A Wrap to My First Year of Grad School

As grades are out and summer is here, I finally get to sip on a good cup of iced coffee enjoying the sunshine by the window in a coffee shop – this time I’m not studying (hooray!), instead I’m writing a blog post to reflect on the crazily wonderful and crazily stressful year I just had here at Ohio State.

Where do I even begin? I remember unloading the U-Haul truck, and buying Ohio State jerseys at the bookstore last August. It seems just like yesterday. When I first enrolled at the MBLE program, I knew it was going to be a good year, but I had no idea it was going to be this good. I strengthened my professional skills, found mentorships, challenged myself to new things, and made lifelong friendships. Fisher provided me with way more than what I expected, and I can’t wait to start my summer internship and show my future employer what I can do as a future supply chain professional.

Our class only has 28 students, which is very small, but that also meant closer relationships and stronger bonds. In the first semester, as some classes were introductory, we were learning new things, but most of us also had time to enjoy ourselves at football games, at happy hours, at hiking trips, and also constantly finding ourselves going on food adventures in large groups. I know some people would argue that it is grad school and the world knows grad students have no life. Like that old saying “pictures or it didn’t happen”, well, I’m attaching a few photos here to show I did at least have some fun despite the heavy workload from school:

Hanging out at Short North (along with a few MAcc students)

Game Day at the Little Bar
Picnic at Doctor Zinn’s house

Game Day at the Stadium (featuring two of my Purdue friends)

Me picking pumpkins during an MBLE Council Outing Trip
Dinner party at Forno’s Kitchen and Bar Restaurant

As the weather got colder, the Spring Semester hit us by storm. All of a sudden, I found myself struggling with meeting all the deadlines. To make it worse, the second quarter of the semester had two additional classes that required project work. All I remember from the month of March and April were the smell of espresso shots, and the horrible sound alarms make in the morning. Towards the end of Spring Semester, most of us had at least 4 projects, 1 paper, and 4 presentations to deliver within a 2-week window. It was absolute chaos. I remember pulling an all-nighter in the computer lab working on the simulation project along with my teammates. We used chairs and floors as beds, we used printing papers as pillows, and we took a short break by getting breakfast from McDonald’s when the sun was just about to rise. Nobody in the team gave up, and nobody in the team complained. It was a weird feeling, knowing that you’re probably in serious trouble because time is running out, but also knowing that you’ve got a good team and you WILL make it when the time does run out.

I’m a bit of a procrastinator, so I tend to work my schedule according to the deadlines. Here is my piece of advice for the future MBLErs: Do not procrastinate! Maybe you’ve had success in undergrad or in a workplace where you can relax for the first half of a project and pull off deliverables last minute, but it simply does not happen here at Fisher, and it certainly won’t work for anyone who enrolls in the MBLE program. It doesn’t matter if you’re smarter than the average person, because everybody in the program is smarter than the average person. Being smart does not mean you spend less time on assignments and projects, because coursework here requires both critical thinking and detailed execution, and without a significant time commitment you won’t be able to deliver good results. I learned that lesson the hard way, and in the coming semester I certainly will start working on things early instead of trying to be “Just In Time’. JIT is a wonderful methodology, but it doesn’t work when you’re hitting a learning curve and need additional time to fix mistakes from an earlier stage of the project.

Spring Semester was painful, but at least we can all now be relieved that it’s over. I think everyone in the class should be proud of what they’ve accomplished so far. I myself have grown so much professionally and personally, and I’ve seen so much growth in my peers too. To wrap it up, I’d like to attach pictures from some of my favorite professional events I attended this past year via Fisher.

APICS conference in San Antonio, TX
OLMA’s 2018 Supply Chain Symposium
Volunteering at the COE Summit 2018

Cheers to a good year and the finally warm weather!

Traditional Festival, New Family

Some of the “MBLErs” (Master of Business Logistics Engineering) are from China, including me. We celebrate the Traditional Chinese New Year which is also called “Spring Festival.” This is the first time for most of us to celebrate Chinese New Year away from China (and the first time to celebrate without our families), so we decided to celebrate this special occasion with all MBLE members and professors.

photo by Xiaoyue (Diana) Huang

On February 11th, 2018, the MBLE Council held the Chinese New Year Celebration in the Mason Hall rotunda. Several members from the MBLE program participated. We were glad to have faculty from both the Fisher College of Business and the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering enjoying this wonderful night with us.

Of course, we honored various traditions– including the enjoyment of making authentic Chinese food together (in this case, some people learned how to make dumplings for the first time). Also, we wrote spring festival scrolls and “Fu” characters. By giving the scrolls away to everyone who participated in this event, we wished everyone a happy and lucky new year.

