Careers: Interviews
International Management Authority Shares His Views

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Ike Hall.

Ike is currently Program Head of the B.B.A. program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). In addition to BCIT, he divides his time between Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the Athabasca University’s MBA program at the Centre for Innovative Management (AUMBA/CIM).

Ike worked as an engineer in the army for eight years and later for several large engineering firms. During his career he has owned four businesses, worked as a VP (Planning), and as a VP (Finance and Operations) in large teaching hospitals. During those years he was adjunct faculty at several universities and colleges.

Ike earned an MSc from the University of British Columbia, an MBA from University of Western Ontario, and a BEng from the Royal Military College of Canada. He is a PhD candidate at California Coast University.

Discussion:

Q: Ike, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview!

A: I am pleased to provide whatever input I can to your audience Stephen.

Q: Please profile your successful career leading to the present. From your early background as an engineer, what led you into the educational field? What motivated you to go into the areas you did?

A:  I got into education, like most people, more as a means of occupying myself (in a constructive manner) than as an ideal.  Besides, in cold, dark Winnipeg there are precious few things to do during January and February.

Q: Detail your current responsibilities at BCIT, SFU, and AUMBA?

A:  I try to help people who are interested in reaching a little further in their lives.  We all want to learn, but not many of us want to be taught, so I just try to arrange a method where people can pursue their learning ambitions.

Q: Describe the MBA program at AU?

A:  Well, it seems to be a great deal of work, by a lot of dedicated individual participants in the interactive, internet-based, MBA program.  Participants exchange their views on how theoretical concepts apply to their own companies and their own organizations.  This includes the entire common core theoretical areas such as marketing, strategy, statistics, finance and so forth.  People put forward their thoughts on applications, and then look for feedback from the other persons in their class groups.

Q: In a crowded market, what differentiates the MBA program at AU?

A:  To a very large extent, flexibility.  The program can be followed from Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Bosnia, or a ship on the ocean.  The exchange of information, and the communication, is asynchronous, and the work can be done at the ice-rink, on the train, at the office or wherever.  It can also be done anytime in the 24 hour spectrum.

Q: What differentiates the BBA program at BCIT?

A:  This is a new program for BCIT, and it only begins after the student finishes their major (marketing, finance, operations management, etc.).  It is very condensed, stresses applied learning (seeing as BCIT is a polytechnic) and generally can be completed in a three year period.

Q: Tell us more about your work with the AUMBA/CIM and with BCIT.

A:  Most of what I do is to provide feedback on participants’ and students’ application of knowledge to their work situations or to case situations.  I am responsible for a bit of administrivia, but all jobs have their weak points I suppose.

Q: You pick 3 topics from your extensive work experience and education, please share some special and useful tips from each topic area which would be of help to those getting into the business or IT field.

A: Topic 1:  Health Care

1)  This is an extremely large and complex field – don’t assume that you have the answers, I would be content to be able to clearly articulate questions so that teams could explore possible solutions.

2)  Don’t think that you will solve the problems – be patient and know that tremendous resources and time will be required to come to grips with the most pressing issues.

3)  Avoid dwelling on the nasty bits where people die; concentrate on the good bits where you can prolong the quality of life and add a positive impact to people’s lives.

Topic 2:  Small Business Consulting

1)  The businesses that need the help the most are the people that can least afford it. Try to develop a “pro-bono” system of work so that only profitable solutions are remunerated.

2)  Look for niches where computer systems, marketing techniques, or service improvements can make major in-roads to help your clients have a more fulfilling life.

3)  Try to mark incremental steps in your development and growth, the small but useful issues that you deal with may be the most beneficial for you and your clients.

Topic 3:  Establishing Your Own Part-Time Business

1)  Everyone should have a hobby business where they can find an outlet for their talents, do something they enjoy, and still find a charge to income that would have existed even without the business – if you enjoy golfing, get into the golf club business or the golf ball business or the golf hat business.

2)  Include people you care about in the part-time business.  This is your free time to spend constructively with your family or close friends, and you can do it in a meaningful and profitable manner.

3)  Take a long-term view of anything your do with your small business, build it a little at a time and build it to last a life-time.

Q:  The integration of technology and business has had a major impact on the business model. There is no longer a “typical” student in technology or business programs. What are your top ten tips for success in the MBA program?

A: 1)  Work hard, but work smart.

2)  Try to have your employer foot at least part of the bill.

