Experience in a case-based course

I had the opportunity to take a “cases” course this quarter, which is something I had not previously experienced. For those who do not know exactly what this means, the course is based entirely on published cases or real-life scenarios emphasizing a particular subject matter. There is no textbook and there are no tests. For every class, you read the assigned case ahead of time, usually with some preparatory questions to help guide your thought process. Each class is a guided discussion of the case.

While it is not as easy as it may seem, I found it to be an incredibly useful experience. Of all the times you hear “you get out what you put in”, it actually rings true in this instance. You can spend anywhere from 1-5 hours preparing for a given case. If you have truly studied and considered every aspect of the case, you have a great deal to contribute to the discussion. If not, you are lost for parts of the debate and cannot connect the pieces of all of the points being raised.

For our particular class, we were required to prepare a group presentation for one case and individual case analyses for two cases. Clearly, I spent more time preparing for those particular cases, and I can certainly say that I learned a great deal not only from those tasks, but especially from the discussions that followed. Essentially, taking the time to thoroughly prepare then hearing everyone else’s perspective allows you to see how you missed certain aspects, or thought of something in a completely different manner. I found this to be especially applicable to real world situations where there is no answer key, just opinions and precedent.

A general takeaway from the class is that you cannot be afraid to voice your opinion. While it may seem “dumb”, it could be that your particular expertise provides a fresh perspective that others would not consider. With everyone speaking in a diverse class, you get a great variety of insights and points-of-view. Also, a nice benefit is that you can miss a class and not fall behind because the subject matter is typically unrelated from one class to the next.

Obviously, this type of class is only relevant for certain subjects, but Corporate Finance is one where it is particularly useful. Rather than learning additional formulas and terms, you are forced to apply knowledge, not just regurgitate it on a test. If you are considering a career in a field where a cases course is offered, I highly recommend it. It allows you to learn a great deal about the subject as well as how your peers view and treat the material. In a professional environment, it is not always about right and wrong, but rather understanding how the issues are approached by those around you.

When the daily grind is too much, take a much needed break

I consider myself to be a rational person. I enjoy warm weather and am not a big fan of snow. It has barely snowed in Columbus this winter. I should be happy. Instead, I trekked over to the mini-mountains of Pennsylvania and exposed myself to 48 straight hours of snow. Midterms really will drive you insane.

Ok, so I did not just sit in the snow for no apparent reason. I went on a ski trip with nine of my good friends. The purpose of this post is two-fold. First, if you have never tried skiing, give it a shot in the next month or so before “winter” is over. More importantly, take breaks from classes and/or work. To put the first point to rest, I have skied fewer times than Jeremy Lin has started an NBA game, so you don’t have to be good to have fun. Just set up shop on the “green cirle” hills (the easiest level), and you will do just fine.

On to the bigger point – you need some escape from the grind of classwork, projects, midterms, and whatever else a job brings on a daily basis. Certainly a weekend on the beach would be even better, but any getaway can rejuvenate you (mentally; physically, skiing is not the best “rejuvenator”) after a few stressful weeks. Plan something with a few friends once a month or so, even if it is nothing big. For those in Columbus, some ideas are: a trip to Cleveland to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, Cincinnati for a riverboat gambling trip (be responsible!), Canton to the Professional Football Hall of Fame, or any other nearby city just to visit a different place (Toledo, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh) that are only a few hours away by car or bus and are reasonably cheap. It is a great way to break up the quarter, giving you something to look forward to for a few weeks at a time, then, of course, actually serving as a getaway for a weekend.

This is something I have tried to do for the last several years. As great as it is to take breaks from school, I appreciated it even more in my two years in a professional environment. With school you have 10-15 weeks of certain classes, then everything changes. In an actual job, it can seem like there is no end goal in sight. Sure, this plan costs some money, but, in my opinion, a little cash is worth my sanity.

And if anyone actually wants to take my advice, the next destination is Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day. I have already started my countdown.

SMF End of Autumn Social Dinner

Ah, winter break! That time when you can get caught up on things like Dexter and your SMF blog posts.  For this blog post I present you with another great reason to come to Ohio State: extracurricular dinners with classmates! (For those of you counting that’s two exclamation marks in one paragraph.)

