Students Practice Rapid Prototyping in Multidisciplinary Product Course

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From a better farmers’ market shopping experience to high-tech feminine care, students in the Managing New Product Design course this semester developed realizable market solutions to real-world consumer needs.

After building a product from concept generation to prototype during the 15-week course, students showed off their efforts at an afternoon tradeshow Dec. 15 in the Bank of America Forum.

Professionals from such firms as Google, 44 Energy Technologies, Parc, and Aditi Rao Design added their insights by volunteering as judges and coaches for the experiential learning course, which draws students from across campus, including the College of Engineering and School of Information. The course is taught by Haas Lecturer Jonathan Propp and Alice Agogino, the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Three of the teams at the Trade Show travel from Autonomous University of Mexico City, where they took a similar course and worked in parallel with three UC Berkeley teams.

“At the end of the semester we conduct a ‘lessons learned’ exercise with the class. The greatest learning experience for students this year was working in multifunctional teams and conducting in-depth design research with potential customers and potential users,” says Agogino. “We don’t want the students to create a polished prototype of a product no one wants. Rather we want them to focus on creating a conceptual prototype for a compelling product that could go to market.”

Adds Propp, “You can see that teams benefit from having that mix of business skills and engineering skills. They will have to work with people from different disciplines after graduation. This really does simulate the product development environment in industry.”

Hugo De Blauwe and Swapnil Dixit, both MBA 14, collaborated with chemical and mechanical engineers to develop IntelliCrop, a mobile app that runs on a tablet and automates the collection of crop data into a single source.

Explaining the team’s decision to focus on agriculture, De Blauwe called feeding a growing world population on finite land resources “one of the biggest issues the planet faces.”

IntelliCrop helps farmers manage their time and resources by gathering information on individual plots. At the touch of the screen, farmers can review either current conditions or forecasts that affect the growth of different crops.

The team got its idea after hearing from a Sacramento nut farmer who wards off winter frost by renting six helicopters that he flies throughout the night over his fields. The circulation of the propellers controls the air temperature, preserving the crop yield, but at a tremendous cost of fuel and person hours. The team quickly determined that there had to be a more efficient way to gather information and manage risk in the field by providing early real-time detection of environmental problems and suggesting appropriate action. It also encourages cross-collaboration between farmers to develop collective solutions for farming communities facing similar weather conditions

Similarly, Sarah Walker, Stephanie Curran, Kathryn Fritts, and Bernice Wong, all MBA 14, with Yilin Zhang from the Goldman School of Public Policy, talked to potential customers to come up with a very different kind of tech product.

For their project, Care Down There, they addressed the common anxieties women experience with menstruation. After interviewing 26 women, the team found that the trustworthiness of feminine hygiene products was a frequently shared concern and set about researching a market solution.

The team generated 80 concepts, weighing each against the identified needs, before developing its prototype—a tampon with a microchip that sends a phone message when near to needing replacement. Production costs would need to be less than 10 cents per chip to be marketable, the team estimated.

The team that drew the highest rating from judges created a product called Smart Glove, a sensor-based tracking device in an exercise glove that provides weight lifting feedback similar to that of a personal trainer. “Great product! Professional, marketable, useful,” one judge wrote.

Brad Edgar, BS 90, PhD 97, CEO of 44 Energy Technologies, served as both a judge for the trade show and coach for team Garden Gate, which designed a compartmentalized tote bag to improve shopping at farmers’ markets. Edgar was impressed by the thorough market research demonstrated across the board by teams. Notes Edgar, “Students got in touch with customers as real people.”

Career Changes: From Grant Applications to Music Apps

EWMBA careers Stephanie Lai croppedStudent: Stephanie Lai, MBA 14 in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program.

Then: Grantmaking Operations Coordinator at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Now: Marketing specialist at Smule, creator of social music-making apps such as Magic Piano, Glee, I Am T-Pain, and Ocarina. “I manage customer acquisition and app monetization. Internally, I work with product managers to optimize advertising, publishing, and cross-promotion of our apps. Externally, with mobile ad networks and monetization platforms.”

