Graduation Ceremony

On Saturday, we had the final event as students here at Kellogg: Graduation.  Just like last year, this year’s commencement took place at the Northwestern football stadium. The ceremony started at 5pm (students had to arrive a bit earlier to get ready) and went until about 7pm.

Dean Blount gave the first speech, right after hearing a word or two from the University President Martin Shapiro. Dean Blount’s theme was changing the status quo.   She opened by discussing the changes that had taken place in the past few years, some for better and some for worse. She noted,  “Being a Kellogg graduate is being a leader who raises the status of a room when you walk in, and not just the status of yourself.” “So go out, thrive, and raise the status of every room you walk into.” And of course, she ended by reiterating her theme of thinking bravely.

 * Photo from Kellogg website:

Rosalyn M. Brock, Chairperson of the NAACP, and a Kellogg alum, delivered the keynote. Her key message was to focus on how you can look back to help others once you make it in your career.  She noted that a lot of people did the same for us many years ago, and with our Kellogg MBAs, we’d have a great privilege and opportunity to do the same.

 * I had the chance to chat with the speaker in a private setting just before graduation

Afterward, we had a professor deliver the remarks on behalf of the faculty. Then the FT KSA President gave remarks as did the PT KSA President.  After that, the Kellogg staff spent about 90 minutes announcing over 850 names and handing out diplomas.  And 700pm on Saturday 6/15 officially marked the end of our time at Kellogg and in the JD/MBA program.

Quick note:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about Kellogg, Northwestern Law and the JD/MBA program on The good news is that unlike many MBA blogs, we won’t stop here. From here on out, I’ll still be writing, and later this summer we’ll be changing things up a bit. Stay tuned.

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Monday, June 18th, 2012 Business School 1 Comment

McCormick Scholars Program and Northwestern

Hey Everyone,  I hope you are having a good summer and fourth of July weekend. My summer has been busy. That’s because summer is in full swing, so business and law students are working hard at their summer jobs. That means that we’re getting up early everyday, making long commutes into the city from Evanston, and working long hours to meet deadlines, and perform well. Sounds like an enormous task, right? I think so too. But despite that, I’m also working on another project.  As the 2012 McCormick Scholar, I’m also working on a pretty large media project that I just kicked off this summer.

Just a few weeks ago, I found out that I was selected by the McCormick Foundation as 2012 scholar. The McCormick foundation was program was established to educate a new generation of leaders in the media industry and continue the foundation’s support for journalism at Northwestern. The website says that the awards “bring to almost $32 million the amount the foundation has awarded to these programs in the 50 years since the foundation was created in 1955” and that “twenty full-tuition merit scholarships will be awarded over the next ten years to business students and they will be awarded based on leadership potential and commitment to a career in the news media.”

To be considered, I had to submit a pretty extensive application this past spring. The application mirrored an MBA application, and included submitting things like a resume, data sheet, essays, and recommendations. I personally spent a good part of my time crafting the essays, partially because I really wanted to win but also because the essays were related to things I was really interested in. The challenging part was that the application deadline fell right in the middle of the on-campus interview season at Kellogg, so it took a lot of effort to work on both. But all the work was worth it in the end when I found out that I had been selected.

In addition to the money and prestige of the program, the best part of the scholarship is that it offers funding for a media project I’m working on.  I spent a lot of time refining my idea, formulating a plan, and figuring out who else to get involved. Over the course of a few weeks, I’ve refined some of the details and found other similar initiatives to see what made those successful. For now the project is in stealth mode, but once it’s up and running I will plan to share more about this project.

Either way, thanks to the McCormick Foundation for the funding. Thanks to Kellogg School of Management and The Medill School of Journalism for the opportunity. And thanks to the faculty and former scholars for selecting me. I appreciate your support and look forward to being part of the community.

Stay tuned for more details about the project. And be sure to apply to the program, if you come to Northwestern and media is something that your interested in pursuing.

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Saturday, July 2nd, 2011 Business School, Careers, Diversity 2 Comments

Bottlenotes: Silicon Valley Internet Start-Up Meets Wine Industry in Chicago

Business students in all the top MBA programs experience what’s called the herd mentality during recruiting season. And although many fantasize about risking it all to become the next great entrepreneur, in the end most still head to corporate America for a safer job and a guaranteed pay check.  But every now and then there are exceptions. Mavericks that lead with energy and idealism. Leaders optimistic that with passion and hard work, they can build their own empires.  And I have the great pleasure of knowing one of them. And just this past Friday, I spent the evening at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary of Art (MCA) with leading entrepreneur Alyssa Rapp at an event put on by her internet start-up company Bottlenotes.

