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.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review: Clear Admit School Snapshot

I was recently sent a copy of Clear Admit's new product, School Snapshots, for Tepper. This is my review.

Initial Impression: At first, I noticed "snapshot" is a really good term for it. It was about 4 pages long and contained a brief overview of the school, the curriculum, the clubs, post-MBA careers, and admissions. Given that it's a tool presumably for applicants there is a good part of the document dedicated to admissions, however there doesn't seem to be any special insight into the school.

The Good: It really puts a lot of information into one concise document. It certainly saves a lot of time poking around the internet looking for this information, especially as some of it can be difficult to find on the Tepper website itself.

The Bad: Not really bad, per se, but the information about the curriculum is outdated. The incoming class of 2014 (and includes my class also) will be experiencing a dramatically different introductory curriculum than I have had exposure to. The minis are compressed to 7 weeks, the subjects are all a-mixed, and there is going to be a strong emphasis on leadership development. However, having said that, this new curriculum hasn't been published anywhere public so I don't exactly fault the authors for not knowing. (It was published in a Tepper magazine; I'll dig it up and introduce it myself later).

The Could-Be-Improved: The career statistics seem to be a little lacking. Dedicating only half-a-page to the reason why people go to Business School seems a tad flippant. I would recommend removing the geographical location information and instead talk salaries. I hate to be crass, but that's generally a big reason why people get their MBA at a top 20 school: a high salary.

All in all, it's an accurate (with the exception of the curriculum), if bland, description of the program.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pro-Bono Consulting

Yesterday wrapped up the end of my semester-long volunteer project. I have alluded to it in past posts, but this is dedicated entirely to the experience. I, along with five other classmates, provided pro-bono consulting services for a Pittsburgh non-profit.

Pro-bono consulting is an opportunity offered every year to first year students. The faculty in charge solicit consulting projects from various non-profits across Pittsburgh, some of whom are new clients and some who have participated in this program before. The projects are reviewed and vetted with the faculty. Students are expected to get into groups of 5 and expected to dedicate 10 hours a week on the project. It goes from the start of Mini 3 til the end of Mini 4 - a semester-long project.

Let's start from the start.

Late last year, an email went around asking people to volunteer for this initiative. Many touted how good an experience it is, especially to bring up in interviews. Why not, thinks I, and I gather a group of four others. We're given a list of projects, asked to rank them all in preference, and given dire warnings that this project is expected to have a commitment of 10 hours a week. This commitment got emphasised over and over again until right at the last minute three of my teammates seemed to get cold feet and dropped out, citing concerns about time management. This was, I believe, the end of Mini 2.

The organisers were generous enough to let me then choose either the team or the project I wanted to join. I chose a project involving GTECH Strategies. This non-profit beautifies urban locations by engaging the community to plant sunflowers. They harvest the seeds from the sunflowers at the end of the summer and were looking for a business plan in which to sell the seed packets - that was our project.

Getting started was somewhat tough. We met with the CEO at the beginning of Mini 3, and he had this energy and enthusiasm about his ideas that was infectious. We were also assigned a 2nd year mentor, a faculty mentor, and an outside consultant mentor. Although we had those resources, we did the vast majority of the work ourselves.

Since we were to develop a business plan, we did some research and found what pieces of information were needed: customer insight, competitive insight, market insight, and strategies for marketing, sales, and the finances. Operational considerations were discussed, but it wasn't necessary for the project. Essentially, the CEO needed something to bring to his Board to convince them to let this seed selling business go through.

I was in charge of the meat of the project - the customer insight and competitive insight segments. I spent a lot of time looking at the various competitors out there (people who provide sunflower seeds to plant), their prices, the amount of seeds in the packet, channels of distribution. Then I built a survey, called a number of nurseries, and just talked to people about the product. That was really awkward; I'm not used to randomly going up to people to solicit information. Unfortunately, the strategies and financial model really couldn't get going until I had done this piece of the research, so once that was done (the week after Spring Break), the momentum just built up and got going.

It was a great experience. Although I complained about the workload during my time, the fragmented ideas that our team started off with, and other things, now looking back on it, it was a good time. It makes me really want to take a Market Research class. It made me understand pricing strategies more than the class itself taught me. And I got a real sense of what it's like to herd cats - i.e. project management.

Friday, May 4, 2012

TILT - suspension

Normally, this would be an excellent day for a TILT: last day of classes, got an A+ on my 10-page term paper for a class, created an awesome presentation for another, Brewmeister brew we did a few weeks ago amazingly good, beautiful 84 degree weather....

An event at the end of the day unfortunately ruined the entire experience.