Why Smule: “Smule’s mission to connect people through music resonates with my own life mission. As an avid cellist, I’ve longed for people to experience the joy of making music. With our apps, you don’t need an instrument or musical talent – all you need is your mobile device.”

Inside Smule: “Our SF office has a grand piano, guitars, and drum set, and we periodically rock out in impromptu jam sessions using our apps and real instruments. While most company holiday parties involve hiring a band, the staff at Smule perform their own acts, including opera, jazz, rap, and a homegrown musical!”

Lai (lower l.) with the Smule band

Call them Maybe: Lai (lower l.) with the Smule band. Video here.

How she did it: “After spending 5 years in philanthropy, I realized I wanted to make a direct impact on people’s lives, rather than funding others to make a difference,” says Lai. “Given my passion for music, I searched for an innovative music start-up with a fast-paced, creative environment.” Lai says Luke Kreinberg of the Career Management Group encouraged her to network and ask friends about any music-related start-ups. “It turned out that my college pianist friend knew the CEO of Smule, and he introduced us via email. Without this connection, I doubt I would have gotten my first interview!”

Haas connections: Two Haas alums work at Smule – the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Marketing. “I met Jessica Wan, Smule’s Marketing Director, when we performed at the same wedding in 2009. When I applied, she kindly helped me prepare for my interview by answering my questions about the company. In addition, Smule’s CFO, Sunil Pareenja has shared tips on the Berkeley MBA courses he’s found to be most valuable in his career.”

Life Lessons: “From Mark Rittenberg’s active communications class, I have applied Rule #6 — don’t take yourself too seriously! This reminder has been especially helpful as I learn the ropes of the mobile ecosystem. When making a career transition, it is important to be open to change, new ideas, asking questions, and receiving feedback.”

MBA 12s at Work: Honest Tea

Welcome to MBA 12s at Work, a periodic series on the new career launches of the Berkeley MBA class of 2012.

MBA 12s at work Jenny BurnsGrad: Jenny Burns, MBA 12.

Working as: Brand Manager with Honest Tea in Bethesda, MD, responsible for all bottled tea and “ade” (e.g. juice) products. Her role includes product development and innovation, packaging, retail marketing and partnerships, and brand advertising.

Most excited to be working on: Helping develop a new line of zero-calorie sodas called Honest Fizz–the company’s first foray into carbonated drinks. “I feel such a sense of ownership and pride over the finished product.”

Honest Tea because: “I went to Berkeley-Haas specifically to work for a small, sustainable food or beverage company. I’m now in the exact role I described wanting in my admissions essay.”

Inside Honest Tea: “After 15 years (and acquisition by the Coca-Cola Company), our R&D lab is still located in our office, right next to the employee kitchen. I’m often greeted by boiling tea and wonderfully fragrant smells as I grab my breakfast each morning.”

Best career search strategies: Burns attended industry trade shows to stay on top of trends, new products, marketing tactics, and recent corporate acquisitions. “I was able to speak like an insider during interviews.” Mentoring and open office hours with the MBA Career Management Group provided “invaluable professional guidance before interviews and during negotiations.”

Classroom lessons in action: A Stonyfield Yogurt case from Wasim Azhar’s Channels of Distribution course detailing the structure and incentives of channels in the food industry helped Burns tailor Honest Tea’s bundle partnerships, marketing materials, and discounts “to better meet the needs of each of our key retailers and its shoppers.”

The Berkeley Innovative Leader Development (BILD) approach: “I took Entrepreneurship for my experiential learning class and the tools for developing an investor pitch have proved applicable to my work at Honest Tea. Managers are often too busy and impatient to deal with a lot of ‘process,’ but you still need to get everyone aligned before getting too far down a path. I’ve found creating mini pitch decks with a few key visuals and actionable insights are the best way to sell ideas up the chain.”

