It would be nice to be able to have the philosophy that you can’t put a price on health, but the reality of rising costs in the health care industry means that approach can’t work.

“As a country, we can’t continue to spend 20 percent of our gross domestic product on health care without making sure we’re getting the best possible value,” says Dr. Brandon Koretz, associate professor of clinical medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and student in the Executive MBA Program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Koretz says before entering the MBA program he had a tendency to spend whatever it cost to provide a valuable resource.

“My perspective was, ‘let’s get it.’ Now I understand that every dollar spent on one thing is a dollar that is not available for something else. I understand more fully the trade-offs and their implications,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Koretz about the MBA program and the perspective it has given him on the health care industry.

Why were you interested in the MBA program?

I’m a geriatrician by training and care for Medicare patients. I also work at an academic health center and teach others how to provide care.

Medicare is at the cutting edge of financial changes in health care, and there’s a need to provide the best possible care at the most reasonable price; I need to understand the financial principles to ensure that is occurring. My Hippocratic oath isn’t just a promise to the patient in front of me, it’s also an obligation to be a good custodian of resources provided by society, which is paying for that patient’s care.

How has the program changed your views regarding the health care industry?

It’s given me another tool set to use when considering problems, a perspective I didn’t have before. In medical school, I didn’t have a finance or accounting class. I’m now a much more informed decision-maker when making budgets.

I’ve been able to bring business principles back to the people I teach. UCLA’s medical school is great about training doctors to understand up-to-date scientific literature, but we not only need to provide technically good service, we also need to meet patients’ emotional needs. If you’re rude, patients aren’t going to come back or may not follow your medical advice. So I’ve initiated discussions about things like wait time and how it can be improved. In years past, doctors would say, ‘That’s not my job.’ But, of course, it is; evidence is being accumulated that shows clinical outcomes are better when there’s a stronger connection between patient and doctor. A conscious focus on service can strengthen these connections.

How does the Anderson experience differ from other MBA programs?

What’s amazing at Anderson is how it is a community of learners. There’s an incredible diversity among students. Faculty can walk me through the fundamental concepts of finance while teaching people who work in the finance industry. Students are also sensitive to that diversity, and a person with a financial background will help me during a break when there’s something I don’t understand. There’s no ego or shame involved. People tutor each other — one group came in weekends on their own time and set up a series of tutoring sessions for students who didn’t understand accounting.

The expression I hear is, ‘At Anderson we take care of our own.’ Everyone works together to ensure the best possible learning experience. I’ve been able to develop a broad network of people in many industries. One project involved gathering information about the travel industry. Using resources at Anderson, a dozen interviews were set up within days. When it comes to Anderson, whatever else you’re doing stops. We really take care of each other.

Dr. Brandon Koretz is associate professor, clinical medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Reach him at (310) 206-8272 or

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA Anderson School of Management

Published in Los Angeles

Knowing the right questions to ask is the key to developing strategies to improve a business.

“Simple questions can have a big impact. They help you see the wood for the trees. One is, ‘What is the main constraint, i.e., the bottleneck, I face in my business?’ Sometimes the answer is obvious, and it’s money or time. Once you identify it, then you can put energy into devising a strategy to alleviate it,” says Guillaume Roels, assistant professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Smart Business spoke with Roels, who teaches a core course on operations and technology management for the Executive MBA program, about the class and takeaways students have incorporated in the workplace.

What subject material does the course cover?

It’s mostly process management. The key is learning to view organizations as processes and streamlining those processes. You start by defining a strategy, and operations management delivers that strategy. If your goal is to be price competitive, operations will enable reduced costs. If the strategy is to achieve high quality, that will be the focus.

The analogy I use is the engine of a car; operations are the engine of the company and deliver value to customers.

Are students already familiar with operations management?

Students come from a broad variety of backgrounds — some are entrepreneurs, some work at big corporations like Cisco, Walt Disney and Amgen. To a certain extent, all have been in a process. But they may not have thought about this notion of process. Typically, people see the work they do, but they don’t see the bigger picture. An attorney in the legal department in the gaming industry may not realize he or she is part of a process of product development and what he or she does impacts product design or a release date. Looking at an organization from a global perspective can have a large impact on efficiency and quality.

Starting from strategy, the class looks at operations and tries to eliminate waste and identify improvement opportunities. It’s a very practical course; students can apply tools they learn right away. It also helps them think more strategically on how to turn operations into a competitive advantage.

