The Most Difficult Assignment of Grad School…

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.

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(here is a shot of our professor, Tony Rucci)

Columbus Marketing Hop

As a 2nd-year student in the MBA program, I’ve had the opportunity this year to serve as VP of Programming on the leadership team for AMP, the Association of Marketing Professionals. In the fall semester, I enjoyed coordinating the Columbus Marketing HOP, which started last year as a way to introduce Fisher students to different companies in Columbus and understand how they do marketing.

We like to do the trip in the early fall to expose the 1st-year marketing students as early as possible to different types of marketing careers. The core curriculum marketing class is a quick intro in the fall and isn’t able to deep dive into all aspects of marketing. So, for some students this might be their first introduction to what agencies do or understand how different industries do marketing very differently.

Piada’s Headquarters

This year, we started the morning at Piada, which is a new restaurant start-up founded in Columbus. They have recently expanded from Ohio to Minnesota and Texas to test different markets with their Italian street food, fast-casual concept. We got to hear from Matt Eisenacher, their director of marketing, on Piada’s marketing challenges in being a small start-up dealing with explosive growth. He also compared his experiences in the restaurant industry to his background in brand management at traditional CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies like Nestle and Abbott.

From Piada, we traveled to Perio, which is the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk shaving brands. It was really interesting to hear from Amy Litzinger and the team at Perio about their different consumer segments and how that leads them to different marketing tactics. They spoke at length about sports and entertainment sponsorships, which opportunities they choose, and why they do them,(which personally I found very interesting because I didn’t know very much about that side of marketing).

The group at Perio, home of Barbisol and PureSilk

After loading us up with gift bags of shaving cream (thank you!), we stopped for lunch at, you guessed it, Piada! We got to try some of the seasonal specials that Matt talked to us about in the morning, and it was especially interesting to hear from half of our group who had never been to one of their restaurants before!

Baesman’s welcoming moose 🙂

Our last stop of the day was Baesman, a non-traditional marketing agency located in downtown Columbus. I was very excited to showcase an agency to our group because it’s hard to understand the agency lifestyle until you get to see it for yourself. So much creativity and flexible thinking is needed in their roles and that often translates into offices that look very different from the stereotypical cubes of the large companies they typically work for.

Baesman’s focus is on data-mining and creating content based on insights that they glean from their clients’ data. It was fascinating to hear about how their business and focus has changed over the past 5 years when they realized what an opportunity data-led marketing would be.

I worked with Baesman in a couple different capacities before I came to Fisher, and even I learned a lot about their business model, and how quickly things are changing in their industry. We got to hear from their president, Jeff Sopko, about starting the business, and we also heard from Evan Maggliocca, who is in charge of their agency branding. I confess that I had never really thought about how important branding and marketing efforts are for an agency as they compete for new business. I had only viewed them from a client standpoint, and it was great to realize their challenges as a business, and how they’ve set themselves up for success under those conditions.

Even though I’ve lived in Columbus for more than 5 years, I personally benefited from visiting these companies and hearing about their very different marketing challenges and tactics. The students who went on the trip learned a lot too, and were excited about the diversity of the companies we visited. I’m happy that AMP was able to share such variety in our own backyard and get our students thinking in different ways about their marketing career possibilities while exposing them to great companies.

Spring Break: From Germany to German Village

Last week’s Spring Break saw members of our graduate programs spread out across all corners of the world; visiting family, soaking up the sun, and exploring exotic places. I spent my break right here, in the snowy Columbus corner of the world—and I regret nothing.

One group of students spent their week in Germany as part of our Global Business Expeditions program. During the trip—led by MBA Program Director Shashi Matta—the travelers visited famous German companies such as Audi, while also enjoying the culture and scenery.  I was with them in spirit as I made a day trip to German Village.

