It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since I donned a robe and cap to ceremonially celebrate my graduation from my MBA program at Cornell. It has been an amazing year since my graduation, even if the year passed quickly, as they always seem to.
Originally Posted: 6/12/2014 9:18 AM
I believe there are probably enough posts about how great an MBA is, how many friends people made, how the experience changed a life, or how it might be the best two years of your life. For my part, I can say all of that is true, but I thought it might be interesting to close my time blogging by saying some of the things which surprised me.
To incoming first-years:
1) MBA recruiting is its own beast; no matter how well you think you prepared to apply to school, or how polished you were for your job before it, you need to be trained in the ways of MBA recruiting. Pay attention to your club leadership and you’ll be fine.
2) Your courses, immersion, clubs, and most other things don’t matter all that much for interviews. Don’t get me wrong: they are table stakes and they matter for success in your internship. The thing is that you’ll only have taken core courses and attended club meetings by the time you interview. You won’t have had job-specific classes nor done any club leadership roles. Hopefully this reinforces point #1 about MBA recruiting being its own beast.
3) It is surprising just how much change you can impart on the school in the relatively short time you’re part of the student body. With the whole school turning over every 2 years the only thing known is what one class learns from the class above them. If you teach the class below you something else, you’ve just changed the way things are done going forward.
4) There are lots of great places to study outside of Sage (you are at an Ivy after all). It might suck when you can’t find a room in Sage, but there are amazing buildings within a 5 minute walk. Go find them instead of being frustrated with the lack of a room.
To returning 2nd year students:
1) Where did all the free food go? Seriously. First year students don’t know how good they have it.
2) Your default question, when you don’t know what else to say, changes by semester of business school:
- Semester 1: What are you hoping to do?
- Semester 2: Where are you going for the summer?
- Semester 3: Where are you going full time?
- Semester 4: When are you leaving?
3) It is very difficult to stay involved. I found that it wasn’t because I didn’t care (far from it) but that you’re just not at Sage as often. That means all of the stuff that goes on becomes an extra trip into school rather than another meeting where you’re just moving from breakout room to breakout room.
4) There are lots of ‘last events’ and you’re never sure which one is actually the one where you won’t see somebody again for a very long time, if ever.
5) Johnson’s graduation is better coordinated than any other program I talked to. For as smart as we are, it sure is nice the administration makes it so we don’t have to think on our big day.
The End; The Beginning
I’ll close by saying thank-you. Thanks to Peter Krakow for trusting me with a platform for my thoughts. Thanks to my classmates for supporting me and reading my posts. Thanks to the many readers who attended Johnson previously. Thanks to those readers who may (or may not) attend Johnson in the future. It’s been my pleasure to share my journey with you.
What a great 2 years. Time to move on and tackle whatever comes next.
Originally Posted: 4/1/2014 1:37 PM
If you are fortunate enough to have options for an MBA program, you have the very difficult decision of picking the program that is right for you. This is not an easy thing to do; I have a three point guide on information you should have before making a decision.
Your career choice may change within the first week of your MBA program, but get yourself some facts from the school on your current career aspirations.
Mistake: Asking “who recruits here”. That’s a terrible question since most programs will have a long and prestigious list of companies.
Solution: Ask specific questions that provide context. “How many of the people recruiting for x received offers in that area”, “which companies consider this a core school”, “how many alumni do you have at company x”. Take this information and convert it into ratios. A large school will always have more people doing x than a small school, but on a % basis one program may give you higher odds of getting the career you desire. Obviously nothing is guaranteed but failing to adjust numbers for total students is a huge mistake.
Visiting a school and trying to get a feel for the culture can be tough. Make sure you’ve talked to lots of different people to get unique perspectives.
Mistake: Asking “how do you like it here” or “which clubs are you involved with”. These will give you obviously biased answers and provide little information on how active that person is in the community.
Solution: Ask specific questions that provide context (sound familiar?). “What were your favorite club events you attended/organized”, “how did club x impact you so far”, “what session did you find most helpful for you”, “what is your favorite memory you’ve made here”. The questions you ask need to change depending on the context, but the general idea is the same. These sorts of questions give you a sense of how involved that person is/was, what the clubs actually did that was memorable, and gives you a flavor or what the experience might be like.
Now that you have options, spend time thinking about what you really want out of the program; what did you say you wanted when you first thought about an MBA?
Mistake: Worrying about the above two things too much.
