Category: Alumni Profiles
Susanne D. Lyons has held senior marketing and general management roles at some of the largest financial services companies in the US, including chief marketing officer at both Charles Schwab & Co and Visa USA. In 1999, the Financial Women’s Association named Susanne “Financial Woman of the Year”, and, in 2006, she was named one of America’s top 50 marketers by Advertising Age. She received her undergraduate degree from Vassar College and her MBA from Boston University. We’re honored to give her the Last Word.
The greatest truth in management: There are very few solo acts in business.
My first job was: Delivering the local paper. They told me they only hired boys, and I told them I knew the head of the ACLU. (I didn’t, but I got the job anyway.)
The last book I read was:The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson.
No one has influenced me more than: Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer. I find his methods work not only with dogs but with employees and teenagers too.
The moment I knew I didn’t know it all was when: My daughter explained Twitter to me.
When I attended the School of Management, I wish: I had been able to take more courses.
My last meal would be: Pizza, a glass of red wine, and something intensely chocolate for dessert.
If a film were made of my life, I’d be played by: Diane Lane.
The most difficult part of management is: Learning when to let go and allow employees to stumble.
My next venture will be: Educating the next generation about our planet.
My favorite place to go on holiday is: Anywhere my family is.
When I was 10, I wanted to be: An oceanographer.
Most people don’t know that: I used to raise mice and I am a very good baker.
Every day I make the time to: Get out in nature and hug my dog.
Running a successful organization takes: Vision, leadership, energy, and a sense of humor.
The soundtrack of my life includes: Anything from Glee.
Nothing tells more about a person than: The pictures they post on Facebook.
My guilty pleasure is: Eating cupcake batter.
If I could change one thing about the world, it would be: To help people listen more than they speak.
I’m happiest when: I’m singing or hiking.
What’s changed most in business is: Corporate governance, at least for public companies, is a much more serious business.
The wisest investment I ever made was: Learning to type.
Matthew Nowosiadly is president and founder of Now Business Intelligence, an information technology management consulting firm based in Boston, Mass. Drawing on Matthew’s more than 15 years of experience in IT consulting, his firm provides custom software development, COTS software integration, requirements gathering, and business process reengineering services to clients in the aerospace defense and biotech industries, and state and federal governments. In his spare time, he likes to fly remote control airplanes and real helicopters. Matthew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The greatest truth in management: It’s all about solid, strong, healthy relationships.
My first job was: My own landscaping business when I was 13.
The last book I read was: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.
I’ll retire when: I stop having fun.
No one has influenced me more than: My father. He allowed me to fail safely.
The moment I knew I didn’t know it all was when: During my leadership at an almond company, almonds went from $1.79 per pound to $3.50 per pound. That’s the day I learned what a commodity was.
When I was in the School of Management, I wish: I had been more present.
The easiest part of my job is: Everything. I just execute fun projects.
If a film were made of my life, I’d be played by: Harvey Keitel.
Ambition is: The desire to never stagnate and bathe confidently in eternal optimism.
The most difficult part of management is: Letting your team fail safely.
Most people don’t know that: I meditate.
Every day I make the time to: Reflect and exercise.
Running a successful organization takes: Courage, quick thinking, creativity, and, above all, trust.
The soundtrack of my life includes: Tool, Vivaldi, Muse, and Bach.
Nothing tells more about a person than: The relationships that surround and support them.
My guilty pleasure is: Building and flying remote control airplanes.
If I could change one thing about the world, it would be: The lack of tolerance.
I’m happiest when: I’m learning, creating, or building.
What’s changed most in business is: The ability to make a deal on a handshake.
The wisest investment I ever made was: Enrolling in the Boston University Executive MBA program.
After a successful tenure at a large nationally-known law firm as a technology attorney, Deborah Dong started her own law practice based in Boston. Drawing on Deborah’s earlier experience as an information systems manager and telecommunications analyst, she counsels software, Internet, clean tech, and financial services clients in the protection of their intellectual property rights; she also negotiates tech licensing and distribution agreements. When not practicing law, she volunteers her business skills to local preservation and historical organizations, attends Red Sox and BU hockey games, and plays the piano and guitar. Deborah can be reached at email@example.com.
The greatest truth in management: It’s vital to build relationships and trust.
My first job was: Selling Levi’s jeans at the Chestnut Hill Mall.
