The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Month: March 2016

The Art and Science of KPIs

By Phil Holberton

Every business leader needs to organize a set of KPIs. These KPIs have two purposes:

  1. To track the progress of a business.
  2. To motivate the organization to stretch and achieve its maximum performance.
KPI Capture

Click to view Phil’s March 2016 webinar on linking performance management to KPIs.

Where Do You Start?
Begin with a few KPIs — five is a good number. Choose KPIs that drive financial results; those KPIs that can measure the performance of the team or company. KPIs need to measure critical activities and the effectiveness of those activities, such as customer retention rate or average order size. Choose those KPIs that you can frequently measure, whether it’s weekly, daily or monthly. Assign responsibility for those KPIs — someone on your team needs to take ownership.

The Technical Aspects
Select KPIs that you can calculate easily. On the surface, everyone should be able to understand them. The top KPIs are those that indicate if individuals are doing their job, and can motivate them to change their behavior and influence the results. Spending is an easy KPI to use — am I under/over budget? Another is sales — can I do something to create improvement in the sales results? Can I make one more sales call or go that extra mile for a customer that results in incremental business?

The Emotional Impact
Psychologically, employees will look at KPIs as their individual report card – how did I do? The trick for the leadership team is to develop and use KPIs to help motivate its employees, not use them as a demotivator. If KPIs are used to discipline an individual, they will fail and not be supported by the rank and file. Use KPIs as a way to measure your progress and as a coaching tool to attain even more effectiveness from the organization.

Identifying the right KPIs is not easy – yet it can be very simple to organize a few KPIs that everyone can wrap their mind around and support. Why is it not easy? Because we have many choices. If you ask ten employees, you may get ten different lists of KPIs. If we step back, I can safely say there could be hundreds of KPIs, each of them having a precise significance yet can be distracting if used only by itself. In this case, the saying “Less is More” prevails.

KPIs, when well established, can be a system that allows for continuous improvement, allowing you to refine your business processes over time, become more efficient and continue to drive overall financial and employee performance. Use KPIs as a means to view the glass as half full, not as half empty and bringing the best out of your employees. Everyone will feel better about themselves.

Ask yourself, am I a leader?

Phil Holberton is the founder of Holberton Group Inc. – Speaking of Leadership, a business advisory firm specializing in strategic, organizational and executive coaching. He also teaches courses in the Project and Program Management and Strategic Analytics programs at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies.

Innovations in digital marketing at SXSW 2016

By Lauren Hindman

Each March, more than 70,000 representatives from the music, film and tech industries descend upon Austin, Texas, for SXSW. Considered one of the world’s top tech conferences (yes, this is the one credited with generating Twitter’s success), the two-week festival is dedicated to exploring the latest trends and strategies in the digital media space.

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SXSW’s famed interactive conference includes hundreds of events each day and features speakers from established technology leaders and emerging companies alike. I had the opportunity to attend SXSW Interactive in 2015, but I found this year’s experience even more valuable — both from a professional perspective as the senior director of marketing for the Texas Stars, but also for my role as an instructor with Brandeis GPS’s Digital Marketing and Design graduate program. I currently teach Writing for Digital Environments, and the panels that I attended related directly to several course topics: audience targeting, storytelling techniques, social media strategies and user-generated content.

Marketing to moments: a new outreach strategy

One particularly insightful panel I attended, Marketing to Moments that Matter, featured Ann Mack, head of content and activation for global consumer insights at Facebook. Mack talked about how marketing strategies have moved beyond targeting by demographics and even by passions and interests. Today, with the ubiquitous nature of mobile in our lives, marketers need to focus on the particular moments that people experience on a daily basis. Mack shared some compelling statistics about the millions of moments shared through mobile devices any given minute, and designated those moments into three categories for strategic outreach:

  • Landmark moments (marriage, children, college graduations)
  • Annual moments (holidays and birthdays)
  • Everyday moments (cooking, losing a phone)

Mack’s takeaways for the audience resonated with the digital media writing strategies we had covered in class: be personal in your messaging, be precise in your targeting, and be persistent with your strategy.

