The NBMBAA Conference Experience

This past September, the 40th Annual NBMBAA Conference & Exposition was held at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan. For those of you who don’t know, the NBMBAA Conference is the “world’s largest career exposition with exhibitors from 300 of the nation’s top companies.” The event gathers members, corporate partners, and some of the world’s most sought after thought leaders for a week of exploration in the areas of dynamic leadership, technology and innovation, entrepreneurship, marketing, professional development, and education and workforce policy.

This year was my first time at the conference, and it was one of my favorite MBA experiences so far. There were so many top companies from a variety of industries, such as BlackRock, Eaton Corporation, Google, Johnson & Johnson, National Basketball Association, PepsiCo, Inc., Under Armour, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Whirlpool Corporation. The conference also included different breakout sessions, pitch challenges, speaker lectures, and other events, such as “Big Data: Algorithms vs. Human Analysis” – sponsored by LinkedIn, Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Microsoft and The Leadership Studio: R.E.S.P.E.C.T – Women in Leadership – sponsored by Georgia-Pacific.

The conference provided me with one of the best opportunities to get my face in front of my target companies. I had a chance to interview with Microsoft, the NBA, and Under Armour—three of my potential employers. I never imagined I was going to be able to speak with any of those companies, but the conference made that possible.

A few other benefits I received from the conference were being able to watch our case competition team present, speaking with local high students and undergraduates about The Ohio State University and the Fisher College of Business, getting invited to the NFL Kickoff Event at the Detroit Lions Stadium and the Microsoft Meet & Greet, attending an Under Amour Detroit Brand House event, and building relationships with other black professionals. I will always remember this event and how blessed I am to have experienced it, all thanks to Fisher, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and the NBMBAA.

Here are some other perspectives from a few first-years and second-years:

Neethi Johnson, second-year: “I had a wonderful experience at the NBMBAA conference in Detroit where I was able to connect with amazing employers, engage in fruitful conversations, and meet other driven, conscientious MBA students from around the country. As I continue to interview with companies I met at the conference, I look forward to maintaining and cultivating my NBMBAA relationships.” 

Chineze Okpalaoka, first-year: “Last month, I attended the National Black MBA Association conference in Detroit. It has been the highlight of my semester so far. I had the rare opportunity to have enormous face time with recruiters from organizations whose work I admire. I was also able to connect with other young black professionals from universities across the nation. One of my favorite moments was from a breakout session I attended on black women entrepreneurs. It gave me the motivation I needed to keep investing in my own ideas even while I am pursuing my MBA.”  

Tomilola Abiodun, second-year: “The Black MBA Conference was exciting and fulfilling for me. I had the opportunity to network and even interview with some of the top companies in the United States. I am grateful for the opportunity granted to me by Fisher and the Office of Diversity to volunteer and attend the conference.

“I was able to make the best out of the conference by preparing very early. I started applying to jobs on the website in July and started my Interview prep with career management in August. The conference provides great networking opportunities for a second-year MBA like me but can be very overwhelming if one doesn’t prepare adequately. I will advise students to make good use of the resources available to them at Fisher to ensure they gain maximum success at future conferences. I look forward to Houston next year where hopefully I will be at the other side of networking. Thank you, Fisher!”

Anique Russell, second-year: “I attended the National Black MBA conference in Detroit last month and the experience was unforgettable. As a first-year MBA student, it felt so rewarding and beneficial to network with established professionals. As an entrepreneur, I was inspired by the breakout sessions geared specifically toward women in business. I also attended the FedEx small business competition, it was very exciting to watch startups pitch for $50,000 in funding. I can’t wait to attend the conference next year.”

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

It’s day one, and we’re excited to begin a new chapter. We’re all bright-eyed and in a new environment, with new people, with multiple expectations, and with thoughts of what’s the year going to be like.

Then day two comes. We’ve sat through all our first days of classes and received our syllabi. Panic sets in, worry seeps through, and we’re sitting there with “omg” looks on our faces. We knew going back to school to pursue our MBAs wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but little did we know just how far off we were.

Skimming though the syllabi, nervous and uncertain about how we’re going to handle everything makes the future look scary. Day two is probably the first day anxiety hit. As we head into week five, we’ve already been stuck at Gerlach Hall until late at night, probably sleep deprived, and feeling like we’re barely making it through. There are classes, student organizations, activities, cases, job search and preparation, and hundreds of other things we’ve all just dived right into and have on our plate, and now we’re swimming in the unknown. It’s during these highly stressful times that it’s important to take some precautions. First and foremost, make sure to give yourself some “ME” time. Your health and well-being are most important, so managing stress is key.

