CS2MBA: A Computer Science Professor wants an MBA
by Jens Palsberg

I am a professor of computer science at UCLA. After five years as department chair (2010-2015), I joined the UCLA Executive MBA program as a student (2015-2017). In this blog I chronicle my experience in the EMBA program and shed light on two questions: how much time does it take? is it worth the time and money? Send me email with questions, comments, and suggestions.

Why do it?

I love to learn. MBA is an area about which I know little so taking an MBA promises to be enriching. Additionally, many people have told me about their positive experiences with taking an MBA. I am particularly inspired by Mads Tofte and Jeffrey Vitter who are outstanding computer scientists, leaders of their universities, and both PhDs and MBAs.

Posted Jul 15, 2015

Six Steps to Admission

In Spring 2014, my first step was to find four rankings of EMBA programs across the United States; UCLA Anderson was top-10 in every single one. UCLA is good! Here are the current rankings: Economist, Financial Times, Poets and Quants, and U.S. News.

In May 2014, my second step was to attend a lecture in the UCLA EMBA program and to meet the director of admissions. I learned that the UCLA EMBA program requires 5+ years of management experience and admits students from a wide variety of industries, occupations, and educations, including military. This was a positive experience and made me confident that the idea to take an EMBA at UCLA can work. I talked it over with my wife and decided to do it.

In Summer 2014, my third step was to find my transcripts and diplomas from Aarhus University. My BS+MS degree papers needed translation to English and with the guidance of an outstanding staff member in the registrar's office of Aarhus University, I got the translation done.

In October 2014, my fourth step was to attend the application workshop at UCLA. I found out that UCLA will waive the requirements to take TOEFL (because I have taught courses at UCLA for more than ten years) and GMAT (because I have a PhD in Computer Science).

In October 2014, my fifth step was to ask my dean and my former department chair to write letters of recommendation for me; both graciously agreed.

In November 2014, my sixth step was to to write three required essays, fill out the online application form, and apply to the UCLA EMBA program. In January 2015, I attended an interview with the admission director, and soon after I received the news that UCLA had admitted me.

In summary: this was easy! Every time I had questions, the UCLA Anderson staff was helpful.

Posted Jul 15, 2015

The Summer Before

UCLA sent me Coach Wooden's Leadership Game Plan for Success, which I happily read. I spent 100 minutes on an online GMAT trial exam to check that I know the material; I got a good score. I also spent two hours on required assessments of my Math and Excel skills. The conclusion is that my Math skills are good while my Excel skills need improvement.

Posted Jul 15, 2015

The Fee

The 2015-16 registration fee is $70,700. So, chances are that the total fee for two years will be $141,400. Game on for UCLA Anderson; can they provide value for the money?

Posted Aug 11, 2015

Back to School

Sat Aug 8 was Back to School day, with a packed program from 7:30am to 6:00pm. The education appears to have two main threads: leadership foundations and technical knowledge. I enjoyed the conversations and found that I have amazing classmates, for a total of 68 students, including 24 percent women. The average age is 37 years, the average management experience is 10 years, and the average annual salary is $165,000.

Posted Aug 11, 2015

The Birkman Method

Today I completed the Birkman assessment in less than an hour. I have read that the Birkman Method is a powerful tool that identifies a person's passions, behaviors, motivation, and interests and that the Birkman assessment has been completed by over 2.5 million leaders worldwide.

Posted Aug 11, 2015

Leadership Foundations

Aug 15-31 I spent 22 hours to prepare for the Leadership Foundations week which will be in September. I read ten articles (known as cases) and wrote my answer to an assignment about strategic challenges. Those ten articles are mainly about strategy, ethics, creativity, marketing, and mergers and acquisitions. I took detailed notes and found that my experience with reviewing computer science papers has been good preparation. Later, when I worked on the assignment about strategic challenges, I found that I had already learned a lot.

Posted Aug 31, 2015

Sep 1-7 I spent 5 hours to finish my preparation for the Leadership Foundations week. I polished my notes and wrote my answer to an assignment about leadership competencies.

Posted Sep 7, 2015

The Leadership Foundations week, Sep 8-12, was intense! Each day had lectures or group work from early morning to late evening. We all stayed in a nearby hotel. Some keywords that describe the experience: efficient, eye-opening, collaborative. Many of the professors are amazing speakers. I left with a lot of optimism about the next two years.

Posted Sep 13, 2015

The September 2015 issue of the Southwest Airlines magazine has a section on leadership and teamwork, which is brief and good, and includes a quiz, a comedy perspective ("yes ... and"), and a military perspective (about different strengths as basis for leadership).

Posted Sep 22, 2015

Weekend #1

Sep 14-24 I spent 32 hours on both post-processing the Leadership Foundations Week and preparing for Weekend #1 of lectures. The post-processing involved a careful look at the results of my Birkman assessment, the writing of a leadership action plan for the next two years, and the writing of a summary of what had I learned. The preparation for Weekend #1 was about (i) Data Analysis and (ii) Marketing, which are the two courses that all the EMBA students take this Fall. The Data Analysis course appears to cover statistics and probability material that I already know, with most of the examples drawn from business. The Marketing course covers material that is entirely new to me. Our Marketing professor is excellent; she gave a wonderful lecture during the Leadership Foundations Week.

