SMF Farewell

Well, as was promised to us on our first day of pre-term, time flies in the SMF program and I have made it through to the end.  Graduation is over, and soon I will be off to Houston to start a new job and a career.  It was sad saying goodbye to so many good friends from the program, but it’s also inspiring to see all of my classmates headed off to jobs all over the U.S. and the world.  I know I’m certainly excited to begin this next phase of my life.  Saying goodbye makes you realize how much people mean to you, and so to future students, make sure and forge strong relationships with your classmates because you don’t have much time, and there are tons of good people in the program from all kinds of backgrounds.

The program is intense and can really overwhelm you, but I can honestly say that I have learned more about finance in my one year at Fisher than I did in 4 years of undergrad.  It’s like my dad has told me, education is like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it.  With those words in mind, I encourage all future students to put everything they have into their 9 months in the program.  Both in terms of school, and all the extracurriculars that go along with it.  Because it’s so short and intense doing so will wear you out, but it’s the best way to guarantee you won’t have any regrets at the end.

As I said in my first post, blogging was a new activity for me, but overall I found it to be very therapeutic and it was a regular reminder for me to stop and put things in perspective.  I hope that this blog has given insight to anyone out there considering grad school and maybe even helped them come to a decision.  With that I want to say best wishes to future classes and if anyone is in Houston, don’t be afraid to reach out to this proud alumnus!

-Nicholas

My Career Search: Two Pieces of Advice

Something I haven’t written about yet, but that I know is important to students considering undertaking the SMF program, is my personal career search.  My case is a little different than the typical student, but I still think it would be beneficial to share.

As many of you know by now, I am from Oklahoma and graduated from Oklahoma State University last May.  Since I knew I would be pursuing the SMF degree, I wanted to undertake an internship for the summer before to get more work experience under my belt (and also make a little bit of money).  Through my network from my old university, I was able to secure an internship with Phillips 66 for the summer.

Phillips 66 might be unfamiliar to students not from the region, so I will go ahead and provide a little bit of background on the company for anyone who is interested.

Myself touring one of Phillips 66’s facilities

It is an independent oil & gas company that came into existence after ConocoPhillips spun off its midstream and downstream assets in 2012 (“midstream” and “downstream” are terms you’d learn about if you ever work in the energy industry).  It has approximately 14,000 employees in about 65 countries worldwide and is ranked #34 in the Fortune 500.  Based on my internship experience, I truly think it’s a great place to work and I highly recommend it to any future SMF students who are interested in either living in Houston or working in the energy industry!

At the time of securing the internship, I wasn’t necessarily planning on starting a career at Phillips, but after a summer immersed in the culture and meeting tons of awesome people, I decided I could really see myself coming back full-time.  I was fortunate enough to receive a full-time offer at the end of the internship and after soliciting advice from different people in the program, I decided to go ahead and accept the offer and secure full-time employment.

My last day of work outside the original Phillips Petroleum Company Building

The reason I tell you about my search is to give you a couple of pieces of advice.  The first is: just because you will be coming to a new university with a new network, that doesn’t mean that your connections from undergrad can’t still be beneficial.  There’s no shame in accepting a job that doesn’t directly come through the SMF program.  Second, I highly encourage students coming directly from undergrad to do an internship during the summer before the SMG program.  It could really pay dividends, and you might find that you really fit in well with the company.

All in all, I consider myself very lucky to have been able to secure a job so early, and I am very excited to begin working after graduation!

Saying Farewell: My Top 3 Memories at OSU

Last Sunday, some members of the Fisher graduate admissions team reunited to celebrate the fast-approaching end of the SMF program and (automatically) the end of our duties as graduate assistants. Today, while I was sitting at my desk, I went through all the memories I’ve collected since I decided to embark on this adventure.

I decided to share with you the three best memories that I have created during my time at OSU.

  1. Navrati Festival
From left to right: Nitish, myself, Nick

On the 22nd of September, Nitish Gupta, fellow SMF student, asked a group of students to come to the Navrati Festival. I joined in! It was a great opportunity to learn a little more about the culture and the traditions of a significant amount of the SMF students (many of whom are from India). I was also able to see an incredible dance performance of my roommate, Nick, that will definitely remain one of the funniest moments of my time at OSU.

