Case Comp – A Rite of Passage

Last weekend, first year Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM) students underwent a kind of “rite of passage”: the annual MHRM Internal Case Competition.

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The competition was sponsored by PepsiCo this year, and real executives from PepsiCo as well as other companies that recruit heavily on campus—Marathon, The Wendy’s Company, Ford, Rolls Royce to name a few—were on the judging panels. At 8 AM Friday, we were briefed on the case (a real problem that PepsiCo HR professionals were currently facing), and after a 20-minute Q&A, we broke off into respective 4-person teams to begin our work. We had until the following morning at 8 AM to conceive a solution and figure out a way to sell it to the judges in 20 minutes. If you ever participated in some sort of “lock-in” at your church or school, then that’s a good starting point for understanding. We spent 15 hours in Gerlach Hall that day—or as I like to call it now—my second home.

My team’s day consisted of some serious brainstorming, followed by changing our minds several times, and finally settling on a simple and practical solution to the problem. Was it too simple? Had we thought through all the details? What if they throw us a curveball? These were the questions rattling in my brain all day. But we were in a time crunch (yes, that’s on purpose), so we had to roll with it.

Fast forward past lunch, dinner, laughing, crying, sleeping (there was not actually any crying) to the next morning. We arrived back at Gerlach Hall the following Saturday morning at 7 AM and received our presentation room and time slot. At that point, we scurried back to our room to hammer out the last few details and practice, over and over…and over…and over………………………and over.

We had a tough room—the judges are trained to interrupt you and throw you off to challenge your ideas and assumptions. Now seems like an appropriate time to introduce the idea of Type II Fun:

“Something that is fun only after you have stopped doing it”

– Type II Fun

At the end of a nerve-wracking and intense Q&A session, we left our room to debrief how we thought it went. What was most difficult for me was not having anyone to compare ourselves to. We were not permitted to collaborate with other teams, nor see their presentations. So, it was difficult to know how competitive our idea was. Situations like this definitely challenge my discomfort with ambiguity.

At the end of deliberations and a delicious lunch provided by the Fisher College of Business, the results were in. I am proud to say that my team won our room, which is especially exciting considering we were strangers just a few days before. It is so satisfying to be able to come together and leverage our strengths as a team so quickly and effectively. And I feel lucky to have made some new friends along the way!

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That’s us! Myself, Irinka, Krista, and Katie.

What is Change?

What is Change?

This is the question Professor Jeff Ford posed to us during our first class. Most of us took a stab at answering and the usual responses surfaced–a process of making something different than it was before, an equation of addition or subtraction, a state of transformation. No single answer seemed to entirely encompass the definition of “change.” And like most philosophical questions, the concept seemed to slip through our fingers like fine sand as we tried to wrap our arms all the way around it. I knew immediately that I was going to love this class.

During the second 7-week session of the first semester, all 1st year MHRM students take Organizational Development & Change with Professor Jeff Ford. The course is structured around a series of short cases that we explore each week. We are given a simple question that we work together to answer. The first week, we defined change. This past week, we talked about how to identify–exactly– what we want to accomplish and how, specifically, we would know if we accomplished it.

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Professor Ford’s teaching style is exactly what I envisioned of a graduate-level class. He challenges us to tease out the essence of what we are saying. In undergrad, I felt it was much easier to get away with saying a bunch of pretty words and hoping my main points and ideas would materialize for my audience. But, when forced to focus on word choice and detail the way Ford urges, I find that stripping away all the excess is the best way to solve any complicated problem. He doesn’t lead you into the answer or finish your sentences; he waits for you to distill your message down to the very essence. I think it is so important to practice thinking like this in a world littered with so much information to sift through.

Another unique feature of Ford’s class is that his wife, Dr. Laurie Ford (an experienced consultant), sits in on class and contributes her insights. This is fantastic–Laurie shares real-life examples of how she has initiated change from diagnosis to implementation in organizations she has worked with. With a concept as cloudy as change, I’ve found it is tremendously helpful to have access to multiple perspectives to help us apply what we are learning to real cases that we analyze from start to finish. I also think Laurie’s involvement is such a palpable example of how Professors at Fisher (and their spouses in this case!) truly invest their heart and soul in their students.

