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 Education...in 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.

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