Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 2011 Challenge to Grad School Students

There are a lot of companies and individuals that have done amazing things for their brands by creating and distributing original content for free. For example, Harvard puts out the Harvard Business Review, which I imagine has some of the most widely distributed articles in the business community, McKinsey & Co puts out the McKinsey Quarterly, 37signals created and shared Ruby on Rails, which is now a standard for web development, Fred Wilson made a name for himself via his A VC blog, and Kellogg distributes bite-sized bits of their latest research via Kellogg Insight.

I am a huge fan (of Justin-Bieber-fan-like proportions) of creating and sharing original content of all kinds, so I'm issuing a challenge to anyone and everyone in grad school for 2011.

Create and share something

Grad school is the perfect time to do it. There is a good chance that you will have to submit a final project for at least 1 class next year. Instead of looking at it as just another assignment, consider it an opportunity to add something to your professional or personal portfolio.

Latch on to a class that you enjoy, center that project on something that you are passionate about, and put your heart into it with the knowledge that you intend to share it. Schools and professors should be supportive of this endeavor. What school wouldn't want to be known for having students that are contributing original content in their area (in addition to their professors).

It doesn't have to be perfect, and it doesn't have to be groundbreaking or even read and loved by millions (like Harry Potter). It just has to be your ideas. Who knows? That bit of work that you share might give someone else the inspiration necessary to change the world.

And if you are looking for a place to share it, I suggest a blog, YouTube, or Slideshare.

Here are a few of the things that I've shared in 2010.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Improving daily efficiency

While at Kellogg, I've focused on improving my daily efficiency. I figure this is a great time to experiment with and ingrain different work habits because grad school can be as intense as working, and I'm sure it will become harder to do so once I'm back in the real world.  Furthermore, becoming as efficient as possible will be key to realizing better life balance in the future.

Here are some things that have worked for me.
  1. Getting rid of my TV - I used to have a glorious 65" HD TV that I spent many fond hours with, but that was the problem. Spending hours watching TV is too easy to do, and it keeps me from truly focusing on anything else. So, I got rid of the TV before coming to Kellogg. Not having a TV has worked out so well that I've vowed to not get another one for as long as possible.
  2. Limiting myself to one daily trip to Kellogg - I live about a mile away from Jacobs, so it takes me 30 minutes round-trip to walk to school. This hurts whenever I have a morning and evening class, because I end up spending 12+ hours at Jacobs, but at least I can use that time to do HW.
  3. Combining trips into one daily "To Do" trip - In the winter time, it is a chore to suit up with the layers necessary to stay warm only to then remove all of those layers when I get somewhere.
  4. Prepping meals at home as often as possible - Saves me trips to go pick up food.
  5. Wall of Assignments - gives me a quick way to see when assignments are due and to decide what to work on.
  6. Scheduling out blocks of time for specific activities - I'm still not doing this diligently, but whenever I do, it seriously cuts down on the time I waste in between things. If I don't have an idea of what I'm going to work on after I finish something, I'm more likely to get sucked into the internet, or to start playing guitar, etc.
  7. Trying to schedule every meeting in an assigned, contiguous block of time - If meetings are scheduled sporadically throughout the day, then I've chopped up my time to work on things into small chunks making it harder to make meaningful progress on anything. Then there's the switching cost associated with interruptions, like getting ready for a meeting, and that time tends to add up quickly. Furthermore, those transitions are when I have a higher chance of getting distracted.
  8. Disabling pop-up notifications on the laptop - I used to get a lot of pop-up notifications on the Mac, and I always stopped what I was doing to address those interruptions (particularly emails, which you get a ton of in school). That just kills my concentration and results in more switching costs.
  9. Hiding the dock on the Mac - If I don't hide it, then I tend to check it often to see if I've gotten new emails, allowing myself to stop whatever I'm doing to read those emails.
  10. Disabling the blinking notification light on my cell phone - Same as above but for both emails and text messages.
A lot of my changes tend to focus on minimizing both the number of and opportunity for interruptions throughout the day. I've become convinced that multitasking leads to crappy work, and I benefit from having long, uninterrupted stretches of time to focus on things.

The TED talk below by Jason Fried covers some similar ground. I finally got around to reading his book, Rework, which is a pretty short read with some ideas that are both interesting and common-sensical on getting things done. Definitely worth the read in my opinion. And it's only $9 on the Kindle.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

List of Kellogg Clubs

Just a quick tip.

There is a full list of Kellogg's full-time clubs available at that includes links to their websites.

If you still can't find what you are looking for there, I'd definitely recommend using the search box on the Kellogg homepage because you can normally turn up some useful stuff with it (like the link above).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Hope that everyone is having a great break with friends, family, and loved ones.

For those of you going through the grad school application process, best of luck.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Teamwork: on knowing when to hand off the baton

One of the "skills" that I've picked up for handling group assignments is knowing when to disengage and move on to the next assignment. This is particularly helpful when I'm bogged down with a ton of assignments, because there comes a point when the time spent refining an already good assignment is much better spent working on something else. It's all about the law of diminishing returns.

There's no exact way to know when to disengage, but some of the questions that I ask myself are:
  • Will any additional input from me make this substantially better?
  • Have I learned everything that I can learn from the assignment? Or at least 80% of what I can learn
  • At this point, are we just working on stylistic/subjective edits? This is particularly relevant on any written assignment, since everyone has their own writing style
  • Is all of the necessary content there?
Once I get a sense that it's time to disengage, I'll normally just drop off and let whoever has opted to finish the assignment take the baton over the finish line.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

OIBoard - My pre-Kellogg project

The summer before applying to Kellogg, I spent a few months working on a Perl/CGI-based website called Online Investment Board ( The idea was to create a "Craigslist" to match people that needed capital with small investors. It was an attempt to create an online angel investor network.

Shortly after getting a beta version online, I shifted gears to grad school applications and then preparing for grad school, eventually deciding to take down the site and archive the code.

Although the site has been long gone, I got on the Wayback Machine and decided to look it up for giggles. I was surprised to find a couple of archived versions of it, though all of the "sweet" graphics and CSS formatting have been lost.

The OIboard homepage!

And some of my first postings, which I attracted via Facebook ads (I was shocked to find at the time that people actually clicked on them) and were undoubtedly spam/scams.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Augmented Reality: the best is yet to come

Last week, Word Lens, a new iPhone app, got a lot of attention because of the neat way it is able to translate words from Spanish to English and vice versa using the iPhone screen as a viewer. Check out their promotional video to see what I mean.

