Your Board of Directors

If you attended the 20th Annual Conference and Job Expo of NSHMBA in Atlanta, I hope you enjoyed -at least as much as I did!—the many talks and events that happened during those action-packed days.  Every time I attend a NSHMBA event, be it at the local or national level, I feel like I get a “shot in the arm” that energizes me and makes me proud of being a part of such an inspiring group of people that care so much about what is going on in their communities that are willing to spend some of their time and other resources giving back to many who are in earlier stages of their managerial careers.

One of the many talks I truly enjoyed was delivered by Ms. Iris Valdez, who spoke about “Creating a Personal Board of Directors” that each of us needs to cultivate and maintain in order to be as successful as possible.  Her recommendation stated that our personal “BOD” should have two family members –one that is successful and another one who is not, to provide a balance—, an old boss, and someone we have mentored in the past.  Clearly, this advice is very culturally fitting for cultures like ours that make every effort to keep family close.  I would only add a “future” dimension to the parameters for choosing personal BOD members: finding a mentor who currently is or has recently been in a position or industry we are interested in reaching in the next five to ten years might be a helpful complement.

Ms. Valdez’s inspiring advice makes a lot of sense in the face of the empirical evidence from the Management research.  Recently, my colleague Dr. Gayle Baugh, from the University of West Florida, presented a paper at an academic conference, in which she examined whether “more mentors are better” and concluded that indeed, it’s better to have several advisors, rather than rely on a single one for career advancement.  On its face, this might sound like a trivial question until one considers the fact that each mentoring relationship tends to be very demanding of time and other resources if it is to be truly successful (and I really mean “mentoring” instead of coaching, role modeling or casual advising, which are much less involved; for details, see page 8 in last month’s bottom line, in which I wrote about what best mentors DO and what mentoring relationships are NOT!).

I also found very interesting that two of the tracks that NSHMBA’s own BOD has identified as priorities for the near future were referred to in that talk: Enabling Mentoring Experiences and Joining Boards of Directors.  The rationale for this second track is that Hispanics in corporate America –particularly at the top levels—are vastly underrepresented.  I believe it is a neat allegory that having a personal BOD might be an effective way to join a corporate BOD. 

What do you think?  Are these ideas likely to increase your interest and involvement in NSHMBA?  If you are on either side of a BOD (inside, with some lessons to share, or outside, interested in joining), why don’t you share your thoughts as to how valuable a mentor can be?  Are there other more valuable strategies that should be taken into account?  As always, I invite you to share your thoughts by emailing me at, faxing at 814.393.1910 or posting a comments on this blog.

And, of course…  Merry Christmas!  Happy Kwanzaa, Hanukkah,…!!!  Hope that your worst moments in 2009 are like the best of 2008!!!

To learn more, check out:

• Behan, B. (2007).  Should you join a board?  Video clip by Hay Group Managing Director Beverly Behan; she provides hints to systematically evaluate whether you should join a board of directors.  Click here to see it.

• Ragins, B.R. & Kram, K.E. (2007), The Handbook of Mentoring at Work: Theory, Research, and Practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

...mentors and protégés!

Do you have a mentor?  What about a protégé?

These are two of the most interesting questions that my colleagues and I made to over 1100 highly successful women in nine countries.  We found a wealth of information that we have started to share with our relevant stakeholders, and fellow NSHMBA members are certainly a subset of these that might be interested in a briefing!

I hope that you can identify a person or more that in your career has been helpful, supportive, an advocate, more than a colleague or a friend to you.  If you can’t, and are interested in improving your career, FIND one!  If you have a bit of experience to share and are interested in people or in their organizations, BE one!  Even though a mentoring relationship tends to be more productive for one of the parties (hopefully the protégé!), there are many advantages for both.  Mentors’ “return on investment” –non-monetary, of course—includes a reputation as a professional that cares and is willing to give back to the community.  Most respondents for our survey were able to identify up to eight mentors (average between two and three, with some differences across countries), but not everybody had experienced this type of relationship.

What exactly do mentors do?

Mentors offer at least two distinguishable and measureable kinds of support to their protégés or “mentees”: one is emotional, psychological, or social, and the other has more of an instrumental or political quality.  Management researchers call the first one “Psycho-Social Support;” it is put in action when somebody says “Congratulations!  Your presentation to the board was great!” or “I feel your pain; you should have gotten the project.” The second type has been labeled “Career Support,” and we can see it happening when a senior person gets the mentee involved in projects or initiatives that provide exposure and future opportunities or is willing to back him or her for increasingly challenging assignments.  It’s also important to clarify that mentors are not coaches, guides, counselors, pals, or sages exclusively (see the box titled “Mentors Are Not:”), although they may perform some of these roles. 

Mentors often find protégés (or the other way around) in professional associations –NSHMBA is quite likely to be a fertile ground for mentoring relationships to flourish, but also your local chapter for Marketing / HR / Accounting / Purchasing or any other function that your day job involves.  Even your children’s school PTA, the neighbors’ group, or your church, synagogue, or similar congregation may provide a context for finding one or more mentors or protégés.  In fact, there is some evidence that suggests that “informal” mentoring programs often are more successful than their “formal” or company-sponsored equivalents, but the successful women from our study seemed to indicate the opposite.