The last book I read was: Living in the Sweet Spot: Preparing for Performance
in Sport and Life by BU SED Professor Amy Baltzell.
I’ll retire when: I feel I have nothing left to contribute.
No one has influenced me more than: One of my first bosses, Tom Blady. He
taught me the importance of self-improvement, mentoring, and team building.
The moment I knew I didn’t know it all was when: I’m constantly reminded of this!
When I was in the School of Management, I wish: I had spent more time just
hanging out with classmates.
My last meal would be: This amazing garlic, soy sauce, and chicken dish that my
father James Dong (SMG ’56) created. I never get tired of it.
The easiest part of my job is: Listening to my clients’ business and technology
ideas. That’s also the most fun part.
If a film were made of my life, I’d be played by: Sandra Oh.
The most difficult part of management is: Aligning personal goals with
My next venture will be: It’s too early to tell.
My favorite place to go on vacation is: Maui.
Most people don’t know that: I’m a huge Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
Every day I make the time to: Play a bit of music and refocus.
Running a successful organization takes: Teamwork and respect.
The soundtrack of my life includes: Bowie, Bach, Broadway tunes, and ’80s rock.
Nothing tells more about a person than: How that person treats people who are not in a position to help him or her.
My guilty pleasure is: Designing and making jewelry.
If I could change one thing about the world, it would be: To empower others
with the courage to take the next step.
I’m happiest when: Solving a problem: business, legal, or otherwise.
What’s changed most in business is: Globalization’s influence on the
multiculturalism of individuals in the workforce.
The wisest investment I ever made was: My ongoing education at SMG,
LAW, and beyond.
A Turn for the Better
On his very first visit to Boston, recent Boston University School of Management (SMG) graduate Charles Ma (BSBA‘11) had his original school search unintentionally deterred in a very interesting way.
Driving around the city with Boston College as their target, the Ma family found themselves stuck in Fenway Park baseball traffic. After making a few evasive turns to beat the stampeding fans, they parked their car and began to walk around.
“Halfway through [the tour] I realized I was at Boston University,” Ma said. “But after it was over, I really liked it. I looked more closely at the School of Management, and decided that BU would be a pretty good fit.”
Born in Shanghai, China, Ma moved to the United States as a young child, first settling in Houston before ending up in Seattle for his middle school and high school education. He was accepted into BU’s Management Honors Program with a scholarship, took the offer, and one semester early of four years, he graduated from SMG with a focus on finance and operations.
Ma found his first job in Boston’s financial district working in banking as an entry level analyst. His long term goal is to spend a few years working in a real world setting before returning to school to earn his MBA, and then going back to banking.
“As an analyst you get to see a lot of different parts of the bank, different operations, and how things are connected,” he said. “Eventually I want to move up to a more managerial position.”
Going above and beyond during his time at Boston University was certainly a factor in his finding work so quickly upon graduation.
“Many employers are interested in more than just academic performance. They also want to know applicants on a personal level: how well you work with others, your attitude, and your motivations,” Ma said. “The activities I was engaged in allowed me to provide concrete examples of leadership, character, and integrity.”
While a student, Ma extended himself in several different situations in his attempt to help both students at the school, and those within the local community.
During his senior year he revived Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), a previously dormant club that connects students with people in the community, and became its president. Ma and a few of his friends focused on assisting local bands by promoting their music in the neighborhoods where they performed.
“SIFE is still growing,” Ma said. “My friends who are still active have been recruiting new participants.”
He also served as a TA (teacher’s assistant), working in a statistics class for three semesters. It was a role he enjoyed because of the immediate results he could witness in helping other students learn.
However, what may have been most fulfilling during Ma’s undergraduate career was working as a resident assistant at Warren Towers his junior year.
Every student under Ma’s care was a freshman, and the experience of helping incoming students assimilate into a new environment—experiences he himself had “survived”—was memorable.
Along with assisting with the unpredictable rigors of college life, Ma helped students on his floor who applied to the Honors Program by answering questions, and going out of his way to write recommendations on their behalf.
During RA appreciation week, the students on his floor decorated Ma’s door and presented him with a giant “Thank You” card: a small gesture with a great deal of meaning.
“I made many lasting relationships while at BU,” Ma said. “But the most meaningful came when I made positive impacts on the lives of others.”
