Thursday, September 30, 2004

Rough two weeks 
Jie and I are leaving for the airport in just over an hour. This weekend will be great, since we'll be back in Texas, but I think it will just be the start of a manic couple of weeks. We have things to do pretty much non-stop over the weekend, and I don't know when I'll find time to get cases done for Monday. The big events for the weekend are my Grandfather's 80th birthday party Saturday and the Texans game on Sunday. We'll only be able to see the first half, though, because we have to catch a 3:50pm flight. I am going to try to get cases knocked out on the plane each way, but I have a poor track record on flights. Mostly I just sleep.

Next week I have a TOM mid-term on Thursday, which promises to be a challenge. I don't know exactly what it will be like, though, as they haven't released practice questions yet. All during the week we are meeting with our TOM project group because we have a major project due the following Friday, October 15th. On October 14th I have an FRC (accounting) mid-term. That shouldn't be too much of a challenge, except that I have to review everything since I am strong on the concepts and weak on the details.

The reason the tests worry me goes back to the forced curve. Everyone here is really smart, and I'm not sure how hard I have to study in order to excel. Back in undergrad, especially by junior and senior year, it was pretty easy to gauge how much work to put in. With these two exams, though, I have no idea where I stand on the knowledge and test skill continuum. I guess I'll find out. If past history is accurate then I have a tendency to over-prepare in this situation, which equates to not much sleep but an easy exam. We'll see...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Career Rep 
You're now looking at the proud new Career Rep for Section G. Of course, I ran unopposed so it wasn't a big surprise, but still, it wasn't official until about 45 minutes ago.

I titled my last post Section Elections and then completely forgot to talk about the process. Anyway, these are the available section positions: President, Senator, Ed Rep, Admission Rep, Career Rep, International Rep, Leadership/Values Rep, Tech, Social Rep, Athletic, Treasurer, Volunteer Coord, Historian, Harbus, Orientation, Alumni, and Womens Student Assoc. Rep. About half the positions only had one person running. Orientation didn't have anyone. You have to get 50% of the vote to win, and only 3 of the 6 contested spots did that. So, tomorrow we have runoff voting for President, Senator, and Ed Rep. I imagine most other sections are in the same situation.

On Tuesday during lunch the Student Assoc. provided bad pizza and we heard 60 second speeches from everyone who was running. The speeches were all over the place, some were informative, silly (mine), intense, serious, or over the top. There was a definite correlation between quality of speech and votes, especially evident in the 3 contested elections that were settled without a runoff. I'm glad to know that more people in my section chose me over N/A so that I didn't have to face myself in a runoff.

Voting itself was really difficult, as I got the sense that all candidates would do a good job, so it was hard to figure out how to decide. I ended up filling out the online ballot in about 15 seconds just going by gut feel.

Tomorrow evening we fly back to Houston for the weekend to visit friends and family and indulge in Mexican food galore!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Section Elections 
Jie and I had a fun time last night with another blogger and his family. They're here in the Northeast checking out various schools and I think Jie and I were able to share a lot of what we learned over the last year or so with them. I hope the info is useful. Also, he and his brother sat in on my accounting class today. It wasn't as entertaining a class as I thought it would be, but I did manage to liven it up at one point. We were discussing the Intel chip flaw fiasco from 1994 and I recommended (only half seriously) that Intel dump the bad chips that were in inventory overseas. That comment got a gasp and a laugh from the class, especially when the professor pressed me for a specific country. I declined to name one, and then was helped out by a couple of classmates who said that the chips could probably be sold in specific markets for specific functions that would not encounter the error.

We're flying back to Houston on Thursday night, and I'm thrilled. I've already started planning which Mexican food restaurants we'll hit and when we'll hit them. I've got to maximize my culinary experience because it has to last until at least Thanksgiving (and maybe longer, if ticket prices don't come down...).

