Intersecting Minds: Education, Business and Technology at the North Carolina State Jenkins Graduate School of Management

Speed Networking Event

January 30, 2009
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I’m sitting in Port City Java on campus right now, passing a little time before I go to the Speed Networking event I blogged about last week. This should be an interesting little gathering of people, and I’m interested to see how the format impacts the outcome. I’ve never done a “Speed” networking event before, but I’m envisioning something similar to speed dating, which I’ve never done either, for the record!

I’ll try to do a more complete write up this weekend and evaluate how effective the event was.


Posted in Networking

Economic Stimulus Update

January 30, 2009
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I’m on the move today quite a bit, but please go read this short piece by Joe Klein on the stimulus. It’s worth your while. And if you’re interested, read Klein’s take on the first week of Obama-style leadership. While I don’t want to get too far down the political road, it’s a notable (and welcome) change of pace from recent administrations.

Posted in Economy

A Personal Story

January 29, 2009
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Over the last couple days, I’ve found myself telling a story to a few of my classmates and friends whenever the economy comes up as a topic of conversation. Inevitably, people bring up the topic of why? Why did this happen? How did we get here? I have somewhat of a unique perspective on these questions because I was at ground zero of the economic crisis BEFORE it happened. For two years, from late 2004 through mid-2006, I worked as an Account Executive for a subprime mortgage lender…

Usually when I drop that little nugget of biography, people respond in one of two ways. Either they start pointing and laughing, or their jaws drop in disgust. The word subprime has become a dirty word in our lexicon. That’s no surprise considering everything that’s happened over the last few months.

Then I tell people about what I did and what I saw, and those who were laughing quickly stop. I worked in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the hottest real estate markets in the country during that time period. The office I worked in serviced loans from all over the West Coast, but the majority came from the Bay and from the central valley of California. I could probably write a book about what I saw, what I think happened and why things came crashing down so suddenly. But to me, the answer keeps coming back to one word: Greed.

Greed on the part of the borrowers, who wanted to get into homes they knew they couldn’t afford. Greed on the part of the real estate agents and loan officers who could make upwards of 5-10 or even $20,000 on one loan. Greed on the part of the subprime lending institutions who were making millions selling their securitized loan packages on the secondary market at ridiculously high margins. Greed on the part of the investment firms who purchased those securitized packages and who are now having to get bailed out by the government.

And people thought this cycle could last forever. Homeowners could just keep taking equity our of their homes and running up their credit cards. Banks could just keep making terrible loans on overvalued assets. And the Merrill Lynch’s and Lehman Brothers of the world could keep purchasing those packages. Credit default swaps, derivatives and other complex securitized instruments could keep the whole story underwraps. Here’s a video that pretty much sums up the approach and attitude of American consumers and the corporations over the last decade:

In any case, the real story is more complicated than that. Excessive government regulation in some areas and a complete lack of government oversight in others helped push this along. A Presidential administration completely out of its league in terms of foresight and then the handling of the crisis at its onset helped push this along. But at the end of the day, I can’t help but think that the root fundamental cause of our current economic situation starts and ends with one word: Greed

Posted in Economy

Mid-Week School Update

January 28, 2009
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While I’ve been focusing a lot of my posts on the economy recently, a lot has still been happening with school. Here’s a quick recap of some events that happened this week and what else I’m looking forward to:

  • Completed 1,500-word market positioning paper with Team
  • Prepared for beginning of Marketing Simulation
  • Held first meetings for Purchasing semester-long, corporate partner project
  • Turned in final documents for Study Abroad application and scholarship
  • Covidien Site Tour coming up on Friday morning
  • Speed Networking event coming up on Friday evening

I’ll also be creating a new video tomorrow featuring two of my classmates who want to start their own companies after graduating from the program. Should be an interesting topic.

Going Back to School

January 27, 2009
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A couple weeks ago, I posted about the rise in MBA applications that are occurring all over the country. Schools ranked in the top 50 will continue to see a flood of applications heading into the Spring. However, business schools aren’t the only learning institutions people are flocking back to. CNN has a nice article out this morning about people returning to training programs and employment centers to update their skills for a 21st century global economy. Here’s a quote from a woman who is doing just that:

“I don’t think I could get another job without retraining,” said Virginia Platt. “My job was in manufacturing and there just aren’t any manufacturing positions around.”

Platt has aptly summed up a major problem with the current American economy. We have too many workers who have spent their lives working within a function that no longer exists, manufacturing. The U.S. economy is now approximately 80% service-based and with major job cuts expected to continue through 2009, expect that number to grow.

The problem here is two-fold. First, America needs to figure out a way to revive our manufacturing sector. President Obama has suggested one possible solution to this through a massive public works projects aimed at our infrastructure, schools, and “greening” our economy. Hopefully, the government can jump-start this process and the private sector can follow soon after. However, our ability to accomplish this is hindered by the second problem we face.

