Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 25th, 2010

MBA mania: Introspection

After the latest financial crash, MBA graduates are having hard time finding jobs:  Banks, financial institutions, and financial consulting firms have realized that they need graduates in fields that produce added values.

Wall Street has put to pasture over 250,000 MBA employees since 2007.  The US business schools used to graduate over 150,000 MBA degree holders per year before the crash, and the trend is reversing.  More than half these graduates were foreigners who invested over $80,000 (of family wealth).

For example, India is spending over $4 billions a year for Indian students going after graduate studies in the USA and England universities.  Renowned MBA schools are re-structuring their programs and hiring new teams to re-thinking what is needed for the market.  Re-thinking MBA programs was long due; it is better late than never.

I was once, long time ago, enrolled in a PhD program in Industrial engineering.   There were not enough graduate Human Factors courses in the PhD program: the human factors field was not well developed as the other industrial engineering specialties, and the university lacked enough qualified professors in that field.

I was lucky to complement my course requirements in many other departments that offered me new perspectives and approaches to the human element in all these artificial man-made systems.

I enrolled in a couple of graduate courses in the Psychology department and I felt at home; my heart got set on the cognitive aspect of human capabilities and limitations (functions of the brain) instead of the physical aspects (known as Ergonomics and the modeling of the human body).  Thus, I ended up taking courses in various departments such as marketing, business, economics, education and others departments to fulfill the required number of graduate credit-hours.

I had taken many courses with various statistical modeling and software analysis programs frequently used in marketing, business, psychology and econometrics.

Once, I had audited and did all the homework and exams for the Pascal programming language course in the psychology department because I could not afford to pay tuition; professor Getty gave me credits the next semester when I paid for the course without having to attend it.  I was hooked to the cognitive field in Human Factors but my adviser would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation because he was not interested in such a field, and it was not in his line of business of forensic safety.

This post is meant to explaining a few of the graduate courses in business that I suppose are required for an MBA program.

The marketing course was basically a higher statistical course involving a dozen statistical models or experimental designs appropriate to marketing products and investigating customers preferences and the like targets.  It was so broad and so intense that I felt at a loss for the first two weeks.  I doubt that these kinds of courses are offered in most business school: I think Dr. Hughes was a perfectionist, wanted to cover everything under the sun in a single course, and she never tired of pressing us to work harder.

The graduate accounting course was a let down; I was crest fallen.  I expected that this is going to be an interesting introduction to the business field but I soon discovered that accounting is basically knowing the laws, rules, and regulations of how to understand and prepare accounting sheets.  The regulations were so unfair, illogical, and obtuse that it made me angry to satisfying them just to pass the course.

Accounting is a compromise field among the members of the accounting order and the multinational institutions in order to cover up unfair practices.  I learned to comprehend and interpret balance sheet and working fund and what companies are asked to publish for their shareholders and government requirements.

I learned that the most important parts in accounting information are the notes written in the tiniest characters accompanying the sheets, like the ones you find in legal contracts.  The notes tell the real story of the difficulties and problems of a company such as legal liabilities, court investigations, high short-term debts, court litigation with the high officials in the administration…

I had a graduate course in economics (not econometrics such as applied in operations research models)  The professor was an acclaimed consultant; which means companies extend grants for a project and then the university takes 50% for overhead (research facilities, electricity…).  The adviser appoint or hire a graduate student to do the project, then the advisor write up the project (or the graduate student) and the advisor gets all the honor and publications.

This professor told us many interesting anecdotes and encouraged us to compute three dozens of ratios (data extracted from balance sheets and working fund statesman) in order to interpret correctly the state of affairs of a business.

There were two major problems with these exercises:

First, it is assumed that companies publish correct and honest information (as if accounting is not fraught with rules made to fill huge loopholes) or if the government cared to investigate properly the millions of balance sheets.

Second, these exercises were not based on good comprehension of which ratios mattered or correlated. For example, if several ratios (variables) highly correlated (positively or negatively) then, we better select one or two of these ratios as representatives of a trend to be included in a model.

Fact is, most of variables do not correlate (you cannot give a rational code name) and they are the most important to investigate because they are the catalysts or hidden forces in any trend (which is not done).

I have been told that in serious MBA programs students are handed lists of at least six books to be read per week and then to be summarized.

I wonder if “fast reading” is one of the criteria to be admitted in such programs.  I think skimming a book gives the illusion of understanding:  reflecting, analyzing, and interpreting require slow and focused reading that is time consuming.


Nude dancers

I had my first experience with nude bars, where beauties danced completely naked on stage, at the age of 26.

The dancers got entirely naked in phases, on the second or third song (sort of strip teasing further after each song).  Walter Mitty bar was around the corner of my dorm that was reserved mostly for foreign students.  My friend Ramez was the RA of the dorm and he was studying History of Sciences, simply because the university library possessed a few very ancient manuscripts on Arabic sciences.