Friday, September 24, 2004

One of those unusual benefits 
You know, all through the application process for HBS everyone talked about the great on campus housing options here, One Western and Soldiers Field Park. There was one distinct benefit that no one ever told me about, though. Today on our way to play squash Jie and I passed by a packed birthday party for someone's daughter in the SFP common room. On the way back we looked in and saw that the three remaining adults were cleaning up the place. Even over the grumbling of my stomach and my hunger-dazed vision I couldn't help but notice that there was over half a birthday cake waiting to either be thrown out or sit in someone's fridge for a few days. Sensing an opportunity, I walked in and asked them if they would mind parting with some of the cake. You know, so it wouldn't go to waste. A solid three or four seconds passed as they went through the following progression: Who the hell is this guy? Is this some sort of joke? Wait a minute, he's serious...and then finally: Hey, that's a pretty good idea. So, a very nice lady that I'd never met dug out a Strawberry Shortcake paper plate and gave me a triple slice of birthday cake. Mmmm, it was good.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

As advertised 
The Texas Club event was as advertised. They had plenty of free beer along with quesadillas, buffalo wings, chicken tenders, and nachos. It was amazing how many people we saw there that we really know well at this point. It was almost like family.

Every once in a while, including tonight, I'll have someone tell me that they read my blog. Now, I don't make a lot of effort (or any, really) to hide my identity, so this isn't entirely unexpected. I'm still at a loss as to how to respond, though. Do I try and move the conversation forward, or do I try and talk about the blog?

I just watched The Apprentice boardroom scene. There's no longer any doubt in my mind that this is all staged.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Through a brilliant combination of time management, physical laziness, and shorter cases, I've managed to finish my work on a 3-case day before 11pm. I wrote earlier (you couldn't read it because it was somehow lost in the ether), that I think my workout regimen will lose out in the battle to stay on top of my classwork. Thus far I think I have been more underprepared than overprepared for most of my classes, and so I feel I need to work harder. That entails tradeoffs, and since I am not willing to get less sleep (7 hours is the minimum), or spend less time with Jie (I'm already below quota), I have a feeling that working out will be the first to go (or next, depending on your POV).

For example, tomorrow there is a Texas Club event at 7pm. I have two cases to complete, class gets out at 2:30pm, and I normally play Ultimate on Thursdays from 3-4:30 or so. I can either go to Ultimate and do a case after the Texas Club event (which means sparse consumption of the free drinks while there), or I can skip Ultimate and get the cases knocked out before 7. Although I do love getting out there on the field, I think the pull of free beer is just too strong, and I probably won't choose running over beer. I wanted to get a case done during lunch, but I just remembered that I have a TOM review session then, so that's out.

Stream of consciousness 
Since I rarely have time to sit down and really write something good for the blog (maybe once a week?), I'm going to try shifting to more of a stream of consciousness mode of writing. I'll write whenever I get a chance, maybe a few times a day, but it will be shorter and less insightful. Of course, one could question the insightfulness of my longer and more thought out posts, so maybe quality won't even drop.

It turned out that I was pretty much on the money in the TOM case. I was a little off here and there, but by and large I had it nailed. That's a good feeling. We were given the abridged version of the case, though, so maybe that's why students historically have trouble with it while I didn't. Or maybe it's because it was very similar to rate of flow problems that I can remember doing in undergrad. Whatever, the case, it's over now and I have another big TOM case for tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Our flag football team lost today, I don't know the exact score but it was in the neighborhood of 28-0. Maybe 35-0, I'm not sure.

Tomorrow is a three case day. I wasted precious time on the accounting case, which turned out to be easy. Then I had to rush through marketing to get to my TOM case, which is supposed to be the worst one of the semester. I'm looking at the TOM case, and it seems kind of easy, which makes me really worried. It's already 11:30, though, so I guess I'll just go with my first instinct and we'll see how wrong I am tomorrow.

I predict this will be another week where I skip TGIF for a nice 2 hour nap.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I now have a social life 
The most obvious change that has taken place in the nearly seven weeks since we arrived in Boston is that we now have a serious social life. Jie and I were not active "going out" people in Houston. We regularly went to Austin and the Lake, but I can probably count the number of bars I visited in Houston on two hands. Did I mention I was there for three years?

