All posts by mcinelly

Advice to the class of 2013

Jared McInelly – TMMBA Class of 2012

Last night I had a chance to talk to the incoming class of 2013. I still can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I started this program. The time really has gone by fast. I’m also really surprised by all that I’ve learned this year as well.
Here are the three stories I shared with the class and the main points from each.

Value your team
I remember the first time I met with my team. We met before dinner one night to discuss our answers to the Microeconomics homework. We were supposed to turn in one assignment for our group. As we went around the circle and explained what we got for #1, I was shocked to see that we each of us had a different answer. I thought, “what are we going to do now? I know I’m right, how can everyone else be wrong?” As we discussed the problem further, we figured out what the right answer was. It turned out that, big surprise, I was wrong.
I learned from this experience that the work we would do as a group is better, and more often correct, than the work I do on my own. I’ve really come to enjoy working on assignments and projects with my group. I look forward to their insights. Know that you are on a team with smart people. Learn to work with them and value the insights they bring.

Make a plan with your friends and family
Six weeks into the program I got a call one night as I was driving to class. When I answered, all I could hear was sobbing on the other line. After a few minutes I figured out that it was my 5 year old daughter asking me why I wasn’t going to be home for dinner. After talking to her for awhile and calming her down, I began to think about the effect this endeavor was having on my family. That night my wife and I talked and came up with a detailed plan of how we would use the time I had available to make sure we did things together and as a family. We decided that Friday or Saturday nights would be a date night for us and that Sunday nights would be dedicated as a family night. This plan has really worked well for us. I know that I’ve only have these couple of time windows to spend with the people I really care about, so it makes the time we spend that much more intense.
As you start the program, make sure you have a frank discussion with your friends and family about the program and when you will be around for them. I suggest you come up with a plan that takes into account the people you really care about. You’re going to graduate in a year and a half and those people are still going to be in your life. You don’t want to neglect them for that long.

You are a select group
My brother and I studied for and took the GMAT around the same time. We were talking one day after we’d gotten our scores back. He said something that I thought was interesting (which was something I’m not used to hearing from my younger brother).
“Of all the people in the world who have careers, we are the kind of people who have taken the time and energy to study for and take a really hard test. That puts us in a small minority.”
For TMMBA students I would say that we are the kind of people who have scored well enough on that test to apply and get accepted into the best program at the best university in the Seattle area. And we are willing to do it while we are still working full-time! We really are a select group. Your classmates are a select group. Get to know them well. Reach out to people and sit with new people at dinner, lunch and breakfast on class days.
Right when we started the program we all started adding each other on LinkedIn. About a year later, we all started adding each other on Facebook. You are going to make great friends in this program. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet strong, intelligent people like you.
Good luck to the incoming class of 2013. You will love this program. It’s intense but very rewarding!

There’s an equation for that?

Jared McInelly, TMMBA Class 11

That was my first thought when Prof. Karpoff first wrote the equation for NPV (Net Present Value) on the whiteboard.  I was fascinated that there, right in front of me, was a way to calculate the present value, in today’s dollars, of a project that would last in to the future.  There was even a way to include the risk!

Finance has been one of my favorite classes so for in the TMMBA program.  The case studies were challenging yet interesting.  And the final exam was actually fun.  Being able to value a company using information from their income statement and balance sheet is cool.

And forevermore, whenever I see one of those hats with a propeller on top I’m going to think “CAPM.”

How do you keep up with technology and business events?

Jared McInelly, TMMBA Class 11

Everyone is very busy.  There are so many demands on our time, work, family, school, etc.  I’ve found that school has taken all of my leisurely browsing-the-web-to-keep-up-on-technology time.  So, I have to boil things down to a few key resources.  Here are the things I use to keep up on technology and business issues along with a short description of each.

Podcasts

I love podcasts.  By subscribing to them in iTunes, new updates are downloaded to my iPhone automatically.  I have an FM transmitter that allows me to listen to them on my car radio while driving around in the wonderful Seattle traffic.  Here are my favorites.  All of these can be subscribed to in iTunes by searching for them by name.  (Sorry Andriod users, I have not joined your secret society and so I don’t know how to help you get these).

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series.  Stanford University.  This is a weekly (during the school year) speaking event open to Stanford students.  They record it and post the talks online.  This is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to.  Because it’s Stanford, they get some of the best speakers from some of the most interesting companies in the world.

TWIT:  This week in technology.  Leo Laporte is the moderator with a panel that changes weekly.  They discuss the tech news of the week.  This is a great way to find out what is new and upcoming.  Plus, there are some great personalities in the group (and some consistently grumpy ones).

