The first week back

Happy New Year!  I hope that you all had a great vacation.  I had a truly restful vacation.  My initial plans were to do some intensive reading to prepare myself for the Spring semester. Those plans quickly fell to the wayside as I spent most of my time with my family. I must have read “Cat Power” and “Madeline” at least 50 times to my son and daughter, respectively. Our family passed around a cold throughout the break, but finally recovered. Despite the illnesses, we all truly appreciated the time together and the lack of pressure from school. The break was perfect, but as the new year arrived, I started yearning to get back into the groove of the semester.

The first week did not disappoint. In the first class of the week, we learned about tunnels underneath the business school! The data analytics professor mentioned it in class and I was among others who went to explore. Our class was in Schoenbaum hall. We went to the basement to find a locked door. Luckily, a faculty member happened to come downstairs and he let us in! We curiously found our way through empty classrooms, computer labs, and hallways with exposed pipes. We ended up coming up through Fisher Hall facing the garage. Of course, I”ll be spending sometime on campus before class further exploring this new area! In addition to the data analysis class, I will also be taking Staffing and Employment Law.

Work has been going well and I have still been actively utilizing many of the skills learned in the program. I recently proposed an Office Exchange program in order to increase company client knowledge, participate in a distinctly different work culture, and to facilitate more company wide cooperation. I will be going to the East office for three days and one of their coordinators will take my place at the West office. It should be an interesting experiment!

The end of the first semester

Just as I believe I am getting a good hold on everything and starting to catch up, the avalanche, that is the end of the semester, begins. Time just seemed particularly fast and at times almost overwhelming.

Family life was the usual, joyful craziness. It was probably due to the fact that between staying late at work and all the extra time working on school work, my kids clung to me whenever I was home. I would be looking over old articles and notes while my daughter sat in my lap drawing pictures of stick figures “going to the potty” and other miscellaneous topics. My son would alternate walking between my wife and I, practicing his new words such as, “bear”, “ball”, and “Uh oh”. My workload increased substantially because our peak season was officially upon us and the extra duties from working on the national conference that I am spearheading. Schoolwork included a group paper and two take home exams. One exam was a “timed exam”. Up to this point in my academic career, I had never done this, so I didn’t quite know how to prepare for it. Basically, you submit a file to a dropbox and it populates a folder which is timestamped. You then have to submit your exam back into the dropbox before the time limit expires (self monitored). It was an interesting experience and the 1 hour and 45 minutes seemed to disappear so quickly. I decided to take the exam at 5 am in the morning, because I am a morning person and my children were less likely to be awake!

One very odd experience was the last lecture that we attended as a group. We were standing outside Gerlach Hall saying “goodbye and happy new year” to each other, when suddenly there was a silence. I don’t know if anybody else felt this way, but I felt a moment of sadness in saying goodbye to a group of friends that I would not see for another month.

I turned in my last exam and am still getting used to not being in school. It was strange, but wonderful to drive straight from work to home (instead of to OSU). Instead of attending lectures, my family and I met up with another family at the Columbus Zoo to see the holiday lights. Near the end of the evening, we sat by the lake for the musical light show and danced through the medley of songs played. This was one of those moments which took my breath away. The smile from my daughter and son as we held hands and danced is still fresh in my mind. Yesterday, my family and I actually sat together on the couch and watched the Minion movie (well, most of the movie) together. This was the first time that we have ever done that! We are looking forward to more time together as we celebrate the holidays.

Finally, I am still stuck on my semester clock, so I am still waking up around 4 am daily. I have used this time to “clean up” my e-mail box. I noticed how many people have helped me to be where I am today and started sending holiday wishes and thank you’s to those people. In these few short months, I feel like I have lived a lifetime of experiences. It also was shocking to note that I am only about 20% through the program. I end the semester and the year, anxiously looking forward to the new year and new challenges that will be brought. Thank you to all of you for reading my posts and I look forward to keeping you up to date in the new year!. Happy holidays and Happy New Year!

What is a cohort?

A quick search on the internet reveals that it is a group of people who have something in common. Being in the MHRM program for only three months, I emphatically declare that this is a pale definition of my experiences.