Meeting up with Alyssa at the Chicago MCA wasn’t by happenstance. In fact, I first met Alyssa in 2006, when I lived in Palo Alto after graduating from Stanford.  As a fresh, young graduate looking for new and exciting opportunities, I had the dual goal of not only working full-time at a start-up consulting firm but also rolling up my sleeves at a real start-up.  So I sent a few emails and made a few calls, and I eventually found myself working with Alyssa in the evenings and on weekends, when I wasn’t in the office. And not only did I gain have exciting and interesting experiences working at a internet start-up, but being the Anthropologist I am, I also paid attention to the things Alyssa did and tried uncovering the skills it takes to be an entrepreneurial CEO.

And after doing similar research on other entrepreneurs over the years, I’ve found that to be truly great, entrepreneurs usually have a unique combination of skills – passion and creativity, an ability to take risks, the capacity to make decisions quickly, and also an ability to balance competing priorities, especially in the early stages.  These are all traits that aren’t necessarily typical for JDs or MBAs. In law school, JDs are taught to identify risks and mitigate them. They’re also taught to analyze issues from both sides before making decisions and to focus intensely rather than juggle multiple tasks. On the other hand, MBAs are taught to be a bit more decisive. But because in business school quantitative skills are king, MBAs tend to rely on supporting data rather than creative thinking or intuition. Harvard Business School likes to say that it trains students to get in the habit of making decisions.

But in my view, being an entrepreneur is a bit more nuanced than both of those. Not only must they perform analysis and assess risks but they also have to do it real time, so they are better positioned to identify and seize opportunities immediately when the market changes.  That also means they have to be fearless and quick to act, not always out of “habit” but often times using intuition or gut feel. So entrepreneurs tend to have a higher tolerance for uncertainty and an uncanny ability to focus on the details while always honing in on the bigger picture. A herculean set of tasks by all measures.

And it looks like a lot of these traits have paid off for Alyssa. And last night the good people of Chicago got a glimpse as the MCA was jam-packed withwell over 800 people, a number which would have been significantly higher if the event hadn’t sold out due to the MCA’s capacity.  It was great to see Alyssa again and to see how successful her company is becoming. It was also great to see a Kellogg alum and Bottlenotes COO who I’ve gotten to know over the past few months, not to mention meeting dozens of new people at the event. I even ran into a good friend of mine from undergrad and into a Northwestern JD-MBA from the class of 2008.

In the end, I’m glad Alyssa was bold and decided to be an exception after graduating from Stanford Business School.  And as a result, today she’s building a business that provides a unique product, delivers a highly customized service, and perhaps most importantly that brings thousands of people together from across the US to share enriching and memorable experiences.  Bravo Alyssa and bravo Bottlenotes!

I hope that all my readers take a second to check out her company.  Click here to learn more about Bottlenotes. And if you’re up for a bit more reading, click here for an online interview by Start-up Stories, and here for a podcast interview on

Thanks for reading everyone!

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Saturday, June 12th, 2010 Business School, Law School, Leadership 4 Comments

Can I Get You A Drink? Kellogg’s MBA Admit Reception

Have you ever been at an event and seen someone you really wanted to chat with for some reason or another but didn’t.  Perhaps someone you recognized from high school or college; or someone you knew had the insight you needed for work or class; or maybe just someone you thought was interesting, but you never quite found the moment or the courage to go introduce yourself.  Well, the good news is that it’s completely normal and that it’s probably happened to all of us.  But here’s an interesting question. What if after leaving you found out that the other person was hoping to get the chance to chat with you too?

My question arises having just attended Kellogg’s admit reception last week. It was a two-hour event, organized by Kellogg admissions and hosted by the Chicago offices of Deloitte Consulting here in Chicago.  Overall, it was certainly an interesting mix and a good number of people, some who I recognized from previous events and many others who I met for the first time. I always enjoy going to these types of events, as they’re usually a good way to meet new people, which is something I personally enjoy.

