Sunday, January 30, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon Oscar Nods!

I was very happy to see that How to Train Your Dragon scored two Oscar nominations, especially in the Music (Original Score) category. It was easily my favorite movie last year, in no small part because it helped me relax during a pretty stressful period in the 3rd quarter. Since then, the John Powell soundtrack, which is amazing, has been my go to study music.

Here is my favorite song, Coming Back Around.



Or, if you are all about the live music, here is John Powell conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra through a soundtrack medley for the Concert for Care.

Part 1


Part 2

Friday, January 28, 2011

Week 4 of my Complete Immersion in Marketing

It's four weeks deep into the quarter, and things are going well. I'm starting to hit an uptick in course work, but it's nothing too outrageous; certainly not as bad as what the first-years are going through with internship recruiting right now. Although I'm only taking three classes this time around, I've still managed to find ways to keep myself busy throughout most of the day. If it's not one thing, it's another, though more of those things are of my own choosing now (like trying to go to the gym on a regular basis).

Here are my impressions of my classes so far.

Marketing Channels
This is a nice class to start the day off with. The professor can get very animated during discussions, no doubt on account of his passion for the subject, and that helps keep you awake (a huge plus for an 8:30a class). The class reminds me of back when I was taking Marketing Management with Prof. Hennessy, who was also animated. The crux of the class is the notion that consumers don't just care about what they buy, but also how they buy it, and that should drive the design of your channel (suppliers, distributors, etc). Easier said than done of course. Not surprisingly, the professor considers Steve Jobs a hero in this given his obsessive attention to detail with the whole customer experience. The downside is that the class is very heavy on readings, though they are at least based on some pretty interesting and recent companies, like Best Buy and Zara.

I/T Based Marketing
This class is pretty technical in nature. We are walking through the types of analysis done in the field, such as RFM (Recency, Frequency, and Monetary Value) customer modeling. Next week, we jump into Logistic Regression. The class has been pretty slow to ramp up so far, but that is on account of the professor's desire to make sure everyone understands the fundamentals as much as possible before jumping into the more complex group assignments. To that end, the professor holds a weekly online and offline tutorial session in addition to office hours for students to address any issues they are having. And, the first couple of individual assignments have come with very explicit directions of what to do. We are performing our analysis in Stata (screenshot below), which has become Kellogg's preferred statistical package, and all students now get perpetual licenses to the software. It's primarily command-line driven (there are menus, but they are slower), and it should be somewhat intuitive to anyone that has ever programmed methinks.



Technology Marketing
This class is downright fun, assuming you are interested in tech at all. The professor has a tendency to use hilarious one-liners to really drive home certain points, and he draws upon his experience consulting with tech companies on a regular basis. Furthermore, the mix of part-time, 1st-year full-time, and 2nd-year full-time students livens up the discussion a bit, especially since the part-timers draw upon their current work experiences regularly. So far, we've been focusing a lot on marketing research methodologies that would support very early-stage product development, like using ethnographic research to form hypotheses about target consumers and Bass diffusion models to predict your product's adoption. I've been told that the workload in this class can get pretty rough, but apparently, this quarter we've been spared from having to write a case, which is supposed to be the most time-consuming assignment.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ThoughtProvocateur.com!

One of my CIM Jive Turkey leaders, and an all around awesome Kellogg alum, Farina, has started a cool new side project at thoughtprovocateur.com. From the website's About page:
We love to share things that interest us and these things usually are relevant to the world of business strategy, design, technology, and entrepreneurial ventures.
In the near future, we are going to help out students and young professionals who have business ideas on creating a sound business strategy, branding ideas, marketing projects, and finding ways to make money. This will be phase two of our platform. You may or may not have to pay for our consulting fees.
One of the things you'll immediately notice on the site is how groovy the design is. Definitely making me feel a bit insecure right now :) Anyways, if you have the time, be sure to send some love her way.



