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In The Presence of Greatness

When evaluating whether or not to return for grad school for the SMF degree, I came up with a litany of “pros”, most of which have come to fruition. One that I had not given much thought to is the exposure to unbelievably successful people right in the classroom. Certainly I knew I would be among other motivated and talented students, many of whom will be worthwhile friends and acquaintances moving forward. Also, as I have mentioned before, there is a great gateway to an unbelievable number of companies via our Career Services Team. What has been more surprisingly impressive is the quality and quantity of professionals we interact with every day in the classroom.

Just in the past week, I have met the CEO of Bob Evans (Steve Davis) in a class co-taught by the former CEO of Hyperion/President of Americas at FedEx (Jeff Rodek – who was also told he was one of 3 people in the company who could replace founder and current CEO Fred Smith) and former Chairman of Sears Mexico/CAO at Cardinal Health (Tony Rucci). I had the pleasure of meeting with the current President of JobsOhio (Mark Kvamme), who also happens to be one of the more successful venture capitalist partners from one of the most well-known companies, Sequoia. Although much of what he told us was confidential, let’s just say he was in on the ground floor of some incredibly savvy investments into what are now global icons. And this is for a class co-taught by the CFO of Ohio State University, and a quite successful Asset Manager at JPMorgan in his own right, along with a well-respected and published professor, Michael Weisbach. Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting with a Senior Analyst and a VP from Wells Fargo Equity Research. To sum that up in the parlance of our times, most of these people are on the short list of Google results for searching only their first name. And that was just this week!

Although last week was admittedly more action-packed than most, it is certainly not out of the ordinary. We have countless other opportunities to meet with incredibly successful and well-respected professionals and professors on a daily and weekly basis, something many people probably take for granted. Sometimes you need to step back and realize just how remarkable many of our interactions at Fisher can be.


Fisher SMF Students Partner with Prominent Companies in Spring Projects

One of the many benefits of the SMF program is the Spring Quarter project we all get to work on with various Finance-related firms. The nature and scope vary to fit the interests and focus of everyone in the program. For those not familiar, we rank our preferences of which projects we would like to participate in, then we are assigned to teams (typically three students) and will work with these companies on a specific project for most of Spring Quarter.

Some of the companies involved are nationally renown – JP Morgan (2 projects), Wells Fargo (2 projects), and Nationwide. Others are major employers within the state of Ohio – Worthington Industries, STRS (State Teachers Retirement System), and of course, Ohio State. We actually have five projects tied to the university – two with the office of the CFO, two with the Wexner Medical Center, and one with OSU Technology & Commercialization. There are also projects from Lazear Capital Partners, Alpha Squared Capital Management, Diamond Hill Capital Management, and Perfect Practice (a medical start-up).

Generally, the projects focus on a number of the main topics we study in the program – trading, corporate finance, and investments. More specifically, we will be involved in real-world issues such as assessing M&A targets internationally, researching and acting on historical market trends, and helping to get a start-up firm off of the ground to name a few. With opportunities from asset management firms, securities research firms, pension funds, boutique investment banks, manufacturing firms, higher education, medical-related enterprises, and even start-ups, we are incredibly fortunate to have such a broad array of possibilities. Most of us are looking to get in to one of these specific fields, and partnering with a group of established professionals will prove to be invaluable experience to jump-start our careers.

Although the specifics of each project are confidential for now, I will continue to post about our experiences with this project throughout Spring Quarter.

 


Experience in a case-based course

I had the opportunity to take a “cases” course this quarter, which is something I had not previously experienced. For those who do not know exactly what this means, the course is based entirely on published cases or real-life scenarios emphasizing a particular subject matter. There is no textbook and there are no tests. For every class, you read the assigned case ahead of time, usually with some preparatory questions to help guide your thought process. Each class is a guided discussion of the case.

While it is not as easy as it may seem, I found it to be an incredibly useful experience. Of all the times you hear “you get out what you put in”, it actually rings true in this instance. You can spend anywhere from 1-5 hours preparing for a given case. If you have truly studied and considered every aspect of the case, you have a great deal to contribute to the discussion. If not, you are lost for parts of the debate and cannot connect the pieces of all of the points being raised.

For our particular class, we were required to prepare a group presentation for one case and individual case analyses for two cases. Clearly, I spent more time preparing for those particular cases, and I can certainly say that I learned a great deal not only from those tasks, but especially from the discussions that followed. Essentially, taking the time to thoroughly prepare then hearing everyone else’s perspective allows you to see how you missed certain aspects, or thought of something in a completely different manner. I found this to be especially applicable to real world situations where there is no answer key, just opinions and precedent.

A general takeaway from the class is that you cannot be afraid to voice your opinion. While it may seem “dumb”, it could be that your particular expertise provides a fresh perspective that others would not consider. With everyone speaking in a diverse class, you get a great variety of insights and points-of-view. Also, a nice benefit is that you can miss a class and not fall behind because the subject matter is typically unrelated from one class to the next.