Some modern activities also made things fun. The president of the MBLE Council gave a performance of the Chinese pop song Qinghuaci, and we played Mahjong and card games just as we would at home.

The holiday is an “ending day” for us since this is a time for 2017 to end, but a “starting day” for us since this is the beginning of spring. We will continue working on professional growth and finding our ideal jobs. During our time together, we felt like family members to each other and built what will hopefully be long-lasting relationships.

Maybe this is the true meaning of celebrating the new year, no matter where it is celebrated and when it is celebrated. We say goodbye to the old year by acquiring something valuable. We give a warm welcome to the new year by looking forward to new challenges and treasuring friends and family. Although this is a traditional festival, we have a new family at The Ohio State University.

New Beginning With a New Hope

It’s been just past 100 days since I have left my home as I’m writing this blog. I guess I’ve gone through the cultural shock and have emerged out quite successfully I would say. I could finally go and visit a place which goes by the name of the Hocking Hills. Time has flown past pretty quickly since I have landed in this beautiful city. Though it’s hard to recollect exactly on how I have spent these 100 days, I have a lot of good memories to carry over from here.

It’s a given from the moment you see the curriculum that life here would be hectic. You need to be quick and I personally feel that’s a good thing as it will show a preview of the working style out in the real world. The subjects are interesting and professors are great. There is a significant difference between the education system here and my country. I assume that everyone outside the country will initially struggle but I can promise that everyone will cope up eventually. I have taken a sweet amount of time to get adjusted and I can now confidently say that I’m done with the incubation stage.

Diversity is one more aspect that I love over here. Professors here are a combination of people who have excelled academically and professionally. That is of significant importance if you are studying in a business school. I have worked in the same industry for a significant amount of time before enrolling in this course, yet there is a lot of concepts to learn. I have learned that there is no “one way” of doing things which did shake my beliefs about always having one solution to a problem. I can confidently say I would be a coming out of the MBLE program with better knowledge and thinking than what I had imagined when I joined the college.

Meaningful Careers Await

It’s wonderful to be back at Ohio State, my alma mater, in Columbus, Ohio– a home away from home for me. Although it might seem short, it has been three weeks since the autumn semester began, and if I had to choose one word to describe my experience in the MBLE (Master of Business Logistics Engineering) program so far, it would be “busy.”

My busy schedule, like those of my peers in their first year of MBLE, consists of not only knowledge-building classes but also job hunting battles which are very likely to be a first-time experience for some MBLE fellows. We are challenged by engineering courses that demand a significant time investment and we are squeezed by career fairs that need us to invest our precious minutes very wisely with our target employers. The state of constant “busy-ness” and pressure, I believe, is a tradition of students in this uniquely-designed program integrating business and engineering. Sometimes I can hear my inner self shouting out “Give me a break!” I believe my MBLE peers can, as well.

However, my busy schedule, and more precisely, our busy schedules are paying off. It was surprising for me to find out that a significant number of our first-year “MBLErs” (yes, I just coined a new word!), including myself, have received next-day interviews, being officially in this program for only less than three weeks. Isn’t this a powerful illustration of how much the supply chain/logistics industry values the unique integration MBLE has been providing and the hard work MBLE professionals have done? I believe so.

One thing I particularly like in MBLE is that coming out of this program, I can expect a career in the real economy, which is the career I prefer. If we MBLErs call ourselves “engineers,” we should create something solid (yes, I’m being a little old-fashioned now and no offense to other professions that deal with virtual stuff). It’s not hard to discover that companies at the career fairs most valuing MBLErs are those from various real industries, which in my opinion form the backbone of our well-being. The belief that my career after MBLE can be part of the “backbone” makes the journey very meaningful to me.

And I just got started. We just got started. Many more meaningful careers await. Go MBLErs! Go Bucks!

New environment, new challenge

It has been two weeks since I started my new journey. I am here to pursue my master degree, business logistics engineering. Fisher is a  totally environment for my classmates and me. We have a relatively busy schedule, which is at least two courses a day, various seminar and info session to attend. What is more important, everyone has to face the stress from both homework and job hunting.

Strategy Logistics Management impresses me most. We just have attended the class twice. We are lucky enough to have two guest speakers, one from Verizon and another from Walmart. Most of my classmate are Chinese student just graduating from university without working experiences, so the first people cannot be engaged. Fortunately, this week we had a presentation from International Logistics Department of Walmart. We all know Walmart more or less, so the atmosphere is amazing, most of my classmate put forward their questions, ranging from corporation strategy to shopping experiences. Both the guest speaker and we enjoyed a lot. One more thing, to our great surprise, we had to take a quiz at the time we just attended the class only one time. We are still not used to this kind of rhythm, which forces us to read the textbook and supplemental materials.