The literature on mentoring is full with very helpful information to better understand what mentoring is, how it works, and when it works best.  There are also situations in which a mentoring relationship may be detrimental for the protégé –as in the event that the relationship is misinterpreted by outsiders or the mentor exploits the relationship—or for the mentor –for example, when the protégé does not live up to the expectations or abuses the senior person’s reputation.  Having a healthy mentoring relationship may have an occasional risk (what doesn’t?), but by the most part it seems to be a “win-win-win” for the mentors, mentees, and their organizations.  Recently, researchers have started to publish on emerging trends like “e-mentoring.”

Before I forget!  I should tell you that this literature and its results are NOT part of the book that my colleagues and I published in 2006!  If you happened to buy a copy, you know that there are many other very interesting themes there, but this is not one of them!!

Interested in mentors?

If you have had a positive mentoring experience or you are interested in becoming a better mentor, I invite you to share your thoughts by emailing me (, or posting a comment on my blog (  ¡Hasta la próxima!

To learn more, check these out:

  • De Janasz, S.C., Sullivan, S.E. & Whiting, V.R. (2003), Mentor networks and career success:  Lessons for turbulent times.  Academy of Management Executive, 17(4) 78-91.
  • Hamilton, B. & Scandura, T. (2003), E-mentoring: Implications for organizational learning and development in a wired world.  Organizational Dynamics, 31 388-402.
  • Ragins, B.R. & Kram, K.E. (2007), The Handbook of Mentoring at Work: Theory, Research, and Practice.  Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.



Mentors Are Not:

-       Coaches!  By the most part, coaches work with their clients on a narrow, specific skill set, using a relatively formal structure

-       Guides, Lecturers, or Counselors!  These tend to tell you what to do (and maybe even how), instead of just helping you figure it out

-       Role models!  One may have many of these, but infrequent interaction with them differentiates them from mentors

-       Pals!  The best mentoring relationships are between individuals with clear differences in status, connections, expertise, etc.

-       Always older!  Occasionally, a younger person may be an effective mentor for an older person that has recently changed careers or entered into a different environment

-       Advisers or Sages!  Of course, some mentors are very wise and helpful, but even a “typical Jane/Joe” can be a mentor to someone (see the “Best Mentors Do” box)

A mentor often plays several of the roles above, but each of those roles individually does not constitute a mentoring relationship.


Best Mentors Do:

ü  Provide a “sounding board” to their protégés

ü  Introduce them to people that can help them –inside or outside the organization

ü  “Go to bat” for their mentees

ü  Encourage them to try innovative things without taking excessive risks

ü  Show respect, confidence, and sometimes even fondness toward their mentees

ü  “Let go” of a mentoring relationship when the time is right

 In a nutshell, offer psycho-social and career support!

...Evidence-Based Decisions

When was the last time you examined a business decision? What was the basis for you to make your determination? Did you make it based on what you have usually done? Did you check any recent research developments? Maybe the decision was so routine that you did not feel that you had to check the basis for your resolution?

Make sure you have taken into account the best-available evidence!

Certainly, you might have made your decision based on the very best available evidence. I hope you did! But if some of my colleagues are right, an excessive amount of business decisions are being made for the wrong reasons. If you can find yourself making business decisions based on any of the illustrations from Table 1, please! Keep reading!! …and consider attending the workshops that will be offered during the 2008 Annual Conference and Career Expo, to be held in Atlanta in October!

Evidence-Based Management (EBMgmt) is the integration of (a) best-available scientific evidence, (b) manager’s judgment, and (c) stakeholder values in business decision making. Its roots are in Medicine, Education, and the Behavioral Sciences, where Evidence-Based movements have taken these disciplines by storm. In each of these fields, there are hundreds of professionals contributing to and profiting from the latest developments in the improvement of their areas by focusing on these three aspects. Sure enough, there are critics that find fault in what has been described as a movement that favors a particular type of scientific philosophy (for further detail, see the articles or books in the box titled “To Learn More…”). Still, if we are to judge by the success that Evidence-Based Medicine, Evidence-Based Education, and similar fields have had, chances are that we ought to examine carefully the way that we are making our decisions.

A Smoking Gun…

To illustrate, Sara Rynes and her colleagues have identified seven human resource practices for which a sample of 959 HR professionals had beliefs that actually contradict research findings (Rynes et al, 2007). More specifically, these professionals either disagreed with or showed lack of knowledge of the following findings: (a) that intelligence is a better predictor of employee performance than conscientiousness, (b) that personality (including integrity tests) is related to job performance, and (c) that goal setting is a highly effective motivational tool. The implication is that managers that are basing their hiring decisions on factors like conscientiousness –or any others than intelligence—are running the risk of sub-optimizing their organizations. A similar case can be made about personality being a strong predictor of job performance and about goal setting as a way to motivate employees!

But the problem is not exclusive to HR. In a recent best-selling book, Stanford Professors Jeff Pfeffer and Bob Sutton (Hard Facts… 2006) describe in detail how managers in various fields –Strategy, Leadership, Mergers and Acquisitions, Change Management, etc.—neglect available scientific evidence at their own peril. Of course, the business disciplines are not like the physical sciences, where principles and rules are unbreakable –there is no way around the laws of gravity or thermodynamics, but occasionally, hiring a new employee based on their previous business connections is the best way to increase the bottomline, even if there was a less-experienced genius as a candidate. There are many circumstances that might intervene in making a particular decision more fitting to a set of circumstances.

