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    Journey Through the Core

    August 28th, 2014

    Originally Posted: 10/28/2012 11:39 PM 

    It finally happened for me.  After working so hard during the first quarter of classes and having the occasional “when will I ever use this” thoughts, I was listening to some conversations in class and realized just how much I had learned since August 4.

    Sometimes it is hard to appreciate it when you are right in the middle of the class or pounding out an analysis of a case, but when you take a step back and think about all of the connections you just made, it’s amazing. It’s a capital lease, not operating, so it has a different impact on the depreciation structure (accounting) and how I value the company using a DCF analysis (finance). The shift in long run average total cost in an industry (econ) will change the supply curve, cause firms to exit, and, therefore, alter the competitive forces of the remaining firms (strategy).

    If you don’t know what that means, fear not. They will teach you. That’s what our professors are there for. The point is that everything really is connected. Knowing these connections starts to change the way you think about issues. It also makes the material that much more interesting. You can see, in short order, the use of the knowledge you gained just a few weeks prior.

    The part that is fantastic is that it’s all planned. The faculty that teach the core 1st year classes meet on a weekly basis and discuss what is going on in each of their sections.  They seek feedback from other faculty members to make sure that not only do they use material and references across the courses, but they make changes to support one another. When reviewing a quiz, we have even been explicitly told that the question was included because another faculty member wanted the point stressed because of what they were planning to do in future coursework.

    This is what we mean when we say Johnson is collaborative. It is not just a saying. It’s not just for your team or even just the student body. It is a reflection of Johnson’s approach to learning and makes learning here such a rich experience.

    With that, Happy Halloween from Sage!

    SageHW

    Part of a series of my re-postings of my blog for the “Life @ Johnson” section of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University MBA program website.



    Exams With Faculty That care

    August 14th, 2014

    Originally Posted: 10/5/2012 8:06 PM  

    Exam weekend is here! The core class line-up is Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday.  It is a marathon of study time, practice exams, group session, TA and Professor led reviews, and – when one can find time – some sleep.

    As you can imagine, this could be a very stressful time for the students, and I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t. That said, there are tons of examples of the true Johnson spirit shining through. I want to just share a few with you so you can appreciate the awesome atmosphere that this school creates.

    I could write a whole post (and should) on how much the 2nd year students help out the 1st year students. It is part of what Johnson is. This weekend they are sponsoring extra snacks for us in the atrium to keep us fueled up for our exams.

    The people love to learn. We just had a re-screening of the presidential debate that was very well attended despite the looming exams. The main focus was two professors of economics that were taking Q&A and giving their opinion and insights on some of the comments.

    Extended office hours and review sessions were all around. There was help from the faculty of the school, if that’s who you wanted to talk to

    The students themselves organized into groups and had open study sessions that people can pop in and out of.  In fact, there was even a Facebook group that was started specifically for the exams so that people could post questions with a virtual study group.

    Back to the faculty, they provided all sorts of study materials to make sure we could prepare for the exams. Sure, there are a bunch of curve balls on the day of, but just knowing that the system is in place to support us is very reassuring.

    The last thing that I’ll say is the coordination for the semester.  Sure there are conflicts – all of them can’t be avoided, but the entire school is VERY good at planning things out. And not just for social and professional events, but for course deliverables as well. On top of that they take feedback and then take action on it.

    In short, it is a very busy time here at Johnson and I couldn’t be happier that I’m in the middle of it.

    Part of a series of my re-postings of my blog for the “Life @ Johnson” section of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University MBA program website.


    Eric Schmidt and Homecoming at Cornell

    July 31st, 2014

    Originally Posted:9/24/2012 8:48 PM

    As you can imagine every now and then people need a break to have some fun, and Johnson never comes up short in that respect.  From the weekly socials in the Atrium to the daily coffee breaks, there is always opportunity to step away from the books for a moment (even though you may end up talking about it anyway, at least you’re up and moving around.

    Here is a quick snapshot of a few of the big events from the last week, Cornell’s homecoming!

    To start things off there was a fantastic lecture by Eric Schmidt.  The event that I went to (pictured below, from the 3rd row) was a 30 minute talk with Q&A. Some very lucky members of my class actually had a much longer conversation with him as he presented in one of the classes at Johnson. I wasn’t there, but I heard that it was fantastic.

