The 7 Things That Will Vastly Improve Your 1st Year in the MBA Program

I wanted to leave some advice for the incoming class that will make your life a little easier as you start this crazy thing called the MBA program. So I present you another Buzzfeed-style list to vastly improve your 1st year.

1. Redefine success.

Guess what? This isn’t undergrad where you got to take awesome classes in your major, like Children’s Literature and write papers on Harry Potter (was that just me? Good times.). Instead, you’ll be taking classes across a wide variety of business subjects and it’s unlikely that you’ll be getting As in all of them; Accounting, Marketing, Data Analysis, Operations and Finance all have very different skill sets. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for the little wins! (laundry, making time to see a friend, turning in all your assignments on time, getting above the average on a test) Which leads into my next point…2. Grades are not important. Focus on the bigger picture.

Most likely, you are not attending business school to stay in academia and become a professor, so getting straight As shouldn’t be your focus. Instead, your goal is to get your MBA and get a great job that you love afterwards. The most important things are to learn new skills, get to know your fellow students, and be better prepared for leadership positions in a company. The school wants you to be successful and go on to be great alumni that strengthen the reputation of the program.

3. Go to happy hours.

Make friends! Your fellow classmates will go on to be crazy successful and you’ll definitely want them in your network now and for years after graduation when they’re all CMOs, CEOs, CFOs, and CHROs. Don’t be the person who no one can remember!

4. Spend time with your core team outside of school.

You will spend a lot of time with your core team in your 1st year. Things will be stressful and there will be weeks that you feel like you spent every waking minute together. So, just make sure to take the time to know each other on a personal/social level. Go to dinner, explore the city, go to a trivia night, do karaoke, drink! It will make the stressful times a lot better.

5. Invest in your mental health.

Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself. Again, there will be crazy weeks, but make sure you’re doing what you need to do to stay happy and focused. For me, I usually set goals and rewards, or took the time to enjoy a TV show with dinner so that I didn’t get sad or even more stressed than I needed to be. Work smart! For me, it wasn’t worth the dozens of extra hours to get my grade up in Accounting when I knew that I would never use those skills again, but I spent extra time in the classes that I knew I would use after graduation.

 

6. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The MBA curriculum looks daunting at first, so just focus on it week by week, and you’ll get there– I promise! Don’t think about a semester’s worth of work; focus on what you need to accomplish this week and next, and then get it done. Stress can be demobilizing, so as long as you keep moving along, you’ll be fine.

7. You WILL get through this and you WILL be successful!

Other people have done this and you will, too! And trust me when I tell you that there will be intense weeks where you wonder why you’re doing this, but eventually you will learn a lot in a very short amount of time and all of that blood, sweat and tears will be distant memories. You will find strength you didn’t know you had and you’ll find yourself enjoying the coursework, your classmates, your impressive professors– and before you know it, you’ll be looking at graduation and feeling very sad. It’s a crazy journey, but I know I’m stronger for it and well-equipped to go out into the world and do great things. Best of luck! 

Photo Sources

  1. I adulted today. https://rlv.zcache.com/i_adulted_today_sticker-rb3b47fcc102949df97a8b9a9f6e9b130_v9waf_8byvr_540.jpg
  2. Happy Hour: http://www.trainingforwarriors.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/HappyHour.jpg
  3. Yoga pose: http://www.bloomyoganj.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/yoga-pose.jpg
  4. Hedgehog: http://www.funnyjunk.com/You+can+do+it/funny-pictures/5910280#1c0d9c_5909836

 

 

 

 

The 6 Surprising Things I Learned in Business School

As my 2nd year begins to wind down, I was debating about what helpful nuggets of advice I could leave for any current or future MBA students. So I present to you a Buzzfeed-style random list of “The 6 Surprising Things I Learned In Business School.”

1. It’s important to have an answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

Maybe not the first week, but eventually. Probably in the 1st semester. Do everything, see and listen to every speaker, attend plenty of company info sessions, and eventually you’ll figure out what you like and what you don’t– which is the first step in deciding what you want to do.

2. How to interview like a boss

Okay, maybe not like a boss, but you will improve. I got rejected from almost every company I interviewed with my first year, so I’m not really a beacon of shining interviewing success, BUT I’m a heck of a lot better at interviewing than when I joined the program, and that’s a skill I’ll use for the rest of my life! And always remember that jobs are like spouses; it’s not a question of success rates or batting averages, you just need to find the one.