The event started at 6:30pm and took place on a Thursday.  I walked in with one of my JD-MBA classmates. We were a few minutes late, so I was pretty excited to finally make it to the event.  As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I scanned the room to see who was around. Gazing from left to right, I saw a sign-in table to my left, the table of appetizers directly in front of me, and to my right, that’s where the lions share of people were standing, over by the bar. “Can I get you a drink?” was the first thing I heard upon entering the doorway to the  room. I figured it was probably going to be an interesting night.

The first thing I did was head over to the sign in table. I figured that would not only allow me to grab my name tag and sign in but also to chat for a few minutes with the admissions team.  I’ve gotten to know a few of them over the past year or so at these types of events, since I originally applied last year as a JD-MBA, so I enjoy chatting with them when I can. I also figured that I might some good information about which of the JD-MBAs would be showing up that night, since I had heard from a lot of them earlier in the day.

So I quickly chatted with one or two members of the admissions team and talked about the upcoming admit weekend in late April. I took a look at the list to see which JD-MBAs would likely not be coming out and I concurrently scanned the room to see who was around.  And after leaving the check-in table quickly found my way to a few good conversations.  The first who actually turned out to be a 2009 alum who worked in marketing in Chicago. I actually saw her in the elevator right up in front of me on the way up to the event, so knew I’d eventually catch up with her.  I also ran into an MLT Fellow and a friend who I met in New York City a few weeks back. I enjoyed engaging in conversations and seeing where people where from and what other schools they were considering. Although for some people doing this may be a bit less natural, having food, being admitted to the same school, and having a bar usually helps to mitigate that.

At some point, I finally made my way over to the bar for a glass of wine, but I spent more of my time and energy chatting with people nearby. I did this for about 30 or 45 minutes before we had to head into the adjacent room where Kellogg had set up a 5-person panel of alumni to talk about their experiences. Most people grabbed a drink from the bar on the way into the room and took a seat to see the panel session.  Taking my glass of wine with me into the other room as well, I decided to sit at a table where I didn’t know anyone at the time.

The panel was facilitated by Director of Admissions, Beth Flye and led by a panel member who was a partner at Deloitte, and an older Kellogg alum.  It was pretty typical panel, though instead of fielding many questions, Kellogg threw them a few underhand softball questions for most of the time. And by the time, they opened it up for Q&A, I think most people were ready to mingle again.

One thing that interested me just before the event ended was that I ran into my friend that I’d met in New York City a second time that night. And he was looking for finance information about Kellogg, specifically alum in the private equity industry.  I was surprised he hadn’t bumped into anyone that night, because I found a number of them in the room, including the person I spoke to five minutes before form Madison Dearborn.   Although people like to call Kellogg a marketing school, Kellogg usually has more finance majors than marketing, so it tends to attract a lot of people just like this.  So I shared the information I found with him, as did a Kellogg professor who was at the event.

And that tends to be my usual mentality at these types of events. Find a way to help someone. Give information, show concern, and connect them with someone else. Because in the end, everyone wins. Someone finds the information they need, and more generally, more connections you established, which pave the way for making new ones and learning new information. It’s also a lot more fun.

In my view, every meeting or conference can be a game changer.  You can change the game for someone else, or someone else can change the game for you.  In today’s age, where there’s increased pressure to work longer hours in a bad economy and where internet is king, it can be easy to sit back, send emails, and rely on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to make connections.  Don’t get me wrong, those can be very useful tools that connect you globally, all across the world. But at the same the Internet connections can’t replace real connections.  And while for some people doing that is harder than it is for others, that’s still no reason to stay home. Try doing a bit of research before the event, and think about other ways to help you connect. And when all else fails, ask someone if you can get them a drink. At events like this, most people won’t turn you down.

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Monday, April 12th, 2010 Admissions, Business School No Comments

My Thoughts on Day At Kellogg (DAK), Round 1, Class of 2012

The more admit weekends I’ve been to over the past year, the more I realize how different each school’s culture actually is. Although many students come to town with similar career paths — consulting, banking, finance, marketing — the school culture usually take the lead at these weekends and so the divergent pieces of the programs really stand out.  This past weekend, I joined a couple hundred admits at Kellogg’s admit weekend (DAK). And it was definitely an interesting couple of days!