    EricSchmit

    Next up was the homecoming tailgate that Johnson and the alumni association hosted. While it rained a bit in the morning, since we had a full tent it didn’t stop the party!

    Homecoming1

    Next up the actual football game! We pretty much dominated from early on, which made it a lot of fun to watch.  All sorts of free Cornell gear was distributed and people were having a great time.  I do have to admit that I didn’t stay the whole time though because I had other things to do….

    Homecoming2

    Those other things happened to be supporting the Johnson Rugby team!  This match was just versus another Cornell team, but a week or two ago they played NYU and dominated.

    Rugby1
    Back to the books now – we have finals for the first set of our core classes starting next week and a few other projects in the mean time.  Like I said, always stuff to do here in Ithaca, but there’s also always stuff to get back to.

    Part of a series of my re-postings of my blog for the “Life @ Johnson” section of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University MBA program website.


    Sharing My MBA Adventure

    July 17th, 2014

    Originally Posted: 9/16/2012 3:40 PM 

    Hello prospective students, friends, classmates, alumni, and other visitors. My name is David Schuette, Class of 2014, and I’m excited to share my experiences at Johnson with you via this blog.  To start things off, here is a brief introduction of who I am and my background.

    I originally hail from Wisconsin in a town about 3 hours north of Chicago. I lived there all through grade school and attended the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, where I majored in operations management and minored in math.  My first position was with Lands’ End, a major cataloger-turned-ecommerce retailer, where I worked on their digital analytics team.  My focus was on website testing & optimization but I also played a large role in serving internal clients from merchandising to usability.  After three years I took a position in Rochester, New York with a direct and digital agency called Catalyst.  There my time was spent growing their digital analytics practice which included everything from crafting digital strategy to providing strategic guidance on implementation to analyzing campaign performance and optimizing allocation of digital media spend.  After two years there, it was with great excitement that I started my MBA with Johnson at Cornell.

    With a fantastic orientation wrapping up a few weeks ago and classes going strong, it’s been impressive to see just how well orchestrated the orientation was. It was a lot of information, but it was spaced and presented in such a way that made it easy to digest. That, along with a great group of classmates, has made this transition back to a full-time student about as seamless as I could have expected.

    But I’m not all work! Life is worth living. I’ll close with a little bit more about me. In my (limited) free time I really enjoy playing board games (Settlers of Catan, etc.), writing for my personal blog, reading, running and spending time with my wife.

    Fun Fact #1: My wife and I were married the day before orientation and we drove 5 hours directly to Sage Hall to pick up my orientation packet – “Just Married” car decorations and all.

    Part of a series of my re-postings of my blog for the “Life @ Johnson” section of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University MBA program website.


    Happiness: In Money and Life

    October 8th, 2013

    You may have read the article which reports that Gallop found 70% of Americans are disengaged from their job. That’s too bad. But I would challenge the conclusion of the article which is essentially to do what you love and the money will follow or, to quote them:

    “The best performers do so much extra study and work that they become experts, and often becomes wealthy as a result”

    I think the key here is the under-emphasized “often”. Without any hard data, I would argue that while people that have earned their wealth are generally passionate about what they do, the inverse is not true. The article even vaguely hints at it when it says

    “Start by identifying your natural talents, abilities and interests; develop them; and use them to solve problems that people are willing to pay you for.”

    The key from this quote is “people are willing to pay you for”. The fact is: what you are passionate about might be something nobody wants to hear about, much less pay you for. Or it might be so specific that there is simply not enough people out there to actually pay you.

    Now, you might launch into a counter argument about how money isn’t everything, and I would agree with that. Money isn’t everything, but money is a component of happiness and that cannot be overlooked. People will often make the comparison that people go to a job they hate just to make ends meet (which is a whole different issue that when you have a family you can’t just go off and do what you’re passionate about and hope money will come in – your family needs to eat tonight), but people often fail to make the very reasonable reverse argument. People will go to a job they love and come home to a place they hate.

    Whenever people ask for my advice about what to do and how to balance their passion with work I tell them to pick their life goal. Don’t go after a career that will be perfect for you, but won’t pay the bills. Don’t take a job just for the money and hate your work. Do pick a job that you can reasonably enjoy and which provides for a life at home which makes you happy.