Here’s what I like to do to de-stress. I like to start off each week by writing out my weekly schedule and to-do list. Afterwards I’ll make sure I at least give myself a break during the weekend. Over the weekend, I usually sleep in to catch up on missed sleep. I’ll catch up on my favorite shows for an hour or two. Right now, I’m watching Power. It’s amazing!

Going out for a walk helps me get in the right headspace to get ready for my day and to process everything. I’ll usually call my family and talk to them. It makes me happy to hear their voices and to have them reassure me that I’m in the right place and doing what I need to do to reach my dreams.

One activity I recently started trying was yoga. I was very skeptical at first, but it really helps you meditate and relax the mind to be present in the now. It forced me to stop my mind from racing and to feel a sense of peace.

On weekends, I like going out with my friends to different events like football games, speaker events, or to new places that we haven’t been to on Ohio State’s campus or in the city, like the Easton area. The outlet there will give you a nice shopping experience. I’ve also ventured out to downtown Columbus for a Food Truck Festival. This is where I had Jeni’s, a famous ice cream spot here, for the first time, and ate the juiciest and most seasoned jerk chicken I’ve ever had. I’m from Chicago, and we have amazing food, so I was shocked to be so impressed by all the restaurants I’ve been to so far.

Going out is probably a #1 go-to for most people to de-stress, which is great because it’s also important to socialize and let loose a bit. Watching movies or TV, going for a run, shopping, adventuring around Columbus, meditating, getting a massage, the list goes on and on for things to do for “ME” time.

We need to remember that, yes, we’re here for a reason and it’s going to be tough, but our journey throughout the MBA program should be an exciting one.

Some of my classmates ride bikes on the Olentangy Trail, go bar crawling, play soccer, go to the ARC to workout, or even use meditation apps like this one called Headspace. You know what kinds of things and activities bring joy to you. What you need to do is make sure you manage your time, prioritize YOU, connect with others when the stress seems unbearable, and keep your head up.

Remember that you were chosen to be here for a reason, remember why you decided to be here, and lean on each other through the good and the bad times. We all came in together, and we’re all going to survive and successfully leave together.

And so it begins.. Oh wait, it began three weeks back!

 

Belay On
Belay On

 

Before I begin telling you about my experiences in the last 1 week at Fisher, I definitely would like to share some activities( Read super cool) which we did during our Pre-term program.Yeah,you read it right. PRE-TERM. At Fisher,we believe in truly in our motto ” Go Beyond”. The pre term program exposed us to various facets of the Fisher MBA- Career Management, Core courses, Leadership development opportunities, and of course, the fun ” team” exercise at Summit Vision. This was one such experience wherein you get into it with one set of expectations and you come out with a totally different set of perspectives. It helped us get out of our comfort zone, I mean literally. If you had not earlier considered dangling from a beam 50 feet above the ground as a part of your comfort zone, you would consider reframing it now.It helped us trust our team mates who were acting as the ‘belayers’ and believe me, the word ‘trust’ was definitelyredefined in my mind.During the course of 4 hours, we learned from each other’s mistakes, put aside our individual goals and collaborated as a team to see the task through the finish line. I think we cherished the outing even more because it provided us a much needed break in our hectic schedule.On a side note, I used to think my pre MBA schedule was jam packed and hectic. I am laughing at that thought now.I will leave you at that.

Interview Prep

I know that preparing for interviews can seem like a waste of time sometimes.  In the basic sense, it is just having a conversation, so why not just go in with the attitude of: “I’m just gonna go in there, be myself, answer their questions with great stories, and knock the interviewer’s socks off.”  And the answer is, because that probably isn’t how it will go at all if you don’t do any prep work, like having answers for common questions prepared.

When I was up in Chicago for the MBA Veteran’s conference, I participated in a conversation with some fellow combat arms vets that probably could have been titled:  The greatest hits of terrible interview question answers.   The questions that were asked in the interviews were generally along the lines of:

“Tell me about a time you were in a seemingly impossible situation, how did you find an innovative solution?”

“Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of stress and had to make a difficult decision?”

“Describe a time when you worked as part of a team to meet a seemingly impossible goal?”

