Summer reading: Let’s connect!

You may not have notice but summer is here! Well in Belgium, summer was here, between June 27th and June 28th. After the closing seminar I had a look at the list of interesting books mentionned during the different classes and told myself that I will read them all during this summer! So let’s start with the first one: Let’s Connect!: A Practical Guide for Highly Effective Professional Networking from Jan Vermeiren.

Jan Vermeiren is a networking coach. He wrote several books on networking. He was also invited by Vlerick to talk at the closing seminar mentioned above. I am not sure we (MBA students) were the right audience for him, mainly because we already all have a LinkedIn account (and approximately know how to use it) and we already know how to party and network (that was also how Vlerick was selling this Part-Time MBA). However if you listened carefully to his talk, you aleady know more or less the content of this book.

The book is divided in 7 chapters, going from the basics of networking (say hello, thank you and bye – I exagerate a little bit, sorry) to how to network during events and online. I found the beginning of the book very slow, with long explanations about SMART objectives, the 6 degrees of separation (cleverly renamed “proximity”), the taker/giver mentality, the Golden Triangle of Networking, etc. Then the book brings you through your networking profile, the networking mindset to have at events, the point-and-click details of Plaxo/LinkedIn toolbars in Outlook and ends with how to stay in touch with you network.

Stated like that it seems I didn’t like the book. In fact I realized that I had wrong expectations. I though I would learn how to leverage the network and connections I already have. I read some interesting tips and tricks about this. But the book mainly goes about actually how to make these connections and how to build your network – making the assumption networking is completely new to you.

Don’t get me wrong: this book has some value and give some valuable advices (even if they seem obvious to some/many of us). If you are an introvert you’ll find potentially interesting advices on how to “break the ice” at meetings for instance. If you are an extrovert you’ll learn how not to “hard sell” everything and anything.

Just don’t read this book from beginning to the end: read random parts of it when you have 5-10 minutes to kill and you’ll remember (and maybe learn) some advices on networking.

Jan Vermeiren’s website also offers a free e-book in PDF on “How to REALLY use LinkedIn” (there is a registration form but you are allowed to fill in anything as long as the last string looks like an e-mail address). Many elements from the book are also in this e-book (or vice-versa). This e-book is a bit like a user manual for LinkedIn for power users mixed with some Q&A. Again I think LinkedIn users will benefit from the book by reading random parts from time to time and not necessarily from page 1 to 233.

In conclusion, this is a good book if you start networking (and still a interesting reminder if you are already networking).

GSK to acquire Human Genome Sciences: a timeline

Sometimes news gives you the opportunity to observe what you learn in theory in class. Take mergers and acquisitions, for instance: since a few weeks I am following with some interest the story between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Human Genome Sciences (HGSI). This story started a long time ago so let’s go back in time …

Human Genome Sciences discovered the now-called Benlysta drug decades ago and SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) supported the research efforts. The bid was considered bold at that time because it was one of the first drug to use data mining and genome mining to discover and develop new medicines.

For information, Benlysta is a bioengineered antibody that blocks a protein called BLyS. This protein is elevated in lupus and other autoimmune diseases and is believed to contribute to production of cells that attack blood vessels and other healthy tissue. Benlysta was approved by the FDA in March 2011, by the European Commission and by the Canadian regulator in July 2011.

In April 2012 GSK made an unsolicited offer to acquire HGS at $13 per share in cash, valuing HGS at around $2.6 billion (more than 80 percent premium to the average stock’s closing price of April 1818, the last day before the private offer was publicly disclosed). HGS rejected the offer saying it did not reflect its inherent value. HGS board authorised the company to seek other “strategic alternatives”. At that time I was wondering what other company would buy HGS, given that GSK would have most probably secured the control of Benlysta as well as other drugs that they financed, would they be produced by HGS or any other company. Other people noted that HGS might have partly reacted out of concern for shareholders who purchased shares at an average price that’s higher than the offer.

