Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prelude to an MBA

What's up KD? I hope this message finds you well! It's been a long time since we last spoke. As the movie says, it has been one long, crazy summer. But, I am doing well, lots of change, but overall doing quite well.

Well, I can't believe it, but this is going to be my last quarter in the KD program. I finish up my MBA this coming November... Can you believe it? It has been quite the ride. Let's see, since I started in the program, I have:

· Changed jobs twice, and careers.

· Changed foci - from dual degree to Ph.D., to just finishing off the MBA.

· Moved three times!!!

· Changed life plans too many times to count.

So, as you can see, it has been quite the road over the last two and a half years. Well, since it has been a while, I figured I would give you some updates on me, and some previews on the blog posts that you can expect to see for the rest of the quarter.

First, about me... I'm still in Carbondale, for now. I just accepted a position as a Sales Executive Manager at Macy's, here in Carbondale. I am responsibile for coaching 30 associates to drive sales, especially in the areas of women's and juniors clothing (my areas), within the store. I never thought that I would be a person who would love working a retail gig full time, but I have loved it so far. I have been able to use my previous work experience and my KD learning to help change the culture in the store. We are performing at a higher clip since I started, I am excited to say. I have been interesting selling women's clothing and shoes, especially given my previous knowledge, but it has been a ton of fun and learning. I have also lost more than 30 lbs, so life is just great overall!!

As for the career planning, I think that I have finally figured it out, at least for the time being. I am pretty much focused within the areas of Sales/Marketing and/or Training/Development. After working a decade in education, I have been fortunate to have developed a ton of talents, by using some of the Kelley GCS tools, I have realized that these are the areas that I fit the best. It's actually what led me to the position at Macy's, where I do a little of all of the areas. I also have to thank my classmates from the Kelley Direct week 2 years ago. I never would have thought of going down this road without their suggestion. I think that going forward, my career is going to be focused in these areas, which is exciting, to me at least.

Outside of that, my family is doing well! Jalen just turned 4 and started preschool, which has been awesome. It's kind of interesting to watch his passion for learning, it invigorates me at times to finish off the program strong. Gabby is 2 going on 16, which has also been fun - because she has actually taken an interest in some of the areas of that I have been studying, which is a true test of comprehension. If you want to test if you really know your material, try to explain it to a 2 year old, it's quite the experience. Finally, my wife, Steph, and I just started a new online business. We are selling hair accessories for women, which has been another fun application of my KD degree. We just opened for business this past month, and things are pretty well. Check us out -!

As for the blogs to look for this coming quarter, first, I promise not to make you wait another three months for my next post. I am planning (and hoping) to get some thing posted every two weeks, or sooner. I figure since this is the end of my blogging and KD career, I want to go out strong! To give you a preview, here are a view topics that I will be covering:

· Adventures in Washington - My experience at the Washington Campus for Public Policy (a 3-4 part series)

· Adding to your Library - I wanted to give you a last few books to read, since I have found some great books that have been helpful for me.

· Guest bloggers - I am going to reach out to some of the great people I have met in the KD program, and see if they can give you their perspective on the experience.

Well, that's about it for now, KD. I hope that you are great, and until next time - catch you later!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reflections of the Washington, DC course: Business and Public Policy

It’s been over a week since I left Washington, DC after taking the one-week course, “Business and Public Policy: How Washington Works and What Issues Matter”. I’ve had some time to contemplate all that I learned and thought I would share some lessons from the week.

Companies react or respond to legislation and regulations in three different ways: 1) react to public policy when decisions are made, 2) monitor efforts toward public policy changes, and 3) directly participate.[1] Those companies using the first way generally have the most expenses for adjusting to legislation and regulation since it costs money to make those adjustments, especially when the company was not prepared for those changes. Companies that monitor public policy activity have less immediate adjustment costs since they can make slight adjustments over time as they see public policy forming in a certain direction. Companies that participate directly in the process have the highest costs for monitoring and lobbying but can potentially influence decisions that reduce adjustment costs. When companies evaluate which way they will react or respond to legislation and regulations, they also must consider what their competitors and other external organizations are doing. There is a potential for legislation and regulations to have larger effects on a company if the company does not directly participate and a competitor or other opposing groups do.