…and there’s the Beauty of EBMgmt!

Indeed, the fact that EBMgmt is the integration of managerial judgment, best-available scientific evidence and (not ‘or’) stakeholder values, makes it possible to make those exceptions that differentiate excellent from average managers. But you cannot integrate these three components if you don’t know what the best available evidence is, can you?

What do you think? Have you witnessed business decisions that are clearly neglecting what you learned in grad school while you studied your MBA? What are the best sources of scientific evidence in business that you have found so you can use EBMgmt? Please post your thoughts and comments on this blog or send them via email (! I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

Table 1. Business Decision Models NOT Based in Best Available Scientific Evidence
Problematic model and illustrations:

(1) Individual preferences such as gut feelings, obsolete knowledge, personal experience, and specialized skills
• “I feel that we should…”
• “What I learned in school (30 years ago) is that…”
• “This has always worked in the organizations I have been: …”
• “I can help with the following tools in which I specialize: …”
• “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail”

(2) Tradition
• “This is the way things are done around here.”
• “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

(3) Bandwagon, dogma, ideology
• “The industry leader started this project several months ago!”
• “All of our competitors are starting this too!”
• “Our company’s first and foremost obligation is toward…”

(4) Superficial “best practice,” mimicry of top performers, hype
• “If this practice worked for HP [or Citi, or any other highly respected firm, regardless of industry], why wouldn’t it work here?”
• “I just found a report/attended a conference/read a book that convinced me that we should…”
• “Dr. So-and-so from Most Prestigious University (or Consulting Firm) just wrote this in her latest book…”

(5) Political pressures
• “Well, you will be on your own if you don’t consent to this initiative…”
• “The boss is really sold out on this; you better choose other battles…”

Source: Olivas-Luján, M.R. (forthcoming).

To Learn More…
  • Olivas-Luján, M.R. (forthcoming). Evidence-Based Management: A Business Necessity for Hispanics. The Business Journal of Hispanic Research.
  • Pfeffer, J., & Sutton, R.I. (2006b). Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Rousseau, D.M. (2006a). Is there such a thing as ‘evidence-based management’? Academy of Management Review, 31(2), 256-269.
  • Rynes, S.L., Giluk, T.L., & Brown, K.G. (2007). The very separate worlds of academic and practitioner periodicals in human resource management: Implications for Evidence-Based Management. Academy of Management Journal, 50(5), 987–1008.

...getting ready for the 20th!

Chances are you will be reading this newsletter at the time you are getting ready for NSHMBA's 20th annual conference and job exposition. I hope that is the case, as this will be the 20th, a very special anniversary and a life-changing experience for most of its attendants!

In case you have never attended an annual conference of NSHMBA's, I believe that a ‘trade show’ or ‘trade fair’ is a valuable analogy to describe the event. They tend to be held in convention centers, large hotel ballrooms, trade centers, or similar venues. Their essential purpose is to provide a space for suppliers and customers to meet and establish trade in a specific market. Probably some of the best known trade shows in our country include the North American International Auto Show (NAIS, also known as the Detroit Auto show)–which this coming January will celebrate its 102nd and this year boasted over 700,000 attendants –or the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES, taking place in January in Las Vegas), in which innovative products like VCRs, CD players, DVDs, HDTVs have been introduced in the 41 years of its existence. Even if you haven't been in one of them, you probably have read about the cars or technologies of the future in the business press, television, and other media that cover the events.

Other well-known trade shows focus on specific professions –for example, the annual meeting of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) or the AMA (American Marketing Association)—, hobbies –I have witnessed shows that focus on Japanese comics (anime), table games like dungeons and dragons, in addition to the traditional fishing, hunting, etc.—and any other imaginable human activity that might attract suppliers and customers to form a market.

The Company Side

As is the case for most human activity, advanced preparation is a major predictor of success for its participants. By the time you read this, many of the companies that you will be able to meet in Atlanta have identified their hiring needs so that they will be looking for the best and brightest MBA talent, either specialized in certain areas, or with the general abilities they desire.

A few of these firms will be ready to extend job offers for specific positions during the days the conference will take place. Many others will be collecting résumés to enhance their talent pool for the very near future. And yet another subset of companies will likely be present mostly to support our organization and plant seeds for the longer run, perhaps directing applicants to their jobs websites in a less aggressive stance than the previous two subsets. I have seen some first-time attendants expressing discomfort with the latter; after all, ‘thanks for stopping by, please upload your résumé on our website’ is one of the least expected answers –if not the least welcome—that a job seeker will receive during an event like this. Still, those firms are providing helpful sponsorships to NSHMBA and its members, and I believe we should be grateful for their support.

Maximize Your Conference ROI

On the other side of the table, to maximize the return on all of your investments (money, time, and opportunity) you will be best prepared by bringing a résumé that you feel comfortable sharing with the representatives from those companies you would love to work for, and having sharpened your interviewing skills. You might actually want to use slightly different versions of your résumé, particularly if you already have in mind specific companies and positions you would love to hold once you finish your MBA.