“Describe a time when you used your leadership skills in order to resolve a conflict?”

As a former infantryman who went on multiple overseas deployments, I have a fair amount of experience working in adverse situations, making difficult decisions, working as a part of a team, and using leadership skills.  But, as the mental Rolodex clicks through my life’s story, the first experience that comes to mind for any of those questions is not one that I am going to use in a job interview.  The reason I say that isn’t because I lack pride in my time as a Marine, or am ashamed of what I did overseas or anything like that.  The reason is that the interviewer is not going to be able to understand how to translate those answers into potential value for the company.   During a job/internship interview, the potential employee has to show that it would add value to the company to bring them on board.   If your answer takes the interviewer to a situation and place that they will never understand, full of acronyms and jargon that sounds like a foreign language, they are not going to be able to grasp the value that you can add to their company through your past experiences.  Instead of stories appropriate for the VFW hall, focus on positive stories, that showcase skills like the ability to work as part of a team, be a leader, use time management efficiently, make timely decisions, ect…

So, in my humble opinion, if you are in a situation where you are going to be going to interviews, taking the time to think through some answers to typical behavioral interviewing questions.  That is what I have done, and now I have alternative experiences to draw on, and don’t need to rely on the first experience that comes to mind when someone asks me about a time when everything was going wrong, and success seemed impossible.

I know this post seems rather veteran-centric, but I think it applies to everyone.  It is a good idea to think before you speak in an interview, and make sure that your story conveys a sense of added value to the company that they will be able to understand.  That generally isn’t something that is going to happen without some prep work ahead of time.

Lean Six-Sigma, The Basics

Last month I attended a Six Sigma Workshop during lunch with Professor Peg Pennington. It was about an hour and students with non-operating majors were encouraged to attend. I had my Matching Supply and Demand class with Professor Hill yesterday — boy was I glad I had that ops review a few weeks before! Professor Hill’s class will focus on different things than what we discussed during lunch, but the workshop was the perfect jolt back to the “ops world”.

I saw the Six Sigma Workshop on the Hub, a RSVP system that allows students to review and sign-up for activities.  These range from lunches to events put on by student organizations or Fisher departments, information sessions and more.  It’s a great system that allows students to stay organized and involved with everything at Fisher.

Throughout the workshop we discussed how six sigma is a problem solving methodology that uses research and data to construct a plan. Topics also included the DMAIC method (see illustration below) and quickly talking through two examples of a banks and an emergency room in a hospital. For a one hour workshop, it was jammed-packed with information!

Visual explanation of the DMAIC method – image taken from Google.

This type of of workshop is one of the reasons I absolutely love Fisher’s MBA Program. One of my fellow students described it best: I am treating this opportunity like a dressing room – I want to try on everything and see what fits”.

Fisher has given me an opportunity to find out my passions, but has also exposed me to brand new worlds. I will never be a finance guru, but I feel much more comfortable with the topic after my CORE finance classes and my  Corp. Finance 1 Class. Operations and Logistics, sign me up! Negotiations and strategy, let’s try it out!

My heart will always lean towards marketing and advertising, but why would you ever stop yourself from learning everything you could? I am excited for my Matching Supply and Demand and my diverse course load next semester. Who knows what I’ll learn and what “will fit”!?

Three terms left…

 

  • Negotiation final – finished
  • Org. turnaround final paper – finished
  • Services Marketing final paper – finished
  • Corp. Finance 1 final brief – ….stay tuned

I cannot believe that as I am writing this, I am quickly wrapping up the first term of my final year of the MBA program. It’s unreal.

In the past two years I have studied and taken the GMAT, filled out applications for business school, interviewed, received admission letters, gone through pre-term, made it through my CORE classes (looking directly at you stats class!), interviewed for internships, accepted a wonderful internship and learned so much and am now making my way through year 2.

Also, add in a few happy hours, some tears, lots of laughs, some stress for good measure, and a bunch of people that I now consider my close friends.

These past couple years have been incredible and pretty challenging. When people ask me about my program my favorite phrase is, “it’s an adventure”. This has been a very humbling experience, and I still have so much more to learn. I am meeting great people in the Office of Career Management (direct shout-out to Jeff!), the GPO and in the classroom. My professors are becoming mentors and my classmates are becoming those that want me to become a better, smarter business woman.

Only three terms left?! Where has the time gone?

