Friday, November 25, 2011

Post-Turkey Career Preparation

I had set aside this weekend to dedicate completely to my internship search. Because of the GBA campaign over the last couple of weeks, I had really only focused on that and my schoolwork. Now that mid-terms are over, and I have 5 (!) days of no school with no significant assignments due next week, I felt this would be a great time to get back on board with career prep.

Tepper has a number of tools provided for us with our career assistance. When I first got accepted, I was provided a CareerInsider membership. This gives me access to company rankings, industry guides, reviews, etc. I'm using this currently to build a pretty comprehensive list of Consulting firms, starting with the Top 50. Right now, it's based purely on research - what industries are they in, where are they located, what are people saying is a defining aspect of the firm, etc.

The second step is delve through COMPASS, our alumni database. I'm going to look up alums who are currently working at these companies and see if there are any other consulting firms that we have alums at, and add to the list. I'm also going to do the same for my plan B - high tech product/project management.

THEN I go through and eliminate the ones in which I a) have no chance at and b) are not all that interested in, like healthcare consulting.

This will give me a list of alumns I can now reach out to for informational interviews. I've already got a list of the second years who did internships at companies that I am interested in. I also have to compose those emails to mass-send out on Tuesday. Why Tuesday? I'm considerate of people's vacation time and think that sending it out on Tuesday would mean that my request isn't buried with all the other emails that got sent out during the long break that the person has to plow through first thing Monday morning.

Another thing I need to start working on are my cover letters for the various internships I have starred. I have access to a) Symplicity, the Tepper job board, b) Ivy Exec, a selective recruiting website of which I received free membership to join via my Tepper Women in Business Club membership, c) Forte Foundation, by being a Forte Fellow, d) Net Impact by being a member of the Tepper chapter and the global organization, and e) MBAFocus, a job board that I have membership through the school (I haven't found it very useful). I have email notifications set up for new postings at each site, and have cultivated a folder of job postings I wish to apply to.

Finally, I have to keep practicing case interviews and write my STAR stories. I had my mock interview last week and there were a couple of curveball questions I wasn't expecting. So I need to polish that up a lot.

Plus, it would also be nice to be ahead of the curve with classwork, but we'll see on that one :)

GBA Elections

Well, the results have been announced, so now I feel safe in writing this.

I ran for the GBA President this year. From the first day that I came to Tepper, I was an active member of the community. Reached out to many people. Became a, well, representative of our class to both the faculty and to prospective students. I had a lot of ideas, a lot of initiatives I wanted to put forth, to make our school a better experience for us all.

I was one of two people who ran for President. I had a lot of support from my classmates.

However, I was defeated in the election.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, as now I'm receiving all the messages from my supporters going "wtf?"

A number of lessons were learned here, including the one where I can give it my best effort and still not get the result that I want. This is a lesson that's being reinforced a lot here :)

Well, it's time to get back on the horse and try again. I'm going to try for a Board position now, in Admissions.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What I'm thankful for

Happy thanksgiving!

I don't actually celebrate Thanksgiving. It's an American tradition - so it always amuses me when people ask me if we celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia. Why would we? I guess people don't think it through - y'know, the whole Pilgrims and Native Americans that don't exist in the rest of the world... Anyhoos, I like to joke that I'm just in it for the food, but over time I've started to value the day for what it has started to stand for - being thankful. Chris' family has a tradition where, before eating, they say what they are thankful for. I scoff at it because I hate being put on the spot (especially when in subsequent dinners, Chris' 3-yr-old nephew had to state what he was thankful for and made us all do it), but later I did reflect on what it is I'm thankful for:

- The opportunity to come to this great school. Cheesy, I know, but every once in a while I still pull up the email that told me I was accepted and get all teary-eyed. I feel incredibly privileged to be attending such a great institution and being exposed to a life I couldn't've gotten anywhere else.

- The people that I've met through my program. I've made some very tight friendships that I know will last. I'm enriched each day by their experiences, their intelligence, and general outlook on life. And they're incredibly supportive - I had a couple over for Thanksgiving dinner and I shared some bad news I received recently and they immediately cheered me back up.

- The personal growth that I've gone through in just the short period of time I've been here. I'm learning a lot of life lessons just by being in this program.

- My partner, Chris, who has been incredibly supportive with this. He occasionally complains about the Pittsburgh cold, but I know he wouldn't want to be anywhere but here with me and I'm incredibly grateful for that.

- I'm thankful that my grandmother passed away easily in her sleep and not lingering on in pain and starvation. (This is personal: I was notified a couple of weeks ago that my grandmother had terminal cancer in her pancreas, stomach, and gall bladder. She very quickly degenerated, almost unexpectedly, and she passed away Nov 22. Her funeral was held today (well, today in Australia))

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mini 3 & 4 schedule

Pre-registration opened this last week for selecting classes for the next two minis. What one is supposed to do:
1. Look at the classes that are being offered, and the time slots they are being offered in. Spend some time in the system building a mock schedule to make sure everything fits and such.
2. Go into another system - a Tepper-only one - and find the course listings, then "Add to cart" the specific course and timeslot that you want. (The button for adding the course to your selection looks like a shopping cart)
3. Rank the courses by moving them up or down the list. Student Services recommends that the courses you desperately want to get into should be the top 3 with the courses you have to take at the bottom.

When the pre-registration time ends, Student Services will go through everyone's preferences and try to match them to the courses they put in their wish list. I've been told that you may get into a course, but at a different time than you wanted. For some really popular courses, you may just miss out - I'm not entirely sure how it is determined who deserves a spot in the class or not.

