BHP Management Professor to Serve as Faculty-in-Residence at Google

Ethan_BurrisManagement Professor Ethan Burris will spend three months at Google this summer as a faculty-in-residence for their People & Innovation Lab (PiLab), a part of their People Analytics group. Dr. Burris will be designing and executing research projects related to managing employee voice – ideas and feedback given by employees. He will also be working with Google to create interventions such as policies, trainings and workshops based on the data received from his research.

Google’s People Analytics group employs a number of scientists collecting data from Google employees in an effort to base HR decisions on actual employee data. Dr. Burris is only the second faculty-in-residence ever in the People Analytics group for Google. The appointment will be the first time he has been able to focus solely on a single research project since graduate school and he is really looking forward to taking a break from juggling his many faculty priorities here at UT and focusing on research for a set amount of time.

The specifics of the research Burris will be conducting are yet to be determined, but will focus around his work on employee voice. His research on the topic has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review.

Employees at Google have a more active voice than those at many other companies and one area Burris will be researching is why Google employees feel more empowered to speak up so the company doesn’t lose that culture as they continue to grow. He will also be looking into whether there are pockets of employees they don’t hear from. After he compiles and reviews the research, he will be serving in a consulting role, helping them determine how to act on the feedback they receive and what new practices they might adopt.

Burris looks forward to publishing his research and sharing more about the experience with future students in his class. BHP Senior Rachel Solomon was a student in Burris’s Organizational Behavior class and thinks his experiences at Google will be a great supplement to the curriculum. “The BHP case-based curriculum is so valuable because it shows us how to apply the somewhat abstract theories we learn in class to the working world. But when a professor incorporates his or her own experience with a company, it is even more motivating and engaging because we can ask them more specific and in-depth questions,” she said.

BP Discovery Days Program Provides Students with Unique Experience

Each year BP, a BHP corporate partner, holds a three-day program called BP Discovery Days for college students interested in learning more about the oil and gas industry. Last year, two BHP students participated in the program and greatly enjoyed the experience. BHP juniors Anne Theil and Varun Bhatnagar shared their experiences in the program with us below. The deadline to apply for this year’s program is March 1.

How would you describe the BP Discovery Day program?

Anne: The program is three days long over a weekend in the summer, with multiple program options to choose from. The program I participated in (Diversity Days) was held near downtown Houston. The first night we had discussions about diversity, leadership, and ways to network. The second day we heard from Aleida Rios, VP of Operations Gulf of Mexico Region. I enjoyed hearing her talk about how being a minority woman in the oil and gas industry impacted her career. In the evening we all went to Top Golf to relax and wind down. The final day we volunteered at the Boys and Girls club of Houston.

Varun: It was a great way to learn about important leadership principles with other students whose majors ranged from business to engineering. In addition to honing our leadership skills, we also networked with BP employees working in a wide variety of fields, heard from a former Paralympian, and participated in a community service project.

Why were you interested in the program?

Varun: I wanted to learn more about the energy industry. I believe in learning by doing, and by participating in a program by one of the major players in the industry, I knew I could get a better understanding of it. I was also interested in hearing new perspectives on leadership, both from BP employees and my fellow participants. The ability to understand and work with people coming from different backgrounds will be a very crucial skill in my future career, and this program was a great way for me to develop that skill.

Anne: I was interested in learning more about the oil and gas industry first and foremost, but this was also a really good networking opportunity, since there were around 30 other hard-working and motivated students with me. The program I completed also awarded a $1000 scholarship.

What did you learn from going through the program?

Anne: I think the program really opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many other high-performing, ambitious students out there that share an interest in working for oil and gas. It’s very possible that I’ll be working closely with some of the students I met during the program, so it was important to make the effort to get out of my comfort zone, network, and keep in touch with them afterwards!

Varun: The most important thing I learned from the program is the value of diversity. A major theme of the program was how diversity in thought and in background can be extremely important assets in a team, and I could definitely see how that was the case through the program. We learned about different leadership styles, and worked with students from all across the nation with a plethora of different majors – as a result, I gained many new perspectives on what it means to lead and work as a team.

Why would you recommend this program to other BHP students?

Varun: The BP Discovery Day program, along with other leadership development programs, are invaluable resources for BHP students, especially for underclassmen. It’s easy to think the only way to learn more about a company is through internships (which can be difficult to get in the first two years of college), but these programs (which are often geared towards freshmen and sophomores) help you to learn more about the company hosting the program, about how to become a better leader and team member, and about the perspectives of students coming from different walks of life than your own.

Anne: I think this is probably one of the best, well-balanced leadership programs I have attended. I learned a lot about BP and what it’s like to have a career there, and the program leaders are passionate about teaching you how to market yourself as a young professional. We also had a lot of time to have fun and make friends with the other students. My favorite thing about the experience was the volunteering project on the last day– we all went to The Boys and Girls Club and repainted their gym. It was a neat little snapshot of the kind of outreach that BP performs in the community.

Anything else you want to share with fellow students about it?

