Seattle Trek!

With the academic year coming to an end, and everyone finishing final presentations and papers for various courses, I look back and feel blessed to have spent a wonderful first year with some fantastic people at Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business. One of the things that I feel passionate about is serving as an MBA Ambassador. It gives me a chance to speak with prospective candidates from across the world, show them our campus, and take them for coffee and lunch while sharing my perspective about our program and school.

I recently took part in a new “career trek” to Seattle. The motivation behind this career trek (targeting tech companies for Fisher) came from innumerable phone calls that I answered over the first semester while working at the admissions office. Many students asked if we have established connections with organizations on the West Coast and I always say “Yes!” This consequently led to the development of a formalized trek to Seattle.

As soon as I decided to undertake this initiative, I approached a current second-year student, Thais Batista Ronconi, who interned at Amazon and will be joining Amazon in a full time-role this year in Seattle. She felt enthusiastic about this idea and was happy to mentor me throughout the development of this trek. We approached the whole process step by step and started reaching out to our alumni and talent acquisition heads/recruiters at various organizations in Seattle. In the meantime, we gauged interest from current students and started working on the timing of this trek. The response received from the students to this career trek was massive– something that kept us going even after hearing “no” from some of the organizations. After working with the companies for almost three months, we got our final “YES” list: Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Expedia. Yes, the Big 4 in Seattle. The timing worked out well with all the organizations and we were set to visit Seattle in mid-March during spring break with a group of 15 first and second year MBA’s.

Seattle’s Ferris Wheel at Pier 57

Day 1 started with Starbucks! As soon as we entered Starbucks’ board room, we received a bag full of coffee and goodies for each of us. We started with a session from one of the executives on Sourcing and Global Operations of Starbucks followed by learning more about how Starbucks is differentiating itself by investing in technology. We then toured Starbucks HQ, which was one of a kind. Every wall illustrates the company timeline by connecting Starbucks’ different product releases with prominent historical events. Also of note: as an employee, you can contribute to the less fortunate by buying coffee at a special store inside the building where people from all the departments also meet weekly to discuss how they are impacting people’s lives. From its coffee-tasting space to roasteries, everything at Starbucks is distinct.

Starbucks’ first logo!
At Starbucks’ HQ (top floor)

We commenced our Day 2 with Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. The first activity took us to the Visitor Center, a place that has a neat display of everything Microsoft (it features all of Microsoft’s current and upcoming products). From Xbox to Surface book, and from HoloLens to Microsoft’s Age Detection API, we experienced everything. The recruiter then introduced us to some cool initiatives by Microsoft and explained how it is utilizing technology to make this world a better place to live. One of the projects that stood out to me was how Microsoft is helping to find missing children in China. After spending some great time with the recruiter, we met a panel of Buckeyes (OSU alums) who answered our questions about “all things Microsoft.” Concluding our visit with lunch, it was overall a great day spent in sunny Seattle with our alumni members. Big shout-out to Rafael Williams, university recruiter at Microsoft!

Outside Microsoft’s Visitor Center

Expedia welcomed us with an overview of its organization and later gave a detailed description of its global network of brands. The best part was Q&A with the recruiter where she alone answered more than 50 questions from us.

At Expedia Group’s headquarters in Bellevue, Seattle

Amazon came at last–marking a perfect ending to our Seattle trek. This organization never fails to surprise me – it has now surpassed Google as the best place to work in the United States, according to one survey. We started at Amazon’s “Day 1” building (they consider every day at work to be the first day creating an entrepreneurial start-up environment) with a panel discussion featuring the head of Product Management and a mix of people covering different areas at Amazon! Conversation with each of the panelists gave us more clarity on what Amazon is seeking from its future employees and how its current employees live those 14 leadership principles in their day-to-day work. After touring the building, we went to the newly opened Amazon Spheres. These spheres serve as a “haven of carefully tended nature geared to letting Amazonians break free from their cubicles and think disruptive thoughts.” Going through each of its floors while experiencing more than 400 different species of cloud forest plants from all over the world was an exhilarating experience. It is definitely a “must-visit” for everyone visiting Seattle. Amazon will soon open the spheres to public.

Amazon Spheres (photo from https://www.instagram.com/seattlespheres/)
Inside Seattle Spheres (I am at the extreme left in a white shirt ;))

It was absolutely a delight to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime event and to learn new things about all these organizations. I hope this new trek becomes a legacy for Fisher College of Business.

