Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That's it...I'm pretty much done

We had our final presentation in Marketing Strategy just now (1 of 10 presentations...and we have 5 more in a "bonus" class tomorrow morning). It went pretty well if I do say so myself. And I was impressed by the fact that none of the teams went over on time.

At this point, I'm pretty much done with the quarter. I always consider final presentations as the last hurdle before its over. Sure, I still have 2 finals and a paper, but I've been through each many times before. I can practically go into auto-drive now and still get 'er done.

It's time to crank down the stress, crank up the happy, and just bask in the last 3 weeks of Kellogg, Evanston, and student life.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Week 9 rundown

Activity 3/27 4/034/104/174/245/01 5/085/155/22
Intl Biz Strat 8.410.711.910.819.313.
Mktg Strat 4.813.912.812.717.36.810.314.316.4
HR Mgmt 11.86.613.710.
* Note that 3 hours each week is spent in class

I'm a little bit late getting out part 9 in this 10-part series thanks to a Marketing Strategy presentation that we have to give tomorrow. Although I tried to avoid presenting this time because I'm taking the class Pass/Fail, I was unsuccessful. So I'll be one of the two up there tomorrow.

Overall, I'd say the theme last week was winding things down.

International Business Strategy
We had a nice and easy week, with very little to read or prepare for both classes. In the first class, we talked about Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), including why a firm would elect to do a FDI and the pitfalls of doing so. In the second class we had a nice "debate" (it was really a discussion) about trade policy in the US. The two positions were whether or not we should adopt a more open or closed policy going forward. Lots of good discussion, and in the end the class overwhelmingly supported a more open policy (via these awesome clicker voter things that we use in class sometimes). Our final presentation is tomorrow on Friday, but I don't have anything to do for it fortunately. I'll probably just help answer questions as necessary.

Marketing Strategy
Although I'm taking this class Pass/Fail (it's called Credit/No Credit here), I've on average been spending more time on it than any of the others. I can't say I'm surprised though, as it is known to have a heavy workload. This week, I spent a lot of time working on tomorrow's presentation, which is an update of our Markstrat simulation results and plans going forward (if the simulation were to continue).

I was hoping to do something more creative for the presentation to save the class from a boring "consulting-style" deck, but ultimately we decided to go with the standard slides, which are much easier to make I have to admit. You can't win 'em all!

Professor Calkins even supported the style, saying in an email that it was appropriate and would probably make it more memorable. So take note! You can have fun with this presentation if you are in Calkins' class.

This is what the creative one was looking like (stripped of all pertinent information about the simulation or our strategy).








I'm not going to lie...I love making presentations. Call it perverse, but I think there is something really fun about crafting a good story.

Human Resource Management
We also had a relatively slow week in this class, though I spent a lot of time on it preparing for the final, which we get tomorrow night. We talked about discrimination, both taste-based and statistical, and the impact that it has on determining wages for the minority group in a market. The key takeaway was that less discriminatory firms can make a profit by taking advantage of a discriminatory environment to higher employees for less-than-market wages. Apparently, when Alan Greenspan had a consulting firm, all of his top lieutenants were women because he could hire them cheaper than male economists while getting the same, if not better, quality. Pretty interesting stuff.

We also had an awesome guest speaker from Deloitte talking to us about their women's initiative, which was the subject of the case we prepared for class. Before she took on the job of leading the initiative, she worked in both strategy consulting and PE (M&A mainly) roles. She was extremely entertaining and very direct about the challenges in her role.

I'm really bummed that this class is coming to an end tomorrow night, though I'll be very happy when I'm done with the final.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Milestone - Nothing left to read

I just finished the last assigned reading for all of my classes, a case on Steinway & Sons for Marketing Strategy. Now, I can turn my full attention to the assignments and tests that are coming up. Here's what is left on my agenda.

  • MarkStrat simulation presentation for Marketing Strategy
  • Problem set for HR Management
  • Take-home final for HR Mgmt
  • Marketing plan for group project in Marketing Strategy
  • Final for Intl. Biz Strategy

The end is nigh.

Class gift campaign: look forward, give back

Class gift sign @ Kellogg for Class of 2011

The annual Kellogg class gift campaign officially kicked off at the beginning of this week, with signs like the one above popping up all over Jacobs. One of my classmates said that she thought all of the people on the signs looked "fierce; like Top Model fierce."

