Saturday, December 31, 2011

Plans A,B, and C

I've left this blog to lag a little because of the time of year. My boyfriend's grandmother died the day that we left to visit his family in San Antonio, so that trip included the funeral. Then the new Star Wars MMO came out, so I had to play that for all its worth given that I won't be able to once school starts again. THEN my mother came in from Australia last Tuesday so I've been spending a lot of time with her. We just had a conversation about my school experiences and a lot of stuff, but I wanted to type down some tidbits and revelations.

I woke this morning at 6.00 AM in a slight panic because I realized that tomorrow is the 1st of January. Deloitte interviews were on January 20th. That meant I had 20 days to get as prepared for case interviews, as well as behaviour interviews, as I need to be. I have a tendency to leave things last minute or try to wing stuff - but not this time. While in bed, staring at the ceiling waiting for the alarm to go off, I began to plan my course of action I need to take between now and the start of school - not just for interviews but for the general internship search.

Allow for a digression: I believe I mentioned this earlier, but I have a Plan A, B, and C when it came to internships. Plan A is consulting with one of the big consulting firms. I chose this as Plan A because a) it's a very competitive process where very few internships are available to a large number of people wanting to do consulting b) I want to really try it out and see if I enjoy the lifestyle and the challenges and c) it's probably the most versatile internship I could get - the skills in this internship could translate nicely across other functions should I so desire. A kind of catch-all. Plan B and C are closely intertwined because of the opportunities. Plan B is internal consulting, for similar to reason c) above. The reason it's B and not C is because one of the opportunities I'd like to really take advantage of is internal consulting in a high tech firm. This relates to Plan C: Project/Product Manager in a High Tech firm. This is Plan C ONLY because a lot of the recruiting happens after January - consulting wraps up in early February.

Next week, I'll be going on the West Coast trek to visit companies in Seattle and the Bay Area for my Plan C. However, I still need a lot of work for Plan A.

Sitting right beside me is a poorly-bound "Case In Point." I'm reading through the case discussions and drawing my own frameworks and such. I plan on getting mum to give me a couple of cases, and I'm trying to enlist some friends to do so over Skype and when we're on the West Coast for the trek.

But then mum brought up an interesting point when we were talking about the values of networking and how women don't ask for help - I should ask for help. From alums. At the firms.

I'm a typical woman in this regard - I get nervous asking for help, like I'm inconveniencing someone or that I'm going to damage the relationship. But being on the other side lately - I get emails from prospectives all the time - I don't think it's a bad thing to be asked for help. I actually feel regret that I can't help sometimes.

So once this is written, I'm going to compose some emails out to the alums I've networked with and see if I can get some time on their schedule to go through a case :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dean's Forum

For the first time since Dean Damon has taken his position, we got to hear his vision for the future of the school. Now, the presentation contained some very sensitive information so I'm not going to speak of it here, but he indicated some very interesting points.

Firstly, a prime reason why students like Tepper is because of the current students. I'm in complete agreement there - it was what sold me on the school. The very small community fosters a family feeling amongst everyone, and the type of people that the school really tries to fill the student body with are those people who are passionate about the school and are very friendly and down-to-earth folks.
Secondly, the faculty was quoted as being another draw. I'll admit, it wasn't so much for me, but I can tell you, I was awestruck when it was told to me that one of my professors last mini won the Nobel-equivalent award for operations research - Gerard Cornejols. It's even more incredible sitting in class being taught concepts that originated from the teaching professor's research. The faculty here is really top-notch and really should feature prominently in students' selection of schools.

It's going to be an exciting couple of years for Tepper. A new building is on the books, a pretty significant curriculum change is going to be introduced for next year's class, and the Dean is really trying hard to get a lot more of the alumni to be very active with the Tepper community. I know it's a little premature, but I look forward to being one of those alums. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I wrapped up my last case competition for the year yesterday and got a pretty respectable, albeit unfulfilling, finalist placement. The case was fun, the time period (it was an overnighter)was OK, but the thing that got me to pause and reflect was on my team.

In everything I do at school, I try very hard to build a team of people whom I haven't worked with before. I know a lot of people will only work with their friends. Others will only work with people of the how to put this gently... nationality or racial background. I actually prefer not to work with some of my friends - one fellow used to state that he did all the work for a previous group, which for some people might have been cool but I want to learn; another has proven himself to be more flaky when it comes to group work as he's putting all his attention on recruiting. Not only does it get me out of my comfort zone every once in a while, but it helps me identify the people that I do very well with and the people I don't.

I found one of those people that I don't.

I've been pondering on this for a little while now. In our first Organizational Behavior class, we were told about the benefits of putting a very diverse group of people together, but there had to be some attributes that were constant*. In addition, having a "devil's advocate" in a group allows for a much better analysis and workproduct. I usually take up the role of devil's advocate; it's somewhat in my nature. I try to temper it by being equally judicious in my praise of my teammates.

However, it was my constant challenging of this particular teammate's (let's call this person Alpha) work that caused tension. Alpha clearly was not used to working in a collaborative environment that myself and another teammate was pushing for, and therefore ventured out on his/her own and produced slides in the deck that (to me) made no sense and was somewhat different and contrary to what we were trying to say as a team.So I did challenge when we finally reviewed the slides after submission and asked for an explanation, and got curt, angry responses back - like Alpha was getting defensive that I would be criticising his/her slides.

I'm not saying there was anything wrong with what happened; it was just poignant that such a disparity existed between the individualist nature of this particular teammate and the general desires of two others (I wasn't sure about the third) to work collectively.

It was even more ironic that it was an Organizational Behavior case competition.

Even more interesting was the downside. Because I felt that my contributions were being immediately dismissed and that Alpha had tried to dominate the entire deck, I didn't feel as attached to the presentation as I would normally. It wasn't mine, per se.  So I didn't take any ownership of it. What was more incredible: I get extremely nervous when I get up to speak in situations where the outcome of my speech is very important to me - such as the GBA election speech, presentations in class where I really want to do well in, case competitions that mean a lot to me. But I wasn't nervous at all. No jitters, no shakes, nothing. Even though the prizes were very nice - cash for 1st,2nd, and 3rd - I wasn't caring about winning.