Organizers (From left to right: me, Rajat Gugnani, current first-year MBA; Thais Batista Ronconi, current second-year MBA, and Alexander Toomey, advisor at the Office of Career Management)

Spring Break

As I’ve blogged about before, one of the amazing things that Ohio State has to offer is the plethora of student organizations available for students to join. Each student organization is different, but the one that I am heavily involved in allows students to travel to exciting places for a low cost. During my spring break, I had the opportunity to join this organization, MUNDO, on a trip to the South. There, we visited Memphis, New Orleans and Birmingham.

In Memphis, we had the opportunity to stop at the National Civil Rights Museum, learn about civil rights history, and see the location where MLK shared his final moments. In addition, we learned about jazz history at the Memphis Rock ‘n ‘Soul Museum, and experienced it firsthand while walking around Beale Street at night.

The Lorraine Motel, sight of the National Civil Rights Museum

After spending two nights in Memphis, we made it to New Orleans. Of course, Bourbon Street is like no other, but let me tell you something: the beignets (a cross between a donut and funnel cake) exceeded any hype that surrounded Bourbon Street by ten times.

Even though New Orleans is known for its nightlife, we spent most of our days learning about its history and exploring town. We went on a number of tours that helped us explore civil rights in the south such as plantation tours, voodoo tours, ghost tours and museum visits. However, the one experience that I‘ll never forget is the swamp tour. For those of you who do not know me, nature and I do not get along. So, as you can guess, the swamp tour was definitely memorable. I will spare you the details, but all you people need to know is that I made good friends with a swamp boar named “Oreo.”

My sister and me posing in Jackson Square
Bourbon Street at night

Following a few days in New Orleans, we spent a night in Birmingham where we further explored key movements in the civil rights movements, and we visited sites like the 16th Avenue Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Overall, the spring trip to the south was very memorable. Not only did it greatly affect my learning and education, but I was able to form friendships which I will cherish as life carries on.

Global Business Expedition (GBE) – Spring Break 2018

Everyone loves Spring Break– the perfect week to enjoy right before craziness sets in with projects, exams, and papers due before the academic year ends. Each student’s experience is different. Some students in the MBA program embark on a Global Business Expedition (GBE). GBEs are short-term, high-intensity global programs where students travel on a private tour to visit globally successful, multi-national companies, as well as the must-see historical sites of the region. This year, Singapore and Israel were on the list. I decided to interview two of my classmates, Andrew Page, and Carl Shapiro, who visited Singapore, and Israel, respectively. Continue reading to learn more about their journey and enjoy the beautiful sights!

Andrew Page
First-year Full-Time MBA student with a focus on marketing

  • Why did you choose Singapore for your GBE?

AP: I chose to go to Singapore for several reasons. First, I have never been to Asia and I felt like I would be able to get a great experience with many different cultures in a short amount of time. Secondly, this GBE was focused on experiences with doing business throughout Asia and we had opportunities to meet with companies that had operations in Singapore and throughout Asia.

  • Who else was on this trip with you?

AP: There were 25 other students and two faculty members.

  • What were some memorable experiences that you would like to share?

AP: First: the food! We tried all the great food that Singapore has to offer and although it may seem weird that this is such a memorable experience, it is such a unique part of the culture throughout all of Singapore. Everyone has food recommendations for you whether you ask for them or not.

Another memorable experience was visiting the different culturally-specific areas, for example: Little India, Chinatown, and Arab Street. It felt like we were walking into a different country when we went into these areas, but at the same time the cultures were so integrated with each other. There were Chinese jewelers selling to Indian customers in Little India and an Indian clothing shop owner selling Islamic clothing on Arab Street. It was just so unique to see these cultures intertwine.

Finally, I was able to interact with a lot of people with whom I have not had time to spend before. Out of our group, the majority were in the Working Professionals MBA program, so I was able to speak with them about their experiences and make some great network connections. I was also able to spend a lot of time with our faculty member and get to know him outside of the classroom setting.

  • Was there anything that you did not expect or would have done differently?

AP: I did not expect the opportunities that were available to us as students in that part of the world. There were many instances where we were able to make connections for future opportunities with the companies we were meeting.

  • Would you recommend others to join the GBE next year? 

AP: I would recommend GBE to every student who can do it, and I might try to do it again next year!

Carl Shapiro

First-year Full-Time MBA student with a focus on marketing and brand management

  • Why did you choose Israel for your GBE?