Anne: The application process is just a few essays on why you are interested in the program/the oil and gas industry, and then a video essay to describe yourself and (for my program) how you are diverse. I would highly recommend this program for anyone interested in oil and gas!

Varun: This was a very memorable experience that helped me improve my leadership skills and gave me an entirely new network of contacts. Yet if I had not stopped by the BP booth at the career fair and applied, I would have missed out. Take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way – you never know what good things might come from it.

BHP Team Takes Fourth Place at McDonough-Hilltop Business Strategy Challenge

BHP case comp group

BHP students Alexandre Ghadially, Blake Jones, Benedikt Kroll, and Catherine Anne Prideaux took fourth place at the 2015 McDonough-Hilltop Business Strategy Challenge at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. this past weekend.  Twenty teams from around the world competed in this unique non-profit consulting case competition.  This year’s case centered on strategically expanding For Love of Children’s (FLoC) educational support services into more low-income areas around DC.

The main goal of FLoC is to serve disadvantaged students in the DC community through one-on-one tutoring and college prep all free of charge.  While FLoC has been located in the heart of the city close to where its volunteers, young professionals, work, they are planning to open up a second location on the outskirts of town in a historically low-income area. “The idea behind FLoC’s expansion is to establish a presence in the community where its services are needed most; our challenge was to find a way to adequately incentivize volunteers to go to the new location which is now, at best, a 45 minute commute via public transportation each way,” said Alexandre Ghadially.

The team presented a three-part proposal focusing on the expansion, recruiting and retaining volunteers, and restructuring the staffing model in order to achieve maximum efficiency without sacrificing FLoC’s primary focus: serving the children.

“The competition was not about the bottom line; it was about the net impact on the DC community as a whole.  We never built models or even opened Excel really.  Unlike any of my previous competitions, this case challenged me to seek more creative solutions with extremely limited resources,” noted Benedkit Kroll.

The team was given 36 hours to work following a live presentation of the case and a live Q&A with the client.  The team advanced to finals where they presented in front of their client, a panel of industry professionals serving as judges, and all their competitors.

“The McDonough-Hilltop Challenge is truly special.  I am grateful for the unique opportunity to work with and make an impact on a local non-profit while competing with students from across the globe.  I hope MHBSC continues with this competition and their mission and that McCombs continues to be a part of it,” said Blake Jones.

“Participating in the competition made me appreciate the case-based curriculum in the Business Honors Program.  We essentially ‘prepped’ for the challenge every single class period whereas most teams specifically practiced cases with advisors prior to the competition.  After making fun of our accents, most teams were shocked to find we had never actually competed together before McDonough,” said Catherine Anne Prideaux.

In addition to working on the case, the team attended a professional hockey game, toured the Capitol, and enjoyed spending time with the other international teams.

Student Spotlight – Aaryaman Singhal

aaryaman singhalAaryaman Singhal will graduate in December 2015 with degrees in BHP, MIS and Plan II. This semester he is one of only 18 students from UT Austin participating in the Archer Fellowship Program. He is spending the semester in Washington, D.C. interning with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and taking classes through UT focusing on policy, history and advocacy.

His specific internship is with WRI’s Food Program, where he has been working on collecting data to include in the 2015 World Resources Report and supporting the Food Loss & Waste Protocol effort. The effort aims to develop a global standard for quantifying loss and waste of food that will empower the world to minimize food loss and waste.

There are three main codes used to classify food that Aaryaman has been reviewing in an effort to find commonalities to create one standard code to use in the protocol. “There is no standard way of doing it now, so it is hard to say how much food is actually lost every year. By coming up with this standard measurement, the hope would be to reduce loss and waste.”

The Archer program has allowed Aaryaman to learn more about sustainability through the lens of a think tank, which has been different from learning about it in his classes in D.C., which are more policy-focused. He is the first Archer Fellow to intern at WRI, where there are currently about 20 interns from around the country and world.

Aaryaman says the scale of the challenges in sustainability has been eye-opening. It is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of food is lost every year. “There is a huge opportunity to reduce that amount of waste,” he says. “From 2006-2050 the amount of food we will need to feed everyone in the world will increase by 70%. Food and water resources are under tremendous pressure, and that pressure will continue to increase as populations grow and people in other countries earn more money and use more resources.”

The Archer Program has opened a lot of doors for Aaryaman in D.C. and has given him the chance to get to know the other 39 fellows (all undergraduate students from UT system schools) very well.

“Everyone is so intelligent and interested in such a variety of issues. I am really enjoying the people I am living with and interacting with on a daily basis,” says Aaryaman. Another aspect of living in D.C. that he has found valuable is the opportunity to attend free speaking events across the city, where he has had the chance to listen to experts in various fields.

The experience has confirmed for him his desire to work in sustainability after graduation and has been a bridge for him between his interest in sustainability and the skills he has learned from his McCombs classes. He says he could see himself back in D.C. after graduation. But whatever he chooses to do, he is grateful for the opportunity to explore a different career path and be part of such an amazing program.