Many MBA programs or their hosting universities have placement offices that organize mock-up interviews so you can practice your role and become comfortable during ‘the real thing.’ While some MBA students might feel that they are too busy with school, travel preparation, life, etc., I strongly believe that getting past the queasiness of the first few interviews is more important than having a perfectly polished résumé.

Now, if you are unable to get your résumé ready or get feedback on your interviewing strengths and weaknesses, rest assured that there will be volunteers in Atlanta, willing to help you find your dream job. Just come as early as you can and take advantage of the services offered.

Also remember that there will be sessions designed to help you delve into both basic and advanced business topics of interest for Hispanic MBAs –actually, most topics will be of interest to any businessperson, regardless of their ethnicity! Unfortunately, I have not seen as many NSHMBA members take advantage of the concurrent sessions as I think they deserve, but it is completely understandable! Many such topics might be more valuable for seasoned MBAs than for first-after-MBA job seekers, and that's a sign of the breadth of value that our society offers to its members.

This leads me to ask: In addition to seeking a job, identifying scholarship opportunities, or attending events for senior MBAs like the Hispanic Executive Summit (HES), what other benefits have you obtained from your membership at NSHMBA?

If you have tips to share or suggestions to make to your fellow members –especially for those that are earlier in the career pipeline—why don't you send me an email, fax, letter, or post a comment in this blog? Consider also writing an article for the bottom line; our publications department always welcomes contributions from members!

Look forward to seeing you in Atlanta this October!!

A PhD’s Summer “Break”

Once again this year, I'm starting this column in a European city; this time: Barcelona. Once again, I had to leave home for a few days to share with fellow researchers the results of my investigations. This time, I have presented a study that states –with statistical support from data-- that inter-departmental collaboration within a firm is very important for the company's innovativeness. In a nutshell, my research found that, when the Human Resources and the Information Systems departments have a positive relationship and the latter is at least partially responsible for the organization's IT governance, the company will have greater intensity of information technologies for HR purposes.

Having spent several months reviewing the literature, choosing data collection strategies, actually collecting the data, analyzing the databases, writing and re-writing the report, and finally getting a refereed opportunity to present it to the research community, when I read the sentences above it almost feels silly! Shouldn’t it be obvious that greater collaboration between these departments should lead to more technologies? Still, finding statistically significant support for such an assertion is more difficult than meets the eye! Especially when I need to get referees’ approval!

In fact, I had developed a total of five hypotheses for this paper, and only three received statistical support! All of these hypotheses looked quite logical -heck, some would say almost trivial!--but two of them simply did not cut the mustard! If my job was measured in terms of the percentage of hypotheses that receive support, that’s only a .600!

Such is academic life... As a computer engineer about two decades ago –or even a few years later, as an MBA—before becoming a full-time academic, I would have thought that an effectiveness rate of 60% was poor, but I have since realized that this is more than enough to get your work presented in an exotic location such as beautiful Barcelona.

Well, when you think about it, there are sports players that make ten or fifteen times as much as I make (and some players might make 100 times as much!) for having an effectiveness rate that's half of what I am reporting here! Life is not so bad... They exercise and depend on their bodies for a living; I (and my colleagues) exercise and depend on our minds instead.

The paragraphs above are a partial response to Jorge Hughes, from Dallas, TX who asked “What is the life of a PhD like?” and also, “At the end of the day, what makes (or should make) PhD happy with himself?” As you can see, the paragraphs above show a bit of what my summer “break” has been like. Hectic!! I have worked in three major cities (Barcelona, Chicago, and Pittsburgh) in less than three weeks, and I still have to work on several articles that will hopefully be printed before the end of the year. I have to do this before the end of the break or I will be so swamped with classes that no research will get done!

Therein rests a major characteristic of a PhD’s life: this summer break has been hectic for me mostly due to my own choices. I didn’t have to present in all of these conferences or volunteer for all the things I am doing. But I personally feel an obligation to give back to the community through my work, and often it seems that I overdo it. I am sure that this is not the case for many of my fellow PhDs. Then, a succinct response to Jorge’s first question is: “as busy as the PhD wants to make it!”

And for the second question, I can mostly respond from a personal perspective. At the end of the day, it makes me happy to see that I have the power to make a small difference in somebody’s life. In my teaching, I can hardly describe how fulfilling it is to realize that a group of students are more knowledgeable on business-related issues at the end of a semester than they were when we started. In my research, seeing that I can give organizations or individuals some answers to make their work easier, faster, more fulfilling, or more effective, is also a wonderful feeling that makes me go back to my office even when the weather is finally enjoyable in Pennsylvania…

I really appreciate your messages. I feel like apologizing for not being able to respond all the questions I receive, but I know I have to resist the urge. I trust you will understand that I cannot immediately answer all of them but your notes really make this column interactive (as originally envisioned by NSHMBA) and a joy for me to write.

As always, the invitation stands for you to send me your thoughts on this topic by emailing me, faxing (+1.814.393.1910), or posting a comment on this blog (click on the hyperlink below). Enjoy your summer!!!

...getting a doctorate!

If you are thinking of or have entertained the thought of getting a doctorate, you are certainly not alone at NSHMBA! In a variety of events I have met fellow NSHMBA members who are interested in finding out details about the process of studying a Ph.D., DBA, or similar doctoral degree. In fact, I have even met a few folks that have already started their program and now have even more focused questions, such as how to identify a dissertation topic or what my job-search process was like. As you can imagine, this conversation theme is one that will almost always generate a lively exchange of ideas with me!

