My Journey to MHRM-hood

As a MHRM student, a question I get asked a lot is “What made you want to get into HR?” So, here we go.

I came to Ohio State as an undergraduate in Engineering. I had a rough couple semesters when I realized thatengineering was not for me. So I started looking into the business school, and once I finished my general courses I had to choose my specializations. My choices? Operations Management or HR.

I picked Operations Management.

And I don’t regret that one bit. It led me to the teachers who helped me realize that I wanted more. It gave me a very solid background in the inner working of an organization. I learned about efficiency, lean principles, maximizing flow through a production line, and continuous improvement. I learned so much about operations, and I really enjoyed it. But somewhere during the program, I also realized that an organization can churn out production and services at its highest efficiency, but without people, they wouldn’t be able to do any of that. People are the heart of your organization.

Me upon graduation in 2017 in front of Gerlach Hall, my home for the next two years (one left, now!)

Studying Human Resources has opened my eyes to a whole new side of organizations. HR isn’t just firing people, and we’re more than the “people employees go to if there’s a problem.” Yes, those fall under our descriptions, but as the workplace is changing, our role is becoming more strategic.

Expectations for HR professionals are leading towards knowing how to analyze and interpret data, how to lead change in the workplace, and how to combine standard business practices with HR metrics to help lead the organization to their goals. To do that well, we must know about our departments, our business, our customers, our C-Suite leaders, our culture, and our vision.

My professor, John Shaffner, once told us that “as an HR partner, you will be expected to know everyone else’s business while such a consideration will not be extended to you.” And maybe that’s the case. But I didn’t go into HR to be cared about: I went into HR to care about people—more specifically, our employees and future employees.

I love the path my education has taken me on. However, I was able to combine both facets of my education into the best profession I could ever want. But no path is the same and no story is the same. Maybe you even have your own story to share. But if you’re thinking about HR, or wondering even what a “MHRM” is, ask me, ask anyone in the program. Because maybe it could help you with your own journey.

Fun at the Fisher Scramble

One of the greatest games ever invented is golf. There are a building2number of cheesy quotes from either Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, or Happy Gilmore once said in reference to the game. Any way you look at it, golf is the best frustrating game out there. Many of us experienced this last week at the 2014 Fisher Golf Scramble at the Golf Club of Dublin.

I love playing golf and have enjoyed the game for most of my life. For this reason, I was excited to hear that there would be a fun event for students to get together and hit some balls around the course. For me, this would be my third time playing golf since the beginning of business school (I know, where are my priorities?).

One of the best parts of the day was that the weather cooperated for the first time this year. The course was in great shape and the sun was shining. Perfect conditions for golf!

My team started off pretty well going birdie birdie on the first two holes. That’s when things changed, sort of. We double bogeyed the next hole, which was a par 3. I guess I could finish this post there because that’s about the time when you want to walk off the course in a scramble. Anyway, we kept playing and had a great time. Some how, even with a double bogey and a bogey, we came in at four under par.

One of the most memorable moments of the day was when two MBA students (who shall remain nameless) “accidentally” parked their golf cart on the green while they were putting. Needless to say, the marshal wasn’t too happy when he gave them a stern warning.

After the round everyone gathered together for awards and a nice meal. It was fun to relax and enjoy golf with friends and classmates as we wind down our time here at Fisher.

Learning From A Patagonia Executive

Two days ago I sat in one of the most impressive patagoniapresentations I have witnessed during my time here at Fisher. I was able to learn the story of success and failures of a popular American outdoor brand, Patagonia.

Vincent Stanley, the “chief story teller” for Patagonia discussed his 41 year career with the company and how he helped in growing the brand to what it is today.

I was impressed most of all with his humility and passion for profitable sustainability. He spoke of lessons he learned during failures and successes within his tenure at the company. He noted that he nearly bankrupted the company of number of times, but was fortunate that the company’s culture pulled them through tough times.

Stanley highlighted the fact that the hiring process is crucial to the company’s success. The company makes sure that new employees understand the importance of being profitable, yet sustainable. The products that Patagonia manufacture and sell to the public are high quality and priced at a premium, because the company believes in minimal waste. The hope is that customers will use the clothing for 5-10 years and then return the product to be recycled into a new article to be sold as a different product. Stanley noted that the company believes firmly in cradle to cradle sustainability.

I enjoyed not only the stories of the success, but the on-boarding steps taken to increase morale and productivity. Patagonia makes sure its employees are passionate about the outdoors. Many employees participate in a 2 month internship with a NGO. During this experience the company provides the employee with full compensation as if they were working at corporate.

