Saturday, October 31, 2009

Businessweek's Kellogg Virtual Tour

Stumbled onto this virtual tour, which might be useful for prospectives, while checking to see if my friend/classmate's Businessweek MBA Life blog was up; still no sign of the first official post (following the introductory post).

http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/08/0811_northwestern_school_tour/1.htm

It's kind of cool looking through all of the slides and knowing where they were all taken.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shotgun Update

There is always a lot going on at Kellogg, and it can be difficult to find time to write up blog entries in the thick of it. Therefore, I'll have to rely on "shotgun" updates where I cover a lot of different topics pretty often I think. So here we go.

Midterms
I had my last midterm on Tuesday in DEC-433, Decision Making Under Uncertainty. It felt great wrapping up Midterm Madness and moving past the accompanying stress. Afterward, I went through about 2 days of burnout and was unable to focus or get much done for my classes. Fortunately, there was a lull in the workload this week due to midterms, so the burnout couldn't have come at a better time, and now I'm back to fighting form. It's funny, but even after making it through many difficult projects at IBM and building up a decent list of professional accomplishments, I was still stressing out about the midterms; so where my classmates, many of whom have much more impressive backgrounds. In theory, we shouldn't care about midterms, right?

I think I ended up with 3 strong performances and one that was below-average (accounting). Even after telling myself to not get fooled by how easy the accounting concepts and classes were, I still didn't spend much time preparing for the midterm. I'm certain that my grade is going to reflect my cavalier attitude. On the flip side, I managed to ace my TurboFin final, which felt great given how much time I've been devoting to that class. I'm definitely feeling a bit more relaxed going into the 2nd half of the course.


Consulting Club
I went to the Consulting Club's 2-hr presentation "Intro to Consulting," which provided a general overview of the recruiting process, case interview advice, and a case interview demonstration, on Wednesday. I was surprised by the turnout, which was not as high as I expected given how much people talk about finance and consulting being the mainstays of MBA recruiting; that said, there were still something like 60+ students at the presentation.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the presenters echo pretty much the same advice that I wrote up for case interviews in this post, such as using multiple sheets of paper, writing out the mental math, and not using canned frameworks (this last one was also repeated by the consulting recruiters that they surveyed). They also endorsed Case In Point, which is the book that I relied on heavily throughout the entire process. The book's author, Marc Cosentino, is hosting a few workshops at Kellogg in December, and I'm looking forward to attending those.


Course Bidding
We just wrapped up 1st-round course bidding today, so of course everyone was talking about their results today on Facebook and in class. The actual bidding process was fairly straightforward, although you wouldn't think so by the large number of presentations that they had on the subject; the difficult part was devising a strategy to get all of the classes that you wanted for as few bid points as possible.

This is where the rockstar professors have a huge impact, particularly on bidding inflation. The professors can really take your Kellogg experience to the next level, and students are fully aware of this, so the rockstar classes typically go for a substantial premium. The most expensive course that I know of was Negotiations with Professor Medvec, which went for 1452 points! Of the 2000 bid points that we get for the Winter and Spring quarter this year, some students spent as little as 2 points, and others pretty much exhausted the majority of their points. One of the biggest surprises, which left more than a few students upset, was that the 8:30am Marketing class with Prof Hennessey (rockstar) went for 400 bid points, and the same class/prof at 10:30 went for 1 bid point. Busicow said it well today when they mentioned that a lot of us outsmarted ourselves by thinking that the 10:30 class would be more expensive given the better time.

I spent 1200 points, got into four classes, and was waitlisted for one (Microeconomics). I'm pretty happy with my bidding results, though I'll have to bid for another Microecon class in the 2nd round, since it is a core course that isn't offered at Jacobs in the Spring quarter. I'd like to spend no more than 50 points for the class, though we'll see how it turns out.

At first, I planned on taking a lot of quant courses throughout my two years, but after numerous presentations and conversations, I've started valuing the soft skills courses a lot more. In response, I've decided to mix up the courses as much as possible, possibly favoring qualitative classes. I signed up for 2 Management & Organizations (MORS, which is all about soft skills) classes next quarter, including Management Communications, which is taught by Professor Van Camp, a rockstar, and cost me 700 points. Here is what my schedule is going to look like next quarter.
It will be interesting to see what the 5-course workload will be like next quarter. Although the tuition that we pay covers 4-5 courses per quarter, most students normally opt for 4, especially in the winter quarter when recruiting is in full swing. I'm hoping that I can pull off 5 courses in most of my quarters, but that will depend on my experience with this first one.

