This past Tuesday evening, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to dinner with the Dean of the Fisher College of Business, Christine Poon. This dinner was the first in a series of WPMBA Executive Dinners, a new effort to “engage, network, and learn from our community business leaders in an intimate dinner setting.” And in intimate setting it was. Four of us were invited because of our attendance at the GE Summit that Dean Poon kicked off in October. It confirmed how one good action can lead to another, which leads to another, and so on and so on.
The Dean knew that as WPMBA students, we had to be in class by 6 pm, so dinner was catered by Panera and held in her conference room. This was the perfect setting for a quite, intimate dinner in which we could really talk and get to know each other in such a short period of time. Right away, I felt comfortable with Dean Poon. She was extremely warm, kind, funny – and honest. She told us that while the Fisher WPMBA program ranks high on many listings, its alumni continue to rank it much lower – which negatively affects the overall program ranking. Thus, if Fisher WPMBA graduates rank the program higher, then the program will likely rise in the rankings, increasing the value of a Fisher MBA. The Dean wanted to talk to us about how we felt about the program and discuss some of our thoughts on how to improve it.
The hour went by very quickly. We discussed topics like career services, orientation, class offerings, and how to keep WPMBA students engaged in general. Dean Poon encouraged our honest feedback, and facilitated the discussion in a way that made us feel like we were truly welcome to provide it. I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to sit next to the Dean for an hour and have such an intimate discussion. If she is able to have a similar discussion with every person in the WPMBA program (a lofty goal), then I’m certain that the Fisher WPMBA program will rise in the ranks.
By the time you read this, hopefully you are saying to yourself, “Yes, I voted – a week ago”. I will admit, I came this close to not being able to answer this question in the affirmative. I kept “forgetting” to apply for an absentee ballot, which meant that in order to vote, I was going to have to physically be at the polling station – the horror! In all honesty, I had some good excuses not to vote – I was working all day and had class all night, I had a stats test that night that I needed every second to study for, I needed sleep, etc. etc.
But then the motto that we were taught in high school came to mind – “Voting is not just a right, it is a responsibility.” It hit me; it was my responsibility to make it to the polls to cast my vote. So I skipped my usual Tuesday-morning swim, set my alarm 15 minutes earlier than a regular non-gym day, and made my way to the polls before work. My polling location was no more than a minute walk from my apartment. If I hadn’t forgotten proof of my residence (my license is not up-to-date) and didn’t have to run back home to grab a current bill with my address on it, I would have been in and out in 5 minutes. Even with the extra trip home, I was in the car on my way to work 15 minutes later – and was even 2 minutes early to work.
Lots of people vote every four years, but far fewer vote in the in-between years. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to think about your responsibility as a citizen of the United States. It doesn’t take much effort to do some reading on the issues, talk to friends, and form an opinion. And come on – doesn’t everyone like to sport a cool sticker on election day?
This post is the final post in the three-part series on “Surviving the WPMBA Program”. In case you missed the past two, I touched on how to balance work and school and life, and how to keep exercise a part of that equation. The third chapter in this series is devoted to your social life. Or, in many cases, lack of one. If you are in the WPMBA program, you are probably already struggling to keep up with the demands of your job and school. Maybe you travel a lot for work, or maybe you are an exercise fiend (read my last post). Chances are, you are finding it hard to figure out where to fit in your friends and family into that already overloaded equation.
This past weekend, my friends and I hosted our annual EPIC tailgate for the OSU vs. Wisconsin game. It also happened to be Halloween, meaning my friend was hosting his annual Halloween party on Friday night. I also had my first group paper due in Econ on Tuesday. Needless to say, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. When would I go grocery shopping and make food for the tailgate? When would I catch up on sleep, which I usually reserve the weekend for? When would I find time to edit my group’s paper? And so on and so on.
The thing is, I really believe in making time for your friends and family. It’s easy to push them aside when the going gets rough and you have a million things going on. But, that’s when they are even more important. Friends and family can remind you that there is more to life than work and school. They can make you laugh and get your mind of everything you “have” to do. In the case of the Halloween party and tailgate this past weekend, my friends and family did all of the above.