It is no surprise that a company focused on selling outdoor products invests so much time, resources, and money into keeping the outdoors sustainable and beautiful. My hat’s off to this company and its impressive leadership team full of people like Vincent Stanley.

 

 

 

 

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.

Visiting Fisher – MAcc

I had several choices when choosing a MAcc program. The programs were good but in retrospect not quite as good as Fisher. Of the three programs I applied for, and was accepted to, I visited two. When it came down to it, each school was equally affordable and relocating would be an equal hassle. My decision was purely based on the quality of the school and the fit of the program. My visit to Fisher made that decision for me.

A visit to Fisher is planned so that you get a taste of what the program will be like. You meet professors, students and you can sit in on a class. The resources available in the career management office are like a god-send for someone who comes from a small private college in the middle of nowhere with a two person department. With on-campus interviews and easy scheduling, the idea of job hunting while in school did not seem so frightening. The tiered seating classrooms and meeting rooms with large flat screens for group work were impressive. The facilities were perfectly conducive to a learning environment in which I felt I could flourish.

While the resources that Fisher offered were excellent, it was the indescribable feeling of fitting in that was present while on campus. I showed up to my campus visit early. Classes were in process and it was still early in October and winter’s chill hadn’t set in yet. I sat outside of Fisher Hall after buying a cup of coffee from the Rohr Café and I could see myself walking between buildings. I didn’t feel as much like a stranger in a strange land, campus felt familiar.

When it came to the actual visit, my host was amazing. The student ambassador who led me around Fisher left no stone un-turned. She answered every question I asked and even the ones that I didn’t. For me, that visit was my decision. I decided that, if I got in, I would choose OSU.  I haven’t for one moment regretted that decision. If you have the opportunity to visit campus, do it. Visiting campus is the best way to know if Fisher is right for you.

The Heart of it All

Time has still been flying by around here, and there has been lots of excitement.  Notably the end of our first terms, and our first round of exams.   Each semester at Fisher is divided into two 7 week terms, which means a new set of courses every 7 weeks, just to keep us on the bounce.  In addition to new classes, the internship search seems to be coming along, with people attending conferences out of state, second round interviews, and some starting to receive offers.  I had the chance to go to the MBA veterans conference in Chicago last week, which was a great opportunity to talk with companies specifically looking to recruit talent from top schools who are also veterans.

So, needless to say, life as an MBA student is still very busy, and requires proper time management.  That being said, life balance is still important, and students need to take time to enjoy life whenever possible.  As someone who is interested in supply chain management and operations, it hasn’t escaped my notice that there are a significant number of companies who have headquarters or distribution centers in the Columbus area, as well as Ohio in general.  Part of the reason for this is that a significant portion of the American population lives within a day’s drive of Ohio.  So while the state is not the geographic center of the country, it is in a strategic location for getting goods to customers.  In fact, I think one of the iterations of license plates the state used to have said “Ohio – the heart of it all.”

In keeping with the need for a healthy work-life balance, especially for people who haven’t traveled much within the U.S., Columbus is in a good spot for those who want to take weekend trips.  I consider about 6 hours (approx 350-400 miles) to be the most I would drive for a 2-3 day weekend trip and within that radius of Columbus are the following cities:

Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, OH

Pittsburgh, PA

Indianapolis, IN

Chicago, IL

St Louis, MO

Detroit, MI

Buffalo, NY

Washington, DC

Lexington, Louisville, KY

Knoxville, Nashville, TN

And those are just some of the bigger cities that I can think of off the top of my head, there are many more smaller cities, national/state parks, lakes and other attractions worth visiting within that radius as well.  As you can see, Columbus, Ohio really is rather well situated to serve as a base of operations for someone who wants to have access to a large portion of the U.S., which is another attractive attribute of the Fisher MBA program.

 

P&G Marketing Case Competition

This week I had the opportunity to participate in the first big case competition of the year on campus, which was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble (a consumer brand goods company based in Cincinnati, OH).  The case was marketing based, using a real P&G brand, and interacting with members of the brand management team that actually works on the product’s marketing strategy.  About 6 hours of time were devoted on Thursday for the teams of 4 to come up with a brand marketing strategy and develop a presentation, and then 5 hours on Friday were used to give each of the 10 teams involved a chance to present their ideas to marketing professors and professionals.  So, all in all, if you include the social events associated with the competition, it was about a 12 hour commitment.

