At the Port of Tallinn, the biggest port on the shores of the Baltic Sea, we had the opportunity to hear about some of the sustainability practices that the Port has implemented to reduce the its carbon footprint. Port of Tallinn operates as a landlord type of port with no cargo handling operations of its own. It maintains and develops the infrastructure of the port and leases territories to terminal operators.
Before our arrival, a team of students was tasked with researching and understanding the measurement and reduction of carbon footprints among other large Scandinavian ports, including the Ports of Rotterdam, Oslo, Gothenburg and Stockholm. The team presented its findings as we had an open discussion about the Port of Tallinn’s strategic outlook as it works to reduce Scope 3 emissions. This means influencing both its customers and the community in which it is located to move towards more sustainable practices in terms of areas such as cargo, real estate development, shipping and cruise ship travel.
One of the first experiences in Tallinn, Estonia that showed us the country’s progress towards sustainable development was our visit to e-Estonia, where we learned about the success and advancement of their e-government initiative. Our group was escorted into a showroom where policy makers, political leaders and corporate executives from all over the world gather to discuss topics such as cyber security and be inspired to implement a digital society by recognizing the successful example of e-Estonia. In this room, we had the opportunity to get a brief look at what it is like to live as an Estonian citizen. We learned that the initiative started before the turn of the century with the education of citizens of all ages on basic computer skills, as well as online safety. Next, the Estonian government started gradually introducing new programs (e.g. chipped ID cards) and linking these programs with government services such as iVoting. By making e-services convenient, transparent and easily integrated into everyday life, the concept was popularized and widely accepted.
During our visit with a representative from Estonia’s Sustainable Development Commission, we discussed Estonia’s approach to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the challenges of involving the private sector. Some of the challenges were encouraging the private sector to report on progress, as well as some conflicting interests – such as Estonia’s reliance on carbon-intensive shale gas for energy needs. Gender pay gap and productivity were other areas that the Commission hoped to tackle through the implementation of the SDGs. Based on our visit with digital Estonia, we saw a potential opportunity to use Estonia’s advanced digital infrastructure to improve private sector SDG reporting and progress.
The first few days of our trip were spent in Estonia, a small country that gained its independence roughly 25 years ago. Although Estonia is a leader in technology, the Old Town of Tallinn takes visitors back in time to the 13th century. When first arriving in the Old Town of Tallinn, its medieval charm and winding cobblestone streets stood out to our group right away. The old cobblestone streets were lined with medieval homes, ancient churches, restaurants, guard towers, shops, museums, galleries, warehouses, and pastel-colored merchant houses. Some of these buildings were modern but some dated all the way back to the Middle Ages. Some of our adventures in Tallinn included walking around the town center, climbing numerous towers, observing the incredible architecture of Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral, eating Estonian cuisine (which is largely based off meat, potatoes, soup, and fish), and standing on top of Toompea Hill which is where the first fortress was built that overlooks the entire Old Town. Old Town is enclosed by a stone wall and many towers, separating it from the more modern part of the city right outside the walls. During our exploration, outside of the city walls to Kadriog Park near the water, our group soon noticed the drastic change in architecture from old to new. Although we enjoyed exploring more of the city outside of the walls, our group spent the last day in Tallinn exploring the sights in Old Town and enjoying a medieval dinner where music was playing and our waiters dressed the part.
One of the features that sets the MBA Sustainable Business Practices apart from other programs is consulting projects. We have the opportunity to take the lead in every aspect of project development with our respective client, which enables us to develop unique and informed solutions across different business functions. Our consulting teams have been busy the past two weeks preparing and conducting mid-point client reviews and receiving feedback on research that has been conducted up to this point.
Last Friday, my SYKES Enterprises consulting team members and I left Pittsburgh at 5am and headed east to visit one of the client’s operations facilities in Allentown, Pennsylvania (SYKES conducts business process outsourcing. The facility we visited handled customer service calls for Medicare recipients in California and Oregon). During the visit, we met with the site director, toured the operations floor, conversed with mid-level management teams, and gathered a strong understanding of the daily business operations at the call center.
The Allentown site visit was a key component of our research for the larger ongoing research being conducted by my SYKES consulting team. The ability to see firsthand operations and speak with company leadership allowed our team to better understand the SYKES company dynamics and goals, with the intention of creating a well-developed consulting recommendation by the end of this semester.
Last week several of our cohort members took a break from classes to attend the National Black MBA Association (NBMAA) Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the NBMBAA conferences’ website, “The 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition presented by NBMBAA® & Prospanica® featured an array of programming designed to help attendees expand their leadership capabilities while learning valuable information to increase marketability in a highly-competitive landscape. Entrepreneurs, students and seasoned professionals were enriched by exclusive networking opportunities and invaluable industry knowledge.” Our cohort attendees mingled and networked with a wide array of business professionals from across the country, while representing Duquesne University and the MBA Sustainable Business Practices program.
Attendance at professional conferences are a part of the ongoing Career Practicum course requirements, and some of the costs of attending are covered by Duquesne, making the experience very accessible. The intention is to give us the opportunity to meet business leader’s employers, and fellow students, network, and learn about cutting-edge trends in the business world. The National Black MBA Association Conference was just one of many conferences that our cohort team members will attend in the upcoming months; several members will attend conferences in places such as Atlanta, Boston, and Orlando.
