On Reading: Second Year DMBA

As I wrap my head around the topics we covered throughout the DMBA, I’ve found it helpful to remember and assess the materials we used, including books. It should be noted that many of the courses heavily used articles and HBR case studies, which I’m not going to endeavor to list. Perhaps there will be a “best of” article list someday. Here’s the comprehensive book list from year two:

Brand Strategy:

Managerial Finance:

  • Financial Management, 13th Edition, Eugene F. Brigham, Michael C. Ehrhardt
  • Various HBR case studies

Operations:

Experience Studio:

Venture Studio:

Strategic Management:

Strategic Foresight: (Full reading list is too long to post, so I’m just posting the ones I selected or have read.)

Some of the books were wonderful, some forgettable, and there are a few books that I would never recommend. Books I have gone back to for reference include the Marty Neumeier selections, Blue Ocean Strategy (more the toolset than the book), Strategy Safari, and Kellogg on Branding.

A Natural History of the Senses and most of the strategic foresight books were enjoyable to read and provided a good sense of a field or concept, but haven’t been useful as references.

The concepts in The Lean Startup and Tribes have been useful and commonly referred to by practitioners I’ve spoken with, but both books could probably express their ideas in a few pages.

In my opinion, don’t bother with Operations Strategy or Experience Design 1.1. These books were not helpful, interesting, or useful. There are other, better ways to explore the content.

Second semester, I started to use Audible.com for some books, and would highly recommend listening to books at high speed. This method takes advantage of time running errands, baking, or cleaning. Good candidates for listening are books where the concept is more important than the prose, where storytelling isn’t key, and you won’t want to take copious notes. There’s a lot of stopping and starting involved in consuming books this way, and the high speed tends to lose nuance in the reader’s inflection. Although note taking isn’t super intuitive, I take notes on books in Audible through bookmarks and their speech recognition software. Because you can’t read the text, it’s harder to note specific sentences.

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Recommended Baking Adventures July 2014!

This month, I’m saying goodbye to my flexible student work schedule. I’ll still have evenings and weekends to play in the kitchen, but there will be no more kneading bread between homework assignments. At least for now. Perhaps this will lead to more design/work focused posts and Marc-led culinary adventures!

First up: Gougères from The French Laundry cookbook! This was a perfect first recipe with the stand mixer. Some Keller recipes are intimidating, but these were easy and didn’t call for specialty ingredients outside of the cheese. Delicious, fluffy, and cheesy. The next time I make them, I might fill them.

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I returned to an old favorite when I had extra fennel in my CSA box: Focaccia from the NYT. I caramelized one entire bulb of fennel (with greens) and a few spring onions until they were very brown and spread it over the top of one of the breads. It was amazing. AMAZING. I also substituted white flour for wheat.

Focaccia

It was then time to come back to Beard. I wanted to experiment with his non-yeast bread recipes, so tried the Baking Powder Biscuits from Beard on Bread. They were fast and easy, although I didn’t experience above average fluffiness or flavor.

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Low on ingredients but wanting to make bread, I was happy to find Italian Feather Bread in Beard on Bread. The recipe only calls for water, flour, sugar,  yeast, butter, and salt. Optional but beneficial ingredients are egg white (for brushing) and cornmeal (for baking on.) The shaping of the loaf in the rolled up way was something I had never tried. I have included images to illustrate the process.

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My technique is sure to improve next time, but overall it turned out well! Highly recommended.

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Last, but not least, I made biscotti. I started with this recipe from Come One Come All, but used lemon zest and sliced almonds rather than hazelnuts. I also added a few drops of lemon oil.

Biscotti

They were delicious, although the chocolate dipping part of the recipe didn’t go as planned. I think they don’t use enough chocolate, so I ended up painting half of the biscotti on one side with a spoon, and letting them harden on the rack. Unfortunately, the chocolate never firmed up, so they’re a little messy. I’d definitely make again with a different chocolate glaze.

Survival: Post-Wedding, Post-Graduation

I’m used to racing along with multiple professional and personal projects in the works, juggling many super-fun balls in the air, while working hard to breathe once in a  while. The lull between graduation/wedding month and full time employment has been an interesting experiment.

Tool profiles:

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LinkedIn:

LinkedIn has been a great connecting tool this month, and I’ve had great success contacting alumni with interesting, relevant sounding work in the Twin Cities area. This has also led to becoming more involved in the Minneapolis creative community. Sending introductory emails linking to my profile has lent some credibility.

