Posts filed under 'Professional Development'

If You’ve Ever Wanted to Sleepover at School…

You’ll have the chance at the Fisher College of Business. Not just once – but TWICE!

Kidding. Sort of.

The Annual Fisher MHRM Internal Case Competition was held the previous weekend (November 7 and 8) and I’m 100% certain I’ve never spent that much time at school in my undergrad – or ever. While this might not sound like the party you’d expect to have during your weekend, it was an absolute blast.

The case competition goes like this: you wake up at an ungodly hour, attempt to make yourself look like a normal person, and arrive at school by 7:30am (how on earth did I do this on the regular when I was in high school?) Don’t worry; coffee and breakfast are supplied. Shortly after, you’ll be given case rules and then be presented with a live case*. Once the case has been introduced, you break into your (previously determined) teams and begin to come up with a viable solution for the company which presented the case. Some teams may finish quickly…others may not finish until well after midnight. My experience was the latter.

Despite being in the same room on campus for more than 15 hours, the time flew by because our team was coming up with great ideas as well as having a great time (pretty sure we played Taylor Swift’s new album at least three times).

The next day we had to be on campus again at 7:30am. More coffee – more breakfast. We were then given our presentation times and set out into our team rooms to practice our pitch. We definitely played T. Swift a few more times to harness some positive juju.

Nerves were high until we were in front of the judges ready to present. Rather than a lecture-like presentation which we’ve all experienced when presenting a project for class, the presentation is very conversational. The judges ask questions, you answer. Generally, your classmates don’t have a ton of questions for you regarding your presentation. But many of the judges are from the company which presented the case or a company facing a similar problem. They want to know why you came up with the solutions you came up with. Everyone in the room is very engaged. You’re allotted 25 minutes to present your solution and most people still have plenty they want to say when the time is up.

My suggestions for anyone interested in participating in the case competition: bring a pillow and blanket (kidding – sort of); get up and walk around when you’ve been sitting for too long; make sure you’re well-fed and hydrated (food and beverages are provided the whole day. Take advantage of that); you’re not given enough time to present all of your ideas – pick two to three of your best ideas and prepare to go into detail about them; have proof about why your ideas will work – while businesses generally value creativity, they also value results. Prove that your solutions will give them what they want.

Most importantly – HAVE FUN.

*Case details are omitted for confidentiality.

Valuing Public Companies

Sometimes you do assignments for classes or complete classes without realizing just how valuable that assignment or class was. One such assignment for me was a comprehensive valuation report on a publicly-traded company in our introductory finance course in the SMF program. Our professor and the academic director of the program, Dr. George Pinteris, gave us certain parameters for the projects—such as no companies in the industrials or financials industry verticals. He also restricted us from valuing certain companies that other students had done before, such as Nordstrom, L Brands, and Coca-Cola. Professor Pinteris segmented our class into groups. My group chose The Boeing Company. For the report, we had to use Capital IQ, Bloomberg, IBIS World Industry Reports, and several other sources of information. For example, in understanding the operating margins for Boeing, one must understand the price directions for key inputs, such as steel, composites, titanium, and aluminum. To understand which way those prices are moving, one must understand key economic assumptions and inputs for the prices of those commodities.

Capital IQ allows users to generate fast tables of comparable companies

Capital IQ allows users to generate fast tables of comparable companies

I especially enjoyed this project because it drew on the strengths of my team members. One member has a background in energy investments and so had keen insights into oil and natural gas commodity markets. My own background in public policy and politics informed the analysis of Boeing’s strategic direction as the United States Congress wrestles with the issue of how to stimulate exports (Boeing earns half its revenues by exporting goods). All of us were proficient at financial modeling, but one team member was especially adept and provided the team with reams of data and analysis on Boeing’s historical and projected financials. Her analysis includes several valuation methods, such as dividend discount model, discounted cash flow using multiples, transaction multiples, and market multiples. Dr. Pinteris stressed the need to produce a professional report, with an accompanying Powerpoint and presentation. In short, Dr. Pinteris’ project stressed a number of skills needed in the financial industry: teamwork, professionalism, modeling skills, and strategic thinking.

