2016

Stories related to "Alumni". http://www.chicagobooth.edu/magazine/winter-2016/rss

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Field Position

One morning last fall, before the San Francisco 49ers began their second season in a glitzy new $1.3 billion stadium, Moon Javaid, ’12, manager of business operations for the team, took a hard look at concessions. Sure, this is football. Concession sales were going to be strong. But, he asked, could they be stronger? Javaid, with his background in advanced analytics, turned to hard data for the answer. He scoured sales figures from past seasons. This led him to institute one minor but crucial change to the design of the concession stands: he redirected the queues so that they snake around stanchions, like an airport security line, at 75 points around the stadium. By the midpoint of the season, the move had increased sales by one extra transaction per line per minute since—amounting to an extra $20,000 per game, or $200,000 over the course of each season’s home games, including the preseason. It might sound like loose change—beer money—for a franchise that collected $427 million in revenue in 2014, the first season in Levi’s Stadium, in the heart of the fans and fortunes of Silicon Valley. Javaid, however, understands that the small improvements add up, and his is a top-five revenue-producing team. “In the NFL, it’s not tremendously difficult to make money,” he said. “You can do B+ work by not really doing much, and you can still be profitable. But in order to get to the next level, you need to find those little wins.”<br/><br/>

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The Page Turner

When she walks into 57th Street Books, Sara Paretsky, AM ’69, MBA ’77, PhD ’77, is welcomed as an old friend and coconspirator—both of which are true to her legacy in Chicago and in the Hyde Park literary haunt. The best-selling mystery writer, who has just published her 21st book and greets everyone behind the counter by name, is clearly at home here. The city has inspired Paretsky since she arrived by bus at age 19 from Kansas to support the civil rights movement. Since that time—in 1966, what Paretsky calls “the touchstone summer of my life”—Chicago, and largely Hyde Park, has been her second-most-important protagonist. She went on to earn a PhD in history at the university and then an MBA from Booth. All the while she was concocting a unique alchemy of research and storytelling, fact and fiction, analytics and activism, that somehow makes the idea of a mystery writer with a business degree make perfect sense. <br/>

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On the Table

Mark A. Leavitt, ’83, the brand-new chief investment officer of New York–based Union Square Hospitality Group, has had a seat at some most-interesting tables. Those in the esteemed restaurants of his Trinity College classmate Danny Meyer are only the latest, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and the Modern. (Union Square Hospitality Group also launched Shake Shack in 2004, as a permanent kiosk that grew out of a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park. It is now a separate public company with more than 75 domestic and international locations and a market value of about $1.2 billion.) Before joining USHG, Leavitt for nearly eight years led global technology, media, and telecommunications investment banking at Piper Jaffray. He’s been on the boards of the Harlem Globetrotters, Leap Wireless, TSF Communications, Trinity College, and several radio broadcasters, including Citadel Communications and US Radio. He currently serves as chair of the board of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts, and, since Booth, has been working to grow and partner with companies at varied intersections of entertainment, media, and tech.

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Back to the Classroom

It’s late October, and students in a packed classroom at Gleacher Center are debating the merits of the Bank of Japan’s implementation of qualitative and quantitative easing. But these are not typical students—they’re already graduates who have returned to the classroom for the first installment of Back to Booth, a new series of two-day courses taught by faculty. The series was born when Sunil Kumar, dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Operations Management, envisioned ways to more deeply connect alumni with the school. Back to Booth comes as an addition to existing opportunities that allow alumni to take up to three complementary quarter-long courses, or attend discounted Executive Education programs that are typically five days long.

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The View From Houston

A city once known for strip malls and sprawling suburbs has grown into a sophisticated metropolis in recent years. With a serious art scene, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and luxury condominiums going up in the city’s more pedestrian friendly areas, there are suddenly more reasons to leave the office a little earlier and experience some of Houston’s Southern charms. Almost 40 percent of the 655 Booth alumni in the Houston area work in the city’s energy sector. Many visit the city’s historic private clubs and more-casual dining spots for networking. Others use the well-connected airline hub as a springboard for sector-related international work travel.

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Getting Real

The Challenge: In late 2010, Seth Hewitt was a senior vice president of asset management with Chicago-based ST Residential, which managed (and whose investors owned) a $4.5 billion commercial real estate loan and asset portfolio, including the defaulted loan on a high-rise condominium property in Chicago’s South Loop. The property was saddled with cost overruns, unpaid bills, ongoing contractor litigation, and significant water damage in the building from a burst pipe. Upon taking ownership, ST considered selling the building as is for approximately $40 million, which would have been profitable and reduced risk.

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Fan Favorite

Is it gambling? Is it skill? Or perhaps the bigger question about daily fantasy sports, FBI investigation notwithstanding: Could the NFL actually learn something from the avid at-home data analysts winning big at DFS? Vince Gennaro, ’77, president of the Society for American Baseball Research, thinks so. He credits some of the current DFS boom to the popularity of the fantasy baseball played on a less-than-daily basis in the 1990s. Fans intent on winning their fantasy leagues ushered in a mainstream interest in advanced metrics. This appetite spawned a generation of websites devoted to analytics. And MLB teams actually wound up using data from those sites to support real-world decisions. “If the data is out there and in the public domain,” Gennaro said, “teams will absolutely learn from the fantasy players. But that also depends on the sport.”

