Kid’s Story: Enjoy the Fall

Timeline: Tuesday noon-ish.

I see: my BlackBerry flashing for attention and a pile of work ready for my boss.

I hear: Stratovarius.

I smell: freshly printed pages.

I feel: hungry.

Getting an MBA is not easy. It’s like falling down.

OK, so at first I thought I would leave it at that; I mean, the phrase is pretty much self-explanatory. However, I figured I’d rather avoid the hate mail for saying negative things about our program.

First and foremost, this is a positive thing. Sure, some of the images that come to mind when talking about falling down are childhood memories of scraped knees, the smell of blood and iodine, the taste of your own tears, the sound of mom making everything better… or maybe of one of your dorkier friends asking “dude, did you fall?”, I don’t know.

However, this is a different kind of fall, especially since mom is no longer around (or she has at least hinted you should move out at some point). This is you standing on the ledge, a wimpy backpack with a chute, the wind pushing you forward, the rocks and trees at the bottom, the lack of a safety net… and once again, your still-dorky friend asking “dude, you gonna jump?”

When I considered withdrawing from the workforce, giving up two years of my life, leaving my family and friends behind, and so on, I felt the exact same gut-wrenching sensation as before such a leap. Everything that can possibly go wrong, along with some of your fondest and scariest memories, manages to flash before your eyes in an instant. You start wondering how you got yourself into this situation and even consider how it would look if you simply backed out now. Perhaps it would be better, you figure, rather than risking it all to follow an elusive dream.

What you usually fail to see is the fulfilling sensations of freedom and accomplishment, the relief of making it safely to the bottom, the pride and joy of your closest ones, and the fact that every single time you tell the story you will have to say “it definitely wasn’t as bad as it looked, and it was totally worth it”.

An MBA program opens doors you cannot even see before you get in here. An MBA degree is the magical key that unlocks those doors. Like I told a prospective student the other day, the job market is a battlefield, and this is just like getting a bigger gun. It may not guarantee success in itself, as you must know how to use it, but it will certainly increase your probability of success. “Success” here is defined by each one of us for our particular situation.

The difference between a battlefield or a free-fall parachute jump and studying an MBA is this: what’s the worst that could happen?

PS: I love the weather in the Fall as well; here are some pictures from a beautiful picnic we had with a friend at Mt. Gilead National Park, about 30 minutes north of Columbus. Like I said at the beginning: Enjoy the Fall.

“Why don’t we see what is going on? There are not so many years to be wasted…” – Stratovarius

Kid’s story: Return of the Jedi

Timeline: very late Sunday evening 101010.

I see: a pile of unread photocopies due this week; plus I’m taking public policy classes, so the pile is huge.

I hear:  Hole.

I smell: Ange au Démon (don’t ask).

I feel: hopeful.

“So what did you do this summer?” seems to be the popular question lately. Well, one thing I didn’t do was write on this blog, so here’s my shot at a comeback with the new blog rules in place, trying to answer that question.

I was working in my internship. This may not sound like much, but an important, if not essential, part of the full-time MBA program is an internship with a company that students usually get for the duration of summer. As far as I’ve heard from my peers, you can expect to be given a project that lasts around 10-12 weeks.

It still doesn’t sound like much, but then you have to factor in the fact that I’m an international student, and it’s more of an achievement for us to get an internship. You see, many companies will not even bother hiring international students, since many internships are really 3-month-long interviews for full-time positions. Most international students would require sponsorship for a working visa in order to be hired, and that certainly sounds complicated and scary to many. However, you’d be surprised to see how easy and cheap the process actually is. Despite this, many companies are simply not interested in the whole thing.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to every rule, and this case is not the exception, so there are exceptions… umm…  what?? Well, the point is that there are still companies who are willing to give internships to international students for one of two reasons: a) they simply don’t plan on offering full-time positions but rather need the help with a specific project; or b) they are willing to sponsor a working visa if the need is there at the end of the internship. I really hope mine is a case of reason b.

My internship is with Asea Brown Boveri, one of the largest companies in the world and which is headquartered in Switzerland. Since my particular internship is year-long (score!), I was not assigned a specific project, but rather am helping with everyday tasks in the worldwide Supply Chain Management group for one of ABB’s 5 divisions. In short: I am drowning in spreadsheets. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I love the job. I have also been fortunate enough to have extremely friendly coworkers and superiors. The company has a very traditional and respectful culture and I really look forward to going every morning.