Lunch With Jim Allen, CEO of Hilliard Lyons

This past Thursday a group of 10-15 students had the opportunity to enjoy an intimate lunch with Jim Allen, the CEO of Hilliard Lyons.  As the CEO of one of the oldest brokerage firms in America, Jim brought fantastic perspective on the financial industry. His perspective on the last 10 – 15 tumultuous years was especially compelling. During his tenure Hilliard Lyons was acquired by PNC and  eventually regained its independence several years later as employees purchased the company with the assistance of a private equity firm. During his talk we discussed the impact of economic downturns, as well the impact of the following regulatory changes.

My favorite part of the lunch was Jim’s personal advice for us as students. He offered two pieces of advice. First, be sure to follow your passion. As cliché as it sounds – it really is an important piece of advice to understand. Jim has spent his entire career with Hilliard Lyons and he emphasized that it was his passion for the industry and relationships with clients that has kept him motivated throughout his career. His second piece of advice for us was to take advantage of our time at Ohio State as students and specifically to hear as many different speakers from industry as possible. Mr. Allen emphasized that even if you don’t intend to work in the speaker’s industry, listening to their perspective will let you paint a clearer picture of where you want to steer your career. This was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had at Fisher. How many MBA programs out there offer the chance to have such an intimate lunch with the CEO of a major wealth management firm? Not many – this just another reason why I’m so happy I decided on Fisher.

Fisher Works for Students

As an economics undergrad with no formal finance background, Fisher College of Business’ course structure has been highly valuable to me. Fisher splits the semesters into terms, and students take five courses each term. This allows me to take many courses and broaden my finance background very quickly and comprehensively. Thus, I’ve been able to take such electives as financial modeling and international finance, and for next term, private equity, enterprise risk management, and accounting for M&A, on top of core courses.

One invaluable elective I took last term was Financial Institutions with Dr. Isil Erel. Professor Erel is an expert on banking and capital requirements, and is heavily involved in research on corporate governance and M&A. This course focused heavily on the development of the financial services industry after the deregulation of the banking industry in the 1980s or 1990s, modeling the impact of interest rate changed on banks’ balance sheets, hedging interest rate risk, modeling credit risk, accounting for off-balance sheet items, the logistics of securitization of loans, and applying capital requirements. We also discussed the root causes and impacts of the financial crisis in 2008 and the responses of the regulators. Cases for the class focused on hedging interest rate risk with swaps and analyzing exchange rate ratios for bank mergers. While the final exam was quite difficult, I am now equipped with the tools to analyze more rigorously the risks facing financial institutions.

Huntington Bank, based in Columbus, OH

Huntington Bank, based in Columbus, OH

To supplement our course, Dr. Erel invited two bank executives, Don Kimble, Chief Financial Officer of KeyCorp, and Helga Houston, Chief Risk Officer of Huntington Bank, to speak to our class. During these sessions, these executives fielded questions about all of the topics we were learning in our course and covered additional topics, such as the importance of information technology innovation in the sector and reputational risk.

KeyCorp, based in Cleveland, OH

KeyCorp, based in Cleveland, OH

Dr. Erel and Financial Institutions are just one example of how students gain from Fisher’s programs—in many other courses, professors are providing us valuable real-world skills, putting us in situations where we need to perform, and introducing us to executives and alumni who can help us in the job search. Time and time again, Fisher is working for its students.


