Thursday, December 13, 2012

Classroom vs. Real Life

I'm going to be spending some time in an aircraft in about a week. PIT -> LAX -> BNE (that's Brisbane Australia. Yes, I'm going home :)). The flight from PIT to LAX is quite long - about 5 hours, and we leave early evening. Normally, I would have a book with me, but it tends to put me to sleep (and I don't want that yet), so my other activity, cross-stitching, is going to be pulled out. It's rather tough for me to cross-stitch solely, I usually need some kind of aural entertainment.

When I went to Seattle/San Francisco at the beginning of the year, I had uploaded some podcasts about the life of consultants onto my iPod and listened to them while cross-stitching. Ultimately, it was those podcasts that showed me that I am not a good fit for Consulting. Remembering that I liked to listen to those podcasts, I spent some time looking for podcasts on the iTunes store. I bounced around the different categories - I went straight to Games and Hobbies first, then Careers, then just the Business section... and discovered the HBR podcasts.

Merrily, I started to download all the ones that sounded interesting. Career building was a must; there were a bunch around leadership, innovation, a few from HR-viewpoints... and then one caught my eye.

It's podcast "139: Is transparency always the best policy?" It was not the title that caught my eye, but rather the author - Paul Levy. Interestingly, in my last Power class, we had a case on Paul Levy and his role as CEO of the Beth Israel Deacon Medical Hospital. While the case itself was pretty dry, the last ten minutes of the class become quite lively when one of my classmates brought up the fact that he had had an intimate relationship with a female consultant he had brought on board. This was not covered in the case, and we started to talk about whether moral deficiencies had a right to be considered when studying the work of a leader (she was complaining that his having the affair was grounds to not talk about the case in class since it exemplified that sort of behavior).

In my opinion, what someone does in his or her private life has no bearing on that person's competence on the job. Now, this consultant did gain from being in a relationship with him, but had the relationship not been intimate, there would have been little to no outcry of favoritism - it's a given that in the business world, the adage "it's who you know" runs very true. And she seemed to be very competent in her job. It's very well known that if a new high-ranking person steps into a position in a company s/he will fill the lower ranks with her/his own people - VERY relevant for CEOs since they tend to clear out the executive suite when coming in. Is the presence of sex really that much of a difference? Or is it more that the consultant was female and that's the trope we as a society tend to fall on - that she slept her way to her position.

Regardless, I could go on forever about this since it's something that I have strong feelings about (being assessed on factors other than job competence and performance not sleeping to the top), but I'm not going to. I mention this situation to my partner, explained my position, and he makes this comment that for a business student, he's surprised at my lack of ethics. This made me scratch my head, because I had thought the relationship-benefits was a morality choice and the only thing that was unethical was that he had kept this potential conflict of interest from the Board.

While this post seems to ramble, it's highlighting three important things for the week:
- I'm less than a week away from going home - this is the first time in 2 years
- HBR, their podcasts, and other similar auditory experiences are worth investigating
- I can't really vocalize the difference between morality and ethics, or at least the difference in my mind.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Unwritten Tepper Rules

An exercise that we had to do in a class of mine was to list all the "unwritten Tepper rules." Some so-called "rules" were thrown in, such as:
- Unattended food in the Master's Lounge is fair game
- Don't turn up late to Margot's Optimization class

and a few others I forgot. But the one that has stuck to me since then (and it was an exercise that happened a couple of weeks ago) was this:

- Don't trust Student Services; their "randomizer" is never random.

The reason it has stuck with me is because it has become a real point of disillusionment and resentment amongst my fellow classmates. Normally the "randomizer" shows up when we are given tickets for an event at the Console Stadium. David Tepper owns a box there (as well as the Penguins), and so he passes tickets along to the school if he's not attending. When the NHL wasn't striking, it was pretty often we'd get the email out for getting put into a drawing for tickets to a game. We all knew that it was up to one of the staff members of Student Services to choose who was going based on whim; the only randomness was who actually signed up for a ticket. Since we had nothing to lose, the majority of us didn't really care.

Then came the Germany Trek signup. For the final mini in the second year, a small group of Tepper students are able to go on a four-week trek around Germany as their capstone project. It's highly popular and space is very limited. When the people who threw their names into the ring didn't get into the trek, some grumblings occurred.

Then came the Corporate Restructuring issue. This class is taught by Dean Dammon. It proved to be extremely popular with our class, with 113 people designating it their top class when pre-registration happened a couple of weeks ago. Even when another class slot was opened, there were too many people to accommodate for the 40-person class. So, Student Services "randomly" placed people in the class and the waitlist. Coincidently, a lot of the people who got into the Germany trek also got into this class; a lot of the people who didn't get into Germany got waitlisted. One that I know of also had an issue with being waitlisted for Corporate and Renewable Strategy in addition to being waitlisted for Germany and now Corporate Restructuring. Foul play was now being cried (although not loud enough for Student Services to hear it).

It puts a bit of a bad taste in my mouth that blatant favoritism occurs in an environment that, by all manner of speaking, should be objective. While I understand, from my Power & Influence class, that life isn't fair and getting ahead is about buttering people up... I didn't expect it with my educational experience. Add this in with the general dissatisfaction I hold for the school services in general (all the other things that come with going to Tepper, NOT the education) this year, and that's a lot of unhappiness on my end. I'm not going to get into the services issue in detail - but tuition increased for the incoming class, and yet funding for our clubs and activities decreased significantly this year. We now have to pay more out-of-pocket for specific Tepper events, such as the Winter Formal that just passed. Tepper is the 6th most expensive school. I really wonder where our money goes towards, and whether it's worth putting our education and experiences on the line for fickle administrators who play favorites.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Recruiting & International Image

I had lunch with some prospective students earlier this week, and one of them asked a couple of questions that I couldn't answer.

The first question:
"It seems as though a lot of students are getting jobs and internships from off-campus sources than on. Is this true?"

From statistics of the Class of 2011 (2012 is soon to be published in a new website format), about 70% of fulltime offers were from campus-based sources. They include Career Fairs as part of campus recruiting. I fall under the 30% who got my internship (and potentially my full time job) off-campus from my own networking - but, as I have said before - the CoC has been very helpful with my own recruiting efforts.

For students who are looking for more traditional MBA career paths, like banking, corporate finance, consulting and some marketing positions, there is a fair amount of on-campus recruiting. Consulting is huge here - all the big firms (except BCG, although I think that has just changed) come on campus.
Similarly, firms who have structured MBA programs also tend to recruit more on-campus than those who don't. It's probably too expensive to fly around the country to hold interviews for one position where an MBA would be helpful to have, as a lot of the job postings I'm looking at are.

But we were just told recently that our class of 2013 currently is beating the class of 2012 in terms of number of people with full-time offers. No-one in our class didn't get an internship who wanted an internship, so that was also heartening news. Turns out the class of 2014 is also being very proactive with their internship searches.

The final line here is to say that, yes, our CoC facilitates a lot of on-campus recruiting efforts. They're also very helpful for off-campus recruiting initiated by the student. But, there should never be an expectation that the CoC is there to find a job for you.