Can you provide examples of students applying these concepts?

One tool is a process flowchart, which helps visualize how work is done in an organization. A student from a Saturday afternoon class said he went back to his organization on Monday and started drawing a process flowchart.

For many students, time is their main constraint. They all have families, school and high-level positions, so they have limited time. For them, operations management is time management. So they can self-apply the operations lessons to make the most efficient use of their time.

Entrepreneurs, in particular, are known for under-delegating — the classic example is the owner who signs off on every bill the company pays. When you realize the value of your time, it can be better spent meeting with prospective clients and trying to raise funds.

What’s different about taking this course at UCLA compared to another Executive MBA program?

The East Coast is much more corporate. There’s a different way of doing business on the West Coast, particularly in Southern California. It’s part of the culture and the high-tech industries here — aeronautics, biotechnology — very specific types typically not found on the East Coast. That’s reflected in the classroom; it’s very diverse, much more than a traditional school. They’re from a broad set of small and large companies, and it makes the discussion very rich.

Students develop lifelong relationships, and there’s a great feeling of community. Often, former students call and want to talk about a problem they’re experiencing at work. That problem usually doesn’t require any in-depth consultation; it’s a matter of making sure they’re asking the right questions and adopting a holistic perspective on the problem they’re trying to solve. ?

Guillaume Roels is an assistant professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach him at (310) 825-6749 or

Event: How Do I Pay for My MBA?” Hosted by Associate Dean Gonzalo Freixes. Saturday, April 13, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. at UCLA Anderson.

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA Anderson School of Management


Published in Los Angeles

Janine Magyar reached a career plateau and was looking for a new challenge when she decided to enter the Executive MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“It’s definitely not a program for people who are lazy or are quick to give up,” Magyar says. “It is not easy, but it is so worth it because the rewards are phenomenal.”

After 20 years of working in events and menu planning, Magyar stepped outside her comfort zone and it led to a position as an innovation manager at Mattson, the largest independent developer of new products for the food and business industry in North America.

Smart Business spoke with Magyar about her experiences in the MBA program and working at a job in which she could be “tasting sauces at 7 in the morning and cocktails at 2.”

Why did you choose UCLA’s executive MBA program?

It was convenient for me because I worked for The Walt Disney Company at the time. But it’s also an internationally acclaimed program and it’s very well respected in the entrepreneurial world.

I considered applying for the class of 2008 and audited a class. I listened to how the class interacted and how supportive the students were of each other. There were teaching moments not just from the professor at the front of the room, but also from all 65 students sitting in the chairs. I was impressed with the openness of the classroom environment. There wasn’t the cutthroat competition or one-upmanship that I’ve heard exists in other high-caliber programs.

Why is that the case?

I believe it is systemic in the Anderson culture. I worked in the recruiting and admissions department after I graduated and saw what they look for in incoming students. It’s not just what you’re going to get out of the program, but also what you’re bringing to it as a potential student. The admissions team considers all the pieces and how they will fit when putting together a class.

You’ll learn a lot from an amazing caliber of professor, but you’ll learn just as much in a different way while sitting next to CFOs, CEOs or senior vice presidents in finance or marketing who have had amazing real life experience.

How did the MBA program prepare you for your current job?

The key thing my MBA gave me was a sense of confidence to step out beyond what I had known for so long, which was event management and planning, and food and beverage. I’m still in the food world, which I love and I’m passionate about, but now I approach it from a completely different perspective.

When a client comes to me with a new food or beverage product, I not only can show them the formula they need and how to make it taste good, but I can also get them thinking about what will give this new product a level of competitive advantage and protect it from being immediately knocked off by potential competitors or what kind of marketing strategy to use when presenting the concept to potential buyers.

Did anything about the MBA program surprise you?

I knew I would come out of it a stronger, faster, smarter person, that’s what a good MBA program is all about. But I was really impressed with two things from Anderson. First was UCLA Anderson’s network. I reached out to Anderson alums for my strategic research project and afterward while recruiting and I’ve always gotten a call back. It’s a big school, but it’s a very tight, supportive community.

The second thing that surprised me was how quickly I was able to put the lessons learned into practical application. There were a lot of opportunities for me to go back to the office and be faced with a strategic project or personnel issues that I now had a new way of thinking about. It’s pretty spectacular when you’re in a position to apply what you’ve learned and get a real return on your educational investment quickly.