Let’s Do Lunch

Jesse Tyson (left), former Global Aviation Leader for ExxonMobil came to speak at a Cullman Luncheon in late September 2013

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Cullman luncheon with the former President and COO of Wilson’s Leather, Dave Rogers. Earlier this fall I participated in a Cullman Luncheon that featured Jesse Tyson, Global Aviation Leader for ExxonMobil. The Cullman Executive Luncheon Series is designed to bring 10-15 graduate students and senior executives, many of whom are also graduates of Fisher, together in an informal setting. Past executives have identified their current roles, discussed work history, and have provided insights into business in general. There is also a time for Q&A at the end.

Personally, it was hugely beneficial to interact with and glean “best practices” from these executives who had 35+ year careers to draw upon. Jesse and Dave both shared things that they did well and also shared about things to avoid as a manager and an executive. The questions asked by my fellow classmates were also very informative and brought out the richness of their experiences in business.

In an age where there seems to be a lack of either good or ethical leadership, the luncheon was a great way to get face to face with an executive who led well and could share those experiences and lessons learned along the way.

Jack Detzel, Director of Supply Chain Capability & Baseline Optimization/Productivity for PepsiCo, is coming to speak at a Cullman Luncheon in October
Craig Bahner, Fisher alumnus and Wendy’s chief marketing officer came to speak at a Cullman luncheon in April 2013

 

It’s Good To Be Back

As the title of my post relates, it is good to be back.

As my wife and I were making the drive back to Columbus from Minneapolis she asked me if I was ready to start my second year of business school. I hadn’t really thought if I was ready or not but I did know that I was excited to return. Some people may think that is crazy, but let me explain what I mean when I say that it is good to be back at Fisher.

Here is what I am looking forward to at Fisher this year:

  • Camaraderie – Oddly enough this reminds me of my days playing sports. When you are on a team, or in business school, you develop very close relationships with others. Why? Because you are all going through the same trials and challenges and celebrating similar successes and accomplishments. Business school is a mentally and emotionally grueling time of life and great friendships are established that will last a lifetime. To put it simply, I’m excited to see all of my friends from b-school that were off in different parts of the country (and world) completing their internships.
  • Education – I like to learn. If you are in business school and you don’t like to learn, you may as well drop out. School isn’t the only place where education and learning take place. They continue on into the workplace. If you don’t like to learn new things and stretch yourself, you probably shouldn’t be in b-school. I love the challenge and love to learn from others experience and knowledge. This year will be even more exciting as I focus my classes on my majors of strategy and marketing.
  • Buckeye Football – I have to be honest, right? I love sports and I love football. Put me in a school with one of the best teams and storied programs in the country and it makes for some excitement. Not only is it fun to gather weekly with classmates, but it is fun to feel the buzz in the air surrounding football season here in Columbus. You may not show up to Fisher as a Buckeye fan, but I can guarantee you will leave as one. It’s inevitable.
  • Exposure – Being a students here at Fisher comes hand in hand with loads of exposure to recruiters, top faculty, and great alumni. During my first year I was able to meet with numerous recruiters that were very interested in Fisher students. They have had great success with Fisher students in the past and they enjoy recruiting here and meeting more potential candidates. The faculty and alumni are beyond generous and have been a great asset to me as a student. It has been fun to see a few of them and fill them in on my experience with 3M this summer.

Like I said, it is good to be back. Good to see friends, talk with faculty, and enjoy the community feeling of Ohio State. Hopefully this year won’t fly by too quickly!

 

Brucetta Williams (VP Consumer Marketing from @BET) Visits Fisher

Last week students here at Fisher had a great opportunity to gather together and learn from Brucetta Williams, VP Consumer Marketing at BET.  She was nice enough to fly in to Columbus and visit the Fisher community to discuss her career path and share advice for future business leaders.

Brucetta shared a few points of career advice that she swears by. Some of the advice she shared that jumped out at me are as follows:

Continued Learning – Being a student doesn’t end with receiving a degree. It is a life-long process. Brucetta remarked that she stays current on issues by being active in her trade associations. She participates in local meetings and networks with others in her industry to continue growing her knowledge of marketing and media.

Know Yourself – Regarding career progression, Brucetta made it clear that one of the reasons she has had success in her professional career is that she is self-aware and knows what she wants out of her career. She suggested that MBA students discover where they want to be in the future and work hard towards it.

