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 :)