Janine Magyar is a graduate of the Executive MBA program at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach her at (818) 486-6590 or

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA Anderson School of Management

Published in Los Angeles

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Juan E. Rose III lets his military experience provide perspective when considering the task of balancing work, school and family life.

A student in the Executive MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, Rose’s leadership qualities earned him a John Wooden Global Leadership Award Fellowship. At the award ceremony, he was asked how he manages his busy schedule.

“When I met Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, she said, ‘You’re a Marine on active duty in San Diego, you go to an Executive MBA program in Los Angeles and you have a family in Murrieta, Calif. How do you do this?’ I commute 40,000 miles a year and I’m working hard and learning every single minute. But my Marines and I are not getting shot at, so it’s OK,” Rose says.

Smart Business spoke with Rose about the MBA program and how it’s helped prepare him for entering the business world when he leaves military service.

Why did you enter the MBA program?

After 10 years of active duty, I’m looking to transition to the private sector and I’m using the MBA program to couple the leadership experience I have with more technical knowledge.

I’m a financial management officer in the Marine Corps; however, finance in the private sector is for-profit, levering debt, and managing, maintaining and acquiring assets. As a government-certified defense financial manager (CDFM), I’m more preoccupied with safeguarding and disbursing public funds, while accomplishing the mission with minimal resources. Profit is never a conversation we have.

How does the profit motive change things?

Profit stresses people in completely different ways. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to work as a consultant recently, and I’ve been working with a couple of clients as a student. I am learning every day that people manage risk in order to maximize profit; Marines manage risk in order to save lives. It still seems to me that if you focus on your employees — an invaluable asset — while managing risk, profit maximization will be a result.

To me, profit just changes the perspective. When you’re managing life or death situations, losing money is not as important. As a leader you can then focus on learning from the mistakes to ensure you and your team doesn’t allow that to happen again. The complexity of defense financial management in the military comes from the environment and the mission, not the application of financial assets.

When you start using debt and trying to maximize profit at all costs, there are a lot of strategies and different ways to do that. That’s what I am trying to obtain from the MBA program and so far it’s exceeding all of my initial expectations.

What type of job will you seek after graduation?

I’m leaning toward management consulting. It will give me the opportunity to work in teams and continue to learn about industry as a whole in several different arenas.

It’s important for me to bring value to a company that values its people and affords them the opportunity to be intellectually challenged. My No. 1 priority is to work in a company that gives back somehow.

My long-term goal is to be a professor and to continue to coach, mentor and inspire people. The most important part of what I’ve accomplished over the past 10 years is coaching, mentoring and inspiring Marines to exceed their own expectations.

I look at some of our professors who sacrifice and take time to do that for us. They are able to manage their professional aspirations and personal lives, while also continuing to educate us. That’s what I’m passionate about — paying forward what was done for me.

Juan E. Rose III is a MBA candidate at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach him at (760) 458-7408 or

For information on the MBA Program, Masters in Business Administration, UCLA Anderson School of Management, visit

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA Anderson School of Management

Published in Los Angeles

Classroom learning can get you a long way, but UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Executive MBA program takes learning to a whole new level.

In the later stage of the program, students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the business world of another culture, says Eric Sussman, a senior lecturer at UCLA.

“The program affords students the opportunity to gain a broader perspective of what is happening on the ground in another country or geographical region,” says Sussman, who has led student groups twice to Dubai and, most recently, to Brazil. “They learn how business is conducted in that particular country and have the opportunity to network by meeting a number of representatives from both the public and private sectors across a number of industries. I don’t think you can graduate from a top business school without having that experience nowadays, and students who participate in this program get that in spades.”

Smart Business spoke with Sussman about how an international travel component can enhance an Executive MBA degree.

How has the EMBA program evolved over the past 10 to 15 years?

There have been two broad trends since I joined the faculty in 1995. One is the increased adoption of technology, and the second is the internationalization of the program. In the 1990s, we might have talked about international markets and about the growing importance of China, but we would be doing so from L.A.

That has changed 180 degrees. In any given year, there are at least half a dozen, if not more, of these international work/study trips. It’s amazing how much it has really changed, going from zero five years ago to about 10 this year.

How does the program work?

The international component consists of a full class lasting three-months. There are lectures and typical classroom activities before the course culminates in the actual trip. We talk about issues relating to that particular country or geographic region, whether it is China, Africa, the Far East or the Middle East. Then we spend one week in the country, generally in one particular city.