I'm aware that some other schools have a bidding process or something of the sort. We just have a wishlist.

So what was on my wishlist? I decided to be crazy and select five classes each mini. It's pure craziness because mini 3 is when the vast majority of consulting recruiting happens... and there's another statistics course we have to take (I didn't do so great in the first course; it took up a lot of my time). However, there are three required courses for mini 3 (Macroeconomics, Statistical Decision Making, and Managerial Accounting) and one required course for mini 4 (Business Law and Ethics). I'm hoping to test out of Macro and Business Law; I'm doing Microeconomics right now and I'm truly regretting that I didn't find the time to test out of it this mini. I also contemplated testing out of Managerial Accounting; I'm still on the fence for this one. I actually don't know if I could test out of two.
My two elective choices for Mini 3 were Negotiations (my No 1) and Finance II. Finance II is one of the only two courses that are considered "gateway" electives - if you want to go further down the Finance tree, you have to take this course first. Entrepreneurship is the second gateway. I'm taking it because I want to take the Venture Capital/Private Equity course later. If I do manage to exempt out of Macro, I'll replace it with Writing for Business.
My electives for Mini 4 are more expansive. Corporate Strategy, Pricing Strategy, Software Development for Technology Managers and Organizational Change.

I'm making sure that I have at least one Organizational Behaviour or Communication course a mini. From every MBA graduate I've talked to, and from results of alumni feedback in general to the school, there is a general agreement that the value of OB and Comm courses are only appreciated much later after school - i.e. when the person is in a managerial role and there is no need to crunch numbers any more. That's what I want to be, so I want to take advantage of their advice and do what they wished they had done.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Hours

Last Thursday night I attended a Happy Hour held by A.T.Kearney. I think this is the first of a few.

While the night was good, I don't think it was the greatest success on my behalf. There are two main buckets that I think all the reasons for why it wasn't a success: 1) my introversion and 2) my classmates.

Let's explore no. 1 first.

I'm an introvert by nature. No, that doesn't mean I'm shy, retiring, or anything of the sort. That's a pretty common misconception. (Some  places defining introversion: Definition of Introvert; Top Ten Myths; Wikipedia; ). I just hate small talk. Networking, and by extension Happy Hours, are filled with small talk. It drives me crazy. I have to wrack my mind on how I can interact on such a superficial level. Unfortunately, I'm aware that success in being memorable to the team that is recruiting is based upon your level of interaction and a lot of that is being superficial.
I also have to be considerate of others in the circle who are looking to interact. So my questions have to be on that superficial level; also, chances are, the company representatives who are doing this are extroverts too and love the small talk. I'm at a disadvantage all around.
Normally I can bluff it. But Thursday was a bad day all around - I found out my grand mother in Australia was diagnosed with terminal cancer the day before*. So that kinda dragged me down also.

No 2, however, is something that is disturbingly ever present. People seem to treat these events as a competition - i.e. how much face time they get with the representative - as opposed to being considerate to other classmates and allowing everyone quality time with the representatives. I've noticed two kinds of classmates. The first kind are the "stickies" - a group of people that insinuate themselves into a circle and then don't ever leave. The poor representative is constantly bombarded with questions about the company, the job, the lifestyle, etc. There's little natural interaction. It's as if the stickies think that if they are pushy enough, they will make an impression on the representative. I know if I was in the representative's shoes, it would certainly make an impression - a bad impression. Plus, the other downside is that because the circle is static, no-one else can enter the circle without looking ridiculous. I encountered a time at the Bain reception where there was about ten people in a circle, and two or three people were making an outer circle around the original circle because no-one was letting them into the original circle.
The second kind of people are the ones who dominate the conversation. I was in a circle where the conversation was about Washington DC. I had never been there, know little about it, and therefore couldn't contribute to the conversation at all. In fact, the majority of the people in the circle couldn't contribute - it was really just two people who were talking with the representative. Any attempts at steering the conversation away to topics that could involve all of us was not successful as the dominator continued to bring it back about her. Her rapport with the representative was fantastic; we could see she made a great connection. But it was at the expense of her classmates within the circle, which was very disappointing.

I gave up halfway through the night, and just hung out with some Consulting Club members whom I normally don't speak to on a regular basis. Hey, any networking is good networking. The bright point, too, was popping over to a representative's table and we both recognised each other - he played the SVP of Strategy during the interview portion of the ATK Case Competition. That interaction on the table was awesome.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Case Interview Prep aka How I Spent My Weekend

I just came home. The Consulting Club put on a second BootCamp for us to give us a crash course on case interview preparation. The mornings of today and Saturday had the second year Board members give presentations on how they do a certain type of case, and the afternoon was spent with the Board members or certain alumni that travelled back just for this weekend doing breakout sessions to apply what we learned (hopefully) in the morning sessions.

It was very intensive and gruelling, and I am very very tired, but a lot more knowledgeable about how to approach cases now!

The reason they did this (and the weekend was sponsored by Deloitte) was because we as first years need start ramping up our efforts in practicing for the case interviews that will happen in early January. The CoC here prohibits all firms from starting their interviews for internships until the new year, but needless to say, the top consulting firms that recruit here all jump on as soon as they can! Mini 2 is already shaping up to be a rough mini; I have 7 assessment items to do this week alone.

Tepper here is at a slight disadvantage to other schools. My first mini consisted of very quant-heavy courses like Probability & Statistics and Optimization. I've been told, in comparison, other programs have Strategy or something similar as one of their first courses, where case analysis is standard. Granted, my Marketing and Operations classes this mini are case-heavy, we're still a little behind the experience curve. I honestly wouldn't change it for the world however.