Category: Programs and Opportunities

Seven Major Lessons Learned from Working with Simon Vision Consulting

The following blog post was written by Gilbert Bonsu ’18S (MBA)

My tenure on the leadership team of Simon Vision Consulting at Simon Business School ended in mid-May. The journey between beginning as a project manager and ending as the managing director was transformative and significant. Simon Vision Consulting (Vision) is a professionally managed, student-led organization at Simon that provides pro-bono consulting services to businesses and non-profits in the Greater Rochester area. My two years with Vision have been a great opportunity for me to work closely with over 16 organizations across multiple industries addressing critical business challenges. These firms ranged from solopreneur entities to publicly traded companies.

Below are seven business lessons that I learned and were reaffirmed during my time with Vision:

gilbert1.) It’s all about people.
Tactful people skills are foundational to your success in both personal and professional life. Matured interpersonal skills allow you to maneuver in your workplace with ease. You might be the most technically gifted person in the room, but if people hate working with you they will pass on you, even for a less experienced colleague. On the other hand, when people love working with you and you have the capabilities to deliver success, the sky is the limit. The people skills of our Vision team, from the president to consultants, in addition to our technical prowess, help us generate more business through referrals. When our clients talked about their experience with our teams, one of the first things they mentioned is how they loved working with us. People skills are crucial in life and they come in the forms of personality, empathy, verbal and non-verbal cues, and listening. Which leads to the next point:

2.) Actively listen and embrace learning.
Actively listen: We all have heard the saying “hearing someone and listening to them are two different things.” As a consultant, it is critical to actively listen to others. Don’t start formulating a response while the client is still talking. Not only may you need collateral information to truly understand and appreciate the situation, but also, good ideas take time to form. Listen without interruption and take time to formulate a response. You will learn a lot.

Embrace learning: The importance of learning cannot be overstated. Continuous learning is important in your professional life as it makes you more adaptable to change, builds self-esteem, and improves your skills. To embrace learning includes taking the time to experience even the same things multiple times. The same problems in a different environment present renewed and unique learning opportunities. Welcome these opportunities and the ambiguity that comes with them.

3.) Welcome ambiguity.
Ambiguity can be stressful and tiring. When we are faced with uncertainty, we can sometimes feel paralyzed. In these situations it is important to recognize that ambiguity is a path to knowledge. We can expand our horizon when we don’t back down from uncertainty. The unknown comprises many lessons waiting to be learned. Instead of meeting it with fear, recognize that you will come through it transformed. Following that unknown may result in outcomes that were beyond your frame of thinking and planning.

4.) Simplify.
Reality does not happen in a vacuum. There are many actions and reactions occurring simultaneously. Everything in this world is complex; thus, simplicity is sometimes thought of as unrealistic or naïve. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t neglect the power of simplicity. When faced with complex issues, try and strip it apart to simplify it. Then, only when it is completely understood, bring it all together with the nuanced pieces. At times when you simplify a problem and apply due diligence, you are able to understand the core value of the problem and plan accordingly. Indeed, things are not always black or white, but you need a starting palette to create a rainbow.

5.) You don’t need to be the expert.
Clients expect a know-it-all, but no one is truly the expert. It is okay to admit you don’t have all the answers. In fact, everyone has their expertise, and knowing whom to call on is just as valuable as knowing what to do. You may even be the subject matter expert and still not know the answer at the moment. We sometimes miss the process of discovery when we feel pressured to have all the answers right off the bat. Worst case, we end up giving the wrong answer or make up something completely useless.

6.) Be prepared and be ready.
Simply, poor preparation promotes poor performance. Whether it is a short meeting or a formal presentation, be prepared and ready to go. Train like it’s game time. Being unprepared is not only disrespectful to your teammates and clients, but also disrespectful to yourself.

7.) Not all clients know what they want.
Sometimes the clients just don’t know what they want. It can be frustrating, especially when the client thinks (s)he knows the answer but can’t readily articulate the problem. However, this is okay. You’re there to help. Here’s some advice when you find yourself in that situation:

  • Try and figure out how the client operates
  • Make them feel comfortable (don’t be intimidating or condescending), and build a rapport and a genuine working relationship
  • Engineer your questions appropriately
  • Guide them towards what they need, not what they want (they will be grateful later)

These seven business lessons are from my unique experience with Simon Vision and I wanted to share them with you; however, the lessons don’t end here. Above all, it is important to remain curious and passionate. Approach every situation as a showcase for your strengths and a test of your resolve.

Get a Global Perspective at Simon

Scenes from the Ojiya Balloon Festival, just a short train ride from GSIM – Minamiuonuma, the partner university.

Scenes from the Ojiya Balloon Festival, just a short train ride from the partner university.

We believe a rigorous MBA program can and should be eye-opening on many levels. At Simon, you will be encouraged to explore and focus as never before – to gain a more profound understanding of what business means in the world, the leader you can be, and the impact you can make.

Part of expanding your understanding of the global business marketplace is to see it up close. To help you do that, in the winter term of the second year of the MBA program you may study abroad in the following locations:

  • Finland: Aalto – Helsinki
  • Germany: WHU – Düsseldorf
  • Japan: GSIM – Minamiuonuma
  • Mexico: IPADE – Mexico City

Prior to pursuing an international exchange program, you will develop strategic academic objectives and a required job search plan to help you maximize your experience on a personal and professional level. You will also have the opportunity to network in a new culture and make lasting connections as you embark on your career.

Aileen Hayman ’17S (MBA) made a point to travel nearly every weekend during her time abroad.

Aileen Hayman ’17S (MBA) traveled nearly every weekend during her time abroad.