Posted Sep 24, 2015

Weekend 1 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Data Analysis, one 3.5 hour on about Marketing, one 2.5 hours session about such topics as UCLA's honor code and certificates that we can take, and a lunch session at which we got to meet representatives of the many student clubs at UCLA Anderson. The Data Analysis professor did a good job of explaining the fundamentals and answering questions. The Marketing professor explained a systematic approach to Marketing that consists of ten steps that each can be understood in detail. This approach appears to stem from that the Marketing professor was first educated as an engineer! This is good news for me: I find the systematic approach appealing, I am eager to learn it, and I sense that eventually I will like it.

Posted Sep 27, 2015

Weekend #2

Mon Sep 28 I attended the all-afternoon Anderson Forecast event on the September 2015 Economic Outlook. One of the highlights was a presentation by John Williams, President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank. The tagline of the meeting was: Housing is Back. Among the take-aways from the meeting are that (1) likely, the Federal Reserve will begin to raise interest rates later this year, and (2) rents in Los Angeles are going up very fast this year, and (3) no recession is in sight.

Posted Sep 30, 2015

Mon Sep 28 I attended a two-hour reception for 30+ Executive MBA students from Mannheim Business School, Germany. We were at the lovely Fowler Museum at UCLA. I enjoyed hearing about the visitors' motivations and aspirations.

Posted Sep 30, 2015

Wed Sep 30 one of the UCLA Anderson faculty members went over my Birkman assessment with me in a 1.5 hour session. This was a highly constructive experience and I left bubbling with optimism.

Posted Oct 9, 2015

From Sep 27 to Oct 8 I spent 36 hours on preparation and homework for Data Analysis and Marketing. I see a pattern of close to three hours of effort per day, on average, between the weekends of lectures. I am in a study group of six people with diverse backgrounds and occupations. We have weekly phone calls and work well together.

Posted Oct 9, 2015

We submitted homework this weekend! After being on the receiving end of homework for many years, I found it refreshing and humbling to submit homework myself.

Posted Oct 11, 2015

Weekend 2 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Data Analysis, two 3.5 hour lectures on Marketing, a family dinner, and one day on Leadership Foundations led by Odyssey Teams at UCLA's Challenge Course. That last day was amazing and included two team-building exercises that took place more than 10 meters above the ground. It was a memorable day that likely made us all think differently about teams and ourselves. Here is a description of what a similar day was like three years ago.

Posted Oct 11, 2015

Weekend #3

From Oct 12 to Oct 22 I spent 32 hours on preparation and homework for Data Analysis and Marketing. We are going to have a midterm exam in Data Analysis this weekend! The exam is closed-book, closed-notes, closed-computer. I have made a reference sheet, bought a pocket calculator, and done a couple of practice exams.

Posted Oct 22, 2015

Weekend 3 consisted of a 3 hour midterm exam in Data Analysis, one 3.5 hour lecture on Data Analysis, and two 3.5 hour lectures on Marketing. I enjoyed taking a written exam again after a break of many years and I finished the questions with time to spare. The Marketing course is steadily building up a suite of mathematical models and teaching how to apply them to data from business cases. The idea is to enable recommendations and decisions about marketing that is based in considerable part on data and math.

Posted Oct 28, 2015

Weekend #4

From Oct 25 to Nov 5 I spent 36 hours on preparation and homework for Data Analysis and Marketing. Those two weeks were rather different from the earlier part of the Fall: instead of weeks dominated by reading, a large Marketing group project consumed most of the time. We developed a marketing plan and a sales forecast for a product that at first seems absurd but actually saves customers a lot of money. Our report had a space limit of six pages double-spaced, which forced us to focus entirely on the essential.

Posted Nov 7, 2015

Weekend 4 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Data Analysis, two 3.5 hour lectures on Marketing, and one hour about how to establish a better presence on LinkedIn. The courses have moved into a phase where the primary goal is to reinforce and apply material from earlier lectures. A typical lecture was the Sunday lecture in Marketing which covered the case for the large group project that we all had submitted earlier that day. Everybody was well prepared and the amount of insight that flowed from both the professor and the students was tremendous. This was a good example of how education can be lifted to a high level of quality when the room is packed with experienced people.

Posted Nov 8, 2015

Weekend #5

From Nov 9 to Nov 19 I spent 21 hours on preparation and homework for Data Analysis and Marketing. The quarter is winding down; I spent most of the time on a Marketing homework with many interesting calculations and considerations.

Posted Nov 19, 2015

Weekend 5 consisted of one 3.5 hour lecture on Data Analysis, two 4+3 hour lectures on Marketing, 3 hours about Leadership Foundations, an hour about how to write an executive resume, and an hour with Dean Judy Olian. The Leadership Foundations continues to be an amazing part of the education that puts gentle pressure on us to move forward and become better leaders. The Data Analysis professor ended his lecture with these memorable words: You people juggle many balls. Sometimes you drop a ball; that is okay. Only one of the balls is a crystal ball: family and friends. Don't drop that ball.