Anyway, the intention of this post is not to brag about how awesome my internship has been (although it has been awesome), but rather to let people know that there are some excellent internships out there. This is not the case for everyone, as I’ve heard from some of my classmates, but it certainly can happen. My best advice is start looking early and work with the office of career management, they are very helpful. Also, don’t get discouraged if you haven’t gotten an internship by November of your first year in the program, since many of the best opportunities open during the spring or so.

One of the drawbacks of having an ongoing internship is that when added to a full-time class schedule you basically forgo having much of a life outside those two things. But hey: no pain, no gain. After a while, you find your rhythm and enjoy life to the fullest… or you could have a nervous breakdown. In any case, the pain won’t last forever, and that’s something to be happy about.

It’s back to reading for me, so I bid you farewell.

“And the sun goes down, I watch it slip away…”  – Hole

This week’s top five

  1. “We’d like to have an interview with you” and the subsequent angelical chorus in my head.
  2. Show: Robot Chicken. I don’t know exactly why, but I can’t stop laughing when I watch it.
  3. Event: The Real Madrid-Barcelona game, which ended 0-2. Viva Barça!
  4. Shopping lesson: don’t get carried away shopping at Victoria’s Secret… :S
  5. The nice little weather roller-coaster: from 31°C to -1°C to 24°C in 48 hours?

“Couldn’t stand to be kept away, just for the day…”  – Chicago

Kid’s story: One For All and…?

Timeline: Saturday evening

I see: perfectly clear skies

I hear:  Beyoncé

I smell: chicken and curry (yum…)

I feel: a LOT of pain.

Let me summarize my spring quarter: I’m taking six classes (yes, SIX classes) and I have a different group for each one of them. This has been most challenging, especially given that it’s a radical change from the model that we had followed for the first two quarters, in which we worked primarily with our core team.

I haven’t spoken to many people, but the general strategy seems to be “divide and conquer”, or splitting up the groups into mini-groups. This seems to be the only viable option, as the groups face two main challenges: first, for the most part, they are large groups (e.g. nine people each in professor Kistruck’s class) and scheduling is nigh impossible more than once or twice a quarter; and second, most of us haven’t worked together before, nor was there a structured team selection process (for which I call them groups instead of teams).

Then there’s the fact that there is no consistency amongst teachers and courses either. For instance, a couple of them use Carmen to post updates and communications, others have used it once or twice, and still others don’t even activate the course therein. Also, some teachers rely solely on course packets, others focus on articles and updates, others send links to specific material every so often, and so on. There are many more differences, but the bottom line is that it’s very hard to create a studying and working routine that will work well throughout.

Now, don’t get me wrong, people: this may be whining but it is not criticism. Whichever way you take it, that’s what real life is all about, since you rarely choose the people you work with (bosses and peers alike) and you cannot please everyone. A person with an advanced degree such as an MBA will tend to occupy positions of greater responsibility and his/her decisions will tend to have a greater effect on the lives of more people. In this sense, the MBA program is doing a good job (at least in my particular case) of exposing us to less-enjoyable situations so we are better prepared to make those decisions.

My way of releasing my stress this quarter has been soccer practice and running. It’s a very effective therapy, but I think I’m overdoing it a little since I have three purple toes, a swollen shin, and my buttocks are numb, not to mention the fact I can barely walk because of the pain. I’m starting to think those eight hours a week in the gym/field are hindering my progress in other things. Oh, well…

The most important lesson is that I really miss having a secretary/assistant. I keep mixing up my groups, my subjects, and their deadlines. Add the internship search and the interviews into the mix and you’ll have a very “interesting” cocktail of a life.

Speaking of which: I’m thirsty. Cheers!

“We’ve come too far to leeeave it all behind…”  – Chicago

This week’s top five

Note: this post is a couple of weeks old and has been edited for content.

  1. Place: Orlando, FL. I miss Florida a LOT, but it sure was nice to be able to drive there!
  2. Fact: I finally saw Avatar. Another fact: it really is that boring from like the 91st minute on.
  3. Song: “What do you want from me”, by Adam Lambert.
  4. Lesson: an A- does look less nice than an A at first… then you say “well, it’s like a special A” and live on.
  5. If you can read this, then this top five finally got posted!

“If I’m a Casanova, then you’re a supernova”  – Justin Timberlake

Kid’s story: Cold lessons, or lessons in the cold… (PG-13 version)

Timeline: Thursday afternoon (what?!)