Students have the opportunity to listen to and meet with representatives of a host of organizations in both the public and private sector across a variety of industries to learn about what’s happening within their organizations specifically and in the country more generally. It’s a win-win-win all the way around, for the school, the faculty and the students. It’s a great opportunity to really understand what is happening globally. The reality is that what happens in Spain or China absolutely affects what happens here, and as business becomes more global, students  need to broaden their understanding and perspective.

What is the typical day like for students on a work/study trip?

The day usually starts by 8 a.m., and meetings start by 9 a.m.. For example, on the Brazil trip, students met with a representative of Banco Central de Brasil, who gave a one-hour presentation on the central bank and what’s happening in Brazil macroeconomically, followed by a Q&A session. That was followed by a presentation from another organization.

The afternoon includes additional presentations, such as one from a representative of a very large and well known oil company who talked to us about the country’s growing oil reserves, what is happening off the coast of Brazil, how that’s affecting the economy, and how it’s going to change Brazil going forward. At the end of the workday, students have the opportunity to explore, as it’s also important to go out and see the culture and what’s important to Brazil in terms of its people. Culture is really important in cross-border negotiations, and you have to look at the whole picture. It’s very intensive and very tiring, but it’s exceptional in every way.

Do students have any say in the focus of the course and the destination?

Absolutely. Students vote with their feet and we have to offer programs that the students want. There’s an add-on cost for them to participate, so we absolutely take into account where their interests are. Once the country or region has been determined, students then have to apply for the course.

This year, for Brazil, we had 60 spots available, and 100 students applied. The school then had to determine who would benefit most and who had participated the most in the international program.

How does the experience impact students?

I think if I’d asked students in January, when the course started, to tell me what they knew about Brazil, I would have heard things like, ‘Samba. The Amazon. Supermodels.’ As far as business goes, that knowledge was probably pretty limited to knowing that it’s a fast-growing economy, part of the BRICs.

If I asked them now, following their trip, however, they could easily talk for an hour about everything that is happening in Brazil, and provide specifics in terms of the economy and demographics, as well as the sources and risks of future growth. Most of them have traveled before, but they haven’t had this kind of immersive experience.

When we get back, we do a debriefing. I’ve done a tremendous amount of international travel and taught around the world, but on each of these trips, I come away with a real change in viewpoints and a much greater understanding of the places we’ve been. And I know if it affects me that way, it affects the students that way, as well.

Eric Sussman is a senior lecturer at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach him at or (310) 825-3564.

Insights Executive Education is brought to you by UCLA

Published in Los Angeles

While some students continue on to higher education directly after graduating from college, many more head out into the world to work. It is only after gaining years of experience and success that they realize they could do even better by enrolling in an executive master of business administration (EMBA) program. Instead of just learning about theories and concepts that they may someday apply, they can immediately apply them in their work lives, says David Lewin, the Nell H. Jacoby Chair in Management at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

“The EMBA program draws people who are very highly committed because their average age is 38 and most of them are juggling jobs, families and the program,” says Lewin, who also serves as president of the Labor and Employment Relations Association. “They have a lot of balls in the air and are trying to do something quite demanding. They may actually be more attuned to the program and get more out of it than students in the MBA program precisely because they have other commitments and can immediately apply what they learn over the weekend to their jobs on Monday.”

Smart Business spoke with Lewin about how UCLA’s EMBA program can benefit successful executives who are looking to do even more.

How do students’ experiences in the work world impact performance in the program?

The students’ experience works very well for certain courses. Students are able to interpret and reinterpret that experience in the context of the concepts that are provided to them. Thus, they have a strong preference for ideas that can potentially be translated into practice.

Because we have one section of students entering the program annually — this year the number was 73 — and they take their core courses in one section, they become closely bonded. That experience works well, too, because strong bonds make them more willing to critique each other’s work and treat themselves as a learning community, learning from each other as well as from the faculty.

The courses are highly demanding and students have to fit the demands of the program into the demands of their work and home lives. But that allows them to take what they are learning and have the opportunity to apply that learning quickly, whereas students in the MBA program have to wait until they graduate, get employed and advance in the workplace.

How do students put that knowledge to work in other ways outside the classroom?

