Core Team: An Integral Component of the Fisher MBA

As I reflect through the past five months of my Fisher MBA experience, one thing that kept me going through this rigorous and fast-paced program was my core team. Yes, you heard that right – ­my core team! Go, Team #3!

Fisher heavily emphasizes the concept of team. Just before you officially start your MBA, you go through a three-week pre-MBA term. At the end, you find out who’s on your core team, the team you will be working with throughout the first year of your program. Just to offer a glimpse of how a pre-MBA term looks, this is where you get to know about the program structure, professors, resources at Fisher and Ohio State. At the same time, you get to attend executive lunches, seminars, career roundtables, and speaker series.

The whole entering class is divided into teams of four to five, with people not only coming from different backgrounds but also from different parts of the world. The diverse nature and vivid experiences that every individual brings to a team make you appreciate the power of such a setting. We, as a core team, faced our first challenge on the very first day we got introduced to each other. As a part of Fisher Challenge, we had to present a case analysis on one of the budding organizations in Columbus and propose an innovative way to help increase the firm’s profits. This was the first group exercise with my team and to date, we’ve delivered on many such assignments. We ended our pre-MBA term with an experiential learning program with all core teams at a location little outside of Columbus (called “Summit Vision”). This was absolutely one of the experiences that I’ll add to my special memories from Fisher for the rest of my life.

A pic from Summit Vision (I am on the extreme left, along with rest of my team)

Over time, as I’ve progressed through the MBA program, these are the people who’ve become a big part of my Fisher family. It’s not just the assignments inside class, but the other experiences. Recently, we all planned a day out at the Columbus Zoo. It was definitely a stress-reliever after the end of our first term and simultaneously gave us the time to know each other better in a setting outside of the class.

A pic from the Columbus Zoo

Overall, working in a team setting has not only helped me in learning the art of coming together as a team to solve a problem but to also appreciate different leadership styles operating within the same team. It, in a true sense, gives you the flavor of how your post-MBA corporate life would be.

Tip: Join Student Government

This year, in the spirit of involvement, I decided to join the Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM) student council. Every graduate program here at the Fisher College of Business (including MBA, MHRM, MAcc, SMF) has its own council representation that is responsible for being the collective “voice” for the students in the program.

Each council is comprised of students who are elected by their classmates. For 2-year programs like MHRM and MBA, the council is primarily 2nd-year students. For 1-year programs like MAcc and SMF, obviously all council members are in their first year. Each council decides how to delegate responsibilities amongst members and establishes the scope of what they hope to accomplish as a team over the course of the year.

Meet the MHRM Council

“Chief of Everything”

Kate Clausen – President

“Comedic Relief”

Jen Marchese – VP, Professional Development

“Queen of Funds”

Megan Condon – Treasurer

“The Details”

Kelly Mayer – Case Comp. Co-chair

“Stubborn Negotiator”

Irinka Toidze – Case Comp. Co-chair

“The Height”

Matt Shaffer – Social Chair

Obviously, we have a good time. But we also take our jobs very seriously. I view the role of MHRM Council as the heartbeat of the MHRM program. We are the eyes and the ears of the students, and it’s our responsibility to keep the pulse of what Fisher students are experiencing, saying, and feeling about the MHRM program. Then, the most important part: what we do with that information.

I think our most noble duty is to represent the interests of the students by passing along feedback to faculty and staff with regard to possible additions or revisions to the program. In a field where technology advancements are affecting nearly every aspect of what HR professionals do—recruiting, talent planning, compensation, training, you name it—it is critical that our curriculum is agile enough to keep up with current best practices. And I feel fortunate to belong to a school that respects its students and actively listens to our suggestions.

Beyond being a bridge between students and faculty, the MHRM council also puts on additional events to engage outside of class and keep the Fisher MHRM community alive. This year, we’ve had football tailgates, pumpkin picking, bar crawls– and this week, we went to a comedy show.