  1. The Wells Fargo Conference in New York

Last December, a handful group of students and I were given the opportunity to attend the “Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum” in New York City. The conference (which took place in the prestigious Plaza Hotel) hosted top-notch discussions on market, credit, banking, and the broad economy. The speaker list included several of the world’s most known and successful investors and managers including Howard Marks (Co-Chairman of Oaktree), Larry Fink (Chairman and CEO of BlackRock), Michael Bloomberg (founder of Bloomberg and 108th Mayor of New York City), and Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co).

Conference in NYC
  1. Ohio State Football team wins against Penn State

Last semester, I had the chance to experience one of the most impressive and exciting sporting events of my entire life. 39-38 was the final score of the OSU vs. Penn State game!. After being down the entire time, Ohio State finally controlled the ball with the chance to take the lead for the first time. A little more than a minute later, quarterback J.T. Barrett found tight end Marcus Baugh and… touchdown! The entire stadium went wild!

OSU vs. Penn State

A Typical Day for a Graduate Administrative Assistant

As a graduate administrative assistant (GAA) for the SMF program here at Fisher College of Business, I’m often asked by students to explain my experience working for the admissions and recruiting team– specifically how I earned the role and what I do. Here’s the information:

Part of the GA crew!
Part of the GA crew. That’s me– third from the left. Also pictured from left: Thais Ronconi, Michael Mahoney, and Danny Chehade.

All admitted applicants to the SMF program are considered for a GAA position. Applicants do not have to complete any additional essays or interviews to be considered for a GA position. The positions are typically merit-based and provide a 50% fee and tuition waiver in addition to a monthly stipend. Students with a GAA position typically work 10 hours per week. There are also very rare 20-hour per week, fully-funded GAA positions. As you can imagine, there is a very limited amount of funding available for these positions and the selection process is quite competitive. Again, you’re considered automatically once you’re admitted and you’ll be advised if the admissions and recruiting team wants to award you with a GAA role.

All GAAs work in the Graduate Programs Office located in Gerlach Hall 100. I’ve always found it convenient because all my classes are located in the same building. The 10 hours per week are typically split into two- to three-hour shifts throughout the week.

On a typical day, I come to the office and spend about 45 minutes to an hour answering emails and phone calls from prospective students interested in applying to the SMF program. I also often meet with students currently studying at Ohio State who wants to know more about what the SMF program offers.

Another aspect of my position consists of welcoming students wishing to visit Fisher for a formal visit. After having a first contact with the student, I set up and plan the visit. The day of the actual visit usually consists of me taking the prospective student to lunch with another current SMF student, going to one of my classes, meeting with faculty and staff, and going on a tour of the Ohio State campus.

This is just a short list of what I may do on a typical day. The goal is for me to support the admissions and recruiting staff in any way needed so that they can find and accept the best students for one of the best SMF programs in the country!

Columbus Staycation

Over Spring Break, my parents made the drive from Oklahoma to Ohio to see me for a few days!  I showed them many of the sights of Columbus, and with some time off from school I got a chance to really enjoy everything myself.

One of my favorite things that we did together, was attend a Blue Jackets game.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the Columbus Blue Jackets is an NHL team that plays in Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus.  This was my very first hockey game to attend, and it was a ton of fun (it doesn’t hurt that the blue jackets beat Montreal 5-2)!

 

We also made a trip to the Columbus Convention Center, where we saw the statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and also stopped at a very cool piece of public art that is housed in the convention center.  It’s really fun to go to with friends and see how goofy your picture turns out.  What’s really cool, is once your picture is taken it’s sorted into a database with everyone who has ever taken a picture there and randomly displayed from then on!

Finally, we made a trip over to Easton Town Center to do a little bit of shopping.  Easton is a really cool outdoor shopping complex with tons of great brands to choose from and also a really fun atmosphere to hang out in during nice weather.

 

All in all it was really fun to get to play host to my parents, and to get to be a tourist in my own city for a little bit.  It was a great reminder of how many different fun things there are to do in Columbus!

Columbus Stay-cation

Over spring break, my parents made the drive from Oklahoma to Ohio to come see me for a few days!  We spent a few days seeing the different sights in Columbus, and it was really great to have some time off from school to enjoy everything Columbus has to offer!

A view from out seats in the arena

One of my favorite things that we did while my parents were in town was attend a Columbus Blue Jackets game. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Blue Jackets are a NHL team that plays in Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus.  It was my first ever hockey game. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the game (it doesn’t hurt that the Blue Jackets beat Montreal 5-2)!