About a month ago, one of my classmates included me in the group text that is shared by most everyone in the class. I am still grateful to her for inviting me to participate in it. It is primarily used as a social network for us to contact each other and ask questions. Lately, we have received many texts regarding an onslaught of birthday wishes to classmates. Each birthday wish submitted becomes more and more amusing. This also supports my earlier claim that there is definitely a culture of support and encouragement within our class. It is truly wonderful to be immersed in that enthusiasm.

Recently I posted a text stating that I am thankful to be a part of such an amazing group. There are certain people that I absolutely love listening to, when they present, because I learn so much.   also find it fascinating to observe the improvements that many of my classmates have made with respect to their presentation style. Coming from a performance background (in music), I feel comfortable presenting. The difficulty for me lies in translating a performance ability into a presentation ability. The distinction is important and I have slowly been working on adjusting it. I have not been entirely successful, but I will get there! The classroom is a superb proofing ground for the business world. It is meant as a place to refine skills, if you allow it to be. I am not the best presenter, but I acknowledge the feedback from my peers, teachers, and experiences to be better. Ultimately, my cohort is there to help make me better and has always supported me in my development.

Finally, the cohort structure provides access to a wealth of experiences on which to learn and share. Recently, I asked one of my peers, who hosted a conference, to help me with a proposal that I have to spearhead a conference with my company. His input was well received and extremely helpful.  My classmates will become my professional colleagues after we graduate, so it is crucial to also develop your professional network through interactions with your peers. Take the time to get to know your cohort!

It’s difficult to just shut off HR

Harkening back to the working full time / school full time model, I have encountered another interesting phenomenon; I can’t just turn off the training easily. Many of my books from classes are on my desk at home and my wife has taken up reading a few of them. She said that she noticed me using some of the verbal techniques with her and she told me to stop using them. I never really thought about it, until she mentioned it, but she was right! Thinking about it more in depth, I realize that on class days (with a full time job), I spend close to 16 hours practicing HR thought and speech, 12 plus hours on non class days, and apparently some time at home practicing it. It is an excellent testament to the effectiveness of the potency of education to have such long lasting effects!

Another fact is that at heart, I am an analytical thinker. I like to take my time being thoughtful and considering my answer. During my Thanksgiving break, my head was whirling with respect to thinking about the time I would be spending with my family, projects and proposals that I am managing at work, assignments and tests that I have for the end of the semester. Going back to my EMT days, I realized that I was experiencing a type of emotional shock. This led me to discover that I need a decompression period between work, school, and home life. Especially when a break is approaching. The other clarity is being able to express the need for this decompression to my family, so that they understand the process and can help me to adjust.

It’s not to be critical, but more aware that this behavior is a “side effect” of the MHRM program. Taking a step back from the program, I realize that the whole process is quite elegant. In the grand scheme, I am slowly being acclimated to the experiences of business culture. Of course, in the everyday, I sometimes feel like it is moving a mile a minute. I may not be able to shut off my HR training completely, but I can recognize what is happening and perhaps minimize it’s presence when I am at home.

What is the case competition like?

We finally got to experience the long awaited case competition! What an exhausting, but exhilarating process.  It is amazing how quickly the time passed by. The morning began with coffee, OJ, and bagels as we sat down in a classroom waiting for the information. Once they started talking about the case, there is a palpable air of competition that I have not previously felt from my classmates. Everyone wanted to win.

We broke off into our groups and found our way to our assigned rooms and we spent the next 16 hours preparing our solution and presentation to the case. The time actually passed relatively quickly. Looking back on the experience, it was fascinating to interact with my peers in a “serious” working context. The context was real enough to motivate us to do well in preparing and practicing for a board room context. Although their were moments when we become anxious and felt pressure by the looming deadline.

The people who organized this event did an amazing job from day one. The informational sessions, the visit to a plant, the food during the case competition, and the persistent and sincere help in all the logistics was amazing. Thank you to everyone who helped us to participate in this opportunity.

We stayed until around 11 pm and because I have a parking pass for the Lane Garage (next to Fisher) I was able to drop my group members off at their homes or their cars relatively easily. On a quick tangent, for any working student who is debating whether or not to get a pass for the Lane Avenue garage. Do it! It is very exhausting working full time and going to school full time. The pass has been so convenient. I have thanked my wife, so many times for encouraging me to make the investment.