Last week, we studied an example of a utility company struggling to complete installations accurately according to the specs provided by the engineers, leading to delays and complaints. We were asked by Professor(s) Ford to get into small groups and provide recommendations for what we would “change,” how we would change it, and how we would know if we succeeded.

Many of us fell victim to the “action imperative”–doing too much too soon and all at once. We suggested lofty ideas like streamlining the communication systems, instituting various task forces (what are those anyway?), implementing and training and project managers, relationship-building among the installers and the engineers…all of which could have worked, but they very quickly became too abstract and unmanageable. Then we started to think about how we would know if our changes worked. Increase in revenues? More timely installations? And how would we implement the changes? Company-wide training initiatives, team-building, eLearning…at a point it began to feel like we were vomiting every HR-related word or phrase we had ever heard in a desperate attempt to hit the right answer. It turns out, we were overcomplicating things.

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This case study was actually a client that Laurie had worked with. She encouraged us to think about the “lines” that represent the connections between the different players. The issue clearly became the communication that was (or wasn’t) happening between the installers and the engineers. They weren’t speaking the same language, and directives were being lost in translation and leading to mistakes and delays in the work orders. Upon further discussion, we discovered that the work order template hadn’t been updated for over a decade. The simple solution was to update the template. Brilliant.

My takeaway from this class so far is to keep it simple. Change can be an intimidating concept for many organizations that need it, and so it is best to change as little as possible that still allows you to accomplish the goal. Tread lightly, and don’t rock the boat if you don’t have to. I’m sure these will be important lessons to remember after grad school when we will be brand new HR professionals trying to make our mark on the world. It will be a tough balance to strike, but I already feel more prepared to tackle it.

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Electives in the MAcc Pt. 2

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have interviewed several of my peers within the MAcc program about some of their favorite electives offered in the MAcc. Here are some of their responses:

Erica Yoder:

What is your favorite elective?

My favorite elective so far has been ACCTMIS 7620 Management of Corporate Data. It’s a 7-week session course, and each week you learn about a new data system.

Why did you decide to do this class?

I decided to take this class because I had an interest in risk advisory and technology, and felt that this class would be beneficial in pursuing that as my future career.

What is the format of the class? (i.e. lecture, cases, group/individual)

The format of the class is an interactive lecture. More often than not, half of the class is going over lecture material and the other half is walking through the data system of the week, following along on a personal computer. There is one assignment every week, to help you grasp the new data system that has been introduced.

Favorite thing you learned/biggest takeaway from the course:

The class was fast-paced, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see a variety of different systems in such a short amount of time. I am taking data mining next, to expand on my knowledge and understanding of data systems and data usage.

Kate Sabin:

What is your favorite elective?

Sports Marketing.

Why did you decide to do this class?

I chose to do the class because I loved my Marketing class during undergrad and I am a huge sports fan.

What is the format of the class? (i.e. lecture, cases, group/individual)

The class is primarily a lecture format, though we have had several guest speakers. All the speakers completed the Sport Management program at Ohio State and have gone on to work in various sectors of the sports industry. There is also a group project component. We were split into teams of 8-9 students and each team was responsible for doing the promotion for both a men’s and women’s hockey game. This included everything from pre-game marketing strategies to actually executing in-game promotions. I had actually never attended an ice hockey game before! Before the end of the semester, we will also create a social media plan for a sports paraphernalia item, as well as a marketing plan for a Columbus Clippers event that another class will go ahead and put into action during the spring semester.

Favorite thing you learned/biggest takeaway from the course:

This class definitely got me out of my comfort zone. The Fisher College of Business can function a lot like a bubble and it is very easy to spend all of one’s time within the walls of Gerlach Hall. By taking a course outside of the “norm” for MAcc students, I have had the opportunity to interact with students who I might not have met otherwise.

Me interviewing one of my friends, Kate Sabin
Me interviewing one of my friends, Kate Sabin

Samantha Daugherty:

What is your favorite elective?

My favorite elective is my Negotiations class.

Why did you decide to do this class?