Monday, October 26, 2009

AT Kearney Case Competition

I'm almost at the end of the first stage of the AT Kearney Case competition, which lasts 10 days, and I've really enjoyed it so far. The timing couldn't have been worse though, since it fell right in the middle of Midterm Madness at Kellogg. Given how busy things have been as a direct result, I've probably dedicated between 6-8 hours the last 9 days to the case competition. Tomorrow, my team will submit our Powerpoint deck detailing our findings and recommendations to the ATK folks.

Last Friday, before handling my business in Drag TG (I may or may not go into details on this in a future post), my team went through the mock interview portion of the case competition. We had to interview 3 Kearney consultants who were role-playing as specific characters from the case. I was surprised at how much the interviews paralleled my experience with the the BCG case interviews. Although it was a bit different, given that we had already received the details and preliminary data for the case before hand versus getting it in the interview, the process of trying to analyze the problem was identical.

We started by asking the consultant questions based on our initial hypothesis and then had a discussion that eventually led him or her to give us some relevant piece of data. If we hadn't stated why we wanted that particular data, then the consultant would press us on this. Once we had the new piece of data, we spent a few minutes looking over it, stated our observations from the data, and then used that new insight to direct our next set of questions. This process repeated until we either collected all of their additional data or ran out of time. Fortunately, I was very comfortable with the set up, so I was able to do fairly well on the interview that I led.

I didn't realize it at the time, but this was a really ingenious way for AT Kearney to perform informal case interviews on us. At the time, I thought it was a little weird that they asked us for our names before each mock interview, given that they had our team name in their schedules. I later confirmed that they were evaluating us the whole time via my teammate, who says that she saw the consultant put a star next to my name at the end of the interview that I led.

So basically, if you are interested in going into consulting, then case competitions may be a really good low-pressure way to gain some case interview experience before the real deal.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting Involved 2.0: Special Procrastination Edition

Midterms have officially begun in the Kellogg bubble. This momentous occasion was preceded by a temporary surge of students into the Quiet Study Room (QSR). The QSR is where students go when they want to work on something with minimal distractions. The Loud Study Room (LSR) is where you go if you don't mind stopping periodically to chat it up with classmates. One of my 2nd-year section leaders quipped that "the QSR is where the antisocials study." That said, I'm a regular in the QSR, and I'm pretty familiar with who the other regulars are at this point.

I have two midterms this week: Business Strategy (tomorrow) and TurboFinance (take-home). I've been working on the TurboFin midterm for a while now, and I'm procrastinating a bit before I switch gears to Biz Strat. I've run out of interesting websites and videos, so I've decided to write an update on the activities I am/was involved in.
Rugby
Unfortunately, this is out. I quit the team two weeks and over $200 after joining. It is hard to stay conditioned and go to practice/games regularly with how dynamic the schedule is. In addition, all of my group meetings kept overlapping with practice. I kept on waffling on this decision because of how much fun I was having, but in the end, I had to accept that rugby wasn't a priority for me during my time at Kellogg.

KSA Academic Rep
I ended up losing the election to my classmate and fellow Texan (preKellogg, not by birth), Ram. I was glad to see him win the position, because he is ridiculously well qualified for it. Ram has a PhD in engineering, and he used to be a professor at UT. My section couldn't ask for a better Academic rep.

As a side note to future Kellogg students, if you really want a position, be prepared to work for it, though sometimes that isn't necessary.

Neighborhood Business Initiative (NBI)
We are 3 weeks into our NBI project, which is fantastic. I was ecstatic when I found out what we were doing, but I soon realized that trying to handle all of it was way too ambitious for our timeframe. We've since reduced the project's scope and are now ramping up on the work. NBI requires a lot of outside time, so I've been stuggling a bit to do my due diligence on it.

Consulting Club 1st-Year Director
After wrestling with the decision for a while, I decided to apply for, and subsequently received one of the six 1st-year Director positions in the Consulting Club. I was afraid that by trying to help my classmates I'd actually be taking away an opportunity for one of them to network and obtain an internship with a consulting firm. In the end, I don't know if I made the right decision, but I intend to do everything possible to help out in order to justify the decision (for me at least). I'm attending the first leadership meeting for the club later today and then helping out at a BCG info session afterward.
Class Host
I'm the class host for my 1:30 DECS class on Tuesdays, but I still haven't had to take any prospectives to class. This class has actually been at the center of a storm here at Kellogg, as most students have been complaining about the disparity between the teaching materials and course difficulty that resulted from an overhaul of the course this year. The administration has been very receptive to the concerns that students are voicing, and we are already seeing changes to the curriculum in response.
I'm also doing some temporary events, like case competitions and Drag TG this Friday. Hopefully, I'll be able to put up a (potentially career-limiting) video of our performance at TG sometime in the future.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Brief Note on Hispanics at Kellogg

I'm attending a real estate financial modeling workshop hosted by the Real Estate club right now, and I thought I'd take a small portion of the lunch break to write something up on diversity at Kellogg, specifically with regards to Hispanics. Jeremy, a classmate in the JD-MBA program, has written up a couple of great posts that go into more detail on the subject than I plan to.