Anyway, as I said, all this has changed. There are more activities than I can shake a stick at, and it's starting to make me crazy. (In case you haven't noticed, this is another rant about time management, but I am trying to disguise it since I am behind the curve and other people have already talked about it on their blogs.) Last Friday we went to a section party (actually it was a 2 section party, G & J), where there was a 2 story beer bong outside and that cup-flipping relay race drinking game inside. I felt like I was a freshman in college again, or maybe a senior in high school. There was another section drinking event on Saturday, but one is enough for a weekend for me, so we didn't partake. I know no one reads this for the update on my social life, so I'll attempt to get to a point.

Today after classes were over at 2:30 I had the following things on my to-do list: hear the Yahoo! CEO speak from 3-4, flag football practice from 3:30-5, grocery shopping, go to the library, spend several hours with Jie, prepare two cases for tomorrow. I would say that this is a representative day, many days are busier, some are not quite as bad. At least none of these events involved drinking (it's bad for my case preparation and waking up at 7am). To make a long story short, I'm finding this whole b-school thing to be a little more work than I thought it would be. I'm sure at some point I'll get things under control, when it happens I'll let you know.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Club Madness 
We had the club fair on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. They split it into two days so that the RC (which means required curriculum, but think first year) students could all attend. My section was designated to go on Thursday. I was immediately overwhelmed when I walked in the Meredith Room in Spangler. That was the smaller of the two rooms, and it was packed wall to wall with tables and students. There were various RC's listening or waiting in line in front of clubs such as the Asian Business Club, Harvard Islamic Club, etc. I quickly decided to avoid this madness and head down to the larger room where it was surely more organized and sedate.

Not so, the considerably larger Williams Room was also packed, although here you could stand in the middle and get some space to yourself. Several of the more popular clubs had lines ranging from 2-10 deep. I circled the room glancing at the various banners and displays about three times before I even talked to anyone. All of the clubs carry price tags of around $25 for one year and $35-50 for two. The benefits of joining are nebulous, and after speaking with several clubs I couldn't figure out what they would even use the membership fees for, besides a t-shirt. While I'm a big fan of t-shirts, this seemed kind of silly to me. I decided the best course of action was just to collect information now and decide at a later point whether or not I would join.

I ended up e-mailing a 2nd year that I play Ultimate Frisbee with and he advised me that my hunches were correct, most clubs are a wash, since they open their cool events to the whole campus. So, I think I will narrow myself down to a few clubs: Negotiation, Investment, and Texas. The first one is to work on a skill that I find incredibly useful, though I need lots of improvement. The second one is my likely future vocation, plus I have to join in order to take part in the HBS Hedge Fund, which I think will be interesting. Finally, the Texas Club is a no-brainer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Old G 
Today after class old G, the section that was G last year, came and spoke with us. They handed down a lot of traditions, including a leopard-print thong for one unlucky guy, a box of twinkies along with matching twinkie hat and shirt to one lucky guy, a Statue of Liberty torch to be handed out to whomever hogs the most airtime each week, a song of shame to sing whenever a cell phone goes off, a team dance and associated cheer, a... I think you get the idea. I'm really pumped to get more involved in the section, although right now I feel like there are so many demands on my time I don't know how I will fit section events in as well.

Classes are progressing alright. I've been having some trouble in TOM, which is the Technology and Operations Management class. The way the case method apparently works is that they introduce a problem (a case) and you try and solve it on your own. The next day in class you try and (usually do) solve it during the class discussion. At the end of the class the professor then explains what concept you just used, and if you had known said concept the previous night it would have made life a lot easier. This is in direct opposition to how I learned things in undergrad, where you would learn some sort of engineering equation and then apply it that night in homework. I'm not saying either system is better than the other, but homework is certainly more challenging when you haven't been taught the concepts yet. On the other hand, I have no desire to return to being lectured in class...