German Village is a historic neighborhood just south of downtown Columbus, and a true gem of the city. It was settled in the mid-1800s by German immigrants and today is nationally recognized for its historical preservation efforts—in fact, the entire neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.  The area is instantly recognizable by its brick streets, quaint and meticulously-maintained brick homes, beautiful Schiller Park, and German dining options.

Schmidt’s Sausage Haus and Restaurant is a neighborhood institution that has been serving up traditional favorites in the same location since 1886. The spicy Bahama Mamma is my go-to.  Served on a platter with sauerkraut, German potato salad, and house-made applesauce it truly makes you feel like you are far away from Columbus.  Be sure to save a little room for dessert, because Schmidt’s legendary cream puffs (about the size of a softball) are not to be forgotten!

Schmidt’s Sausage Haus and Restaurant; Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/70650287877835756/

The Book Loft is another German Village favorite. One of the nation’s largest independent book stores, this quirky labyrinth of literature features 32 themed rooms throughout its winding hallways, connecting what were once three separate properties.  The experience of wandering around is in and of itself an Alice in Wonderland style adventure.

The Book Loft, German Village; Image: http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large-5/the-book-loft-jack-schultz.jpg

German Village is just one of many unique neighborhoods that comprise the vibrant city of Columbus. We are very fortunate as Fisher students to have opportunities to explore the world directly through study-abroad programs, and indirectly in our own backyard—no matter your choice, adventure awaits!

 

Dylan Goes Electric

When it comes to classroom technology, I’ve always been a bit of a traditionalist, cipherin’ with my slate and chalk.

Ok, maybe not that traditional.

For those who don't understand the reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Dylan_controversy
The story behind the obscure pop culture reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Dylan_controversy

I have, however, always preferred a good old-fashioned pen and notebook, foregoing the laptop system favored by many of my classmates during my undergraduate career. In my opinion, handwritten notes are considerably more effective for capturing the graphs, illustrations, and charts so common in a business curriculum, which is why all my attempts to computerize my note taking have usually been short-lived.

But as an admitted neatnik, I have always admired certain elements of a digital system, namely its ability to keep all materials in one place, eliminate stray papers which are easily misplaced, and even replace cumbersome textbooks. I recently became the owner of an Apple Pencil and decided to give the electronic world one more try—it has only been two weeks, but things are going better that I could have ever hoped.

The Apple Pencil is a simple, but very effective tool. I was very impressed by how natural and accurate it feels to write with it on my iPad.  In fact, my handwriting was not adversely impacted at all (though it admittedly was bad to begin with).

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The notebook of the 21st century?

The real power of this tablet/pencil system is the ability to replace my need for textbooks, notebooks, binders, and printing all with one 9.7 inch device. Using a note-taking app called Notability alongside GoogleDrive, the Canvas (Carmen) app, and the Harvard Publishing app, I am able to import electronic textbooks, PDF articles, PowerPoint presentations, and more into Notability, where I can organize them into folders and virtual “tabs”, and then draw notes directly on the screen (including multiple colors, highlight styles, even typed text boxes).  This system has freed me from heavy backpacks, trips to my locker, time in the computer lab printing, and the fear of being unprepared for class, since all of my materials I could ever need are with me at all times.

A look inside the Notability app.
A look inside the Notability app.

It is still quite early in the semester to declare full victory, but I am cautiously optimistic that this new system is here to say. I think this implementation of technology will also help me as a professional, where I will be expected to be prepared, agile, and up-to-date with technology.  I am getting good practice now in integrating technology into my life, so I will be better prepared as I head off to my summer internship and beyond.

 

‘How Did I Get Here?’

Those who know me well learn (sometimes to their dismay) that I have a soft spot for 80’s movies. From the classic to the cringe-worthy, I am unable to resist the nostalgic and synthesizer-tinged siren song of the MTV era. The genre has taken on new meaning to me recently, as I feel ever increasingly that I have been plucked from real life and dropped into the middle of a John Hughes montage:

Look at protagonist Michael go—he’s taking classes, doing homework, interviewing for jobs—working hard with his gang of friends towards their common goal! The days are flying off his Page-a-Day calendar as his Trapper Keeper fills with HBR articles! (Music fades as Michael’s car pulls into student parking lot).

