Thursday, September 28, 2006

Net Impact

Along with the marketing, technology, and consulting clubs at the UW MBA program, I joined Net Impact earlier this week. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I've been hopping up and down with excitement to work with this group. My new fellow Net Impact members are very plugged in to the exciting stuff happening locally, and I look forward to learning more from them about local firms that focus on sustainability.

One great resource that they introduced me to is Sustainable Industries Journal, an excellent resource that has surprisingly slipped my notice until now. See their article on the Seattle Climate Action Plan -- one more reason why I love living here.


Brevity is the soul of b-school

I recall during my admissions interview this past March, I asked my interviewer: "will anything surprise me about business school?"

She responded: "You'll be surprised by how busy you'll be."

I told her that I had already heard this, and she said it didn't matter how many times I hear it: I'll be surprised.

And I am.

Fortunately, I like a purpose-directed busy schedule. And this quarter is supposed to be the true time-management crucible. It gets (slightly) easier from here, or so they say.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Plunging in

Over the past week, I attended the official kickoff for the full-time MBA program at the University of Washington. My classmates and I began to get familiar with the academic structure of the program: textbooks and syllabi, faculty expectations, and so on. But the program goes beyond classroom learning, and we learned about the multitude of opportunities for career preparation, club participation, and development of presentation and communication skills.

Peter and Susan GlaserVisiting organizational development specialists Peter and Susan Glaser worked with us on communication in groups. These sessions focused on criticism -- how to receive it and give it -- and how to achieve consensus. I met with my study team members, who I'll be spending a lot of time with over the quarter. We discussed an issue that we originally disagreed about until we came to a point of consensus. As we talked, another group watched us and gave feedback.

It was a very helpful exercise for me personally. On the one hand, I learned that I'm great at being friendly and encouraging with the other group members. On the other hand, they told me that I talk too fast and I need to slow down for the benefit of our international team members. These sorts of communication skills are tremendously valuable virtually everywhere in life, and I wish I would have learned them (particularly the tips on working with criticism) a long time ago!

Richard Tait, founder of CraniumWe also listened to a presentation by Richard Tait, founder of Cranium. He explored examples of how to succeed in business, gleaned from his own experiences with Cranium. Now, I'm as wary of motivational speeches as the next person who came of age in the sarcasm-drenched 90's. But Richard was magnificent. He's a hilarious speaker with a crystal-clear passion for the aim of his business: to encourage people to truly enjoy each other's company and to see each other's unique strengths. His primary point was that your business must have a mission: a clear sense of meaning that employees and customers can feel good about participating in.

I believe that his approach will greatly pay off in the long term. Customers and investors are paying increasing attention to what some refer to as the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. And tomorrow's workforce -- today's teens -- will be motivated much more by meaning and values in their work than previous generations, according to a to a recent BusinessWeek article.

OneNoteOne message that has consistently come through is that we'll be busy...very busy. Second-year students showed us pages from their calendars from last October, and precious little white space could be seen. They explained how much of their time in the first quarter (the busiest of the program) was filled with class, team meetings, career coaching meetings, and informational interviews.

To prepare for this coming deluge, I've been planning my own time management strategy. Some of my classmates are using traditional paper day planners; others are keeping everything in Outlook. I'm going to be going with a combination of OneNote (my class schedule and a notes template in OneNote, pictured above) for notes and to-do lists, and my trusty Treo 600 for all things calendar-related.

Alright! I've got some Boards of Canada playing and I'm going to get studying here. :)


Friday, September 15, 2006

Dorje-generated content

My good friend Dorje, apparently distraught over the lack of recent news updates here on Fixing Foibles & Follies, has started sending me suggestions for blog posts. Or perhaps he just thinks he's sending me interesting news stories, and I'm interpreting these emails as reminders to me to keep posting good stuff. Whatever your intent, Dorje, do keep sending me the goodies!

The first thing Dorje sent me, in the middle of my skool(intentionally misspelled cuz I'm hip like that!)-centric week, was this New York times article about, Google's new philanthropic organization. It's exciting to see what is committing to, namely:

plans to develop an ultra-fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that runs on ethanol, electricity and gasoline.

