Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DDI Workshop

Last Friday and Saturday I participated in a Leadership training workshop. Although it was meant to be relevant to us and our leadership desires, we were really just participating in a pilot program. This workshop and the assessment prior are in the planning stages of being a mandatory requirement for next year's class.

This experience started in late November. An email went out to the entire student body asking for volunteers to participate in this leadership assessment test. I signed up. I spent four and a half hours in front of a computer terminal going through a roleplay experience where I had to write emails, send memos, re-arrange priorities and watch videos - it wasn't your typical questionnaire. Right before the January mini started, our results were provided to us and the opportunity to sit in a four hour meeting to review and discuss what the results meant. Unfortunately, I had interviews both days so I wasn't able to make it - but from what I heard, it wasn't all that useful.

But by participating in this assessment, we were given the opportunity to also participate in a Leadership workshop held by the Carnegie Bosch Institute. I didn't know anything about CBI until I came to the session. It is an institute housed at Tepper that is sponsored by Bosch, the German manufacturer (as a side note; Bosch, I've been told, is instrumental in setting up the German study abroad program for certain second years in their last mini). It's primarily aimed at cross-cultural leadership and executive training.

All in all, it wasn't a bad exercise. I had a few A-Ha moments, but I don't think it was as a result of the workshop information but more how I interacted with my team (we were put in teams for exercises that happened throughout the day). A number of the concepts we had already been exposed to in Managing Organizations, our first OB course. The emphasis on nationality seemed like it was also missing out on gender and age differences too.

My two walkaways were pretty significant and I'm finding I'm having to apply it now. The first one was related to time management. We may think we have all the time in the world, but too much time is spent on debate, assessment, gaining input and buy-in, with not enough dedicated to actually completing the task (my pro-bono consulting team is like this right now). The second has a direct consequence on the first: I like to step up and lead a team. Facilitate. Direct. Back in my undergraduate program, I took some sort of personality assessment and discovered that I was a task-based leader (the other leader type was relationship-based leader; all the other types were followers). I found that I would step up and start directing people, encouraging input, but then about halfway through the session I would suddenly step back and let others come to the front.
I received feedback from my teammembers that said that I shouldn't disengage. I wondered why I did and realised that it was a fear of being perceived by my teammates as being bossy and dictatorial. I've never been told that, but due to events that happened in my formative years after graduation, I've become very conscientious of how others may perceive me as and am afraid of being perceived as overbearing. A lack of confidence in some manner of speaking.

Teams without leaders flounder. I learned that I need to not worry about what other people may think of me, because chances are they are welcome that there is someone shouldering the responsibility of keeping the group ontrack.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Internship postings

According to the COC, about 40% of the first years have been offered an internship; only 15% have accepted. My friends and I debated these numbers as they didn't seem right. The problem here is that is self-reporting - if a student gets a job offer, the details are required to be entered into the database. We don't think that students have been doing so; or at least, haven't been saying they've accepted. There is a policy at the school whereas if you have accepted an offer, you cannot UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES continue to interview or perform internship recruiting activities. A friend of mine thinks that is the primary reason why there are so few accepted offers - people are wanting to play the field. I disagree and think it's the former - i.e lazy classmates.

But for those of us without an internship offer, it's hard not to feel down. I'm very calm and confident about the whole search; it was mentioned to me today that most people by now are panicking since there have been very few postings on our job board and not as many people now are flying out for interviews. I just shrugged - I know this is that lull before March rears its ugly head for post-spring break recruiting. I can't say the same attitude is prevalent with my classmates :)

On a side note, I'm still being somewhat amused by internship postings and how recruiters are selling the internships. One line I've seen a couple of times is along the thread of "you'll be doing real work and not running for coffee and making copies!"
This amuses (if I wasn't amused, I'd be rather irritated) me for a couple of reasons:
1) If there is an internship out there that pays an MBA to run copies and make coffee, damn, that is one company that is overpaying their intern.
2) It's quite juvenile. The vast majority of MBA students already have years of experience under their belt. It's pretty much expected that we're not going to make copies. The fact that a recruiter is putting this in a job posting says that they're really out of touch with the type of people they're trying to recruit, or it's a form posting for undergrads.

Either which way, I know of classmates who have refused to apply to jobs that state this sort of line because of the two reasons. Similar to how career counselors warn us to not send stock cover letters and resumes; this is the recruiter-equivalent. I won't apply to any internship postings that don't have "MBA" specifically requested; to me, if it's not there, then the value of our experience and degree is being wasted.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I have a confession to make. I'm a major geek. I play video games, I paint miniatures, I run tabletop D&D games. When we visited EA Games over the break on our B&T trek, I nerdgasmed everywhere. I only recently came to the realization that I could now, upon graduation of MBA, transition into a career that I never contemplated before - working in the video game industry.