Living the D.C. life: Drinking wine and dancing to French pop music at an embassy party with classmates Asher Burns-Burg and Chelsea Tanaka felt “like such a ‘D.C.’ way to spend a Saturday night.”


Learning in Store: Retail Trek Yields Consumer Insights

Wendy Pratt explains the lay of the land

One recent Wednesday morning 17 MBA students traded statistics for…shopping.  The students were getting a look at what goes on in stores behind the scenes, as part of a Career Management trek led by Wendy Pratt, a Haas career advisor specializing in marketing and consumer packaged goods (CPG).

Pratt, who brings over 12 years of experience building brands and launching new products in the CPG world, is walking the aisles of a local Target store and Safeway grocery store to share insights on how products get developed, packaged, discounted, and placed on store shelves. The students have a variety of reasons for participating: Some are preparing for internship interviews with CPG powerhouses. Some are exploring broader applications.

Kyle Rudzinski, MBA 14, is transitioning from clean energy policy to clean energy business and says the trek helped him realize “how truly powerful marketing is.” Bronson McDonald, MBA 14, hopes to validate strategies employed by his family’s food manufacturing business (producing canned ackee, Jamaica’s national fruit). “I’ve seen the challenges in getting shelf space and market share for a new food brand,” he says. McDonald is also seeking insights for his own entrepreneurial plans for a venture transforming waste into a resource for food productions.

Bronson McDonald (l. with Andy Rios) gleans insights for his family’s business and for his future entrepreneurial plans

Stephanie Curran and Allie O’Brien, both MBA 14, are interested in CPG careers. Curran, in fact, is preparing for an interview the following week and “wants to learn more about how to get into the mind of the consumer from a brand management perspective.”

O’Brien came to Haas after working in energy consulting. She enjoyed the marketing components of her energy work, but likes the idea of focusing on products that consumers not only connect with daily, but connect with emotionally. She’s also interested in being “the head of a business within a business” and in having the responsibility for profit and loss that comes with brand management.

Moving through Target, the students learn about entry point marketing (capturing consumer loyalty at the outset of a major life change, such as having a baby), category captains (those brands with #1 share who control much of what happens on shelf space and merchandising), and key trends, such as seasonal merchandise—this against a backdrop of cookies and tortilla chips done up in black and orange for Halloween.

Perfect test subjects, the group finds themselves unable to resist the lure of well-presented merchandise, stopping to browse plush baby toys, men’s shirts, and plaid PJ bottoms. Eliza Rosenbaum, MBA 14, leaves with a Cal hoodie. “There was just no time to shop in Fall A and I really needed something for Big Game,” she explains. O’Brien makes her own brand selections, leaving with the coffee and kitchen sponges on her roomate’s shopping list–along with a few impulse purchases.

“The trek is a really interactive way to teach and discuss the importance of merchandising, shelf presence, packaging, and all other aspects of the marketing mix,” says Pratt. “The best way to learn the basics of marketing and discuss trends in consumer behavior is to see how CPG companies handle the marketing mix on the ‘front line’ as consumers see it.”

Winning Approaches: Sony Sony

On the "to-do" list for Du, Brahmbhatt, and Shah: Clean sweep at Sony. Check.

By now you may think you’ve heard it all when it comes to Berkeley MBA students winning case competitions. After all, this year students have made strong showings in healthcare, education technology, real estate, innovation, entrepreneurship, and renewable energy.

Well, here’s a case (competition) where Berkeley-Haas students were on the teams that came in first, and second, oh and third. Respectively, Raj Brahmbhatt, Benny Du, and Krishna Shah, all MBA 13, accomplished this feat in the Sony Marketing Strategy Case Competition, hosted by UCSD’s Rady School and held at Sony Electronics headquarters in San Diego, Feb. 10-12.

The competition randomly assembled teams of four, mixing students from participating schools such as Stern, Marshall, Anderson, and Ross, and gave them approximately 20 hours to tackle a challenge from Sony. Students were provided with some background information and asked to respond to three case questions that focused on Sony’s competitive positioning and product and marketing strategy for the short term, medium term, and long term.

