Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kellogg Sneak Peak - New Event for Minority Prospectives

FYI, Kellogg, in conjunction with the Africa Business Club, Black Management Association, and Hispanic Business Students Association, is hosting a new event aimed at providing minority prospective students with another dedicated opportunity to learn about the school and the program. The day-long event will take place on Friday, May 14, 2010; ignore the typo in the image below that says 2009 (I think the school wishes it could stop the clock and be 100 years old forever!).  If you know anyone that might be interested, please pass along the information! 

Here are the various links that were included in the email, which I magically transformed into the picture you see below.

Please click on the image to enbiggen it!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Small Bit of Advice on Consulting Case Prep

But first! In response to Biz Wiz's blog post on finding the right post for specific content that I completely agree with, I've reorganized my tags to make it easier to find all of my posts that contain advice.  From now on, those posts will be marked with the Advice tag.  It is nowhere near as good as Dino's organization, but seriously, Dino is awesome.  I feel confident making that claim having interacted with him at Kellogg the last year.

I've also added a tag cloud to the sidebar to make it easier to find the posts for specific topics.  I opted to leave it off originally because I'm constantly struggling with usability versus simplicity (I'd love my blog front page to not require any scrolling at all), but I think the benefits win here.

Now for the good stuff.

Although there are a lot of factors that contribute to your chance of getting a consulting internship with your target company, such as your GMAT score, likability, and background experience, the case portion of the interview can easily make or break you.  That's why the Kellogg Consulting Club organizes so much case prep, and some people end up doing 25+ practice cases leading up to the interviews.

There is a lot of discussion around when students should start doing case prep, with some folks arguing that it should start before January.  I used to be in that camp, but I reflected on the issue quite a bit for the Consulting Club leadership elections, and I ended up changing my mind.  Although case prep is important, I don't think that starting it sooner is going to be much of a benefit in the end.

One piece of feedback that I heard from both recruiters and 2nd-year students is that "Kellogg students tend to be too prepared" for case interviews.  It goes back to the argument that you shouldn't practice too much for an interview or else you'll come off as robotic and stiff.  It also tends to induce tunnel vision, where you are so well prepared for a specific set of questions, that when you have to step outside of that set, you can panic and falter.  I saw this happen when I was giving practice cases in January, where the other person focused so much on using the frameworks they had just learned in the last quarter (and honestly, don't expect to master these frameworks in 1 quarter), that they'd hit a wall if the answer wasn't immediately apparent after applying a 5 Forces, 5 C's, etc analysis.

Here is where I am going with this.
If you really want to start prepping for the case interviews in the 1st quarter, then focus on thinking through strategic business problems sans frameworks.
For example, you might look at what is currently going on, like Toyota's PR issues (how do they turn it around after so much bad publicity on quality issues), the iPad (how would you launch a product that defines a new product category, what would you focus on, etc), or what can Ford do to position itself to become the #1 car maker.  There is plenty of material on scenarios to think through in the WSJ or New York Times.

Just to be clear, the point isn't to go through as many of these as possible.  The point is to start training yourself to think about problems analytically and strategically without relying on frameworks as crutches, because when it is game time, and the pressure is on, it will be hard to rely on something that you have just learned a few months back.  The more diverse the problems that you tackle, the better.  Furthermore, consider talking through these issues with classmates, because they may provide some insight that you hadn't considered and challenge your thinking, which will help it become more robust from the get go.

After speaking with BCG folks at "sell" weekend, I got the impression that 2nd-round case interviews are mainly based on actual projects that the Principal or Partner have worked on.  There is a really good chance that you will not have encountered anything like these cases before, so you have to be ready to think on your toes.  One of the cases that I got was in an industry that you would probably never look at...ever....ever.  On top of that, some of my classmates told me that they had very different experiences in their interviews: for some, the format remained fairly structured (what you'll practice); for others, the interviewer didn't give them time to "write out their thoughts" and instead made it very conversational and dynamic.