I came out with some lessons then. Firstly, it's probably a good idea to not agree to teammates based upon case competition reputation. Secondly, it's probably OK to work with people one has worked with in the past. Thirdly, there will most likely be frequent situations like the one above, especially in consulting where a lot of very high achievers bring along their arrogance way of doing things. There was once a time where I could use my stubbornness to fight back but that got beaten out of me :)

At the very least, I have an interesting STAR story to develop for behavioral interviews.

For the case comp count, btw:
1. Amazon case comp: nada
2 Yahoo Hack Pitch: win
3 ATKearney case comp: finalist
4 Deloitte case comp: nada (but this was expected; we had two newbies on the team)
5. OLB/CBI case comp: finalist.

* I disagree in some manner to how the classification of people were. I was flagged as being quite low on the extroversion scale. Not surprising. However, the literature suggested that people low on this score would not display the leadership qualities needed to direct a team. I have always found that I will step up to lead, or at least, direct the team in work performances. It's actually quite difficult for me to sit back and allow someone else to take charge, especially if I have no confidence in this person's ability to do the task.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

GMAT woes

During a random internet browse, I stumbled upon this particular Business Week article: GMAT: The MBA Job Seeker's Best Friend

This hit a major sore spot with me. By any number of standards, a 680 GMAT score is a very good accomplishment. I took the exam about this time last year, and it had caused a lot of stress in my life. I was very glad to get it over and done with so I could focus on my essays.

That may have been a bad move, I'm not sure.  Because it's not above a 700, I may have taken myself out of the running for getting noticed by one of the elite consulting companies - i.e. Bain, McKinsey. How so, you ask? They actually look at your GMAT and make judgements thereof on your intellectual ability. Yes, folks, it's not just to prove to the school that you're academically able to handle the coursework but it's also used as a yardstick measure to find the top of the class.*

Unfair? Sure, but it's a fact of life. I had put my GMAT on my resume, but now I'm thinking I just need to remove it and hope that the removal doesn't imply that I am hiding a poor score.

* Tepper has a grade non-disclosure policy where a company recruiting on-campus cannot ask for GPA until the second round interviews. So the more traditional measures of academic intellect are not available for the first consideration of candidate quality.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Post-Turkey Career Preparation

I had set aside this weekend to dedicate completely to my internship search. Because of the GBA campaign over the last couple of weeks, I had really only focused on that and my schoolwork. Now that mid-terms are over, and I have 5 (!) days of no school with no significant assignments due next week, I felt this would be a great time to get back on board with career prep.

Tepper has a number of tools provided for us with our career assistance. When I first got accepted, I was provided a CareerInsider membership. This gives me access to company rankings, industry guides, reviews, etc. I'm using this currently to build a pretty comprehensive list of Consulting firms, starting with the Top 50. Right now, it's based purely on research - what industries are they in, where are they located, what are people saying is a defining aspect of the firm, etc.

The second step is delve through COMPASS, our alumni database. I'm going to look up alums who are currently working at these companies and see if there are any other consulting firms that we have alums at, and add to the list. I'm also going to do the same for my plan B - high tech product/project management.

THEN I go through and eliminate the ones in which I a) have no chance at and b) are not all that interested in, like healthcare consulting.

This will give me a list of alumns I can now reach out to for informational interviews. I've already got a list of the second years who did internships at companies that I am interested in. I also have to compose those emails to mass-send out on Tuesday. Why Tuesday? I'm considerate of people's vacation time and think that sending it out on Tuesday would mean that my request isn't buried with all the other emails that got sent out during the long break that the person has to plow through first thing Monday morning.

Another thing I need to start working on are my cover letters for the various internships I have starred. I have access to a) Symplicity, the Tepper job board, b) Ivy Exec, a selective recruiting website of which I received free membership to join via my Tepper Women in Business Club membership, c) Forte Foundation, by being a Forte Fellow, d) Net Impact by being a member of the Tepper chapter and the global organization, and e) MBAFocus, a job board that I have membership through the school (I haven't found it very useful). I have email notifications set up for new postings at each site, and have cultivated a folder of job postings I wish to apply to.

Finally, I have to keep practicing case interviews and write my STAR stories. I had my mock interview last week and there were a couple of curveball questions I wasn't expecting. So I need to polish that up a lot.

Plus, it would also be nice to be ahead of the curve with classwork, but we'll see on that one :)

GBA Elections

Well, the results have been announced, so now I feel safe in writing this.

I ran for the GBA President this year. From the first day that I came to Tepper, I was an active member of the community. Reached out to many people. Became a, well, representative of our class to both the faculty and to prospective students. I had a lot of ideas, a lot of initiatives I wanted to put forth, to make our school a better experience for us all.

I was one of two people who ran for President. I had a lot of support from my classmates.

However, I was defeated in the election.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, as now I'm receiving all the messages from my supporters going "wtf?"

A number of lessons were learned here, including the one where I can give it my best effort and still not get the result that I want. This is a lesson that's being reinforced a lot here :)

Well, it's time to get back on the horse and try again. I'm going to try for a Board position now, in Admissions.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What I'm thankful for

Happy thanksgiving!

I don't actually celebrate Thanksgiving. It's an American tradition - so it always amuses me when people ask me if we celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia. Why would we? I guess people don't think it through - y'know, the whole Pilgrims and Native Americans that don't exist in the rest of the world... Anyhoos, I like to joke that I'm just in it for the food, but over time I've started to value the day for what it has started to stand for - being thankful. Chris' family has a tradition where, before eating, they say what they are thankful for. I scoff at it because I hate being put on the spot (especially when in subsequent dinners, Chris' 3-yr-old nephew had to state what he was thankful for and made us all do it), but later I did reflect on what it is I'm thankful for:

- The opportunity to come to this great school. Cheesy, I know, but every once in a while I still pull up the email that told me I was accepted and get all teary-eyed. I feel incredibly privileged to be attending such a great institution and being exposed to a life I couldn't've gotten anywhere else.

- The people that I've met through my program. I've made some very tight friendships that I know will last. I'm enriched each day by their experiences, their intelligence, and general outlook on life. And they're incredibly supportive - I had a couple over for Thanksgiving dinner and I shared some bad news I received recently and they immediately cheered me back up.