So how did I find time to fit all of that fun in this past weekend? The answer is the same as it was in Part I of Surviving the WPMBA Program – I made a list! I figured out exactly what I needed to get done, and how to fit it in around all of the fun. Essentially, I made having fun as much of a priority as finishing my paper. And I had a great time – especially at the 12+ hour-long tailgate bonanza on Saturday, which ended in a thrilling Buckeye win! I won’t lie – Sunday was a long day of working on my Econ paper. But it was totally worth it.
I am an avid exerciser. Despite not playing any sports in high school, my exercise habit started up fast and strong upon moving into my dorm freshman year of college. I was determined not to gain the feared “freshman 15”, so easily brought on by late night pizza and free ice cream in the commons (not to mention the partying…). I started working out on the elliptical and lifting weights, which lead to running, and both increased in frequency and duration over my 5 years of undergrad. And that continued post-graduation, as I got used to my new work schedule and its demands. Exercise had become a part of my life, something I did without question.
That is, until I started the WPMBA program this past summer. For the first time since 2002, I had to question whether I would be able to fit exercise into a 40+ hour work, 8 hour class, and umpteen hour study week. But I was determined to try. Before beginning the program, I typically worked out in the evenings after work – it gives me the energy to make it through the rest of the evening, and doesn’t leave me as time constrained as working out in the morning before work. However, having class two nights a week obviously made those evening workouts a thing of the past. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would either have to work out in the morning, or skip it all together. And what about Mondays and Wednesdays? And the weekend? For the first time in many years, making the time to exercise was not a given.
Ultimately, I decided that the key for me to survive the WPMBA program and not gain the “WPMBA 15” was to compromise. Instead of cutting out exercise completely or driving myself crazy trying to fit it in, I made a point to fit it in most days of the week – but not all. Usually I go to the gym one early morning before work, but not the other. And I teach a spinning class on Monday nights, so that makes Mondays a given. Most other days of the week I plan to go to the gym, maybe skipping a day here and there. It works for me – I can keep my energy up without compromising too much sleep or schoolwork or work work. What’s important is that you find the balance that works for you – and maybe that means not exercising at all. But I would be willing to bet that if you find a way to work it into your life on a somewhat consistent basis, you’ll find that surviving the program becomes just a little bit easier. Every little bit helps!
Work/life balance. You’re heard the phrase before. In the case of Working Professional MBA students, it is better said as “work/life/SCHOOL” balance. The addition of this third demand makes finding that coveted state of “balance” that much harder. So, for the next three weeks, I am going to focus on different areas of that precarious balance. The first being the reason for this program – balancing work and school.
If you are lucky, you have a job that you enjoy, that challenges you, that makes you feel valued. Perhaps it is more likely that you are not so lucky, and that is part (or all) of the reason for pursuing an MBA – a career change. Either way, you have a great challenge facing you: adding 8+ hours of class per week on top of a 40+ hour work week. Add to that time spent studying, working with classmates, and generally pulling your hair out, and you are one busy person. The word “busy” takes on new meaning. So how do you make sure that in your quest to do well in school, you don’t let your performance slip at work?
That is the question that is at the top of my mind right now, and there is no easy answer. The funny thing is, work and school don’t seem to care very much about each other. Yes, they are “supportive” of each other, but in actuality, both are quite demanding and act without regard to the other. Have a big presentation to make at work tomorrow? Tough luck, because that is also the same day as your difficult midterm. The key is figuring out how to focus on both, without letting one harm the other.
I am trying to apply this principle to my life right now. I am a huge fan of lists, and they come in extremely handy during stressful times like this. I typically make lists every week: one for work, and one for school. That seems to suite me fine when things aren’t so busy, but when things pick up like they have right now, that’s not going to cut it. So I make a list every day – what EXACTLY am I going to accomplish at work today? Being specific like this makes me more accountable and focused while I’m at work. And the same goes for school.
Compartmentalizing my life like this helps ensure that I will actually accomplish something at work on any given day, and not leave for class that evening wondering where the heck the day went. And that helps me achieve a little more of that coveted “work/school” balance. Stay tuned next week for working exercise into that balance equation!
