Monday, February 28, 2011

Great discussion for Mktg Channels case

I just got back from a fantastic discussion with classmates about our next Marketing Channels case on Stihl, an interesting German outdoor, hand-held power equipment manufacturer that also happens to have some funny commercials.

The way the course is structured, the class is divided into 3 groups that are assigned to different case tracks. Each group writes up 2 different cases throughout the class. Fortunately, there was a tiny statement in the syllabus that said we can discuss cases with our classmates as long as we write it up individually, so a big portion of my case track group has gotten together to discuss each case a few days before it was due.

I love these types of discussions because they are a great way for everyone to test their hypotheses about the case in a low-pressure environment (not in class or in our submitted assignment) and learn from each other. Although I went in to the meeting certain that I knew how to approach the case, I came away with several new ideas that I hadn't considered. So I'll be rewriting some of my write-up tonight.

Planning the last quarter and the victory lap

Last Quarter
My last round of bidding was a big success. I got all of the classes that I put in serious bids for (my 1 pt bid for Operations Strategy with Prof. Allon was a low-risk gamble). Although I was hoping to do another quarter full of marketing classes, I wasn't able to find enough marketing classes that I was gun-ho about, and I had to take care of my global requirement, which I'm embarrassed to say I put off until the end (though I did try unsuccessfully to do a study abroad quarter). I still want to gain international exposure beyond a short stint, so I'll have to take that into my own hands in the future.

After a brief bit of consideration, I pared down my schedule the last quarter to 3 classes that only meet on Tuesday and Friday. I'm stoked about that schedule because it should provide more flexibility for traveling, and I'll have more uninterrupted time to be productive, though I fully expect to have to hike to Jacobs on my off days for group meetings.

For the last quarter, I'll be taking:
  • International Business Strategy - My global requirement! Fortunately, I've enjoyed all of the strategy classes so far, and adding the international spin to it should make for an interesting perspective
  • Human Resource Management -  I'm really interested in the idea of corporate culture, with the end goal of trying to build one up from scratch one day, so this class was a natural fit. I was also really keen on taking Sales Force Management, which was the class I dropped, because I have a hunch it will be important for me in the future, but I'm sticking to my "depth" strategy (3 classes I can really dive into). I have some friends taking it, so I'll probably pick their brains for the core ideas
  • Marketing Strategy - I dig the marketing, and this class normally comes highly recommended. It's the capstone marketing course at Kellogg, and there are multiple rockstar professors at the helm. I thought about taking it with Prof. Hennessy, whose core marketing class I thoroughly enjoyed, but I thought I'd branch out and hear a fresh perspective from Prof. Calkins

Victory Lap
Although there is still a lot of planning left to do, the outline (flights are booked!) of the post-Kellogg victory lap has fallen into place. I'll be spending two weeks in Europe with my GF. We'll be visiting multiple cities during the trip, and I'll have a chance to meet my globetrotting brother's Danish wife. The schedule is:
  • London: 7/2 - 7/6
  • Paris: 7/7 - 7/11
  • Copenhagen: 7/12 - 7/16
Afterward, we'll return to Austin at which point I'll enter hibernation for a few months before emerging into the real world.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hours breakdown across activities for the last 2 weeks

Activity 2/13 - 2/19 2/20 - 2/26
Blog 1.85.3
Gym 2.84.5
Guitar 3.91.6
Walking 4.53.9
Coding 5.410
Talk to GF 6.68.1
IT Mktg 6.917.1
Tech Mktg 11.45.9
Mktg Channels 16.415.2
Sleep 48.952.2
Misc 59.544.2

A few things to note.
  • The time I spend on Mktg Channels is high because of a heavy reading workload and a group project, which we've been ramping up on lately
  • The changes in IT Mktg and Mktg Channels are driven by team assignments. I had an IT Mktg assignment due on 2/15, a Tech Mktg one due on 2/17, and an IT Mktg one due on 2/25
  • Coding saw a big jump because I was adding some stuff to the time-tracking app to get it ready to submit to iTunes
  • Misc is stuff like sending emails, scheduling meetings, doing laundry, washing dishes, watching the Youtubes, etc.