There was this lovely brunette of Maria.  I sent a letter to my cousin Jihad telling him that Maria looked like his wife Nada.  I am not sure how Jihad took it.  Nada should have appreciated it; shouldn’t she?  I know that many years later, Jihad reminded me of receiving this letter.  Eight years later, I returned to Norman for a PhD and Maria was still living in Norman. She was working at the university Power Plant and wearing regulation yellow helmet.  Nude dancing is far harder than even fashion modelling:  In no time you are put to pasture.

I told Maria that I liked her when she used to dance totally naked; she appreciated that I still recalled her.  We had a date and she showed up wearing high-healed, long boots, and very tight Jeans.  She took my arm when strolling and she didn’t attempt to fool around with men in the bars we made the round of.

Maria showed me her apartment a few days later, and I met her sister (maybe half sister who didn’t resemble Maria at all). I also visited Maria at the hospital after her surgery for infected uterus; she was wearing regulation hospital long shirt showing her buttocks.

As Maria returned home she invited me to her apartment and asked me if I liked to share a joint of marijuana.  I never learn from my experiences or anything from life:  I told her how marijuana affects me after just two puffs.  Maria told me that it would be pointless to get any further dates.

There was this tall, skinny, and blond girl dancing nude in 1976.  She used to set fire to her shaved cunt every night.  Obviously, she had no pubis hair and I would never be able to confirm if her white blond hair was original.

I once asked her to leave together after work.  I think that she said “Yes”.  I waited till the bar closed and she had left.  I was a very shy guy and I wished that the rules would be that she would sit by my side, take my arm and drag me out.  I still don’t know the rule of asking a nude dancer to actually leave with me: if you truelly do know, please forward it.

Worst of all, patronizing this nude dancing bar exposed me to my first cigarette smoking.  I was 26 of age and had never smoked before.  I am now nicotine addicted.

I recall the first time I smoked a joint.

I was in a convertible Alfa Romeo with two Lebanese university students. We were heading toward the lake on a lovely, moonlit summer night (do you recall Shakespear of mid-summer night?) .  My friends were having a great time, speeding and listening to “Leila”, a guitar song played by Eric Clapton. On the way back, we had a bite and coffee at a diner; they laughed a lot at my expense because I had a hell of problems keeping the lids of my red eyes open.

I twice experienced smoking a joint in groups, never alone, to “train myself for a better fit among marijuana smokers”.

Once, we were in our apartment and half a dozen friends left to see a movie and dance; they decided to leave me behind, since I was “stoned all right” on the couch. When they returned 4 hours later, I was still lying on the sofa, my eyes closed shut, listening to music, trying to differentiate the timbers among the different musical instruments:  I had no idea about instruments anyway, but I thought this might be my chance or never to appreciating tones and half tones.

The third instance was in a park, close by my  apartment; I was enjoying an afternoon of open concert in a beautiful summer day. I woke up and the park was empty and dark already. I walked my bike home.

Walter Mitty was still around the corner when I returned in 1985 for still a higher degree.

I patronized it with my friend Boubker.  Boubker was already a professor teaching operations research.  Girls have changed, but the system never changed.  We mostly had a pitcher during happy hours, between 4 to 6pm.

It is swell to have these kinds of quiet and cool businesses.  I wish it was possible just to touching those sweaty firm flesh!

MBA graduates from US universities increased from 21,500 in 1970 to over 150,000 in 2007 and then the financial crash wiped out that devilish trend.  Universities in the US are re-structuring their MBA programs and hiring new deans and new teams to recapture this cow cash niche.  Students in MBA programs used to invest over $80,000 (their families money) so that 50% of them could be recruited by Wall Street financial institutions and financial consulting firms.  Fortunately, Wall Street sent to pasture over 240,000 of salaried personel in order to get busy producing something more useful.

Harvard Business School enjoys over $two billions in reserves from various donations and is investing just two millions on developing new programs and hiring a new team for the business department; Nitin Nohria is the new boss.  Kellogg School of Northwestern University has also hired a new team.  Other universities are following suit such as Judge School of Cambridge, Ross School of Michigan University, and the Booth School in Chicago University.  Booth School was renamed after the Booth family disbursed over $270 millions.

So what kind of reforms these business schools have in mind?  Probably, first, dusting off the skeletal of theoretical books and theories that were abandonned, sending students abroad for a couple of semesters to branches in India, Singapore, Dubai, Malasia in order to get an hand on real business trading for global economics (thus, increasing the cost to graduating); offering more international persepectives on how business is done, increasing the ratio of teacher/studients in classrooms, and spending a lot on advertisements, especially, woowing the university of Jiao Tong of Shanghai and the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) to better classification of top universities in the world.  Anyway, programs are dictated by the highest donators; thus, if you want accurate knowledge of the next strategy in MBA schools then, your best investigative sources are those institutions extending largess to the business schools.

What MBA students learn?  First, a superficial understanding of the laws, rules, and regulations governing the financial trade business; second, memorizing the code name of three dozens financial ratios extracted from balance sheets, and working funds statements; and third, learning a few tricks for generating financial tools to scamming clients of their hard earned wealth.  Usually, professors do not teach:  they hand out list of books to read (around half a dozen per week) demand summaries of what it was supposedly read.  I doubt that reflection, analysis , and interpretations are asked in these summaries: How could students find time to think seriously?




June 2010

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