In the second year of the program, students self-select small groups to conduct a Strategic Management Research (SMR) project. For two quarters, each group has a client company (or non-profit organization), a faculty adviser and a specific issue or problem to work on. At the conclusion of the SMR, each group must deliver a written report and an oral presentation to the client. These groups often become tighter than the assigned study groups they worked in previously because they are producing deliverables for clients, which can be distributed across the globe. For example, an SMR group recently traveled to Africa to meet with its client organization, and other groups have traveled to Asia, Europe and Latin America for the same purpose.

Because the students have self-selected their groups and are ‘on the hook’ to produce, they typically have a very strong, positive experience. Once in a while, however, and as occurs with groups in any context, an SMR group faces the challenge of learning from a negative experience. For example, a group may lose its main client contact because that individual has left the organization during the project. Occasionally, a client company doesn’t supply the quantity or quality of information required by an SMR group. Also, occasionally, a group may have internal conflicts about its deliverables or its communications processes or a free rider problem. Whenever you have a substantial number of groups working on assignments like the SMR, certain problems will arise, yet students can learn as much or more from these types of conflict as they can from positive experiences; it’s all part of their professional development.

How does the program contribute to the leadership growth of students?

In all of our MBA programs, when students first enter they have an orientation or, in the case of EMBA students, a residential, in which they take a course titled Leadership Foundations. While certain leadership concepts and frameworks are covered, the course is heavily experiential and includes such activities as a survival exercise, a self-assessment, case analyses, a negotiation simulation, an outdoor team building day and study group norm setting. The end-of-course ‘deliverable’ is a Leadership Map in which students state their leadership aspirations, summarize their leadership strengths and limitations, and specify a preliminary leadership development plan for their two-year EMBA program.

In the EMBA program, but not in the MBA or Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA) programs, there is a second Leadership Foundations course offered in the latter part of the first year, and a third course offered in the latter part of the second year. In this last course, students produce an additional, final Leadership Map, this one externally oriented. The big challenge here for EMBA students is to specify how they’re going to further enhance their leadership capabilities after they leave the safe harbor of the program. The underlying rationale for this three-course Leadership Foundations sequence is for students to have recurring (if not continuous) leadership capability development — not just leadership knowledge, but also the ability to apply that knowledge. Currently, the Anderson School is considering adopting this course sequence in the MBA and FEMBA programs so that leadership development for students in those programs doesn’t end at the conclusion of their orientation.

David Lewin is the Nell H. Jacoby Chair in Management at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Reach him at (310) 206-7666 or

Published in Los Angeles

Dr. Nan Boden was the executive vice president at Myricom, a high-performance computer networking spinoff from Caltech that she helped found. Although she had steadily risen through the company and knew about the technical side of the business, she knew she wasn’t as savvy about the business side.

“I started looking at what I needed to do to become more effective in my role, and I kept thinking, ‘There’s just got to be more leverage from deepening my understanding of the business side,’” says Boden, who now serves as Myricom’s CEO. “So, I started looking at MBA programs. Given my technical background, I knew I wanted the most quantitative program that I could find, but one with a part-time schedule that would allow me to enhance my education while still working full time. UCLA Anderson’s Executive MBA program met all of my requirements, and I knew right away that it was the perfect fit for me.”

Smart Business spoke with Boden about how UCLA Anderson’s EMBA program can take your career to the next level and beyond.

How did what you learned in the program translate into your day job?

For me, the relevance of the EMBA program was instantaneous. The program made an enormous difference not only in that I gained training in many new functional areas, but I also gained broad new frameworks for analyzing problems and developing solutions. Learning from my classmates, who each typically had five to 10 years of work experience in a wide variety of fields, was also an integral part of the program’s value. During our class weekends, I felt that I soaked in knowledge, and then back in the office Monday morning, I’d see immediately how that knowledge could be applied. I use what I learned at Anderson every single day at work.

The EMBA program content was delivered very efficiently. The structure of the EMBA program meant that I could attain my MBA degree and simultaneously apply that knowledge in my full-time job. The EMBA program gave me the ability to perform my present job at a much higher level, and also improve my understanding of the larger business picture of our industry.

How did the newfound knowledge impact your business and employees?

At my company, we had long struggled with certain business problems that seemed to never get solved. After I started bringing back knowledge I’d gained in the Anderson EMBA program, our employees began to see that some of these problems could actually be fixed! We could then effectively move on to tackle new challenges and objectives.

How does the classroom experience differ from taking courses online?

