Albers School of Business and Economics
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  • Tod Nielsen

    Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on 11/4/2011 01:17:25 PM


    On November 3rd, Tod Nielsen, Applications Platform co-President at VMware, spoke at the Albers Executive Speaker Series.  Tod has more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, including previous positions at Oracle, Borland Software, Microsoft, and BEA Systems.  He had plenty of good advice and insight to share with our students.  Tod is also the brother of Melore Nielsen, SU’s Dean of Admissions.


    Tod made a presentation on lessons he has learned over the course of his career and framed them as Five Pillars.  The first pillar is the importance of “Milestones.”  Everyone can look back and see certain critical moments or decisions along the path that one takes.  It is also important to look forward, to think about where you want to be in five years, and what the things are that must happen to get there.  The five year plan may not materialize, but it is important to have one.


    The second pillar is “Diversity.”  Tod emphasized the importance of having a diversity of experiences early in your career that you can build on later in your career.  He encouraged students to make lateral moves in the organization in order to build that experience, something people often resist.  He also noted the benefit of working in a dysfunctional organization or for an ineffective leader.  That way you learn what does not work!


    The third pillar is the “Mentor.”  He stressed the importance of finding mentors over the course of one’s career.  Their advice will frequently be very valuable.  It is also important to find a mentor who does not think like you and can offer a different perspective.


    “Customers” are the fourth pillar.  You need to remember that the product is for the customer, so make sure to find out what they want and need.  Tod also emphasized the need to talk to a diverse set of customers, and not extrapolate from a narrow group to a broader audience.


    The final pillar is to “Give Back.”  He stressed the need to leave the world a better place than you found it.  This needs to include your time, talent, and treasure, but especially your time and talent.


    In the Q&A, Tod gave a number of important insights on the current and future state of the technology industry.  He also said the following:


    What is the most important characteristic of a leader?  The ability to listen to others.  Too few leaders do it, and most of the time the people in the organization know what is going wrong and how to fix it.


    What is the most important thing you look for in hiring a manager?  It’s passion for what a person does.  Domain expertise is overrated.


    What keeps you up at night about VMware?  The pace of innovation – is the company too far ahead of customers and the market?


    All in all, it was a fun and interesting evening.  Tod’s talk will be available via podcast.  Check at


    The next speaker series event is on January 24th, when John Stanton visits.  Stanton is a highly regarded leader in the wireless industry.





    Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on 11/1/2011 01:54:40 PM


    AACSB International is the premier accrediting body for business schools.  Albers is one of 637 schools worldwide (41 countries) with AACSB accreditation, which amounts to less than 5% of the world’s business schools.  For more information on AACSB, you can go to


    Every five years, schools go through a process of reaffirming their accreditation.  This is our year for reaffirmation.


    Back in the summer we submitted a report on our programs and operations.  That report was reviewed by a peer review team consisting of three current or former deans.  Our team consists of Dean Ali Malekzadeh, from Kansas State, Dr. Rich Flaherty, former dean at UNLV, and Dr. Abol Jalilvand, former dean at Loyola of Chicago.  This is a very experienced and respected team.  If we can meet their expectations, we can meet any team’s expectations!


    After reviewing our report and asking for additional information, the peer review team visited our campus October 30 to November 1.  They met with advisory board members on Sunday, October 30th.  Throughout the day on Monday, October 31st, they met with Albers faculty, staff, and students while also reviewing files and documents.  Near the end of the day they began to draft their report.  Tuesday morning, November 1st, they delivered their report and recommendation to President Sundborg and Provost Crawford.


    The team report makes a recommendation on whether our accreditation should be extended for another five years.  That recommendation will go to the AACSB Maintenance of Accreditation Committee (MAC).  The MAC will meet in December and decide to accept the report or send it back to the peer review team for further consideration.  If all goes well, the MAC accepts a recommendation to affirm accreditation and that gets forwarded to the AACSB Board of Directors for their approval shortly thereafter.  Reaffirmation is then formally announced at the AACSB annual meeting in April.


    Reaffirmation is not a fete accompli.  About 30% of schools going up for reaffirmation are placed on continuing review, which means that reaffirmation is postponed for a year or two while they work to address areas where they may not be meeting AACSB expectations.  For example, problems frequently occur with the Assurance of Learning (aka “assessment”) system or with faculty qualifications, such as when schools do not have enough research active faculty.


    I think we put together a solid report, and did so within the mere 50 pages that AACSB allows.  Of course, there is no limit to the number of appendices you can submit, so that ran 218 pages! :} Kudos go to Susan Weihrich and her two graduate assistants, Maria Klink and Zoey Wu, for producing our report.


    From what I have heard, our faculty and staff did a great job of preparing themselves to meet with the team.  I was not a part of the meetings – don’t want the dean in there influencing people’s answers – but several people said, “You would have been really proud of how we answered the team’s questions!”  That was great to hear and I am sure it will be reflected in our report.


    So far, so good, but check back later when the process is further along.