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Time and Change: Not even Mirror Lake is immune to the fast pace of life on campus.

This morning I had such a montage moment when through my car radio, I heard David Byrne of the Talking Heads squelch “…and you may ask yourself—‘how did I get here?’” ‘Here’ in this case, meaning week eight of the semester. It was a sobering realization that my academic MBA experience at Fisher is already 1/8 of the way done. I took a moment to reflect as the chorus chanted in the background, “Letting the days go by…”

It truly feels like yesterday that I walked into orientation. Yet somehow here I am, eight weeks in and already finished with the seven-week long Economics and Marketing courses. My only explanation (aside from the possibility that we are in fact sentient beings trapped inside the b-roll of a teen movie), is that time flies when you’re having fun. And boy, have I been having fun.

The 12-, 15-, sometimes 18-hour days that I have become accustomed to as a business student fly by more quickly than eight-hour days during some of my past endeavors. There’s no time in this fast-paced program for busy work. As such, every lecture, every assignment, every group project is intensely enriching and clearly builds towards the goal of becoming an effective business leader. This makes it so easy to stay engaged and motivated. Add to this the limitless opportunities for professional development, networking, and exposure to companies and there truly is never a dull moment. The greatest challenge is forcing yourself to go home and go to bed at the end of the day. It wouldn’t be difficult to fill 24 hours a day with MBA-related activities.

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A sample time warp agenda

Sure, there is plenty to be stressed about in business school, but there’s always equally as much to be excited about. Ultimately, I think that is what separates my MBA experience thus far from my previous academic endeavors. I walk into Gerlach Hall each day excited, knowing that new lessons, new skills, and new challenges await me. I am never bored, I am never sitting still, and I am constantly challenged– and as such, the weeks quickly wash over me in a wave of intense activity. I have lots to learn and I’m far from mastering the many facets of graduate school, but I look forward to the new challenges ahead.

And so a new montage begins. Will protagonist Michael get a summer internship? Will the football team win the big game against their rivals? What misadventures and mischief await our lovable band of buddies? Cue the music—let’s find out.

 

A Dude In a Diaper

Do I have a special viewing experience for you! But first, the set-up…

 

As I strive to make a name for myself in the entertainment industry, there seems to be one word I keep coming back to: memorable. There are lots of people who want to make it big in Hollywood, but how do they set themselves apart from everyone else? One of the best opportunities I’ve had to practice memorability at Fisher so far has been the Procter & Gamble case competition.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a case competition is, think of it as a campaign pitch. Company representatives give you fictional or recent scenarios their company has been involved in– and you and your team are tasked with coming up with a solution and pitching that solution. In the case of P&G, we had to figure out how to recapture Luvs’ market share from competitor Pampers.

For someone with marketing experience, I’m sure their mind was racing with a million ideas from the moment they heard what the problem was. My mind couldn’t stop thinking of the image of a dude in a diaper. I thought it would be funny – especially since Luvs has already used campaigns that rely more on humor than heart – but I was worried that my idea would just be too out there. However, when the Luvs representative said, “Feel free to be provocative,” it was like someone had handed me a blank check. The moment my team and I got together, I posited, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we found a way to put a full-grown man in a diaper?” And, well, the rest was history.

Everyone loved the idea and we came up with a slogan “#Luvsforlife” that wanted to sell the idea that despite being the value brand, Luvs were the most durable and long-lasting diapers on the market. To represent this idea, the “Dude In a Diaper” ad was born. The commercial would start with Mom putting baby in a diaper and 30 years later, baby is still wearing that diaper while putting its durability to the test (now baby is rock-climbing or fighting fires).