Unfortunately, focusing solely on doing a ton of cases means that you are missing the forest for the trees.  I can assure you that you will learn how to walk through the standard case interview process without any problems.  In fact, everyone will learn how to walk through the motions, so you won't be able to differentiate yourself just by becoming good at the case interview process.  Here is what I think the split between case process (gray area) and critical thinking (green area) in a case interview looks like graphically (beautifully hand-coded by yours truly).

Problem Introduction

Problem Solving

Your job offer is waiting for you here.

Recommendation Summary

Here is how the above maps to the steps I outlined in my "Refined Guide to the Case Interview" in this post.  Problem Introduction is steps 1-2, Problem Solving is steps 3-10, and Recommendation Summary is steps 11-12.

As I mentioned above, everyone will become good at the case process (gray stuff), which will occasionally get completely thrown out by the interviewer, via the case prep in January.  Unfortunately, the stuff that matters most, critical thinking, is harder to master. 

Looking back on my own experience, I now think that I was extremely fortunate to be able to interview before starting grad school.  When I was looking through the case prep books, I saw the sections that discussed the standard frameworks, but I decided to skip them because I knew I wouldn't be able to use them well mid-interview given that it was my first time ever being exposed to them.  That meant that I was able to focus on thinking through each problem critically, relying on my own experiences and observations about business.  This is what motivated me to write this line in my consulting recruiting advice blog post: "By framework, I don't mean something like 3Cs, 5Ps, or whatever they are called."

If you are looking for some excellent resources to begin "studying," here are a few to get you started.
McKinsey Quarterly
The Economist
TED Talks
NY Times

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trend of nielsen ratings for the 1st and 30th broadcast TV show

This is for my portion of the group project in Advanced Business Strategy (MGMT-943).  I'm hoping (available data willing) to analyze two questions regarding NBC's programming strategy:
  1. Should they build a portfolio of channels via acquisitions?
  2. Should they create their own programming or buy it from external production studios?
The chart above shows the audience trends based on Nielsen ratings for the 1st and 30th broadcast TV show each season from 1980 through 2006. The downward trend is due to both an increase in channels (both network and cable) and an increase in original programming on those channels. Although I initially thought that the decrease may also be due to substitutes (videogames, internet, playing outside, etc), Nielsen released a chart at the end of 2009 showing that the time spent watching TV is higher than ever.

I'm still looking for more data, but my initial impression is that they should continue to purchase channels in order to maintain their ad revenues, but that could change based on further research.

BTW, if you are an incoming classmate (Class of 2012) with a blog, please let me know! I'd love to add all of you to my list of Kebloggers (I know the name is lame), and unfortunately, I don't have time to follow the various blogs to know everyone that is incoming.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tip for applicants on essays

Writing essays is a painful but necessary portion of the grad school application process.  It's not fun, but the essays are your best friend for addressing blemishes in your application and crafting your story (brand) for the school that you are applying to; this is particularly true for schools that selectively interview applicants (pretty much all of them).  Needless to say, it is worth putting in the required time and effort to write the best essays that you can.

After you are done writing an essay, you should definitely have someone (or more than 1 person) read through it and critique it.  Your first draft will never be the best version that you can write; this is very much an iterative process.   

Now here comes the tip, which I thought worked well for me.
Remove the essay question/topic in the copy that you send to the reviewer.  Ask them to write up what they think the questions are that you are addressing after they have read through it. 
If they miss one of the questions or the overall topic, and you are confident that they did a good job reviewing it, then that is a good sign that your essay is not written as clearly or to the point as it should be. At this point, do not be afraid to scrap it and start over if need be, though it is more likely that you can just make modifications to the current copy. 

I reviewed some essays from applicants for the 2012 class, and there were a few times that one or more required questions were not addressed at all.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Power in Organizations - Logics of Legitimacy

The final assignment for Power in Organizations, MORS-453, is a 15-page personal assessment detailing a plan to leverage what we've learned to achieve a professional goal in the near future. I've been working on the paper periodically throughout the past few weeks in order to avoid a last-minute rush job, which would be unnecessarily stressful.  Fortunately, it was very easy to pick a situation (my summer internship) and goal (full-time offer).

