Saturday, December 31, 2011

Plans A,B, and C

I've left this blog to lag a little because of the time of year. My boyfriend's grandmother died the day that we left to visit his family in San Antonio, so that trip included the funeral. Then the new Star Wars MMO came out, so I had to play that for all its worth given that I won't be able to once school starts again. THEN my mother came in from Australia last Tuesday so I've been spending a lot of time with her. We just had a conversation about my school experiences and a lot of stuff, but I wanted to type down some tidbits and revelations.

I woke this morning at 6.00 AM in a slight panic because I realized that tomorrow is the 1st of January. Deloitte interviews were on January 20th. That meant I had 20 days to get as prepared for case interviews, as well as behaviour interviews, as I need to be. I have a tendency to leave things last minute or try to wing stuff - but not this time. While in bed, staring at the ceiling waiting for the alarm to go off, I began to plan my course of action I need to take between now and the start of school - not just for interviews but for the general internship search.

Allow for a digression: I believe I mentioned this earlier, but I have a Plan A, B, and C when it came to internships. Plan A is consulting with one of the big consulting firms. I chose this as Plan A because a) it's a very competitive process where very few internships are available to a large number of people wanting to do consulting b) I want to really try it out and see if I enjoy the lifestyle and the challenges and c) it's probably the most versatile internship I could get - the skills in this internship could translate nicely across other functions should I so desire. A kind of catch-all. Plan B and C are closely intertwined because of the opportunities. Plan B is internal consulting, for similar to reason c) above. The reason it's B and not C is because one of the opportunities I'd like to really take advantage of is internal consulting in a high tech firm. This relates to Plan C: Project/Product Manager in a High Tech firm. This is Plan C ONLY because a lot of the recruiting happens after January - consulting wraps up in early February.

Next week, I'll be going on the West Coast trek to visit companies in Seattle and the Bay Area for my Plan C. However, I still need a lot of work for Plan A.

Sitting right beside me is a poorly-bound "Case In Point." I'm reading through the case discussions and drawing my own frameworks and such. I plan on getting mum to give me a couple of cases, and I'm trying to enlist some friends to do so over Skype and when we're on the West Coast for the trek.

But then mum brought up an interesting point when we were talking about the values of networking and how women don't ask for help - I should ask for help. From alums. At the firms.

I'm a typical woman in this regard - I get nervous asking for help, like I'm inconveniencing someone or that I'm going to damage the relationship. But being on the other side lately - I get emails from prospectives all the time - I don't think it's a bad thing to be asked for help. I actually feel regret that I can't help sometimes.

So once this is written, I'm going to compose some emails out to the alums I've networked with and see if I can get some time on their schedule to go through a case :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dean's Forum

For the first time since Dean Damon has taken his position, we got to hear his vision for the future of the school. Now, the presentation contained some very sensitive information so I'm not going to speak of it here, but he indicated some very interesting points.

Firstly, a prime reason why students like Tepper is because of the current students. I'm in complete agreement there - it was what sold me on the school. The very small community fosters a family feeling amongst everyone, and the type of people that the school really tries to fill the student body with are those people who are passionate about the school and are very friendly and down-to-earth folks.
Secondly, the faculty was quoted as being another draw. I'll admit, it wasn't so much for me, but I can tell you, I was awestruck when it was told to me that one of my professors last mini won the Nobel-equivalent award for operations research - Gerard Cornejols. It's even more incredible sitting in class being taught concepts that originated from the teaching professor's research. The faculty here is really top-notch and really should feature prominently in students' selection of schools.

It's going to be an exciting couple of years for Tepper. A new building is on the books, a pretty significant curriculum change is going to be introduced for next year's class, and the Dean is really trying hard to get a lot more of the alumni to be very active with the Tepper community. I know it's a little premature, but I look forward to being one of those alums. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I wrapped up my last case competition for the year yesterday and got a pretty respectable, albeit unfulfilling, finalist placement. The case was fun, the time period (it was an overnighter)was OK, but the thing that got me to pause and reflect was on my team.