The campaign is the first major opportunity for the graduating class to make a contribution back to Kellogg as alums to help build the program. Each class chooses how the money they raise will be used. For example, the Class of 2010 elected to use it for a tele-presence video conferencing system, and the Class of 2009 gave a student lounge for the new building.

My class voted to contribute to a shared community space in the new building; probably something similar to the loud study room (LSR).

I made my pledge last night, and although I didn't originally plan to go into it, one of my friends that is on the class gift committee asked me if I could write about it a bit (full disclosure).

So why did I give?

Well, if you've followed along on the blog you've probably gathered that I've thoroughly enjoyed my time at Kellogg. That isn't to say that every day was filled with sunshine and rainbows, but enough of them were outstanding to bias the whole distribution in that direction.

It is a bit early to say it, but I'm fairly certain that grad school, like undergrad, has been a major inflection point in my life that I'll probably look back on and trace a lot of future events to. I've been fortunate enough to have benefited from my time here in both quantitative (...financial) and qualitative (personal development, building new friendships, expanding my perspective, etc) ways. I think that Shahid ('09) did a bang up job of describing the benefits in his post on The MBA and What It's Good For.

I think one of my favorite parts about Kellogg is that you can use your time here however you want and still be certain that you are going to build friendships, learn a lot (about business, yourself, life, Evanston, MarkStrat), and have access to some amazing resources, such as the professors, classmates, and alums.

That could mean getting involved in a lot of clubs, starting your own club, managing part of Kellogg's endowment, leading a KWEST trip, working with professors on independent study projects, working with professors to write cases, organizing a conference, doing projects for companies in exchange for some much-needed cash, running a boot camp at 6am for classmates, or even cross-dressing. The possibilities may not be limitless, but I think you'd exhaust yourself out trying to test the boundaries.

There's no right or wrong Kellogg experience. There's just your experience. It's totally up to you, but regardless of how you choose your own adventure, it will probably change your life.

And that to me is pretty special and definitely something that I want to support, now and in the future.

Oh...and if that support helps Kellogg build an even stronger brand, then I totally benefit from it because it's going to be on my resume for the rest of my life. I'm riding these coattails for a very long time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Week 8 rundown

Activity 3/27 4/034/104/174/245/01 5/085/15
Intl Biz Strat 8.410.711.910.819.313.15.49.6
Mktg Strat 4.813.912.812.717.36.810.314.3
HR Mgmt 11.86.613.710.
* Note that 3 hours each week is spent in class

Welcome back for the latest in my 10-part series! There are only 2 more rundowns left at this point, and they are bound to be eventful; especially the tenth one given how packed that page is on my Wall of Assignments.

This week I had a chance to get together with several classmates, including some KWESTmates I hadn't seen in a long time, for lunch/dinner. It was a very nice addition to the regular routine. And of course there was also the Greater China Business Conference, another Nota Bene event, and plenty of sleep. All in all, it was a great week.

International Business Strategy
The hours crept up as I spent more time reading the optional readings, which tend to come from either consulting firms or the Economist and are pretty interesting, and reviewing my notes. This week we discussed a case on Zara that had a much different angle than the Zara case we read in Marketing Channel Strategies and covered the three common strategies for international competition:
  1. Price leadership strategy - The professor was very bearish on the price leadership strategy, citing how hard it will be to be the cheapest option in every market, but that is no big surprise; in general, competing on price alone is frowned upon.
  2. Differentiation strategy - We talked about the challenge of balancing the scale/variety tradeoff that is common with a differentiation strategy and how to relax it a bit by using modifiable brand/product platforms. One example of doing this is Corona, a beer from Mexico that is positioned differently in different markets.
  3. Transaction strategy. Here, you can try to either become a market maker, like Cemex or Li & Fung, or an intermediary. The basic premise is to be a middleman.
The final project in the class continues to go swimmingly. We have the first draft of our paper done with two weeks to spare. It will go through some iterations before being repackaged into a presentation.

Marketing Strategy
We talked about defensive strategies in class, covering how to identify incoming threats, decide if you should react, and then execute the defense. The defensive stuff is really about killing the competitor's product swiftly and mercilessly. We covered some real examples of brands defending their turf, with one from Hamburger Helper being particularly memorable. When a competitor launched a similar product, HH quickly put out something very similar with almost identical packaging and a lower price point to confuse consumers that were going back to buy the competitor's product again. The defense worked, and shortly thereafter, HH changed the packaging of the new product to be in line with their other products.