The second question: 
"What is the value of Carnegie Mellon's MBA degree outside of the US?"

I spent some time chatting to people, which lead to some interesting conclusions. It turns out it's the Carnegie Mellon brand that holds the sway, not the Tepper name. Especially in China and India, Carnegie Mellon has a reputation for being highly innovative and technical.

The Economist has Tepper ranked as No. 17 internationally for B-schools.

Otherwise, I cannot answer this question. Does anyone have feedback for this?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Waitlist Woes

Although they abolished it for incoming classes, my class is required, as part of the degree, to take a Strategy course. On a related note, in order to obtain a concentration in Strategy, one needs to have taken three elective courses in Strategy. The Strategy course selection has been very very slim. Classes that have "Strategy" in the title are not necessarily considered for the Strategy concentration; there are extremely few courses (I've only seen one) that have dealt with Strategy in a concentrated form.

I was looking over my class selections at the beginning of the Mini and realised that I could take an extra class. I'm a bit of a sucker for getting my money's worth of education from this institute, and the course title "Renewable Corporate Strategy" seemed to be great - a pure strategy course that meets on Thursday nights. This would mean that I would have a class on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, but I've found I'm starting to prefer night classes so this wasn't a problem. I register for it, and discover I'm number 12 on the waitlist.

Now, Tepper has a little-known and not-well-enforced policy that states this:

"All students admitted to any course with a waiting list must attend the first class, unless notified otherwise. No-shows may lose their space to other waitlisted students unless they receive prior permission to miss class by contacting the professor."

 In a prior handbook, I believe it also stated that if a student did not attend the first day of class, without reasonable notice to the professor, then that student stood a chance of getting dropped from the class and a student from the waitlist would take her/his place.

I was made aware of this policy in a class I took last mini - Managing Intellectual Capital - since the professor enforces this strictly. His classes are very popular, and so he makes pains to ensure that only those who are truly interested (i.e. the ones who show up) are the ones that get the privilege of getting taught by him. For some naive reason, I thought this was how a lot of super-popular classes worked. I was wrong.

I turn up to the Strategy class, and the room is nearly full to busting. It's OK - I participate in the class and really enjoy the topics of discussion. Later, I mention to the Professor that I am on the waitlist, and he purses his lips and says that although 3-4 students typically drop the class, it may not be possible for me to participate just because of where I am.

Next week, the classroom is noticeably emptier. In fact, he passed out tent name cards and a large stack was left over. I had been told previously, by another classmate also on the waitlist, that she had been removed from the waitlist and put into the class through intervention by Student Services. I looked eagerly myself, but I was now number 7.

For the first half of the class, I was somewhat upset - I am there, someone on the waitlist wanting to get an education from this professor in this class, and yet there were a good number of people who chose to skip the class, who had taken their seat for granted. What was worse is that, when I looked through the tentcards, I saw a few names on there who were participating in a brewery tour that was happening at the same time!

I talked to the Professor again about my chances of getting in the class, pointing out the large number of people who didn't turn up. I also mentioned the policy that some professors (ahem, above) adhered to, and how it was not right that I, an eager student, wouldn't be able to join the class, especially given how some students aren't taking their academic duties seriously. He seemed genuinely concerned, but torn because it was "fair" that the students who originally got in the class should be able to stay in the class. He promised to talk to Student Services for me. Coincidentally, this was the last day to Add/Drop classes, and thus my last chance.

The next day, I awaken to an email from Student Services telling me that I had been dropped from the waitlist, and that they were very sorry that they weren't able to accommodate all the students who wanted to take the class. Then they drivelled on about how they've dropped the Strategy concentration requirement to just 2 Strategy electives, and also allowed for some of the courses with "strategy" in the title, like Pricing Strategy, Technology Strategy, Brand Strategy, to be also considered as part of the Strategy concentration, provided that one of the more Strategy-centric courses was also taken.

I was not interested in taking the course to complete a requirement or a concentration, but for the education I would receive since it was a pure Strategy course and didn't deal with theoretics (like Game Theory). It seems as though the focus was on providing a core Strategy class for the first years than to provide any significant or relevant strategy class for the rest of the school, and thus we missed out. I also feel that there should be an enforced "turn up to the first class or you'll get dropped" for the classes with a long waitlist. To me, "fairness" is having all the students interested in the education from the class be there, and not those who just had it as a choice. But that also, in this case, opens up the can of worms that is my disagreement with having to take "requirement" electives in order to graduate. Thankfully they removed it from the subsequent classes and replaced it with a core class, but oh, it really sucks when I'm pre-registering for a class and I have to give up a class I want to take to take a class I have to take.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Autumn in Pittsburgh

Over the last couple of months, the city has exploded into this amazing display of brilliant reds, yellows, oranges, and rusts. Since Pittsburgh had a bit of a drought over the summer, the theory is that that has triggered the amazing colours you see below:

These trees turned red in early October. They are at the front of the CMU campus by Forbes Ave.

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A couple of weeks later, the red turned into a sparkling gold:

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Gold is a common colour around here. The following two shots are on North Craig Street in late September/early October:
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These are shots taken from my place in North Oakland the last couple of weeks:

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And from this morning:
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This tree is outside Skibo gym, opposite Posner Hall, early October:
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Finally, these trees are in South Side, across the river from CMU, taken this morning:
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Electives Part 3

A little late out the gate - I was too busy doing a lot of nothing during the break :) I am also fortunate to say that Hurricane Sandy had little-to-no effect on Pittsburgh, other than rain and cold.

Managing Intellectual Capital and Knowledge-Intensive Businesses (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Robert Kelley)
Background: Given how I want to work in IT/entertainment industries, where the brainwork is the product, this course seemed pretty ideal. Professor Kelley has a reputation for being an excellent teacher also.

Course Deliverables: Class participation 1/3; Individual paper 1/3, Group project & presentation 1/3

Good Stuff: I immensely enjoyed his class. A lot of his class was discussion-based, which meant that it was less sage-on-the-stage format and more hearing the inputs and thoughts of my classmates. This also explains the heavy emphasis on class participation in the grading scheme. This format allowed the very long class (6:30-10.00) to go by rather quickly. It also seemed a lot of people didn't skip the class either, which meant that they were likewise engaged.
The topics we could choose for our group project were interesting and revolved around IC and organizations. We chose to do the topic on how to structure the organization to best manage IC. I like researching academic papers and reading/learning all this stuff, so I volunteered to do this piece. Thankfully, my teammates all preferred to do the other aspects of the project, which meant this was a perfect fit.
The individual paper was to draw up a business plan, essentially, of one's own career progression. It was interesting, since I do this type of work already in my head, but putting it down on paper and seeing how much I'm really worth was a great exercise.

Bad Stuff: There was a LOT of reading to do in this class. Again, not that much of an issue for me, but I would spend an entire Saturday doing the readings.

Commercialization & Innovation: Strategy (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Art Boni)
Background: I was told I had to take this class as part of the Technology Leadership track, even though it wasn't on the track course listing.

Course Deliverables: I think it was just a final project presentation. Participation was also assessed.

