By: Christina Plante, Assistant Director of Career Services
The Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) and Computer Science (CS) Student Showcase is an event sponsored by the Pratt ECE department and Master of Engineering (MEng) program, where students have the opportunity to present an innovative class or personal project individually or in a group to industry professionals in a reverse career fair format. Each student has a table where they showcase their project via a poster, their laptop, etc. This is a great way for students to show their work as opposed to a Career Fair where they can only speak about their work.
The idea for this event was created by Ross Wade who previously served as an Assistant Director of Career Services for Pratt Engineering Master students. He found it was easier for students to promote themselves when they demonstrated projects they completed and described various components of their work using visual aids and technology. Making this event feel more like a poster presentation rather than an uncomfortable networking event has helped students build confidence when they talk about themselves.
The showcase was launched to demonstrate the talent of our Master’s Students in ECE and has expanded to include CS students as well as undergraduate and PhD students. It is also part of the Duke School of Engineering’s Industry Partners Day, an opportunity for companies to maximize their exposure on campus during the day between TechConnect and the Career Fair.
The goals of the showcase is for students to:
- Explain project scope and process so employers can see their value
- Use visual displays to illustrate project components in a clear and concise way
- Promote themselves and network with employers for potential job opportunities
Spring 2016 Event at a Glance
Agenda Spring 2016
10:00 – 10:30am Student Check-In and Presentation Set-Up
10:30am – 12:30pm Student Presentations
12:30 – 1:45pm Networking Lunch with Employers
Employers (along with faculty, staff, and other students) visit tables and ask questions to presenters about their projects. There is also an opportunity to network with representatives (HR, engineers and managers) from ECE and CS companies during lunch. A sample of companies that participated in the past includes IBM, Microsoft, NetApp, SAP, Ambarella and Google.
As part of the event, we also invite faculty and staff to meet with the employer representatives during breakfast to discuss industry trends and discover new insights. It is a great opportunity to learn how we can better serve our students and employers.
There is also an opportunity for student participants to learn how to pitch or “sell” their project to employers in a pre-event workshop. They discuss tips and strategies for an effective project explanation, hear employer feedback from the past, develop a pitch, and practice with their group. This event is meant to be a way to showcase a project that students have already completed or have made progress on. This allows more time for preparing a visual display and a pitch.
Student response has been small but impactful so far. Here are what some attending students said about the event:
“The showcase was an awesome opportunity to present our projects and talk to employers! I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity.”
“At the showcase, I was able to talk about my practical, hands-on engineering experience outside of class. Employers really look for initiative, presentation, and creativeness – the showcase was a perfect environment to display those skills!”
“By far the best networking activity I have attended at Duke.”
The ECE and CS Student Showcase happens in January shortly after the start of the semester. Be on the look out for registration emails in the fall so you can sign up early. This is such a good chance to engage with employers in a smaller setting instead of the large groups of a typical career fair. We hope you take advantage of this opportunity!
The career path is rarely linear. It often comes with twists and turns, as we evolve and manage the uncertainty that the career journey brings.
I grew up wanting to be a lawyer. This was my “dream job.” My senior year of high school, I took a law satellite class, where I was in the courtroom two times per week. From taking this class, I realized that this career would not be fulfilling for me. I found it too routine and boring. Now, I am grateful that I took Law Satellite, and learned this as a senior in high school. However, back then, this realization was devastating for me. Not only had I wanted to do that my whole life, but now, at the tender age of 18, I had to figure out what my career path was going to be. I couldn’t be the “average freshman,” who had no idea of what I wanted to do. It conflicted with my goal-oriented nature and I was freaking out.
I did some research, and was able to find a career course that started a few weeks before I began college. However, it was completely useless. So I was forced to “embrace the career journey.” Now, I look back at how I felt and laugh. I laugh because,
- I put myself under so much pressure when my career evolution has involved experiences that have prepared me to be skilled at what I do
- It is rare that people have engaged in the types of life experiences that creates career clarity
Since experiencing this, I have changed career paths again, and I continue to evolve in this aspect of my life.
