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.

Defining My Legacy

One of the things I love the most about The Ohio State University’s Master of Accounting (MAcc) program is the fact that the curriculum is primarily electives. While I certainly enjoy my accounting courses, I think there is tremendous value in having a well-rounded education in which you have the opportunity to explore interests outside of your chosen career path. During the first term of the spring semester, one of my classes was “Building Your Leadership Legacy,” and it was absolutely transformational.

The course is taught by Tony Rucci, whose resume is impressive to say the least. Over the course of his 28-year career, he had the opportunity to work for three different Fortune 100 companies, serving in various executive capacities. Despite this professional success, he is one of the most down-to-earth individuals I have ever had the privilege of meeting.

We primarily used the book  Discover Your True North by Bill George, which walks through the steps to authentic leadership.  The text was supplemented by various articles. In addition, we had the opportunity to hear from several guest speakers throughout the 7-week term. I find learning people’s life stories to absolutely fascinating, so this aspect of the course was especially valuable.

The end goal was to successfully define my leadership legacy in fewer than 20 words, a seemingly simple task that proved to be far more challenging than I anticipated. The purpose of this legacy statement is to provide direction to my life – it contains key themes that embody the kind of person I want to be remembered as. During the last three class sessions, all students had the opportunity to share their desired legacies and how they chose it. It should be noted that in a class of 50 graduate professional students, the common themes among these statements had nothing to do with business and everything to do with compassion, kindness, serving others, etc.
I can say with absolute certainty that this has been one of the most influential classes I have ever taken. The power of introspection is often overlooked, but awareness of self is critical to effective leadership. I may not have all the answers as to what I want the rest of my life to look like, but I now have a clearer idea of what direction I need to take to live out my legacy.

CPA Exam Facts

Getting your CPA can be a very confusing and stressful process for some, but once you get all your facts aligned, it may be easier to see that end goal of CPA licensure. The Fisher College of Business hosts CPA representatives throughout the school year who provide office hours to answer exam questions. Also, during orientation, several CPA courses give a brief presentation breaking down the information in more detail. I will discuss some common information about the exam.

150-hour requirement

150 credit hours are required by the AICPA. Directly referenced from its website, students can meet the 150-credit hour requirement if they:

  • Combine an undergraduate accounting degree with a master’s degree at the same school or at a different one;
  • Combine an undergraduate degree in some other discipline with a master’s in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting;
  • Enroll in an integrated five-year professional accounting school or program leading to a master’s degree in accounting.

For those of you who do not come from a traditional non-accounting background, do not fear. If you notice the second bullet point, a master’s in accounting satisfies this requirement. Therefore, the Fisher MAcc program is your way to CPA.

It is important to recognize the distinction between the licensure requirements and the exam sitting requirements. Every state requires 150 credit hours for licensure, but some states may allow you to sit for the actual exam before those 150 credit hours are earned.

  • For example, the State of Ohio has a 150-hours education requirement for licensure and 150 hours must be completed prior to sitting for the exam.
  • Other states– for instance, Florida– have 150 hours education requirement for licensure, and 120 hours must be completed to sit for the exam.

You can find all this information broken down by state here.

Sections of the Exam

There are four sections of the exam:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

Passing score

The magic number

A passing score is a 75; however, this score is not simply how many questions you get right. Similar to the GMAT, it is weighted and calculated through various methods. The AICPA has released information that is helpful to understand how your score is calculated.

Study Materials

While there are numerous study materials out there, make sure to pick the right materials for you. Know your study habits. If you love to use flashcards, make sure to pick materials with flashcards.

While going through the recruiting process, make sure to ask your employer if they can help financially with the cost of prep materials. A great thing is that most firms are willing to help.

Firm won’t help? No problem. Check out these AICPA scholarships here.  Additionally, make sure to check with your state board of accountancy as it may offer additional scholarships, too.

References

Helpful requirements by state

AICPA information

NASBA

Helpful blog forum

Good luck!

