Monday, April 29, 2013

Andreas Widmer inspires MSBA Students

MSBA Student Chris Smith provided this recap of a wonderful evening with Professor Andreas Widmer, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at The Catholic University of America.
Professor Widmer, a former Swiss Guard,
speaks with the MSBA Class of 2014
In a world of uncertainty, Professor Andreas Widmer encouraged us all with the simple message; “You are going to fail.” Though this may seem contradictory, this phrase has got to be some of the truest and most inspirational words any future entrepreneurs could ever hear. This message from Prof. Widmer, one of his many interesting metaphors, made for an enlightening, uplifting, and motivational evening.

The next essential message Prof. Widmer bestowed upon the M.S. of Business Analysis candidates was using and applying the gifts that God has given us. We all have a different box of crayons, comprised of many different colors. Some crayons we will use once, some crayons we will use throughout life. Sometimes crayons are discovered and used later in life; but with whatever colors God has given you, you must paint. All of the features that make you the individual God has designed you to be: your skills, talents, knowledge, abilities, physical features, all of your flaws, and ailments are crayons in the box. Thus everyone’s life is a painting. In order to live the fullest life, no matter what vocation you pursue, you must discover and use all of the gifts God has given you.
Rturning to the overarching theme of failure, Prof. Widmer said it is here that we must learn how to succeed. Nothing is ever going to go as we plan, however we must always keep improving, and trying. One example that he gave was of a homeless priest who had lost his faith. He came to meet the pope, who heard his confession, and brought him back into the faith. Thus, the once homeless priest became the homeless outreach minister for the city of Rome.

Sometimes, I feel we all share the feeling of the homeless priest. At points in life, we lose our path, and are unsure of how to use the gifts that God has given us. However, as I pondered this story, I can say with much certainty, the priest had never planned to become homeless, but who else would know how to reach out to the homeless better than someone who has been homeless? Homelessness became a crayon in the priest’s box. I believe that Prof. Widmer truly connected to us with his overarching message: failure just might be a crayon with which you must color. Just as the priest, you never know where one failure will lead you to a beautiful success.

Thanks Chris!  And now Professor Widmer is a colorful crayon in the MSBA box. We are all enriched and blessed by his presence and spirit and knowledge.

Stewart McHie
Director, Master of Science in Business Analysis
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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brian and Barbara Engelland Receive EOHSJ Promotions

We interrupt our 5 part series on Lessons (re) learned from TED for this special announcement!

Brian and Barbara Engelland Receive EOHSJ Promotions

Dr. Brian Engelland is Associate Dean and Professor of Marketing in The Catholic University of America School of Business and Economics.

Assistant Dean Brian Engelland and wife Barbara
In ceremonies held April 14 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. and Mrs. Engelland were promoted to the next level in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (EOHSJ). He is now Knight Commander with Star and she is Lady Commander with Star.  The promotions were based upon the couple’s long-standing efforts in helping raise funds to support the holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem , Nazareth and around Israel. Each received star-shaped silver medallions with the Jerusalem Cross emblazoned on the front from Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond, the Grand Prior of the Southeastern Lieutenancy of the EOHSJ.
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem was formed in 1097 by Godfrey de Bouillon to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Lands.  Its mission today is directed toward fund raising to help keep Holy sites open and available so that pilgrims may walk in the footsteps of Jesus. It is an international papal order consisting of 28,000 members worldwide.

Congratulations Brian and Barbara for the recognition you have received in the service of this important and meaningful work.

Stewart McHie
Director, Master of Science in Business Analysis
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Part 3 of Five Lessons from TED

Five Lessons (Re-)Learned in a Day at TED – Part 3

Lesson Three: Get out of the task trap.

If you decide to go into business, there is a good chance that you’ll develop what I like to call
A common symptom of
"stuck-in -the-muck-itis"
“chronic stuck-in-the-muck-itis.”  Stuck-in-the-muck-itis can often be self-diagnosed by checking for the following symptoms:

  • Analysis paralysis – You put off making a crucial decision or implementing a strategy in the hopes that continued analysis will make the choice/plan easier.
  •  Data dumping – You simply restate a plethora of data without drawing any actionable conclusion or without making a recommendation based on it.
  •  Check-check-checklist – You use the same checklist everyday which becomes the sole focus of your activities, prohibiting you from thinking on your feet or re-shift priorities.
Stuck-in-the-muck-itis has many other symptoms, but collectively they all boil down to the same root cause, you get caught in a task trap.