Berkeley-Haas was the only school to be represented across all three winning teams, leading one to wonder if this was, perhaps, no coincidence. The secret weapon for all three teams? “Innovative ideas and recommendations supported by a solid strategic framework and good data,”  says Brahmbhatt.

Dinner with eBay’s Chief Marketer

Richelle Parham, eBay's chief marketer for North America, addresses the CMO Insight Series

Richelle Parham could have spent last Tuesday evening with actor Brad Pitt. Instead, the chief marketing officer for eBay North America was discussing brand strategy with Berkeley MBA students over dinner and seemed delighted to be doing so.

Parham kicked off the first session in this year’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Insight Series, a Berkeley MBA course in which top marketing executives from companies including Wells Fargo, Jamba Juice, Salesforce, and Genentech will share wisdom with students in the classroom and in a more intimate setting over dinner.

Parham’s missed opportunity to rub shoulders with Pitt was during an eBay online charity auction experience brought to life in a physical and interactive gallery hosted by eBay and Make It Right, an organization Pitt founded to help rebuild New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. She fit in her Haas engagement between serving as a panelist at a White House Urban Economic Forum and as keynote speaker at the Dare 2B Digital conference on tech careers for young women.

In class, Parham discussed the company’s auctions aimed at raising funds for charity, sharing examples from Buffet, Bieber, and Beatrice (Warren, Justin, and Princess). Each auctioned off something of value (lunch with, lock of hair, famous pink party hat) to raise funds—together more than $2.9 million in this case—for worthy causes.

Repositioning the World’s Largest Online Marketplace

However, eBay is now about much more than auctions, as Parham pointed out while sharing insights on repositioning “the world’s largest online marketplace.” Parham, who previously served as head of global marketing innovations and initiatives for Visa, launched the class with one of eBay’s new TV spots. “Good, you laughed!” she said at the end. “I’ll say more later about why that was important.”

Parham said that while eBay enjoys 99.9 percent to 100 percent brand recognition, the company still has legacy perceptions to battle. “A lot of people still think of eBay as the place for auctions and used merchandise, but, in fact, 90 percent of eBay items today are fixed price and more than 50 percent of our merchandise is brand new,” she said. Much of her work since joining eBay in fall 2010 has been to align consumer perceptions with eBay’s new reality.

Whimsy is part of the approach, hence Parham’s appreciation of the laughs that followed her TV spot about parental attention deficit at a child’s school play. The new campaign pokes gentle fun at everything from “mom jeans” to gossiping about celebrities during a mani/pedi and features eBay’s new messaging: When it’s on your mind it’s on eBay. Buy it new. Buy it now.

The spots also feature shoppers making purchases via mobile devices. “Mobile is where the online and offline worlds meet,” said Parham. In 2011, eBay’s mobile application was downloaded 70 million times.

Parham chats over dinner with Emma Qian, MBA 12

Over dinner, the group of five students had fewer than 70 million questions, but still quite a lot. For a relaxed two hours, they asked anything they wanted of eBay’s CMO—and in the course of the semester, each student has dinner with one speaker.

They wanted to know how Parham had charted her career, how eBay’s product organization is structured, how budgeting happens, how she achieves work/life balance, and what she looks for in hiring, to which she responded, “Know my business. Ask me questions that make me think. Don’t be afraid to break some glass.” Parham also shared thoughts on the importance of drawing youth, and girls in particular, to technology and about beloved collections (Barbie in her case, 80’s action figures for participating student Andrew Wisnewski, MBA 13).

As the evening wound down, Parham asked the group what they wanted to get out of the course and what they felt they got from her presentation. “For me this is a guide for how people who do marketing think about their customers, since I don’t have that background,” said Meredith Benedict, MBA 13. “It’s like getting all the lessons of a marketing class, but from real people.”

