Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Idea for a curriculum/personal-development map

Totally random, but I was a reading an article for one of my classes when my mind started to wander, eventually landing on the process of selecting your classes in grad school.

I'm a big fan of presenting information visually whenever possible because I think it is generally more intuitive. Right now, most of the tools for planning out your courses/curriculum at Kellogg are primarily text-based: course catalog, major requirements, an Excel spreadsheet planning tool that we are given, etc. It all works out well enough, but I don't think it does a great job of presenting the big picture.

So I sketched up something (redrawn to the best of my ability with the GIMP below) that I think would make for an interesting "curriculum/development map." Although I think it would probably be ideal for a touch-based interface (e.g. iPad), I imagine it could also work via a regular web browser.

Curriculum/Development Map

I haven't worked out everything, but the idea would be:
  • Available courses are organized by discipline and ordered going from more general (the broad foundation) to more specific (deep skills in an area). If you have an idea for what you eventually want to do, you could pick your classes accordingly. For example, someone interested in consulting may prefer to stick with the more general classes, where as someone interested in PE might go full bore into the Finance stuff
  • You could pinch and zoom around to see all of the available classes
  • Clicking/tapping on a class would bring up the information for that class in a side window or something, and the map could draw lines between classes showing requirements, complements, etc.
  • Color-coding would be used to show specific things that the user selects. Like they could look at what classes make up a major, what they've already taken, classes available for a given quarter, etc.
  • The map would quickly show you what areas you are developing
  • There would be "cross-discipline bands" for classes that don't fit neatly into any one area
Of course, something like this would require a lot of thought and planning early on while developing the catalog of available classes, but I think it could be pretty useful for students.

I wonder how other schools manage this.

What do you all think? Any ideas?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wall of Assignments Episode VI: Return of the Quarter

Wall of Assignments - Last quarter

I just finished putting up the Wall of Assignments for this quarter, and things are looking so-so. It's nowhere near as busy as the 3rd quarter, which is when I first put up the wall after completely missing an assignment early on (fortunately, my team covered my butt on that one).

This quarter, the work is pretty evenly distributed, but there is still the usual spike in assignments at the end of the quarter that always makes things "fun." I really appreciated the schedule for IT-based Marketing. In that class, there was never a big spike, and the bulk of the work wrapped up in the 9th week, leaving the last week for review.

In terms of workload, it looks like Marketing Strategy will be filling in as the "beast," at least in terms of raw # of assignments. This quarter, I have two course projects, two final presentations, two midterms, and two finals. It's hard to tell at this point how long I'll actually spend on each class, but I'm going to use 168 Hours (gratuitous app plug!) to try and track the time each week (assuming I can keep borrowing my friend's iPhone). 

Unfortunately, I now know that I won't be able to make it down to Austin for my GF's birthday. Total bummer.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How much does an MBA cost: update

Here are my updated expenses to date excluding tuition. I've also excluded the cost of the victory lap through Europe this summer.

Please keep in mind that there are a ton of caveats to this given that what you spend will be impacted by your unique circumstances, and I've made some subjective calls on what to include/exclude. For example, I opted to bring very little with me and buy a set of everything when I got here, inflating my Misc expenses for the first quarter.

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
Q5$1,972$3,240$2,590$7,802
Total$10,391$26,826$34,193$71,410
*There are probably some rounding errors in the totals

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Boston University's Int'l Case Competition is underway right now!

I've been following the tweets for the 2011 Case Competition, which is underway right now, and reminiscing about my experience at the competition last year. Although staying up for 35 hours was pretty rough, it was still one of my top grad school experiences. It's hard to believe that it happened 1 year ago...time flies.

I was recently asked to comment on my experience for a story that is currently up on Ericcson's homepage, and the person forwarded me a link to their summary video from last year, featuring yours truly after being awake for 30+ hours trying to sound coherent.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Video for Prof. Kraemer's upcoming book

Ran across this video today while engaging in some serious procrastination, and I felt compelled to share it given how much I enjoyed Prof. Kraemer's class.

The video is for his upcoming book, From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership, and from what I understand, all proceeds are going to the One Acre Fund, a non-profit started by Andrew Youn, a Kellogg alum.

I try not to peddle stuff very often (probably unsuccessfully), but this is worth it!

Visiting HomeAway's HQ

HomeAway sign

I have a friend working at HomeAway, one of the more well-known startups in Austin, and he was gracious enough to give me a tour of the HQ a few days ago. Their building is in a great location, across from the Whole Foods HQ and a few blocks away from the heart of downtown, and it's filled with quirky, vacation-themed decorations and nice employee amenities.

I was pretty impressed with some of the stuff he told me about the company. When I asked him if he'd ever return to a big company, having worked at IBM before, he said something along the lines of "not a chance."

Here is one of those quirky decorations I mentioned: an automated snow globe shaker.

Monday, March 21, 2011

168 Hours is available in iTunes!

My app, 168 Hours, is now available for download in iTunes!

That was pretty fast. It took 8 days to go from submission to approval, and most of that time was spent in the "Waiting for Review" phase. Earlier today the status changed for the first time, and the app was on iTunes within 2 hours of that update.

In the end, I went for a simple logo, which was just a font treatment with the Kellogg colors. Hopefully the school doesn't mind; I figured it was appropriate since I would have never written it if I hadn't come here.

This was my first response to my earlier challenge of creating and sharing something in 2011. The next one is more ambitious. Hopefully I'll get it done. 

My app is in iTunes!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Austin, Je T'Aime

We caught one of the free SXSW concerts last night with The Strokes, and it was fantastic. I was initially down on the idea, thinking the crowds would be nuts, but I'm glad that 1) I was wrong and 2) there was enough momentum in favor of going that we went!

This was the last song in their set list, Last Night. The fireworks were a bit on the ridiculous side. They kept going for a solid 8 minutes or so and were increasingly over the top (and not in an arm wrestling movie sort of way).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Real-world reentry date set

Last week I got an email from my future employer with the list of start dates available to me. In the past, I would have jumped on the earliest start date, because I hate being dormant when I could instead be making things happen. It was exactly this logic that convinced me to slip into my job at IBM without any sort of vacation after undergrad. In fact, I was already working at IBM part-time when I graduated, so it just became a matter of multiplying my hours x2 the Monday following graduation.

In hindsight, I now wish that I had at least taken a week off because once I started working full-time, I threw myself into it full bore, often at the expense of other parts of my life. And although I was able to do a lot of cool stuff at IBM, delaying that sprintathon by one or two weeks would have probably had little or no impact on my career trajectory.

Given that experience, I immediately crossed off the earliest option. My inclination was to settle with the middle option, which I thought would be the "safest" bet, allowing me to decompress a bit and travel without postponing the reentry into work-life by too much. But then I thought about why I was going with the safest best, and all I could come up with was "because that seems like what I would do." That wasn't a good enough reason, so ultimately, I settled on the latest start data available, in part to rebel against "what I would do," and ended up getting it! Since then, I've heard from a few recent Kellogg alums that said it was a smart move.

So now, I'm looking forward to having four months off after I graduate and starting the sprintathon again in October. Although that's a pretty long period of time to not have any pressing responsibilities, I've already started thinking about how to make the most of that time. Beyond the two-week victory lap through Europe, I have to:
  • Get a haircut
  • Do all of the prep work to transplant myself into Dallas
  • Set up a post-Kellogg blog
  • Reflect on everything, past, present, and future
  • Reconnect with friends, family, and of course, the GF
  • Work my way through a couple of lists of "must read" books that I've been building while in school
  • Continue working on another side project that I put on hold to focus on my iPhone app
I'm certain that other things will find their way onto my list between now and then, but hopefully, I'll have more than enough time to get it all done.

Monday, March 14, 2011

168 Hours

168 Hours is an iPhone/iPod app that helps you track how you are spending your time on a daily or weekly basis. It is meant for anyone that has a strong motivation to track their time and can be used for personal reasons, research, work (though it may not be as ideal as other apps for work), etc.

The inspiration for the app came from a lecture by Prof. Harry Kraemer where he discusses the benefits of comparing how you are spending the 168 hours you have each week against your priorities to check for alignment. Furthermore, some articles claim that self-tracking can improve productivity, and ultimately, happiness.

I had plenty of help designing and testing the app from a number of friends and classmates, including Busicow, Ben Thompson, and Stephen Windsor, amongst others.

If you run into any problems with the app, want to tell me how much you love it, or curse at me for how much you hate (it's all good!), please send me an email, and I'll be happy to take care of it as soon as possible. Thanks!

The code for the app has been open sourced through the ASL v2 and can be downloaded here.

Activity List Screen
main_window_actions
When you launch 168 Hours, you will see the main screen, the Activity List, which displays a list of all activities available for tracking. On the Activity List you can:
  1. Add a new activity to the list
  2. Delete or rearrange activities. Note, this button will only appear after you have added at least 1 activity. You can also swipe to delete an activity
  3. Start or stop the timer for an activity by tapping on it
  4. View the activity's details via the Activity Info screen
  5. Alternate between the daily and weekly view. The times will change to reflect the cumulative time spent on an activity for either today or this week. The title at the top will show much time is left for either today or this week
  6. Save the information to a CSV log file that can be downloaded from the device via iTunes for storing or analyzing via Excel. By default, the app will store 4 weeks of data

Default Activities
168 Hours has two default activities that can not be rearranged, deleted, or renamed:
  1. Sleep - Because everyday should be grounded by a good night's sleep
  2. Misc - Any time that is not assigned to an activity gets automatically bucketed under the Misc activity. If you forget to start the timer for something you are doing, you can reassign an entry from here to add time to that activity after the fact

Activity Info Screen
Activity_Info_screen
The Activity Info screen shows an overview of the time that has been spent on that activity for the last 4 weeks. The cumulative time for the week is displayed at the top with a daily breakdown below. From here, you can:
  1. Return to the main Activity List
  2. Rename the activity
  3. View the individual entries for that day via the Entry Info screen by tapping on it
  4. Switch between the last 4 weeks

Entry Info Screen
Entry_Info_screen
The Entry Info screen shows all of the individual entries for the selected day. From here, you can:
  1. Return to the Activity Info screen
  2. Delete individual entries. Swipe to delete is also available
  3. Rename the activity
  4. Edit an individual entry via the Change Entry screen by tapping on it

Change Entry Screen
Change_Entry_screen
The Change Entry screen allows you to edit an individual entry. From here, you can:
  1. Cancel the change and go back to the Entry Info screen
  2. Confirm the change and go back to the Entry Info screen. If nothing is changed, then this is the same as tapping on the Cancel button
  3. Reassign the entry to another activity, moving the entry's time to that activity
  4. Reduce the time for the entry. Please note that you can only reduce the time; you can not increase the time

Getting the CSV Log File
After saving the log file from the Activity List screen, you will have an option to email it to yourself.

doc_email_question

If you opt to go with email, then you can fill out the form that comes up and send the log to yourself or queue it up for sending later. The log is automatically deleted after the email is sent.

doc_email_form

If the email fails for any reason or you opt to not use it, then you can download the log file manually through iTunes.

log_saved_screen

Connect the device to iTunes and navigate to the Apps window to download the CSV file

Screen shot 2011-03-14 at 1.55.02 PM
The log file can then be imported into Excel for further analysis

log_file

What If I Forget to Start the Timer for an Activity?
No sweat! Just reassign a Misc entry with the desired time to the activity

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another quarter down. I'm an MB(A/2)

Another quarter down...1 more to go

It is incredibly satisfying to see all of my assignments crossed off on the Wall of Assignments. Although I'm not technically done (I still need to review my write-up for the Marketing Channels final), I don't think I'll be spending much more time on this quarter. So I feel pretty comfortable jumping the gun and tacking on the "half A."

Here is my final update to weekly times for the quarter.

Activity 2/13 - 2/19 2/20 - 2/262/27 - 3/53/6 - 3/123/13-3/14
Blog 1.76.01.81.3
Gym 2.84.51.54.7
Guitar 3.91.61.73.5
Walking 4.33.74.74.5
Coding 5.39.918.00.9
Talk to GF 6.58.012.47.4
IT Mktg 6.917.013.73.6
Tech Mktg 11.35.89.719.5
Mktg Channels 16.215.120.28.36
Sleep 48.952.250.855.6
Misc 60.244.233.058.8

This last week I allowed myself to decompress fully before the finals leading to the larger amount of sleep and misc time. I hope this gives a decent sense of the workload in grad school. Although I'm only taking 3 classes, coding the app has pretty much been like a 4th class in itself. If you wanted to factor in for something else like recruiting or a 5-quarter schedule, you would pretty much reduce sleep to around 42 hours per week, cut out Gym/Guitar/Coding time, and get the balance from Misc time. Of course, schedules vary by student given different priorities, so just consider this one point of data.

IT Mktg
The last week in IT-based Marketing was very relaxed. We had a case discussion in one class that was somewhat high-level without any number-crunching or modeling—a welcome change from the past few weeks—and then a summary of everything we had covered. The professor invited all of us over to his house for drinks and conversation, but I wasn't able to make it out due to my Tech MKTG class.

Tech Mktg
As soon as I wrapped up the Marketing Channels presentation, I turned my full attention to the Tech Marketing final, which I took yesterday via the early option. Going into final prep, I'm usually hazy about everything that we've covered, especially since I've been shifting between different classes, but I'm always amazed at how much stuff comes back to me when I am reviewing it. At first I was kind of worried about this final, but once I realized how much content I had retained, I relaxed. Sure enough, the final, which was definitely a time crunch, wasn't all that bad. I'm going to miss the Thursday Twitter sessions for this class.

Mktg Channels
We had a take-home final in Marketing Channels that was very similar to all of the other case assignments we've had. Apparently, I'm not great at writing these things up (as I've missed out on the elusive + both times), but I'm not terrible either. Since I have spent so much time on this class throughout the quarter, I didn't really have to spend much time reviewing material for the final. I'm still not completely done with it, but all that is left is to review it tomorrow morning with a fresh mind and then submit.

Sustaining myself
I had a great conversation with a few prospective students on Friday, and one of them asked me how I sustain myself in grad school. The implication was that given how busy things can get, it must be hard to prepare food all of the time. Once again, this is one of those things where your experience will vary, but I personally don't enjoy cooking that much, so I always go with quick meals (<30 minutes to prep/eat) from Whole Foods (since its in walking distance of my apt). Here are a few of my staple items for this quarter:
  • Granola cereal - I buy this in bulk via Amazon Subscribe-and-Save. I've lost track of how many boxes I've eaten at Kellogg, but the number is approaching, if not above, triple digits
    I've eaten at least twice my weight in granola while at #kellogg
  • Gardein Trios - I happened upon these things at Whole Foods early in the quarter and have been buying them ever since. It is basically a vegetarian meal for <$4 that takes around 15 minutes to prep and eat. Although I've had problems with the packaging, it seems like they've finally fixed it up a bit lately.
  • Green Tea
  • Salad and salmon (prepped via a little toaster oven)
  • Misc frozen meals and pizza


My offer to match donations for relief efforts in Japan is still on the table and will be until I've hit my goal. Fortunately, I've had a few people take me up on the offer so far, so a big chunk has already been contributed. Thanks.

BTW...donationdoubler.org has compiled a list of all of the matching offers out there. Quick way to attach a multiplier to any donations.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan - I'm matching donations...

Update - 03.16

I just wanted to thank all of you for your help. I hit my goal today, so now I have to bow out and leave things to the heavy hitters, like Eric Schmidt and Abenity.com, amongst others.

Thanks to you all my email folder looks like this...and it's a great sight.



I'm sure by now you have all either read about and/or seen the situation in Japan. Unfortunately, the only way I know how to help right now is via donations, but instead of just going it alone, I thought I'd try to match donations to double the impact.

So, I'm willing to match any donations up to $500. I know it's not a lot, but I figure every little bit helps.

I don't know the best way to do this, but if you donate to something directly related to the efforts, just post the amount in a comment or send it to me via email, ooneill2011@kellogg.northwestern.edu, and I'll match it via a Red Cross donation to the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund.

No need to send me a receipt or anything...I'm going off of the Kellogg Honor Code here.

Thanks.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Marketing Channels presentations was a pseudo-success

This morning, my team presented our recommendations for how Warner Music Group could improve its channel strategy in Marketing Channels. I was one of two member of the team tasked with presenting in what was a less than ideal spot.

There were a total of 10 presentations done across 2 classes, and we were the last group to present. By then, most of our ideas had already been covered by the preceding groups, and I think everyone was pretty much ready for the end of the class.

I volunteered to present for my team knowing that it would be a great chance to practice, but after my less than stellar performance on the Preview Weekend panel, I was a bit concerned with how it would go. I took on the first half of the presentation and started practicing for it immediately. All told, I probably spent 3 hours practicing for what ultimately was between 3.5-4 minutes of presenting.

For the most part, the presentation went off without a hitch. I went through everything I wanted to say with a problem. Although I felt myself getting nervous before my team's turn, I didn't experience the sense of dread I've run into before. And once I started talking, I felt myself slip into a comfortable state. I think it was a very respectable "performance," but it wasn't great.

The big issue I have with it is that it was a carefully rehearsed performance. In going that route, I basically lose any sort of advantage that I might derive from my individual personality, which I assure you is quite colorful.

As comforting as it may be to go through a rehearsed presentation, it also feels incredibly limiting. In the future, I want to find a better balance between scripted and improvised and get to the point where I feel comfortable even if I haven't practiced a lot. It seems like a distant goal, but given how much I've improved during my time at Kellogg, I know it's not impossible.

Looking back on my time here, I find it pretty amazing that I've managed to participate in all but one of my group presentations as well as a few bonus presentations for competitions and misc things. And that one I missed out on was because I skipped the group meeting before the presentation to go check out a Seth Godin event....it was totally worth it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

...and Facebook becomes a digital retailer!