I was personally admitted to Kellogg last year — alongside Kellogg’s class of 2011 — not this year.  But because I’m in the JD-MBA program and began my program at the law school, I’m actually a part of the Class of 2012. That means that this year’s admitted students will be in my graduating class. So despite a pretty heavy course load at law school last week, I headed out to Evanston to attend as many events as possible.

The weekend was not only the perfect chance to meet dozens and dozens of classmates, which is something I thoroughly enjoy, but it was also a chance to really get a feel for the culture of Kellogg and for MBA programs in general.  And I feel like I had a pretty interesting perspective on things, given I’ve spent all year in law school, which in my opinion is completely different.  Here’s a quick summary of the themes I saw this weekend.

Diversity Reigns. Similar to what I saw at many of the admit weekends last year, the people at Kellogg are really diverse.  Admits not only came from Chicago but they also came from all parts of the US — both big cities and small ones — and all corners of the globe, all with a common purpose — to choose the right MBA program. Although on the surface there was a bit of commonality in the career paths of the admits, after doing some probing, everyone definitely had very unique career experiences and insights. I met students who worked in consulting, investment banking, investment management, private equity, start-ups, family businesses, technology companies, government agencies, political campaigns, marketing departments, and in a wide variety of other roles. And even within this categories, there was a pretty wide range of experiences. For example, in the consulting industry, I met folks both from the big three firms, and also from at least 15 or 20 other firms, including start-ups and middle market firms. And many of the consultants had traveled extensively around the world to serve clients in places like Dubai, Mumbai, London, New York City, and Barcelona. I found it pretty interesting to learn about people’s career experiences.

Academic theory has suggested that at times too much diversity can threaten a community’s ability to work communally. While the argument might have merits in some environments, the theory doesn’t hold at all in business school, especially at a collaborative place like Kellogg.  At Kellogg, all the activities are run by students, including DAK. And so in my opinion, student leaders tend to do a pretty good job working together and bringing people on the same page.  All of the sessions over the weekend were run by teams of five or six, and I was particularly impressed how most groups worked seamlessly together and how members were pretty good about jumping in when a teammate needed help.

That said, I did notice that some of that diversity seemed to get funneled out a bit in the recruiting process.  Although a number of students came in with unique backgrounds and even more unique dreams for the future, many first years ended up recruiting for similar industries and companies. At Kellogg, like some of the other top schools, students interviewed for marketing, consulting, banking and finance.  But this funnel is certainly not unique to Kellogg.

On one hand, I think these industries are great launching pads for a wide variety of careers — they equip you with the hard and soft skills to become better managers and leaders and often give you the credibility and experience to progress more rapidly.  But on the other hand, I also think there is merit in pursuing your career passion earlier than later.  Because the path to success is often long and hard, I think some people might be better off picking jobs that they are committed to from the start, engaging in activities where they will thrive in spite of setbacks, and undertaking leadership positions that allow them to be creative and implement their biggest ideas.

It’s A Small World. My experience at DAK also reminded me that the world can be pretty small sometimes. But this was not really a surprise. Technology and social media certainly brings all of us closer than we’ve ever been.  And over the weekend, I met a number of people I had pretty close connections to. I met the twin of someone I knew years ago at Stanford as an undergrad. I had a long conversation with an admit who’s good friend is the current roommate of my old college roommate.  I re-connected with a girl that was in my sister sorority back at Stanford.  I chatted with a student who is related to a section mate here at the law school.  And I even spoke with multiple people who had been followers of my website (thanks for following!)

It was definitely a lot of fun to meet and network with such an interconnected crowd. For many, the idea of networking induces negative emotions, as people too often think of networking as self-interested schmoozing, passing out business cards, and hoping to find a job. But to me, that’s a pretty superficial view.  For me, it’s all about meeting people, learning from their experiences, getting new perspectives on things, and most importantly being equally willing to do a favor rather than take one.  In my case, I’m usually more willing. Imagine if everyone had this mentality!

Questions.   Answering questions also seemed to be a big theme at the admit weekend, and admits had a great venue to ask lots of questions about the school. And dozens of first years came out, armed both with information and with time to answer the questions. And so the most curious folks benefited most, especially given the experienced pool of Kellogg students.

But I noticed this year, even more than last year, that some admits also enjoyed doing a lot of the talking. While talking is not necessarily a bad thing and although I’m also a big talker myself, my opinion is that having that mentality all the time doesn’t always work so well at these types of events.  Given first years have so much to offer, admits definitely lose out by not listening more.  Further, admits always run the risk of coming off a bit too arrogantly if they don’t take the time to listen. The first year students are there specifically to provide information about Kellogg, and so not listening doesn’t give them a chance to do what they came out for.

