My favorite course so far this semester (and arguably the MHRM program so far—although I’m finding it remarkably difficult to choose between it and my former favorite Organizational Development & Change) is Strategic Management of Human Assets taught by Professor Steffanie Wilk. The course is required in the MHRM core curriculum, but what makes it different than most MHRM core classes in structure is that many MBAs choose to take it as an elective. We have the option to take it during the day (Tuesday & Thursday 1:00-2:30 PM) and Thursday evenings (Thursdays 6:15-9:30 PM). I personally chose to take the daytime option because I was excited to learn from and interact with some MBA students I don’t as often get to interface with.
In short, the class is about strategically aligning human resources policy, practice, and decision-making with the strategy of the organization. During the first week of class, we defined the three primary strategies by which businesses compete: cost, quality, and innovation. We took some time the first week to define what each of these strategies can look like (and not look like) based on industry, sector, and product, and then we dove right into debate about competitive advantage. Some insider thoughts from Jen’s notebook:
Business seeks to find efficiencies to ultimately provide a lower cost product or service than competitors (example: Costco)
Business focuses on quality of product or service and precise “moves” hinge upon how customers define quality (example: Wendy’s)
Business focuses on differentiating products or creating new product lines to leverage new markets (examples: Amazon & Apple)
a condition that, when present, makes magic
In other words, your competitive advantage differentiates you from competitors, makes money, and is sustainable over time. In other, other words, it’s the secret sauce of the organization.
We are currently in the midst of what Professor Wilk likes to call “Airplane Week.” We are discussing the commercial airline industry and how two distinct airlines—Southwest and JetBlue—compete using their respective strategies and competitive advantages. Today we debated what, precisely, differentiates Southwest from competitors and how the strategy impacts culture, recruiting, hiring, training, rewards and performance management processes.
I was genuinely fascinated by the discussion, and impressed with the effort it takes for organizations like Southwest to appear like they function effortlessly in day-to-day operations. And, I’m already looking forward to Thursday when we’ll talk about JetBlue and how they approached the competitive landscape as a start-up airline in the late 90s.
I am back in Columbus after an exciting break full of travel, and I was met with cold temperatures and a little bit of snow! I wrote about one of the very fun trips I took over Christmas break in a recent post. Another trip I took over break was to Houston, Texas, to go apartment-hunting and do a little sight-seeing, as that’s where I’ll begin work after graduation.
Since it’s the beginning of a new semester and also since this semester is made up almost entirely of electives, I thought it would be good to do a preview of my first quarter of classes. The SMF curriculum allows you to choose from any of four different concentrations if you wish, but you are not required to follow any track. This flexibility in choosing your classes is one reason I was attracted to the program. I decided to use this flexibility to my advantage by taking classes from all the different areas of concentration offered in the SMF curriculum. In the area of corporate finance, I’ll be taking Mergers & Acquisitions. This course also happens to be taught by the SMF program director, Professor George Pinteris. In the area of investment management I’ll be taking Portfolio Management and Fixed Income. Within the risk management area, I’ll be taking Derivatives Valuation. Finally, within the real estate concentration, I’ll be taking Real Estate Valuation. This course in real estate will also give me the opportunity to pursue a certification in Argus, a real estate valuation software.
I am very excited for all of these classes, as I think they represent the spectrum of finance offered to SMF students. I also think that these different areas of the SMF cur,riculum give me the chance to practice honing different skills. For example, the Mergers & Acquisitions course will help me to hone soft skills through the heavy class participation required, while the investments and risk management courses will be much more quantitative in focus. Finally the real estate valuation course will teach me technical and applied skills by learning a specific software used in industry.
I’m ready for the exciting and challenging semester ahead of me!
My favorite class this semester, and thus far in the MBA Program, has been Organizational Coaching with instructor John Schaffner. This course not only provides the opportunity to learn more about yourself as a leader and how you can improve, but also how to bring out the best in others to help them achieve their personal goals. As an added bonus, Professor Schaffner is hilarious and makes the class very engaging.
I spent seven weeks in this course with about 25 other students. The class began with each student personally reflecting, and included an exercise where we had to create our “Life Map.” This map looks like an EKG reading, where the peaks and lows are representative of the best and worst moments of your life over the years. While this exercise is very personal, it allows you to be introspective, and by going through a coaching session with a partner in the class, you gain additional insight into how some of your life experiences translate into your style of leadership. After completing our life maps, we spent the remainder of the course completing additional exercises to learn more about ourselves and then practicing different strategies for developing and maintaining a coaching relationship.
Coaching is a co-active relationship, and as the coach, you work through the process of deepening the client’s self-awareness by asking the right questions to help them realize they truly are capable of solving any challenge they are experiencing, whether personal or professional. Through practicing effective listening, awareness, and communication, you are able to develop skills that are critical to success in any leadership position.
Fisher just recently introduced a course called LEAP+TC (Leadership Effectiveness through Applied Projects + Team Coaching) where students gain hands-on experience managing a project with a non-profit organization in Columbus to further develop leadership competencies, practice team building skills and apply the skills they’ve learned in the classroom. I’m glad to have the opportunity to learn more about coaching to better prepare me for my career post-MBA!
While sitting down with a prospective candidate of the SMF program and Nicholas Denker at lunch the other day, I had time to reflect on what Ohio State has to offer students. You should know the vast amount of resources you have at your disposal here at Fisher College of Business, although I can’t name them all within this short blog post!
Just within the first half of the year, I have learned from professors who have very recent work experience, professors who hail from other nations and give new perspectives on issues, and even a professor who was in the armed forces. All have been excellent and helpful. Just because this is a large school does not mean professors are not able to meet with students. Professors always encourage us to stop into office hours to see them.
Also, the wide variety of working professional and academic professors is a huge benefit to students. Their experience and connections give students more knowledge than we know what to do with. They expect the best out of the class and, in time, the transformation from student to professional takes place.
The SMF program brings in speakers from all different types of industries, as well. On most Friday mornings, there are presentations (set up by Fisher faculty and staff) featuring a variety of leaders. You can come in and listen to industry experts who are actively working. Not only will you be able to gain insight from their presentations, but a select number of students each week can have lunch with the speakers to ask any questions that come to mind. This perk is not limited to just the business college. The entire university brings in highly-regarded speakers. Just this past week, OSU hosted J.D. Vance to talk about his work, The Hillbilly Elegy.
Fisher College of Business has a vast alumni network, as well. The success of past graduates helps us as future graduates achieve even more. To be able to go on LinkedIn and see that alumni of Fisher are working at almost every company I look up is reassuring that I can do great like my colleagues before me. These alumni know all too well the difficulties that may lie ahead for students. From my experience, these alumni have responded when I reach out to them and provided great advice for me to move forward with. Put in the work and Fisher will reward you with the knowledge you need to succeed.
The curriculum is designed to allow students to apply what they have learned throughout the first semester of the program in that Capstone project. The “objective of the course is to apply the concepts and techniques we have learned in core coursework in a real-life setting by performing a financial analysis and valuation of a publicly-traded company” (syllabus).
In this report, each team is supposed to include the following sections:
Overview of the company.
Discussion of business model and identification of key value drivers.
Discussion of business risk factors.
Discussion of DCF valuation.
Conclusion and recommendation.
Throughout the first semester, we’ve taken core classes in Economics, Statistics, Financial Software Application, Corporate Finance, and Investments. We’ve also developed our teamwork skills through various group projects and presentations, as well as through our core Leadership class. All of these knowledge and skills that we’ve been developing for the past three months at Fisher are put into practice in this capstone project.
The first rough draft deadline is approaching and my team and I have been working hard to come up with a strong report. I am definitely excited to have the final product on hand!
In the months leading up to my return to school, one question continuously crossed my mind: What does a day as a Fisher MBA student actually look like? Although my campus visits during my interview and Red Carpet Weekend gave me a good feel for the program, it’s hard to know what your day-to-day will be until you actually get here. So, I decided I would give you a taste of a typical day as a Fisher FTMBA. I like to keep myself extremely busy, but this day (below) was an unusually busy one for me. Your own schedule will obviously vary based on what you decide to get involved in and any obligations you have outside of Fisher, so take this as just one example of what life here is like:
7:45am – Roll out of bed after “snoozing” my alarms at least ten times. I hate mornings, but many of our core classes begin at 8:30am so you do what you have to do. Luckily, my roommate (a third-year vet student) shares my sentiments.
8:10am – Head to campus to begin my day. I live in Grandview a little more than two miles from Fisher, so I usually drive and park on campus.
8:30am – Operations I – I’m a marketing major, but I’ve always been fascinated by operations and I have to say that I’m really enjoying this class. Professor Hill leads us in finishing up the value stream map calculations we started on Tuesday. When he’s done, we have time to discuss potential solutions with our classmates based on the calculations we’ve made. Even though my math skills aren’t stellar, I enjoy thinking about how to make processes more efficient. This class is particularly heavy in case studies, and it’s really helpful to apply the principles of operations to real-world examples.
10am – Professor Hill lets us out a few minutes early, so I make my way downstairs to drop off some stuff in my locker and grab coffee from Rohr Cafe. I try to make coffee at home in my Keurig to save money, but I often don’t leave myself enough time to do that before I have to leave for class. On my way, I run into Julee Conrad and Sarah Campbell from Admissions. They offer me free coffee from the Fall Preview Day table. The GPO is the best!
10:15am – Accounting – We just had our second midterm exam on Tuesday, so today we’re transitioning from Financial to Managerial Accounting. Accounting is the quant-heavy class I like the most because the math is fairly basic and Professor Xue (most of us just call her Sue) is the best. Our last Financial Accounting unit was difficult, so I’m glad to be moving in a new direction.
12pm – I pass by my friend Courtney in a study room on my way out of Accounting and stop by for a chat. Courtney is a second-year student and the president of the Fisher Graduate Women in Business (FGWIB), and I work closely with her as one of FGWIB’s first-year liaisons. We talk about FGWIB, Fisher, and life in general– and before I know it it’s almost time for my next class! The second-year MBAs have been an incredibly valuable resource and I can’t wait to pay it forward next year. So if you’re reading this and are starting at Fisher next fall, come find me!
12:45pm – Quickly scarf down some leftovers for lunch before heading to Finance class. I’m not always good about packing lunch or cooking in general, but I try. Gerlach Hall, home of the Fisher graduate programs, has fridges and microwaves and there aren’t a lot of places to get food by Fisher. Plus, it’s healthier and more affordable.
1pm – Finance – This is our most quant-heavy class this semester, and the English major in me has been struggling. Luckily, I have awesome classmates and a great TA who help me get through it. Professor Wellman does a lot of example problems in class, and copying down the solutions as he works through them helps me understand the material. Today we continue our discussions on the interest tax shield and capital structure decisions.
2:45pm – I head to the Office of Career Management for a meeting with Chase which is recruiting on campus today. I’ve been working hard on my internship search since I got to campus, and Chase is one of my top choices.
3:15pm – I have a little time to kill before my next meeting, so I stop by the Graduate Student Lounge. I spot Ashley, another one of my second-year friends and the co-president of the Fisher Sports Business Association of which I’m also a member. The lounge is a great place to catch up with friends between classes and do group work. I often pass through just to see if any of my friends are around. I won puppy playtime with Ashley’s dogs at last week’s Fisher Follies auction, and I can’t wait to meet them!
4pm – The Office of Career Management started a Job Search Action Team program, and today is my team’s first meeting. The teams are made up of students across all of Fisher’s graduate programs and led by one of our career counselors. The goal is to support each other as we move through our internship and job searches. We get to know each other and learn about “feedforward,” a positive feedback system we’ll be using in future meetings.
5pm – After the meeting ends, I run over to the Blackwell for a happy hour with prospective students. The admissions team is always looking for volunteers for our Fall Preview Days and I love to help out. It’s nice to unwind with some of my friends after a long week and share my experiences with people who might just be my classmates one day!
5:50pm – I make my way back to Gerlach Hall for Chase’s info session. After hearing more about the company and their opportunities, we have the chance to network with a number of representatives from the Columbus office. I’m inspired by Chase’s initiatives in the digital banking space and impressed by their customer-focused mission. I leave the session exhilarated and look forward to learning more as I move through the application and interview process.