The iPhone app, which I'm using to track this information, is coming along well. I added the ability to export the time log to a CSV file, which you can download off of the iPhone to mess with in Excel. There were also a number of UI changes and other minor touch ups.

Main window

Activity window

Friday, February 25, 2011

The annoying thing...

...about trying to overcome something you are afraid of is that it is hard. On some days things go well, and on others you stumble and fall. It seems that there is never a lack of opportunities to give up and consign yourself to your "fate" or the notion that you just can't cut it. The opportunities well up frequently as "butterflies in the stomach" as soon as you are faced with what you are trying to overcome.

I'm very familiar with the sensation. I felt it the first time I played lacrosse. I felt it every time I took to the pitch for a rugby match. I felt it the first time I stepped into the boxing ring, when I went skydiving, and when I interviewed with BCG.

Nowadays, I feel it when it comes to public speaking. I was doing well trying to address it during my first year at Kellogg, when I took Managerial Communications and jumped on a lot of opportunities to practice, but this year I've had far less opportunities (and I've taken my eyes off the prize), so I've noticed myself regressing toward the mean. It's annoying. And it's frustrating.

The first 10 minutes of the Sneak Peek panel I was on today did not go well. I felt the dread creeping up over me as my turn to introduce myself approached. I knew it was going to be messy, and it was. Fortunately, after those 10 minutes, I settled down and started enjoying the experience, but man...those first 10 minutes were intense.

Pretty much every time I take on anything that involves public speaking, I know that there is a 70/30 chance that I'll feel that surge of dread, but it's a risk that I have to take because otherwise I'd just have to give up...and that's not how I roll. And sometimes the cards don't work in my favor, and I wind up embarrassed, but sometimes, things go my way and I see the potential that awaits if I just keep trying.

I know this was a self-serving post, but I needed to get it out of me. It's times like today that I'm grateful to be one stubborn fellow, because no matter how many times I fall off the horse, I'm going to get right back on.

Now, let's wrap this up with an inspirational song! Expletive yeah!

Congrats Steve!

Just wanted to say congrats to Steve (you know who you are :) ) for winning my old copy of Case in Point. I admit that as far as prizes go, Case in Point has to be on the very, very low end of the awesome spectrum, but regardless, winning is always fun!

Fortunately, there weren't too many people interested in the book, so I was able to pull an "Oprah" and get everyone a copy without breaking the bank.

Now there are multiple copies of the book floating around that will hopefully help a lot of people kick butt in their job hunt. In fact, I hope that it will help them become a J├Ągermeister (aka hunt master!).

One copy even went to an incoming Kellogg Class of '13 student, so that was totally cool.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No Midterm Madness this quarter

This is the first quarter that I haven't had any midterms, and boy has that been nice. I'm not a big fan of midterms, in part because I think they end up becoming cram sessions with short-term benefits. It also doesn't help that I pretty much failed my midterm last quarter in Financial Reporting & Analysis (though I pulled a solid showing on the final to finish the class strong!).

In lieu of midterms, I had a couple of big group assignments midway through Tech Mktg and I/T-based Marketing, and I have a group project due at the end of Mktg Channels. I also have finals in Tech Mktg and Mktg Channels, though I'm not really concerned about them because I've been able to stay on top of the readings and other work.
The mid-term assignment in this class was based on a simulation, Softstrat, in which we had to make several key decisions to help a B2B software provider transition from their legacy product to a cloud-based (Software as a Service, SAAS) product in a 5-year period. We had to do a total of 5 runs, and it took a pretty long time. Afterward, we had to write a 7-page reporting detailing our experience, the strategies that we tested, and what we learned from the simulation. My team didn't do as well as some of the others on the final metric, but our highest score was still pretty good.