We recently went out to Buca di Beppo for an SMF dinner date with friends and family.  The best part for me was finally getting to bring my girlfriend out in a social setting and introduce her to all my classmates.  By now my classmates and I have all become pretty good friends, so I think the time was definitely right to bring in my significant other. Luckily, everyone was very nice to her (of course they would be!) and having her along gave us something to talk about besides finance, which was nice.

Which also brings up another good reason to have as many SMF dinner dates as possible: Talking about things besides finance!  It’s very nice to have the opportunity to interact with my classmates outside of the classroom, which we don’t get to do very often what with all the school work and studying.  We talked about how Ohio is so much colder than Florida.  We talked about how weird the food was compared to back home (a.k.a. China). We helped cheer up a classmate who had recently broken up with his girlfriend.  And we definitely got to stare at Ben’s cute children (photos after the jump).

Get To Know Your Peers

 I overheard an interesting conversation during my last week at work in September that left me scratching my head. The rest of the dialogue is mostly irrelevant, but it ended with one guy saying to the other, “Hey, get it straight – we are coworkers, not friends.” He did not mean it to be rude, but that is certainly how it comes across to me. Moreover, why do the two have to be mutually exclusive? In my opinion, the same goes for classmates. You know you will be spending a great deal of time with the same group of people (especially in a program like the SMF, where all four autumn quarter classes are taken together), so why not get to know them on a more personal level.

I firmly believe that my experience has been enhanced by getting to know my peers outside the classroom. Some of this is through organized events, which I think are great ideas. Many students in the SMF program have expressed their enjoyment from the Summit Vision trip from the beginning of the year. Although some of the activities had a business world undertone, this set the stage for getting students to interact with one another outside of an academic environment. Throughout the quarter, interactions between many of us shifted from strictly school-related to more social in nature.

Another great event was the happy hour at Hampton’s where all Fisher grad students were in attendance, and the SMF students met there a couple hours early to have our own private party. I recall a fellow classmate saying how happy and surprised he was that almost none of the conversation was revolved around school. The same can be said for our end of the quarter dinner at Bravo. Even with professors in attendance, I overheard very little academic discussion. Although there are clearly a number of fantastic organized activities, there is still a bit of a “school-related function” tag to it.

Shedding this tag has been relatively easy and enjoyable. A handful of us have been playing pick-up basketball together, and I know of others doing the same with soccer. I had the luxury of being with my family, but I know a number of students got together and spent Thanksgiving together. I attended a Christmas party last week with a few people. And I am sure I am not the only person who has shared a few beverages on weekends with classmates.

While this may seem like a bunch of rambling about my interactions with SMF counterparts (basically, it is), it is meant to urge people to embrace getting to know their peers. It can be very simple, but you have to put forth a little effort. Everyone has a busy schedule, and unless you are new to an area, your own circle of friends. I encourage everyone to break out of that comfort zone. Having friends for colleagues makes work more bearable and at times even enjoyable. The same sentiment applies in the working world. If nothing else, it is a great excuse to hit a happy hour.

Interviews and Using Career Management

I have said it to a number of people this quarter – a huge part of the reason I came back to grad school at Fisher was for the Career Management Office opportunities and connections. I cannot compare to other universities because I have attended only OSU, but I know it is well-respected. The real benefit is when comparing to the alternative of searching on your own, something you are unfortunately forced to do in the real world. I could go on for days about the hassle of personal job searches, but I’ll leave that for another post (actually, for everyone’s benefit, I’ll probably pass, it would just be me reliving and venting frustration).

The point here is to emphasize a few of the most important lessons I have learned in my second go-around with interviewing and Career Management.

First, as I have mentioned, is to USE THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU!! Set up meetings with your advisor. Let them know what you want to do and they can point you in the right direction (shoutout to Audra!). Not to mention the numerous connections that people in the office have. It is an entire department devoted to finding students jobs at one of the largest universities in the country – they know a few people.

