Monday, July 27, 2009

State of Mind

I need to write my "farewell" email to send out to the large number of IBMers that have helped me during my time with the company; I've decided to warm up with a blog post. There has been a lot going on the last couple of weeks as the countdown to Kellogg reaches 0, but I won't bother with every little minutiae. Instead, I want to focus on something that I've been thinking about the last couple of days.

One of the reasons that I'm excited about grad school is that I believe I am now mature enough to fully appreciate and capitalize on my time in school. When I first started my undergrad 9 years ago, I was entranced by the thought of going out, enjoying myself, and making college as memorable as possible (or at least as comparable as possible to the college "party" movies that I had seen). Although I never lost site of the coursework or why I was actually in Austin, it generally took a 2nd seat to having a good time. I busted my butt and was able to graduate with distinction, but I still think I could have structured the experience better to improve my development. But alas, hindsight is 20/20.

After I graduated, I started dutifully working at IBM, and within 5 months, I purchased my first house. That one-two combination was incredibly effective at helping me transition into a more-adult mindset. At work, I was developing my abilities and identifying skills that were either missing or required improvement. I enjoyed watching how my coworkers and I handled different situations, making secret little notes in my mind about behaviors that I liked (and wanted to emulate) or disliked. I gained a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses as I progressed, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. It was at work that I started thinking about my future, and what I wanted out of life.

The house was a beast of burden outside of work. I probably jumped into home ownership sooner than I should have, but I don't regret it. Besides the work required to maintain the house, I had to begin tracking my finances more closely. Before then, I was reckless with my spending, believing that I deserved to be after all of those years of student living. Once I started looking at my finances, my interest in investing that started in high school (I doubled my money investing in videogame companies before losing it all by listening to anonymous email tips like a bonehead) and disappeared in college (my money was all invested in ramen and tuna) returned. I spent a lot of time reading up on various business topics, until I realized that I was more interested in business than in engineering at that point.

Going into the MBA, I am extremely grateful for the 5 years separating my undergrad and grad experiences. I realize the significance that the next two years will have on the rest of my life, and I intend to devote myself to it completely. Most blokes are going to be playing at 10, but I'm going to 11.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's here...the home stretch!

I have 11 days of work left; four days until I move out of the house and become a nomad for the rest of my time in Austin; twenty three days until I head up to Evanston with my parents (can't wait to explore the area with them); and a little over a month until I go on my KWEST trip with 20+ classmates. Needless to say, I feel like I am fast approaching the beginning of the two years that will mark the start of the next chapter of my life.

The Kellogg Fall quarter class selection form (hardly a form; it had 4 choices and a submit button) went live a few days ago. I had to choose between Finance I, TurboFinance (combines FinI and FinII), Microeconomic Analysis, and Marketing Management. The other three classes I'll be taking are assigned by Kellogg and common to everyone.

Throughout the past week, there has been an ongoing discussion amongst incoming students on Twitter and an MBA Forum on whether to take FinI or TurboFinance. The decision seems to rest on whether you want a deeper understanding of Finance (take FinI and then FinII, since then you devote more time to it) or the ability to take an extra elective and cover the topics in FinI/II (take TurboFinance).

I was leaning towards TurboFinance, but I was curious to find out what the workload was like. I sent an email to my Kellogg buddy, who was able to get feedback from two of his classmates that took the class. They reported that the workload is 2x as much as FinI because you get less time to complete each assignment, but that it was manageable as part of a 4-course schedule (given you work a bit harder). That was enough to sell me on it, as I'm looking to take a lot of electives to gain a wide breadth of knowledge at Kellogg; I figure that I'll gain a deeper understanding in the areas that are most applicable to my career by actually applying those skills on the job afterwards. I'll definitely blog periodically on what TurboFinance is like as I go through the quarter.

Speaking of blogging, I have committed to keeping this blog updated regularly throughout my time at Kellogg. I figure that I'll have enough free time to do it since I won't have to worry about recruiting during the first year. Now that I've stated that commitment publicly, I'll look like a real jacka** if I don't follow through, and I don't want that. Consider that my motivation!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

BCG Interview Materials

BCG Interview Materials, originally uploaded by oneillo.
I was in the middle of packing up the last of my things, when i came across my almost-new $50 padfolio (only used twice), which contained my notes from the four case problems and the company materials I had received.