Sports fashion, Grumpy Cat, and great writing’s place in a visual world 

Not only did the topics covered at SXSW directly relate to my digital writing course, but the course seemed to follow me to the conference. Each week in our discussion forums, students choose organizations to analyze based on that week’s topics, and I was excited to run into two companies that students had studied during my SXSW experience. Less than a week after a student had critiqued a marketing email from Fanatics.com, I sat in on a panel with their vice president of marketing, Ryan Donovan. After listening to him speak about their marketing strategies and challenges, I was able to relay that information back to the class as a follow up to our discussion forum.
SXSW1-catconcoctions-e1458308732542Another student had analyzed Friskies’ digital media presence, and when I saw that Grumpy Cat was making a SXSW appearance on behalf of the cat food brand, I waited in more than an hour-long line (all for the benefit of the class, I swear!) to get my photo taken with Internet-famous cat and experience their #CatConcoctions digital campaign first hand. I’ll be using this campaign as a case study during our user-generated content week to demonstrate ways that brands can encourage consumers to post content on their behalf.

The biggest benefit to attending SXSW Interactive is having the ability to get a pulse on the digital media trends that other companies are focusing on. Even as digital media moves toward focusing more on the visual through photos and videos, I heard the words “storytelling” and “authenticity” in multiple panels this year. To me, this emphasizes the fact that organizations still need great writers and creative thinkers on their digital teams.

My time at SXSW 2016 was a definite success, and I am so excited to be able to share what I learned with my GPS class and immediately implement those ideas into my teaching. While I’m constantly reading about the latest developments in digital media, there’s nothing quite like being able to sit in a room with the experts, hear them talk, and ask them questions about issues I am tackling both in the workplace and in the classroom.

Lauren Hindman is the senior director of marketing for the Texas Stars and an instructor in the Digital Marketing and Design program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies.

Learn more about the online master’s degree in digital marketing at Brandeis here.

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#WhatsYourWhy Wednesday with Kristin Cataquet

We know that pursuing a master’s degree can be overwhelming, particularly for students who work full-time and are already balancing professional and personal commitments. We also know that every student has a unique reason that drives him or her to return to school and complete their degree.

Last fall, we held a scholarship competition and asked our students to tell us their story — their why — behind their decision to enroll in a graduate program. This series will profile our scholarship winners.

Read Part 1 of #WhatsYourWhy Wednesday here.


travel-kcataquet-e1458147356686Graduate Professional Studies:
 I’m here with Kristin Cataquet, a student in our Master of Science in Strategic Analytics program. Congratulations on winning our first “What’s Your Why” scholarship! Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Kristin Cataquet: Thank you! My name is Kristin Cataquet. I’m from Washington D.C. but currently live in Boston.

GPS: How many courses have you taken with GPS so far?

KC: I have taken six courses, and I’m taking two this semester.

GPS: Wow, you’re almost done!

KC: Yes, and I am very excited about that!

GPS: Tell me more about what you do for work.

KC: I am a quality data analyst at Keurig Green Mountain, the single-serve coffee brewer. My responsibilities differ by the hour. I often work with engineers and leadership; looking at different analytical models to gain insight and make better decisions for our company.

GPS: What made you want to go back to school to get your graduate degree?

KC: When I was moving to Boston, I realized that a lot of the jobs that I was applying to preferred candidates with master’s degrees. I decided to do some research and see what kind of graduate programs are out there, and Brandeis came up. I travel a lot for work, and Strategic Analytics was one of the only programs that offered the subject matter I wanted while still enabling me to do my job the way I need to.

At first, I was just looking for that graduate school check mark. But since starting classes and even before then, I started to realize that I really do enjoy bettering myself and becoming better every day. GPS has really helped me fulfill that want and that need.

GPS: That’s great to hear, and it also segues into my next question: what made you choose Brandeis over the other schools you considered?

KC: It was a combination of the online nature of the program, the availability of the instructors and just the overall coursework. I took an online class during undergrad and felt like I did not learn anything and was under-challenged. But it’s a completely different story at GPS. The program is incredibly challenging, and I find it awesome and effective in terms of learning and retaining the information because while you’re partially self-teaching, you have guidance. You have the advantage of studying subject matter that is as high-level or low-level as you want. That option is necessary for students in analytics, where every job and company is different. You want to learn as much as possible in as little amount of time to make yourself more valuable.

GPS: What else do you hope to get out of this program?

KC: I work in a company where analytics is a relatively new field, and a lot of the higher-level employees in our department have left. This has given lower-level employees the opportunity to lead the way, and it would be great to be able to do that accurately and effectively. So, my goal is not necessarily a promotion, but to feel more confident in my own abilities and what I’m capable of doing. I’ve learned that I really do love what I do. It’s kind of like figuring out that you’re a really good soccer player and then pushing yourself to become a professional soccer player. I’ve realized that I’m good at this, but I want to be really good at this.