Obviously, this type of class is only relevant for certain subjects, but Corporate Finance is one where it is particularly useful. Rather than learning additional formulas and terms, you are forced to apply knowledge, not just regurgitate it on a test. If you are considering a career in a field where a cases course is offered, I highly recommend it. It allows you to learn a great deal about the subject as well as how your peers view and treat the material. In a professional environment, it is not always about right and wrong, but rather understanding how the issues are approached by those around you.


When the daily grind is too much, take a much needed break

I consider myself to be a rational person. I enjoy warm weather and am not a big fan of snow. It has barely snowed in Columbus this winter. I should be happy. Instead, I trekked over to the mini-mountains of Pennsylvania and exposed myself to 48 straight hours of snow. Midterms really will drive you insane.

Ok, so I did not just sit in the snow for no apparent reason. I went on a ski trip with nine of my good friends. The purpose of this post is two-fold. First, if you have never tried skiing, give it a shot in the next month or so before “winter” is over. More importantly, take breaks from classes and/or work. To put the first point to rest, I have skied fewer times than Jeremy Lin has started an NBA game, so you don’t have to be good to have fun. Just set up shop on the “green cirle” hills (the easiest level), and you will do just fine.

On to the bigger point – you need some escape from the grind of classwork, projects, midterms, and whatever else a job brings on a daily basis. Certainly a weekend on the beach would be even better, but any getaway can rejuvenate you (mentally; physically, skiing is not the best “rejuvenator”) after a few stressful weeks. Plan something with a few friends once a month or so, even if it is nothing big. For those in Columbus, some ideas are: a trip to Cleveland to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, Cincinnati for a riverboat gambling trip (be responsible!), Canton to the Professional Football Hall of Fame, or any other nearby city just to visit a different place (Toledo, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh) that are only a few hours away by car or bus and are reasonably cheap. It is a great way to break up the quarter, giving you something to look forward to for a few weeks at a time, then, of course, actually serving as a getaway for a weekend.

This is something I have tried to do for the last several years. As great as it is to take breaks from school, I appreciated it even more in my two years in a professional environment. With school you have 10-15 weeks of certain classes, then everything changes. In an actual job, it can seem like there is no end goal in sight. Sure, this plan costs some money, but, in my opinion, a little cash is worth my sanity.

And if anyone actually wants to take my advice, the next destination is Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day. I have already started my countdown.


Get To Know Your Peers

 I overheard an interesting conversation during my last week at work in September that left me scratching my head. The rest of the dialogue is mostly irrelevant, but it ended with one guy saying to the other, “Hey, get it straight – we are coworkers, not friends.” He did not mean it to be rude, but that is certainly how it comes across to me. Moreover, why do the two have to be mutually exclusive? In my opinion, the same goes for classmates. You know you will be spending a great deal of time with the same group of people (especially in a program like the SMF, where all four autumn quarter classes are taken together), so why not get to know them on a more personal level.

I firmly believe that my experience has been enhanced by getting to know my peers outside the classroom. Some of this is through organized events, which I think are great ideas. Many students in the SMF program have expressed their enjoyment from the Summit Vision trip from the beginning of the year. Although some of the activities had a business world undertone, this set the stage for getting students to interact with one another outside of an academic environment. Throughout the quarter, interactions between many of us shifted from strictly school-related to more social in nature.

Another great event was the happy hour at Hampton’s where all Fisher grad students were in attendance, and the SMF students met there a couple hours early to have our own private party. I recall a fellow classmate saying how happy and surprised he was that almost none of the conversation was revolved around school. The same can be said for our end of the quarter dinner at Bravo. Even with professors in attendance, I overheard very little academic discussion. Although there are clearly a number of fantastic organized activities, there is still a bit of a “school-related function” tag to it.

Shedding this tag has been relatively easy and enjoyable. A handful of us have been playing pick-up basketball together, and I know of others doing the same with soccer. I had the luxury of being with my family, but I know a number of students got together and spent Thanksgiving together. I attended a Christmas party last week with a few people. And I am sure I am not the only person who has shared a few beverages on weekends with classmates.

While this may seem like a bunch of rambling about my interactions with SMF counterparts (basically, it is), it is meant to urge people to embrace getting to know their peers. It can be very simple, but you have to put forth a little effort. Everyone has a busy schedule, and unless you are new to an area, your own circle of friends. I encourage everyone to break out of that comfort zone. Having friends for colleagues makes work more bearable and at times even enjoyable. The same sentiment applies in the working world. If nothing else, it is a great excuse to hit a happy hour.