The word “lobbying” may have a negative connotation in the minds of many Americans. However, lobbying is a very important part of government and is necessary for educating representatives on the effects of legislation and regulations on constituents. In fact, lobbying is so important that it is protected by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”[2] Consider this: legislators have many, many bills to consider each year. It is difficult to evaluate all of the effects and potential effects that a bill or regulation would have on individuals and companies. Lobbyists provide that information to legislators through research, surveys, or analyses that have been conducted. Information from all sides of an issue help legislators make educated decisions. The best way to influence public policy is through constituents; therefore, the most important job of a corporate lobbyist is to educate individual employees of the company on an issue so they will be inspired to contact representatives themselves.

Many Americans may have noticed that politics have become more and more party-based over the years. This observation is accurate for two main reasons. First, most moderates or independents do not know their representatives and never contact them for any reason. Therefore, representatives mainly hear from constituents who have strong opinions on the issues, thus pushing the parties further from midline opinion. Second, the costs of election campaigns have skyrocketed. Politicians must spend more time fundraising than ever before since television advertising is the best way to reach constituents and win elections. Since fundraising is done where constituents live, politicians don’t spend time together as they used to so they do not know each other or understand each other’s points of view.

These lessons have inspired me to become involved in the political process by knowing my representatives and expressing my opinions to them – both as a constituent and a representative to my company. This course has changed how I view Washington and has shown me that I can be part of the solution by speaking up instead of part of the problem by being silent. I will no longer stand by and watch; I will become active in the process of improving our nation. This course has been a highlight in my business education, and I highly recommend it.

[1] Keim, Gerry. Political Advocacy in the United States, Chapter 25, Managing Business Political Advocacy in the United States: Opportunities for Improved Effectiveness, pp. 418-433.

[2] Mount, Steve. “The United States Constitution.”, accessed 28Sept 2011.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Days 3-5 of the Washington, DC course: Business and Public Policy

The last three days of The Washington Campus course, “Business and Public Policy: How Washington Works and What Issues Matter”, continued to be busy and full of valuable information. We started Day 3 with a grim report on the federal budget and US economy by Joseph Minarik, Senior Vice President of the Committee for Economic Development. Then Shirley Zebroski, Faculty Director of The Washington Campus, discussed US Trade Policy in general and pending trade policy with Korea specifically. After lunch, Adam Cobb, Professor of International Relations at Command and Staff College of Marine Corps University, talked to us about US strategic relationships with other countries. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to a computer simulation showing us a glimpse of what it is like to be a first-term member of the House of Representatives. We had to make quick decisions about what policies to support and how to handle a variety of situations. With each round, we received a report detailing how our constituents, colleagues, media, and other interested parties felt we were performing. It was a demonstration that a representative can never make everyone happy.

Day 4 started with a lesson on political campaigns and how to run one with Joe McLean, President of McLean/Clark. Then Timothy Brennan, Senior Fellow of Resources for the Future, talked about US energy policy. After lunch, Chris Hansen, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, talked to us about US health policy and specifically about the new Affordable Care Plan. The Assistant Vice President for Federal Relations of Ohio State University, Stacy Rastauskas, talked about lobbying Congress for federal funding for research and student loans. Lastly, Kevin Hassett, Senior Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Studies at American Enterprise Institute, made it just in time from testifying to Congress to talk to us about taxes, tax reform, and his ideas for improving the federal budget.

Our last day started with a talk from Shannon Penberthy, Associate Director of Federal Government Relations at P&G, about her work in lobbying Congress and advocacy strategy. Kiki McLean, Global Head of Public Affairs and Managing Director of Porter Novelli, talked about her work on Hilary Clinton’s campaign and how to manage a crisis. After taking our exam based on the readings and lectures throughout the week, we took a bus to the National Press Club. We had lunch, and then Steve Roberts, Professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, talked to us about the changing role of media and its impact on public policy.

It was a fabulous week full of great information, and I highly recommend this course for anyone interested in business and how government and business interrelate.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

NAWMBA 2011 National Conference - Irving, Texas

The 2011 NAWMBA conference took place September 16 and 17 in Irving, Texas and it was a fantastic event. During these two days, attendees were inspired and empowered by learning the stories and listening to the advice of successful women in business.

Most of us, KD students, lead really busy lives as we try to juggle a full time job with our school and family responsibilities. It’s really easy to get trapped in the daily routine and not dedicate enough time to think about our career goals and what will be our strategy to achieve those goals. Events such as the NAWMBA conference provide a great opportunity to pause, absorb new knowledge, and reflect on what your next steps will be career wise.