At the outset of the EMBA program, if I had been given the option to do an online-only program, I would have taken it — and, it would have been the biggest mistake I could have made. I would have missed a great deal of what I ultimately got out of the program. Through the classroom and study group learning, I honed my skills for working with teams of different-thinking individuals. Before the EMBA program, I was accustomed to working with technical people who think much the same way as I. However, when I first found myself in a group with strong strategic marketing people, strong finance people, etc., I found that they don’t think about problems the same way. I then saw the power of marshaling the talents of a diverse team to produce results that a single person could not readily achieve.

How does working in study groups enhance the EMBA experience?

The effectiveness of the study group model was a big surprise to me. The problems one works on in business school are different from math problems. There’s not one answer that everyone is going to agree on; there are many different ways to tackle a business problem. Study groups were an effective vehicle to tackle more complex real-world problems by leveraging the different talents and viewpoints of each member. It was an important part of business school to learn different functional techniques, but also to learn how to apply those techniques within a group of differently motivated, resourced and skilled people. I may well have gained the most lasting and relevant skills from my study group experience. Intense academic coursework combined with study groups was a powerful combination.

How did the program change the way you think?

Throughout my education and career, I have approached problems from a technical person’s viewpoint. If a problem is well-formed, then it should have a function, inputs and outputs, and the answer should always be the same. From my first days in the Anderson EMBA program, I saw example after example where there could be many solutions to a business problem that were ‘correct,’ as they had been analytically thought through and the logical arguments for the solution hung together.

For instance, if a company is preparing to go to market with a new product, what should be the marketing strategy based on who are the customers, competition, etc. The problem analysis and the solutions were developed using thinking frameworks, not using formulas. I had always thought that if there weren’t a formula, then there must not be substance. At Anderson, I learned that one can get so much further by taking a framework and using it to think through the problem elements. Applying frameworks to real world problems has also greatly improved the efficiency of our strategic planning within my company.

Nan Boden is CEO of Myricom. Reach her at (626) 821-5555 or

Published in Los Angeles

Even though he’s on sabbatical this year, Professor Rakesh Sarin can’t just walk away from teaching. He says he enjoys teaching the MBA and Executive MBA program students and is learning too much from them not to teach at least one class. He particularly enjoys teaching the Executive MBA students, as he says they bring new challenges.

“EMBA students are lot more engaged on conceptual issues, even though they have to balance work and study,” says Sarin, who holds UCLA Anderson’s Paine Chair in Management. “They also can apply their new knowledge to their careers immediately, as they already hold full-time jobs.”

Smart Business spoke with Sarin about how the EMBA program differs from the MBA program and how it can change the way you think in your own business.

How does the EMBA program differ from the MBA program?

Students in the EMBA program have more experience. Their primary goal is learning to enhance their careers. It really changes the nature of the discussion in the class.

EMBA students are generally very well prepared. They are used to meeting deadlines and managing their time; you don’t have to monitor whether they are preparing for the class.

Whereas in the MBA program students are focused on learning concepts; in the EMBA program students like to challenge concepts and see extensions of them as they apply to real life. Some of that goes on with MBA students, as well, but they tend to focus more on being sure they can apply those concepts to their homework and exams. EMBA students also think about exams, but more as a reflection of their understanding of the material, and not so much as a goal. They are more interested in how to apply the concepts they learn to the real world.

It’s interesting to talk to them because they tend to bring their own ideas and experiences into whatever concept we are covering. They’re also not afraid to offer their own opinions. The answer might not be what I had in mind, but they are thinking of it in a different way, and I find that very refreshing.

How does their work experience translate to the classroom?

One example is when we were doing a case in which students had to decide whether they were going to put more money into a marketing campaign of a dealer promotion, or put more money into consumer promotion, meaning they would give coupons directly to consumers. There was a student who had faced a similar situation at his job at a major corporation and he was able to provide a lot of input on what he did. Another example is when I was talking about something that happened a couple decades ago. Because of one student’s work experience, he was able to update us on what had happened since then.

Our students are very willing to share their experiences, which helps solidify what they learn. As a result there are a lot of things from the classroom that they are able to apply very quickly to their careers, and are then able to come back and talk about their own real-world applications. From an instructor’s perspective, it’s very refreshing to hear, ‘I learned this in the classroom, and here’s how I’m going to now try to apply it to my work situation.’

How does the EMBA program impact the way students think?

It helps them with decision making and changes the way they think to become more analytical.

The program really emphasizes analytical thinking and how to use it to make real-world decisions. We try to not just teach regression analysis, for example, but how to use regression analysis to improve the forecasting of what you are doing in your company and improve decision making.