I got home around 12 midnight and immediately fell asleep. I woke up about 3 hours later to get back to Fisher and practice for the presentation.  Thank goodness we arrived back early! We managed to get through a good rehearsal and finish up some last minute details.

We were one of the last groups to present, so we had about 2 hours to get nervous for the actual presentation. We presented the case and afterwards felt good about what we had done.

Of course, the judges evaluation was a little different than our expectations.  We were disappointed that we hadn’t won, but all of us were grateful for the experience.  There were moments when we experienced pressure by the looming deadline, but when it came down to presenting, I was thoroughly impressed by the abilities of our group. We didn’t win the competition, but we still received some irreplaceable takeaways: feedback (both wonderful and humbling), experience in presenting to executives, and a new set of friends with a unique shared experience.

A New Toy

One of my classmates and I were chatting about doing the program full time, working full time, and raising a family full time! I told him, “Classes are invigorating, because I feel like I am constantly getting new toys to play with!” Both of us are fortunate to be working in HR fields and have the capability and opportunity to “play” with these new models in practical settings. On another level, it was nice to be able to talk to someone else that could empathize with managing multiple life roles.

We visited a Frito Lay company today in preparation for the case competition next Friday. I enjoyed the whole experience from being on a bus with my cohort to the plant visit. One classmate had a ‘charades’ app in which you place the cellphone across your forehead. A phrase, name, etc pops up and the group gives you clues to help the person holding it to figure out what the word is. It helped the time pass pretty quickly. We also discovered that one of my classmates is extremely adept at recognizing pokemon names. In two minutes, he was able to name 16 pokemon characters. The day ended with me coming home and carving pumpkins with my little ones.

On class days, I come straight from work to campus (getting here around 4:30 pm) and sit in the grad lounge to smarten myself up before class by looking over the notes I took while reading the class material. Sitting here today, I realize why there is a recommendation not to work full time and go to school full time. I can already see the orientation people smacking their heads in exasperation for my late recognition of this phenomenon. I recognize what I am missing out on. I hear many of my classmates talk about the parties they attended together or the intramural sports that many of them are participating in together. It is likely that many of my classmates are truly getting to know each other and are beginning to form deep friendships. Although it may not be in the same method as many in my class, I have been fortunate enough to find quite a few friends myself! I think the key takeaway is that there are many different strategies to find connections, but it is absolutely crucial to do so if you are to gain more than a piece of paper by the time that you graduate. In my earlier post, I wrote about the benefits of working full time and going to school full time and that works for me! However, there are definitely some benefits into really diving into the experience of getting to know people as not just classmates, but friends.

A different mood

Please forgive the unique composition of this blog!  I have been concerned that I was posting too much and wanted to approach it using a different method to see how it goes!  I am going to post a summary of my week, so it will be a bit disjointed until I get a better feel of how to summarize the experiences of the week.

My wife and I thought it would be nice to Skype on the days that I went straight from work to school, since I most likely would be unable to see my kids that day. My kids were thrilled.   My daughter showed off a pretty ‘Minnie’ dress that she was wearing while my little boy kept kissing towards the screen.   My daughter kept saying that she wanted to “see the people” and so I turned the screen towards two of my classmates that I was with.  They said, “hello” and my daughter turned away silently.  My boy just sort of stared at them, not saying anything.  Turning back to the screen, I talked to them for a bit and then had to say “goodbye” as I went to prepare for a new class.

Sitting in the classroom and getting ready for the Talent Management course.  The most noticeable thing is that we are in a different and smaller room than we were accustomed to.  Despite the decrease in the availability of seats, everyone is actively talking with each other as if they have all been friends for a long time.  This is only month three of our program and the dynamic is much different then the first class that we shared where everybody was more hesitant and cautious.  It truly seems to be shaping up to be a cohort.  Everyone is getting more comfortable with each other.