MHRM External Case Competition – What a Weekend!

All you loyal blog followers might recall my post about the OSU MHRM Internal Case Competition way back in November. Well this past weekend, three of my classmates and I had the honor of representing the Fisher College of Business at the annual MHRM External Case Competition against Human Resources master’s students from 7 other schools—Cornell University, University of Minnesota, University of South Carolina, Texas A&M, University of Illinois, Rutgers University, and West Virginia University. Fisher hosted at The Blackwell Hotel, and the event was sponsored by PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Division. It was a strenuous and rewarding few days. I’ll share some highlights below!

  • The case: The case was unique in that it had a relatively narrow focus. Parameters like this can sometimes make it difficult to get creative. Personally, I think the goal is always to find the intersection between simplicity and cleverness. Being creative with existing resources presents its unique challenges, and is far more difficult than imagineering a lofty, ethereal idea. I also think the former approach is more impressive when done well.
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Strange snack combinations: another example of being creative with existing resources.
  • The chemistry: I truly could not have imagined better team chemistry. The weekend was a magical mixture of hard work, dad jokes, and Shia LaBeouf Youtube videos. We all brought different strengths and each of us contributed to the end product in a unique way. You could really tell that we were all crazy about the idea we were presenting, and we respected one another throughout the entire process. It really was the definition of synergy.

16 hours in a conference room really bonds you.

  • The presentation: Our brilliant coach Marc Ankerman challenged us to take a seamless approach to presenting, which is more organic and adaptive than traditional presenting. The presentation itself felt more like a conversation than a formal pitch. Nailing this style is more difficult to execute because the presentation tends to look slightly different each time, and you have to be prepared to talk about any piece of the presentation on the fly. Challenge accepted.

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  • The win: I am proud to say our 16 hours of prep on Friday paid off! It’s such an honor to be able to bring home the win for a school and program I adore. We also had a ton of support that day from faculty, staff, classmates, and friends that came to watch and hug us after it was over. What a cool thing.

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I also had the opportunity to meet and mingle with the other teams. I’m about as extroverted as it gets, and I love hearing other people’s stories and experiences. I hope to keep in touch. After all, we’re really all on the same team when it really comes down to it.

 

Competing vs Running OSU HR Invitational Case Competition

A unique opportunity the Fisher MHRM program offers is the OSU HR Invitational Case Competition. In the past, we have hosted four other schools: Cornell, Illinois, Rutgers, and Minnesota. However, this year, OSU expanded the competition and invited West Virginia University, University of South Carolina, and Texas A&M University. WOW, eight teams total.

As an MHRM Student I have competed for THE Ohio State University and coordinated the competition. Both opportunities provided a unique opportunity and experience that I could only get here at Fisher. Here’s what was different…

Competing in the competition is the most fun I never wanted to do again, but secretly wanted to at the same time. It’s a strange, self-inflicted torture that I can’t get enough of because I’m inherently really competitive. The sponsoring company, in this case PepsiCo (also a recruiter on campus), provides a real-life, current business problem demanding a robust HR solution. There are many components to think of when crafting the solution including ROI, implementation, and possible challenges. This competition is unique because it forces you to think outside the box. For example, if during brainstorming all four team members come up with the same idea, that means the other teams (a.k.a. the competition) have already thought about it too, and you need to come up with something more creative. Right before presenting to the judges, you can’t help but have a nervous adrenaline rush because you’ve really only prepared for 24 hours. Yet, at the same time, you know your team is going to present with such conviction in what you came up with. Participating in this competition during my first year in the MHRM program was a unique opportunity to gain exposure to business challenges I faced during my internship over the summer. Our dream team placed 2nd in the 2016 Invitational and I could not have loved the experience more. I have leveraged this experience, and I wanted to make it just as great for the students that would be on the OSU team the next year. So, why not run case comp?!

