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Summer Activities – Pelotonia

It is hard to believe, this this school year is already coming to a close.  Last August seems like such a short time ago, and the months have gone by in the blink of an eye.  I am currently in the middle of mid-term exams for the second term of the spring semester, and will be halfway through my MBA journey in under a month.

This summer is showing no signs of being any less busy, between working during my internship, to participating in the GAP program, and taking advantage of other opportunities around Columbus.  One of the activities that has occurred in Columbus every summer for the better part of the last decade is the Pelotonia charity bike ride, which raises funds for the James Cancer Center here on campus.  A short description from the ride’s website:

The model of Pelotonia remains simple: Pelotonia’s operating expenses are covered by funding partners so that 100% of every dollar raised by Pelotonia riders, virtual riders and volunteers goes directly to fund cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center—Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. Pelotonia was initially funded with a five-year, $12.5 million commitment, with a goal to raise $39 million during this time period.

The ride has raised over $61 million dollars to help fund cancer research over the years, and is a great way to give back to the community.  This year, I will be riding as part of the Fisher College of Business team, along with several of my other classmates who are also going to be in the Columbus area over the summer.  So, along with my internship this summer, I will be balancing my training regime in order to prepare for the ride.  If you have any interest in learning more about myself and the other Fisher students who will be riding, you can follow this link:  Dan Reeder


MBA Internal Case Competition

A week or so ago, the annual Fisher Internal Case Competition was held here on campus, pitting teams comprised of first year students against each other, in competition for spots on the team for the Fisher Invitational Competition which is coming up in April.  The invitational brings teams from other Big 10 business schools to campus, to compete in a live case for a company.  As I have said before, I like case competitions because I feel that they allow me (and my fellow students) to put theories learned in class into action in a safe environment, and get then get feedback on the ideas generated.  One awesome aspect of the Internal is that the judges for the competition were a combination of business executives and faculty who volunteered their time to come in on a Saturday to come in and take part in the competition.

You may have heard the quote before “feedback is a gift”, which is something that I believe is true.  It allows a glimpse of your actions through the eyes of another person, giving additional depth and perception to your personal beliefs on something.  Since case competitions are a safe environment, participants can apply some creative thinking to the theories that they have learned, and see what the results are (what I mean by this, is that if you take a risk, and make the wrong choice, you won’t be fired, and a company won’t lose millions of dollars).  While such a safe environment doesn’t perfectly replicate the post-business school working world, it allows skills and ideas to be developed and tried that can be useful in the future.  Relating this to my past as a Marine, this is similar to conducting training patrols against other U.S. units in the United States, before deploying overseas.  Both units, or teams, benefit from the exercise and the additional stress of competition, while at the same time building skills.   Having impartial judges who are experts in their fields observe all the teams during this process, and then provide feedback to every team and participant is a very valuable learning experience if the participants take the input to heart.

Win or lose, I think that all of the participants from this year’s competition learned some valuable lessons about themselves and their teamwork skills through the process.  I personally believe that that learning and growth opportunity is move valuable than the accolades of winning a case competition, although winning is nice too.

 


The Season’s Pass The Years Will Roll…

I remember when I was interviewing for MBA programs and talking to people who had already gotten their degrees, a common sentiment was that the MBA program is “over in the blink of an eye.”  It is the sort of phrase that you hear fairly often, and is almost a bit cliche’.

From where I am sitting, a bit over a quarter of the way through my degree, I can now agree that the MBA program is quickly flying by.  It seems like just the other week that I was starting classes and meeting my new colleagues.  But, I have already completed one semester of courses.  I believe that part of what makes the program go so fast is that since the semester conversion from quarters, each semester is divided up into two terms.  While there are a few courses that last a whole semester, the majority of them last for just one seven week term.  So by the time you feel settled in a class, it is week 3-4 and time for the midterm, and then right around the corner is the final exam.  All in all, I believe that this course schedule helps contribute to the blazing speed with which the program is flying by.  The other influence on this is of course just the sheer amount of things that need to be done during the MBA experience.  From going to class and doing assigned readings, to trying to have a social life, find a job/internship, and every once in a while finding time for a meal and some sleep, there is always something to do.   As I have mentioned before, time management is an essential skill to excelling in the MBA program.

If time continues to pass at the rate it did for the first semester, the next thing I know I will be at my summer internship, and then graduating from the program in no time.  With that in mind, I am constantly looking for the opportunities that will foster the most personal and professional growth for me.  Managing those experiences are, in my mind, the key to success in the MBA program.