Solution: Spend time thinking about what you want out of a program beyond a job. This will likely be the last degree you ever get. Do you want a place that values academics or not? Do you want to make new friends or live in an area where you know a bunch of people already? Do you want a campus you can walk around on or not? Will you ever want to attend a reunion at your college 5 or 10 years from now?
These questions and many more, were (hopefully) on your mind as you applied to MBA programs. Take time to revisit those same questions. Remove all of the other clutter and focus on whether or not you’re going to be happy attending the program and proud telling people about it – both now and down the road.
I already know you’re not going to make your decision lightly. What I’m encouraging you to do is make the most of the time you have by giving yourself the facts you need to make a decision.
And once you’ve made it, there’s only one thing to do: have fun. It’ll probably be the best 2 years of your life.
Originally Posted: 3/6/2014 7:48 AM
As my time in Ithaca winds down, I think it’s a great time to reflect on some of the things that I will miss about Ithaca. There are plenty of things to write down, so I’ll pick the top three things that (currently) come to mind.
Hockey Games: I never watched hockey growing up; Wisconsin doesn’t have a pro-team and for some reason it just wasn’t that big of a deal where I lived. In fact, the first time I even cared about hockey was, oddly, during my summer in Chicago when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. But, I’ve come to really enjoy hockey games at Cornell. Maybe it’s the not-a-total-ripoff concession prices. Maybe it’s the outrageous student section cheering. Maybe it’s the allure that it’s one of the few Cornell sporting event students actually have to pay for. Whatever it is, it’s a lot of fun. And then there’s playing Harvard and dead fish on the ice.
Accessibility: Whether by car or by bus, it is easy to get around in Ithaca. You pretty much have most of your everyday needs within a 15 minute ride – and that’s if you’re going to the other side of town. While larger cities also have lots to offer, I like the idea of being able to go to Home Depot or Walmart just as easy as a boutique furniture store or museum.
Beer: There are lots of great options for beer. There are several truly craft breweries within a 15 minute drive of where I live. If I want an out-of-Ithaca import, there is the Finger Lakes Beverage Center which has one of the best beer-by-the-bottle selections I’ve seen, regardless of the size of the city. Then there are the cheap pitchers of cheap beer at the local non-college bars or the fact that the downtown gas station has the ability to fill up a growler.
There are definitely more things that I enjoy about Ithaca, but those three have made the frigid temperatures a bit more bearable. Can’t wait to see if you agree. Also, here’s a picture of my new puppy and his Great Uncle (who is a friend’s dog), because who doesn’t love puppies. Or awesome dogs he can learn from.
Jal muk get seum ni da; have a nice meal ; bon appetite!
Originally Posted: 1/19/2014 1:05 PM
The semester ahead of me is a great unknown to me. Sure I know what classes I am taking (or at least hope to take if I get off the wait lists!), but a big unknown is what to do with all of the free time I will have. Seriously. As I reflect on the last 1.5 years of my life, creating free time was the hard part. Demands on my time were huge and from all aspects of my life.
In the final semester, I won’t have a job search to worry about (I’ve signed with consulting firm Bain & Company – Chicago). I won’t have clubs to worry about since I’ve passed the torch onto a great group of first-year students for the various positions I’ve held. I won’t even be helping first-year students with career prep, which can take a large chunk of time. Furthermore, my course work is not too difficult as I’ll be taking a fairly low credit load. I won’t have quite the same free time as some of my classmates that are studying abroad and ending about the time our first quarter is done, but still, it’s a lot of free time.
Thankfully, I’m not without ideas. My wife and I will be getting a dog and I’m super excited about it. I’m also TA-ing Intermediate Accounting, including teaching one day a week with undergrads. And who can forget about the bowling league which starts this week. I hear we have over 200 people signed up and there’s a wait list. That’s nearly half the school. Now that’s a strong community.
I suppose that’s one of the things that makes going into this final semester kind of…emotional. I have some really good friends that I’ve made and it seems like no two of us are going to the same state, much less city. It’s an exaggeration, but is something that is both valuable to me and a little sad. It’s cool to know that I can travel the country, or even world, and have friends nearby. The sad (or perhaps exciting!) part is that I will have to travel to see them. With all the technology in the world, there’s nothing quite the same as meeting someone at the Chapter House, The Westy, or some other local bar.
Interestingly, graduation typically has this “long time away yet right around the corner” feeling, but right now it only feels like the latter part of that phrase. Hotels have been sold out for months and dinner reservations for that weekend are secured. I’m already thinking about the fact that I’ll be moving and need to find a place to live. Holiday decorations are packed away knowing I’ll never see them up at the place that’s been my home for nearly four years. At a recent dinner the conversation was centered on what our Ithaca Bucket List entailed.