Posted Nov 22, 2015

Weekend #6

From Nov 26 to Dec 3 I spent 38 hours on the take-home final exam in Marketing and on preparation for the final exam in Data Analysis. The Marketing exam was interesting; it concerned a brand-new case from 2015. After 15 hours of work on the exam, I was delighted to discover a core challenge hidden deeply in a maze of considerations and complications. I enjoyed the exam and it helped me realize that I have learned a lot from the Marketing course.

Posted Dec 5, 2015

Weekend 6 consisted of a 3 hour final exam in Data Analysis. The exam was challenging! The exam called on our ability to think independently rather than merely to apply techniques in the same way that we applied them in homework. After the Data Analysis exam, I put some final toches on my answer to the Marketing exam and was done with the Fall 2015 quarter.

Posted Dec 5, 2015

End of the First Quarter

Here are three observations from the Data Analysis course. First, for each forecast, state the confidence interval. Second, while scientists often prefer a 95-percent confidence interval, business people might use an 80-percent confidence interval because they must take risk. Third, our Data Analysis professor brought in many recent newspaper articles and showed how statistics can explain that some things that appear to happen for a reason may actually happen by chance. Additionally, here are three observations from the Marketing course. First, most of the cases are written such that the only way to find out essential information is to do substantial calculations. Second, the ten steps to marketing enable people to make a convincing argument for a particular plan. Third, each case has a few sentences whose sole purpose is to entertain, such as "[the CEO] poured himself a Guinness and took a deep breath".

Posted Dec 14, 2015

Summary of my preparation time from Sep 14 to Dec 3: Marketing: 106 hours; Data Analysis: 60 hours; Leadership: 12 hours; Group phone calls: 12 hours; Excel: 5 hours. Total: 195 hours.

Posted Dec 21, 2015

Weekend #7

From Dec 7 to Dec 21 I spent 29 hours on preparation for Economics, which is one of the courses this Winter. I read the required chapters of the textbook, which is exciting and has lovely applications of quadratic functions and differentiation.

Posted Dec 21, 2015

From Dec 30 to Jan 7 I spent 36 hours on preparation for Economics and Accounting. Accounting is the second course this Winter. I like the discipline of double-entry accounting; it reminds me of the saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Posted Jan 7, 2016

Weekend 7 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Accounting, two 3.5 hour lectures on Economics, a lecture on careers in asset management, and a lecture by David Glickman, the founder of multiple unicorns. The professors of Accounting and Economics are highly experienced people and entertaining speakers. The lectures showed in spades how those qualities can translate into a great learning experience for the students. I feel lucky with the four professors I have had so far for quarter-long courses at UCLA Anderson. A big Aha moment happened in the Economics course. The professor had asked us a question about our willingness to pay for a beer in a particular situation, and from that he constructed a demand curve.

Posted Jan 12, 2016

Weekend #8

From Jan 10 to Jan 20 I spent 34 hours on preparation for Economics and Accounting. The Accounting textbook explains the nuts and bolts well. In Economics, we have a lively, online discussion of current events, with a high number of postings by the professor, the teaching assistant, and the students.

Posted Jan 22, 2016

Weekend 8 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Accounting, two 3.5 hour lectures on Economics, a 1-hour TA session on Accounting, and a 1-hour workshop on how to create personal positioning statements. Our Economics professor explained a host of circumstances, considerations, and prediction models that are worth knowing ahead of this week's meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee.

Posted Jan 27, 2016

Weekend #9

On Jan 29 I attended the first 3-hour lecture in a course that includes a trip to China in March. The topic is business in a rapidly changing China.

Posted Feb 5, 2016

From Jan 27 to Feb 4 I spent 31 hours on preparation for Economics and Accounting. We are going to have a midterm exam in Accounting this weekend.

Posted Feb 5, 2016

Weekend 9 consisted of a 1-hour TA session on Accounting, a 2.5 hour midterm exam on Accounting, a 3.5 hour lecture on Accounting, two 3.5 hour lectures on Economics, and a lecture by David Nathanson, FOX Sports. The Economics professor did a wonderful job of explaining some of what is going on in today's world economy and answering questions of all kinds.

Posted Feb 6, 2016

Weekend #10

From Feb 8 to Feb 18 I spent 41 hours on preparation for Economics, Accounting, and China. We got an old Economics midterm as homework, which turned out to be a great learning experience. Among the questions were ten True-False-Uncertain questions. As the Economics professor said afterwards: they are all trick questions! The course on China has interesting homework, which helped push my total number of preparation hours above 40 ahead of Weekend 10.

Posted Feb 21, 2016

Weekend 10 consisted of two 3 hour lectures on Accounting, two 3.5 hour lectures on Economics, a 1-hour TA session on Accounting, a 1-hour TA session on Accounting, a 1-hour workshop on career shifting, and a 3-hour lecture to prepare us for the trip to China. In the Accounting course, a large number of the examples are well-known companies and their recent financial statements, which increases my motivation to read the material and enjoy the lectures. The Economics professor switches seemingly effortlessly between explaining microeconomics and explaining current events in macroeconomics. The concept of Net Present Value has come up in both Accounting and Econonics, which has helped me understand both the idea and how to use it.

Posted Feb 21, 2016

Weekend #11

From Feb 21 to Mar 3 I spent 55 hours on preparation for Economics, Accounting, and China. In the Economics course, we have a major group project that is exciting and takes a lot of time.

