Now that we are about midway through our summer internships (and realizing how lucky we were to have spent the past year as students), there's no better time to bring the conversation back around to academics, and today's guest student blog will do exactly that by highlighting this guest blogger's favorite class at UCLA Anderson.
Why did Nokia – world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer – fail? Did Facebook’s $19B WhatsApp acquisition make sense? In the future, which technology ecosystem will emerge as the winner? If you are a technology and business enthusiast like myself and so many other UCLA Anderson students, you may have thought about these questions.
In the last year, UCLA Anderson’s MBA program has provided me with various resources to learn about business, to apply those learnings through case competitions and group projects, and to get real world perspective through speaker series and conferences. However, one particular academic experience stood out for me.
After spending 10 weeks in Professor Kramer’s class, I can definitely say that Evolution and Innovation in the Global Mobile Industry was my personal favorite class during my first year.
In this class, we discussed and debated the questions I posed above and many more. During the course, we looked at the rapid development of the mobile industry and spent class time focusing on the disruption, the innovation, and the bold strategic moves of various players as we charted the evolution of technology over the past two decades.
The Global Mobile class reminded me of the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past. Each class session opened with a guest speaker who spoke about the current technology and business trends, and what those trends meant for the future. Following that, Professor Kramer started the case discussion for the week, teleporting the class to a seminal moment in tech history. The cases were planned chronologically to cover the changes in the mobile industry, starting with McCaw Cellular in 1990 and ending with Google in 2014, with pit stops at Vodafone in 2003, Apple in 2007, and Bank of America in 2012. The learnings from the case were then applied to actual problems facing businesses today. In addition to the guest speaker and the case discussion, Professor Kramer spent 20-25 minutes every class discussing technology news of the week, sharing his thoughts on what the current players in the industry were doing and the path that lay ahead.
Through the cases we learned how as time progressed, the mobile industry’s sources of differentiation shifted and thus the relative power of various players in the mobile ecosystem changed. The intersection of the telecom and internet businesses created a collision of business models and these new technologies disrupted traditional industries such as banking, hospitality etc. We also discussed how established enterprises stayed relevant by utilizing mobile technology to deepen their customer engagement, reduce costs, and acquire new customers. The case discussions themselves were extremely engaging, as every student was expected to participate in every class. Rather than just share facts from the case, they were required to analyze facts and distill what this information meant for the business. At the same time, students were also expected to listen when others spoke and build upon their analysis to recommend a sound strategy to conclude the case.
The guest speakers were all highly accomplished leaders of several successful companies. They were also extremely approachable individuals who shared not just industry trends but also personal stories and leadership advice. Some of the guest speakers for the class included Patrick Ryan – Strategy and Operations Principal @ Google, Paul Longhenry – VP Corp. Development @ TapJoy and Jess Leroy – SVP Products @ TeleSign. My personal favorite was Barry Eggers, Founder and Managing Director, Lightspeed Venture Partners – an early stage venture investment firm. Barry shared a story about how his daughter introduced him to a mobile app that was gaining momentum amongst teenagers and how by listening to the target market he ended up funding the app – his most profitable investment to date (Snapchat!).
For the final project, we formed teams of 5-6 people to create a disruptive idea in the mobile space and present a VC pitch for it. My team created a business called Travel Genie – mixing real and Artificial Intelligence powered personalized holographic tour guides that converse in natural language with tourists. Other projects were in similar vein, disruptive and creative.
Finally, I would like to leave you with four key points Professor Kramer talked about in his final address to the class that encapsulates what this class was about:
- Stay current on technology
- Always think of the strategy (the chess pieces) as creating a sustainable competitive advantage / will we win this game 3-4-5 moves ahead
- Think big – be ambitious in your goals and your career
- Give back – either money, mentorship or pro-bono work to the community