Sage advice and awards signal end of 2016-2017 school year

As the year comes to an end, we recognize computer information systems professionals, professors, and students for their success in business, contributions to others, and hard work.

Words of wisdom: the three CIS Sun Devil 100 inductees


Sun Devil 100 celebrates the achievements of ASU graduates who own or lead businesses in a variety of industries and locations around the world. The 2017 class of honorees were invited back to campus in April for a special awards program in their honor.

Among them was 1998 W. P. Carey graduate Lisa Van Bockern, owner and founder of Skin Script in Tempe, Ariz. The company offers clinical, professional skin care products as well as continuing education for aestheticians. Van Bockern says when she came up with the idea for her skin care product line, she had to have faith in it and did her best to keep the naysayers at bay. Her advice for young entrepreneurs is to start small and grow.

“Don’t try to bite off multi-million dollar sales until you get your finances, marketing, and operations working well,” says Van Bockern, whose early challenges were delegating duties and hiring staff to free up her time to “work on the business, instead of in the business.”

She believes the CIS and accounting classes helped her develop as a speaker to present her new business and products without fear. Van Bockern also gained a solid business sense, giving her the ability to budget her business, create a marketing strategy, and understand her company’s operations needs.

“I think being successful in business is a matter of being in the right place at the right time, then having the ability to see the opportunity and go for it,” she says, adding that “an ASU business degree is a necessity.” 

Sun Devil 100 inductee Michael Hawksworth graduated with his CIS degree in 1979 and went from being an auto mechanic to an information consultant before starting a successful management consulting company in 1986.

MSS Technologies, Inc. is the No. 1 ranked management consulting firm in the Southwest today. Hawksworth says he faced challenges in the business’ early years — financing a startup, planning for cash-flow, and keeping up with an ever-changing market.

“MSS, now going into our 30th year, has transformed almost on an annual basis to meet the changing needs of the businesses we service and pursue,” he says.

Finding inspiration from other entrepreneurs who had been in Hawksworth’s shoes was helpful to him, and Hawksworth recommends new business owners do the same.

“I advise all entrepreneurs to get plugged into many of the business, community, and industry organizations early in their company growth,” he says. “You will find many people in these organizations who provide energy and will share their experiences because they enjoy and thrive on seeing others succeed.”

Hawksworth says one thing he’s learned over the years is that the employees are a crucial component to the company’s success. In his company’s history, he says the most difficult times were when leadership forgot the importance of its people and their contributions. 

“As a consulting firm, our workforce is critical to our growth and goal achievement,” says Hawksworth, who also strongly recommends, “entrepreneurs keep close to the pulse of employees as their company grows.”

The third CIS inductee into the Sun Devil 100 is Jamie Hancock, the vice president of finance at Trestle Management Group, a community association management services company. 

She attributes her success to plain and simple hard work. As an accounting student, Hancock took back-to-back early morning classes so she could leave school in the afternoon to make it to a part-time job. She was also active in the professional business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi. After graduating in 1999 with a bachelor of science in accounting, Hancock stuck around for another year to earn a master’s in information systems and accountancy.

After graduating, she went to work at the biggest and best accounting firms, gathering knowledge and experience to use wherever her career took her.

“My teams and leaders were top notch, and the lessons learned as a cog in such large-scale operations have created the cornerstone of my approach to business in far smaller entities and teams,” Hancock says.

Today, she faces many challenges and opportunities as the leader of Trestle Management Group. The biggest, she says, is jumping into the unknown with quick decisions on operational direction, processes, and strategy for the growing company.

“This spirit of embracing the unknown and leaping in with the best intentions and best information available is the exact definition and spirit of entrepreneurship,” Hancock says. “My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is just that: Hustle hard, go with it, and see what happens.” 


The work is the reward for Faculty Advisor of the Year  

The Business School Council awarded Professor Matt McCarthy the Faculty Advisor of the Year award. “It is rewarding just doing what I do. I’m very lucky to be attached to two superb groups,” says McCarthy, who advises the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi and the Department of Information Systems Club (DISC).

He helps the teams practice their interviewing skills, work on their resumes, hold special events and workshops, and just about anything they need, he says.

Sarah Jensen, the Delta Sigma Pi vice president of scholarships and awards and a member of the Business School Council, says McCarthy helped the fraternity reach their goals and pushed the student groups to grow professionally.


