MBA students get hands-on experience in business simulation competition

MBA students get hands-on experience in business simulation competition

Nov. 17, 2014

Royce Hams, Ali Hashemy and Adam Juhn didn't enter their MBA capstone course thinking about a top-five ranking in the Smartsims Hall of Fame, but it didn't take them long to realize how successful they would be against other business students around the world in the MikesBikes competition.

"It was in the third week," Hams said. "We had already captured over 50 percent of the [class] market share. We looked around and realized we jumped off to a pretty incredible start."

MikesBikes is an interactive strategic management simulation that allows students to make all the key functional decisions for a virtual bicycle company and then see them reflected in financial, operational and cost accounting reports, and in market data. Student groups compete against other groups in their school's program and groups from other institutions across the globe. According to the group—named ARA Corp. in the simulation—collaboration and large-scale perspective were integral to its No. 5 all-time finish.

"One person did marketing, one person did strategic planning...[but] we would get back together and talk about it," Hashemy said.
While Hams ran the simulations directly, the whole group discussed what impact a single change had on every other fact of the business as they guided ARA Corp. through 10 to 15 simulations each week.

"It's so important to understand the big picture," Juhn said.

While the instructor for MBA 595 Strategic Planning for Competitive Organizations didn't explicitly tell students how MikesBikes related to the MBA program as a whole, those in ARA Corp. found the connections, noting that lessons from the simulation could be found in homework and reading assignments.

"You could tell it applies to what you were doing if you paid attention," Hashemy said. "The simulation is a projection of real life."

Real life is something Hashemy knows about after 20 years of work experience. Currently the purchasing manager for two casinos in the Kansas City area, Hashemy returned to school to get a formal educational balance to his hands-on knowledge.

"An academic degree would be important if I wanted to teach in college," Hashemy said. "I want to give something back."

Hashemy is considering searching for a part-time teaching job as early as 2015, but is focused on finishing a leadership concentration before graduating in May. Hams and June are graduating in December, and both have already thought about what an MBA means to their careers.

"Kind of like Ali said, I'd like to teach upon retiring. Maybe at a community college," Hams said, before flashing a grin, "or in Hawaii."

For now, he's happy knowing that he can look at a company's financial and balance sheets, identify red flags and make suggestions for corrections. Paired with Hams' background in engineering, an MBA diversifies his base of competencies, as it does when coupled with Juhn's undergraduate psychology degree.

"I like consumer behavior," Juhn said, "[so] I would like to do market research or analytics, be it at a company or as a consultant helping companies drive growth and revenue."

One statistic provided by an instructor has stuck with Hams, Hashemy and Juhn: only about 10 percent of Americans over the age of 25 hold a master's degree. This is reflected in a Census Bureau report that shows while an all-time high of 30.4 percent of this group has earned at least a bachelor's degree, only 10.9 percent have a graduate degree. With an ever-increasing number of workforce members earning bachelor's degrees, the distinction between undergraduate and graduate-level education can help anyone, no matter the previous field of study or on-the-job background.

Baker University is ranked No. 1 for MBA enrollment in the Kansas City area with online courses that include students nationwide.