Management Lessons From a Failed Galactic Empire

If you’re reading this blog, you likely know that I’m a speculative fiction nerd of a pretty high order.  And yes, this includes a certain soft spot in  my heart for Star Wars.

If you’ve been reading for any length of time you likely also know that I fairly recently completed my Master’s Degree in Business Administration

And so it is that I was tickled by this convergence of my education and daytime career interests and my personal interests: “Management Lessons Learned from Star Wars“.

A Farewell, Hieing for New Opportunities

I’ve mentioned here before that I am near the end of my MBA.  In fact, my last class was last week, and all that remains now is to collect my sheepskin.

Getting an MBA was always about how best to provide for my family, how best to take my career in a direction that would allow me to be the best father I could be.

That means a lot of things, to me.  But one thing I have known it would mean, most probably, is a change in employment.

Friday past was my last day at my previous employer.  Yesterday was the first day with a new employer, and a new post-MBA career.   It was difficult to make this decision.  On one hand I knew I needed to make a career transition in order better to provide for my family – both now and in the future.  On the other, I was working with a great team of folks – including a boss who’d lent me his own copy of The Silmarillion to read.  (I didn’t quite finish it before I had to give it back on Friday.)  It’s difficult to part ways with a team where you feel welcomed – especially when your boss is a fantasy reader and you happen to be a fantasy reader and writer yourself. 

But my family comes first.  And so I made the best decision I could.

I’m very excited for the new career prospects ahead of me.  It should allow me to take the skills I’ve developed – both those in my career and some of those in my MBA – and apply them in a new and interesting way.  I’m really looking forward to the new opportunity.  It’s really going to be a fun job.  And while I try not to disclose too much about the companies I work for, I can tell you this: there is a non-zero chance that you – yes you – will enjoy the benefits of my handiwork in the coming year, based on this new job.  That’s what’s really exciting about it: clear and direct results that I can trace directly to what I do.

Of course, that does mean there’s going to be a bit of a transition period for me.  So I won’t be able to say for sure whether I can settle on a regular blogging schedule until I have a better feel for the work-load and balance with this new direction of my career.  That’s just a potential caveat to you regular and regular-ish readers.  (No, the blog isn’t going away, that’s not what the “Farewell” in the title refers to.)

So, it’s an exciting time for me.  I’m really looking forward to where things go from here.

Whatever happens next, though, one thing is for sure: I’ll still be writing.

Anticipating the End: An Introspective on My MBA

Wow.  The last actual class of my MBA program is in two weeks.  Graduation is another two weeks after that.

What a ride.  To be sure, it’s a ride that I’m ready to get off of, now.  But it has been a very valuable and enriching experience.  Enriching, yes, but also exhausting.

In some ways it’s a surprise to be here.  I don’t fit the typical model of an MBA student.  I’m a creative.  I’m a writer.  I’m a fantasy and speculative fiction writer.  I’ve done no formal polling, but I imagine you can count on one hand the number of successful fantasy and speculative fiction writers with MBAs.  You could probably have lost a few of your fingers in some horrible accident and still have enough to count the number of successful fantasy and speculative fiction writers with an MBA from one of the top business schools in the country. 

Which is to say, the business field is not one that typically draws people like me who have such a creative bent and focus that creative energy on the production of fantasy fiction.  Let’s face it, there are certain stereotypes we’re dealing with here: MBAs are understood to be cold, calculating, detached, and overly concerned about money and the bottom-line; they have little or no compassion, don’t interact well with other people, and any factory floor worker could do their job as good or better than they without a fancy degree.  They probably afflicted with some sociopathic tendencies.  Creatives, meanwhile, are flaky, flighty and undisciplined; they lack the mechanisms to comprehend the importance of financial matters, are unable to deal with numbers larger than roughly around 20, and are prone to erratic and sometimes self-destructive behavior.  They are probably afflicted with bipolar disorder, OCD, or are addicted to mind-altering drugs.  It goes without saying that both of these stereotypes are excessively and bizarrely unrealistic portrayals of either group.  And that as perhaps an amusing study in contrasts I am a member of both groups.

Even rejecting these two extremes, I still have some trouble, sometimes, reconciling the duality of my nature, with regard to being a writer in pursuit of an MBA and a business career while simultaneously in pursuit of a successful writing career.  Because, though the difference between the two worlds is not so extreme as the sad stereotypes might suggest, the two worlds are different.

