Careers


I began my dual MBA program in the Fall of 2009 and it is now the Spring of 2012.  I won’t be done this year but certainly next year.  I could speed it up a bit if I took summer classes but quite honestly, I can only take the academic environment one semester at a time with the summers off.    So here’s a run down of the courses I’ve taken and what I’ve learned.

  • Econ 601 – US domestic economics which introduces you to basic economic theory.
  • Econ 602 – International economics which introduces you to basic international economic theory.
  • Stats 601 – Basic statistical course (this is where academia largely goes wrong).
  • Bus 601 – Don’t really remember this course but I think it was some sort of ethics class.
  • Mgmt 601 – Introduction to basic management principles
  • Mgmt 602 – Management and Information Technology
  • Mgmt 603 – Leadership and managing change
  • Mgmt 604 – International operations management – supply chain logistics
  • Mgmt 605 – International management
  • Acct 601 – Financial reporting and analysis
  • Fin 602 – Introduction to finance principles
  • Mktg 601 – Introduction to domestic marketing principles
  • Mktg 602 – Introduction to international marketing principles

 

I can definitively tell you that the MBA program is 80% filler and 20% meat.    There is no real rationalization for much of the program other than to keep the university ecosystem of free-loading administration officials, lackluster professors, and other employees going.

The best analogy I can think of is the stuff I order from Amazon.   If you order a screw-driver from Amazon, it will come in a box too big for the object, an air bag filled with air, some sort of advertisement to order again, a receipt/packing slip and the actual screw driver probably wrapped in useless plastic molding.

All you really want is the screw driver but you have to take the garbage that comes with it too.    The first thing you do is toss out the garbage and begin to use the tool.

I have two more classes in the fall and then six next year and I’m done but the program is already paying off as I’m being solicited left and right by some pretty good firms.   I’ll stick with my present employer though until I’m sure this economy is on solid footing.

By the way, in case you’re wondering what those last few classes are they are primarily more finance and management classes.   I hope to write more frequently as soon as I get done with the three term papers due in the next few weeks.

So we went to prep school fair this past weekend and ran into quite a few prep schools based mostly in the north east like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, a few in the south and a couple in the west.

The few schools my oldest was interested including one in Hawaii (Hawaii Prep Academy) and one in Massachusetts (Tabor Academy).   The costs of these schools runs anywhere from $20k to $45k per year.   The basic next step is to get my son enrolled in a summer program for one of the schools and see if he truly enjoys it before making a huge commitment.    Since I’m an avid traveler, I gravitated toward schools like Lowell Whiteman but that was just me…

It’s an exciting time for my son as he comes of age and begins a journey of self discovery but the road will be long and costly.   Fortunately, it’ll be a couple of years before a full commitment but it is amazing at how fast the time has flown by as I still remember my son as a little baby.   The fall back plan is to go to a local private school and keep him at home which he’ll love as well.

The obvious question here though is if these kinds of costs are worth the value of the education.   What I see critically missing from most of these curriculum are practical business, engineering or scientific training.   Perhaps I’m asking too much but I expect graduates to be able to start a business or enter an engineering program practically certified as an engineer for this kind of money.

There is an interesting prediction that education is in in  massive bubble and it’s only a matter of time before it collapses in on itself.  This may be particularly true for college but I’m not so sure about the prep schools.  Only time will tell.

I must have a face that reads, “Come and deliver me from my ills” because  over the past four companies I’ve worked for I’ve had interactions with women executives that frequently come in my office (or theirs when I’m there) and confide in me some of the problems they perceive themselves as having.   I say “perceive” because in most instances, I’m only hearing one side of the story.

Many years ago, I had a Vice President of Human Resources tell me she didn’t feel she wasn’t getting a fair shake with the executive group at the company because she was a woman.   She said that I (at a position one level below VP at the time) had a much better chance of influencing the CEO and other Sr. VPs  simply because of the fact that I was a man.

Over a decade later, I recently had a similar interaction with yet another woman in a completely different company, industry, location and I am hearing a very similar story.  I’ve heard many stories like that in the years in between from women that were staff trying to get ahead to women that were executives STILL not happy where they were at in the company.

This may sound a bit sexist but I am seriously beginning to wonder if women know what they really want when they climb the corporate ladder.  What do you ladies think “the top” is supposed to be?  What type of panacea do women imagine getting to when they reach the executive floor?

Here’s what I tell these broads, “Hey baby, don’t you worry your pretty little face about it.  Now go powder your nose and fetch me some coffee.”

