Execs Give MBA Students A Few Reality Lessons

Link Program Takes Education Out of the Classroom and Into the Boardroom

Nov. 21, 2008

How do successful business men and women overcome challenges and setbacks and build a promising career? Embrace change, invest in technology and make tough decisions based on research and instinct.

That is just one message shared by a senior executive from high-tech giant Fujitsu with a group of UT Dallas Full-Time (Cohort) MBA students recently as they visited the company’s corporate headquarters in the Richardson Telecom Corridor.

The visit was part of a new academic program called UT Dallas Executive Link designed to take MBA students directly to corporate leaders for powerful business lessons outside the classroom.

“In tough economic times, strong retailers are going to get stronger, and those that haven’t invested in technology are going to suffer,” Peter Wolf, vice president of Self Ordering and Univations Operations at Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, said to the boardroom full of MBA students. Wolf and two other Fujitsu executives from Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, a division of Fujitsu that focuses on retail technology, spoke with the group.

A partnership that pairs North Texas corporations with MBA students, the Executive Link gives students a peek into the executive boardroom, helping them connect concepts they are learning in the classroom with real-world examples. Since spring 2008, when the program began, MBA students have visited about 12 corporations, including Ericsson, Perot Systems, Tektronix and Texas Instruments, spending about two hours at each company.

“It has been astounding how open and frank the executives have been. They not only talk about business models and company attributes, but they also talk about business challenges and weak spots. In some cases, it has been like sitting on the board,” said Judy Guyer, director of UT Dallas’ Career Management Center and one of the organizers of the corporate visits.

At the MBA students’ Fujitsu visit, executives shared insight into the company, economic trends, strategies and products and also revealed critical challenges facing the IT industry, including risk management, competition and constant pressure to make new sales and expand.

“This can be just as educational for us as it is for these students,” said Keith McNamara, Fujitsu’s senior vice president of Software Operations. “Some of the best advice and information we can gather is through the perspective of an outside aspiring business executive.”

“This is an extraordinary program to offer these students. With today’s economic situation, future executives like these need to become attuned to seeing how corporations like Fujitsu will find ways to strengthen their current business structure in order to continue offering the highest quality services to their customers,” said Paul Mason, Fujitsu Transaction Solutions CFO.

Students said they were surprised at the executives’ candor and appreciated the corporate lessons that have supplemented their classroom experiences. First-year MBA student Vikram Kulkarni of Bangalore, India, said the corporate visits have proved that what he has studied in the first four months of his MBA experience has significant relevance in today’s business world.

“It was surprising to note that most executives at the Executive Link corporate visits do not give an all-rosy image of their company, but discuss freely with us about the problems they’re facing and places where they need to catch up with competitors. Fujitsu, for example, told us that they were aware of the fact that they are behind their competitors in terms of brand awareness,” Kulkarni said.

Jay Pulanco, another first-year MBA student, agreed. “I have learned so much from visiting with the respective firms, but what has surprised me in our visits is the level of candor in which they spoke,” Pulanco, of Houston, said.

“The Fujitsu executives were cordial and very informative. From this visit, as well as other Executive Link visits, I gained a better appreciation and understanding for contemporary issues to the company and industry, as well as the vision and direction of the firm,” he said.


Media Contacts: Jill Glass, UT Dallas, ( 972) 883-5989, jill.glass@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Peter Wolf is a vice president at Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, which participates in Executive Link program open to full-time School of Management MBA students.

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