Good Stuff: Similar to another entrepreneurship course I took in Mini 1 2011, this was pretty light on the deliverables. The content was interesting - about identifying a market need before doing anything related to business plans - and the idea we ended up following through with was non-rigid facial tracking technology - the same technology used in Avatar, only we applied it to video games.

Bad Stuff: It had a LOT of overlap with another course in this mini (see below) and thus didn't grab my attention all to well.

Innovation Ecosystems (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Jim Herbsleb)
Background: Another Track-requisite course, but it's new and was added for the academic year.

Course Deliverables: A project proposal, presentation, and final write-up on an ecosystem.

Good Stuff: This ended up being a very engaging and interesting course that opened my mind up to this idea of ecosystems and complements. It had been touched on before in my Technology Strategy course, but this was truly immersive and very interesting. It had a lot of applicability to technology products.

Bad Stuff: This was the class with the unfortunate episode with the teammate that I had discussed a few posts back. It didn't colour my view of the class itself, since the professor was very understanding of the situation.

Information Security & Privacy (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Norman Sadeh)
Background: Another Track-requisite course.

Course Deliverables: A mid-term and final exam, an individual homework assignment, and a group project

Good Stuff: Another pretty interesting course, I was more intrigued by the privacy side of things than the security side of things. We had a guest speaker - the CSO of Alcoa - in for one class and he was very interesting. The exams were surprisingly easy. I also liked how the professor released the Homework assignment three weeks before it was due, which gave me plenty of time to pace myself. I've learned my lesson with CS-based courses; they can't be completed at the last minute :) (my other classmates, however, didn't learn this lesson and was frantically trying to complete this homework, which took a good 12 hours to complete, on the sunday before it was due). The professor also seemed very engaged and interested in our projects and encouraged us to come and see him constantly for guidance and advice.

Bad Stuff: The work requirements were skewed. Let's take, for example, the mid-term exam. There was one question which was a fill-in-the-word type of question. There were 6 words that needed to be filled in. Each word was worth the same number of points as a short paragraph answer in other questions - which meant that by putting in the wrong word, it was heavily penalised.
Other students complained about the homework and how long it was, but since my expectations had changed to be more aware that the CS-courses are work-intensive, I don't have anything to complain about.

This little anecdote doesn't fall into either good or bad, but my group had a member who was in the school of Computer Science. The Friday before the project was due, he sent the group an email explaining how he dropped the class since he would be shuttling between San Francisco and Seattle for job interviews for the next two weeks. Our group took it in our stride - we had all taken upon ourselves to do different sections of the work, and his wasn't that important to the grand scheme of the project. It just seemed odd that he would wait until this last minute to let us know, when presumably he would've already known about the interviews and made the trip plans before that Friday.

Government & Business (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Jay Apt and Michael Griffin
Background: I added this class after the mini had already started, when I felt that my courseload for the mini was too light. A friend of mine had told me it was being taught by a former NASA astronaut, so curious, I enrolled.

Course Deliverables: 2 Case writeups, 2 Homeworks. Optional: Debate involvement. Class participation was also taken into consideration, I believe.

Good Stuff: This was a fascinating class. I keep making the mistake of thinking government is a dry, boring topic. This really opened my eyes to how businesses encourage regulation by the government to their advantage, of how government isn't always anti- or pro-business, since a regulation always puts one sort of business against another, and how little lobbying money does - businesses pay for lobbying (which, before this class, was extremely distasteful in my eyes) but they tend to woo only those in the government who are sympathetic to their cause or strong supporters. I took this class for curiosity sake, and I'm really glad I did.

Bad Stuff: There was slight confusion with groups, since we had to change groups to be composed of new people for the second half of the assignments, but that was it. I had a really great time in this class and learned a lot.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Work opportunities

While expressly forbidden for first years in the first two minis, Tepper offers students part-time jobs to hold during the rest of their education. Because I was so active with the admissions help in my first two minis - I signed up both minis, I was almost always available, and I had a good relationship with the admissions staff - I was asked if I wanted to work as an admissions coordinator for the calendar year of 2012. I believe I started in February; I think it is also one of the only times a first year is offered a job.

Come second year, and the opportunities are numerous:

- Career Services: The CoC sent out an email near the end of the school year asking for applicants to help with the corporate presentations. This usually includes introducing the company, passing around and collecting the sign-in sheets, and assisting the presentors.
- Accelerated Leadership: This is a service where students can gain help for presentation & communication-style issues. The Center asks notable students who have high marks in the presentations classes to be available as the tutors for this center.
- Teaching Assistants/Grading Assistants: Usually for the core classes, the lecturers asks students who received excellent grades in the class to be a TA for the next coming class. Sometimes, rarely, TA opportunities exist for undergraduate classes (I will be a TA for an undergraduate OB class next semester). This doesn't happen for every core class. Some are TA'd by PhD students, since the content is quite difficult (I'm looking at you, Probability & Statistics and Optimization)
- Tutors: Similar to TAs, tutors are found for the more difficult classes. The school doesn't publicise tutors, but if a first year turns up to Student Services and asks, he or she can be assigned a tutor for a specific class. Again, an email goes out amongst the second years in the first week or so when we get back asking if anyone wants to be a tutor. I believe there is a still a vetting process that the tutor has to go through - i.e. has a great grade.
- Admissions Coordinators: and, of course like I mentioned, assisting the Admissions group with coordinating the student visits - i.e. we get a student onboard to take a prospective to class and to lunch. There's about 7 of us.

There are cases of some second years continuing their internships on a part-time basis, especially if they interned locally at a startup or smaller business.

The workload isn't onerous, and it always feels good to be earning something (even if it's only a little bit). My admissions job will probably end by early next mini; but that's OK, since I'll be starting my TA job then.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Teamwork/year 2

So my goal of 1 post a week has been destroyed :) To be fair, I had a wedding to attend last week.

I've mentioned before how b-school seems to be all about teamwork. I've been burned severely by a teammember putting my education at risk, and the rest of that team also not performing to a required standard. I had hoped I learned from this experience and thus sought out those people who reflected my own attitude and work ethic.

The second thing I should have learned: don't team with someone who has completed "checked out" of the schooling process.

I know I've mentioned this before also, but by the time second year comes around, there's no external incentive to work. Awards have been issued, scholarships have been sent out, the mantra "grades don't matter" has truly sunk in, and most eyes are towards the final goal - a job after graduation. It's pretty easy-going in comparison to first year. Minimal effort is required to get a passing grade (if not a good grade), and people have learned that the effort expended to go from an A- to an A is not worth the jump. Also, as I discovered, this means that minimal effort is given to team work projects.

Before the mini started, I had someone reach out to me and ask to team up for a class. I made it very clear I didn't want a repeat of what happened to me the previous mini (where I did all the work), and he/she assured me it wouldn't happen. I trusted this assurance. Looking back, I think this person had scoped me for being a teammate because I would be relied upon to do the majority of the work, and I think this person figured he/she would be on easy street for this class.

The first warning came when Teammate offered to submit our project proposal but didn't do so on time. Now, while I acknowledge that everyone tends to not worry about end-of-term projects until the end of the mini, Teammate didn't seem engaged with the project and didn't read or respond to any correspondence I had sent out regarding work I had already done.