As you may be aware, we at Fisher, have loads of student organizations at Fisher( 22 to be precise). If you think you want to learn more about analytics, you have the FBAA(Fisher Business Analytics Association). If you want to explore Operations and Logistics, you have OLMA. You get the drift. One such organization which is close to my heart is Fisher Board Fellows. FBF gives you an opportunity to sit on the board( non voting member) for a local non profit here in Columbus, Ohio for one whole year.In addition to attending the board meetings, you are also given a stand alone project with clear set of deliverables. Non-profits expect the FBF to contribute their part in running the organization and helping the community. Hence, you are not just a fly on the wall. You are going to be rubbing shoulders with the Sr VP’s and the CEO’s of for-profit businesses who happen to be on the board of these organizations. I applied for becoming a FBF for the myriad opportunities which you can leverage with your background and strengths. You can network, provide business perspective to existing social problems, learn more about non-profit way of doing business, so on and so forth. This is truly a one of a kind experience which I truly recommend for everyone( even if you think you are the hard core for-profit kind of person). Of course, if these are not enough to convince you to give this opportunity a shot, did I also mention that it looks fabulous on your resume and that nowhere else can you hope to become a board member in your 20s( unless its your family business of course)?

Discover MBA fairs and Conferences

MBA job search is all about Networking! Networking! Networking! Dammit what is Netwoooooooooorking :) and how do I do this? Well, MBA fairs and conferences are a big part of it. My dear potential MBA students who are looking to join a program this year and current students who are not too sure what the MBA conferences are all about, I hope to give you guys a little bit of insight today (Especially the ones who are tight on the budget and seeking to maximize their bang for the buck)

So should you or should you not attend?? that is the question…

Before coming to Fisher, I had heard a lot about the MBA conferences and several MBA students whom I talked to, had attended a conference and suggested that it’s a great experience! It seemed like quite an investment in terms of time and money and I wasn’t so sure if I should attend.

There were mainly 2 conferences being held in the month of September: The National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) and The National Society of Hispanic MBA’s (NSHMBA). There was the Fisher Graduate career fair coming up on the 9 th Sep,2014  and I decided to attend this fair first and see how it goes.

Suggestion no. 1: As a Fisher MBA, you would have the opportunity to attend the Fisher graduate fair, A nice opportunity to get started and test out your networking skills. You may also discover the real value of such conferences and fairs.

While at the Fisher fair, I discovered that the recruiters want to hear how well you know their company and what made you approach them. There has to be link, it could be your past experience in that particular companies industry, a set of skill set that matches the job profile well, or a passion that you share which the product or service provided by the company. You MUST have a story to tell!

The other thing were the interesting and insightful conversations that I had at the fair with company representatives. It is a learning opportunity and some of them told me about strategies that the company is following or problems faced by them and the industry as a whole.

I started to enjoy this process of getting to know different industries, firms and work profiles. That same day I decided to attend the Hispanic conference and landed in Philadelphia on Sep 26th with my suit on :)


Beautiful company at NSHMBA! Kirti Barry (R), Natalie Megrbyan(L) and myself(Middle).

Suggestion no 2: Its not just about looking for a job or internship at such fairs\conferences but also getting to know the companies, researching and analyzing your best fit. This helps you increase your knowledge  base, broaden your network and target your targets(companies) much more precisely. Come across as someone who is not just looking for a job or an internship, but as someone who can utilize his or her skills and experience effectively to solve the companies problem or provide them with a strategic asset.


City Hall Station at Philly

City Hall Station at Philly

Downtown View

Downtown View

The Hispanic conference was a blast and I ended up talking to several companies over those 2 days. After the conference got over, I decided to take a short walk around the downtown area and get a bite to eat. Do I think it was worth it? Absolutely and I am glad I went to the Hispanic conference. I made some strong connections and come across to recruiters as having a genuine interest in their companies. I was able to connect with some of the recruiters the following week over email and LinkedIn, especially the ones who do not visit Fisher on campus as one of their MBA recruiting schools.

Suggestion no. 3: While tons of companies visit fisher, The conferences are a great way for you to connect with companies which don’t recruit at Fisher. Remember – the more you network with companies, recruiters and their employees, the better chances you have…

Lets talk about the internship search strategy in the next blog –  What is it all about? How to go about starting your internship search and challenges you may face especially as an international student. Coming up soon!!!


Resources at Your Fingertips

If you are pursuing a career in finance, it is important not just to have a conceptual understanding of the discipline, but also to keep up on the news and to know how to use different software programs. The Specialized Masters in Finance (SMF) program at the Fisher College of Business places a premium on just these two things.