2nd Place: OSU HR Invitational Case Competition Dream Team Circa 2016 + Coach Ankerman

The MHRM Council is an opportunity to be involved with a student organization that contributes towards the MHRM Program at Fisher. As a Council member, myself and a fellow classmate organize and execute the two case competitions for the MHRM program: Internal – Fall, and Invitational – Spring. While the internal has been traditionally larger in the past because all of the MHRM students participate, the Invitational is larger in terms of scale because many other programs/schools attend. The two case-competition chairs on Council handle a majority of logistics and coordination for both competitions… This is event planning and execution on steroids. The Invitational (a.k.a. external) has grown in size and this was the sixth annual competition. Overall, running the competition didn’t have the same level of “adrenaline rushing,” but let’s be honest… that feeling is hard to get when you’re the party planner. But I was just as excited for all the teams to get to Fisher, explore Columbus to see how great it is, and be one of the first faces our guests would meet. Another great part about running both the internal and the invitational was the opportunity to sit in on the presentations. As a participant competing, there is a strict rule that prohibits sitting in on other teams’ presentations. However, as one of the two case comp chairs I got to sit in on the presentations and observe teams, judges and Q&A. I felt like I was looking into a fishbowl that I vividly remembered being inside of one year earlier. I learned a business executive’s perspective and where their curiosity comes from around a team’s idea(s).

The winning team! OSU HR Invitational Case Comp 2017 + David Harris (VP HR – Corporate Functions & Strategic Projects at PepsiCo)

Post-graduation, I am sure I’ll be responsible for both presenting new ideas to my company’s executives and responsible for organizing and executing events that involve multiple stakeholders. Both opportunities are very unique to being a Fisher MHRM, and I’m fortunate I had the chance to be a part of both teams for the case competitions – on the team and running the show.

As always, go Bucks!

OSU HR 2017 Invitational: OSU, Cornell, Minnesota, Rutgers, Illinois, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Texas A&M

 

Team Projects: Unveiled

One of the cooler aspects of the Specialized Master in Finance program here at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business is the Team Projects class that is taken in your last semester.

The course is designed to allow students to apply for teams on projects with real companies who submit real projects, which the teams work on through the months of March and April, culminating in a final presentation during the last week of school. The “objective of the course is to give SMF students an opportunity to practice their analytical and soft skills by working in teams on real finance related projects with clients” (syllabus).

Throughout the program, we have taken core classes in Economics, Corporate Finance, and Investments; as well as our elective classes in our chosen academic paths. We have also developed our professional skills through networking events and extracurricular club activities like the Fisher Graduate Finance Association. In addition, we have developed our teamwork skills through group projects and presentations, as well as through our core Leadership class. All of the skills and knowledge that have been developed during our seven months at Fisher are now going to be tested and applied in real world situations. It is truly an exciting class!

FGFA Logo

Last week, the Specialized Master in Finance class of 2017 got together for the grand unveiling of the companies that were participating this year. Professor Pinteris walked us through the class syllabus, as well as the expectations of each student during the time period working with these companies. The projects cover all four of the main tracks within the program: Corporate Finance, Risk, Real Estate, and Investments. Thus, there are plenty of options for each student to apply for in their desired path.

Now we have to submit our applications and will find out later this week which company’s project we have been selected for. Once we have this information and we make contact with the company, our work truly begins. I think I can speak for the entire SMF class when I say that we are excited for this amazing opportunity.

 

‘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.

 

My Summer Internship!

The first session (7 weeks) of my 2nd year of MHRM program has flown by almost as quickly as my summer internship at Huntington Bank HQ in downtown Columbus! The summer was a unique opportunity to not only apply the first year of the program to a more tactical learning endeavor, but also to gain new experiences to then bring back to the 2nd year of the program and share with classmates. Below is a quick recap of my summer internship and unique projects I got to be a part of! I apologize for the delay/lack of blogging; it may or may not have taken me the first 7 weeks to get back into the swing of things!

During the first stint of my summer at Huntington, I tried to quickly apply a book from Business Excellence II – The First 90 Days. The book highlights the importance of the first 90 days of any new job and new transition, and how it is important to make a good impression quickly. Really, a summer internship is just around that time frame, so the book was an easy application for tackling my projects.

