Archive for September, 2012



Finding time for a little exploration

Well, as you’ve probably surmised from reading nearly every other post on this blog, getting an MBA is time consuming.  To be honest, I have to say that I feel very fortunate for having a business background coming into this program because I can’t imagine what it’d be like having never seen or heard of any of these concepts prior to taking the core classes.  Having graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, I have had econ, finance, accounting, marketing, etc. at an undergraduate level.  For those of my classmates that haven’t, and are managing to keep their heads above water, kudos to you!

As an aside, as I compare IU and OSU, I’d have to say IU was a great place to go to undergrad, but OSU is a much better place for grad school.  After the age of 22,  Columbus > Bloomington… sorry to my fellow Hoosiers!  Please don’t disown me.

Anyway, now on to the meat and potatoes of this post.  This won’t be a large serving of either, because I have a lot of work to get to, but I did want to introduce you to two spots I checked out over the weekend.

First, a friend of mine asked my wife and me to meet a small group of people for dinner at a place in Merion Village.  This is an area just south of German Village, and frankly, I hadn’t heard of it (and I grew up in Columbus).  We hopped in the car and headed south on High Street, passing such great options in the Short North then past even more eateries in German Village. We kept going south for a little longer when I almost decided to stop at the White Castle that seemed to be the last beacon of light before High Street became a lot more desolate.  I’m glad I kept going, because we ended up at this amazing little restaurant called The Explorers’ Club.  This is the kind of place that you might see Guy Fieri stop at on a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives episode and  it would make you wish you lived remotely close to it so you could “explore” it for yourself.  Luckily I do live close to this place, because it is amazing. If you go, try the Caribbean Jerk chicken.  You can thank me later.

The next night, my wife and I were meeting my parents for dinner in the Short North.  Prior to our meal, we decided to venture over to the Columbus Microbrew Festival outside the North Market.  This reminded me of a summer street fair in Chicago, which are typically awesome, but this one had a much smaller crowd, which made it that much better.  The beers were delicious, but more importantly, the atmosphere was laid back and fun.  My wife even commented, “It looks like everyone who’s here wants to be here and is genuinely happy to be here.”  We seem to find that a lot here in Columbus… people enjoy themselves and are generally very nice to those around them.

I had a great weekend, despite having to study for an Econ test, read a lot of marketing articles, work on a group project, just to name a few of the tasks on my t0-do list.  As many of the second year MBAs have told us already, it’s all about finding balance and making the most of your time.  While I am still pretty stressed, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at me on Saturday night: beer in hand, smile on my face and ready to continue to explore!

 

You could be here too!


Intellectual Exercise

I recall from high school and undergrad days that the professors and teachers that assumed they were cool by calling exams “intellectual exercises” didn’t realize it wasn’t all that funny.  Now that school has well been in full swing, the time came to take my first exam as graduate student.

I studied, re-read notes, homework assignments, the usual, all study habits I learned from undergraduate classes (unfortunately these “habits” didn’t pick up until late junior year and the GPA recovery window had all but closed).   I think it’s fair to say that most students had a little apprehension over how the exam would be formatted, worded, what material would be tested, would it be tricky, etc…

From what I can say now that its all over is this:  Unlike most undergrad exams, where it basically is an activity of vomiting all you studied the night before until the break of dawn, simply to memorize information, grad school tests thus far appear to be quite different.  I didn’t experience the feeling of panic or the feeling that I would have to consider dropping out of school after the exam.  From what I could gather, the professors for grad courses wish to drive home a series of points and facts that are not only most memorable but also applicable and necessary to succeed in a career in finance.  The test was fair, yet I felt the items that were most subjectively important were there as well.

In all- I feel graduate level exams are beyond the days of grinding out a memorization scheme to get through exams- similar to many undergrad tests.   Graduate school presents the opportunity to continuously learn, yet most importantly, apply the key concepts and information most prevalent to land success both academically and professionally.   Hopefully going forward I can say the same for other exams. :)

Joe Benny: studying for an exam circa 2004 (ok its not really me)

 


Columbus sports: Football and Futbol

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first Ohio State football game to cheer on the scarlet and grey to a dominating victory over Miami of Ohio. The experience in the Horseshoe was unbelievable. The energy in the entire stadium was electrifying, everyone is extremely passionate about the Buckeyes and you can tell through their enthusiasm throughout the entire game. The highlight of the games was the one handed catch for the first touchdown for the Buckeyes.

