Crimson Oak Academy - Blog

Apple University Secrets: De-coding the Algorithm to Your Next Successful Decade

More smart-phones were produced last year than new borns. Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) the storied company that Steve Jobs founded has redefined the everyday experience of human beings and “made a dent in the universe”. Were there repeatable processes that made massive success more likely? In 2008, Steve Jobs selected former Dean of Yale and Harvard, Joel Podolny, to be the Dean of “Apple University” – the corporate training program to inculcate employees into Apple’s business culture and educate them about its history. As the new year unfolds, we asked: Could some of these techniques be helpful as you or a loved one attempt to gain acceptance to an elite college or win a coveted company position? Discover the algorithm we researched in this fascinating note and in our upcoming webinar.

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Brand or Substance: McKinsey or Millions* - Cold Decisions by a Global MBA (Part 2 of 2)

Two years goes by quickly. Seems like just a week ago Maya was noodling on whether or not to go to business school. The Great Recession had ushered in an untapped love of entrepreneurship that in its seductive appeal cast every other career as its ugly cousin. Furthermore, Maya had been regaled by success stories of young recent HBS alumni such as Yelp!, Gilt Groupe, Rue La La to name a few. Startup risks be damned! In fact, more of Maya’s Harvard classmates were going to Silicon Valley than going to Wall Street! Still the brand appeal of a blue-chip firm like McKinsey was not easy to dismiss. After all, Facebook COO and HBS alum, Sheryl Sandberg had “leaned in” to the Facebook role only after building a strong foundation at McKinsey. The lure of a hi-growth tech start-up, substantially changing he lives of millions customers, having recently secured Series A financing – despite all the risks – gnawed at Maya’s stomach. A cappuccino at the Soho House in New York City, seemed a fitting place to be brooding over this patently privileged decision. Should she choose the security of McKinsey or the potential of a Silicon Valley start-up? How should she decide? Learn how she utilized the Crimson Oak Career Decision Framework to advance her career.
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Brand or Substance: Does a Harvard or Stanford MBA Still Matter? (Part 1 of 2)

Instinctively her chest tightened, spine stiffened and found herself nibbling on her lower lip. The anticipation is spiked with dread. That surreal feeling of an obsession on the cusp of entering the realm of possibility. For every Harvard MBA dream that came true; nine others would rue the dimmed possibility cast off a cruel lesson. With poise more reminiscent of a crack-head than that of a management consultant, Maya found herself in that flummoxed moment of picking up the phone with the “617”area code emblazoned on the caller-id screen. She knew it was the Harvard Admissions Office. She knew that 60 seconds later her life would be altered. The career she had meticulously built would have to take a two-year hiatus for the seductive appeal of a Cambridge-branded education – should she be accepted. Complicating matters, since submitting her MBA application she had been promoted to an associate role – typically requiring an MBA. The caller greeting was definitive: “Hi Maya! Welcome to the Harvard Business School Class of …” How would Maya decide?
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Entrepreneur’s Delight: 6 Sweet Insights & Scary Stories from Harvard and Cornell

Twitter’s IPO, a record-breaking S&P 500 and more & more Harvard Business School graduates going to start-ups rather than Wall Street, all signs that perhaps we have reached the tipping point for acceptance of entrepreneurship as a “credible career route”.  The past several weeks have been filled with amazing insights and terrifying gauntlets from Ivy League alumni leaving the Crimson Oak team filled with energy.  Going from cockroach-filled apartments to securing $100 million exits.  Spending 20 years networking and then activating it to fund a revolutionary Silicon Valley-backed healthcare venture.  Recognizing the tremendous generational impact you can have through your venture on your first team – your family.   These stories left us with deeper respect for two of the most coveted universities in the world: Cornell and Harvard.  Be treated by our six secret insights or remain scared of your potential entrepreneurial future.

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The Cubist Career: A Crimson Lens to Re-framing Your Career

tiled manWhy aren't you more thankful for your job?  After all there are still millions stranded in the purgatory of long-term unemployment here in the U.S. and even worse in Europe.  Greece is currently mired in 30% unemployment, it’s youth unemployment above 55%.  A sorry trend seems afoot in Corporate America:  stagnant wages are creeping up the Corporate ladder.   White collar professionals once confident in the perch of title and the insulation of advanced degrees are transfixed: sapped by increasing productivity demands and kept motivated by arbitrary cost-of-living-adjustments or whittling year-end bonuses.  For most professionals, this efficient “management consultant approved” combination is akin to a tightening shirt collar bursting under the gird of their sweating necks.