When I started my collegiate education more than a decade ago now, I chose to get my bachelor’s in business for a simple reason.  It was because I wanted to be a writer. Continue reading

Istanbul & Athens Trip Part 1: Epic Quest in Istanbul

Domes & Minarets

You know you're in Istanbul when you see the domes and minarets... You know it's the off-season when you see the gray, gray skies...

The MBA program I’m in requires of its students that “your feet touch foreign soil” before you graduate, except under extenuating circumstances.  It’s perhaps a little odd for an evening program, whose students mostly have full-time jobs, when the same school does not have the same requirement of its full-time MBA students (whose only regular daytime commitment is generally to their education), but there you go.  Except for the added expense (and the necessary time-off from work) I don’t mind the requirement.  I enjoy the opportunity to travel. 

Students are able to fill this requirement in one of two ways: they can do an international class during one of the regularly-scheduled study-abroad courses, or they can participate in the annual “International Colloquium”.  Each graduating class selects its own Colloquium destination (within certain guidelines) and this year we chose a combined two-city itinerary in Turkey and Greece.  And so, a few weeks ago now, my bags packed I hopped on a plane that took me half-a-world away to my first stop in the city of Istanbul, a city with ancient roots rich in history. Continue reading

Where Have I Been?

Some of you may have noticed last week my complete lack of response to comments  to posts here (there were quite a few), and wondered what may have been up.  It’s even possible some few of you were worried.

Well, the following almost sums up what became of me during the week.

Yes, well, that only tells part of the story – but it’s the only part with a snazzy song sung by They Might Be Giants  and a Tiny Toons music video to go with it.  Alternately, the following could serve as an illustration of  the latter leg of my trip:

That’s right: I spent last week first in the city of Istanbul and then in that cradle of Greek Mythology (of which Clash of the Titans is something of a bastardized kin), in Athens.  It was an awesome trip.

This was part of the MBA program that I’m wrapping up this semester – the last requirement that I need to fulfill, excepting the class I’m in right now.  The school calls it an “International Colloquium”, and the goal is to learn about real business as it happens in an international context (in this case Turkey and Greece).  Which meant I spent a good amount of time there in company and agency visits learning about the business and investment climates.  But there was no shortage of site-seeing, either.  I’ll have a few pictures up later this week (my camera died upon arrival in Athens, so I’ll be waiting for a few classmates to post some pictures from that leg, but I’ll share a few gems from Istanbul momentarily).  Expect a write-up of the experience later this week or early next…

Rocks in a Jar

I haven’t talked much about writing, lately.  Nor have I said much of anything that touches on the primary theme of this blog: balancing a busy life of work, school, family, and church to find and make time for writing.

I’ve been thinking about that theme lately.  It’s one of the reasons I started this blog.  I was about a year and a half into 3-year MBA program, and I hadn’t done any writing except for reports and term papers.  And even before I started on my MBA, I hadn’t done any creative writing since the disaster a little over a year earlier.  But the itch had returned with a vengeance.  I felt the need to be writing creatively again.

And so, the idea for this blog was born Continue reading

A Small World, Betimes…

Sometimes, you learn something that reminds you that the world is indeed small.

In the aforementioned class on Networks, this week, we reviewed the idea behind “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” – and one of the readings suggested that we all know, or are fairly closely connected to, someone who knows everyone – or near enough to everyone that through that person we are in effect connected within an average of six degrees to pretty much anybody and everybody.  Our proximity to such a person is part of what connects us more closely to everyone else (and such persons are apparently closely connected to other such persons, extending this network more fluidly).  I don’t know that I buy the Gladwell article, but if there’s any truth to it, that’s one major flaw in my network: I don’t know anybody who knows everybody.  Which means I may have trouble reaching the people I need to reach.

But even so, sometimes amazing links do pop up.  For the past month-and-a-half, on Tuesdays and sometimes on Thursdays, I’ve been serving in a Grand Jury.  Last week, while chit-chatting over lunch with a few fellow Jurors, I happened to mention that I’m a writer and an aspirational professional author.  This was in response to one of the jurors indicating that her day job, when I asked, was as a text-book writer (she writes books on speaking English for ESL students in grad school, and she has training in linguistics and speech pathology).  When I remarked that I, too, was a writer – of fiction, of course, not of text-books – she asked, “Do you know about Nanowrimo?”