On a complete side note, tune in tomorrow night for what is sure to be another mind-blowingly awesome live-tweeting of Technology Marketing. Here is your ticket to said awesomeness.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dean Blount introducing Henry Paulson @ Kellogg

So, I have no idea if I am allowed to share this, but I figured that I would err on the side of daring. Worst case scenario, I'll take it down if asked to do so (I mean, this isn't like WikiLeaks or anything).

Below is the 2-minute introduction that Dean Blount gave for Henry Paulson's Kellogg Distinguished Lecture Series visit.

I don't know if you can tell from the video or not, but the dean is a very dynamic person. And having had a class with Dean Jain last quarter and several opportunities to listen to Dean Blount, it is apparent that Kellogg has been pretty lucky as far as deans go. I've only heard favorable impressions from my classmates about the new dean, so I'm sure Kellogg will continue to be awesome in the foreseeable future under her leadership.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thanks Apple.

The inside slid out with a little effort

In this day and age, how many products can you say have served you well for more than a couple of years?

Unfortunately, today my trusty iPod Mini (2nd Gen), which has been my primary music player for 5+ years, finally decided to retire. I knew it was bound to happen, but it was still kind of a bummer.

I'm gonna miss all of the times that it enabled my goofy dancing, whether in chairs, IBM labs, street crosswalks, etc. It was good while it lasted.

Collaboration at Kellogg

Executive roundtable @ #KMC2011

I spent yesterday, along with something like 600+ students, alums, and professionals, at the Kellogg Marketing Conference. It was a good event, though at times I did feel restless sitting in the OLC for so long, with the 2 key messages that I took away being:
  1. Social media is important to marketing. Of course, there were lots of folks livetweeting the conference under the hashtag #KMC2011
  2. "O'Toole: the revolution in marketing is the shift to data driven marketing and the interrelationship between tech and marketing." This ties in to what my professors were saying earlier this quarter about the need for quant/analytical skills in the industry
Anyways, that's not the point of this post. Rather, the conference got me thinking about Kellogg's collaborative culture. When it comes to collaboration, not only does Kellogg talk the talk, but it also walks the walk, and I think that is really important because actions speak louder than words.

Although the school could say that they care about collaboration and then just build a team-component into every class, that would be kind of inauthentic, because it just delegates it down. Like "Oh, we believe in teamwork....between students...in the class." Instead, the school lives up to its words by also building collaboration into the broader aspects of how the program is run, meaning that students and faculty work together to make Kellogg kick butt on a daily basis. That leads to the extremely student-run environment at the school, because collaboration and the student-run component are just two sides of the same coin.

So students either have control, or a say, in all major components of the school. In fact, just last week a project was announced to allow students to participate in the design of our new building. And clubs are run by students with faculty lending a hand to facilitate some of the logistics, recruiting prep is tackled by both the CMC and industry-specific clubs, conferences are planned by students with the help of faculty advisers, DAK is planned and executed by students, etc.

The student-run component is probably one of the reasons that we have so many clubs; we are empowered to create new clubs that meet our needs, and then it is up to us to keep them alive. In my time here, I've already seen the creation of 2 additional clubs (the Kellogg Japan Club and On the Rocks).

Of all of the ways to get involved with the school, the Kellogg Student Association (our student government) is probably one of the most impactful. Although I'm only familiar with what they do indirectly, it is pretty impressive how engaged they are in the strategic decisions that will continue to make the school awesome. Beyond the stuff we don't see, there impact is also felt in a more direct way as mediators between the student body and administration. For example, last year when students were upset about changes to the core DECS class curriculum, the KSA worked with administration to address the issues, ultimately making it into a non-issue in a few weeks.

I admit that I haven't been very engaged in the collaborative opportunities this year, but it is still great to see them all around me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Promising start to livetweeting!