In my class of over 500, there are only 16 Hispanics (3%), which Kellogg defines as American born students of Spanish descent (the number goes up if you include Latinos, those born outside of the US). I was shocked by the number when it was first mentioned during CIM. Kellogg does a great job of putting together a diverse class, and I don't think the problem is any indication of a flaw in their process. Rather, I think that the problem has to do with a diminishing supply of Hispanic applicants as you move up into the top business school tiers.

Earlier this week, I was at a Bain & Company event in their Chicago office, and I had a chance to ask their North American Head of Diversity Recruiting about the topic. She also felt that the problem was related to supply, especially at the recruiting level, where you have a lot of companies that have identified diversity as an important strategic component vying for that small pool of resources.

On a related note, Kellogg has a Minority Preview Weekend coming up in about a month, and although registration is full, it is still possible to put yourself on the waitlist. I didn't attend last year, but based on Jeremy's blog post, it looks like a great way to learn about the school. They are even pulling out some of the ROCKSTAR professors to do mock classes for the attendants. I'm hoping to squeeze in Professor Rogers' Entrepreneurial Finance course this year.

Kellogg Preview: Minority Prospective Student Weekend – November 13-14, 2009
The admissions office along with the Africa Business Club (ABC), Black Management Association (BMA) and Hispanic Business Student Association (HBSA) are excited to once again host this annual event. Over this two day event, participants will enjoy mock classes with Professor Harry Kraemer and Professor Steve Rogers and connect with an assigned KPW Buddy while interacting with students from the larger Kellogg community.
I'll be participating in a student panel on behalf of the Hispanic Business Student Association during the Preview Weekend; I'll be the one nervously fumbling with the microphone I'm sure. If you happen to be attending or are going to be on campus for anything, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'm more than happy to find some time to sit down, chat, and answer any questions that you might have.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Building Social Capital at Kellogg

I've been struggling to get a blog post out the past week. Although plenty of blog-worthy things have been going down, I just haven't been able to write anything that I thought was strong enough to warrant my clicking on "Publish Post." I'm gearing up for my first all-nighter tonight, so I figured I'd give it another shot.

The Leadership in Organization class that everyone takes during orientation ended about 4 weeks ago, but I wasn't completely done with it until yesterday. Our final group assignment was to select and interview a set of executives on Social Capital, e.g. networking, use the course concepts to analyze their strategies for networking, and then write a 10+ page paper on our findings.

Each of my teammates interviewed one or two executives, and then we selected two to serve as the basis of our analysis. After a very long week of writing, revising, reviewing, and repeating (the 4 Rs...sort of) my team submitted our paper a full 5 hours ahead of the deadline. Overall, I didn't think that the paper did much to enhance my understanding of the material, but the interviews were fantastic and well worth the hassle of writing the paper. I was able to speak candidly with two senior executives in the consulting industry, and I picked up some interesting information on networking at their level.

The paper also allowed me to formalize some of my random thoughts on networking while at Kellogg, and it provided some validation for the strategy that I've settled on during my time here. I've basically decided to focus on building my relationships via shared experiences with my classmates in activities that I'm interested in, such as case competitions, clubs, and group assignments. This is in line with our paper's theme and core recommendation, which was that there is no single "best" networking strategy for everyone, so students should focus on developing a strategy that compliments their strengths and personality.

At first, I thought that I would be seriously damaging my overall experience at Kellogg by forgoing the bar scene (namely the Keg), which is a major component to socializing up here. I was afraid that I might miss out on the opportunity to develop the strong friendships that all of the alums had mentioned as a highlight of their experience. Fortunately, I have learned that you really can make the experience into whatever you want while still having fun and meeting lots of great people. All of my classmates are fantastic, and I've really enjoyed working with all of my teams so far. My Leadership team is even talking about making custom MORS t-shirts (that's how we roll).

Just today, I spent 12 hours working with my team (see below) on the Booth IPO Case Challenge. Our team had 5 1st-year students with almost no prior finance experience; needless to say, we spent a lot of time on the Google looking up how to do valuations (and watching YouTube videos...some relevant...some not so much). Ultimately, we decided not to submit an entry after struggling to come up with a valuation that we could justify. Although we weren't able to put something together, we all learned quite a bit about valuing an IPO, and I'm glad that I signed up for it.




Dang. I still feel like this is a pretty weak post. Oh well, at least I'm not getting graded on this. Midterms start this week, so I should have something to say about that soon enough.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

MORS-430: The Swiss Army Knife of Kellogg Classes?