Second warning: the meeting we had as a team 1 week before a presentation assessment item was due. Teammate started talking about a subject that wasn't what we had decided on. I was concerned, but thought we had reached a compromise. I sent out a report outline to make sure that everything was cool.

Boiling pot syndrome: I labored over the week and weekend to do what we had agreed upon at the beginning of the mini: write the report then write the presentation. I did both, and sent it out. A number of times, each one saying "presentation on Monday". Two HOURS before the presentation was due to be submitted, Teammate responds "I didn't realize it was due today." Teammate submits presentation with his/her slides to the professor - the rest of the team didn't get to see it. Presentation comes, and I ask to present (since I wasn't going to be available the next session), and presentation contains a bunch of information that is completely different than what we decided on - the information that Teammate talked about in the last meeting. What's worse, it didn't flow in a logical manner. I'm fuming, but don't say anything to Teammate. Instead, I talk to the professor about Teammate's attitude. Professor also noticed that things were odd in the presentation.

Sh*t hits the fan: I'm in Gettysburg for the wedding of a close friend. I get an email from Teammate saying what he did to my report. I look in the report and see that Teammate wrote an executive summary that contained no information from the report itself (and talked about stuff that, again, was related to his presentation) and neglected to write up the pieces he had volunteered to do. I send a scathing email in response, asking him to do the work. I also email the professor, explaining the situation. Teammate responds in the 28-yr-old version of "you're a meany poopy head" by attacking everything I've done and getting insulting. He claims that our project topic is on the subject he was working on. Professor responds by allowing two separate reports to be written. I pull this trump card on Teammate and tell him that unless he does the work, s/he's going to have to write his own report on his subject (which, looking back, is the exact same topic as s/he's doing in another class. I get the feeling that Teammate is looking to cut corners and not do any extra work but is affronted by the fact I called him/her out on it). Teammate comes around, but not without taking a few more additional pot shots.
Report finally gets submitted with all our names on it.

Looking back on it, there are a number of lessons I took from this. The first and obvious one: don't team with this person again.

But what is more sad is this fact: Teammate was a friend. Teammate was also one of those bad eggs that happened to fall through the cracks of the admissions program and had alienated a huge part of the class due to his/her arrogant behaviour. I was his/her defender. Now that I received the full brunt of this person's arrogance and petulance, I feel I cannot defend this person anymore. Nor do I feel that our friendship is worth holding onto, especially when his/her disdain and contempt shone brightly through his/her actions and the emails that were written to me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Recruiting Joys

Ah, the familiar feel of empty halls, half-filled classrooms, and scheduling blackouts. National Black has arrived this weekend, and many of my classmates have made the trek to Indianapolis to interview and recruit with the big firms there. Once again, I have opted out of attending since none of the companies I'm interested in are going to be there.

In fact, I have done very little recruiting this semester, which is a heightened contrast to many of my second year classmates. These two minis are devoted to full-time recruiting, and it's not unusual to see a cluster of second years spending their time in class composing cover letters. As one friend pointed out - this is the only time that companies are going to be doing MBA graduate recruiting. After this semester, it's on an as-needed basis. My career choices fall into the as-needed bucket, as many tech firms are notorious for not holding a position open for a year (too much changing in the industry). Google, I think, is an exception.

While I am not actively looking, I am aware that other companies are reading the resume books. I've had a couple reach out to me already, to see if I'm interested. One such company was one that had piqued my interest during the internship search, and while recent news-worthy events have made me cautious about the wisdom of pursuing any opportunities with them, I scheduled a screening phone call with them.

In the first 30 seconds of the call, I was reminded of the multitude of etiquette lessons that I researched over the summer on the best practices for interviewing project. The one the stood out most prominently in this situation was don't use speakerphone if there is only one person on the line. The recruiter did not know this lesson, as she used a speakerphone. I could not hear the recruiter, as the speaker picked up every echo. Even after we hung up and redialed to see if the connection was bad, I still got the awful echo effect. I mentioned it, but she decided to keep going. I couldn't hear her when she spoke quickly, which probably caused me to incorrectly answer the questions she was asking. It was a frustrating phonecall; a call that I was eager to end because it was so bad. Adding insult to injury, I got the feeling that she was fishing for more information on the "secret project" I worked on with Blizzard. I stayed away from any detail, and I could tell that was annoying her. I can't tell if she was just trying to actually ply me for that information, or just didn't realise that I was being vague intentionally since, clearly, I'm held to an NDA.

I know at this stage, we're supposed to be eager and willing to take on any job opportunity that comes our way. And maybe I should've also been more insistent that we talk on a connection that wasn't so bad. But I've had some issues with the etiquette of this company in my internship search, and this experience just added on to that bad perception. Do I want to work for a company that doesn't consider basic etiquette and politeness as part of their recruiting function? I think my interactions with this company has been very telling of what it would be like to work there, and I don't think I would care for the place.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dean's Reception & Awards

I just came back from the Dean's Reception & Awards Ceremony. It's an annual event where the Dean makes a speech, the GBA president makes a speech, a guest speaker makes a speech, and academically gifted 2nd years receive awards for various subjects. I know I covered awards in a prior post. There were two award recipients that seemed odd to me - one was a complete surprise because I would've sworn another class member would've received it (more deservingly in my opinion); the other award was also surprising but it made sense that the recipient got it.

Again, I was reminded of the stark differences a year makes. As a first year, I flitted around at the reception post-ceremony, talking to as many people as I could find. This year, I found a table and was content to eat there and chat to the odd person who wandered over.
First year, I was eager to keep the party going.
Second year, I left somewhat early and immediately changed into my comfy houseclothes to do some homework

First year, I had dreams and desires to be up on the stage, with visions of imparting sage advice and talking about what I had done for the student body.
Second year, I had to fight the urge to pull out my phone and browse Twitter, given how little I cared.

I guess it has started to emerge - the apathy that I've been told sets in with the second year. I can't say I've checked out, but I'm starting to see the school experience as no longer "mine" to do with it as I please, but more a legacy to leave behind.

Friday, September 21, 2012

New Hangout

Over year 1, because of both the peculiarities of my schedule and the notion that I would do more work at school than at home, I spent all my free time in the Tepper Master's Lounge. I had a chair that I would always go to, a well-positioned seat that gave me access to two armchair-connected tabletops as well as a side table and a platform for my feet. A lot of people knew to find me there when I wasn't in class. It also allowed for easy access to hot water (for my cups of tea), as well being able to stick around until the last minute to get to class. I chatted with people in the Lounge, and was one of the first to grab the free food that came by after corporate or club presentations.

This year, things have changed. I am no longer a frequent presence in the Master's Lounge. In fact, I rarely even stop by. I could blame the fact that the first years have taken it over, that my class schedule doesn't require me coming into school until later in the day, that I now walk to and from school instead of relying on my partner to pick me up after work (which required me waiting until he was finished). I could even point the finger at the fact that a half of my classes are in the school of Computer Science (due to track-specific courses being cross-listed with SCS). But the real reason is actually quite arbitrary: Posner Hall has become an icebox.