The view from in here #TechMKTG

As promised, we livetweeted our Tech Marketing class with Prof. Sawhney earlier tonight. As far as I can tell, the experiment was a success. Although I was initially afraid it would detract from class, it ended up improving my focus once I got the hang of it, because I was so intent on finding key points to tweet about. The other students that were involved felt the same way. Here's a brief summary of tonight.
  • Started with 3 students tweeting and ended with 6
  • Got to meet some new people in class
  • Also had some alums join in with a few tweets
  • Put out 94 tweets in 3 hours
  • Hopefully provided a pretty good overview of what was covered in the class
  • Put one of the key learnings from the class to work: Ethnographic research
  • Fairly certain we are one of the first, if not the first, MBA programs to livetweet a full class. Woohoo!!!
  • Probably going to continue doing this weekly
The stream of tweets is still available here, but given how search.twitter.com works, it won't be up for too long, so read it while it's hot!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Heads up! Livetweeting Tech Marketing

Just want to give a heads up to anyone that might be interested in Technology Marketing with Prof. Sawhney. A small group of us is going to be tweeting stuff periodically from class, which is on Thursdays from 6:30-9:30p CST, using the Twitter hashtag #TechMKTG. The professor has a penchant for dropping amazing one-liners to drive home his points, and hopefully some of that hilarity will carry through.

Fortunately, the professor embraces technology in the classroom, which is why we are piloting a new piece of collaborative software for managing the course handouts/notes, so the laptops can come out to play.

If you aren't on Twitter, you can still see whatever we tweet via this link, which uses search.twitter.com.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Walking through Jacobs

We were off from school today for MLK Day, but I still got to go to Jacobs to do some case prep with first-years gearing up for consulting internship interviews. When I got to school, I was surprised by how empty and calm it was; much different than the daily hustle and bustle.

It was the perfect opportunity to take some more video of Jacobs. In the brief clip below, you first get a look at the OLC auditorium, where most large events happen, like parts of CIM. Then I walked through one of the halls alongside the atrium back to the elevators and finally into a study room on the 2nd floor.

Nothing too thrilling, I know, but you can at least see where you might end up for two years. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

From FOMO to FOMO: prioritizing and focusing

I've learned a lot of businessy stuff at Kellogg (unsurprising given it's an MBA, I know), but one of the most valuable things I've learned during my time in Funk-E-town is the importance of prioritizing and focusing. In doing so, I've moved from a fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) mindset to a focused-on-missing-out (FOMO) mindset...pretty clever eh? The new FOMO mindset involves reflecting on what I want to get from my time here, my career, and my life, prioritizing based on that understanding, which is constantly evolving, and then only focusing on the most important things. If something doesn't fit in with my priorities, then I consciously decide to miss out on it.

Before coming to Kellogg, I was all about doing as much stuff as possible and jumping into any opportunity that happened to stumble onto my path, regardless of if it was a good opportunity for me. That meant committing to activities I wasn't passionate about or really even interested in after the initial novelty wore off, and then regretting it. Fortunately, through my experiences here, the ideas I've been exposed to by my awesome professors and my awesome classmates, and pure luck, I've clued in on the new and improved FOMO.

I still haven't mastered it, but I am getting a lot better. For example, earlier this quarter, I almost agreed to do an independent study with a professor. Initially I was excited about it, and I expressed a lot of interest. The project sounded great, I enjoyed working with the professor, and I probably would have devoted a lot of time to it. If the professor had replied sooner to my email, I am certain I would have signed on. But instead, I didn't hear from him for a couple of days. That gave me the time to think about it and ultimately decide it wasn't the right thing for me.

So, why am I gun-ho about the new FOMO? Because I think it will help me become much better at the things I focus on, and ultimately, happier. I've now come to think of it in terms of the marketing mantra that is constantly preached in these halls:

Company
You
Segment
\/
 
=
Reflect
\/ 
Target
\/

=

Prioritize
\/
Position
\/

=

Focus
\/
Awesome Success!!!

Just as companies can't be all things to all customers and still hope to excel with those customers, you can't do all things all the time and still hope to excel at those things. If you do go the route of trying to do everything, you'll probably run into some upstart, niche competitors that are each better than you in an activity because they were more focused. Or, you may just not make as much of an impact in anything because you are spread too thin.

Ultimately, I think that Jeremy hit the nail on the head when he wrote that less is more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Air sirens in Evanston

Heads up to anyone that eventually comes to Evanston: in the winter time, the city sounds air sirens to warn residents to move their cars from any parking spots in the routes used by the snow plows. From the city's page on the snow parking regulations:
Notification:
Emergency sirens will sound at 8:15 p.m. if a parking ban begins at 11 p.m.
And they also sound the sirens on the first Tuesday of the month to test them.