 

3. Super-crazy insane time management

I will let you in on a secret: I watched TV most weeknights. I know, it’s crazy, but I was able to prioritize insane amounts of homework, group work, a graduate assistantship on campus, student organizations, recruiting happy hours and info sessions– and I still had a social life!

I did sleep, but definitely gave up working out, cleaning and cooking, but knew that I needed to do some things to invest in my mental health, and that’s why I watched TV (usually as I wolfed down dinner before diving into homework, but it counts!). Even though I was stressed, it definitely helped keep my life into perspective when I talked to my classmates with children; now, they are the real heroes here!

4. I am not and never will be the smartest person in the room/organization.

Your classmates will be crazy smart! Everyone in the program is smart, motivated and has probably been pretty successful up to this point. So, it can be a pretty humbling and inspiring experience to hang out with these people for two years. It’s also a great feeling to realize that YOU made it into this impressive group too, so it’s a strange mix of self-confidence boosting and some humble pie, too.

5. I have a newfound appreciation for free food.

“Free food” is one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language, especially when you’re a poor graduate student who isn’t earning any money and is too busy to take the time to cook and eat well. I can’t tell you how much pizza I’ve eaten in this program, and I LIKED it.

6. Introspection is a rare and beautiful thing.

I expected to gain technical skills during this program, especially since in my English Literature studies I had literally never taken one of these business classes, and I certainly did. What I didn’t expect, though, was how much the program pushed me and developed me as a person.

In leadership courses, you’ll learn about your strengths and weaknesses (some knew what to expect and some people were really taken aback), but it’s very good to know these things about yourself, so that you can continue to improve in those areas. I also recommend taking Professor Rucci’s Leadership Legacy class, where you think about what you want your life’s work to be and how you want to be perceived by the people around you. Since you’ve stepped out of the workforce, take the opportunity to do a little soul-searching and make sure you understand your priorities. That way, you’re prepared for life and can make deliberate decisions about your path that lead to your long-term happiness.

Image Sources:

  1. Baby in suit. http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/03/31/article-2593486-1CB8CB6700000578-692_634x567.jpg
  2. Interview. http://belimitless.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/maxresdefault.jpg
  3. Balancing act. http://imworld.aufeminin.com/story/20140102/candace-cameron-bure-balancing-it-all-154578_w1000.jpg
  4. Average student.  http://0.media.collegehumor.cvcdn.com/63/67/cc67ed1901e9a3178f44e723c1f6c629-collegehumors-average-student-scholarship-contest.jpg
  5. Free pizza. http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/32/324ee338a4ce69e815a9ef7839eea7830fb46a92b4494b70b9e1c4cc5c56e405.jpg
  6. The Thinker.  http://d279m997dpfwgl.cloudfront.net/wp/2016/05/0512_the-thinker05-wide.jpg

Columbus Marketing Hop

As a 2nd-year student in the MBA program, I’ve had the opportunity this year to serve as VP of Programming on the leadership team for AMP, the Association of Marketing Professionals. In the fall semester, I enjoyed coordinating the Columbus Marketing HOP, which started last year as a way to introduce Fisher students to different companies in Columbus and understand how they do marketing.

We like to do the trip in the early fall to expose the 1st-year marketing students as early as possible to different types of marketing careers. The core curriculum marketing class is a quick intro in the fall and isn’t able to deep dive into all aspects of marketing. So, for some students this might be their first introduction to what agencies do or understand how different industries do marketing very differently.

Piada’s Headquarters

This year, we started the morning at Piada, which is a new restaurant start-up founded in Columbus. They have recently expanded from Ohio to Minnesota and Texas to test different markets with their Italian street food, fast-casual concept. We got to hear from Matt Eisenacher, their director of marketing, on Piada’s marketing challenges in being a small start-up dealing with explosive growth. He also compared his experiences in the restaurant industry to his background in brand management at traditional CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies like Nestle and Abbott.

From Piada, we traveled to Perio, which is the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk shaving brands. It was really interesting to hear from Amy Litzinger and the team at Perio about their different consumer segments and how that leads them to different marketing tactics. They spoke at length about sports and entertainment sponsorships, which opportunities they choose, and why they do them,(which personally I found very interesting because I didn’t know very much about that side of marketing).

