PRL Gets Nods

Ok, here’s a great article talking about Mechanical Engineering’s PRL – Product Realization Lab. It is a full blown machine shop, wood shop, foundry, welding shop, fab lab and design loft. Very cool place. Students can buy a full-academic-year pass for $100. prototype-stanford-product-realization-lab

I will also be taking the following ME classes next quarter:

ME 203 – Design & Manfacturing 

ME 103 – Engineering Drawing and Design 

ME 318 – Computer-Aided Product Creation

ME 110 – Design Sketching

These classes certainly are not the typical coursework for a GSB student, but they are right up my alley and core to my startup. We’re currently allowed 22 credit hours per quarter (we are charged by the quarter, not by the credit hour) – and, for now, I intend to take as many classes as I possibly can. 



Summer Study Trip

No idea if next year’s cohort will conduct the same study trips that we did / will, but I can certainly describe what we did and plan to do for the rest of the year. Like the prior year cohort, we participated in a mandatory East Coast Study Trip between Summer and Autumn quarters. The trip started in Washington, DC and ended in New York, NY. We were responsible for our own airfare (to Washington and back to campus from New York), but hotel and transportation for all official functions were covered by the MSx program.

Some people chose to arrive early or stay an extra day to explore on their own – this is allowed, but hotel is not covered for the extended days. Also, if you require your own hotel room, you can pay a surcharge to get a solo room. We visited most of these speakers on site, but a few came to speak at our hotel.

Here’s our itinerary (expect the itinerary to change every year):

Sunday, Sept 15: Arrive in Washington DC – no activities planned

Monday, Sept 16:

  • Breakfast briefing
  • Pew Research / Alan Murray, President (Stanford SEP 2005)
  • AARP / Barry Rand, CEO (Stanford Sloan 1972 / MBA 1983)
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace / Jessica Matthews, President
  • Free evening

Tuesday, Sept 17:

  • Continental breakfast (at hotel during first speaker)
  • UnitedContinental Holdings (United Airlines) / Nancy Van Duyne, VP Government Affairs
  • Bus Tour / Group Photo / Free Time @ Smithsonian
  • US Treasury Department / Mark Mazur, Asst Secretary of Tax Policy (Stanford PhD 1986, AM 1983)
  • Free evening

Wednesday, Sept 18:

  • Bus ride to NYC – yes, they really put us on two busses…
  • NYSE Euronext / Joe Mecane, EVP US Equities
  • NYSE Tour of Trading Floor (great photo opportunities!)
  • Bus to hotel (unbelievable long bus ride)
  • Free evening

Thursday, Sept 19:

  • Ogilvy & Mather / John Seifert, Chairman & CEO North America (PR Firm)
  • AIG / Steve Miller, Chairman (Stanford MBA 1968)
  • Bonobos / Andy Dunn, Founder & CEO (Stanford MBA 2007)
  • BlackRock / Robert Kapito, President
  • MSx Group Dinner (business / semi-formal dress code)

Friday, Sept 20:

  • Stanford GSB Alumni Mixer & Breakfast – be sure to talk to as many alumni as possible, you never know who will be there!
  • Prof. Jennifer Aaker (Stanford PhD 1995)
  • Time Warner / Jeff Bewkes, Chairman CEO (Stanford MBA 1977)

As you can see from the itinerary, the list of speakers was quite varied. In retrospect, we should have expected this, but the DC speakers were mostly about government (Beyond Markets) and lobbying. Whereas the NY speakers were all about business. Clearly, you will have your preferences, but try to enjoy both. For those of you not familiar with US politics and lobbying, you will get a pretty good understanding from the Beyond Markets class – this will give you plenty of context for the DC speakers.

My personal favorites were the NYSE Trading Floor visit and the session with Steve Miller. He is simply an incredible leader with deep experience in turn- arounds. He went to AIG at their worst and helped turn them around so they could repay all their federal assistance loans. Jeff Bewkes also gave a very interesting view of the media – a great way to cap a long week.

This trip was a great opportunity to spend time with classmates – both folks that I had already made deep friendships with, as well as other students who I had not really had a chance to get to know yet. Try to get to know as many folks as possible before the end of this trip – your free time will be in short supply once the Autumn quarter begins…

Summer Classes – Nothing’ but core…

Ok – I will try to make sure I break down these classes with a little more granularity in the future, but for now, I’ll cover the Summer Quarter at a very high level and give some advice to future MSx’ers (e.g. Sloan Fellows). By the way, even with the rebranding, it will be difficult for us to not think of ourselves as Sloan Fellows. Class of 2014 were admitted under the label of Sloan Fellows and most of the Stanford community knows us as Sloan Fellows… For future cohorts, hopefully the MSx brand will start to gain some recognition…

Summer Quarter started in early-July in a flurry. The pace was very brisk – not only academic, but there were many workshops scheduled for Wednesdays (traditionally, very few GSB classes meet on Wednesdays so they are available for group meetings and one-time events). We were assigned to static “sections” (half the cohort in each section) and “study groups” (between 4-6 students per group). Every student in a given section had an identical schedule and took all classes together. The static sections allow for rapid familiarity at the cost of not getting to know the other section quite as well – same with the study groups. Some groups were less functional than others, meeting only two or three times the entire quarter.