For professional development, we just had our first event of the year. It was a TED Talk-inspired event (no surprise for those of you who know my obsession). The idea was inspired by some feedback we had heard from last year—students want more opportunities to engage with smaller companies that may not have a presence on campus, and they want to do it in ways other than traditional networking. So we brought in HR Professionals from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Marathon Petroleum, CoverMyMeds, and Cardinal Health to talk about innovative things they are doing in the HR space. It was really exciting to be able to interact with some folks we don’t normally get exposure to and the event was a great success.

On the whole, it is really rewarding to be able to give back to a program that has served me well in my time here. It also gives me a chance to stretch my leadership muscles in preparation for future roles I may have.

My Favorite Class at Fisher

My favorite class this semester, and thus far in the MBA Program, has been Organizational Coaching with instructor John Schaffner.  This course not only provides the opportunity to learn more about yourself as a leader and how you can improve, but also how to bring out the best in others to help them achieve their personal goals. As an added bonus, Professor Schaffner is hilarious and makes the class very engaging.

I spent seven weeks in this course with about 25 other students.  The class began with each student personally reflecting, and included an exercise where we had to create our “Life Map.” This map looks like an EKG reading, where the peaks and lows are representative of the best and worst moments of your life over the years.  While this exercise is very personal, it allows you to be introspective, and by going through a coaching session with a partner in the class, you gain additional insight into how some of your life experiences translate into your style of leadership.  After completing our life maps, we spent the remainder of the course completing additional exercises to learn more about ourselves and then practicing different strategies for developing and maintaining a coaching relationship.

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

Coaching is a co-active relationship, and as the coach, you work through the process of deepening the client’s self-awareness by asking the right questions to help them realize they truly are capable of solving any challenge they are experiencing, whether personal or professional.  Through practicing effective listening, awareness, and communication, you are able to develop skills that are critical to success in any leadership position.

Fisher just recently introduced a course called LEAP+TC (Leadership Effectiveness through Applied Projects + Team Coaching) where students gain hands-on experience managing a project with a non-profit organization in Columbus to further develop leadership competencies, practice team building skills and apply the skills they’ve learned in the classroom.  I’m glad to have the opportunity to learn more about coaching to better prepare me for my career post-MBA!

 

Endless Possibilities at Fisher

While sitting down with a prospective candidate of the SMF program and Nicholas Denker at lunch the other day, I had time to reflect on what Ohio State has to offer students. You should know the vast amount of resources you have at your disposal here at Fisher College of Business, although I can’t name them all within this short blog post!

Just within the first half of the year, I have learned from professors who have very recent work experience, professors who hail from other nations and give new perspectives on issues, and even a professor who was in the armed forces. All have been excellent and helpful. Just because this is a large school does not mean professors are not able to meet with students. Professors always encourage us to stop into office hours to see them.

Also, the wide variety of working professional and academic professors is a huge benefit to students. Their experience and connections give students more knowledge than we know what to do with. They expect the best out of the class and, in time, the transformation from student to professional takes place.

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

The SMF program brings in speakers from all different types of industries, as well. On most Friday mornings, there are presentations (set up by Fisher faculty and staff) featuring a variety of leaders. You can come in and listen to industry experts who are actively working. Not only will you be able to gain insight from their presentations, but a select number of students each week can have lunch with the speakers to ask any questions that come to mind. This perk is not limited to just the business college. The entire university brings in highly-regarded speakers. Just this past week, OSU  hosted J.D. Vance to talk about his work, The Hillbilly Elegy.

Fisher College of Business has a vast alumni network, as well. The success of past graduates helps us as future graduates achieve even more. To be able to go on LinkedIn and see that alumni of Fisher are working at almost every company I look up is reassuring that I can do great like my colleagues before me. These alumni know all too well the difficulties that may lie ahead for students. From my experience, these alumni have responded when I reach out to them and provided great advice for me to move forward with. Put in the work and Fisher will reward you with the knowledge you need to succeed.

The Job Hunt

After being in college for four years, I never thought this day would come:

I have a job! This is not one of those jobs that I had in college or high school where I worked for a few hours a week or even an internship. I actually have a real job where I wake up every day, put on a suit, tie, and help provide advice to others. I guess you could say I am (almost) an adult now…

Many of you must be wondering how I reached this stage and what the process looked like. Well, to be honest, it involved a lot of preparation, stress and free meals!