Next, even if you are not in love with some of the opportunities on Fisher Connect during fall quarter, schedule a few interviews anyway. Too many students make the mistake of seeing a ton of opportunities immediately available and thinking it will always be that way. However, recruiting is heaviest in the fall, so take a few chances while you have the options. If nothing else, schedule a couple of interviews for the experience. Familiarize yourself with the process – it never hurts to practice. Also, if you have the chance to interview on-site with a company, you usually have the chance to meet students from other similar programs, which is both fun and useful (mostly to brag about how much better Fisher is than their program. My personal favorite is to let them know I am from “THE Ohio State University” and correct them if they leave out “THE” at any point). And if you’re really scraping for a benefit, a lot of these will have networking events with free food. Which brings me to my next point…

If you have the choice, do not schedule Thursday evening classes. This is something that I discussed with many interviewees from various schools. I personally had two separate opportunities during fall quarter where the company held a networking or pre-interview session on Thursday night and interviews on Fridays, and two of these required some travel, so I had to choose between missing the event or missing class. This may be an easy decision for some of you, but I would avoid the quandry altogether if possible.

Finally, and very generally, using career management and setting up a few interviews gives you a great idea of what is out there, what people are looking for, and potentially sets you up with some options to keep on the back burner while you pursue your dream job.

Office of Career Management, I will gladly accept any gifts you would like to send my way for this awesome endorsement!

If You Are In Columbus Over the Holidays…

If you are spending your winter break in Columbus, campus can seem quite empty, so here are a few ideas to keep you occupied and entertained during the rest of December.

1. Zoo Lights (Pictured Above)

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been hosting “Wildlights” for 23 years now. It runs every day in December other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As you can see from the photo above, it is quite breathtaking. Perfect for a date or a family trip.

2. Easton Town Center

This is not a specific event, but, in my opinion, Easton has some of the best Christmas atmosphere around. If you are not familiar, it is an indoor/outdoor mall/shopping center in New Albany. They string up a crazy amount of lights, have decorations all throughout the grounds, and of course, you can see Santa there. I could not find a picture to do it justice, so here is the link to a clip on their website of the lighting ceremony. Actually, even if you are not going to go, I would still watch the video. If you can make it through without getting psyched for Christmas, your name might be Ebenezer.

3. Go to a Columbus Blue Jackets or OSU Hockey game

I have been to one of each this year. If you have never attended a hockey game, I recommend giving it a shot. I am the first to admit hockey gets pretty boring on TV, but the live action is worth the price of admission (especially the OSU games – only $11 for a lower bowl seat last week). You can check out the Blue Jackets schedule and the OSU schedule.

If nothing else, take a stroll downtown or through the short north. There are always holiday lights, decorations, and specials.

Also, there are a few New Year’s Eve events such as First Night Columbus as well as various hotel celebrations, but that is more personal preference.

Grading Myself

While waiting for all of my grades to be posted this week, I decided I should be in charge of assessing my own performance. The way I see it, this quarter was broken down in to three large challenges for me. How did I fare…

1. Don’t go broke
Everyone has a different financial situation, so this one is more personal. To summarize my financial life, my dear sweet mother (God bless her) supported me for 22 years, then I worked and supported myself for two years. In both scenarios, inflow and outflow are constant. Now, with loans, I received a lump sum in September, and that’s it. Scary thought for an admittedly (semi-) irresponsible spender. Bank account looks great in September. After that, it falls fast. I am happy to report that I still have enough money to last me until January when we reset the clock and play this game all over again. I might even have enough to buy my family a Christmas present or two.

Grade: A-

2. Don’t Flunk Out (But Don’t Lose My Social Life)

This was probably my biggest concern coming into the year. I have enjoyed free weekends for the last few years, and really for most of my life (read: I have watched as much football as possible during the fall). With grad school, I knew the demands were much higher and weekend work was possible. Class work vs. socializing is a tough battle to fight, but I knew I had to find a balance. Three months later, I am quite certain I did not flunk out (grades aren’t out yet!), and I was STILL able to watch the Browns and Buckeyes disappoint me for much of the year. SUCCESS!

Grade: A (I may or may not have been convinced to go out when I planned to stay in and work a few times, but not too often)

3. Don’t Get Addicted to Coffee (or Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster, NOS, etc.)

If I had a nickel for every time I had the following conversation in the last year, I would not have to worry about point 1:

Self-proclaimed know-it-all/psychic/pessimists: “Do you drink coffee?”