The philanthropy is consulting with hybrid-engine scientists and automakers, and has arranged for the purchase of a small fleet of cars with plans to convert the engines so that their gas mileage exceeds 100 miles per gallon. The goal of the project is to reduce dependence on oil while alleviating the effects of global warming.
Dorje also directed my attention to a great blog called The Greener Side, which is a truly linkalicious resource for alternative energy, socially responsible investing, and other green blogs. Check it out.


Jump Start

At moment, I'm having a soy latte and bagel in Cafe Allegro. This coffeeshop opened its doors in 1975; it was one of Seattle's first espresso bars. Great place. I remember studying here back in the early 90's. The only thing that's changed in here since then is now everyone, including me, is clicking away on laptops.

I just finished an exam that covered the introductory topics we learned about over the past week: general accounting concepts, statistics, and Excel tips. I'm here in Allegro for a few hours until I head back to campus to give a short persuasive speech. I'll be posing as a CEO of a hospital who is presenting an argument for a new service to the board of directors. The speech will be videotaped and critiqued. No pressure there! ;)

The past week, known as Jump Start, was a way to ease us into the MBA program. The class sessions have been low-key overviews of what we'll studying in depth over the next few months. Many of my classmates haven't been in a classroom setting for years; for them, it's been a helpful way to get back into the student mindset. Myself, I've appreciated the overview of topics. I was already familiar with most of the accounting material (it helps to have a girlfriend with uber-accounting know-how), but it was good to get a memory refresher. And I'd never actually learned how to calculate present value before; I learned that this is a snap to do with Excel.

I've been enjoying getting to know my fellow students. I've already started having fun geeky conversations with them about open-source software, science and business, and the like. I can tell I'm going to learn a lot from them.

All in all, a good first week. It's good to be back in school full-time!


Monday, September 11, 2006

Telos and transition

waterfall in Yellowstone national parkFive years ago, I started up an account with LiveJournal. I kept the "LJ" going for a few years. It was a digital identity that reflected who I was at that time: hypersocial and thoroughly extroverted, revelling in bizarre and self-deprecating humor.

I eventually deleted my LJ because the writing began to feel stale. The digital identity no longer conveyed my real interests, which were evolving.

So I decided to start over from a clean slate on Blogger. I originally dubbed the new blog Foibles' Follies. I thought the blog would consist of more self-deprecating humor -- just better written. But when I finally got round to writing posts this past June, I changed the name to Fixing Foibles & Follies.

The name explained
Foible has actually been my online moniker since 1993. Defined as a minor weakness or failing of character, it's long been one of my favorite words. Weaknesses and failings are particularly fascinating to me. This isn't because I'm a "glass half empty" sort who focuses on the negative. Much to the contrary, I'm a very optimistic person. I just firmly believe in thorough familiarity with one's weaknesses -- knowledge of the inner demons, if you will -- as a path of growth. You can't be truly strong unless you know where you are weak.

We can extrapolate beyond ourselves, to the entire planet. Foibles and follies are inarguably widespread. For example, many folks have been focusing on the short term, at the expense of the long term. My goal (or "telos" if you prefer a cooler word) with this blog is to look at the foibles and follies as fixable. Hence, the Fixing bit.

Plus, I like alliteration.

What lies ahead
It's been a busy time of transition for me over the past week as I've gotten ready for business school, which started today. In future posts, I'll be delving into what I'm learning, and explore the MBA program experience a bit. But I'll continue to tie topics to my main interest: how business and technology can help fix foibles and follies.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hello from Tucson!

cactusKristina and I are in Tucson, AZ at moment, visiting our friends Tad and Alanna. There are Saguaro cactii everywhere. They're pretty remarkable, actually. In a single rainstorm, it's possible for the roots of a Saguaro to collect 200 gallons of water.

Saguaros are all over Gates Pass, outside of Tucson, where we watched the sunset last night. From a distance, the Saguaros at Gates Pass resemble a scattering of green sticks on the hillside. To my Pacific Northwestern eyes, it's a surreal sight. And thoroughly captivating.