MHRM Case Competition: Sponsored by PepsiCo

The MHRM Case Competition: I remember learning about it during my visit at Fisher and Day 1 of Orientation we were given the date (November 6th and 7th, 2015). As a graduation requirement, this is has been one of my favorite experiences thus far at Fisher!

The MHRM Case Competition at Fisher College of Business is a unique opportunity most other programs and schools cannot offer. Due to the fact Fisher houses the MHRM program in the business school, we are afforded unique opportunities and partnerships with companies like PepsiCo. PepsiCo sponsors our event and in exchange, our program is broken up into teams to work in a “hackathon”-like scenario to provide our best recommendations to the company’s latest HR issues they have not been able to find a resolution for. Professor Ankerman spearheads the competition with training, aid, food, and inspiration!

Step 1: Pick your team. This is a key step that doesn’t involve picking your friends (although the best players might be your friends like in my situation). Professor Ankerman taught us training day 1, if you want to win, you need to strategize by picking a team with a variety of strengths. GroupThink can be one of the biggest downfalls in any team, so it’s important to pick a team with diverse perspectives. It’s also equally important to pick a team you’re comfortable with. During the case competition you present to your teammates what you think are your best ideas, and you have to be okay with telling someone their idea may suck, while also receiving feedback that your idea may suck. Get cozy because you’re with your team for nearly a straight 24-hour period!

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Step 2: Attend all opportunities presented by Professor Ankerman. Not only did he hold two info sessions for the MHRM students participating in the case comp, but we also took a “field trip” to the PepsiCo plant in Wooster, Ohio. This was a unique learning opportunity to take our best guesses at what the case could be about (you don’t get the case until Friday morning at 7:30am and teams present starting Saturday at 8:30am). We got to tour the Frito Lay plant, ask plant managers questions, taste Lays and Fritos right off the belt, and explore with eyes and ears open. I think having two of my four team members (myself included) go to the plant was a key factor in us winning in the case comp!

Step 3: Caffeinate, eat, laugh, and work hard. Friday and Saturday morning of the case comp weekend I was a regular at Starbucks. Although Panera is catered for breakfast with donuts, bagels, fruit, and coffee, I’m a firm believer that a cappuccino is my own secret weapon to get me on my A game. I’m fortunate my team consisted of my friends, so the entire experience could not have been more fun and rewarding for me. The first 45 minutes we individually put together a plan, so that we could avoid conforming to GroupThink. Then we put together what we felt like was our best plan (a hybrid of the best aspects from our individual plans), refined, practiced, refined some more, practiced some more, and presented Saturday morning as one of the first teams in room 305.

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What I found as our key to winning: By the time dinner came around (7pm-ish Friday) we were growing weary. Our brains had been going endlessly on 110% all day. We took some time to play with a furry friend, practiced some more, felt extra defeated after seeing all the areas for improvement, and jammed to Hey ya Ignition remix, Sweet Caroline, and Its Gonna Be Me, and practiced one final time. We were determined to put together a top-notch presentation for PepsiCo and Fisher College of Business MHRM program, so we didn’t leave Gerlach Hall until 11:40pm Friday night. Truly, I believe what set us apart from other presentations, though, was our thought process. We went with a plan that was risky, different, and slightly unheard of. But I think that’s what PepsiCo needed and was open to hearing about. The case comp was an opportunity to have free reign with whatever ideas we had! The judges interrupted, criticized, but ultimately complimented by naming Team D (our team) the winners of room 305.

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Case Competition – the Day Belongs to US

We formed our team and came up with a 5-step strategy about big data to address the case. Honestly, we knew the judges may not like our idea, but we seriously believed it was a strong case.

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The presentation actually turned out as we expected and we lingered in the Q&A section for 15 minutes. We didn’t win the competition. However, we had a great team and a case we all agreed with. At the end of the competition, we learned how we could do better in the future. They also taught us that we should be able to deal with ambiguity and take risks sometimes. In addition, the ideas from the other teams gave us some new thoughts.

There’s one more thing I liked about the case competition. Working with students in our program in a small room was fantastic. It really helped us learn more about each other. Li’s a liberal art student and really good at numbers. Craig is clever and playful. Ruth is a senior student and professional. The meaning of life is experience. Life is a journey, and we are so lucky to have walked together.

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Working in the department office, I see how much the faculty and students devoted to run the case competition. The competition is over, but that’s not the end of the story. There is more to take away. Best wishes to MHRM, to Fisher, and to OSU!

Live Career Fair is Here

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I would like to take more time to savor the past, but things are changing so fast here. I just want to quickly go over the wonderful first quarter of this semester. Before I arrived here, some people told me I was going to be in a village with a lot of Chinese people. When I walked into Columbus, I did see Chinese people frequently, but when school really got started, it completely changed my impression.