CS: The focus for my career is marketing and brand management which has a strong relationship with the culture in which the brand is doing business. Israel is unique in that the domestic market is too small to support a major company on its own, so as a means for survival, Israeli firms have to export and market themselves in foreign markets. To be on the ground and start to understand the strategies that these firms develop is incredibly powerful.

I also have a personal relationship with Israel, having family there. I am personally invested in the success of the country. I think the unique aspects of Israel– bringing the Hebrew language back to life, establishing the first independent Jewish state in 2000 years, and transforming a desolate environment into fertile land– show what grit and hard work can accomplish.

  • How many students/faculty were on this trip?

CS:  I went to Israel with Oded Shenkar (faculty) and there were nine students on the trip.

  • Any memorable experiences that you would like to share?

CS: Some of my most memorable moments were interacting with Israelis outside of the corporate environment to develop a deeper understanding of their culture. By spending my free time out in Tel Aviv on the beach, or in the markets of Jerusalem, I could really get a feeling of where the entrepreneurship begins and what makes the Israeli condition so relevant to the success of disrupting technology. In the corporate environment, we had the opportunity to talk to the leaders of the businesses we visited, the decision-makers at the highest levels. Because Israel’s culture is so casual, we were encouraged to ask probing questions and get very honest and valuable answers that in the United States might not be possible.

 

  • Was there anything that you did not expect or would have done differently?

CS: I would have liked to have more time for one-on-one networking with some folks from the different companies. Many of the companies we visited introduced us to several high-level managers, but we didn’t have the opportunity to hear them all speak, and it would have been helpful to break out into smaller groups or have unstructured time when we could focus more on the things that interest us with someone from the company who also shares that interest.

  • Would you recommend others to join the GBE next year? 

CS: I absolutely recommend the trip. The reality of the closeness of the Israeli economy with the American economy means that if you work in tech, you will encounter an Israeli firm. It can be an incredible asset to understand the differences and similarities of the two cultures to get the most out of the relationship.

 

My First Winter Break in the U.S.

So, here I am, 25% through Full-Time MBA and I never felt time fly this quickly before! My first day at Fisher feels like it was just yesterday. Then, I had a three-week long winter break– something that I was absolutely thrilled about…

The highlight of break was a Fisher MBA “Marketing Hop” where first-year and second-year MBA students (myself included) took a trip to Detroit and Chicago to meet and greet major “movers and shakers.” This is an annual event (and not the only event of its kind– students take organized “hops” to other cities).

I had a few hours to pack my bags after my last final exam on the night of December 13th– before heading out the next day. It was extremely cold on that morning when we were supposed to report outside Gerlach Hall a.k.a. our “MBA academic powerhouse building.” A short bus drive away… and we arrived in Detroit for a stop at Ford Motor Company. Then, we were off to the “Windy City.”

We met brilliant people at LinkedIn, Dyson, Groupon, Rise Interactive and a few other digital marketing agencies in Chicago. We also had some fun on the side! The city (even when freezing) was warm enough to me; I got introduced to Giordano’s deep-dish pizza by one of my Brazilian friends studying at the University of Chicago, the security check at Skydeck Chicago was gracious to offer me a free ticket, and I enjoyed mouth-watering paan in Chicago’s Little Pakistan-India neighborhood. I spent two nights in Chicago before I headed to San Francisco to spend the rest of my break with family.

Skydeck with friends

I began the evening of December 16th by landing at SFO, where a group of my friends came to welcome me! After chatting for hours with my friends while roaming around the streets of San Francisco, my family came to pick me up and the day ended with a lot of homemade Indian delicacies, deep conversations with cousins, and wine. The next few days were exhilarating and packed with a lot of action. My cousins had a plan for every single day and when I look back in hindsight, I believe that I couldn’t have lived any of those days better. Highlights include sightseeing San Francisco: walking along the Embarcadero, experiencing the breath-taking views of the bay; biking the Golden Gate bridge with cousins and friends; riding Lombard Street in an SUV (that’s the really curvy, downhill street that you’ve probably seen in pictures), relishing hot chocolate fudge at Ghirardelli Square, and eating the best Thai food with an unforgettable view.