- The personal growth that I've gone through in just the short period of time I've been here. I'm learning a lot of life lessons just by being in this program.

- My partner, Chris, who has been incredibly supportive with this. He occasionally complains about the Pittsburgh cold, but I know he wouldn't want to be anywhere but here with me and I'm incredibly grateful for that.

- I'm thankful that my grandmother passed away easily in her sleep and not lingering on in pain and starvation. (This is personal: I was notified a couple of weeks ago that my grandmother had terminal cancer in her pancreas, stomach, and gall bladder. She very quickly degenerated, almost unexpectedly, and she passed away Nov 22. Her funeral was held today (well, today in Australia))

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mini 3 & 4 schedule

Pre-registration opened this last week for selecting classes for the next two minis. What one is supposed to do:
1. Look at the classes that are being offered, and the time slots they are being offered in. Spend some time in the system building a mock schedule to make sure everything fits and such.
2. Go into another system - a Tepper-only one - and find the course listings, then "Add to cart" the specific course and timeslot that you want. (The button for adding the course to your selection looks like a shopping cart)
3. Rank the courses by moving them up or down the list. Student Services recommends that the courses you desperately want to get into should be the top 3 with the courses you have to take at the bottom.

When the pre-registration time ends, Student Services will go through everyone's preferences and try to match them to the courses they put in their wish list. I've been told that you may get into a course, but at a different time than you wanted. For some really popular courses, you may just miss out - I'm not entirely sure how it is determined who deserves a spot in the class or not.

I'm aware that some other schools have a bidding process or something of the sort. We just have a wishlist.

So what was on my wishlist? I decided to be crazy and select five classes each mini. It's pure craziness because mini 3 is when the vast majority of consulting recruiting happens... and there's another statistics course we have to take (I didn't do so great in the first course; it took up a lot of my time). However, there are three required courses for mini 3 (Macroeconomics, Statistical Decision Making, and Managerial Accounting) and one required course for mini 4 (Business Law and Ethics). I'm hoping to test out of Macro and Business Law; I'm doing Microeconomics right now and I'm truly regretting that I didn't find the time to test out of it this mini. I also contemplated testing out of Managerial Accounting; I'm still on the fence for this one. I actually don't know if I could test out of two.
My two elective choices for Mini 3 were Negotiations (my No 1) and Finance II. Finance II is one of the only two courses that are considered "gateway" electives - if you want to go further down the Finance tree, you have to take this course first. Entrepreneurship is the second gateway. I'm taking it because I want to take the Venture Capital/Private Equity course later. If I do manage to exempt out of Macro, I'll replace it with Writing for Business.
My electives for Mini 4 are more expansive. Corporate Strategy, Pricing Strategy, Software Development for Technology Managers and Organizational Change.

I'm making sure that I have at least one Organizational Behaviour or Communication course a mini. From every MBA graduate I've talked to, and from results of alumni feedback in general to the school, there is a general agreement that the value of OB and Comm courses are only appreciated much later after school - i.e. when the person is in a managerial role and there is no need to crunch numbers any more. That's what I want to be, so I want to take advantage of their advice and do what they wished they had done.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Hours

Last Thursday night I attended a Happy Hour held by A.T.Kearney. I think this is the first of a few.

While the night was good, I don't think it was the greatest success on my behalf. There are two main buckets that I think all the reasons for why it wasn't a success: 1) my introversion and 2) my classmates.

Let's explore no. 1 first.

I'm an introvert by nature. No, that doesn't mean I'm shy, retiring, or anything of the sort. That's a pretty common misconception. (Some  places defining introversion: Definition of Introvert; Top Ten Myths; Wikipedia; ). I just hate small talk. Networking, and by extension Happy Hours, are filled with small talk. It drives me crazy. I have to wrack my mind on how I can interact on such a superficial level. Unfortunately, I'm aware that success in being memorable to the team that is recruiting is based upon your level of interaction and a lot of that is being superficial.
I also have to be considerate of others in the circle who are looking to interact. So my questions have to be on that superficial level; also, chances are, the company representatives who are doing this are extroverts too and love the small talk. I'm at a disadvantage all around.
Normally I can bluff it. But Thursday was a bad day all around - I found out my grand mother in Australia was diagnosed with terminal cancer the day before*. So that kinda dragged me down also.

No 2, however, is something that is disturbingly ever present. People seem to treat these events as a competition - i.e. how much face time they get with the representative - as opposed to being considerate to other classmates and allowing everyone quality time with the representatives. I've noticed two kinds of classmates. The first kind are the "stickies" - a group of people that insinuate themselves into a circle and then don't ever leave. The poor representative is constantly bombarded with questions about the company, the job, the lifestyle, etc. There's little natural interaction. It's as if the stickies think that if they are pushy enough, they will make an impression on the representative. I know if I was in the representative's shoes, it would certainly make an impression - a bad impression. Plus, the other downside is that because the circle is static, no-one else can enter the circle without looking ridiculous. I encountered a time at the Bain reception where there was about ten people in a circle, and two or three people were making an outer circle around the original circle because no-one was letting them into the original circle.
The second kind of people are the ones who dominate the conversation. I was in a circle where the conversation was about Washington DC. I had never been there, know little about it, and therefore couldn't contribute to the conversation at all. In fact, the majority of the people in the circle couldn't contribute - it was really just two people who were talking with the representative. Any attempts at steering the conversation away to topics that could involve all of us was not successful as the dominator continued to bring it back about her. Her rapport with the representative was fantastic; we could see she made a great connection. But it was at the expense of her classmates within the circle, which was very disappointing.

I gave up halfway through the night, and just hung out with some Consulting Club members whom I normally don't speak to on a regular basis. Hey, any networking is good networking. The bright point, too, was popping over to a representative's table and we both recognised each other - he played the SVP of Strategy during the interview portion of the ATK Case Competition. That interaction on the table was awesome.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Case Interview Prep aka How I Spent My Weekend

I just came home. The Consulting Club put on a second BootCamp for us to give us a crash course on case interview preparation. The mornings of today and Saturday had the second year Board members give presentations on how they do a certain type of case, and the afternoon was spent with the Board members or certain alumni that travelled back just for this weekend doing breakout sessions to apply what we learned (hopefully) in the morning sessions.

