SMF Farewell

Well, as was promised to us on our first day of pre-term, time flies in the SMF program and I have made it through to the end.  Graduation is over, and soon I will be off to Houston to start a new job and a career.  It was sad saying goodbye to so many good friends from the program, but it’s also inspiring to see all of my classmates headed off to jobs all over the U.S. and the world.  I know I’m certainly excited to begin this next phase of my life.  Saying goodbye makes you realize how much people mean to you, and so to future students, make sure and forge strong relationships with your classmates because you don’t have much time, and there are tons of good people in the program from all kinds of backgrounds.

The program is intense and can really overwhelm you, but I can honestly say that I have learned more about finance in my one year at Fisher than I did in 4 years of undergrad.  It’s like my dad has told me, education is like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it.  With those words in mind, I encourage all future students to put everything they have into their 9 months in the program.  Both in terms of school, and all the extracurriculars that go along with it.  Because it’s so short and intense doing so will wear you out, but it’s the best way to guarantee you won’t have any regrets at the end.

As I said in my first post, blogging was a new activity for me, but overall I found it to be very therapeutic and it was a regular reminder for me to stop and put things in perspective.  I hope that this blog has given insight to anyone out there considering grad school and maybe even helped them come to a decision.  With that I want to say best wishes to future classes and if anyone is in Houston, don’t be afraid to reach out to this proud alumnus!

-Nicholas

My Career Search: Two Pieces of Advice

Something I haven’t written about yet, but that I know is important to students considering undertaking the SMF program, is my personal career search.  My case is a little different than the typical student, but I still think it would be beneficial to share.

As many of you know by now, I am from Oklahoma and graduated from Oklahoma State University last May.  Since I knew I would be pursuing the SMF degree, I wanted to undertake an internship for the summer before to get more work experience under my belt (and also make a little bit of money).  Through my network from my old university, I was able to secure an internship with Phillips 66 for the summer.

Phillips 66 might be unfamiliar to students not from the region, so I will go ahead and provide a little bit of background on the company for anyone who is interested.

Myself touring one of Phillips 66’s facilities

It is an independent oil & gas company that came into existence after ConocoPhillips spun off its midstream and downstream assets in 2012 (“midstream” and “downstream” are terms you’d learn about if you ever work in the energy industry).  It has approximately 14,000 employees in about 65 countries worldwide and is ranked #34 in the Fortune 500.  Based on my internship experience, I truly think it’s a great place to work and I highly recommend it to any future SMF students who are interested in either living in Houston or working in the energy industry!

At the time of securing the internship, I wasn’t necessarily planning on starting a career at Phillips, but after a summer immersed in the culture and meeting tons of awesome people, I decided I could really see myself coming back full-time.  I was fortunate enough to receive a full-time offer at the end of the internship and after soliciting advice from different people in the program, I decided to go ahead and accept the offer and secure full-time employment.

My last day of work outside the original Phillips Petroleum Company Building

The reason I tell you about my search is to give you a couple of pieces of advice.  The first is: just because you will be coming to a new university with a new network, that doesn’t mean that your connections from undergrad can’t still be beneficial.  There’s no shame in accepting a job that doesn’t directly come through the SMF program.  Second, I highly encourage students coming directly from undergrad to do an internship during the summer before the SMG program.  It could really pay dividends, and you might find that you really fit in well with the company.

All in all, I consider myself very lucky to have been able to secure a job so early, and I am very excited to begin working after graduation!

Columbus Staycation

Over Spring Break, my parents made the drive from Oklahoma to Ohio to see me for a few days!  I showed them many of the sights of Columbus, and with some time off from school I got a chance to really enjoy everything myself.

One of my favorite things that we did together, was attend a Blue Jackets game.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the Columbus Blue Jackets is an NHL team that plays in Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus.  This was my very first hockey game to attend, and it was a ton of fun (it doesn’t hurt that the blue jackets beat Montreal 5-2)!

 

We also made a trip to the Columbus Convention Center, where we saw the statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and also stopped at a very cool piece of public art that is housed in the convention center.  It’s really fun to go to with friends and see how goofy your picture turns out.  What’s really cool, is once your picture is taken it’s sorted into a database with everyone who has ever taken a picture there and randomly displayed from then on!