A friend who took this class in the MAcc program last year suggested I take this course.  In addition, I wanted to increase my negotiating skills and learn different tactics on how to negotiate certain topics.

What is the format of the class? (i.e. lecture, cases, group/individual)

The format of this class is a little bit of everything.  On one day, we will break out and negotiate with a partner, each having our own set of information and needing to negotiate in order to receive a favorable outcome.  Once we finish this negotiating day, there will be a more lecture-based discussion debriefing the negotiation and talking about the different tactics and takeaways from the negotiation.  In addition to these individual negotiations, we have an ongoing three-step group negotiation, where we negotiate with a different group in order to receive a favorable group outcome.

Favorite thing you learned/biggest takeaway from the course:

So far, my favorite thing I am learning is how to confront certain situations that would otherwise be uncomfortable.  For example, a salary increase or a lower purchase price.  I have learned how to interact and work with different personalities, which I believe is an important takeaway when I enter the workforce.

Chloe Lam:

What is your favorite elective? 

Managing Product and Process Innovation is my favorite elective. The compelling factor about the MACC program here at OSU is that students are encouraged to take classes that interest them. I knew from the start that I wanted to take more management classes to broaden my general business skills and learn from the MBA students.

Why did you decide to do this class?

The topic of innovation has always intrigued me – I wanted to learn more about how big companies, like Siemens and 3M, have succeeded/failed through innovation.

What is the format of the class? (i.e. lecture, cases, group/individual) 

Primarily lecture and group cases.

Favorite thing you learned/biggest takeaway from the course:

The biggest takeaway from this course is to not be afraid of speaking up to share your ideas/opinions. I tend to shy away from participating in classes, but management classes encourage students to participate and learn from each other. Through participating, I was able to learn so much more.

Sunday Night Lights

The Specialized Master in Finance (SMF) program draws students in from all over the globe. Our class is roughly 70% international, with students coming from many different cultures and backgrounds. Just this year alone, we have students from Thailand, Nigeria, and El Salvador. It certainly allows each and every one of us to better understand the truly international world we live in.

While there are some cultural differences between each and every one of us, there are more similarities among us. For instance, some of the men played on intramural soccer and flag (American) football teams. Some of the women in the class even cheered them on. Also, we have had numerous dinners together where we try different types of food: Chinese, Indian, Mexican, American, etc. In addition, we have had get-togethers on the weekends– and a few of us went to the football game the other weekend.

As you can see, there is plenty that we have done so far. One specific gathering I want to write about today, though, has to do with the past few Sunday nights. Basketball, or 篮球 for my Chinese speakers, is a very international sport, one that a good number of us in the program enjoy playing. This past Sunday night, we all met up at the Adventure Recreation Center on West campus (this has a rock-climbing wall) around 7:00pm. Over the next two hours or so, we played several games of 5-on-5 hoops.

Rock Climbing Wall at the ARC
Rock Climbing Wall at the ARC

Several players really stood out. Havish, an Indian classmate of mine, was arguably one of the best players on the court that night. He was quoted after the game saying “My jump-shot was firing on all cylinders tonight. They could not stop me out there.” Meanwhile, Brian Perry (SMF President-Elect) spoke about the play of Chad Dixon in the post, “He was all over the glass tonight, and once he got going on offense, it was game over.” There has been a lot of chatter in anticipation for the upcoming weekend’s game, so it should a fun time!

Since this went so well, we have planned to make it our new Sunday night activity, where we can come together and enjoy some exercise before the academic week begins again. At the end of the day, it’s great to get out there with the fellas and “ball out” for a few hours. I have had some unforgettable experiences with my classmates so far, whether that be in class, at dinners, or on the court; I am looking forward to the next 6 months that we all have left at Ohio State.

Organizational Development: Lines, Nodes, Agreements, and Deliverables

So, let’s say you want to make a change in your life– in any aspect. You want to change your job, your spouse (yikes), your relationship with your next-door neighbor, your health. Big changes. Small changes. We all want to change and grow in new ways… especially in the upcoming New Year.

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This was near the beginning of one class… before the board got much messier.