Silent pains are the worst. 

How does a heralded pay check transform itself into a back-handed slap? Accessing perspectives can clear the fog of conflicting emotions.   A simple yet effective framework for re-framing your career: 1) time 2) space and 3) beliefs/expectations.  Approaching your current career from multiple perspectives  offers a solution that just might surprise you – depending, of course, on your point-of-view. 

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Path to Your Wall Street Desire: MBA, Finance MS, or CFA?

Splintered. The word captures the hyper-fragmented world of business education. Normally this focus can provide a structured path for professionals with predetermined career aspirations—particularly in the finance and accounting industries. But with a multitude narrow paths, your indecision may naturally mount. With a few years of professional work experience under your belt, your choice of higher education could be the deciding factor in accessing your Wall Street career.

As we explore a few of the more popular degree options facing finance and accounting professionals today, we will highlight that preparation for the GMAT and MBA-level courses, which is essential to not only for admission, but also for your academic success. Crimson Oak’s GMAT and MBA Prep courses recognize the need for a strong foundation and are designed to help you achieve success throughout every step of your academic future. Determining which post-grad academic path will lead you to an optimal career in finance or accounting is difficult.  Your choice today could be the difference between you becoming a KPMG auditor or JPMorgan treasury analyst in the future. Or you becoming a Carlyle private equity fund managing director or Blackstone hedge fund manager.  This note helps you with your choice.

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8 Brilliant Career Tips for the Class of 2013!

Graduation – the time of year when words from Yeats to Churchill to Jobs are sprinkled throughout commencement speeches. Friends huddle to strike a pose for pictures to be curated in a Facebook album and cleared for immediate Twitter circulation. Also gathering are cynics, who like uninvited ragweed pollen, irritate with predictable claims of naiveté and unpreparedness of the graduating class.

Rather than criticism we offer the Class of 2013 our gratitude and insights. In the face of daunting job statistics and a volatile economy, as you stand to mark your seminal achievement, we thank you for giving us that most treasured gift…hope. Eight (8) original, light-hearted, insights distilled from a quixotic mixture of leadership, technology and business authors from recent years follow.

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Stanford et al Set Sail – How to Navigate the New World of Business Education

Tempest in a tea cup or silent tsunami? In charting your career in the post-Financial Crisis era you are likely swayed by dueling theses: the cyclical thesis of a temporary dip and the structural shift of permanent industry change.

The ricocheting of theories can reduce any investment decision in your business education to more conjecture rather than conviction. After all, over 10,000 management programs now exist globally! Not to mention scores of online courses and un-accredited programs. In the face of a plethora of choices, changing admissions priorities and fierce competition at the top programs,how do you make an informed decision?

Could 3 simple, yet, essential gauges really keep you on track? This article and Crimson Oak’s upcoming 2013 Elite MBA Prep Webinar Series will assist in ensuring that your business career and education stay on course.

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UN Team Dynamics Note: How to Manage Toxic Teams

“Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.” – British Statesman Benjamin Disraeli (1804 -1881)


Being deliberately vulnerable – the move of a corporate novice? Maybe. But doing so might just be the tonic your team needs to expel parasitic dysfunction.  A signature of toxic teams is the absence of trust which taxes routine interactions and slowly corrodes team morale.  As our teams become more diverse in composition and more geographically fragmented , the risk for toxic team dynamics dramatically increases.  Inspired by the United Nation’s mission of “facilitating cooperation” and reinforced by the latest 21st century management principles on team dynamics,  this note  helps you to avoid team dysfunction. In an upcoming webinar on Global Empathy, we advocate deft engagement rather than fearful avoidance.  Read more to learn four (4) essential channels for team effectiveness flow.

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Banking Games -The Paris, Madrid & London Events (Harvard Business School - USA)

"Don't wear H&M in a Hermes game!"


That elegantly blunt statement typifies financier Hafeez Giwa’s philosophy of always being authentic and agile. Early in his career Giwa delivered a marathon lobbying effort to the Managing Director of a major global investment bank who finally relented to a second year analyst’s endless pitches on an international deal. The directive to Giwa was a simple challenge: “Make it happen!


Meet Hafeez Giwa: former plucky second year analyst at Morgan Stanley and now Harvard Business School alum financier. Taking a break from being a judge for Harvard’s New Venture Competition, Mr. Giwa was kind enough to share with Crimson Oak his worldly anecdotes, discuss the source of his drive and give real-world insights for your career success. Peek through the keyhole of this revealing profile into the world of global investment banking and the inner workings of the Harvard Business School network. 