Okay that’s not really what I tell women -that was a joke before you send me any hate mail.

Here’s the kicker, I hear the exact same complaints from EVERYONE (including men).   I’ve heard it from black men who think they’re not getting a fair shake, I’ve heard it from Asians who don’t think they’re getting a fair shake, I’ve heard it from white men who think they’re being reverse discriminated against.  It never ends!

Here’s the ugly truth.  If you SERIOUSLY want to climb to the top, you better be prepared for the following:

1. Be prepared to fly all over the world at a moments notice.

2. Be prepared to fly to the nastiest places on earth not just Paris and London or other exotic locations.  Oh yeah, you might get shot at or blown up.

3. Be prepared to take assignments that no one else wants.

4. Be prepared to spend countless hours away from family and friends for the sake of a project that will probably be decommissioned or tossed in the trash in just a few short years from now.

5. Be prepared to to absorb the work of others at the last minute.

6. Be prepared and navigate through the worst backstabbing politics*

7. Be prepared for sleepless nights and stress knowing that if you fail, many people will suffer and lose their jobs or livelihoods.

8. Be prepared to have all of your work commandeered by other executives when things go well and vilified when it goes bad.

9. Be prepared to sacrifice nearly anything that a company wants you to sacrifice because you want to climb ahead (holidays, vacations, family birthdays, ANYTHING).

10. Be prepared to have your ass kicked out the door after committing yourself for years to an organization because the market turned sour.

Unfortunately, all the people that I mentioned just didn’t have what it took to succeed at the top and that was their common trait.   Most of those people reached a stage of  “entitlement” whereby they felt they’ve “put in their due” and expected to coast the of their career but it doesn’t ever happen like that -EVER.

Tomorrow I’m writing about what very few are writing about – the WOMEN that betrayed other WOMEN in the Tiger Woods scandal.

This week I received phone calls and e-mails about some potential job opportunities and that’s a tremendous increase from the near ZERO I got from January thru July.   In one week I was solicited six times with some potential opportunities so something is actually happening out there that is causing some employers to think about hiring.

I must admit too that many of these companies have gone to extremes slashing and burning jobs over the past year and some of them may actually be smart enough to understand that there may be a huge labor crunch after many boomers have opted for early retirement and others have opted for different lifestyles like starting their own businesses.

A few people I know have given up on corporate America and I was on the fence on that one for a long time.   I am nearly certain that the next time I get laid off I may seriously consider starting my own business or never returning to corporate life.

Here’s a story…Over the last few years I’ve traveled all over the world on business and not once while I was in India, West Africa, South America, Mexico or anywhere else I traveled did I encounter workers at our branch offices that had this mentality, “My job is so unique and I’m so special(ized) that the company could never get rid of me…”  but I seem to encounter that daily here in the U.S.

Let me tell you about some observations I have made about ANY job or career.

1. The most complicated job in the country is undoubtedly CEO of America or President of the United States and guess what, this position is eliminated and replaced with someone new every four to eight years.   Not only that but most of the staff goes with the “CEO” when he gets booted out so if the POTUS can be essentially sacked or “laid off” then why does anyone think their job is so special?

2. Almost all CEOs of almost all companies end up leaving or getting fired at some point.  You would think that this would mean immediate bankruptcy for any company that experienced this but that’s not the case.

3. If CEOs can be replaced then what makes most Americans think that Jane the accounting “specialist” or Bob the “legal expert” can’t be replaced?

4. It seems that most Americans think their job can only be replaced when they are ready to retire or quit but outside this small window, the company is going to suffer severely.

5. Over the course of my career I can name countless Chief Executives, Vice Presidents, Directors and Managers quit or be fired and the companies hardly missed a beat after they left.

Ironically, everyone (including American expats) knew full well they could be replaced at any given moment when I was overseas.   The people abroad don’t take their job for granted and as such work their ass everyday with the expectation that that day may be their last.   What is really startling to me is that this is happening now that we have 20% unemployment in this country and the attitudes still persist.  There are so many things I just don’t get and this is bloody one of them.

There are so many states that are overwhelmed by unemployment claims that many can’t keep up.  Worse yet, many states are starting to run low on cash to even pay claims so I can foresee a scenario where the first ones laid off get paid and last ones out get nothing.   It’s been three weeks since I’ve been laid off and I have yet to see a single dime of unemployment cash and I’m still waiting for the state to send me a check.