Interviews and Using Career Management

I have said it to a number of people this quarter – a huge part of the reason I came back to grad school at Fisher was for the Career Management Office opportunities and connections. I cannot compare to other universities because I have attended only OSU, but I know it is well-respected. The real benefit is when comparing to the alternative of searching on your own, something you are unfortunately forced to do in the real world. I could go on for days about the hassle of personal job searches, but I’ll leave that for another post (actually, for everyone’s benefit, I’ll probably pass, it would just be me reliving and venting frustration).

The point here is to emphasize a few of the most important lessons I have learned in my second go-around with interviewing and Career Management.

First, as I have mentioned, is to USE THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU!! Set up meetings with your advisor. Let them know what you want to do and they can point you in the right direction (shoutout to Audra!). Not to mention the numerous connections that people in the office have. It is an entire department devoted to finding students jobs at one of the largest universities in the country – they know a few people.

Next, even if you are not in love with some of the opportunities on Fisher Connect during fall quarter, schedule a few interviews anyway. Too many students make the mistake of seeing a ton of opportunities immediately available and thinking it will always be that way. However, recruiting is heaviest in the fall, so take a few chances while you have the options. If nothing else, schedule a couple of interviews for the experience. Familiarize yourself with the process – it never hurts to practice. Also, if you have the chance to interview on-site with a company, you usually have the chance to meet students from other similar programs, which is both fun and useful (mostly to brag about how much better Fisher is than their program. My personal favorite is to let them know I am from “THE Ohio State University” and correct them if they leave out “THE” at any point). And if you’re really scraping for a benefit, a lot of these will have networking events with free food. Which brings me to my next point…

If you have the choice, do not schedule Thursday evening classes. This is something that I discussed with many interviewees from various schools. I personally had two separate opportunities during fall quarter where the company held a networking or pre-interview session on Thursday night and interviews on Fridays, and two of these required some travel, so I had to choose between missing the event or missing class. This may be an easy decision for some of you, but I would avoid the quandry altogether if possible.

Finally, and very generally, using career management and setting up a few interviews gives you a great idea of what is out there, what people are looking for, and potentially sets you up with some options to keep on the back burner while you pursue your dream job.

Office of Career Management, I will gladly accept any gifts you would like to send my way for this awesome endorsement!


If You Are In Columbus Over the Holidays…

If you are spending your winter break in Columbus, campus can seem quite empty, so here are a few ideas to keep you occupied and entertained during the rest of December.

1. Zoo Lights (Pictured Above)

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been hosting ”Wildlights” for 23 years now. It runs every day in December other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As you can see from the photo above, it is quite breathtaking. Perfect for a date or a family trip.

2. Easton Town Center

This is not a specific event, but, in my opinion, Easton has some of the best Christmas atmosphere around. If you are not familiar, it is an indoor/outdoor mall/shopping center in New Albany. They string up a crazy amount of lights, have decorations all throughout the grounds, and of course, you can see Santa there. I could not find a picture to do it justice, so here is the link to a clip on their website of the lighting ceremony. Actually, even if you are not going to go, I would still watch the video. If you can make it through without getting psyched for Christmas, your name might be Ebenezer.

3. Go to a Columbus Blue Jackets or OSU Hockey game

I have been to one of each this year. If you have never attended a hockey game, I recommend giving it a shot. I am the first to admit hockey gets pretty boring on TV, but the live action is worth the price of admission (especially the OSU games – only $11 for a lower bowl seat last week). You can check out the Blue Jackets schedule and the OSU schedule.

If nothing else, take a stroll downtown or through the short north. There are always holiday lights, decorations, and specials.

Also, there are a few New Year’s Eve events such as First Night Columbus as well as various hotel celebrations, but that is more personal preference.


Grading Myself

While waiting for all of my grades to be posted this week, I decided I should be in charge of assessing my own performance. The way I see it, this quarter was broken down in to three large challenges for me. How did I fare…

1. Don’t go broke
Everyone has a different financial situation, so this one is more personal. To summarize my financial life, my dear sweet mother (God bless her) supported me for 22 years, then I worked and supported myself for two years. In both scenarios, inflow and outflow are constant. Now, with loans, I received a lump sum in September, and that’s it. Scary thought for an admittedly (semi-) irresponsible spender. Bank account looks great in September. After that, it falls fast. I am happy to report that I still have enough money to last me until January when we reset the clock and play this game all over again. I might even have enough to buy my family a Christmas present or two.

Grade: A-

2. Don’t Flunk Out (But Don’t Lose My Social Life)

This was probably my biggest concern coming into the year. I have enjoyed free weekends for the last few years, and really for most of my life (read: I have watched as much football as possible during the fall). With grad school, I knew the demands were much higher and weekend work was possible. Class work vs. socializing is a tough battle to fight, but I knew I had to find a balance. Three months later, I am quite certain I did not flunk out (grades aren’t out yet!), and I was STILL able to watch the Browns and Buckeyes disappoint me for much of the year. SUCCESS!