Posted Mar 5, 2016

Weekend 11 consisted of two lectures (3+2 hours) about Accounting, a 3.5 hour lecture on Economics, two 2-hour TA sessions on Accounting, a 3.5-hour session on Leadership. A highlight was the Economics professor's explanation of the Cournot-Nash analysis of two competing companies.

Posted Mar 5, 2016

Weekend #12

On Mar 11 I attended the final 3-hour lecture to prepare us for the trip to China. This time the students did most of the lecturing. Ten groups presented recent news and thoughts about a wide variety of topics related to doing business in China. The preparation and energy level were high, and the signal-to-noise ratio was excellent.

Posted Mar 11, 2016

From Mar 6 to Mar 17 I spent 39 hours on preparation for Economics, Accounting, and China. My group finished the Economics project and managed to reach an interesting conclusion.

Posted Mar 18, 2016

Weekend 12 consisted of a 3-hour Accounting exam and a 3.5 hour session about Economics that both a lecture and two presentations about the group project. The Accounting exam helped me realize how much I have learned from the Accounting course. The two groups who presented their Economics projects had volunteered to present their findings while knowing that ten other groups in the audience had worked on the same problem.

Posted Mar 18, 2016

End of the Second Quarter

Summary of my preparation time from Dec 7 to Mar 17: Accounting: 131 hours; Economics: 109 hours; Group phone calls: 15 hours; China: 8 hours; Leadership: 2 hours. Total: 265 hours.

Posted Mar 18, 2016

The traditional teaching method goes lecture, homework, solution. The last two quarters I have seen many instances of homework, lecture, solution. The homework-first idea is a fascinating twist that ensures that every student is well prepared for the lecture, which in itself increases interaction. I have learned a lot from trying out homeworks without really knowing what I was doing. Later when I got the solution, I understood well why the solution is nontrivial and better than my first try.

Posted Mar 22, 2016

I am a lot better at Excel now! One of the reasons is that I have amazing classmates who have taught me a lot. I like Excel's declarative programming style that smoothly integrates iteration, search, and database-style queries.

Posted Mar 22, 2016

Trip to China

In the last week of March, we were 38 students plus a professor and a staff member who went to Guangzhou and Shanghai in China. The students were from several UCLA MBA programs and included ten students from my class. The themes of the trip were manufactoring and finance. We visited several companies and attended many presentations by high-caliber people. I enjoyed the technical content, the conversations with my travelmates, and the leisurely tour of Shanghai at the end of the week.

Posted Apr 2, 2016

Weekend #13

From Mar 20 to Mar 31 I spent 33 hours on preparation for Finance and Macroeconomics. I read the required book on Macroeconomics plus the first several chapters of the book on Finance. I have high expectations for both courses.

Posted Apr 2, 2016

Weekend 13 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Finance, two 3.5 hour lectures on Macroeconomics, a 1-hour TA session on Finance, a 1-hour lecture on personal branding, and a 1-hour presentation of upcoming elective courses. The lectures were excellent and promise well for this quarter. We have new study groups now. The Anderson staff divided us into groups for the first two quarters and then shuffled the groups for the next two quarters. We have many homeworks and project that we must submit as a group; part of the challenge is to learn to work together.

Posted Apr 2, 2016

Weekend #14

From Apr 3 to Apr 14 I spent 35 hours on preparation for Finance and Macroeconomics. In Macroeconomics we work with government data about the United States economy from 1947 until today. We learn how to use great software to create graphs that show the answers to a wide variety of questions about the economy.

Posted Apr 14, 2016

Weekend 14 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Finance, two 3.5 hour lectures on Macroeconomics, and a 1-hour TA session on Finance. The TA session was a good illustration of the honor code at UCLA, particularly the UCLA Anderson Honor Code. The professor had asked the teaching assistant to go over the solutions to Homeworks 1+2. At the beginning of the session the TA became aware that Homework 2 was due one hour later. In response he said "please don't change your answers to Homework 2" and proceeded with the session. This all worked and it reflected well on UCLA and its students.

Posted Apr 16, 2016

Weekend #15

On Apr 22, I attended the final lecture related to the trip to China. The course and the trip were well above my expectations.

Posted Apr 22, 2016

From Apr 17 to Apr 28 I spent 37 hours on preparation for Finance and Macroeconomics. The Finance course has many homework questions that ask us to first model and then compute the net present value of realistic projects. I find the questions interesting and I notice that seemingly small differences in the models can lead to big differences in the net present values.

Posted Apr 28, 2016

Weekend 15 consisted of a 3.5 hour midterm exam in Finance, a 3.5 hour lecture on Finance, a 3.5 hour lecture on Macroeconomics, a 3.5 hour lecture on Persuasion, a 1-hour lecture on personal branding, and a 1-hour lecture by Julia Stewart, chair and CEO of DineEquity. This weekend ranks in the top tier for the best lectures plus the usual great questions and funny moments.

Posted Apr 28, 2016

Weekend #16

On May 10, I attended a two-hour lecture by Martha Miller on Women Leaders. She gave a ton of evidence of unconscious bias and what we can do about it.

Posted May 15, 2016

The last two weeks I finished the final quiz and, together with two group mates, the final report for the China trip. The final quiz consisted of seven essays while the final report was a business proposal for starting a business in China. This was an opportunity for me to review the notes that I took on the trip and to work on an exciting business idea due to one of my group mates.