GPS: Speaking of soccer, what are some of your hobbies outside Keurig and the classroom?


kcataquet-salsa-dancing-e1458147459657KC:
Besides my full-time job, I work part-time at my old company. Outside of that, I probably play volleyball four times a week and my husband and I do a lot of salsa dancing. We love to hike and we love to travel.

GPS:  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your experience with Graduate Professional Studies?

KC: When I came into the program, I really thought it was going to solely focus on analytics — that I would learn tools about modeling and other new skills. And that’s partially what’s happening. But there is also a whole other level to the program that’s surprised me: it’s learning about leadership, being a good employee and being a good boss. It’s learning to conduct yourself more professionally, building communications skills, and changing your approach to how you view a company. I didn’t necessarily know that I needed those types of skills, but all of the sudden, even after just my first term at Brandeis, I’ve realized I know so much more about my company and how it operates. It has been really rewarding to not only acquire skills on the technical level but on the leadership and professional level as well.

SPOTLIGHT ON JOBS: Pfizer Inc.

spotlight-CHANGED-300x200SPOTLIGHT ON JOBS

Members of the Brandeis GPS Community may submit job postings from within their industries to advertise exclusively to our community. This is a great way to further connect and seek out opportunities as they come up. If you are interested in posting an opportunity, please complete the following form found here.

Where: Pfizer Inc: Cambridge, MA

Position: Several Positions available in Human Genetics and Computational Biomedicine

The advance of human genetics in recent years driven by the large scale human genome-sequencing and genome-wide association in multiple disease areas has brought the research community and pharmaceutical industry an unprecedented opportunity to utilize this information and technology to facilitate innovative drug discovery and development. Pfizer has now reached a key point at which human genetics is sufficiently mature to aid the drug discovery process in several important areas.

Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and Neuroscience stand out as areas where genetic research has been successful, suggesting that increased emphasis and resource may yield ever more safe and efficacious precision medicines. A combination of genetic epidemiology and functional genomics will facilitate our ability to identify mechanisms, indications, patients and biomarkers, all of which would be guided by an evidence base in humans.

Opportunities also exist to integrate human genetics with other types of data measured in clinical research such as gene expression via RNAseq, protein measurements in peripheral blood, structural and functional brain imaging, and immune cell responses to treatment. This will enable holistic view of biomarker response. Carefully designed and implemented pharmacogenetic studies of drug responses in clinical trials could provide novel mechanistic learnings to support combination therapy or biomarkers for patient stratification.

Pfizer is looking for experts in human genetics with sound knowledge of applying human genetics and genomics as tools for target discovery/validation, biomarker/indication identification, patient stratification through genetic association analyses and functional biology studies.

 

Click here to view further details on this opportunity!

Any further questions on the position may be directed to Megan Harrigan at megan.harrigan@pfizer.com.

Interested candidates are asked to submit a resume/cv and cover letter through the Pfizer online portal here.

Please make sure to reference seeing this position through the Brandeis GPS job spotlight post.

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On the light of reason and being bold

This is the time of year where we begin to wonder how everything is moving so fast. You may notice more sunlight, warmer temperatures and start to realize that winter is finally retreating. Spring is on the way and with it comes new opportunities, adventures, challenges and milestones. As we all hurdle through the beginning of 2016 and take on our goals for the year, we tend to forget what is waiting at the turn of each new season. For nearly 100 GPS students, the beginning of summer marks an incredibly important, personal milestone: completing their graduate programs.

We are nearly two months away from our 2016 commencement ceremony on May 22. It’s hard to believe that nearly a year has passed since the Brandeis GPS class of 2015 took to the stage to accept their diplomas. We were lucky to have commencement speaker and Brandeis alum Curtis H. Tearte, who took us on a journey through his life and left us with the resonating reminder to always expect the unexpected.

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Curtis Tearte is a leader in business transformation and technology. He joined IBM in 1979 and rapidly progressed through four consecutive levels as director, vice president and general manager. He is responsible for multiple sectors across the key revenue-generating areas of the company. Mr. Tearte also served on the IBM Worldwide Management Committee, which is composed of the top 60 IBM executives. In his final position, he spearheaded the company’s single largest infrastructure IT transformation, designed as a model for U.S. state and allied foreign governments.

Mr. Tearte took the time to speak to all of us and lend his expertise. He expressed how proud he was of every GPS student who returned to school despite the many challenges that arise when juggling multiple commitments. It was truly an honor to hear him speak with such passion and vigor.

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As we reflect on our most recent commencement ceremony, we look forward to what is to come this May. We are already so proud of all our students and wish them nothing but the best. We hope you are as excited for Commencement 2016 as everyone here at GPS.

Read more about our 2015 commencement, or watch the video here.

