Category Archives: MBA

My MBA journey

MBA Term 2 course result

Wow I passed the Data Analysis and Statistical Modelling exam I wrote about in August. My term result was a solid Credit grade, so I didn’t do too badly given my inability to study for the exam.

One of Corporate Finance lecturers said my trade-off of limited study time for family and a new job was rational and utility-maximising 😀 Nice economist words those.

On with Corporate Finance which is mainly math. There is an optional workshop tomorrow for those who need to brush up on their high-school math skills.

Nicely the trick to this Corporate Finance course is not about the calculations. Any monkey can push buttons on a calculator or type numbers into excel. It’s knowing when and what kind of formulas apply to various similar problems when valuing a cash flow.

My inner geek is beaming again.

MBA 2008 Term 3

I’ll be doing Corporate Finance for my next MBA (Executive) course. This is interesting as I’ll be doing a few mergers and acquisitions so hopefully I’ll learn some interesting ways  to structure a deal. So far there hasn’t been a lot of M&A focused subjects at AGSM.

Lectures start the week beginning 15 September 2008.

I should be able to post more regularly now.

Data Analysis and Statistical Modelling exam

I’m studying for my DASM exam tomorrow. The study is not going well for two reasons:

  1. I’m a terrible procrastinator when it comes to exams
  2. I’m sitting on 80% of 55% for the course so far i.e. I’ve got 44/55 and tomorrow’s exam is worth the remaining 45% of the marks. So if I just pass I’ll get the credit I need to keep the my course average up.

This is not good because it would be good to get a distinction.

Additionally I’ve changed jobs two weeks ago. I’m tired, grumpy and need a break. I’ve done the least amount of work for this subject that I’ve done for any of the subjects so far.

It’s hard to keep plugging away tonight when there are things I’d rather do. Surely work-life balance comes into this?

I’ve also really enjoyed this subject. Those of you following me on Twitter will know that it really appeals to my inner geek. What’s not to like? I learned how to develop models to forecast things based on historical data. It’s a shame the real world isn’t more like that. Mind you the real world is like that if you have enough data and the correct model. 😀

MBA 2008 Term 2

I got a Distinction for my first term course Managing People and Organisations. Yay me! as my youngest daughter would say. More importantly I learned a number of different ways to expand my viewpoint.

My tendancy is to use decision shortcuts to achieve things quickly. While this has served me quite well in my career so far, I can also take some time to ponder or consider the second right answer.

Anyhow on to Data Analysis and Statistical Modelling for Business. Yay stats! Actually the KPI lover in me is really looking forward to this. A more immediate benefit is that I don’t have to work things out from scratch. Over this course I’ll get really good at regression testing and other quantitative skills

MBA Update 2008 Term 1

So this term I’ve been doing my first Organizational Behavior OB subject: Managing People and Organisations. I’ve received two distinctions so far on the assignments, despite being ridiculously busy at work. Now I have to knuckle down and review in preparation for the coming exams.

The subject matter is exciting and fascinating on both practical and intellectual levels.

Two major aspects for me are “It’s always about leadership” and a model of Compliance < Understanding < Internalisation

I’ll write something on them later.

MBA Update Month 2

I got my mid-term exam back for Accounting & Financial Management. Despite poor time management in the last third of the exam, I managed to get a Distinction (78%) which is a good result for my first formal study in nearly two decades.

Advice to returning students. Your exam technique will be rusty. Two tips.

Tip #1: Start with the easy/fastest questions if 1/3 of the marks come from an easy section, start there and aim to finish in less than 1/3 of the exam time. That will leave more time for the harder sections.

Top#2: Divide the questions up by the marks they are worth and then divide each part of the question appropriately. I probably lost 7 marks and a High Distinction through spending 20 minutes of my last 30 minutes on only part of one question. Move along and come back later.

My study group finished most of the major assignment today. We’re all very wary of the plagiarism rules, so we have been independently working out the accounting parts of the questions, then double checking calculations and pointing to sample layouts in the course materials. All that is left is to write the descriptive answers on our own.

I did expect the course to be easier, and to have a lot more group discussion & debate. But I’m learning so much. The main reinforcement is that I am not crazy asking my accounting and finance department to provide more analytical data and guidance. I keep hearing that corporate accountants will want or produce things that I don’t think my guys do 😀

I sometimes joke that this course will get me fired.

MBA Update Month 1

Number Crunch 3 by Benjamin Earwicker Garrison PhotographyI’ve just finished my fourth week of my first subject, Accounting & Financial Management. I did Accounting 101 in my undergrad degree so I have an advantage that I have heard of this stuff (when Moses wore short pants).

