Last week, Marketing and Management students in Professor Trey Maxham‘s Brand Strategy class visited Veritas Vineyards on a beautiful Friday to learn more about effectively managing a brand.
In September, when the M.S. in Commerce was still new and unfamiliar, I decided that I wanted to run a marathon. I had previously only run one half-marathon 4 years ago, but I felt really ambitious. So, on top of class, individual homework, group work, the job search, and writing for this blog, I took on the added challenge of training for the Charlottesville Marathon.
To be honest, it was never easy. School was keeping me very busy and it was difficult to pull myself out of bed in the morning to jog for an hour or two. Luckily I had a support system. My boyfriend decided he would train for the marathon as well, and he would rouse me out of bed each morning with an almost annoying, chipper phone call: “Good morning! It’s a beautiful day for a run!” I didn’t like hearing it, but it worked.
We trained for thirty weeks. Did I complete every run I was supposed to? No way. There were some mornings when I hung up the phone and went back to sleep. And there were some mornings when I was awake before the call, working on school projects or homework. But ultimately, when the race day arrived, I felt prepared.
The marathon took place on Saturday, April 5th. It was draining both physically and mentally, but because I had a partner to run with, I stayed motivated and kept running. It took us 5 hours, 18 minutes, and 33 seconds to complete the 26.2 miles.
By adding another responsibility to my daily life, I probably created a much more stressful environment for myself during this year at McIntire. However, looking back and seeing what I’ve accomplished, I wouldn’t change a thing… and I’m definitely adding time management as a skill on my LinkedIn page.
Written by Annie Marshall
Back in the Day: A glance into the 22-year-old minds of our esteemed faculty
Name: Susan Perry Williams, KPMG Professor in Professional Accounting
What is your role in the M.S. in Commerce program?
I teach Strategic Cost Management in the fall semester. This course develops students’ ability to consider the costs, benefits, and perhaps the unintended consequences of business decisions.
How does this program add value for potential students?
The Program provides students with the opportunity to consider how their various backgrounds can be applied to business in both a domestic and global setting. The Program is designed to provide exposure to the various business disciplines that are important within any business context.
What were you doing when you were 22 years old?
I was married (way too young!) and working in the accounting area at J.C. Penney. I left college (to return later) to support my (then) husband’s educational goals.
What did you want to do when you were 22?
I was a very naïve 22 and wanted to enjoy life and make a difference in the world. My original plan was to teach special education students. However, during my hiatus from school, I found a passion for business and accounting. When I did return to school, I finished my undergraduate degree in accounting and had the good fortune to be a research assistant. That experience led to my MBA and PhD. The end result is the best job ever: teaching and doing research at the McIntire School of Commerce!
How has your field changed since you were 22?
My major field is accounting. Technology, globalization, legal issues, and governmental regulation have significantly affected the profession. The profession requires more communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills than it did years ago.
And (most importantly) when you were 22, who was your celebrity crush?
Questions by Annie Marshall
M.S. in Commerce students traveling to Southeast Asia and Latin America for the Global Immersion Experience (GIE) this year have the opportunity to build homes in Jakarta and Argentina through Habitat for Humanity. The goal is to raise $10K which will cover the costs of building four houses. After a letter writing campaign and our HOOPs for Habitat March Madness bracket competition we are proud to announce that over $7K has already been raised!
M.S. in Commerce students are also organizing an event to watch the NCAA championship game at a local restaurant, Trinity, at 9pm on April 7th. A percentage of sales will go to support the 2014 McIntire-Habitat builds, and prizes from HOOps for Habitat will be awarded. Although the Cavaliers are no longer contenders for the NCAA championship, this event will be a great way for the McIntire community to celebrate a great season and a successful bout of fundraising.
We leave for GIE on May 22nd, so we have a little less than two months to reach our $10K goal. You can still contribute to the 2014 McIntire-Habitat builds and help reach this goal at http://giving.virginia.edu/giehabitatforhumanity. Every dollar counts!
Written by Annie Marshall
Last week, our Foundations in Global Commerce class had the very exciting opportunity to hear the CEO of Vonage, Marc Lefar, speak about his international business experiences. Lefar has had a long career in international marketing and expansion, which he began at Proctor and Gamble. We discussed ways to learn about product development within different cultures and how to scale a business overseas. He also provided advice suggesting we focus on stimulating our professional growth through strong mentorship, taking risks, and obtaining as much diverse experience as possible when starting our careers.
Commerce Career Services organized a trip to visit businesses in New York City over Spring Break. Students got to visit with alumni and speak with employees, recruiters, and executives from a variety of companies, which included:
McIntire students had the opportunity to hear guest-speaker, Rob Daley, talk about his fast-growing juvenile products company, 4moms . The company makes products ranging from baby strollers to infant car seats, but with a technological edge. The company’s most-popular seller is the MamaRoo, a robotic infant chair.
The company’s competitive advantage is creative design with a foundation in robotics. In recent years, the firm has experienced exponential growth, and has enjoyed impressive public relations campaigns including the use of the MamaRoo on hit TV show Modern Family.