Last week, I had the very unique opportunity to attend a Q&A session with Jeff Immelt – the CEO of General Electric. Fisher hosted an event last week, the “National Middle Market Summit”, in partnership with GE Capital, dedicated to discussing ways to grow middle markets. Although the session was during the workday, my manager understood how rare an opportunity like it was, and granted me permission to attend. I was one of the few WPMBA students in attendance – the vast majority were full-time – and boy am I glad I went.
First off, Jeff Immelt was an extremely likeable speaker. He spoke easily, with a friendly, non-intimidating tone. Of course, when I mentioned this to my Dad, he did point out, “well, you don’t get to be the CEO of one of the world’s top companies without being the entire package”. He also had some great advice and insight for us (somewhat) young students; most of us just at the start of what will hopefully be long and successful careers.
Mr. Immelt’s “4 Big Things for College Grads” are as follows:
1. Think Global: Embrace globalization, think inside of it
2. Be a Systems Thinker: Make breadth your strength
3. Have Courage: Don’t be afraid to make decisions
4. Compete: “Like to Win”
I feel very lucky to have spend 60 minutes in the same room as Jeff Immelt, head of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the CEO of GE. Thank you, The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Before the first day of my first quarter in the WPMBA program at the Fisher College of Business, there were many things that kept me up at night. Would I understand the material? Would I be able to handle the workload? Would my work suffer? But perhaps my biggest worry was quite an elementary one: would I make friends easily?
When I expressed this concern to my co-workers, they laughed at me. Why would I be worried about making friends? They had a point. I am an extrovert; someone who easily speaks up in a crowd, who is social and outgoing. Nothing about my nature would suggest I might struggle making friends in grad school.
But still, I worried. My undergraduate engineering program was heavily rooted in teamwork, and I was lucky to work with three women who remain some of my closest friends today. I understood that finding good people would be paramount to my success and enjoyment of my two-plus years in the program. It would not only impact my grades, it would impact how much fun I had getting those grades. So maybe my concern was not so much about making friends, as it was about making the “right” friends. I wanted friends that were not only smart and hardworking, but with whom I would also enjoy spending the vast majority of my “free” time.
Now into my second quarter of the WPMBA program, I am happy to report that not only do I have friends, I have friends that I like! I met Mark at Orientation, and on the first day of class, waved him over to sit next to me. Kurt was also sitting by us, and the three of us got to chatting. I met Jillian and Sarah at Varsity Club after the first Thursday night of class; as three new women in the program, we quickly bonded. We were all lucky in that we didn’t’ have to start group work right away, as our classes didn’t’ require any. Our five-some got to know each other over a mutual dislike of accounting and like of a drink at the end of a long work/school week.
Now that group work is a large part of our grade this quarter, I am happy to have made these friends last quarter. I am confident that our collective smarts will get us a good grade. And if we don’t – I can at least guarantee that we had a good time either way!
Ask anyone who knows me to tell you something about me, and I guarantee you, one of the first things they will say is “Sarah LOVES food”. It’s true – I LOVE food. I also love cooking. And eating healthy. I believe that a healthy relationship with food can provide one with a level of satisfaction rarely achieved by other behaviors.
So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that when I started the WPMBA program this past summer, one of my biggest concerns was “WHAT am I going to eat for dinner? And WHEN am I going to eat it?” With just barely enough time to get to class form my job in the Polaris area, eating before class was not an option. Plus, who wants to eat at 5:30? Not this girl, who is used to eating after work and the gym, not a minute before 8 pm. I also was concerned about maintaining my healthy eating habits and keeping my bank account in check.
Rest assured – I was quickly able to figure out the Art of Eating in Grad School. After just a couple of classes, my new MBA friends noticed by “unusual” eating habits and quickly became jealous. So, I thought I would use this blog post as an opportunity to share some of my tricks for eating well in grad school:
1. Plan, Plan, Plan.
You’ve heard it before – eating healthy takes some planning. This is especially true when you have to pack your meals, and don’t have the luxury of a kitchen when it’s time to eat. Each weekend, I take a look ahead at the upcoming week and ask myself: “How many days do I need to pack my lunch and/or dinner?” If I need to pack my lunch Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, that means I will need to pack a total of 5 meals this week – 3 lunches and 2 dinners (class on Tuesday and Thursday).
