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...
...is 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.