All posts by Kalpesh Shah

3 Things Companies Must Do On Twitter

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA alumnus

More than any other social media tools, Twitter is about conversation with people in a company’s ecosystem. These include not only your customers, but also your employees, suppliers, government officials and any other person that deals with your company directly or indirectly. Here are three things that are common among companies that use Twitter most effectively.

Be Honest

The Chicago Tylenol murders had the potential to destroy one of Johnson and Johnson’s marque brands. The company could have easily disowned the problem because sabotage during production was ruled out in this case. However, the company not only issued a nationwide recall of Tylenol products, but also worked with pharmacies, hospitals and law enforcement agencies to educate the consumers. The company earned praise for being honest with the public and was able to re-establish its brand in few years. The need to be honest is even more paramount today because people have quick access to so much information. Trying to spin an issue can result in even more public relations nightmare. As a Microsoft research shows, being honest and proactively sharing information can help create a positive response from customers.

Monitor

Twitter moves at the speed of thought and a company has to respond at the same speed. The only way to respond that fast is to monitor what is said about the company. As Motrin’s Twitter Moment proves, not monitoring, or worse, ignoring what is said about your company/product will not make the problem go away. It will only make it worse. Toyota went about the right way and turned #toyotafail into social media PR win (Disclosure – I work for the company that owns CoTweet).

Employees with Power

In order to respond at the speed of light, you need employees who are authorized to respond without having to check-in with management. When messages and conversations about your company are flowing at high speed, you may not have the management resources available to make every decision for the employees on the front lines. These front line employees have their ears to the ground and must be able to respond immediately. As JetBlue use of Twitter shows, just responding to your customers can make them happy customers at the worst of times.

In summary, as long as you have well trained employees who can monitor conversations about your company and can respond at the speed of light while being honest, your company is well on the way to using Twitter’s power to your advantage.

Learn From My Mistakes: Networking Events

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA alumnus (Class of 2009)

The most effective to find a job, no, the only way to find a job in today’s economy is through someone you know within the company. Building your contacts through networking events is one way to get our foot in the door.

I have attended a number of networking events. There are a number of things I wish I had done differently to make these events more productive for myself. I am sharing my experiences so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

  • Start Early: This is the biggest mistake I made. I started attending networking events only AFTER I was looking for a job. By then, it is almost too late. The best time to start attending networking events is NOW. There are a number of benefits to an early start. You will be able to build contacts way before you need a job. Since you won’t be desperate to land a job immediately, you will be more relaxed and confident.
  • Get Information: Gather as much information as possible about who is attending, the companies they represent, who is the featured speaker, etc. Research the event‘s topic. By doing so, you will always have something to talk about. At more than one occasion, I have had a deer-in-the-headlight look on my face when somebody spoke about the featured topic/speaker. That is not the best way of creating a positive impression about yourself.
  • Mark Your Target: Make a list of people you want to talk to at the event. The list can be short or long depending on how long the event is. Then, make a list of things you want to talk about with each person on your list. If it helps, write down the list of people and topics on a 3×5 and carry it with you to the event. You don’t have to stick to the topics on your list, but the list will help you to get the conversation started.
  • Arrive Early: If possible, arrive a little bit early to the event. You can become familiar with the room which will make your more comfortable. In addition, it will give more one-on-one with people on your list, if they arrive early as well.
  • Business Cards: Carry enough business cards so that you can give it to everyone you meet. Similarly, get business cards from everyone you meet. If possible, note down some interesting/relevant information about them on the back of the card. The business cards will help you to:
  • Follow Through: Reach out to people you met within next 24-48 hours. It can be as simple as an email saying “It was nice meeting you at…”.  Include some information that you think the other person might be interested in based on your conversations during the event. If you promised to get something done, follow through with actions within a reasonable period of time.
  • Others Interest: Networking is a two-way process. So, offer to help others who can benefit with what you bring to the table.
  • Have Fun: Last but not the least, have fun at the event. You can only do so if you are genuinely interested in meeting other people. So, show sincere interest in people and what their goals are in attending the event.

