Overdue snippets from my transition to the Buckeye life

Okay, so it’s been a little late in the coming, but I have finally managed to sit down and get myself to write my first blog.

I apologize if it becomes a little monotonous, but I’ll have to work my way through these blogs chronologically, starting from as early as  getting all geared up for flying in to Ohio from halfway across the globe and then slowly work my way through to present day over a series of blogs. In order to do so, I’ll need to cover some basics about myself:

  • I’m 23 and I’m from Pakistan
  • I’m the youngest of 4 siblings, meaning I’ve been fed everything in a silver spoon all my life
  • I have a bachelors degree in marketing and finance
  • I ended up at Fisher simply because it’s one of the best business schools and it’s got one of the best HR graduate programs
  • Also, the more I read about Columbus, the more I fell in love with the city, and the more sure I was about Fisher being my final choice

So, first things first; for international students, packing for college when you don’t know how long you’re going for and when your next trip back home is going to be, basically equals stress, uncertainty, and anxiety. There were checklists, then those check lists were revised, then those checklists were revised so many times that I had to come up with new ones from scratch.

The process is too personal for me to comment on what I think are ‘must-haves’ and ‘can-do-withouts’. My only two pieces of advice would be:

  1. Plan well in advance–Even though the process overall entailed quite a bit of chaos, I’m very proud of myself for being able to spend the last couple of days at home with my family instead of being out and about running last minute errands
  2. Make sure you bring certain things from home that, well, simply put, just bring a smile to your face. No matter how independent you are or how exciting the idea of you being on your own is, I assure you, you WILL inevitably get home-sick every now and then–I brought pictures (obviously). But then I also brought along a pack of Pakistani candy that I absolutely love; I brought shalwar kameez, the national clothing of Pakistan, and believe it or not, these tiny little things make me feel better when I miss home.
For those of you who were wondering, that's what a shalwar kameez looks like
Me on my first ever Eid (religious holiday) away from home


Whatever you do though, don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Yes, leaving home is stressful and you’d like to make sure you have everything you might need, right down to a bar of soap for immediate use, but if you overlook it, breath. It isn’t the end of the world. This phase is nothing but the beginning of a very very exciting yet intensely challenging journey. So embrace it; don’t panic; don’t stress over it; in fact, try enjoying every bit of it.

That’ll be all for now. I shall revisit soon hopefully, with a more frequent influx of blogs from me, taking me through to present day. Ciao!

Where to live?

I chose to live off campus because I already had a house in the Columbus area in the suburb of Worthington. Worthington is located roughly 8 miles north of The Fisher College of Business. In making the decision about where to live, there are several important factors to consider when choosing a housing option.

  1. How do you want to get to campus? If you’re interested in walking or riding a bicycle to campus, it’s probably not a good idea to live far off campus. The weather in Columbus can sometimes be enough of a deterrent against riding a bicycle, but we do have a nice time frame of fair weather. Something to keep in mind – many students will be in business casual daily, often business professional attire. I don’t want to ruin a suit or cause an excessive increase in my dry-cleaning bill! Parking is easily accessible around the Fisher campus and is pretty reasonable in terms of affordability. Keep in mind that there are also motorcycle parking lots, bicycle racks, etc.
  2. Class/Group Implications. Nearly every single class within the MBA program in the initial term has some aspect of group work. In addition, most students get involved with student organizations and opportunities for other extracurricular. That being said, if you’re going to travel to campus more than once a day – driving each time can get pricey. If you live far off campus, like me, you may not have a choice. No one wants to be a slave to the gas pump, especially on a student budget.
  3. Fisher Commons. The Fisher Commons is an apartment complex which is designed primarily for students of the Fisher College of business. Although I do not have the statistics, many students choose to live at Fisher Commons. Arguably the largest attraction – many students/classmates live at Fisher Commons.  If you have a homework/study question, it’s just a walk across the hall to a classmate. It’s also a natural social hub for events like tailgate events, parties, etc. There are certainly perks.  However, there is a price to pay for the convenience. Fisher Commons is expensive, with many substitutes within the marketplace being 20-30% less.
  4. Neighborhood Personalities. Many surrounding neighborhoods within the Columbus market have their own flavor and personality.
    • Dublin, Powell, Worthington and Westerville comprise the northern portion of the Columbus suburbs. These communities provide great school systems and are very family friendly, generally having a small town feel. The pace slows in the evenings, and these areas are generally quiet all day/night.
    • Clintonville, “The Short North”, Italian Village, Victorian Village, and German Village are very popular among young urban dwellers. These neighborhoods have a rich, diverse history and are vibrant in terms of nightlife and dining options.
    • Campus Area properties are generally going to have an “undergrad” feel.  Although locations may be convenient, the Friday/Saturday parties and traffic congestion may detract for some people. These rentals will often be the most affordable option.