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SPECIAL REPORT - Harvard Innovation & Learning Agility

Confronted with the unknown, how would you respond? Sometimes the question is enough to evoke fear, to pump an over-compensating confidence or to rush a miffed assessment of irrelevance to an obviously insolent question. However, for some at Harvard, the answer to dealing with the unknown is simple: “barefoot irreverence”.

Crimson Oak recently had the privilege of participating in a three (3) day Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative – Think Tank held in Cambridge, MA. It provided the catalyst for us to pen this report. “Barefoot Irreverence”?! Hard to imagine a term less apt for the success of business professionals. But in the halls of the 375 year old institution, business & education professors and former country ministers were singing its praises. The structural shift, caused by the financial crisis of 2008, has left workers largely responsible for navigating the new job landscape by themselves. 

The most successful ones have embraced the principles of learning agility. Google notes that what makes great “Google-ers”are those who can “navigate through ambiguity” and are flexible learners. “Barefoot Irreverence” speaks to your will to fight against conformity and to battle for your vision, which is at the heart of innovation. Might “learning agility” – a more polite term than the aforementioned barefoot reference – provide you with a framework for this decade’s many career unknowns? We explore the learning agility concept and mind-set in this Special Report and later, in a Learning Agility Webinar

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Conversations with Crimson: The Indian Fashion-Tech Entrepreneur (London Business School - UK)

London has produced many sartorialists from its famed Jermyn Street region. Now the city’s business school can claim a rising star in fashion technology scene. Crimson Oak recently had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the beautifully sharp mind of fashion tech entrepreneur, Anu Duggal. Anuis a graduate of the London Business School and the co-founder of Exclusively.In, an Indian-inspired private sale site for fashion, jewelry, accessories, home decor and travel. Prestigious venture capital firms, such as FirstMark Capital and Accel Partners, have invested over $18 million in the start-up.

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Conversations with Crimson: The South African Private Equity Investor (Wits MBA - Johannesburg)

The polished prose and distinct South African accent were signs that our conversation with investment manager Milko Skoro was to be remarkable. Boasting a more than 4.5% projected GDP growth rate for the next 5 years and a growing middle class, Africa has gained much more interest from the investment community recently. Last year prestigious investment firm Carlyle opened an office in South Africa. But in mapping the opportunity and possible career paths, the perspective of a respected MBA professional would certainly help.  Mr. Skoro was kind enough to share with Crimson Oak Academy his thoughts on the investment community’s spotlight on Africa and chime in on his Wits School of Business experience.

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Harvard Discreet Knowledge: Nine Steps To Making Remarkable Career Choices

"Growing up my parents were very liberal and supportive; they gave me tons of choices. For college I could go to either Princeton or Harvard and for my career, I could be a lawyer or  a doctor. So of course I chose to be a banker." – old New York City joke.


Burdened by choice? A self-imposed solitude only adds to the cognitive dissonance. But choice does matter.


According to research by Princeton professors, the typical adult makes more than 10,000 choices daily. Your career choices take on special importance. Within your career, early decisions have an over-bearing influence limiting or expanding the range of possible long-term outcomes. “Critical path dependency”, a term borrowed from the medical field, is an apt framework for understanding the choice structure you’ll face in your business career. Navigating the labyrinth of choices can be numbing. This note will help you make better choices. Explore the psychological and behavioral process of career decisions on three dimensions: 1) your mind – conception; 2) your understanding / being understood – perception; and 3) the subtle interplay within your organization – action.

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Find Your Alternative Path to Private Equity – Insights From Carlyle’s African Ambition

Private equity’s lure is a mix of prestige (Harvard, Dartmouth and Wharton alumni dominate), power (former U.S. President George H.W. Bush is amongst Carlyle’s advisers) and pay. Vice presidents routinely make upwards of $250,000 in cash compensation before the equity compensation is included.

Private equity’s appeal could be likened to the enduring popularity of the ancient Chinese card game, Mah Jongg, neither Byzantine rules nor limited seats has dampened the demand for on watchers to [hopefully] become players. Ready to “buy-in” into the buyout game? The Carlyle Group's recent push into Africa may be your biggest "tell" for a successful path to the industry.