Step 1: How to get an interview

The first step to getting a job is by locking up the first-round interview. This is probably the hardest step of the entire process, but if you do it right, it is one of the easiest steps. First thing is to have an exceptional resume: solid work experience, leadership, and good grades. The issue is that having a good resume isn’t enough, as it turns out there are hundreds of student who have “exceptional” resumes as well. So, how do you differentiate yourself? Network, network, network!

I learned early on in my college life that it is not what you know, but who you know that will help you succeed in life. So that is what I did. I networked and created connections.

As a result, with every firm that I applied to, I received at least a first-round interview. These firms included all your prestigious Big 4 accounting firms and the top tier-consulting firms.

**A few of the firms that I applied for do not recruit at Ohio State, but that should not hold you back. As long as you network well, you should be fine!**

Image result for networking
Network! – Form those connections

Step 2: How to excel at the interview

Be yourself! Since most interviews are behavioral, just be yourself. You should educate yourself about the role and organization, but as long as you be yourself and have a few stories to tell, you should be fine.

However, if you are like me and decide to pursue a career in consulting, you will need to prepare for the case interview. During a case interview, the interviewer will present you with a business scenario and you are expected to present a logical solution at the end of the interview. These can be difficult, but are really fun! All you need to do is practice– a lot. I ran through close to 30 mock case interviews before my first official case interview.

Step 3: Accept the job

This is the best part! Be proud of where you work, and accept a job that makes you happy. As for me, I will be working in Columbus as a consultant for EY in their financial services practice. I could not be happier and I am excited for a career at EY!

EY is short for Ernst and Young

TED: The Real Reason I’m in HR

I am a complete and utter TED Talks junkie. Seriously. Whenever a professor introduces a TED Talk in a lecture, I am transformed into someone with the excitement of 9-year old girl at a Spice Girls concert in the mid-1990s. I am qualified to say this, because I was in fact, a 9-year old girl at a Spice Girls concert in the mid-1990s.

Girl Power.

Ted Talks (swoon). Why do I love these bite-size morsels of informational goodness? Mostly because they introduce people to extraordinary ways of thinking about ordinary things. I subscribe to the notion that in order to change the world, you have to challenge people on the assumptions they make every day that guide them to behave in the ways they do.

You have to change the way people think.

I say that very cautiously, because I believe there are effective and ineffective ways of doing so. Making more rules, telling someone they’re wrong, telling someone you’re right—typically not very effective in my experience. Understanding someone’s motivation for doing what they do (Fear? Insecurity? A need for power and control?), and guiding them to the realization that the method they’re using to fulfill that need may not be healthy or sustainable—much more effective.

But the first step in all this is truly understanding how the world has come to be this way, and how the world has shaped how people think. How has our history led us to this exact moment in time? That where my one true love, TED, comes in.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite goosebump-worthy TED Talks below. Ultimately, I credit my commitment to changing the world—using HR as a vehicle to do so—to the four individuals below.

The first, psychologist and author Barry Schwartz talks about how work came to be seen purely as a means to an end and what we can do to change that notion.

Shawn Achor is one of the funniest storytellers of all time. And in this TED Talk, he speaks about the power of positive psychology in rewiring our brains for gratitude and happiness.

Regina Hartley posits that organizations should “hire the scrapper.” She explains why candidates get looked over every day for gaps in their resume and non-traditional work experience. She argues that these are the very people we should invest in.

5-time CEO Margaret Heffernan challenges the notion that competition is the way to get ahead. Unsuccessful teams are comprised of high achievers, while successful teams are comprised of helpers. And she does it all in a fantastic British accent.

If you have a favorite TED Talk, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Welcome Week at OSU

Before classes started, the MAcc program had a week-long orientation. During this orientation, students were able to meet faculty, learn more about the program and life at Fisher, and to attend Summit Vision. During orientation, I was able to meet new classmates and build relationships with them and attending Summit Vision was my favorite activity. I was randomly put into a group of about seven people where we then had to do various team-building activities outside. All the activities required trust and teamwork, and by the end of the day, I knew more about each person in my group.