This was a pretty rough assignment, and I butted heads with my team a lot on how we should approach it, but I learned a ridiculous amount about not just the simulation, but also group dynamics and best practices. A lot of it was stuff that I've covered in other classes like Managerial Leadership and Leadership in Organizations, but it was still fascinating to watch it all unfold.

For example, we really should have set expectations early on for the project. I wanted to spend a lot of time on each run, carefully studying the data as much as possible, but I realized that was unfeasible for the rest of the team (because they have more classes and activities on their plate). I also saw the concept that trying to reach group consensus on decisions can lead to bad decisions and hurt the team morale (you shouldn't try to make everyone happy, especially at the expense of the final product).

I/T-based Marketing
For this class, my team had to determine the best predictive model to use for selecting recipients of a direct-mailing campaign. Our available options were to use a Logit regression, an RFM model, or an Analytical Neural Network model. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, though the Logit is generally preferred over the others because it is more information.

The challenge here was deciding on a model. We got to a point where we were deciding between 2 models, and the team was somewhat divided, though a few folks opted not to side either way. Ultimately, we went with the simpler model, which performed better on some metrics (ROI and response rate), but not as well on the metric that he used to grade our results (total profit $).

I think the key takeaway was to understand the advantages/disadvantages of the different models (like ease of use, necessary data, informativeness), though it also touched on the idea that predictive modeling is all about combining art with science. You have to combine domain experience/expertise with the modeling software and data to get the best results. If you rely too much on either or, you are likely to get bad stuff. Our current assignment is really pushing this idea.

Marketing Channels
Our group project is to analyze the music industry and determine a channel strategy for one of the Big 4 record labels. This class has been absolutely fascinating for me, in part because it is my first time covering the idea of extending the "different strokes for different folks" mantra beyond products and to the overall buying experience. It also helps that the professor is very animated and passionate about the topic, often sending us a lot of supplemental reading material based on the latest happenings that pertain to the class. I also did a little professor "stalking" and stumbled across his blog, which has some good stuff on it as well.

The final deliverable is a 7-page paper + exhibits and a 10-minute presentation. Fortunately, my team has been making good progress on this assignment because no one wanted to push it off to the last week, when every other class also tends to get hectic. I think that we're about 60-70% done with the first draft. It really helps for the team to agree on an overall strategy as soon as possible so that you can start writing. Once you start writing the paper, you start to realize where there are holes in the strategy, what additional exhibits you needs, what other analysis could be done to strengthen the argument, etc.
The end of the quarter is fast approaching, so it's time to get ready for the sprint to the finish line!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coming to Sneak Peek 2011...say hello!

I'm sitting in on the Majors/Program panel for Kellogg Sneak Peek 2011 this Friday from 1:30-3. If you are visiting Kellogg for the weekend, I'd love to meet you, so be sure to say hi!

See you then.

Monday, February 21, 2011

4 new Kellogg Insight posters

You leave Jacobs for one weekend, and what happens? Boom! 4 new Kellogg Insight posters are hung up. This time around, professors Besanko, Satterthwaite, Calder, and Dye made it into the club.

Latest version of Kellogg Insight montage - 02.21.11

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Week & My iOS App

Prof. Kraemer's "168" presentation had a pretty big impact on me the first time I heard it. The underlying idea, tracking how you spend your time every week to see how well it aligns with your priorities, was pretty straightforward, and yet I realized that I had never done anything like that before. Once I started thinking about how I was spending my time, I had to accept that some of the things I kept insisting were important to me really weren't. Furthermore, it helped me "weed my garden" a bit, pulling out anything that wasn't really important in order to make room for the stuff that was. Little did I know the speech would also inspire my first app!