AGSM lectures are pretty fast, you’re expected to have done the work before the lecture. Jack Flanagan, our lecturer, assures us the hardest part of the course is weeks 3 and 4. That’s when most students freak out as they’re learning all the accounting jargon.

I started well, with all the reading and optional exercised completed in time for lectures. That was the first two weeks.

Then work got in the way! For week 3 I’d done the reading and the sample execises but hadn’t worked through the class exercise for discussion. Even so instead of listening to the discussion I was busy following the logic of the exercise.

Week 4 was worse. Work was insane as we got our annual report out to the market and I’m launching 2 new stores in Melbourne. I’d managed to only skim the materials, no exercises, no reading, no nothing. I almost didn’t go to the lecture, but thankfully changed my mind and went.

I’m not the only person in class who is behind. We’ve started a study group and it’s a great opportunity to revise, but it actually creates more work to prepared for it. But it does make me accountable to others. So at last night’s meeting we went through the major exercise again and we all think we understand it now.

So even the best intentions of staying ahead can be abandoned when life gets in the way. I’m finishing my catch-up tonight so I should be ok.

Photo credit: Number Crunch 3 by Benjamin Earwicker Garrison Photography

Why do an MBA?

Surely that’s a dumb question to be asking myself right now. I had to answer it on the application. I’ve committed the money and time to it. I’ve even started the first course – Accounting and Financial Management.

That first course is looking to be as easy as I thought. Which on one level really frustrates me. Why am I paying to do a subject I am already unconsciously competent at? It’s a good way to ease into studying again after all these years.

Strangely I found myself wondering about some of my fellow students. They don’t seem to understand the broad accounting aspects of their businesses. Maybe it was me, but all my career I’ve been interested in the Profit & Loss Statements and Balance Sheets of my employers.

Back to the question at hand. Why do it? Career prospects? More money?

For me it the answer is to change my life. To understand business and industry with a new depth and rigour. To use to time to change my world-view and internalise my studies in a way I could not appreciate when I was an undergrad. My business interests are in fast-growth, entrepreneurial firms. That is where my MBA is leading, although I can’t say exactly where yet.

Feeling uncomfortable but doing it anyway

I attended the AGSM New Students Day yesterday. I met graduates and faculty as well as some of my fellow students.

There was an fun little moment were we had to congratulate ourselves and each other on getting in. How the students reacted was interesting. There were those (mainly marketing types) who got into it. There were some who refused to do the “silly” bit – must be the accountants. Then there were the one’s who were obviously uncomfortable but did the exercise anyway. I realised that I want to get to know that group. These are people who are out of their comfort zone, but willing to try something new in the hope or belief they’ll learn or grow.

I’m not sure how to deal with the one’s who withheld participation. On the one hand they are confident enough in themselves to march to their own beat. But did that mean they were more scared of appearing stupid? Or were they that pragmatic that they didn’t want to do any of that feely-touchy stuff? Either way I can find that sort in most places and my initial reaction is to avoid them as inflexible.

Obviously I can get along famously with the party animals who’ll try anything in case it’s fun.

Interestingly I’ve decided to kick off the MBA with only one subject Accounting and Financial Management. One of the adjunct faculty members said she got the least value out of the term when she did two subjects. All she focused on as doing the required reading and barely kept up. She was aiming for internalising the subjects. Really considering the issues and allowing herself to come up with her own thoughts and attitudes on the subject.

Another vote for “the MBA is the journey” school of thought – which I am rapidly converting to. Who cares if it takes me longer to finish if I am changed by the experience. Heaven forbid I do all this work and all this study to emerge as the same person and the same skills as I started with.

This will be a life-changing experience.

A&R Scandal: Tower Books’ Michael Rakusin Replies

Michael Rakusin, Director of Tower Books replied to Charlie Rimmer‘s letter. I’ve emailed a request to reproduce Michael’s email here, but in the meantime you can read it at Susan Wyndham’s Undercover blog. That way the conversation can allow trackbacks around the blogosphere.

I look forward to watching the fall-out in the industry over this. When a major market player decides to flex their muscle, they should make sure they are a big enough player. I suspect that at a claimed 18% of the Australian book retail market Angus & Robertson will find it is not enough to succeed.

Bunnings on the other hand does have enough market share. But more on that later.

Update Michael Rakusin has granted permission to reproduce his letter below Continue reading A&R Scandal: Tower Books’ Michael Rakusin Replies