You already have a master’s degree –or are in the process of getting one—, don’t you? That means that you are quite likely to have already taken the GMAT (or GRE, which a few business programs accept instead of the former). In addition, even if a master’s is not necessary to enter many doctoral programs, when you already have one, your coursework requirements will probably be fewer than if you didn’t have a graduate degree. Evidently, if you have taken at least a few master’s level courses, you know what it takes to succeed in grad school. So, why not keep going until you get a doctorate?

Needless to say, I have a lot of empathy and admiration for colleagues who might have left (at least temporarily) high-paying jobs to go back to four (or frequently more!) years of graduate school –with all the ensuing sacrifices for them and their families. I have to say that, more than a decade after I began my academic career, I still miss a number of features that were part and parcel of my managerial life. For example, when I was managing a small educational services department, I did not have to file my own documents or micro-manage my travel schedules the way I now have to do it as a full-time professor. But the research, teaching, consulting and service that are now the core of my professional life make the trade very much worth it.

You might be aware that, in business, the proportion of Hispanics that are earning their degrees is dismal, right? (heck, we “NSHMBAns” know how difficult it is to get a master’s, let alone the last step!).

Well, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (, during the academic year 2003-04, 21.7% of master’s degrees earned by Hispanics were in Business (yayyyy!!!!), second only to Education (36.8%). In fact, those were the only two fields of studies with a double-digit percentage, as the third area was Health professions and related clinical sciences, with 7.4%. At the undergraduate level, Business was the largest percentage of degrees conferred, with 22.1%, followed by Social sciences and history with 11.8%. These figures speak very well about the number of Hispanics that are finishing a business education at the undergraduate and master’s levels,… until we read, in the same report that “in 2004, more postsecondary degrees were awarded to Blacks than Hispanics, despite the fact that Hispanics made up a larger percentage of the total population” ( This is great news for our African American colleagues (and we should be glad for them!) but this fact tells us that we, Hispanics, still have a long way to go to gain equitable access to education in order to increase opportunities for our families and make our society better.

When we examine the numbers for doctoral degrees, the urgency becomes even more manifest. In the same academic year, Hispanics only earned less doctorates in Theology (2.3%) and in Visual and performing arts (1.9%) than in Business (3.1%); the top three doctoral degrees for Hispanics were Education (18.5%), Psychology (16.6%), and Biological and biomedical sciences (10.4%). You have probably noticed that, with a few exceptions in the Southwest, Hispanic faculty members are quite rare in Business schools –no wonder there is such scant research focusing on Hispanic businesses!

Of course, obtaining a doctoral degree is not only expensive and difficult, but for many MBAs not even a salary-enhancing proposition. AACSB International, the accrediting agency that currently has the most stringent standards for their members reported that average salaries for new doctorates in 2005 ranged from $89.6 to $114.8 thousand, depending on the graduate’s discipline (, p. 5). According to, for MBAs with 10-19 years of experience, the average salary is $93.6 thousand ( This implies that, if you already have a six-figure salary, getting a doctorate might take you back to five figures, after four to seven years of hard work and grad student “pay”!

To make things worse, AACSB-accredited, research universities have much fewer openings at the doctoral level than there is demand for them. Getting admitted to a reputable doctoral program might take a year or two if your GMAT score is not above 600 points (and preferably very much so!). Financial aid tends not to be an issue (again, in strong Ph.D. programs offered by research universities), but I have met doctoral students who have to pay the first or second years off their own pocket.

The “good” news (at least for academic-job seekers) is that there are many academic jobs available for qualified candidates. In the words of an AACSB report, “the competitive market for doctoral faculty also has ratcheted up salaries at the entry level” (, p. 14). In addition, there are many very attractive features to having a doctorate. Probably the largest one is the impact that you can have in society. The nature of intellectual work is such that John Maynard Keynes (the famous 20th Century British economist) once said that “Practical men ... are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” Your research –particularly as it will be done in a business field—will hopefully strongly influence practice. You will also have a strong and immediate influence in the students that take your classes or the companies that hire you as a consultant. And –to top things off—you might have three months “off” in the summer.

A very useful program for minority candidates is the “PhD Project.” I strongly encourage you to check their website if you are giving serious thought to obtaining a doctorate:

As always, the invitation stands for you to send me your thoughts on this topic by emailing me, faxing (+1.814.393.1910), or posting a comment on this blog (click on the hyperlink below). Until next month!

...the scores we keep

The scores we keep might reveal pretty interesting information about us. As MBAs, we probably pay attention to quite a few ‘scores’ around us. The S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the NASDAQ indices tend to be favorites while taking Finance classes –and beyond, especially if we own a 401(k), IRA, or another investment account. But we also tend to keep sports scores such as the win-lose record of our favorite sports team or players -professional, college teams, high school, little league, you name it... our score-keeping often may reveal our geographic affections, preferences, some of our entertainment leanings -or even parenting strategies!-, in addition to the obvious: the sports we like.