Yes, this is a final beginning. But it is a beginning and I’m excited to make the most of it.
Originally Posted: 12/4/2013 9:17 AM
The 2nd year at Johnson is when you really make the experience your own. Besides some standard university requirements, you are free to customize your graduate experience. The main thing this means, at least relative to the Core, is that things are much less structured and coordinated. With each person doing something different, it cannot be as perfectly organized as the Core. This gives rise to a few key things to keep in mind.
First, it means you take the classes that most interest you, both within and outside of Johnson. While other MBA programs may talk about people taking courses outside the school, at Johnson it is more common than not to have at least one class outside of the Johnson program; many people take several. This is easy to do because of the proximity to the other schools. There are several top-rated programs which are literally across the street from our building, Sage Hall. There is the Hotel School, Labor Relations, Engineering, Law, and a few more. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
Second, things get very busy very quickly. As opposed to the constant marathon of the 1st year experience, the 2nd year is a series of sprints. Sometimes several sprints all at once. Because each person is in different classes, there is no way to coordinate such that 2 or 3 classes won’t have a paper or project due on the same day. While time management was critical to getting through the Core, crunch-time management is critical to getting through 2nd year.
Lastly, as I alluded to in the prior paragraph, courses are much more project based. I would argue this is true even after the first semester of 1st year, but it is definitely reinforced 2nd year. Depending on your learning style this is either a blessing or a curse. Personally, I would like a bit more of a mix (disclaimer: it could just be the courses I’m taking). My semester is heavily dependent on papers and projects. In fact, I don’t have a single final. To 1st years currently going through the core this may sound fantastic, but I find that there are definite advantages. Finals ensure you know what the key points were from the course and “force” you to commit them to memory. Group projects are much more application based, but they may or may not reinforce the key concepts. You won’t even know if it was a swing and a miss until quite a bit after the course is over. There’s not time to go and re-learn it.
In just over a week everything will be turned in. I will be 3/4 done with my degree. I will enjoy a nice long winter break. I will return for my final semester – and a course load that I’m pretty excited about.
Good luck to all the 1st years who are in the process of submitting resumes for internships; good luck to all applicants who are in the process of starting their MBA journey!
Originally Posted: 11/3/2013 10:39 PM
When I started this year, one of my goals was to pay it forward. You can read all about my many escapades in my prior blog entries, but one of the roles I was really excited about was being the VP of Education for the Consulting Club. I had an amazing time at Accenture over the summer and am excited to be joining Bain & Company full-time after graduation. Both my summer and my new career were possible because when I was a first year, my 2nd years taught me so much.
Today (Sunday) marked the last official meeting of the club for this year. We’ll still have some things running in the background, but in terms of actual meetings, it’s over. Wow. Those weeks flew by. It is a big deal in so many ways.
First, it means that things are getting real for the class of 2015. We’ve been getting great feedback from firms on the overall performance of the class and, for that, we couldn’t be happier. And now, after all those weeks learning, the class of 2015 is on the home stretch. I bet even they don’t realize they’ll mostly be done interviewing within 3 months, but they will and I know they’ll be ready.
Second, it means that I get my Sundays back :-). My co-VP and I run about 75%+ of the meetings since people are there to learn and we are there to teach. That means we were there every Sunday (and all the planning that went in before that) for the entire semester so far. It’ll be good to reclaim that time. There’s football to watch!
Finally, it’s a big deal because it’s the beginning of the end for me. As involved as I have been this semester, elections are coming. 1st year students will be running for leadership positions and taking over roles and responsibilities of not just the consulting club, but other roles as well. As with any good institution, things at Johnson are built to be passed on. I’m excited to see the platforms of the next group. Excited to see where the club will go next. Excited to know that I’ll likely be back recruiting the product of their teaching next year. Still, it’s not without a bit of sadness that I turn over my role to the next class. It’s a lot of work, but it sure is rewarding.
To the class of 2015 – you are going to do great. I know we’ll be doing lots of cases together before interviews start, but all of you should be proud of your accomplishments so far. Go forth and conquer.
Originally Posted: 9/17/2013 5:44 PM
Second year is a time of relaxing. You don’t have to go through the core. You’re taking all the classes that you want and can drop the ones you don’t want. Life is a party from Wednesday night on. Sure, there are some things to deal with from 1st year students, but that’s a minority of the time. Or at least that’s what I had in my head.
