Friday, August 27, 2010

Dean Blount is blogging!

Last weekend, when I was hanging out at a local coffee shop sipping on coffee, writing, and people watching, I stumbled onto Dean Blount's blog (http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/Dean_Blount), which I've been following ever since.  I still remember the buzz around the school last March when her selection was announced. It was kind of a big deal, so of course I opted to attend the on-campus event where she spoke to the students for the first time post-announcement.  The atrium was packed.

Large audience of interested students came to hear the new Dean's speech

I'm digging the blog so far because:
  1. It is another way to learn about the dean outside of the standard bio and articles that are out there.  Given the investment I'm putting into Kellogg, both in time and money, I want to know that the school is in good hands.
  2. The posts are easy to digest (great given a hectic schedule).  They aren't too long or formal, and the writing style isn't stiff, so it's not like trying to read through a textbook. 
  3. It's nice to see the school diving further into the world of social media, which makes sense given the recent trends in b-schools. There are already quite a few professors blogging on a regular basis, but there is something symbolic about the dean doing it that gives it further credibility. Who knows...maybe this will prompt some of the other professors to take up the digital ink, which I think can add to the school's brand.
  4. I like the little "iPhone" logo at the bottom of some of the posts
It sounds like the dean is going to be blogging for the first 100 days on the job, with new posts coming every week or so. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more.

p.s. I can't believe the 2nd year starts up in 2 weeks.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer field notes: Dallas

This has been a refreshingly slow weekend for me, partially because we don't have any more intern events at work. I was able to catch up with an old college friend, who is still featured at the top of the UT Rugby website some 8 years later, take care of some chores to prepare for the move in 2 weeks, and hang out with a few of my coworkers. I am now hanging out at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse, a coffee shop in Uptown that reminds me quite a bit of Austin.  I've decided to take advantage of this temporary lull to write some brief notes on my summer experience that may help any future transplants to the area.

Dallas
In general, Dallas is nowhere near as public transit friendly as Chicago. As a summer intern with no car, I was told that my best bet would be to live in Uptown, one of the more walkable areas of the city. There are lots of restaurants, bars, and other shops along McKinney, which is served by the free M-line trolley making it pretty easy to get around on the main street. In order to get anywhere outside of the Uptown area, I've been relying on the DART rail/bus system and local taxis (BTW, the flat $20 fare from Love field to Uptown is inflated by about 50% versus just running the meter).  In terms of necessities, I've been able to get by with the Walgreens and Albertsons on McKinney, the Target at Cityplace, and Floyd's Barbershop (one of the more affordable and accessible places to get a haircut). In general, I allot about 45-60mins of additional travel time whenever I go out.

There are a lot of places to live in the area, but a pretty big group of Kelloggers (myself included) ended up at the Jefferson at North End.  The prices are reasonable, they have a great "resort-style" pool that is always bustling with people on the weekends, and there are some other nice amenities (decent gym, free coffee, free movies). Furthermore, the location in relation to the BCG office is fantastic. It takes about 4 mins to get to the office by foot.


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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big day tomorrow...

...end of summer discussions.

I'm using this occasion as an excuse to put up an awesome cover by John Mayer of the Jimi Hendrix tune "Wait until Tomorrow." As you can see, the only tie is the fact that the title of the post and song both include the word "tomorrow."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Importance of perspective

I think that my favorite part of the summer experience has been hearing about the work that others have done or are doing now. The interns have been encouraged to discuss our current experiences with each other via sharing sessions where we give a quick synopsis of the project we are assigned to as well as our work stream within that project. One thing I've learned from these sessions is that even if you are staffed on the same project as someone else, your experiences can be radically different depending on the stream you are assigned to.

In addition to the sharing sessions, we've had several roundtable discussions with the Partners from the various industries that the office is involved in. In the roundtables, we get a chance to hear a high-level overview of the work that the office has done in that space and to ask questions. I always come away from these sessions with a big grin on my face, in part because the Partners generally have some great stories to tell and in part because the impact that the office has had in these industries is pretty amazing.  For example, one of the Partners spoke to us about BCG's role in the education space, specifically recounting his experience working on a project to help New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. This was something I had just read about a few months back in grad school when I was doing some research on the office, but it was great to listen to a first-hand account of the project.

I'm glad that I've been able to hear a lot of different perspectives on consulting so far, because it is going to be pretty important when it comes time to decide if consulting is a good fit for me.  To be perfectly honest, there have been ups and downs during the summer, but I think that being able to draw from all of these sources will ultimately lead to a better decision. My key takeaway from reflecting on it all has been that regardless of the experience you have over the summer, it is important to take a step back and determine if what you are seeing is an isolated incident or representative of the career in general. The last thing that I would want is to find myself somewhere after grad school where I don't want to be.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Work hard. Play hard.

A bit overdue, but I forgot to mention that a few weeks ago the interns got to go to the Lady Gaga concert in Dallas.



Was it a spectacle? Yes. Was it amazing? Yes. Was it the best part of the internship so far? Nope!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Internship is almost over....

...or is it. My internship was originally scheduled to end in 2 weeks, and that would have left me with 3 weeks before the next quarter begins to visit friends and family, work on the side project that I've struggled to find time for, and go on a vacay with the girlfriend. Those plans have recently changed because I was asked to stay on for another 2 weeks.

At the beginning of the internship they asked about our willingness to do extensions, so I don't think it's an isolated incident, but I'm still taking it as a positive forward indicator. Although I'll now have less downtime, I think that the added experience (and income) will more than make up for it.

On the experience front, I've gotten to a nice point where I'm no longer as bogged down trying to figure out my way around the firm, how to do things, etc. That means that I'm able to focus more on personal development, which I've found comes both directly from the work/feedback and indirectly from observation. It's amazing how much you can pick up by watching the more experienced folks and noting how output is changed during the refinement process.

I've spent most of my summer doing quantitative analysis, which of course means plenty of Excel time, but some of the other interns have had very different experiences. A few haven't had to spend more than a few hours in Excel the whole summer. It all depends on the kind of case that you are assigned to, and within that case, the work stream that you are on. If you do find yourself working in Excel, here are some of the things that I think are worth having in your toolbox:
  • Regression analysis - don't sweat if you've never done this before, because you'll get plenty of experience with it in the core DECS-434 course (so pay attention in that class)
  • Pivot tables - I was able to familiarize myself with this awesome tool in MKTG-450 when we were analyzing our consumer research data for the group project
  • Data tables - Great for "what if" analysis (probably why it is under that menu in excel), such as finding the result to an equation if one of the variables takes on a value within a given range
  • vlookup - This command in excel makes it much easier to find specific pieces of information, which is helpful when you are looking at data sets with 10,000+ values
  • sumproduct - Comes in handy for doing weighted averages
  • Dynamic ranges via offset + counta - This is easily my favorite set of commands for the summer. If you are running any sort of calculation on a range of data that could change (either from adding or removing entries), this will automatically recalculate the size of the range. So, instead of doing something like sum(A4:A10), you could do something like sum(offset(A4,0,0,counta($A:$A),1) and it would automatically expand or contract the range. It may sound pretty dull, but it has saved me a ton of time. The less elegant way is to put in a larger range, like sum(A4:A500), but then you have to keep track of them in case you go over.
  • ctrl+shift+enter array commands - Again, useful for doing calculations on an array of information
  • Keyboard shortcuts to navigate and fill blocks of information, like ctrl+R and ctrl+ARROWKEY
This is by no means an exhaustive set of the things you'll need, but I think it is a pretty nice starting point.