My group happened to get along reasonably well, so we met two to three times per week (usually for 1 – 3 hours per meeting). The thing to realize: depending on your group composition, your group experience could vary widely. Don’t expect to be able to dictate a work ethic to your group-mates – they will already be predisposed to work hard or not – simply quickly identify what you’re dealing with and find a way to get along. That being said, if you see something you don’t like, don’t brush it under the rug either – discuss frankly, openly and without too much emotion and people will either change or not.

Executive Modules (one to two day short sessions – not for credit, but mostly mandatory):

  • Team Building
  • Critical Analytical Decision Making
  • LEAP 360 Assessments & Coaching (much better than you will fear)
  • Joint SEP / MSx dinner/social (read the SEP bios and be interesting!)
  • Center for Entrepreneurial Studies / Center for Social Innovation info sessions
  • Career Vision Workshop / Career Management Center info session
  • Executive Coaching Workshop Communications Coaching (optional, but not really optional)
  • Executive Mentoring Workshop
  • Delivering An Effective Elevator Pitch Workshop
  • Student Government info session
  • CES / Startup Garage info session / info session
  • Leading Innovative Teams Workshop


Ethics: The ethics class covered both Behavior Ethics (what you do and why you do it) and Moral- Philosophical Ethics (study of ethical systems and frameworks). Frankly, I think this course is too short. But it is a good introduction to the material with a professor that occasionally forces you to really explain your positions – without being judgmental about them. If this subject interests you, read up on Kant and Friedman before Summer Quarter begins.

Microeconomics: Ok, for those of you out there who have not taken Micro before, you will have a much more enjoyable summer if you get some basics down before you get here. I was an economics major as an undergrad (granted, it was 20 years ago) and I found the pace of this class very challenging. You will cover 2 semesters worth of material over the summer. Make sure you have a decent grasp of supply, demand, price elasticity, supply elasticity, short-run – vs- long run, etc. Prof. Oyer has an excellent sense of humor, but it doesn’t always come out in this class – he’s much more interesting in the Strategy class (Autumn Quarter) so try to get him to laugh / tell jokes / talk about his online dating experience! Word of advice – in both this class and Statistics, do not fall behind…

Organizational Design: Here, you’ll think about company culture, policies, practices and leaders. This is a fun class and gets you in the practice of talking about B-school cases. You’ll read the cases and find that class discussion will vary widely – your classmates will surprise you with the varied perspectives that come from reading the same article. People talk about how the GSB is a “safe place” for you to experiment with your style – this class helps give you structure for exploration (e.g. helps you decide what you might want to change and how it might be perceived).

Negotiations: You’ll probably either love or hate this class. Personally, I thought this would be an area that I would need to learn a lot. But, in actuality, it turns out you just need to learn a little and practice a bit to drastically change negotiations outcomes. Prof. Neale is a larger-than-life personality in the classroom – but she’ll explain how she is really an introvert and puts on her “teaching persona” for class. This class is highly experiential – almost every class will require you to exercise newly developed negotiations skills against (and sometimes in collaboration with) your classmates – the challenge is that you never will know when it is a zero-sum or collaborative exercise. Perhaps that’s the most valuable lesson of the course.

 Statistics: Well, good news and bad news… Good: Prof. Hasan is the best statistics prof I’ve ever had. Bad: I’ve taken statistics 3 times now and still only barely get by… The pace of this class, much like micro, is also relentless. Unless you know this material well, DO NOT fall behind… If you’ve never taken stats before, make sure you learn some basics before you arrive: mean, median, variance, standard deviation, hypothesis testing – you will be at a serious disadvantage if you do not understand these concepts before class begins. When I took stats as an undergrad, it took an entire semester to learn these topics… You’ll cover them in 3 lessons and be expected to apply them regularly. Almost all the calculations can be done in MS Excel, so no need to get super fancy. Mac users will need to install a free plug-in: StatPlus LE for Mac

Beyond Markets: This class is all about the things that are not within your immediate control as a manager. Government regulations, political groups, the public, etc. Some of this will be a bit difficult for foreign students if you’re not familiar with the US system of government. Concepts that are helpful to know in advance: USA is a Federal Republic, not a pure democracy – with jurisdiction split between the Local, State and Federal governments. Federal government is comprised of Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. Legislature is split into the House of Representatives (based on population size) and Senate (2 per state). Lobbyists / Special Interest Groups / campaign contributions to candidates are all legal and are used in various ways to influence politicians. If you like politics, you’ll probably enjoy this class. If you dislike politics, you’ll probably not enjoy it so much… If you’d like to get a taste of what the class will cover, you can watch some TV and get a dramatic version of it here: House of Cards on Netflix

After the Summer Quarter is completed, the entire cohort went on a sponsored trip to Washington, DC and New York, NY. We met with business leaders and lobbyists that really put a nice cap on our Beyond Markets and Organization Design classes. But I’ll discuss the trip in a separate post!