It was very intensive and gruelling, and I am very very tired, but a lot more knowledgeable about how to approach cases now!

The reason they did this (and the weekend was sponsored by Deloitte) was because we as first years need start ramping up our efforts in practicing for the case interviews that will happen in early January. The CoC here prohibits all firms from starting their interviews for internships until the new year, but needless to say, the top consulting firms that recruit here all jump on as soon as they can! Mini 2 is already shaping up to be a rough mini; I have 7 assessment items to do this week alone.

Tepper here is at a slight disadvantage to other schools. My first mini consisted of very quant-heavy courses like Probability & Statistics and Optimization. I've been told, in comparison, other programs have Strategy or something similar as one of their first courses, where case analysis is standard. Granted, my Marketing and Operations classes this mini are case-heavy, we're still a little behind the experience curve. I honestly wouldn't change it for the world however.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Yahoo! News Release :)

I had to post this:

News Detail

Prospective Student Annoyances

I spent lunch today discussing with a few people the things that prospective students do that annoy us. I'm posting this out there as an FYI.

I'm listed as a contact for prospective students. I volunteered; i.e. I'm willing to help out a prospective with any questions s/he may have about the school, my experience, etc. But there are a few things a prospective should note:

1. Please use common sense. I'm listed as a first year. This means that I am doing only core courses currently. This is listed very clearly in the academic information portion of the website. Therefore, I have no idea on the capstone courses, or on any courses that are beyond the core currently.

EDIT: I feel the need to add a 1.5: Asking for my opinion or my experience is guaranteed to receive a lot more of a meaningful response than asking me what kinds of projects are offered in the capstone courses, for example. The details of academics can easily be answered by the administrators of the program. But they're really just there to sell you the program and get you to spend the money to apply, so chances are the answers from them are just facts or sugar-coated facts.

2.  Please be considerate of our time. I haven't yet encountered this, but a couple of others have: school work is very intense. When we can take time out for an email, it's not that long of a time commitment. Please do not ask for a 30 minute phone call. Better yet, please don't ask for a 30-minute phone call right in the middle of finals. Especially when the student has said "I have finals this week."

EDIT: I need to clarify this point. There are some people who don't mind having that phone call with a prospective. There are some people who do. Being pushy about the phone call is the message I intended on getting across - allow for the student to say that they don't have the time to do so without feeling guilty or put upon. If you really want to chat on the phone to a current student, there are plenty more people in the "contact a student" listing with whom you could try. The same goes for essay help/reviews. It's also pretty helpful to have more than one opinion/view of the school, I think.

3. We have no input into admissions decisions. Honestly, unless you have truly screwed up in some manner by insulting my mother or something, we don't say anything to admissions. It's a very easy reason: the close-knit community of the school relies on "fit". I cannot tell if you will "fit" with the class purely by your email alone. Heck, the admissions committee can't tell that and they get the entire package from you. That's why they have interviews. I'm not going to recommend a prospective student to the school just because s/he expressed interest in learning about the school. I'm a little more likely to comment to admissions about a student I took to class and got along well with at lunchtime during a school visit, but NOT on an email request. So giving me your biographical information, GMAT, GPA,etc, is not going to entice me to talk to admissions about you as a candidate.

The upside to #3 is you can ask the most insane questions and not get judged or looked at negatively (by me anyway). I wish I had known this at the time when I was doing my research. It would've been nice to know if one school is all about hardcore drinking and expectations that you needed to be super duper social, or whatnot, as opposed to asking all the questions you generally find out in the admissions booklets and such.

Halloween & Diwali

Due to my new weekend schedule, I was able to take advantage of the activities that had been arranged for the student body when I was previously unable to.

I refer, in this case, to the Halloween Party.

The Halloween Party is hosted by the GBA and is open to all Tepper students. Costumes are a must. A good friend of mine was dressing up as Batman, and as soon as he heard that I was to stay in Pittsburgh for the weekend, the second thing out of his mouth was "You should be Catwoman!" (the first thing was "You can come to the Halloween Party!")

So, Catwoman I was. That Saturday morning I looked out upon the snow and wondered as to the sensibility of my choice. It was an unfounded fear - the venue of the party, BRGR, was well heated.

It was great to see my classmates all dressed up (or dressed down in some cases). The only really big disappointment of the night is when, at 2am, the bar closed and the DJ announced it was the end, the people who were very inebriated got rude and obnoxious and starting being very offensive to the staff and the DJ. I was embarrassed for my classmates.

Sunday night was a different affair. The Operations Management professor, Dr Kekre, opens his house every year to 100 lucky students for a Diwali party. I was fortunate to sign up, and so off Chris and I go to Prof Kekre's house. A good number of the students were in traditional Indian dress, and we dined on Indian food and set off firecrackers in front of the house. Some students performed dances for us, which was exciting. Dean Dammon also attended and he danced a little. It was an enjoyable evening that seemed dramatically different from the Halloween Party.

I was told by Dr Kekre's wife that next year I have to come in traditional Indian clothing :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A.T. Kearney Case Competition

Today marked the finals of the A.T. Kearney case competition.

Unlike the McKinsey case competition of a couple of weeks ago (of which I didn't participate in), we were given two weeks. McKinsey and the upcoming Deloitte competition is an overnight deal.

The teams were limited to 15, so luckily I grabbed a team up together and submitted to be part of the 15. The release of the case was on a Saturday. The next Friday, members of ATK returned to pose as the CEO, COO and the SVP of Strategy of the company in the case and we were required to simulate an interview - as we would with an actual consulting client. They then provided additional slides based upon our questions, and provided some quick feedback on our interviewing skills at the end of the interview. It wasn't actually part of the competition - i.e. bombing the interview wouldn't've screwed up your chances at the final.

One week after that, just right after finals, we had to submit the 10-slide deck with our presentation. This was a bit of a scramble to get that done because not only did we have finals, we all were going to Boston for the Consulting Trek that had been organized that weekend. But we made it.