The MarkStrat simulation is winding down fortunately. We put in our decisions for the last round, and tomorrow we'll find out how we end up doing overall.

The course formerly known as Human Resources Management
This class now shows up as Personnel Strategy in the course catalog. The professor mentioned that they were trying to give it a more accurate name (it seems lots of students are caught off guard by the microeconomics foundation), so maybe that is what they decided on.

We covered a few concepts in class this week, but the one I found most interesting was Career Concerns. This refers to the incentives that the market gives employees in the way of higher lifetime wages for higher effort. The general idea is that as an employee you have an incentive to work harder so the market can better gauge your ability and reward you for it. Unfortunately, there are several downsides to it. First, it can lead you to put in more effort than what you really should because the marginal benefit of doing so isn't tied to the actual productivity of that effort. Second, it can distort employee's actions, causing them to act in ways that preserve how the market perceives their ability at the expense of the firm, like avoiding a high-risk, high-payoff project.

I'm excited about class this week. We have a guest speaker coming who leads the Women's Initiative at Deloitte to discuss a case on Deloitte's problem retaining female employees back in the early 1990s. It should be interesting.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

GCBC, Nota Bene II, and cool video

Greater China Business Conference
Marketing Strategies to One Billion Chinese Consumers panel

The Kellogg Greater China Business Conference went down earlier today at the Allen Center, which is the executive MBA program's building. As always we had some interesting speakers, some microphone shenanigans, and lots of folks in attendance. This time around, we also had the added bonus of the AMAZING Allen Center food. Later in the day, I heard that research has shown we tend to regret the things we don't do more than the things we do. Well...I regret not having gotten 2 desserts at lunch time when I had the chance.

Here are the main takeaways that I got from each panel. Some of these seem pretty obvious, and yet, it still seems like US companies struggle with them sometimes.

Opening Keynote: China Going Global - The ambitions of many Chinese firms is fueling their drive to expand internationally.

Panel: Marketing Strategies for One Billion Chinese Consumers - Biggest challenge to entering and operating in the Chinese market is striking the right balance between globalization (scale) and localization (variety).

Panel: US Market Entry Strategies of Chinese Companies - Just as cultural differences impede US companies entering into China, cultural differences are one of the most significant challenges for Chinese firms entering the US market. It cuts both ways.

Keynote: The Next Rush for US Companies and Professionals - China and the US are both very interdependent, and as China continues to grow, Chinese and US firms need to look for mutually beneficial opportunities to work together and learn from each other.

Panel: Investment and Financing Strategies for Chinese Entities - Can't expect to find quick success as a foreign company moving into China; go in with your eyes open and be ready to invest for the long haul.

Nota Bene II - Applying MBA Lessons to Your Life
Nota Bene II lecture for Kellogg Class of 2011
Seated from left to right: Professors Adam Galinsky, Kathleen Hagerty, Derek Rucker, Victoria Medvec, Daniel Diermeier, Tim Calkins, and Florian Zettelmeyer

I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed this event. As soon as I got home, I felt compelled to send Frank (at the podium in the picture above), the student that is helping to organize the Nota Bene events, an email thanking him for putting it together. If I could buy a DVD of the event, I would, and I would watch it from time to time whenever I wanted to recall fond memories of Kellogg.

The set up was to get a bunch of Kellogg's rockstar professors together and have them talk about failures they've experienced in their lives and what they learned from those failures in order to impart those lessons to us.

I thought the event was phenomenal because:
  • Rockstar professors tend to have dynamic/unique personalities. I think that makes sense because teaching is like a performance art; in fact, they've even had Second City come in to give professors improv lessons. So, this event basically brought all of these dynamic professors together and allowed them to react with each other for a little over an hour. Hilarity ensued.
  • It was a chance to see a more personal side to all of the professors, and I've always thought that you form the strongest bonds with someone when you see all sides of them. The result was that Prof. Galinsky wins the award, hands down, for the most inappropriate analogy about teaching I've ever heard. Prof. Diermeier wins the "Debbie Downer" award. And Prof. Zettelmeyer told a great joke for use at any business school faculty event.
  • The stories and lessons were all insightful. At the end, we even started talking about "happiness," a topic I love hearing about!

On a side note, I've been extremely fortunate to have had the pleasure of taking classes with 4 of the professors on the panel. So I know that what we got from them on the panel is what you get from them in the classroom. It's awesome.