I personally think there’s incredible value to asking lots of questions. For one, there are so many aspects to learn about Kellogg, and that’s also true for many other schools too.  So the more quality questions you ask, the better. And even aside from the chance to learn something new or to hear about others’ perspectives, asking questions also provides one of the best venues to engage in genuine conversation. And so my opinion is that asking good questions, and doing so in the spirit of collaboration and generosity, is one of the best ways to get past the formality and really connect with a person. I found this happening quite a bit this past weekend.

Habit Of Decision-Making.   At most admit weekends, there are some people who have made up their mind to attend a school, and others who are still deciding. At DAK, I found a good mix of both, though definitely more people still in the decision-making process than I had anticipated. Some admits were still waiting around for other schools to get back to them. Others were waiting on Kellogg for financial aid information. A third group was so happy to get in, they hadn’t thought much about the decision. And a fourth group was relying on their DAK experience to decide.

To me, that whole decision-making process about school is also indicative of MBA programs. Business schools, as first evinced in the case study system, are venues that facilitate constant decision-making. Every single day, you have to decide how much time to spend in the library, how much time to prep for upcoming interviews, and how much time to spend out at the local pub celebrating with friends. And in some classes, there is the case — the cases often revolve around CEOs or other leaders who face adverse circumstances and have to make tough decisions, sometimes quickly. And so the student is put in the seat of the decision-maker and has to think through that decision. Sometimes with a lack of information. Sometimes in the midst of uncertainty. And usually with little or no experience (we’re just MBA students!). Schools like HBS and Darden use the case method a bit more than Kellogg (according to students I’ve met), but Kellogg is a great general management and leadership school and I’m personally looking forward to some of the case-based classes there.

From my experience this year, MBA programs are more welcoming of this style of decision-making than law schools are, both because these types of decisions are more common in business and because a lawyers job is to mitigate risk not utilize it. And so MBA programs prepare you with a willingness to take risks. To calculate those risks based on information and analysis, yes, but to take them. That said, the admitted students at Kellogg are pretty lucky. While some may see it risky to take on loans to get an MBA, it’s certainly not very risky getting a Kellogg MBA in the process.

Clubs Will Be King.  It was also clear that clubs are a pretty important part of Kellogg. Clubs give students a direct way to dive into various industries, functions, and other interests during school. On one hand, this access allows them to learn about different things they’re interested in. On the other hand, it also allows them to gain access to critical information that could facilitate a student’s progress toward their ultimate career goals.  But maybe more important than nature of the clubs and the information the clubs may have, club membership also provides an ideal venue for students to work on their leadership skills. Because most activities at Kellogg are run entirely by students, student leaders are accountable to organize events, meet with other student leaders and with administration, and execute agendas, for all events on campus.  At DAK, I was very clear how much work it took to pull this off.

Although some people tend to underemphasize this experience in the application process, I personally think that in the right environment (i.e like at Kellogg), organizing events and activities is a great way to practice your leadership skills.  In my own experience before Kellogg, I’ve spent significant time doing similar things in the community. Doing so, I’ve come to learn the power that comes with planning, organizing activities, setting priorities, and achieving goals. Especially when you’re 100% accountable for the results. And the good news about Kellogg is that you have the Kellogg brand backing you up, and that you can lead in a safe environment with classmates.

What About Leadership? So what do all these issues mean for MBA students — future firm managers and world leaders?  That’s a great question, and I don’t have the perfect answer. But one trend I do see is that there is definitely a change in the leadership skills that will be most effective going forward.  And while there are certain leadership qualities that will always be critical – the ability to influence others, create change, build consensus, and rally people to action — today the ability to lead in more diverse environments, to listen to the perspectives of others, to understand and collaborate with different cultures, and to maintain a broader perspective are also important. Leaders will need to use these abilities become more adept at developing relationships in the high-growth yet still shrinking “small world” that is developing.

And in the end, my personal opinion is that leadership will continue to have more correlation to the ability to connect with others, to exchange information, and to build new relationships. What do you think?

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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 Admissions, Business School, Diversity, Leadership 3 Comments

Congratulations Kellogg 2012 Round 1 Admits