2. Decide what you like to eat.
I love salads of all kinds. I also like sandwiches. And soup. And all sorts of other warm and yummy food. I find it it’s much easier to bring a cold meal for eating during class. So, on the days I have class, I try to eat a warm lunch – like heating up leftovers (chicken enchiladas, spaghetti, etc.) or soup with a sandwich. And then, for dinner, I almost always bring a big salad. It may sound boring, but I promise – it’s anything but!
3. Go Grocery Shopping.
After I have figured out how many meals I need to pack for the week, I hit up the grocery store, usually on Sundays. I stock up on the items I need to get through the week – mostly fresh produce and dairy. I always keep the staples in my cupboard – bread, crackers, cans of beans and soup, etc.
4. Cook – Just a Little.
As WPMBA students, it’s hard to find the time for things other than work and school. But, a little bit of time in kitchen on the weekends will really go a long way in making for an easier week. Try to carve out an hour or two – for me, usually Sunday evenings – to do some prep for the week. Cut up your veggies to throw into salads all week. Cook some pasta or potatoes for quick, easy add-ins. If you want to get real crazy, grill some chicken or bake some tofu (it’s good, I promise) – or just stock up on canned tuna or meat from the Deli case.
It’s Monday night – you just got home from a long day at work, and maybe the gym (I teach a spinning class at Urban Active on Monday nights), and you are tired and need to prep for class the next time. But you also need to eat dinner, right? So, when you are making dinner, pack your lunch and/or dinner for the next day. It’s so much easier than waking up early to do it, and your kitchen is already a mess! Plus, if you’ve done some pre-prep like in step 4, it won’t be very hard.
6. Eat out – sometimes.
Even for a healthy cook like me, sometimes I am just too tired, busy, and bored to pack yet another meal for work and class. So, when those feelings strike, I let myself off the hook and plan to eat a couple of meals out. For me, that’s usually lunch – it’s a nice break from the office and a chance to connect with work colleagues.
I hope you have found these tips helpful. What are some of your suggestions for eating in grad school?
I’ll admit – I didn’t work very hard last quarter. Sure, I didn’t entirely float through the oppressive heat we experienced this past July. I did write the papers and study for the exams. But I found that I could get away without doing much more than that – I didn’t really need to read, or do the homework, or even go to every class (although I did do that – first quarter guilt). And you know what? I still did well (enough).
After five years in an Engineering undergraduate program, I learned that the key to surviving a busy schedule is to figure out what you need to do, and what you don’t. If you continue to read my blog posts, you’ll find that I am big believer in not putting too much of your time into any one basket. During undergraduate, this meant splitting my time into school, friends, clubs, exercise, and sleep. Now that I am 4 years out of undergrad, working full time and in my graduate studies, finding a balance means splitting my time into work, school, exercise, sleep, friends, and housework. There are more things on my plate now, and thus, it’s even more important that I figure out how to make time for everything that is important to me. So, in my first quarter in the WPMBA program (and a notoriously easy one), I decided to always go to class, but to not always do the reading or the homework problems. And it seems that strategy paid off – I did well my first quarter (and still found time to eat Jeni’s Ice Cream).
But now, as I begin my second quarter in the WPMBA program, I am quickly realizing that my classmates and I aren’t in Kansas anymore. Long gone are the days of just showing up to class. This quarter, not only will I have to show up to class, I will have to do the reading – all of it. And all the homework. And on time (not the weekend before the exam). It’s not going to be easy. As my job gets busier and more demanding, I will have to use my time outside of work very well wisely. Finding that balance will be harder, and more time might have to go into the work and school buckets and less into the friends and sleep and exercise buckets. But I am confident I can arrive at the holidays alive, ready to celebrate another successful quarter in the WPMBA program.
While I may long for the days last quarter that I could meet my friends for dinner on a Wednesday night instead of study, I think this quarter will be an extremely fulfilling and exciting one. After just two days of class, I can tell that I am in the presence of two professors who love teaching, and who make it their mission to live up to the Fisher brand. My peers and I are excited and engaged, and are ready for the challenge.