My story is primarily related to not knowing what I wanted to do, but there are many other career-oriented stories that we have experienced. I have met with college students and working professionals who have been put in this place of what I will call “career uncertainty.” They have come to me because they are experiencing career challenges that conflict with their goals like,
- Not getting an internship or full-time job in the timing expected
- Being laid-off
- Frustrated with the process and effort that is placed into the job search
- Afraid that they either don’t have meet the requirements or have the career skills to get to where they want to be
When put in these types of situations, we begin to feel like a failure. Berating ourselves and questioning our worth. The word failure is harsh, and inaccurate. Many of these experiences are related to factors such as development or learning, and other things that are beyond our control like change and policies.
I recently attended a workshop at the NASPA Conference that included a discussion on resilience. Parallel to the conversation of resilience was failure. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines resiliency as: “the ability to recover or from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Our presenters’ spoke about how the conversation regarding failure needed an adjustment, and I agree. One thing that is constant in this life is change. I believe that each experience that we have in this life can make us stronger, wiser, and better people if we are able to reflect on those experiences in a positive light.
So, I encourage you to embrace the change and cultivate resilience so that you can face adversity well, without compromising your sense of self-worth. And the next time that you feel that you have failed, consider it an opportunity to “fail forward.” To come out of the experience better than you had been prior. To bring this to life, I will close by sharing some online articles related to people who “failed” that achieved great success:
Good luck on your career journey!
By: Ric Telford, PMP Adjunct Faculty
Last semester I caught up with one of my former students, Lance Co Ting Keh. Lance graduated with a Master of Engineering degree here at Pratt and is now working in Silicon Valley. I was anxious to hear how things are going for him out in the “real world.” Here is what he had to say.
Ric: Lance, you gradated in May of 2015 from the Master of Engineering Program. Tell us a little about what you are doing now.
Lance: I work at Box, a Cloud storage firm that was actually founded by a Dukie as well! The CFO is a Dukie, Dylan Smith. I do Data Engineering there. Think of Data Engineering the middle ground between Business Intelligence and Analytics. Our job is to provide the toolsets and the data sets for Business Intelligence workers who want to make business data queries. A good example of a business data query is “among all our customers, which are the best ones to upsell next?” Data is stored everywhere, and the goal is to gather all this data and join it so that it can be queried.
Ric: Are your customers primarily individuals or businesses / corporations?
Lance: Box caters to businesses. Most of our sales are to businesses. It is a very sales-driven company, focused on selling to businesses. Duke, for example, is a customer of Box.
Ric: Being in Silicon Valley, what can you tell us about the technical skill requirements of the high tech world?
Lance: Coming out of school, the big difference I see now is that people expect well-rounded employees, not just one technical expertise. These days even if you specialize in one area, it is important that you understand all parts of the technology “stack” – mobile, front-end, data, back-end technologies, etc. It is good to have a good academic foundation of the hardcore computer science skills with real-world industry skills, such as how to build a web app or how do you maintain a repository. Not all schools are there yet, but Duke is doing a better job of teaching these more practical skills.
Ric: Outside of the technical skills, what capabilities do you find most valuable in your skill set and that of your fellow engineers?
Lance: “Soft skills” are very important. It is just as important to handle yourself well in the workforce, as it is to be able to build something. There will always be personal issues that come up, there is going to be conflict. Being able to navigate that and work in a team structure, being able to talk to people and being open in how you give feedback and receive feedback are all important capabilities. As engineers we are very passionate about what we do and we want to get the job done. Sometimes you get lost in trying to build something and you forget that the folks you work with are people to. Finding that balance and being able to do that “social dance” is a very big role in the day-to-day job.
Ric: What advice would you have for the new Master of Engineering class as they work toward their degree?
Lance: I would tell them to take advantage of as many classes as they can that they can’t take outside of Duke. Separate those things you can learn on your own from that which you can only get from a big university. I started doing this during my time at Duke and it helped me a lot. Take the hard classes that you know would take a while for you to sit down and crunch through if you did it yourself – things like Machine Learning and Bayesian Statistics. You can do these things yourself or on Coursera, but it is hard without a professor or people with which to collaborate.