HBR IdeaCast.  This is a 20 minute interview with the author of one of the main articles for the week’s Harvard Business Review.  Very insightful and a quick and easy way to get the point of the article without having to read it.

Business Week – Behind This Week’s Cover Story.  Similar to the HBR IdeaCast, this is a short interview with the author of the latest Business Week cover story.

Manager Tools.  I don’t know where these guys came from but they are pretty good.  They discuss, sometimes in painstaking detail, specific, actionable tools you can use as managers.  My favorite Manager Tools podcast was the one that had 17 steps to remember for a perfect handshake.  I don’t bother trying to remember all of their items but I do find the overall point of each podcast very helpful.

RadioLab.  If you like science, even a little bit, you’ll love this podcast.  I look forward to a new episode of Radiolab like I look forward to Christmas.  Yes, I’m a geek.

Websites:

Geekwire.  This is a site founded in Seattle to cover the tech beat in the Seattle area.  These guys are good.  They also have a podcast but it tends to be boring.

Google News:

I set up alerts on topics I care about and check it on occasion.  I include on this list all of the blogs that I like to read.  That way I get to see them all at once and it’s easy to tell if they have a new update.  Which is much better than checking them all individually.

I’m interested in what you have found helpful, please respond in the comments if you know of a good site, podcast, etc. that you use to keep up on the latest business ideas and technology.

Frank’s Slide

Jared McInelly,  TMMBA Student (Class of 2012)

My mother grew up in tiny little town in Alberta, Canada.  Every year, no matter how far away we lived, we’d make the trek to Raymond.  One of the last markers to look for before we’d get there was Frank’s Slide.  In 1904, half of Turtle Mountain broke loose and came rumbling down the valley where it buried most of the town of Frank, Alberta with over 90 tons of limestone.  Over a hundred years later the path of destruction and debris pile are still easily visible.  The road through Crowsnest Pass takes you right through massive, two-story high, sun bleached boulders.  The first time I saw this as a kid I was amazed, even a little scared that such a thing could happen.  I’ve been fascinated by Frank’s slide ever since.

Two weeks into my first quarter in the TMMBA program I started hearing rumblings about “Frank’s exam.”  Peopled talked about it with an awe of respect mingled with a hint of fear.  Just like I felt the first time I saw Frank’s slide.  I began to wonder, “were T-accounts going to become two story boulders, smashing me into wondering why I decided to go back to school?”  Rumors were that the test took 15-17 hours to complete (so I planned on 22-25).  That’s a lot of time when you’re working and going to school.  My study group and I decided to work really hard to finish all of our other assignments before the week of Frank’s exam.  It was a good move.  By the time the week of the test came, I had nothing that had to be done except Frank’s test.  I was really nervous as I downloaded the test questions and the spreadsheet template.  It was my first official test in almost ten years.  As I opened the test I began to imagine Turtle Mountain as it started to rumble and shake.  I could see small boulders beginning to crash down the mountainside before the whole thing gave way.  As I read the first question the panic of being buried in a field of journal-entry dust began to creep up my spine.  I read the question again and sat back in my chair.  “Wait a minute, I know this” I thought to myself.  A few minutes later I was T-accounting with the best of them.  I felt great when, 15 hours over three days later, I was finally finished.

Looking back now, it was actually a pretty ‘fun’ exam.  I didn’t get the best score in the class but that’s not my goal in the program.  But I do have a good, fundamental understanding of how to interpret Income statements, cash-flow statements and balance sheets, something I’ve always wanted to know how to do.  And I’m glad that Frank’s exam didn’t become my own personal Frank’s slide.

Apptio – THE customer centric company.

Jared McInelly, TMMBA Student (Class of 2012)

I’ve heard the term “customer centric” from almost every company and at every executive speech.  So when we had the CFO of Apptio, Kurt Shintaffer, come and speak to or TMMBA class and tell us that they are “customer centric” I thought nothing of it.  But as he told us the story of the founding of Apptio, it quickly became apparent that these guys really mean it.  I’ve never seen a company as focused on their customers as these guys.

Kurt founded the company with his friend Sunny Gupta.  They had both just come off a nice exit from another start-up and they looked at each other and said “what now?”

“We knew a bunch of people in IT, so we started setting up meetings with them and asking them about what kinds of problems they faced as IT execs.”

From those discussions, a kind of theme started to form; everyone had issues with figuring out the ROI of their IT investments.  When they would have to justify budgets and costs to other groups, they had nothing solid to justify the need for their budgets.  As they met with more and more IT pros, they would ask questions and then tell them what they were planning to build.  These experienced, high level people could really tell them if they were on the right track.  Eventually they were ready to build a truly unique product that they knew at least 40 high level people needed.