Interview Prep

I know that preparing for interviews can seem like a waste of time sometimes.  In the basic sense, it is just having a conversation, so why not just go in with the attitude of: “I’m just gonna go in there, be myself, answer their questions with great stories, and knock the interviewer’s socks off.”  And the answer is, because that probably isn’t how it will go at all if you don’t do any prep work, like having answers for common questions prepared.

When I was up in Chicago for the MBA Veteran’s conference, I participated in a conversation with some fellow combat arms vets that probably could have been titled:  The greatest hits of terrible interview question answers.   The questions that were asked in the interviews were generally along the lines of:

“Tell me about a time you were in a seemingly impossible situation, how did you find an innovative solution?”

“Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of stress and had to make a difficult decision?”

“Describe a time when you worked as part of a team to meet a seemingly impossible goal?”

“Describe a time when you used your leadership skills in order to resolve a conflict?”

As a former infantryman who went on multiple overseas deployments, I have a fair amount of experience working in adverse situations, making difficult decisions, working as a part of a team, and using leadership skills.  But, as the mental Rolodex clicks through my life’s story, the first experience that comes to mind for any of those questions is not one that I am going to use in a job interview.  The reason I say that isn’t because I lack pride in my time as a Marine, or am ashamed of what I did overseas or anything like that.  The reason is that the interviewer is not going to be able to understand how to translate those answers into potential value for the company.   During a job/internship interview, the potential employee has to show that it would add value to the company to bring them on board.   If your answer takes the interviewer to a situation and place that they will never understand, full of acronyms and jargon that sounds like a foreign language, they are not going to be able to grasp the value that you can add to their company through your past experiences.  Instead of stories appropriate for the VFW hall, focus on positive stories, that showcase skills like the ability to work as part of a team, be a leader, use time management efficiently, make timely decisions, ect…

So, in my humble opinion, if you are in a situation where you are going to be going to interviews, taking the time to think through some answers to typical behavioral interviewing questions.  That is what I have done, and now I have alternative experiences to draw on, and don’t need to rely on the first experience that comes to mind when someone asks me about a time when everything was going wrong, and success seemed impossible.

I know this post seems rather veteran-centric, but I think it applies to everyone.  It is a good idea to think before you speak in an interview, and make sure that your story conveys a sense of added value to the company that they will be able to understand.  That generally isn’t something that is going to happen without some prep work ahead of time.


The Heart of it All

Time has still been flying by around here, and there has been lots of excitement.  Notably the end of our first terms, and our first round of exams.   Each semester at Fisher is divided into two 7 week terms, which means a new set of courses every 7 weeks, just to keep us on the bounce.  In addition to new classes, the internship search seems to be coming along, with people attending conferences out of state, second round interviews, and some starting to receive offers.  I had the chance to go to the MBA veterans conference in Chicago last week, which was a great opportunity to talk with companies specifically looking to recruit talent from top schools who are also veterans.

So, needless to say, life as an MBA student is still very busy, and requires proper time management.  That being said, life balance is still important, and students need to take time to enjoy life whenever possible.  As someone who is interested in supply chain management and operations, it hasn’t escaped my notice that there are a significant number of companies who have headquarters or distribution centers in the Columbus area, as well as Ohio in general.  Part of the reason for this is that a significant portion of the American population lives within a day’s drive of Ohio.  So while the state is not the geographic center of the country, it is in a strategic location for getting goods to customers.  In fact, I think one of the iterations of license plates the state used to have said “Ohio – the heart of it all.”

In keeping with the need for a healthy work-life balance, especially for people who haven’t traveled much within the U.S., Columbus is in a good spot for those who want to take weekend trips.  I consider about 6 hours (approx 350-400 miles) to be the most I would drive for a 2-3 day weekend trip and within that radius of Columbus are the following cities:

Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, OH

Pittsburgh, PA

Indianapolis, IN

Chicago, IL

St Louis, MO

Detroit, MI

Buffalo, NY

Washington, DC

Lexington, Louisville, KY

Knoxville, Nashville, TN

And those are just some of the bigger cities that I can think of off the top of my head, there are many more smaller cities, national/state parks, lakes and other attractions worth visiting within that radius as well.  As you can see, Columbus, Ohio really is rather well situated to serve as a base of operations for someone who wants to have access to a large portion of the U.S., which is another attractive attribute of the Fisher MBA program.

 


P&G Marketing Case Competition

This week I had the opportunity to participate in the first big case competition of the year on campus, which was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble (a consumer brand goods company based in Cincinnati, OH).  The case was marketing based, using a real P&G brand, and interacting with members of the brand management team that actually works on the product’s marketing strategy.  About 6 hours of time were devoted on Thursday for the teams of 4 to come up with a brand marketing strategy and develop a presentation, and then 5 hours on Friday were used to give each of the 10 teams involved a chance to present their ideas to marketing professors and professionals.  So, all in all, if you include the social events associated with the competition, it was about a 12 hour commitment.