    There is no single formula that works. For instance, if you are all about deferred gratification and can work a job you hate but retire at 40, and that’s how you’re going to be happy with your life. Go for it. If you are an optimist and think your passion will make you money no matter what, and trying and failing would be better than not trying at all – a la Gary Vaynerchuk – do it.

    Ultimately, either is consistent with my philosophy to pick the life you want and go for it. So if you’re part of the 70% that are disengaged with your job, but consider that a fair trade-off for the stability and lifestyle it provides, I’m happy for you. Follow your life goal, with laser focus, readjust when necessary, and be happy.

    How happy are you?

    This has been a Thought From the Cake Scraps.

     


    What is the Opportunity Cost?

    May 24th, 2013

    Opportunity cost – the cost of what you give up in order to do something else. It is something that is pounded into you in an MBA program.  The question of “what else could be done with this time or money” constantly comes up. A great project will be passed on simply because there is an even better project to fund and a business cannot do all of the projects at once. Trying to do so will, most likely, lead to failure of many or all of the projects.

    This concept of opportunity cost truly is an important concept. It is important to realize that choosing to do thing A means that you won’t be able to do thing B. It’s not good or bad; that’s just how it is. The problem that I’ve run into recently is that I’ve become more aware that every decision actually does have an opportunity cost. While this seems simple enough on the surface, it’s actually a bit of a problem. Thinking about what the alternatives might be isn’t all that productive for small decisions. Furthermore, the reality is that it’s not possible to know all of the ramifications of the actions you take.

    With this realization, I have had to become comfortable with once again not thinking of the opportunity cost of small decisions. It simply isn’t worth it.

    For example, like any good MBA I keep up on the news of the day. I enjoy getting the WSJ every day – paper delivery – as well as following headlines on various news sites. I’m also a sucker for a good magazine offer (tip: pay with check to avoid auto-renewal and just let it lapse). My RSS feeds are a wonderful source of consolidation, despite what Google thinks. There was a time when I could follow many of these things and still have time left over. As you know, that’s no longer the case and likely won’t be again. This is where opportunity cost comes into play.

    Previously, I would worry about missing a day of news, an item in RSS, or not reading magazines cover to cover. My overarching thought was “what if I miss something?!” I had to let it go. There simply wasn’t enough time to catch up – I would just get further behind. And as items would build up, the task would grow ever more insurmountable and the gap would grow. Now I use an elimination strategy and don’t worry about it.

    If I have not read the prior magazine when the next one arrives, the old one is recycled. Same with the paper. For RSS I simply allocate myself a certain amount of time to read. When time is up, I consider everything as read and start a blank slate. This has been a huge benefit for me because I feel so much more in control. When my WSJ subscription lapsed for a month, I just didn’t read WSJ for that month. Was I a little less informed on certain things? Of course, but not completely out of the loop. And so I continue to streamline and manage my time.

    Worrying about what I might miss if I don’t spend the time reading all of these articles isn’t worth the stress. The opportunity cost isn’t as high as I thought it was.

    As I continued to heighten my awareness of how I was making decisions, I discovered there was more in my life that could use the same treatment. Yes, a run to the store will take 30 minutes or an hour. Yes, that is time that I can’t do something else. Do I still find it a bit annoying that I have to go? Yes, but I have stopped obsessing about it. On the other hand, the reason I don’t have to obsess about it is because I’ve made cuts in other areas. I barely watch TV and it takes a act of nature to entice me to see a movie because it is so hard for me to enjoy watching video when I could be doing something else. But then, there are societal costs for not being able to make conversation about these things.

    The first semester of my MBA program definitely put me into hyper-aware mode on how I was spending my time. Looking for all of the opportunity costs was productive until it was a source of stress. With the second semester finished it is clear that for some things, the opportunity cost just isn’t worth it.

    What is your largest opportunity cost?

    This has been a Thought From the Cake Scraps.


    My New Gold – 15 Minutes

    October 6th, 2012

    It doesn’t seem that long, does it? Just 15 minutes. 900 seconds and then it’s gone.

    In my pre-MBA life that usually wasn’t all that big of a deal to get distracted for that long. Maybe it was a break to surf the Internet, play some games on my mobile device or read the paper.  That life appears to have gone by the wayside, or at least it needs to for me to continue to keep up with the pace of my life.