The first week of class is known as “Welcome Week” which includes many activities such as a movie played in the Oval, a Fisher Involvement Fair and an OSU Involvement Fair, and a concert (see below). While there were many activities occurring during the evening, Fisher also held different events during the day.

Many students are actively looking for employment during the MAcc program, and I’m happy to say Fisher makes this process easy for students. Every day, during the first week of class, a different company would be set up outside on the Quad with free pizza and other goodies. In addition to the recruiter the represented firm would have many employees outside; therefore, every student had a chance to network while enjoying a free lunch. Fisher also has various career fairs set up and most firms that recruited on the lawn will also hold information sessions later that day, giving students many chances to network and learn more about various firms.

Students attending the Involvement Fair in the Oval.

Now… the concert! At the end of Welcome Week, there was a free concert for all students with Zedd, an EDM artist. Regardless of own music preferences, I must say it was an AMAZING concert. I recommend that all students attend the events during Welcome Week at OSU. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and learn more about various programs on campus.

Zedd Concert

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Exactly one year ago, I remember sitting in Gerlach Hall room 265 listening to returning 2nd year Master of Human Resource Management students talk about their experiences with summer internships. One comment from a classmate and future friend of mine, Shane, stood out to me as particularly memorable. He said, “you won’t believe it now, but next summer will change you.”

Just as instructed, I didn’t believe him. I remember thinking to myself I already have work experience. I already know myself—this is just another job. I didn’t consider at the time that this would be a summer of firsts—my first experience working in corporate America; my first time working in an HR department; my first time regularly interacting with directors, VPs, and senior level executives; and my first time having the opportunity to make a significant impact on a large organization.

Well, of course I was wrong, and he was right (but you already saw that coming). I admit it now– here on the internet, where it will live forever:

Shane, you were rightthis summer changed me.

Wendy’s may be the home of old-fashioned hamburgers, but check out that modern corporate office.

I was fortunate enough to spend the summer here in Columbus with Wendy’s at the Dublin Restaurant Support Center. I interned on the HR Generalist team under an incredible supervisor who also happened to be an alumni of the Fisher MHRM Program. I like to say that I spent the summer championing “the employee experience.”

Tactically, I had two main projects: the first focused on internal mobility and the second on our onboarding process, but the thread that tied them both together—and the lens through which I was approaching them—was the employee experience. How do employees move through our processes? Do they feel connected to our values and our customers? Do they come home after their first day energized and excited? Are they inspired? Do they feel that the company is investing in their successes? And how do we ensure that every employee has a positive and meaningful experience as part of the Wendy’s family? These are some of the questions I found myself asking this summer.

I think my biggest “takeaway” from my summer at Wendy’s was learning that HR is both a science and an art. Allow me to explain.

In HR, we do one of two things (and oftentimes, we do both):

We create tools, systems, and processes to enhance the employee experience.

Exhibit A: Here we see science happening.

It is our role in HR to use our functional knowledge and expertise to help people do their best work and to build the most effective teams possible to accomplish the organization’s objectives. We design performance management systems, compensation packages, training programs, and learning frameworks to motivate, incentivize, and develop employees.

And then…

We empower managers to use them.

This is the “art” part.

One of the most critical functions as HR professionals (generalists, in particular) is empowering managers to manage. We give them these tools, the guidance, the skills, and hopefully some confidence, and then they transform these raw materials into success on their teams. We coach them toward productive conversations, we challenge them to challenge their employees, and then we let our managers manage.

In other words, we create the conditions for people to succeed.

What a powerful, yet humbling position to be in. We are influencers, advocates, champions, and often times, the “ethical heartbeat” (credit to MHRM Professor John Schaffner for that phrase) of the organization. I feel particularly fortunate to have witnessed each of these roles in action this summer at Wendy’s, and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with my classmates and professors this coming year.

The Frostys didn’t hurt either.

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.

Image result for leadership legacy fisher tony rucci

(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.