 

I topped the day off with going to watch one of the professional sports teams in Columbus, the Columbus Crew vs the Montreal Impact. Soccer is my passion, I have been playing since the age of 5 and love the game. The Crew have had a 3 game unbeaten streak as the playoffs are getting closer. The game would be a battle as Montreal entered the game on a 5 game unbeaten streak.  The Crew went down 1-0 in the 2nd half but were able to tie the game up with 10 minutes to go. With the addition of stoppage time the Crew claimed victory off a unbelievable cross by Federico Higuain (a recent addition to the team from Argentina) and header into the goal by Emilio Renteria.

 

Despite the rainy Saturday, I was able to make the most of it by cheering for two Columbus sports teams as they both were victorious.


In Da Club

If there is one absolute truth in business school, it’s that you will most definitely be In da club.  Fisher’s Clubs give B-Schoolers the opportunity to obtain additional information and skillsets beyond the classroom. During their first month on campus, students gather information on any and all clubs, associations, or projects of interest, weigh any interest against their available bandwidth, in some instances fill out applications, and finally make their choice.  Sound easy?

Gathering Information boils down to two methods of Information collection:

  1. The Info Session:  The info session typically occurs between morning and afternoon core classes on Tuesdays or Thursdays.  They are run by the officers of the club in question, and always include food.  Most of the time its pizza, but occasionally you’re provided with something stellar like Piada.  (Innovation Fisher knows how to Club!)
  2.  The Career Foundation Seminar:   Career foundation seminars focus on either a specific majors or career track.  They are substantially longer than the info session and span between 6 and 8 hours.  During this time The Office of Career Management works with student organizations to bring a wide array of information about the major or concentration.  For instance, the Fisher Graduate Finance Association  included keynote speaker Kenneth R. Kent, speeches by senior executives from The Limited, and two panels consisting of leaders in the finance industry.  When you attend a seminar you’re provided every opportunity to do a deep dive into a major.  They also include the all-important networking opportunities during, and after the event.  Why is this relevant to joining a club?  It’s strongly advised that you become a member of the club or association that pertains to your particular major.

Still sound easy?  The hardest part of the whole process isn’t attending enough events.  In fact, that’s the simple part!  The challenge is identifying your available time, and with that in mind whittling down the plethora of choices to ones that achieve your MBA strategic goals.  For me, I knew before setting foot on campus that I wanted to be an active member of the Fisher Graduate Finance Association , take part in the Fisher Professional Services consulting project with a local client (Huntington Bank in this case), and work with a Corporate Mentor to improve my leadership skills.  In addition to that I have signed on with Innovation Fisher, the Fisher Consulting and Strategy Club, and I am considering the International Business Club to round everything out.  My participation levels may vary, but I know going in that I will get something special and different out of each.


Path to JD/MBA

When I was thinking about applying to JD/MBA (dual degree) programs last year, I had three options:

1) Start at Law school, apply for MBA program during year 1 or 2.

2) Start at Business school, apply for JD program during year 1.

3) Apply to both Business school and Law school at the same time.

I chose option 3, as it provided me with a certainty of being admitted to both programs. Studying for LSAT and GMAT together was another reason for choosing option 3. Verbal sections of LSAT and GMAT are similar to each other – so studying for both tests saved me considerable amount of time.

There is no right or wrong way: it just depends on your preference and timing. There are several JD/MBA students at Fisher. Most of them have completed 1-2 years at Moritz, College of Law. I, on the other hand, am spending my first year at Fisher. Completing MBA core classes and a business internship prior to starting 1L is my goal. It will allow a smooth transition into a legal internship and finding a career in business law. Especially, international business law and entrepreneurial law are my top two interests.

If you are contemplating on becoming a JD/MBA, I strongly suggest that you speak to many JD/MBA students. They can share practical tips with you, such as how to juggle application process and keep your sanity; where to find financial aid; what to expect in each program.

Being here at OSU, I know in my heart that I made the right decision. My classmates at Fisher are from all over the world and they are extremely driven. I can only imagine what students at Moritz will be like. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication, but I certainly look forward to starting a career in international business and entrepreneurship in four years.


Living in the University District: Pros and Cons

I’m not from Columbus originally,  but I have pretty good knowledge of the city and surrounding area from the eight months I lived here during an internship. So even though I love the Short North and my former neighborhood of German Village, and I have friends living in Grandview and Clintonville, I picked an apartment in the University District.

I call my part of town “north campus” when I describe it to my classmates, but technically it’s “University District 1,” or to be less Hunger Games about it, “Old North Columbus.”

Talking to my fellow MBA students at Fisher, I’ve found that most of them either live at Fisher Commons, the apartment complex specifically for Fisher students, or in nearby neighborhoods and suburbs like Grandview, Victorian Village or Easton. A few also live in the University District (“UD”), but it’s not many.

