Putting your feet on the ground….

dow_logoI finished my first project.  It was exciting to see the final result of a process of adaptation and learning!
 
You see, I had to create a map that interactively refreshes with Excel data that is imported from queries and databases (trust me THANK YOU CSE200!) in the company’s system. The map retrieves costs that Dow incurs when shipping products to different customers located in different states. This project was very rich for my internship experience since it provided me with an opportunity of being exposed to the different elements of the Supply Chain.  As a Logistics major, this was ideal since I traced costs from the plant to the moment it reached the customers, including all the different variables that take part in an order. I don’t want to be redundant or extremely detailed because I understand that not everybody is as obsessed as I am with logistics, nevertheless, trust me,  I think anybody that gets to do a project like this would have enjoyed it. In a nutshell, it was a little taste of everything. Another great component of this project is that the business leader who proposed it really saw value in the potential savings this map could bring to the company. This gave him a very useable tool.  Additionally it gave me the good feeling of knowing that I did at least a little something for a big company.

The Dow Chemical Company planned six projects for me, all as interesting as the one that I just completed. Personally, one of the reasons I have enjoyed my internship so much is because I have been challenged to learn new things, in new ways and deliver results. I also believe that it is important to be exposed to as many different parts of the Supply Chain discipline that you can before you graduate.  Wherever you are interning, take advantage of the leaders and peers around you. Schedule meetings and ask many questions. You are an intern… you are supposed to ask dumb questions, so don’t be scared.    It has been due to these conversations, and these little steps that I have learned about the company’s culture, the available opportunities and have taken with me valuable advice of people that I admire as leaders and professionals.

Finally, put your feet on the ground;   work is not school!  In school, you can read ahead, study hard, and maybe even go to a tutor room if you want to stand out. At work, on the other hand, it’s not that simple. A company like Dow has taught me the value of being humble, of realizing that there are some things I can’t do nor control on my own, and that there is great value to learning from the experienced people around me.

Anyways… I have to wake up early to take a plane to visit The Dow Chemical Company headquarters in Midland, Michigan, so I hope you enjoy this informative post!

Internship Program @ Cohen & Company

For this week’s entry I decided I would describe what the intern program is all about at Cohen. Having been involved with the firm in the winter on a part-time basis prevented me from being exposed to the internship program in its entirety. It all starts the first week for training but after that the nine week program is filled with exciting events. A list of some of these events are:

  • Client Tours
  • Etiquette Dinner
  • Networking Training
  • Actual Networking Events
  • Projects and Papers
  • Interviewing other employees
  • Final Presentation

Because of confidentiality I am not able to say which clients we were able to tour however the ability to sit in the board room and talk face to face with the CEO of local companies has been an amazing experience. These clients range from not-for-profit companies to insurance providers. These tours provide a much-needed break from client work and the ability to discuss with these firms how they are handling their business in such a struggling economy has been a very interesting process.

Through the etiquette dinner and networking events, myself and the other interns have learned the importance of making connections from the beginning because you never know who you might have to call upon in the future. Cohen has made an effort to reach out to other local firm with interns for us to network with since they will be the ones we will most likely be dealing with.

One part of the program is that the interns work on a summer-long project. In the past the interns had been separated and worked on two separate assignments “Apprentice” style. For this year, the project was combined into one group and our task is to create a fully functioning Facebook page for Cohen & Company to use for recruiting. Our team just completed our mid-point evaluation and look to be well on the way to creating a great tool for Cohen in the future.

Another assignment we must complete is writing numerous papers on everything from our goals for the internship to a possible client for Cohen and why they would be a good fit for the firm. We were also required to interview 5 different employees and ask them a series of questions to become more aware of our fellow employees. During the final week of our internship we will present in front of the executives of the firm our Facebook page along with a user’s guide to keep it functioning. We will then publish the site and monitor it for our final week.