Being the showman that I am, I convinced my team to shoot a sample commercial to show as part of our pitch. Check it out:

https://youtu.be/_WSYTflb9ws

When it came time to present, I checked my dignity and remembered that I had none left, so I donned a diaper over my pants and the “Dude In a Diaper” was ready to pitch.

Over the course of the two-day competition, I got to hone my skills in a lot of areas: how to create a well-rounded product in a short amount of time, balancing team contributions and workloads, creating memorable ideas. We didn’t win the competition, but there wasn’t a single P&G employee who didn’t come up to us and complement us on our idea and our audacity. I didn’t take home and award, but I’m sure the image of me in a diaper went home with each and every one of them.

And in the end, isn’t that what being memorable is all about?

“Put The Videotape In”

Exactly two months ago, I left my country, my job, my beloved family—and the Olympics, which were being held in my home country for the first time—and prepared to be back at school for the first time in 6 years. After putting in the effort to develop my career in human resources, I had mixed feelings about the journey that was about to start.  I was excited that I was finally carrying out my plan of getting my MBA abroad, but was nervous about being in a new place and not knowing anyone. It was also a special moment because, after being in a long-distance relationship for more than 2 years, I was celebrating the fact that I would be living in the same country as my husband!

After getting to Ohio, the difference in lifestyle was evident immediately. Everything that was discussedin Pre-Term is confirmed everyday: it is intense. It is about learning every day, time management and prioritizing, learning tons of material, sharing wonderful experiences with peers and professors. We also are bonding as teams. There’s been amazing teamwork in zip- lining and a scavenger hunt across campus– as well as in graded group projects. And then there is learning more material, coping with stress, experiencing diversity inside and outside the classroom, learning to adapt our own methodologies, learning even more material and of course: having fun with new friends! It’s a lot of experiences– coming at you quickly!

Reaching the zipline
Reaching the zipline
Team work at Summit Vision
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Team 14 – Scavenger Hunt (That’s me on the right!)

I am originally from Espirito Santo, Brazil, and I lived and worked in Sao Paulo for 6 years. Columbus has delighted me since my interview on campus. The entire city environment, the people, my apartment in Buckeye Village, and all the opportunities here have helped me create a new home (learn more about the city here). I can attest that being an international MBA student at Fisher College of Business has been the best experience of my life so far.

Our professors stressed the idea of envisioning the best outcomes every day when we began this program.  They cited “Put the videotape in”– a mantra originally used by Michael Phelps as his motivational motto for performing his best in every race.  His “videotape” is the perfect race, in which every movement is precise and flawless. The concept is with me every day.

The whole experience is much more holistic than I was expecting and I can’t wait for the coming semesters so I can take more classes, learn new subjects, meet new people and challenge myself in different areas.  I want to “record” and celebrate each of these achievements so that they can become part of my video tape.

Buckeyes, Inc.: MBA Meets NCAA

Hi, everyone! My name is Catherine Banton and I am a second year, full-time MBA candidate here at Fisher working as one of our admission ambassadors in our Graduate Programs Office for the academic year. I’m originally from a small suburb of Seattle, WA and moved to Ohio after living and working in Los Angeles, CA for seven years.

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This is me with my pal Brutus when I visited Columbus for the first time in May 2015!

When I meet new first year MBA students in the full-time program, or when I’m introducing myself to our campus visitors, I often get the question, “If you lived in Southern California, how (and why) are you living in Ohio? Don’t you miss it?!” My answer is simple: the people in Ohio make this a great place to live and work, and the opportunities here are endless. I’ve had experiences here at Fisher and in Columbus that I wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else, and I am excited to share one of those with you in this blog post!