Industry Tour- 31 Gift

 

Last Thursday our professor David Widdifield led us to a distribution center of 31 Gifts, a handbag and accessories manufacturer in Columbus.

Before that, we first had a guest speaker from KMH Systems, who presented to us about what they provided for their clients on solving supply chain problems. He gave us an idea about how to implement automation in supply chain and how to design a warehouse. 5 factors were brought out, which are space, layout, equipment, information systems, and management. Actually there are still a lot to learn. After that, we went to the distribution center near Easton, where it is more convenient to provide goods with flexibility and high-velocity.

When we arrived there, the chief operation manager welcomed us and gave us a brief introduction about their company. Ten years ago, 31 was formed with a goal of helping women by giving them an opportunity to own their own business. Around the corner of the meeting room, we could see a huge pink heart shape poster. The manager said they actually import materials from China originally,  and customize those semi-products into what the consumers want, to meet their own need. Also, they reduce the return percentage through quality control and good service. Then, he showed us the warehouse. Some pictures of the distribution center are shown below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most amazing part is that they don’t have a lot of workers, instead they purchased automotive machine sewing and stitching machines. All they need to do is create designs according to the customers’ requirement.  They had a bunch of templates in their database, so that they could choose what they need easily. Then the machine could operate itself. As you can see below, usually, it takes 3 minutes to complete a whole design.

By applying automation, they could be able to reduce the cost and increase the profit, while improving the productivity.  At the same time, they could take the advantage of economy of scale. After they complete the manufacturing process, they continue the quality control process and handling them into different category according to different customers manually. As we could see in the picture, they record the whole process on the board in order to observe and improve the process.

After all these, they could sort them into several packages and ship them to different destination. We observed the whole process and have a general idea about how they operate. I still feel there is a lot to learn but I was able to gain more experience in the field.

WET Trip to Niagara Falls

Finally, I got time to write something. After a crazy and busy “quiz” week, setting in my chair, enjoying my breakfast, I start to record my life here backwards. So many things happened in August, first day in Columbus, met my host family in airport, lost my luggage, check-in, orientation, ESL test, Health-screening, orientation, another orientation, Career foundation seminar, paid tuition, rejected by bank, first class, first quiz, awesome RPAC. However, none of these I would like to talk about, because I find those topics are far back to one month ago and some people have already written about them. Today I want to tell everybody the coolest thing I did last week during the Labor Day break.

Since I didn’t get the football tickets, which I believe would have a lot of fun too; I went to the Niagara Falls with folks I met in IFI. It is necessary that I introduce IFI a little bit. IFI stands for International Friendships, helping international students have a smooth transfer to United States and make friends with other people. Rich, the leader of IFI invited us to that trip and he contacted his friends in Buffalo, NY asking whether they could accommodate us. Fortunately, they agreed. We set out on Saturday and arrived at Buffalo at night. I have to say our host family was so enthusiastic, she kept talking with us totally ignoring how tired we were after the long drive. But I mean it in the good way. She prepared towels for us because we would get on the jet boat the next day! She warned us never ever tried to sit in the front rows, you would get 100% wet! However, you know, it’s worth to try.

 

After having a Bible study in church on Sunday, it is a great church by the way; we went to Niagara Falls literally. Our first stop is jet boat! Everyone got a raincoat though, our guide said it is absolutely, definitely useless. The fact is he was right! I sat in the third row along the boat’s right side. It turned out to be the perfect direction at which huge water would target. So guess what, after the first time surfing in the Mickey wave, I got totally wet. The water poured everywhere. And several times going up and down, I embraced the wet and enjoyed it. I couldn’t find any single part of my body that is dry, even my underwear. We ride on the boat visiting the great electricity plants, dams, and the famous whirlpool. But we could not be able to make through it, it is so dangerous. Sometime, human cannot fight against great nature.

Then, we went to see the American falls, three sisters’ islands, and enjoying the beautiful scenery around the park. While we were waiting for the amazing lightening falls at night, I taught my American friends how to play the Chinese card game, fight the landlord. We had a great fun time playing that game. A part of Niagara Falls belongs to Canada, and Canada actually has a better view on the falls. They shot a colorful light on the falls from Canada, and we can enjoy it on a sky-bridge here in U.S. The light changed color every few minutes. That was awesome. Pictures are better proof than words. Please enjoy them!

The third, that was Labor Day, we went on the cruise heading to the Canadian falls, it is called Maid of the Mist, which allowed us to have a close experience on Niagara Falls. And again, totally wet when we got closer, the powerful falls arouse the water when they hit the rocks. The sound was so loud and it really sound like storm. After that, we went to the cave of winds and hiked around the fall. When we arrived at the hurricane spot, we can directly feel the falls by touching it. And again, wholly wet. Everybody was screaming while enjoying.