Reposted with permission from the ITEC February 2012 newsletter
When Sudha Jamthe (MSIM’99) launched her startup venture, Coola, Inc., in 1999, the company seemed primed for success. A mobile middleware platform that was very similar to what we see in today’s Android, Coola’s software was quickly adopted by one of the biggest mobile business devices at the time, the Palm Pilot. The company became an attractive investment for angels and VC’s, and within 40 days of its initial launch Jamthe successfully raised over $1 million in Series A. With a talented development team and her husband, Shirish Jamthe (MSIM’98), on board as co-founder, her Boston-based startup was well positioned for the future…until the bubble burst.
Like many of its software and web counterparts of the time, Coola fell victim to the dot-com bubble. The crash crippled the businesses of both their customers and the companies around them. Jamthe was now forced with a decision no CEO wants to make.
“When the dot-com bust happened, we were in the process of taking on more money,” Jamthe recalls. “I had a Series B term sheet for $15 million and needed to make a decision that would impact the future of the company. Ultimately, we did not proceed with the round and closed the company while we still could by selling off our assets.”
Jamthe is the first to admit that the venture was a failure, but the experience left an indelible impact on the rest of her life and career. After three exhaustive years of running a business, Jamthe decided to take a step back and start a family. With more free time on her hands, and so many lessons to reflect upon, Jamthe launched her startup blog, Coolastory.
“The biggest personal lesson from Coola, Inc. was to not be afraid to fail, and to learn to make fabulous comebacks.”
“The Coola experience made me realize that the core of a company is people–the angels, investors, customers, and employees–and they are what matter most in decisions. All of our lives were spun together into a fantastic speed ride as we went to create something that was way ahead of its time.”
Once Coola closed its doors, Jamthe decided that she would not be part of another startup venture. Instead, she took her learning experience to the MIT Venture Mentor Service (VMS) where she began to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs in marketing, business development, and fundraising. But it was the hard life lessons she realized from her failed venture that motivated her to help these hungry entrepreneurs from making the same mistakes she made.
“Much of what I would tell them, which still rings true today, emphasized the importance of staying paranoid, building good teams, and executing with speed. My main advice is that money is not the biggest scarcity for a startup; it is time. If you build the right team and your product solves real customer problems, the money will come. But, in order for that to happen, you need to be first to the market. It is always a race against time.”
The lessons learned from Coola gave Jamthe a new focus and outlook on business. She began to involve herself in many pet projects. This time around, however, she decided that her focus would be the journey, not the destination. With a keen interest in social media, Jamthe developed Social Mints, a virtual currency for the Facebook economy; Tmeet, a location-based Twitter and iPhone application; and Moomli, an e-commerce site set up to help nonprofits in India. Her involvement in these projects allowed her to stay on the cutting edge of technology and understand the size and scope of evolving social media trends. As an active presence on Twitter, Jamthe quickly became adept in the social media space and even wrote a guest column for the social media business website Mashable.com. This expertise landed her back in the corporate world, where she began to work as a strategy consultant.
“The unique curriculum at BU that emphasizes teams and strategy still applies to every job I have had after all of these years. In particular, the courses that combined IT, Strategy, and OB helped me learn to collaborate across multiple groups in global companies.”
“I had worked with large corporations before my startup, but when I returned to these big organizations I realized that as an entrepreneur I had built some competencies that came with me, which facilitated my foray into corporate entrepreneurship.”
As a strategy consultant for AOL, Intuit, and PayPal, Jamthe created new divisions and guided the companies through their adoption of social media–an experience not dissimilar from launching Coola. In each instance, she had to build a team of startup-minded people who could innovate and create structure within an organization. Jamthe attributes her abilities to work well within teams and different work environments to the lessons she learned at Boston University.
“The unique curriculum at BU that emphasizes teams and strategy still applies to every job I’ve had after all of these years. In particular, the courses that combined IT, strategy, and OB helped me learn to collaborate across multiple groups in global companies. I have even found myself referring back to old marketing cases to gain new insights on how to approach new strategies and decisions. I honestly don’t think I could have started Coola or made my comeback as a corporate entrepreneur if it weren’t for my BU MBA.”
Jamthe now works at eBay as their social media strategist focused on social commerce and is looking for corporate entrepreneurs to start a new group to measure social commerce analytics. You can follow her on Twitter @sujamthe and access her blog via http://coolastory.blogspot.com/.
By James Newton, (MBA ’12)
What was your background before you joined the Mathematical Finance Program?