Cool Video
I love when people take geeky things, like electromag, and make them cool. I've been trying to do this to myself now unsuccessfully for years.

F5 2011 RE:PLAY Film Festival. Inductance from Physalia Studio on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Last Kellogg conference tomorrow

Tomorrow I'm heading to the Greater China Business Conference: Beyond the Great Wall, and it could possibly be my last Kellogg conference.

I'm excited about it because I've actually picked up a small bit of information about the region through discussions in International Business Strategy and the final project in the class.

My team researched Home Depot's failure so far in China for the project...surprisingly (or sadly), they've been doing poorly for many of the same reasons they failed in Chile.

Changing things up this quarter

Ever since dropping my course load down to 3 classes I've had more room to experiment and try out new ways to approach grad school, some of which I'll hopefully continue once I start working again.

Here are a few of the things that I've been doing differently this quarter.
  1. No coffee, just sleep. I was pretty dependent on coffee as a sleep substitute during the first four quarters of Kellogg and my internship. I have no qualms with coffee - I actually find it quite delicious (I take mine straight up...no cream or sugar) - but I knew that I was too dependent on it and that it was now taking much more coffee to get the same effect. So I decided toward the end of the last quarter to start weaning myself off of it and instead try to get more sleep.

    The first few weeks without coffee were rough, especially around lunchtime. Although I was getting a lot of sleep (7-8 hours every night), I was still pretty drowsy at various points in the day. Gradually, and without even noticing it, I got to the point where I felt energetic throughout the entire day.

    I'm kind of doubtful that I'll be able to keep this up when I start working, but I'm going to try because being awake naturally versus being awake with coffee feels very different to me.

  2. Daily Meditation. For the last two months I've been starting every morning off with meditation. I started with only 3 minutes or so and have since increased the duration to about 12 minutes, which is still not really a lot. This is definitely something that I'd like to keep up on a long term basis because I've read that the benefits include increased focus and better control over emotions (e.g. you don't get angry as often). Both of these benefits seem pretty helpful going forward.

    I think that I've been getting better at, but it's hard to tell. I still find my thoughts wandering off all the time during the meditation, though I've also experienced more prolonged periods of a clear mind, which is awesome after growing up with so much sensory overload.

  3. No more blocking out time on my calendar. I was blocking off "me" time on the calendar the last couple of quarters, but I decided to stop doing it this quarter. In terms of productivity, it worked great, especially when I was able to actually assign specific tasks to each block of time. But there was a side effect that I wasn't happy about.

    Due to conflicting schedules in my groups, I frequently had group meetings scheduled during these blocked off times, and I found that that made my attitude toward those meetings slightly negative because the meetings were eating into my "me" time. Normally it didn't really impact me during the meetings, but I didn't like that it shifted my perception like that.

    It is pretty challenging to try to block off big chunks of time with so much group work, especially since my schedule now tends to be much lighter than other students' schedules. To make this work well, I think you would have to really set expectations beforehand about when meetings are going to happen. My experience has been though that most of the times teams have to make exceptions for those agreements because it's hard to predict scheduling in advance with everything else that is always going on.

  4. More exercise. Whenever things get busy, time to exercise inevitably goes on the chopping block. I've been trying to balance this back out.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week 7 rundown

Activity 3/27 4/034/104/174/245/01 5/08
Intl Biz Strat 8.410.711.910.819.313.15.4
Mktg Strat 4.813.912.812.717.36.810.3
HR Mgmt 11.86.613.710.
* Note that 3 hours each week is spent in class

International Business Strategy
We got back our midterms this week. Outside of a stupid mistake that I made on the multiple choice questions, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Since I have some cushion from the midterm and nothing left except the final, this class has officially fallen in priority. I'll continue to do all the prep for classes, but outside of that I'll only spend time on it if I have nothing else to do. It works out perfectly because I'll have 3-4 days before the final that I can dedicate solely to this class.

Our lectures this week were on trade costs: Time, Tariff and non-tariff, Transportation, and Transaction. We talked about how trade costs impact globalization, and we debunked the idea that trade costs are low right now by looking at multiple "mini-cases." Our big case was on how and why Cemex, an international cement company out of Mexico, expanded internationally.

Marketing Strategy
We wrapped up our discussion on strategies for growing established businesses and then discussed a case on Pedigree dog food. In the middle of the discussion, the professor handed it off to the protagonist of the case, who was sitting in the back of the room. Although I've heard of professors that bring in the people that cases are about all of the time, this was the first time that I've experienced it, and I was completely caught off guard. I didn't even notice anyone out of place in class, in part because I've gotten used to seeing random people in classes.