With a 100% response rate, I must be doing something right. My InMails always include:

  • An up-front ask. “I’d love to talk with you about your experiences in this company, as well as …”
  • How I found them. “I also graduated from this college and found your profile through the alumni page.”
  • My relevant background. “I recently graduated with my MBA and have relocated to the Twin Cities, and am interested in these fields which is what your experience is in, etc.”
  • My objective. “I am currently looking to build a network of mentors while searching for the next great professional opportunity.”

Lynda.com

Although school is out, there’s no reason to stop learning! (Especially while you still get free access to services!) I’m happiest when I’m learning, so taking a few classes on Lynda.com has been useful. The best courses are in programs or topics that I know virtually nothing about, so the slow pace works well.

Some tips for getting the most out of Lynda:

  • Close all other tabs when working on a Lynda course
  • Take copious notes. (I use Evernote)
  • Stop and start the video to try things out as they talk about them
  • Make an effort to use the exercise files

Part Time Work

Following graduation, my venture partner and I got an opportunity to work with a pre-launch start-up in San Francisco doing user experience strategy. It has been invaluable to continue working on an interesting, challenging project with a great team while stretching my user experience design skills. Regular meetings and tight deadlines, even at 13-17 hours a week, are enough to keep me feeling involved.

Making a part-time, remote, contract gig work:

  • Transparently track your hours
  • Check in with the client and team members regularly
  • Share files and progress when appropriate
  • Ask for what you want

Baking

How often do you have time to make pizza with homemade ricotta, homemade pizza dough, homemade buffalo tofu, and fresh sauce? In normal life, probably never. Taking advantage of the time I have to try baking experiments and make delicious food has been a joy. Each project ends with something to show/eat for it, even if not everything turns out perfectly.

Recommended Baking Adventures May-June 2014

So many fun things to celebrate in May and June! We got married a few weeks ago and have a whole new set of toys to play with, which is a GREAT excuse to get adventurous.

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New stand mixer!!

First up: Barb’s Banana Bread

I got this great recipe from a family friend as a wedding shower present and it’s incredible. Easy, delicious, flexible.

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Cream: 3/4 cup butter

Add: 1 1/2 cups sugar gradually, cream well.

Blend in:

  • 1 1/2 cup mushed ripe banana (should be 4-6)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Add:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Blend until just combined, bake for 50-60 minutes at 350.  Makes two loaves.

Julia Child’s Boef Aux Oignons (Guest kitchen post!)

While in California for graduation, I wanted to make a delicious thank you meal for the friends I was staying with, and this seemed like a good stretch for me (I don’t usually cook meat) but fairly foolproof. It turned out deliciously– very hearty. Yum!

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After returning home from California and lots of scrumptious happy graduation, happy birthday, happy vacation meals, we wanted to lighten up and turned to Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s awesome Appetite for Reduction cookbook. The vegan lasagna in it is suburb! If vegan lasagna isn’t your thing, just go for the cauliflower ricotta.

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With too much rhubarb and no time to shop, these Rhubarb Bars were a no-brainer. The recipe calls for strawberries as well, but I went full-on rhubarb. Originally, the recipe is from a book called One Bowl Baking. In this case, the only dishes used were the pan and the bowl I used to melt the butter. Brilliant and delicious. Super easy.

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Last, but certainly not least, I discovered baked risotto. It looks and tastes like stovetop risotto, but you don’t do much to it after you mix everything together. This is going to be my new potluck recipe– everyone loves it, it looks impressive, and it’s super flexible. I used veggie broth, corn, and spinach. I think I also fudged the cheese and used whatever was in the fridge and it was great.

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Bonus recipe: Marc’s Sangria

On our wedding weekend, we wanted to see as much of our guests as possible, so we hosted a wine and cheese party at our apartment. Marc made some killer sangria.

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Mix:

  • Two bottles of cheapish red wine
  • Chopped fruit (we used an orange, a couple of nectarines, and a couple of apples)
  • Chopped sour citrus (we used one lemon)
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • Sugar to taste
  • Lots of ice when you serve it

Chill in the fridge for a few hours. Add more wine, brandy, grand mariner, etc. throughout the night to keep it full. We used a box of Trader Joe’s wine and it worked well. (And was cost effective.)

