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

Study Abroad Discussion

February 22, 2010
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On Friday, I had an opportunity to sit down with two first-year MBA’s who are planning to study abroad this fall. The conversation is in the YouTube below:

Listening to Derek and Emily talk about their excitement and what they hope to get out of the program was nice for me, too. Their thoughts reminded me again why I was so excited to go to Denmark and what I gained out of the trip on the other end. Cross-cultural immersion is a powerful experience, one that opens your eyes to just how big the world is, and how relativistic expectations and happiness can be. I’m a better, more thoughtful person for having gone through it, and I’m sure that while those two will have their own unique experiences, they will report similar conclusions when they return.

Derek and Emily are in for an amazing trip, and I wish them both the best.

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The Krispy Kreme Challenge

February 13, 2010
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North Carolina State is home to many amazing athletic events ranging from football and basketball to soccer and baseball. But none may quite top the Krispy Kreme Challenge. If you haven’t heard of this incredible road race, it more than lives up to its name. To boil it down, participants start at the NC State Belltower, run 2.2 miles to the local Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, eat 1 dozen doughnuts, then turn around and race 2.2 miles back to the finish line. If it sounds disgusting, that’s because it is.

This year, a small group of MBA students decided to participate in the challenge. I was fortunate enough to grab some footage of them before they began:

Unfortunately, I could not pick them out of the 6,000+ participants at the finish line to videotape some of the carnage. But perhaps it’s better that way since many many racers are unable to keep the doughnuts down as they make their way back.


Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program

January 25, 2010
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We’re now two weeks into the semester and it’s time to really get this blog back in the swing of things. As such, I’ll be coming back to a regular feature before I left for the summer, the daily morning link update. I’m currently working on post summarizing this semester’s courses as well as some of the projects I’ll be working on.

I’m also going to begin work on producing some more video content for the blog. Please pass any video ideas on in the comments section.

Finally, there is a lot going on in the world of business and finance right now with the Obama administration beginning a push for greater regulation of the financial industry. I’ll try to pass on some news and analysis there from an MBA’s perspective.

This is going to be a great semester and I’m looking forward to blogging my way toward graduation.


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Almost There

December 19, 2009
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My head is completely full of ideas to write about: COP15 and the Great Debate; Lunch with the Danes; all the developments in the economy, health care legislation and financial reform. But right now all of us are a little overwhelmed with the finale of this trip.

We’ve been saying goodbye to people for almost a week now, and as each person leaves a part of the experience leaves with them. For the next 48 hours I’m going to stay away from the computer and just soak the last of it in. There will be time to write over the Holiday Break, and I’ll fill in those stories then, but for now, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Glædlig Jule og godt Nytår!


The Last Week

December 15, 2009
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Early this morning I put the finishing touches on my last final, a 15-page essay for my Innovation Leadership class. Advanced Corporate Finance nearly killed me last Friday, but it’s already receding from view. And now here we are, a few days from departure back to the United States.

Last night we had our residence Goodbye Dinner, featuring the finest Mexican food, BBQ and sangria Denmark has to offer in the middle of December. I suppose I could talk about the bonding and the first goodbyes, but anything I would have to say would come out sounding trite.

Instead, I like to think about the wall decorations, sheets of paper covered with our favorite quotes, memories and experiences drawn out and posted for all to see. Not everyone knew every story. There’s no way 80 people are going to become best friends, no matter how long they are living together. But we all knew what at least some of those words and pictures meant. They were the collective experience spelled out for all.

Living this experience has been invaluable in so many respects. The classroom has been enriching, and I do feel like I’ve come away with hard earned skills, particularly in finance. But while the classroom has been intense at times, it really has been secondary to the people and the experiences. That daily ritual of seeing your friends, talking through your problems, and sharing good times and bad. I think people here are thinking a little more deeply about who they are, what they value, and how they’re going to take all of this back to their friends at home. There is no doubt coming here has been expensive, there’s no price tag that can measure the relationships that have been built. Our professors preach networking back at home, and now it feels pretty good knowing my network is global.

I’d also like to think we’re looking at the future. After all, isn’t this the direction the world is going? Smaller, faster, more interconnected. I believe we’re going to live in a world where we’ll be expected to communicate with each other and learn from each other. We’re all going to take this new perspective on the world home with us, and we will all benefit from it.