The first time I heard the air sirens, I had no idea what was going on or what they were for. Although it was anticlimactic to find out they were just for the snow, I still dig hearing them. It totally reminds me of the old Silent Hill game, which used an air siren to signal when the creepy version of the town was going to appear (movie version below). Coincidentally, it was always snowing in the game as well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How much the MBA has cost so far

I spent some time updating my financials, and now I have a better picture of what I've spent so far in grad school, excluding tuition.

Food Bills Misc Total
Q1 $1,601$6,566$13,225$21,392
Q2$1,354$3,551$4,953$9,859
Q3$1,183$3,682$1,887$6,752
Summer$1,802$5,823$8,019$15,644
Q4$2,478$3,964$3,518$9,961
Total$8,419$23,586$31,602$63,608

A lot of things to note about this information.
  • First and foremost, this is not meant to scare anyone off from grad school. Coming to Kellogg has easily been one of the best decisions in my life (even better than when I decided to stop wearing silk shirts in high school). Although the numbers exclude tuition, it is pretty much in line with the $150K estimates that I found before starting. I'm only reporting on money out, so it doesn't include my internship income, which helped offset a big chunk of this.
  • The Q1 numbers are really high because it includes the tuition down payment, my KWEST trip expenses, ski trip expenses, a new laptop, new furniture, etc.
  • Food includes what I've spent both dining out and on groceries. Dining out represents the lion's share.
  • Bills includes rent, electricity, cell phone, etc.
  • Misc is everything else, like books, Amazon purchases, and lots of round trips to Austin to visit the GF.
  • I've excluded some things that are fairly unique to me, like anything related to my rental property.
  • I am fairly certain this is a good approximation of what you can expect to pay at pretty much any comparable institution.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Week 1 of my Complete Immersion in Marketing

Just wanted to share some observations at the end of the first week of my marketing lovefest.
  • Technology Marketing has the most diverse student mix of any class I've taken so far. It is pretty evenly split across 1st-year students, 2nd-year students, and part-time students. I met someone that drives down from Milwaukee for class twice a week.
  • As expected, there is a lot of overlap across the classes. Some of the common themes that have emerged so far include:
    • Shifting the prevalent mindset from product-centric to customer-centric (both in words and in actions). Using this new mindset as the foundation and metric to drive decisions. In Tech Marketing, this leads to the notion of collaborative marketing versus product/brand marketing. In I/T Based Marketing, this leads to the shift from profit to the Total Lifetime Value of a customer. In Marketing Channel Strategies, this leads to designing and implementing channels that can best deliver the needs of your targeted consumers (for example, Apple creating retail outlets that allow people to play with all of their magical gizmos versus using Walmart, which would keep them locked up in a glass case).
    • The need to deliver the best experience possible across all customer touch points, whether directly or indirectly under your control (Marketing Channel Strat). The customer experience is your brand (Technology Marketing).
    • The impact of technology and the increasing amount of available customer information on the future of marketing.
The last point was by far the most impactful for me. If you believe the notion that the amount of information collected on consumers is going to continue to increase, then it's not too big a leap to think that being able to analyze and pull insights from this information is extremely important going forward (more information increases the noise/signal ratio considerably).

Therefore, quant and analytical skills are going to be crucial to the next phase of marketing, and according to the professors, there is currently a massive skill gap in the industry to address this need. So, if you happen to come from a background that is strong in these areas, such as engineering, then you can either move toward the usual functions, like finance and operations, where there is already an abundance of these skills, or, you can move toward the gap where those skills will be more sought out and improve your chances of becoming a rockstar.