Last quarter, I started working with Stephen, former blogger, on a project idea, though I can't say we've made much progress on it lately. We started looking for someone to help us code it up, and we even put up an ad in Craigslist that ended up getting quite a few responses (though they were mainly from app companies looking to get hired).

Overall, we weren't really gun ho on the idea of getting someone else to code it. Instead, we both wanted to build the prototype ourselves. That meant that we would have to learn how to program in iOS (Objective C). It also meant that it would take much longer to create a prototype, making it much more likely that someone would do it before us. Nonetheless, we were set on making it happen, so I picked up a copy of iPhone Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide and started reading.

I didn't have a lot of time to devote to it, but fortunately, my prior experience with programming meant that I didn't have to learn fundamentals, just the syntax of a new programming language. I didn't make too much progress through the rest of the year, but I did finish up the book.

At the beginning of this quarter, I decided to work on a little side project in order to practice and get more familiar with building an iOS app. I decided to make an app that would allow me to track how I was spending my time each week. There are multiple apps out there that already do time tracking to various degrees, but I didn't care because it was really just an excuse to practice.

I spent a big chunk of time in January coding the basic app, and although it was very slow-going in the beginning, things really sped up once I got over the learning hump (about 3rd week in Jan). Since then, I've become much, much better at the whole thing and made numerous changes and improvements to the app. I'm hoping to submit it to the iTunes store sometime in the next month or so, at which point, I'll look for a way to give the code to anyone that is interested in it.

I've had to redo some big chunks of UI on the app, but thankfully, most of the underlying code is modular enough to move around and modify without much of a problem. For example, here are the 3 big iterations that the main page has gone through in the last 2 weeks.

Evolution of App's Main Screen

There is still a lot of stuff that I'd love to add to the app in the future, but I want to keep things pretty simple in the first version, so I'm just doing minor changes at this point.

Stephen lent me his old iPhone, so I've been using the app this week, and that allowed me to create the beautiful waterfall chart below of how I've used my 168 hours this week.

Breakdown of my week

Stay tuned, because I'm sure there is still more to come!

Friday, February 18, 2011

1 check-in and 1 personal item

Fair warning...this is mainly a self-serving post meant to give me an excuse to put up a guitar video. Consider yourself warned!

I realized during my internship over the summer that when you are traveling for work you can generally only bring 1 check-in bag (for clothes, toiletries, etc) and 1 personal item, which ends up being the laptop bag. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first one is that you don't want to check in bags, unless forced to, because that will slow down the entire team. The second one is that if you are sharing a car between 3-4 people, then you don't have too much trunk space for nonessentials;  not even a trunk monkey!

I'm sure this is fairly obvious to anyone that has done consulting before, but it was news to me. So you have to figure out how to make do with those two items for the week. It was a bit hard at first because I've always been the type to pack a month's worth of stuff for a 1-week trip, but once I figured it out, I was totally sold (and have been traveling this way ever since...even for my 3-week holiday break). I figured out how to manage for 4 days at the client site and bring 2 sets of clothes for jogging using what I can assure you is a tiny check-in bag.

Unfortunately, the week before I started traveling, I came up with the brilliant plan of buying a small guitar to bring with me so I could practice while traveling. It ended up sitting in my apartment most of the summer unused, but it has been coming in handy lately! So it wasn't a total loss...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Last Bidding Bonanza: #5

I put in my class bids earlier today for the last quarter, making it the last time I'll ever get to go through Bidding Bonanza. I've had mixed success with bidding in the past, with my 3rd foray becoming an "integral" (read throwaway exhibit) part of a Harvard case, but in the end, my schedule has always worked out pretty well.

I put in bids for five classes, but to be perfectly honest, I only plan on taking three classes again next quarter. The remaining two classes are both 1-point hail mary plays that I don't really expect to get, though they would make for fantastic backups in case I don't get all of my first choices.