I see: gloomy skies.

I hear:  “Los Maté” by Tego Calderón on XM radio

I smell: Pineapple Cilantro…?

I feel: a surprising lack of motivation.

Note: this post is a couple of weeks old and has been edited for content.

So winter quarter is finally over. In a nutshell: I really hope spring is better. I only had lecture classes (as opposed to discussions) and I really found them less interesting than I expected. Then again, maybe it was just me.

One thing I learned during winter was that the weather is not as bad as people describe it, at least for me. It certainly was not enjoyable every day, especially during the three or four snowstorms we had between January and March, but the sun does shine with certain frequency and the snow is not much of a problem most of the time, as this city has the necessary infrastructure to deal with it adequately. Of course, you will hear people complaining a LOT about how the city of Columbus only has 60 plows or something and how they do not plow side streets down to the pavement and a bunch of other things. Then again, you kind of expect these things in “the developed world”, where people could definitely improve on their appreciation of what they have and how well things work. Whining aside, winter is mild enough to be livable; since this past winter was one of the worst in the memory of locals, it can only get better.

Also, as time goes by, people get to know you better and feel more at ease around you. It goes without saying that this is a good thing like 99% of the time. Sometimes, however, you could find that some comments go a bit over the line (unintentionally, mostly). It’s no big deal, but it kind of surprised me and I could have used a heads-up in this regard.

Another pointer: getting that summer internship is quite difficult and stressful. At the end of fall it doesn’t seem too bad, but I have dedicated considerable time and efforts during winter and have gotten NOWHERE so far. When you bring that up as a concern, people will tell you that many have already gotten their internships (mostly domestic students) and that several others are in the same internship-less situation (mostly international students). None too reassuring, to say the least. The best advice that can be given in advance is to start looking for an internship the summer before classes start, and to be relentless about it. That way, you can have a great peace of mind. However, I can also tell you that if you get your kicks out of the adrenaline rush of waiting until the last minute, you won’t be disappointed at all.

As for spring break, which is currently underway, many of my classmates traveled to other countries as part of the emerging markets class; namely Peru, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and Brazil. You will surely be able to read numerous posts on their travels in the coming days.

I decided to drive down to the Sunshine State for a few days. The trip was quite enjoyable, as the roads in this country are excellent (I think I mentioned that before), and going to a party full of undergrads on the beach is quite a sight for a single person as myself. Plus, I got to spend some time with my family and shop around. In short: pateó asno. The downside is that now the weather in Columbus seems worse than when I left, but that’s bound to wear off.

Um… Yeah, that’s about it for now.

“There’s 40 million of us in this country, and we ain’t going nowhere!”  – George Lopez

Kid’s story: A New Day

Timeline: Sunday evening.

I see: the news.

I hear:  you guessed it… the news.

I smell: um… the news?

I feel: Easterly 🙂

My typical weekday has considerably changed since I began my MBA. Here’s what it looks like now:

06:00 Wake up, hit snooze button, wake up again, read HBR, work out, shower, dress, feed.

07:30 Turn on CNN, turn on laptop, open Outlook, reply to emails, make some phone calls, search for internship, catch up on news.

10:30 Strategy class with professor Dial, take quick notes, review case, open prep notes, raise hand if applicable.

12:18 Drive home, turn on E!, feed, check voice mail, return calls.

13:30 Strategic Corporate Restructuring with professor James, keep track of the story being told, take notes, speak only when spoken to.

15:30 Mergers and Acquisitions with professor Anand, open cookies, get notebook ready, don’t fall behind, eat cookies, raise hand, try to win argument, fail miserably.

17:18 Check voice mail, reply to priority emails on phone, set up reminders, go home since soccer season hasn’t started.

17:30 Turn on laptop, open Outlook, reply to emails, organize readings, read.

19:30 Feed, resume reading.

21:00 Check email, complain of what I didn’t have time to read, pack for next day, do some housekeeping.

22:00 Watch local news and weather forecast, check DVR, watch a recorded show, check phone.

23:00 Check next day’s schedule, complain of what I forgot to do, read GQ, set alarm, rest.

“…and we have some rain showers heading your way…”  – Weather man

Kid’s story: News recap

Timeline: Saturday night

I see: Spike HD

I hear: the 5-dollar foot-long jingle

I smell: beer… OMG, what?… Yup, I like a beer every now and then… OMG, really??… Um, yes… OMG!