If anyone has any questions about the program please don’t hesitate to comment below or e-mail me at jvogel@cohencpa.com. Also, for next week what would everyone like to hear about? I will be on the road all next week so if anyone has any suggestions please comment.

You have to love Houston

A fun city called Houston!

All right, I think is time for a fun in Houston only Blog. Trust me, it’s not because I don’t have tons of things to say about what I am learning or doing, it’s just that I have been asked a lot about life Houston and Texas in general so I though I would just go ahead and share it with everyone.

houston

I really don’t know were to start. I guess to make this simple and put it in perspective: Houston is the largest city, from the largest state in the United States. That means that pretty much there is something for everyone, no matter their age or their personal interests.  From cultural events to a very active night life, there is not a day that I have not found something fun going on. Moreover, Houston is a melting pot of nationalities; as a result, if you are feeling adventurous you can try something completely new and learn a little bit more about different music, food and lifestyles. (the city with more restaurants per capita by the way!!)

brit

with friends

(love, good friends, good times )

One thing I think I must share about Houston is that it is expected that you drive 40-45 minutes from home to work and vice versa. Long distances are something normal, since it basically takes you an hour to cross they city and don’t even ask how long does it takes you in rush hour.  This has its pros and cons. It is amazing because when the weekends come, driving 3-4 hours to Austin, San Antonio or Dallas (which by the way are awesome and completely different styles from one another) the drive is really not that bad. In the other hand, the fuel for my car is taking a considerable amount out of my budget. 

That being said, personally I think I have the best setting. It takes me 10-15 minutes to get to downtown, I just jump on the highway go one exit and I am there. I rarely encounter much traffic (that one exit is the one that can be problematic) but I am lucky that being so close, I don’t live in the middle of the city traffic, chaos and pollution.

I can’t believe that I almost forget to talk about the weather. If you are coming to Houston, remember that it is really hot down here. We have had eleven days over 100 degrees and heat warnings were part of the early morning news. Personally I love it, but hey, I am from Ecuador. If you are not used to the sun you better be very careful. It is easy to get dehydrated or really sun burnt.  I have seen a couple of tomatoes walking around and trust me; it does not luck nice or healthy.Nevertheless, if you are careful enough, a long work day can end up with a couple of hours in the pool (with the sun still shinning until 7:00pm…awesome) 

sunburn041106 vs.         poolday

Another emblem from Texas should be their huge trucks. I can’t explain it nor understand it, but the bigger your truck is it seems that the better off you survive on the highways. They apparently own all their routes and will squeeze you (if they have to get you out of their way…alright, maybe not squeeze you but you get the point). Fortunately, my car is not that small and thankfully, I learned to drive in South America (which translates that I really know what crazy driving is), so I am set. (please note the picture with only trucks/pickup’s driving out downtown houston)

texas trucks    trucks in texas

Since everything I have said is wonderful things about this place, I think I have to keep it real. The one thing that is just not that fun is the fact that every time that I am asked if I am a Buckeye I always get a conflictive response back, granted sometimes joking but trust me sometimes it is real. I understand they feel threatened about our football team but really? One, it is still baseball season! and two, I don’t want to argue…I am scared about their big trucks, are you kidding me?

Another thing I don’t like but I actually find kind of funny (and please don’t take it personally if you are a country music lover i.e. Brittany, Jim, Isaac, etc) are the cowboy boots, hats, big… huge… out of proportion belt buckles or intense country music (what’s up with those lyrics?)… I am sorry.. but it is really weird… it looks so funny.. or is it that I am so unused to it?  Anyway, I appreciate the unique style.. Lets leave it like that!!

                                               boots and hats

Anyway, Houston and Texas in general are a great place to be. Its fun, diverse and unique and I can guarantee there is something fun for everyone out there.