The app is an example of augmented reality, which just means augmenting the real world with additional information, an area that I am extremely excited about. Word Lens is not the first application of augmented reality or even the most prominent; televised football has been using it for years now with the yellow first-down line on TV and Layar created an augmented reality browser mobile app that is pretty neat (here is a video showing that in action).  But it shows that the area is picking up momentum.

I think that we are going to see a lot of amazing stuff coming in this space in the near future, especially now that smart phones are providing the means to do this everywhere. For example, imagine:
  • Having a heads-up display on your car's windshield with useful information
  • Being able to hold up your phone to the front of a restaurant and learn about its menu: pricing, dietary options, offerings
  • Seeing GPS directions on the streets in front of you instead of on a small, digital map 

Friday, December 17, 2010

I love people mashups

I love technologies, organizations, schools, etc, that allow people from different backgrounds, cultures, etc, to come together, because unpredictable and beautiful things can then come about from the cross-pollination. Case in point:

According to Freshness Factor Five Thousand, Jason Mraz's blog, what you have here is:
Qawwali Flamenco is a meeting between the Pakistani Sufi tradition of Qawwali and Spanish Flamenco. Though the genres may appear quite different, they are actually very similar in that the music invites improvisational story telling, crying and wailing about love lost and found, from subjects spanning from romance to god devotion.

The double album was recorded live at the Fes Festival of Sacred Music, Morocco, in June 2005. Faiz Ali Faiz leads his Qawwali Ensemble, while Miguel Poveda and Juan 'Duquende' Cortes are joined by guitarist Chicuelo to form the Spanish contingent.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Advanced Business Strategy Final Project

During the 3rd quarter (Mar-Jun 1st year), my most challenging class was easily Advanced Business Strategy, at least in terms of raw workload. In particular, our final project on NBCU was at times overwhelming, taking up a considerable amount of time throughout the quarter. When I finally finished the 1st draft of my portion of the project, I felt an incredible sense of relief, even though we still had to do more work to bring all of the portions together.

As tough as the project may have been, I did appreciate the fact that by the end of it I had picked up a pretty deep understanding of the industry and a few of the major trends. It also happened to be somewhat similar to the type of experience that I'm expecting in consulting: working on a problem in an unfamiliar industry, coming up with some hypotheses, doing research to prove/disprove the hypotheses, and reiterating on all of it as necessary while trying to also generate output.

I stumbled onto the paper while organizing some files a few days ago, and after some brief reminiscing (is it too early to be doing that?), decided to try and share my portion of it since it is one of the more intense assignments I've had while here. Fortunately, I was able to get the professor's approval, so...voila!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Using online video to preview MBA programs

Last week, I watched an Utada Hikaru concert that was streamed live on Ustream. Although I haven’t seen any official statements, supposedly it broke multiple Ustream viewership records. At one point, the concert was streaming to 100,000 viewers concurrently, and as I watched, I was pleasantly surprised with both the stability (only had 1 brief interruption) and the quality (video and sound).

After the show (and another 4 hours of sleep), I started thinking about how streaming video could be put to use by MBA programs.  In particular, I think it could be a pretty useful way to expose applicants to the program earlier on in the admissions process.

Right now, applicants have a couple of options for gaining first-hand experience with different business schools before ultimately deciding on one. They can either schedule an on-campus visit or else, if accepted, attend the admit weekend.

The admit weekends normally happen at the end of the process, where they have less time to impress upon applicants. I think you want to expose applicants to the program sooner than later so that if they get that “fit” sensation, they’ll have time to build reinforcing mechanisms to support the decision that school X is the right place for them. Berkeley-Haas has partially addressed this by inviting all applicants selected to interview to a weekend event on campus where they do the interview and go through an abridged admit-type weekend to learn about the school first-hand. Having been to it, I can say it's pretty neat.

More importantly, not everyone can travel to the campus for a visit or the admit weekend. That forces them to decide on a school without having one of the most critical pieces of information (culture/fit), especially for peer programs that look very similar on paper.

In response to both issues, schools could hold an annual “E-week” early on in the application process that allows applicants to watch and participate in several events online via streaming video.  In Kellogg’s case, it could be held concurrently with CIM week. I would aim for at least 5 events throughout the week, held at different times to allow for the different time zones around the world:

1.     A presentation and Q&A about the “State of the School” (preferably by the dean)
2.     A Q&A between 2nd-year students and incoming students and online applicants
3.     3 full 1-hour classes. In Kellogg’s case, they could ask alums and current students to vote on the 3 most popular topics culled from Kellogg Insight to be turned into 3 online classes taught by Kellogg profs. And to capture the “feel” of class, you’d have to have students sitting in on all of the streamed classes. Kellogg currently has a small set of abridged classes online.

In addition to streaming these in real time, the school could also make the classes available in a video library, which could easily become a valuable resource for alums.

Not only would this allow more applicants to get a first-hand peek at the program early on in the process, but it would also provide another mechanism for the school to contribute more original content to the ongoing discussion on business, marketing, management, leadership, etc.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why companies should embrace social media

Companies that don't empower their employees to participate in social media nowadays are shooting themselves in the feet when it comes to recruiting by stifling their staunchest advocates. 

A big challenge in a knowledge-based economy is how to attract and retain top talent. For example, Google has recently seen an increasing number of employees leave to go work at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other up-and-coming tech companies. In response, Google has been taking very serious measures to retain their employees, such as making multi-million dollar counter offers and providing an across-the-board 10% raise to all employees.

Although retaining employees is crucial, first you have to actually be able to attract top candidates, and this can lead to very intense competition among peer companies (think Proctor&Gamble versus Johnson&Johnson, the big 3 consulting firms, and any of the top tech companies). I've seen this first-hand at Kellogg, particularly when classmates are deciding across different companies.

When those companies are comparative on quantitative measures (salary, benefits, working hours, etc),  qualitative metrics like culture and fit become much more important. Along these lines, the independent perspective of current employee advocates is much more powerful than anything that can possibly be found on the company's website or official marketing materials. It's very similar to the power of independent peer reviews on purchase decisions, which a recent HBR/McKinsey study highlighted as the "single most powerful impetus to buy."

And nowadays, more and more of those employees are likely to take to some form of social media (blogs, FB, Twitter, etc), where they can generate buzz and excitement about their companies while connecting with people all around the world, if they are allowed to. In fact, just this week Pew released a study that found that 8% of American adults on the internet are using Twitter.