Finally, we made a trip over to Easton Town Center to do a little bit of shopping.  Easton is a really cool outdoor shopping complex with tons of great brands to choose from and also a really fun atmosphere to hang out in during nice weather.

 

All in all it was really fun to get to play host to my parents, and to get to be a tourist in my own city for a little bit.  It was a great reminder of how many different fun things there are to do in Columbus!

Columbus Stay-cation

Over spring break, my parents made the drive from Oklahoma to Ohio to come see me for a few days!  We spent a few days seeing the different sights in Columbus, and it was really great to have some time off from school to enjoy everything Columbus has to offer!

A view from out seats in the arena

One of my favorite things that we did while my parents were in town was attend a Columbus Blue Jackets game. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Blue Jackets are a NHL team that plays in Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus.  It was my first ever hockey game. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the game (it doesn’t hurt that the Blue Jackets beat Montreal 5-2)!

On our next day, we had lunch at the North Market, and then walked over to the convention center.  We stopped and saw the statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then made our way to a really unique piece of public art.

My dad posing with Arnold, he says the only difference is Arnold is a “little taller”

This is a really fun place to get your picture taken with your friends and then laugh about the goofy results that come out.  What’s really cool is that once you get your picture taken, it goes into a database and is randomly displayed on the statue from then on so you can always have a little piece of you still in Columbus.

Exhibit A of the goofy pictures that the statue will put on display of you

On our last day, we made the drive across town to Easton Town Center.  Easton is a really cool outdoor shopping complex and provides a nice outdoor atmosphere.

All in all, it was a great couple of days. It was nice to be a tourist in my own city and to remember all the fun stuff there is to do in Columbus!

Interview with SMF Student Zenan (Nanson) Wang

I thought that for this blog post, I would share a different perspective than the one I’ve been sharing all year long! Meet fellow SMF student Zenan (Nanson) Wang.  Nanson gave a lot of thoughtful answers to my questions and specifically talked about his experience as a Chinese student in the SMF program.  Enjoy!

Q:         Where are you from and what was your background before coming to Fisher?

A:         I am from Suzhou, China, and I received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Soochow University.  I also worked a six-month internship at a commercial bank in China.  In my internship, I worked in fields ranging from marketing to risk management.

Q:         Why did you choose the SMF Program?

A:         I chose the SMF program for the good reputation and rankings of Fisher, four different tracks that enabled me to choose my preference, the enthusiasm of the recruiting personnel, and finally, the scholarship offered by the program.

Q:         What have been some of the biggest adjustments for life in the U.S. and specifically, Columbus?

A:         I am the kind of person who can adjust to a new environment quite easily. However, I have to say it is not easy to live in an all-English environment since my English, especially my listening, is not quite good enough to understand everything. Thus, I sometimes felt lost when others talked to me, especially during the early months in the U.S.  I don’t want to be rude by not responding, but I really don’t know how to properly respond. Plus, in the U.S., it is very important to express my ideas, thoughts, and feelings. So, it can be tough when I find I can express those in Chinese but not in English– and my English skill becomes a limitation.

Q:         What have been your favorite and least favorite things about your time in the program?

A:         Favorite: When I get inspired from other people, including professors, classmates, and teammates. Least favorite: when I have to deal with many things due at the same time– and for some of these things, I have to wait until others complete their parts even though I have finished mine quite in advance.

Q:         What has been your favorite course and who has been your favorite professor?

A:         Favorite course: Derivatives. Both Derivatives 1 & 2. It is pretty exciting for me to learn something technical. Favorite professors – Professor Pirim because his data analysis class was really fun to me. I also like Professor Oglevee a lot, since I always get inspired from him and I learned the great importance of dealing with uncertainty from him.

Q:         Did you choose an area of specialization?  If so, what area and why?

A:         Yes, I picked half investment management and half risk management. First of all, I am very interested in investing, and I have tried investing in China during my undergraduate studies. Thus, I wish to learn more about this area. Plus, the financial market changes every second, so it is always exciting to face different challenges for every moment. Then, for risk management: since the financial crisis, risk management has always been a hot topic and it seems everyone has known the significance of it. Thus, it is very important to learn at least some of this area. Also, I feel this field is quite exciting. It is a field that requires one to know the financial markets, the law and regulation, the operation in many markets, and people. It can be really interesting to step into this integrated field.