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SPECIAL REPORT - MBA+1 – Welcome to the Luxurious World of Business & Fashion

Kim Kardashian and Harvard Business School have a lot more in common than enviable endowments. The school and its alumni have made considerable investments in pursuing technology-enabled entrepreneurship. A number of HBS, and other top MBA, alumni have plunged into the world of fashion e-commerce, starting companies similar to Kim’s ShoeDazzle or the Olsen Twins’ StyleMint. Not to be outdone by new rivals, established brands, such as the French fashion house of Louis Vuitton and the Italian fashion house of Salvatore Ferragamo, have, respectively, invigorated their business lines with mobile apps and strengthened their balance sheets with initial public offerings (IPOs) this year. Michael Kors has also followed suit with an IPO this month. With the rise of women in business, the business of fashion – in particular online apparel - has experienced spectacular growth. Our gift to you: a special report revealing a desirable opportunity for the sophisticated professional. You could say ‘tis the season of fashion.

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Faith or Folly? Investing In The Unseen…Your Potential

Religion seems to have found even the most ardent atheists among us. The forsaken lumber, some occupy Wall Street, irritated by great expectations lost. A terse combination of fear, frustration and forced austerity has left many feeling hapless.

All investments contain intrinsic risk and the potential for increased value; your education & training is no different. To a certain extent, these investments in your human capital require faith. Blind faith, however, has left many of us with our guard down feeling like an unsuspecting boxer on the receiving end of a Floyd Mayweather blow. A succession of recent articles such as “Is the MBA Worth It?” “College Educated Can’t Find Jobs” “US Workers Need to Re-train” has done little to instill confidence. Not quite future “masters-of-the-universe” statements such as “Well, at least I have a job” have become commonplace. Implicitly, these professionals’ investment model place a premium value on security. The caution is warranted. The wrong decision for you could be absolute folly or worse.

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SPECIAL REPORT - Global Insights From HBS Dean, LinkedIN CEO & Google Ideas Director

The recent Miss Universe contest held in Brazil managed to focus globalization’s appeal in a way that no Goldman Sachs research report (even with the catchy “BRIC” acronym) ever could!

The Economist continued to illuminate the global dimensions of human potential by recently hosting a fascinating two-day conference entitled Human Potential: The Next Level of Competition (“the conference”). Within a hyper-connected global marketplace for talent the shade of your collar, whether blue or white, is of little significance. All face the risk of being commoditized. But how do you stand out from your global peers to capture that plum job or secure your seat in the incoming class of that top graduate program? Today, your business career at some point will almost surely require global experience – a welcomed treat for the prepared; a terrifying prospect for the indistinguishable. The Crimson Oak team was inspired by the conference to share our thoughts and sharpen the discussion by confronting a few unanswered questions. Through segmenting the levels of competition, we provide you with pragmatic take-aways highlighting possible pathways to success. These segments increasingly overlap. The idea of a 40 year old American male, “credentialized” executive being supervised by a 25 year old foreign-born female executive is no longer inconceivable.


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From Harvard Square to the Hamptons: Is Your Invitation to Success All Set?

Do you really have to stop wearing white after Labor Day (U.S.)?

Maybe. Situational awareness, dress-for-success and emotional intelligence are all effective tactics that would call for compliance. None of these tactics, however, quite encompasses the subtle art of calibrating discrete information and leveraging it for sustained success. The holistic strategy of “setting the table” we believe is the most impactful. Employing these “setting the table” techniques can have a tremendous positive impact on increasing the chances of you winning acceptance to a competitive graduate program, landing an angel investor or earning that coveted new job. Crimson Oak has distilled the “setting the table” concept into simple S-A-A Principles: Style, Affiliation and Advocacy. A careful look at seemingly “natural” scenarios will show successful execution of the SAA Principles.

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How Not to Be Forgotten – Career Lessons from LeBron, Liverpool & The Forgotten One 1

Hope Solo US Women SoccerAfter the lights dim, the chants from the crowds cease and the showers of praise dry up, will you be remembered? The scenario happens on the NBA basketball courts, the football (soccer) fields of Europe and across University campuses worldwide. Whether you are a recent advanced degree graduate or recent college graduate the annual ritual of graduation is the same and marks the promise of another phase of competency and success. A few years later, however, some inevitably fade to black, others marinate in a self-described, but not self-accountable, mediocrity. For a fortunate few, they grow and lead. If 80% of success is simply “showing up” then certainly the pre-cursor of “being remembered”, in order to be invited, must be even more critical to your success!


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