That's why I'm surprised that more companies haven't embraced social media to a larger extent. When a company doesn't empower their employees to use social media, in part by laying out clear usage guidelines a la Intel, they are stifling the independent voices of the very people that should be their biggest advocates (if most of your employees aren't company advocates, you probably have other issues to attend to). You might argue this is necessary to keep disgruntled employees from writing negative things about the company, but that will still happen when those employees leave the company. If your other employees aren't allowed to write anything, those negative accounts (and the perceptions they create) will go unchallenged.

I came across a great example of independent advocacy from a current Microsoft employee, Stephan Weitz, who wrote a fantastic blog post on why he has stayed with Microsoft for 14 years.  Furthermore, through his Twitter account, I've been able to get glimpses into his daily life at Microsoft, and quite honestly, that has seriously raised my impression of the company. Imagine if that were multiplied across hundreds or thousands of employees?

Friday, December 10, 2010

2/3 of the way there: MB_

2/3 of the way there!

The Wall of Assignments came down today, signaling the end of another quarter. It officially ended last night, after I wrapped up my first and only final of the quarter in Financial Reporting and Analysis. The final was as long as I expected, and although I felt much better about it than the midterm, when I took a serious shellacking, I'm still a bit uneasy about the class. I'm hoping that I can at least pull off a B, but it's hard to tell because outside of the midterm, most of the other assignments have means/averages hovering above who knows where I'm at.

Outside of the final, I also had the last class for Marketing in the C suite and the Boardroom last Tuesday.

Last day of C Suite Level Marketing. Full class!

For the last class, Professors Patel and Jain both walked us through a condensed version of their careers while telling stories and imparting the lessons that they picked up along the way. It seemed like an emotional experience for Professor Jain in particular, who is ending a long career with Kellogg to transition into the role of Dean at INSEAD. Given that this was the first time the class was offered, there is definitely room for improvement, but there were still plenty of memorable moments, especially given the amazing guest speakers (including the CMO of Coca Cola). They hinted at some of the speakers they are trying to line up for the Spring session, and I don't want to give anything away...cough...BMW...cough, but it sounds like the makings of another great lineup.

I have a couple of days in Evanston to clean the apartment and get everything in order before I go to Houston/Austin for 3 much-needed weeks off with friends and family.

It may be a bit premature to say this, but I feel like the end of grad school is now firmly in sight.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Life Balance presentation

For our final presentation in Managerial Leadership, my favorite class this quarter, my team decided to research work/life balance (or as Prof. Kraemer prefers, life balance), a topic that was of interest to many people in the class, and arguably, many MBA students thinking about life post-grad school. In particular, we wanted to present some of the benefits of life balance, though the presentation is geared towards people that already believe life balance is worth striving for, while primarily focusing on how to implement it throughout our lives after grad school.

As a result of how interested the team was in the topic, we were really able to throw ourselves into the research. The team conducted research via secondary sources, such as the books CEO Road Rules and Just Enough, and the NY Times Corner Office articles, and primary sources (interviews and a survey of Kellogg alums).

Through the survey, which was administered via the Kellogg LinkedIn group, I was able to witness once again the power of the Kellogg alumni network. In the two weeks that the survey was posted in the group's discussion board, we received 230+ responses (included in the appendix of the presentation above) from alums in various industries/careers and life stages (<5 years out of Kellogg, 5-10yrs....through 21+ years). Anyone that has taken Marketing Research and administered a survey can probably attest to how amazing this is. Better yet, 187 of the respondents took the time to answer the free-form question on how they were actually managing their life balance.

Furthermore, I had a couple of alums, Lydia Fisher and V.J. Singal, volunteer to do in-depth interviews with me. I ended up chatting with both of them for over an hour on life balance, their careers, and even my own career plans. I'm hoping that I can keep in touch with them going forward.

We saw 4 mutually reinforcing themes emerge through our research on managing life balance: Prioritizing, Flexibility, Planning, and Boundaries.
  1. Prioritizing - This one is crucial. We are all going to have more opportunities in the future than we can possibly handle, so it is important to take the time to figure out your priorities so that you can make decisions appropriately. In the book Just Enough, the authors found that highly-satisfied and successful professionals asked themselves "What's enough for me" when setting their goals and focused on the things they were most passionate about. Ultimately, I think the point is that you can't do everything, and the best way to make a meaningful impact is to limit yourself to the things that matter.
  2. Flexibility - Need to take advantage of flexibility at work and at home throughout your life. Sometimes you are going to have to spend more time at work or at home, but that should be understood in both environments and supported. Companies nowadays are better about allowing you to choose how, where, and when you work, but don't forget that even if you don't have a lot of flexibility in your job, you can always change the industry and role that you work in!
  3. Planning - Easily the most popular tactic used, it involves both short-term planning (via your calendar) and long-term, life planning.  The long-term life planning dovetails into the idea of priorities because it entails taking the time to figure out your values, priorities, and goals, and then creating a plan for how you intend to pursue and implement those items throughout your life. Really powerful stuff, and something that I'm hoping on doing before I leave Kellogg.
  4. Boundaries -  This comes down to just setting up rules and boundaries based on your priorities to help you adhere to life balance. This could be as easy as saying "on Saturdays I'm turning off my Blackberry and laptop and spending time with my family and friends." The hard part is disciplining yourself to follow them once they are set.
The other neat thing that we found is that life balance is a win-win for employees and companies. There are a lot of positives benefits that accrue to employers that are able to support their employees' life balance, not the least of which is more productive employees and higher retention.

If you haven't put much thought into Life Balance, it's worth taking the time sooner than later to figure out what it means to you, and if you want to implement it, how you are going to do it. One of the best comments I heard on the topic from my classmate was that "it's better to figure out how to do it now, while you are driving a bicycle, than to wait until you have a family and other priorities, because then it will be like driving a sports car."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My contribution to Harvard

A while back, I was contacted by a representative from Harvard asking to use a screen shot of my post on course bidding results from the summer for a case that a professor was writing. I agreed and asked if I could get a copy of the case in return (to find out how on earth that post tied to anything academic). I never heard back from the rep (kind of crummy in my opinion), so I finally opted to buy the case today. Although the representative never made good on his word, I am content in knowing that I managed to get the phrase "minesweeper boom edition" into an official HBR case (seriously...).

Having read through the case and learned about the HBS course scheduling system, which couldn't be more different from the one at Kellogg, I still have no idea why my post is in there. It's never even referenced! Nonetheless, minesweeper boom edition.... (I should add this accomplishment to my resume methinks).

Case: Chances Are? (711-417) by Professor Halaburda

Monday, November 29, 2010

The most useful class for consulting?