In the end, this is just a snapshot of what options and amenities are available around the Columbus area and is by no means intended to be exhaustive. Where anyone chooses to live is ultimately a personal decision, likely to include consideration of several of the above factors. Do your research and make a decision that’s best for you. In the end, remember that you’ll literally have to live with whatever choice that you make for at least a year.

Meet the 2012-13 MAcc Council

One of the many opportunities Fisher MAcc students can take advantage of early on in the one-year program is MAcc Council.  This board serves to represent the entire MAcc class by organizing events, collaborating with other Fisher graduate programs, building relationships with faculty, and many other responsibilities.  Our class elected four wonderful representatives, who in turn selected the remaining members of MAcc Council.  Here’s a little bit about this year’s council members:

Kaitlin Key, President:  As president, Kaitlin will represent the MAcc on the Fisher Graduate Student Association Board (FGSAB), which is a collection of all Fisher graduate council presidents.  She’ll lead our council in making decisions about academic and social events throughout the year.  In my view, she’s the face of the MAcc, and she’s doing a wonderful job already if I do say so myself!!

Alice Liang, Vice President:  Alice will support Kaitlin and the rest of our council.  She’s already stepped up to help us organize a group to participate in Fetch!, a program sponsored by the Ohio Society of CPA’s that will bring financial education to elementary students throughout Ohio through fun games.  I’m excited to see what else Alice comes up with for the year!

Robert Paul, Social Chair:  Robert has made it his goal to make sure we all get to know each other this year and feel like a part of the MAcc and Fisher community.  He’s done a great job so far of organizing social events like our first MAcc family dinner at Mad Mex in the Gateway, and he is planning a variety of outings that will highlight popular Columbus attractions like COSI, a hub of science and education even us “older” children can enjoy!

OJ Mardanov, Treasurer:  OJ will not only be the master of our money, but he will also play a huge part in our MAcc class having meaningful academic and professional opportunities.  I’m confident his likable personality will help our council in funding some great academic/applied talks, seminars, and trips throughout the year.

Kyle Hostetler, Community Service Chair:  Kyle will help communicate campus and Columbus-wide service opportunities to our MAcc class throughout the year.  A canned food drive and possible trip to the Mid Ohio Food Bank is already in the works, so I’m excited for some great service events this year.  Kyle will also inform our class of events we can participate in through Fisher Serves, the Fisher graduate student community service organization.

Sarah Hambley (me!), VITA Service Chair:  I’ll be organizing VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program) this winter.  After participating as a general volunteer at Ohio State last year, I’m excited to get a behind-the-scenes look at a program that provides free tax preparation services to low-income taxpayers in the Columbus area.  More to come on that next semester!

Shiyuan Tian, Academic Relations Chair:  Shiyuan will serve as a liaison between the MAcc students and our academic director, Professor Anil Arya.  She’ll also help Kaitlin in organizing our MAcc Academic talks, where we invite professionals in academia to talk about their research and other academic progress in the accounting and other related business fields.

Ning Zhao, Chair for International Student Engagement:  We’re fortunate to have MAcc students from different backgrounds and different home countries.  Ning will be a representative of the international students in our class so that we can better communicate with all students and both respect and embrace our cultural differences.

I’m so excited to be a member of MAcc Council with all of these great people this year!  I’m sure many future posts will include events in which at least one of these council members played an integral part.  So, in advance, thanks for all of your hard work 🙂

That’s a Case!

It’s hard to believe we’re already into our second month of school!  Sometimes I wonder why I even bothered to bring my TV to my new house because I haven’t turned it on once since I moved in at the beginning of August.  The FTMBA program is definitely time consuming, but it is completely worth it.  However, I’m very much looking forward to the fact that we only have class on Friday for two more weeks!  There are so many great things to get involved in at Fisher, and we’ve already had some awesome events.