Obviously living in the UD is not for everyone. For instance, those with partners and families might be better suited to the quieter suburban areas rather than the thick undergraduate culture near campus. And those who need a yard for pets won’t find many options where I live and could opt for more green space in a different part of town. I would never try to convince people who are happily living in a different part of town that they should move closer to campus, but I still love my apartment and enjoy my neighborhood. So now that I’ve been living here for about a month and a half, I came up with a handy list the benefits and drawbacks of living in the University District to help future students decide if living near campus would work for you.

PROS!

  1. Travel time– After dealing with rush hour traffic for the last two years as I drove 30 minutes to and from work, I didn’t want to spend another two years driving 20-30 minutes into campus every day. That’s time in the morning that I could use for an extra half hour of sleep, and I always need more sleep. Plus, the frustration of sitting in traffic is now replaced with exercise and fresh air as I ride my bike or walk the 5 blocks to Fisher. When one of my teammates was 15 minutes late to Marketing class last week, he told me that it took him nearly an hour to drive in from Easton that morning because of all the traffic. “How long does it take you to get here?” he asked me. “About six or seven minutes,” I said. He shook his head in disbelief.
  2. Travel cost– I drive a relatively fuel-efficient car, but as I learned from my previous commute, even at 27 mpg I was using 3/4 of my tank on just my commute. It was almost 300 miles a week! Add in the milage on my already 100,000+ car and the pricey parking passes and I knew I’d be saving a lot of cash living close enough to walk or ride my bike.
  3. Rent prices– Before I’d officially decided to live near campus, I researched apartments all over town and found that most of them were outside my price range. Yes, Victorian Village and The Short North are awesome areas with nice places to live, but $900 a month for a 1-bedroom was breaking the bank for me. I don’t plan on having a job for my first semester and possibly first year of my MBA, so I’m probably on a tighter budget than most. Knowing that I could live for cheaper while being closer to school made living in the University District especially attractive.
  4. Restaurant and bar options– As you’ll see below, I’m cheating a little and including this as a pro and con, since there are good and bad aspects. One of the good parts of living in such a student-concentrated area is the huge number of food and drink options within walking or biking distance. Not just all the college staples like McDonalds, Cane’s, Jimmy Johns and Pita Pit, but awesome authentic ethnic choices for Indian, Korean, Greek, Chinese and Mexican cuisine. One of my favorite restaurants in the whole city, Taj Mahal, is four blocks from my apartment, which is wonderful and dangerous at the same time. This is also true for bars. There are dozens of sports bars to choose from, if that’s your thing, but there are also cool dive bars and even some more upscale options nearby as well.

CONS!

  1. Inconsiderate neighbors– The University District is populated with mostly undergraduate students, so most of my neighbors are younger and in a different phase of their lives than I am. Five years ago, I might not have minded the loud music at 2 a.m. (I might have even been the one playing it), but now that I’m older and taking school more seriously, noise disruptions can be derailing when I’m trying to study more and get to bed earlier. Like the noise pollution, many residents in the UD don’t seem concerned with littering. It’s not uncommon to see empty beer cans strewn on the grass in front of nearby houses, though trash pickup does come through for regular clean-ups. Personally, I’ve made peace with the fact that living in this area means dealing with these issues, and I go to the library when my neighbors are loud and watch where I step to avoid trash. But if these sound like deal-breakers to you, then living near campus probably isn’t a good idea.
  2. Intense apartment hunting required– If you start looking at apartments near campus and think, “Wow, all these places are dumps,” you’re not wrong. To use some concepts from my Economics class, because the demand for housing near campus is higher than the supply, the landlords have market power and therefore have little incentive to keep their properties in good condition because they’ll find renters no matter what. I looked at hundreds of places online and only  eight or nine places were worth seeing in person. Of those, only one was somewhere I would actually want to live; the others were dirty, had appliances older than I am and generally suffered from a lack of care and upkeep. So when I found that one apartment I wanted, I scooped it up immediately. Not only has my apartment been recently renovated with new carpet and fixtures, it has air conditioning, a dishwasher, a disposal and an in-unit washer and dryer. For less than $600/month, it’s a steal. Apartments like this aren’t the norm in the UD, but they are out there if you have the time and resources to hunt for them.
  3. Parking– I’m lucky enough to have  a parking lot directly behind my apartment for residents-only, but in general, parking near campus can be a hassle and a hazard. Driving down the narrow one-way streets, you’ll see cars crammed into every possible spot, and trying to turn onto a busy street is nearly impossible when a line of vehicles is parked directly in your line of vision. Even more unnerving is the number of cars with scratches and dings. I don’t know if the marks were inflicted as a result of being parked in such a high-traffic area, but it’s enough to make me worry. There are also lots of parking rules, like street-sweeping days and permit-only areas that need to be followed if you don’t want a big towing ticket.
  4. Restaurant and bar options– Like I said above, the number of options for food and drink is huge near campus, but the downside is that they’re typically very busy and most of the customers are the population of undergraduate students. If I want to get away from the throngs of people and accompanying noise, it usually means going to a different part of town which have chiller crowds. If it’s just my boyfriend and me getting a quick drink on a weeknight, we’ll pick a campus bar. However, if I had friends visiting for a weekend and wanted to show them a good time, I would definitely take them somewhere like The Short North where we’d have a better chance at getting a table to ourselves and having an audible conversation.