The entertainment industries -sports, movies, book publishing, etc.- make it easy for us to keep scores, perhaps as a way to attract and keep our interest in a world that is constantly competing for our attention -and our dollar! In other industries (for instance, retailing, staffing, or in specific business-to-business supply-chain links), 'keeping the scores' may be much harder unless we subscribe to specialized publications or related tracking services -a very smart thing to do if our business is in or depends on how well those industries are doing.

If we do not actively pursue business intelligence indicators for our livelihood, what kind of management style are we de facto choosing? Certainly not a very factual one...

And then there are the individual-level scores we keep: they may be strongly work-related, such as our department's performance levels (balanced score-card, anybody?) or our firm's progress toward its quarterly or yearly goals. Or they may be very personal, such as our golf handicap, latest cholesterol level reading, or most recent time running Cooper’s two-mile test.

What scores do you keep? Are there other score types you would rather not keep?

I guess the only area in which score-keeping is not recommendable is in family relations; it might be developmental or even necessary to 'keep the score' with respect to our family financial goals, but not in terms of the times a family member left the toothpaste or towels out of place or the entertainment center on before going to bed. Even if one has to take specific steps to modify uncomfortable behaviors in ourselves or those around us, keeping those scores is likely to be counterproductive.

There seems to be a psychological benefit to keeping scores. Our own competitive nature tends to pay closer attention to whatever we are counting, in an effort to improve during the following cycle. As the summer months are -finally!- approaching, I invite you to keep the score on the number of steps you walk every day, on the number of dates you have with your significant other, on the “positive” moments (however you define them) you spend with your family, and why not? Also on the number of days you felt you made a difference at work, or the number of favorable interactions you had at work with coworkers, customers, suppliers, or other interesting stakeholders. Write those scores in a grid and track your progress day after day, week after week, month after month… soon you will be trying to improve, and hopefully you will increase the feeling that you are more in control of those important issues in your life.

I can tell you from personal experience! I carry a pedometer in my belt, and every night I write the number of steps I walked. Even if I rarely succeed in walking the ten thousand recommended daily steps, I can tell you that I have observed a stronger commitment to walking rather than driving whenever I have the chance. I hope that this will also translate into a longer and better life, as medical advice suggests! That is not the only ‘score’ I keep in a methodical fashion, but that might be the topic for a future column.

As always, I invite you to share your thoughts on these issues by emailing me (, faxing (+1.814.393.1910), or posting a comment on this blog (click on the hyperlink below). Best regards!

International travel adjustments

On my computer, it's Saturday, 12:59 PM and I don't know where my kids --or my wife--are... In reality, there's not much to worry about: it's almost 8 AM at home (in Pennsylvania), and I'm on the other side of the Atlantic, working in France for a few days. Still, my guess is that, as I am writing these lines, my wife and kids are home, and she probably has started to wonder when I am going to call.

You see, I arrived in France the day before yesterday, and between the international flight and the train trips to Lyon, and then back to Paris to give some talks and participate in a conference, I just haven't had a chance to call her to let her know that the trip is going quite well! Partly to blame is the 5-hour time difference -early in the morning, when I have a bit more time--I know it is just after midnight in the US East coast… but my largest problem is the lack of Internet connectivity that I had not experienced before!

The last time I came to make a presentation in France (almost three years ago), wireless connectivity was less prevalent, and I had enough opportunities to go online by using the dial-up account that a friend lent me for the few days I was here. Unfortunately, this time I am not visiting this friend, and I am finding that very few wireless connections or "hotspots" are open to non-subscribers --as is frequently the case in the United States.

I don't know about you, but I have gotten very much used to taking advantage of the generosity that many people exhibit by leaving their wireless access points open to the public. Wi-fi hotspots open to the public have de facto become a "common good" like parks or good weather in many communities in the United States, but not in other countries. During my domestic trips it is very rare that I pay for Internet connection charges (unless I stay in one of the "stingy" hotels that have an extra charge for using their wireless network). Traveling abroad, however, is a different story!

Earlier this year, before the trip to France, I found a similar situation in Mexico. Just by walking around with my PDA seeking wireless signals, I found that there are many wireless hotspots in many neighborhoods but I also found out that most of those access points are password-protected -a situation very similar to what I am currently facing in France.

Could it be that Latin cultures are less trustful of strangers using privately paid for services? Or perhaps telecommunications companies in Mexico and France have done a better job at convincing their customers to secure their networks than their US counterparts? (They certainly have a vested interest in ensuring that their customers do not share these products with non-subscribers!) I really don't know, but that's certainly one of my most pressing needs in my recent international trips... Sure, I know that there are several mobile phone providers offering international roaming and internet access but I am not ready to increase my cell phone bill significantly for a service that I might use only during a couple of weeks in the year!

What about you? What kinds of issues have you faced when traveling internationally? I don't mean to imply that every NSHMBA member has to travel internationally, but, the way the business world currently works, it might probably be more difficult for many managers not to have at least some temporary international assignments or tasks, if not longer-run expatriate "gigs" that might even involve taking your whole family with you.

Studies on expatriate assignments suggest that more women are nowadays taking them than it used to be in the mid-nineteen nineties (seek Nancy Adler’s articles, for example). Other interesting findings include the fact that when the "trailing spouse" is satisfied with the experience, the chances of a successful stay are tremendously increased.