I was speaking to a Kellogg alum from the BCG Dallas office over the Thanksgiving break, and we got on the topic of what is the most useful class at Kellogg for consulting. In their opinion, Marketing Research is the most useful class. They said that it is almost guaranteed that you will have to do a survey within your first year on the job.

When I was asking around about this last year, Financial Decisions came up the most often. Now that I've just about wrapped up the class, I can definitely attest to how useful and awesome it is (Prof. Raviv rocks!).

That's why I was a little surprised by their answer, but the more I think about it, the more possible it seems that the class is at least a contender for the top spot. Why? Because when you come up with hypotheses, you then need to find data that you can analyze to prove or disprove your hypotheses. And Marketing Research is one of the primary ways to gather data from/about consumers. Boom! In fact, during the internship I learned about a conjoint analysis that had recently been conducted for a project, leading to some incredible insights (it was a big deal).

I'm a bit bummed that I took Marketing Research during my busiest quarter, so I wasn't able to spend a lot of time on it. Next quarter, I plan on at least reviewing the fantastic course summary that Prof. Lee prepared for us, and possibly looking over the course textbook (although it is kind of a rough read).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Planning with dependencies

When I was bidding on my classes for this quarter, I decided to try and structure my schedule so that I'd be done with class by 12p on most days. That way, I'd have a lot of long, uninterrupted periods of time to get work done, an idea that I heard echoed in this TED talk by Jason Fried, a co-author of Rework, which is currently sitting in my Kindle waiting to be read.

Ultimately, I ended up with 3 days where I finish by 10a, and on the other 2 days, I have evening classes going from 6:30-9:30p.  I also blocked time on my calendar to try and limit meetings to the 4-hour window between 10-2p. The idea was to limit and confine interruptions to a small window of time to hopefully improve my daily efficiency.

It sounded like a good plan, and it has worked for the most part, but I forgot to account for dependencies. Given that I am in teams in all of my classes, it means that I have to also be ready to accommodate up to 6 other independent schedules for any given class, and realistically, it's hard to do that without being flexible. I wasn't too surprised by this, given that I've run into the challenges of team dependencies before (see here and here).

It also means that there are days where I find myself done with class but stranded at Jacobs for hours waiting for team meetings. Although going home is an option, it's not one that I prefer since it takes 30 minutes round trip for me to get to Jacobs. You do that enough times in one day, and you'll find that you are spending too much time, which could be applied to anything else (napping, going out, reading, etc), moving around.

The main takeaway from all of this is that you need to keep in mind that your schedule in grad school will probably have to be pretty flexible. So although you may not want to have meetings at night or on weekends, or spend more time than necessary at Jacobs, invariably, you will run into situations where you have to do so.

I still think that actively managing your schedule is crucial, especially since it is one of the most popular tactics used by Kellogg alums to maintain life balance. But more on that later when I post my team's presentation and research on Maintaining Life Balance for our Managerial Leadership project.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A new strategy for next quarter

Bidding Bonanza #4 went a lot better for me than last time, when I only got 1 of my classes in Round 1 bidding (prices in Round 2 bidding are generally inflated like crazy, so I prefer to avoid it). This time around, I got 4 of the 5 classes I bid on in Round 1, and the class that I didn't get wasn't high priority for me. Furthermore, I am going with a new class strategy for next quarter that will ultimately lead me to drop down to 3 classes total. Here is my current schedule:
  1. Marketing Channel Strategies (MKTG451) - Wilson
  2. Technology Marketing (MKTG468) - Sawhney
  3. Information & Technology Based Marketing (MKTG953) - ZettelMeyer
  4. Enterprise Technology Management (OPNS458) - Jeffery/Walker (AUDIT...maybe)
In undergrad, I didn't have to worry much about designing my curriculum. We had fewer electives, which were constrained by a handful of available majors, and more or less taken in a prescribed order. So, once I decided on my specialties going into junior year, I was pretty much done selecting classes.

In grad school, there is a lot more flexibility (relative to my undergrad experience). Once you wrap up the core classes, which are all but done by the second quarter, it's all about selecting electives for the next four quarters. And at Kellogg, there are A LOT of electives. Although many of them don't appeal to me, there are enough to require some prioritization and trade offs. For example, I've passed on a number of classes that I was initially very excited about, including Global Initiatives in Management and Entrepreneurial Finance.

Up to now, my strategy has been to take as many classes as possible in any particular subjects that interested me.  Unfortunately, I ran into several problems that were impacting my overall experience, which is quickly coming to an end.
  1. It can be exhausting. I have the type of personality that makes it really hard to not do all of the assigned readings, work, etc. So, I instead sacrifice other things to try and do it all, foregoing any chances to relax. Eventually, I tend to find myself in a daze from lack of sleep that severely impacts my ability to do anything. I think this article that we read for Managerial Leadership really nails it when it talks about the importance of oscillation (alternating between periods of stress/relaxation) for high performance. I've still been periodically suffering a bit of burn out from the first year this quarter.
  2. I can't spend as much time on subjects I find interesting. When I sign up for a class, I'm taking a bit of a gamble. It's hard to tell how interested I'll be in the topic beforehand, because up to now, a lot of the topics have been completely new to me. Sometimes, I find that I'm really interested in a class or concept, but I can't really dig into it because I have to constantly switch between classes to keep up with the work.
  3. There is little time for anything else. This kind of ties into the ones above, but basically, I just don't have as much time for outside interests/hobbies. 
In response to these issues, my game plan for next quarter is to only take 3 classes, which will all be in Marketing (an area I've increasingly taken an interest to). So I'll be dropping Enterprise Technology Management and possibly auditing it, though I haven't decided yet. I think this will help me address the 3 issues above, and although I'm sure I'll still find a way to fill up my free time, it will be with the things that I'm most interested in pursuing. Hopefully, it will also help me develop a deeper familiarity with something (Marketing) before I leave here.

Part of my strategy was motivated by this article, The Roberts Method: A Professor’s Advice for Falling in Love With Your Major, which I ran into right before bidding started. The article is based on advice by Andrew Roberts, a professor of political science at Northwestern University, and although it is geared toward undergrads, it still seems applicable.

I'm looking forward to seeing how my schedule plays out next quarter.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marketing Competition 2010

Last Friday, I made it out to the Kellogg Marketing Competition, which was held during the usual TG (happy hour-type event on Fridays hosted by different clubs weekly) hours in the atrium. I missed most of the competition last year because we were competing in the 2nd round of the A.T. Kearney Case Competition, so I was glad to be able to experience this time around. The Marketing Competition and Drag TG are probably the biggest TG events of the year, and regardless of if you opt out of every other TG, you should make the effort to attend these two. Jeremy has a good write-up on this year's competition, so I won't bother with one, but I do have some pics and a walk-through video to share! 