The conference offered a variety of panels and workshops, covering all sorts of topics including: how to negotiate effectively, achieving work life balance, driving change in the organization, personal image, managing up, and exploring career options in finance, marketing, and technology among others. As awesome as it all sounds, I must say I was anxious about attending this event, since it would surely mean I would need to network.

I recently completed a 4-day backpacking trip in the Yosemite High Sierra area, and I can tell you that the prospect of carrying 30 lbs. of equipment while climbing more than 1,000 feet in rugged terrain and without access to showers or toilets, was less daunting than the idea of networking. Having said that, I’m thrilled to tell all those who feel the same way I do, that it’s not really that hard. From the moment you entered the Irving Convention Center, you could sense the really positive and welcoming atmosphere that would characterize the whole event.

During the course of those two days I met Jessica, an MBA student from Phoenix who had learned Spanish during a Peace Corps assignment in Honduras. We ended up having a great conversation in Spanish, Jessica was thrilled to practice it again after a long time and I was ecstatic to be able to converse in my native language.

I also met Heather Howell, who is the Chief Tea Officer of Rooibee Red Tea and she is also a board member of NAWMBA. Heather is an amazing woman who is really passionate about her work and about empowering women. She encouraged me to really take advantage of the conference by networking with other attendees, interacting with the panelists and to simply enjoy the event.

Karen, Angela, and Meredith; KD students at NAWMBA Conference

I also had the pleasure to meet fellow KD students Meredith Suffron and Angela Whiteside; as well as our brand new Director for Student Engagement: Sheila Morris-Watson. It was really exciting to get to know them during this conference, and it was pretty clear everybody was having a great time.

While it’s not possible to provide a full summary of the topics covered, there are a couple of topics I would like to highlight. First of all, the first keynote speaker was Karen Hough, and she talked about improvisation techniques and how to apply those in the workplace. Four key recommendations provided were:

  • Provide positive feedback at the same time you are offering suggestions to others. This will ensure people don’t focus only on the negative aspects they have to improve, but rather they can feel good about the things that are right, even if there’s room for them to improve.

  • Building blocks: recognize the good ideas contributed by team members and use them as a springboard to provide your own contributions.

  • Team equity: Recognize that teamwork is better than trying to do everything yourself. Being ready for anything sometimes means you have to give up control.

  • Oops to Eureka: when something does not go as expected, the best thing to do is to acknowledge it, take a deep breath and think of an alternative solution.

If you are interested in this topic, you can check out Karen’s website at:

There’s also a workshop I’d like to point out and it was “Fulfill Your Purpose – Pursue Your Passion” with Lisa Arie. Lisa spoke about the importance of knowing yourself and getting clarity on what you really want to accomplish, so you can start with the end point in mind.

She also explained that success is the result of work done in peace, and that every time we feel vulnerable it’s a great opportunity since it basically means we are being faced with the question: are you willing to let the status quo change?

Often times, we let fear paralyze us and we choose to stay in our current situation thinking that we’ll be safe and we’ll avoid risks. Well, Lisa explained how the word risk comes from an old navigation term which was used to point out difficulties you could encounter while you were cut off the land, such as a strong current. So, it’s a way of saying “pay attention”, but by no means should it become a reason for us to stop pursuing our passion, whatever that may be.

Recap of Germany Trip

Well, it’s hard to believe, but it has already been over a month since returning from Germany. At this point, we have just submitted our required assignment for this course, and this task has been the perfect impetus for me to take a trip down memory lane (or memory “straße” if you will) from our week together in Germany.

As I am preparing for my next quarter of “traditional” classes, I’ve gained a greater appreciation of just how special our study-abroad experience was. I can say with clean conscience that it was truly one of the greatest courses I’ve ever taken. And the fact that the entire class was contained in one packed week speaks volumes to the professionalism and skill of the team at the German Graduate School of Management and Law (GGS). As I mentioned in my previous post, the staff at GGS did an excellent job of integrating informative lectures with company visits and other hands on experiences to make the learning come to life. No other class in my two years of being an MBA student has been able achieve this accomplishment quite like this exchange program. Not enough can be said about Kelley Direct for creating such wonderful international ties, and giving their students this unique opportunity.

What sticks out the most about our trip to Heilbronn, Germany has to be the meticulous organization of the entire week. From the first day, I, along with several other students, had a bit of trepidation about how the week was going to progress. Namely, how was our host university going to make the topic of study interesting when very few people in attendance knew much about the business environment in Germany, and most certainly had never heard of a Mittelstand company? It’s safe to say that after the first morning, no students were running to the airport. We were all in awe at the gorgeous view from the GGS building, which stands prominently on the Neckar River, just adjacent to downtown Heilbronn. From the 12th floor of the circular building, we had a panoramic view of the rolling hills nearby dotted with vineyards growing some of Germany’s most acclaimed grapes for red wine. Although I would never want to insinuate the lack of topography in Indiana makes for a less enjoyable educational experience, it certainly helps motivating someone to go to class when surrounded by such a beautiful landscape. I knew we had a wonderful experience awaiting us when we were promptly informed that the mayor of the city was expecting us so he could properly welcome us to his beloved town. As an added treat, we had the honor of toasting some locally produced sparkling wine with him after his speech. It’s not often you get to drink wine while in class! As some locals I met later in the week mentioned upon being told about our grand welcoming, “I’ve lived here for 25 years, and never had the opportunity to meet the mayor!”

Another reason GGS made this one of the most memorable MBA classes I’ve ever taken was the variety of professors and guest lecturers they were able to acquire. We didn’t just have the same person lecturing on different topics: We had a representative from the Chamber of Commerce to discuss with us the educational system and employment challenges facing Germany, we had an Indian ex-pat who currently works in Germany to lecture on the difficulties faced by non-Germans when working within our host country, and we had a representative from the Economic Development Office explain to us how the region of Germany in which we were studying was working tirelessly to attract future talent in the hopes of filling a projected gap of skilled workers in the future. These lectures afforded us the opportunity to not only learn from people in the world of academia, but also interact with professionals struggling to solve the very problems we were learning about in the classroom. While learning about how Mittelstand companies must deal with succession issues in their leadership structure, we actually had the opportunity to hear from a local CEO of a business who dealt with fighting within his family when it came to succession planning. While we could have easily just read about this sensitive topic from a textbook, it was invaluable to speak to someone who has actually lived through this trying experience, and get a true feeling for the difficulties faced by him and his family.

Similarly to the experience of speaking with guest lecturers, visiting local corporations brought much of our studies to life. In each of the corporations we visited we had the unique opportunity to meet with, and ask questions of management within the company that could further explain how the principles of business we were learning about were implemented at their company. On each trip we received a company tour, and got an exclusive look at how some of the most innovative companies in the world operate.

As much as the GGS excelled at providing an outstanding academic experience, they also succeeded in showing us a world-class cultural experience. Each day, an exquisite lunch and dinner was arranged for and provided by the staff at GGS. We visited local eateries, and had the opportunity to try many delicious German dishes, including local Swabian specialties. Although all but the two German-speaking students needed translation help with the menus, we enjoyed every plate put in front of us, even if sometimes we were unsure of what we were ordering. There was also no shortage of opportunities to learn more about the burgeoning wine industry in the Heilbronn area. We had a tasty meal at a vineyard that included a thorough education on the region’s wine as told by the 14th generation owner of the property in which we were eating. We also visited a wine cooperative that collected grapes from all over the region, and then collectively performed the bottling function. At this location we went for a scenic stroll through their vineyards. One evening we visited a nearby castle, and had the opportunity to dine outdoors next to the walls of the ancient structure. To end the week, some of the GGS staff brought us to Stuttgart to further our cultural exposure to the region in which we were studying. We went to the top of the world’s oldest TV antenna, which offered spectacular vistas of the city of Stuttgart. We then traveled as a group and visited the Porsche museum. After one last evening socializing in Stuttgart, we all parted ways back home the following day

One of the more unseen benefits of this Germany experience would have to be the social bonds I created with my fellow MBA students and professors. Particularly coming from an online MBA program where live interaction with fellow students is infrequent, it was an incredible experience to go through this class with 20 other like-minded people interested in learning about different cultures. The group of us from Kelley Direct became such good friends with our fellow MBA students from around the world, that most evenings after 12 hours of studying/eating, we would stay out in the city and socialize further. It was quite enlightening to speak with students in other programs, and realize that although we are separated geographically by thousands of miles, and often must deal with language barriers, we share a bond with our mutual business education, and can connect on a deeper level than if we had met in other circumstances. I can’t stress enough my excitement to visit my new friends from around the world, both fellow KD students, and those from the other programs. A similar bond was also created between the students and the professors. I observed many students engaged in deep conversation with the professors during our breaks, and could tell that many students had a genuine interest in the experiences of our professors. Many students expressed interest in continuing communication with the professors, as they felt their area of expertise could help them in their professional life back home.