America needs a better-educated workforce that is prepared to step into a technologically advanced economy and add value here on our home soil. We’ve been getting our butts handed to us in science and technology education for almost two decades now. If you’re not familiar with the situation, check out Thomas Friedman’s, “The World Is Flat.” America needs to reinvest in science, technology and engineering in order to train the next generation of workers who will be prepared to handle the complexities of a 21st century economy. Only then will be able to compete and innovate with the other major global economies: the European Union, China and Japan.

Google Calendar for the Class

January 27, 2009
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The best New Year’s resolution I made this year was to turn my calendar from a book into a website. Since I’m checking my e-mail so often, it made sense to go with Google Calendar. It’s nice enough on an individual basis, but it’s real value lies in  the ability to share information. When I add a friend’s calendar, it makes it much easier to aggregate a complex set of events. Myself and the other MBA candidates all have a class schedule, internship search, assistantship work and outside obligations to a family or a real job (don’t forget that 70% of NCSU MBA’s are part-timers). Balancing your time is essential to successfully navigating the demands placed on you by the schedule.

I’ve talked with a few of my classmates who are on the MBA Student Association (MBASA) about creating a unified Google calendar. I think Jay talked about it first. Nice work, Jay. On this Google Calendar, you’ll be able to find a common schedule including the following types of events:

  • Classes
  • Information Sessions
  • Company Site Tours
  • Intramural Events
  • MBASA Meetings
  • Vacation Dates
  • Final Dates

The calendar could also provide links to other important sites (i.e. JobLink, Current Student Home Page, MyPack, WebMail and maybe even this blog). Anyone out there have thoughts on the idea?

Posted in Classes, Internship

Of Mice And Men

January 27, 2009
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“I’ve done nothing wrong.”

-Rod Blagojevich, Illinois Governor on the eve of his impreachment

“Nonetheless, they were a mistake in the light of the world we live in today.”

-John Thain, CEO of Bank of America

Watching Larry King Live right now and I have to admit that Rod Blagojevich is either a very good liar or completely delusional. The Governor, up for impeachment in the Illinois Senate later this week, has made a number of truly bizarre comments. Amongst others, he’s compared himself to Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Nixon. Weird. Tonight, he’s wrapping up a media blitz, including high-profile visits to the View and Larry King. Many are speculating that he’s trying to poison a potential jury pool for his trial. Whatever is really happening in that guy’s mind, it’s a nutty story.

Thain’s case, however, is much more straightforward. The Wall Street Journal has his full statement. Key passage (including the one above): “The second topic is the losses in the fourth quarter, which were very large and unfortunate.  However, they were incurred almost entirely on legacy positions and were due to market movements.”

Week Starting with a Bang

January 26, 2009
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The Street received a mix bag of news today. Stocks started the day strong on reports that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is acquiring Wyeth in a $68b friendly takeover. Pfizer is the world’s largest drug manufacturer, and the addition of Wyeth will only strengthen that position. The merger will allow Pfizer to trim costs through plant closing and additional lay-offs.

The good news was tempered this morning though with three major corporations announcing another round of job cuts. Caterpillar made the largest announcement: 20,000 jobs. This was followed by Sprint and Home Depot, who said they would decrease their workforce by 8,000 and 7,000 jobs respectively.

In other news, Barack Obama announced that he was reversing an Environmental Protection Agency policy implemented by the Bush administration. The reversal would allow states to set their own fuel emission standards for vehicles. Thirteen states have such regulations on the books, but were not allowed to enforce their own rules under Bush. The move sets up an impending clash between labor and environmental groups. Labor, which has already faced a pounding from the negative economy, fears that such restrictions will further exacerbate manufacturing difficulties in the American auto sector. Environmentalists had been protesting the EPA restriction for years.


Discussion with International Students

January 26, 2009
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Here is a discussion with classmates Han and Tejas:

Hey, This Guy Wrote My Textbook

January 26, 2009
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Steven Landsburg that is. He wrote “Price Theory of Economics,” the textbook used in our Microeconomics class. Landsburg has a brief article out today for the Atlantic, in which he argues the economic situation isn’t that bad. Key passage:

Start with this: You are better off than you were four years ago. After adjusting for inflation, the average American earns about $2500 a year more today than on the day of W’s second inaugural. That same average American now spends a little less time at the office or on the assembly line, and a little more time on vacation or on the couch…

Today we’re in a recession–a moment in time when the march of growth stalls and even gets set back by a couple of years. This happens every now and then. Really. But things pick up again and we move on. Some people get set back a little farther than others; some are unemployed for a while. But the pool of resources is still near an all-time high.

It’s an interesting argument to be sure, and it sounds persuasive on the surface. Yes, the average American does earn $2500 more per year. But this doesn’t take into account the massive income disparities Americans witnessed through the last decade. In fact, real wages for over 80% of American workers declined, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

While I wouldn’t consider myself an extreme pessimist on the economy, I do think the vast majority of Americans are a site worse off than we were four or even eight years ago.

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