Ric: Finally, can I have you do a little reflection? In thinking about your time here at Duke in the MEng program, what would you say were some of the most valuable experiences?
Lance: There are two things I would mention. First was the research experience. I am an academic at heart and I was fortunate enough to be able to move around to different labs and see how they operate. That academic approach to problems shaped the way I think and I believe I still think that way in industry. Second was the project experience. I learned a lot just from building projects with my peers. There are many things I built with others, both as part of class and as a fun project. These projects taught me a lot – not just the technical skills like writing code but also working with people as well. It is a high intensity environment in college and everyone is very busy. Personal conflicts will occur and l feel I grew a lot as a person in working with other people. It is something I take with me at work.
Here is a video clip of Lance giving advice about being on the job.
By: Susan Brown, Assistant Director of Admissions
What kind of applicant are we looking for in the Master of Engineering Management Program? There’s no single answer. We consider your academic record, test scores, recommendations, resume, and statement, but in today’s post, we thought we’d expand on those 5 qualitative aspects we introduce on the MEMP website. The ideal candidate may show many of these qualities, but all candidates should be open to developing these characteristics through the program.
Engagement in the classroom, extracurricular activities, or in industry
Strong academic performance is important to any graduate program, but we’re interested in what you do beyond studying. Do you regularly contribute to classroom discussion, and can other students count on you in group projects? Or are you a student-athlete, an extra-effort volunteer, or active in clubs within your university? Perhaps you’re a member of professional organizations or an award-winning team member at work? We seek a well-rounded class of students who are engaged in the program, and your previous activities give us a glimpse into the kind of student you’d be.
“[The skills I found most valuable were] communication skills, robust negotiation, and persuasive skills that I learned while being part of multiple MEM student bodies and clubs.” – Abdul Khan, MEM Class of 2012
Leadership in academic to professional settings
What kind of impact have you had? Whether it was a team, project, or program, your past experiences in taking the lead form the basis for your development at Duke. Our programs strive to develop future industry leaders that drive innovation and development.
“We want [students] to learn to leverage diverse opinions and approaches to develop solutions that are better than anyone could reach alone. Developing leadership skills requires not only an understanding of leadership principles and approaches but also opportunities for students to actually lead and receive feedback on their actions.” – Brad Fox, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Professional Masters Programs
Global Awareness the appreciation and understanding of the world’s varying cultures, economies, and political systems
Today’s engineers are expected to work with colleagues all over the world. It’s crucial to understand how others perceive problems and solutions. Employers value engineers who can contribute to and thrive in diverse teams, and with our global student body, we do too.
“I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and work with various students whose cultures span the world, and the program has provided me with the chance to get hands-on experience in working in a global environment.” – Dayna Cole, MEM Class of 2014
Emotional Intelligence, including interpersonal skills and teamwork abilities
Emotional intelligence has been a bit of a buzzword, but its underlying tenet makes sense: how well do you understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others? How do you contribute to teams? Working effectively with others is a valuable trait for engineers. Your skills in this area will be an important indicator of how well you’ll do in the program.
“Three traits that I consider most valuable are interpersonal skills, agility, and attention to detail. In today’s world, these traits are very important irrespective of the field of work. Effective communication and the ability to find opportunities to lead/innovate is the key to being a successful project manager.” – Ramya Ramaswamy, Class of 2013
Engineering Leverage the vision to see your engineering education as the foundation for your graduate studies
You spent four or more years becoming an engineer – and engineers are in demand. The majority of our students find success in technology roles that let them leverage their business knowledge while building on their engineering backgrounds. If you want to reinvent yourself with a business program, there are many other great programs that will help you do so.