On our next day, we had lunch at the North Market, and then walked over to the convention center.  We stopped and saw the statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then made our way to a really unique piece of public art.

My dad posing with Arnold, he says the only difference is Arnold is a “little taller”

This is a really fun place to get your picture taken with your friends and then laugh about the goofy results that come out.  What’s really cool is that once you get your picture taken, it goes into a database and is randomly displayed on the statue from then on so you can always have a little piece of you still in Columbus.

Exhibit A of the goofy pictures that the statue will put on display of you

On our last day, we made the drive across town to Easton Town Center.  Easton is a really cool outdoor shopping complex and provides a nice outdoor atmosphere.

All in all, it was a great couple of days. It was nice to be a tourist in my own city and to remember all the fun stuff there is to do in Columbus!

A Trip to North Market

Recently, the SMF council organized the 4th SMF lunch/dinner of the year at the North Market. It gave, once again, the opportunity for the SMF class to unite outside Fisher around a great variety of food.

North Market is one of the great places that Columbus has to offer. It is an indoor marketplace with a variety of restaurants with culinary tastes of all around the worlds. North Market is home to multiple unique and independent merchants and farmers who supply this great place located in the downtown area of Columbus.

Most of the students attending the event and I decided to go for “Hot Chicken Takeover” as the lunch dish. This hot chicken fast casual dining place is known to serve “juicy and perfectly-fried Nashville Hot Chicken rubbed with a cayenne-infused paste.” I have to admit that by choosing the “warm” level of spice, which is the second lowest level of spice Hot Chicken Takeover serves, I was not expecting to rely on ranch and white bread to finish my meal!

On a personal note, shut out to Nanson for eating the hottest spice proposed in the restaurant.

I might repeat myself but I have been impressed and pleased with the events that the SMF council have been organizing throughout the year. It has given students the opportunity to meet and bond outside of the classrooms. Definitely an aspect of the master that I was not expecting but that has our experience much more enjoyable.

Interview with SMF Student Zenan (Nanson) Wang

I thought that for this blog post, I would share a different perspective than the one I’ve been sharing all year long! Meet fellow SMF student Zenan (Nanson) Wang.  Nanson gave a lot of thoughtful answers to my questions and specifically talked about his experience as a Chinese student in the SMF program.  Enjoy!

Q:         Where are you from and what was your background before coming to Fisher?

A:         I am from Suzhou, China, and I received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Soochow University.  I also worked a six-month internship at a commercial bank in China.  In my internship, I worked in fields ranging from marketing to risk management.

Q:         Why did you choose the SMF Program?

A:         I chose the SMF program for the good reputation and rankings of Fisher, four different tracks that enabled me to choose my preference, the enthusiasm of the recruiting personnel, and finally, the scholarship offered by the program.

Q:         What have been some of the biggest adjustments for life in the U.S. and specifically, Columbus?

A:         I am the kind of person who can adjust to a new environment quite easily. However, I have to say it is not easy to live in an all-English environment since my English, especially my listening, is not quite good enough to understand everything. Thus, I sometimes felt lost when others talked to me, especially during the early months in the U.S.  I don’t want to be rude by not responding, but I really don’t know how to properly respond. Plus, in the U.S., it is very important to express my ideas, thoughts, and feelings. So, it can be tough when I find I can express those in Chinese but not in English– and my English skill becomes a limitation.

Q:         What have been your favorite and least favorite things about your time in the program?

A:         Favorite: When I get inspired from other people, including professors, classmates, and teammates. Least favorite: when I have to deal with many things due at the same time– and for some of these things, I have to wait until others complete their parts even though I have finished mine quite in advance.

Q:         What has been your favorite course and who has been your favorite professor?

A:         Favorite course: Derivatives. Both Derivatives 1 & 2. It is pretty exciting for me to learn something technical. Favorite professors – Professor Pirim because his data analysis class was really fun to me. I also like Professor Oglevee a lot, since I always get inspired from him and I learned the great importance of dealing with uncertainty from him.

Q:         Did you choose an area of specialization?  If so, what area and why?