As always, your feedback/comments are welcome. If you can contribute something to make networking more productive, please leave your suggestions in the comments. Thank you.

Learn From My Mistakes: Getting Ready for the MBA Program

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA alumnus (Class of 2009)

Class of 2011, welcome to the great TMMBA program. There are certain things I wish I had done differently when I was going through the program. I am listing these things hoping that you learn from my mistakes as you prepare yourselves for the grueling schedule of the next 18 months.

  • The first quarter: Welcome to your worst nightmare, the first quarter. I am sure you have heard that the first quarter is very challenging/hectic/difficult. Let me assure you that every one of those stories is correct. This program is front loaded with a lot of content covered during the first quarter. This is by design as a lot of things you will learn during this quarter will be handy later in the program. This quarter might be even more challenging for people who are new to financial accounting and economics. The sooner you accept this fact, the better you will be able to prepare yourselves to face this challenge. This brings us the next point.
  • Prepare yourself: The best way to get the most out of the program is to be prepared for every lecture. The rule of thumb is two hours of preparation for every hour of lecture. There are a number of things you will need to do to be fully prepared. Most important of all is to complete all the reading assignments before the lecture, take down notes and questions while doing your reading.  This will help you better understand the concepts discussed during the lecture. The other advantage is you will be prepared if the professor cold calls on you with a question.
  • Prepare your loved ones: With all the time spend on lectures and preparing for the lectures, you won’t have as much time for your loved one as before. Therefore, it is very important that you manage their expectations right from the beginning. If possible, use them as sounding board for your ideas/assignments. This will make them feel more invested in your studies and you will have more time with them.
  • Prepare your study team: Your study team will have a very big influence on how much you get out of your program. I was extremely fortunate that my study team was in sync with our goals as individuals and as a team. Try to come up with a plan to meet regularly to discuss your team assignments. Some of the students use the dinner time before the lecture for networking with people outside of their study team. I would suggest that you use that time to discuss your thoughts on the day’s lecture. This way you can hold each other accountable for completing the reading assignments for that days lecture and get more ideas to share while discussing a topic during the lecture.  You can still network with other students during the break time.
  • Early Start: Although this might be easier said than done, try to get an early start on your individual and team assignments. This will help you overcome unforeseen obstacles. Yes, there WILL be many obstacles along the way.
  • Professors: TMMBA program’s professors are not only brilliant, but also very accessible. You can make appointments with the professors to help you with any topics you are struggling with. Every professor has a different schedule, so check with them for times when they are available for these appointments. Similarly, you can get a lot out of the TAs.
  • Workout: Even if you do it only for 10 minutes a day, try to make your favorite workout a daily part of your day. This will give you some time away from the daily grind of going through a MBA program while having a full time job and keep your mind and body feeling more energetic.

The most important thing is to enjoy the wonderful experience of being in a room full of brilliant minds. Good Luck!

Things I gained from TMMBA program

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA alumnus

I met a very interesting person at one of the networking events. He was considering a few MBA programs including TMMBA. He had a lot of questions about the program. One of the questions was what are the top three things you have gained from the program. Here are the things I mentioned.

Broader perceptive: When you go to a Starbucks, why does one person take your order and another one make the drink? Would it not be more cost effective to have one person do both? Why did Google decide to give away most of it content for free? Will this business model work for all online businesses? I had a lot of these questions before going through the program, but no answers. Having worked in Information Technology Field, even if I did have an answer, they all came from a technical perceptive. Going through the program gave me a much broader perceptive on the problems that businesses face in today’s economic environment.

Access to great minds: The University of Washington has great professors with many years of experience in academia as well as in their respective industries. Being able to tap into this vast amount of knowledge and expertise is invaluable. However, when I talk about great minds, I don’t mean only the professors. It is a great experience to be in a classroom full of extremely bright and intelligent students. The students come from a verity of background and have different take on topics discussed in the class. This makes for lively discussions that I found very informative.