Wow! This certainly happened faster than I thought it would when I predicted that Facebook would become a digital retailer 1 month ago. From my post:
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!
According to the story on All Things Digital (or HuffPost) - Facebook Begins Movie Rentals With Warner Bros
Now that’s over. The social media giant is taking its first step to connect you with movies and TV shows, while collecting a fee in the process. It’s going to let users rent movies directly from the site, using Facebook Credits to pay for the transaction.

First up is “The Dark Knight”, from Time Warner’s Warner Bros.. It will cost 30 credits, or $3, for a 48-hour rental, via an app the studio has built for the site. More movies, along with the ability to purchase the titles outright, are coming.
As the Huffpost points out, this is just the first salvo in what I'm sure will become an awesome rivalry between the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Going into consulting? Check out Thinkcell!

A rare double post for today! Almost as sweet as a double rainbow.

Anyways, if you are interning in consulting or heading into it full time without prior experience, you can get a leg up by familiarizing yourself with Thinkcell, a Powerpoint plug-in that makes it a snap to easily visualize data (aka create fancy charts!).

All kidding aside, I think it's an extremely useful tool, and from what I understand, 2 of the "Big 3" firms use it. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of other firms use it as well.



I can't speak for other schools, but I know that you can get a 6-month licensed version through the Kellogg Information Systems (KIS) website that is a perfect way to learn. If you are a Mac user, the bad news is that it only works in the Windows-based version.

Watson on Jeopardy

Wow. Watching Watson do so well on Jeopardy is pretty amazing. I have to hand it to Big Blue for making it happen.

Back when I was at IBM, I worked on the servers that form Watson's "brains." Although most of my time was spent on Power 4-6, I think I got in a smidgen of time with the Power 7 stuff, which makes a cameo about 3 minutes into the video. Of course, when I was working on it, I wasn't doing anything nearly this cool.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

End of a tough week. Finals time!

I just wrapped up my final review of our Marketing Channels group project, which we have to turn in by noon today (Update...we sent it off at 11:59, but due to technical issues, it didn't get sent until 12:34). With that, I have wrapped up the end of my toughest week this quarter (as predicted by my most recent Wall of Assignments).

Activity 2/13 - 2/19 2/20 - 2/262/27 - 3/5
Blog 1.76.01.8
Gym 2.84.51.5
Guitar 3.91.61.7
Walking 4.33.74.7
Coding 5.39.918.0
Talk to GF 6.58.012.4
IT Mktg 6.917.013.7
Tech Mktg 11.35.89.7
Mktg Channels 16.215.120.2
Sleep 48.952.250.8
Misc 60.244.233.0
*Numbers for past weeks are slightly different from last table because I fixed up the app time stuff to be more accurate.

Coding
There was a huge jump in the time I spent coding for what I think was the final push on the app. I made some major changes/additions this week that were pretty challenging (I no longer have a total grasp of all of the code). First, busicow, who is helping me test it, came up with a pretty slick way to add time to activities after the fact, something I had been struggling to figure out how to do elegantly. Second, the "boss," who is using it to track her billable hours at work, suggested a cleaner way to present the information that I dug. At this point, I think I just need to do the administrative stuff to get it ready for submission.

Classes
I had assignments due in all of my classes on Thursday, Friday, and today. This was my last set of assignments for the quarter, so now I get to enjoy the last week of classes as I prepare for finals.

Marketing Channels continued to have the heaviest workload. I pretty much ignored most of the readings this past week so that I could have time to focus on the Stihl case that was due on Thursday and the group project. In addition to the group project, we have a take-home final and a group presentation, which I volunteered for of course! I'll be one of two presenting on Thursday, and given my troubles with the public speaking, I'll spend the next 4 days practicing my slides.

In IT-based Marketing, we had to run through a simulation in which we had to select credit card offers to send to 3 customer segments using suspect data. The goal was to maximize profitability, and unlike other simulations, we only had one attempt (a test mailing and mass rollout), so it felt very high stakes. In the end, we wound up getting one of the lowest total profitability scores in the class! And even that was due to some lucky things working our way, but no biggie....you can't win them all.

I didn't find the case in Tech Marketing very interesting, so I was glad when my team took an immediate "divide and conquer" approach to it, reducing the amount of time I'd have to spend on it. I took on 2 write up questions that I took care of early in the week, and then I didn't spend much more time on it.

I've decided to use today as a recovery day for the week ahead. I'm going to do some gyming, watch a movie, play guitar, and pick up some foodstuffs. Pretty thrilling stuff!