I went with a bit of a risky strategy given the points I have left in order to try to lock up a 2-day schedule (classes on only 2 days), and it could cost me big time. I feel a little silly going for the 2-day schedule, because I know that even if I get it I'll probably find myself having to go to Jacobs on the other days for group meetings, but the possibility of three-day weekends is just too tempting.

If I don't get the classes in the first round, there is no way I'll be able to get any of the times for the same classes in the 2nd round due to the usual bid-inflation. At the very least, I need to get into an international class to fulfill the global elective requirement in order to graduate.

As things stand now, I'll be graduating with two majors: Marketing and Management & Organizations. It's possible that I'll also get Management & Strategy, which would be an unexpected bonus.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anyone want a copy of Case in Point?

Hi all!

I recently got back my copy of Case in Point, which I no longer need (thank goodness), so I thought that I'd try and pass it along. It helped me out a lot, and I'm hoping it will do the same for someone else.

If you want the book, just drop me an email sometime in the next 7 days (you can use the "Send me an email" link in the right column of the blog). I don't think that first-come-first-serve is fair here, so I'll randomly pick someone via Excel if I get multiple emails and then follow up to get a mailing address.

I'm happy to cover the cost to mail it to anywhere that the USPS delivers too, so don't be shy!

All I ask is that you pass it along to someone else when you are done with it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Behind once again

Exhibit at MOCA, Chicago

I thought that taking my schedule down to 3 classes would allow me to stay on top of things, but that was a fantasy. Once again I am behind on things, though the accompanying stress and sense of urgency are much, much lower. This is a much more zen-like state of being behind, and that has some big time implications on mood (at least it does for me).

Although I started out the quarter with some amazing efficiency, things started to chip away at it. Part of it is that I am reverting back to my normal behavior, which involves spending a lot of time consuming content on the internets. I'm still fighting that, with some success I might add. Another part is that I am really good at filling up my time with things to do, and sometimes I lose myself in one activity at the expense of others. Finally, I've realized that when you have a tight schedule, everything that you agree to do outside of that schedule means pushing things back, and it is really hard to make up that time without compromising on other things.

So, what have I been sacrificing lately?
  • Sleep - I was trying to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night, but that has rapidly drifted back down to between 5.5 and 6 hours
  • Exercise - I've scaled going to the gym back to 1x every 3 days, but in the last 2 weeks, I've been approximately 0 times. The blizzard threw my schedule off, and then, I learned that frolicking in extreme cold without proper protection can lead to a rash (fortunately not contagious), which has since gone away but also limited my desire to do anything phsyical. That said, you really have to push your luck to get there; I was at the point that my hands were hurting a lot during my snow shenanigans...
  • Readings - I've pretty much stopped doing any class readings that aren't either tied to a case or assignment
And what have I been doing with my time? Glad you asked!
  • I went to the Kellogg Marketing and PE/VC conferences. Giving up a 8+ hours of time is a killer, but I think it is worth it, especially if I can come away with at least one new idea or insight
  • My GF visited last weekend, and anytime I'm with her my school/work productivity goes down to 0. In contrast, my happiness and childish silliness productivity go through the roof. We didn't have much time, but we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, saw an improv show (not a very good one at that...), and dined at Le Colonial, which was recommended by my awesome, foodie classmate Jess
  • I've been working on an iPhone app. It's nothing special, but it has been an excellent way to learn iOS. I think that the app has a total addressable market of roughly 2, assuming that I convince my GF she wants to use it. But that is just a back-of-the-envelope calculation. I'm going to write in more detail about it later, but in terms of time line, roughly 2-3 months of sporadic effort to learn the ropes and 1 month to write up most of it
Finally, and completely all of the DAKers joining us this weekend, have a fantastic time!

Jacobs - DAKI 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Prediction: Facebook becomes digital retailer....

...and clashes with Amazon and Apple sometime in the next 2 years. Once FB incorporates retail it will become the equivalent of a Web 2.0 "shopping mall," where (millions of) people go to catch up with friends, waste time, and occasionally buy things.