Aside from growing popularity and celebrity endorsements, 4moms maintains a core business strategy and understands customers inside and out. Daley highlights, “Market research is a big reason why we’re successful.” When designing the MamaRoo, engineers studied the motions of mothers comforting their children. What they found was revolutionary. Instead of seeing a rocking motion, like the motions of conventional infant chairs, the engineers found that mothers bounce. The founders then decided to mimic a mother’s motion by utilizing their core competency in engineering and robotics. Differentiating products from the competition is 4moms’ core business strategy.
4moms is also cognizant of the importance of putting the brand first, not simply the product. Daley comments, “Product and brand are indivisible…everything you say and do is your brand.” The company’s products are truly revolutionary, but their brand is what makes this company stand out. 4moms stresses modernity, innovation, and robotics in all their products, which brings immense value to customers. Daley mentioned that even with all the growth throughout the past decade, management makes sure growth is representative and beneficial to the brand.
I found it insightful to learn about a start-up’s business strategy and consumer insights efforts. The presentation showed the importance of differentiating products from the market leaders, researching consumer insights, and establishing a core brand image.
The title of this post might be a bit deceptive; there is more to finance than those three words. In fact, there is MUCH more to finance as I have found out. Never in my life have I learned such practical and relevant subject material in such interesting contexts.
Students in the Financial Services Track are currently taking five classes: Advanced Corporate Finance, Information Management for Financial Systems, Capital Markets, Markets and Financial Advisors, and Foundations in Global Commerce. I have found that the classes complement each other well, and that information flows from one class period to another, creating a fluid learning experience throughout the day. For instance, in Capital Markets, we are learning about no arbitrage pricing and asset allocation/portfolio choice decisions. Simultaneously, in Information Management for Financial Systems, we are learning about databasing and automating financial decisions using macro-level programs. In April, we will use the knowledge gained in Capital Markets paired with the programming we learned in Information Management to construct an automated trading program that will analyze fake market data and trade to minimize risk and maximize returns. It all ties together in a really interesting way.
Our coursework is very useful, but it is the professors who make the most impact on our learning. I have been very impressed by the caliber of the financial minds we have in the M.S. in Commerce. To illustrate my point: Peter Maillet , our Foundations in Global Commerce professor, has worked in high level banking and finance roles throughout Asia for most of his career. Mike Gallmeyer, our Capital Markets professor, holds a PhD from Wharton and has worked in both academia and financial services. Our professors are not only academics; they have experience working at different levels of the financial world that enables them to effectively convey complex material and teach how it is applied in the “real world”.
Even after a few short weeks in the financial services track I have seen a difference in the way I consume information. The first semester of the M.S. in Commerce program laid a sound foundation of businesses knowledge upon which I could build. This semester has (and will continue to) sharpen very particular business skills that expound upon concepts learned in the first half of the year. As a result, I can flip on CNBC and understand why things are happening in markets and how seemingly unrelated events influence each other. I am more aware. Six months ago, if someone would have asked me about problems in emerging markets I would have steered the conversation towards what had happened with U.Va. football that weekend, but now, I would be happy to talk their ear off for 10 minutes.
Marketing & Management students had two speakers from McKinsey & Company visit last week during Customer Analytics and Brand Strategy.
Curt Smith, Expert Partner at Henry Rak Consulting Partners (acquired by McKinsey), gave a presentation on how McKinsey’s unique data analytics strategy creates a competitive advantage for participating industries. He explained that in today’s world of quick advancements and copy-cat strategies, having a great product is not enough to gain an edge in the marketplace. A competitive advantage comes from how efficiently and effectively companies can deliver products that meet consumer needs. Business analytics identify and quantify those needs.
What sets McKinsey apart from other consulting firms is its business insights development phase. Instead of diving right into the data, analysts at McKinsey perform qualitative research first. This strategy informs insights at a macro level, which then provides the foundation of the business question the analysts are answering for their client.
Janet Alford, Professional Development and Operations Manager at McKinsey, reiterated the job of an analyst: “What I find interesting about our approach [to businesses cases] and in recruiting is the integration of analytics. We’re trying to answer a business question. What is the question we’re trying to answer? What is the question the client is asking?
“[Analytics] is the how: How does using sophisticated tools relate to the question? Does the candidate understand the how, but also the what and the why? How do you translate the answers that a client wants to know?”
Although this broad business concept seemed daunting and the visuals during the presentation looked very professional, ultimately the presentation was insightful because we had an opportunity to see real business cases using the skills we have been practicing in class. Our class has learned how to use SPSS and how to perform different statistical tests like cluster analyses. It was amazing to realize how much we have already learned.
The M.S. in Commerce is made up of over 40 different majors, but in this post we wanted to focus on just one of them—engineering. This year we have nine engineers in the program, and a few of them were kind enough to share their experiences and their thoughts on the combination of engineering and commerce.