I received a group assignment back with comments stating that our assignment was word-for-word the same as another group's. As such, our actual score for the assignment was halved - i.e. we failed. This had me scratching my head in confusion. The tactic for this class with my group is a divide & conquer - we divide the work and do parts individually. For this assignment, we had to write up two sides of a debate, so it made perfect sense to do so - I was to write on the negative, another teammate had to write the affirmative.

It turns out that this teammate chose to use the work of another group's (to be fair to the other group, a group member there gave my teammate the information) and submitted it as his/her own for our assignment. The excuse? Three job interviews that day. The thing that baffles me is a) this teammate had a little under a week to do this task (which is pretty generous all things considered), b) the teammate didn't once ask for help from the other teammates when it became obvious that he/she wasn't going to complete it in time and c) that the teammate didn't even bother changing the work so that it would look original - it was a complete copy+paste from a group's assignment who was in our class.

One would think that, in the same mini as we're taking Business Law + Ethics, that this teammate would have considered the ethical implications of his/her actions.

The professor was very generous; he could've failed both groups' members from the class. But he also pointed out the pitfalls of working in groups - the group is accountable for the actions of a member.

My feelings on this irrationality of the teammember is that he/she was afraid of being labelled the free-rider, and the consequences of his/her decision was not considered. It's a fair concern. I have made it clear to my groups that I am planning on doing good work - my personal work ethic prevents me from slacking off - and I expect the same thing from my teammates. I don't like how some people are now believing that since a relatively good grade is going to be given with the minimum of work (and grades don't generally matter since we have non-grade disclosure), therefore they have decided to put forth a minimum of effort. I have a teammate like that, coincidentally in the same group as my cheating teammate.

The lessons to be learned here are pretty simple: obtain teammates whom I can trust, both in terms of honesty and in terms of work ethic. It's also something to spill over into the business world - there will always be people who will do the minimum required and those that are willing to take that extra step.
The second lesson: one cannot be taught ethics when societal influences are presumed to be strong. I know I will never partner or group with this person again. There's a part of me that says that I should give him/her a chance since I doubt this will ever happen again... but it wasn't a mistake, it was a genuine ethical breach and I'm not sure I want to be in this position again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Goodbye my friends

There's been an air of bitter-sweet sadness permeating Posner Hall. This week is the last week of classes for us all. First years are all excited about our upcoming summer - conversations now are purely based on either a) what internship you're doing and the details thereof or b) the class selection for Mini 1 and 2.

Second years... well, they're all but checked out. A friend of mine was complaining to me how the new Consulting Club board was trying to hold a party for the old Consulting Club board, but they just haven't been interested at all. I've noticed something a little similar with some of the Brewmeisters events. Their involvement in the school changed as soon as club leadership passed hands - it's like they're already assuming the mantle of alumni.

I've seen a few 2nd years stare wistfully around the Masters Lounge as if trying to commit our faces to memory. A number have completely avoided the school as if unwilling to say goodbye (or, conversely, have already said it). Any promises of getting together to do an activity are floating off in the wind in the face of reality. "No more Jimmy Johns" sings one happy soon-to-be graduate. "I wish I had one more semester," bemoans another, discovering courses that he wish he had taken in other areas of the school. Some are happily packing their boxes ready to move out as soon as commencement has passed; others are putting off cleaning out their lockers for us.

As for my classmates, well....The cynicism of many of the second years has now settled into various members of the first year class (the diatribe "grades don't matter" is being repeated now by my classmates, now that they truly believe it). The new class is being looked upon as a younger sibling- all the attention will be given to them when they arrive, but soon they'll understand. We are trying our best to make the school accommodating to them; but we're also focusing on our needs as well. Capstone selections are coming due, financial aid forms are being filled out, sublet offers are being passed around the community.

For me, it will be tough to be without my friends for 4 months. Faces and people that I'm used to seeing day-by-day will be scattered temporarily across the country. I know I, for one, will be the only one in my class in SoCal (that I know of). My heart is happy, though, knowing that I'll come back to this great family to meet the new additions. In the same way, however, I'll be sad to miss my second year friends, all who are moving away from Pittsburgh.

Zishan, Matt, Dave, Darren, Chris - you have all helped me in some significant way over the last year, so I want to dedicate this post to you. Kick ass in your jobs.

Kelly, thanks for being so patient with me at the Endurance Club challenge.
Babak, thanks for being my mentor. Adam, thank you for helping me out with my interviews.
Harsimran, Ahbishek, Kate, Kate, Adeline, Ryan thanks for always having a smile on your face when you see me
Hiroshi, thank you for being so friendly and accepting as soon as I came in! I will always remember your smile (And Aki's exuberance!)
Aubrey, thank you for being awesome and patient with me all through mini 1 and 2.