But beyond Internet connectivity or familial adjustment, I have some anecdotal evidence suggesting that when ethnic minority members take international assignments, they face issues that are different to the ones faced by mainstream managers. For example, a member of my family was sent by his company to Latin American destinations because he had a basic understanding of the Spanish language (sometimes a stressful proposition as he had only taken a few Spanish courses at school and his vocabulary was not very extensive). Fortunately, after some time, study and more trips, his fluency increased tremendously but at first some of these assignments appeared to be more based on his ethnicity than his competences, and that offered a number of challenges that he was not immediately ready to undertake.
This month I invite you to share your thoughts on these issues by emailing, faxing (+1.814.393.1910), or posting a "Comment" on this blog.

Best regards!

...the management skills we teach our kids

As I was writing these lines, my RSS reader picked up an interesting news release: Spanish-language broadcasters have a relatively high incidence of fast-food commercials that may be partially responsible for the 'obesity epidemic' that young Latinos are exhibiting in our country (Thompson et al., in Fox et al., 2008). According to the article, “30 percent of all Hispanic or Latino children in the United States are overweight, compared to 25 percent of white children,” and “50 percent of all Hispanic or Latino children have a television in their rooms, compared to 20 percent of white children.” Doing the math is not so complicated even if television is unlikely to be the only factor.

I am also hopeful that, just as in the case of substance abuse or pre-marital sex, even the highest amounts of advertising are unable to match parental example and influence. This line of thought made me come up with the theme for this month’s column: as MBAs (already minted or in process), what management sills are we modeling for our kids?

We model Financial management skills in topics such as savings, budgeting, cash flow, debt or record-keeping whenever we allow our kids to see that we save or otherwise keep good track of our money. We also model Management competencies like leadership, conflict resolution, the power of first impressions and related interviewing skills, whenever we act in front of our kids even in informal organizations like groups of friends or family reunions. I am sure that we can continue to apply this argument to areas such as Marketing, Accounting, Operations, Information Technologies, Strategy, etc.

But this is also a double-edged sword! Our kids are probably going to learn from both our productive and ineffective modeling, which reminds me: if we want the Latino vote to matter, don’t forget to vote this year, and make sure that “your kids” notice!

Tomás Kadala from ResearchPAYS, Inc. in New York tells us “to fully understand the deteriorating relationship between parents and their children (or adults with their younger family members) one must test the foundations of their core values. For most Hispanics the traditional family hierarchy where the parent’s decision is considered final, children tend to seek and accept instruction from an adult easily, hence, performing well in school as well as in their daily interactions with others. On the other hand, in families where authority is lacking usually due to adults having to spend more time at work than at home, the crucial moments of connecting with a child are lost. Compared to a management team within a company, if the CEO or senior management’s presence was never felt by its employees, a company would easily lose focus and potentially overspend or invest unwisely. One might argue that the adhesive forces keeping a firm working under good or not so good management is the level of compensation. Let’s face it. Without the assurances of receiving competitive salaries, employees would not show up to work. What about within a family structure where the incentive to cooperate cannot be measure in dollars and cents? Clearly a different bonding agent than a steady salary is required. Adults must draw from a core set of values that has been handed down to them by their own parents and grandparents. When one does not exist then problems such as obesity, drug abuse, and school drop outs can only be expected.

I realize many NSHMBA members probably do not have kids (yet?), but I still think that all might relate to these thoughts. After all, those who don't have children of their own are likely to have nieces, nephews, neighbors, or other young acquaintances, right? If you have a suggestion, experience or reflection along these lines that you would like to share with your fellow NSHMBA members, I look forward to hearing from you on this (or any other business issue that you would like to explore) via email, fax, snail mail or blog --the latter is preferred, just click on the "Comments" link below!.

Fox, M. et al. (2008). TV ads in Spanish may fuel kid obesity: study. [Reuters on Yahoo! news.] Retrieved February 19, 2008, from

Valentine's Day and Business

February is the “month of love” for most retailers, advertisers, and many other businesses. Last year, estimates from the National Retail Federation expected total Valentine’s Day spending to reach $16.9 billion. For the entire current year, even with the economy slowing down, there is an expectation for a conservative 3.5% growth in retail sales. We see a smörgåsbord of jewels, flowers, chocolate boxes, cards, and other “Valentines” that many individuals, young and old exchange to celebrate perhaps our most magnificent emotion. For many of us, these signs of affection and appreciation are reserved for the non-work spheres rather than the workplace—the specter of sexual harassment as a form of discrimination looms large. Still, research on the business world has detected some interesting exceptions.

For instance, the work of Dr. Lisa Maniero suggests that under some circumstances, companies might benefit from having a culture that is open to interpersonal emotional relations. She has been quoted stating that “Much to my surprise, I found people involved in office romance were more interested in their work, more motivated, more energized, more creative, and extra-productive because they didn't want to get criticized by their peers that the romance was causing a falloff in productivity” (Meyer, 1998).

Mariela Dabbah (co-author of The Latino Advantage in the Workplace) also tells us, in a proactive voice: “I think we all know from experience that when we have friends at work we are much more productive and engaged in what we do. In his book ‘Vital Friends,’ Tom Rath talks about the results of an extensive Gallup poll about friendship, life satisfaction and workplace opinions. It is clear from the research that people with at least one best friend at work were 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their lives. When asked if they would rather have a best friend at work or a 10% pay rise, most people chose to have a friend. So, it may be time to look at encouraging strong personal bonds amongst employees. And Valentine’s Day may be time for all of us to send warm ‘thank you for making my work day more interesting’ cards.