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The Book of Booth: Patrick Doyle

Patrick Doyle combined marketing expertise and an understanding of analytics to lead a turnaround as president and CEO of Domino’s Pizza. Today, Domino’s, headquartered near Ann Arbor, Michigan, is the world’s second-largest pizza chain. Go where the action isn’t. I think there are just too many people in business—particularly earlier-career or mid-career people who are coming out of school—who want to go into an industry or sector that’s hot, where all the value is being created. But how are you going to prove that you’re bringing incremental value? You’re just one more person on that train. Understand the data. To be a highly successful marketer now you have to understand the analytics. Ten, 20, 30 years ago, marketing departments were largely made up of right-brained, creative types. They were coming up with advertisements, and a lot of it was around gut. You still need those people—breakthrough creative material is still going to come often from somebody on the right-brained creative team.

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This Is Working For Me: Vera Calasan

CEO Vera Calasan, ’08 (EXP-13), dismissed the widely held thinking that there aren’t enough engineers in Europe and cofounded Excellence AG–German Engineering two years ago to prove her point. Coming from a family of engineers, she saw the need for a McKinsey-like company that would employ engineers and source them by project to companies that need specific skills. Her vision paid off. She employs 200, and revenue hit €10 million this year. Buyers are interested, but she plans to hold off on an IPO until 2020. Calasan lives with her partner outside of Düsseldorf, Germany.

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A Workday With Sonny Garg

Life at predictive analytics start-up Uptake is a far cry from the buttoned-up corporate world. Sonny Garg, AB ’89, MBA ’00, held senior positions at Chicago utility Exelon for more than 13 years, most recently as chief information and innovation officer. Earlier this year he was recruited to head the energy solutions team at the fast-growing company headed by Chicago entrepreneur Brad Keywell. Uptake already has 300 employees at its headquarters in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and partners with manufacturing giant Caterpillar. Less than a month into the job, Garg reflected on the different way he does business every day.

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From Chicago to Tirana

When is the right time to follow a dream? For Suzanne Weiss, it came near her 60th birthday. After a divorce, and with a daughter grown and out of the house, the senior marketing lecturer and former associate director of administration at the Illinois Institute of Technology Stuart School of Business quit her job, sold her house, and packed her bags for a stint in the Peace Corps. In the spring of 2015, she found herself in the tiny Albanian farming village of Shushicë, “15 minutes and 40 years” from the nearest big city.

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Getting Back on the Beat

In 2002, 30-year-old Michael D. Armstrong, brand new to management with a brand-new MBA in strategy and marketing, made a radio buy without doing his research— making a few hundred thousand dollar mistake in his first managerial job. It nearly derailed his career. Today, as executive vice president and general manager of international brand development for Viacom, Armstrong tells us how he recovered—and shares his hard-won lesson about the importance of research.

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In It for the Long Run

Hong Kong is famous for its glinting skyscrapers, many designed by the world’s most famous architects, and its collection of luxury retailers and five-star hotels. Yet there is another side to the city—a huge network of trails forged through the lush tropical landscape, where palm-sized orb weavers spin webs across the paths, deadly pit vipers and cobras slither, and monkeys, feral dogs, and wild buffalo roam. Perhaps it is a testament to the intensity of navigating Hong Kong’s busy and hyper competitive financial sector that ducking under spider webs and hopping over snakes can seem relaxing in comparison.

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A Recipe for Success

Ask P.F. Chang’s CEO Michael Osanloo, ’96, how he defines his role as head of the polished casual restaurant chain, and he’ll tell you: “CEO is ultimately your general manager, but you’re a general manager with some majors. I view my majors as marketing and strategy.” “My background at Booth allows me to ask the tough questions that make a lot of marketers fidget a little bit,” Osanloo said at a recent visit to campus to speak to students. “That’s when you know you’re asking good questions.” Like fellow alumnus Mark Leavitt, ’83, ("On the Table") Osanloo is looking to innovations in technology to enhance diners' experiences. Learn more about what the former Kraft Foods executive had to say to current students during a visit to Gleacher Center. <br/>

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My Culture Collection: Meenakshi Dash

With a BFA in painting from the Art Institute of Chicago and an MBA from Booth, Meenakshi Dash is as adept at making business decisions as she is at making neon street murals in New Jersey or necklaces of melted-down silver she procures from Indian pawn shops. At Balderdash, the one-woman multidisciplinary art and jewelry studio she founded in 2009, Dash draws on influences from her international upbringing—from Delhi to Brooklyn, Chicago to London, Singapore, and China. Now based in Jersey City, she’s equally omnivorous in her cultural samplings. We asked her what she’s into this winter.