But how do you actually make the change happen? Introducing BUSMHR 7308 Organizational Development and Change. This class really makes me think and has real-world application. Therefore, it’s my absolute favorite so far! It’s taught by Professor Emeritus Jeff Ford. Professor Ford is extraordinarily accomplished and well-respected in the area of organizational behavior, specifically change management (a hot topic, particularly in HR). He’s written a book which we use in class, The Four Conversations: Daily Communication That Gets Results. And he has a very specific framework about which teaches. I won’t get too into it, but… in short order…

You have to know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to do it. And you have to make agreements regarding what you’re going to get from who and by when. It’s something you need to map out–using lines and nodes. This is the extremely high-altitude summary; there are obviously much more nuanced and granular details to the process that require a lot of deep thinking during class. It sounds logical– and it is. He’s able to take the abstract complaint of “miscommunication” and dissect specifically why it occurs and how to avoid it.

Best of all, he’s… intense in class. Quite a bit of the discussions focus on case studies that are rife with detail about an organizaton’s woes: lack of communication, unrealistic goals, blame, politics and game-playing, sexism– you name it. And our job as students is to come up with solutions to fix the organizations and get them on the right path. Professor Ford analyzes every word we utter and firmly asks for clarity, disagrees, or otherwise challenges our assertions. This is not a class for the thin-skinned (I’ve made a few observations about which he’s disagreed; it hasn’t felt good, but his willigness to question students is what forces impactful thinking). And his approach is a gift; those without any or much work experience haven’t learned the sometimes harsh realities of the professional world– and his candor is a good primer.

Now… let’s talk about that decision to apply for the MHRM program at Fisher. What’s your “from” state? And how will you know when you’ve arrived at your “to”? Is your “to” admission to Fisher or is your “to” a certain GPA or certain thing you want to learn? What agreements do you need to secure from others? How will you know you have the agreements? And what outputs will you need to generate? And what inputs must you secure? Decisions, decisions…

The Story of & a Night Out at Ohio Theater

This blog post uncovers one of the beautiful buildings here in Columbus. Ohio Theater opened its doors 1928 and is still a cultural center to this day. The theater houses many events and is the permanent home of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. I recently visited the theater for the Columbus Symphony’s Beethoven Marathon.

The view from the top of the balcony

The theater originally opened as an elegant movie theater. The designer aimed to separate guests from their daily lives by making a luxurious and fantastical environment. The design of the walls points attention to the ceiling. Here, the intricate patterns in the ceiling change from section to section and invite the guest’s attention.

The theater successfully ran until it closed in 1969. A development company planned to tear the building down and build a more profitable office complex. Community leaders responded by working together to save the theater. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra made the theater its official home and national musicians such as Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper, and The Grateful Dead came for fundraising performances to keep it open. During the next decade, the theater was fully restored to its original design.

The view from stage left

 

Now, the theater is again the home of movies, music, dance, and theater performances. Many of these events offer discounted tickets through the university’s DTIX Program open to all students.

The main chandelier

The story of Ohio Theater is a testament to traits that all Fisher graduates should emulate. First, Fisher Grad students are being trained to be self-motivated leaders effective in both local and global teamwork environments. Saving and preserving the building was a local effort that required a strong team environment to be successful. Second, Fisher students are ethically sound by being committed to excellence in all aspects of life. Architecture and art often go unprotected. Business analysis showed that the land had more economic utility as an office space. Even so, people stepped in to say that more needed to be considered than just numerical analysis. Preserving the theater shows how supporting excellence in all aspects provides a better outcome for our communities. Not only does the theater provide an example for Fisher students, a visit provides a wonderful start to your evening. Make sure to stop by!

Rohr Cafe: “Coffee is King”

I believe The Beatles (a British rock band), in their hit song Come Together, may have once sang “Come together, right now, over coffee.”

Whether they sang this or not, that is not the point. Rather, I really think The Beatles were on to something about the togetherness of coffee. Think about your local coffeehouse: people are getting their morning coffee together, catching up with old friends, and networking with future employers. It truly is amazing– the power of coffee in Western society, and I am not just speaking about the caffeine.