There are so many “unscheduled” opportunities to take advantage of while you are pursuing your degree.  Taking the opportunities to get to know your classmates (future working colleagues) by spending a few minutes after class discussing how classes are going or debating various topics.  One of my classmates and I sometimes will spend an hour or so after class, just talking to each other about the program and classes we are in.  It’s really nice to talk to another person who can empathize with the experiences at Fisher.  In another sense, it reminds me of the potential that all of us have and how listening inspires so many new ideas.

The more that I am in this program, it seems like ideas perpetually creep in to my head.  I am in the midst of proposing a staffing coordinators conference and keep getting more and more information to make it better.  There is a certain allure to running something on this level.  It is the kind of thing that would be a great way of encapsulating concepts that I am currently learning and at the same time, strengthening the organization that I work for!  Almost every class provides ideas to implement in the work setting:  Getting to know the clients of our company better and learning more about how to effectively develop solutions while experimenting with innovative ideas.

To end this week, I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has been reading my blog.  Please let me know if this has been interesting, helpful, or if there is something else that you want to know!  I look forward to hearing from you!

What do I do with my hands?

It seems like we are doing presentations every two weeks or so. Presenting can be stressful, but also fun!  I typically spend a lot of time in preparing for presentations and always like to sneak in subtle humor. I have a pretty dry sense of humor, but so far it seems to blend well with what we have presented so far. One professor made the comment though, that I might want to be careful about being too comfortable with the audience and losing the nature of the presentation.

Everyone has their own style of presenting, but I don’t like using note cards and prefer to improvise over an extensively rehearsed speech. It makes me feel more comfortable to present this way and allows the presentation to be a little flexible. This method does require a lot more rehearsals in preparing for it and also requires that I be over prepared. I may rehearse much more than I actually say due to the way the presentation flows. This also opens the door for more preparation for a Q and A session afterwards.

At a recent information session for a case competition, I learned that the judges are not only observing the person currently presenting, but also the other people in the presentation. It stimulated a thought of my ability to actively listen to my colleagues as they present as opposed to looking at my watch and waiting for my part. In another sense, it improves the general flow of the presentation, by connecting specific examples that a previous presenter has mentioned into your section. On a different note, my gestures are pretty minimal when I am presenting, but I started to wonder about what I am doing with my hands when I am “on stage” but not presenting. The best thing I came up with was to put my hands in my pocket and to focus all my attention on listening and following my colleagues as they talk. Not necessarily a “best solution” but I figure that it will be a good holdover until I view more presentations and get ideas from my other classmates.

“Free” Education

Information sessions are presented by various companies on campus to talk about human resources in their respective industries.  These sessions are typically presented by previous students from the MHRM program and how they have excelled in their careers.

I have attended quite a few sessions and believe that there are many benefits to attend.  Gaining knowledge about the company, learning more about the respective industry, interacting with MHRM professionals, understanding more about the perspective of HR through different lenses, and developing your ability to talk with recruiters. A lot of the info sessions also provide a free dinner!

One time, I was sitting in the grad lounge studying when a couple of my classmates invited me to go up to an information session that wasn’t advertised.  I did and got some experience analyzing a case.

Most recently, I attended an information session with Pepsi and managed to squeeze into the last interview spot that they had.  The following day, I went in for my interview, and they called me that same afternoon to offer me an internship!  I was shocked, but extremely excited for the opportunity.  Over the next week or two, my wife and I talked about it constantly and accepted the internship.  We knew that it was going to be different, but a crucial step in my professional development.

Information sessions are a great way of gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the business culture and learning the language to become a better professional.

What did you do on Friday night?

I pulled up and parked on the street across from my house (as I usually do), got out of my car and looked up at the window. My daughter was saying “Daddy!” and my boy was making excited sounds with a smile stretching across his face. After two really busy weeks of exams for first term classes, presentations, and work being persistently busy, this was an incredible moment for me. They both tackled me coming into the door and I was almost in tears to spend some time with them so my wife would have a little time to herself.

Later on that evening, my daughter (three years old) was watching Pokemon, while my son (1 year old) and I were playing together. He wanted to lay down on the floor and he started staring at the ceiling.  He kept saying “Bah”, “Bah”, “Bah”  I looked up and he was pointing to the balloons that were left over from his first birthday party a couple of weeks ago. Him and I just talked for a few minutes about balloons.

I cannot imagine a more enjoyable way to spend my Friday night.