Thoughts on Podcasts & National Flex Day

October 17, 2017

Emma Plumb, director of 1 Million for Work Flexibility

I recently interviewed Emma Plumb (director of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, or 1MFWF) for Bauer College’s Working Wisdom podcast “How Does She Do It?,” which shares stories of women who have non-linear trajectories of growth.

These conversations engage women who by all measures are successful.  At the same time, their path to success was anything but smooth.  How did they make the leaps and what inspired them to do so? The podcasts help us understand how success comes from being in the “arena” and daring the odds, greatly.

Life, as we all know, happens. Often, the successful individuals we speak with on the podcast took career breaks — in some cases it was to raise children, in others it was an aging parent whose needs were prioritized. Having the flexibility to determine your working hours makes sense, yet is uncommon in the world of business. Emma decided to focus on the issue of work flexibility, a focus that grew out of her own unpleasant experience.

Today is Oct. 17, and we celebrate the fifth annual National Flex Day, a day to encourage employers and employees to unite behind the need for more flexibility by sharing how pervasive and powerful it already is. National Flex Day is a partnership with Emma’s organization, 1MFWF, and Working Mother.

Workplace flexibility has grown from being the “right” thing to do to being the smart thing to do, if you want your business to succeed. Engaged employees are more productive, and engagement has to do with providing more options in the workplace. Research in this area supports the fact that more flexible work options increased productivity directly by allowing individuals to work at their productive peak times and indirectly by lowering stress levels. Flex work schedules lower absenteeism. They also reduce the costs associated with retraining and recruiting. Flex workplaces expand the talent pool for recruitment, they improve morale, and make employees know they are valued on their own terms. Millennials value flexibility right after compensation and benefits, and are more insistent about this than the generations before them.

More than anything else, flexibility in the workplace is smart business, and is hence a business imperative.

What are you doing to make your workplace embrace the idea of flexibility? Send me a suggestion for an actionable item that enhances flexibility in the workplace.


Thank You, Joe “JJ” Kinahan

April 19, 2017

Joe “JJ” Kinahan, Chief Market Strategist and Managing Director at Ameritrade Client Services; Latha Ramchand, Dean of the C. T. Bauer College of Business; and John Lopez, Bauer College Clinical Assistant Professor of Finance gather for a photo before the college’s 2017 Financial Symposium. See more photos on WhereAwesomeHappens.com.

On Saturday, April 8, Bauer College hosted our annual Financial Symposium open to students, faculty, staff and the community. The symposium is meant to provide UH students and the Houston community information on topics that will help them make better financial decisions. Students also listen to experts talk about careers in financial services, including commercial banking, financial analysis and personal financial planning. The goal of the symposium is to take learning to the community in ways that make a difference.

Consider the facts:

Today, only 13% of all private-sector workers have a traditional pension, compared with 38% in 1979, and close to 45% of Americans have nothing saved for retirement. More than 30 million people don’t have access to any retirement plan because the small businesses that they work for don’t provide one.

Clearly, we can and must do better.

At Bauer College, we take the message of financial literacy seriously. We need to share the message and share it often. In many ways, the actionable part of financial literacy has to do as much with discipline as it does with finance. As with any behavior, those that enforce discipline in our expenditure and savings plans are best taught early in life. It is for this reason that Bauer College makes every effort to share this message with students and with the community.

This year the keynote speaker at the Financial Symposium was Joe “JJ” Kinahan (@TDAJJKinahan), Chief Market Strategist and Managing Director at Ameritrade Client Services. He took this message one step further by connecting the message of financial literacy to a strong work ethic and character.

Work hard, for there is no substitute. Every job has parts that are frustrating. A typical job might have 25% that we absolutely enjoy and are engaged in, another 25% that we abhor, leaving the middle 50% in a neutral zone that we are neither excited about nor disgusted with. Success results when we move this middle 50% into the more exciting zone, leading us to love 75% of what we do. Plan the 25% that is frustrating and everything else will seem exciting. In everything you do, character matters.  Not doing the right thing has financial implications.  Your behavior builds reputation, and reputation is your biggest asset.

As you build your reputation, consider building your financial asset base as well — when you start working, make sure you maximize the contribution to your 401(K) or retirement plan.  Starting early, and leveraging your employer’s contribution, can boost your total returns more than starting late and investing more for a shorter length of time. As they often say, when it comes to investment and maximizing returns, it is time, not timing. Time is your biggest ally when it comes to investment and returns. Timing assumes perfect foresight which is a fiction of the imagination.

At the same time, have fun. It is important that you love and enjoy what you do.

JJ Kinahan is a 30-year trading veteran who began his career as a Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) market maker trading in the S&P 100 (OEX) and S&P 500 (SPX) pits. He also worked for ING Bank, Blue Capital and was Managing Director of Option Trading for Van Der Moolen, USA. Later in his career he joined the thinkorswim Group, which was eventually acquired by TD Ameritrade.

Thank you, JJ — thank you for inspiring us.


When a watch is more than a time piece

May 27, 2016

The month of May is special – sandwiched between exams and grading is an event we all look forward to – convocation and commencement celebrations. These ceremonies remind us that a degree is more than a piece of paper.  Education is about empowering everyone to create opportunity for themselves and for others.  The emails from graduating students over the past few weeks inspire us to action and make us smile.  I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did.