Now you may be wondering, Brett, “what does this have to do with the Specialized Master in Finance program here at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business”? Well, if you are to attend this fine institution, you too will soon come to learn about our own Rohr Cafe. Rohr is a coffee shop located on Fisher’s campus, inside Mason Hall, and serves none other than Starbucks coffee.

Rohr Cafe
Rohr Cafe

From early morning cups of coffee to casual cups between class to coffee chats with other graduate students or potential employers, Rohr Cafe is there for Fisher students and faculty who need their daily dose of caffeine. Just yesterday, I went twice: once for a coffee and once for a shot of espresso. One could argue that Rohr Cafe is the gas that fuels the Fisher engine!

Now I have to throw this in here, as my level of “coffee connoisseur” has certainly increased this year: what you order is important. Some people are traditional and will stick to coffee. Others like it quick and easy and stick to espresso. Finally, some like to test the waters and have been known to order iced coffees, vanilla lattes, and even pumpkin-spiced lattes. However, I have recently come across the greatest creation since sliced bread: The Salted Caramel Mocha (with White Mocha).

Salted Caramel Mocha with White Mocha
Salted Caramel Mocha with White Mocha

As a coffee drinker at Fisher, you will come to see the importance of Rohr Cafe on our campus. Whether you use it for meetings with other students, faculty, graduate associations, or just to get that much needed caffeine, it is awesome to have a place so close to Gerlach Hall.

 

“Fall”ing In Love

Well into the autumn semester, and it finally becomes autumn weather! The brisk, cold air is comforting– as well as the joy of seeing one’s breath in the morning. Coming from Georgia, we would get this weather later in the year, and I love breaking out sweaters and jackets. That being said, one thing that warms the heart more than hot chocolate and sweaters is my partner, Meredith. I want to take a moment to share what we did, because we saw a lot of Columbus, Ohio, together!

First, she came in late Saturday night, so naturally we went to a friend’s house to watch the first half of the Wisconsin v. OSU game (we won, but sadly lost to the Nittany Lions the next week).

The fun really began on Sunday! We went downtown, because the Columbus Museum of Art has free admission on Sunday– and who doesn’t love free things to do?  We parked down towards the Capitol building, and on a whim, decided to visit the capitol building. What a beautiful, informative tour! Seeing the history and power of the State of Ohio was truly spectacular. After that, we then walked down to the art museum, and the exhibits were very beautiful, with some exciting interactive displays (mainly for children, but we’re children at heart).

On Monday, we explored the Columbus Zoo! Holy Giraffe– this was such a fun adventure, and everyone should see the zoo while here in Columbus! We spent the whole day there and got there in time to see one of the demonstrations, “Cheetah Run,” where they let the cheetah run a track for exercise. Just the pure power and speed is awe-inspiring. We then tested our speed and minds with some trivia alongside some friends. Our team (eventually) did our best and got second place!

On Tuesday, we went to German Village, where there is a quaint bookstore with a ton of books! After perusing for a while, we walked to Scioto Park, and the changing leaves made us forget we were downtown.

On Wednesday, we took it easy. I showed Meredith “The Shoe” and around Fisher College of Business. We also walked to the Library and showed her the top floor with a beautiful view of the Oval.

On Thursday it rained a bit, so we found COSI! This was our favorite time. It’s a science museum that has three levels of interactive, enjoyable science exhibits that range from the human body to space to energy. We could’ve spent several more hours (and it’s definitely on our list again).

Friday was our last day. I had to teach two classes, so she came with and saw what I do for my assistantship position. We also went to lunch with some friends at Melt, and ended the evening with some Indian cuisine.

This was a great week– and it was very exciting to share Columbus with the one I love. I have enjoyed this week, and all the other weeks where there’s been a new adventure– exploring a haunted corn maze, all the food, and other spectacular things to do in Columbus. There is plenty to do for 200 years (much less trying to see it all in two)– and experiencing everything makes me wish time wasn’t passing away as quickly as the leaves fall this month.