“The whole MEM experience was amazing. Unlike other programs that push you to a particular field, it gives you the ability to explore diverse career paths. With so many options present, both in the coursework and in potential career opportunities, you have the freedom to choose a role that is suited to your liking. It was a period of a lot of introspection for me as I tried to figure out the right path. It allows you to leverage your background effectively.” – Femi Sokoya, MEM Class of 2013
How many of these traits can you show in your application? Are you ready to develop more? Ready to apply? We’re excited to meet you. Contact us with any questions, and create your application account and apply online! Below is the list of requirements that can be found on our website.
The search process for a job or internship can bring up many emotions of frustration, excitement, rejection, and apprehension. Spending countless hours perusing job boards and networking while also trying to stay on top of coursework might start to be overwhelming. Even with these mixed feelings, it is a good time to evaluate your confidence in yourself, with professionals, and in the job search. Adding some positivity can help you retain a sharp perspective and refresh your outlook on prospects.
Surprise! When you are not confident, it shows on the outside. Here are some ways to find your inner confidence and remember that you have what it takes to be successful in your target organizations.
- Reward Yourself
Use positive reinforcement in your job search. After completing two job applications or conducting an informational interview, say you are going to go out to eat or meet up with a friend. This way you are rewarding yourself for the work you accomplished and taking a break from the process. Making progress on your search “to do” list might even start to seem fun as you finish your tasks.
- Write Down Your 5 Best Qualities
We do not do this enough! What are your strengths? Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, look at what makes you unique and how you use your best qualities on a daily basis. How can you leverage them during a networking event, on your resume, or in your classes? Your strengths can outweigh your weaknesses and be an integral part of your story if you intentionally use them during your job search.
- Find Success Stories
Start reading about or talking to successful people similar to your background who have “made it” in your industry of interest. What do you have in common with them? What techniques or strategies did they use to get where they are? Seeing how others made it possible might give you a newfound motivation.
- Journal to Reflect on Your Past Experiences
Through writing, it is easier to check in with your life and career goals. What are your values, interests, skills, and strengths? Have they changed in the past few months or over the span of your college career? What do you want in a work environment, place to live, a boss, or co-workers? Think about the last time you had to accomplish a big goal in the past and how did you do it? Make sure your search is aligning with your personality and lifestyle. Reflection and self-awareness can lead to a job that is the right fit for you and it helps you be genuine and authentic during the application process.
- Find the Right Mindset
Would you believe that your belief in yourself to succeed actually impacts real success? Through this concept of self-efficacy, believing you will find a job is important. Change your language from negative to positive. Some common thoughts might be “I will never find a job,” “No one I reached out to has responded,” “There are no positions out there for what I want to do.” How can you change this into positive language? “I will find a job,” “Someone I reached out to will respond” (maybe I should change my strategy), and “There is a position out there for me (what do I need to do to search more efficiently?).” Find ways to keep your motivation high and belief strong that something will work out.
- Get Other Perspectives
Hearing what others think of you can be great feedback and also a confidence boost even if it is not all positive. Feedback means you are getting a better picture of how you are perceived by others. Ask your family, friends, mangers, or professors how they view you. Have a mock interview with your career counselor. Also have someone listen to your career story and tell you what he or she heard. This will help you understand how to tailor what you say and be more effective to your audience.
- Expand Your Knowledge
Sometimes our confidence is low when we have insufficient knowledge about the subject matter. You might have experienced it before when you have to talk about something you are not an expert on. This is why knowledge is powerful when it comes to the job search. Research the companies and industries you are interested in and get to know the key players. What are the company goals, values, mission statement, history, products, or customers? Look up employees on LinkedIn and read about their experience or career path.
- Set S.M.A.R.T Goals
Do not set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. If your goals are constantly out of reach you are more likely to feel discouraged and unproductive. Set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Establish an action step and timeframe that would be achievable for you execute your plan. Set goals in small steps and figure out the logical sequence for you to reach that big goal.
- Think about Body Language
You portray confidence as soon as you walk into a room. Things like dress, eye contact, body language, gestures, and tone of voice all show confidence. When you are interacting with others in a professional setting walk with a purpose, gracefully enter and exit group conversations, smile, and have a firm handshake. Hopefully your confidence will be more apparent from the steps you have taken above.