The international student orientation was taken up by Chinese students and I was expecting the same situation in the MHRM program. However,  that orientation really surprised me! There are 57 students in our program, and except for Americans, there are some students from India, Pakistan, Germany, and Dubai. The welcome video with the professor and director was more funny than serious, although we didn’t get the American jokes well. We switched tables every few minutes so that we could get to know more classmates. One of the professors mentioned that we were going to have a lot of info sessions which provides food, and we should go. Why not. But then another professor said to eat before you go there, because you are there to network. This word appears frequently here. People used to think that Chinese count on “guanxi” to do business, but it seems it’s even more common here. And in the following weeks, we really get involved with all kind of info sessions and food…Rolls Royce, Procter & Gamble, Shell, and KPMG. At first I was not quite familiar with some of the names, but when I knew the Chinese translation, I am really shocked. As customers, we see some of them as luxury and when thinking about working for them, it feels incredible.

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Dressed in business professional, standing in the queue of the dream company, I felt like lingering between really being in HR and wandering into fantasy. A formal career fair which happens so soon really makes me anxious. But one thing I learned in the roundtable discussion for international students with our career consultant helped a lot. The recruiters in the ballroom could be as nervous as us. They really want to know us and we just need to help them know us. The practice of an elevator pitch with classmates is also helpful. The moment you start to do something, you may know its not that bad.

As an international student, all the recruiters seem nice. Some companies “Generally can’t offer sponsorship, but who knows what will happen.” Actually, we understand why the employer don’t want to bear the trouble and we study abroad to learn the American style, and then help them run better in our country and contribute to our own country in the future. Although I failed to get any interviews from these career fairs, I still benefited from it and see some hope. There are good resources for us to learn what to expect in the real work and form further relationships with them. One interesting thing is that most of the professors or recruiters will tell us to make ourselves uncomfortable, so that we can make some breakthrough, but Gallup actually told me that people were hard to change and they would give the best performance when they were doing the things they were good at. Actually, these 2 theories don’t always contradict to each other. Sometimes, only when we try out something can we know if we are really good or bad at it. I’m grateful for all these possibilities around this place. Like the professor said, “soak in as much as you can”.

“Free” Education

Information sessions are presented by various companies on campus to talk about human resources in their respective industries.  These sessions are typically presented by previous students from the MHRM program and how they have excelled in their careers.

I have attended quite a few sessions and believe that there are many benefits to attend.  Gaining knowledge about the company, learning more about the respective industry, interacting with MHRM professionals, understanding more about the perspective of HR through different lenses, and developing your ability to talk with recruiters. A lot of the info sessions also provide a free dinner!

One time, I was sitting in the grad lounge studying when a couple of my classmates invited me to go up to an information session that wasn’t advertised.  I did and got some experience analyzing a case.

Most recently, I attended an information session with Pepsi and managed to squeeze into the last interview spot that they had.  The following day, I went in for my interview, and they called me that same afternoon to offer me an internship!  I was shocked, but extremely excited for the opportunity.  Over the next week or two, my wife and I talked about it constantly and accepted the internship.  We knew that it was going to be different, but a crucial step in my professional development.

Information sessions are a great way of gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the business culture and learning the language to become a better professional.

The benefits of working and going to school

The more I participate in the program as a full time parent, worker and a full time student, I realize that I am absolutely foolish. It is very difficult managing all of these tasks and doing them well. My boss is an amazing mentor, so I have begun to utilize techniques and theories that I learn in school in my full time job. At first, I felt weird incorporating these concepts after just learning them, but as it turns out, they were really great and my bosses couldn’t be happier. In a very short time, I have made observable contributions to the company and have been given more autonomy to incorporate more ideas. Unexpectedly, I truly believe that it has helped me in school. It is almost like a perpetual motion machine. The more I study and apply my education to my job, the more that I understand the information better. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it seems like it is working so far…

What’s the plan?

I met with Jill Westerfeld to explore some questions regarding internships, career development strategies and baseline assessments.  It was great to talk to somebody with such deep experience in the field and so willing to help.  It began with a very brief overview of my background, where I am currently working, and my goals.  Through the discussion we were able to identify some methods I can utilize in order to help focus my career search.  One of the things that helped the most during the session was that I came ready to talk about points that were bothering me and keeping open to opportunities.

New Beginnings

Life is full of transitions.

As a married military veteran with a family, I view transitions as endeavors to personally and professionally grow while taking advantage of new opportunities.  Leaving the private sector for full-time graduate school is a long-term investment.  The Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University has so much to offer.  I’m proud to be a Buckeye.

FullSizeRender[1]Dedication to lifelong learning seems to be a theme in our household.  I began a graduate degree program, my wife completed hers (while working), and my daughter started Kindergarten – all in the same week!  As a father and a husband, I am so proud of them both.

As the fall semester begins to pick up momentum, we must remember who we are in order to prioritize what is most important in our lives.  I, like most of my classmates, am attracted to pretty much everything that the Fisher College of Business has to offer.  There are so many clubs, organizations, employer info sessions, events, and activities competing over our most precious resource – time.  If we view time as a resource, how do we allocate it?