This past Thursday and Friday, I participated in the P&G Case Competition, and it was an unbelievable experience!  We have many opportunities to participate in case competitions during the course of the MBA program.  My team won the event, so we were pretty ecstatic about that as you can imagine.  It was a huge honor to win, especially because all of the other teams had such great ideas!  P&G holds the competition every year, where teams of 4 are given a marketing issue to tackle in 5 hours on Thursday night, and then present to the P&G team and judges on Friday.  It’s a very insightful experience and really gives you a glimpse into the kinds of issues you would face as a brand manager.  I loved it and am so grateful that P&G gave Fisher students the opportunity to participate!

P&G also gave us a goodie bag for winning, which being a poor college student, I am stoked about!  I am especially excited about the electric toothbrush 🙂 Overall, it was a great experience and I strongly encourage you to participate next year!


“As I write this blog, what echoes in my ears are the words of one of my friends, “What crap man! Senseless long essays, is this what you are going to gain out of you MBA?” I had barely started my application essay and this was the first review that I got. Little did I know then that, yes, that was what I was going to gain. Discovering myself – my ‘INCEPTION’.”
The journey does start with a dream, but a dream without a desire, without reason remains a dream. Finding out the reasons for things that you are passionate about helps you to identify the right path amongst the many that allure you. “Discover yourself”, “Shaping your vision”, and “Focus on leadership” were the three things mentioned as I opened the word file to start my essays for Fisher. Unlike other colleges who emphasize on academic performances, extracurricular skills, and professional achievements, what Fisher asked me to write were simple things that I should have known like the back of my palm. But, I was unable to write even a paragraph. When I reflect back now, I can’t do anything but to thank Fisher for making me realize the real me. My ‘inception’ was truly discovering myself (Advice 1).

Now that I titled this blog as ‘Inception’, let me do what Christopher Nolan made Leonardo DiCaprio do in the movie – dive in the memories of time. I think I am taking it a bit too far. Let me de-convolute the convolutions. Haha, I love it. Ok, I just want to remember and share how I landed at Fisher and how I became the first applicant among the applicant pool (domestic + international) for MBA Class of 2014 and even got selected.

Before actually starting to think about myself and my life hitherto, I made a list of prospective colleges where I always wanted to study. It was the easiest thing in my life to do and it took me just five minutes. It is not an intentional pun; my list – MIT, Stanford, Harvard, LBS. It really is a five minute job, isn’t it? They say ‘ignorance is bliss’ and it did turn out exactly that way. I talked to a few Indian students in these colleges (Advice 2). What they told me was an inside story of which I was unaware. Most of them were in huge debt and to make things worse, the economy had hit them really hard. Considering what they had analyzed over time, one of them suggested The Max M. Fisher College of Business to me which, as per their research and later as per mine, had shown consistent placement records even during the economic recession. I did not intend to start this right away, but I know you guys want facts all the time. Ok, the more I researched (Advice 3) about it, the more I fell in love with the college. There were several aspects of MBA here which that guy mentioned and later I discovered through my research which appealed to me. And then I did not waste much time in filing my first ever application for MBA right after the link was active (Advice 4).

So, what are the key takeaways from this blog?  I want to stress the four pieces of advice that I gave you. Know yourself, talk to people, research well, and apply early. These four things are your walking sticks as you embark on your journey to take the next big step in life.

Dungeons and Dragons for MBAs

OK, so I’ve never actually played Dungeons and Dragons, just the simplified version for children BUT I perceive the game to be very similar to what has been one of my favorite classes in the MBA program: INTOPIA. According to Wikipedia, D&D players “form a party that interacts with the setting’s inhabitants (and each other). Together they solve dilemmas, engage in battles and gather treasure and knowledge. In the process the characters earn experience points to become increasingly powerful over a series of sessions.”

Similarly, INTOPIA players form companies (about 13 in the class this fall) that enter into a global market for both PC and Chips. The overarching dilemma is to make money, or have positive Net Income, pretty simple right? Apparently not. The game is conducted in rounds, or “quarters,” and last quarter, less than half of the companies made money! Players assume roles like “CEO”, “Chief Negotiator” or “CFO” and spend a great deal of time together reviewing financial results and market research data from prior quarters to arrive at productive (ideally) decisions to submit for each upcoming quarter (Build plants, set production and prices, etc.). Analysis utilizes concepts from a variety of other courses such us accounting, economics and marketing.