Someone, somewhere, decided that 62F was the perfect temperature for a building to be at. Last year, the rooms were adjustable with their own thermostats, but it's not the case this year. I start shivering as soon as I step through the great glass doors. The classrooms, it seems, don't suffer as much, but the Master's Lounge collects all the cold air!

Fed up with needing to put on eight layers just to be in that one room, I went wandering around campus to find a suitable place to spend a couple of hours. I found it almost by accident.
The Gates Center, which is the newest building on campus, is very accommodating. I walk through it on my way to my Track-specific classes. Driven by curiosity, I explored the center and found my new hangout - it's a lunchroom/lounge with plush seating, well-stocked coffee bar, an outdoor patio, outlets galore, quiet students, AND more importantly, a 72F temperature.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Scholarship Opportunities

Well, I'm starting to get back into the swing of things and now that internship/summer discussions are complete, I've noticed that the conversation tends to turn towards scholarship recipients.

Tepper doesn't provide a list of scholarships, so a lot of what I'm about to say are pieced together through hearsay and grapevine.

There are three levels in which a scholarship is granted. The first level is during the application process. Typically, this is where the Consortium comes in. The Consortium is where many minority applicants (i.e. hispanic, native american, and/or black) apply to Tepper through. It grants a full, merit-based scholarship.

The second level is part of the regular application stage - i.e. someone applies directly to Tepper. No extra work is required to be considered for a scholarship. This is where the Forte Foundation's Fellowships get granted. The Forte Foundation looks to promote women MBA representation. I have a Forte Fellowship, which had me all excited until I realised that nearly every woman in my class has a Forte Fellowship. Fear not, men, for I have noticed that nearly every man receives a merit scholarship for roughly the same amount. It takes a little glow off the prestige, but every little bit counts.
There are also other scholarships that are granted at this stage, like the Alumni Association scholarship and a couple of others I'm not familiar with. I stumbled across this site which also lists some fellowships that are available, but typically to people who come from a certain country (Australia unfortunately not on the list :(  ). There are also a handful of students who receive Dean's scholarships, which is also full-ride on tuition but given only to "exceptional students."

The third level happens when the student is at school. It's rare to have one during the first year; I think there was one but the name of it eludes me. It's the movement into second year in which the rest of the monies are granted.
Now, I received notification that I received the Judi Nusbaum and Lynne Skinner Graduate Scholarship this year, which partially funded my Forte Fellowship. If anyone follows me on Twitter, I had excitedly announced this fact. The partner to one of my classmates mentioned that my classmate also received a scholarship partially funding his merit scholarship. I felt like the "everyone gets a scholarship" baton was being passed around again, like I discovered for first year. I felt honored to have a scholarship, don't get me wrong, but I didn't feel special.

Conversations with my classmates, however, indicated that it wasn't the case. So that's kinda cool.
The prestigious Ford scholarship was also communicated to the recipient probably around the same time. The recipient is the person with the highest GPA of the class from the first year, and he/she gets a full ride for the second year. I don't know if there are any other benefits, but I know about the full ride.

At one point last week, a couple of people and I were talking about Level 3 part b: the specialty awards. The Ford Scholarship recipient is honored at the Dean's Reception, which happens pretty early in the school year. This year it's a tad late. There are also a number of awards that are given to second year students for their performance in specific subjects in the first year: accounting, finance, operations, organizational behavior, marketing, strategy. Maybe a couple of others. There's also one for exemplifying school spirit. No-one is entirely sure a) what the criteria for winning the award is. Maybe it's highest GPA. Maybe it's dedication to the subject; b) what the recipient gets. One person I talked to swore that the recipient received some sort of cash award; or c) if the awards have already been communicated to the recipients. I haven't heard anything through the grapevine yet.

We've still got a few weeks to go for that.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

First week back at school!

This week concluded my first week back at school! I have only one class in the mornings; everything is evening and afternoon. This is tough, since I'm a morning person and have a tendency to really not pay attention during the 3.30-5.30 class slots.

However, the workload is relatively light. So light, that I took up another class. Also, this class is taught by a former NASA astronaut, which I felt was good bragging material.

The first week was full of seeing my other classmates for the first time in a long time and exchanging discussions on our summers. They typically went like this:

"Oh, how was your summer?"
"Awesome! I had a great time"
"Are you going back?"
"Maybe. I haven't received my offer yet/I'm shopping around. How was your summer?"
"Great! I learned a lot"
"Are you going back"
"Perhaps. I haven't received my offer yet/I'm shopping around."

Half the class probably forgot who was going where. I know I did. What helped later on was that the CoC sent out the second year internship listing. This listing collates all the internship information from each one of the second years who submitted a resume to the resume book so that first years can see who was working for their target companies and talk to them about their experience. When I was scrolling through this listing, I was reminded of who went where.

The calendar is starting to fill up also with club activities, group meetings and various meetings with first years. The group meeting situation is especially onerous since no-one wants to do morning meetings for some reason, and prefer afternoons. With all this, I still don't feel overwhelmed. I hope this feeling stays for the mini :)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Basecamp: Tepper Cares aka viewpoint of a 2nd year

I had my first interactions with the incoming first years on Friday when I volunteered to help out with the Tepper Cares days.

The Tepper Cares day is an event that is part of BaseCamp where the class goes out and helps in the community. This year, due to the rather underwhelming experience from last year with our group, the decision was made to organise the event in-house instead of outsource to Pittsburgh Cares. I helped, a little, with the organization of the day - a good friend of mine did his pro-bono consulting project with the Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens, and he suggested we go with them to help clear the land. They were very enthusiastic and excited to have the whole class coming.

I would say maybe 2/3 of the class of 2014 attended - not too bad of a turnout. Clearly there was a little bit of exhaustion from the previous weeks of BaseCamp, and an excitement that barely bubbled under the surface to actually start classes.

I had been lurking on the class of 2014 Facebook group, reading the exuberant postings and enthusiastic event organization, smiling in remembrance of how we were as a class this time last year. Oh, the activities planned! The announcements made! The postings created of various non-essential things that we wanted to share with our classmates! How much difference a year make.

I made constant self-deprecating comments that I'm a wise, cynical 2nd year now. In some ways it's true. It feels a little odd to not be the center of attention. What do I mean? In my first year, all the opportunities seem to be aimed directly at us - case competitions, networking events, club events, etc. Loads of advice is out there aimed directly for us. My entire life, for the first two minis, seemed to revolve entirely around school - I had no free time. Now, I watch as others get excited about the case competitions. I chuckle inside when I hear the first years talk enthusiastically about what they're going to do on the weekends (instead of schoolwork). I actually found myself merely browsing through the listing of corporate presentations instead of signing up ravenously for each and every one that had a possibility of being interesting.

I look forward to this year being a lot less hectic and crazy than last. My recruiting efforts will be non-existent for a long time, since the video game/tech industry tend to wait until last minute to recruit - which includes Blizzard. I've also got the luxury of waiting until the "perfect" opening comes up - as opposed to last year when any internship would've been great. My courseload is a lot lighter, especially this mini as I have only 4 courses. I don't have crazy all-weekend bootcamps for consulting club, or networking efforts every day, or countless resume reviews.