FullSizeRenderOne place to start is to identify who we are in relation to others (I am a father, husband, son, brother, student, uncle, employee, job-seeker, club member, mentor, mentee, veteran, coach, blogger, etc.).  The list is long for many of us.  Prioritizing this list can also be difficult with so many competing factors taking place simultaneously.  We realize that we cannot be everything to everyone all the time, but we can deliberately plan those aspects that are most important into our lives if we choose to do so.  This process becomes critically important during major transitions when we are faced with new situations, changing conditions, and increasing obligations. It can be difficult deciding what not to do, at least temporarily, during transitions.  Ultimately, our decisions are about trade-offs intended to maximize value.

What we choose to do with our time is ultimately what we value most.  Many of us have roles and responsibilities within our personal, professional, and even spiritual lives.  Intellectual curiosity, respect for diversity of thought, and continual growth and development are important to me in a professional context.  This is why I chose to invest my time at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.FullSizeRender[2]

 

 

 

 

 

A day in my life

The day started, as usual, around 4:40 am in the morning.  I played a kung fu form, watched a little bit of the news as I grabbed a quick bite to eat.  I had prepared my lunch and dinner to be ready to go.  By 5:10 am I was on my way to work with my mug full of coffee.  I read over the articles that we were going to discuss in class before I prepared to do a check in for work.  The client that I manage has appreciated the time that I have spent on site at their company and increased their order from our company.  My boss was pretty happy, but I confess it was a little overwhelming, because it also means my responsibilities were growing.  Just in time for the beginning of classes!  The day quickly flew by staying consistently busy and my break around 2 pm was a welcome relief.  I sat at my desk eating my lunch and my thoughts drifted to how my kids and wife were.  I knew it was nap time, so I didn’t want to wake them up.  The rest of the day flew by and I barely had time to finish my work.

I traveled to OSU and as I was parking the car, I got a call from our client and we had an informal chat about the ongoing partnership.  I met up with some friends from class and had a nice time listening to their perspectives on careers and more background.  The professor for the class tonight had a much different style and seemed to be able to engage everyone in the room without much effort.

The professor ended class early so that we could go to a networking event with Marathon Oil company.  I spoke to some folks from the MHRM council and learned a couple of things about the case competition that we will be participating in.  The next group that I floated to included Jill Westerfeld (career development) and an HR representative from Marathon.  I asked questions about his experiences and enjoyed hearing not only about his experiences, but the fact I was asking the questions in front of Jill.  I have a meeting planned with her next week, so it will be interesting to hear her impressions about the type of questions I asked and the manner with which I asked them.  I spent about an hour at the event and said goodbye to a couple of classmates as I left.

I drove home, hoping that I would get the chance to see my kids before they went to sleep.  Luckily, I got to hug my little girl.  My little boy was a little tired, but I got to see him too.  I finished off the night typing up this blog and then preparing for tomorrow.

Another busy day

Another busy day of work today, filled with the normal challenges that helped propel the day forward.  Our boss offered to treat everybody to drinks and food, but I had to say, “no” because I had to teach a guitar lesson and it would be the first time all week that I could sit with both my kids at the same time.  Before I was able to go home though, Jill Westerfeld had arranged for a photographer to come to OSU and took free professional headshots for all the Fisher Grad Students.  My current LinkedIn profile is a picture of me and my daughter playing guitar.  Prior to the MHRM program, I was teaching guitar full time and so it was a more appropriate photo.  Now that recruiters might peek at my profile, I took advantage of the opportunity to put something more professional up.

After smiling awkwardly for the camera, I had to buy two more books for class.  Since I was already on campus, I stopped by the bookstore.  I have two bachelors degrees and a music minor and yet I still keep forgetting how expensive books can be.  On top of that, it would seem that being in a graduate program also means that the price of books are “graduated” to a higher price tag.  Despite the higher price tag, I am excited to be back on campus and look forward to getting into the material.

I got home and my wife had a nice meal for us all to enjoy together.  To be honest, just holding my boy in my lap, talking to my little girl, and being with my wife was what I was really hungry for.  It was like the best kind of reward for a busy week.  All of us are getting used to the new schedule.  We definitely haven’t worked it all out, but I believe it will come soon enough.

The Value of Internships

Welp, Summer has come and gone, and with that, so have most of our internships. In their place, many hope for full time offers or are seeking employment elsewhere. We’re getting closer to honing in on what are the most important things we want out of our careers as far as culture, job function, location, etc etc etc are concerned. But most importantly, we all came back…different people. We’re more knowledgeable not just about business and what we want to do, but who we are.

I personally consider my internship experience invaluable. I found a company that cares about business outcomes AND people. One of the drivers of my company’s success is the fact that they care about their people. They want their people to develop and they want their people to be happy. And they work hard to achieve that.

I’m fortunate enough to have an offer from this company that is not only willing to work with my school schedule, but also fully understand that I have a son who is my first priority.

My internship experience and events over the Summer have made me feel like a different person. I’m so excited about my future and where it’s taking me. Lastly (but not least), I’m STOKED to be back in school (really – but I’ll be singing a different tune come December). Bring on football season!

Go Bucks!