The battles are negotiations with other teams to buy product (PCs or Chips), assets (like plants or sales offices) or intellectual capital (like patents for product upgrades). I know my Negotiations Professor, Prof. Lount, would cringe at the characterization of a negotiation as a battle so to clarify, I’m drawing the metaphor from the amount of stress and emotion the players exhibit when constructing deals as agreements can be complex, confusing and extremely impactful on a team’s profitability. Companies have to trust each other on multiple levels (integrity, competence and commitment to a common direction) so it is also interesting to watch the environment for deal making (or battles). Some companies prefer to deal with 1 or 2 other companies and others deal with as many as possible.

While there are no formal experience points, it is already becoming apparent after 4 quarters that most teams will end up specializing in a region, a product or a stage in the value chain (R&D to win better patents, production or wholesaling). INTOPIA is first and foremost a strategy class, and committing to a direction for the company, while challenging because a company feels they are giving up on a number of other opportunities, seems to be important to make money (but what do I know, we are only in Q4!)

Lastly, any D&D game has to have a Dungeon Master. Wikipedia defines this as “the game’s referee and storyteller, who also maintains the setting in which the adventures occur and plays the role of the inhabitants.” In this case, his name is Arthur DeBig. DeBig, or Professor Jay Dial, not only runs the mechanics of the game (processes decisions, delivers outputs, etc.) but he also provides a number of legal, banking, market research and consulting services (or helps us translate financial statements, interpret market research and outline deals). The Dungeon Master also has the power to introduce “Monsters,” or in DeBig’s case, events that negatively affect business like natural disasters or political events.

More to come in later blog posts! Check out these links for reference:

Good Eats: Benny’s Cheesesteaks

Since arriving in Columbus for my full-time MBA a few months back, my wife and I have been frequenting local food joints to get a little taste of the local food options. I am particularly a fan of a good philly cheesesteak. The issue: where can you find a good cheesesteak?



Well, Benny’s Cheesesteaks turned out to be a winner. It was no Geno’s, but it was pretty dang good. You know you are at a solid cheesesteak joint when cheese whiz is an option for your sandwich.

Benny’s cheesesteaks has multiple options as well: Chicken or beef; 7″ or 12″, numerous toppings – lettuce, onions, muchrooms, tomatoes, ranch, etc. Any way you make your cheesesteak, at Benny’s, it is going to be good!

So, next time you are in Columbus, head 15 minutes north to Dublin and give Benny’s a try.



At the Forefront of Innovation: Watershed Distillery

The first few weeks of the full-time MBA program have been a whirlwind! Between classes, career prep, joining clubs and meeting classmates, there is always something going on. The opportunities are endless, and I can’t imagine going through this process anywhere else! One of the many benefits of Fisher’s FTMBA is a student’s ability to join organizations that speak directly to their interests and intended career.  For me, Innovation Fisher (IF) instantly stood out- marrying marketing and innovation is natural… and IF’s first event of the year definitely solidified that.

IF had the opportunity to tour Columbus’s locally owned Watershed Distillery, a true example of a company that has literally (and figuratively) ‘gone against the grain’ of others in the industry. Founded in 2010 by OSU Alumni Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo, the company focuses on three (and soon to be four) main products: Gin (two types), Vodka, and, (coming in November) Bourbon.

A Small-Scale Approach
The company’s mobility in the industry stems from its smaller size and innovative spirit. The custom-built copper still in the back is the smallest in the region; the next smallest size Greg mentioned was that of a distillery in Kentucky. At this smaller scale, Greg and Dave have quite a bit of flexibility, as they can switch gears between their offerings quickly. They also have the ability to try out or test a new innovation at the drop of the hat if they’d like to.

‘Watershed Moment’
According to Greg and Dave, a ‘Watershed Moment’ celebrates a point in time or event in one’s life that symbolizes change. Their brand is built around this ideology; celebrating and embracing life and these moments has been the backbone of this rapidly-growing company. It has also been the driving force of their marketing and social media campaigns, which have drawn serious momentum for the distillery.
Watershed Distillery was founded in 2010, from an idea that came about years prior. Dave and Greg recognized a gap in the industry; there was little to no presence of locally produced spirit in Columbus or the surrounding areas. Recognizing this ‘Watershed Moment’, the two entrepreneurs jumped on the idea quickly, and have seen great success, and as of late, great recognition.