8:00pm – I finish up just in time to give my friend a ride home from yoga class. Normally we both go to yoga Thursday at 7pm at the North Recreation Center, but my schedule was just too full today.
8:30pm – Get home in time to collapse on my couch and watch some TV. It’s Thursday, which means I have no class tomorrow!
Hope you enjoyed a day in my life! If you want to see more posts like this, feel free to let me know in the comments.
The first seven weeks have flown by in the MAcc program, and finals are now upon us! For those who don’t know the structure of the MAcc program curriculum, this blog will hopefully help you understand it more. The program is broken up into four seven-week quarters (two quarters per semester). During the first two quarters, you will take your 10 credit-hour core classes that are required. However, the remaining 21 credits required to graduate are all electives (five credit hours must be accounting electives and three credit hours must be non-accounting). This structure gives you, the student, the ability to take classes that interest you! You have access to almost any course you can imagine.
When I first realized four quarters meant four sets of finals, I may have freaked out a little bit, but now that I have gone through the process of taking finals, I can assure you there is no need to stress. One benefit of having finals after only seven weeks of class is that all of the material is still very fresh and new in your memory. The professors prepare you and really want to see you succeed in the program. Throughout the year, if you struggle or have any questions, the professors are always available in their offices to help you. I’m happy so say I’ve completed 25% of the MAcc program at this point!
One of my favorite parts of the MAcc program is its unique program structure. It squeezes so much knowledge into nine months and allows the time to meet recruiters and find a full-time position. Keep reading for some helpful tips!
MAcc follows a semester system which means we have 15 weeks for each semester excluding the finals week and a three-week Christmas in between the two semesters. The interesting part of the MAcc program and some other business-related specialized graduate programs is that within each semester, we have two separate sessions. The idea is that these sessions allow the students to have breadth (choosing from many subjects) and some subjects don’t necessarily require a full semester.
In the MAcc program, most of our courses are case-based and group-based which means you need to invest a lot of time with your group members to come up with a final product. Make sure you can manage time wisely, but leave some time for yourself to relax and search for jobs.
You’ll need it– because recruiting season for accounting starts in the fall. Most of the companies accept resumes in early and mid-September, then start the first round interviews in the late September and second round interviews in mid-October. To prepare yourself, I HIGHLY recommend taking four courses in your first session and five courses in the second session in the fall semester. That way, you’ll have more time to prepare for the interviews and informational sessions held mostly in the first session. Otherwise, you may end up with three interviews and five final exams– all happening in the same week.
In two weeks, I’ll move temporarily to Indiana for a 12-week internship with PepsiCo. Not only will I learn the practice of many things I learned in the classroom, but I’ll be tasked with specific, deliverable tasks and share what I create with leaders at PepsiCo in Dallas at the end of the summer. Classmates will move to places all over the country and work for various employers, including Boeing, Owens Corning, Ford, Texas Instruments, Exxon, Honeywell, Huntington Bank, Honda, and several others I can’t remember– and do similar things. We have an exciting summer ahead!
To that end.. and without further adieu… here are my Top 10 jewels of wisdom for 1st-year MHRM students:
Be engaged. This may sound obvious, but the students who succeed are the ones who, as Professor Inks says, make the commitment to “bethere” in class. When he means “there,” he means paying full attention and intently thinking about concepts, questions, and problems. I take it one step further: be engaged. Ask questions. Disagree. Faculty are more than willing to help you grow your knowledge and comfort with content if you ask for such help. Talk to them after class. E-mail them. Visit them during office hours. Soak in their knowledge!
Don’t overextend yourself. This is really easy to do on this campus. Fisher and OSU have many, many things that can take away from study time– including things that are otherwise good uses of time, i.e. student organizations, philanthropic causes, speakers, etc. But every minute of the day counts and you want to be “firing on all cylinders” in your coursework. I recommend involvement in one or two organizations at most and a clear understanding of what the involvement entails.
Partner early with Jill Westerfeld in the Office of Career Management. Jill knows what she is doing and loves to give students’ personalized insight and suggestions about anything career-related. Start by showing her your resume and LinkedIn page– and telling her where you want to be professionally.