Overall, I would say the first year of my MHRM curriculum trained my brain to think a certain way: what is the situation, the outcomes desired, impressions and experiences we want to provide? I loved that through the first year of my program, I had a network of resources to bounce my thoughts off of: both classmates and professors. To kick off one of my first projects at Huntington, I tried to get an understanding of the current state of the business and how I was being asked to make an impact, and then called one of our professors, Dr. Inks for his expertise and experience. There wasn’t a shiny bauble that came from the conversation, but instead a frame of mind that helped guide my project throughout the summer.

I loved my projects, team, and work environment over the summer. One of my favorite experiences from the summer was Huntington’s all-intern project. The entire class of about 60 interns was divided into groups of five cross-functional teams. I loved that I had the opportunity to work with students from different departments: IT infrastructure, Commercial Risk, Capital Markets, and Data Analytics– all extremely different departments that possessed a different perspective. The task was to pick an opportunity for improvement at Huntington and confront the problem: what is the problem, why is it a problem, and what is our solution for the problem identified? What prepared me for this project was the MHRM Case Competitions – hosted by Fisher. The problem we identified was one that most companies are facing today: how do we retain millennial talent? I had seen this trend before in the MHRM Internal Case Competition with PepsiCo. Therefore, I had a framework and mindset to build on that rallied our team behind how Huntington can improve to retain the very people giving the presentation: millennials.

My intern buddy over the summer and fellow Buckeye, Leah, after our team presented to the Huntington Executive Team!
My intern buddy over the summer and fellow Buckeye, Leah, after our team presented to the Huntington Executive Team!

I’m so excited to be returning to Huntington after graduation from the MHRM program and to be part of the talent acquisition team! I can also say that I’m excited to finish up the last 1.5 semesters in the MHRM program at Fisher, and gain further background and experience that will ultimately prepare me for taking on an HR Specialist role. Plus, I still want to live out the last of my college breaks that I might never see again 😉 Until next time. Go, Bucks!

Buckeyes that intern together, stay together
Buckeyes that intern together, stay together

The Concrete Jungle

Before you go on reading this post, I want you to open this music video in another tab and allow the song to play while you continue reading….

Now that the mood has been set, here we go. This past weekend, from the evening of Wednesday the 21st to Sunday the 25th, I took a trip to the land of Sinatra, Bobby Flay, and Tupac. A little place called New York City.

As I was flying in, listening to the song you are hopefully listening to right now, it was around 8:30pm on Wednesday night. If you fly into LaGuardia and are lucky enough to get a seat on the left-side of the aircraft, you will have that 1-million dollar view of NYC lit up like a Christmas tree. That sight always seems to give me the chills, and I was left in awe and ready to take on “the City” the next day.

Now you may be wondering: Brett, what were you doing in NYC?Good question. I ventured on the trip with three of my fellow SMF classmates and an undergraduate group targeting the investment banks in NYC. Between Thursday and Friday, we visited banks like Goldman Sachs in the Financial District and J.P. Morgan in Midtown. With my intended career path of Investment Banking, it was an awesome look into the workings of “Wall Street” and the current state of Investment Banks.

Two of my classmates and I in Times Square.
Two of my classmates and me in Times Square.

Also, I used this trip as a means to network. From our trips to the banks, we were able to speak and network with Ohio State alumni working there, as well as at a reception on Thursday night. In addition, we had free time in which we could network with other working professionals and alumni in the City– and I feel that I established some awesome new connections.

Finally, despite having been to New York City before, I let the inner tourist in me come out a bit and I stopped by some of the most famous spots like: Wall Street, Times Square, the Raging Bull, the Rockefeller Center, and Broadway. Final takeaways? I really do love NYC and can’t wait for my next trip back!

 

A classmate and I at the Raging Bull near Wall Street.
A classmate and I at the Raging Bull near Wall Street.