Q:         How has your career search been going? Also, what are your post-graduation plans?

A:         Not quite good so far I have to say. Though some connections have been built, I have not secured a job yet. From what I have experienced, I have to say it is not easy for us international students to gain employment in the U.S. However, I am still trying and I believe I will not regret if I tried my best. Thus, I still plan to work in the U.S. for 3-5 years, and then go back to China, probably Shanghai or Suzhou.

Q:         Could you talk about your experience as part of the SMF Council?

A:         I am in charge of the social events in SMF council. From my experience, it can be quite difficult when all things are accidentally against you. When I reserve for a large group, the answer from the restaurant is almost always negative. When I make an announcement about a new event, sometimes the participation rate is not as good as I imagine. These are things I can’t control. So, I have learned to always try my best to do the things I can control, but be comfortable when I am not able to control something.

Q:         Are you glad that you are a member of the council and would you recommend it to other students?

A:         I have to say: yes. Though some time has been spent on the council work and meetings, it is always worth it when I can see how others handle their work in a different way. It is good to get inspired from others’ words and practice.

Q:         What advice would you give to all future students, and also more specifically to future Chinese students?

A:         Always get ready for the challenge, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’d like to also share especially for future Chinese students: after I came to the U.S., it was my very first time to actively participate in class. During my undergraduate studies, with all my Chinese classmates, I didn’t have to raise my hand since all other classmates didn’t do so. However, in the U.S., you have to show yourself in a proper way, and you will benefit a lot from this. In the beginning, you may feel uncomfortable with doing this, but as Professor Oglevee has said, it is important to get used to it, and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

 

Snow Day!

A very fun aspect about moving to Ohio from Oklahoma is that it snows a lot more here than it does back home.  Some people might strongly disagree with the sentiment that this is fun, but coming from a place that doesn’t receive much snow annually makes it really exciting to live in Columbus where it snows regularly!  Growing up, I always loved snow days, and they happened so rarely that I still get excited for snow– even if it doesn’t mean that school is cancelled.

Fisher Hall in the snow

Columbus receives 22 inches of snow per year.  This really is not that much in the grand scheme of things, and is actually even less than the average U.S. city, but it is still more than twice as much as the amount that my hometown annually receives.  Extra snowfall obviously comes with some additional perils in terms of getting to campus, but if you drive with caution and give yourself extra time, you shouldn’t have too many problems (barring any issues with other reckless drivers). Last week, we received about 4 inches of snow overnight and that meant when I arrived on campus early the next day, there was a beautiful scene of untouched snow all over campus.

Feeling a little cold after doing a snow angel on the oval

A fellow ambassador for the MAcc program, Rachel Cox, wanted to go outside and explore the campus in the snow, so I tagged along with her.  As I mentioned, I really love snow, so I got a little caught up in the moment and decided to do a snow angel– business casual clothes and all.  If any future students are worried about the weather in Ohio, just remember: it still snows less than the average U.S. city, and when it does snow, it can actually be pretty fun!

Russell Westbrook vs LeBron James

As I’ve posted about in previous blogs, I’m originally from Oklahoma, and because of this, I am a huge Oklahoma City Thunder fan.  Our franchise moved to OKC when I was 13 years old.  I became an instant fan and have supported the team ever since.  Obviously, a large part of the Ohio State experience is attending Buckeye football games.  Another perk for sports fans, though, is being just a two-hour drive away from Cleveland.

In the last few years, Cleveland has benefited from very successful professional baseball and basketball teams – the Indians and the Cavaliers (they’ve also had a very sad professional football franchise, the Browns).  After checking the schedule, I realized that the Thunder would be playing in Cleveland on a Saturday and I would have the opportunity to attend a game.