One of the more interesting frameworks that we've picked up in class is the Organizational Logics of Legitimacy (Fame=reputation, Market=customers, Industrial=knowledge/skills, etc.). The objective is to identify the underlying drivers that legitimize one's actions and influence one's success in an organization. You can then use the results to determine the Personal Sources of Political Capital (strengths, like Human Capital) that can be most successfully applied in the organization.

Here is what I've come up with for consulting, which I compare to IBM, based entirely on second-hand information.

I'm curious to see how these values will shift after I gain some first-hand experience via the internship.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Consulting Club Results - 2nd place

Sad Clown
My team lost the election, though it hasn't been "officially" announced yet. I figure they'll hammer the nail in the coffin tomorrow. All told (case competitions, leadership elections, exchange program), my win streak at Kellogg has been rather pathetic. It's too bad that I probably won't ever have to write another "Describe a time you failed" essay, because I am totally locked and loaded now.

After we learned the results, I sent the new leadership team all of the feedback we received from 2nd years about full-time recruiting. I'm hoping that they'll be able to use it to put some stuff together this year for our classmates (and who knows, maybe myself) that will be recruiting next fall. They had some interesting ideas, including an overhaul of the 1st-year prep, so there should be some good stuff in the pipeline for all of the incoming students.  Oh, and they also have some shared leadership roles with a few other clubs, including the Women's Business Association, so maybe they'll find some opportunities for synergastic goodness.

My official role with the Consulting Club is over, though I'm sure that I'll still help folks out individually whenever I can.  I hadn't really planned on doing anything else next year, so I'm going to just chill for a while and see if I come across anything that interests me.  Worst case scenario, I'll just take advantage of the extra free time to explore Chicago some more.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Awesome Notes Tab System

In order to keep up with my school work, my long-distance relationship, and my personal interests (reading blogs, swimming, playing guitar, news, etc), I've had to make a number of sacrifices (goodbye social life!).  In addition to those sacrifices, I've also had to look for ways to become more efficient in how I utilize my 168 hours; the first step occurred early last year when I got rid of my amazing 65" Sony TV and decided to not replace it.

One of the operational enhancements that I'm particularly fond of is the tab system I use to keep track of my notes.  Every class that I've been in so far has had a course packet, which includes a variety of readings, cases, and other items.  In addition to those items, the professors normally hand out (or include in the packet) the lecture slides that they use in class.  I got tired of wasting time having to thumb through the printouts to find particular items, so I started using these multicolor tabs that I pick up at the local CVS.

I use the vertical tabs to keep track of a period of time (normally 1 week, or 2 classes worth of notes) or a particular section of notes (cases, articles, handouts) and the horizontal tabs to mark off important concepts. The system has worked out beautifully for me, and it has been particularly helpful in classes that have open-notes exams.

Ironically, in taking a time to celebrate my efficiency win, I've put myself a bit further behind on this OPS case.

Monday, April 12, 2010

ClearAdmit Best of Bloggin' Nominee

See what I did there with the "g" in blogging. By replacing it with an ', I made it a bit tougher.

Anyways, four of us Kebloggers were nominated for ClearAdmit's 2009-2010 Best of Blogging Award, and given how much traffic they send to my site and that they pointed me to some great blogs back before I started school, I thought it would be remiss not to return some of that love.

That doubles the number of "elections" I'm currently in.  Now I just have to complete their voting form...

Slight Miscalculation

I haven't been posting as often this quarter because of a slight miscalculation in what my workload would be like. I'm taking 5 classes, and although I thought about dropping one last week, I ultimately decided to stick it out because after this quarter, next year will seem much easier from a workload perspective; assuming that I take 4 classes throughout...or perhaps take 4 and audit 1.