With respect to software training, the program has adopted a curriculum that forces students to learn how to use Excel in their sleep, use certain Excel add-ons like Crystal Ball (which includes Monte Carlo analysis), CapitalIQ, and the ins and outs of Bloomberg terminals, the industry standard for gaining corporate information. In order to teach these software programs, Fisher has retained a former institutional investor, Professor Matt Sheridan. In addition to these software programs, Fisher students have free access to a plethora of other resources, such as IBISWorld Industry Reports, Thomson Research Reports, and LexisNexis, all of which are very helpful in researching companies, sectors, and markets for class projects. Knowledge of these programs is often prerequisite for many of the positions to which finance students will apply. In my interviews, I haven’t gotten brownie points for having these programs on my résumé—but I doubt I would have gotten an interview without some of them.


This is a typical screenshot of a Bloomberg terminal. Look confusing? Trust me, it won’t be after a few weeks in the program.

Dr. George Pinteris, the director of the SMF Program, likes to tell students that when finance professionals get together, they don’t talk about the risk premium over a risk-free asset that they use in the Capital Asset Pricing Model or whether they use the current portion of long-term debt when calculating the cost of debt. Instead, they discuss current events. Dr. Pinteris and other professors expect (but do not require) that students read the Wall Street Journal., Financial Times, and/or The Economist. Personally, I like to supplement my reading of WSJ and FT with American Banker. Whether students access these resources through online university library resources or through special discounts Dr. Pinteris distributes to students, students have access to very valuable resources. A full year’s subscription to American Banker costs about $1,400, while full year subscriptions to WSJ and FT cost a little over $300 each. During some of my interviews, mentioning a recent relevant article I read in FT or AB has often been a catalyst that made a good interview a phenomenal one.

The SMF Program not only gives students a solid academic background in finance, but also an excellent technical and professional background as well.

The Internship

The Internship-Vaughn and Wilson
Second year MBA students-they’re older, wiser, and more mature, right?  The first one in that list is guaranteed to happen.  The others, not necessarily, but the internship between the first and second year of the MBA program is aimed to help towards that.  This summer I interned as a Global Supply Chain Project Manager at Greif, which is a $4.5 billion industrial packaging company headquartered here in the Columbus area.

Greif Global Supply Chain
It was a great internship.  The Greif supply chain folks welcomed me as a full member of the team and never looked at me as an “intern”.  The projects I got to work on were ones that the other full time team members would have been working on if I weren’t there.  Not only that, but I also worked on a project that had an international focus and was able to travel to Amsterdam for a week during the summer to pitch the solution we had come up with to the leader of the business unit there.

I’ve found as a 2nd year MBA this year there are a lot of things I’ve been able to hit on from my internship at Greif while at career fairs and in interviews.  The things I learned while doing the internship have been beneficial in growing my experience and understanding of supply chain management, and it was largely due to the role I had there.  So, when looking for an internship it’s worthwhile to focus on what kind of internship it will be and if you’ll get a great experience out of it.  I sure had that at Greif, and was more than happy to intern there this summer.

Career Fair Preparation

This past week we had the Fisher Fall Career Fair, an event for undergrads, grad students, and anyone else who is part of the Fisher College of Business network. Of course, any student at Ohio State is also welcome to attend the fair because it is a great way to network with the employers and companies from across the region and the U.S. This experience is great for all students, whether they are looking to get some extra interview practice in, or maybe they are on the hunt for that full-time, post-grad position.

I attended the fair to start networking with companies that I’d like to do my HR summer internship with. I spoke to about eight different companies and was able to get a better sense of all the options for HR grad students. I then spent the remainder of my afternoon working at the fair with the Office of Career Management (this is the office that coordinates the entire event), checking students in and helping with last minuted questions and directions. The fair is held on three different floors of the Ohio Union, so as you can imagine, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. My advice is to make sure you review the list of companies attending and pick out a few that you’d really like to talk to, and then target those companies.