I thought the promotional flyer for the competition looked pretty slick.
Nice looking promotional material for the competition

And the competition definitely brought a lot of students out.
The scene in the atrium early on

Finally, as you can probably tell from the video, the entire event was pretty fun/energetic. I came away with two bottles of laundry detergent for 16 tickets.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A couple of quick updates

Lunch with Professor Kraemer
Every quarter, there is an opportunity for a limited number of students from each class to eat lunch with the professor at the Allen Center. Normally, the logistics behind the lunch are handled by the professor and the class liaison. I've never done it myself, so I don't know about the work that goes into it, but I'm grateful for the classmates that do volunteer to be the liaison and ultimately put them together.

Last week, I joined a set of classmates for lunch with Professor Kraemer. It was the first one that I've been to this quarter, and it reminded me of how much I enjoy the lunches. First, the food at the Allen Center is pretty good. I'm not saying it's going to make a foodie's day, but all things considered, it is pretty good. Oh, and it's free for these lunches, so again, hard to complain. Second, it gives you an opportunity to interact with classmates, and since the lunches are assigned pseudo-randomly, you normally end up meeting new people. Finally, it is a great opportunity to chat with the professor outside of class. I've found that the professors are generally pretty candid in answering our questions during the lunches.

My New Coffee Cup... pretty insightful. I feel smarter everytime I take a sip from it.

Blog Redesign
I decided to change up the blog layout a little while ago for a few reasons. I wanted to separate the navigation (now on the left) from any personal information (on the right), hopefully improving usability. I also took advantage of the redesign to remove some links (mainly unpopular labels) and move things around based on the data that I pulled from the "In-Page Analytics" section of Google Analytics. Again, the goal was to make it easier to get to the things that are most popular, while decluttering the blog. I still think the main page is too busy (for my taste), but it would be tough to improve it without using pages, and I want to keep it simple. Main takeaway in doing the redesign was how useful analytics is. Was interesting to see what people do and don't click on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My First (and maybe last) Annual MBA Twitter Ranking

Businessweek just announced their 2010 full-time MBA rankings, which placed Kellogg in the number 4 slot. That got me to thinking, "With so many different organizations that have MBA rankings, why can't I have one?"

Before I knew it, I was putting together my First Annual MBA Twitter Ranking, an accurate and completely objective attempt to rank different business schools' usage of social media by only looking at one source, Twitter. For the sake of ease, I decided to focus solely on the top 25 US programs based on the BW rankings.

Without further ado, I present the 2010 rankings.

2010 MBA Twitter Rankings
School Followers TweetsFollowingListedRankBW Rank
Berkeley - Haas 5,1761,6751,79752618
Kellogg 5,2259341,44241424
Stanford GSB 4,5716346539935
Columbia 4,15783812732549
Harvard 3,184658021352
Yale 2,06035517167621
Dartmouth - Tuck 1,852550577156714
NC - Kenan Flagler 1,586605452113816
Virginia - Darden 1,53933675138911
Chicago - Booth 1,06528910174101
MIT - Sloan 1,046232193581110
Duke - Fuqua 87761973109126
Cornell - Johnson 80037730721313
Georgia Tech 57115768501423
CM - Tepper 475284198511515
UT - McCombs 415205403391625
SMU - Cox 3965525391712
Indiana - Kelley 38022358491819
NYU - Stern 2993075271918
Michigan State - Broad 25817797232020
UCLA - Anderson 19619019212117
Emory - Goizueta 522002222
Wharton* ----233
Ross ----237
Notre Dame - Mendoza ----2324

Congratulations to UC Berkeley Haas on their ascension to the coveted #1 spot on the list!

A lot of intense number crunching, to the tune of 1 excel formula, went into this list. I don't want to reveal my proprietary formula, but I can discuss how the weights were set.

Priority was given to the number of followers and the number of lists for each school, given that those are both metrics based on external actions that are not as easily gamed by the schools. It's true that any of the schools could take the time to create a lot of Twitter accounts or lists to bias these metrics, but I hope that no one would waste the time to do so.  Tweets and Followers were given less priority, given that these are both metrics that, while indicative of the school's involvement and activity, can easily be inflated. Furthermore, from my own tweeting, I can say that a high number of tweets does not necessarily equate to the value or informativeness of those tweets.

A few takeaways from my compilation of all of this data:
  • The number of tweets that Twitter reports per account seems to be very buggy. For example, Kellogg was at 1500+ tweets a few days ago, and now it is at 934.
  • It is somewhat difficult to find some of the schools' official Twitter accounts via a standard Google or Bing search. If I can't just search for "Your School Name" + "Business" or "MBA" + "Twitter" and find the official account, that's probably not a good sign.
  • Some of the schools need to do something about their Twitter backgrounds. I think this is important from a branding perspective. MIT Sloan, I'm looking right at you. -> (their background looks nicer in the new Twitter, which doesn't work for me).
  • There should be 1 official main account for the program, and it should be easily distinguishable from any others. For Goizueta, I couldn't tell if GoizuetaBusinessSch or EmoryGoizueta was the official account. And it looks like neither one is....just found their official account, GoizuetaMBA.
  • I think it's safe to say that business schools have embraced Twitter, though to varying extents 

*So, I found out that Wharton does in fact have a Twitter account, @wharton, but it is a consolidated account for both their undergraduate and graduate programs. That said, their Twitter account is doing amazingly well, but since it isn't a dedicated MBA program account, I didn't rank it. For the record, the consolidated @MITsloan account is also doing very well. I never said this thing was perfect. I'll have to implement a more exhaustive analysis in the 2nd annual ranking.

I've also updated the list for a few other schools that have accounts that I eventually found. Again, I think these should have been a lot easier to find on Bing/Google.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Kellogg Insight Poster Montage v2!!

    Kellogg Insight Montage Complete

    Mission accomplished. After getting some helpful hints, I was able to locate all of the current Kellogg Insight posters (shown above), which are spread out between the Jacobs Center and Allen Center (Exec MBA building). Getting the ones in the Allen center took a little bit of smooth (not too smooth though) talking, ultimately requiring an escort to and from the posters. Just in case you want it, here is the link to the original (now weighing in at 9600x8000px).