I’m convinced that no other MBA program offers a course like the one I am taking this semester: The Business of College Sports. This class is one of the elective options in my Leadership and Organizational Behavior major. It’s taught by none other than The Ohio State University’s own Athletic Direction Gene Smith (more about him here) and his amazing wife Sheila, who runs a successful fundraising and development consulting firm here in Columbus (and is a former star athlete and coach herself). Gene Smith is arguably one of the most well-known and respected athletic directors in the nation, and has been at the helm of tOSU’s athletics for more than 10 years as programs like men’s football have made historic championship runs (Go, Bucks!). The course’s student make-up in and of itself is unique: a mix of full-time and part-time MBAs along with MAcc, SMF, MHRM, and Master of Sports Management students make the discussions and dialogue in class engaging and enlightening, and we get to work on projects in teams that mix programs to further learn from each other.

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Our fearless classroom leaders, Sheila and Gene Smith

While you might initially think, “What could college sports and business possibly have to do with one another?” this course turns that misconception on its head – and quickly. Gene and Sheila bring in high-ranking members of the athletic department to speak candidly with us about everything from trademark licensing and partnership negotiations, to coaches’ contracts and revenue drivers for the university’s athletic events. While each guest speaker comes into class with PowerPoint decks and a planned presentation, they are all very open to student questions and truly give us special insight into how the athletic department functions and what goes into keeping a multi-million dollar organization within the university functioning smoothly and successfully.

The in-class experience is fascinating, but the out-of-class activities are what make our Buckeye fans’ hearts stop and keep our camera phone snapping. Throughout the semester, our class has the privilege of visiting Ohio State’s most prized and beloved athletic facilities, including Ohio Stadium, the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and the Jerome Schottenstein Center.

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We were surrounded by Heisman and National Championship trophies in the entry way of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center!

Long-time staff members of the athletic department take us on guided, personal tours of each venue, explaining to us the history, significance and use of each room, hallway and collection. The best part is, we also meet special, unexpected guests during our visits! We had our first tour this week – of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center – and to our shock and delight, head football coach Urban Meyer appeared on the practice turf while we were taking pictures to share with us some thoughts from last weekend’s exhilarating game against Oklahoma (remember that wrap-around catch by Noah Brown?!) and the importance of the facility in player recruiting, team wellness, and program fundraising.

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This picture was taken moments before Ohio State football head coach Urban Meyer surprised us with an appearance on the practice turf!
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Our tour guide Mark took great care of us as we walked through the facility!

Since starting this course, I’m much more aware of the use of the Ohio State brand all around me, and I find myself thinking about different things when I watch my beloved Bucks compete for their next win. How much revenue was generated from food and beverage sales at the game today? What would-be sponsors may have used the OSU or Buckeye logos incorrectly in their game day flyers or signs? How will our championship run this year affect top and bottom line growth for the athletic department’s finances? As much as I enjoy cheering on our teams from the stands or in front of my TV as a fan, my perspective is now broader and deeper when it comes to understanding Ohio State’s sports teams and the administration behind them – all because of my time spent in the Fisher MBA program and the opportunity to take such a unique class with unheard-of access to one of the most important athletic directors in the nation today.

My advice to potential applicants to Fisher is: don’t forget to consider seemingly “less important” (but equally formative and fulfilling) things like elective courses and special life experiences when looking at an MBA program. Some schools offer incredible opportunities to take part in courses or events that just can’t be replicated on another campus – like this Business of College Sports class – and if you don’t take the time to look into these things, you might regret it later on in the process!

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The coach, the man, the legend: Woody Hayes.
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THE National Champions of the past, present and future!

What I did this summer…

Akin to the traditional elementary-school first homework assignment, I’m going to write about my summer spent in Battle Creek, Michigan, working in brand management for Kellogg’s. First of all, let me gush a little by saying that it was a fantastic experience!

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The Frosted Mini-Wheats team

I got to work on exciting and meaningful marketing projects right away. I was on the Frosted Mini-Wheats team and learned a ton about cereal (not to mention enjoyed the free cereal bar almost daily!). For one project I was able to assist with agency relations and digital strategy planning and for the other, I worked on the recommendation for the marketing communication plan for the Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats launch and also made predictions of future growth for pumpkin spice as a flavor.