Tuesday evening, and our team captain received the email telling him that we were in the finals!

Now... I had a big dilemma to face, and this is a big lesson to learn. I had signed up to attend the Net Impact Conference in Portland way back in July. As Boston Consulting Group (BCG) had attended the 2010 one, and at the time 2011 hadn't been released, I had thought that they would turn up again. They don't recruit on-campus. In addition, a couple of other consulting firms attended the career fair - Accenture, Deloitte, and DuPont (who has an internal consulting practice). Fast forward to September, and I sign up for ATK unaware that the final would overlap with the Conference. I continue to be blissfully ignorant until I actually started putting dates on my calendar and realised that the Net Impact career fair fell on the same Friday.
Now that I was in the final, I had to make a tough choice: go to Net Impact, make the connections with these firms, but let down my team and make a bad impression on ATK; or, stay in Pittsburgh, hope to win the final and get some monies, make a more substantial connection with ATK, but lose $600 (airfare and conference fee) and the opportunity to connect with the firms going to Net Impact.

BCG wasn't actually going to be there at Net Impact this year, so the big draw was no longer there.

I sent a frantic email to my Career Counsellor, who was awesome and squeezed me in on a cancelled appointment. She really helped me with the options available, and I left the meeting knowing that I would be here in Pittsburgh.

So Lesson: Don't commit to something unless you know you are free for all important dates.

We practiced for the final over the last couple of nights, and presented to three ATK judges. We were one of four finalists, so it's a nice resume add. Unfortunately, we didn't win.

It was a really great experience, and I'm starting to lean towards doing the Deloitte case competition... I initially was reluctant, but these are a little addictive.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Google and Amazon are arguably the most popular companies to come recruiting on campus. While Amazon already made it's presence known to us earlier in the Mini in the form of the case competition, Google put itself out there yesterday, dragging about half the class from their desks and intense study sessions to both the corporate presentation and then later to a reception at their Pittsburgh campus.

I went to both; high tech is one of my industries I really want to get in on. But as I talked to Google employees and toured the offices with an excellent bloke called Dean, the wise words of an alum came to me.

Consider this two by two matrix: Industry experience along the top and functional experience on the side. If you want to stay in the same industry and change functions, or stay in the same function but change industries, it's quite easy to do. Changing functions and industries - rather difficult.

I'm in the "change industry and change function" box. I should probably re-evaluate that desire if I want to get into High Tech - unless one has a computer science background (which I don't), then it would be very difficult to get anything in the "fun" areas that I want to be in, such as operations.

But I think the thing about high tech is that you just need to get into the company. Moving between functions then is a lot easier if people know that you know what you're doing. That was the impression I got, anyway.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yahoo! Hack Competition Rundown

To cut to the good news, my team for the business plan portion of the Yahoo! Hack came first!

So, what is Yahoo! Hack? The original competition is actually for computer science undergrads. They're required to "hack" a piece of software/hardware/robotics/whatever out in 24 hours. The coolest one wins, essentially. This competition is around the U.S at a select no. of institutions.

Unique to Tepper, however, is the second piece. Tepper MBA students partner with the CS students after the Hack and build a business plan around the product they created. After two weeks, Yahoo comes back and judges the presentations to win cool prizes. This year - $2000 for first.

There were a few hurdles. I went to the kick off meeting, and while I scored a couple of nice shirts, all the CS students pretty much disappeared as soon as the presentation was over. Granted, the business plan wasn't sold to them very well (really, all that had to be said was that the MBA students would do all the work and they just sit back and let the monies roll in). Disappointed, I slunk off, my ego deflated.

My partner and I - we're strongly recommended to just have a two person team - finally were matched up with one of the CS students, a fellow who produced the hack "Locality."At first, I didn't think it was a strong product; it was reliant on QR codes, and I personally don't like them. But knowing that the two weeks would be very short - and my partner was going to National Black - I got into gear and scheduled our meeting sessions in advance.This is usually how I go:

1) Braindump. Intended to be the longest session where everything and anything gets thrown out as ideas. A SWOT analysis is performed; the general direction of the plan starts to take shape
2) Presentation building. Action items from the previous meeting - usually numbers - start to get incorporated into a presentation. Data gets moved around. Graphics get thrown into the mix. In this meeting, our CS guy joined us (he was absent the prior one) and a great differentiating idea came out. We essentially solidify what our direction will be and what our information is.
3) Presentation Building part 2: the slidedeck is essentially to be complete at the end of this session.
4) CECL review: CECL is the communications service available on campus, where 2nd years will help you with your communication skills. So I scheduled time for a CECL-paid 2nd year to look over the slide deck and provide recommendations. A couple were given, and the slide deck was revised for legibility.
5) Presentation practice. We practiced the presentation, timed it, removed redundant slides and information, and got comfortable with our presentation roles.

We build our presentation around the idea that we'd be pitching to venture capitalists. I find out on the day of the presentation that it's expected we're pitching to Yahoo. That required an abrupt change in a few slides so that we could tailor it to Yahoo! We weren't given guidelines.

But the win is really good, and not just for the money - it does have to be split amongst all 6 teammates, even the CS kiddies that didn't do any of the plan work. I now have something to put on my resume.

As well as a business opportunity to pursue...

That's the great thing about CMU - is the collaboration opportunities that are available. So now I can say that I worked effectively with a Computer Science undergrad, and developed a solid contact there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Last full week!

I had a prospective student visit luncheon on Monday. During this lunch, I was asked - rather tentatively - what the workload is like. I laughed and said this was not the best time to be asking.

It seems to be that all the case competitions and whatnot all happen for first years. In my general eagerness to experience school, I have signed up for many of these events. In addition, as my career path is aimed at consulting, there are many activities that revolve around getting prepped for it - I have been assigned a 2nd year mentor to guide me through and he's given me a fair amount of work. Then, of course, schoolwork comes in with the slow, steadily-increasing panic when one realises that one is not yet ready for the finals next week, and all the mini-long projects are coming due.

So on my plate currently are: an AT Kearney global case competition, Yahoo! Hack business plan competition, final assessment items for all five classes, two consulting books that I have to read within the week, make travel plans for the upcoming Boston trek for Consulting club between mini 1 & 2, and hotel plans for Portland for the Net Impact conference.
Everything needs to be done in less than two weeks.