How do study groups encourage students to work together?

I find that students in learning teams build closer relationships and are more willing to help one another out. They may be competitive in the classroom when they are discussing something, but within their groups, teamwork reigns. I give two kinds of assignments in my class in which students can work together in groups. In the first, they work together to submit group assignments. In the other, they can work on problem sets as a group, but must submit assignments individually. It can be hard to judge because I only see the output, but I get a greater sense of the entire team contributing.

Sometimes the more goal-oriented MBA students tend to outsmart themselves by delegating someone to do the primary work. Then, when I ask questions, I can see someone is on top of it, but the other group members are less engaged. I don’t see that in EMBA students. Someone might be carrying more weight than another person, but they have all talked about it and have all engaged in the assignments they have been given.

Those relationships often far outlast the classroom. Those 70 students in the program move from one class to another, and are together for the whole year. That builds relationships and further enhances the value of the EMBA program.

Rakesh Sarin holds UCLA Anderson’s Paine Chair in Management. Reach him at (310) 825-3930 or

Published in Los Angeles

When Edward Leamer arrived to teach in UCLA’s Executive MBA program, he had previously taught Ph.D. students in economics, but was unsure how to approach teaching at a business school.

While researching what approach to take, he hit upon the idea of using macroeconomics — which was not his field of study — and set out to learn as much as he could in order to apply it to the classroom.

“In macroeconomics, there are no clear answers and there is no science to exploit to determine what will and will not work,” says Leamer, professor of management, economics and statistics at UCLA and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. “Instead, you need to look at the data in order to form an opinion.”

Leamer is a also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Econometric Society; a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research; and a visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Smart Business spoke with Leamer about how Anderson’s Executive MBA program can change the way you see the world and help you invent solutions you never thought possible.

How does the Executive MBA program differ from an MBA program?

In the EMBA program, there is a small group of 60 to 70 students. These students are typically 35 to 45 years old, and they are really going back to school to learn. They bring with them a lot of information and a lot of knowledge. The EMBA really creates a different kind of class environment.

In a regular MBA program, the students are younger and mostly coming directly from years in the classroom. They are still finding it difficult to speak out because they are afraid to fail. The EMBA students have more confidence about their own experiences, and they are much more willing to speak out and take that risk of failing.

I try to teach students how to learn, how to create knowledge on their own, and that requires them to go outside of their comfort zones. It’s all about looking at data and telling stories. I don’t tell them the answers; instead, we look at the data together and work out answers. For example, can we determine if another economic dip is coming? How do we form that opinion? And how do we persuade ourselves and other people that those conclusions are correct?

Anyone can participate in that conversation. The students come to the program with a lot of background and spheres of substantial expertise, and the goal is to put them in a setting in which they are out of their comfort zone.

How does the program try to change the way students view the world?

Students need to recapture their inner child. Children who are 4 or 5 years old are the best analytical thinkers in the world. They are constantly exploring the world around them. There is an enormous amount of learning going on, and they are not worried about failing. They are not looking around to see if the other kids are smarter than they are. They are just enjoying their surroundings and learning.

Students in the EMBA program need to do the same. They’ve already taken the first big step by going back to school, because that opens the possibility that they are going to fail. That step needs to be leveraged, and the professors need to take advantage of that to make sure they are pushing the students into areas that are uncomfortable for them.

I try to rekindle their inquisitive spirits, because I think the job market of the future needs individuals who can solve new problems, not those who know a lot about the solutions of the past. The market wants people who can figure out problems that haven’t been solved yet; the best education teaches people to solve problems.

What is the interaction between professors and students?

The best students are really here to learn. They don’t simply accept everything that the professor has to say. They ask questions and are a pleasure to work with. That really is the way of the classroom. The professor should be learning right along with the students, with the professor and students learning from each other. I tell them, ‘Don’t expect to learn just from me, but from the whole community.’ It is very important to be having those conversations.

There is so much untapped potential in each one of us, bottled up, and we just never give ourselves a chance to release it. There are physical, emotional and intellectual things that we are afraid to do. But it’s in all of us. A student on paper may not look so good, but it is the job of the faculty in the EMBA program to unlock that potential in each student.

How do relationships formed in the classroom benefit students outside of it?