The group at Perio, home of Barbisol and PureSilk

After loading us up with gift bags of shaving cream (thank you!), we stopped for lunch at, you guessed it, Piada! We got to try some of the seasonal specials that Matt talked to us about in the morning, and it was especially interesting to hear from half of our group who had never been to one of their restaurants before!

Baesman’s welcoming moose 🙂

Our last stop of the day was Baesman, a non-traditional marketing agency located in downtown Columbus. I was very excited to showcase an agency to our group because it’s hard to understand the agency lifestyle until you get to see it for yourself. So much creativity and flexible thinking is needed in their roles and that often translates into offices that look very different from the stereotypical cubes of the large companies they typically work for.

Baesman’s focus is on data-mining and creating content based on insights that they glean from their clients’ data. It was fascinating to hear about how their business and focus has changed over the past 5 years when they realized what an opportunity data-led marketing would be.

I worked with Baesman in a couple different capacities before I came to Fisher, and even I learned a lot about their business model, and how quickly things are changing in their industry. We got to hear from their president, Jeff Sopko, about starting the business, and we also heard from Evan Maggliocca, who is in charge of their agency branding. I confess that I had never really thought about how important branding and marketing efforts are for an agency as they compete for new business. I had only viewed them from a client standpoint, and it was great to realize their challenges as a business, and how they’ve set themselves up for success under those conditions.

Even though I’ve lived in Columbus for more than 5 years, I personally benefited from visiting these companies and hearing about their very different marketing challenges and tactics. The students who went on the trip learned a lot too, and were excited about the diversity of the companies we visited. I’m happy that AMP was able to share such variety in our own backyard and get our students thinking in different ways about their marketing career possibilities while exposing them to great companies.

What I did this summer…

Akin to the traditional elementary-school first homework assignment, I’m going to write about my summer spent in Battle Creek, Michigan, working in brand management for Kellogg’s. First of all, let me gush a little by saying that it was a fantastic experience!

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The Frosted Mini-Wheats team

I got to work on exciting and meaningful marketing projects right away. I was on the Frosted Mini-Wheats team and learned a ton about cereal (not to mention enjoyed the free cereal bar almost daily!). For one project I was able to assist with agency relations and digital strategy planning and for the other, I worked on the recommendation for the marketing communication plan for the Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats launch and also made predictions of future growth for pumpkin spice as a flavor.

IMG_3511I learned a lot about using data, coming to conclusions, making recommendations and putting together a powerful presentation. I had never worked with Nielsen data before, so learning that system was an early challenge, but also figuring out the best way to visually show data was a lot harder than I expected. Both skill sets will be needed for any brand manager, so I was happy that I was able to improve in both areas.

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My internship was Gr-r-reat!

Everyone at Kellogg was so supportive and happy to help in any way that I needed, so I got up to speed much faster than I would have on my own. (Shout-out to my roommate who taught me everything I now know about HLOOKUPs!) I reached out to the various business units and learned about their own Pumpkin Spice launches or how they handle seasonal flavors in general. It was fascinating! Now, 12 weeks later, I know more about Pumpkin Spice than anyone should, and it’s exciting to see it all play out this fall.

I’ve lived in Ohio for the last nine years, so I mistakenly assumed that Michigan summers would pretty much be like Ohio ones, but I have to say that they are way better up north! Battle Creek is four hours from Columbus, and in addition to being more north, it’s also almost as far west as you can get in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. This means that it’s light so much longer in the evenings (at the peak, it’s still light at 10:00 pm), which gives you so much more time to be outside doing things! It was sunny almost every day and living only an hour from the beach is pretty exciting.

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The four MBA marketing interns on our last day 🙁

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I had to work at Kellogg this summer and I truly enjoyed my experience. I have a much better understanding of what a brand manager and an assistant brand manager do at a large company like Kellogg, and I’ve worked on some of the important skills that I will need in those roles, both technical and inter-personal.

Now, who wants to go try some Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats? psminiwheats

Chicago Marketing Hop

One of my favorite memories from the end of the first semester was attending the Chicago Hop, hosted by the marketing student organization, AMP! We had about 50 students across all disciplines attend the trip immediately after finals were over. On Thursday 12/17, we first stopped in Dearborn, MI to visit Ford’s headquarters and then hear a presentation from their creative agency, Team Detroit.

