Monday, October 31, 2011

Yahoo! News Release :)

I had to post this:

News Detail

Prospective Student Annoyances

I spent lunch today discussing with a few people the things that prospective students do that annoy us. I'm posting this out there as an FYI.

I'm listed as a contact for prospective students. I volunteered; i.e. I'm willing to help out a prospective with any questions s/he may have about the school, my experience, etc. But there are a few things a prospective should note:

1. Please use common sense. I'm listed as a first year. This means that I am doing only core courses currently. This is listed very clearly in the academic information portion of the website. Therefore, I have no idea on the capstone courses, or on any courses that are beyond the core currently.

EDIT: I feel the need to add a 1.5: Asking for my opinion or my experience is guaranteed to receive a lot more of a meaningful response than asking me what kinds of projects are offered in the capstone courses, for example. The details of academics can easily be answered by the administrators of the program. But they're really just there to sell you the program and get you to spend the money to apply, so chances are the answers from them are just facts or sugar-coated facts.

2.  Please be considerate of our time. I haven't yet encountered this, but a couple of others have: school work is very intense. When we can take time out for an email, it's not that long of a time commitment. Please do not ask for a 30 minute phone call. Better yet, please don't ask for a 30-minute phone call right in the middle of finals. Especially when the student has said "I have finals this week."

EDIT: I need to clarify this point. There are some people who don't mind having that phone call with a prospective. There are some people who do. Being pushy about the phone call is the message I intended on getting across - allow for the student to say that they don't have the time to do so without feeling guilty or put upon. If you really want to chat on the phone to a current student, there are plenty more people in the "contact a student" listing with whom you could try. The same goes for essay help/reviews. It's also pretty helpful to have more than one opinion/view of the school, I think.

3. We have no input into admissions decisions. Honestly, unless you have truly screwed up in some manner by insulting my mother or something, we don't say anything to admissions. It's a very easy reason: the close-knit community of the school relies on "fit". I cannot tell if you will "fit" with the class purely by your email alone. Heck, the admissions committee can't tell that and they get the entire package from you. That's why they have interviews. I'm not going to recommend a prospective student to the school just because s/he expressed interest in learning about the school. I'm a little more likely to comment to admissions about a student I took to class and got along well with at lunchtime during a school visit, but NOT on an email request. So giving me your biographical information, GMAT, GPA,etc, is not going to entice me to talk to admissions about you as a candidate.

The upside to #3 is you can ask the most insane questions and not get judged or looked at negatively (by me anyway). I wish I had known this at the time when I was doing my research. It would've been nice to know if one school is all about hardcore drinking and expectations that you needed to be super duper social, or whatnot, as opposed to asking all the questions you generally find out in the admissions booklets and such.

Halloween & Diwali

Due to my new weekend schedule, I was able to take advantage of the activities that had been arranged for the student body when I was previously unable to.

I refer, in this case, to the Halloween Party.

The Halloween Party is hosted by the GBA and is open to all Tepper students. Costumes are a must. A good friend of mine was dressing up as Batman, and as soon as he heard that I was to stay in Pittsburgh for the weekend, the second thing out of his mouth was "You should be Catwoman!" (the first thing was "You can come to the Halloween Party!")

So, Catwoman I was. That Saturday morning I looked out upon the snow and wondered as to the sensibility of my choice. It was an unfounded fear - the venue of the party, BRGR, was well heated.

It was great to see my classmates all dressed up (or dressed down in some cases). The only really big disappointment of the night is when, at 2am, the bar closed and the DJ announced it was the end, the people who were very inebriated got rude and obnoxious and starting being very offensive to the staff and the DJ. I was embarrassed for my classmates.

Sunday night was a different affair. The Operations Management professor, Dr Kekre, opens his house every year to 100 lucky students for a Diwali party. I was fortunate to sign up, and so off Chris and I go to Prof Kekre's house. A good number of the students were in traditional Indian dress, and we dined on Indian food and set off firecrackers in front of the house. Some students performed dances for us, which was exciting. Dean Dammon also attended and he danced a little. It was an enjoyable evening that seemed dramatically different from the Halloween Party.

I was told by Dr Kekre's wife that next year I have to come in traditional Indian clothing :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A.T. Kearney Case Competition

Today marked the finals of the A.T. Kearney case competition.

Unlike the McKinsey case competition of a couple of weeks ago (of which I didn't participate in), we were given two weeks. McKinsey and the upcoming Deloitte competition is an overnight deal.