Most of my work for the remainder of the quarter is coming out of this class. We still have one more MarkStrat simulation round to go, a final presentation on our MarkStrat strategy, and a final project on the company/product of our choosing. We've started doing research for the final project, but we still have a long ways to go on it.

Human Resource Management
This class continues to delight. We talked about performance incentives and evaluation methods. To demonstrate how various factors play into a tournament evaluation (aka Relative Performance Evaluation, which is commonly used for promotions), the professor held a tournament in class using a few books for prizes. The big takeaway of the week was that when designing a compensation package for an employee, the base salary only determines if they'll accept the job; it has no impact on how much effort they then put into the job. To motivate effort, you then want to add some kind of performance-based component to the package, though there are pitfalls to watch out for (like incentivizing the wrong behavior).

I'm still waiting to get back the midterm in this class; fingers are crossed.

Bunnies are all over the place!
I don't know if it's because I'm more alert now, but I've been seeing bunnies/rabbits all over the place recently. They must be reproducing like rabbits! In addition to the one near the music building, I've recently seen two frolicking across the street from Jacobs and two young ones that I think live in front of McManus. I was leaving McManus today when I saw them again munching on the grass in the rain. I stopped to get footage of one of course.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Starting to pack

*Note the aggressive use of packing tape

Last year around this time, I was trying to set myself up for the temporary move down to Dallas for my internship. In theory, I didn't have to worry about my stuff in Evanston because it would just stay in my apartment until I came back to reclaim my throne in the Fortress of Solitude (I chose to move into a smaller apartment to save cash, so I did have to worry about it...but you probably won't).

This time around it's different. There is no coming back to Evanston, so I do have to figure what to do with the few things I have. I could use my moving stipend (thanks future employer!) to have a moving company handle all of the messy details for me, but I don't own enough stuff to make that worthwhile; the movers would come in, probably feel sorry for me, and then take my 10 boxes or so down with them. And I'd rather use that money to fund my 4 months of post-Kellogg, Kung Fu-style adventures.

In lieu of movers, I've come up with a game plan for moving myself. I'm going to
  • give away as much stuff as possible (being as ruthless as possible in getting rid of stuff) 
  • mail whatever I'm keeping to my free storage unit (my parent's house) 
  • take whatever I need to survive with me on the flight (clothes, toothbrush, laptop...if the internet were tangible, I'd pack it too).

I'm spreading out the boxing and mailing of things over the next few weeks, so I've already started packing. Now I just need to let it sink in that I've already started packing to leave E-town for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Week 6 rundown

Activity 3/27 4/034/104/174/245/01
Intl Biz Strat 8.410.711.910.819.313.1
Mktg Strat 4.813.912.812.717.36.8
HR Mgmt 11.86.613.710.87.112.2
* Note that 3 hours each week is spent in class

I saw a serious drop in the time that I spent on class stuff due to the Leadership Competition, which took up most of Wednesday, and my weekend trip to Austin. I brought a bunch of school work with me to Austin, but as expected, I only looked at it on the flight.

Now that I'm over the midterm hump, I'm expecting 3 easy weeks as far as school goes before things pick up again for the final push, which includes a combination of final projects, assignments, and finals in the 10th/11th week.

I thought I had fallen behind a lot on readings as I focused on midterms and assignments, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of my classes scaled back the reading workload last week, so I only have a few extra chapters to read in HR Management in order to get caught back up.

International Business Strategy
At this point in the class, there are only 2 things left to take care of: the final project and the final. My team has been really good about spreading out the work for the project, so I think we'll be able to avoid a last-minute scramble to get it done. We are using a "divide-and-conquer" variation that I've never tried before for a paper/presentation. Normally, we take on different sections of the paper, but this time around, we divided up the research, the paper, and the presentation. I wanted to front load the work as much as possible, so I volunteered to take on the research and work on the outline, which we started on 5/01 and finished yesterday. My partner and I will still be supporting the team with additional research, but at this point on, I'm pretty much done with the class outside of prepping for the final.

Marketing Strategy
We turned in a case writeup in class today that I wasn't able to put much time into. Since I anticipated that would happen, I volunteered to take on the update that we turned in a few weeks ago, and it all worked out. That's one of the benefits of working in teams; there always seem to be some teammates that are less busy than others, allowing you to divide the work accordingly. Unfortunately, I've found that you lose this benefit if a lot of the teammates are taking the same classes, because then the workloads are much more correlated.

The MarkStart simulation is starting to wind down. We only have 2 rounds left, and our strategy is pretty much set for those rounds, so now we are starting to shift attention to the final project. We have to write a marketing plan for a company of our choosing. Since I don't have to worry about the Intl Biz Strat project, it should be easier to put time into this.

Human Resource Management
Not much going on here. I'm behind in the class, so I'll spend additional time on it this week to catch up, but otherwise, we are just chugging along. We have 2 more team assignments to turn in, but those rarely take more than 3-4 hours to take care of. My team has also been using the "divide-and-conquer" approach here, but I've opted to do all of the problems anyways for my own benefit since the HWs are so short. At first, I thought that would help out with the midterm and final, but then I found out that the tests tend to be almost completely conceptual (short answers) to balance the quantitative nature of the HWs. He warned us about that in class, but I missed it.

Beyond classes, I've been spending more time going out with friends (dinners, drinks, etc). In fact, this is easily the most social quarter I've had this year, if not both years. I'm still on the low end of the socializing spectrum, but it is great to spend some more time with friends before we all go our separate ways.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thank you

So...I got an email from the ClearAdmit folks, and it seems that my little corner of the internet has done well again. Thank you for that. I'm grateful that some folks find the blog useful, especially since my mom admitted to me that she stopped reading it long ago because she didn't ever know what the heck I was talking about (true story).

First, I want to highlight some of the other student bloggers, because I think they are doing an amazing job of adding to the knowledge base that is out there by sharing their experiences. And the more people blog about it, the more helpful it will be for prospectives and incoming students.

Second, I just want to quickly acknowledge the fact that all I'm doing is sharing my experience at Kellogg. I want to help other folks eventually have their own experiences here. So, I've donated half of the prize to Kellogg's Scholarships fund. I know it's not much, but hopefully it will come in handy to future students.

As far as the other half goes, I'm going to use it to buy books, because I still have a lot to learn.


Leadership Week update

We are in the middle of Kellogg's first Leadership Week, which is being organized by the Business Leadership Club (BLC). They've had events scheduled all week, including a Meyers-Briggs workshop, a leadership competition, and several panels. I've participated in a few of the events and panels, and I thought this would be a good time to do a "quick" update before I head down to Texas (yee haw) for the weekend.

Advice from an alum: Get to know your professors
I'm cheating a bit by including this, since it is from a panel last week, but oh well.

I was waiting for our group room to open up today when I saw Prof. Hubbard speed-walking his way from room to room to work with teams of students in his current Advanced Business Strategy class. I spoke with him last quarter about what he was doing to retool the class, and it sounds like it has been very well received since I've heard nothing but positive things about the class from friends that are in it.

On one of his walk-by's, he commented that I was looking like a hippie (you can see why in the video below). It got me laughing, and it made me think of a piece of advice that an alum gave during a panel on What I Wish I Had Known while in grad school.

She said that although we spend a lot of time getting to know our classmates, it is easy to forget about getting to know our professors. And she mentioned how beneficial it can be to have an expert that you can reach out to in the future if you ever need advice. Andrew Youn ('06) also mentioned how helpful it has been to have Kellogg faculty advising him with his organization, again because he can tap them for advice on their areas of expertise.

I haven't done much on this front, and it is a little too late for me to do it now, so consider it a heads up for any future students. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to get to know the professors, including the students lunches they host every quarter and faculty-advised independent study projects.

Leadership Competition
I participated in the leadership competition, which lasted most of the day on Wednesday, ultimately coming home empty handed (and continuing my streak of losing everything I participate in at Kellogg!).

I was on a team with 3 classmates, including a friend from my CIM section and 2 first-years that I had the pleasure of getting to know for the first time. We had to complete 4 challenges that promoted a variety of leadership skills like communication and teamwork. The final challenge was to give a 5-minute presentation on leadership at Kellogg to a small panel of judges, made up of Prof. Kraemer, the President of KSA, and the President of the BLC.

Although I was a bit hesitant to present at first since I didn't want to risk our chances with my 70/30 public speaking odds, I ultimately agreed to do it, keeping in mind that it was a great opportunity to practice presenting with little preparation.

I recorded our presentation so that I could go back and watch myself for the purpose of identifying areas of improvement...there are a lot. My portion is below.

Based on what we learned in Managerial Communications, I'd give myself a C. I was fidgeting a lot, didn't have strong gestures, and overused a lot of gestures. On the other hand, if I grade myself versus where I was before Kellogg, I'd give myself a solid A.

There is obviously a lot of room for improvement. I'm hopeful that I can continue practicing in the future.

Panel on values-based leadership
There was a panel on values-based leadership, the topic of Prof. Kraemer's new book, which is based on his Managerial Leadership class, on Thursday afternoon. The panel included some of the execs that he brings in as guest speakers in the class.

Kellogg panel discussing values-based leadership

Although I was familiar with the content, I still found it helpful to get a quick refresher and hear the panel's take on the questions from the audience.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Midterm Madness is over

Midterm Madness ended just as quickly as it started. One of the challenges I have with take-home midterms is just sitting down and starting the darn things. I'm always afraid that I'm going to find I missed some crucial thing that I needed to know for the midterm, so I just keep reviewing my notes and prepping. Once I start the journey though, things tend to go smoothly enough.

It feels great to know that I'm done with midterms, most likely for the rest of my life...though I never can tell. Heck, I swore I was done with school after wrapping up undergrad (it was a rough ride), and now look...

I'm a bit behind on classes now as far as readings go, and although I'd like to go back and read what I missed, I may opt to just skip it and move on. It depends on how much progress I make on everything else this week. I'm trying to clear my calendar before my trip down to Austin this weekend.

On a side note, it occurs to me that there are now less than 2 months left for a pop singer to come along and update Vitamin C's song, Graduation (friends forever), in time for our graduation. I'm hoping someone will rise to the challenge, but if not, I can at least take comfort in knowing that the ceremony falls on a Friday, and you better believe I'll be getting down on Friday.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Heads up - 1Y Program Prospective Day on May 20th

Just passing along an email that was sent out to us about an upcoming event for those who might be interested in the one-year MBA program.
The One-Year (1Y) program offers students who have clearly defined career goals with a business background the opportunity to earn a Kellogg MBA in just ONE year.  The 1Y Prospective Day is a great way for individuals to see firsthand what it is like to be a 1Y student at Kellogg through interactions with current students, alumni and faculty.  Anyone who is considering an MBA and thinks the one-year option might be right for them is highly encouraged to attend.  We appreciate your support in this event; below are the pertinent details and links to register for the event.

1Y Prospective Day Details:

Date:                                     May 20, 2011
Time:                                     9:30AM – 5:00PM
Location:                              Jacobs Center, Evanston
Registration Link:              http://kellogg.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_2lfivTjfBT0hEsk

Further information (including Agenda and Logistics details) can be found at http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/Programs/FullTimeMBA/Admissions_Events/ProspectiveStudentEvents.aspx

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Week 5 rundown

Activity 03/27 04/0304/1004/1704/24
Intl Biz Strat 8.410.711.910.819.3
Mktg Strat 4.813.912.812.717.3
HR Mgmt 11.86.613.710.87.1
* Note that 3 hours each week is spent in class

Five weeks down; I believe the remainder of the quarter is what you would call the "home stretch." There was a lot more schoolin' to do this week. It helps to have a sense of your priorities whenever the hours jump up like this because something has to give. Knowing how things stack up makes it easier to shift your hours around as necessary.

International Business Strategy
We learned Paul Krugman's model of Monopolistic Competition, which is really cool. It explains what happens in markets as trade barriers are weakened; namely, competition increases, elasticity goes up, firms increase scale to lower costs and survive with smaller margins, and a shake-out occurs, with some marginal firms being forced to exit. On average, this benefits consumers in the market by lowering prices and increasing variety. Seriously awesome to see it all play out via a handful of simple equations.

I spent a lot of time on this class preparing for the take-home midterm, which I took yesterday. Although I generally consider midterms an exercise in cramming, I have to admit that it was really helpful preparing for this one. I spread out the prep over the course of the week, spending a few hours every day reviewing material, and I now have a pretty good grasp on what we've covered in the first half of the course (as well as a packed, hand-written cheat sheet filled with the content). Unfortunately, getting there also meant ignoring HR Management.

Marketing Strategy
I really need to spend some time going over the notes in this class. This last week we covered strategies for an established business, looking at the benefits, challenges, and differences from establishing a new business. Unfortunately, I don't have a firm handle on everything that we've covered. Hate to say it, but maybe having a midterm would have helped?