Several students from the MBA Class of 2018 are just returning from their time abroad in Germany, and one of our 2017 MBA graduates, Aileen Hayman, business excellence consultant at Nationwide Insurance, reflected on her time in Japan last winter:

“My three months abroad broadened my perspective, enriched my MBA education, and expanded the skill set that I apply in my career today. With so few MBA programs offering international exchange opportunities, Simon Business School leverages it to create a well-rounded and truly valuable curriculum.”

Get a global perspective at Simon. Apply now – we are still accepting applications for Fall 2018 entry, and applications are reviewed as they are received. Scholarship support is always available, but apply as soon as possible to maximize your chances of securing an admission offer and a scholarship award.

Three Most-Asked Questions about Simon’s MS in Business Analytics Program

The following blog post was written by Jen Park, MS in Business Analytics Class of 2018

Choosing a graduate program is as hard a decision as choosing the right b-school. Thus, I want to address the three most-asked questions I receive as an MS in Business Analytics student at Simon.

  1. Do you need programming background? No! In fact, I didn’t have programming experience before coming to Simon. However, as you might have guessed from our admission process, which does not require you to take computer science or tech-related classes, our program is designed to train students from “ground zero” to professional level by the time of graduation. During our first term, we took classes on R programming, stats, economics, and marketing. Once we became more familiar with programming, we were ready to tackle the next introductory classes on business analytics. Essentially, our classes build upon each other, and in winter and spring, we will work on a project with professors and companies to apply the skills we acquired in classes to real-world business situations.
  2. Do you nJen Parkeed an undergraduate degree in business? Some prospective students worry that they are unqualified to apply because they do not have an undergraduate business major, such as economics or marketing. Rest assured that you do not need a business major in order to apply. My classmates come from various academic backgrounds, including physics, biology, mathematics, and engineering. And, similar to my previous answer, there are introductory business classes in the program to help all students get on the same page. The most important thing is not where you are coming from, but your passion for data analytics!
  3. What do you like about your business analytics classes? First off, Simon has always been big on data, even before it became a trend – Simon professors are very knowledgeable and experienced working in this area. Secondly, I like how we are learning the most important skills to become a data analyst: R, Python, SQL, and Tableau. They are not only interesting subjects to learn, but also the most wanted skills in the industry. Lastly, taking business classes is advantageous. Since Simon is a business school, we have the advantage of taking both data analytics classes and business classes! The majority of my classmates will be looking for full-time work after graduation so understanding the business landscape is another crucial asset.

If you’re considering applying to Simon’s MS in Business Analytics program, I hope you found this blog post helpful! Please feel free to contact the Admission Office or a Simon Admissions Ambassador if you have questions.

Oasis Foods: Not Your Average Start Up

The following blog post was written by Sarah Spoto, 2017 MBA candidate and Simon Leadership Fellow

What do you think of when you hear the word “entrepreneur”?

A young man in a hoodie hunched over a computer, perhaps? A graying–but young at heart–millionaire venture capitalist, maybe?

Whatever you envision, I bet you didn’t picture three young women from Simon Business School trying to end food deserts in upstate New York. We’re not your average entrepreneurs; we’re social entrepreneurs.

Trying to solve social problems through business is tough. Launching a start up is difficult even if profit is your main motivator, but when you add in a mission for social impact, the challenge becomes that much trickier. This is compounded with skepticism from many sides: those who believe that companies have no business trying to do more than increase shareholder return and those who are hesitant to trust for-profit businesses to handle today’s most pressing issues.

Kat Cook, Fahria Omar, and Sarah Spoto celebrate their Finger Lakes Regional win of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Kat Cook, Fahria Omar, and Sarah Spoto celebrate their Finger Lakes Regional win of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Fahria Omar, Kat Cook, and myself launched Oasis Foods as part of Professor Michael Wohl’s Urban Entrepreneurship class. For the class, we were given this daunting task: end food deserts in Rochester, New York. Soon we had an idea for a frozen pre-prepared meal company that served its healthy products straight to consumers via vending machines. We want to give people access to healthy food where there are very few choices besides convenience stores and fast food. After six weeks of work that extended far beyond spreadsheets and formulas (think: cold calls, food pantry tours, and chats with City representatives), we presented our final project.

The course might have concluded, but it was only the beginning for Oasis Foods. We applied for our first business plan competition. And failed. So we tried again. And again. We eventually got the break we were looking for: a chance to present at the Finger Lakes Regional Contest of the New York Business Plan Competition in Geneseo. There have only been a few other times in my life when I was as nervous as I felt while we were waiting for our results from that competition.

Oasis Foods won $10,000 in seed money for taking 1st place in the Social Entrepreneurship/ Non Profit track of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Oasis Foods won $10,000 in seed money for taking 1st place in the Social Entrepreneurship/ Non Profit track of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Ultimately, the hard work paid off, and we made it to the final round of the New York Business Plan Competition in Syracuse. That was a whole new ball game. We worked feverishly to prepare, including one marathon 12-hour meeting, which took place after I had literally run a half marathon that morning. We couldn’t pull off those long nights if our team wasn’t a good fit. Fahria is creative, innovative, and the best relationship manager of the group. Kat is all about the operations and logistics, not to mention keeping us all sane with her humor. Launching a start-up is like no other experience. You can’t accomplish it simply by going to class. You need to step out into the world and solve a problem that really matters.

When Oasis Foods was announced as the winner of the Social Entrepreneurship category in Syracuse, I knew that it was only the first happy step in a long road filled with challenges, failures, and wrong turns. But I also knew we were committed, focused, and bold enough to try to make a positive impact through social entrepreneurship. I know our team won’t stop until we’ve done just that.

Learn more about Oasis Foods and experiential learning at Simon in WHAM 1180’s Eyes on the Future podcast from June 25, 2016, featuring Prof. Michael Wohl, Associate Dean David Tilson, Kat Cook, and Fahria Omar.