A lot of classmates and I would joke about being overwhelmed by the amount of assessment items that are due each week and how we would not look to the future but just focusing on each week as it came. Now it's a matter of taking it a day at a time otherwise I'd be seriously overwhelmed with what I have to do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

National Black

It's 3pm on a Wednesday and the Master's Lounge is nearly empty. While one could claim it's because class is still in session, it's actually because a vast amount of my fellow 1st years have departed to head to the airport to go to Atlanta for the next couple of days.

What's in Atlanta? National Black MBA Association annual conference. Or, more specifically, the career fair is on over the next two days. NBMBAA has a gigantic career fair with over hundreds of employers manning booths, eager to entice smart MBA students to their opportunities, and thousands of said eager MBAs willing to sell their mothers for a chance to talk to a recruiter for five minutes of the day.

Way back before even BaseCamp started, we were told that there are two main career fairs that we should attend: NBMBAA and NSHMBA (National Society of Hispanic MBAs). It was advised that one out of the two should be attended, preferably Black because NSHMBA was held over the same time as our finals. The Early Bird registration cut-off was August 1st, so August 1st, without even questioning the validity of this decision, I signed up for the career fair.

As time went on, BaseCamp happened, career options were slowly being eliminated or focused on, I began to wonder if Black was a good idea. I also had signed up for the Net Impact conference that is to be held at the end of October, for a good deal more money admittedly, and I was facing the prospect of spending too much money on something that may not hold much value.

I spoke to my career counselor during my mandatory resume review session and she confirmed my suspicions - since I am interested in consulting and operations, there isn't as strong a representation of companies for those areas at Black than for companies looking for Marketing, Finance, or specific industries that don't usually come by Tepper, such as biopharma.

So I sold my ticket to a fellow student who hadn't booked her trip yet. A couple of others had done the same thing, so it's going to be a very quiet couple of days in class!

Friday, September 30, 2011

A good dose of humility

I had a bit of a personal crisis this week. I'm sure that this is a sentiment that isn't unique to me, thus why I'm sharing it.

I'm used to being viewed as very smart. I had a super-high GPA at my second undergrad; I was given multiple awards for having this high GPA; and when I entered the working world, I was used to people telling me how smart I am. Note that my GPA wasn't a result of natural intelligence but constant hard work.

With all that, it got to my head. Getting into CMU was a dream - my GMAT could've been better, I'll agree, and if I had to take it again, there are other strategies I would've undertaken to prepare for it. Again - the hard work angle. But I digress... So I start classes thinking, I'm really smart, I can master this easily if I just work at it. Maybe get a high enough GPA to get the Ford scholarship. I'm going to try really hard to be the top of my class. Screw what the other people had told me, that GPA wasn't important and that if I focused on it, I would get burned out - I can do it. I've done it before.

I was seriously wrong.

For two of my classes, I got mid-term grades that were a couple of points below the mean of the class. Now for one of the classes, I'm going to admit to myself I didn't take it seriously and didn't prepare as much as I should have. But even so, it's rather humiliating to see myself so low. I started to doubt myself - maybe I'm not as smart as everyone used to say I am. I began to make excuses for my high GPA. I essentially beat myself up over this all. I have a couple of friends who are brilliant - both pick up ideas and concepts very easily and had some of the highest grades in the class. I don't begrudge their natural intelligence - I know it takes hard work for me to learn this stuff - but I feel pretty loser-ish next to them when I do all this hard work and not even compare.

Pride is probably my greatest vice of all, so it took a fair amount of wallowing in self-pity first before getting myself together with a game plan.

First, I had to be reminded that it's a tough program. It's designed this way. I chose the school because I wanted it to be tough. I wanted to be challenged. I just had to shift my unrealistic goal of being top of class to actually trying to understand and apply the concepts in the short amount of time they give us.
In a related note - the fact that I'm understanding a fair amount of this in such a short time is pretty amazing in comparison to the rest of the population.

Secondly, a lot of the draw of the program also is that my classmates are equally as smart and equally as accomplished. It's such a great experience being with such smart people that challenge me all the time.

Thirdly.... I have to learn to ask for help. I'm used to learning on my own, getting an understanding on my own since most of my learning experiences were based on being given all the information I needed. A type of hand-holding, I suppose. Here, probably because of the time structure and rigor of the program, I'm being asked to make leaps of intuition to apply concepts to situations that weren't covered in class.

This meant swallowing that pride and going to TA office hours and recitations. It's probably a realization that I should've made earlier on in the mini... but I was stubborn. But it's probably better late than never :) And I guess it's a good thing that I had this crisis so early on - this means that in future classes where I know I will struggle, I can look for help early on.

The goal is now just understanding and applying concepts, not getting the top grade.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Last week was the first real week of hell - aka, mid-terms.

This is the first time in which I've been in an exam situation in which it was completely open book. All three mid-terms were open book. I see it as a trap; and it is. You only get 1 hour and 50 minutes to finish the test (or in one exam, 2 hours). And trust me, on the Optimization test, you need all that time! I didn't even finish the exam - I wasn't aware of the need to properly manage my time. I was in good company however - a lot of my classmates also found themselves in this situation.

Apparently last year's class had the same problem, so I can believe that this is indicative of experiences in the future, so be warned future 1st years!

Managing Organizations proved that teams are collectively dumber than their individual components.

Probability turnaround was surprisingly quick - we sat for the test in the morning, and by the evening, we had our results. It wasn't computer administered, and not all was multiple choice, so we were all surprised.

I can't speak for Financial Accounting, having exempted out of it prior to school starting. But a lot of people were worried about it.

The weekend allowed for a breather before launching back into the merry-go-round that is school :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm in the Club

I just joined my lat club - the Tepper Wine Club. This rounds out my selection for the year.

There are three types of clubs available at Tepper - professional clubs, educational clubs, and social clubs. The Consulting Club and The Business & Technology Club are professional clubs. Net Impact and Tepper Women in Business are educational clubs. The Wine Club is a social club. These are my clubs.