I didn't spend a lot of thoughtful time on this class this week, but I clearly spent a lot of hours on it. Why? Well...the MarkStrat simulation. My team finally saw some returns to our strategy, and although we were helped a lot by plain ol' luck, we are now in a good position for the rest of the simulation.

I volunteered to write the first draft of our second MarkStrat update, which provides an overview of our company's performance to date and strategy for the rest of the simulation. Since I'm a pretty slow writer, I spent most of Wednesday working on it (something like 8+ hours). Now we just need to do some iterations on it to get it to a good state and then submit before midnight tonight.

Human Resources Management
I had been doing a good job of reviewing all of my notes regularly until this week. Since I shifted gears to Intl Biz Strat and spent so much time on the MarkStrat update, I had to place this class on the back burner. I have a take-home midterm to work on this week though, so I will be spending a lot more time on it. Although I could see a lot of people having mixed reactions to this class, especially given its surprising foundation in economics, I am really digging it. I'm curious to see how the midterm compares to the HW, since the HW has been pretty easy so far.

Friday was packed with fun, fun, fun, fun

There was a lot of stuff going on around Kellogg on Friday, including the alumni reunion and the Special K! show. I got to go to a handful of cool events.

Business Leadership Club Presentation with Andrew Youn ('06)
Andrew Youn talking to students after his talk

Andrew Youn, the founder of One Acre Fund, gave a presentation about the organization and leadership to a packed room. There were even a handful of faculty members in attendance, including Prof. Kraemer, a big supporter of the organization.

Andrew spent some time talking about the progress the organization has made so far and its plans for the future. They are currently serving ~50K families in Kenya and Rwanda with plans to double that in the next few years. In addition, they hope to eventually influence agricultural policy in the region as another avenue for helping the people there.

Sitting there listening to what they've done, it's hard not to be ridiculously impressed, especially when you consider that he's been building the organization up from scratch beginning in his 2nd year at Kellogg. I'm always inspired when I hear about people working on stuff like this.

After the presentation, he answered a lot of Q&A from the audience, delivering some useful nuggets for entrepreneurs:
  • Get a pilot program going as quickly as possible to test your concept, determine if it can be operationalized, etc. He started with a pilot program helping 40 families during his second year of grad school.
  • Make fundraising as time-efficient as possible so that you can spend as much time as possible actually developing the business. He started fundraising at Kellogg with the help of his KWEST trip mates, who signed up classmates to contribute $20 a month to start the organization.
  • Don't be afraid to fail. Try a lot of stuff and see what works and what doesn't. The organization has developed a lot through this process, learning what they can and can't do well.
  • Maximize customer value while minimizing costs.

First Nota Bene Lecture: A Look at Macro Trends
Nota Bene activities for Class of 2011

Every year, the school hosts the Nota Bene ("note well" in Italian) series of lectures for graduating students. These tend to be given by rockstar faculty members who impart a little bit more knowledge to us before we leave. The first one, 2020 and Beyond - A Look at Macro Trends, was given by Professor Rebelo, who has made a name for himself delivering amazing/entertaining lectures in his International Finance class, which went for 1400 bid points (out of the 3000 you get for the year) this year. His Nota Bene lecture was no different.

He covered a log of mega trends that should have a significant impact on our careers throughout the next 30 years, including of course, China's growth into a GDP powerhouse.

Alumni Reunion TG
The Jacob is prepped for Kellogg's 2011 Alumni Reunion

The Alumni Reunion is this weekend, bringing together Kellogg alums across generations. The accompanying TG event was held in a fancy tent that they set up next to Jacobs. It was the first TG that I've been to in a while, and it was great to catch up with some folks that I haven't seen in a long time, including the '10 alum that is pretty much responsible for my internship/job at BCG. Unfortunately, I had to bail early on TG to make it to...

The 2011 Special K! Show
There's not much to say about the show; it was amazing. The quality of the video shorts was phenomenal and the songs and sketches were equally good. They should call this the "I bet you didn't know how well your classmates can sing, dance, and play music" show. I opted for the earlier screening, but the later one is known as the "rowdy alum" show, in part because it happens after several hours of TG'ing.

P.S. I love this album by The Head and The Heart. Just check out this video that sounds great with just a guitar, some harmonies, and an empty tunnel. Great blog-writing music.