Life is busy.  As someone who works nearly full-time, goes to school full-time, has a wife and six month old at home, I get that.  With so much to do, it is easy to live life as nothing more than a series of routines, a sequence of task after task after task.  Even in a program as exciting as the MSBA at CUA, it can be a challenge to escape the day to day.

Working at TED reminded me just how important it is to get out of the task trap.  As I was walking around the first day with my checklist of “Daily Info Desk Opening” procedures, it hit me: I was working at TED…. I WAS WORKING AT TED!!!

From Bono to Ben Afleck, from Elon
Musk to 13 year old Richard Tuere,
a quick glance at this year's TED
speaker board reveals a group who
knows how to get unstuck from the
I had dreamed of this for years and it was finally a reality!  Was I really going to let a checklist take away so much of my focus that the joy of what I was doing was lost, boiled down to nothing more than things I had to get done?  It was the perfect “stop and smell the roses” moment.

I think that is one of the things that makes TED speakers and attendees such a unique group.  Every time they start to feel stuck in the muck, they find a way to reignite the passion they had when they first started out.  Everywhere I went, people were excited and happy, energetic and revitalized.  It was as if a contagious buzz had been passed around person to person, amplified by each.  Why can’t that same buzz, that same energy permeate our everyday lives?  
                                                           Why can’t we get excited about the ordinary?

The good news is, we can.  It’s just not as easy and requires us to apply some effort.  Since coming back from TED to the MSBA program, I have tried to consciously spend a few moments every day getting excited about the everyday.  From walking down the stairs at
The MSBA program provides ample opportunity to escape
from the task trap and remember this is no ordinary program ,
such as this shot of professors and students from the class
of 2013 at the New York Stock Exchange,
McMahon to attending mass at the Basilica Shrine, from lectures on Capitol Hill to eating lunch at the Pryz, it’s important to try to take a few moments and take it all in.  

My classmates, my courses, my professors, my homework, my administrators, my group projects… they are all part of an incredible experience unparalleled to anything else!  I am a master’s student of business analysis at The Catholic University of America!

So the next time you feel like you are coming down with a case of stuck-in-the-muck-itis, remember to take a quick mental escape. Remember what you are doing, where you are doing it, why you are doing it, with whom you are doing it.  I promise you… you’ll find a reason to get excited again and the wheels won’t just keep spinning. They’ll start moving you forward again.

Neil Watson
MSBA Candidate
Class of 2013
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Part 2 of Five Lessons from TED

Five Lessons (Re-)Learned in a Day at TED – Part 2

Lesson Two: Never eat lunch alone.

The Inspiration for
 Lesson 2
Alright… You caught me.  This lesson is clearly unoriginal.  There is a whole book about it by Keith Ferrazzi (and I highly recommend reading it).  Then again, that is why this blog series is titled
“Lessons (Re-)Learned.”  The lessons I’m talking about are nothing new – in fact, we’re taught them everyday here at the MSBA program.  Rather, it’s about demonstrating how those “classroom lessons” are actually used in real life settings.  So, with that tangent complete, it’s on to the heart of the matter.

As contracted workers of TED, we were given a standard 45 minute lunch break each day.  TED had graciously provided a really nice conference room in the Long Beach Hyatt near the conference facility for us to use for lunch.  To be honest, though, I think I only used it once.  Instead, I would spend my lunch break engaging in conversation, making new friends, and networking to the best of my ability.

Now, you have to understand, a BIG section of my contract included rules for professionalism which prevented me from deliberately networking with TED attendees.  After all, how many repeat clients could TED expect if all the employees at the conference were hounding them for business cards?  But just because I couldn't network with the big shots, didn't mean I was left without options.

I think that was the huge take-away here.  When we walk into a networking event, we have an instinct to make sure that we meet and get connected with the most powerful people in the room.  More often than not, though, they will be unwilling or unable to help us.  So, why waste all the time and effort for a few seconds of time that will do little for you in the end?  Instead, network smartly.

