense situation with a folksy response better than Foard Jones. Attackers leave both comforted and a bit confused. I suspect Anne Marie took on the role of translator. Foard acknowledges he certainly was in need of her help, writing…

…”Sophisticated, warm, intelligent, and dedicated are just a few ways to describe Anne Marie De Govia. I could not have asked for a better chief of staff and partner in crime. I quickly found myself using the word “we” a lot. As in “Anne Marie, how should we handle this?” or “what should we do now?” But more than her administrative acumen and experience, I could count on her easy laugh, humor, and tales of Carnival to make the day a little brighter and less insane. Sometimes you just get lucky. I surely did with the opportunity to work alongside Anne Marie. She made a difference in the lives of many in many ways.”

Then came the guy from Vegas, as direct as Foard is subtle. By the time I came to UCF, it was Anne Marie’s College. I would regularly remark that while people in the College didn’t know each other very well that everyone knew Anne Marie. The College it seemed flowed through her, perhaps because she was charged with helping everyone figure the new guy out. 

It wasn’t hard to see Anne Marie’s talent, but it took me a little while to decipher her three distinct looks…

Look One only appears when she has a Caribbean student in her office needing help with a largely self-inflicted crisis. That look means “What exactly were you thinking before you did that unbelievably stupid thing…I’m not sure I can, or should, save you.” She saved them anyway. They were grateful.

Look Two occurs when someone is claiming that I said something that she is sure is stupid, but Anne Marie can’t rule out the possibility that I said it. These encounters usually end with a sigh of relief (she was grateful it was nonsense and she wouldn’t have to fix it), but on occasion would lead to Look Three.

Look Three is a very wry smile that means “Dean I am about to teach you something about the college that will save you from your dumb self: Be grateful.”

I am.  

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We lost Anne Marie shortly after she retired, but I see a lot of her in many of our A.A.’s from John Paul’s calming influence in a storm, to the way Susan has trained Ajai, Angelika handles Jim, or Renee is working to break in Pradeep, to how Paula and Jennifer keep tabs on their wandering bosses. Then there is how Tina, Andrea and Cindy make sure I don’t do something stupid ( it takes a village in my case).  Which, quite frankly might be better than Gregg where no single person wants to take responsibility for him as evidenced by the fact that none of the Dixon School’s three assistants are willing to have their picture up on the web. They prefer to remain anonymous. But to those of us who depend on them everyday to conduct the business of our unit and make us look good, our administrative assistants are anything but anonymous to us and we want them to know we couldn’t get it done without them.. Anne Marie would be proud.

Pay Attention to Who Finishes Third

This is my first year at UCF that I missed the Joust Finals. The Joust is our version of Shark Tank. Students from all over campus enter the Joust in the hopes of winning resources that will help jump-start to their business. The competition is fierce and the judges are accomplished business folks who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions. This year the competition also has a new presenting sponsor: ViaTek a company owned by UCF College of Business Alum Lou Lentine. You can learn about his company by clicking here.

One of the inside jokes in the College is that you want to finish third in the Joust. As great and experienced as our judges are, predicting who has the next great business idea is incredibly hard.  The journey to success is filled with uncertainty and in the end, that journey can only be taken by the student entrepreneur and his or her team. For some reason, those who have finished third in the Joust seem to be the most successful business folks in the long-term.  This is an very important point for our student entrepreneurs to understand: The Joust is just a point of feedback in a long quest to succeed.  Sometimes the Joust feedback is used to scrap the idea altogether.  Other times the feedback is used to pivot.  Still other times, the entrepreneur just decides to stay the course.

So congrats to Wawwe for winning the Joust but keep an eye on Omnimodal for that third place finish. That team might want to check out our podcast on lean startup.  It features one of our past participants in the Joust.  He gives people a very unvarnished look into what the long process to success looks like for a guy who finished third in the Joust.  Give a listen by clicking here.

And congratulations to Ridesurf and Brite for finishing second and fourth respectively. You are all winners for taking the risk to enter our competition and pushing your ideas to the next level.