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    All The Small Things

    October 23rd, 2014

    Originally Posted: 4/12/2013 9:36 AM 

    No matter what program you enter, academics are a big part of it (obviously!). Time is limited because of how much is going on between recruiting, club events, social connections, and coursework. Make sure you have a system in place to help you deal with the work load. Here’s a few tips from my experience that might help you.

    There will be lots of paper flying around and keeping track of it can be tough. My recommendation is the Five Star Stay-Put Folder. The reason I love this folder is that it’s made of a durable material that stands the test of time. It has the typical 2 pockets, but also has these little fold-down elements for the top that help you separate the material, effectively giving you four pockets. Add onto this the thin plastic case for random notes and the 3-prong holder and you have a very versatile folder.

    Plastic Tabs
    When reading or going through lecture, creating flags that tell you about that section makes studying or doing homework go so much faster. For this task I have 3 levels of tabs. First are the large 3″ tabs. These are prefect to divide large sections such as Notes and Exercises. You could use actual divider pages, but the tabs let you move them around as needed whereas the divider pages you are constrained to their layout. Second are 1″ mid size tabs. These are great for topic headings, but be careful not to get the flimsy ones – go for Durable. Finally, use small flags for specific formulas you want to remember. Stay away from the paper ones! they get bet very easily, so stick with plastic.

    I love to highlight things by topic. Something like a critical point might get a blue highlighter while a key formula might get yellow. It’s an easy way to draw your eye to exactly the type of information you are looking for. Personally, I got the pocket sized 5-color Target highlighters. They don’t bleed, the colors are not overly dark. They’re small and easy to tuck away. Those are the reasons I love that set of highlighters.

    Writing Tool
    You will be taking lots of notes, doing problem sets, and – probably – making mistakes along the way. For this reason I take a pencil and eraser to all of my classes. Of course, I also have some pens along for the ride, but I tend not to use them most of the time. Interestingly, I found that when I’m writing that much, some pencils worked better than others (in terms of ease of use) and mechanical pencils were way better than standard pencils. I did a lot of research to find the best mechanical pencil for a reasonable price. It is with great confidence that I can recommend the Pentel Sharp Automatic Pencil (0.5mm). This pencil is fantastic because it has a solid grip, nice weight, and sharp point. The only drawback is it has a very small built in eraser, but that’s why I bring my own eraser. The eraser is always the first thing to go on any pencil anyway.

    So that’s my advice to incoming students: take the time to get your things organized at the beginning and it will make your life that much easier down the road. It really is the small stuff like the things I listed above that makes the whole process that much easier.

    Some of it may seem silly right now, but when you’re exhausted after a long week and taking an open note final you’ll wish you had listened to me.

    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.

    Business and Bowling

    October 9th, 2014

    Originally Posted: 2/6/2013 6:26 PM

    One of the things that you hear a lot about when looking at schools is fit. What is the class dynamic like? Do you actually get to meet everyone in your class or is it just limited to a section? All of these are great questions and things one really needs to think about, both for an MBA but also for a full time offer.

    If you’ve done much research on Johnson, you know that it is a very close knit community. Students really do hang out with one another, both in and outside of the career path they are looking at. While there are many examples I can give, perhaps the biggest is the bowling league.

    The bowling alley is 16 lanes, 4 people per team, and two time slots every Friday. Some quick math tells you that that’s 128 people involved. Then, since there are always scheduling conflicts each 4 person team actually has about 6 people (mine has 8). So that’s about 192 people. Add to that people that come and are not even on a team, and you easily have over 200 people coming out to bowl every Friday during the Spring semester.

    That makes it roughly 1/3 of the student body is out together having a great time.

    Think about that! One out of every 3 people in the whole school come out together every week. That is something special. That is what we mean when we talk about the Johnson community.

    Side note: the average score is probably around or less than 100, so bowling skill is not required.

    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.

    How to Win an Internship

    September 25th, 2014

    Originally Posted: 12/5/2012 8:26 PM  

    I promised that I would post about my experience with the Accenture Innovation Challenge and I will deliver on that promise! In good executive summary form, I’ll start with the results. We won!

    Background: This was the first year Accenture did a case competition on their 9 advanced degree recruiting campuses, including Stern, Booth, Ross, and Wharton. There are a few things that make this competition different than other competitions.

    1) Structure – 80 teams applied, 50 teams presented on-campus, 17 semi-finalist teams (2 per campus) were selected for a PowerPoint only round and short video, 3 were selected as finalists to present at the client and one is the winner.

    2) Case Problem – The solution you present, you must be able to implement. I don’t mean Accenture, I mean you. In the final rounds the presentations were to the CEO and senior staff of the nonprofit we were working with (in addition to very senior Accenture practitioners). The winning proposal is then scoped by Accenture and the winning team will have the chance to help implement.