I wasn't aware, however, that there are club dues for each one. I neglected to budget for them; next year I will take that into consideration for the clubs in which I didn't purchase a 2-year membership for.

I took the recommendation of 2nd years and last years' 2nd years - they said only join the clubs you really want to be a part of/take advantage of in the first year. You're too busy looking for internships to join everything. The second piece - join a social club so you can get to know people in a different environment. I had to choose the most expensive social club, but it's one of the few that allows partners and the events look good, so I'm not complaining :)

First Wine Club event is this Saturday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One for my baby....

I've started to develop a small routine. I'll admit to having my fair share of late nights at Posner Hall; study groups, groupwork, corporate presentations, the odd guest speaker are all reasons for treading the hallowed halls of this establishment. The food stop in the building - the eXchange - isn't that great, and it tends to close very early. What does a student do? Order pizza? Possibly. Go off-campus? No - I'm not relying on the shuttles. Scavenge for all I'm worth? Bingo!

Every lunch session (12.30 - 1.20) and evening session (5:30 - 6:20) has an event that is catered - a club event or a corporate presentation usually. It's very rare that there isn't something on. Normally, there is more food than attendees - any remaining gets "donated" to the Master's Lounge where the students, ever greedy bunch we are, all pounce.

There is almost always a reception after the evening presentation too where appetizers and snack-type food is served, and again, very rare that it's all eaten. So I've found myself noting the clock at about 7pm and then wander down to the Lounge where I just wait until the leftovers come by - then I have dinner for the night.

I can't say it's an ideal situation; I am wheat intolerant and it's rare that there is something offered that doesn't contain wheat. But when you're hungry and cheap, like I am - well, I'll deal with the headache that comes after eating wheat. It's free after all.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Budgeting Fun

I had an intense conversation (*coughargumentcough*) with my boyfriend the other night about our spending. With the loss of my income, obviously we couldn't live as we had been. However, it was (finally) drawn out of me my thought process about my supposed lack of concern about our spending.

Based upon the estimates of Tepper school, I would be spending about $77,000 a year for the duration of the program (I believe they actually say it's for the 9 months of being at the school, but I chose to push it over 12 because I still need to live when at my internship. Hopefully, the intent is to have a substantial internship income...). This meant that I would graduate from the program with $150,000 in debt, if I did what a lot of people did, which is finance purely through student loans. (In my case, since I paid for the first semester out of pocket, this "debt" was to myself that I have to put back into my savings account). This, to me, was my debt ceiling - I would not get any higher than this. In other words, whatever I had left over from the necessities of bill paying would be our discretionary income to spend on, but only to the total value of 150K at the end of two years.

The MBA degree is a social degree. Sure you need to go to school but unless you don't even turn up, it's very very likely you'll pass the classes. The true value of the program is a) the piece of paper at the end of it and b) the relationships you build in the two years.In a lot of cases, these relationships are built over alcohol and activities outside of school - which require money. Since, in my head, I have a comfortable cushion of discretionary income based upon the above calculations, I was fine with the odd dining out experience; Chris, being unable to mind-read, was not aware of this thought pattern. Heck, I didn't even realise this is what my decision-making was based upon until I had to explain it. But now that he sees where I'm coming from, the next step is to build the "budget" so we know exactly how much discretionary spending we have.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amazon Case Competition

Last night saw the submission of a slide deck containing our answer to the case competition posed by Amazon. I'm not going to repeat the case, as it appears the 2nd years also had something similar so it may be something that gets passed down.
I believe something like 28 teams signed up for this Tepper 1st-years-only competition. The slide decks are judged by the Business & Technology board members & Amazon, and the four finalists will present their solution/s on Friday after/during/before (?) the Corporate presentation by Amazon. Winners will get an automatic 1st round slot for internship interviews and a Kindle DX.

It was my first case competition ever. We were assigned a 2nd-year mentor.... who couldn't make it to any of our team meetings, so we had to suffice just sending him our notes. His feedback? We hadn't suggested anything ground-breaking - very similar to what other people had suggested in the past. Fine by me - I have no interest in a) working for Amazon or b) a Kindle, since I already have one. But it was a good thing to run though and get an idea of how these things are run..... as well as judge when it's worth my precious precious time to do this type of thing. Time is certainly a premium here. Mid-Terms are next week already!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Controversy

The Robber Barons is a Tepper graduate-student written publication that is issued every week (or at least tries to be). From everyone who talks about it, anything can be written and published in it - and the direction normally taken with the publications is usually supposed to be funny. Some hit it. Others tend to miss and fall a little into the nasty territory.

There was an article in the Robber Barons this week that was interpreted as falling into the nasty territory. A first year wrote an article about things that annoyed him and specifically mentioned a fellow classmate (dubbed the "Tiger Mom") who, according to him, was irritating and asked stupid questions in finance presentations and constantly posted articles on the Admitted students Facebook page links to articles that have no interest to him. Said classmate took offense, unFriended him, and subsequently showed a picture of her dog having chewed up the article on the Facebook page.

According to the editors, anyone is fair game to be called out and made fun of in the Robber Barons. When I read the offending article, I had no clue on who it referred to (since I don't go to finance presentations). I had to be clued in on this controversy :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

This last weekend hosted the Tepper entrepreneurship bootcamp. A bootcamp is supposed to be a "drinking from the firehose" experience related to the subject. It was held at the same time as the two finance bootcamps, so people did have to choose between one or the other. A little surprisingly, attendance at this bootcamp was also charged - to cover speakers and food, apparently.

The camp was very heavily focused on innovation and designing products (and not services oddly). There were a lot of First Years in the camp; a fair amount of the content was directed at how to start up a company and resources available - not really relevant for First Years. Given how tuition is ncreasing, probably not even relevant for when we directly leave the program.

But the good takeaways I got from it was that you don't need to have an idea in order to start your own business. There are apparently more people in the technical side of the campus that have ideas just no business knowledge to push it forward. Second, an innovation panel seemed to state that marketing the product to people was probably the most important thing - there was a very heavy focus on marketing. Third, I met a new faculty member - Dave Mawhinney - and a couple of venture capital lawyers at the mixer on the friday night. I was able to put into practice some of the networking tips Jonna Martin had presented from earlier. I have no interest at the moment in venture capital or starting my own business, but I figured it's useful information to have.