The walkway from the conference
center to the lunch-break room was
 a great place to meet other staffers
 and team leads.
And that’s just what I re-learned to do at TED my first (and subsequent) days.  I challenged myself to spend at least 15 minutes with a new person every lunch break.  It could be anyone: staff workers, team leaders, attendees who needed extra help… the list goes on.  By approaching those precious lunch minutes without the pressure to meet the best contacts, I took much more away from each contact. 

Over the course of the week, I would forge a friendship with a famous Italian barista, discover my brain-twin (that is, someone who thinks uncannily like yourself), catch-up with an old classmate, provide comfort to an overly nervous speaker… the list goes on.  Since leaving TED, we have all kept in touch and they have been some of the most successful, win-win relationships I have ever come away with from a networking opportunity.

Never ride the Metro alone-
Going to and from campus
is a great way to meet people
Now that I am back at the MSBA program, I've tried to expand that lesson.  While I still try to never eat lunch alone, I also try to never ride the metro alone, never go to church alone, never drink your Starbucks alone… There are all kinds of networking opportunities that are available to us each and every day if only we re-frame our mindset that networking has to take place in a formalized setting with “people worth knowing.”  Instead, just reach out to the people already around you – you never know who it might be or how they might be able to help you (or vice versa).

I promise you, amazing things will happen when you never eat lunch alone.

Neil Watson
MSBA Candidate
Class of 2013
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lessons from TED

This starts a series of  5 blogs from MSBA student Neil Watson who worked the TED convention this year in Long Beach, CA.  You will find this insider view fascinating and informative.
Five Lessons (Re-)Learned in a Day at TED – Part 1

TED2013 Poster
For those of you not familiar with TED, they are an organization committed to “ideas worth spreading.”  They do this through three annual conferences and several programs designed to generate, spread, and foster action on ideas from the world’s best thinkers.  Spend a few minutes on their website ( and you’ll get a sense for what they do.


Two weeks of sunny weather set the stage for a great time applying
MSBA lessons in a real world
Last month, I was hired by TED to consult at their annual flagship conference in Long Beach, California.  One of the wonderful things about this opportunity was that it gave me an unparalled opportunity to apply many of the lessons I have been learning in the MSBA program in a real world setting.  Each and every day of the conference was filled with moment upon moment to take something away.  One day in particular, though – the first day of the conference – stands out in my mind and I’d like to share some of those lessons with you in a brief series of blog posts.

Lesson One:  No task is too big or too small
No task too big or too small. Here
my team helps install a sculpture
in the main lobby.
There is no doubt that the MSBA program challenges you to take on some the world’s biggest problems.  The professors and administrators accept nothing less than your best effort and they help you along every step of the way to achieve what sometimes is seemingly impossible.  So, when I went to TED, I was prepared to take on the big challenges.
Sure enough, that Monday presented many opportunities to think critically and help conference attendees in big ways.  A perfect example was when one attendee – a notable venture capitalist – came up to me just before lunch and showed me his iPhone.  On it were two logos for the same company.  “Here,” he said.  “We’re investing a couple million in this company and we need to have a logo picked by noon.  Which do you think is better and why?”  A few minutes of discussion about branding and marketing (much of which was learned in Prof. McHie’s Marketing with Integrity course), we had a logo picked.  As of writing this post, the logo I helped pick is up on the company’s website.

In addition to the many big tasks, though, there were the small tasks that allowed me to put into action a principle that gets a lot of lip service in others b-schools, but is put front and center in the MSBA program.  That is the idea of service.

TED provided a perfect setting to serve not only in big ways, but in small ways.  It reinforced the idea that even the little things – from picking up trash off the floor to opening mints for attendees to smiling at a team member having a bad day - no task is too small or too menial to be beneath you.  Besides, you never know which A-list celebrity or high-powered entrepreneur or boss might be watching, ready with kudos for a job well done.  At the end of the day, we're all here to serve one another and that means remembering that no task is too big or too small.

You have to be ready for anything at TED – even if it’s not
covered in the Handbook (shown ab

Neil Watson
MSBA Candidate
Class of 2013
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