In Remembrance of Fledgling Leaders

A procession of MBA students makes its way to a memorial service honoring three GSB students killed in an Oct. 10 automobile crash. Chris Sahm, class of '09, and Viet Nguyen and Micah Springer, class of '10, were en route to a retreat near Big Sur when their car veered off Highway 1. Relatives, classmates, faculty, and staff shared memories and stories at the service the following week. A wellspringof support came from within the GSB as well as the Stanford community and other business schools around the nation.

Photo by Chari Ratwatte, Class of '09

Myanmar MBA Degree Started by Alumna

Half a century ago, a young woman in Burma—now known as Myanmar—received a scholarship from her country to attend a foreign MBA program. For reasons she ascribes to “good karma” as much as to advice from her professors, Yi Yi Myint, MBA '61, chose Stanford Business School. After two years in California, degree in hand, she returned home to serve for 40 years as a professor at the Institute of Economics, Yangon, where in 1995 she founded the first MBA program in Myanmar.

“I was there with my Stanford MBA experience at a time when the university authorities wanted to have a Myanmar MBA,” she wrote in an email from Yangon. The university had hoped, but failed, to partner with an international business school, she said, and the idea of a two-year graduate program based on the Stanford model as she remembered it “let loose all the pent-up inspirations of years ago.” Of 699 applicants, 45 were admitted the first year. Myint headed the program, and classes were taught by the institute's regular faculty and guest lecturers, who “provided international flavor, color, and perspectives.”

In the 14 years since its founding, the Myanmar program has been quite successful, she wrote, and it has expanded to an executive session as well as an online MBA. “The first few batches of MBAs found employment with UN agencies, NGOs, branches of foreign companies, and even at embassies. Now more are with multinational corporations, Myanmar banks, and other businesses. We have no accreditation, but some MBAs who continued in other international programs did very well and returned with renewed confidence. Some are in overseas jobs as well.”

 Writing to her class secretary, Fred Rehmus, last fall, she said, “the imprint of Stanford, the spirit and culture of the MBA experience stayed with me.” 

Retired from the Institute of Economics, Myint remains active in women's and business affairs. She is an advisor to the Myanmar Women's Entrepreneur Association, which she founded, and an executive committee member of the Myanmar National Academy of Arts and Science. Last June she led a delegation of Myanmar women to Hanoi to take part in the 18th Global Summit of Women. It was, she remarked pointedly, “perhaps my payback for being one of only four women MBA students at Stanford during my entire two years there!”

Repotting in Chocolate

When Dana Packard, MBA '92, a veteran of five startups in the 1990s, lost her job in the dot-com bust of 2000 at the very same time her husband lost his, it seemed like the perfect time to reevaluate. Packard remembers the two of them walking along the beach in Capitola, Calif., asking themselves, did they really want to stay in Silicon Valley and the high-tech job market? The answer was no.

Over the next few years they hunkered down on a small property they had bought near the Napa Valley during the internet bubble, and while Packard's husband, Byron Dooley, went to school to study winemaking, Packard wrote a business plan for a company that would produce high-quality, homemade chocolates—long a hobby of hers—which she planned to sell in inexpensive packaging at an honest price. She named the company Honest Chocolates and began selling her confections online.

In 2004, the couple moved again, this time to the wine-friendly Yamhill Valley of Oregon, where Packard opened her first shop and Dooley started making wine. Packard now has five part-time folks who help out at her stores in McMinnville and Newberg, as well as in the company's kitchen in Carlton, where she specializes in making chocolates that complement red wines and port. Dooley's wine-tasting room is a convenient couple of steps away.

Strictly in the interest of research, we ordered a bag of assorted morsels from McMinnville: a dark-chocolate-dipped ganache with raspberries immersed overnight in Dooley's 2006 pinot noir, a chocolate-covered ganache with cherries soaked in port, a crisp dark chocolate bark studded with nuts.