Well, of course I know about Nanowrimo.

“My daughter,” my fellow juror explained, “She’s the director of Nanowrimo.”

Oh.  Wow.  Now that’s interesting.  Suddenly I felt embarrassed that I’ve never participated in Nano, that I’ve always been too busy.  Silly, of course.  But a funny discovery, nonetheless.

My fellow juror went on to tell a short story about her daughter – a few sentances, I won’t recount them here – and we talked about writing.  My co-juror used to write fiction, she said, but she could never get published, try and try though she might.  Then, once, whe wrote a text-book, and without hardly trying she was published, and she’s been writing textbooks ever since.

I’ve been impressed with the clear intellect and awareness of this and the other co-juror involved in this conversation.  They seem like smart people, people worth knowing.  I hope I’ll be able to stay in contact with them, from time-to-time, after this jury term ends in a couple weeks.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to  have folks like that in my network…

Every Ending is a Beginning

Yesterday was the last day of the Fall semester for me, the day when my final project and exam were handed in.  Yeah, so you’d think with a title like that I’d be talking about writing stories.

But no, the punchline is that today was the first day of a new mini-semester we call an “ACE” class.  These are little one-class-at-a-time deals that occur in the month-long period between semesters where we go for three weeks, two normal class-days a week plus Saturdays.  The topic of this class is one where I am sorely in need of improvement (the course has “networks” in the title, and it’s not a computer science course, if you know what I mean).

So, what did I do with a whole evening’s break?  Why, go with Dear Wife and some other family members to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert, of course.  It’s the Christmas season, so it’s the time of year when you break out that kind of music.  But I’d been so sleep-deprived from some extremely late nights this past week that we ended up not staying for the whole thing; the better to beat the crowd out and get home so I could crash (and Dear Wife was tired, too).  Last night was the first full night of sleep I’ve had in a while.

And now, I’m back in the saddle.

The good news?  I can really and true just make out the light at the end of the tunnel.  Five months.  Just five months.  At the same time… I can’t help but recall it was a year ago when I started work, in earnest, on that short story referenced in the side-bar (“PFTETD”), rewriting vast sections of it, adding new characters, and changing the direction of the story somewhat, in anticipation of sending it out with an eye toward its hopeful publication.  It ended up taking me a little longer than what free time I had during the semester break (I didn’t take an ACE last year), but I did finish it and I did get it out.   It was only shortly before that that I started blogging.   It’s interesting to look back over that year.

Anyway, I’m just relieved.  This past semester has been one of the most challenging and demanding, time-wise, that I’ve had so far.  I’m glad I’ll only be taking one class in the coming Spring Semester.

Cross-posting: Amazon and the Big Squeeze

In one class I’m taking this semester, called “Strategic Decision Analysis”, we have a course blog where we, the students, are keeping track of things we notice in the news and in our lives that reflect the course topics, which largely revolves around Game Theory.  Earlier this year I posted an entry in this blog about the infamous “Amazonfail” event, otherwise known as the “Kerfuffle”, and what I was then learning about the future of publishing.  Well, recently, the Boston Review published an article that details the whole sordid history of how Amazon has put the squeeze on the publishing industry, and what that means for the future of the industry.  And I noticed that there were a lot of Game Theory aspects to this whole story.  So, I wrote about that for the course blog.  You can find my original entry hereContinue reading

Weekend Assignment: Last Day

A little late to the punch, again, but I haven’t forgotten the latest Weekend Assignment:

Tell us about the last day of anything: the last day of school or a job, your last day as a smoker, the last day before you moved or got married, the last day before you got that car you always wanted, or even the last day of a particularly memorable vacation. Here’s the catch: I’m looking for happy memories here, happy endings rather than tragic ones.

Extra Credit: What happened the next day?

I honestly struggled with this one, for a while.  And then I remembered my truly quintessential “last day”, the anniversary of which is actually right around the corner.

In October of 2006 I said good-bye to my home-town of ten years (though it was never my true home town; military brats don’t have the luxury of a true home town) – a place I like to call V-town.  My destination: the “big city” of the South, Atlanta Georgia. Continue reading