“And What Else?”

This semester I am taking Intro to Organizational Business Coaching taught by instructor John Schaffner (“Coaching”, for short). This is the second time I’ve had  Mr. Schaffner and he is authentic, relatable, insightful, and brings a sense of humor to the classroom – with just the right amount of snark sprinkled in. I thought I would give the world a taste of just that in this interview with the man himself.

John Schaffner, everybody.

Jen: Okay, what exactly is coaching?

Schaffner: Coaching—and this is the definition we use in class—is taking a very important person from where they are to where they want to be. It is oriented around this idea of the “ideal self,” and is predicated on the belief that the person you are coaching has all the answers within them. A coach is both someone who co-creates a relationship to an ideal goal and is a thought partner for the person they are coaching.

Jen: And why is coaching important in organizations today?

Schaffner: Well, my research really talks about the headwinds of VUCA—Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. And I think in a lot of organizations where coaching is prevalent—Google, for instance, has a Director of Coaching—it is because the issues that the folks at these organizations have to deal with involve paradoxes.

Related to that, in class we discuss the difference between a puzzle, which has a finite amount of pieces arranged to form one solution… a problem which can have a myriad of viable solutions—think work-life balance. Problems have a multiplicity of solutions while a puzzle does not. And finally… the idea of a dilemma, which is a problem that isn’t really solvable—world hunger and racism are gnarly problems that we can’t seem to figure out, at least not in the way that we’re thinking about them. All of these exist in the workplace, and coaching can help us begin to tease apart some of these issues that are roadblocks to our goals.

Jen: What are the three most important qualities of a good coach?

Schaffner: Oh, three most important? So we’re in this like “top 10” list world right now, aren’t we?

(Jen laughs)

Schaffner: Well, I would say compassion. Compassion is empathy in action. I can feel bad for you, or I can ask you about how you’re feeling and truly listen and explore that with you. Compassion is elemental to being a good coach.

Then there’s listening—listening is fundamental and it’s something that we struggle with these days. There are more distractions these days that inhibit our listening than there are augmentations. The digital world, the internet– are things that preclude us from listening as well as we should or could.

And, I also think there has to be a sort of core curiosity and desire to help if you’re going to coach. Curiosity helps you guide the individual to think around the problem in ways they haven’t before. The motivation to help is part of this new world of coaching which is oriented around compassion, compared to coaching for compliance. Example—imagine if I said, ‘Jen, you really haven’t met your goals this month. Why haven’t you met your goals? Okay, now I’m going to suggest some ways you can meet those goals.’ No– those goals may not be your own, but rather the agenda of the organization. That’s really where coaching started. Coaching with compassion, which is the basis for this class, is oriented around the goals of the individual.

This ties into your previous question—why is coaching needed in the workplace? I think the business world is entering this new consciousness where concepts like well-being and looking at associates very holistically is relatively new. When I was in business school 17 years ago, that was far from the way we thought of things. Well, people in HR have been thinking about this forever, but what has recently emerged is this notion that things like well-being have an impact on the business from a quantitative perspective.

Jen: In class, you talk about how important it is to “ask a good question” when coaching. How do you do this?

(Laughs). There it is! That’s a good one right there. Let’s break that down and find the source code. A good question has to do with getting people to think differently and make connections differently than they have before, much like a good metaphor does. That opens up a part of your brain where abundance and creativity live. So, asking a good question kicks you into that mode. We’re the only creatures on earth that create metaphor—unless, like, Dolphins are doing it and we just haven’t figured them out yet. I think they might be. Anyway, and it sounds corny, but a good question allows you to get to a very human level with someone. It’s free of judgment, and in many ways it’s focused on getting at truth—and we can discuss what truth is but that’s probably for another conversation. A powerful coach seeks the truth for the person they’re coaching.

____________________________________________

So far, the class has helped me practice strategies for listening to truly hear and understand (not just respond) and craft questions that are powerful and thought-provoking to move the conversation forward. I had my first practice session coaching a fellow classmate last week, which was awkward and clunky and an exercise in vulnerability for both of us. But it feels good to be improving and I’m excited to continue to become a more powerful communicator with clients I am coaching. And, for when I’m really stuck, Schaffner gave us a fail-safe if we run out of things to say to our client:

A.W.E – “And what else?”

2018 MBA Internal Case Competition

Every year, Fisher hosts an internal case competition for all first-year Full-Time MBA students. Teams who win get an opportunity to represent Fisher at the Big Ten Plus MBA Case Competition, which is held at Fisher, in April. The internal case competition was held last weekend.

Exactly a week ago (Friday), my team, along with 17 other teams, were presented a case at 8 AM. It was a “live” case– meaning that the company is currently going through this situation and we were asked to solve, invent, and/or create a new idea. We had to work with a fabrics and crafts store (one you have certainly heard of) that recently opened a new kind of store specially catered to bulk ordering. Our mission was to find innovative ways that would grow the new store’s customer base without cannibalizing the original brand.

Each team was assigned a room and told to submit all materials by 7 AM the next day (Saturday). We were given snacks and food throughout the day. My team (consisting of Kyle, Mariel, Carl, and myself) came up with a plan of attack: we were going to take some time to generate ideas, do preliminary research, then get together and hatch out a model. We were then going to delegate each a portion of the project to a team member. Carl was our slide deck specialist, Mariel was awesome at market research, and Kyle was our financial guy. I was in charge of putting the different components together and filling in as needed.

We worked in 3-4 hour chunks, stopping for lunch and dinner. I am not going to go into detail for the rest of the day, but there were some unforgettable moments: 1) Mariel brought in chocolate covered espresso beans and we were on a caffeine high for a few hours, 2) Doing push-ups as our group activity in order to keep Mariel’s fitness plan in check, 3) Doing laps around the building to keep my sanity after being in school for 15 hours, and 4) stuffing our faces with fruit snacks.

We left on Saturday at 12:30 AM and were back in the building at 8:30 AM. You could see walking zombies everywhere as some groups left at 3 AM, and others arrived at 5 AM to tie up some last minute details. My team presented well, delivered what we needed to know, and we walked out in good spirits. We celebrated by grabbing a beer at the nearby Varsity Club with some other groups (a popular hang-out for Fisher grad students).

The results came in and my team didn’t win. There was a brief moment of sadness, but we knew that we worked well together and had a wonderful time. The journey and experiences we shared are something that I will never forget. Here are some of my key takeaways:

  • Find a team that you can trust and respect. Build the relationship by meeting outside of school for meals, drinks…etc. My team met several times at our favorite Condado Tacos several times before the competition.
  • It is impossible to be productive for 12 hours straight. Mix it up with some funny moments, sleepy periods, and productive sessions to get the best out of everyone.
  • It is interesting to see how a group works under intense pressure, high competition, little sleep, and in close proximity. It sometimes brings out the best and worst in yourself and others.
  • If you focus on just winning, you sometimes miss out on special moments shared.

I am proud to present my team: the MACK Consulting Group. Pictured below (from left to right): Kyle, Mariel, myself, and Carl. I’m also proud of Kyle (who won Best Presenter) and Carl (for winning Best Q&A). Go, team!

Let’s Get Strategic

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:

Strategy

Cost

Business seeks to find efficiencies to ultimately provide a lower cost product or service than competitors  (example: Costco)

Quality

Business focuses on quality of product or service and precise “moves” hinge upon how customers define quality  (example: Wendy’s)

Innovation

Business focuses on differentiating products or creating new product lines to leverage new markets  (examples: Amazon & Apple)

Competitive Advantage

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.

Spring Semester Preview

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 at Fisher

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.

Sample EKG Reading to give an example of what the Life Map looks like!

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!

 

Endless Possibilities at Fisher

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.

This is Professor Kewei Hou during an interview explaining his research. Professor Hou is currently teaching the Derivatives Markets course.

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.

Team Core Capstone Project

One of the coolest aspects of the first semester in the Specialized Master in Finance program here at Fisher College of Business is the Core Capstone Project (Equity Research).

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!

The MBA Diaries

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:

Thursday, 11/09/17

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!

Coffee coffee coffee!

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.

Eating lunch from my snazzy Fisher lunchbox

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.

 

First Quarter Comes to a Close

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!

Jobs Vs. Grades? You can have BOTH

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.