 Oh, don't ask! If you want to taste for yourself, you should know that Packard ships fall through spring, when the chocolates won't melt in the mail. In summer, you'll have to go to Oregon. It could be worse.

Search for Dean Begins

A search committee to select a Business School dean to succeed Robert L. Joss began its work in December. It is chaired by Stanford Provost John Etchemendy and John Roberts, the John H. Scully Professor of Economics, Strategic Management, and International Business at the School.

Other committee members include Business School faculty members Jennifer Aaker, Erica Plambeck, Peter DeMarzo, Madhav Rajan, and Deborah Gruenfeld; Joseph Bankman, Stanford Law School professor; Stephanie Kalfayan, University vice provost for academic affairs; Business School alumni Gene Sykes, MBA '84, and Thomas Friel, MBA '73; and students Brad Hively, MBA class of '09, and Gabrielle Adams, doctoral student. The final member is David Kennedy, Business School associate dean for development who recently became senior associate vice president in the Stanford University Office of Development.

In announcing the committee members, Etchemendy said the group would spend December and January gathering input from the Business School community about needs of the School and desirable characteristics for the next dean to possess, as well as recommendations for specific candidates.

In September Joss announced he would step down at the end of the current academic year after 10 years as dean.Communications to the search committee may be submitted electronically to deansearch@stanford.edu.

Ballmer on Timing

Steve Ballmer, MBA class of '81, famously dropped out of Stanford Business School in 1980 to join his Harvard classmate Bill Gates in a "crazy little software company," Microsoft. Ballmer nearly quit the company soon after, when Gates wanted to increase employees from 30 people to 48. But he didn't leave, and some 91,000 employees later, he is CEO of the tech giant.

As Microsoft has grown, Ballmer's leadership style has had to evolve, he told a standing-room-only audience at the School's View from the Top series in September. What it took to be leader of a company with one line of business is vastly different from what is required to run Microsoft with its increasing number of products, including servers, consumer electronics, and information/media.

"We have big projects, little projects, incubation efforts, research, acquisitions, and internal development."

If he could change one decision he has made since becoming CEO in 2000, Ballmer said he would have pushed the company to start developing internet search products earlier. When he spoke, Microsoft had about 10 percent of the search advertising market, trailing both Google and Yahoo.

When asked by a curious student for more details about his decision to leave the Business School, Ballmer said it was the right thing for him to do at the time. "It's not for everybody. You've got to be in the right place in your life, and it's got to be the right opportunity." But if it is, he said, "you should seize it."

CFO: Chief Fall Guy for Too Many CEOs

Leadership involves qualities like competence, generosity, compassion, humility, and morality, Mike McCaffery, MBA '82, told Sloan Fellows during an informal discussion in October. Unfortunately, those sterling values weren't always on public display as the economy went into freefall late last year.

McCaffery is managing director and CEO of Makena Capital Management, which offers a pooled investment fund for small colleges and other investors much like the endowment fund he previously managed for Stanford. "As a leader, I hated the last few years of Wall Street," he said. "When bank after bank was having problems, who was the first person to go? The CFO. I think that's horrible. I mean, do you want to work for [a CEO] like that? I think when things are going badly, the leader should step up and take the blame.

"I have been struck by just how quickly some of the Masters of the Universe—the people who get the pencil sketches in the Wall Street Journal, the guys who make zillions of dollars—man, how quickly they have come back to Earth."

There's a big difference between competence and cockiness, McCaffery noted, and an oversized ego can kill. "The minute you think you're smarter than the other guy, boy, are you in for a comeuppance. Particularly in my profession, you don't just have other people to make you look stupid, the market can really make you look stupid!"

McCaffery sees a failure of leadership across the board. "I don't think leadership stays on the high road in this country," he said. "And I'm not just talking about business." He said he blames politicians, and even athletes, more than business leaders, "because I think they have more opportunity to lead us than business people do—and more and more they disappoint us."