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Fisher MBA students visit Ford headquarters and Team Detroit agency.
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“Making a good sports point…” “SPORTS!!”

Then, onward to the Windy City! At the alumni networking event, we met many Chicago-based Ohio State alums and enjoyed hearing stories of their experiences at OSU and in their careers. Dean Makhija teleconferenced in and shared the college’s vision for the future with the alumni. After experiencing a little of the city night life (but I’m sure everyone was home at a reasonable hour, of course), we prepared for a big day on Friday.

Friday dawned bright but cold. We first visited the Big Ten Network and had a great time trying out the commentator desks and pretending to talk about sports. Elizabeth Conlisk, VP of Communications, spoke to us about how the Big Ten Network starting in 2007 as a new entrant in a saturated market. People thought they were crazy to start this, but they’ve turned the brand into a success in just a few years.

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Yeah, I knew you needed photo evidence of the cat in the spaceship.

From there, we went to Groupon’s offices, which run counter to everything you thought you knew about offices. Open floor plan? Check! Swings? Check! Fake fairytale woodland themed meeting area? Check! Luau with fake palm trees and probably not fake bar? Check! Spaceship with a giant cat head? Double check! It was great to hear from a brand that’s built a completely different business model than what was previously out there and strives to stay innovative and fun.

After a quick lunch, it was time for Tyson/Hillshire Farms! We were able to tour their office and see their great facilities. Several of their assistant brand managers came in to talk to us about their jobs and represented a variety of different brands: Sarah Lee, Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm, Tyson, and more. It was interesting to hear about their day-to-day activities in charge of brands large and small.

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From Tyson, we visited Ogilvy & Mather, a full-service agency that was founded in 1948 at the beginning of the rise of advertising. Many people believe that the founder, David Ogilvy, was the inspiration for Mad Men’s Don Draper. The Ogilvy team shared advertisements that they’ve worked on, discussed the relationship between the agency and their clients, and gave advice for people interested in working for agencies.

What a full and exciting day! One of the goals of the Marketing Hop is to showcase different sides of marketing and give real-life examples of the types of careers a marketer can have.  With an upstart cable TV network, a discounting website, a traditional CPG food company and a well-known agency on the agenda, it was hard to not see the breadth and excitement available in marketing careers.

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On the social side of things, we had a great time at dinner and at various bars around Chicago. It was great to get to know my fellow students better outside of class and mix more with the 2nd years too.  While there, many of the international students experienced their first snowfall, so it was really fun to be a part of those memories, and connect with people on a personal level. The Chicago Marketing Hop was a whirlwind trip, but hugely valuable for the 50 of us who went, both in a professional sense and a personal sense. I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip!

The People at Fisher

When starting the MBA program, I never expected the people here to be so nice. You hear the business school stereotypes about the intense competition, too many Type-A personalities vying for the same jobs, everyone stuffy and perpetually be-suited, etc. but I’ve felt something completely different here at Fisher.

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I was attracted to the small class size at Fisher and liked the thought of getting to know my fellow classmates, but I had no idea how quickly and how deeply those connections would be forged.

Walking down the hallway after about a month here, I knew most of the first years by name and a surprising number of the second years too, and I’ve met even more people since then. The faculty and staff ask about how a test went and I’m halfway through my answer before I realize how extraordinary it is that they know and care about us to even keep track of something as mundane as our testing schedule.

When the administration introduced the concept of the “Fisher family,” I thought it was mostly rhetoric and didn’t take it too seriously. But then I got here and realized that the faculty, staff and my fellow students live up to that promise every day. People are beyond supportive; they cheer for you, care about you, and want the best for you.

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Before our last Data Analysis test (yikes!), a lot of students met at Fisher on a Sunday night to study. There was a very collaborative atmosphere with some people who understood the material teaching the rest of us who struggled with the material a little more. I was blown away when I realized that there were a couple of students going from study room to study room offering to answer any questions and checking to make sure we were feeling alright about the test. They weren’t TAs, they didn’t need to be there, and it was 10:00 on a Sunday night! I was really touched by their genuine concern, especially after the test when they asked me how I felt about it and assured me that I did fine.

I’m only 9 weeks in, but I can tell you that there’s definitely a feeling of “we’re all in this together,” and I think that’s what sets Fisher apart during the program and as alumni.

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Experiencing culinary delights in Columbus