MBA Team Takes Third in Brand Management Challenge

Brand new winners (l. to r.): Nandita Batra, Agustina Sacerdote, Andrea Schalka, Gabe Cohen, Melissa Millan

Somewhere (though probably not on YouTube) is video of five Berkeley MBA students “dancing like crazy” in the wee hours at a pizza place. That would be the team of students competing in this past weekend’s Elite Eight Case Competition, using music to keep themselves alert in their 30th hour of preparing their case analysis.

 Apparently it worked: Full-time MBA students Nandita Batra, Gabe Cohen, Melissa Millan, Agustina Sacerdote, and Andrea Schalka, all MBA 13, claimed third prize in the annual Carlson School competition. The team beat out Duke, Wharton, and Kellogg to bring home $3,000 and the mantle of Berkeley-Haas as an ongoing powerhouse in this invitation-only competition.

This year’s challenge was to modernize an 80-year-old food brand through a repositioning and marketing plan.

“Our goal was to leverage emotional connection with the brand, since its functional attributes were well known,” says Schalka.  She says the Berkeley-Haas team distinguished itself with its consumer insights and by ensuring consistency between the new positioning for the brand and the marketing plan that would activate it. Not to mention some sweet moves on the dance floor.

MBA Internships: Visa

Student: Amy Josephson, MBA 12

Interning with: Visa Inc, Foster City, CA

Thrilled to be with Visa because: It’s “a major global brand with tons of interesting areas to focus on as a marketer– from global brand strategy to Olympics sponsorship to innovative new payment solutions in the mobile and eCommerce space. ”

Can’t believe she’s getting the chance to: Get exposure to the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) through intern executive breakfasts and project presentations with her team.

Already she’s learned: “How to prep a building for painting!” (through a Visa Volunteers day at a local elementary school.) She’s also gained good strategic frameworks for product marketing.

Advancing career goals by: “Applying strategic thinking to marketing in a way I haven’t done before.”

Who makes you proud to be Berkeley-Haas? Tell us in the comments below or share your stories with

MBA Internships: ConAgra Foods

Student: Emily Battle, MBA 12

Interning with: ConAgra Foods, Boise ID

Thrilled to be with ConAgra because: She’s getting exposure to brand management for a CPG company and a glimpse into life as a brand manager. “I am learning a lot about mass agriculture and manufacturing while maintaining a focus on marketing strategy and execution.”

Can’t believe she’s getting the chance to: Work on a project that has a high level of visibility throughout the Board of Governors. “I am getting to interact with Sr. level management and present my recommendations to ConAgra’s President of Commercial Foods.”

Already she’s learned: “Brand management is ultimately about understanding your consumer and their needs.” She’s also discovering that brand managers “must have strong leadership skills in order to successfully manage cross-functional teams.”

Advancing career goals by: Gaining experience in the CPG industry in which she hopes to work. “This internship is a great way to work on projects that will be relevant during interviews.”

Who makes you proud to be Berkeley-Haas? Tell us in the comments below or share your stories with

Marketing Matters

Marketing Officers Share Insights in New Speaker Series Course

Del Monte CMO Bill Pearce kicks off the series on February 9.

Experts who “thrive” and “think outside the bun” will share wisdom with students in the Full-Time MBA Program through a new course launching this spring: the Chief Marketing Officer Insight Series. The CMOs and senior marketing VPs who drive the thrive at Kaiser Permanente and shun the bun at Taco Bell will speak, as will marketing leaders from Levis, Yahoo!, Chevron, and more.

In addition to sharing insights and case studies from their organizations in a lecture, the marketing execs will join a small group of students for dinner after class and engage in additional mentoring. The 10-week course was developed by the Berkeley-Haas marketing area and will meet on Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Feb. 9 through April 20. See the full CMO speaker schedule for more details.

For more on marketing, check out the Haas Marketing Club, which offers case workshops, corporate day-on-the-job treks, and its own speaker series. Next up: Lunch and learn with Neutrogena on Jan. 19.

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