    I also learned a little more about the posters. It turns out that they represent work that is a bit older, so they are like the greatest hits, or a "Legacy of Insight." The great thing is that the school makes the latest faculty research available on the Kellogg Insight website. Anytime I go on there, I search for the professors I've had just to see what they are up to. My DECS1 professor, Prof. Harold, currently has some of his research featured on the page. And...there is a Dean's office in the bowels of Jacobs where mini versions of all of the posters are arranged on the wall. After seeing it in person today, I can say that it looks pretty slick.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Sometimes this is how things get done around here

    This was the main string of emails (starting Sunday afternoon) that produced a case write-up that we submitted yesterday at 8:30 AM. Although I prefer to try to get things done sooner rather than later to avoid a last-minute sprint (or sleepless night), sometimes it happens. In fact, it also happened last night for a FinD case, though that one didn't get quite so close to the deadline.

    I've gone through this rodeo a few times already so far in grad school,  and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly an assignment can come together.  I've also learned that no matter how well you try to avoid this situation, it can and will happen. So now, I try to at least plan for it and mitigate the potential side effects by:
    • Trying to anticipate the weeks when it could happen via the Wall of Assignments. Unfortunately, I can only account for my schedule, and not the schedules of all of my teammates, so sometimes I still get blindsided (e.g. this looks like an easy week on the wall)
    • Taking care of individual assignments early if possible. I have a paper due tomorrow night that fortunately I got done at the end of last week, so I can now relax a bit the next couple of days and get caught up in the classes I ignored the past few days
    • Getting in extra sleep the night before a potential sprint.  Sometimes, there are early warning signs that an assignment is heading in this direction. If I spot them early enough, then I'll try to load up on sleep to have the energy for a late night working session
    • Keeping the bigger picture in mind. It's just an assignment...there are other things I'd rather get stressed out about
    • Having faith in the team! As I've said before, these things always come together just in time, no matter how bad the odds may look

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Excel data tables to the rescue

    I learned how to use Excel data tables over the summer, and it's really coming in handy now for FinD. In case, like me 5 months ago, you are oblivious to how awesome they are, here is a quick rundown.

    Purpose: Scenario analysis. They provide a great way to try modifying 1 or 2 values/assumptions to test their impact on an equation.  This makes them useful for doing a sensitivity analysis.

    Here is an example of doing a 2-variable data table.

    1. Set up the proposed 2-variable data table as shown below. The equation you want to check with all of the different possible values goes in the top left (green cell), the row variable (Cash Received Annually) that you are going to test with different values is in red, and the column variable (Discount Rate) that you are going to test with different values is in blue. Highlight the cells and select the "Data Table..." option.

    2. In the window that pops up, select the cells where you want to plug in all of the different values. Those cells should have an impact on the equation you are testing.

    3. Voila! The value of the equation you are testing, in this case NPV, under each of the different scenarios is automagically filled into the table.

    I know that my instructions are pretty bad, so here is the official Microsoft tutorial that does a much better job of explaining how to use the tables.

    If you are going into consulting, file this away under "Probably going to use it in the future."

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    FinD is HarD

    ...but not that HarD. We just wrapped up case number 9 of 16 for Financial Decisions, and boy howdy, that class is time consuming. I don't think that I'm spending as much time this quarter on any other class as I am on FinD. For this last case, I took on ownership of the analysis, which is pretty hard for me because I'm still getting used to the gray area inherent in creating financial models and valuations. Nonetheless, I muddled through, and after spending 10 hours on it the last couple of days, managed to get another case under my belt.

    Although the class requires a lot of work, I absolutely love it. We are learning a lot of stuff that is directly applicable to the "real world" (I've been assured as much by a number of classmates and alums). Furthermore, the class is helping me clear up some of the concepts that I picked up in TurboFin but never really got comfortable with. I kind of wish that I had taken at least 1 more finance class during the first year to improve my comfort levels, especially with how important the bottom line is to everything, but what's done is done.

    Fortunately, my luck with teams has continued, and I've managed to end up in a great group with classmates that I had never worked with before. Everyone seems to be comfortable challenging each other, joking around (we've been going after the elusive check plus for a while now), as well as teasing each other whenever we make mistakes (often). For example, contrary to what Valuation may say, I've learned that assuming the beta of debt is zero is not a good idea in WACC calculations.

    Like some of the other workload intensive courses, FinD is probably not the best course to take during recruiting season, especially if you have to combine it with other heavy courses, but if you have no other choice, I wouldn't pass up on it.

    On an unrelated front, I got my midterm back in FinR. At first, I thought I had done pretty well given how hard the test was, but then I confirmed with the professor that my grade should have been over 150, and not 100, which had accidentally been written on my test. Yikes. So now, I'm going to have to devote a little bit more attention to that class.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Differentiating yourself into the shadow

    I'm not really sold on the new Nook Color. It seems to me that in trying to differentiate themselves from the Kindle, they've managed to move into the shadow of the iPad and all of the other tablets that are coming to market soon. Maybe they did this intentionally, but why?

    Barnes&Noble doesn't exactly have a reputation that resonates with tablet devices, and now they are using hardware and software that is really similar to what everyone else is using. Maybe they plan to compete on price, but even that seems like a tough sell as a dolled up e-reader or a limited tablet device.

    Oh, and it gets 8 hours of battery life with WiFi turned OFF. So don't forget to bring the charger along.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Kellogg Insight Poster Montage!

    All of the "Kellogg Insight" posters that I could find at Jacobs

    Did I mention how much I love these Kellogg Insight posters?  I meandered through the halls of Jacobs trying to find them all (very Pokemon like) to create the montage above. I think I succeeded, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have missed some.

    I'd love to also see "Kellogg Impact" posters in the same format to highlight what current alumnus are doing in the world. For example, they could highlight folks in different industries, such as Jennifer Beall, a 2010 grad turned entrepreneur recently featured in a FastCompany story along with her start-up CleanBeeBaby, or Andrew Youn, a grad who co-founded the nonprofit organization OneAcreFund.

    In case you want to actually read about all of the great stuff the professors have done, the original file (in all of its 8000x8000px glory) is available here.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    State of the Quarter

    The quarter has been busier than I expected so far, but I think things are finally starting to taper off.  Fortunately though, I've been able to slow down a bit, relax, and regain some of the precious life balance that I gave up last quarter.  Since I haven't had much time to write, I'm going to do a shotgun post to get caught up. Grab some popcorn, sit down and relax, because this is going to be long.

