One benefit of earning my own MBA is working for extremely high-caliber people my whole career. At Siemens, it was Alan DeMuro in Santa Clara, then Jürgen Zenner and Lothar Harings in Germany, and then Gary Garman back in the US. Here at UCLA Anderson, Professor Victor Tabbush was in charge my first five years.
The last seven years I’ve supported Professor Carla Hayn, who became the Senior Associate Dean of FEMBA in 2007 and stepped down on June 30, 2014. Carla leads by example and I wanted to share some of my top lessons-learned from her, as a way to say thanks for her leadership.
1. Build your team / Get the resources you need
Victor ran FEMBA and EMBA by himself for five years. When Carla succeeded him she brought in help. Gonzalo Freixes was her second-in-command from the outset and the work Victor had done on his own was now being shared between two people, Carla AND Gonzalo.
Carla’s example taught me a lesson: ask for help. I remind myself, ‘just because I could do something, doesn’t mean I should do something.’ I’ve become more humble, more willing to receive support, in the seven years with Carla.
2. What’s best for our students? / Let’s try it!
Four months after Carla took the helm in 2007, FEMBA was heralded the #1 part-time MBA in the nation by BusinessWeek. A cautious person might have maintained course and not taken any risks, but my experience of Carla was the opposite.
“This is great. #1. Now what can we do better?” That’s how I saw her respond.
I watched her boldly champion three big upgrades to a program that had just been labeled “Best in the US.”
First, she pushed full-force for the creation of the Office of Professional MBA Programs Career Services Center. She brought in Susan Dearing’s leadership and soon we had a crew of career services professionals. Now–thousands of coaching-hours later–thousands of students have benefited. FEMBA was a pioneer in part-time MBA programs offering full career services.
Second, she put all her support to establishing the International Electives for EMBA and FEMBA students. EMBA students were asking for more electives; FEMBA students wanted more international options; Everyone wanted more elective choices. Carla and Gonzalo created International Electives and accomplished all three.
In one-week formats, EMBA & FEMBA students could earn four-units of credit in “mini-study-abroad” electives. Students could travel with UCLA Faculty and Students, or participated in the first-ever exchange options for part-time MBA students.
Seven years later, over 1,700 students have studied in over 20 countries around the world.
Thirdly, she brought FEMBA Flex to life. In March of 2012, the faculty voted to offer FEMBA core courses in a hybrid, “Flex” format (50% on-campus and 50% face-to-face). We’d experimented with hybrid electives for several years and had a good track record of learning outcomes and student satisfaction, but it was a big leap to offer core courses in a hybrid format.
“Let’s go,” said Carla. And we did. In April 2012, we put it on our website that we’d offer Flex core courses in September and we were off and running.
That first year of Flex brought several very high-caliber students into FEMBA who would not have been at UCLA, in either FEMBA or EMBA, without a hybrid offering. Flex continued to grow and now enters its third year with the most participation yet, with students from multiple different states commuting to UCLA. We even have someone planning to commute from China to Flex!
3. Fight for your people / Be straight with your people
Finally and personally, I benefited from relating to Carla as a mentor. I’ve gone to her with victories and defeats and always I got a straight answer from her.
Several years ago, when I had ‘stubbed my toe’ on some initiative that didn’t go well, I was in her office, basically whining, and she gave me some wonderful perspective that has served me well ever since.
“Dylan,” she said, “if you have a whole career and don’t have some big failures along the way, well, that’s not much of a career now is it? There are probably lots of people who think I should do things differently, but that’s not the point. You have to do what you think is best.”
It was straight and honest. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear necessarily, but it was true. I left her office empowered, thinking to myself, “Dylan, you have a cool job at a great institution, but things won’t always work out as planned. You just gotta put on your big boy pants and power forward.”
I always knew exactly where I stood with Carla and I am more direct in my communication after watching her.
Lastly, she is a fighter. She was always championing for great faculty for students, for more student resources and even for us staff. It was Carla’s drive that gave me the chance to teach Business Communications with Professor Bob McCann.
It was Carla who “punked me” when she promoted me to Assistant Dean in 2012. She didn’t tell anyone and sprang the news on me at our first-ever FEMBApalooza. It was quite a life-moment, getting promoted in front of over 500 people, and then getting to wear a balloon crown!
So there’s more, but those are some of my most-appreciated lessons-learned from sharing seven years of life working for Professor Carla Hayn.
Carla, I got to say words of appreciation at your faculty tribute on July 11th, but I wanted to expand on those same thoughts here on my blog. You are a great leader. Thank you for your commitment, your energy and your vision.