Some cool facts about Houston!:

  • Houston has professional teams representing every major sport.
  • Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other city. Houston has more than 11,000 restaurants.
  • Houston has a Theater District second only to New York City in terms of a concentration of seats in a single geographic area. Located downtown, the 17-block Theater District is home to eight performing arts organizations with more than 12,000 seats.
  • Houston has more than 500 cultural, visual and performing arts organizations, 90 of which are devoted to multicultural and minority arts.
  • More than 90 languages are spoken throughout the Houston area.
  • Houston is home to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The largest rodeo in the world, it attracts more than 1.8 million visitors each year. ????? ha ha
  • Houston has a young population; 37 percent of Houstonians are 24 years old or younger and 34 percent are between the ages of 25 and 44.
  • Houston boasts more than 40 colleges, university and institutions – offering higher education options to suit all interests.
  • Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, with a local economic impact of $10 billion. More than 52,000 people work within its facilities, which encompass 21 million square feet. Altogether 4.8 million patients visit them each year.
  • Home to 18 Fortune 500 companies
  • The Port of Houston ranks as the nation’s largest port in international tonnage and second in total tonnage.
  • Houston has the most affordable housing of 10 most populated metropolitan areas; Houston housing costs are 39 percent below the average of 26 U.S. urban populations of more than 1.5 million.
  • Houston has the second lowest cost of living among major American cities.

source: City of Houston

INT. COFFEE SHOP – NIGHT

Int. Coffee Shop
Young intern sips her tea while pondering her trials and tribulations from her first couple of weeks at Marvel and the New York Film Academy.

CoffeeBeanandTeaLeafBeing in a new city, thousands of miles from home, you begin to crave some sort of consistency or “place of your own,” especially if you’re sharing an apartment. I have chosen Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf as my place of solace. The little getaway is right around the corner and offers free wireless internet, not to mention delectable treats. So here I am, in the perfect refuge for a soul-searching, caffeine-loving intern.

An update of events leading up to this moment of complete satisfaction:

Wednesday July 8th: Marvel-Visual Effects Department

  • My first official day at Marvel was spent with the Visual Effects (VFX) Department, notably: Visual Effects Producer Diana Giorgiutti (she handles the VFX budget) and Visual Effects Supervisor Wesley Sewell (he takes care of creative aspect of VFX), two of the coolest people ever.
  • I gained insight into the history of filmmaking and the future of visual effects (as well as some basics that were crutial to understand for someone like me who knows very little about how computers actually work :p).
  • Some of the most useful tools for filmmakers of the 21st century are Cynesync (conference call with super powers) and Previsualization/Animatics (seeing into the future).

Thursday July 9th: Marvel – Art Department

  • After a tour of various rooms, sprinkled with illustrations, models, plans, and hard-working animation gurus, I gained an immense amount of respect for artists. I also realized this was not a field I could ever work in because I don’t think my brain could function so creatively!
  • This day was mostly spent getting to know all of the art department crew and helping with research for visual “references” that would later transform into sets/scene environments.
  • During lunch, I finally met another intern! It turns out “Corporate” (Marvel’s corporate office, located down the street from the production building/studio) has a slew of interns themselves. I have managed to uncover top secret information about intern gatherings from my new Corporate intern friend Louis, and will be tagging along next week for a group outing to a comedy club =) Joking aside, as far as “Connecting w/Other Interns” goes, you should just try to be outgoing and friendly and get to know your fellow interns. Their past experiences could open doors for you in the future, or at the very least, be enlightening and a good topic of conversation for an ice breaker.

Friday July 10th and Saturday July 11th: NYFA

  • My first days working Job #2 as a Promotional Associate for the New York Film Academy (NYFA). Nothing too glamorous here folks, but actually a lot more fun than I imagined. I am so excited to have this position because I get to interact with a ton of different people each day. Furthermore, as I thoroughly enjoy acting, it’s good practice in the sense that you have to maintain energy and positivity every time you walk into a business and  request to display your flyers in their store. This simple task also leaves room for creativity, a challenge I’ve embraced. Instead of just handing over a stack of flyers to the manager, I take pictures of the employees with our posters and t-shirts, thereby buying me more time to discuss the school I’m working for and the programs we offer. The picture below is one of my favorites; it’s a hair salon in Westwood and the staff was so friendly and exciting that the simple task practically turned into a photoshoot.