- Evaluate Barriers and Supports
When understanding confidence you might feel like it stems from a weakness in an area. What are the areas that you would call a barrier in your job search? Identifying these challenges can only help you address them. Now that you know your barriers, whom can you reach out to for support? Make sure to use your resources and the people in your life to help you along the way. Also, having an accountability partner is a great way for you and a friend to keep each other on track with your search goals.
Alumni Spotlight: MEMP ’12 Alumnus Muhammad Anwar Ul Haq Selected for the World Energy Council’s Future Energy Leaders’ Program
By: Christina Plante, Assistant Director of Career Services
With MEMP students representing a number of different industries, we are delighted to highlight an accomplishment of one of our alumni in the Energy sector. As a Future Energy Leader, Anwar will tackle some of the world’s most complex energy problems in a community of the next generation of energy leaders.
Anwar is currently a partner and head of renewables practice at Aequitas Pvt. Ltd., which is Pakistan’s most active financial advisory and energy project development outfit. He leads crucial business initiatives including deal sourcing, transaction advisory and execution.
He is also an Energy Risk Professional, certified by the Global Association of Risk Professionals, and brings strategic consulting, venture financing, private placement, financial advisory and project/operations management experience to the table. He has over 8 years of work experience with global organizations like Schlumberger and World Bank Group. His areas of expertise include energy modeling, technology rollout, strategy consulting, project finance, operations and risk management. He has also served as Chief Strategy Officer at Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Pvt. Ltd., Pakistan’s first solar IPP.
While at Duke, Anwar was a Fulbright scholar and active with the Program Development Committee. He also holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore.
The Future Energy Leaders Program was developed by The World Energy Council, which is the principal impartial network of leaders and practitioners promoting an affordable, stable and environmentally sensitive energy system for the greatest benefit of all.
Formed in 1923, the Council is the UN-accredited global energy body, representing the entire energy spectrum, with more than 3,000 member organizations located in over 90 countries and drawn from governments, private and state corporations, academia, NGOs and energy-related stakeholders.
The World Energy Council informs global, regional and national energy strategies by hosting high- level events, publishing authoritative studies, and working through its extensive member network to facilitate the world’s energy policy dialogue.
This World Council’s community of young professionals is a network of exceptional individuals from across the globe who represent the different players the energy sectors is composed of including government, energy industry, academia, civil society and social entrepreneurs.
The program is designed to identify, encourage and inspire the next generation of energy leaders, facilitating dialogue and discussion on critical developments in the energy sector. Every year, they welcome around 35 exceptional young professionals to join the group of 100 Future Energy Leaders from over ninety different countries across the globe for on average three years.
Anwar will be able to further his experience, knowledge and skills in an energy-focused environment and contribute to the Council’s global dialogue. Helping to develop new ways of thinking and frame the future of sustainable energy, Anwar will have the unique opportunity to create his own, personal network of like-minded, equally motivated personalities of today.
Through the program, Future Energy Leaders can:
- Attend select global, regional and national events
- Attend the World Energy Congress
- Attend an exclusive, annual Future Energy Leaders’ Summit
- Create an annual FEL-100 World Energy Issues Monitor
- Contribute to special FEL-100 reports
- Access and contribute to the Council’s global studies and technical research
- Develop and share a FEL-100 vision
- Network with global energy leaders
Join us in celebrating Anwar’s accomplishment!
By: Tara Gu, MEng 2015
Brief Biography: Dr. Andrew Hilton is an Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Duke University, and the Managing Director of Graduate Studies for Electrical and Computer Engineering. He’s the recipient of 2015 Klein Family Distinguished Teaching Award and teaches ECE 551 and 550, which are very popular foundation programming courses. Before coming to Duke, he was an Advisory Engineer at IBM.
Q: You mentioned in class that you enjoyed programming when you were young. How did you get in the field of Computer Architecture specifically?