I could probably keep digging for more pros and cons, but I think this is a good starter, and I’d be happy to address specific questions or issues in the comments. Overall, I think that if your primary needs are space and quiet, living in the University District is probably not for you. However, for those looking for convenience and lower costs, the UD can offer some good housing options if you put in the effort to look for them. Even with the negatives I listed above, I love where I live and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.


A stroll around Wright-Patt

Back in March, before I had any idea that I’d be leaving my job to return to school full-time, my wife and I signed up for the Air Force Half-Marathon. On September 15th, my body had to cash a check that my big mouth wrote six months ago. My wife, her mom and sister, 15,000 of our closest friends and I walked or ran or otherwise propelled ourselves (there were a lot of wheel-chair racers and hand-crank racers, which I think is just amazing) for distances of 10K, 13.1 miles, or 26.2 miles.

The day started bright and early. Alarm set for 5:15 AM. On the road to my sister-in-law’s house by 6:00. We were standing near the starting line just after 7:00 AM. The starting gun for the Full Marathoners and 10K participants went off at 7:30 AM. Our race, the Half Marathon, started at 8:30 AM, but when 15,000 people want to do something at roughly the same time, it’s best to show up early. The highlight of the day, other than finishing the race, was the fly-over by a B-2 bomber, a plane I’ve seen in person at the National Museum of the USAF but never seen in flight before today. Check out this video if you want to see it in the air and hear “The Sound of Freedom.”

Some details worth noting:

1) My sister-in-law is six months’ pregnant. Does her OB know she’s doing this? This is the 2nd half-marathon she’s walked while pregant (different pregnancy last time).

2) My mother-in-law turns 60 this year. Goes to show that you’re never too old to abuse your body by walking way farther than anyone alive today in America really has to.

3) I beat my wife by one second. She knew, as we approached the finish line, that beating her was the last victory available to me that day.

4) Don’t worry… I didn’t miss the OSU-Cal game. Thank you, DVR. One of the Top 5 technological innovations in my lifetime. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but my wife knows my catchphrase well: “I don’t watch commercials.”

5) If you ever want to walk or run a long distance and you’ve never done it before, it’s important to get out and practice. But don’t practice too much, lest you realize how bored you’ll be at Mile 11 of 13.1. At about that point, your mind shifts its focus off of the road in front of you and onto the beer and pizza and bananas and Gatorade waiting for you at the finish line. But if you’re practicing, none of that good stuff is waiting for you. You just end up back in your own crappy house staring into your own empty refrigerator. How disappointing.

I just have one photo I’d like to share with you today… this is the flagpole outside the entrance to the Air Force Museum. The flag is at half-staff in honor of the slain US ambassador to Libya and the other Americans who lost their lives in service to their country recently.

Flag at the National Museum of the USAF at half-staff in honor of those who have given their lives in service to their country.

 

 


Ready for the Career Fair?

During the past one month, I have been to two big career fairs of Fisher. Dressed in business professional style and holding a stack of resumes, I definitely looked serious and professional! I have never been to a career fair, so I’m glad to say that it was a great experience for me. As a first year graduate student without much working experience, I found myself initially a little bit confused and timid in the fair. Therefore, I’d love to share some of the tips about the career fair which I learned from both the fair and the career workshops.

  • Before the Fair (Get fully prepared!)