SigalG

Monday July 12th: Marvel-Production Office

  • Rotated to Production with Production Coordinator, Page Rosenberg-Marvin and Assistant Production Coordinator Paul LaZebnik. Later, got the chance to hang out with a Production Assistant (also named Ali). She had started out working for an agency, which she says, prepared her very well so that’s another type of internship that I’m now looking into for the future.
  • After lunch at Chipotle (yummy), Page took us on a tour of the Iron Man 2 set, which is rapping up production next door. The sets are simply awe-striking in their magnitude and intricacy. I mean, there are massive wooden structures that create the effect of walls, precisely placed lighting, set design, and about 30394304738 million different wires. On a big budget “show,” as they call it, such as Iron Man 2 (and eventually, Thor, when it begins shooting) the movie set functions much like city: everyone knows their trade contributes to the assembly-like process.
  • On a fun sidenote, this was the day I feasted my eyes upon the dreamy Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth, who will play the lead in Thor, and the ageless Gwenyth Paltrow. For more on this and my VERY EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT, look for my latest video blog within the next couple of days on my YouTube Page: http://www.youtube.com/user/itsfun2singalong

Tuesday July 14th: NYFA

Wednesday July 15th: Marvel

  • Spent the day with Producer’s and Director’s Assistants: Dan and Ben, and Production Researcher Eric. Today I shredded a ton of paper, transcribed a script read-through, arranged posters in frames, and made a couple of deliveries. Starting form the bottom in the film industry, my point of view is: the intern is to do what’s asked of them, no matter what it is, and do it without complaint, in a speedy, focused manner. Your goal as an intern or a P.A.(production assistant) is to impress your superiors and make strong enough connections that they will take you with them as they climb the latter or if they’re already near the top, they would be willing to invite you to get closer.
  • Later in the day, things got interesting. Outside of our office they were filming a scene of Iron Man 2 so, with Producer Arne Schmidt’s permission, I snuck out and observed. It was an incredible sight: 50 people standing around, a blue screen in the background, a [very expensive] car as the focus of the shot, and a large piece of machinery holding some sort of silk material in place overhead all for what will probably end up being two seconds of the film. Once they got the shot (the car pulling up 10 feet and my good friend Gwenyth exiting the vehicle), they began to disassemble the entire setup.
  • The last part of my day was special because Arne sat down to speak to me about his life and how his path led him to his current position in the industry. I love hearing people’s “stories” in general, but it was especially great to get to hear the life story of an accomplished producer (especially one that hails from Cleveland, Ohio!).

Thursday July 16th: NYFA

  • NYFA work in Santa Monica again.

Today, Friday July 17th: Marvel

Well, that’s all for now friends! I look forward to your comments/questions. Don’t forget to check out my YouTube Channel for more of the exciting stuff that my life here in LA is made of.

Second Week @ HOPE International

Second Week

June 8-11

I’m ready to hit the ground running starting the first full week. During my touch base with my supervisor I was given the opportunity to create a new model for consolidation going forward for all HOPE’s entities. I was somewhat overwhelmed at first, but was excited for the challenge.

HOPE owns a small rental company, a benefit real estate company, an investment fund, and the HOPE microfinance umbrella organization. I won’t get too technical for those that aren’t accounting majors, but in a nutshell I needed to combine all the financial statements and reconcile all transactions between the entities because they are nullified in the roll-up. I had a two week deadline as the auditors were coming in for the year end audit. (This was going to be especially difficult because usually in audits the information is simply on a roll forward where accounts are the same and the only difference is the transaction amounts. This would have made it simple because I would have had last year’s statements as an example and could tie back for a control measure.) Through my accounting classes and financial modeling training I was able to start the project with little guidance. For those of you that need to take Acct 522 fir your major, I’m going to make a shameless plug here. You need to take Teri Ziegler’s class. Even though it can be intimidating and quite difficult at times, you will learn so much. Her class helped refine my accounting skillset for the real world.

In addition, I was able to organize the model in a more efficient way with my financial modeling training. This mostly included formatting and notations, but would help the auditors trace accounts more easily to tie back numbers.

I spent most of the week working on this project, but I also have another exciting culture update to share. Every Monday the firm opens one of its conference rooms for prayer and every Tuesday we have devotions. I thought being a Christian organization was awesome enough, where our work was holistic in the approach of bringing the gospel to our clients through relationships, but I never imagined a culture so intertwined with its beliefs! We are constantly reminded our work is not for ourselves or even for the social cause of defeating poverty, but instead for God. Now, that’s an interesting concept to throw into organizational behavior. (Not, sure if Professor Wilk reads this, but if you are I expect a comment on this idea!)

Learning points:

  • Prioritization: Building off on last week’s topic of deadlines I’ll touch base more about prioritizing your work and goals. In Business Administration 499 we learn about the priority matrix from Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
I. Urgent and Important    i.e. Crisis II. Not Urgent and Important     i.e. Planning
III. Urgent and Not Important      i.e. E-mail IV. Not Urgent and Not Important       i.e. Busy Work

Most people spend their work time in Quadrants I, III, and IV. The goal however, is to spend your time in quadrant II as that will also minimize quadrant I. You won’t be able to eliminate every task, however try to screen Quadrant III items and discard IV items as necessary to make most efficient use of your time. This will not only help you achieve your goals more efficiently but also allow you to have more responsibility and impact on your organization.

  • Formatting is extremely important in the business world due to the significance of communication. In academics most professors do not stress the presentation of ideas, rather only the content of idea itself. However, in real life if you cannot communicate your ideas, they may as well never have been created. Thus, learn how to format reports, powerpoints, and excel documents! The best examples are usually things you can find from previous documents at work, or if you don’t have any precedents to use look online for similar documents by reputable corporations. Formatting should be concise, clear to read, and be able to highlight significant information. An example of this could be color coding or indenting in excel. Note: you need to be careful formatting does not get excessive; projects aren’t “art projects.” A good resource for fast formatting excel shortcuts is http://www.wallstreetprep.com/blog/excel_resources.php .

Microfinance points: This week I want to introduce the concept of “PAR” or portfolio at risk discussed in our weekly staff meeting. In a nutshell, PAR is a control metric for measuring the risk of funds, or in HOPE’s situation its microlending portfolio.

  • What is PAR?
    • Portfolio at risk is defined as the value of all loans outstanding that have at least one installment of principal past due.
  • Key Concepts
    • Includes the total outstanding value of the loan
    • Looks at the principal, not interest
    • Different from Arrears Rate
  • How is PAR calculated?
    • Portfolio at Risk > 30 days + (Value of Renegotiated Loans Gross Loan Portfolio / Gross Loan Portfolio)
    • The most common measure of PAR is >30 days
    • It is important to note that this ratio does not provide any information about WHY clients are delinquent.
  • Example:
    • Say I take out a loan for $1,200 and am repaying the principal at a rate of $100 each month.
    • I miss my monthly payment in month four
    • How much of Micah’s loan has been paid back?
      • $300
    • How much of Micah’s loan is still outstanding?
      • $900
    • What is the value of payments in Arrears?
      • $100
    • What is the value of Portfolio at Risk?
      • $900
  • What drives PAR?
    • Changes in client delinquency
      • More clients begin repaying late
      • Institution renegotiates loans for delinquent clients
    • Growth or contraction of the loan portfolio
      • This can mask problems in portfolio
  • One of the current challenges in the microfinance industry is finding ways to reduce or prevent volatility in PAR.
    • What do you think are some ways to do this?
      • I will provide some industry responses in next week’s microfinance points, but I’m curious to see what ideas you have.