In everything I do at school, I try very hard to build a team of people whom I haven't worked with before. I know a lot of people will only work with their friends. Others will only work with people of the how to put this gently... nationality or racial background. I actually prefer not to work with some of my friends - one fellow used to state that he did all the work for a previous group, which for some people might have been cool but I want to learn; another has proven himself to be more flaky when it comes to group work as he's putting all his attention on recruiting. Not only does it get me out of my comfort zone every once in a while, but it helps me identify the people that I do very well with and the people I don't.

I found one of those people that I don't.

I've been pondering on this for a little while now. In our first Organizational Behavior class, we were told about the benefits of putting a very diverse group of people together, but there had to be some attributes that were constant*. In addition, having a "devil's advocate" in a group allows for a much better analysis and workproduct. I usually take up the role of devil's advocate; it's somewhat in my nature. I try to temper it by being equally judicious in my praise of my teammates.

However, it was my constant challenging of this particular teammate's (let's call this person Alpha) work that caused tension. Alpha clearly was not used to working in a collaborative environment that myself and another teammate was pushing for, and therefore ventured out on his/her own and produced slides in the deck that (to me) made no sense and was somewhat different and contrary to what we were trying to say as a team.So I did challenge when we finally reviewed the slides after submission and asked for an explanation, and got curt, angry responses back - like Alpha was getting defensive that I would be criticising his/her slides.

I'm not saying there was anything wrong with what happened; it was just poignant that such a disparity existed between the individualist nature of this particular teammate and the general desires of two others (I wasn't sure about the third) to work collectively.

It was even more ironic that it was an Organizational Behavior case competition.

Even more interesting was the downside. Because I felt that my contributions were being immediately dismissed and that Alpha had tried to dominate the entire deck, I didn't feel as attached to the presentation as I would normally. It wasn't mine, per se.  So I didn't take any ownership of it. What was more incredible: I get extremely nervous when I get up to speak in situations where the outcome of my speech is very important to me - such as the GBA election speech, presentations in class where I really want to do well in, case competitions that mean a lot to me. But I wasn't nervous at all. No jitters, no shakes, nothing. Even though the prizes were very nice - cash for 1st,2nd, and 3rd - I wasn't caring about winning.

I came out with some lessons then. Firstly, it's probably a good idea to not agree to teammates based upon case competition reputation. Secondly, it's probably OK to work with people one has worked with in the past. Thirdly, there will most likely be frequent situations like the one above, especially in consulting where a lot of very high achievers bring along their arrogance way of doing things. There was once a time where I could use my stubbornness to fight back but that got beaten out of me :)

At the very least, I have an interesting STAR story to develop for behavioral interviews.

For the case comp count, btw:
1. Amazon case comp: nada
2 Yahoo Hack Pitch: win
3 ATKearney case comp: finalist
4 Deloitte case comp: nada (but this was expected; we had two newbies on the team)
5. OLB/CBI case comp: finalist.

* I disagree in some manner to how the classification of people were. I was flagged as being quite low on the extroversion scale. Not surprising. However, the literature suggested that people low on this score would not display the leadership qualities needed to direct a team. I have always found that I will step up to lead, or at least, direct the team in work performances. It's actually quite difficult for me to sit back and allow someone else to take charge, especially if I have no confidence in this person's ability to do the task.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

GMAT woes

During a random internet browse, I stumbled upon this particular Business Week article: GMAT: The MBA Job Seeker's Best Friend

This hit a major sore spot with me. By any number of standards, a 680 GMAT score is a very good accomplishment. I took the exam about this time last year, and it had caused a lot of stress in my life. I was very glad to get it over and done with so I could focus on my essays.

That may have been a bad move, I'm not sure.  Because it's not above a 700, I may have taken myself out of the running for getting noticed by one of the elite consulting companies - i.e. Bain, McKinsey. How so, you ask? They actually look at your GMAT and make judgements thereof on your intellectual ability. Yes, folks, it's not just to prove to the school that you're academically able to handle the coursework but it's also used as a yardstick measure to find the top of the class.*

Unfair? Sure, but it's a fact of life. I had put my GMAT on my resume, but now I'm thinking I just need to remove it and hope that the removal doesn't imply that I am hiding a poor score.

* Tepper has a grade non-disclosure policy where a company recruiting on-campus cannot ask for GPA until the second round interviews. So the more traditional measures of academic intellect are not available for the first consideration of candidate quality.