    Loving the Kindle
    I picked up a Kindle at the beginning of the quarter, and I can wholeheartedly say I love this thing. At first I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to make the transition from books (with all of their tangible goodness) to reading on the Kindle, but it was not a problem at all.  The e-ink screen is much better than I expected, and the thing is surprisingly well-designed, small, and lightweight, making it ideal for carrying around in the backpack and reading for long periods of time.
    The Kindle makes it a lot easier to buy books and start reading at any point of the day. I'm currently working my way through 3 books: The Prophet, Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, and the updated version of Kellogg on Marketing, which has a chapter by Prof. Jain on the Sandwich Strategy, something he taught us in class. Although I've also been loading class notes (PDFs) on to it, it doesn't work as well for that.  I think that's where the iPad comes in, but the course packets still aren't offered in a format that is easy to transfer on to it from what I understand.

    Office 2011 for Mac
    If you are using at Mac with a virtual image of Windows for working in Excel, Powerpoint, etc, do yourself a favor and pick up Office2011 for Mac as soon as it comes out. I've been using it for a couple of weeks now, and although there are still a few minor issues, it has made it a lot easier to work on things for class. Before, I used to try and avoid having to open docs up too often because of how much time it took to power on Windows, move the files over to work on them, etc.

    BCG Texas
    Since recruiting is underway, I've had the opportunity to talk to a few folks about why I ended up going with the Dallas office. I know that lots of people are probably gun-ho about New York, San Fran, Chicago, etc (hell, I'd love to live in any of those places too after grad school), but I think the Texas system is like a hidden gem.
    • The offices are doing really well and growing
    • The cost of living in Texas is much, much lower than a lot of other places (can you say no state income tax!).  Given that pretty much all consulting firms pay the same salary regardless of where you live, this makes a big difference and should help me pay off my loans quickly
    • The offices have a pretty big footprint in a lot of different industries, including Technology (my favorite), CPG and Retail, Energy,  Leisure&Travel, and Public fact, the PubEd practice leader is a partner in the office
    • The offices are ridiculously family friendly. Not as much an issue for me now, but good to know just in case

    The MBA and What It's Good For 

    Shahid Hussain, a Kellogg 09 alum, wrote a fantastic article on the value of getting an MBA, giving away part of what makes Kellogg awesome...the "impressively low asshole ratio." A few days before reading it, I was having a conversation with my GF where I echoed the same sentiment: much like my undergrad experience, I know that I am going to come away from here a fundamentally changed person....and be all the better for it.  The opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself in grad school seems limitless.

    Grateful for Kellogg's Emphasis on Scholarships
    Last quarter, one of my professor's had a brief conversation with our class about the school's fund raising and the plans for a new building.  He mentioned that historically Kellogg's priority has been on providing students with scholarships.  I don't know if it's true or not, but a few weeks ago I went to an event that supported the notion. I was amazed to see how many classmates at Kellogg are rocking scholarships in some form or another.  I'm fortunate enough to have some scholarship funding as a component of my financial aid, and I know first-hand how much it can weigh on the decision to attend one school or another.  I almost went to another program because of a fat scholarship, but fortunately a friend of mine was able to knock some sense into me and convince me to go with my gut.

    I'm really digging my classes this quarter
    By far, my favorite class has to be Managerial Leadership with Prof. Kraemer.  Although I can easily see how someone might consider it not very useful, especially for the bid point price, I love the discussions that we are having in there and the questions that it provokes me to think about.  I found one of the articles that we read for class, The Making of a Corporate Athlete, online. It should give you an idea of the type of things we focus on.

    I am also enjoying the one-two combo that is Financial Analysis and Financial Decisions, which I think is a must-take course.  The two classes cover a lot of complimentary topics, and back when I was asking around for classes that were good for consulting, FinD was the only one that came up consistently. I think it's living up to its reputation. Every week, we do one or two cases (6 of the 10 weeks it's two cases) tied to some financial concept, like choosing the optimal capital structure or valuing a company, and then we discuss it in class, where Professor Raviv is able to describe a complex topic in a beautifully elegant and simple, but not simplistic, way.  I know that Kellogg doesn't have a reputation for being strong on finance, but I've found quite the opposite to be true. Between TurboFin with Professor Braun, FinD with Professor Raviv, and my teams in both classes, I think I'll come away with a pretty good foundation in finance.

    Overall, I've been really lucky with the quality of guest speakers this quarter. I've had a chance to hear from a Partner at Madison Dearborn Partners, multiple CEOs, and the CMO of Coca-Cola, amongst others. And unlike some past experiences, they've all been top-notch speakers.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Wow. Movie about R. Lord's in Austin!

    Wow! I just found out that they are making a documentary about R. Lord's Boxing Gym in Austin.

    I boxed here for about 3 months after graduating from UT. Sparred 2 times. Got my butt kicked 2 times. Almost got knocked out 1 time. One of the crazy things about that gym is that it is located in a metal warehouse building and has no A/C; just a box fan near the front door. Needless to say, everyone builds up a healthy sweat in there.

    Richard Lord is a mad man. Awesome coach. I remember he used to run between 5-7 miles up and down the ramps at the UT football stadium without ever getting winded.

    Forming teams

    The overwhelming majority of my classes so far have involved a group component to assignments, with Management Communications being the only exception.  That's to be expected given the school's emphasis on collaboration, and although it sounded dubious at first to have a group in a class like TurboFin, I've found it to be extremely helpful for discussing and understanding the material (as long as I've had time to prepare in advance of group meetings).

    During the first year, most of my groups were picked by the professors, but this quarter, things have shifted around. In three of my four classes, we were able to pick the teams ourselves; in fact, lots of classmates recommend having a team set up for Financial Decisions, which has a comparatively high workload (but is an amazing class), before taking it. I tend to be very passive about forming teams, mainly to try to avoid my tendency to work with folks that I know, and although it's worked out really well so far, I know it's a bit of a risky strategy.

    As far as I can tell, there are several considerations that influence team formation in a class.
    • Friend factor - are you good friends with anyone in the class
    • Prior experience - have you worked with someone before to the extent that they can vouch for you
    • Reputation - a bit of a corollary to prior experience, but do people regard you as a good teammate, where good is somewhat qualitative and can vary depending on the class content
    • Initiative - do you actively seek a team or wait to get scooped up

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    I dig these Kellogg Insight posters

    Kellogg Insight board in Jacobs

    It seems like these Kellogg Insight posters have sprung up all over Jacobs recently...or at least I don't remember seeing so many of them last year. They highlight bits of research that have been done by some of the professors.

