Business School

Power of Working Together

One hundred people doing some the same thing at the same time can at times be more powerful than a thousand people doing it separately. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – that math doesn’t sound right.  I agree. It doesn’t sound right to me either. But recently, I’ve come to find that sometimes there’s tremendous power not only in working together, but also in working together at exactly the same time.

For example, take a look at the picture above. Imagine 100 people taking time during the year to turn the levers but everyone coming on different days during the year. It’s possible, even likely, that you’d never have more than a couple of hands turning at the same time which is not nearly enough to make the machine move.  After all, the picture has five hands in it now. On the other hand, imagine you only have ten hands but all of them come together at the exact same time to turn the levers. In that case, coordination gives you enough power to make sure the machine is really moving.

One practical way this lesson has become evident to me is through our GIM trip, where 32 of us have come together to work on helping the Global Health Initiative commercialize an aids device in Kenya.  Not only are 32 of us all working on the Global Health Initiative Project, but we’re also working on the same general issues during the same two weeks.

Despite being placed in different groups with different stakeholders – hospitals, the government, clinics, distribution – everyone has still been working very closely together. Working together means having breakfast together every morning, having mini-team meetings after breakfast, scheduling meetings with the same agencies in Kenya, discussing the same topics with medical and government services employees in Kenya, meeting as a big group during the evening to share our stories and contacts, and getting together after that to wind down in the evening.

There is an old proverb that says, “If everyone in your weekly meeting drops a pencil at precisely the same time, everyone will notice.”  Well, when 32 of us entered the Nairobi airport with our Global Health Initiatives sign last week, I suspect a few people noticed. Likewise, when multiple teams were stopping by the same office in the  Kisumu Provincial Building today and met with some of the same people in some of the same offices, people noticed then too. I know they did because I got a few follow up emails from the agency the next day.

Today, the internet makes it easier than ever before to spread ideas and get people on board.

Well, what if everyone uses the Internet to bring even more people together to solve one of the world’s biggest problems, like poverty, inequality, and the recession.  Will anyone notice that?

Notice or not, I’ve learned that we’re all much better off working together at the same time if we want to maximize our impact.

Monday, March 21st, 2011 Business School 2 Comments

Write It Down

Have you ever had a good idea for a new business, but found it too complicated to get started. Well, what about a good idea for your current company, but weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Well, if that’s you, don’t worry. This is a common problem. But one way you can get started on your next big idea is simply to write it down.

Writing down your idea can be powerful. And even if it’s a rough sketch, write down your idea just to get started. Then once you’ve finished, write it again in more detail.  Next talk through your idea out loud to see if you’ve actually written everything down.

After you’ve written it in detail, then share it with friends.  Next, seek out colleagues to see what they think of your idea.  Then refine your idea based on their feedback.

If your idea is good, then something will stick. If it’s not, then tweak it. And then continually refine it until it does stick.  Soon your idea will not only stick but it will also take off.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. That it’s easier said than done. You’re probably right.  After all, people aren’t easily convinced. But if you’re passionate about the idea, then stay with it and convince them. Persuade the masses. Convince the skeptics of the value. And something great will transpire.

In sum, want to do something great. Then write it down.

That is why we’re carefully transcribing everything we do for our GIM Kenya trip.

Also, that’s precisely why I am blogging.

Friday, March 18th, 2011 Business School, Careers 1 Comment

Engaging In My Trip to Kenya

It costs a lot of time and money to go on Kellogg’s Global Immersion in Management (GIM) trip.  You forego taking another class in the winter quarter. You pay a lot of money out of pocket. And you do classwork during spring break, while your friends are having a blast in various locations around the world. But other than having a blast with your fellow classmates in a new country, does it make sense to go on GIM?

Well, this was the question on a lot of people’s minds all throughout the winter quarter. Every year, second years talk about how great GIM is. Then, first years bid almost all their points into the class excited, but then recruiting and other substantive classes start to take up a lot of time, and so people question whether GIM is actually worth it.  Did I make the right decision? Could I have gotten a better deal financially on my own vacation (the answer is often yes)? Should I have done something different?

Fortunately, people in GIM Kenya (Kellogg’s Global Health Initiative) thought about this question a lot less than some of the other trips did. That’s because this is the single GIM trip that’s rooted in public interest and international development. Nonetheless, the question has even come up in at least a couple of cases.

As I ponder this question personally, I can’t help back to some of my favorite student experiences and ask myself, “Do you remember the presentations from the professor?”  “Do you remember the most salient parts of the lectures?” “Do you even remember the name of the textbook you read?” For a lot of the classes, the answer is no.

On the other hand, I know exactly what I do remember from my favorite experiences: the engaged conversations I had after classes. Helping a friend work on a problem that they found critically important.  The practical discussions about what people are working on, and the philosophical discussions about how people want to change the world.

Fortunately, I also get to engage in these topics for GIM, especially with GIM Kenya.  With GIM Kenya I get to:

Engage in a public interest topic (HIV/Aids project in Kenya)

Engage in a mission critical issue, not just related to the US but also to those abroad.

Engage in travel to somewhere I might not go on my own.

And engage with a diverse set of like-minded classmates who are also passionate about public service and about changing the world (stay tuned to hear more about my classmates on the trip)

In the end, engaging is the most critical issue.

When is the last time you engaged? It’s never too late to start.

Thursday, March 17th, 2011 Business School, Careers, Diversity No Comments

Countdown to GIM Kenya: Leaving Chicago Tomorrow Afternoon

Tomorrow, me and about 30 classmates will be jumping on a plane and jet-setting out of Chicago and finally heading to Kenya, where we’ve all be excited to go for the last 10 weeks. While two or three of my classmates have visited Kenya before, for most of us it will be our first time in the country. To commemorate this special experience, one of our class leaders has been sending out a series of countdown emails, each filled with pictures and words to describe the trip.

Here below is the countdown from the last six days.

Day 6. With a surface area of 68,800 square kilometres (26,600 sq mi), Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, and it is the largest tropicallake in the world. Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest freshwater lake by surface area (Only Lake Superior in North America is larger.) Lake Victoria occupies a shallow depression in the East African Plateau, and has a maximum depth of 84 metres (276 ft) and an average depth of 20 metres (66 ft). Its catchment area covers 184,000 square kilometres (71,040 sq mi). The lake has a shoreline of 4,828 kilometres (3,000 mi), with islands constituting 3.7% of this length,[2] and is divided among three countries: Kenya (6% or 4,100 km2/1,600 sq mi), Uganda (45% or 31,000 km2/12,000 sq mi) and Tanzania (49% or 33,700 km2/13,000 sq mi).[3] Lake Victoria supports Africa’s largest inland fishery.[4

Day 5. Asante class!  It’s been a fun quarter and the most fun part is only 5 days away!  Congratulations on completing the last class and let’s get ready for our Kenyan adventure! Hakuna Matata!

Day 4. (No text)

Day 3. The Maasai (also Masai) are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the most well known of African ethnic groups, due to their distinctive customs and dress and residence near the many game parks of East Africa.[3] They speak Maa,[3] a member of the Nilo-Saharan language family that is related to Dinka and Nuer, and are also educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania: Swahili and English. The Maasai population has been variously estimated as 377,089 from the 1989 Census[1] or as 453,000 language speakers in Kenya in 1994[2] and 430,000 in Tanzania in 1993[2] with a total estimated as “approaching 900,000”[3] Estimates of the respective Maasai populations in both countries are complicated by the remote locations of many villages, and their semi-nomadic nature.

Day 2. Something we might run into in Kenya! 🙂  We are all most there!  Don’t forget time change tonight, and good luck with the last finals!

Day 1. Congrats on being done with winter quarter!  Kenya in less than 24 hrs!  Don’t forget to start taking your malarone.  See you all tomorrow at 12:45!

Stay tuned for more updates on GIM Kenya!

Sunday, March 13th, 2011 Business School, Diversity 1 Comment

Friends in Business School

I realized the other day that a fair number of my good friends at Kellogg come from very different circles. While some of them did come from my section, others I met in student clubs that I’m involved in, others while going throughout the recruiting process, some while transitioning in the JD-MBA program, and others study groups that I’ve been assigned to in class.  To my initial surprise, a smaller number of them actually come from the fun nights I’ve spent in Evanston or downtown Chicago.

This quarter, I’ve been working a lot with smaller groups that I did last quarter.  I’ve spent a lot of time with one group for a project in my media management class, and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well in the process. Likewise, I’ve also spent a fair amount of time working on planning a KWEST trip for the incoming students in August, and I’ve also gotten to know these students really well, especially Josh.  I’ve also spent a lot of time working with a small group of people in the consulting recruiting process, especially my friend Vishal, and we’ve gotten to know each other quite well given the intensity of that process.

In addition to Kellogg, I also realized the other day that I have been working with a few people with regards to my blog.  Dino, Marquis, andEmanuel to name a few. My friend Marquis and I have been talking a lot about our websites and about potential start-up ideas we have for almost two years now.  My friend Emanuel and I have been talking a lot about new media and how to leverage that to have a large impact in the community.  And I’ve also stayed in touch with my classmate Dino since the application season, and we’ve discussed ways that we can improve our blogs and catapult Kellogg’s reputation in the internet atmosphere.

Over time I’ve come to realize that you don’t all-of-a-sudden make friends with people like these after one fun night in the city.  But instead you have to create friendships through a series of more personal interactions. You have to spend more time with them to understand their personal story and learn their career goals. You have to work with them on hard assignments to get a better sense for what they like to work on and how they perform under pressure. And you have to have longer, uninterrupted discussions with them to see who they really are and what they believe in at the core. In the business school environment with hundreds of people in each class and not enough time to make friends with most of them, establishing some of these deeper relationships is critical even though it feels impossible.

One of the simplest things to do in business school is making lots of friends. But one of the hardest things in business school is finding good friends that last well after business school is over.

Friday, March 11th, 2011 Business School, Careers, Consulting 3 Comments

Final Exams Are Looming

One thing about Kellogg is that the academics quarters fly by pretty quickly.  Unlike law school, where semesters are drawn out for fifteen or so weeks, and where the days are drawn out due to the hundreds of pages of reading we have for any single class, at Kellogg, the quarters are each ten weeks and we don’t have nearly enough time to get everything done.  Well, because the last few weeks have flown by so quickly, it’s now time to begin the final exam period.

It seems like yesterday that I just chose my classes for the winter term and took a seat in class to begin the winter term. However, I just realized the other day that not only is this term almost finished, but that I’m more than half way done with my time at Kellogg this year and in the JD-MBA program.

I realized this while chatting with a couple of my JD-MBA classmates, as we were reflecting a bit on the program. When we originally began our time in the program, nobody would have ever imagined making it so far so quickly.  But over time, we’ve all come to realize just how fast everything goes.

Sure final exams are coming up this week and next week. But we’re not as worried as we were last quarter, because it’s easier than ever to get through final exams now.  Now that we’ve taken a lot of them. Now that we have dozens of other conflicting priorities.  Now that many of us have jobs. And now that we know the process will be over in now time.

Don’t get me wrong, final exam period isn’t easy. Especially if you’re taking classes like Finance, Microeconomics, and Statistics. And especially for JD-MBAs, given this is our sixth term here at Kellogg and second year in a row in core classes. Fortunately, we’ve all done this a few times before. And before any of us know it, the process will be over and we’ll be headed out for spring break.

In sum, it’s easier than ever to get through exam period now. Just as hard as it was to get through them the first go round. Funny how things work out that way over time.

Thursday, March 10th, 2011 Business School 1 Comment

MLT Kickoff Conference: How To Get Into Business School

Every business school applicant has an overwhelming number of things to think about. It is easy to get caught up spending endless hours writing, editing, and applying, and you often forget that working hard isn’t quite as effective as working smart.  To help the new MLT fellows with that, I spent the day with them at the Darden School of Business to moderate a panel on how to get into business school.  Like last year’s session (click here to see my post on last year’s session), this year’s session was filled with eager and energetic MLT fellows as well as with a few MLT armed to share information with the up and coming applicants.

At long last, the newest class of MLT’s MBA Prep Program was finally welcomed in person at the 2011 kick-off event.  The event took place at Darden School of Business, and just like last year, I took a flight out to speak with a few members year’s class. Likewise, I also attended the event to moderate a session with the up and coming fellows on how to go about getting into business school.

So what does it actually take to get into a top tier business school?  A number of themes emerged from the panel. Getting started on applications early. Putting the GMAT behind you. Having a community of people to work with. And the theme I continually emphasized, having a compelling story.

This means not just relying on your resume as a banker or consultant, or overestimating the importance of your high GMAT score and GPA, but it also means discussing your story about why you want to go to business school in a way that gets the audience’s attention. And it’s a story that not only communicates your business background and knowledge but also displays that you’ve got business intuition and that you’re a winner.  That you believe deeply in the idea of going to business school. And that you’re up for the enormous task of succeeding, no matter what it takes to do that.

Fortunately, I had three great MLT alum who helped with the panel and helped field Q&A from the aggressive and energetic bunch. Questions about recommenders, industry choices, career changes, grades, and school applications all surfaced. Similarly, questions about difficulty of the MLT program, relationships with your MLT coaches, and networking with schools also came up.  Questions came for nearly an hour after we spoke in the beginning.

One question I answered at the end of the session was in regards to school selection. The gentleman asked, “What if the schools I want to apply to aren’t aligned with the schools that MLT calls my ‘fit’ schools?”  What a great question!! I decided to take that question because I felt strongly about the answer. I gave a two pronged response.

First, it’s likely going to be the case for a lot of you that the schools you want to apply to won’t be perfectly aligned with your “MLT fit schools.” After all, MLT wants to ensure you apply to fit schools to maximize your chances to get in; and rightly so. And on the other hand, you’re probably just gunning to get into all the “top” schools on your list. So understand the difference in MLT’s priorities versus what you think your priorities might be at the time.

Second, and more importantly, I told the audience, definitely apply to the schools you’re most passionate about. After all, part of the reason for MLT, and part of the American Dream is being able to reach for the stars and achieve the improbable. And for you, that means applying to the schools you’re most interested in. Especially since for many of you, this is your big chance to get into business school. So I say work hard, and apply not just to your fit schools but to the schools you’re most passionate about. Figure out a way to make it all work.

After this question, the panel fielded a few more questions from the audience, before we ended the session. And we spoke with a few of the fellows after the talk. In the end, it was a great session!

To summarize, if you get started early, work hard, and have an idea of where you want to go, you can make it into business school. Further, even if your profile isn’t quite up to par with the “average” admit, then just work harder, be a little more strategic, and do everything you can to get in. Because the best leaders know that determination is critical.  And because the most successful applicants not only have a way of defying the odds, but they also understand the importance of telling a good story to ensure that they defy them.

Good luck MLT Class of 2012!

And thanks to Darden for hosting the wonderful seminar.

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 Business School, Diversity 6 Comments

Need To Get Organized and Get Things Done

Clutter. We’ve all complained about it before. Between running from meeting to meeting, to getting bogged down by emails and voice mails, we all have to figure out how to manage clutter. And that’s especially true in business school, where the number of meetings is higher and where emails drop into your inbox by the second. And for me and my classmates now, we feel the urgency to organize and finally start getting things done because just one week from now, we’ll all be taking final exams.

When you start seeing all this clutter, doing nothing is not an option. Being passive will only lead to more clutter and eventually make things worse. But what can you do when there is little to remove it?  Well, that is the big question; and the question that I’m also asking. Because in today’s society, where things are moving fast, we’re all getting more involved, and where more information exists, there is also more clutter.

That’s also true here in business school. Classes purposefully give you too much information. Too many pages to read. Too many other things to think about. And very little time to do it all.  So is this a good thing or a bad thing?

In some ways it’s a good thing, as it teaches you how to prioritize, how to make decisions, and how to act in the midst of uncertainty.  On the other hand, you might argue that it also gets you used to not doing full due diligence. It puts you under unnecessarily stressful conditions. And teaches you how make uninformed decisions, rather than though out one.

Hard to say which one is more correct. But either way, finals are looming. I need get organized and focus on getting a few things done, so I can be successful.

Friday, March 4th, 2011 Business School 2 Comments

2011 Kellogg BMA Conference: Maximizing Investment While Building Communities

The Black Management Association (“BMA”) hosted the 24th Annual BMA Conference last weekend February 25 through 27 at the Kellogg School of Management. The event is one of the largest business school conferences at Kellogg, not only because of the number of students and alumni who attend but also because  of the participants who come in to speak for the weekend and the message delivered by the speakers and panelists.

BMA members and conference leaders worked tirelessly to make the weekend a success. Leveraging the alumni and professors networks, we brought in keynotes and panelists such as Soledad O’Brien, Terdema Ussery, and Bridgette Heller, and they discussed topics such as media, business, entrepreneurship and investing. The panels and discussions were engaging and interactive.

The conference kicked off Friday night with an alumni mixer event downtown on the waters of Chicago, featuring both students and alumni. And bright and early on Saturday, Soledad O’Brien kicked off the actual conference and discussed about storytelling. One big theme that emerged from her discussion was that it’s important to have difficult conversations and ask the difficult question in order to tell some of the most important stories about race and ethnicity.

Next up, was a series of speakers and panels all day Saturday afternoon. One panel included James Reynolds Jr. (KSM ’82), Founder, Chairman and CEO, Loop Capital Markets and John W. Rogers Jr., Founder, Chairman and CEO, Ariel Capital Management, in the “Billion Dollar Roundtable panel”. And another panel included Tim King, Founder, President and CEO, Urban Prep Academies, and Carmita Vaughan (KSM ’04) in the “Investing in Education” panel.

After the set of panels was the Saturday Gala event downtown, which nicely concluded a great day of speakers and panels. The keynote speaker for the Gala was Terdema Ussery, President and CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. And finally on Sunday, there was the Gospel Brunch, where a diverse set of students from the Kellogg community came together for food and fellowship while the University of Chicago Soul Umoja Choir sang a set of songs during the event.

In the end, the Conference was a resounding success, and it even elicited a short article the next day in the Small Business Chicago online. Thanks to Co-Chairs Stephanie Dorsey and Brianna English for their work over the past year.

Currently, the BMA Club is already thinking about at next year to see not only who wants to have leadership positions in the club but also who wants to help orchestrate the 25th BMA conference.

We hope you can make it to the event.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 Business School, Diversity 3 Comments

Suneel Gupta Discusses How To Give A Pitch

Have you ever had to pitch an idea to an audience but weren’t quite sure how to deliver the message? Well, what if I told you that no matter what you said, people forget 99% of it? How would that impact your pitch? What specific words would you say? And what words would you decide to change?  Giving a pitch in front of an audience is a hard task. Fortunately, in a recent talk in my media management class, Suneel Gupta and Leena Rao provided a few tips on how to make a strong pitch and get people to remember.

Just yesterday, Suneel and Leena came to one of my classes at Kellogg to give us a few ideas on how to make a pitch to an audience. The class is Understanding Media and Content, and the reason they came is because we have a final project where we have to pitch an idea to help solve a current problem for an existing media company.  As former Kellogg (Suneel) and Medill (Leena) students respectively, both Suneel and Leena once took this class a few years ago and had to think about the same project. So they put together a presentation and gave us tips on how to be successful.

The first tip they gave was to identify the problem. That not only means telling the audience what the issue is but also connecting them to that problem.  They used an example video that discussed managing your finances, and the speaker got to the heart of the issue very quickly by talking about a problem that resonated with all of us very closely. The second tip they gave was “Show me.” “Show me” means showing the audience what you’re talking about. While descriptions can often be powerful, the idea was showing the audience with a live demonstration can be very powerful, especially if the subject matter was technical in nature. The third tip was to simplify. That the best messages are often simple rather than complex, and that they tend to draw on things that people already know. Which leads me to the final point; anchor the audience in what they know.

After sharing these tips with us, a few teams were selected at random to practice giving their pitches. One of those teams was my team, and we pitched the idea of bringing Barnes & Noble to the digital world. I took the lead for my team and spent most of my time focusing more on the story to engage the audiences attention.

In the end, not only was it a good way to hep improve our final projects but it was also good lesson in making pitches, which I suspect many of us will do a lot of upon graduation. Thanks Suneel and Leena!

Friday, February 25th, 2011 Business School 1 Comment

Where Are Classmates Going After Kellogg?

For better or for worse, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been wondering what their classmates will be doing for the summer. While some classmates jump at the chance to tell the entire world about their offers, others are a bit more tactful in their approach, and another group isn’t quite sure yet. But no matter which of these groups a students fits in, it’s likely that he or she has a sense of what industry they might end up in and further what geography they’ll be at for the summer.

To estimate where people might end up geographically, I thought I might try to do a few back end calculations to see where people have historically gone. I did that by calculating the percentage of students who have left Kellogg to go to various places around the US and internationally. And I did that not only for 2010 but also for the past 10 years to see if things have changed over time. Below is the 2010 graph and below that is the 10 year graph.

* Data from 2010 Kellogg report on Class of 2000 through Class of 2010

From the graph above, you can see the most people head to the big geographies in the US – Chicago, New York, and the Bay. It’s not surprise that more people stay in Chicago than anywhere else given close ties to local CPG firms and given the fact that Kellogg is conveniently located here in Chicago.

Likewise, it’s not surprise that New York and the Bay are in the top as well, given those geographies generally send a lot of people to business school. Further, it’s also no surprise that the Bay comes in below New York, not only because New York is significantly larger in size (ie more students) than the Bay but also because Chicago doesn’t have the same reputation for innovation that the Bay, Boston, or even New York has.

* Data from 2010 comes directly from the Kellogg website (Data from website)

Strangely the data from 2010 and from the past decade are nearly identical. The only exception is the international data, where the percentage of students that went “Abroad” and went to “Asia” were a little higher last year than usual. Perhaps it’s because the recession took away jobs locally in the smaller U.S. cities, so graduates decided to work internationally instead. (Click here to see MSNBC article that shows that MBAs are flocking to jobs in Asia). It might also be a result of the fact that the 1Y program at Kellogg is growing, so more students are opting to abroad now than before.

The idea that 2010 and the historical data are similar has some interesting implications, given that top business schools brings in new people with new interests and new career ideas every year. The first question that comes to mind is “Is business school just a factory?” Do the same people go to the same employers every year, not matter what you came in thinking you wanted to do? Which leads into the second question? Is geography-changing (or better yet career-changing) a lot harder than applicants think? And do people have less options than they hoped for, even at the top business schools?

But maybe I’ve got it all wrong, and it’s actually just the opposite. That people really want to go to these places and business schools provide the venues for them to do so because of access to so many alumni, networks, and employers. This idea makes a lot of sense too.

Either way, despite all the noise I hear in business school about changing yourself and changing the world, the statistics should make you wonder if things really do change, or if things really just stay the same year to year … and decade to decade?

Perhaps I should continue my analysis by calculating the numbers of jobs the same way I did geographies. I suspect it’d turn out to be exactly the same as this one.  What do you suspect?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 Business School, Careers, Job Opportunities 5 Comments

Happiness During First Year of Business School

The first year of business school is filled with ups and downs. Everyone starts out very happy, as they’re excited they got into school and look forward to meeting their new classmates and friends. But the last few weeks I’ve noticed a disparity in the way that different people are feeling. Some students feel like they’re on top of the world because they’ve done well in classes or they’ve recently landed the job of their dreams. But there is another group of students that hasn’t had quite the same luck. At least not yet.

To quantify some of those ups and downs I decided to sketch out a graph the reflect an approximation of the average level of “happiness”. I did that by listing a few of the noteworthy events from Kellogg on the X-axis, and rating each event from 1-10 based on what the average student might be feeling at that point and time.

The graph starts at CIM week (ie orientation week) where students are still happy they’ve gotten into school and were able to quit their jobs early to revel abroad for the past few weeks. They arrived in Evanston from all over the country ready not only to make lots of new friends but also ready to take over the world and become tycoons in their respective industries. But then things like midterms, finals, recruiting, and winter snowstorms hit and things got a lot tougher. Fortunately, things like Ski Trip, TG, and job offers (for some) mitigated some of those downs. The goal was to have the graph capture some of those changes.

But more  important than the actual ratings, I think the graph highlights the trend of ups and downs that students tend to go through during the first year at business school. Not only will some students agree with the trends of the graph, but I suspect most will be able to relate pretty well with it. Hopefully most of my classmates and fellow MBAs are navigating the process and making their way back to the upper levels of the 10 point scale.

For the record, the graph is not meant be comprehensive. Likewise, it’s not meant to be a representation of my experience nor any of my specific classmates. Instead, it’s simply meant to highlight the trend of ups and downs, and reflect some of the sentiments of the average MBA student, not only at Kellogg but a majority of top business schools.

Have something to add? Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas.

Monday, February 21st, 2011 Business School, Careers 7 Comments

Student Body Elections at Kellogg

In the midst of recruiting madness, the Kellogg student body elections have quickly stumbled upon us. Two teams have emerged, both with different people, different ideas, different agendas, and different sets of friends. The question everyone must be wondering is, who is going to win? And what will that team do to stand out from the other?

As I walk down the stairs at Jacobs, you can see the two sets of teams at work in the atrium. One team brought in coffee, tea and hot chocolate all week, and they took students ideas by posting stick its on their shirts. And the other team was handing out candy while sweet-talking potential student voters in their plastic construction hats. Meanwhile, both teams are making new friends with classmates by the minute and telling them about their ideas for the school.

Within these groups, the students have already taken on different roles at Kellogg.  Each group has a student that’s running as a president and executive vice president, and each group also has a slate of six vice presidents that will help with technology, academics, careers, finance, and one or two other areas at Kellogg.

As time goes on it will be interesting to see how the groups take on activities to maximize their chances of winning.  And in my view, a couple more specific questions come to mind.  Will one group campaign long hours? Will one give away more food and candy than the other team? Will they host happy hours for classmates (come on now, this is Kellogg, you had to expect this suggestion!!) And will they make far-fetched promises that they may not be able to keep?

Likewise, there are also a few provocative questions that come to mind. First, why do people actually choose to run for a position at Kellogg? Are the students convinced that winning will be prestigious with classmates or with employers? Will it help them land a job next year, or will it help them in their longer-term political interests? Or was it just something they thought would be fun to do while on campus.

But perhaps more interesting than both sets of questions above is the question of what can one slate do that the other wouldn’t have been able to do? Can they actually make change at Kellogg, by improving the new Kellogg building, getting more employers on campus, and getting employers to hire more people for the summers? One recommendation a lot of people have is to eliminate the grading disclosure system. But despite the efforts, that hasn’t changed in years.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of getting elected for positions. I consider the process an essential tool to help lead an organization to the next level. In fact, I personally thought about running and a pretty large number of classmates tell me they were shocked that I didn’t. Nonetheless, these questions still emerge during elections and they are some of the ideas that I’ve heard from classmates over the past few weeks.

But either way, everyone would agree that running for a position is a noble endeavor. Not only is it a way to help maintain Kellogg superior reputation but also to improve the reputation of Kellogg for the future. Good luck to both of the teams running. And stay tuned to hear how things turn out.

Sunday, February 20th, 2011 Business School 1 Comment

Bidding for Spring Classes

Despite the enormous amounts of time we’re all spending with recruiting activities, we all still have to partake in the academic experience of business school.  That not only means going to class, doing the problem sets, and taking exams, but it also means choosing classes for the following quarters. While in many cases that are easy, sometimes it can prove to be a bit more challenging, especially for those in the JD-MBA program at Kellogg.

With the spring term on the horizon, it’s finally time to bid for spring quarter classes. And we don’t have much time left! Bids are due today at noon, about 30 minutes from now, and a number  of us are sitting in the LSR (ie loud study room) right now, figuring out exactly what to do – deciding which classes we want, figuring out what we want to bid on each class, planning our classes to align with our schedules, and submitting are bids in the Kellogg system online.

One class I’m considering is Entrepreneurial Finance. On one hand, it’s probably the most popular class here on campus. Taught by professor Rogers, the class comes together every Tuesday night to discuss how to become an entrepreneur and what the financial implications are to the business – business valuation, cash flows, and raising capital.

Another class I’m considering is entirely new to Kellogg called Comprehensive Perspectives of Leading a Sports Entity by “Professor” Phillips.  Just last year, Phillips became Northwestern University’s 21st director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation, and this particular course explores many of the various departments and constituencies of a sports organization from his perspective.

In general, most students hope to have a bit more fun in the spring. After two grueling quarters of fighting through the core, struggling to learn Accounting and Finance, tirelessly searching for summer jobs, and hiking through the frigid cold weather to get to class at Jacobs, it sounds like students want to spend a lot more time enjoying the business school experience in the spring.

The scheduling is a bit trickier for JD-MBAs who have less time at Kellogg so have to think about each class a bit more closely. Since we have less overall time at Kellogg than our two year classmates, and since the administration encourages us to get at least one major this year, during our “Kellogg year” we have to be a bit more focused with our class selection.

In my case, I’m pretty highly leveraged with my bids. I have one class that will help satisfy two major requirements and a second class that will satisfy a third. Likewise, I also have one class that for me is the one class that I really wanted to get during my time at Kellogg. Hopefully my classes work out for the best.

Stay tuned to hear more about the results.

Friday, February 18th, 2011 Business School 1 Comment

Kellogg Board Fellows and the Education Industry

Last week, I had the great privilege of getting my assignment for the Kellogg Board Fellows program.  In addition to getting assigned to the education industry, which was my first choice for the program, I’ll also get a chance to work firsthand with an innovative charter school in the Chicagoland area, name Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. I look forward to the upcoming months, where I’ll have the chance to see first-hand how leaders in the field are taking action and also see what their thoughts are regarding the future of the education industry.

The Board Fellows Program here at Kellogg is a fourteen month program, that matches Kellogg MBA candidates with the boards of directors of nonprofit organizations and gives them temporary board appointments. Fellows attend the various board sessions, take part in some of the committee meetings, and usually have the opportunity to complete a strategic project for the organization. There are not really typical projects for the program but past projects have revolved around Board governance, fundraising, goal setting, and strategic planning for the organization.  And over time everyone takes unique roles depending on the needs of the specific organization.

In addition to gaining real-world experience on a board of directors, students also enroll in two nonprofit board governance course here at Kellogg –  Nonprofit Board Governance and Advanced Board Governance.  Together, these courses offer the fellow an opportunity to study boards, understand current trends, discuss our own experiences, and in the end learn how to become an effective board member.

My specific organization is Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, located in Downtown Chicago.  The mission of the school is to”offer a Catholic college preparatory education for the immigrant families of Chicago’s near southwest side.” And in practice,  the school takes kids that are usually the first in their families to obtain a college degree and also helps them with summer internships. While I haven’t actually met my organization yet, on the surface it sounds like exactly the type of organization I was looking for.

Not everyone here at Kellogg applies to be part of the Board Fellow program, but an increasingly large number of people do.  Because in business school, a lot of people understand this there’s more to the overall experience than learning finance and strategy but that it’s also important to think about community and social enterprise.  And fortunately, there are great programs like the board fellows program that can help up and coming business people to quickly get engaged in that process.

And in my view, the best leaders know, that social enterprise is critical. That a leader’s job is not only to maximize profits and negotiate deals but also to help build the communities around them.  And when they do, these communities will thrive and build up the up-and-coming leaders that will be inspired to do the same.  And in the end, these classes,meetings, and MBA Board Fellows Programs across the country will definitely help to make a difference.

Thursday, February 17th, 2011 Business School 2 Comments

Winter Quarter is Flying By!

Today is the start of what will be a long few weeks. As I’ve been mentioning in my most recent entries, this is one of the busiest times at Kellogg.  Recruiting season is in full swing and final round interviews necessitate traveling to other cities. Likewise, the academic quarter is also flying by. The Kellogg quarter system means classes go by faster and given we’re already in mid February, that means we’re entering the seventh week of school and final exams are coming up soon.

The one on most of our minds in Microeconomics, better known as MECN. For one, microeconomics isn’t the most provocative topic. Two, it’s also not as relevant as finance, marketing, or strategy in terms of helping people with their job searches. Further, most of us have also had to miss a few classes due to interviews and other commitments, so we have a lot of catching up to do. And finally, many of us are also balancing this class with statistics two(ie DECS) and finance.

But in spite of that, some people haven’t spent much time in their textbooks this quarter, because recruiting demands a lot of attention.  Fortunately for some, it looks like the summer job process has recently  finished.  These people have already sent off their paper work and informed other companies that they were dropping out of the recruiting process. For others, that’s not the case. Some have been fortunate to receive one ore more offers but are still thinking a lot about their options. And a third group, is still proactively searching.  Among those, some haven’t found jobs yet and others may have found jobs but not the job they really want.

In the end, one theme that continues to re-emerge is that the quarter system is fast, and everyone here is pretty exhausted. While on one hand, it’s great to have the opportunity to take more classes and get more experiences throughout the year, on the other hand, you often can’t find enough time to invest in them and in the end you have to cram just to catch up.  Similarly, you have to make more tradeoffs given the workload, especially if you’re still looking for a job.

Either way, it’s been a long quarter and most of us can’t wait for spring break, not only because it means the quarter will be over but also because the sun will re-emerge and all of us get to go on GIM (click here to read my prior post on GIM), the one class that’s still lots of fun. Stay tuned to hear more about my trip to Kenya in March.

Sunday, February 13th, 2011 Business School No Comments

Welcome to Evanston!

To the applicants admitted to Kellogg’s Class of 2013 who are here for Day At Kellogg, otherwise known as DAK, welcome to Evanston! Hopefully you are excited about the opportunity to meet potential classmates, learn more about Kellogg, and decide if this is a place you want to call home for the next two years. Likewise, congratulations on your achievement. For many of you, the journey to Kellogg and to Evanston has been long.

Choosing to come to Evanston this weekend is definitely the right choice.  It’s a chance to come see if this is a place you can call home. If the culture, energy and dynamism is a place that feels like a good fit for you. Meanwhile, be sure to speak with the students you get the chance to meet. Elicit their perspectives. Hear about their successes with their job search process, and also their struggles. See what clubs they lead and which ones they wish they could lead. And hear about the opportunities that they’re currently pursuing. And above all, engage!

One thing we learn here in business school is that the experience flies by.  Not only because two years is a short time period, but also because there are dozens of competing priorities at any given moment, all competing for your attention at the same time. Friends, assignments, networking events, recruiting, exams, club activities, and taking part in activities outside of Kellogg, just to name a few. Likewise, the weekend will probably fly by quickly for you.

So along with the great opportunity to come to Kellogg and take a break from work for a few years, you still have to constantly engage and do your best to optimize your experience. Hopefully you’ll start off by engaging in the activities at DAK this weekend.

Best of luck during your visit. And as I mentioned in my previous post, feel free to say hello if you catch me around Jacobs.

Thursday, February 10th, 2011 Admissions, Business School 1 Comment

Grades During Winter Quarter

“Yeah, I don’t really care how well I did. I don’t think anyone does. I can just make it up on the final exam.”  These were the words I overhead during a conversation the other day. They were in reference to a midterm exam I had just walked out of.   The midterm was pretty difficult, not only because the material for the class was hard but also because time to study was much more limited than normal, as right now, we’re right in the middle of recruiting season.

But don’t be fooled. This conversation is not as unique as it sounds. The trade-off between grades and other activities has long been an important discussion in business school. Both because grades have never been the sole focus of school and because in the winter quarter, priorities start to change, and recruiting becomes the main priority. But that must leave you wonder … so how important are grades at Kellogg?

On one hand, many people agree that grades don’t matter all that much. After all, most employers rarely ask you to submit grades and even if they do, it’s only one data point along with your resume, background, interview skills, and prior experiences, not only on campus but also before Kellogg.  On the other hand, most people here are used to doing well academically, so still want to do as well as possible. Similarly, you do get a sense of personal satisfaction from doing well in a class, especially if you enjoyed the subject matter or liked the professor.

From experience, I’ll say that figuring out the right balance can be tough. You have limited time to do everything and you have to start choosing. Choosing if you have to miss a class, and if so when. Choosing how many jobs to go after. And choosing how many classes you can handle, which is likely dependent on your recruiting needs.

This process will be especially difficult for those that end up having to go through with recruiting for longer than the average student.  They have less time for a longer period of time, have to make more tradeoff decisions, have to engage more overall energy in the search process, and miss out on the traditional parts of graduate school, and business school, that are supposed to be more fun.

Fortunately, the administration knows this takes place every year. Some professors allow you more flexible schedules and allow you to come in and out of class if you have an interview looming. Already, two of my professors have noted that alternative arrangements for class can be made if an interview conflicts with the class time. Likewise, alternative arrangements can at times be made to take midterms if there is a real conflict and you let the professor know in advance.

Despite this, professors still face the challenge of keeping students interested. For better or worse, we are incented with grades. We are also incented because we can enroll in electives which are more fun and interesting. And some classes make participation a larger part of the process of the process. For most though, this doesn’t necessarily change their mindset, because students won’t spend all their time studying at the expense of getting a job. In the end, everyone figures out the balance that works for them, and they do their best to make it all work.

It will be interesting to see how the pulse at Kellogg changes as the recruiting season moves on and more and more people start to accept summer jobs.  Good luck if you’re also going through the recruiting process.

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 Business School, Careers 2 Comments

Interview Season

If the freezing cold Chicago winter hasn’t got you down, the recruiting season probably has.  Like the winters are long and dark in Chicago, recruiting season is also long and hard.  You network with employers, you impatiently wait for interview invitations, you prepare for the case interview process, and you prepare answer to behavioral questions for hours upon hours so you can nail that coveted interview you’ve been waiting for. It really is a process full of ups and downs.

Unfortunately, despite the intense preparation, just about everyone here at Kellogg also has too face rejection. And a lot of it. In pursuit of the job you’ll have this summer, you have to compete against far too many people for a single spot, sometimes an employer doesn’t always take someone from a given school, often times you don’t know exactly what an employer is looking for from candidates, and quite often the process is pretty subjective. As a result, the recruiting season can be a hard process.

In general this year, the month of January has been very busy. There’s a lot more nervous energy in Jacobs, a lot fewer people at the Keg, a lot more people surfing the CMC webpage these days, and a lot more people requesting “acceptance” to the Kellogg LinkedIn group to update their profiles just in case employers are checking online – I know that because am the LinkedIn group owner.  Likewise, people all over the school are checking their phones incessantly, awaiting calls and voicemails from recruiters for that coveted offer for summer employment.

Some schools call this process “hell week” although at Kellogg, there’s no such name as hell week, though perhaps there should be.  And unfortunately, the hell isn’t just confined to one week in January.  Instead it takes place for a few weeks for some students, and it goes on much longer for students that may not have jobs yet.

The good news is now that it’s February, some of the worse of it has past, whether you have a job or not.  The grueling processes of as consulting, banking, and brand management are just about over, which comes as a relief to a lot of people.  To those who got the offers they wanted, things are definitely looking good for the rest of the year.  For those who did not, they have to figure out what the next steps are and what their contingency plans might be.

But no matter which camp you fall in to, most people on campus are exhausted. Congratulations to everyone for making it this far. And hopefully those who are finished will help their classmates reach the same status.

Saturday, February 5th, 2011 Business School, Careers, Consulting No Comments

2011 Kellogg Sneak Peek

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be at student at Kellogg? Or what about listening to one of Kellogg’s top professors giving a talk on your favorite business subject? I wondered about those things a lot when I was applying to business school. Well, if you are too, then now is your chance. On Friday February 25, 2011, the Kellogg School of Management is hosting its annual “Sneak Peek” event, where you’ll get a sneak peak at what it feels like to be a student.

It’s that time of year again. The time for snowstorms in Evanston. Job interviews in Jacobs. Admissions interviews all over the country. And last but not least, admissions events being held for next years class.

On Friday, February 25, the Kellogg School of Management is excited to host another admissions event for minority prospective students. Co-sponsored by the Africa Business Club (ABC), Black Management Association (BMA) and Hispanic Business Students Association (HBSA) Sneak Peak gives you the opportunity to experience Kellogg first-hand.

In my personal view, events like this are almost always worthwhile. Not only is it a chance to meet students at a school you might be interesting in attending, but it’s also a chance to meet future applicants, many of which will be applying to the same schools you are, including Kellogg. So even though you’ve probably got a lot on your plate right now – studying for the GMAT, starting applications, preparing for interviews — I’d suggest that you strongly consider taking some time out to learn a bit more about Kellogg.

For reference, below is the official blurb about the event from Kellogg admissions, which includes a link where you can register.

Hopefully see you there!

The BMA Conference will be hosted the same weekend and you are invited to both!

Click Here to register.

Click Here for more information on the BMA Conference.

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 Admissions, Business School, Diversity No Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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