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Week in Review 
The first week of Term 1 is now in the books. It was a busy week, and by the end I needed a 2 hour nap on Friday afternoon just to make it to Friday night. Here are my impressions of each class:

LEAD - Our professor in LEAD is former military, he's a graduate and former instructor of West Point, and you could tell from the moment he walked in the room. He runs the classroom very efficiently, and you'd better not make a comment in his class unless you're prepared to back it up. Several people made comments about what they would tell the CEO if they were the case protagonist only to find themselves in an intense role playing session with the professor. Good stuff...as long as it's not you. ;) He's got a very good perspective on leadership, it's been the focus of his career, and I think I'll learn a lot in here.

FRC - This is actually accounting, and we have a great professor. He's been teaching a long time, but has only taught at HBS 3-4 years. He's also head of the audit committee for a Fortune 500 firm, so he has a lot of current information to share. He's got an interesting teaching style, which I don't think I can describe with any justice. He likes to get very close to the student he is speaking, yet in their interaction he uses his "full classroom" voice. It's very amusing, and really brings to life otherwise dull material.

Marketing - I have difficulty in this class, since I don't have any background and it's frustrating to not have any definitive answers. Our professor is a relatively young woman from the Netherlands. She's fairly good at managing the classroom, apparently last year was her first and she was roundly criticized by her section for doing a poor job. She's undoubtedly the weakest link in our stable of instructors, but I still think she has done a good job thus far.

TOM - Our instructor in TOM is a former CEO and McKinsey partner. He's very funny, but also easily the most intense instructor we have. It's funny to go from TOM, where a few brave souls raise their hands, to Marketing, where half the class is willing to comment at any given time. It's clear to me that I will be doing the most preparation for TOM in order to feel comfortable commenting in class, and so I think that I will probably end up learning the most in this class.

All in all, I'm very happy with the group of instructors and with our section. We already had a round of Sky Deck awards, which is when the top row of students give humorous awards to students who did something to deserve them during the week. They gave out five awards yesterday, while some other sections are still debating whether to even allow Sky Deck awards. Section G seems less active than some others outside the classroom, but inside Room 110 we seem to really come together. So far, so good.

HBS Blogs (or the lack thereof) 
After my last post VC asked:
A second-year friend of mine at HBS says that blogging just isn't part of the HBS culture. Can you comment on that at some point in the future? Friend has not elaborated on that, so I'm puzzled what it means, exactly.

I talked to several people about this, and here's what I came up with. I think the number one reason that blogging isn't big at HBS is that HBS is a very inward focused community. I think this focus has developed largely because of the fact that the HBS campus is so large, and so many people live on campus, that there really is no reason to look outside the school for anything. Do you know that if you live in the dorms, the only reason you would ever need to leave the HBS campus is to get a haircut, as far as I can tell. You can eat, drink, do your laundry, go to class, play sports, all without ever leaving HBS. Furthermore, there is extensive nightlife just across the river, so even when you leave HBS you don't have to leave Cambridge. Everything you could possibly need is within a 15 minute walk.

I think another reason for this inward focus is the belief that the HBS brand speaks for itself, that there is no need to advertise, so to speak. This is evidenced by the fact that the first essay on the HBS application asks why you want an MBA now, not why you want an HBS MBA now. It's just a general sense that this is HBS, a great place to be, and why would we spend time advertising that when instead we can spend our time enjoying ourselves here. I don't think that this represents arrogance, I think it's actually just the opposite. Everyone ackowledges how lucky and fortunate they are to be here, and I think part of the inward focus is a determination to make the most of the experience while it lasts.

Anyway, I hope that explanation makes some sense. I believe it's pretty accurate, and I don't think you can underestimate the impact of the self-sufficient campus. As always, feel free to comment, criticize, or ask more questions.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

It's been a busy week, and it's only half over. Tomorrow I'm playing Ultimate and we're going to an Apprentice watching party, so I've been trying to get cases done in advance. I'm getting tired...