    What I’ve found is that during my day I actually have many breaks of just a few minutes, anywhere from 5 to let’s say 15.  Because it was in between classes, I would just chat with friends or jump on my phone to play a game. That is simply no longer the case.  I still make time for friends, but the rest of those breaks I have started cramming stuff into the gaps.

    The WSJ comes to my door step every day and I pack it in my backpack and jump on the bus. For me the bus ride is a bust because I get ill in about 30 seconds of trying to read, so it’s a good thing the ride is short. Once I’m on solid ground not a minute is wasted. A 5 minute break is long enough to skim the section of the WSJ that I don’t have much interest in. 10 minutes will take me through most of the sections and 15 plenty for the entire paper.

    My Series 9 Ultrabook is also one of the best purchases I have ever made. The ability to carry it anywhere and then flip it open and have a fully functioning computer at my fingertips in seconds is so helpful, I can’t begin to describe it. I have 6 different PowerPoint decks open right now along with probably 8 or more other programs. In just a few minutes I can respond to a few emails, update some PP slides I’m working on, or make some notes after a quick coffee chat with a recruiter.

    I could also run and check my mail box, grab a cup of coffee, get a quick snack from the (over-priced) cafe, switch out my books in my locker, change into business formal clothing for a briefing, change back into street clothing afterwards, read a few pages from the homework, do a practice problem or two. The list goes on, but I have learned that each and every second counts, so I need to use it.

    Another thing I could do is bang out a blog post.

    What do you do with your 15 minute gaps?

    This has been a Thought From the Cake Scraps.


    My First GMAT Study Sessions

    July 26th, 2012

    So what is it going to take to get a great score?  The answer, surprisingly, is not what you’d expect.

    It all started out where so many students start out – the KAPLAN and The Princeton Review study books.  In addition I purchased some additional books with more practice problems thinking that the more problems I do, the better I will be on the test day.

    There were many study sessions where I would start with a section, read the material on the types of problems I was approaching, and then do a whole lot of practice problems of that particular type.  I probably made it about halfway through the math problems when I decided that it wasn’t working for me.  This is not how the test is going to be.  There will not be a battery of a single question type anywhere in the test.  If two questions in a row are the same type, then there’s probably an issue.

    It was time for a new strategy.  Back to the practice tests.  Because of the books I had purchased, I had quite a few practice tests to pick from and could easily run through a few are review the results.  For me, this was the first big lesson:

    Take the test like you’re taking the test

    It may be different for other people, but for me this was critical.  I needed to feel comfortable taking the test.  That meant recreating it as much as possible.

    1) Use the dry erase ‘paper’ because that is what you’re going to have to deal with – all of the good and bad that comes with it

    2) Create the stress of going through all the steps in the test. No matter what the sections are, no matter what order they change them around to, take the practice tests in that order.

    3) Use the breaks. I’m sure you want to be done with the test. When practicing you just want to know what you got wrong so you can study. When taking it for real you’ll just want it to be over with and see the results.  It doesn’t matter. Take the time because you need it.

    4) Try out any of the other things the books suggest. Walk around in between. Stretch. Grab some water. Whatever it is, just try it out and get comfortable with the feeling of stepping away and refocusing for the next section.

    The reason this is so important is because these are things you can prepare for.  You control the time between the sections.  There are not going to be any surprises during this part so use it as an anchor point as you go through the tests and you’ll feel much more in control throughout the test.

    And trust me, as I found out soon enough, you’ll need all the anchor points you can get.

    This has been a special post on my MBA Journey and a Thought From The Cake Scraps.


    GMAT Strategy – The First Time

    June 19th, 2012

    I was a senior in college when I decided that I wanted to take the GMAT and prepare for b-school.  I had some free time with my course load, my online business was winding down, and I had a real interest in planning out my future which would be formed by – at least in part – the outcome of the GMAT.  I remember heading back to my room after class and deciding that I was going to see what the Internet said I needed to do well.

    My search proved rather fruitful.  For starters, I learned the test was computer adaptive which was something new to me.  There were tons of articles telling me what to do, what sections to focus on, how to prepare, and examples of typical questions.  One place that even had an outline of how to spend my time given the level of effort I wanted to exert.  There was everything from the 5 hour plan all the way up to something like 200, 300, or even 500 hours.  My first thought was “wow, that’s a lot of time.”

