Tomorrow’s Executives Strategize Today

December 7, 2012 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

Tomorrow’s Executives Strategize Today

Navigating through different personalities—and understanding one’s own—relates to a person’s success in business.

That’s why Senior Career Counselor Kimberly Chu administered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, aka personality test, to students accepted into this year’s Goldman Sachs BMCC Leadership Program.

“We organized the groups in order to balance out personality types,” says Chu, who coordinates the program. “The students learned a lot about teamwork, and we guided them through the processes of conflict resolution and understanding each other’s communication styles.”

“Modern thinking” in problem solving
Over 115 students applied to the rigorous program, and 22 were selected to participate. They met weekly during BMCC’s club hours, and each group was assigned a company to represent—Apple, Ford, Nike, Nintendo or Starbucks.

Students rotated within their groups, taking on the role of Chief Executive, Administrative, Financial, Operations and Communications Officers. As a group, they problem-solved around business challenges caused by economic recession, rising gas prices and other situations.

Best of all, they were guided by corporate executives from Goldman Sachs who have first-hand experience with factors the students were analyzing.

“The workshop leaders provided a series of scenarios that forced us to work together to find solutions for real problems companies face,” said Business Administration major Djanai Smith.

What she calls “modern thinking,” or taking into account a company’s integrity on a social and environmental level, was useful to her team, said Smith, who wants to work someday in marketing, “in a green industry where people are focused on being socially conscious.”

“We realized, you can’t just think of the bottom line, and shareholders,” she said. “You have to consider stakeholders, too, because the world is getting smaller, with the Internet and social media, and companies are more aware of their footprint and how they appear to the public. Consumer perception is more important than ever.”

Coming from another angle, Miguel Ibarra, also a Business Administration major, “was impressed by the complexity of the operations and supply chains of the companies we looked at.”

Kyle Forbes, an aspiring music industry executive, was struck by the intensity of working in a small group, solving tough—albeit theoretical—business challenges. “The psychological ownership of being responsible within our team surprised me,” he said.

“We were always emailing each other, setting up meetings and going over everything. There were times I would eat and email at the same time, and the whole team would email late at night.”

Success “must be proven”
At the end of the two-month project, each student team presented its strategies to an audience of executives from both Goldman Sachs and BMCC, in a conference room at the sweeping, waterfront offices of Goldman Sachs in Lower Manhattan.

Coming from a human resources, management, operations, public relations or finance perspective, team members outlined steps to offset challenges to their company, assessing impact on their profit margin, employee morale, product quality and other areas.

“Success is not an entitlement. It must be proven every day,” said Miguel Ibarra in his role as a Starbucks chief executive.

“We’re not just providing a product, we’re providing an experience,” he added. “It’s not as simple as ‘Profit equals revenue minus expenses’. You have to also take culture into account, and that’s why we introduced green tea to our menu in Asian countries.”

Justin Wong, in another executive role, addressed public relations challenges to the company he represented, recommending that it employ a third-party arbiter, and revise its code of ethics.

Each team took 15 minutes, and was careful to meet its time limit. The students introduced each other and sat at a panel, taking turns at the podium, narrating the colorful visuals projected behind them.

Executive feedback
After each presentation, members of the audience asked questions: “Have you looked at your key competitors? What are they doing, that you’re not doing?”

They also offered suggestions such as funneling profits back into the communities in which the companies operate, and complimented the students’ efforts, describing them as “polished,” and “very thorough.”

Kimberly Chu—introduced by BMCC Dean of Student Affairs Michael Hutmaker as the “heart and soul” of the project, on BMCC’s side—noted how much the students benefit from sitting down with the Goldman Sachs executives, who generously provide their time and effort on a weekly basis.

“I’d really like to thank the executives at Goldman Sachs who worked with our students this year,” she said, “especially Chanel Dennis, Diego Bonet, Chris Doyle, Karl Karunakaran, Cristina Michaels, Lauren Schwimmer, and Lauren Tsuchiya.”

Chanda Gibson, a VP at Goldman Sachs and workshop leader in the program over the years describes it as “an important part of our commitment to the Lower Manhattan community. We are proud to be celebrating our sixth year with BMCC, as we are deeply committed to supporting the communities where Goldman Sachs’ people live and work, and we look forward to next year’s program.”

Editor’s Note: Students who participated in the program were Joesne Araujo Passos, Dong Chan Lee, Nicola Collino, Michael Dolce, Rinna Duarte, Jhoselyn Escobar, Guy Gerald Fabre, Galit Felner, Kyle Forbes, Jian Hang Xiao, Espita Hoque, Qianyan (Catherine) Hu, Juan Ibarra, Miguel Ibarra, Sadman Islam, Bridget Lehnert, Cigdem Metin, Derek R. Pretlow III, Luca Rossato, Cindy Salazar, Sutrisno Tan, Justin Wong, and Seong Wook Kwak.