Although Kurt and Sunny didn’t have IT backgrounds, their discussions led them directly to a problem that they decided they could solve.  They came up with a business plan which they then took to the Venture Capitalists.  Their pitch had enormous weight behind it because they could point to a big chart and say, “this Fortune 500 company has this problem. We know, we’ve talked to their CTO.”

Their previous successes at running a startup and providing a profitable exit for the VC’s made it easier for them to get funding.  They started Apptio with a couple of people, an idea, and a whole bunch of VC money.

These customer centric beginnings have continued in their company culture.  All of the executives meet regularly with customers.  They go on sales visits and follow up on the phone a week or so after to make sure the customer got what they needed.  Kurt also told us about a tough situation where they “over sold” the product to a big customer.  As a management team, they decided that it was more important to win this customer to their platform than to make money on the deal.  So they have embarked on an extensive project to design and build software for this customer.  And they are losing money doing it.

They continue to look to their customers for product validation.  As they build new tools or add functionality they can then go to other customers and say “we added such and such widget because Boeing really needed it, maybe you do too.”

According to Mark, “there is nothing better than peer selling.”

I found this customer centric style very interesting.  There are benefits here that are hard to measure in dollar amounts.  Apptio is providing products but really they are forming deep relationships with their customers.  I worry that at some point the company will get too big and the executives too busy to keep meeting with customers.  I think this is when product strategy seems to move away from what customers really want back to executive intuition and guessing.  So far though, these guys seem to have really hit on something that solves a serious problem in the IT world.  And they are doing it in an innovative-customer centric way.

My path to the TMMBA

Jared McInelly – TMMBA Student (Class  of 2012)

Getting an MBA was not a decision I took lightly.  It actually turned out to be a journey of almost 3 years for me.  Where you get an MBA has a lot of implications on the rest of your career.  I chose carefully and ended up at the Foster School of Business in the TMMBA program.  Here’s how I got there.

I always knew I wanted to get an MBA.  After graduating with an engineering degree I decided to take a break from school and get some relevant work experience before heading back for an MBA.  Well, one year turned into 8 years , a mortgage and 4 kids.  When I finally decided it was time to go back I first looked at schools that didn’t require the GMAT.  I was intimidated by the thought of taking that test and I was afraid that I wouldn’t score very well.  I compared a couple of online programs with some local evening schools that didn’t require the GMAT.  All of the programs were expensive and online didn’t seem like a good way to really learn from other classmates.  Finally I though “if I’m going to spend the time, money and energy getting an MBA, why not do it right and go to a good school?”

So the pendulum swung the other way for me and I decided to study hard, ace the GMAT and go to school full time.  I studied for a long time and took the GMAT and eventually got the score I needed to get into a good school.

But did I really want to quit a good job and move my family to go full-time?

My wife certainly wasn’t excited about the idea of me going to school full-time.  And the more I thought about it the more it made sense to stay in the Seattle area.  I loved technology and Seattle has good technology companies and isn’t nearly as expensive as somewhere like Silicon Valley.

One day a blurb came on the radio about a “Technology Management MBA from the University of Washington, THE degree for technology professionals…”  It really peaked my interest.  I thought, “hey, I’m a tech geek.  This sounds like a good fit.”  Soon after I attended an info session and was impressed with the stats of the program; 1.5 years, one night a week and every other Saturday.  It sounded intense but doable.  I did some research online and talked to a few people about the program.  I was impressed with a few other things.

1)        The program is officially part of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.  So the same professors who teach on campus teach the TMMBA courses.  The full-time MBA at the Foster School of Business is ranked #33 nationally.  I’ve since heard that many of the business school professors prefer teaching the TMMBA classes because of the level of work experience and seriousness of the students.

2)       The program is a lock-step, cohort based program.  All of your classes are set, your books are purchased for you and even your food on class days is provided (and, oh my goodness, is the food ever good).  It’s such a relief to have all of these details taken care of by the administrators.  I can’t imagine figuring out when I would have time to travel to campus, park, and walk around the campus bookstore trying to find the right books for each quarter.

3)       I sat in on a class and the students were just like me.  I was worried that going to a full-time program would mean I’d be in class with a bunch of kids just out of college with a year or two of experience and a high GMAT score giving them unearned confidence. The average years of work experience in the TMMBA program is ten.

So, I decided to apply and I got accepted into the program.  So far I have been extremely impressed with the program.  The professors have been incredible and class time seems to fly by.  My group is great and the class is so diverse, with each student bringing such differing backgrounds and experiences.  So far I love it.  Even though the work load can seem all consuming at times, I still love it.