Christmas morning breakfast table at our Airbnb

After just a week, I was enthralled with what California has to offer. The city was dressed in lights as Christmas got closer and the vibe of the holiday season could be felt on every street. Following a last-minute change in the plan, we all decided to visit Yosemite National Park for Christmas. Staying at an Airbnb in the middle of the forest for three nights with no internet connectivity gave me time to reflect and cherish quality time with family. Hiking the Yosemite peak during this time of the year was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I never thought that I could even complete the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail with absolutely no training. What I took back from the visit to Yosemite is a new version of myself. I learned that I can be comfortable with the uncomfortable. The next few days were spent enjoying a lot of New Year’s Eve parties, learning some board games (such as Monopoly, Catan, Ticket to Ride, and playing the lying-bluffing-fib-till-you-win Fibbage), and trying to get better cooking skills some Indian recipes!

Yosemite Christmas Trip
Our trail
Columbia Rock (1/3rd through our trek)

With the onset of the new year and my last week in California wrapping up, I got an opportunity to visit the Apple HQ in Cupertino, California, with our Marketing Professor and Program Director, Dr. Shashi Matta, who (every year) takes a group of students to a road trip in California. I also got a chance to visit GoFundMe, crowdfunding platform to raise money, and Asana, an organization that designs a mobile application to help teams track their work. Plus, I met with Fisher alums while I kept my focus on a summer internship. Lastly, I got to spend my last night in California with some 30 Buckeyes in San Francisco over a meet-and-greet event before leaving for my 12:25am flight back to Columbus.

Dr. Matta, third from the left, and some current Fisher MBA students (myself at extreme right)

California was definitely fun and I took back a bag full of memories that I’ll cherish forever!

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.

Christmas in NYC

This past December, I went to the “Big Apple” to spend a few days admiring the Christmas features. A majority of Hallmark movies and the famous Home Alone 2 took place in New York City, but I can say the movies do not do the city justice! The atmosphere is truly amazing with gorgeous lit trees and decorations throughout the city. The most famous feature everyone wants to see is the tree at Rockefeller. While the tree was enormous and beautiful with an ice skating rink below, my favorite feature was the angels that directly faced the tree pictured below. I was lucky enough that it snowed when I visited to give all features a beautiful dusting of snow.

The angels made this night magical.

I also went to the Empire State building with my parents, as pictured below. If you’re looking for amazing views of the city and wind-blown hair, I highly recommend visiting here!

This sky-high view shows just how big New York is.
Spending time with the family was a nice way to enjoy the break from class.

While there is so much to do in Manhattan, Brooklyn also has amazing features to check out! I specifically went to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. This is a neighborhood where you can walk around and witness some of the most expensive homes that are decorated with Christmas lights. The average monthly power bill for these homes is estimated to be over $5,000! The photo below is of “Lucy’s house” that started the tradition in Brooklyn. In the beginning, her neighbors complained about the Christmas decorations, so naturally, she added more each year to get the final product seen below. Brooklyn also has amazing local shops such as Brooklyn’s Ice Cream Factory. I must personally say there is nothing better than walking in snow and then getting delicious homemade ice cream– with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge!

Lucy’s House
Ice cream in the winter? Of course.

While, there are so many more beautiful features and things to do in New York, one of the best features is the love shown for Ohio State! Walking down a street in the Theater District, I passed a local bar that had an OSU flag hanging outside. I couldn’t be more proud to be a Buckeye!

Buckeyes truly are almost everywhere in the country– and the world!

 

My Winter Break

It’s always nice to travel back home and see family during breaks. My hometown, as mentioned in the previous post, is located in northeast China which means it’s freezing in winter.

I got several texts from my friends during the break– saying was cold in Columbus. I didn’t text back anything other than this screen grab…

Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang Province, China

Mudanjiang is not the city that I was born; I was just there during the winter break. I know I am crazy. When most people travel to some places warm in order to stay away from the cold winter, I actually stepped into a freezing locale. This city is known as the “snow village”; because of the location of the city, during winter time, it snows almost 24/7. However, I do admit it is very pretty, just like I’m in a fairy tale.

Snow Village

 Harbin, my real hometown, is known for the International Ice and Snow Fest.

Harbin, Heilongjiang, China

 If you are planning to visit, make sure you’re bundled up and your phone is fully charged because when your electronic devices are exposed in such a low temperature, the battery tends to die very quickly–like in 10 mins.

The 5th annual Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum

Last December, a handful group of students and I were given the opportunity to assist “The Wells Fargo Investment Thought Leadership Forum” in New York City. The conference, that 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). Furthermore, we felt even more privileged knowing that, among the 1,500-member investor audience representing more than $3 trillion in capital, our group represented the only school present at the conference.