A: I was an undergrad at Georgia Tech, working in compilers and programming languages. I also went to UPenn for a PhD in programming languages. When I was there, I took a graduate a computer architecture course, much like ECE 552 here at Duke. I really enjoyed the class. The programming languages research happening at Penn was much more theoretical, proving things about type systems, which wasn’t exactly what I was interested in. So, I switched to computer architecture in my second semester.
Q: What did you work on at IBM?
A: I did performance modeling in support of a core under development, much like the simulator students work with in ECE 552, but much more advanced. I got to influence the design a lot. One of the things I did was go to the designers and tell them “you can do this, and this is why: it improves IPC (instructions per cycle) by 2%”. The designers might say, “2% is great, but we can’t implement this; can we do this instead?” Then I would work with them to find a middle ground, and might find something that improves by say 1.8%, which they could implement. I also did performance verification, where I took the VHDL code for the core, and ran it. There was an infrastructure that recorded on what cycles various things happened for each instruction. I compared that with our software simulations. When they didn’t match up, I worked with the designers to fix it and tried to find alternative solutions in the middle.
Q: Given your experience in the industry, what qualities do successful engineers possess? What personality traits have helped them succeed in their field/business?
A: One of the most important qualities in not only engineering, but any profession, is discipline under pressure. Doing it right, and precisely, the way you’re supposed to, under time pressure. Not panicking when things are going wrong. It’s important when you’re developing software because you can’t say “I only have 2 days left, so I’m going to skip testing this code,” and get the product out of the door. You’re better off in many ways to test it while you build it, and sticking to a disciplined approach. For engineering specifically, problem solving, creativity (i.e. solve problems in ways that aren’t immediately apparent) are also very important.
Q: You emphasize for students to develop both foundation (good programming skills) and technical depth (knowledge of a sub-field) in order to have the best chance in finding a job. However, companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook give interviewees generic live coding questions, instead of asking them about their technical depth. How do you think students can advertise their technical depth to companies in their job search process?
A: First, if you want to have a programming job, you need to be a good programmer. A lot of programming interviews are trying to separate who can program and who can’t. If you can’t program, you can’t get a programming job. Beyond that, emphasizing technical depth comes into the kind of jobs you’re looking at. Take you for example (referring to me as his student). If you take classes and are interested in distributed systems and performance, you apply to cloud-related jobs over machine learning jobs. After you get past the “can you code” stage, people will start asking you to talk about deeper things. If you apply for a machine learning job, you would be lost because you haven’t taken any machine learning classes.
There are two ways you can sell yourself. Take me for example. I’m an excellent programmer, so I could sell myself simply as “I’m a coder”, but my skill set goes much deeper than that. A better way to sell myself is “I’m a micro-architect, with a firm knowledge of performance modeling, optimization, parallelism, and compilers”. The later sets you up for a much more advanced position, and, of course, still requires great programming skills. You should apply to specific jobs that match your area of expertise.
Also, a lot of students worry so much about getting a job that they sound very desperate and unconfident. If you are good at programming, you should know that and be very confident. Language and cultural skills are also important. Some people are technically proficient, but if they can’t explain things well, it’s hard to tell they’re technically proficient. Even if you can convey that you are good at what you do, the interviewer is going to be thinking about how you will work in teams. If it would be difficult for you to integrate into a work environment where you need to communicate in English, they will probably want to consider another candidate.
Welcome to the last weeks of class! In the next two months, you will begin your summer internship or your first job after the MEMP or MEng program. Congratulations on your hard work and perseverance!
In Career Services, we’ve found that our students fall into two categories once they have committed to a short-term or long-term role. In one “camp” we have the students who are so relieved to finish their job or internship search that they put the role they will take completely out of their mind. They have classes to finish, projects to complete, and want to connect with friends before they disperse. Think of an athlete who has finished one of the most intense games they’ve ever experienced and you’ve correctly pictured these students. And we get it. You may have spent the last 9-12 months looking for said job or internship and need time to recuperate and finish strong in finals.