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#WhatsYourWhy Wednesday with Heather Ryder

We know that pursuing a master’s degree can be overwhelming, particularly for students who work full-time and are already balancing professional and personal commitments. We also know that every student has a unique reason that drives him or her to return to school and complete their degree.

Last fall, we held a scholarship competition and asked our students to tell us their story — their why — behind their decision to enroll in a graduate program. This series will profile our scholarship winners.

GraduDadnMe-169x300ate Professional Studies: I’m here with Heather Ryder, a student in our Master of Science in Information Technology Management program. Congratulations on winning our first “What’s Your Why” scholarship! Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Heather Ryder: Thank you! My name is Heather Ryder. I’m originally from Freeport, Maine, and I currently live in Newton, Massachusetts.

GPS: Tell me a little about your day job.

HR: I work at HubSpot, a marketing and sales software company in Cambridge. I’ve been here for almost five years, and I manage our help desk team. We have a team of six people here in the U.S., and we support our employees all over the globe. I also do some system administration, and act as a liaison between different departments on projects involving IT.

GPS: Great. Let’s switch gears a bit and talk more about why you decided to go back to school.

HR: I kind of went back and forth with the decision for a while. I wanted to continue learning outside of the workplace, and I had just moved into a managerial role at work — that was something very new to me so I wanted to build my skillsets in that area. No one in my family has attended graduate school and I have a huge family (my dad is one of five, my mom is one of six).

GPS: What made you choose Brandeis over some of the other schools you looked at?

HR: I was really looking for a program that supported online learning, it’s so much easier for my schedule. Sometimes I work really long hours depending on what we’re doing, or I have nightly calls with Sydney, Singapore and some of our offices on the other side of the world. I was looking for classes that supported those types of hours.

Brandeis stuck out because Janice, my student advisor, was just so incredible with helping me through the registration process. And the fact that I could take a course prior to actually applying to see if it was a good fit for me was awesome. I’m only taking two classes per year right now, just because of work and everything, and Janice has been great about making sure I don’t miss my required courses and setting me up for success. That was something really important to me because I’m going on this journey that nobody in my family has gone on before, and it’s so valuable to have someone give me advice on being a working professional who is also in school. Her advice is so hands on point and I absolutely love that.

GPS: What do you hope to gain professionally with the degree?

HR: As I mentioned, HubSpot has international offices that we’ve opened over the course of the past three years. This is a huge area of growth for us, we really want to go global as a company. No one on our team has a lot of experience when it comes to taking an IT team global. How do you handle communications, organizational structure changes, management and leadership? I realized there’s so much expertise that I don’t have, so many things I’m going up against that I have never experienced before. A lot of the courses in my program specifically tackle these challenges. I’m really excited about all these changes on my team, but I know that I could really benefit from talking to other professionals who have gone through a similar process.

GPS: Do you have anything to expand on in terms of personal goals or how you think this degree will fit into your life outside of the office?

HR: When I first started at HubSpot I was incredibly shy. Now that I’m in a management role and help motivate people on my team, that’s like a new world for me. Just working with other professionals in my classes has helped me come out of my shell. They’ve really helped me figure out how to balance my personality versus the personalities of other individuals. This is helpful not only at work, but with personal relationships, too. I also want to show the young women in my family (my cousins who are much younger than me), that the option of getting a master’s degree is available to them. And show them that they can really do anything: they can go to grad school or undergraduate school, and work, and start a family.

GPS: Why do you think that you’re going to be successful in completing this program?

HR: Hands down, it’s because of the program’s flexibility. As I mentioned, my advisor has been great about keeping me on track with my courses. And because we have five years to finish the program, I know I don’t have to worry if something major comes up at work or in my personal life. Right now, I’m planning my wedding for this fall, so I know that I can skip a term if I need to.

GPS: Can you think of an example of any course assignments that have directly impacted anything that you’re doing at work?

HR: Absolutely! In one of my most recent classes, Strategic Information Technologies, we wrote a paper about the pros and cons of software that we want to implement into our work environment. I used the format covered in my paper to look at six different processes we’re currently using at HubSpot, I measured the benefits of each technology, and evaluated the benefits of each one. That helped us move from six knowledge-based software that we were using to three.

GPS: Tell me more about your hobbies outside of school or work.

HR: I have a six-year-old stepdaughter that I enjoy spending my weekends with. I’m also learning Russian kind of on my own. I love to write and to read, and I play board games and video games to decompress. I also really like to bake and cook, and I love watching baking and cooking shows. So a lot of different options when I have free time!

 

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