I occasionally (read rarely) get questions from folks that happen to stumble onto the blog. Personally, I love it! I choose to write about things that I think are interesting about grad school, but I know that you all may be seeking first-hand information about a completely different aspect of the Kellogg experience. I appreciate that, because until recently I was in the same boat, so I strive to respond to those questions within 24 hours with an honest answer from a slightly biased viewpoint (I am still a Kellogg student after all).

I normally won't put email questions or responses up on the blog, but I thought this last one was general enough to provide good info to anyone on the outside looking in. In addition, it touched on the value of soft skills, a topic that was mentioned by Robert Macdonald, the CEO of Proctor&Gamble (that my friends, is a namedrop), during a presentation on leadership today when he urged us to focus on building those skills in grad school.

The question was whether or not the compressed class that we take during orientation (MORS-430: Leadership in Organizations) is the most useful class at Kellogg. Obviously, I've only spent 3 weeks in a handful of classes at this point, so keep the following in perspective.
At Kellogg, there are good professors, not-so-good professors, and then ROCKSTAR professors. The rockstars are amazing and really make a difference in the classroom.

For the Leadership in Organizations course, it looks like they brought out their rockstars, and that really enhanced the entire experience. I had Professor Medvec, who is a renowned expert in Negotiations, which was a key component of the course. The course lasted 12 days, and every class was 3 hours long (2x as long as standard classes). During that time, we covered 5 primary topics: Decision Making, Managing Teams, Negotiation, Social Capital (personal networks), and Leading Change in Organizations. We used case discussions, simulations, movies, readings, and lectures to cover all of the material, which was interesting and in some cases eye-opening (particularly decision making biases and teamwork pitfalls). I still can't say if it will be the most useful course that I take during my two years here, but it was extremely important. The topics that we discussed seem to underpin a lot of major business interactions and are rather crucial to teamwork at Kellogg. In addition, several of the concepts have already been reinforced in our other classes. Overall, the class was a very fun and demanding way to begin grad school.
As I mentioned above, the class was a lot of fun and covered some really interesting topics. For example, during the Negotiations portion, we split off into teams of 3 and spent an hour negotiating with another team in the context of 2 companies trying to agree on the terms of a partnership. Each team was given unique information about their priorities going into the negotiations, and you received points at the end based on how many of your key items you ended up getting. We had already discussed some basic Negotiations strategies, including Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers (MESOs - Prof Medvec came up with this, and she swears by it), which we were expected to utilize. The best part of the exercise was afterward in class, when everyone wrote up their cumulative points on the board. Some teams that thought they had done fairly well actually got logrolled in the end, coming away with pretty bad deals.

After finishing the course, I became much more interested in the MORS (Management of Organizations) department, which specializes in soft skills topics, but I still don't know if I'll end up fitting anymore classes from their catalog into my schedule.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Scheduling or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Smartphone

Just a few weeks ago I was wondering what my schedule would look like when school started. I had a list (an ambitious list!) of things that I was hoping I could keep doing regularly even after the quarter began. I've already started crossing items off of that list.

It doesn't take long at Kellogg to fill up your calendar with a plethora of classes, meetings, and events. Classes are generally held for 1.5 hours twice a week in one of two configurations: Mon/Thurs or Tues/Friday. There are some classes that instead meet once a week for three hours or on the remaining days, but I haven't come across any of them yet. Club activities, school events, and company presentations occur on a daily basis, and they all pretty much fall in two timeslots: 12:15-1:15 and 5:15-6:15. Again, there are some events that last longer or fall outside of these timeslots, but they are the exceptions.

Any remaining time in your schedule is quickly absorbed by group meetings that occasionally run past their allotted time, regular day-to-day activities (like paying bills with loans, ordering business cards, or verifying that you have enough money in your bank account for that $2 cup of coffee and $2 muffin that get you going in the morning), socializing, homework, and additional responsibilities that come from leadership roles, competitions, etc.

Scheduled events can and probably will change from time to time, so it is worthwhile to have a way to manage your calendar on the go. For most students, this is accomplished via a laptop (Snow Leopard's built in Exchange support is amazing) and a smartphone. I've noticed that there are more iPhones than Type-A Personalities at Kellogg. If you are an incoming student, you should definitely consider picking up a smartphone or hiring a personal assistant. I hear that undergrads are a great source of cheap labor.

Here is what my calendar looked like both last week and this week; this was taken straight from iCal. Keep in mind, that I have a very small number of leadership roles at this point, and I still haven't finished adding everything to this week's calendar. Nonetheless, I think it should give you a good idea of what things are like for a typical student, and why it feels like a month has passed after every week.

Week 2


Week 3