Review: Professor Darrel (Del) Mank, Management, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

At a glance

  • Workload: Heavy
  • Teaching Style: Interactive
  • Interest in students: Very high
  • Relevance to outside world: Very high.

Overall Professor Rating: 4.5

Overall Course Rating: 4

Professor Darrel (Del) Mank is an engaging, intriguing and ultimately very interesting professor with a strong, real-world background. Management 524, Managing Technology and Innovation, is the perfect course for him. It’s a lot of work, though, but if you have a good team it’s worth it. If I had a bad team, though, it would have been a rough ride. It’s only because of that caveat that I don’t give the class a point higher. It is possibly the best and most engaging class I’ve had thus far. Possibly, but not for certain.

The Review

This is the second of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. But only here can I write as much as I want 🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives. First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class. Time of year, time of day, etc. Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person. After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too. So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.

The facts

I had Professor Mank for Management 524 – Managing Innovation and Technology – Spring 2008 (just this past term – I’m kind of working backwards). The course is basically on how to determine the innovation capabilities of a company, which really means a lot of different things (details in the “more” section). The class was at 7:05 on Mondays and Wednesdays, which was my 2nd class on those nights. Interestingly, I had much more trouble staying awake after a long day on the job during the preceding class than this later one…

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.

The class

Mgmt 524 is a case-based course that examines, broadly, the innovation capabilities of companies. The actual course material – the cases – are of companies or industries facing a particular point of inflection and how they respond. That isn’t necessarily a product of innovative capability, though. We wrote both individual and team case analyses based on specific questions, and had a final group paper that was purely about an audit of the innovation capabilities of a company of our choosing. We also had a midterm, which was a case write-up in class.

The class is very practical, though the answers to questions aren’t always clear. The cases are designed to make us think, after all. For instance, when there is a question of whether a company or business unit (BU) has been successful, the answer is based on money. Did they make money’ Plain and simple. But the final question is often “what should they do next’” which is almost always an awfully hard question to answer. For example, we examined the case of Intel and its decision to move from a memory to a microprocessor company. The question of whether continuing to make DRAM chips was easy – margins were low, competition from Japanese companies was incredibly stiff, etc. So get out. But whether and how aggressively they should get out and move to microprocessors’ Much harder. The former is a tactical decision, the latter a strategic one (that produces tactical moves).

The readings go beyond the cases, though. For instance, along with the Intel case we read about companies that reach a point of inflection. Established companies tend to lose out on trends and changes as part of the “noise of doing business.” Smaller companies, like the Japanese ones, just entering the market, see an opportunity and attack it. So the issue was whether Intel would be able to recognize that this was a point of inflection, one which was pivotal to their future, or just think they could keep moving along making DRAM chips.

In-class discussions were quite in-depth. Not only because we went deep into the case, but also because we utilized the case, the extra readings, and our own thoughts and ideas. I think this was really effective (I’ve had another class where we did readings and were even graded on them, but then didn’t talk about them at all). Classes were fun, which is why I never got sleepy.

As far as class mechanics, as I mentioned there is a midterm case-writeup, in class (computer allowed), then a final group paper in which we have to develop a framework for auditing a company’s innovative capabilities and then do the actual audit. We have to interview the company, and we must have at least verbal confirmation that they have made money. The subject for analysis can be a big company, like all of Apple, or just a part of one. We did ours on IDEO. Oddly, the case analyses are graded quantitatively, and I’m not sure why one of mine got a 45 while another got a 48, but so it goes.

The Man

Mank is a very interesting guy. Above all else, he is best described as a serial entreprenuer, though he has moved past that for the most part into another phase of his professional life (teaching, consulting, etc). He was involved in a number of significant moments in our technological history, from his own companies to his jobs at IBM, TI, and elsewhere.

Mank is very straightforward about what it’s like to work at a start-up. You find one guy that is brilliant and keep him happy. Get the product out the door while scraping by. You have to take chances. And if someone else does something as drastic as filing an injunction for this or that, you wait until the last possible minute to comply in order to maintain your competitive edge. This last part can be off-putting as well. Doesn’t sound very fair to just stall, does it’ But it’s also refreshing to hear it. There is nothing malicious about what Mank is advocating. It’s just the right way of doing business in that market. Took me a while to realize it but once I did it was good.

Some Metrics

Metrics are of questionable use, depending on professor and what classes I have and haven’t taken. But they might be of interest so I’ll do what I can. These are more like “comparisons” than metrics but I like the word better :-). Some rough parameters are:

  • Workload: runs from heavy, which would be work in class, after class, individual and team, to just a lot of problem sets to basically just in-class discussion.
  • Teaching style: spectrum runs from pure-lecture to interactive to all-over-the place.
  • Interest in students: pretty obvious
  • Relevance to the outside world: pretty obvious, though heavily restricted due to my background in academia

Workload: Heavy
You have an individual and group case every week, so you need to do the reading, be diligent, and have a good group. There is also an in-class midterm (basically a case) and a final group paper.

Teaching Style: Interactive.
Engaging and dynamic are words that come to mind.

Interest in students: Very high.

Relevance to outside world: Very high.
I’m able to use what I learned, even though his class is almost like one on doing a start-up and I work in academia. That’s saying a lot.


I flat out enjoyed this class. I think if I had a bad team then my response might be different, but I had a good one, so everything worked out well. I always left class feeling mentally stimulated, even if I was writing up my case analyses while on fumes (more than once). He really pulled the ideas together, talked enough, asked enough, and listened enough. He let us postulate ideas when appropriate, too, even if they were off the wall. But he’d bring us back to topic, and he managed class time well (case-based classes can get out of hand, schedule-wise). I really liked it, and highly recommend the class to others.

I hope this review is helpful. Overtime, I hope to improve my review style. I appreciate any comments.

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