I glanced over the case notes, recalling the wave of thoughts and emotions that accompanied each one and the indescribable joy/relief that I felt after "murdering" the final two.

Anyways, I thought that some of you might want to see the materials I received. I showed them to my GF, who is a graphic designer for an advertising agency, and she seemed impressed with them and the "Grow Further" slogan.

Speaking of BCG, I went through the CareerLeader assessment for Kellogg last week. According to my final report, Strategic Planning and Business Development was the only career path that I had a high affinity towards. Management consulting was a moderate match. Assuming that this is accurate, it could be fun to do some strategy consulting post grad school..

Anyways, back to my packing. I move out of my home of four years in roughly 10 days!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

This should be required reading for all MBA students

Wow, I came across this blog by Marc Andreessen on managing one's career, and although it is only 4 short articles (an intro and 3 others), the information in it is fantastic.

Here are some quotable quotes:

These posts are aimed at high-potential people who want to excel throughout their careers and make a significant impact on their fields and the world. These posts are not appropriate for people for whom work/life balance is a high priority or for whom lifestyle is particularly important -- if that's you, there are plenty of existing career planning resources for you already!

The world is a very malleable place.
If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.

Try very very hard to go to one of the best colleges or universities in the world for your chosen field.

Don't worry about being a small fish in a big pond -- you want to always be in the best pond possible, because that's how you will get exposed to the best people and the best opportunities in your field.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

House Situation and....I'm broke. Yay!

I just hit a milestone earlier today in preparing to head off to Evanston: I have now spent more money than I have in my checking and savings account. Fortunately, I have a credit card which has allowed me to avoid the pain of seeing both accounts zeroed out until my next paycheck. I'm pretty sure that I'll have to tap into the IBM stock that I have accrued via the Employee Stock Purchase Plan during the past couple of years, but it doesn't help that the shares have gone down $8 in the last month (I need every last penny!).

My house, of course, is the reason for the demise of my savings. I am paying $2500 to get gutters installed on the house. It's funny; I never realized that gutters weren't standard on all houses until I bought one, and subsequently, looked at all of the houses around me. Fortunately, the gutters are part of new plan to lease the house out that I think will ultimately pay off in the end and anchor me to Austin until I can return.

One of my biggest concerns going into grad school has been what to do with my house. Initially, I thought that I would have enough money to keep on paying for the house through at least December, worst case scenario, if I were unable to unload it; that was overly optimistic. Once I started taking care of the flood of expenses leading up to my move to Evanston, I realized that it would be difficult to keep paying for it past September, and that seriously (seriously) troubled me. I have been trying to keep my loans down to a minimum during the next couple of years in an effort to repay it all within 2 years (3 max).

I didn't think the house would be an issue when I first put it up for sale at the beginning of April. It's a great house if I do say so myself, and I had just painted it and installed tile, making it look better than ever. On top of that, it's located in a somewhat upscale golf-course community, though in the community's "starter" neighborhood. I imagined that it would take 2 months at most to sell the house at market price.

I watched eagerly as a steady stream of prospective buyers (> 50 ultimately) passed through the house. Almost all of them left positive feedback, saying that the house was well maintained inside and out. The only negative feedback that I received (repeatedly) was the fact that the house backs to a major road. I tried to counter this with some videos (one and two) proving that that the road isn't really noisy at all; it's used mainly for commuting to and from work. Unfortunately, even with the Michael-Bay-esque videos, I received no offers.

At the end of June, I decided to open up my options and go back to my original plan, which was to try leasing the house. I learned that you can have 2 real estate agents working for you concurrently, as long as one is trying to lease and the other is trying to sell. I immediately put the house up at a price that was about $90 shy of what it would take to cover all of the costs. Fortunately, I received an application on the first day from a family that seems like a great fit. I'm looking forward to signing the contract to formalize everything this Wednesday.

As far as selling the house, I did receive my first offer this weekend after dropping the price to $5K below market value. The offer, which seemed a bit insulting, was $10K below my asking price. After I asked my agent to tell them "Thanks, but no thanks", they came back with an offer that was much closer to my asking price. Since I'm already in the process of leasing, I responded once again with a "Thanks, but no thanks".

Although we haven't contractually finalized the lease, it feels good to know that I'm so close to getting the house situation resolved.