Network: There are three rules to real estate marketing: location, location, location. Similarly, there are three rules to getting a job in today’s job market: network, network, network.  The TMMBA program gave me access to an incredible network of decision makers within many industries/companies. In fact, I found my current job, the one that I love so much, through this very same network.

I WAS RUDE!!!

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA Student

In the early 1990s, I was taking courses in software development. After the first quarter, the instructor asked the class to give feedback on each student, with 3 areas of strength and 1 area of improvement for each student.

This was not done by secret ballot. Students would stand up one by one, and the class would voice their opinions for everyone to hear. When it was my turn, the majority of the class thought that I was intelligent, good at spotting problems and solving them and very helpful. When it came to the liabilities side of the balance sheet, the class was unanimous: I was rude. Of course, this was shocking to know. When I was pointing out their mistakes, I thought I was helping my classmates. I did not realize that I was perceived as being rude.

A big part of a manager’s is to get things done through other people. Being rude will not make things easy. Therefore, I have looked to improve my people management skills ever since. After attending the TMMBA program, I certainly feel that I am a better manager than before. Specifically, “Managing People in Technology Companies” and “Negotiations” are two subjects that have helped me along the way. I also attended a 12-week seminar from Dale Carnegie that helped me be a better person.

Remember: “Perception is reality in the mind of the beholder”.

Welcome Class Of 2010

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA Student

Welcome to the Class of 2010. I know a few people who have part of the new class. And couple of you have asked for pointers on how to get the best out of the program. Here are some of the things you can consider:

• Set a timetable and stick to it. The first quarter is by far the most hectic. You will have a lot of materials to cover in these 3 months. And there will be no such thing as “catching up”. If you fall behind, you will remain behind throughout the quarter. So, it is very important to plan your time and stick to your plan.

• Set expectations with your family. You life is soon going to be very, very busy. You may not be able to spend as much time with your family as you like. So, it is very import to have support from your families. You will have individual and/or group assignments/projects/deliverables due almost every week.

• Be prepared for the lectures. Complete all the readings associated with the lectures and note down any questions you may have. This way, you will be better prepared for the class. The more you put in the program, the move you will get out of it.

• Get to know your study group very well. You are going to work together for the next 18 months. Have an understanding on how and when you will meet to work on your assignments and how to distribute work among yourselves. Some teams have come up with the idea of appointing a “CEO” of the group for the quarter. The CEO takes on the responsibilities of planning the activities of the group for the quarter and distributing these activities within the group.

• Take advantage of the Teachers’ Assistants (TA). The TAs will conduct review sessions on Thursdays. Even though the review sessions are optional, I would highly recommend you attend these sessions, specially if you are struggling with a topic. The TAs can also meet one-on-one if you want more clarification on any topic.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to write to me at kshah@u.washington.edu

Happy Studying

Why did you choose TMMBA?

Kalpesh Shah, TMMBA Student

On one hand, I like my job, my employer and the people I work with. On the other hand, after more than 14 years of doing software development, it was time to move on. I wanted to move on to the business side of things and so it was time to get an MBA. However, quitting my job for a full time program was not an option for me. Did I mention I like my job? I like it even more every other week when I get the paycheck.

Once I started researching the various programs, it quickly became clear that TMMBA is the right program for me. I spoke to a number of current and previous students to get their feedback on the program. I visited one of the classes as guest student, something I highly recommend to anybody deciding on a program. Fortunately, the class I visited was Karma’s macroeconomics class. It was fascinating to watch how much she enjoys teaching the subject.

I also liked the fact that the program has duration of 18 months compared to 24 to 36 months of various other programs. Some people may not like the fact that there are no electives. In my books, this is a big plus. Frankly, it means one less thing I have to worry about. The fact that the program is located on the east side is just an icing on the cake.

Finally, I cannot say enough good things about the support staff. Every one of them is very dedicated to the program and helpful with absolutely anything we need. It also helps that their responsibilities include only the TMMBA program.