The teams were limited to 15, so luckily I grabbed a team up together and submitted to be part of the 15. The release of the case was on a Saturday. The next Friday, members of ATK returned to pose as the CEO, COO and the SVP of Strategy of the company in the case and we were required to simulate an interview - as we would with an actual consulting client. They then provided additional slides based upon our questions, and provided some quick feedback on our interviewing skills at the end of the interview. It wasn't actually part of the competition - i.e. bombing the interview wouldn't've screwed up your chances at the final.

One week after that, just right after finals, we had to submit the 10-slide deck with our presentation. This was a bit of a scramble to get that done because not only did we have finals, we all were going to Boston for the Consulting Trek that had been organized that weekend. But we made it.

Tuesday evening, and our team captain received the email telling him that we were in the finals!

Now... I had a big dilemma to face, and this is a big lesson to learn. I had signed up to attend the Net Impact Conference in Portland way back in July. As Boston Consulting Group (BCG) had attended the 2010 one, and at the time 2011 hadn't been released, I had thought that they would turn up again. They don't recruit on-campus. In addition, a couple of other consulting firms attended the career fair - Accenture, Deloitte, and DuPont (who has an internal consulting practice). Fast forward to September, and I sign up for ATK unaware that the final would overlap with the Conference. I continue to be blissfully ignorant until I actually started putting dates on my calendar and realised that the Net Impact career fair fell on the same Friday.
Now that I was in the final, I had to make a tough choice: go to Net Impact, make the connections with these firms, but let down my team and make a bad impression on ATK; or, stay in Pittsburgh, hope to win the final and get some monies, make a more substantial connection with ATK, but lose $600 (airfare and conference fee) and the opportunity to connect with the firms going to Net Impact.

BCG wasn't actually going to be there at Net Impact this year, so the big draw was no longer there.

I sent a frantic email to my Career Counsellor, who was awesome and squeezed me in on a cancelled appointment. She really helped me with the options available, and I left the meeting knowing that I would be here in Pittsburgh.

So Lesson: Don't commit to something unless you know you are free for all important dates.

We practiced for the final over the last couple of nights, and presented to three ATK judges. We were one of four finalists, so it's a nice resume add. Unfortunately, we didn't win.

It was a really great experience, and I'm starting to lean towards doing the Deloitte case competition... I initially was reluctant, but these are a little addictive.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Google and Amazon are arguably the most popular companies to come recruiting on campus. While Amazon already made it's presence known to us earlier in the Mini in the form of the case competition, Google put itself out there yesterday, dragging about half the class from their desks and intense study sessions to both the corporate presentation and then later to a reception at their Pittsburgh campus.

I went to both; high tech is one of my industries I really want to get in on. But as I talked to Google employees and toured the offices with an excellent bloke called Dean, the wise words of an alum came to me.

Consider this two by two matrix: Industry experience along the top and functional experience on the side. If you want to stay in the same industry and change functions, or stay in the same function but change industries, it's quite easy to do. Changing functions and industries - rather difficult.

I'm in the "change industry and change function" box. I should probably re-evaluate that desire if I want to get into High Tech - unless one has a computer science background (which I don't), then it would be very difficult to get anything in the "fun" areas that I want to be in, such as operations.

But I think the thing about high tech is that you just need to get into the company. Moving between functions then is a lot easier if people know that you know what you're doing. That was the impression I got, anyway.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yahoo! Hack Competition Rundown

To cut to the good news, my team for the business plan portion of the Yahoo! Hack came first!

So, what is Yahoo! Hack? The original competition is actually for computer science undergrads. They're required to "hack" a piece of software/hardware/robotics/whatever out in 24 hours. The coolest one wins, essentially. This competition is around the U.S at a select no. of institutions.

Unique to Tepper, however, is the second piece. Tepper MBA students partner with the CS students after the Hack and build a business plan around the product they created. After two weeks, Yahoo comes back and judges the presentations to win cool prizes. This year - $2000 for first.

There were a few hurdles. I went to the kick off meeting, and while I scored a couple of nice shirts, all the CS students pretty much disappeared as soon as the presentation was over. Granted, the business plan wasn't sold to them very well (really, all that had to be said was that the MBA students would do all the work and they just sit back and let the monies roll in). Disappointed, I slunk off, my ego deflated.

My partner and I - we're strongly recommended to just have a two person team - finally were matched up with one of the CS students, a fellow who produced the hack "Locality."At first, I didn't think it was a strong product; it was reliant on QR codes, and I personally don't like them. But knowing that the two weeks would be very short - and my partner was going to National Black - I got into gear and scheduled our meeting sessions in advance.This is usually how I go:

1) Braindump. Intended to be the longest session where everything and anything gets thrown out as ideas. A SWOT analysis is performed; the general direction of the plan starts to take shape
2) Presentation building. Action items from the previous meeting - usually numbers - start to get incorporated into a presentation. Data gets moved around. Graphics get thrown into the mix. In this meeting, our CS guy joined us (he was absent the prior one) and a great differentiating idea came out. We essentially solidify what our direction will be and what our information is.
3) Presentation Building part 2: the slidedeck is essentially to be complete at the end of this session.
4) CECL review: CECL is the communications service available on campus, where 2nd years will help you with your communication skills. So I scheduled time for a CECL-paid 2nd year to look over the slide deck and provide recommendations. A couple were given, and the slide deck was revised for legibility.
5) Presentation practice. We practiced the presentation, timed it, removed redundant slides and information, and got comfortable with our presentation roles.

We build our presentation around the idea that we'd be pitching to venture capitalists. I find out on the day of the presentation that it's expected we're pitching to Yahoo. That required an abrupt change in a few slides so that we could tailor it to Yahoo! We weren't given guidelines.

But the win is really good, and not just for the money - it does have to be split amongst all 6 teammates, even the CS kiddies that didn't do any of the plan work. I now have something to put on my resume.

As well as a business opportunity to pursue...

That's the great thing about CMU - is the collaboration opportunities that are available. So now I can say that I worked effectively with a Computer Science undergrad, and developed a solid contact there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Last full week!

I had a prospective student visit luncheon on Monday. During this lunch, I was asked - rather tentatively - what the workload is like. I laughed and said this was not the best time to be asking.

It seems to be that all the case competitions and whatnot all happen for first years. In my general eagerness to experience school, I have signed up for many of these events. In addition, as my career path is aimed at consulting, there are many activities that revolve around getting prepped for it - I have been assigned a 2nd year mentor to guide me through and he's given me a fair amount of work. Then, of course, schoolwork comes in with the slow, steadily-increasing panic when one realises that one is not yet ready for the finals next week, and all the mini-long projects are coming due.

So on my plate currently are: an AT Kearney global case competition, Yahoo! Hack business plan competition, final assessment items for all five classes, two consulting books that I have to read within the week, make travel plans for the upcoming Boston trek for Consulting club between mini 1 & 2, and hotel plans for Portland for the Net Impact conference.
Everything needs to be done in less than two weeks.

A lot of classmates and I would joke about being overwhelmed by the amount of assessment items that are due each week and how we would not look to the future but just focusing on each week as it came. Now it's a matter of taking it a day at a time otherwise I'd be seriously overwhelmed with what I have to do.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

National Black

It's 3pm on a Wednesday and the Master's Lounge is nearly empty. While one could claim it's because class is still in session, it's actually because a vast amount of my fellow 1st years have departed to head to the airport to go to Atlanta for the next couple of days.

What's in Atlanta? National Black MBA Association annual conference. Or, more specifically, the career fair is on over the next two days. NBMBAA has a gigantic career fair with over hundreds of employers manning booths, eager to entice smart MBA students to their opportunities, and thousands of said eager MBAs willing to sell their mothers for a chance to talk to a recruiter for five minutes of the day.

Way back before even BaseCamp started, we were told that there are two main career fairs that we should attend: NBMBAA and NSHMBA (National Society of Hispanic MBAs). It was advised that one out of the two should be attended, preferably Black because NSHMBA was held over the same time as our finals. The Early Bird registration cut-off was August 1st, so August 1st, without even questioning the validity of this decision, I signed up for the career fair.

As time went on, BaseCamp happened, career options were slowly being eliminated or focused on, I began to wonder if Black was a good idea. I also had signed up for the Net Impact conference that is to be held at the end of October, for a good deal more money admittedly, and I was facing the prospect of spending too much money on something that may not hold much value.

I spoke to my career counselor during my mandatory resume review session and she confirmed my suspicions - since I am interested in consulting and operations, there isn't as strong a representation of companies for those areas at Black than for companies looking for Marketing, Finance, or specific industries that don't usually come by Tepper, such as biopharma.

So I sold my ticket to a fellow student who hadn't booked her trip yet. A couple of others had done the same thing, so it's going to be a very quiet couple of days in class!