    3) Reward – Most competitions have cash or interview rewards for winning (and also typically fewer total teams competing). Accenture offered a guaranteedinternship to the winning team. Not an interview, an internship.

    The Challenge: I’m not sure how much I can or can’t say about the challenge itself, but I will say it was for an extremely fun Washington, DC based nonprofit. We were trying to help them increase the number of projects volunteers completed annually. It was a very interesting challenge and there were a few things that I feel made our team successful.

    Teamwork: I can’t say this enough – the team I was a part of functioned at an extremely high level. We were able to have open conversation, get solid feedback, let go of our own ideas, embrace ideas of others, circle back to issues and ideas as needed but not run in circles, seriously commit to the project yet keep it fun, and many other traits. Each person brought their own strengths and the team just got stuff done. Even the most talented team will fail if they don’t have the proper chemistry and my team definitely had chemistry.

    Preparation: We prepared for this. A lot. I would estimate that each round was 30+ hours of work per team member. At each stage we refined our concept and changed things based on feedback we received. This includes the final round where we had a call with the client and we decided to rework half of our entire concept. The call was Friday at 4. The new deck was done by Monday afternoon and turned in Tuesday night. We practiced presenting our sections, gave feedback on how to work the slide, what points to hit, what words/themes were needed to frame the ideas. Johnson faculty made time to coach us on our presentation style. We also did individual practice and then came together as a group so we wouldn’t burn out. Our preparation enabled us to present our sections to the client rather than at the client – a key difference that shows just how much we cared about our solution AND the client.

    Risks: No analysis is complete without risks and mitigation strategies. We all took risks to win this. We missed class and a quiz to participate in the finals and we knew our grades were going to be impacted. The weekend we spent doing the final deck (after that Friday call) also contained a statistics mid-term so we didn’t study as much as we could have. There were other things that are hard to measure: stress, networking, recruiting, relationships, or even just sleep. These were real risks for us which we decided to mitigate by winning 😉 Joking aside, we spent time saying what we could commit. We all knew when people had stopping times. We needed to be sensitive to those things. This was important to mitigate some of the risks and critical to our success.

    That’s my summary of the Accenture Innovation Challenge. Good luck to those of you partaking next year!

    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.

    Thankful for Success!

    September 11th, 2014

    Originally Posted: 11/26/2012 3:27 PM  

    Things are busy. I feel like I need to start every post saying that so you are not surprised when you are in the thick of your MBA. You can’t say “nobody told me there would be so many opportunities”. The thing is, that’s what they are: opportunities. They are all over the place and it is up to you to pick which ones you will seize and which ones you will pass by.

    I set my sights on a few things this semester and have been extremely humbled by just how well things have turned out. It started a few weeks ago when I won the election for the Facilities Chair with the Johnson Student Council. My platform is that I want to have a bunch of small wins we can see the benefit of now while also making sure student voices are heard in strategic planning. When you see awesome signs for room locations you’ll know I’ve accomplished a core part of my platform.

    The next victory was winning the co-VP of Education position (along with Matt De Paolo) for the Consulting Club. It was awesome that so many people showed interest in the position, and I consider myself lucky to have been elected. It will be a lot of work, 20-40 hours a week next year, but I learned so much from the co-VPs this year that I really wanted to find a way to give back. They did a fantastic job with case preparation as well as general recruiting tips & etiquette. My goal is to somehow fill their massive shoes and help the class of 2015 as much as they helped my class.

    Next up was a series of wins that I will write a whole post about. The short story is that I had an amazing team that won several rounds of competition and, ultimately, we won the first Accenture Innovation Challenge case competition (over about 80 teams). For a bit more detail, read on! There are various case competitions people can sign up for (which Johnson has been dominating). A few are on campus. Accenture decided to produce their very own case competition this year at their core recruiting schools. After two rounds, 3 (of 80) were picked as finalists. We were flown to Washington, DC to present to the CEO & senior members of the organization as well as national and global heads from Accenture. The prize was an internship – a HUGE deal, not only because getting an internship is such a focus, but because most case competitions have cash prizes or guaranteed interviews.

    The same day that we won that competition it was revealed that Johnson had climbed the BusinessWeek rankings to #7. The mood was electric around Sage! What a great time to be here.

    That said, I needed a break and the Thanksgiving break provided exactly that. Sure, I should have been catching up on school work. I didn’t. That will make this a tough week of catch-up, but when you need to recharge, you need to take time and come back full-strength.

    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.

    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!


    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.


    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!


    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….


    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.

    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.

    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.