Finally, Cesar Perez (fellow NSHMBA member) recently wrote to me with several very intriguing comments, including one about the stereotypes that we, Hispanics, have to face.

One such stereotype could be related to the fervor that is so easily assumed to be present in Hispanics. We all know how strongly associated in our society are the words “passion” and “Latino.” Latino music, art, culture, and even places evoke beauty, infatuation, energy, and similarly related emotions that are well synthesized by the word “passion.” There might be some returns to this, but the risks might also be high.

For example, a person (Hispanic or not) who is perceived as “passionate” about her job might more easily enter difficult assignments that often lead to faster career progress. By the same token, in some firms, an individual who shows his enthusiasm for a particular project or line of work might be prevented from executing the most strategic parts of the project for fear that he might appear exceedingly anxious or “unprofessional.” Of course, it might be a matter of having an appropriate track record: to the extent that the enthusiastic person has earned a reputation for delivering results, she will probably get the opportunity.

In your experienced as a Hispanic MBA, has showing your “Latin passion” been a disadvantage or an advantage for your career? Why, or how? I invite you to share your anecdotes and insights.

I would also love to hear from you if you have specific examples about the larger issue of stereotypes regarding Latinos. As Cesar stated, “I know this is not unique to Latinos but we seem to be in the news recently so the issues are coming up more frequently.

I look forward to hearing from you on this (or any other business issue that you would like to explore) via email, fax, snail mail or blog --the latter is preferred (just click on the comments link below).

Have you mastered your new technology yet?

In many a firm and for many a manager, January is a month for deployment of new technologies. New budgetary cycles, the start of the New Year, perhaps even a few days off in December, all seem to collaborate to make it possible to start exploring new ways of doing things, sometimes using new gadgets, sometimes using old ones in different ways.

Certainly, this is not the only month, as we all know, for example, that our friends from MicroSoft decided to launch their new operating system and software suite last summer. It was interesting for me to hear all the negative reactions against having to learn the new interface with more powerful features that are likely to hog the current computing resources. I heard very few people talk about the added benefits of the newest release!

Still, many of these same people are now happily exploring the new features in their new cell phone, PDA, e-reader, software, camera, website... --or combination thereof! It seems as though adopting a new technology individually is much easier than adopting a new technology in a group context (e.g., within a department or organization). What do you think? What have you experienced, individually, or in your organizations? Have you seen any patterns that have helped you minimize resistance to a new technology?

David Riojas (MBA 2008, McCombs School of Business at UT) tells us that “Adopting new technology in a group context is harder because in many cases groups need to use the same technological standard in order to interact in an effective way. For the same reason, it is common to see groups that give up the benefits of the new technology for the use of an old one that is familiar to everyone within the group. On the other hand, it is easier for individuals to adopt a new technology, especially when this doesn’t affect the way they communicate with people that still use an older standard or tool.” His comment highlights the effects of interdependence in groups.

To complement, Al Escobar (Director at Cima Associates in Oxnard, CA and NSHMBA Chair for the South West Region) writes: “Change is the only constant in the universe, yet, irrespective of where or how it is encountered, it generates resistance at some level. In general, change for the sake of change will yield the greatest resistance. For example, everyone knows what they need to do to lose weight, yet very few take steps in that direction. Still, personal change is an individual decision, which makes it easier to deal with because one has control.”

He continues: “Group change, on the other hand, gives way to external variables for which one may feel loss of control. This creates challenges for organizations attempting to improve processes, productivity, or any other goal. Some time ago, an organization negotiated a better telephone plan for all its employees. It then notified all employees that old mobiles would be replaced with phones. Some employees freely welcomed the new policy, while others felt loss of control and resisted the change being "imposed" on them. Eventually all yielded, but it took time. Individuals are more open to change on a personal level when there is a social component and or when they experience a change in life such as moving to a new area, obtaining a new job, etc. All in all, change is not without challenges, but these can be minimized through careful planning and may include tools such as end-user buy-in, perceived benefit gain, input vs. output, and others.”

In a book chapter that is about to be published (Technology, Outsourcing & Transforming HR. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2008), my colleague, Dr. Gary Florkowski (Katz Graduate School of Business) and I offer research-based suggestions for enabling a smoother adoption of information technologies in Human Resource departments. Among these suggestions are:

  • Identifying early adopters, early majority and other eager users to focus your training efforts on them and minimize the probability that the technology will be accepted

  • Building a business case that has not just financial but also behavioral and other relevant performance indicators

  • Accepting that 100% adoption of a given technology is, in most cases, unattainable

The list of suggestions is obviously much larger than what I can include in this column, but these three seem to be often forgotten. The investments to upgrade our work technology –whether individually or organizationally—are too large to neglect the lessons from the field of change management. I hope these thoughts are helpful for your work as a leader that tries to improve your team and your own performance in your line of business.

For February, the “month of love”…

We all know how strongly associated in our culture are the words “passion” and Latino; they are almost used as synonymous. In your experienced as a Hispanic MBA, is this a disadvantage or an advantage at the workplace? Why, or how? I look forward to hearing from you via email, fax, snail mail or blog --the latter is preferred: