The Year is Coming to an End

Technically, there are two days of class left in the semester. For the sake of this post, let’s say classes are over and all that remains between the student body and summer are those pesky exams.

Here in Gerlach Hall, there are two camps. First-year MBAs are eagerly preparing for GAP assignments and summer internships that will hopefully turn into full-time offers. Second-years are staring employment directly in the face. Try and picture the fleeting look of carefree senioritis on a 28-year-old’s face as she realizes winter break, spring break and Fridays off will forever be in the past. I fall squarely into the anxious, exhausted first-year camp. In less than two weeks, I’ll be in Tanzania working with the Global Water Institute on a water well program. In less than six weeks, I’ll be interning with The Wendy’s Company in its marketing division. Bring it on!
tanz-LMAP-md

On one hand, I cannot wait to ditch homework for four months. No more late nights at the kitchen table with a strategy case for a company. On the other hand, I’m essentially going back to work for 13 weeks. Work stress and effort are totally different than school stress and effort. Grades and participation points are great, but real life company-related implications and a paycheck are vastly more important in the long run. A dumb answer or a half-hearted deliverable will not ultimately sink a ship here in the safe classrooms of Fisher. Not so in the real world. All the theory and case studies will finally be put to the test. I’ll let you know how it goes!

The-Wendys-Company

Time Management: If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

In the midst of a two and a half week onslaught, I write to you during a brief respite to talk about time management and the dire importance of learning how to manage your time, for sanity’s sake.

The past two weeks have, on top of the normal demands of daily MBA coursework, included seven team projects, two individual assignments and a marketing case competition. Sounds like a lot, right? We haven’t finished just yet. The cherry on top of the sundae is a blitz of finals this coming Monday and Tuesday to round out the term.

running man time management

To give you some insight, the breadth and depth of our assignments included:

  • Team Operations Management II Case
  • Team Presentation in Global Business Environment
  • Team Strategy Case
  • Team Marketing Management II Case
  • Team Global Business Environment Term Paper
  • Team Global Business Environment Term Presentation
  • Team Marketing Management II Term Project and Presentation
  • Individual Strategy Case
  • Individual Operations Management II Assignment
  • Macy’s Marketing Challenge
  • Yet to come:
    • Operations Management II Final
    • Marketing Management II Final
    • Global Business Environment Final

My classmate Danny already touched on the importance and ever-present inclusion of group work into our MBA experience. I can whole-heartedly say that the bulleted to-do list above would not be possible without an accountable core team. Thankfully, my team and I successfully worked together and spent hours and hours pushing to ensure we had quality deliverables. Yes, tensions can run high. No, you cannot escape it. It’s these experiences that best mirror working under tight deadlines with a team in the business world. Setting aside the individual for the betterment of the team, sharing responsibility and depending on each other to shoulder the burden each weigh heavily in the foundation of a high performing team.

time manaegment clock

Now, I’ve got to get back to it. If you think you possess great time management skills, be prepared to back it up. I thought I was pretty good, but I still have plenty to learn. The good news is, we all survived and by 2:45 pm Tuesday afternoon, we’ll have a chance to take a deep breath.

That is, until we start our next term the following morning at 8:30 am.

Global Marketing Lab – Singapore Style

I wanted to write about my amazing week in Singapore now that I’ve been back in the States for over a week and I’ve finally conquered jet lag (enough) to organize my thoughts.

Naturally, I’m talking about this year’s Global Marketing Lab, Fisher’s winter break course that pairs teams of undergraduate business students with MBA mentors to create boardroom-ready presentations for multinational companies and their Asia Pacific leadership teams. During our week abroad, our undergraduates presented to Johnson & Johnson’s Acuvue team, two divisions of Deutsche Post DHL and Wendy’s EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Asia) leadership team.

During each visit, the youngsters would present their projects and the respective leadership teams would educate our entire group about their business, and more specifically, illuminate the reality of doing business in Southeast Asia. Perhaps the most enlightening portions of each get-together were the informal Q&A sessions and networking opportunities. After all, these individuals already held the reins for three established, influential global companies. The best we could do was to simply soak in as much information as possible: every insight and industry tidbit that would inevitably help us in the future.

Lotus

While we donned our business professional finest each morning to fulfill our educational duties, each afternoon held a different kind of education. Our days included cultural tours, tourist attractions and some of the most delicious food a human being could ever venture to ask for. Within 48 hours of touching down in the tropical city-state, we had all experienced:

  • The Singapore Flyer: one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels
  • The Marina Bay Sands: imagine a Las Vegas resort containing three massive towers with a boat-like structure spanning all three (complete with a pool, a bar and an incredible view)
  • Gardens by the Bay: a man-made cloud forest and nature conservatory
  • The Colonial District Tour: which can only be completed on a ubiquitous bumboat
  • Jumbo Seafood feast
  • Singapore City Gallery: picture an architectural tour by way of an intricate model of the entire city (down to the unique shape of our hotel’s roof)
  • Asian Civilizations Museum: exactly as it sounds

Our first 48 hours were, in my mind, the busiest and most tour-heavy days of the trip. That’s not to say we didn’t resume our tourist roles again throughout the trip, but bedtime could not come soon enough on Sunday and Monday.