I really loved the culture and work/life balance that the tech firms all had. Work/life is very important to me for reasons I'll explain in another post. However, it was an interview I had with a tech company that revealed my weakness in trying to get into a tech job, let alone a gaming job: on paper, I don't look like I would fit in with tech. My resume detailed my life experiences and accomplishments and while I highlighted the skills that a job posting would ask for, it read like I came from finance in oil and gas (which I did). So think of all the adjectives that come into mind when thinking finance oil & gas - yeah, doesn't fit with tech, right? The interviewer pointed this out to me when he admitted that he called me in to interview merely because he was curious as to why I was applying and wanted to get to meet me - and then I blew him away with my knowledge of the company and my general enthusiasm. Although I didn't have marketing experience at all, everything else was in my favor.

So I had big weaknesses to overcome. I knew I could shine well in an interview; it was getting an interview that was the problem. Therefore... network! (oh, and re-do resume, but networking was much better option)

Thorough LinkedIn, I managed to connect with a (former) producer at Bioware. We had a great conversation - I could tell at first, from reading my LinkedIn profile, that he had his doubts, but the first thing I rolled off was essentially the sentence at the beginning of this post and therefore my geek cred was established. At the finale of the conversation, he mentioned the Game Developers Conference and asked if I was going. I hadn't heard of it, so I mumbled something. He then suggested I go and if I do, let him know.

When I hung up, I immediately looked up the conference (and thus remembered what it was), noted that the dates were during the week of finals except for Thursday and Friday, and checked airfares. For me, "suggested" means "you should". I did it with Deloitte at the case competition (our judge "suggested" we stay to watch the finals, so I did and I'm sure that was partly what got me an interview). After that, I reached out to one of the ETC's main professor's Jesse Schell, whom I contacted late last year, to see if any ETC students are attending. He sent out an email to the entire student body of ETC and I've had three people so far contact me to say hi and that they're going. Talk about awesome networking opportunities! Also found out on Friday that one of the second years who did his internship with Ubisoft is also attending.

I tell prospective students that I'm probably one of the only students in the class that has truly taken advantage of the cross-campus opportunities that are there. I believe it's partly because I seek them out - I didn't know of the ETC until it happened to be that one of my Entrepreneurship classmates, and later teammate, was a student there. It was through him that I connected with Jesse. I'm in the Technology Leadership track partly because I would have to do a CS class. Lastly, I'm planning on taking an Advanced Negotiations class in the Heinz school because the author of one of the books I read at the beginning of each year is teaching it - Linda Babcock of "Women Don't Ask" fame.

It's just exciting that these opportunities exist.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Internship Season

I've been bad and not keeping up with my one-post-a-week lately. The reason? Internship recruiting.

If I was to say what the hardest thing about business school in general would be, it would be this. Internships are scarce and therefore very competitive. There are about three ways that people approach internship recruiting:

1) Shotgun approach, or the "I don't know what I want so I'm getting out there as much as possible." While on the surface this may seem like it won't work too well, but it's the really intelligent, super duper uber background people that do this - because there's a plethora of opportunity out there, I guess. What this means is, there are people in the class who collect offers. Not satisfied with one or two, they go all out there and grab as much as they can. Since they're the most desirable applicants, it's not actually hard for them to do. The flipside is, however, that since they have the offers, the people who really wanted to work at their dream company miss out. I'm in that situation right now.

2) Only apply to Plan A: I saw this with the consulting folks. A bunch of people didn't get first rounds. A number didn't make it to second rounds. And a few of those (not many) didn't get offers. But they put all the efforts into the top-tier consulting and therefore didn't plan for what might happen if they didn't get it. So there are some people out there aimless; others are madly scrambling for something.

3) Thoughtful application, or what you would probably expect a reasonable person to do: only apply for the jobs that they want or wouldn't mind having for the summer. This is me.

The problem here as to why I think it's the most difficult thing about school: seeing your classmates get offers. Either multiple offers, or offers for firms you interviewed with and wanted but didn't get through. Facebook is littered with people saying "congrats". It really does put your self-esteem on the line. Sucks even more when you're in competition with one of those hugely-desirable candidates who is engaging in approach 1. above.

I know it's early in the game, but that realisation still doesn't make bitter pills easier to swallow.