Anyway, during this trip, I experienced something brand new, and learned a lot about American culture. I guess that is the meaning of going out and open mind. Thanks IFI gave me that chance to Niagara Falls. Later on, I will tell more interesting stories about my gradlife on blog.

CSCMP Roundtable Event

This past Thursday was my first experience with CSCMP. CSCMP (Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals) is an international organization for supply chain professionals. During the luncheon, I was informed by an active member that the Columbus CSCMP Roundtable is among the oldest roundtables dating back to ~50 years ago. The long history was impressive but what really impressed me most was the new knowledge you get from attending the event.

The adventure started at 10:15am (departing from Gerlach Hall). Steve Singer, career consultant for MAcc, MLHR, SMF, and MBLE, was our driver. It was also his first time to CSCMP Roundtable, and it was really nice of him to take 11 students to the event. Ever since I went to Fisher, I realized that networking is one of the most important things you actually learn in business school. Studying is definitely important but business school separates from other graduate programs in that “soft” abilities such as communication are emphasized more, as they might be the keys to our future success. Therefore, we dressed in “business formal” and embraced the golden opportunity to go into the meeting room with experienced supply chain professionals.

Upon arriving, networking started even before we entered the meeting room. I approached the people around me and made introductions. People were nice and they enjoyed sharing their experiences with me. Also, at the end of the luncheon, Steve taught us a lesson of how to network even if you are not an expert in the field . According to him, using some more personal interest-related topics (e.g. football, etc.) is definitely helpful. Surely, there were people in the fields of procurement, inventory management, transportation management as well as supply chain consulting … how could I have same level of interest to their field and have a nice professional discussion with them all?

This luncheon had a specific topic. IBM North American Leader in Optimization & Supply Chain Software Group gave us a presentation about optimization in supply chain. The presentation was built on very large quantity of data and information. Lack of experience as well as “English as a second language” created somewhat of a barrier for me … however, I still was able to get a sense of the latest trends in the field of supply chain management and I definitely enhanced my understanding of the concept “optimization” as practiced in the real world.

I survived this week’s midterms

After 2 week relay, I am back to write my blog again. The two week absence is result of three midterms this past week. When the class started, I already felt that focusing on the lecture for longer than 100 minutes was impossible. Even if I am paying all of my attention to the professor, I can hardly catch his humor. Studying in a foreign language is really a big challenge for me.

The first exam, Logistics Management, turned out quite unexpected but was unexpectedly good. Although I struggled to try to remember all the key points for a question, the professor is kind to only ask for two main points.  The exam was simple in format but was complex in that it tested our understanding of the class content.

For the second exam, the professor wrote the exam and included some of his personal humor. For the bonus question, he set up 5 choices of names, asking which one is the president of US that brought about most changes in the transportation regulation. However, 3 out 5 names are those of former football coaches at Ohio State. I was surprised when I heard the underlying story of his choices and felt embarrassed because I happened to randomly picked the most famous coach!

I was rather unsatisfied with my performance in the third class, Linear Programming. It is the the only course we are taking from the College of Engineering. As MBLE is a combined program between Fisher and Engineering, we will spend half of the total credit hours on engineering related courses. My classmates were happy to see that the exam was not as difficult as the homework.

Now the first exams in Fisher are over, I am much more aware of how to study and prepare for the exams, so I guess I will be fine for final exams – at least I will not be sleepless for 2 nights out of nervousness 🙂

My career fair adventure

This week is all about career fairs. I took part in both the Fisher and TLA career fairs. The first one is for Fisher students and the second is for logistics majors. There is also a graduate career fair next week.

Before the career fair
There is a lot of preparation that students need to do before the career fair. According to the Fisher Office of Career Management (“OCM”), we should first investigate the companies we are targeting, then work on our personal commercial,” which is a small personal introduction in a quiet business setting. My preparation went smoothly with the help of the Career Fair Guide, accessible from the OCM website and on-site.

During the career fair
Never before did I feel such pressure. I was dressed up, wearing high heels that I am still not used to, trying to make a professional impression on others. The big ballroom was crowded with people but there were some booths not occupied with students. Whenever I made eye contact with a company employee who was available, I went directly toward them, because I think it is rude not to talk with them after making eye contact. I sometimes struggled on what I should say, what question(s) I should ask.

After the career fair
Following up is perhaps the most difficult step. First, you need to ensure you keep track of everyone you speak to – you need to ensure you get everyone’s business card and write a quick note on the back of each in order to help you remember anything about your conversation with that person. Right now, I am still writing emails to those people I met and am looking forward for replies.