It’s also important to have an idea of what you are going to say about yourself during your introduction when you get in front of a recruiter. Make sure you leave a good first impression by being enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and be prepared to talk about your experiences listed on your resume.

I came away from this experience with some really great conversations with the recruiters. It was a chance for me to explain my background, what I’m looking for in an internship, and learn more about the interview process. If anything, it was a good warm up for the on-campus interviews that are starting this week. You will feel so much more comfortable walking into your first interview if you feel prepared and confident.

Shredded Wheat

Shredded Wheat

An eleven year-old beta model of my current form once walked into a Barnes & Noble on a mission.  The chameleon currently known as Diddy (I think) had just released his “No Way Out” CD and I was absolutely going to have it.  For the week since its release I had developed this quixotic vision of myself walking into my suburban swim club with swagger on a trillion.  I would pull up right next to the 6th grade girls with their newly minted braces and high pitched screams.  With confidence and poise, I’d pop that bad boy into my no-skip Sony Discman and elevate my game from “guy whose only other CD is Meredith Brooks” to “can I have your AIM handle?” Away Message: BOSS.

A few case facts:
I’m 11.
The FCC frowns on selling foul language and Biggie Smalls dirge tracks to minors.
My parents might as well have worked for the FCC.

So here you go, fellow classmates.  I give to you a microcosm of what we’re all coming up against, wrapped nicely in a format that we are quickly becoming versed in.  What does Elliott do to rise to the occasion? It’s a comedy that reflects a scenario that we will find ourselves in quite a bit over the next two years at Fisher.  As we begin to consider summer internship opportunities, we’re stomaching the self-help books, empowerment seminars, and hole-punching resume one-on-ones in order to compose the most compelling pictures of ourselves.  It’s a rough process and, much like a baby-faced Elliott in pursuit of a CD eulogizing hard knocks, we too face some serious challenges. So let’s get to work.

Step one – Identify the target.

At the time there appeared to be two types of B&N employees, the ex-librarians and the college kids.  You’d think I’d have scoped the college kid, but not that time.  That trip called for knitted-cat-sweater lady.

Step two – Stack the deck.

For those of you who remember, that particular Diddy CD was famous for the “I’ll Be Missing You” track featuring Sting. (I could devote an entire blog on how this man refuses to age)  It just so happens that Sting collections were widely available and devoid of any inappropriate labeling.  I grabbed two random Sting CDs in addition to my Diddy purchase.

Step three – Sell it like it’s on fire.

I approached the counter with the two Sting CDs sandwiching Diddy.  I then starting talking my pre-pubescent head off about how much my mom loved Sting and how she could not wait for me to bring home these collections.  When the associate saw the Diddy CD, she paused and I that’s when I laid on the charm.  “Track 16 is the latest collaboration with Sting.  You’ve probably heard it on the radio? My mom loves it. I’m not sure why it’s labeled this way as it’s an acappella group.  Not like anybody singing with Sting would be terrible, right?”

Step four – Reflect.

Of course this lady does not sell me a CD called “Puff Daddy and the Family – No Way Out”.   You’d be taking a Zamboni machine to all nine circles of Dante’s Hell before Denim Dress McGee sells songs titled “Young G’s” and “All About the Benjamins” to an 11 year-old.

The point is this, my friends: Fisher will not be easy.  Even the best laid plans will fail at times.  We are all going to get chewed up because we are wheat: full of potential, well matured, and raw.  Hopefully we’ll look back and consider our previous ignorance with a higher perspective.  I would also submit that if we don’t get our collective egos rocked a few times by this program, then we might as well get our money back and spend it on late fees at the public library.  Fisher is a top-tier program because they do what others can’t.  They make successful people more successful.  I look forward to the process, and the late nights, and the morass of classes, interviews, failures, and victories.  I expect Fisher to give me the tools to evolve into something greater than the sum of my parts.  I also expect to pick up a few bad habits along the way.  Most of all I look forward to working with each of you.

I’ll end my first post in the fashion which I will end every post; with a request.

Be kind to somebody today.  It makes a difference.


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