Oslo Recap

November 2, 2009
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What a weekend. Although our trip was short (<48 hours), we certainly made the most of it. On Friday afternoon, we left our dormitory and headed for Nordhavn and the boarding area. When we arrived, we realized we would be traveling in style. The boat was absolutely massive, a top notch cruise liner. After boarding around 3:30, we took a trip to the top deck, where I snapped some pictures of the CPH skyline before we left. Here’s my favorite:

Copenhagen Skyline

Nice evening

You can see from the picture the other boat in the dock and how bit it was. And we were looking down on it from the top deck by a good ways. Following a quick tour of the boat, we headed to a brief informational meeting about the cruise liner from 4:00-5:00. Then we had a formal dinner featuring ad libitum wine and an amazing array of food (caviar, salad, steak, potatoes… you get the idea).

It was fantastic to get an opportunity to catch up with many people who I hadn’t seen since Introduction Week. After the initial burst of meeting a couple hundred people, it became very difficult to keep track of everyone, so this was a great chance to reconnect with many friends. Speaking of people, another highlight of the trip was meeting my roommates in the ship room. I shared a cabin with three other guys, one American, one German, and one Swiss. Talk about a good group of guys, we managed to have a great time and not get in the way of each other too much despite the small size of the room. Check this picture out:

Ship Room

Tight spaces

And yea, that’s a room for 4 people, not two. Those are fold out beds on either side of the picture frame. Whew. But it didn’t really matter too much because we didn’t spend hardly any time in the room. Between the boat tour, the dinner, and the disco party that followed we only had a few hours of sleep on Friday night.

The next morning, we woke up around 8:30 am and headed downstairs for an all you can eat breakfast buffet. The food definitely hit the spot, and we were ready to go tour Oslo. However, with several hundred young tourists headed out, I realized it would be virtually impossible to move quickly enough in the 6 hours given to us to really see much. So I grabbed one of my friends, Carolina (love that name), and said, “Look, the two of us should head out to the Sculpture Garden. It will be so much faster and easier to get around if we split up.” Needless to say, she agreed, and off we went.

Over the rest of the morning and afternoon, we managed the following:

  • Walk to the Vigeland Sculpture Park
  • Walk back through the downtown area admiring the amazing Oslo architecture and hilly countryside
  • Stop for lunch at Bagel/Juice to spend $15 for a bagel sandwich
  • See the changing of the guard at the Parliament Building
  • Catch the Metro to the other side of the city
  • Toured the Munch Museum, home of one of the most famous paintings in the world: The Scream
  • Managed to get slightly lost on the way back, but found our way again

Needless to say, it was an action-packed 6 hours. Here are a few photo highlights:

Carolina and Ryan at Vigeland

Awesome travel companion

The Kiss

Favorite Munch: The Kiss

The Murderer

Second favorite Munch: The Murderer

Here are a few other impressions from Oslo:

  1. The Norwegians seemed a little more friendly to us than the Danes typically are. I’m not sure if this is because the Norwegians are generally a little less reserved than their counterparts, or if it was simply a function of Carolina and I being a traveling duo, instead of a huge group. But needless to say, people were very friendly to us, offering help and directions on the street and in Bagel/Juice.
  2. Oslo was a more unique city than i was expecting, and that was a good thing. The hills surrounding the downtown area were gorgeous. The architecture was superb, and the large parks and walking streets really made the city seem peaceful and welcoming. Unfortunately, there were no bike lanes though, but I can understand that to an extent considering how much more hilly Oslo is than Copenhagen.
  3. Six hours wasn’t nearly enough to see everything. Even though we had an action packed day, there was still soooo much more to see. If only I had my snowboard, I would have definitely planned a trip up to the mountains.

After our day touring the city, we headed back to the boat. As the sun was setting, myself and one of my roommates headed out to the hot tubs on the back of the boat to check the skyline before we headed out. This is what we were greeted with (and unfortunately the picture really doesn’t do it justice):

Oslo Skyline

View from the hot tub

Needless to say, we had another great dinner and party on the way back to Copenhagen that night. All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and Oslo is definitely on the list of places I want to come back to the next time I’m in Europe.


The Communication Revolution: Time to Get on Board

October 13, 2009
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Yesterday morning, I posted about the coming Google Wave and how it will be critical for businesses to keep up with the pace of change. After spending a bit more time thinking about it, I wanted to unpack this idea a little bit, and make an argument about the vitality of having a robust method for employees, managers and executives to communicate with each other.

