Friday, August 16, 2013

My final entry

This is it, folks, the end of the road. I accepted, at the beginning of the week, a job! I am now a Strategic Planning Manager for NCSoft West. If you're curious about the role and responsibilities, here is a handy dandy link to the posting. I'm very excited about the opportunity. I'm the first hire in a new department - this means there's a lot of opportunity for me to make an impact straight away (which is what I was looking for) and it's pretty entrepreneurial without the risk of a start-up, again, something important to me.

I'll be in Orange County, CA. Unfortunately, there isn't an active Tepper alumni chapter in that region, or in LA. CMU, yes. For all those readers who are incoming students/current students, I'll most likely try to attend the Alumni reunion weekend that's held in March next year.

Thus concludes my blog. If you're interested about a career in Video Games or the business of the gaming industry in general, I'm looking at the possibility of blogging about that (maybe through Gamasutra), otherwise I'm always open to questions.

However, an incoming student hopefully will take up my mantle and blog about his experiences. So go follow now!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

For those who want to:

As of late, I've been getting multiple social network friend requests. I don't mind, but I need to emphasize these guidelines:

Please please please introduce yourself, tell me why you're adding me and that it was through the blog. I'm very very cautious about adding anyone I don't know (I have a brand to preserve) and it's just common courtesy.  Facebook: It's unlikely I will add you as friend here unless you're an incoming student (and followed the above advice). This is a personal space. I'd much prefer if you added me on LinkedIn, again, with an introduction.

There's also my Twitter handle, @julianneharty but that will slowly transition to more video-game related postings than MBA things.


No, this isn't retired yet because I am still on the job hunt! I think I'm one of about 20 people in my class currently unemployed. Not to say that I don't have opportunities, it just takes a lot of time.

Anyways, I stumbled upon the Tepper website earlier today and noticed a new video talking about the Operations capstone project. It got me thinking about two things:

1. Tepper really likes to downplay their technology opportunities and connections with the CMU brand. It's a little disappointing because that was one of the primary reasons that I chose Tepper, but I guess it's something I've known for a while. I start my cover letters introducing me as an MBA graduate from CMU; I develop rapport with interviewers because I come from CMU, not GSIA/Tepper. I guess in the tech industry, CMU is valued significantly enough.

2. New opportunities for Capstones: I heard discussion about the Entrepreneurship track (and possible Tech Leadership since it's essentially the same capstone) capstone having an option to be in Silicon Valley. One of the limitations of the Tech Leadership track is that is just pushed you to do something entrepreneurial with a product or business idea. What if a student just wanted to do business stuff in a tech company? I know for the previous year's capstone, there was a project on offer from LG. This year, the projects were all internally generated from the school of CS, and I imagine the same situation is happening for next year's capstone. Does Tepper's desire to distance themselves from tech limit the real world opportunities available in other capstones, like the Ops one in the video? As it stands, I think the tech company has to approach Sadeh, the head of the track, with the project; I don't think he goes out and tries to solicit projects.

I made mention in a prior post that I wished there were more opportunities for hands-on projects. It would be really neat to have a greater experience available for those looking to specialize in the things that CMU is good at.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Well, this is it. It happened. I have now officially graduated from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon, with a Masters of Business Administration and a specialization in Technology Leadership.

I'll call adieu to the blog when I take the last step - getting a job. But for now, allow me to talk about the graduation ceremony.

A couple of months ago, it was announced that our commencement speaker was Ratan Tata - except, that he wasn't going to be with us for the ceremony but Friday, the day before, with a Q&A session. He couldn't fit us in to his schedule. A couple of classmates were very upset with this - that we didn't really have a commencement speaker. I personally couldn't care. This would've been a person that would've provided the same spiel about having our lives ahead of us yada yada but didn't have any personal connection. Therefore, I was actually glad our Dean Dammon was speaking.

Now, Tepper has their graduation ceremony the day before the main CMU ceremony. We can attend both if we decide, but the diplomas get handed out on the Saturday. Turns out the commencement speaker for the main ceremony was going to be the out-going president of CMU ... and the guy whom 128 Days is based on.

Ultimately, the Tepper ceremony was pretty painless. I dislike ceremony anyway, but the whole thing took less than 2 hours, thankfully.