Right outside of the Cavaliers Arena is a poster of LeBron James, definitely the biggest poster I’ve ever seen

A fellow SMF student, Jared Ablass, is a fan of the Cavaliers and LeBron James and we decided to go together to watch the game. The final score was completely awesome for fans of the Thunder, and getting to watch some of the best players in the NBA (in-person) after such a short drive was an incredible experience.

A view from the cheap seats inside the game!

After the game we finished off a great day by eating a hamburger at Wahlburger’s.  Watching LeBron James play live and taking in the sights and sounds of Cleveland is a must for anyone spending time in Ohio.

Spring Semester Preview

I am back in Columbus after an exciting break full of travel, and I was met with cold temperatures and a little bit of snow!  I wrote about one of the very fun trips I took over Christmas break in a recent post.  Another trip I took over break was to Houston, Texas, to go apartment-hunting and do a little sight-seeing, as that’s where I’ll begin work after graduation.

Since it’s the beginning of a new semester and also since this semester is made up almost entirely of electives, I thought it would be good to do a preview of my first quarter of classes.  The SMF curriculum allows you to choose from any of four different concentrations if you wish, but you are not required to follow any track.  This flexibility in choosing your classes is one reason I was attracted to the program.  I decided to use this flexibility to my advantage by taking classes from all the different areas of concentration offered in the SMF curriculum.  In the area of corporate finance, I’ll be taking Mergers & Acquisitions.  This course also happens to be taught by the SMF program director, Professor George Pinteris.  In the area of investment management I’ll be taking Portfolio Management and Fixed Income.  Within the risk management area, I’ll be taking Derivatives Valuation. Finally, within the real estate concentration, I’ll be taking Real Estate Valuation.  This course in real estate will also give me the opportunity to pursue a certification in Argus, a real estate valuation software.

I am very excited for all of these classes, as I think they represent the spectrum of finance offered to SMF students.  I also think that these different areas of the SMF cur,riculum give me the chance to practice honing different skills.  For example, the Mergers & Acquisitions course will help me to hone soft skills through the heavy class participation required, while the investments and risk management courses will be much more quantitative in focus.  Finally the real estate valuation course will teach me technical and applied skills by learning a specific software used in industry.

I’m ready for the exciting and challenging semester ahead of me!

NYC Trip

Finals are over and just like that, I am halfway through the SMF program.  It’s crazy how quickly pre-term and the first semester went by.  Since Columbus is a lot closer to New York than Oklahoma, my mom and I decided to go on a trip to New York right after finals were over.  I took a bunch of pictures and wanted to include as many as possible.  Here are some of my favorite sights from the trip:

The Statue of Liberty
My mom and I enjoying some New York style pizza
Me with the famous Charging Bull in the Financial District
Downtown Manhattan at sunset from the Empire State Building

Proximity to New York is one of the many perks about being in school at Ohio State.  I know that many of my classmates recently attended an investments conference in New York and it provided them the opportunity to listen to some very knowledgable individuals from the industry and to also network with SMF alumni in the city.  My trip to New York was a blast and I can’t wait to go back!

SMF Ice Skating

I recently enjoyed another of the famous SMF class dinners (the first of which I talked about in a recent blog post).  Once again, the turnout was great and this time, we even had several of our professors attend!  It was another great evening of chatting with people who we see in classrooms every day in a different setting.  However, the best part of the evening was yet to come…

After dinner, a large group of our classmates went to The Ohio State Ice Rink for ice skating!  The rink has times that the public is allowed to skate on the ice and students get a discount.  There were a ton of students there, most of whom were very graceful on their skates, and I think the SMFs stood out like a sore thumb.

Free Skate at the Ohio State Ice Rink

There were a very small number of experienced skaters in attendance from the SMF program, but that’s part of what made it so fun!  I’ve been skating just a handful of times in my life and I skate with the grace of a new born giraffe.  However, I did manage to stay on my feet the whole time (with the assistance of some strangers who I almost toppled over).   I can’t say the same for all my classmates, but for a lot of them, it was their first time skating and there were a lot of really quick learners.

Fear of falling on the hard ice bonds people like you can’t imagine

I really was very impressed by how willing everyone was to get out of their comfort zones and be such good sports the whole time.  It was great to get to hang out with the general student population and to get to participate with my classmates in somewhat of a holiday tradition in the United States.