Now, in case I haven’t mentioned this before, I do not intend to major in marketing for my MBA degree, so, some people might wonder why I wanted to dedicate that much time to a competition in a field that isn’t my primary interest.  The answer to that is really quite simple, and that is because there is much more to a competition than just the main functional area.  Case competitions give MBA candidates, like myself, the opportunity to work on things like time management, team skills, leadership skills, creating presentations, innovation, and presentation/communication skills.  All of those, to me, sound like skills that are crucial in order to be successful in the business world.  A case competition gives students the opportunity to work on all of those skills in a controlled environment, it really is a practical application training exercise.

In the military, we didn’t just go into a high risk activity without a degree of training in advance.  Before we went overseas, we would spend months or years training, refining our knowledge and skills, so that we would be more successful when we went downrange.  Training is never perfect, because all elements of real world scenarios can’t be included for a number of reasons, but training is still an important part of preparing for real world application.  Most of my colleagues and myself are getting MBA degrees in order to move into management, or leadership type roles after graduation.  And while the risks for an infantryman overseas and business executive clearly have some differences, both roles have inherent risks.  So it makes sense to work on the skills required to be successful at either in a training environment, which is something that case competitions provide.  Because people revert to their previous training and experiences in a high stress situation, I don’t want the first time I have to do something stressful, like need to sell an idea I have to a board of executives to be during my internship, or in my new career.

So, that is my rather long-winded answer, as to why I thought it made perfect sense for someone who wants to major in operations & logistics to be in a marketing case competition, and why I plan to be in several more competitions in various fields.

 

Here is my awesome team (from the left: Me, Lindsey, Jeff, and John) from the competition. In case anyone is wondering, we won.

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

 

An afternoon with Alcoa

In all the excitement last week, with the case competition, and studying for exams this week, I almost left out writing about another awesome opportunity I had last week. Last Wednesday, the aluminum manufacturer Alcoa had a function on campus relating to some of the grants they have given to the school for various research projects.  If you are interested in reading more about those grants, I am going to include a link to the Lantern (Ohio State’s student newspaper) article about it: http://thelantern.com/2013/10/aluminum-company-grant-ohio-state-250k-2014/.

As the article notes, Alcoa’s chairman & CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld, was present at the function, as were several other executives from the company.  Alcoa, in case you didn’t know, is ranked 128th on the Fortune 500 list for 2013.   I thought that it was pretty awesome to get to attend a rather small (under 100 person) function at which a CEO of that caliber was speaking, and took the time to share his honest answers to student questions on a variety of issues. After the formal presentation was over, there was a more casual networking dinner with the executives present.  Opportunities like that don’t just come along every day, but they do seem to come by much more often now that I am a MBA candidate than they did in the corporate world.

That is one of the great things about Ohio State, and Fisher College of Business, is the breadth and depth of ties to industry that the organizations have.  Just based off the sheer numbers of graduates every year, Ohio State has one of the largest bases of alumni in the country, and that can be a powerful thing when you are trying to network professionally.  The different colleges on campus also have ties to industry in their own sectors as well, either through their faculty and staff, or through collaboration on projects.   This broad network can come in handy when trying to attain better information about a target organization or industry.

As an aside, one reason that I was very excited to attend this Alcoa event, is because the corporation is active with a group called American Corporate Partners (ACP).  ACP is a mentorship program which connects qualified military veterans with mentors who are all business executives.  I am an alumni of the program, and the gentleman who was kind enough to devote time to being my mentor is an executive with Alcoa, so I have a high regard for the company.  If you are a veteran looking into business school or entering the corporate world, I highly recommend applying for ACP.

Batter Up!

Just so that no one gets the wrong impressions that it is all work and no play around here, we do get chances on a regular basis to engage in a wide variety of activities outside of class and the career search.

For example, last Friday night was the first year vs. second year slow pitch softball game, organized by the Fisher social chair.  It was a fun, semi-competitive game, and a good chance to get to know other people from the program outside of the classroom setting.  The game was held at Fred Beekman park, a large sports complex with a variety of sports fields on West campus.

Even though people who attend top ranked MBA programs generally don’t like to lose so both teams wanted to win, everyone was still encouraged to play.  I hadn’t played softball since undergrad intramural leagues, which was some time ago, and still had a lot of fun participating and helping my team out.  Even though the weather wasn’t the most co-operative, the game was followed up with a cookout at fisher commons, where both teams and the spectators could enjoy some grilled food and beverages.

 It was really more about having fun and working on team skills with each other more than anything else.  If you think about it, those are valuable business skills to have, that are needed in the real world.  No one wants to work on a team with someone who has a bad attitude and isn’t willing to work with others in order to achieve goals. Also important is being able to clearly communicate among team members, as well as being able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of team members, and then  leverage that knowledge to make the team stronger to achieve goals. I guess that is a sign that business school and interview season have started to sink in, that I can relate everything to transferable business skills.