They hand out awards at the ceremony too - only the recipients are unaware they're receiving an award, unlike the awards granted after the first year. They were, if I remember correctly, Community Service, Outstanding TA, Highest Student Honors (for the top grades) and Best All Around Student. Some students wore a gold cord to signify that they were in the top 10%; others were noted for their distinguished service to the Tepper School (the majority of these were either prominent club leaders or GBA representatives). And.. that was pretty much it. Very short and sweet. I had to pick up a certificate stating that I completed the Tech Leadership Track.

Now, just the waiting game regarding jobs...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lucky # 100

How apt that my 100th post is possibly my last. Nah.

Anyhoos, for the cool news: I got nominated for Clear Admit's Best of Blogging awards. If you think that I've been helpful or interesting in any way, please mosey on over and vote for me.

I've been off the radar for the last two weeks for two major reasons. 1 - Final exams. These occurred over last weekend, and was really the only time in which I didn't do any "company research" (i.e. playing video games). I do have the results back from three of my 5 classes - A's all around, which makes me happy.

Second reason was a plethora of interviews. I was flown out for an onsite interview directly after my finals, and any travel to the West Coast is a good 48-hour trip. On top of that, I was doing my final exam grading as a TA, so it was a busy time.

I still have one final project left to go, but it's not a Tepper class (it's Game Design), and that's due on Monday.

One of my group members for this class asked me yesterday what Tepper courses I should recommend he take. This was not an unfamiliar question - I had been asked this about three times already by other students in this program. I had spent some time thinking on the answer for this also. How does one boil down the experience into the essence of a couple of classes?

The first answer was easy - entrepreneurship classes. These classes show businesses on the small scale, AND how to sell yourself. While I know some people scoff at the idea of going to school to learn small business, it's pretty valuable in terms of how, holistically, everything fits together. Small businesses and startups don't have the luxury of specialized functions like larger corporations do; therefore, a class on finance or marketing doesn't provide the most bang for the buck like entrepreneurship classes do.

The second class I recommended was the introductory OB class, I believe we call it "Managing Teams and People" or something like that. The simple fact for this recommendation: no matter what someone does, they're always going to be working in an organization. Work takes up more of our time than any other activity. Especially for graduate-level students, there is also going to be a heavy chance that one will be in charge of people. So, what is the best way to get them to do what you want them to do? People management is almost always overlooked in terms of competencies and education - there's this feeling that it's a natural thing because we interact with people all our lives. But, the thing is, interacting with people is easy; managing and motivating people is something that needs to be learned. And since the U.S is moving to a intellectual capital-based marketplace, it's no longer about the product but about the people creating the product.

Coming into my MBA, I've had alumni all tell me that their biggest regret was not taking all the OB courses. With the interview I just had, there was a huge emphasis on getting along with people - there was no mention at all on my technical skills and capabilities. (the presumption was that I am a graduate of CMU, therefore that in itself tells people how smart I am). I've always seen the value in this area. I know that some people think the MBA is pretty worthless; frankly, some of them are. But I feel the value is in the education I received about working with people, both in the classroom and out.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Holy avocado student debt

I'm writing this on a Tuesday evening, having just realised that I took my last class in my graduate program today. But now is not the time to reminisce - that's in a few weeks.

Instead, I'm going to talk about the heart attack I had earlier this week.

Since I'm close to graduation, the school sent me a reminder that I had to undergo Federal Student Loan Exit counselling. Oh, whatever, thinks I. I started doing it on Sunday.

Even though I had paid for one semester out of pocket and received two scholarships (of small amounts, but better than a kick in the rear), I'm looking at a debt burden of about $117K!

I personally hate debt. Some debt is good - mortgage debt, for example, because I get tax deductions on the interest payments. Technically student debt also gets some interest deducted, but I believe it's limited to $1500 a year. I had read a blog a while ago about a Harvard MBA who had paid off his $100K debt in 9 months - but he cashed out his savings, and didn't have anyone to rely on him. Unfortunately, when I graduate, I'm going to have to help maintain two households (my partner is enrolled at CMU also, but I'm probably going to be in California).

Immediately, I broke open a spreadsheet and started plugging in numbers about how much interest I'll end up paying in total if I just pay minimum, if I paid off early, etc. I also calculated what my monthly income would potentially be if I was on a $115K salary in California (holy 38% tax rate!) and what I could afford to dedicate to paying off loans, taking into account the ridiculous cost of living in the Bay Area.