 

Learning Adventures

The last month has been a blur– living out of a suitcase, graduating with an MBA, and getting married in less than a month! It’s been a whirlwind, but there’s been a lot of fun, laughter, eating, and learning.

Creative Mornings: Oakland

During my last week in California, there was a Creative Mornings event at Impact HUB Oakland. Creative Mornings is an organization that puts together brief creative lecture/networking events during weekday mornings. Chapters generally have about one event a month, and I was lucky enough to catch Favianna Rodriguez, a Bay Area artist and activist.

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She covered a variety of issues, but these were some of the most memorable moments:

  • The power of art is that it can ultimately transform what you see.
  • Don’t only fight against what you don’t want, but fight for the work you want.
  • Language matters. The word homosexual vs. gay made a difference.
  • Define your own story. If you don’t, someone else will.
  • Art and culture are human rights.
  • Dichotomies are limited narratives. We need multi-dimensional narratives.

AIUX Workshop at Stanford d.school

I’ve been wanting to check out Stanford’s renowned d.school since learning about it a few years ago, and got a fantastic opportunity to do so the day before heading back home to Minnesota.

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I attended a morning workshop session around designing user experience for artificial intelligence. The format was more workshop than lecture and the group split into small teams to try out various strategic design/planning/foresight tools. The tools were the same as can be found here: Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation

We used the context map, progression curve, and paper prototyping tools. The most interesting was the progression curve. My group examined the relationship of humans and AI, and included milestones going back to punch card systems and the first computer to fictional characters like Data in Star Trek TNG. Currently, we’re looking at systems like Google Now, which is a proactive AI rather than a reactive one. It was helpful to watch the progression over time and line it up with other curves, like the development of data gathering.

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Recommended Baking Adventures March + Early April 2014

In the last couple of months of graduate school, work is ramping up and I’m finding solace in the kitchen.

Some favorites from the last month or so:

I’ve continued to play with Beard on Bread by James Beard, and took another shot at his Home-Style White Bread, but added a few tablespoons of zatar spice, my new favorite thing. It was nice to have some extra seasoning in the bread, and I’ll plan to add at least 3T next time to make an impact.

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Pi day was a great excuse to make pie. We made a butternut squash pie with a basic pie crust from Mark Bittman. It was a hit! No need to return to pumpkin pie– butternut squash is just as good.

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On a whim, we tried cheesy biscuits for a dinner party and ended up making a substitution for the buttermilk. Though they didn’t really rise, they were delicious and cheesy. We’d definitely try them again without the buttermilk substitution.

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Inspired by lovely spring weather, I decided to make a variation of Mark Bittman’s Poblano Custard with peas and parmesan. We didn’t get a good shot of the final result, but it was interesting and tasty. Super easy with only 5 ingredients, and coincidentally kosher for passover. I foresee trying another variation next week.

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My latest James Beard Recipe: Buttermilk White Bread. This recipe actually uses whole wheat flour. It make a very large loaf, which is great for sandwiches. I think I’ve finally figured out the water temperature for yeast. Thank goodness.

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Recommended Baking Adventures February 2014

In the cold, cold winter, there is nothing more satisfying than a slice of warm bread. It certainly feels like we’re hungrier for heavy, warm food in the winter months. There’s also something pleasing about using your whole body to make something– especially when going outside to exercise is inadvisable.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard

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I moved to the second recipe in Beard on Bread, Home-Style White Bread. This bread was richer with the addition of milk and butter to the dough. Overall, it was much easier to work with than the basic white and had a nice, thick crust. Delicious!

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Home-style white bread crust shot

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Cornmeal bread

Feeling inspired by the success of the home-style white, I moved to another recipe in the James Beard book, Cornmeal Bread. Not to be confused with corn bread, this bread incorporates some cornmeal into a traditional bread dough and comes out with a slightly crispier texture with a little grit. It’s delicious, and perhaps the best recipe yet. Next time, I plan to incorporate a little more cornmeal– maybe 3/4 cup rather than the suggested 1/2 cup.

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Starting place of the most decadent lasagna ever.

This Valentine’s day, we revisited a delicious but complex lasagna recipe from Sam Sifton in the NYT. We’d made it once before, for guests, and were impressed but the recipe was too expensive, rich, and time consuming to make a regular.

The lasagna combines herbed olive oil, four types of cheese, béchamel, and mushrooms. Truly a pleasure. The herbed olive oil is especially worth making and using regularly.

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Voila!