I actually plan on having a life with extra curricular activities :) Yay for second year!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I got up at 10:30. I spent 2.5 hours on the internet for no reason and felt listless. Banged my head on the wall for my indecisiveness over whether to go to the Farmer's Market, whether I should buy that Lychee drink, whether I should play Diablo 3 or paint.

I'm in that limbo time whereby I have 2 weeks left on my internship and one month left until I go back to school. Something is nearly ending; something is nearly beginning, and I have no definable goal so far to excite me. It's just a period of waiting - waiting for my last day, waiting to get back to Pittsburgh, waiting for the final exam schedule for Mini 1 & 2 to be posted so I can book my tickets to Australia for christmas.

I mentioned in my last post that things are starting to pick up school-wise. Where my Tepper inbox was once full with Wall Street Journal subscriptions that I haven't bothered to cancel and the odd notification from the GSA, I'm now receiving emails from the OLC club, Brewmeisters, CoC, Symplicity (reminding me to cancel that notification too), and now BaseCamp.

Organizational Leadership Club - OLC: We have secured the dates for our case competition! We'll be the first off the line, which is a good thing as it gives a practice run for participants before the career-related case competitions from Amazon, Deloitte, Yahoo, etc start to appear.

Brewmeisters: Looking to set up our start-of-year shindig before school starts and people in the first year panic while us second years scoff and tell them grades don't matter.

BaseCamp: I signed up in May to be a 2nd year mentor, and I got a reminder email today about that. I'm not entirely sure what is expected of me, but the email left this note:

"What do you wish a 2nd year had told you in BaseCamp?"

An interesting question; one I shall have to ponder.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Internship endings

Today marks three weeks left until the end of my internship. This brief respite from the rigours of academia has been pleasant (as has having a paycheck!) but school-related tasks are starting to pop-up. This also means that I will probably be more active on my blog now that I have school-related things to talk about :)

Perhaps the most important thing so far has been the submission of our resume to the Graduating Students resume book. The deadline for submission just passed (yesterday), and I was doing a frantic last-minute edit of my resume in order to get my Blizzard experiences in. (As an aside, I don't quite understand why the U.S. insists on having a 1 page resume, especially when my education takes up a third of the page! That's not enough to showcase my work experiences, but then again, it's my hope that people will transition to LinkedIn). As I was uploading the document, a comment caught my eye:

"If you plan to take advantage of Tepper resources for a full-time job search in the fall..."

It's not normally a sure thing that an intern will receive a full-time job offer at the end of the internship. Conversely, an intern may not want to continue at the company in a full-time capacity. From what I understand, internships are viewed of in one of two ways: a full-time offer is the intern's to lose (i.e. the intern has to screw up bad to not get an offer), or the full-time offer is for the intern to gain (i.e. the intern has to prove themselves to be worthy of the offer). I've been told consulting firms are the former; some of the bigger companies with formal internship programs have the latter.

But at this point in time, late July, I don't think anyone knows if they will or will not be receiving an offer. This resume requirement (so that the resume books can be issued to interested companies in mid-August, before school even starts!) does prove to be a reminder that this internship is a temporary thing, and I may have to update & brush up on my STAR interview stories.

Oh, and get used to wearing a suit again.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Advice for Prospective Students

It's about that time of year when the eager beavers raise their heads to prepare for the next lot of MBA applications. I should know; I've been contacted a few times by various people looking to learn more about my time at Tepper.

I don't mind answering questions - that's why I'm listed on the Tepper Contact A Current Student page. However, I know that 80% of the people who are contacting me are just looking for an "in" in case things don't turn out well.

I can usually tell this, and therefore when/if we actually speak, I tend to end the conversation without offering to help. The offer of help is a sure sign that you know you're in :) But in order to get there, here are some tips:

- First, do a little bit of research on the student you're contacting. Something as simple as a LinkedIn profile look-up gives you some background information on the student. I don't know many students who don't have a profile, so it's a good way to find a connection.

- If the student has very little relevance to what you want to do, go find another. There are psychology studies that say that if there is something that connects two people - whether it be coming from the same background, same school, same interests, heck, even same name or birthday - the person to whom the prospective is reaching out to looks upon the prospective favorably. So, for me for example, if you're female, Australian, lived in Texas, have a business background, love videogames, or want to get into the tech industry, we'd get along great. If you desperately want to get into a Wall Street job, I don't know anything, I'm not interested, and you won't get anything from our conversation because I know that you're trying to do the connect thing without appearing like you're genuinely interested in what I have to say.

- Which brings me to the most important point: be actually interested in what the contact has to say. We're people too, and if you don't give a crap about what we have to say, we don't give a crap about you. However: don't go overboard. It's even more creepy and annoying to have multiple emails, phonecalls, text messages, etc, from a prospective in a short period of time.

- I have mentioned this before, but be respectful of the contact's time. Someone once told me that you should always open up a conversation with "is this a good time for you?". That way, if it isn't, the contact doesn't feel bad in postponing the talk rather than having to suffer through it. It allows for a gracious exit :) Oh, and timezones matter also.

- Be conversational with the contact. Tepper is known to build a student body of down-to-earth, friendly people. So be one of those; don't be stilted and formal.

- Basic polite manners help. If we have a good thing going and I do offer to help, follow up with me and tell me what's going on! I don't necessarily need a thank-you note, but a quick email saying thanks also helps a little. And I may not remember you 6 months down the track. Thankfully, Google threads related emails, so please keep our prior correspondence in any follow-up emails so I can know who you are! I volunteer as an admissions student so I meet a lot of people; my memory is bad enough :)

I've helped out a few people over the year. A couple of folks got admitted without any of my direct input (I can only hope that some of my help was useful); unfortunately one did not make it off the waitlist even with my assistance. BUT, one fellow was waitlisted, kept up his contact with me, I recommended him to be admitted, and a month ago he let me know he got in. :)

But I do want to iterate: do not treat the relationship with the current student as one in which you get a letter of recommendation out of him/her if the time calls for it. I personally am very sensitive to who I would recommend because ultimately, I'm the one saying "I want this person in my class to work with me" - and if I don't truly feel this way, I won't say anything.

Other people may be different; I'm merely talking about my own feelings here.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Goals for the New Year

This time last year, I was celebrating the fact that I had finished my last week of employment, ready to pack up and head to Pittsburgh for this new chapter in my life. This time, I have just passed the halfway mark for my internship and thinking ahead on what I hope to accomplish in my last year at Tepper. Strange to put it in that perspective!

It may be too early to write this as a blog post, but I feel it's important (also since I don't have much other content :))

I didn't have many goals coming into Tepper other than the usual: Win case competitions, get a ridiculously high GPA, be involved in too much stuff. Well, two goals got accomplished. This year, I think my goals are going to be a fair bit more realistic.

- Learn Prezi and use it for every presentation that I need to make in the coming school year. Powerpoint is good; but Prezi could also have its uses.