I don’t think you can get an education without participating, both inside and outside of the classroom. So we create work groups of seven or eight students to work on problems together outside the classroom, and when they return to class, they are very participatory. After graduation, they continue to have lifetime relationships with one another that they’ve built up in their study groups, where they really bond, and they follow each other throughout their lives, supporting one another both in business and personal matters.

Edward Leamer is professor of management, economics and statistics at UCLA and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. Reach him at (310) 206 -1452

Published in Los Angeles

Earning your executive MBA can seem like an overwhelming proposition. Between work and family obligations, you may feel it’s impossible to do much else, but doing so can offer great rewards, say Tim McCarthy, president and CEO of iWalk, a company that develops and manufactures robotic artificial limbs for lower limb amputees.

“My advice is, don’t wait,” says McCarthy, a graduate of UCLA Anderson’s executive MBA program. “As your career and family commitments expand over time, your available free time decreases. There is never the ‘perfect’ time to add an MBA to the equation. Once you have made the decision that earning your MBA is an important goal, you have to go for it.”

Smart Business spoke with McCarthy about how to choose the right program for your needs and how the experience will open doors and change the way you think.

How did an executive MBA help you reach your goals?

I set a personal goal of earning my MBA soon after completing my undergraduate degree.  Unfortunately, each time I was motivated enough to begin the application process and enroll, I was distracted by other commitments and forced to stop and re-prioritize.

Finally, in 2005, I found a time when it made sense for both my family and the company I was working for at the time to make the commitment. They both encouraged me to enroll, and with their support over the two years, I was able to check this important goal off my personal to-do list.

Professionally speaking, I had a long-standing goal to become the CEO of a medical device company with a burgeoning life-changing technology. Less than 14 months after earning my degree at UCLA, I was hired as the CEO of iWalk, an advanced bionics company who has developed proprietary robotic muscle and tendon solutions for lower-limb amputees.

I’ve always believed that the best measure of any degree is when that degree opens at least one door for you professionally. My MBA played a critical role in elevating me from a vice president of sales and marketing to my current CEO position. Without this degree, the door may have never been open for me.

What was it like going through the program?

Adding a top-rated MBA program to an already full plate is not an easy undertaking, and doing so should not be taken lightly, especially if you want to get the most out of your learning experience. Even though my employer encouraged me to enroll, they did not lessen the performance expectations of my position within the organization.

Successfully balancing family commitments and work obligations while earning my MBA was one of the toughest, yet one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.  It isn’t easy, but with a supportive network you do find a way.

Why did you choose this program?

The EMBA program at UCLA offered me the right combination of scheduling and location convenience, research and teaching excellence, appropriate peer-to-peer learning with a general management/quantitative focus, all within a top-rated brand.

As an MBA candidate, make a list of what’s important to you, and then rate potential programs according to those criteria.  Looking back, there’s no doubt that I chose the right program for me because it offered the key elements which were most important for me to achieve all my goals.

How have you drawn on former classmates to succeed?

I had never worked for a venture-backed company prior to my current role, and I had no real experience in raising capital. So during our most recent fundraising, I called on three classmates with startup and venture capital experience for input on my investment deck. With their assistance, we successfully closed a substantial Series C round in 2010, which will allow us to achieve our near-term commercial goals.

I tapped into that alumni network, not in the most traditional manner from the standpoint of official programs offered by the school, but I have certainly taken the fullest advantage of the people I met while there and tapped them for expertise in their functional fields.

What experiences did you have in the classroom that you’ve been able to translate to the workplace?

It had been almost 20 years since I sat in a classroom. And the further you separate from current best business practices and science, the more instinctual of a manager you become, especially if you’ve spent your entire career in one specialty.  Because I had this very specific experience and had been successful, I’d almost relied entirely on my instincts, and managing on instinct alone can be very dangerous as your responsibilities are broadened beyond your functional vertices.

The program taught me to think more critically, analytically and cross-functionally. It taught me to use current and more complex data analysis tools to validate my assumptions and instincts. It taught me how to leverage teams of functional experts to further validate strategic initiatives across the entire organization.

Finally, the most important lesson I learned was a reinforcement of prior lessons. The program forces you into situations where you must work with people who are not like you, be that functionally, culturally or otherwise. Diversity of thought is critical to both a robust learning experience and to the success of an organization.

UCLA provided me the tools to further sharpen that very important understanding: success in life comes down to working and interacting effectively with a broad spectrum of people.

Timothy McCarthy is president and CEO of iWalk. Reach him at (949) 683-6382 or

Published in Los Angeles