    I dig them. It's a nice design, and it gives me something to read when I'm loitering in the halls. And I do love to loiter, especially when I need a break from whatever I'm focusing on.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Case Prep Learnings: notes and sheet layout

    Obligatory "just my opinion" warning.

    I've seen different levels of note taking during case prep: some folks take a lot of notes throughout the case and others choose not to take too many.  I think that going too far in either direction can lead to problems.
    1. Not taking a lot - If you get stuck, you don't have useful notes to review, so you may not remember what you've already learned from the interviewer. It's possible that you missed an important insight the first time around.
    2. Taking too many - If you get stuck, you have too much information to review making it harder to determine if you missed something. It's tough to go through a lot of notes carefully mid-case when you know the clock is ticking. Furthermore, you might be disengaging from the interviewer too much to take all of those notes.
    The trick is to find the right balance of note taking and to lay it out in a way that makes it easier to review if necessary. I've been asked by several folks for advice on both, and although I have no idea how to find the right balance, I can at least describe the layout that worked well for me.

    After trying different options, I settled on using a minimum of three sheets of paper (rarely needing more than that, though my writing is pretty small) in the layout below.

    I divided my notes out across the sheets as follows.
    • A - The problem statement and any key pieces of information given during the case description, including the objective(s)
    • B - My framework for solving the case, generally grouped into 2-3 categories (buckets), such as Competition
    • C - The recommendations I would make at the end and a brief note on why for each one. As I worked through the case, if I felt that I had arrived at a recommendation, I would pause to write it out here so that I could refer back to it at the end for the concluding "elevator pitch"
    • D - Info that I received while asking questions under Category 1 in my framework
    • E - Info that I received while asking questions under Category 2 in my framework
    • F - Info that I received while asking questions under Category 3 in my framework. If I stumbled onto something that wasn't in my original framework, I just added another section below here for it
    • G - Scratch work during any calculations. Afterward, I transferred the final data over to either D, E, or F depending on time. At first, I did all of the scratch work on the same sheet as my notes, but then it would get too cluttered to look over
    Of course, I don't think there is any one right way...just have to find what works best for you.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Looking for an iOS developer in Chicago/Evanston area

    Stephen and I are looking for an iOS developer in the Chicago/Evanston area to join on to a start-up venture. Must be passionate about social media and equally committed to making software that is simple and elegant (don't let this blog's design fool you...).

    We believe that we have a chance to do something unique and exciting in the social media space.

    If you are interested, send me an email to get the ball rolling. Cheers!

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Common case prep pitfalls

    Now that full-time consulting recruiting is underway, I've started doing case prep with classmates again. That got me to thinking about all of the case prep sessions I've been able to give and the issues I've seen people run into.  There are a few that show up frequently (and keep in mind, that this is based solely on my experience and opinion...unfortunately, I don't have any insider information).
    1. Not following the framework - I think the framework is a great way to set up a structured approach for tackling the case before you get too bogged down with all of the details of the case (and the time pressure). It may not be 100% right, but it at least gives you something to build upon as you learn more throughout the case; I don't think there's anything wrong with updating it as you go along.  Normally, the frameworks that people come up with sound great, but they don't always go back to the framework throughout the interview. This doesn't always impact the ability to solve the case, but it can lead to a "scatterbrained" approach. I think that demonstrating a good thought process is just as important, if not more so, than arriving at the packaged solution.
    2. Not explaining the thought process - This tends to come up when people are asking for data, where they'll either ask a very generic question that sounds like fishing for help (e.g. "What can you tell me about our competitors" versus something like "Have the numbers of competitors increased recently? Have they introduced any new products? Are they cutting prices?" etc..), or else they don't go the extra mile and explain why they want a specific piece of data (e.g. "Have competitors introduced any new products? It's possible that a new product has made our products uncompetitive or obsolete resulting in lower sales.")
    3. Narrating versus executing - This might be the result of over-explaining the thought process. Basically, the interviewee will outline their approach for investigating something (not to be confused with the overall framework; more along the lines of "Costs have been increasing recently. This could be a result of labor increases, such as an increase in wages due to union pressure, or a result of rising raw materials prices......etc...), walking through all of the possible explanations (hypotheses) and what their implications are, but then they don't follow up with the questions to prove or disprove them. This one pains me, because sometimes I'll hear someone nail the actual source of the problem during the outline, but then they don't ever return to it; it ends up lost in the excellent narration as a possibility.
    Again, please take these items with a grain of salt.  I'm by no means an expert on this stuff; I just happen to play one on TV.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    The Kool-aid is great...but so's the cup!

    I remember back when I was deciding between grad schools, I actively sought to learn about the schools' curricula and cultures (the kool-aid), but I didn't really pay too much attention to where I'd be living for each one (the cup). They were all large, well-known cities (except Evanston), so I thought I knew everything I needed to know about them. Going by my preconceived notions, Evanston was at the bottom of the list in terms of my desirability to live there, but I've been pleasantly surprised during my 9 months here by how much I like it and how much it contributes to the overall experience.

    Evanston, or at least the part that I'm exposed to daily, is a college town through and through. What I've come to like most is that:
    1. I don't need a car. Most, if not everything, that I need is within walking distance (1 mile or less).  This is great because not having a car takes down some of the financial burden. I'm just about completely oblivious to how much gas costs now. It also frees up more productive time, because whenever I do have to go somewhere farther way, I can normally take the L (Chicago's elevated trains) and spend the time reading, listening to music, thinking, etc.
    2. The Kellogg community is pretty concentrated within downtown Evanston, so I am never far from what is going on.  On a daily basis, I tend to only interact with a small part of the city (below). That makes it really easy to plan impromptu outings with friends, meet for classes, and participate in any of the numerous activities that are always happening. When events do occur farther away (e.g Chicago), you can normally find a classmate that is heading to and fro, making the commute a lot more manageable. So basically, I've never had to sacrifice on an event I wanted to attend due to something like travel time.
    3. The overall college community gives downtown Evanston a great vibe. Whenever I'm out and about, I always see large groups of undergrad students walking around energetically, people eating outside, jogging, chatting at a coffee shop, etc. When the weather is nice, it's not uncommon to see people hanging out and chatting next to my favorite wooden horse or anywhere else throughout downtown.
    4. Hanging out with the wooden horse 
      The city seems to embrace the community. For example, the city had a "Paint Evanston Purple" event this Saturday to rally around Northwestern's football team, the Wildcats. As part of the event, they dyed the main fountains in downtown purple. 
    Although I spend a lot of time in classes and meeting rooms at Kellogg, it's nice to know that there is this great, little city all around me.