Indiana University, specifically the Kelley Direct program, has hit a home run with its partnership with the German Graduate School of Management and Law. Once again, the Kelley Direct MBA program has managed to find a new and exciting way for its students to gain business knowledge outside of the classroom. They could not have found a more professional and relevant school as GGS, and I commend them for forging this partnership that will hopefully stay strong for years. Since returning from Germany, we’ve been told that this first annual summer session by GGS was so successful that they are already planning for next year’s session.

On behalf of myself and my fellow KD students, I would like to extend a warm thank-you to the Kelley personnel that made this trip possible. I would also like to express my sincerest gratitude to the entire staff at GGS who worked tirelessly to ensure their guests had an educational and memorable experience. Danke schön.

Here’s to hoping they let me come back next summer!

Max Rubenstein

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Days 1 & 2 of the Washington, DC course: Business and Public Policy

The first two days in The Washington Campus course, “Business and Public Policy: How Washington Works and What Issues Matter”, have been busy and full of valuable information. On the first day, we met our fellow students – 15 students from Indiana University’s Kelley Direct program and 38 MBA students from Ohio State University – along with our faculty director, logistics coordinator, and program coordinator. Then we had four excellent speakers with diverse experiences in Washington. John Shelk, President and CEO of Electric Power Supply Association, spoke about the US Congress and policymaking including the changing roles of congressional committees. Jeff Weinberg, Legislative Attorney for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), talked to us about the executive branch and policymaking and how Presidents have differed in policymaking over the years. Jonathan Gledhill, President of The Policy Navigation Group, spoke to us about the regulatory process and the role of the OMB in that process. Douglas Bennett, Vice President of Federal Affairs for Liberty Mutual Group, talked with us about lobbying and interest groups. Afterward, we had a social event at James Hoban’s Restaurant and Bar.

On our second day, we visited the US Capitol where Marjorie Glick spoke to us about her role as a staffer in Senator Sherrod Brown’s office. Then Senator Sherrod Brown himself spoke to us about being a senator for Ohio and answered lots of questions. Afterward, we were free to choose which Senate or House hearings we wanted to attend. I attended the hearing on Deficit Reduction where all 12 members of the Super Committee presided over it. After lunch, we all met at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building where Mickey Edwards, former representative for Oklahoma in the House of Representatives, reflected on his time as a representative and discussed the changes in Congress today. Afterward, we had a choice to see the Supreme Court or to visit the Senate or House galleries. I chose to see the Senate gallery and heard senators discussing FEMA funding for victims of natural disasters in their states.

The next three days are packed with more valuable information and events, and I’m looking forward to learning more.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pre-Trip Preparation for Washington, DC course: Business and Public Policy

This weekend, I travel to Washington, DC for a one-week course entitled “Business and Public Policy: How Washington Works and What Issues Matter”. Fourteen other Kelley students and I will join MBA students from 16 other business schools around the country for a week full of tours, speakers, and a computer simulation.

When I first heard about the course, I was very interested, so I talked with my advisor about taking it. Once I registered, I was linked to a website with more details on the trip along with a required pre-reading list of articles. The intro article gave a synopsis of the who’s who in government and how the various agencies and departments are linked together. The remaining articles mostly described the good and bad sides of lobbying and advocacy groups along with some of the attempts at reform. They also gave a glimpse of the topics that would be covered during the week.

Last week, I received the final agenda for the course, and my interest in the course quickly turned to excitement. Seventeen guest speakers will discuss topics covering policy making, roles of lobbyists and interest groups, the federal budget, taxes, China, elections, energy, healthcare, universities, trade policies, the role of media, and more. We will also observe Congress, visit the Supreme Court, and have lunch one day at the National Press Club. One afternoon we will even participate in a computer simulation demonstrating the types of pressures that Congressmen confront. For grading, we have a written exam on the last day of the course and a team project to complete within two weeks of finishing the course.

I don’t know any of my fellow students who are attending, but I look forward to meeting them and other students from around the country. I suspect that I will learn from all of them as we explore how our government works and what issues matter.