    Armed with far too much and, at the same time, far too little knowledge, I set my strategy which was, unsurprisingly, very pragmatic. My plan of attack:

    1. Take a practice test.
    2. See where that falls on the bell curve.
    3. Evaluate what schools I wanted to get into.
    4. See if my sample score aligned with those schools.
    5. Pick a level of effort to dedicate based on how much my score need improvement.

    My first practice test landed me somewhere around 540.  Not a bad score.  Not a great score, but not a bad score.  When looking at the bell curve of score this put me at about average.  It was at this point when I decided that the practice tests didn’t mean all that much because that score was obviously wrong.  I had no basis for that conclusion (other than perhaps my ACT score) but I figured there were only two options from that point.  The first was that the score was right and all hopes to get into a Top 20 school would quickly evaporate.  The second was that the score was wrong, I would do better, and – due to my plan outlined above – I would have to dedicate a little less time to trying to improve my score.

    The path of least resistance won and gave me a nice confidence boost at the same time (as I was now assuming I was smarter than the test software).  The very next thing I did was set a date for the exam.

    Establish a deadline.  Stick to the deadline.  Meet the deadline.

    With a goal and a focus I knew I was setting myself on the right path.

    This has been a special post on my MBA Journey and a Thought From The Cake Scraps.


    Presumed Intelligence

    April 24th, 2012

    hplusmagazine.com

    I read an interesting post the other day about how the new generation of kids will never know what a pixel is and cannot imagine a life without touch screens.  I’m sure many of us see it every day – children but a few years old (or less) interacting with tablets such as the iPad or eReaders like the a Nook or Kindle.  As I thought about these interactions I also was reflecting on a conversation I had with a professor of user design that was telling me about how unintuitive these actions actually are.  Nobody sits in front of something and naturally thinks “if I could just pinch to zoom…”  This is a learned behavior, but nearly all touchscreen devices, that contain something which you would want to zoom in on, contain that feature.  How is one to know?

    As my mind wandered along this thought path I realized I had nearly visited this topic previously on this blog but never got around to publishing the entry.  The post is still a draft but was written shortly after I got my first iPod Touch.  I was likely one of the few people who actually went to the website where the PDF of the manual existed and read through it.  There are all sorts of things in there that I bet the average user doesn’t know.  Things as simple as “press space twice to auto-punctuate with a period.”  This may or may not be common knowledge now – that’s not for me to judge – but at the time I can remember many proud iPhone / iPod Touch users who had no idea this feature existed.

    I then also though about some recent interactions I had with other applications on my Incredible 2.  You wouldn’t believe some of the undocumented (or perhaps they are and I just don’t take the time to find them) features these apps have.  I find myself trying to guess what I can click on the screen.  What happens if I swipe left, right, up, or down?  Will the same thing happen on each screen of the app?  And what about the long press?  There are some features that I’m sure people have no idea exist because they’ve never tried the long press.  And why would you?  Isn’t the long press something we’re supposed to make fun of old people for? Like when they’re trying to type or click with a mouse and completely fail because they can’t get their finger off the key/button quickly enough?

    But more and more these features are being built into new devices.  Integrated as part of the experience and this, I realized, is why the stereotypical “old person” can’t keep up with technology.  It is not that they cannot, but if they don’t keep making all of the small steps as technology progresses, when they finally try it is simply unintuitive because the technology relies on the user already having a level of presumed intelligence about how it “should work.”

    The new devices and interfaces are built with a level of presumed intelligence.  It is presumed you know the basics of interacting with a touch screen.  It is presumed that you can go Google/Bing for help or additional instructions.  Software that used to come with thick instruction manuals now come with a flimsy booklet, if you’re buying a physical product at all.  The best you can hope for is a Quick Start Guide in most products.  After that is it just presumed you can go and figure out how to get the rest of the info.  Sure, there’s a website listed but it is not as if you go to the website and it will only display the things you are looking for.

    Certainly this is not a new phenomenon.  Each version of technology can and should build upon the past OR replace it altogether with something better.  But, even full replacements will lean on still other presumed intelligences.  Now, a great designer will tell you that things need to be stupidly simple – so simple a child could do it.  The problem is, of course, that the children can do it.  It’s the adults that have problems.  And while one can lower the level of presumed intelligence that a product relies on, we must also continue to look forward and realize sometimes – for those that don’t put in the time and effort to keep up – technology will pass you by.

    I intend to not let that happen.

    Do you notice presumed intelligence in your daily life?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.