The second “camp” of students is those who celebrated accepting a job or internship offer and then recommitted the time used for their search to preparing for the beginning of that role. We’d encourage you to be part of the second “camp” of students. To have the most valuable internship experience or the best first 90 days in your new full-time role, you need to be prepared. And don’t assume that because you successfully completed the job or internship search, that the preparation ends there.
One of the most valuable components in your preparation is the role that feedback will play in your experience. Consider both the feedback you will receive from supervisors and peers and the feedback that you will provide in 1:1 and team settings.
To give you a better understanding of how to receive feedback in a constructive way and how to provide helpful feedback, read this article on The Art and Science of Giving and Receiving Criticism at Work from Fast Company (originally written for Buffer). Learn which strategies will work best for you and ways you can ask for feedback that will promote constructive conversations.
To go deeper into how you receive, remember, and utilize feedback, watch this TEDx talk by Sheila Heen, a founder of Triad Consulting Group, a member of the Harvard Negotiation Project and co-author of Difficult Conversations and Thanks for the Feedback. The 20 minutes go fast as she provides ideas for how to incorporate others’ feedback into your own learning and growth. One of her main points is that you can’t wait to be assigned a good manager who is able to provide feedback in exactly the way you like. You have to learn how to utilize feedback from multiple sources.
Utilize these two resources to help you better prepare for your internship or the start of your full-time job. Knowing how you will handle feedback and also how to provide it to others will be key to your success and professional growth!
By: Fares Alzahrani, MEMP ’16
“Go Duke” were the last two words in the congratulatory email we received from the Master of Engineering Management Program director, Dr. Bradley Fox, for our selection to represent Duke University in the MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition. To me, his two words represented bestowed trust, serious competition ahead of us, and a request for a championship. I was honored to be part of an intellectually cooperative team representing our distinguished university in the Master of Engineering Management Consortium, which includes Northwestern, Cornell, Dartmouth, MIT, USC, Stanford, as well as Duke. We were further honored to be the first place winners in the competition. More importantly, the competition and simulation provided me invaluable lessons in applying what I have learned inside and outside the classroom.
The month-long competition consisted of 10 decision periods, each of which represented a simulated year. There were 11 teams, two of which were from Duke. Those teams were split into two automobile industries, and each team was made up of 4 students from the same MEMPC school. For more details on the competition case, visit here.
I was lucky enough to work with Saraswathi Gautham, Jun Yang, and Yijun Liu, each of whom brought outstanding intellect and personality to the team. At the beginning of the competition, we all realized two important aspects that we had to settle in order to win: team dynamics and the firm’s strategy. For team dynamics, our Management course, EGRMGMT 540, came in handy in solving two critical aspects for our success: team’s roles and responsibilities and managing conflict.
We had never worked with each other before, and given our busy schedules, there was little time to get to know each other well before we reached the performing stage. Therefore, we started sharing information about each other’s strengths and preferences on the roles to guide us during the meetings. However, in our first couple of meetings that were planned to define our team and firm, we had seemingly endless and unproductive discussions on the formulation of our firm’s strategy. We realized that our management education was useless if we could not turn around that situation and align our goals for better performance. At the end of the second 2-hour meeting, everyone at the table stated their goal for the competition, which primarily included winning and learning. Astonishingly, that short genuine discussion of our purposes and interests significantly boosted our team spirit as well as understanding and trust for each other. As a result, we were able to settle the firm’s strategy and team’s roles and responsibilities within 15 minutes.
The competition provided us an enduring and practical lesson on strategy that would have taken us 5-10 years to experience first-hand in the real world. Some of our members had taken the Competitive Strategy course, conducted various cases, and/or had practiced strategy formulation with a previous employer. We all have learned that strategy in the long run can provide powerful competitive advantage in the market place.