Me: “No.”

Them: “You will.”

Well, doubters, I win. As I watch some of my classmates strung out on coffee and energy drinks during midterm and finals week, I am even more proud of my self-discipline. My humble advice: get some sleep, exercise, eat an apple… anything to avoid a caffeine addiction. I promise, you’ll be happy.

Grade: A+

Straight A’s. Mom will be proud. However, I will probably keep checking those actual grades. I have a feeling some people will be more concerned with those results than my own.

Meeting the Master of Master’s in Finance

Last October, I made the decision to pursue a graduate degree in finance.  I was an agricultural economics major, so I did not really have any faculty members or advisers from the field of finance to provide suggestions for potential programs.

…and then I found MSFHQ.com.

Anthony DeAngelis, the founder and editor of MSFHQ.com, created the website to promote and provide information related to the Masters in Finance degree.  As the most comprehensive online resource on Master’s in Finance programs, MSFHQ offers detailed information on admissions, curricula, tuition, and much more.

A few weeks ago, Anthony visited Columbus to meet students, faculty, and admissions staff and learn more about the program.  I had the opportunity to go to dinner with him … what a cool guy!

Choosing a Masters in Finance program is a major decision.  The investment in time, tuition, and hard work required by the degree justifies a thorough exploration of all potential options.  By leveraging the insight and information from MSFHQ during my program search, I was able to choose The Ohio State University/Fisher SMF program with the utmost confidence in my decision.  I would encourage anyone exploring various Masters in Finance options to do the same.

 

How to not bust your entertainment budget in Columbus OH

Ever tried to find cheap movies in Columbus? I recommend two to you die-hard movie fans~

1) The first one is Cinemark Theater, which is located at a shopping mall at 2570 Bethel Road. I went there to see the extraordinary “The Smurfs.” It tells a story where the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village. Unexpectedly, they tumble from their magical world into New York City. It was really an amazing experience of watching a 3D animation picture with the special 3D glasses. And we could even bring those glasses home! The ticket is priced at around one dollar and there are usually recent released movies (but not the “most recent”). However, for the price, I think this Cinemark Theatre is definitely worth checking out.

2) Another wonderful cheap movie theater is at Easton Town Center. Though it’s not one dollar, it still cheaper than most other theaters, and it has the newest movies. I saw the film “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt in that cinema, which tells the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.

How is that? Spending one dollar on a movie!? Terrific! So, what are you waiting for? Let’s take a well deserved break from classes and see one dollar movies~

Cinemark

My Favorite Professor

I’d like to talk about my favorite professor in the SMF program this term, Professor Pinteris. I enjoy his classes so much and I think he is a really scholarly mentor as well as helpful friend. His teaching style embodies his ideology of incorporating teaching into action.

As a conscientious and dedicated teacher, Professor Pinteris has always been generous with his time and energy in exchanging ideas with students. When it comes to his office hour on Tuesday or lunch session on Thursday, there are always many students speaking with him. His patient persuasion and education are a testimony to my horizons, learning, growth, and also benefit from more accumulated financial knowledge and experience. I love the way he explains problems and all of those wonderful stories!

Professor Pinteris always has each student’s individual growth at heart. At the beginning of the term, we all feel it is quite difficult to choose his/her own major specialization from Corporate Finance, Investment Management, Real Estate and Risk management. Professor Pinteris not only clarified the basic situation of each specialization in the financial industry, but also gave his own advice for every student according to the skills and interests of each individual. I made my decision based on his advice and I think I do choose a specialization which I’m most keen on and skilled in.

Instead of simply teaching formulas and theorems, Professor Pinteris often invites experts in the financial sector to give lectures to us. We’ve learned a lot from the lectures on hedge funds, corporate finance reporting, etc.

“Career path is not linear.” That’s Professor Pinteris’s philosophy! We cannot predict the next stage in which we’ll be. So try to listen more, learn more, think deeper. It can help us adapt ourselves to the changing circumstances. Survival of the fittest always applies and especially applies to the competitive financial industry.