Grade: A (I may or may not have been convinced to go out when I planned to stay in and work a few times, but not too often)

3. Don’t Get Addicted to Coffee (or Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster, NOS, etc.)

If I had a nickel for every time I had the following conversation in the last year, I would not have to worry about point 1:

Self-proclaimed know-it-all/psychic/pessimists: “Do you drink coffee?”

Me: “No.”

Them: “You will.”

Well, doubters, I win. As I watch some of my classmates strung out on coffee and energy drinks during midterm and finals week, I am even more proud of my self-discipline. My humble advice: get some sleep, exercise, eat an apple… anything to avoid a caffeine addiction. I promise, you’ll be happy.

Grade: A+

Straight A’s. Mom will be proud. However, I will probably keep checking those actual grades. I have a feeling some people will be more concerned with those results than my own.


It’s not too late! Or too early!

The first month or so of the SMF program has brought about an interesting dynamic between the students. Many were concerned that they have too little work experience for a graduate program. Most MBA programs suggest 3-5 years of work experience for candidates, and many of our classmates are straight from undergrad. Another portion of the students (including myself) have been concerned about getting back into the swing of school after some time in working world. My time lapse is only two years, but a handful have been out of school for up to six or seven years. Regardless, the schedule, mentality, and status of your bank account are all turned upside down. However, after the initial concerns, I think everyone is settling in and realizing that the dichotomy is what makes this experience unique and worthwhile. It’s much like a “Just for Men Gel” ad - the perfect combination of experience and potential! (Let’s be honest, the best Just for Men commercial is the one with Emmitt Smith, Walt Frazier, Keith Hernandez, and the Big Unit, so here you go.)

After completing a handful of interviews, I have realized that there is a great tradeoff between the two. Some interviews focus on technical concepts that we may not have covered in class up to this point. It is difficult to reach back to my undergrad education for specific topics, especially the ones I have not used in my jobs. However, what I lack in technical analysis, I make up for in actual work experience. Many interviews discuss behavioral questions, and despite what anyone may believe, this is a huge aspect of succeeding at any occupation. I felt as though my work experience was relatively useless until I started interviewing and compiling a sizable amount of “tell me about a time when…” answers.

To summarize, wherever you fall on the spectrum from directly entering grad school to going back after working the better part of the last decade, there is a spot for you. Just at look at how welcoming Emmit, Walt, and Keith are to Randy. This could be you.


Can the football team affect your grad school experience?

Grown men crying

Buckeyes football - Bringing grown men to tears since 1890.

Ok, let me get this out of the way, I promise this is not a “The Buckeyes lost two games in a row, the Mayans were right, the world is ending soon” post. And I am not suggesting that the SMF program or Fisher in general is an expansion of the football team. However, the SMF program provides the unique experience to spend only one year (read: one football season) in Columbus. For the regular Buckeye fans (ok, I may be a bit past regular), this is just a sad season, and everyone will deal with it using their own levels of mourning, denial, and anger. I am talking about the out-of-towners, whether they are from Boston, Beijing, or Bombay.

There is an undeniable connection between Columbus and the Ohio State football team. This is sewn into the fabric of the city. So what if that huge chunk of the experience is missing for a season (like so many of our players are “missing”). Saturday, October 8, was one of the strangest “Football Saturday’s” I have experienced in my seven years in Columbus. Regardless if the game is home or away, campus is flooded with fans ages 8-80 decked out in their scarlet and gray, with as many Buckeye necklaces as you can find. Even on Fridays, all around Columbus and in the surrounding suburbs, businessmen and women don their Ohio State attire to show support and excitement for the upcoming game. After the game, it is commonplace to wear your attire out the local watering holes where throngs of your counterparts are either celebrating or drowning their sorrows along with you.

This was not the case a couple of weekends ago. This year – no national title talks, no College GameDay invading campus at least once, no January bowl trips giving us a great reason to extend our winter break just a few days longer. Maybe it is because I live off campus now, but I lived off campus last season and I did not seem to notice a big difference. It is certainly not depressing around campus this year, just different. I was out before and after the game. Jerseys were scarce. Buckeye beads were nowhere to be found. It might as well have been April. Maybe with only one year here, outsiders would never know what they are missing. Or maybe they don’t care. But part of the fun of a new country, city, or school is the local nuances.

So explore the arts district in the Short North. Gorge yourself with a Thurman’s Burger or a Dagwood from Ohio Deli. Watch out for the basketball team to make a Final Four run. And certainly do not lose sight of the top notch academics offered at Fisher. Those will always be here. I’m just saying, if you are on the fence about coming to OSU, ask any of the 105,000 people below. I can safely say that most of us (yes, I am in there somewhere) will never forget this day or this season. I hope our visitors will be able to say the same.

 

Fans rush the field after "The Game" in 2006



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