- Get in early and apply for graduate funding to go to GDC next year. As a graduate student, we have access to conference funds provided we apply for them via the in-school process. There are other restrictions, like letters of recommendation and proof that the conference is related to the student's topic of study - but I think I can prove that, given my internship experience. Going to GDC would also help me with my networking efforts; ideally, I wouldn't be networking for a job but more for industry contact.

- take a hardcore analytics class. I've been generally shying away from analytics courses because of a fear that I would be too behind (due to my courseload I choose to take upon myself) and because I feel there are more interesting classes I should take. Ideally, Market Research would be available. My Mini 1 & 2 options have already been decided; so this would mean mini 3 or 4 would have to include a course like this.

- Drink less soda at the free food events. Soda has probably been the one main contributing factor to my tummy bulge I developed over the school year. The other goal tied to this is exercise more! It's amazing how many excuses pop up - and this is a sentiment in which I am not alone in.

- Keep my blog postings to once a week. Not too difficult here, since I managed it during the worst of the workloads.

There may be other goals that come along - like, get a job, pay it forward, etc - but these are the main ones that I'm holding onto.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Student Profile: Matt Moench

Brief Background (where did you come from, what you did prior to coming to Tepper)
Background in IT Consulting and Contract Compliance work at KPMG & Deloitte. Also started a small letterpress & design business with my sister called Dingbat Press.
Basic school info (Track, concentrations, dual degrees):
Technology Leadership Track. Entrepreneurship, marketing concentrations.
Internship position, company and location:
Business Development at Dynamics (60 employees) in Pittsburgh, PA. Watch out world of payments....
What was your answer to the admission essay "one thing people would be surprised to know about me is....?"
I wrote about my study abroad in Jerusalem / the Middle East. 
What were your career goals coming in? How have they changed?
Become a management consultant. My goals have completely changed - I realized that I need to be true to my entrepreneurial yearning and that it was wrong for me to "ignore" that by looking at other career paths.
Aside from the education, what are you learning by being at Tepper?
Time management & team management, which, in some sense goes together well. There is a reason that MBA school is so focused around teams - in subjects where I'm not as knowledgeable, I have learned tremendously from my fantastic classmates. I hope that I have helped them in a similar manner on topics I am excited about. Making sure the team has the right individuals, right size, is very valuable.
If you're in a Track, why did you choose it?
I'm in the Technology Leadership track because I love tech and how it has enabled my learning, productivity, and efficiency. I'll always love tech and will always want to try new products and services which make my life better / more automated (so I have more time to do things I love, like play squash).
What's your favorite place in Pittsburgh?
The Andy Warhol Museum
Favorite event at Tepper?
The international festival. That was a hoot
What is your primary procrastination activity?
Right now it may or may not be Diablo 3. 
What are you looking forward to in the next year?
Flexibility in selecting my classes.
When you walk graduation, what will be/is your biggest regret?
Not going out more with my classmates despite the fact that I don't drink. 
How do you plan to "pay it forward" (This isn't just about the class gift, but anything at all)
Have real conversations with people who are looking at Tepper (or business school in general) to help them make the right decision for them about where to go.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Student Profile: Jeffrey Renshaw

Name: Jeffrey Renshaw

Brief Background (where did you come from, what you did prior to coming to Tepper).  
 Prior to Tepper I worked as a financial analyst in the planning department at The Hanover Insurance Group in Massachusetts.

Basic school info (Track, concentrations, dual degrees)
Concentrations in finance and marketing

Internship position, company and location
Darden Restaurants in Orlando Florida.  Working in the Finance Department at Olive Garden within the Marketing Analytics Team

What was your answer to the admission essay "one thing people would be surprised to know about me is....?"
One thing people would be surprised to know about me is that I have a twin smarter than I am.  

What were your career goals coming in? How have they changed?
Came in wanting to be a consultant and after learning more about different opportunities during BaseCamp switched to corporate finance. 

Aside from the education, what are you learning by being at Tepper?
My classmates are teaching me more about leadership skills, communication techniques, and management than I could ever learn in the classroom.  

 What's your favorite place in Pittsburgh?
When it comes to eating, you can't beat FatHeads

Favorite event at Tepper?

What is your primary procrastination activity?
Writing for the Robber Barons

What are you looking forward to in the next year?
More free time to explore Pittsburgh and socialize even more.

When you walk graduation, what will be/is your biggest regret?
That it is over so soon and I didn't fail to extend the MBA experience to three years!

How do you plan to "pay it forward"?
Improve the clubs and traditions of the student body to set higher precedents for future classes.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Article Discussion: From Banking to Gaming

I stumbled across this article today: From Banking to Gaming: The Changing Face of MBA Jobs.

I bring it up because it is relevant to my situation in two ways. First reason, and it's pretty obvious, is that the video game industry is starting to see the value of the MBA - which is highly relevant given my desired career path. The second reason, which I feel is more relevant to everyone else (especially those curious about Tepper) is the following comment:

"So the focus now is on graduates who are skilled in analytics. “It’s being able to take the numbers and create a story and communicate that story,” says Ms Rawson."

Tepper's reputation is that it is a program based in analytics. I find this to be true - there are a LOT of analytics-type courses available and numbers permeate throughout all of our education. However, knowing the numbers is one thing; being able to communicate the message behind them is another, and I have noticed that there is an great emphasis in the program on doing so as well.

I have been educated in the case method as an undergraduate at QUT (my first undergrad degree). It had relevance at the time, although most of the teaching was in an academic manner (i.e. full reports and papers with references and bibliographies as opposed to class discussion and reading questions). We do some case work in class also here at Tepper but I have noticed that the cases in class are designed in a manner as to lead the reader into the answer. These are Harvard cases, by the way. Lastly, like I said earlier, analytics is a focus on the class and there is a fair amount of data analysis and drawing conclusions from the data involved.
I have found the case method to be the least helpful in terms of education - the answers aren't that simple and there is a lot of chaff in real-life decision making. The academic case method that I experienced as an undergrad was infinitely more helpful because then it was up to me to sift out the chaff from the wheat. But, I noticed throughout my career so far and into the program that it's really the data that is important. Gut feeling is all well and good, but it leads to poor decision-making. This particular article really solidifies the desire for analytics and decision-making based on data and hard facts. Tepper is in a great position to capitalise on this shift in attitudes, and I know that the brand image of my degree is going to greatly help me in my career than anything else.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Student Profile: Huisuk Hong

Over the summer, I'm not going to be able to blog too much about my experiences at Tepper because I'll be off on my internship! However, instead I thought it would be a good idea to get a snapshot look at some of my classmates and their experiences.

Name: Huisuk "Hong" Hong

Brief Background (where did you come from, what you did prior to coming to Tepper)
   Korea, Pre-Sales Engineer at Cisco

Basic school info (Track, concentrations, dual degrees)
  Technology Leadership Track, Marketing and Information System Concentration

Internship position, company and location
   Marketing, Samsung, Korea

What was your answer to the admission essay "one thing people would be surprised to know about me is....?"
   Interesting and funny ideas such as 'Non-manager day', 'Mobile working day'  

What were your career goals coming in? How have they changed?
  Product Manager in technology industry especially in cloud computing area.  As a product manager, I want to contribute to the way of people's digital life into more connected, dynamic, and exciting.