I took 5 classes last quarter, and I thought that was a reasonable approximation of what to expect going forward, but here are the reasons that isn't true.
  1. Management Communications wasn't very concept heavy.  The things we learned weren't conceptually difficult, so it was just a matter of applying them on a weekly basis to the presentations.  Furthermore, the workload was stacked at the end of the quarter.
  2. There is a lot more reading this quarter.  Last quarter, there wasn't much to read for Marketing, Microeconomics, or Management Communications.  The reading that I did have was normally a lot easier to get through as well (DECS book is an easy read and McKinsey/HBR articles are interesting).  On the other hand, reading the OPNS book this quarter is painful.
  3. There is a lot more group work this quarter.  Although I had group assignments last quarter, they were all weekly assignments that could easily be tackled via the Divide and Conquer approach.  This meant that it was possible to work on it however best suited your schedule.  In contrast, this quarter I have 3 quarter-long group projects and all of the work is much harder to D&C.  This slows things down because of the group dynamics (everyone has different opinions, views, etc) and the scheduling conflicts (you are now working around X schedules that don't align well; say hello to weekend meetings again).
  4. There are several one-off items that have taken up a lot of time so far.  The case competition before the start of the quarter caused me to start a bit behind in every class because of first assignments, campaigning for the Consulting Club leadership took a ton of time the past couple of weeks, and I have to take care of some items to prepare for the internship (like finding a place to live).  On top of that, I've discovered a latent zest for healthy foods, so I've been trying to prepare more of my meals instead of eating out every day.
The quarter is looking rough, but I'm certain it will be manageable.  I've scheduled everything out via my "Wall of Assignments," and I have faith in the strength of my teams.  As far as blogging goes, I'm still committed to this as well, though I may limit myself to the weekends.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kellogg Consulting Recruiting Info

My team, the Performance Enhancers, has compiled consulting recruiting stats and firm info from the last 3 years into the document below. I hope that this is helpful, especially for anyone that is considering Kellogg or anyone that is on their way and interested in consulting.

The document is available for download as well. FYI, the links in the document seem to be off by 1 page in the Slideshare, but they should work if you download it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Consulting Club Elections!

I haven't been able to sit down and write anything the last week because I'm still getting used to the workload for my new set of classes, which are very team project heavy, and I've been prepping with my team, the Performance Enhancers, for the Consulting Club leadership elections.  The campaign period started today and runs through next Friday.  Afterward, the club members will have a few days to vote for the next leadership team.

One of the interesting things about club elections at Kellogg is that you run as a team (slate), not individually.  It's just another reflection of the collaborative culture at Kellogg, and I think it is a great idea.  It allows you to bond as a team early on so that you can hit the ground running if and when you start leading a club.  And we have definitely bonded.  We have been meeting regularly for about 3 weeks to discuss our slate's ideas, how to campaign, what needs to get done, what the other slate might be doing, etc, and in that time we've become a close-knit circle of friends willing to challenge each others' ideas, help each other out, and just have a good time.

Last night, I decided that I wanted to document why exactly I'm running to lead the club.  This is completely separate from our official campaigning, and it is meant solely for my blog.  After all, this is supposed to be an account of my experience at Kellogg, and for the last 3 weeks, the election planning has been the central component of that experience.  My "official" response to the question is:
I want do everything possible to help my classmates by building on the excellent foundation that the prior leadership teams have developed. The Consulting Club has been an integral part of my experience at Kellogg, both on a professional and personal level. The dedication from all Kellogg students (1st-years, 2nd-years, and alums) to help each other out throughout the entire recruiting process was invaluable for me, and it is a testament to the school's culture. Furthermore, the club has helped me form strong bonds with many folks that I am glad to call friends. 
But that is a bit too polished for my taste!  I wanted something that was closer to what I would say if I were speaking to someone in person.  So I decided to sit down and record something.  I've been wanting to do a video blog for a while, but I always ditch the idea because I hate how the videos come out.  In this case, I recorded only 1 take.  It's not perfect -- I wish I were more eloquent; I wish that I didn't look so sleepy; I wish that the answer flowed better -- but at least it's earnest!

Why I want to help lead the Kellogg Consulting Club next year from Orlando O'Neill on Vimeo.