Nevertheless GSK started its tender in May 2012 and ran it until June 7th (later extended to July 16th). GSK took the offer directly to shareholders and apparently did not participate in the auction HGS designed to counter GSK offer.

At approximately the same (May 2012) HGS adopted a shareholder rights plan, or “poison pill“. The effect would indeed be that if a third party attempt to buy up 15% or more of its stock without the board’s support, holdings will be automatically diluted. This would reduce the interest in the takeover (apparently). Some shareholders did not agree with that provision and sued HGS. Of course GSK asked shareholders to defy HGS board and even prepared a new board.

Corporate Cliche Shot No. 57 - 'The Handshake' Finally, beginning of July, we could read that talks were held behind closed doors to reach an agreement between GSK and HGS. And in the end HGS accepted GSK offer of $14.25 per share share, which values HGS at approximately $3.6 billion. The official press release mention that the tender offer will last until July 27th.

Matthew Herper from Forbes already drew three lessons from this acquisition and FT Lex made general comments on big pharma -vs- biotech. I wonder if this step (that could be seen as natural given existing collaborations) will attract much more attention than that but it was a nice game to follow.

Disclaimer: GlaxoSmithKline is my current employer but I have no stake in this deal nor was/am I involved in any way. All information disclosed here is publicly available. Opinions are mine only.
Photo credits: Corporate Cliche Shot No. 57 – ‘The Handshake’ by Drew Levy on Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Penultimate admissions and iPads

The academic year might be over, we might be on holidays and/or just graduated but Vlerick is not yet asleep! Yesterday (July 10th) was one of the last on-campus admission day. Things will be quiet until August 28th (the last admission day, also in Ghent). At least two people admitted are tweeting and blogging …

Twitter celebration - Vlerick admission day

Bob van der Vleuten (@bobvdv) is blogging at (in Dutch only). He’s apparently involved in many different organisations, most notably TEDxUHasselt. Christian Remon (@ChristianRemon) is blogging at He’s involved in less organisations than Bob but is very interested in communication too … Hope they will start blogging about their life at Vlerick (even if they applied for another Master than the MBA)!

The other news about Vlerick is that it will offer iPads for MBA students. But wait, only MBA-FSI students will get one and just as a pilot project! Koen announced us great news on the educational methodology front. There it is! And it is not not for us (we are just PTMBA, remember? Ok I know: it’s just a pilot ;-)) The official announcement is here and approximately reproduced here too. Very soon, you’ll see these type of students in Vlerick …

Have you seen the latest CSR slides? Oh yeah, too cool!

Now seriously, I appreciate the fact Vlerick tries to change and improve its ways of teaching. The main reason cited is that the MBA-FSI is given at different locations and putting slides on a tablet will reduce the carbon footprint of sending all the paper copies sent from Belgium (however I am wondering if the possibility of printing locally was ever considered …). It is also stated that the multimedia capabilities would probably be used in the future. But this last point seems a bit vague to me for the moment – IMHO.

I just hope they will join the other 1,000 other universities on iTunesU (and they will not “just” distribute PDFs of slides in a closed and proprietary reader). Or they will consider a more platform-independent and more socially interactive platform that just happens to also work on an iPad (but everything seems to need to be on iPad these days).

By the way, talking about improving your ecological footprint, I’m selling 11 binders of Vlerick courses (empty: I grouped all courses in 4 bigger binders and a 2Gb space on Dropbox). They look very smart. They are a good way to start a conversation with people when you roam around in your company with them under your arm. And they will soon become collectors as a new Vlerick brand will soon appear (another thing we are waiting since a long time … ;-)). You set the price (I know it doesn’t sound right for a MBA student but they are just collecting dust in the basement).

Vlerick business school files to sell

Photo credits: all mine except the middle one, from Adam Grabek on Flickr (license CC-by).

Congratulations to Apollo 2010-2012!


They look so sweet! :-)
Photo credits: GraduationVlerickGhent2012-9998 by Vlerick on Flickr (All rights reserved – but hey!)

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