Aside from the education, what are you learning by being at Tepper ?
MBA journey changed my way of thinking into more business-oriented.

If you're in a Track, why did you choose it?
The strong reputation of Carnegie Mellon's Computer Science School.

What's your favorite place in Pittsburgh?
Mellon Park, North Park, Walnut

Favorite event at Tepper?
International Festival, B**rs, Case competition
What is your primary procrastination activity?

What are you looking forward to in the next year?
Taking more classes in finance. I didn't focus on the finance since my goal was Product Marketing. However,  I'd also like to have knowledge and insight finance as a MBA candidate.
When you walk graduation, what will be/is your biggest regret?
I didn't have much time to have more fun with other class mates.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Electives Part 2

The mini has ended, the year has been closed, and grades have been released. I believe my Strategy concentration has been fulfilled, but I do need to double check that one. So, allow me to inform you of the classes I took:

Strategic Corporate Management (Mini 4, 2012). Taught by Robert Miller 
Background:This seemed like a pretty solid strategy class, thus why I selected it.

Course Deliverables:There were a number of items: a mid-term project, of which we took data and analyzed it (which was worth 15% of the final grade); an exam, which was worth 30% of the grade; a final project in which we created a game around a business situation, ran the experiment, and analyzed the results (30%); and participation in other people's experiments (10%)

Good Stuff: This class was very polarising amongst my classmates: some hated it, some loved it. I liked it well enough to begin with. We found out early on that the class content revolved around game theory. I'm sure it's said in the syllabus or whatever, but it was certainly different. We spent a lot of class time performing experiments and discussing the results. I felt that the first few weeks of this was interesting; a lot of people didn't see the real value but I felt that we were being somewhat taught intuition - this was shown through the gradual progress of the class towards reaching an optimal solution more often. It also defined strategy in terms of what competitors will do in response, which was quite helpful given how other aspects of the school's curriculum was focused on.

The Bad Stuff: The content: this has been a bit of a constant complaint with classes here; we are shown how to do things once a scenario has been set up - but we're never shown how to set up the scenario. And this was definitely the case with this class. We are shown how to use the "model" that comes with game theory, but we weren't given the tools to determine the payoffs or the numbers that go into the model.
Additionally, it seemed a fool's game, and the pun wasn't intended. Game theory is just that, theory, and it relies upon rational, intelligent judgement of players who have all the facts. Real life, however, doesn't work that way: Pepsi and Coke don't necessary determine the same payoffs for a particular strategy.

Pricing Strategy. (Mini 4, 2012) Taught by Nitin Mehta
Background:Pricing Strategy is one of those very popular courses. This professor was a visiting professor from Toronto. My personal reasons for taking this course was also very relevant: I have significant difficulties in determining the worth of an item, and I was hoping for insight.

Course Deliverables: There was a group case due in the middle of the mini, a personal case at the end, and class participation. This was the easiest course in terms of deliverables for the mini, of which I was thankful (you'll see why later)

The Good Stuff: This course was an excellent course to take concurrently with another one I did (next review). The content was useful, I certainly got my information on how to value products, how pricing structures worked. The best part was the class discussion. The professor was very skilled at generating class discussion over concepts that were introduced in cases - and would pit two students with opposing views and ask them to debate back and forth. I found it quite lively.

The Bad Stuff: Some of the more quant-based content was glossed over, which would've been nice to have learned (although the professor said that when we start our jobs, there will be analysts that do the job for us).

Technology Strategy (Mini 4, 2012). Taught by Tim Derdenger
Background: I had registered for another class - Organizational Change - but the professor for that class unfortunately had a stroke and died over the Winter Break thus it was cancelled. I didn't really want to take only four classes this mini, so I selected this one. The basis of the class is around two of the "P"s - Price and Product (now you see the connection with Pricing Strategy) of technology products. Seemed relevant for my internship choices, so I went with it.

Course Deliverables: This was a tad confusing. There were four cases we in a group had to write up, one of which we may needed to present and direct class discussion on. There were four debates, of which we had to write up a paper on discussing the affirmative and negatives sides of the debate, and we may needed to present our side of the debate. Finally, there was a group presentation on a product, followed by an essay.

The Good Stuff:The content was quite interesting, and a very good supplement to the above class (Pricing Strategy). It was my first evening class and I found I quite liked taking them. Unfortunately, the bad stuff is outweighing the good; if the bad stuff didn't happen, I would've really enjoyed this class.

The Bad Stuff:1) the classwork was a little too much to do. It was almost, literally, a case a week. Under normal circumstances, probably wouldn't've been an issue, except for #2
2) My group. Unfortunately, it was in this class that one of my group members let me and my group down by choosing to plagarise. As such, my grade was dramatically altered from what it could have been, all the more poignant for the fact that I may have actually failed the class. This group also showed no work ethic, which considerably soured my experience.
3) This was also my first class with part-timers, and they kept to themselves and didn't want to associate with any of the others. In fact, this happened a lot with this class and the different cliques.

Management of Software Development for Technology Executives (Mini 4, 2012) Taught by Eduardo Miranda
Background: This course was a requisite for my Technology Leadership track, so it had to be registered for. It sounded pretty interesting, so I didn't mind so much. It's also a CS course supported by Tepper, so the professor is a Computer Science professor and we had the class in the one of the Computer Science buildings. The class was also subject to the hour-and-a-half class timeframe as opposed to Tepper and Heinz's two-hour class.

Course Deliverables: We had 5 sets of Homework Questions, a personal research report on a specific subject related to Software Project Management, and a group report on an epic failure of software management.

The Good Stuff: If the last class had the most terrible group ever, this class had the most amazing group ever. Allow me to brush my knuckles up on my chest and look around in pride as I'm going to attribute some of the success of the group to my personal organizing efforts early in the semester.
The class was engaging and did present some interesting content and ideas, and I certainly learned a lot. This class also allowed me to dust off my old academic habits, which brought back fond memories; in my first degree, it was very academic - I had to write research reports and papers, reference sources, use databases like ProQuest and such - and this class also required the same sort of structure. With Microsoft Word's handy Reference tab, I conquered these requirements with a sort of glee, and really tried to learn all the things I needed in this class. I was coming from a non-technical background and while others were familiar with the acronyms and such, I wasn't so I had to catch up.

The Bad Stuff: A group mate calculated this: 40% of the time spent doing schoolwork was taken up with this class. The workload was RIDICULOUS. The Homework Questions? They were based on Readings.. there were usually 9 readings. That doesn't normally faze me, but when each reading can be up to about 40 pages long, there's issues. I really wanted to read the readings, but it just wasn't feasible and I ended up having to read the short ones and used the PDF search functions to find the rest. The individual project: a ten-page term paper.
I felt that the reason we were given such a large workload was because the professor, in all his desires to be a good teacher, wanted us to be well-educated. It was impossible to cover all aspects of project management in this class in the sort of depth it would normally require. So, in our lectures, he went for a very broad, shallow approach, providing the basic definitions, but then trying to flesh out the concept in the readings.