A:         Yes, I picked half investment management and half risk management. First of all, I am very interested in investing, and I have tried investing in China during my undergraduate studies. Thus, I wish to learn more about this area. Plus, the financial market changes every second, so it is always exciting to face different challenges for every moment. Then, for risk management: since the financial crisis, risk management has always been a hot topic and it seems everyone has known the significance of it. Thus, it is very important to learn at least some of this area. Also, I feel this field is quite exciting. It is a field that requires one to know the financial markets, the law and regulation, the operation in many markets, and people. It can be really interesting to step into this integrated field.

Q:         How has your career search been going? Also, what are your post-graduation plans?

A:         Not quite good so far I have to say. Though some connections have been built, I have not secured a job yet. From what I have experienced, I have to say it is not easy for us international students to gain employment in the U.S. However, I am still trying and I believe I will not regret if I tried my best. Thus, I still plan to work in the U.S. for 3-5 years, and then go back to China, probably Shanghai or Suzhou.

Q:         Could you talk about your experience as part of the SMF Council?

A:         I am in charge of the social events in SMF council. From my experience, it can be quite difficult when all things are accidentally against you. When I reserve for a large group, the answer from the restaurant is almost always negative. When I make an announcement about a new event, sometimes the participation rate is not as good as I imagine. These are things I can’t control. So, I have learned to always try my best to do the things I can control, but be comfortable when I am not able to control something.

Q:         Are you glad that you are a member of the council and would you recommend it to other students?

A:         I have to say: yes. Though some time has been spent on the council work and meetings, it is always worth it when I can see how others handle their work in a different way. It is good to get inspired from others’ words and practice.

Q:         What advice would you give to all future students, and also more specifically to future Chinese students?

A:         Always get ready for the challenge, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’d like to also share especially for future Chinese students: after I came to the U.S., it was my very first time to actively participate in class. During my undergraduate studies, with all my Chinese classmates, I didn’t have to raise my hand since all other classmates didn’t do so. However, in the U.S., you have to show yourself in a proper way, and you will benefit a lot from this. In the beginning, you may feel uncomfortable with doing this, but as Professor Oglevee has said, it is important to get used to it, and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

 

The Finance Consulting Practicum

SMF students have recently been assigned to their respective teams for the last and most exciting project of the Specialized Master in Finance, the Consulting Practicum. Per the syllabus, “the project is designed to give SMF students the opportunity to practice their analytical and soft skills by working in teams on real finance related projects with clients.” This year, students received projects from companies such as Huntington Bank, Nationwide, STRS, and Wells Fargo.

Last week, the entire SMF cohort met during lunchtime to go over the class syllabus, as well as the expectations of each student and the team as a whole. Professor Pinteris announced during this meeting that the projects would be unveiled later in the day.   The process works like this:

  • Each student was asked to rank the fourteen projects by preference criteria.
  • The projects were separated into four categories: Corporate Finance, Investment, Risk Management, and Real Estate.
  • Upon assignment, the first task will be to contact the client and set up a first meeting or a conference call (for companies located outside Columbus) to learn more about the project and the responsibilities of the team to complete the project in the best manner possible.
  • Teams will be expected to submit the final version of the project according to the client expectations and make a presentation to the client no later than April 27th.

I’m very exicted about the big event and look forward to telling you more about our hard work and final presentation!

Russell Westbrook vs LeBron James

As I’ve posted about in previous blogs, I’m originally from Oklahoma, and because of this, I am a huge Oklahoma City Thunder fan.  Our franchise moved to OKC when I was 13 years old.  I became an instant fan and have supported the team ever since.  Obviously, a large part of the Ohio State experience is attending Buckeye football games.  Another perk for sports fans, though, is being just a two-hour drive away from Cleveland.

In the last few years, Cleveland has benefited from very successful professional baseball and basketball teams – the Indians and the Cavaliers (they’ve also had a very sad professional football franchise, the Browns).  After checking the schedule, I realized that the Thunder would be playing in Cleveland on a Saturday and I would have the opportunity to attend a game.

Right outside of the Cavaliers Arena is a poster of LeBron James, definitely the biggest poster I’ve ever seen

A fellow SMF student, Jared Ablass, is a fan of the Cavaliers and LeBron James and we decided to go together to watch the game. The final score was completely awesome for fans of the Thunder, and getting to watch some of the best players in the NBA (in-person) after such a short drive was an incredible experience.

A view from the cheap seats inside the game!

After the game we finished off a great day by eating a hamburger at Wahlburger’s.  Watching LeBron James play live and taking in the sights and sounds of Cleveland is a must for anyone spending time in Ohio.