CoMIS 2017 competition confirms exceeding expectations makes a difference

From left: Salem Shams, Ryan Kaats, Shashank Rajani, and Sarah Le

CoMIS, or Conference MIS, was formed and is entirely run by undergraduate students of the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. CoMIS 2017, the sixth annual Competition on Management Information Systems, gave CIS students a chance to test their business skills and information systems knowledge against those of the elite group of students chosen to represent their schools while building their awareness as future business leaders.

“I coached the students as they spent over two months preparing for the competition, taking time out of their schedules to read, prepare, and present solutions for practice cases,” says Professor of Information Systems Mike Frutiger, who accompanied Ryan Kaats (Business Data Analytics/CIS ’18), Sarah Lê (CIS ’20), Salem Shams (CIS ’19), and Student Coach Shashank Rajani (Business Data Analytics/CIS ’19) in March to the competition in Minnesota.

“Be open minded with ideas, and playing it safe isn’t always the answer,” Kaats advises students who compete in school-sponsored challenges. “The team that beat us had the same idea as us but took it a step further by adding extra things. It helped make their case stronger without going too far out there. So don’t limit yourself to the requirements of the case, and don’t be afraid to go above and beyond.”

The students had 24 hours to read a case and develop a solution. Then they presented their recommendations to the CoMIS judging panel in a 20-minute presentation, including 10 minutes answering audience questions. The top team from each group presented in the final round and winners were announced at an awards banquet. “There seems to be increasing recognition of the value of business case competitions in both fostering in-demand skills and signaling student potential,” Frutiger says. “This is arguably reflected in the popular press as well as in a proliferation of such competitions with significant involvement from businesses eager to connect with these students.”                                  

As hard as it may be to give a presentation, Kaats, who is a data analyst at ASU, says it was easier than creating the presentation. He explains the lessons he’ll apply to his job are, “thinking outside the box, and not being afraid to experiment with new or different ideas — ideas that aren’t necessarily being asked for but can help.”

As the only international student in the team, Shams says he first felt frustrated with public speaking and communicating with his teammates. “My coach and teammates always encouraged me during the preparation, and they helped me develop my speaking skills and be prepared for this competition. I also realized that it is not a disadvantage to have international students on a competition team since they bring new thoughts and global mindsets. International students shouldn’t feel discouraged just because English is not their first language.”

Lê, who believes she was chosen to go on the trip for her presentation and adaptability skills says, “CoMIS was intensely collaborative; 24 hours of speaking to no one except your teammates — if that isn’t extreme development of your teamwork skills I don’t know what is.


DISC receives award for distinguished student chapter

Professional development, membership, careers in IS, community service, fundraising, and communications. These are the qualities in which the Department of Information Systems Club (DISC) excels and for which it received the Distinguished Chapter Award from the Association for Information Systems at the AIS Student Chapter Leadership Conference.

“The Department of Information Systems was generous to send four members from DISC to the Association of Information Systems Student Chapter Conference in Provo, Utah,” says future DISC VP of Recruitment and Events Tania Kattan (CIS ’20).

Joining Kattan to accept the award, which acknowledges the DISC 2015-2016 annual report submitted by the officers in May 2016: 

  • Student and DISC VP of Community Service Shashank Rajani (Business Data Analytics/CIS ’19)
  • Salvador Huerta (CIS ’19)
  • Student and DISC President Vi Tranle (CIS ’17)
  • DISC Faculty Advisor and Student Services Coordinator Karen Stark
  • DISC Faculty Advisor and Clinical Assistant Professor Kathleen Moser

“The AIS Conference gave me an opportunity to meet intelligent and exciting student leaders from some of the best information systems programs in the world,” Huerta says. “Participating in the events and information sessions allowed all of the students who attended to learn from one another, grow professionally, and develop a sense of confidence for the future of information systems.”

While the experience gave the students knowledge to share with other club members, Kattan says it also provided ideas that DISC can implement in the upcoming academic year. “It allowed us to understand our expectations and fulfill our roles as executives,” she says, “as well as different ways to recruit new members and raise awareness on the career opportunities in the field of information systems.”

DISC officers are working on this year’s annual report for 2016-2017, which is due to the AIS by May 30.