There is no doubt that the last 20 years have produced incredible advances in our ability to facilitate the spread of information, knowledge and data through technology. It’s become almost mundane to say that the internet has changed the world. We see technology impacting office communication at every turn. In the workplace, e-mail is ubiquitous, instant messaging is common, and Facebook is at least tolerated, if not encouraged.

Right now, “Web 2.0” (blogs, social networking sites, video sharing sites, hosted applications etc) is a huge buzzword. McKinsey has a study out reporting that companies who use Web 2.0 are reporting positive effects that include:

  • More innovative products and services
  • More effective marketing
  • Better access to knowledge
  • Lower cost of doing business
  • Higher revenue

In other words, companies who get on board with Web 2.0 and the social media revolution will do better.

However, most of Web 2.0 is a global forum, and this is a key distinction between social media and social communication. Media is a public outlet (think Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) to express ourselves. Communication is more Web 1.0: e-mail, instant messaging and the like. Web 1.0 is that direct contact we have when we actively seek and talk to one particular person. This is very different from Twitter, blogs, etc. where you simply speak to the world and see if anyone responds. And as of right now, we are still waiting to see Web 1.0 make the leap that Web 2.0 has made in terms of connecting people.

Google Wave seems like it has the potential to be that advance. This could have a profound impact on how businesses communicate internally. Google Wave could have the power to render e-mail obsolete. Instead of hundreds of daily updates which we don’t need or read, we will simply have conversations open on our computer screen that also include the ability to work on documents and projects simultaneously from anywhere in the world. Now, I’m pretty sure I might be wrong on some of these predictions, but I don’t think anyone would dispute the assertion that we can communicate better than we do now.

Implementing improved communication methods will be especially important for large, multinational corporations, where using intellectual capital efficiently is an ongoing challenge. There is simply too much information to manage, evaluate and act upon for something as slow and burdensome as e-mail. Even if Google Wave bombs, some new and better form of internet-based conversation will come along.

There is also a strategic element to this discussion as well. I’m currently taking a Strategic Risk Management course, and we are in the process of studying Enterprise Risk Management (ERM). One of the arguments against ERM is that there is simply so much unknown information and uncertainty in the world that it makes no sense to waste money and time trying to make sense of it all. What will be will be. The counterargument to this says that more information is better. While we might not be able to make sense of everything, we can make sense of a lot of things and better prepare ourselves to deal with those eventualities if they happen. I happen to subscribe to the latter school of thought, and I think most people who run publicly traded Fortune 500 companies do too.

Ineffective communication means less information filters its way to the top. The right people do not get the right information at the right time to make the right decision, and this could be a huge strategic threat to companies that grow inflexible because they rely on e-mail instead of faster, more effective communication methods. And it comes back to those large, multinational, matrix-style organizations that are most at risk to this possibility.

Google Wave and its followers are the future, and the future is now. Firms who recognize this will be in an advantageous position to take advantage of their intellectual capital for strategic and tactical decision-making.


Culture Night

October 10, 2009
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Wow. What a night. Kultur Natten. Every year, Copenhagen celebrates its unique culture, history, art and language in one spectacular evening. The zoo, museums, ministries, churches and public monuments all open their doors from 5 pm-5 am for the small price of $17. The package also includes completely free use of the Metro and bus system all night long, as well as access to more than 200 locations around the downtown area.

Fortunately for our group: myself, Jeff (American), Marine and Albane (French), and Simone and Martina (Italian), the weather was perfect for an evening of wandering around for several hours checking out sites and inhaling the culture. We started our evening by meeting at Frederiksberg Metro station, grabbing a cup of coffee and walking over to the zoo. Along the way, we stopped in one of the parks to tour a full-size labrynth. Once done solving the puzzle, we walked a little further to catch the animals before the sun set completely.

Walking the streets of CPH

Walking the streets of CPH

We caught the zoo at the perfect time. Right after walking in, we ran into a family of lions, and it was feeding time! The zoo curator brought in some huge piece of animal meat, and the lions immediately circled around the entrance, salivating over the coming meal. After watching the male lion inhale his food, we headed through the rest of the exhibits. Among the highlights was a huge indoor rainforest, as well as a good look at some sleeping chimps.

With the lions

With the lions

Walking to Rådhuspladsen

Walking to Rådhuspladsen

From the zoo, we took a bus downtown, and then walked over to the National Museum. In a word, fascinating. We walked through exhibits showcasing medieval Denmark, modern Denmark, peoples of the world, and Danish art. Danish history stretches back to the 11th century, and wandering through artifacts, clothing, weapons, and art really brought home how rich with history Europe is. Another surprise for me during the our time in the museum was how colonial Denmark has been through its history. At one point, Denmark controlled parts of Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Africa. The Danish empire spanned three continents in the 17th and 18th centuries. I could have spent several more hours reading, but we had to move on.