The group with Professor Sheridan!

Our trip started on December 6. Myself and Jared Ablass, SMF student from Canada, had to catch our flight to New York at 2 PM. We arrived at LaGuardia around 5:30 PM and went directly to the Airbnb we rented for the two days trip to drop our bags– and off we go we were, already on our way to our first meeting/dinner with an alumnus from the program.

Arriving in NYC!

The day of the conference, we decided to walk to the Plaza hotel. All of us agreed that a morning walk on 5th Avenue could not hurt.

After a quick breakfast in the hotel and a welcome remark by Jonathan Bock, managing director at Wells Fargo and organizer of the conference, we started the day with a word from Howard Marks. The discussion focused on today’s incredibly challenging low-return investment environment. Mr. Marks emphasized his presentation on today’s uncertainty in the macro environment and the fact that this uncertainty might not lead to high prospective returns in the future because of central banks keeping rates low.

Following Howard Marks was a highly anticipated panel (composed of leaders from Wells Fargo, Apollo, BlackRock, and CalPERS) giving their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues facing the economy (from tax cut all the way to technology). Among other things, the panel was explaining that the tax reform is expected to be powerful for cash flow-oriented companies (as they will have more cash in hands) and particularly for investment bankers on expectations of M&A.

The lunch discussion with Michael Bloomberg was, in my opinion, one of the best discussion of the entire conference. I particularly enjoyed listening his point of view on climate change. As mentioned during the discussion, Mr. Bloomberg explained that while the federal government is clearly a part of the environmental solution, it is more important to see both the innovation and environmental improvements coming from corporate and city leaders in response to citizen demand for cleaner air and water.

Finally, the heavily anticipated closing discussion between Jamie Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co.) and Mike Mayo (Large Cap Bank Analyst at Wells Fargo Securities) focused on Mr. Dimon’s catalog for success during his time at the head of one of the biggest financial institution in the world.

A discussion with Jamie Dimon!

We closed this great day with an alumni dinner at a fine restaurant in Manhattan. We had the chance to share this meal with a couple of alumni working in the Big Apple.

Alumni Dinner in NYC!

This diverse group of motivated students coming from all around the world (including myself) are extremely grateful for the opportunity that was given to us by Professor Pinteris, Professor Sheridan and Fisher College of Business. In my opinion, an event like this one is what sets the Specialized Master of Finance apart from other programs and gives you the belief that one day, you’ll be in the shoes of those highly successful individuals.

The entire group with Professor Pinteris and Mr. Bock!

 

NYC Trip

Finals are over and just like that, I am halfway through the SMF program.  It’s crazy how quickly pre-term and the first semester went by.  Since Columbus is a lot closer to New York than Oklahoma, my mom and I decided to go on a trip to New York right after finals were over.  I took a bunch of pictures and wanted to include as many as possible.  Here are some of my favorite sights from the trip:

The Statue of Liberty
My mom and I enjoying some New York style pizza
Me with the famous Charging Bull in the Financial District
Downtown Manhattan at sunset from the Empire State Building

Proximity to New York is one of the many perks about being in school at Ohio State.  I know that many of my classmates recently attended an investments conference in New York and it provided them the opportunity to listen to some very knowledgable individuals from the industry and to also network with SMF alumni in the city.  My trip to New York was a blast and I can’t wait to go back!

A Day with Warren Buffett

About 20 Fisher graduate students traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to spend a day with Warren Buffett. The highlight of the trip was a 3.5 hour question and answer session with the Oracle himself.

Our group with Mr. Buffett

Mr. Buffett spent a large amount of time speaking about the importance of family. He said that as we grow older, our relationship with our children, (not how much money we have), will be one of, if not the main, measuring stick defining success.

Mr. Buffett supported this point by claiming, “being rich is over-rated, but if you have the chance, take it.” He explained that ease of air-travel was the only tangible “day to day” advantage he has over others.

These two concepts offered an opportunity for us to reflect on our long-term goals and decide what is truly important. Mr. Buffett serves as a reminder that choices we currently make will impact these goals, and that those of us who prioritize family will not “fail.”

I am thankful for the opportunity to meet and listen to Mr. Buffett. Traveling with our group formed a good bond as we all learned more about each other.

Our gift to Mr. Buffett – to match the Tressel ball he keeps on his desk – Go Bucks!