The World is Our Pokestop

Last Friday night was one for the books. It all started in the Ohio Union. There I was, perched unassumingly on a bar stool witnessing a gaggle of college-aged hipsters load out band gear from the stage inside Woody’s Tavern. And then, from a distance across the white terrazzo tile, I saw them barreling toward me—Ash, Charizard, Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Eevee, and everyone’s favorite, Squirtle. I thought that maybe I’d entered an alternate reality in which Pokemon Go was real life and my real life had become simply an app on an iPhone.

It turns out that this motley crew was simply six of my friends from the MHRM program, competing in the annual Fisher Scavenger Hunt & Bar Crawl. Phew! I decided to join them on their mission toward victory, mostly because they looked really silly and I knew it would be entertaining to watch them skulk down High Street in costume.

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On the rooftop at Big Bar, across the street from the Ohio Union. Aren’t they cute?

We embarked on an evening of endless successes. From Eevee petting the belly of a rabid dog (okay, it was a harmless Bernese Mountain Dog)… to Squirtle’s awkward break-dance breakdown at a remarkably empty Bullwinkle’s… to Pikachu high-fiving a policeman when he least expected it, the evening turned out to be the high point of the semester so far. We can’t forget the highlight of the night when a Cane’s employee unashamedly threw a pokeball full of free box combo certificates at the group– which happened to look a lot like a Styrofoam to-go box secured with red electrical tape. #gottacatchemall

Pikachu having a peaceful interaction with law enforcement.
Pikachu having a peaceful interaction with law enforcement.

As the evening drew to a close, the team was determined to close in on the lead. With just minutes remaining on the clock, the group wandered into World of Beer to complete a few final high-stakes objectives. The team stumbled upon the man behind the curtain—2nd year MBA Tada, sifting through mounds of incoming data from hundreds of accomplished objectives. He was obviously glad to have taken data analytics the year prior.

After several grueling minutes of Tada and his team of analysts poring over their Excel spreadsheets with beads of sweat accumulating on their foreheads, the results were in. It was alleged to be a close race, but as we all could have anticipated from the beginning of this post, the Pokemon were the obvious frontrunners from the very beginning. Congratulations to the MHRMs on their well-deserved win and the trophy to prove it!

That time when you stick out like a sore thumb because you aren't dressed as a Pokemon.
That time when you stick out like a sore thumb because you aren’t dressed as a Pokemon.

Elective Courses in the MAcc

One of the great characteristics of the MAcc program at the Fisher College of Business is that a majority of your classes will be electives. The MAcc curriculum encourages students to explore interests and passions through courses outside of the accounting discipline. One factor that led to me deciding to pursue a MAcc at Ohio State was the opportunity to challenge myself with graduate-level courses in specific subjects interest me.

This semester, I am taking a course titled Business of College Sports. This course is taught by Ohio State’s Athletic Director, Gene Smith, and his awesome wife, Sheila. Playing and watching sports have been passions of mine ever since I started playing soccer at the age of four. I love college football and college basketball; I have followed the Buckeyes in these sports ever since I can remember. This is a very unique class because it provides insight into the business decisions that casual sports fans might not consider.

The format of the class involves guest speakers, facility tours and group presentations. One thing I love about the class is how diverse it is. Since it is classified as an HR class, there are not only MAcc students, but there are MBA’s, JD/MBA’s and Masters of Sports Management students as well (any graduate student at Fisher can take the course). The group project allows us to pick any topic relating to the college sports landscape. My group is going to be researching the economic impact of paying student athletes a wage. Paying student athletes has been in the news a lot recently, so my group thought doing research on this and presenting it to the class would help Gene Smith understand the implications a policy such as this would have on Ohio State Athletics specifically.

This is our entire class during our tour of Ohio Stadium (the Horseshoe)
This is our entire class during our tour of Ohio Stadium (the Horseshoe)

Other electives offered during the fall semester include Data Mining for Business Intelligence, Corporate Finance I & II (required in order to take finance electives in the spring), Tax planning for Managerial Decision Making, and Talent Management.  While these are just some of the electives offered in the fall through the Fisher College of Business, there are many more offered through other graduate programs that you are able to take as long as you meet the pre-requisites for the class.

In my next blog post, I will be interviewing several of my classmates to give their experiences with different elective courses.