If you’re working for a company that may suddenly shudder its doors or will layoff a huge portion of their workforce, you may be better off  asking to get laid off now so you can capture some unused vacation, severance, and start looking for a new job at a more stable company.

The worst case scenario is if you remain at a job and have a gradual reduction of your work hours to the point where you would have been better off laid off or working somewhere else entirely.  This may sound counter intuitive but it makes sense to position yourself accordingly to your situation.   The only exception I can think of is if your employer is providing retraining benefits of some sort to help you move along.

I had such an interesting week that climaxed with my termination on Friday. There goes 200k+ in compensation out the window but I’m actually glad it happened. This was the second or third round of lay offs at the company and the way things are deteriorating, I won’t be surprised if there isn’t bankruptcy in the future. I wouldn’t rule out a buyout but who’s got money to buy anyone these days? Sadly, the people that stay, while continuing to receive a paycheck may ultimately receive nothing if the end comes in the near future as the doors will simply close.

I do have an upside if the company recovers in the form of vested shares but depending on what happens over the next few weeks I may opt to sell the shares; Something is better than nothing.

The interesting part of the week, however, started early in the week with a review of the voluminous number of projects on the table and determining how they would be prioritized. I, alone, had a least 5 critical projects I was working on and during my termination no one seemed the least bit interested in discussing how to transition the projects, bring anyone up to speed, or have any type of knowledge transfer. As far as I know, those critical projects will just hang there until chaos comes and then there will be a mad scramble to try to figure out what to do. One core project was due in February and I can already imagine the conversation:

Executive: “What’s the status of project x?”

Clueless employee: “Project x?”

Executive: “Yes, project x that is critical to the functioning of the organization that was due in February, Rich was working on it!”

Clueless employee: “Err……Rich left in January and no one knows where all the stuff is located.”

Executive: “What!?!? What the hell do you mean you don’t know where stuff is located?”

Clueless employee: “I’ll call Rich and find out where the stuff is…”

Phone: Ring…Ring…Ring….

Answer: “You’ve reached Rich and I’m in the Bahamas for the next three weeks, if you need something my official hourly rate is $300/hour with a four hour minimum paid in ADVANCE, please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m done snorkeling.”

It’s clear that the organization is now is pure survival mode; dumping top talent isn’t conducive for success so ultimately, I’m glad I got out early. At least I can start searching for a new job now at the beginning of the year when most companies that are hiring do their hiring. I left amicably and I’m not angry, upset or even depressed about it because where one door closes another one opens and I’ve got some intriguing opportunities right now too. I am very sad and depressed about what will happen to those left behind: single moms, single earners, workers in bad health and those living paycheck to paycheck. These people are going to suffer the most and no one at the organization seems to care.

I’m grateful that I paid down my mortgage, unwound my arbitrage, paid off one of my cars, and saved a great deal of money over the past year. None of this comes as a surprise as I’ve been warning people for a while about what was coming, the economic meltdown is accelerating now and it’s only going to get worse. No one is safe except those who have sufficient funds to get themselves through the next year or those with top skills and talent. Eventually we’ll recover but that may be years away.

Tonight or tomorrow we’ll do a financial review and decided if we need to cut back on anything. Fortunately, my wife is still employed and that should be sufficient for a very long while.

Sorry Uncle Sam, you’ll need to squeeze 70k in tax revenue from someone else this year 😉

It never ceases to amaze me the predicaments people get themselves into in the corporate world but during an economic crisis, it is vitally important that people understand the distinction between a career and a job.

A job is:

a small miscellaneous piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate b: the object or material on which work is being done c: something produced by or as if by work  or

something that has to be done : task (2): an undertaking requiring unusual exertion <it was a real job to talk over that noise> b: a specific duty, role, or function c: a regular remunerative position

While a career is:

a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life ; a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling.

So a “job” is essentially a task that has to be done or a series of repetitive tasks for which you get paid.  A job provides you with a specific duty, role or function.  It’s not surprising that people get “stuck in a rut” when all they have is a job but it doesn’t have to be that way!

A career, however, is something that provides progressive achievement; a profession that requires training and advancement that a person designates as a calling for themselves.

Through peers, business associates and my own observations, I see too many people converting their careers into jobs simply to preserve a paycheck when the exact opposite should be occurring!   People should be taking their mundane “jobs” and stacking value on top of their existing tasks.

