Take that, Week One.

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I just survived the first, full week of school. Survived is the key operating term here, since it did resemble a marathon. Or, perhaps a hurricane. Our deans and advisors told us quite explicitly during orientation that we should expect to be assigned far more than we could possibly finish. It seems now they weren’t kidding. Looking back over the past five days, and then further, over the past month, I’m startled to see how much we’ve already done- and we’ve just begun! We have hit the ground running and clearly there’s no looking back.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend in the Facebook status updates of my classmates. Either they consist of pleas for sympathy because of sleep deprivation or pleas for study camaraderie down at the local coffee shop for ‘study Sunday.’ So, we’re busy. Yes, we’re tired. We’re working hard for long hours and we have come to accept by now the fact that we’re poor students again. This is tough. Going back to work is starting to look a lot more like a vacation.

If it weren’t for an incredible sense of accomplishment and purpose, lesser mortals might be convinced to throw in the towel. Finance Boot Camp at 7 AM? I can do that. Maybe a breakout study session to value a plot of timberland over future decades for Prof. Gilbert’s class? Done. And then strategy with Prof. Hill, who will cold call and cold call until he reaches the limits of your knowledge and preparation, and then cold call once more. I can do that. And then, why don’t we wrap up the ten-hour day with a networking session with local recruiters over dinner? Normally, I would celebrate such a busy day, but I need to crash so I can be up tomorrow morning at 5 to start it all over again.

My classmates are one stellar, diverse group. From derivatives traders to IT consultants to traffic engineers to European vacation designers, this is a motley crew. In a mere day or two, I have met some of the most fascinating and talented people I’ve ever come across. One classmate (thank Jason!) organized our entire quarters’ worth of assignments in a spreadsheet…and then sent it out to everyone. Unbelievable. And the former private equity and investment bankers help me with finance (and I need a lot) and there are a handful of CPAs to teach me the nuances and merits of the indirect method of cash flow statements.

This first week was brutal. But thanks to my colleagues, now fast friends through struggle, I made it. And with them, I know I’ll get to the end of the quarter and beyond. I’ll find a summer internship, sure, and later land a great job, but I’m not so concerned about that right now. All I want is to get to know these amazing people better, learn as much as is humanly possible (which looks like a realistic goal), and push myself to the very limits of what I can do. Foster students have modest goals, you see.

Guest Blogger, Ryan Anthony, Full Time MBA — 2012

Calling it Quits at 18 Hours

Monday, March 29th, 2010

How grueling can a day in the life of an MBA be? Honestly, it can be pretty bad. What exactly is “bad”? Here’s a glimpse of what a recent day looked like for me as we approached the end of the quarter and classes were coming to a conclusion.

March 9, 2010

6:00 – 7:30 am – Awake. Ironing. Putting the final touches on several Powerpoint decks I’d be using later in the day.

7:30 – 8:15 am – My carpool picks me up to head from Capitol Hill to campus. It’s a few minutes of peace, chatting with classmates, before a crazy day truly begins.

8:30 to 10:20am – Brand Management class. My team and I presenting our quarter long project results – an analysis of The Gap’s rise and fall as a national brand. 20 minutes of presenting and 15 minutes of questions and we’re done with the class.

10:30 to 12:20 pm – Business Ethics class. My team and I (a different team from the Brand Mangement one) present a proposal for Microsoft’s Corporate Responsibility Program for their operations in Italy. Presentation is 15 minutes in front of the class, professor and the Director of CSR at Microsoft, Dan Bross. Our proposal is followed by 10 minutes of questions and some critical feedback from Dan. Unfortunately, there’s still a take home final for Ethics so we’re not done with this class yet.

12:30 – 1:30 pm – Quick lunch followed by returning emails that have piled up in the inbox all morning.

1:30 – 3:30 pm – Finish a team Investments project that is due at 6pm tonight. Our project is a valuation of Murphy Oil Company and, after all edits, is 42 pages long. At the same time I’m also editing our Powerpoint presentation to be given this evening. After the paper is completed a teammate runs off to print and bind it all at the nearest Kinko’s.

3:30 – 5:30 pm – Head off to a different team meeting, this time with my team working on a social media project with Microsoft. Our final presentation to a roomful of Microsoft executives is less than a week away so we’re still working hard to flush out our ideas and put it all into a cohesive presentation. We’re feeling good but I’m always nervous not knowing who will be in the room and what types of questions we’ll be asked.

5:30 pm – Inhaling a quick dinner and changing into a suit before heading to Investments class.