Despite all the fun at conferences, it is hard to believe that the mid way point of the semester is upon us. As we get ready to finish one class, two more are about to begin in less than two weeks, leaving no doubt that the rest of the semester will remain busy.
The theme of last week and early this week has been presentations, presentations, and more presentations. One of the most critical skills for a business leader to master is the ability to take an overwhelming amount of information, decipher, and present it to peers and supervisors in a concise and understandable way. The past week has been full of this for our cohort.
The better part of last week was spent preparing for group presentations that are taking place early this week. On Monday in Dr. Sroufe’s Strategic Sustainability and Models class, members of our cohort presented on the challenges and benefits of integrated reporting, as well as the practical application of natural capitalism. Both topics helped members of our cohort understand the various tools that can be used to when faced with a sustainable business dilemma.
On Tuesday in Dr. Spangler’s Information Systems class, small groups will present on topics such as 3D printing, notorious security breaches, and safe computing practices. These topics are some of the major areas of concern and interest in relation to information technology in the workplace today and must be understood by future and current business leaders.
It is hard to imagine that after preparing for presentations our cohort would have time to focus on any other tasks. But as the temperatures have risen since last week here in Pittsburgh, so have the tasks that need to be completed during this, busy semester. Our cohort has also been challenged by completing financial analysis tables, engaging in lively round table discussions on supply and demand in economics, and continuing to meet with project partners and develop a business strategy.
But as September comes to a rapid end, the good news is Thanksgiving break is roughly only two months away.
It is hard to believe that we are already into the fourth week of the fall semester! In addition to the normal schedule of weekly classes, our cohort began initial client meetings for the fall consulting projects, as well as continued group presentations for Dr. Spangler’s Information Systems class, and constructing financial analysis models in Dr. Baird’s Financial Management course. Through the application of these processes, we can realize the interconnectedness of all these disciplines, and how they relate to the role of an MBA.
Aside from classes, we also kicked off initial meetings with our freshmen business mentees. The meetings consisted of, getting to know the members of the freshmen teams, and outlining the details and timeline of the project that the freshman will be working on.
This week consisted of more than just meetings and classes. On September 13, Duquesne held their Fall 2017 job fair, which consisted of over 100 national and regional employers. The job fair experience gave us the opportunity to meet face to face with industry professionals, and explore the many job options that are available.
In addition to the job fair, members of our cohort were given the opportunity to attend the 2017 Living Products National Expo, held at the David L. Lawrence convention center from September 12-14. The LPE displayed emerging building products that facilitate greener building processes and featured speakers from various fields of sustainability. These speakers discussed the many issues that pose building sustainability, and how various methods and products can mitigate these risks.
LPE was the first of many conferences and expos that members of our cohort will be attending over the next few months. Keep posted and find out more!
The Labor Day holiday was a nice break as the Fall semester gets into full swing. The first few weeks of the semester have been full of initial queries into various projects for the 2018 cohort.
Our cohort comprised of four consulting teams recently completed their business scouting reports for their respective clients. The teams are now beginning the process of scheduling initial client meetings and developing a business analysis both of which will lay the framework for the rest of the project. Business consulting has not been the only ongoing project for the cohort; they have also been conducting presentations in Dr. Spangler’s Information Systems class on various technology matters such as; data and security breaches, Green IT, and Green IT reporting methods. Although the bulk of labor so far has been devoted to these two classes, other classes such as Financial Management and Strategic Sustainability & Models have challenged us in terms of the construction of case study analysis and the application of business methods as it pertains to the prescribed classes.
Aside from a busy class schedule, the 2018 cohort was given the tremendous opportunity to take a reprieve from the constant classes and projects to mentor Freshmen business students in a semester-long project. This project will witness the Freshmen developing a business plan that will have the potential to create a lasting impact on economic development in the community around Duquesne University.
Now that Labor Day is over and the unofficial end of summer is upon us, we are amid a long stretch without any breaks (not until Thanksgiving). However, this period will allow the 2018 cohort members to develop a nice rhythm and give them the opportunity to devote most of their time to studying and focusing on the many ongoing projects!
The fall semester began fittingly this week at Duquesne with “The Great American Solar Eclipse” on August 21, following a brief summer break for the 2018 cohort. But, the 2018 cohort members did not spend all their break partaking in leisure activities; preparation for classes such as financial management and economics have also been focal point during the break. Several pre-modules were available to give the cohort members a brief introduction into what they will experience over the course of the semester.
In addition to pre-module work, the cohort members were introduced to their new business consulting teams and projects for Dr. Sroufe’s fall sustainable business consulting project. Three of the four teams will undertake some unfamiliar projects involving Rockwool, International Living Futures Institute Living Product Hub, and Uptown EcoInnovation District, while one team will continue to work with Sykes Enterprises. All in all, the projects should prove to be an interesting and fruitful experience for each team.
Aside from economics, finance and business consulting the fall semester will also include classes in information systems management, supply chain management, strategic sustainability and sustainability management. The variety of classes will help shape the cohort’s understanding of sustainable business practices and general business management practices, as well as give them the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience with industry leaders in the region.
The three and a half months ahead are jam packed, but each member of the 2018 cohort is ready and excited for the challenges that await them.