People shouldn’t be waiting on their employer to provide training, they should use their emergency funds to partially train, retrain and advance onto the next level.   This act alone will help preserve a paycheck more so than reducing oneself to performing a series of tasks.

In times like this it becomes easily apparent to any senior manager or executive who is worthwhile keeping and who is not should the need for personnel changes arise.


I wrote this post to answer a few questions I kept getting about my successes personally and professionally and I continue to get an occasional e-mail on this post every now and then.  Originally published May 2007.

Health care, Energy & Technology fields are red hot right now and various colleagues have been asking me how they can get in and make some real money in these industries. Most of the people I’m hiring these days are starting close to or above 100k in base salary and earning 10% to 20% bonuses on top of various other incentives (e.g. stock options) so they’re all licking their chops asking me what they can do to get in.

toolbox.png

I’ve come up with a list of things you should have in your resume toolbox to get you in the door and hired:

1. Although I don’t particularly feel it necessary to have a college degree for many positions, most HR people won’t let you through the door unless you have a college diploma. You toolbox should include a degree, ANY degree to get you in the door. For goodness sake, even a liberal arts degree will help! Just don’t LIE about it because that will get you fired and tarnish your reputation.

2. Speaking of reputation, if you don’t have a college degree, it helps a great deal to have a network of references that will vouch for you and your work. I have a standard policy of writing letters of recommendations, recognition and commendation for people that do good work and am happy to be a reference for people that do quality work. NEVER burn any bridges, you’ll eventually come across them again in your lifetime.

3. If you are a manager or plan on being a manager (of any kind) you should consider training and certification in Project Management. The Project Management Institute is a great place to start – become a member. As a manager, it is inevitable that you’ll work on projects and having this certification and/or training is a great plus.

4. You should have professional certifications: If you are an accountant, you should receive and maintain your CPA; If you are in Technology, you should be certified in your specialty (e.g. Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco); If you are in Payroll, you should become a Certified Payroll Specialist; If you are a mechanic, you should get ASE certified. I could go on but you get the point.

5. You should have a professional wardrobe. I can’t tell you how many people I “skipped” over despite great credentials because a person dressed like a slob. When you’re climbing up the corporate ladder, you’ll be dealing with various executives, the media, and to some extent Wall Street pros, no one wants to see how frugal you can be with your money & wardrobe.

6. If you want to make some really big money, you’ll likely need to work for a public company that can issue you some juicy stock options. If you are a manager for a public company, you need to train yourself in Sarbanes Oxley compliance NO MATTER WHAT YOUR FIELD IS. I don’t care if you’re in HR or Marketing, knowing SOX compliance in a public company will make you MORE valuable than the person who doesn’t know it. Hence, when it comes around to issuing those stock options, the key people will remember how valuable you are to them with that SOX training.

7. If you’re working for a public company, you should know how to read the company’s financial statements. I don’t care if you’re in sales, marketing, technology,operations, human resources, or other department. If you’re lost, go over to http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/finance/quotes/quote-03.html or http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/finance/tools/research-21.html and start learning. As a manager, if you can intelligently discuss the company’s potential, problems and opportunities via the company’s financials then you’ll be much more valuable than someone who doesn’t.

8. If possible, learn a foreign language; real growth is coming from overseas these days and every edge helps. You don’t have to become fully fluent in another language but being able to get by helps tremendously.

9. You should have a mentor. You need someone to go to be able to talk about things when the going gets tough. Someone that can help you with salary negotiations when settling on a new job or help you through employee disputes or simply someone to celebrate your successes with; a person that you can trust implicitly.

10. You should have a career plan. I recommend 3 to 5 year goals, 8 year goals and 15 year goals. In essence, what title and salary do you want to earn 3 to 5 years from now, 8 years from now and 15 years from now. Write it down and work toward it everyday by doing 1 thu 9 above.

A few friends in the medical field are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living out of the medical profession.  The medical field has a high barrier of entry.  Many doctors are saddled with a great deal of debt after 8+ years of medical school followed by an internship.

Once in actual practice, liability insurance, office expenses and poor payments and delayed reimbursements make it very difficult to earn a profit and run a business.

Contrast this with someone who might study to be a software programmer or network guru who might study for a couple of years at a technical college or perhaps be self-taught for a few years and starting salaries in the 80k, you have to wonder if a person is better off being a “computer doctor” than an actual medical doctor.

The computer doctor isn’t going to have to worry about liability insurance, insurance companies not paying on time or other such nonsense and there is a clear advantage here in favor of the computer doctor.

Food for thought….

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