1. How will the M.S. in Commerce Program complement your engineering degree?
“I think the Program is an excellent opportunity for engineers who are interested in working non-engineering jobs down the road. Whether you’re interested in finance, marketing or even an engineering job, you become a largely valuable asset to any employer by bringing both the business and problem-solving mindset to the table. People recognize that it is easy for engineers to get jobs, so by staying another year to complete a master’s degree it shows drive and desire to learn.” –Jeffrey (Financial Services)
“I wanted a degree in commerce to complement my engineering background to provide me fluency with both technical and business concepts in order to work as a consultant on both sides of the project. I wanted to be able to effectively work with a client while breaking down and solving their needs on a more technical level.” –Evan (Marketing & Management)
“My engineering degree taught me a valuable way of problem-solving oriented thinking. Four years of engineering gave me the necessary mindset to tackle many problems. The M.S. in Commerce degree gives me a business context to solve these problems.” –Kyle (Financial Services)
“The M.S. in Commerce degree provided me with the missing human element of engineering. As an engineer I was trained in how to perform a technical job. Now I understand why that job is needed, how it fits into a company’s overall business strategy, and how to market myself as the best candidate to perform it. I feel much more confidant that I can join a company and add value beyond the task I am hired to do.” –Dan (Financial Services)
“The M.S. in Commerce degree gives a better understanding of how a business actually runs. I hope to utilize everything that I’ve learned about computer science with what I’m learning about business in order to make more informed decisions. Because I will be going into a software engineer role after I graduate, the M.S. in Commerce will give me the tools to objectively analyze any decisions being made on a project and properly respond to any pushback that I might encounter on a project.” –Chris (Marketing & Management)
“In my engineering classes, we talked about systems and the interrelationships that exist within them. The easiest way to sum everything up is through the apt cliché, “Only as strong as the weakest link.” The financial markets and businesses have this same interrelationship. Engineering taught me to search for the most vulnerable connections or parts of a system and focus on mitigating risks.” –Travis (Financial Services)
2. How has your engineering degree helped you in the M.S. in Commerce Program?
“I’ve found that regardless of the degree any student who graduates from an engineering program has a huge advantage when it comes to time management, attention to detail, and analytical thinking. These three skills are incredibly important to both success in the program as well as in one’s career.” –Jeffrey
“Biomedical engineering was a very challenging and time-demanding program. I was prepared for the rigors of the Program. Additionally, I am very comfortable with anything math-related, and I’ve become better at explaining quantitative concepts on a basic and understandable level.” –Evan
“The Program brings diverse perspectives together to develop rich insights to open-ended business problems. My engineering degree allowed me to problem-solve differently than other students in the Program and provide unique answers to subjective questions. I was also more comfortable when working in Excel and SQL.” –Dan
“I think software development has given me a different approach to problem solving than most other undergraduate disciplines. I believe this has helped greatly in my group work because it allows for better discussions about our approach to projects. I also believe that the nature of the group work I did as an undergrad helped me effectively work in teams, particularly on group writing assignments.” –Chris
“I have lots of experience with Excel. Quickly and accurately building and using a spreadsheet was a must during my undergraduate years and this has definitely come in handy.” –Travis
3. What do you want to do after the program is over?
“I’ve been mostly applying to finance-related jobs, as I have no desire to do the work of an engineer. I’ve been looking at both buy-side as well as sell-side firms and would love to work in private equity in the future.” –Jeffrey
“I want to work in consulting in either DC or NY. When I am older, I want to be a college professor.” –Evan
“I want to work in a job where I will be able to learn a fundamental skill set that I can apply the rest of my career. My long term career goal is to own my own business and my first job will provide a place to learn as much as I can.” –Kyle
“I’m still trying to figure out what I will do next. I feel like I am in a good position to join an engineering firm in my field on either the technical side or financial side. I am also considering investment and risk management roles.” –Dan
“I want to work in software development either in a managerial or developmental role. My main goal with this program was to augment my software development knowledge with a firm understanding of the underlying business aspects that influence decision making. I want to put myself in a position where I can apply both of these knowledge sets.” –Chris
“I’m honestly having trouble narrowing down my interests. The market a big place, so I am trying to find a career where my skills and experiences would be the most useful.” –Travis
4. If you have a job lined up, what is it and why did you accept the offer?
“I accepted an offer as a business analyst at an IT consulting firm in Reston, VA called Ventera. I accepted the offer because it was very much in line with what I wanted out of a consulting company: smaller company, highly valued culture, good work/life balance, great mentorship, and growth opportunities.” –Evan
“I will be working for Accenture doing management consulting in DC. This is a great fit for me as I will be able to learn about analyzing businesses and will be in one of my favorite cities!” –Kyle
“I will be working for Capital One in their IT Development program as a software engineer. I accepted this offer because I believe that it will give me the tools to effectively utilize everything that I’ve learned in my undergraduate and graduate education. I also believe that Capital One provides me an excellent opportunity to advance my career in whatever direction I desire.” –Chris