I was raised in Baltimore, MD, and received three degrees before joining the MF Program. My highest previous degree was a doctorate from the University of Maryland in Computational Mechanics. Other degrees were a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Masters of Science in Computer-Aided Design, both also from the University of Maryland.
I then became a professor at the University of Miami, where I taught courses and conducted research in fields of computational sciences with an emphasis on aeroelasticity, wind engineering, and structural dynamics I also worked in the internet space as a developer during the early days of the dot com craze.
What are you doing now?
I am about to move to Hong Kong to lead Citibank Credit Desk as its Quantitative and Technology Head.
What most interests you about the field of mathematical finance?
“When I was at BU, the light bulb went off in my head… I was ready to join Wall Street.”
Any application of mathematics and computers always interests me. With mathematical finance, the unique blend of computers and applied mathematics to financial problems is a lucrative and, in my case, a very intellectually stimulating field of study.
What did you value most about your experience in the Boston University MF Program?
The stressing of mathematical concepts and its use in finance. Most people can learn the finance from the work environment, but the rigor of the mathematics can only be learned through coursework and lots of studying.
When I was at Boston University, the light bulb went off in my head relating the sciences of computer science, financial mathematics, and financial markets, and how each relates to one another and to money trading. It was then that I realized I was developing the tool set connect all these pieces, that was very exciting. I was ready to join Wall Street.
“I love the interaction with people…. Anything analytical and creative always seems to excite me.”
If you had one word to sum up the MF program at BU, what would it be?
So much work, so little sleep, and so much fun. The fellow students and faculty fed off of each other and the common goal of comprehending the concepts made for an intellectually inspiring year.
Any final thoughts about the MF field, or your life beyond it?
I love the interaction with people, a trait sometimes missing on the more mathematically inclined. Anything analytical and creative always seems to excite me. That’s why I enjoy cooking and photography as much as I like following the financial markets.
Watch Dr. Namini’s talk from Spring 2009 at Boston University School of Management, “Algo Trading and How To Get a Job on Wall Street.”
Long shot? Not really.
On the night of May 31, in an overcrowded Romanian gym, the country’s two best basketball teams were tearing each other apart in an unflinching attempt to become the nation’s Division A League champion. With the score tied at 61 and just under five seconds remaining, BU graduate Tyler Morris (BSBA ’10) found the ball in his hands with three quarters of open court standing between him and a championship. He took two dribbles towards the basket and let it fly.
“I’ve taken enough half court shots to know when you’re close to making it. I knew this was about to go,” he said. “Then it banked in and it was mayhem after that. Unbelievable feeling.”
Tyler Morris’s road to Europe has been strewn with adversity, but he’s responded to each one with an inspirational resolution.
He began at Indianapolis’s Lawrence North High School, on a team that boasted Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr., two players selected in the 2007 NBA draft. No matter how hard he worked, there simply wasn’t enough playing time until his senior year.
“When he came into our program he wasn’t anything special,” Lawrence North basketball coach Jack Keefer said. “But he had a wonderful senior year playing with two future pros. He’d do anything he had to do to make the team come out ahead.”
Thanks to AAU exposure between his junior and senior year, Morris went from filling out extra questionnaires major colleges had addressed for teammates, to getting a near instantaneous offer from Travis Ford (now at Oklahoma State) and Eastern Kentucky. When Ford left for the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Morris decided to explore BU, a school that had shown interest the previous year. Within two weeks of being released from his commitment to EK, he signed his letter of intent in Boston. He entered the School of Management (SMG) as a finance major.
After averaging just 4.2 points per game as a high school senior, Tyler Morris was officially a Division I basketball player.
Limited Court Time, But Unlimited Desire.
His days as a Terrier were bittersweet. After injuring his ankle, he red-shirted his first year and went on to make All-Conference Second Team the next winter. He started 30 games that year, but would play only 44 for the remaining three years—a torn ACL midway through his junior year serving as the largest obstacle.
After graduating from SMG in 2010, Morris was uncertain of his future. A career in finance was an option—he interviewed for the Morgan Stanley fixed income division in Times Square and met with numerous consulting companies—but basketball felt like an incomplete chapter.
In December, Morris returned home to Indiana where he kept in shape playing pickup basketball, and after shopping his highlight tapes around, a friend connected him to an agent.
“[My agent] told me this team in Romania really liked me, but they were just curious about what kind of shape I was in,” Morris said. “They gave me a trial week and the rest is pretty much history.”