Now, in case I haven’t mentioned this before, I do not intend to major in marketing for my MBA degree, so, some people might wonder why I wanted to dedicate that much time to a competition in a field that isn’t my primary interest.  The answer to that is really quite simple, and that is because there is much more to a competition than just the main functional area.  Case competitions give MBA candidates, like myself, the opportunity to work on things like time management, team skills, leadership skills, creating presentations, innovation, and presentation/communication skills.  All of those, to me, sound like skills that are crucial in order to be successful in the business world.  A case competition gives students the opportunity to work on all of those skills in a controlled environment, it really is a practical application training exercise.

In the military, we didn’t just go into a high risk activity without a degree of training in advance.  Before we went overseas, we would spend months or years training, refining our knowledge and skills, so that we would be more successful when we went downrange.  Training is never perfect, because all elements of real world scenarios can’t be included for a number of reasons, but training is still an important part of preparing for real world application.  Most of my colleagues and myself are getting MBA degrees in order to move into management, or leadership type roles after graduation.  And while the risks for an infantryman overseas and business executive clearly have some differences, both roles have inherent risks.  So it makes sense to work on the skills required to be successful at either in a training environment, which is something that case competitions provide.  Because people revert to their previous training and experiences in a high stress situation, I don’t want the first time I have to do something stressful, like need to sell an idea I have to a board of executives to be during my internship, or in my new career.

So, that is my rather long-winded answer, as to why I thought it made perfect sense for someone who wants to major in operations & logistics to be in a marketing case competition, and why I plan to be in several more competitions in various fields.

 

Here is my awesome team (from the left: Me, Lindsey, Jeff, and John) from the competition. In case anyone is wondering, we won.


An afternoon with Alcoa

In all the excitement last week, with the case competition, and studying for exams this week, I almost left out writing about another awesome opportunity I had last week. Last Wednesday, the aluminum manufacturer Alcoa had a function on campus relating to some of the grants they have given to the school for various research projects.  If you are interested in reading more about those grants, I am going to include a link to the Lantern (Ohio State’s student newspaper) article about it: http://thelantern.com/2013/10/aluminum-company-grant-ohio-state-250k-2014/.

As the article notes, Alcoa’s chairman & CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld, was present at the function, as were several other executives from the company.  Alcoa, in case you didn’t know, is ranked 128th on the Fortune 500 list for 2013.   I thought that it was pretty awesome to get to attend a rather small (under 100 person) function at which a CEO of that caliber was speaking, and took the time to share his honest answers to student questions on a variety of issues. After the formal presentation was over, there was a more casual networking dinner with the executives present.  Opportunities like that don’t just come along every day, but they do seem to come by much more often now that I am a MBA candidate than they did in the corporate world.

That is one of the great things about Ohio State, and Fisher College of Business, is the breadth and depth of ties to industry that the organizations have.  Just based off the sheer numbers of graduates every year, Ohio State has one of the largest bases of alumni in the country, and that can be a powerful thing when you are trying to network professionally.  The different colleges on campus also have ties to industry in their own sectors as well, either through their faculty and staff, or through collaboration on projects.   This broad network can come in handy when trying to attain better information about a target organization or industry.

As an aside, one reason that I was very excited to attend this Alcoa event, is because the corporation is active with a group called American Corporate Partners (ACP).  ACP is a mentorship program which connects qualified military veterans with mentors who are all business executives.  I am an alumni of the program, and the gentleman who was kind enough to devote time to being my mentor is an executive with Alcoa, so I have a high regard for the company.  If you are a veteran looking into business school or entering the corporate world, I highly recommend applying for ACP.


Batter Up!

Just so that no one gets the wrong impressions that it is all work and no play around here, we do get chances on a regular basis to engage in a wide variety of activities outside of class and the career search.

For example, last Friday night was the first year vs. second year slow pitch softball game, organized by the Fisher social chair.  It was a fun, semi-competitive game, and a good chance to get to know other people from the program outside of the classroom setting.  The game was held at Fred Beekman park, a large sports complex with a variety of sports fields on West campus.

Even though people who attend top ranked MBA programs generally don’t like to lose so both teams wanted to win, everyone was still encouraged to play.  I hadn’t played softball since undergrad intramural leagues, which was some time ago, and still had a lot of fun participating and helping my team out.  Even though the weather wasn’t the most co-operative, the game was followed up with a cookout at fisher commons, where both teams and the spectators could enjoy some grilled food and beverages.