Miriam Haddad, Class of 2016 wrote to us:
I will be interning with ExxonMobil this summer, beginning May 31st.  I can definitely attest to the fact that Bauer and the Finance Association have given me all the tools to be at my best beyond college in the work force. Bauer is such an amazing place to be: the faculty, staff, and students always pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me what it means to be a leader. 

Farhad Tahir, Class of 2016 wrote:
With graduation just around the corner, I wanted to share with you some exciting news, as well as tell you how Bauer has made me the person I am today. In my very first year here, I was honored to be the recipient of the Bauer Excellence Scholarship. Since then, I utilized the tools Bauer provided me to become a better person, both in the workplace and in the community. After completing a year-long internship with Siemens Wind Service group here in Houston, and a Summer internship with EY’s advisory practice, I am proud to say that I will be joining Shell Oil this summer after graduation…. 

In looking back, all that I am is because of the environment and education I received here at Bauer….I look forward to being an active part of the alumni network, and am proud that my spirit cord donation went towards the same Bauer Excellence Scholarship that I once received…. One day I am certain I will return to the University of Houston, and teach students in classes that I myself took

Nora Bayly, advisor in the Bauer Honors Program sent this note about her graduating students.

John Hounihan, Class of 2016 is a Management (Leadership track and Leadership Studies) major whose passion for leadership and theatre makes him a unique gem in the business school. John was heavily involved in the Honors College in Honors College Club Theatre, which included writing and directing his own shows, as President of the Honors College Student Governing Board, as a TA for Brenda Rhoden’s Leadership course, and he did undergraduate research with her. He was accepted to Graduate School  at Northwestern University to get his Masters of Science and Leadership for Creative Enterprises. He starts in the Fall and hopes to manage theatre companies in the future.

Andy Tran, Class of 2016, a Management (Leadership Track) Major and Biology Minor, has been accepted to medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in the Fall. He also worked as a certified EMT, and was active in the Asian Business Student Association (ABSA) while at Bauer.

And here is a story of a watch that is more than a time piece. Professor Ed Blair wrote about the Spring 2016 Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship Graduation dinner:

We have learned in WCE and PES that if you want evidence of the impact we make in students’ lives, just turn the microphone over to the students. Such was the case last night.

One moment came when scholarships were being announced. Our Wolffest income is now used to support scholarships, and the scholarship contribution from this year’s event will be roughly $140,000, with the largest single contribution being $50,000 from WCE alum Sean Mehta and Luminess airbrush cosmetics. That gift includes $30,000 for scholarship endowments and $20,000 to fund four $5,000 scholarships for next year’s seniors. The gift was raised by Jessica Ramirez, a Wolffest team leader. Dave Cook announced the four recipients and asked Jessica and Andrew Videira from Luminess to join the recipients on stage for a picture. After the picture, he handed the microphone to Jessica and asked if she would like to say something. She began to cry, said “I can’t,” and offered the mic back to Dave. He said, “yes you can.” Sobbing, Jessica said “I know what it is to get help when you need it” – last year, she had financial difficulties and dental problems, and Dave found a dentist who treated her for free and arranged for her to receive a $5,000 Wolff scholarship. Still crying, she walked to the edge of the stage and addressed Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff, who were sitting at a front table: “I wanted to help others the way you helped me, but I didn’t know how. Then, when I was made a Wolffest team leader, I thought that if I could raise enough money, I could do it.” Turning to the scholarship recipients, she said “now you’ll be helped the way I was helped.” The Wolffs teared up, I teared up, everybody teared up. It was a very emotional moment.

A second moment came when seniors Luu Vo and Nick Ravanbakhsh took the stage to tell the story of a watch. One of their classmates, Ildefonso (Fonso) Prieto, lost his watch at a class retreat. It fell into a lake and there was no hope of getting it back. Fonso really felt the loss because the watch had been a gift from his father, who died shortly before Fonso entered the WCE program. His classmates decided to buy him a replacement, and to get the exact same type of watch so he could still think of his father when he wore it. This turned out to be difficult. They scoured Fonso’s Facebook page and any pictures they could find that might show the watch. They found one picture that showed a distinctive link pattern on the watchband, and from that, Nick – who knows watches – was able to identify the brand and model. The model is no longer available, and a web search turned up only one listing in the world for sale (from what Nick termed a “sketchy” website). They ordered it, and the listing immediately changed to “out of stock,” so it appears that this was the last copy in the world. In due time, the watch arrived, and they found that the day/date wheel was in Arabic. As Luu observed, Fonso is a talented guy, but he does not speak Arabic, so the students searched for someone who could replace the day/date wheel with one in Spanish/English as per the original. They found someone in Hong Kong who could do it, and shipped the watch off. Now it was back, and they asked Fonso to come to the stage to take his watch. After they handed it to him, they asked him to look under the clasp. He did so and began to cry. He read the Spanish inscription out loud, then translated it to English: “it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up.” He said that he had shared with his classmates that his father often told him this saying. Luu took the mic and said that they had not told the complicated story of the watch to show us what great people they were, but to let Fonso know how much effort and caring had gone into it. He asked that Fonso think of two families when he wears the watch: his own Prieto family and his WCE family.

And I’m not even mentioning the student who has been struggling to pay his bills and was literally overcome with emotion upon receiving a $5,000 scholarship from Keith Cox, or the 16 members of the senior class who declined to apply for scholarships because they said they knew classmates who needed it more than them.

It was a reminder that programs like WCE and PES don’t just educate our students – they care for those students, they create families of students who care for and support each other, and they change the lives of those students.

I wonder if William Butler Yeats had Bauer College in mind when he wrote:

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire