Two Weeks Down, 54 To Go

Although I am in the initial phase of my MBA experience, I can report with confidence that Fisher has already exceeded my expectations in many respects. From the multi-faceted academic modules that all incoming students complete before arriving on campus to the intensive two-week Pre-Term program, the experiential learning at Fisher begins even before a candidate sets foot inside of a classroom.

As a resident of central Ohio, I was fortunate enough to not only visit the campus during my admission interview but to also take part in many invitation-only activities for admitted students after I successfully completed the interview process. At these initial gatherings that occurred in the Fall of ’15 and Spring of ’16, I met quite a few other admitted students as well as faculty, admissions, and other members of the Fisher family: an impressive group of people. However, it was at the beginning of the Pre-Term program (which all incoming students are required to attend) that I truly appreciated the caliber and the diversity in all of its glorious forms that is embodied by the Fisher MBA class of 2018. There are 14 countries represented in our class, but that is only one aspect of the innumerable dimensions of diversity that can be found in my class. Random interactions with my classmates in between lectures or at lunch have given me opportunities to learn from their experiences, and it’s only been two weeks since classes started!

MBA Class of 2018

My experience has so far been full of challenges and ‘aha’ moments. The course load is heavy and the material is challenging. Add this to all of the other wonderful opportunities outside of the classroom that a student would be remiss not to take advantage of, and it becomes easy to see why time management and maintaining an agile schedule are crucial. The first year in general and the first semester in particular is specifically designed to stretch students’ abilities both in and out of the classroom and for that reason, organization is paramount. I should, however, make it clear that a great deal of effort and thought goes into the design of the curriculum at Fisher and admitted students have already proven through the rigorous admission process that they have what it takes to thrive at this school and to represent the Fisher College of Business well in the future. Having said that, the school also does a fantastic job in the selection of core team members. No matter the subject matter or topic, there will be at least one member of your core team who is particularly strong in that area. This, I believe, forms the basis of the great student-led learning that occurs outside of the classroom and augments the structured in-class learning.

I am sure there will be many challenges ahead of me but I really look forward to taking them on, one and all. After all, challenges are nothing but opportunities in disguise!

Core Team

Welcome to the MAcc

Hello! My name is Caleb Gruenbaum and I am a Student Ambassador for the Masters of Accounting (MAcc) program here at the Fisher College of Business. I am currently taking advantage of a combined program that allows me to combine my fourth year of studies into a BSBA/MAcc dual program, where in four years, I will have completed my Bachelors in Accounting as well as my Masters. With many states requiring 150 hours in order to sit for the CPA (Ohio included), this provides me a great way to reach the 150 without taking “cupcake classes” all ‘senior’ year.

I spent my summer interning at Deloitte & Touche LLP in their external audit practice. This was a great experience and I am fortunate enough to be able to join them full-time in the Fall of 2017.

Being back on campus is definitely bittersweet. On one hand, I am ecstatic to see all of my friends from school and for classes to be back in session, but I also have to come to the realization that I am done with school after this year. I am on the final stretch towards graduation, and I’m not sure quite how I feel about this.

But I’m going to take advantage of many of my favorite things about attending The Ohio State University:

  1. Ohio State Football– I have been a lifelong, die-hard Ohio State football fan and being able to go to games for $35 each will definitely be missed. I also got a free student ticket through the school for the National Championship vs. Oregon.

    Me and some friends at last years Spring Game (I'm the one wearing the cool bucket hat and a red tank)
    Some friends and me at last year’s Spring Game (I’m the one wearing the cool bucket hat and a red tank)
  2. The Beautiful Campus– Ohio state’s campus is absolutely beautiful this time of the year. Watching the leaves change color every fall is a sight to behold.

    Campus in the Fall
    The Oval in the Fall
  3. Accounting Faculty– Coming from an Ohio State Accounting undergrad, I was blessed with constant interaction with some of the MAcc professors– some of whom are leading researchers in accounting, and others of whom are world-class professors that make the student’s growth their number one priority. I am excited to keep learning from such bright minds in the coming year.
  4. Being a Buckeye– This one has me reminiscing on what has already been the best three years of my life, and focusing on having the best year possible this upcoming year. While being enrolled in classes may last a limited time, I will proudly be able to say I’m a Buckeye for life. With over 500,000 alumni worldwide, you’d be amazed how global of a brand Ohio State is– and how much the school means to those who have attended.

Although this is my final year, I am determined to make the most of it, and I am excited to bring you readers along for the ride.

“Shape the Game”

Well, I am hot ‘n’ heavy into my first semester! I must admit that I feel a bit overwhelmed. It’s a manageable “overwhelment,” but it’s become clear to me that time will be precious while in the MHRM program. In addition to the core courses, I’m taking two electives this session (and probably one elective next session) and serving as a graduate administrative assistant for the college. I also am going to try to re-launch the Fisher LGBT affinity group (called “Out in Business”) sometime soon if I can get the time to do it! (For a myriad of reasons, the group is currently inactive, although Fisher is absolutely inclusive and welcoming with LGBT students.

Anyway, one of my favorite courses thus far is called “Organizational Turnarounds.” The crux is: how do you turnaround failing organizations? Senior Lecturer Jeff Rodek teaches the (popular) course. We’re learning that this difficult task requires a lot of structured, but quick decision-making. In addition to a textbook, we’re gleaning insight from case studies and articles… AND Mr. Rodek himself. He’s a former CEO of Hyperion Solutions– and he was charged with doing his own turnaround of the company. You can read quite a bit online about his time there. What’s awesome about the class is that the students are required to analyze and assess HIS performance at Hyperion– the good, bad, and ugly. It’s part of our first group paper.

rodek
Mr. Rodek himself

He’s incredibly open and honest about his experience as CEO. He doesn’t sugarcoat it. He’s reflective of things he did well and things he’d like to go back and change. And he wants us to learn from it. How cool is that? This isn’t some professor who’s been buried in research for years; he’s been in the thick of things and he’s sharing his insight and knowledge with us. He also has a great sense of humor and really tries to spark good conversation in the classroom.

One thing he said in class this week– and this was really a very small comment related to the topic at hand, but immediately hit me– is the need to “shape the game” as leaders (particularly during a turnaround), not just “play the game.” As someone who’s told friends and colleagues many times to play the game, I really appreciated his revision of this mantra. It resonated with me. Shape your experiences and relationships in the way you want them to be shaped; take change of your own destiny rather than being a willing bystander.

And it applies to what I’m doing now as a student. Despite the stress, I’ve reminded myself that I am here because I want a challenge. I’m here to grow. I’m here to be the best. So, I’m going to work hard, build relationships, and learn as much as I can to shape my professional and personal life in the way I want it to be. O-H-I-O!

The Benefits of Groups

One of the biggest concerns I had about the MAcc program was the emphasis on group work. Like most people, I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of poor academic groups. I’m in five classes this seven-week period, and each class has a group. Even though it’s early in the year, my groups are already meeting often. It’s not avoidable; you’ll work in groups.

The difference from undergrad is that I enjoy these groups. Yes, really!

gerlach hall
The graduate student lounge on the second floor of Gerlach Hall is a place where you can meet with your group.

In graduate school, throw away your preconceived notions about teams. Working with others is a great experience.

Here are a few things that make group work great in the MAcc:

  • Motivated students: There are no slackers here. Everyone made the choice to attend graduate school (no one is here “just to be here”) and is intelligent. People want to excel. In my groups, everyone pulls his or her weight, and we produce better results because of that.
  • Real world prep: Unlike many of my classmates, I had a year of work experience before entering the MAcc. I can attest: the professional world involves group work everyday. Working with teams in graduate school is a great way to prepare for the rest of your career.
  • Different perspectives: My groups are a mixture of students from different universities, countries and undergraduate degrees. This means for every case or project we discuss, a variety of viewpoints are presented. How I look at a case won’t be the same as how someone with an economics degree analyzes it. A variety of backgrounds also allows us to maximize each member’s strengths. As a journalism undergrad, I take the lead when it comes to producing written work, while some of my teammates who are stronger with raw calculations help me with the numbers. Working with students from different backgrounds also exposes me to different personalities and cultures; it’s important to learn how to get along and respect as many people as possible to prepare for career success, where more than a grade depends on successful team projects.
  • Get to know classmates: If you can believe it, not every second spent in a team room is spent working on the case at hand. There’s idle chatter and off-topic conversation–and I get to know my classmates as people. I look forward to working with my groups because they aren’t a forced administrative burden; they’re groups filled with people I know and respect.

I’ve enjoyed my experiences working in groups thus far in the MAcc and look forward to more successful meetings, case studies and projects over the next eight months.

Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

It’s been a while since I had my last first day of school (okay, fine – it’s been six years). I remember the feelings of anticipation and excitement, the somewhat discomforting feeling of not knowing what to expect, and the rush to prepare – everything from buying books to picking out the absolute best first-day-of-school outfit. Well, I am happy to report that the first day of grad school brings all of that and more. Classes started just over a week ago and while a week doesn’t sound like a long time, as my wonderful Finance professor explained to us yesterday, that’s actually 2% of our total MBA program (at least in terms of class time). With 2% of my MBA under my belt, I’m already feeling like I’m learning a lot every single day!

For starters, investing– not managing– my time has been key. Within the first week of class, we’ve already had two Marketing cases to analyze, as well as quizzes in Economics and Finance – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The number one thing that we were told during Pre-Term is that there is always going to be a lot going on and we need to be selective about how we spend our time. This message has proved very true; each day brings a new challenge in terms of making the best choices for what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

Which brings me to my next point: group projects have a whole new life in business school. My core team has been instrumental thus far in supporting me to complete all of my assignments and actually engage with all of the class material in the best way possible. Our group is diverse, as all core teams are, and this diversity helps us immensely when it comes to analyzing cases or solving problems. And, they’re pretty fun to do a scavenger hunt with, too!

My core team & I at Mirror Lake during our Pre-Term scavenger hunt!
My core team & me at Mirror Lake during our Pre-Term scavenger hunt!

Speaking of scavenger hunts, business school forces you to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Within the first few days of Pre-Term, I had already gone on a zipline, met 91 new people (my amazing classmates!) in the span of 24 hours, and then shared bits of my life story with my entire class. Each day brings something new that I likely didn’t encounter in my previous five years of work with Teach For America and while it’s still terrifying to be sitting in Marketing and having no idea how to respond to the question I’ve been asked, moments like those will certainly help me really take advantage of this experience.

I still have a lot of reading to do for class tomorrow and Mid-Terms are only a week and a half away, but for now, I’m still feeling that same anticipation and excitement as day one– only, now I know firsthand how amazing these next two years will be. And in the meantime, we have a football game this weekend to look forward to!

The Most Popular Course: Negotiation

This semester, I decided to take what may be the most popular course at Fisher: Negotiation. It’s taught by Associate Professor Lount. Many Fisher students (in all programs) rave about it and our program director also highly recommended it to me. I’m beginning to understand why!

After the course introduction and our self-introductions, the first class actually began with a negotiation. Every student was assigned to a role: either a seller or a buyer. We picked up confidential information based on our roles. I was so nervous for my first negotiation because I believed I was not good at negotiating. I would rather obey what the other party said than start a negotiation. Due to my nervousness, I did not say much during the negotiation– which may press my partner (the one with whom I was negotiating) to rise his offered price (I was a seller and my partner was a buyer). To my surprise, I got the second highest price in the class! I learned from the first negotiation: be comfortable with silence. More importantly, I started to gain confidence.

After we learned basic concepts of negotiation, we started to learn some useful negotiation tactics. For example: providing several offers which are of the same value can show our flexibility as well as learn give the chance to learn the other party’s needs and wants. I’ve already conducted this tactic in one of my negotiations. In this negotiation, we had four roles: buyer, buyer’s agent, seller, and seller’s agent. My role was as seller’s agent and my task was to negotiate with the buyer’s agent and help my client sell her house at a reasonable price. We had several rounds of back-and-forth. Every round, I offered 2-3 offers with different prices, closing costs, and pay methods. After the negotiation, I counted my offers: I provided almost 10 offers in a negotiation. Although we did not reach a deal at last, both my client and the buyer’s agent were satisfied with me. It was a tough exercise– conducted via e-mail, so most time I just waited for a reply and when I heard from my client or the buyer’s agent, I had to consider my target and then different offers I would like to provide. Also, because we couldn’t talk face-to-face, I had to consider my words and tone in the emails carefully.

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As the course went on, the negotiation became more complicated and more people were involved. For example, 4-6 people with different roles may have been involved in a negotiation and each would have had different interests and targets. Or it was likely that we had to solve 3-5 issues in a negotiation and each issue was not independent. But after practicing in the class, I was more comfortable and confident to deal with different negotiations.

Negotiation is a practical skill. Therefore, we spent much time in the class practicing. Every time after a negotiation, we would conclude with what happened in the negotiation and what we learned. I think that by the time the class is over this semester, my negotiation skills will be much improved!

Week Two: First Monday and EY on Campus!

Monday Morning in Columbus
Monday Morning in Columbus (Aug 29)

“There will be no rest for the weary”, as they say.

Today is the first Monday of this semester since week one started with Tuesday (Aug 23).

Monday is a long day for SMF students this session because we have THREE classes (Corporate Finance I, Data Analysis I & Econ I), from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, with only a one-hour lunch break. So, I was in a bit of a hurry to have a quick lunch at SUBWAY with my friends. When we were heading out of Gerlach, I heard one of my classmates yell, “WOW FREE PIZZA!!!” That’s when I discovered recruiters from Ernest & Young (EY) with DELICIOUS PIZZAS (both Veggie & Meat), EY-yellow sunglasses and EY T-Shirts! This is recruiting season at Fisher– and you’ll often find various organizations on campus. With free food and give-aways!

EY Yellow at Fisher Campus
EY Yellow at Fisher Campus

BTW, I was so relieved that I escaped from SUBWAY for one day because I almost ate there every day in the pre-term. How busy and crazy our SMF schedule in the pre-term is! Just check my previous blog to have a peek! Subway is something that you can eat every day because it is fast and close to Fisher, but you don’t want to! Basically, it is a combination of Meat + Veggie + Cheese + Bread. If you eat it every day for a while, it will taste like the same thing despite various recipes. TRUST ME or TRY IT. You will know what I mean! Or you can prepare your lunch the day before and take it to Gerlach as some of my classmates do. There are two refrigerators on the second floor of Gerlach.  

After a few bites of pizza, I talked to several EY staff in the field, including Adam, Meg, Anna & Harrison. They were so patient and helpful & answered questions from students one by one just as in the career fairs–but under sunshine without air-conditioning and a fancy building.

However, the conversation continued in the “fancy building” (Mason Hall) with AC after 5:30 pm with more EY staff answering questions for more students. Ther students were so polished and professional. I am really impressed and proud of our Fisher family!

Dancing with My Daughter

The first week back started with a ‘Kick off’ session of the inaugural Fisher Leadership Program of which I was selected to be a part.  Being around talented colleagues, hearing the overview of the program, getting details of the individual electives, and meeting the person I’m to mentor were all extremely motivating.

“Performance Management, Learning and Design” and “Business Excellence Two” are the classes that I signed up to take this semester.  After a summer of working in ‘Learning and Development,’ I found the first week of classes extremely relevant to my recent experiences.  Although not too overwhelming, it was a shock to jump back into the extensive reading assignments.  I felt different in my approach to both the assignments and group interactions.  From my internship, I was more confident about how to approach both.

During this first week, I also continued the Office Exchange Program that I had done during the first year of my work as a staffing coordinator.  Additionally, I also inquired about and got promoted to a Sales Account Executive position.  I felt that this would be a perfect opportunity to  learn more about the sales side of the business and an opportunity to develop professionally and personally.

At the end of the week, I got a text from my MHRM cohort showing a group photo of them after a team building experience opportunity.  Initially, I wanted to participate in this event, but decided not to sign up because I was away from my family most of the summer due to the internship in Maryland.  There are certain moments where you decide why you work.  My week ended dancing with my daughter to the song ‘When Can I See You Again?’ by Owl City.

Challenge by Choice

This past weekend, the MHRM Class of ’18 (alongside some amazing class of ’17 peers) went out into the wilderness for Summit Vision 2016! What an experience– and what a way to bond through sweat, tears, and laughter. The day began with several challenges that are top secret “For Your Eyes Only”-type missions. Let’s just say it involved tennis ball “values”, PVC pipe, and one very brave, nimble team member named Billy. One key statement that came about completing these first set of challenges was this idea of “Analysis Paralysis.” That’s where you spend too much time thinking strategy that you end up in a continuous loop of ideas with no action! Once we were given a time limit, we rushed to complete– and eventually won through our communication, determination, and grit.

14124348_1131314603615906_5041417143517073593_o (For Your Eyes Only!)

We split into teams and headed into the woods. Now for the true wild stuff! First, Team 3 (but really we were number one) had to complete challenges on a large bridge-type teeter-totter. Again the challenges are hush-hush; however, some very important things came about. First, in our group of fifteen there were so many great ideas, and what was even better was the fact that we listened to each other! Five challenges brought about five different leaders, and a multitude of great ideas. We constantly tried new things never fearing major consequences, because we trusted each other and knew we would just think of the next idea if the original failed.  We constantly remembered “Analysis Paralysis” and just went with it. The final challenge showed that when an idea that fourteen of the fifteen group members were highly skeptical, yet we trusted and just took a leap of faith (quite literally).

The last thing that really stuck with my from Summit Vision is this idea of challenge by choice. You always want to grow and develop, and the only way to do that is to challenge yourself to push beyond your comfort zone. I am terrified of the idea of falling from heights (thank you, genetics). One of the obstacles was a pendulum-style wire swing. You have to climb up these narrow rungs, stay at the top of a platform, and then right before you swing you have to edge your way to the millimeter edge and just go. I was so scared, and shaking through every bone, muscle, and fiber in my body. However, I heard so many words of encouragement; but, what pushed me over the edge was knowing if I can make it from Ohio to Georgia and go through grad school, then a swing was not going to hinder my learning!

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(Conquering my fear of falling and pushing myself out of my comfort zone)

At the end of the day we regrouped, reflected, and talked about our gold (what our group has value and strength in) and our goal (our group/individual potential). Today I know that our gold is certainly our support, and my personal goal is trying new things even if they scare me. It also helps that there are people surrounding me that support and help me push through. (It also helps to debrief with a nice Columbus Crew victory as well).

Always remember to avoid analysis paralysis, and sometimes if it’s scary to find you a supportive group, and just take a leap of faith. The further from your comfort zone you are, then the stronger you are going to become in the end.

14088654_340768139645586_6013831236034463872_n(Our amazing group from Summit Vision 2016)

Go Buckeyes!

Chase Lakhani

A Quick Summer Internship

I prepared everything possible for my trip to Columbia, MD and the beginning of my internship with Frito-Lay.  I had made all the arrangements with taking a break with my job, prepared all the living arrangements, and my car was completely packed out.  One of the most difficult moments in my life occurred as I said goodbye to my wife, daughter, and son.  I managed to keep myself composed as I said, “goodbye” and started to walk to my car.  My 20 month old son then motioned towards me.  He was asking for another hug.  We embraced and he began patting my back with his hand.  I was no longer able to keep my composure and accepted the fact that I was going to be the farthest from my children and wife that I had ever been.

My first week at Frito-Lay I was torn between desperately missing my family, excitement about the adventure ahead, and the desire to take advantage of this unique opportunity.  I was assigned one large project to complete over the summer.  I was asked to combine multiple career development resources into a single, “one stop shop” with easy access.  The whole summer flew by, but I took every opportunity to ask questions, network with people, and learn about the company.  My persistent curiosity resulted in developing an Excel-based career development software linking multiple career tools in a single tool.  What an amazing summer!