1. It’s highly recommended to identify your target employers from the career fair guide in advance. (It’s embarrassing if you know nothing about the companies. This happens to me.)
2. You should prepare a few common questions for each company as well as some specific questions for your target companies.
3. Prepare copies of your resume. This may seem obvious but you should be familiar with all things listed in your resume and ready to discuss anything on it at the drop of a hat.
4. In the career fair workshop, we were told to prepare a 30-second introduction which I found quite useful in the fair. (I have to say that I did too much self-introduction in the fair. I’m working on improving this!)
5. As for international students, some knowledge of OPT and CPT is required because we have to face this annoying/constant question.
6. Check FisherConnect before the fair because it’s possible that some companies are already open to application even before the fair.

  • During the Fair (Get fully involved!)

1. You must be confident and show your passion and strengths to your target companies.
2. There are some who recommend that you could start with some “smaller” companies before you are ready to head for your dream employers. It’s like a warm-up!
3. Avoid making just self introductions again and again. Ask specific questions to show your interest in each company.
4. Don’t be too shy to ask for some gifts provided by the company. Some of the gifts are really cute. (You can ignore this tip :-))

  • After the Fair (It’s not over yet!)

1. Always remember to follow-up!
2. Basically, most job positions need the process of online application. Therefore, you still need to check carefully online even if you’ve already handed in your resume in the fair.
3. You can send a thank you email (with your cover letter and resume attached) to the employers you met at the fair and/or connect to them in LinkedIn.
4. Take some time to think what you’ve learned from the fair and try to improve next time.
5. Don’t lose confidence if you failed to find any luck in the fair, especially for international students. It’s just a single event – you will have more opportunities. Have faith in yourself!

I hope I find my summer internship successfully. Good luck everyone! 

 


$10 Million a Minute Tour – our first “MAcc Talk”

Fisher MAcc students have the unique opportunity to attend “Applied Talks” and “Academic Talks” throughout the year.  These discussions feature prominent figures in both the business and academic world.

Our first MAcc Applied Talk was last Thursday and featured former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker.  Mr. Walker served as comptroller for ten years until 2008, after which he formed the Comeback America Initiative, an organization to “promote fiscal responsibility and sustainability by engaging the public and assisting key policymakers on a non-partisan basis in order to achieve solutions to America’s fiscal imbalances” (CAI website).

Here are some interesting talking points from David’s discussion:

  • Budget – 100 years ago, government had control of 97% of the federal budget; today, it only has control over 33%.  The government must recapture control over the budget.
  • Taxes – we need to reform individual federal taxes and corporate federal taxes.
  • Healthcare – healthcare should be provided for all citizens – but the government cannot over-promise on the care they are presenting for Americans.
  • Social Security – we must raise the wage cap and raise the retirement age.

One of the most shocking graphs Mr. Walker presented to us, showing projected U.S. debt (courtesy of CAI.gov)

To be honest, it was overwhelming how much information was thrown at us, and I remember commenting on how I could feel weight being added to my shoulders as Mr. Walker reminded the audience that it is the youth of this country that will bear the burden of our country’s debt.  However overwhelming the presentation was, I was happy that Fisher was able to bring in a speaker with so much experience with this heated issue.

As a challenge to all of you, I suggest taking a few minutes to test your Fiscal IQ on the CAI website.  Do you know as much as you think you do about America’s debt?


Organize to Stay Sane!

Organization is key to success, both in your personal life or your professional life. This is certainly true at Fisher, because you have to balance so many things – from classes and assignments (which include both individual and team assignments), to obligations (like assistantship duties) to involvement in professional organizations… all while trying to network efficiently and apply for  summer internships positions!

In my case, I depend heavily on a great iPhone App called iStudiez (I know, I hate the spelling too!). I downloaded it onto my iPhone and my Macbook a week before classes started, and it has been a lifesaver. I plugged in my semester dates and my class times and it automatically created my calendar for me. I can then put in assignment info, and link the assignments to each class, with a due date for each and a custom reminder time. The calendar is color coded, and linking the classes and the class assignments means they are the same color, so it’s easily to visually interpret my day within seconds (and it looks pretty!). I can add or edit any item on either my phone or my computer, and it automatically syncs between them. Here’s a sample from the iStudiez website:

 

 

Another great thing about this app is it’s ability to display my iCal calendar events from, so I can input all the non-class items into iCal, and it will sync right into iStudiez. I can see my entire calendar (class/MBA events/GA schedule/personal calendar) and my to-do list for each day all in one place, all color-coded and organized!

My iPhone is an essential part of organizing my day, and organizing my day is an essential part of my success here at Fisher.

Therefore, I have come to the perfectly logical conclusion that it is absolutely essential for me to continue to invest in my success as an MBA candidate by purchasing the newly-announced iPhone 5:

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

 

Isn’t it beautiful? I’m very excited about about this sound investment!! ;)

 


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