 It was really more about having fun and working on team skills with each other more than anything else.  If you think about it, those are valuable business skills to have, that are needed in the real world.  No one wants to work on a team with someone who has a bad attitude and isn’t willing to work with others in order to achieve goals. Also important is being able to clearly communicate among team members, as well as being able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of team members, and then  leverage that knowledge to make the team stronger to achieve goals. I guess that is a sign that business school and interview season have started to sink in, that I can relate everything to transferable business skills.

Keeping Pace

There was a saying that we used in the Marine Corps: “It is easier to keep up than catch up.”

This phrase mostly applied to things like running or forced marches in that context, but it seems to me that is is quite applicable to an MBA program as well.   Time management is a crucial skill that is needed in order to thrive in this sort of environment.  In the Marines they begin training in stress inoculation and time management almost immediately.  It is not uncommon in boot camp for something simple, like making a rack (bed), to be given an impossible, or nearly impossible time restriction, and it progresses from there to more complex issues with seemingly impossible time constraints.

Important life decisions.

Time management and the ability to work under duress are two of the many valuable skills (along with leadership), that the Marines helped instill in me.   So, back to the MBA program, during the program, there are a lot of priorities that need to be balanced.  Some of the main ones are:

  • School:  Not just going to all of my classes, but doing homework assignments, studying, and working on projects.
  • Future Careers:  Especially for people like myself looking to switch careers, I need to actively work on building my professional network, attend company info sessions and events, job fairs, apply for jobs, hopefully interview for jobs, work on my resume, and meet with my career counselor.

    First Career Fair as a graduate student today!

  • Student organizations:  There are a myriad of student organizations at Fisher, and they all offer valuable opportunities to students.  There is certainly not time to join all of them, but I have joined several, but each additional one requires an additional time commitment.
  • Personal:  This is possibly the easiest to neglect, but humans need sleep, and to eat, and every once and a while to relax.  Things like going to the gym take time, but it is something that should not be neglected.  Also, having a social life within the program is important.  A big part of business school seems to be networking, so doing things like going to happy hours, and football games are important to building strong relationships with classmates.

All of these areas need to be kept in balance, and maintained, sometimes one is going to be more in focus than the rest, but that doesn’t mean the rest can be neglected.  If I neglect an area, then I am going to fall behind in it, which means that in the future, I will need to expend the same amount of energy needed for it now, plus the energy needed for it in the future, in order to catch up.  That is in addition to meeting all of the other requirements from the other sections of my life.  So, a short term sacrifice now, causes long term harm if I decide to slack in one or more areas.  So, even though it might seem overwhelming sometimes, keeping up with it all is easier than trying to catch up with it all in the future.  I should thank my Drill Instructor for the life lesson.

 

Four simultaneous Script Ohio’s is an amazing thing.


Start early, start often

People, perhaps now more than ever, like instant gratification.  We want answers and results right now.  We don’t want to have to wait until 6 in the evening to catch the evening news, which is why we have multiple 24 hour cable news networks.  Most of us carry more computing power in our pockets than it took to get to the moon, so that we have everything, news, weather, banking info, contacts, and whatever else there is an app for, at our fingertips.

But, if you are looking at attending an MBA program, or utilizing the GI Bill, or even planning to use the GI Bill to attend an MBA program, then an important element to achieve success is to start both processes early.   And neither one is really going to give you that instant gratification that we all crave these days, but they are worth it in the long run.

If you are thinking that attending a top MBA program sounds like a good idea, then if you haven’t already, you should be studying for and scheduling a time to take the GMAT.  It was actually about this time last year that I took mine.  That way, you will have your score when you go to recruiting events, and if you don’t score as high as you would have liked, might even be able to re-take the test before it is time to apply.

After the GMAT is done, come all the other important things, like recruiting events, campus visits, and interviews, all of which you want to get done before application deadlines, so that you can make the best informed decision possible.   Sometimes there are also scholarships and fellowships that are available only to those who apply to the earlier deadlines a school may have.

And, if you are eligible to use the GI Bill, I assume you have dealt with the VA before, so start the process of verifying your eligibility early, because that process can involve a whole lot of hurry up and wait as well.   Time management and task prioritization will be of the utmost importance when pursuing an MBA, so it is best to build those skills early, if you don’t already possess them.

Finally, here is a more current picture of Ohio Stadium, taken last Saturday vs.  Buffalo.

I think my seats are not too shabby.

 


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