For the 2011-12 season Morris will again start at point guard for U Mobilteco, Romania’s defending champion. The team will play in France and Belgium, revealing Morris to new coaches and new levels of competition. With his prime another five or six years down the road, Morris’s future as a professional athlete holds major upside potential.
But his competitive nature is well balanced with pragmatism; he knows basketball can’t last forever. Once the enjoyment and suitable compensation dries up, he won’t hesitate in returning home and beginning his life’s next stage. One possibility is staying in the business of sports.
“I’ve talked with an investment bank in New York that specifically works with sports teams; that would be the best,” Morris said.
Running his own entrepreneurial enterprise or becoming a sports agent are other possibilities, but Morris says he’ll cross that bridge when he gets there.
“I could have taken a job, plugging those numbers, and probably advancing my career to the point where I can make a lot of money some day,” he said. “But I chased my dream all the way to Romania. I want to say I’ve lived my life with no regrets.”
It all started with Fantasy Football. In 2004, 15-year-old Alex Hodara and his dad won $2,000 playing Fantasy Football, and Alex, being entrepreneurial even then, decided to use the money to start his own business. Poker was really popular at the time, so he chose to sell poker chips. He imported them from China in bulk at a low cost and sold them to his friends, on eBay, to other businesses (he would hot stamp them with the company logo), and on his own site called PokerChipKing.com.
So when he started a real estate company five years later as a junior at the School of Management, Alex already knew a thing or two about entrepreneurship.
His plan is simple: Do what others won’t. In the case of real estate, it’s showing clients care and consideration (which most agents fail to do).
“I’m all about reputation and giving people a really good experience,” says Alex (SMG ’10), who started Hodara Real Estate in January 2009. “Our rental brokerage is really focused on clients and works solely on referrals, and that defines our reputation. I made friends with Louie the Barber on BU campus several years ago and have received countless referrals through him. Every other rental brokerage in the area has a terrible reputation; the agents spend no time with their clients and just try to make as much money as possible. It gives us the opportunity to do just the opposite. Then, with a good reputation and a significant network, we make the real money through property sales.”
It’s brilliant in its simplicity, and it works because most real estate agencies don’t bother. For example, barber Louie Fenerlis sends a lot of business Alex’s way, won an “award” from Hodara Real Estate at its one-year anniversary celebration.
Once Alex really started gaining recognition in the Allston real estate market, he realized he could utilize his simple approach for other real estate offerings too. For his property management wing, he takes care of his buildings and treats the tenants with respect, again unlike most of his competition. He even leaves candy for tenants who are inconvenienced by showings at their apartment. For Hodara Academy, which grants real estate licenses, it’s a similar story—they use technology to teach where others don’t and charge significantly less than their competition.
Alex has been so successful in adding some energy, thoughtfulness, and youth to the real estate market that Century 21 employs him as a consultant on social networking, and has talked about turning Alex’s company into the first “youth” brand of Century 21 called C21U.
For all his success, though—achieved in the middle of a recession caused by the downturn of his own industry, by the way—Alex never would have guessed that this is what he’d be doing.
“When I learned that I could get my real estate license at age 18, I thought it sounded really cool. I’ve always wanted to change something, and I saw an opportunity there to become an agent that people could think positively about instead of negatively.
“I tried to get my friends to join me, but they thought it was a terrible investment. My parents too—they were worried that having a job like this would negatively affect my grades. And even I didn’t totally understand that I could make money. I was thinking more about how I would be helping my friends. But there’s a huge rental market right around BU, so the whole thing sort of just fell into my lap.”
He says that now, but of course it was really his tenacity that made it all work. He went to every off-campus apartment showing he could find until he knew the local market like the back of his hand—and got to know all the landlords, and all the prices. He promoted himself through social media and networks like Louie’s Barbershop. And he ended up making a lot of money. In fact, last year he was finally able to move the company from a small office on Glenville Avenue in Allston to a spacious 1,500-square-foot office on Commonwealth Avenue.
How do his parents and friends feel about it all now?
“They’re taking it all back now,” he laughs. “They’re very supportive.
“My advice would be if you have an idea that you’re passionate about, you should follow it,” he says. “Don’t let people shoot you down, because everyone loves sharing their two cents. Just follow your heart and go for it.”
After graduation, Alex plans to focus solely on his business, building up the investment sales side of the operation while maintaining the reputation he’s built as a rental agency.