Be prepared for the first semester. It is overwhelming– no way around it. Classmates and I had been warned about this in orientation, but it is no joke. In addition to acclimating to so many new things, autumn is “recruiting season.” That means you’ll see recruiters early and often throughout the semester (mostly before the holidays, with heavy presence in September and October) and you’ll be able to attend many informational sessions, mixers, speakers, and… of course… interviews. So, in addition to getting the lay of the land in grad school and living in a new city, you’ll be competing for a summer internship with your classmates (and others across the country)! Prepare by managing your time well and understanding your personal goal of every recruiting event you attend.
When it comes to internship and job offers, don’t compare yourself to others. Now, this is not a very realistic suggestion, I realize. Perhaps a better way to express this is: compare yourself to others in a fair way and don’t take things personally. You will hear stories throughout the first year of classmates getting internship offers– and classmates who don’t. Some classmates get offers from very respected employers. Some get impressive compensation– allegedly. The truth is… you will never know the truth about other internships or about why you were or were not picked for an interview. There are many factors, some of which are out of your control. Control the things you can and don’t worry about the rest.
Take no more than one elective at a time. I made the bold decision of taking two electives during my three core courses in the second session of last semester and did the same thing this semester. Not smart. These are graduate courses, so you need to devote a good chunk of time and brainpower to them. Taking a high course load and adding that to other obligations, i.e. work, is a risky proposition.
Invest in a good laptop. Simple suggestion, but important. I started with a cheap, refurbished mini-laptop that was slow and is now in disrepair. You need a workhorse. By the way, some timed exams are taken online during class, so you don’t want to mess around with poor technology!
Build relationships with classmates. Not only will you benefit from having strong connections with great people, but you’ll find their ways of looking at things to be a great benefit. I cannot tell you how many conversations I had in the past year where I was able to clarify a concept or better understand something because I went to a formal study group, talked to someone in the hall, or took part in a GroupMe discussion. Side note: 2nd-year MHRMs are also great assets. They’ve been through what you’re going through. Don’t be shy! Introduce yourself.
Remember that Rohr Cafe closes at 7pm. So, don’t count on getting any food or drink during class breaks (there is typically a 10-minute break sometime around 7:30-8:30pm in every class). Pack your food and keep it in the Gerlach Lounge fridge. Also, don’t be shy about eating in class. At first, it felt strange; but you’ll get used to it. No fish, garlic, or similarly strong-smelling food, please!
Get comfortable with international students. Meeting and socializing with international students might seem uncomfortable at first, but I’ve built some good friendships with international students. It just takes a little effort to get out of one’s comfort zone. I also very much admire what they’ve done– imagine moving halfway across the world to Columbus, Ohio, for grad school! Their life stories are impressive and they share enlightening details about their countries and how HR works for them.
Before I started as a grad student at OSU, I knew on some level that my life would change forever. But truly, nothing can prepare you for this experience– this wonderful, deeply enriching, challenging experience that cannot be replicated. Take advantage of this time and make the most of it!
Last month, I completed the most difficult (and fulfilling) assignment of the MBA thus far. It didn’t involve an extensive group strategy session, or a Sunday afternoon in R studio learning to better work with data, or even a 40-page case read with analysis…. It was even more difficult than those other assignments.
This assignment involved digging deep to develop my personal legacy statement. What do I want my friends and family to say about me when I retire? What do I want the overall impact of my professional life to be?
The premise is that nobody makes it to their deathbed and says “gee, I wish I’d spent more time at the office grinding in Excel.” How much more effective (and challenging) is it to consider your life impact on the front end of your career than the back end?
Our Leadership Legacy class had to not only flesh out our legacy into a paper, but also to present our statements in the form of 5 minutes speeches to the class. It was a beautiful experience to learn how my classmates have overcome crucible moments and how they plan to make a meaningful impact in their careers.
In the end, I’m so grateful that Fisher is not just training me to be a sharp analyst and a strategic thinker, but also to be an effective, authentic, ethical leader who very carefully and intentionally considers my impact on the world.