Take Stock in the Now to Benefit Tomorrow

Even as they face an uncertain economy, today's business students can take comfort in the words of Manuel Medina-Mora, MBA '76, chairman and CEO of Citigroup Latin America and Mexico.

"Thirty years ago, I was where you are now," Medina-Mora said last November, recalling his graduation in the midst of a downturn that started with the Mideast oil crisis in 1973 and lasted until 1977. The current economic crisis is the fifth in his career, he said. "Economic cycles are always there, and those of us who understand that well can profit from it."

Medina-Mora, who spoke as part of the School's Global Speaker Series, urged his audience to pay close attention to how things play out. "What you can learn from what is happening today is going to serve you all your life," he said. "No matter what part of the world economy you decide to make your careers, this is a great moment to learn."

Photo by Steve Castillo

Cellular Scold

Miss the way your mother used to remind you to sit up straight and eat your vegetables? Don't fret. Mom is back in the form of Wellphone, a digital nag that will help keep you on the straight and narrow-waisted.

Wellphone can be added to any cell phone at no charge. It reminds you when it's time to exercise, encourages you to record your progress, gives instant tips on nutrition or diet, helps you find a gym or a dental office in your neighborhood, and performs a host of other health and fitness-related services. Just like Mom! And the fact that Wellphone is portable means you know Mom is always looking over your shoulder.

The cellular scold was introduced last year by Wellsphere, an online wellness company founded in 2007 by Ron Gutman and Dave Kashen, both MBA '05. Wellsphere is both an information site and a social network, with some 1,500 bloggers who write about health-related topics at Wellsphere.com. By late 2008, the mothership Wellsphere was being visited by more than 2 million people a month. 

Portable Incubator Hatched for India

Every year 20 million premature or low-birth-weight children are born, many of them in rural areas of developing countries where they have no hope of receiving the medical care they need to survive. Enter Stanford's Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability, a two-quarter course co-taught by the Business School's Jim Patell in which graduate students across the University look for practical solutions to the problems of the global poor. One of its promising products is the Embrace, an inexpensive ($25 estimated) portable incubator designed to resemble a sleeping bag and heated by a material that keeps bag and baby at a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees for four hours without electricity.

The Embrace organization is itself in the incubation stage. The four-student team came up with the idea and developed it in class in 2007. Last June, two of the original team members, Jane Chen (at left), MBA '08, and Rahul Panicker, PhD '08, Engineering, won an Echoing Green Fellowship, which provides seed funding for the project of up to $90,000 over two years. The organization has since received nonprofit status, the incubator and its heating system has a provisional patent, and Chen and Panicker are now in India conducting clinical tests of the Embrace. If all goes well, they will return to India later this year to test it in a community setting. See EmbraceGlobal.org.

Photo by Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Bush Cites Alum for Post-Katrina Work

During his first year at the Business School, Daryn Dodson, MBA '07, made a solo trek to New Orleans to see for himself how the area had been upended by Hurricane Katrina. The following year he organized a group of his fellow students to visit the city as part of a service learning trip; they spent 10 days gutting flood-damaged homes.

Dodson remained struck by the immense challenges faced by small businesses in the area. After graduation he took a job with Idea Village, a nonprofit that works to stabilize local companies in New Orleans. There he is director of Village Ventures, assigned to recruit MBA students to come to the city and provide technical assistance and advice on business strategy to small business owners.

Last August, during a speech in New Orleans, former President Bush singled out Dodson's efforts to rebuild the city's business community. Rather than remain in the Bay Area and join the region's lucrative high-tech boom, Bush said, Dodson "felt the need to come back to New Orleans to help. This bright man decided, instead of trying to seek his own personal wealth, to come here and help people realize the blessings of entrepreneurship, all aiming to add value and to create jobs here in New Orleans."

Photo Courtesy of Daryn Dodson.