Walking insde the National Museum

Walking insde the National Museum

12th Century Viking Horns

12th Century Viking Horns

After leaving the museum, we spent 20 minutes walking over to the Round Tower near Nørreport. The builiding was completely lit up, but we didn’t have a chance to make it to the top because of the lines. Instead, we decided to grab a couple beers, and we stuck around for a country, yes country, concert inside the Tower. But country music is country music whether you’re in the US or in Denmark, and we didn’t stick around long. We took from the Round Tower and decided to head back home. We left our residence at 5:15 pm, and when we checked the time at the Metro Station, it read 1:30 am. What a night.

The Round Tower lit up red for Kultur Natten

The Round Tower lit up red for Kultur Natten

Jamming out to some country music

Jamming out to some country music

I ended up snapping almost 200 photos during the evening, and I have the full albums posted on my Facebook as well as the NCSU Flickr account. You can check them out here. There are 4 albums:

  • Culture Night Part 1 – The Zoo, Food, Rådhuspladsen
  • Culture Night Part 2 – National Museum: Danish History
  • Culture Night Part 3 – National Museum: Peoples of the World
  • Culture Night Part 4 – Round Tower, Conclusion

Moving to the Left

October 9, 2009
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Yesterday evening, I had a brief conversation with one of my classmates (hi Lindsay) about this blog and how my writing has evolved since I came to Copenhagen two months ago. She noted that my writing, particularly on health care and climate change took a definitive liberal slant. I understand where the opinion comes from. Has my writing begun to reflect more of my personal beliefs? Probably. But I wonder how much of that has to do me being here in Europe.

As I’ve stated many times on this blog, climate change is taken as fact here, while universal health care is taken for granted. The Danes I speak to don’t really understand modern conservatism in America. They don’t understand how we can deny something (global warming) that is happening before our very eyes, or how we can allow 50 million of our citizens to go without health care. I’ve also heard a lot of laughter at the comments about Obama earning the “socialist” and “Communist” labels from his more extreme critics.

I will grant that living in Copenhagen has probably moved my writing slightly to the left, but I also think it’s moved my writing more in alignment with the rest of the world, and with the business community at large. The rest of the world is deep in a conversation about how to limit carbon emissions while minimizing the economic impact. My blog post yesterday regarding Apple leaving the Chamber of Commerce only serves to highlight that trend. The future of business is green: green energy for green money. America must become more aggressive in implementing a green-centric business growth strategy if it wants to maintain its place as a global economic leader. Denying the existence of global warming is no place to start.

Over the course of this blog, I’ve tried my best to write objectively, and to insert my opinion and analysis where I thought it could add value to the discussion. But I’m always open to airing other ideas and viewpoints. If you disagree with my writing, let me know, and I’ll publish your dissent here on the blog. Or you can e-mail me personally with your perspectives, counter-arguments, criticism or praise. My inbox is always open.


Biking Copenhagen

August 24, 2009
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I’ve been meaning to write this post for almost a day now, but I’ve barely had time to sit, let alone blog. On Saturday, I managed to complete a real round of grocery shopping, buy a new cell phone for only $50, and I picked up a used bike as well. The bike has been nothing short of great, and I’m learning why so many Copenhageners use them to get around.

First of all, the city has built large bike lanes on every major road and most side streets. These lanes are easily wide enough for 2 bikes to ride side by side. The city is also flat, and it’s cool enough temperature-wise to make riding a comfortable experience. Riding is also a great form of exercise, and it explains in part why Danish obesity rates are nearly 2.5 times less than their American counterparts, (~11% in Denmark vs 26% in the United States).

Last night, three of us pedaled from our dorm to Christiania to catch a reggae concert. We didn’t bring a map, figuring we could just ask the locals along the way for directions. While we ended up making several wrong turns, it didn’t really matter because the three of us were so captivated by the ride and the city. We rode down new streets and ended up by these large castles downtown before finally heading in the right direction and making our destination.

This week is another busy week of orientation. 500+ more exchange students arrived this weekend, so we’ll have another huge round of names and faces to learn while also trying to get our class schedules figured out, books purchased, and getting around.


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