IMG_3511I learned a lot about using data, coming to conclusions, making recommendations and putting together a powerful presentation. I had never worked with Nielsen data before, so learning that system was an early challenge, but also figuring out the best way to visually show data was a lot harder than I expected. Both skill sets will be needed for any brand manager, so I was happy that I was able to improve in both areas.

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My internship was Gr-r-reat!

Everyone at Kellogg was so supportive and happy to help in any way that I needed, so I got up to speed much faster than I would have on my own. (Shout-out to my roommate who taught me everything I now know about HLOOKUPs!) I reached out to the various business units and learned about their own Pumpkin Spice launches or how they handle seasonal flavors in general. It was fascinating! Now, 12 weeks later, I know more about Pumpkin Spice than anyone should, and it’s exciting to see it all play out this fall.

I’ve lived in Ohio for the last nine years, so I mistakenly assumed that Michigan summers would pretty much be like Ohio ones, but I have to say that they are way better up north! Battle Creek is four hours from Columbus, and in addition to being more north, it’s also almost as far west as you can get in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. This means that it’s light so much longer in the evenings (at the peak, it’s still light at 10:00 pm), which gives you so much more time to be outside doing things! It was sunny almost every day and living only an hour from the beach is pretty exciting.

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The four MBA marketing interns on our last day 🙁

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I had to work at Kellogg this summer and I truly enjoyed my experience. I have a much better understanding of what a brand manager and an assistant brand manager do at a large company like Kellogg, and I’ve worked on some of the important skills that I will need in those roles, both technical and inter-personal.

Now, who wants to go try some Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats? psminiwheats

Two Weeks Down, 54 To Go

Although I am in the initial phase of my MBA experience, I can report with confidence that Fisher has already exceeded my expectations in many respects. From the multi-faceted academic modules that all incoming students complete before arriving on campus to the intensive two-week Pre-Term program, the experiential learning at Fisher begins even before a candidate sets foot inside of a classroom.

As a resident of central Ohio, I was fortunate enough to not only visit the campus during my admission interview but to also take part in many invitation-only activities for admitted students after I successfully completed the interview process. At these initial gatherings that occurred in the Fall of ’15 and Spring of ’16, I met quite a few other admitted students as well as faculty, admissions, and other members of the Fisher family: an impressive group of people. However, it was at the beginning of the Pre-Term program (which all incoming students are required to attend) that I truly appreciated the caliber and the diversity in all of its glorious forms that is embodied by the Fisher MBA class of 2018. There are 14 countries represented in our class, but that is only one aspect of the innumerable dimensions of diversity that can be found in my class. Random interactions with my classmates in between lectures or at lunch have given me opportunities to learn from their experiences, and it’s only been two weeks since classes started!

MBA Class of 2018

My experience has so far been full of challenges and ‘aha’ moments. The course load is heavy and the material is challenging. Add this to all of the other wonderful opportunities outside of the classroom that a student would be remiss not to take advantage of, and it becomes easy to see why time management and maintaining an agile schedule are crucial. The first year in general and the first semester in particular is specifically designed to stretch students’ abilities both in and out of the classroom and for that reason, organization is paramount. I should, however, make it clear that a great deal of effort and thought goes into the design of the curriculum at Fisher and admitted students have already proven through the rigorous admission process that they have what it takes to thrive at this school and to represent the Fisher College of Business well in the future. Having said that, the school also does a fantastic job in the selection of core team members. No matter the subject matter or topic, there will be at least one member of your core team who is particularly strong in that area. This, I believe, forms the basis of the great student-led learning that occurs outside of the classroom and augments the structured in-class learning.

I am sure there will be many challenges ahead of me but I really look forward to taking them on, one and all. After all, challenges are nothing but opportunities in disguise!

Core Team