Set Goals – Even if you may not achieve all of them, set them. Brucetta sets goals every year and makes her best effort to achieve them. If she doesn’t achieve them, she rolls them over to the next year if applicable. Continued growth and progression are the results she sees from setting goals.

Life Balance – This area of the discussion with Brucetta really jumped out at me. She emphasized to all of us that when you die, your obituary may have one line regarding a career or professional achievement. Maybe. To this point Brucetta spoke towards leading a balanced life, at work, home, and play. Have fun. Have hobbies. Life life. Great advice that resonated with me stronger than the others she shared.

A day in my shoes

I’ve always wanted to record a day in my life, but my life has generally been too boring to record.  I’m not saying that my life is now any less boring, but it is a lot busier.  Here is a general layout of my Mondays & Wednesdays.

———————————

6:40 – Alarm clock rings.  I quickly turn it off and roll back over for a few more minutes of sleep.

6:45 AM – Phone alarm sounds.  This alarm I can’t ignore since my phone is on the other side of the room.  I get up, turn off my phone and quickly browse the 13 emails I received overnight.   Most of the emails are from the university… they get deleted.  A handful of other emails are regarding group projects, so I hold off reading them until later in the day when I am more alert.

6:50 – I quickly eat breakfast even though I am not hungry – I realize in a few hours I’ll be starving if I don’t eat.

7:00 – I jump in the shower.  I’m already running late.  I quickly dry off, dress, pack my books and head out the door to the Fisher College of Business.

7:20 – I roll up to the St. John’s Arena/ ROTC parking lot and claim one of the best spots since no one else is awake – even the army reserves.

7:27 – I stroll into Schoenbaum Hall to teach the BA499 recitation.  About 34 of my students are already there.  It will be another 10-15 minutes for the next 6 to show up.

7:30 – 9:18 –> I start teaching the BA499 class.  Today each student has to turn in their first paper of the quarter and they also have to do their elevator speech in front of the class.  Overall, everyone does a great job and we manage to have fun in the process.

9:30 – 11:18 –> I start my second BA499 recitation class.  This time most of the students are on time.  This class is livelier since they were able to sleep a few additional hours.  I’m significantly better teaching this class since it is my second time through the material.

11:30 AM – 12:10 PM –> I arrive at Gerlach Hall and spend a half hour replying to emails and making sure I’m prepared for classes.

12:20 PM – 1:20 –> I meet with fellow members of FGSA and interview a classmate about a new student organization focused on Risk Management.  The meeting goes well and we determine that the group has merit but we need to gauge student body interest before we approve the organization.

1:23 – 1:27 –-> I inhale a PB&J sandwich I packed the night before.  I recently bought a plastic container to protect my sandwich from getting smashed.  Unfortunately I have been unable to successfully remove the Crayola sticker on the front of my container so I take a ribbing from a few classmates.  This doesn’t bother me because my sandwich is 3 times thicker now that it can’t get smashed while in my bag.

1:30 – 3:20 –> I attend class on Organizational Turnarounds taught by Jeff Rodek, former CEO of Hyperion.  In this class, we analyze the decisions Professor Rodek took while he was the Chief Executive of Hyperion.

3:30 -5:45 –> Standing meeting with my finance group to go over the next day’s homework for Dean Wruck’s valuations class.

6:00 – 7:45 –>  Attend Jay Barney’s Advanced Strategic Analysis class.  Professor Barney cold calls students based on names he randomly selects before class.  This makes me nervous because I usually have a good response to half his questions.  The goal is get selected for a question you can answer, otherwise you get labeled “the stupid kid.”

7:47 – I quickly run downstairs to grab a cup of coffee because my day is still not over.

8:00 – 9:45 PM –> Attend Steven Young’s Financial Institutions class.  At this point, I am on the verge of falling asleep despite the coffee.  It has nothing to do with the Professor or the class.  In fact, I think it is one of the more interesting classes I have taken at Fisher.  It really doesn’t matter how much coffee you drink, at this point I have been up since 6:40AM and have only had a bowl of cereal and a triple stuffed PB&J sandwich.

9:50 – Leave Gerlach, head to my car.  On the walk I start to plan out my dinner options.

10:00 – Eat dinner, respond to emails from students in my class, complete my homework for Dean Wruck’s class tomorrow, and organize the assignments from the two classes I taught earlier in the day.

1 AM – Finish Dean Wruck’s assignment.  Convince myself that I’m actually too tired to do anything else.  End up going to bed.

1:01AM – Fall asleep