I feel: at ease.

Top story tonight is that we, the MBAllers soccer team, won the intramural championship! Who said we couldn’t handle undergrads at sports? Well, actually, we all did, but we won regardless. Next step is the spring championship, which will be played outdoors (hell yeah!).

Also making headlines is the fact that last week (or so) there were news of a shooting on campus. Two people died, which is a tragedy, but it was a contained incident, and the campus police responded VERY quickly. I mean, 121 seconds between the moment the 911 call was received and the moment when the first officer arrived on the scene? That’s pretty good… I take longer than that just brushing my teeth.

Despite the fact that it was nothing very serious, I received close to two dozen calls and many more messages asking whether I was OK. Unfortunately, whenever news of a shooting on a university campus are heard back home, we relate it to the more tragic incidents that have taken place in US in the past. I hope there are no further incidents, but I must say that I feel very safe thanks to the great response from the authorities.

Let’s go for a short opinion column. My dear teammate Stacey wrote this post on how the MBA program seems to have greater importance when compared to other graduate programs. My two cents: don’t be so surprised. I was told from the very beginning that many students from other programs look up to MBA students; no harm there. In fact, I met a student from Chemical Engineering the other day and thought “hm, she sounds smart”, so different opinions of students from different programs are not harmful in themselves.

There would be a problem if someone were to be told that he or she is not as important as other students because, say, he or she pays less tuition or something like that. Fortunately, I haven’t seen that happen, but I’m pretty sure there are some few crazy people out there who may have thought about it. If I ever do see it, don’t expect me to just sit by and watch, but rather to speak up; I encourage anyone in that situation to speak up as well.

That is, if it ever happened. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

On to sports: the Formula 1 season begins this weekend! I have my bets on Vettel and Massa (mostly), and sure enough they qualified first and second for tomorrow’s race. I’ve heard quite a few “I couldn’t care less” from people when I talk about Formula 1, but unfortunately for them, I’m a big fan, so the topic will certainly keep coming up in these posts. Just to quote them: I couldn’t care less [grin].

Now the gossip snippets: the star goalie from our soccer team dented the front license plate on my baby. And also, I’m thinking of offering a reward for pointing out the snitch who suggested someone had cheated on the marketing midterm, only to find out he or she just heard a conversation on the risks of cheating in an exam and made a big deal out of it. The word “dork” comes to mind, for some reason… To doubt out integrity after all we’ve studied on ethics is just… Oh, well, whatever.

Finally, the weather: oh, yes, it’s getting WARMER!!! Hopefully, it will be nice for our upcoming finals week.

“This time, you should take me away… to a new place… where we just might keep the night on the sky” – DJ Antoine

This time
You should take me away
To a new place

Where we just might
Keep the night on the sky

This week’s top five

  1. Formula 1 is back! (Yup, my life makes sense again…)
  2. Warm weather is back! (Idem)
  3. Place: Istanbul Café in Easton… although I may be biased by the awesome company I had.
  4. Event: winning the intramural soccer championship and celebrating at McFadden’s 🙂
  5. Place: Crazy-Guinea-Pig-Lady’s crib! Best dinner I’ve had in the suburbs!

“I was raised in da hood called what da (bleep) (bleep)…”  – WC ft. Ice Cube

This week’s top five

  1. We’re done with midterms! ‘Nuff said…
  2. Outing: lunch at Buca di Beppo in the Arena District with two beautiful ladies, CS and MC.
  3. My Neo-like move in ops at Prof. Hill’s question of “what do you think a manager would see different than a customer in this case” while I was filling out an internship application. Plus, there’s the fact that he called me by my last name, which I’m not used to. I said “satisfaction” and an ominous silence followed (his face was priceless), but I could say “you know, he might worry about employee satisfaction” before he could destroy me. Bring it on!!! 🙂
  4. Me: “Good morning. I’d like to reschedule the appointment I have today”; Nurse: (very politely) “Sir, you called yesterday to reschedule for tomorrow”. Me: [banging head on desk].
  5. Quote, by the news anchor on Fox: “We really urge all our viewers to stay off the road, as the snow is making conditions unsafe for anyone to be out there. Now let’s go live to our reporter XYZ who has been driving all night keeping us updated on road conditions.” (…huh?)

“You moved just like them…”  – Trinity