Today we got together and did our draft for Fantasy Football. It's a 12-team league of all 1st year students. I think it'll be a lot of fun, although I haven't participated in FF in about 4 years, so I'm expecting to be a regular resident of the cellar. Oh well, what can you do. Anyway, here's my lineup:
QB - Steve McNair, Joey Harrington
RB - Tomlinson, Kevin Jones, Julius Jones, Tony Hollings
WR - Joe Horn, Donald Driver, Ashley Lelie, Reggie Wayne, Anquon Boldin, Terry Glenn
TE - Winslow, Jr.
K - Kris Brown
Defense - Cowboys D

We start 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, a K and a defense each week. I'm a little weak at receiver, but once Boldin comes back hopefully that'll improve. All in all not a bad draw. I almost picked Roy Williams instead of Lelie, but I thought I could get him the next time around. Nope.

We're going to try and relax this weekend, except for Saturday night when we're going out with the Texas Exes to watch Texas stomp Arkansas. There are a bunch of Longhorns or Longhorn sympathizers at HBS, so I think we'll have a pretty good crowd heading over to Dockside, some sports bar near Quincy Market.

I didn't really believe people when they said b-school was a lot of work. It's not the homework that's killer, it's just the combination of everything.

Monday, September 06, 2004

55 hours??? 
On Friday we had a presentation about the first term. One of the things they covered was time management. I was surprised to hear that they expected us to spend about 55 hours a week just in study groups, classes, and preparing cases. 55 hours! That's a lot of time each week. It's based on 13 classes a week, 1 case per class, 1 hour of study group a day, 2 hours per case, and 80 minutes per class. When I was here for admit weekend it didn't seem like HBS was very hard core about studying, but maybe I was mistaken. In addition to all that, there are also myriad clubs, sporting events, speakers, and career sessions to attend as well.

On the plus side, I prepared 3 cases today and it only took me about 4 hours, which is considerably less than 6 hours. It was a little odd preparing a marketing case, given that I've never taken a marketing class in my life, but it's cool.

This weekend was pretty relaxed. We went for a hike near Gloucester (bonus points if you can pronounce it correctly) which was supposed to be around 6 miles, but we got lost so we wound up hiking around 8.5 miles total. It was pretty, though, and two of the guys we were with had a good sense of direction, so it worked out.

One nice thing about doing things with HBS people is that there are enough take charge types so I can sit back and relax. I'm more of a consensus builder than a decision maker, so it's nice to be able to chill out while other people decide what's going on.

Friday, September 03, 2004

G! G! G! 
You are now looking at a proud member of Section G. I think we have a good section, several people (5!) from my Crimson Greetings team are in it, along with a few of my favorite people from Foundations. Our Section Chair, who is a faculty member who oversees section administration as well as teaching us finance 1, seemed to relish telling us the rules a little too much, but we only just met the guy so who knows.

I've got a seat in the Warning Track, which is the second highest row. I would have preferred the Sky Deck, but watcha gonna do? The downside is that I am on the professor's left side, which usually translates into fewer opportunities for participation. But, since I talk too much anyway, that's probably a good thing.

Tonight is Casino Night, which is the final event for Foundations. I fully plan on losing all my money playing blackjack, which is what happens at every casino party I go to.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

2 Fun Facts about the Class of 2006 
Did you know?

In 1933 an executive for the Deutsche Bank by the name of Georg Solmssen wrote an impassioned and prescient letter to the bank's Supervisory Board about recent actions taken regarding Jews in Germany. Solmssen himself was Jewish, and managed to escape to Switzerland. In his letter he implores the Bank to think about the path they were starting down in Germany, and it's regarded as one of the most important business memos of the Nazi era. By all indications his letter was ignored, and Solmssen was removed from the managing board later that year and from the company in 1938. Today in class we saw a photocopy of the letter. Why is that interesting? Well, because Solmssen's great-granddaughter (or maybe great-grandniece, I wasn't sure) is in the HBS Class of 2006. She personally brought a family album to the professor that included an original copy of the letter. How's that for cool?

Also of interest, the husband of Apprentice 2's Ivana is also a member of the HBS Class of 2006.

I suspect that is either far less or far more cool than fun fact #1, depending on how much TV you watch.

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