Posted May 15, 2016

From May 1 to May 19 I spent 64 hours on preparation for Finance, Macroeconomics, and the China quiz and final report. This quarter has been different in a key way: the China trip meant that I had less than a week to prepare for the first class. Fortunately we had three weeks between Weekend 15 and Weekend 16 so now I have finally caught up and am even a bit ahead. Travel is coming up soon so being ahead is essential.

Posted Jun 3, 2016

Weekend 16 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Macroeconomics, a 3.5 hour lecture on Finance, a 3.5 hour session on Leadership, a 1-hour lecture on executive interview, and a 1-hour overview of our strategic management research project next year. During the session on Leadership, each of us received 360-degree feedback on our leadership skills, via a process administered by Korn Ferry. I am grateful to the twelve people who provided me with feedback; their responses are anonymous, averaged, and amazingly insightful.

Posted May 22, 2016

Weekend #17

From May 31 to Jun 2 I spent 14 hours on preparation for Finance and Macroeconomics. I was on travel much of the time since Weekend 16 and had less time than usual to prepare. This weekend, we have four group projects due. My group is doing fine especially because we assign different leaders to the projects, and then each project leader keeps the effort on track. The period since Weekend 16 is a good example of how UCLA Anderson forces us to work together: the professors assign more work than one person can do in the time available.

Posted Jun 3, 2016

Weekend 17 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Macroeconomics, two 3.5 hours lecture on Finance, a 1-hour TA session on Finance, and a 1-hour session with Jim Moffatt, CEO, Deloitte Consulting. The session with Jim Moffatt was a wonderful example of how one can get a lot out of an hour with a high-ranking, busy visitor. We went to questions and answers right away; the session chair asked the first ten questions and the audience asked the rest.

Posted Jun 4, 2016

Weekend #18

From Jun 5 to Jun 16 I spent 38 hours on preparation for Finance and Macroeconomics, as well as on Leadership and preparation for the Summer course on Mergers & Acquisitions. We had a take-home final exam in Macroeconomics that in my case concerned Bernanke's testimony to Congress in Mar 2011. I enjoyed the project and realized that I have learned a lot in the course. As preparation for the upcoming final exam in Finance, I worked through two practice exams. I love doing math and had a great time with those practice exams.

Posted Jun 17, 2016

Weekend 18 consisted a 3.5 session on Macroeconomics, a 3.5 hour final exam in Finance, a 1.5 hour session on on-campus recruiting, and two lectures on Mergers & Acquisitions for a total of 5 hours. In the session on Macroeconomics, we went through most of the Federal Reserve chairs' testimonies to Congress from 1999 to 2016. Each step of the way, we analyzed specific causal statements and tried to back them up or to refute them with analysis of historical data. The session was an enjoyable, data-driven tour of 18 years of the economy of the United States and of the views of the Federal Reserve chairs. The lectures on Mergers & Acquisitions mark the start of two elective courses that I take in June; the other course is on Real Estate.

Posted Jun 19, 2016

End of the Third Quarter

Summary of my preparation time from Mar 20 to Jun 16: Finance: 116 hours, Macroeconomics: 71 hours, China: 18 hours; Group phone calls: 8 hours; Leadership: 6 hours; Mergers & Acquisitions: 2 hours. Total: 221 hours.

Posted Jun 19, 2016

The third quarter had some of the same feel as the first quarter. The China course added some work on top of the other two courses. Each of the first three quarters had one 3.5 hours exam and one take-home exam (plus the final report and the final quiz in the middle of the quarter for the China trip). The diversity of exams was fortunate because it enabled me to easily allocate time for the exams.

Posted Jun 19, 2016

June Elective Block

From Jun 20 to Jun 26 I spent 36 hours on preparation for Mergers & Acquisitions and for Real Estate. I will take those courses in the June Elective Block, each course for half the credit of a usual course offered during the quarter. In return, the lectures and homework are concentrated in a short period of time.

Posted Jun 27, 2016

The June Elective Block was from Jun 27 to Jul 1 and consisted of five 3.5 hour lectures on Real Estate. Additionally, on Jul 2, I took the final exam in Mergers & Acquisitions, which was take-home but limited to 3.5 hours. The Real Estate course was packed with insight on how due diligence pays off. The Mergers & Acquisitions exam helped me realize a key point about why a certain style of acquisition can work well.

Posted Jul 4, 2016

End of Year 1

The sequencing of courses in Year 1 was impressive. For example, the courses on Data Analysis and Accounting helped with understanding both Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions.

Posted Jul 18, 2016

My summaries of my preparation efforts excluded work done on days with lectures. On many of those days, I spent an hour or two in the early morning and/or some hours in the evening.

Posted Jul 18, 2016

We had an all-star line-up of professors in Year 1. Showing up for class was a joy every time. Here is a happy memory about each professor:

Posted Jul 18, 2016

We had several excellent text books in Year 1. For example, our Accounting text book has three aspects that I found particularly helpful. First, the book begins every chapter with a page about how a well-known company deals with the topic of the chapter, and the book gives many detailed examples based on numbers from well-known companies. Highly motivating! Second, the book has many in-chapter questions and a wealth of end-of-chapter questions, plus answers to the in-chapter questions. The questions come in many varieties, including multiple-choice, calls for calculation, and open-ended judgement calls, which helped me stay on track. Third, the book ends each chapter with a detailed summary of the chapter, which I found to be spot on and useful.