I don't know if this is true or not (I could just be rationalizing my decision!), but I'm willing to gamble on it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mind the 2nd-year excitement gap

I was talking to some friends this morning about what I perceive to be an excitement gap going into the fifth quarter (and possibly stretching back to the start of the 4th quarter). One of them labeled it "senioritis," which I was surprised to hear, because I always assumed that was based more on the length of time you spend in school (4 years in high school and college versus 2 years in a FT MBA program). Now that I've processed it a bit, I think that's actually the perfect description and that it has nothing to do with the length of school and everything to do with how actively you manage your goals/experience going into the last year.

When you first start school, you don't have to do much to remain excited/motivated/engaged. First off, it is the realization of your initial goal of getting into a target school, and that is pretty awesome. So that helps get you going. Furthermore, you are bombarded with a lot of new experiences, and everything is so exciting because it's so new. I remember this sensation during the first quarter at Kellogg when I was thinking
Oh Em Gee, I'm living in a new state. I'm going to Kellogg. I can't believe how many emails I'm getting. I can't believe how many cool speakers are coming to school. My classmates are so awesome. It feels great to be back in school. etc, etc. 
But perhaps most importantly, you have two clear, immediate, and difficult challenges/goals hanging right in front of you:
  1. Graduate
  2. Get an internship/job
Those goals are enough to keep you motivated and cranking at 100MPH on classes, extracurriculars, and socializing.  Honestly, if it weren't for the thought/pressure of wanting to secure a FT offer over the summer, I don't know how I would have made it through the 3rd quarter.

As you progress through the MBA program, all the stuff that was new becomes "just the norm," and those goals move from being uncertain to imminent (or frustrating/draining as can be the case with recruiting). They no longer seem like insurmountable mountains waiting to be overcome; instead, they become ant hills that you can practically trip over. When that happens, I think it is much easier to get hit with a serious case of "senioritis," unless you take an active role in managing your goals and shaping your experience for the remainder of the program.

I think this is why I was still burning out last quarter, although the workload was a lot less than the one prior. I had secured a job, the possibility of not graduating was no longer really a threat, and I hadn't really stopped to think about what I wanted to get out of the rest of my time here. Instead, I was passively using the same first-year strategy, which was perfectly suitable under those circumstances but now woefully inadequate.

This quarter already feels much, much different, and I think it started with my decision to only take 3 classes focused on Marketing so that I could pick up more expertise in this area. I didn't realize at the time, that I was inadvertently getting at the three main drivers of motivation presented in the book Drive:
  1. Autonomy - Since I'm not drowning in assignments, I have far more control over how I spend my time. Coincidentally, lack of autonomy was my main complaint about the internship experience, though I am certain that won't be an issue when I return for FT.
  2. Mastery - I am focusing on building a deeper knowledge of Marketing
  3. Purpose - In addition to a couple of side projects that also encompass these 3 attributes, I am now pursuing a broader purpose of becoming a good marketer, which I think will be really useful in the future
The book is excellent, and I highly recommend it. Here is a neat Youtube video based on a talk the author gave on one of the concepts.



I'm curious what are the implications, if any, for alumni engagement once "senioritis" takes hold, if it isn't addressed.



UPDATE: It's amazing how often I run into the same ideas across different sources. I was watching this TED video by Barry Schwartz, and he went into one of the topics in Drive: that incentives and punishments (sticks and carrots) actually demoralize and demotivate professionals (starts at about 13 minutes into the video).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Wall of Assignments and other infrastructure

Wall of Assignments - 5th Quarter

At the start of every quarter, I like to lay out the "infrastructure" for all of my classes as soon as possible. This includes:
  • Building the Wall of Assignments (newest version above!)
  • Creating directories for all of my classes on my laptop to hold notes, assignments, etc.
  • Pulling down whatever course content is available on Blackboard, which can be extremely tedious
  • Setting up email directories for my classes
  • Creating Contact groups for all of my teams to make sending emails to them easier
  • Setting up rules in Outlook to autosave attachments that professors include in their emails in the right folder
Once all of the boring setup is done, I can focus on the good stuff (FarmVille...j/k).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vintage apartment quirk

I'm back home in my "vintage" apartment. Vintage in Evanston is just a code word for old and cheap (relative to the nicer places). And being an older apartment, it has quirks, as seen below.



The joys of student life!