Also, Friday night was my first introduction to Hofbrauhouse, a HUGE german beer pub. Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tepper Team Day

Photos from the Tepper Team Day and an article were published on the Tepper site.

Mmmm... I wonder who that is sitting on the far left?


Saturday, August 20, 2011


Welcome to my now-published blog! I have been writing entries for this blog ever since March when I was accepted into Tepper School of Business; only now did I come up with a name and started the process of publishing!

Why am I blogging? When I was doing my initial research into schools, I found blogs of existing students to be very valuable in discovering more about the school. But I didn't find any recent or current blogs on Tepper. So I want to share my experiences at Tepper to those who are interested in attending this fine school :)

A little about me: I come from a business background, a bit of a rarity in this class as many are engineers or IT professionals, and I previously worked for an oil refiner in a couple of roles.

I will try to update the blog once a week; elsewise Twitter will be the source of most updates so find me and follow.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Beginning of the End

Next week is Welcome Weekend for Tepper. I've been trying to coordinate flights, hotels, a list of places to inspect (since we'll be house hunting a couple of days prior), and book a car. For some reason, car prices are sky high. I was puzzled about this greatly, until I did a little snooping and it appears that at the same time as Welcome Weekend is the Alumni Weekend.

I tend to hoard onto my vacation days at work. The U.S. is very stingy with their time off - I only get 10 days a year. But, necessity says that I need to take off the Wednesday-Friday of next week, much to the reluctant chagrin of my boss.

Unlike most applicants, my workplace knew I was applying to business school and therefore knew that I got accepted when I did. My former boss is a Harvard graduate and thought my going to business school was a great idea. He even wrote one of my recommendations. Then, at the beginning of this year, I got promoted and moved into another position to support a new business that was being spun off. My boss there is also an MBA grad from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and he was likewise as supportive. In fact, he was a little wistful at times because he loved his time in the program and reminiscing over those times got him a little teary-eyed. And what's great is that the VP-level of management that know me are also aware and supportive - a little sad that I'm going, but they know it's a great opportunity.

I've felt very comfortable asking for time off for these events such as Welcome Weekend and the upcoming Forte Conference in June; I've also got final the last day of work - July 1. Right before the Independence Day weekend.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Where Everybody Knew My Name

There is a Facebook group set up for Admitted Students of which I joined just last night. It's amazing all the people on there. Everything I fell in love with Tepper for - the friendliness of the people and how down-to-earth they all are - was just as evident in the admitted class. With just a small class, it's evident that everyone has to be relatively tight-knit.

There is also a Countdown site, where Actions Items and Things to Do are listed out, as well as helpful links, and finally a Google Groups site set up too! I really love the fact that I will know a lot of my classmates before school even starts.

There's another Australian also in the program; I think it's the first time in a while that two Aussies are in the program together.

Monday, March 28, 2011

House options

One of the first things I need to decide is what to do about my house. I purchased this house in May last year to take advantage of the First Time Home Buyers' Grant. Probably a little silly in hindsight, but I wasn't really thinking seriously about MBA programs at the time.

There are really only two options to take: sell it, or rent it out. So I called up my realtor friend, Danny, for his advice. He straight out said that renting is the best way to go. He could sell it, but it probably wouldn't be worth it as the market, even in San Antonio, a very protected place from the recession, is struggling a bit.

So it looks like renting it out is going to be the better option. As much as I am a do-it-yourselfer, I think in this case I will get the services of a property management company to look after it. Taking care of a house, screening renters, collecting rent, etc, isn't going to be easy from Pittsburgh.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I gotta live somewhere

Now the initial excitement has died down a little, I turn my mind to the first problem in getting myself ready: housing arrangements.

Obviously, renting an apartment is the logical answer. But it's an answer I'm not too happy with. My last residence before my house was in an apartment complex where the management changed hands three times over the two years I was there and all tended to treat their tenants like crap. In the case upcoming, I'll be in a school area where a lot of tenants will be students... and I don't know of any apartment management complex that looks too kindly on students, graduate or otherwise. Oh well.

But I drew up a list of criteria for places to live after surfing around on the internets to get an idea of the cost of living.:

- Under $1,000 a month
- Within walking distance to campus, or at least easily accessible via public transportation
- Washer/dryer hookups (this was a requirement from Chris to which I inclined to agree - coin-operated laundry options are too much of a hassle).
- Gas kitchen (another Chris requirement for his cooking)
- Allows pets (I have a cat)
- Good floorplan.

I believe we intend on moving up in July, as apparently there are some sort of pre-term activities going on in August.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Today, and this past weekend, had been agony. I was so nervous; I was almost physically sick. I tried to immerse myself in work today so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it. It didn’t work. I texted Chris to say that he needs to read my email at about 2pm so I don’t have to. I scheduled a meeting for that timeframe. Nope – I was, every 10-15 minutes, checking my email for a notification from GMATClub saying that someone posted in the Tepper thread.
Soon, about 1pm (I think), people started to post their results.
I freaked out about 1:15 when my phone showed that I received an email in my Gmail account. I refused to look at it… but then when I opened up my notifications list, the subject of the email was showing clearly. Thankfully, it was just a junk mail item for a spa service. I posted on Twitter my relief.. but as soon as I did, another email came in. Freaked out again.
I couldn’t take it much longer after reading all the responses on GMATClub… I had to see this email in my inbox, even as I promised myself I wouldn’t until after work (incase there was bad news).
So I opened up Gmail. Immediately my heart leaped from my chest as the subject line confirmed my greatest hope – “Exciting news from Tepper!” I opened it, read the first couple of sentences, and my eyes started welling up with tears. I don’t know why, but it was a crying occasion. I rushed to GMAT Club to post my acceptance, and then returned to the email to actually read the official acceptance letter.
I got selected as a Forte Fellow! With scholarship $! I started to cry a little more. But I held off until I had copy+pasted the contents of the letter in an email and sent it on to Chris and Mum. Immediately, I called Chris and told him to check his email; he was excited too.
I’m going to grad school!