Recommitting to Blog

Ok — I was wondering what was going to motivate me to resume blogging…

Just found out that Class of 2015 has started to receive acceptance letters for early applications. The blogs from Class of 2013 were so helpful, that I feel I need to do this for the future Sloan / MSx fellows. So I’m going to try to get back into the habit of documenting my journey.

I promise to sit down and recap Summer and the first half of Autumn quarters – but to get things back in gear, I’ll start with the topics at the top of mind.

Over the past couple weeks, we have been registering for Winter quarter classes (starting in January). It is the first quarter where we have a lot of flexibility in our schedules. Summer is 100% core for most people and Autumn only leaves room for 2-3 electives (unless you test out of Accounting). You also need to figure out how much time you want to devote to academics. The rule of thumb (so I’ve been told) is to budget 3-4 hours of total work / per week / per credit hour – if a given class is offered as 4 credit hours, you should expect that your weekly required work (including in-class time of approximately 3.5 hours) will be approximately 12-16 hours. Some classes are pretty close to this estimate, others are wildly more/less work – do your research when thinking about which classes (and how many) to take.

Oddly, I have this strong desire to “get my money’s worth” and take as many classes as possible – rather than simply meeting the requirements for the degree. For both Autumn and Winter quarters, I will be at the maximum 22 credits – I am currently paying for this greedy approach, as I’m not able to spend enough quality time learning the core “basics” that I have little prior direct experience with, such as Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance.

For Autumn quarter, I took the following electives (I’ll circle back to core courses in a future post):

Prof. Ilya Strebulaev & Lecturers Theresia Gouw (VC @ Accel Partners)

This class covers two major areas of interest for me: 1: The investment decision-making process employed by Angel / VC investors when evaluating a startup – from introduction, to pitch, to term sheet, to negotiations and signing a deal; and 2: The best way for a firm (who is seeking to grow through use of Angel / VC financing) to properly position itself to potential investors and how these firms should behave / evaluate term sheets that are offered by said investors.

The team-teaching approach is incredible – Prof. Strebulaev brings the academic & theoretical together with Ms. Gouw’s practical experience as a VC partner. Our class is only the second time this course is being taught, so the curriculum is in flux and the instructors are constantly polling the students to ensure that the pedagogy and guest speakers match both the interests and abilities of the students. I suspect this course will become one of the “must-take” classes at the GSB in coming years.

If you take this class, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to network with the guest speakers – BUT be targeted in your approach and only spend time with those guests who can directly help you or work in a related field. These are very busy people and will usually react positively if they see a natural fit and a win-win relationship. You will have the opportunity to meet several venture capitalists and angel investors in this class.

Lecturers Rob Siegel & Scott Brady

STRAMGT 353 is already a legendary class at the GSB and is considered “MUST TAKE” for people who are considering entrepreneurial careers after graduation. Both Rob and Scott are Stanford GSB alum – Scott, in particular, was a Sloan Fellow Class of 2000. These guys are as authentic to Silicon Valley entrepreneurship as it gets. They teach this class using the case study method and cover 1 – 3 firms per class that have gone through the formation / funding / growth process. Most of the example firms are wild successes or are still in the growth phase – but there are also a couple cases of major challenges / failures. The curriculum pulls you into these companies as if you were there while they were facing their most important decisions.

If you’ve never read a business school case before, you’ll quickly learn that they usually start with a biography of a protagonist (in this class, often the founder) and draw you through their story – how did they find their business idea, how did it evolve, what assumptions were correct and/or wildly incorrect, what problems did they face in fund-raising and, usually in a B-case (or more frequently in this class with live guest appearances by the protagonist) the outcome of the decision / inflection point. The way these cases are written is usually immersive – the best cases make you feel what the entrepreneur was feeling and get you quite excited about meeting the protagonist.

Both Rob and Scott are influential VC partners – so they will also force you to think about these cases from the perspective of potential investors. This allows you to see the cases from both sides and see how important it is for the entrepreneurs and VCs to actually like each other. I had the mistaken impression that this relationship was usually adversarial – but since the average “exit” takes 6 – 9 years, it is important that they work together effectively for that entire length of time (especially for early-stage VCs or angel investors).

I’ll come back in future posts and recap specific cases that are interesting, but I just needed to write something and get back into the habit…