However, none of us had ever experienced the serious executive debates that go into approving and committing to a strategy. We had never been challenged with tough decisions that forgo market opportunities for the sake of better strategy alignment. We had never realized how powerful strategy can be in positioning our firm for long term success until we committed ourselves to test that essential strategy lesson in the simulation. The agreed-upon strategy truly served as a compass in all of our discussions and debates. Reflecting back on tough and long-debated decisions, the team is extremely happy on the outcome of those decisions that our competitors initially found strange or even stupid. The graph below shows our firm, Firm D, stock performance against the other firms in our industry:
The chart does not necessarily indicate that we had a superior strategy over other competitors, but it clearly shows that our team was focused on a strategy over the course of the competition. It demonstrates that the team made sound decisions that delivered significant value to the firm’s bottom line.
The simulation has cemented our finance and accounting lessons acquired during the fall and spring semesters as part of Duke MEMP’s core and elective courses. Those courses provided the basis for the discussion and analysis of our firm’s and competitors’ financial statements on each round. One important, yet subtle, lesson I learned during my Advanced Finance Course is that profitability and liquidity are inversely proportional to each other. This lesson allowed the team to make sound financial decisions which led to our winning the competition. Therefore, I also believe that the simulation and competition fostered our financial acumen.
Finally, I would highly encourage all MEMP students to apply for the competition next year as it was truly captivating and rewarding. There are innumerable lessons to be gained in different fields such as product development, marketing, finance, pricing, strategic thinking, and others. More importantly, I had the opportunity to try and validate hard-to-apply lessons in team dynamics and competitive strategy beyond just studying and discussing them in classroom cases.
The Professional Masters Program’s diverse student population likes to share and learn about each others culture. One of our favorite ways to do this is through food! Enjoy this recipe to get a taste of a popular Indian dish.
By: Ankur Manikandan MEng ’15
Paapdi chaat is one of those Indian chaats that is irresistible – spicy, tangy, crunchy, yummy! Every person has a different way of preparing Paapdi chaat – some prefer certain chutneys and some can do without, some like thin paapadi’s whereas some like thick paapadi’s, some prefer a little spicy or some like it a bit tangy. The best part is, there is no certain recipe for Paapdi chat because the ingredients can be absolutely added in random quantities and mixed to suit your personal preference and still taste good in the end. And why not – with the blend of different flavorful chutneys, the crunch from the paapdi, the mixture of spices, and the tartness from lemon juice – all combined together wonderfully makes this Paapdi chaat a tempting chaat.
Honestly, I would never use a Paapdi chaat recipe – I would only want to know the basic list of ingredients for making the chaat, understand the concept or the procedure and then make it as per my taste and preferences. I am listing the approximate quantities of each ingredient to give an idea and I strictly recommend you to adjust the tastes to your liking.
For Sprouts Paapdi Chaat (serves 2-3)
1 cup sprouts (you can use store bought)
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup cherry tomato, chopped (optional)
2 thai green chilies or jalapeño pepper, minced (optional although recommended)
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chaat masala
12-15 crispy paapdi (find any local Indian or ethnic store)
tamarind chutney, per taste
Spiced yogurt, per taste
Hot green cilantro chutney, per taste
For Tamarind Chutney
4 tablespoon seedless tamarind
1 1/2 cups water
3-4 tablespoon jaggery (can substitute with dark brown sugar)
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 teaspoon nigella
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
Soak tamarind in water for a couple hours. Use warm water to speed up the process. Once soft, mash tamarind in water and then strain through a strainer. Collect pulp in a bowl. Heat oil in a sauce pan. Add dry spices. As they sputter add tamarind pulp. Stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Add jaggery. Let the mixture reduce for 8-10 minutes until jaggery dissolves in the tamarind chutney and thickens it in the process. Turn heat off. Let cool. Store in an airtight jar in a cool dry place.
For Spiced Yogurt
1/2 cup thick plain yogurt (salt to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
Mix all the ingredients together.
Assembling Sprouts Paapdi Chaat:
In a bowl mix together sprouts, onion, tomato, chili, salt, cilantro, mint and chaat masala. Set aside. Poke holes on one side of the crispy puri. Make sure not to poke through the other side. Fill with sprouts salad. Drizzle the chutneys per taste. Serve as an appetizer with your choice of drink.