I started to think about this off-and-on after a friend tweeted several stories about Apple rejecting a Sony app because it funneled e-book buyers away from the Apple iBooks store. It was basically Apple's way of protecting the 30% revenue share it earns through its ecosystem.

That made me start thinking about what would happen if Facebook tried to sell things through its iOS app. I don't think it would want to give Apple 30% of the revenue, because it has a mighty ecosystem in its own right. This train on my thought tracks only picked up steam from my Marketing Channels group project, which is on the music industry.

I've concluded that Facebook could be a killer platform for selling stuff, particularly digital media (like music, movies, etc), but probably much more than that, due to its social graph. I read somewhere recently that recommendations from friends are one of the top influences on purchase decisions, though this HBR article concludes that isn't always the case in social networks. Nonetheless, imagine what happens if "Likes" from your circle of friends start becoming product recommendations for things like music.

Facebook already has the social stuff nailed (500M+ strong). Apple and Google have both tried to build social on top of their existing applications (Ping on iTunes and Buzz on Gmail) with less than stellar results. I imagine that they are both dieing to get in on the social party and will continue to try to do so.

Since Facebook has the social already set up, it just needs to build a marketplace, which shouldn't be too hard to do with all of the programming skills they've hired. In fact, they already have the Facebook Credits payment system in place, and that gives Facebook the same 30% revenue share that Apple, Amazon, and others are enjoying. I think they only use it for games right now, but it should be pretty easy to extend it to other products. They also already have storefronts in the form of Facebook Pages.

So, I think sometime in the next two years we'll see FB emerge as a digital marketplace that rivals the likes of Amazon and Apple. It will probably begin with FB and some other media company announcing an exciting partnership. Watch for it!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

BCG Twitter activity picking up

I recently noticed that more BCG Twitter accounts have sprung up since the last time I checked.
  • BConsultantG - This is the oldest account and by far the most active...though that is still pretty inactive all things considered. Tweeter is a North American consultant
  • BCGinsider - The second account to spring up.  Also from a consultant somewhere in North America
  • BCG_Consultant - One of the newest accounts. Not sure where the Tweeter is located
  • BCG_Associate - The other new account...obviously from an associate
The objective of all of the accounts seems to be to provide a perspective of life at BCG, and the last two are even up for answering questions via DM or @replies. The newest accounts look official, though it may be part of a grassroots initiative within the company for all I know.

Either way, I am really glad to see the company finally starting to get active in this space. I think that when you have a strong culture and offer a great environment to work and grow in, being as transparent as possible about the company is a huge competitive advantage, particularly for recruiting. That's why I wrote about why companies should embrace social media a few months back. Although I am extremely^2 biased, I think the company (Texas system at least :) ) offers all that and more (Fortune seems to agree given they ranked it the 2nd best company to work for this year), and although I have absolutely no power going into the company, I was hoping to try and get them to embrace social media more. Maybe now I won't have to worry about it!

Oh, and they also dolled up their website, BCG Perspectives, for sharing research, interviews, etc, a la Kellogg Insight. Always a good move in my opinion.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Amazing Feats of Awesome - Snowpocalypse Edition

Blizzard Video!

Sometimes I have trouble coming up with something to write about, but sometimes, the topic falls right into my lap...2 feet at a time.

Most of the midwest has been hit by the latest "snowpocalypse," and Evanston was forecast to get something like 2 feet of snow in a 24-hour period. Northwestern U (including Kellogg) ended up canceling classes yesterday evening and today.

This morning, things were looking pretty bad outside of the window with lots of snow and wind dancing all over the place. I thought it was the perfect time to go outside and experience a blizzard for the first time, so I suited up, threw my camera into a plastic 1-qt bag, and went for a walk.

I was hoping to make it to downtown Evanston, but unfortunately, my camera's battery died before I could make it.