6:00 – 9:30 pm – After rushing across campus to Mary Gates Hall (15 minute walk from the Business School), I get into the classroom and realize I’ve forgotten our final Powerpoint version on a external jump drive on a chair back in the MBA lounge. Oops! Do I have time to run back and get it? No. What’s the next best solution before we present to a full classroom of students and three professionals from local investment firms? A teammate and I quickly edit the version we have on our computer and  throw it on a borrowed jump drive from a classmate. I have time to take a few deep breaths before heading up to the front of the lecture hall to present our valuation. Even after the presentation there’s aren’t many signs of relief – we still have a closed book final exam next week before being finished with the class.

9:30 pm – The day is finally over and I can head home. As I drive, I’m thankful that not all of my days at Foster are like the one that just ended, but confident that returning to the working world will come with comparable hours and challenges.

Applied Strategies: Project Update

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

We are about half way into the quarter…

Wow! I can’t believe I just said that.

Anyway. My team’s Applied Strategy consulting project is going strong! I wanted to send an update to my previous post to let you know how it’s going.

We’ve had three significant events so far. First of all, we met with our faculty advisor. Every team was matched with a faculty member that could bring their experience to our projects. Our advisor, John Castle, knows the company we are working with and was really helpful in putting our project into perspective.

The second major event was a visit to our client’s offices in Kent. The President of the company gave us a tour of their building and warehouse. Most importantly we were able to see how their product was packaged and delivered to their distributors. Seeing the client’s operations in action showed us the importance of the work we would be doing. The visit was very clarifying for our team!

Our last major event for the first half of the quarter was an information sharing session with our classmates. For this, we prepared and gave a quick Powerpoint presentation about our project. We then solicited feedback from our professors and classmates. We walked away from the session with a lot of practical advice and some contacts with expertise in the industry we are analyzing. We’re in the information gathering stage of our project right now. I will report back as we begin to wrap things up!

Guest Blogger: Allison Bilas, Foster MBA Class of 2011

Applied Strategies

Friday, January 15th, 2010

After a much needed break over the holidays, I came back to Foster excited for a fresh course load. I learned a lot last quarter, and loved my professors. But I was ready for new topics!

I think most people (myself included) were especially excited for one class in particular – Applied Strategies. In this class, each team is assigned to a consulting project with a local company. The format of the class is fairly open ended… It’s all about delivering results to our clients.

My team’s project is with a company selling medical devices. The scope includes some operations and some marketing. While I’m familiar with marketing and a bit of operations, I know nothing about the medical industry. I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone a bit!

We spent the first couple weeks of class talking about consulting best practices – scope, client communications, and project management skills. The classes included panels of students who did projects last year, and professionals who currently work in consulting.

On Wednesday we finally met our clients in person! My team is fortunate to be working directly with the President of the company. She was very excited to have us, and came to our meeting with a lot of information to share.

Now that we’ve kicked that project off, the real work begins, starting with an on-site visit next week!

Guest Blogger: Allison Bilas, Foster MBA Class of 2011

An Intense First Week

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

One of my classmates was pondering on Tuesday if the start of classes would feel anti-climatic after 2 weeks of orientation and leadership training.

After two days of classes, I think I can safely say “nope”. Not anti-climatic at all… As a matter of fact, I don’t think the effort and energy required in this program will peak until we sign our job offers. (And even then, because hopefully we’ll all get offers post-internships, we’ll have to finish up the school year.)

The MBA program at Foster is intense.

The professors are intense. One of them knew all of our names and faces on Day 1. (He also knew about my personal blog! Aye.) Another one gambled with us. And another one shouted, “Show me the data!” Jerry MacGuire style. These people are passionate and well trained, and I’m going to learn a lot. (By the way, one thing I heard today from our accounting professor was, “Don’t confuse comfort and learning.” So true.)

The MBAA clubs are intense. I’m still grappling with what clubs to join… In the mean time, there are club events almost every day and evening. One of the clubs, just as an example, organizes around case competitions, which are essentially math club for MBAs. (Someone made that analogy for me, and I love it.) Case competitions are going to be intense.

My fellow MBA classmates are intense. Smart people, who are all accomplished, and who are all ready to take this MBA program and run. I’m going to have to become one with being very, very average. Not to mention the 2nd years who are back from summer internships, full of experience.

Speaking of… Searching for an internship/job is intense. We had our first job fair this week. I had my photo professionally taken last week. I ordered business cards. And I’m scheduling info interviews for, you know, that extra time on my hands.

So, what I’m figuring out is that I need to be intense. This pretty much means staying on my toes at all times. I need to do as much as I can proactively. And I need to load my Husky Card with money so I can ensure I’m caffeinated at all times.

As I wrap up my first full week of classes, there’s definitely one thing I feel very intense about… Show me the weekend!

Guest Blogger: Allison Bilas, Foster MBA Class of 2011