3)  Approach everything positively, even the mundane bits.

4)  Ensure that you make friends and build a network with the other participants in the MBA program.

5)  Be prepared to put other things on the back burner for a while – but never your family.

6)  Try to keep a balance – do the best you can in the time available, then move on.

7)  Consideration of others, and others’ time-frames is important, don’t burn bridges.

8)  Do the work – programs are set up for people to be successful – don’t give up.

9)  Ensure you have a PMA – a positive mental attitude - because whether you think you can or you think you can’t – You’re right!

10)  Live a bit, convince yourself that this is a choice, and that you are gaining from the experience.

Q: What are the most compelling issues facing business and technology professionals today and in the future? How can they be resolved? 

A: 1) We all want more – more sales, more growth, and more customers.  Measure what you are doing to grow, to get more, and stay on track with it.

2)   Technology is very fluid, ensure you keep on top of trade journals and the latest developments.

3)  Try to attend at least one trade show per year (and try to make that in Vegas!).

Q: What do you consider to be the most important trends to watch, and please provide some recommendations?

A: 1)  Globalization is going to be with us for a while.  We can stay on top of this trend by ensuring that we are plugged into our colleagues and associates around the world

2)  Demographic changes, including GenXers and aging Boomers – we have to provide services and products these customers and these trenders want and need.

3)  Niche filing – where we see more and more data mining for specific, drilled bits of info, and we can manage our own data bases to mine these more effectively

Q:  Where do you see business careers going in the future? Which skills and knowledge sets must business and IT professionals have to remain competitive? How will these evolve over time?

A:  IT professional and gurus will be more and more likely to work as contract experts in the field.  Common business skills (from sending invoices, to planning our own work requirements) will become an important part of remaining competitive.  As usual, networking to stay on top of workloads and contacts will remain important.

Q: There are many resources available for business and IT professionals. List your top  resources.

A: 1) Libraries – these sources are available on-line and usually at a nominal fee or on someone else’s nickel.

2)  Peers and associates – usually have the latest breaking and most useful knowledge for IT professionals.

3)  Some blog sites, along with the usual caveats of knowing your source and keeping plenty of salt handy.

4)  Professional bodies – be they for law, engineering, or IT, still have a responsibility to inform their members and it seems to be a responsibility that they continue to take seriously and do a good job at achieving.

5)  The good old fashioned way of professional development through standard academe – most academics are willing to share information (for free!), but of course sometimes things are worth what you pay for them!

Q: From your rich and varied background, can you share some of your most amazing and/or humorous experiences?

A:  I was at an IT conference in Rome, and one of the people I was traveling with stopped by St Peter’s square so that he could pray, and what he prayed for was chastity and virtue. But when I saw him carrying on later that night I noticed that his prays were not answered, to which he replied, “I asked that I not receive this until I get back home!”

Traveling with colleagues, and staying on top of the global picture, often lets us see through things much easier, but a buddy of mine said that if he could see through women, then that would mean missing too much!

Although I think that being happy is a worthwhile achievement, I was very impressed by an IT professional who convinced me that men who are unhappy, are like men who sleep badly, they are always proud of the fact!

Q: What motivates you? What goals do you still hope to accomplish both professionally and personally?

A: I believe, like Nohria and Lawrence, that there are certain drivers in our psyche.  These drivers include, but are not limited to, the time accepted things such as Alderfer’s Acquired Needs, in my case, the need for achievement.  If I am still growing and if I am still learning, I feel that I am accomplishing as much as is possible (while still making enough from my billings to send my shirts out and eat at a good restaurant once in a while).

Q: If you were doing this interview, what five questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?

A: Q1:  What would you do to fix the world?
A1:  My own little part, a little at a time.  Do what you can to add to the good that happens here.

Q2:   How can a person use their full human potential?
A2:  By application, consistently and conscientiously, on a recurring basis.

Q3: Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
A3:  Sure, but by the time we get there our eyes will be so weak that it will blind us!  At any rate, we should continue to persevere and to do our best.

Q4:  Is there a right strategy for success?
A4:  No, there are many right strategies.  All we are asking of ourselves and others is to be considerate of the economy, the ecology, and the earth.

Q5:  If you had it all to do over again would you?
A5:  You bet, but maybe a little slower!

Q: Ike, thank you again for your time, and consideration in doing this interview.

A:   The pleasure was mine Stephen; it makes one pause and think!

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