Posted Aug 3, 2016

UCLA Andersen provides excellent opportunities for personal development. For example, this year I have met one-on-one with an executive coach and with an expert on personal branding.

Posted Aug 3, 2016

The Fee and the Tax

The 2016-17 registration fee is $72,083. So, the grand total is 70,700 + 72,083 = $142,783. Fortunately, the fee decreases my tax.

Posted Aug 3, 2016

August Elective Block

From Jul 5 to Aug 14 I spent 90 hours on doing the final project in Real Estate and on preparation for Private Equity and for Negotiation. I will take those two courses in the August Elective Block, each course for half the credit of a usual course offered during the quarter. My group did the final project in Real Estate on a four-unit property in El Segundo. As our Real Estate professor had predicted, we were unable to justify paying anywhere near the asking price. The material for Private Equity and Negotiation was interesting and provided for pleasant summer reading.

Posted Aug 14, 2016

The August Elective Block was from Aug 15 to Aug 19 and consisted of five 3.5 hour lectures on Private Equity and five 3.5 hour lectures on Negotiation. The Negotiation class had us do eight negotiations, which were a lot of fun. Those negotiations ranged from a simple, 2-party negotiation to a complicated, 6-party negotiation. Additionally, on Aug 20 I attended a five-hour career management workshop with Matthew Temple. Last year I attended several of his workshops on similar topics and yet I attended this one too, in part because he is excellent at answering questions. On Aug 21 I attended the 1-hour final oral exam in Real Estate where my group presented our final project.

Posted Aug 21, 2016

End of the Summer

Summary of my preparation time from Jun 20 to Aug 14: Real Estate: 45 hours, Private Equity: 30 hours; Mergers & Acquisitions: 26 hours, Negotiation: 17 hours; Group phone calls: 4 hours; Leadership: 4 hours. Total: 126 hours.

Posted Sep 18, 2016

Weekend #19

From Aug 22 to Sep 15 I spent 86 hours on doing take-home exams in Negotiation and in Private Equity, on preparation for three courses this Fall, namely Operations, Communication, and Business Plans, on Leadership Foundations, and finally on preparation for my Strategic Management Research (SMR) project in 2017. The SMR project will be a group effort over half a year. The Fall quarter looks fantastic! I can satisfy the degree requirements by taking just two courses this Fall yet I am taking four because they seem packed with material worth knowing. One of the courses includes a trip to Dubai. My prediction is that the Fall quarter will be both the most exciting and the most work, so far.

Posted Sep 15, 2016

Weekend 19 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Operations, two 3.5 hours lecture on Communication, a 4 hour lecture on Business Plans, a 1-hour session on the upcoming SMR project, and a 1-hour session with Thomas Priselac, President and CEO, Cedars-Sinai Health System. The Communication course has a lot of interaction of the kind where each student gives a short presentation and gets feedback from an instructor and from fellow students. After spending significant time together for a year, we are all comfortable with each other, which helps make the interactive sessions work well.

Posted Sep 18, 2016

Weekend #20

From Sep 19 to Sep 29 I spent 62 hours on preparation for Operations, Communication, Business Plans, and the upcoming SMR project, as well as on Leadership. In the Operations course, we finished a major group project about a production plant that called for both accurate modeling as well as creativity in devising recommendations for making the production process better. My effort to start an exciting SMR project culminated this week. On Sep 27, Hermosa Beach city council voted 4-1 in favor of applying to UCLA to start an SMR project with my group; the city applied two days later.

Posted Oct 1, 2016

Weekend 20 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Operations, one 3.5 hours lecture on Communication, a 2 hour Communication session where eight students each gave a 6-minute presentation on camera, and a 3.5 hour lecture on Business Plans. I made two short video-recorded presentations this week: one in front of the Hermosa Beach city council (about the SMR project) and an entirely different one in the Communication course (about persuading my peers in the course to take a particular action). Both presentations were just me talking; no slides. The preparation for those presentations was intense; I am happy with how they turned out.

Posted Oct 3, 2016

Weekend #21

From Oct 3 to Oct 13 I spent 45 hours on preparation for Operations, Communication, Business Plans, Dubai, and the upcoming SMR project. The preparation for Dubai included reading Jim Crane's book called City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism, which is well written and eye opening.

Posted Oct 13, 2016

Weekend 21 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Operations, two 3.5 hours lectures on Communication, and a 3 hour lecture on Dubai. The Communication course includes many opportunities to speak in front of an audience and then receive feedback. This week we did a team presentation based on less than an hour of preparation; this was a great learning experience in multiple ways. In particular, the presentations gave us something concrete to think about when the professor followed up with a lecture on team presentations.

Posted Oct 15, 2016

Weekend #22

From Oct 16 to Oct 27 I spent 55 hours on preparation for Operations, Communication, Business Plans, Dubai, and the upcoming SMR project. The Operations course has a substantial amount of reading and homework, yet I feel highly motivated to do it because the material seems widely applicable and is majorly cool! In the Business Plans course, I had the opportunity to give feedback on the business plan produced by one of the student groups. I am happy to see that our class has generated many good ideas and detailed plans for starting companies already.

Posted Oct 27, 2016

Weekend 22 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Operations, one 3.5 hours lecture on Communication, a 2 hour Communication session where ten students each gave a 3-minute presentation on camera, and a 4 hour lecture on Business Plans. The lecture on Business Plans included an impressive segment in which the professor talked about his time as CFO of Packard Bell. Additionally, each of seven groups gave a short version of their upcoming company presentation to investors.

Posted Oct 30, 2016

Weekend #23

On Nov 4 I attended the second 3-hour lecture in the course that includes a trip to Dubai. The topic was development and debt in Dubai. The lecture included a discussion of the challenges that would be involved in replicating the development of Dubai somewhere else in the world.

Posted Nov 6, 2016

From Oct 31 to Nov 10 I spent 35 hours on preparation for Operations, Communication, and Business Plans. In the Operations course, my group prepared a presentation of some of the casinos in Las Vegas. My part was to analyze a large data set that describes the gambling and hotel stays at those casinos. As usual, the key is to ask the right questions. In the Communication course, I prepared a six-minute presentation and I sensed strongly that I have improved my presentation skills this Fall.

Posted Nov 10, 2016

Weekend 23 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Operations, a lecture by Derek Herrera, the final exam in Communication, and the final company presentations in Business Plans. Those company presentations were in front of three investors who asked perceptive questions. The Operations lectures included an excellent invited lecture by John Kispert. Derek Herrera is a veteran and a UCLA EMBA graduate; he gave his lecture on Veterans Day itself and his words touched our hearts.

Posted Nov 16, 2016

Weekend #24

On Nov 18 I attended the third 3-hour lecture in the course that includes a trip to Dubai. The main topic was real estate and foreign investment in Dubai. The lecture made clear that companies in Dubai face the same realities inherent in real estate development business as do companies in the rest of the world. Such realities include the cyclical nature of the business, the critical importance of local knowledge, and the volatile capital markets. Our professor is a real estate expert and provided a ton of insights.

Posted Nov 20, 2016

From Nov 16 to Dec 1 I spent 34 hours on preparation for Operations, Dubai, and the SMR project. In Operations we got a couple of old exams such that we can practice. Those exams have both mathematical questions and conceptual questions. I am intrigued by this style of exam; we have to both do modeling and math, and also write concise text that sums up key points.

Posted Dec 2, 2016

Weekend 24 consisted of a 3.5 hour final exam in Operations followed by the launch of our SMR project, which consumed most of two days. The exam in Operations did a good job of testing our knowledge and skills in a broad spectrum of the course material. The exam was open book and I brought everything to the exam. However, the exam required such a high pace of answering questions that my bag stayed closed. The launch of the SMR project was exciting. George Abe gave an overview of what we will do the next six months, Matt Abbott (Bain & Company) gave an inspiring lecture on how to do consulting successfully, and Sara Tucker (UCLA) gave an encouraging lecture on how run a group successfully. My group has five members, and one of the staff members gave us a detailed analysis of what our Birkman reports predict about our group dynamics. We also met with our faculty advisor, Terry Kramer, met with one of the librarians, and had time to brainstorm about the project and write a team contract. The librarian showed us links to specific databases that have information relevant to our project.

Posted Dec 4, 2016

End of the Fourth Quarter

Summary of my preparation time from Aug 22 to Dec 1: Operations: 131 hours; SMR: 46 hours; Dubai: 38 hours; Communication: 34 hours; Business Plans: 30 hours; Private Equity: 17 hours; Negotiation: 8 hours; Group phone calls: 7 hours; Leadership: 6 hours. Total: 317 hours.

Posted Dec 6, 2016

The Fall quarter did turn out to be a lot of work! Still, I had a blast and learned a lot. Indeed, the Fall quarter will be a strong contender for the quarter that I enjoyed the most.

Posted Dec 21, 2016

Trip to Dubai

In the second week of December, we were 40 students plus a professor and a staff member who went to Dubai, with a one-day side trip to Abu Dhabi. The students were from several UCLA MBA programs and included five students from my class. We visited several companies, attended many presentations, and toured some of the famous sites in Dubai including Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, and The Palm Jumeirah. The nontechnical highlight of the trip was a boat tour of The Palm Jumeirah on the inside of the breakwaters. Just a few years ago, Dubai had 70 kilometers of coast line; now it has 800 kilometers of coast line, due to the construction of The Palm Jumeirah, The World Islands, etc.

Posted Dec 21, 2016

SMR Weekend

From Dec 5 to Jan 5 I spent 63 hours on preparation for Dubai, Strategy, Ethics, Behavioral Economics, and the SMR project, and on Leadership. One of the books that is required for the Ethics course is The Great Gatsby. I got to do homework on Emirates Airline hours before I got on the Emirates Airline plane from Dubai to Los Angeles. By the same token, in first Fall quarter I did homework on Starbucks while at Starbucks. As far as I can tell, the courses this quarter will have less math than usual. Still, the topics are exciting and I have enjoyed the reading so far.