The reality is much different but I am still having a fantastic time.
I arrived back on campus August 25th and that evening was the first Consulting Club meeting where I co-run the education curriculum. The next two days were training for leading a 1st year core team (group of ~5 1st year students who do projects together). Then class resumed. That’s when the juggling act really started.
Class has been really interesting. This is because the classes I’ve elected to take this semester don’t have finals, but projects. This is in stark contrast to the constant quiz/midterm/final process of first year. Interestingly, I almost want finals back. It’s pretty darn difficult to find time for group meetings in between everything else that is going on.
So what classes am I taking? Cases in strategy, Pricing Strategy & Tactics, Women in Leadership, Oral & Written Communication, Johnson Leadership Fellows curriculum, and (of course) Introduction to Wines – the most failed class at Cornell. It’s a nice mix of topics and about as much as I can handle. Sadly, Introduction to Massage had to go. Really.
Outside of class I am doing this (blogging), the Johnson Leadership Fellow role, Career Work Group Leader (career prep for 1st years), Student Council Operations Chair, Consulting Club VP of Education, Admissions Ambassador (on campus tours), and a TA for Intermediate Accounting (next semester, thankfully).
So why does all of this matter to you? My hope is that it shows you just how engaged 2nd year students are at Johnson. I did mention it in my prior post, but now that I’m living it I thought it important to validate that it is both possible and very fulfilling.
So the excessive partying may have to wait, but I sure am enjoying my time. Also, please note that it is only the excessive partying that has to wait. Regular partying is alive and well as demonstrated by my classmate who performed his fire dance routine at a recent house party.
Originally Posted: 8/6/2013 10:02 PM
So what goes through the mind of a newly minted Johnson 2nd year? Wow. Let me pause on that for a moment. A 2nd year. I held on to my 1st year designation as long as possible because the first year was such an amazing experience; I didn’t want to let it go. I always said “next year’s first year students” but no longer. They have started their orientation, started building new friendships, and officially joined the Johnson family. There is no denying it. I am a Johnson second year. I hope those 1st year students read my shopping list.
Okay, so back to the question of what’s going through my mind. The short answer is I am thinking of all the ways I can help the first year students. I am preparing for my return to campus and all of the activities I have signed up for. Johnson Leadership Fellow, Career Workgroup Leader, Student council, Consulting Club, TA positions, and a bunch of other things.
Why is this what I am so focused on? Well, during first year it is easy to think of these activities as “resume builders”, but that is a mistake. The entire first year community is counting on the 2nd year students in positions similar to the ones I listed. I need to be thinking of what I want to accomplish in the next few months before I transition responsibilities. I need to be thinking of what knowledge I want to share because time is such a precious resource. It is this sort of thought and preparation – largely invisible except for mistakes – that makes the first year so enjoyable despite its rigor.
After I am done thinking about all of that, I think about the classes I want to take. The things I want to experience during this time which is unlike any other in my life. But that’s for after we get things rolling for the Class of 2015.
Will the second year be less intense than first year? I would say the clear answer, from an academic perspective, is yes. But will I be any less busy? Not if I can help it.
Originally Posted: 6/6/2013 12:36 PM
As with any exciting adventure, time goes by quickly when you’re having fun. Curiously, I found my first year at Johnson to go by extremely fast as well as very slowly. When you’re in the middle of it, you can’t believe there is so much left to do before the quarter or semester ends. But sometimes, even if for a brief moment while having a beer with friends, you realize that you’ve actually accomplished a lot. That time has gone quite quickly and the road ahead is relatively short.
Year one ended about as you would expect. A flurry of projects to be completed, both individual and group, as well as finals to study for. It was a little reminiscent of first semester in that school became all consuming for a stretch. Social functions dropped off and preparation for next year’s club activities and events took a back seat. Actually, if I’m honest, it probably still wasn’t as much work as first semester was. But after the fresh air of winter break and a lighter load 2nd semester it sure seemed like it!
After courses finished up I took time to visit family and take a vacation. It was a good time to recharge before my internship with Accenture (Strategy – Chicago), which I start in a few days. I already have my orientation schedule and it appears days will be packed with wonderful learning opportunities and fun events to get to know my intern class.
That’s all for now, but here’s a secret for you: as amazing as the last 10 months have been, I fully expect the next 12 to be even better.
Congrats to the incoming class on your successful admission to a fantastic school. To those looking for next year, good luck!