Needless to say, it almost behooves me to draw up another blog to discuss my progress on paying that down, because it doesn't look promising.

There is a lot of chatter around in the media about the student loan bubble. Tepper increases their student fees by 3% or so each year, which is rather ridiculous. Someone told me that a lot of our fees go to pay for the PhD program, since it's one of the largest in the nation. I've already complained a lot about how I think Tepper is too expensive, so I won't jump back on that horse. Students aren't able to benefit from the record low interest rates - 6.8% flat is the government rate, and I believe 5% is the lowest private loan that anyone I've talked to has been able to get, and that was a variable rate loan pegged to the LIBOR. One of the scenarios I looked at for myself, I think was to pay back in 25 years, I ended up paying 150% of the loan in interest!

I did a calculation a while ago and came to the conclusion that the ROI timeframe for going to B-school was about 4 years. I neglected to take into account this crippling debt burden. If I was going to live in a reasonable city - let's say Pittsburgh - on that income, I would be able to pay it off rather quickly. Bay Area... not so much. But it's very difficult to find a job in the video game industry that isn't in California. The Tech Startup Boom is making things difficult for those who aren't making millions in stock options :).

The last comment that I'm going to make is going to resemble something thankful. I lived quite frugally over these last couple of years. I didn't go on any international trips, I kept my socializing and travel to a minimum, I lived in a cheaper part of town. A good number of my classmates went on every trip, went out every weekend, and engaged in other activities that would've cost a pretty penny. I can only imagine what their debt burden is. If they took out what Tepper had recommended each year, that's at least $140K. That recommendation didn't take into account all the trips and such, so there is a possibility that some students are looking at $150K or more.

Do I have regrets? A couple. But I think about it - that $3K trip to Peru for a week and a half ends up being a $7.5K trip if interest is factored in (at least). And all for what? Some memories and a couple of photos? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for travelling and experiences and such... but is it really worth having to keep paying off my student debt when I'm 53? It is too much - I'd rather do my travelling spending cash rather than credit.

Perhaps I'm just too boring, or didn't get to fully experience b-school. B-school is just 2 years of your life - that debt is going to linger for much much longer, and I'd rather not be in a situation where it could bite me in the butt.

Besides, I spent 3.5 weeks in Australia with my family and my partner and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef. For everyone else, THAT would be the holiday of a lifetime.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Final Tepper Experiences

As I was writing the last post, I discovered a topic I probably should talk about.

So I'm well into my job recruitment phase, much much later than the rest of my class. Last set of statistics said that about 80% had job offers. I'm in that lowly 20% :).

I had my first interview in a while last week, and so I dredged up my old interviewing notes and revised over my STAR stories. I needed to desperately update them to include the stuff I did in my internship. Interestingly, I also found myself talking about the two big projects I'm working on right now - my Capstone and my Mobile App. In fact, my Mobile App project has become a staple mention in nearly every cover letter I write.

Even though we've been told it's OK, I didn't really like talking about my assignments at school. The Mini mester is not set up to be an immersive experience, so all assignments I do tend to be quite shallow. The Teamwork STAR stories I could generate wouldn't be very insightful, as we all tended to divide and conquer. While there have been some good assignments for personal insight, that's all they were - assignments. Things we had to do because we were assigned them, with a narrow band of requirements.

My pro-bono consulting experience at the end of Year 1 gave me some good stories, although I'm not too sure I would go through that again. Then, at the end of last year, I was part of a group who had to develop a Brand Strategy for an existing company. It was a local burger joint called Stack'd. At the end of it, we presented out findings in a presentation and report that the owners actually used. Look, ma, verifiable proof that I can do stuff!
Now, I'm wrapping up my Capstone project, and amazed at some of the things I've been able to do during this time. But more importantly, I feel that my Mobile project is a truly shining example of my education. If we get this published in June, I can now actually point to it and say - "I ran the team that developed that. I identified the features, the target market, and user testing." It is a physical (ahem) showcase of my work, that is very relevant to my career goals.

So many of my classmates haven't had this experience, or have been able to relay this experience in interviews. There is a lack of opportunity to do real projects that people can point to as evidence of their skills.

It makes me wish that there were more project opportunities (outside of tech and/or entrepreneurship).