After recording the video, I started thinking about all of the seemingly unconnected decisions/experiences that led me here.  Although I could easily go back as far as my memory allows, I limited myself to a few years back when I bought the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, which I found out is used in a Kellogg course, after attending a career panel based on the book.

I read through the book and although the second half (of the 1st version) wasn't very good, the first half was fantastic.  It made me think about the characteristics of my job that I enjoyed the most, and what I thought my strengths were that allowed me to do well in my role.  Since I was preparing to head to grad school and change career paths, I though it would be good to try and understand that stuff.  I took the online Strengthfinder test, and received the following list of my core "strengths" that I wrote a note about in Facebook back in 12/2008. I was surprised by how accurate the results were; of course it could also be the case where you believe what you want to believe and modify things to apply to you, a la fortune telling.
Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself....

You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public, and to write. This is your Communication theme at work. Ideas are a dry beginning. Events are static. You feel a need to bring them to life, to energize them, to make them exciting and vivid.

Learner <--- (This one seems the most accurate, down to my taking yoga and piano classes...)
You love to learn. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered—this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences—yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one.

“When can we start?” This is a recurring question in your life. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.

You are inquisitive. You collect things. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives.
A few months later, I met up with my assigned Kellogg buddy at the Keg during DAK.  We started chatting about careers, and we ended up talking about consulting because he had done it before Kellogg and was doing an internship at BCG that summer.  Before then, I had never considered Consulting as a career option, and I didn't know anything about it.  As we chatted though, I started to realize that it aligned ridiculously well with my perceived strengths and interests.  When I returned home, I finalized my decision to attend Kellogg (DAK was awesome) and started learning about consulting firms.  I figured I should at least know the names of some of them so I wouldn't sound completely ignorant come fall.

A few months later, I received an email from my K-bud about an opportunity to apply and interview for a BCG internship through the BCG Scholars Program.  By then, I had read enough to know it was something I was interested in pursuing so I applied.  Much to my surprise and delight, I was invited to interview shortly thereafter.  With the help of alums, coworkers, Kellogg classmates, and a very understanding GF (I spent that month engrossed in case prep), I managed to navigate the process and secure an internship early.

As soon as I was done, I knew that I wanted to use the experience to help out my classmates however possible, because I had already received so much help from folks that I didn't even know.  I've always thought that the more information you have going into something, the better off you'll be, so I wrote up all of the info and tips I had acquired during the interviews and my accounts of the 1st and 2nd-round interviews.  I passed this information along to anyone that I knew would be recruiting for consulting.

I still wanted to do more, so I decided to apply for one of the club's 1st-year Director spots, which I was fortunate enough to receive.  Before coming to Kellogg, I was on the board of a local non-profit in Austin, so I hoped that experience along with my recruiting experience would allow me to make a positive impact.  That was easily one of the best decisions that I made during the first quarter.  My involvement with the club was one of the highlights for me during the 1st quarter, and by the time we joined the team, most of the company events had already passed, so there wasn't really much of a networking opportunity (meaning I hadn't take that away from someone).

In January, I realized that the club truly was a priority for me.  It was the only thing that I was involved in outside of classes, and I enjoyed doing case prep with a lot of classmates in the thick of recruiting (it's a lot easier to be the one giving the case instead of receiving it).  A few weeks later I committed myself to trying to be a part of the leadership team next year

Wow. That was long winded!  Anyways, if you are interested in reading about my team, please head over to our website.  And if you happen to be a classmate that went through the recruiting process for consulting and have ideas for how it can be improved, please, please don't hesitate to contact me; stop me in the hall if you see me, send me an email, look me up in the Kellogg facebook and give me a call, send me a FB message, a Tweet, etc.  I'd love to hear from as many folks as possible.  Even if we don't end up leading the club next year, I will pass along everything that I learn to the next leadership team.  In the end, the ultimate goal for me is to make the club better, regardless of who is leading it, and I think one of the best ways to do that is by leveraging all of the information that we have at our disposal from the 150+ folks that experienced the recruiting firsthand.