Posted Jan 5, 2017

Jan 6-8 was SMR weekend. We all assembled at Rancho Bernardo Inn near San Diego. The crowd was bigger than usual; in addition to the students, we had our senior associate dean Carla Hayn who gave an inspiring kick-off speech, we had the four advisors of the SMR teams, and we had representatives for all the companies and organizations who have provided the SMR projects. As a new aspects this year, UCLA allowed three groups to do their SMR project by starting a company. All told, we are 11 groups that will work with set projects and 3 groups that will start companies. I am in a group of five people who will work with City of Hermosa Beach on a business plan to maximize options, incentives, and investments to lower energy costs in a carbon neutral Hermosa Beach. One city council member and one city staff member from Hermosa Beach participated in the SMR weekend and we made a lot of progress. The project has a tight schedule; we will make our final presentation on Jun 10.

Posted Jan 13, 2017

Weekend #25

From Jan 9 to Jan 12 I spent 23 hours on preparation for Strategy and Ethics. The Ethics course asks us to first do written homework, then have a group meeting to discuss the homework, and finally write a report on our discussion. This turned out well for my group: our discussion revealed different perspectives and perhaps even different biases that otherwise tend to stay hidden. In the Strategy course, some of the reading material repeats ideas that we have seen before, yet here the goal is to learn to set a strategy. I get the sense that the Strategy course has the flavor of putting it all together.

Posted Jan 13, 2017

Weekend 25 consisted of two 3.5 hour lectures on Strategy, one 3.5 hours lecture on Ethics, a 3.5 hour meeting of our SMR group, and a 1-hour lecture by Minnie Ingersoll, co-founder and COO of Shift Technologies. Minnie Ingersoll had a memorable tag line: show up, tell the truth, and hope for the best. The Strategy lectures used concepts from several previous courses, including Marketing, Economics, and Operations. The professor is doing a good job of seamlessly integrating the ideas. Our SMR project is off to a good start.

Posted Jan 14, 2017

Weekend #26

From Jan 16 to Jan 26 I spent 28 hours on preparation for Strategy, Ethics, Leadership, and SMR. The reading material for Leadership is some of the most exciting and insightful I have seen in the EMBA program. The topic is how to grow great leaders and, specifically, how managers become leaders. The reading material included thoughtprovoking descriptions, characterizations, and comparisons of leadership development levels.

Posted Jan 26, 2017

Weekend 26 consisted of a 3.5 hour lecture on Ethics, a 3.5 hour change simulation in which my group worked to turn a company around, a 1.5-hour lecture on Leadership by Marshall Goldsmith, a 3.5 hour lecture on Leadership by Karl Kuhnert, a 1 hour lecture on career managemet by Matthew Temple, a 1.5 hour lecture on effective interview and survey techniques by Corinne Bendersky, and a 2 hour meeting of our SMR group. The change simulation was a great experience; amazingly, ten of twelve groups managed to get at least 60 percent buy-in from the employees. The lecture by Karl Kuhnert was the best lecture I have attended in the EMBA program, packed with insight, actionable ideas, and good humor.

Posted Jan 30, 2017

Weekend #27

On Feb 8 I attended a discussion about what we know and what we need to know about the president's economic policy. The speakers were some of the most experienced, brilliant, and well-spoken professors in the Anderson school, namely Sebastian Edwards, Edward Leamer, and Jerry Nickelsburg. I feel fortunate that I have had each of them as the professor of a course. The meeting also marked the day when Edward Leamer stepped down as the director of the Anderson Forecast and Jerry Nickelsburg took over.

Posted Feb 8, 2017

From Jan 29 to Feb 9 I spent 50 hours on preparation for Strategy, Ethics, Behavioral Economics, and SMR. The reading material for Behavioral Economics has many examples of how people behave in irrational ways. The examples are both entertaining and sobering to read, and they help us understand how to do better marketing. In Ethics, the professors do a good job of having experienced people lead the class discussions. For example, this week one of the reading materials described a company nearing bankruptcy; the leader of the class discussion was a person who himself has led a company through bankruptcy.

Posted Feb 12, 2017

Weekend 27 consisted of a 3.5 hour lecture on Ethics, two 3.5 hour lectures on Strategy, a 1.5 hour lecture on Finance, and a 2 hour meeting of our SMR group. For Ethics, one of this week's reading materials is famous: The Parable of the Sadhu. The invited speaker was no other than Bowen McCoy who experienced the events and wrote the story. The speaker on Finance was Jason Lee, and I am delighted that he picked the financial model from my SMR project as the main example in his lecture. As a result, we got his feedback and advice on many aspects of our model.

Posted Feb 12, 2017

Weekend #28

From Feb 12 to Feb 23 I spent 43 hours on preparation for Strategy, Ethics, Behavioral Economics, and SMR, and I took the final exam in the course on Dubai. Like the final exam on China, the exam on Dubai had questions that relate directly to lectures that we attended on the trip. The exam had a time limit and fortunately I had my notes from the trip ready to go. On Feb 22 I attended a meeting of the Hermosa Beach Planning Commission that discussed the goals of carbon neutrality in Hermosa Beach. In addition to the members of the commission, 22 residents spoke to the commission during the period for public comments. The commission and the other residents consistently advocated for incentives and against requirements.

Posted Feb 24, 2017