Young Professional Achievement
On Friday, September 21st, Greg will receive the Young Professional Achievement award at the Max M. Fisher College of Business Alumni Awards Dinner. Recipients are “alumni under the age of 41 who have records of distinguished career accomplishment and who serve as role models in business for younger individuals.” After visiting Watershed Distillery and seeing the true innovative ‘spirit’ of the company, I know this award is recognizing a genuine, entrepreneurial achievement. What a great example of entrepreneurship and innovation coming from the Fisher College of Business!

The tour group from Innovation Fisher. Thanks for a wonderful experience, Greg!

Top Image credit: http://www.facebook.com/watersheddistillery

Class, History, Leadership, and fun in Ohio!

During our Organizational Turnarounds class this week, we were very fortunate to have Burt Logan, the CEO and Executive Director of the Ohio Historical Society speak to our class about his leadership experiences.  A graduate of West Point, he left the military to pursue his passion of leadership, American history, and museums.  He has since worked as Director of the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society in Wilkes-Barre, PA; Director of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, WI; and President of the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, MA.  It was very interesting to hear about his leadership challenges in a non-profit environment, and to witness how similar those challenges are to the for profit environment.  It speaks to the fact that Fisher will provide you with a wide variety of experiences and information to prepare you for whatever role you choose to take after the program.

And do now I’m going to make a pitch about the Ohio Historical Society!  If you want something new and different to do on your weekends (assuming you have finished all of your homework, of course!), the Ohio Historical Society provides incredible opportunities for fun learning that is easy on your wallet.

1. Passport Program – Visit all 58 historical sites in Ohio, get your passport stamped at each one, and be inducted into the “Passport to Your Ohio History Hall of Fame!”  (I happen to think this is very cool.)

2. Archaeology Blog – Need a quick study break, but no time to go anywhere?  Jump online and check out the updates on the Ohio Archaeology Blog.  You’ll find updates about Ohio Archaeology as well as information as to what’s going on with archaeology exhibits.

3. Ohio History Center – Visit the museum right here in Columbus!  Just off I-71, it’s a quick trip from campus and admission is only $10. You can see the museum, archives, exhibits, and special events and programs.

4. Stop by the recently re-opened Ohio Village!  Admission $10 – who doesn’t love an “immersion” experience where everyone is in character??

This is a mere sampling of all the things the Ohio Historical Society has to offer.  Check out their newly designed website and “Explore Ohio!” for yourself!

Living The Life

In committing to being a blogger I assumed I would have no trouble posting at least once a week. I’ve recently realized that finding the time to share all the amazing things I am doing since beginning the MHRM program is not as simple as expected. Grad school is time consuming. I never envisioned otherwise, but even after four weeks there is still adjusting to be done.

A typical week for me includes class Mon, Wed, and Thurs evenings, work daily, meetings for extra curriculars, group projects, socializing with friends, searching/applying for internships, football games on Saturdays, and finding time to get all your homework/reading done. All that considered, it is far too easy to get busy. Even simple tasks like going to the grocery store get replaced with eating at Panera to accommodate studying for upcoming exams.

Speaking of exams- in the MHRM program we just completed our first set of midterms. After our second exam Wednesday we all let out a sigh of relief and vowed to continue to stay on top of our schoolwork in hopes that finals (just a few weeks from now) will not be too stressful. But first, to de-stress I think it is important to take a little bit of time for yourself.

Grad school is tiring- sometimes piggy back rides are necessary.

Find some time to take a quick break from grad school craziness. Catch up on the DVR, hit the gym (which dearly missed you while you were studying), skype with your family or friends who are not in Columbus, take a walk to enjoy the beautiful fall weather, treat yourself to a fun dinner out with friends- I suggest Cap City Fine Diner and Bar, or simply take that nap you’ve been dying to take. Your body and mind will thank you.  Trust me.

However, after you’ve de-stressed, jump right back in and get back to work; because I’ll take a busy, exciting grad school life at OSU over a monotonous, routine life anywhere else any day.