Temple

Throughout the week we toured and spent hours exploring Chinatown, Little India and the Malay District, experiencing the separate cultures that make Singapore such a distinctive place. It was very interesting as a novice Singaporean historian to learn about the cultural make-up of the nation that grew from a small fishing village and nautical crossroads to a British trade hub and, eventually, a free nation leading the Asian tigers to become one of the most developed and prosperous countries in the world.

The growth and prosperity of Singapore is easily seen throughout the city, as well as the strict regulations that govern its people. The public transportation system is immaculately clean. There truly is such a small amount of litter that it becomes rare to even see an empty bottle or cigarette butt in the gutter. As for jaywalking, chewing gum and the other strange laws that we hear about Stateside, I couldn’t tell you. I was too nervous to try.
Singapore is a marvelous entry point for travelers’ first Asian trip. It’s largely English-speaking, safe and compact. The small country, about the size of all five boroughs of New York City, has five million people. You can experience as much traditional culture as you please. Or, if you so choose, the shopping centers are (apparently) amazing. And I’ll say it again, the food is fantastic. Try everything. Find the stall in the hawker center with the longest line and have at it.

Fish head

This goes without saying, but the trip went so well because of our esteemed leaders Professor Shashi Matta and Heidi Eldred, Director, Graduate Global Experiential Education Program. These two know the territory and show the students a great time.

Oh, and one last thing, it’s extremely hot and humid. Pack extra shirts.

Gimme a Break, Gimme a Break

Earlier this semester, I wrote about the astonishing speed of the first term (seven weeks). Even though I have the exact same feelings about this second term, I won’t bore you with my flabbergasted view of time during this program (but seriously, didn’t we just start Leadership and Operations a couple of weeks ago?).

Amid the flurry of classes, exams, group projects and meetings, there is time to breathe. Trust me. Breaks are such an important part of this program. Luckily, they’re almost perfectly spaced apart.

Academic Calendar

Like any school schedule, the breaks can be short (Labor Day, Veterans’ Day), a little more substantial (fall break, Thanksgiving weekend) or massive (winter break a.k.a. four weeks of brain-resting bliss). Whether it’s a Wednesday off or a five-day weekend, each and every one of us can appreciate a break because we get a much needed taste of normalcy. Some choose to take the extra time to focus on catching up in Data Analysis. Others take time to catch up on Netflix. Anything and everything that has been neglected throughout the preceding weeks receives much needed attention.

Personally, my favorite break activities are sleeping in, reading (for pleasure, not to learn more about value stream mapping) and mini-marathons of beloved TV shows or movies with my girlfriend. Before Fisher, I used to finish a book every one to two weeks. This has drastically changed. I can say, with a twinge of sadness, it took me about twelve weeks to finish the last book I started (it was a terrible book, but still). Nonetheless, I will not be deterred. I have a stack of 10-15 books waiting to be read over winter break, next semester, spring break and beyond.

As for shows, wonderful creations like On Demand, DVR, Netflix and Hulu enable all of us to catch up on our favorite shows in one day (if you’re feeling up to it). I’m partial to travel shows, namely “Parts Unknown” with Anthony Bourdain, but anything will work. I’m sure I have a few classmates who can’t wait to finish the latest season of “Pretty Little Liars” or “UFO Hunters.” I’m not here to judge anyone’s preferred method for fully exploiting a day with no schedules and no deliverables. I think we should all revel in our days off and do just that, take the day off. Do what you want to clear your mind, relax and get re-centered.

Like all great things, breaks come to an end. The hectic schedule awaits on the other side, but that doesn’t mean we can’t put our brains on cruise control and get lost in something other than regressions for a day.

 

One Term Down, Seven To Go

Although the Full-Time MBA program technically includes four semesters and one summer internship, those semesters are truthfully split into two terms each. Eight fast-paced, blurred seven week terms that take novice economists, marketers and businesspeople and fill them with enough information to make the most brilliant minds ache. (Full disclosure, some of our core courses do cover the full 14 week period, but not all.) I have no doubt that Term 1 is the tip of the educational iceberg here at Fisher. The mere fact that some courses are called “Marketing Management 1” and “Operations Management 1” plainly shows us that we’re nowhere near finished. Not yet.

As I mentioned, we’re 1/8 done (not that I’m counting). I couldn’t tell you what we covered in each class period or which exams were what week. All I know is that I’ve learned more in seven/eight weeks than ever before. Completely foreign concepts like analyzing accounting statements and corporate finance (or, let’s be honest, finance in general) are now familiar tools I use each week. Maybe I don’t use these tools perfectly, but still.

Before the program started, I had serious reservations about my ability to pick up the business concepts I knew we’d cover in our core courses. I majored in the humanities in college and graduate school, worked in PR and corporate communications and hadn’t touched math since 2009. Luckily for me, the courses are structured in a way that allows non-business background students to keep up and even flourish. That’s not to say that someone with a weak finance background won’t have to work harder than a former financial analyst in our corporate finance course, but the opportunity to do well is there. As Dr. Gray (data analysis guru) loves to tell us, you need to do the problems and practice outside of class. With my more than seven weeks of expertise in the field, I can tell you he’s right. Do the problems. All the problems.

I’m excited to see where these next 49 weeks of class take me. I don’t know where I’ll end up but I do know that I’ll be ten times as prepared as I was before entering Gerlach Hall for that first day of school.

Fisher