Sunday, October 31, 2004
Over the next two weeks I'll be having lunch (paid for by career services) with three 2nd year students who have worked in equity research. Two of them are engineers by education who interned for investment management firms, and the third worked in IM before coming to HBS. I'm also going to talk to a family friend who works in the industry. I'm hoping that all the information I gather will help me decide whether I am on the right track in my career plans.
Career Services advocates a very common-sense approach to the internship search. They recommend focusing on three areas: location, industry, and function. Once you know your ideal position, you should "drive a stake in the ground" around one of the areas and be flexible on the other two. In my own example that means holding firm on the equity research function and being flexible around industry and location. For example, I don't want to pay to live in NYC or work for an I-bank, but they hire a lot of equity research people so I may have to go that way for the summer. No big deal, in the scheme of things...
On a personal note, I seem to be catching a cold. I've therefore loaded up on Nyquil and I plan on crashing early tonight. Also, this week my fantasy football team is matching up against the points leader in my league. Based upon a cursory examination of my players' results today I think I have a fighting chance.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
I don't like morning interviews because I typically don't perform as well. I can still remember my frustration when applying to undergrad because my Duke interviewer couldn't find his notes from our original, fantastic interview and so we had to meet at 6:30am at a coffee shop to repeat the experience. It didn't go well at all, for the same reason that my Texas interview was merely average. For some reason I can't quite wake up and get it together first thing in the morning. Anyway, the Texas interview went well when all was said and done, but it wasn't my best work.
I should pause here and mention something, because it really made a difference for me last year. After I submitted my final app for round 1 I had Jie change my BW password so that I couldn't access the BW boards. Now, it would have been trivial for me to setup a new account, but that's not the point. I didn't read the BW boards from the time I submitted my last app until after I was accepted at Texas in December. Instead, Jie read the boards daily and kept track of things for me. This drastically reduced my stress level and increased my productivity at work. I still checked my e-mail neurotically, but I never had the sense of foreboding or doom that comes when people start getting interview invites and you haven't received yours yet. It's worth noting that I hadn't discovered blogs at this point either, so that was another source of information that I didn't have.
I received my interview invitation for Stanford about 10 days before Thanksgiving, and my HBS invite the week of Thanksgiving. Jie responded to both of these events with a not-so-reassuring "Thank goodness, people have been getting invites for over a week!" She did a masterful job of masking her growing anxiety as I didn't get the interview e-mail, and it was fun when I finally got the news and she could relax. I think this is enough for now, so I'll save the discussion of my HBS and Stanford interviews for another time.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
- If you want to have a long and happy marriage there is one crucial feature to look for in a potential spouse. It's not looks, or brains, or beauty... just low expectations.
- To be successful you should go into a career that you are excited about, and you should work for people you like. If you can't wait to get up in the morning and you're working for your hero, there's no way you won't be successful and make all the money you need.
- Americans as a whole should be more concerned with the current account deficit than the budget deficit. Sometime soon we are going to be shipping a significant portion of the GDP overseas just to service our trade debt.
- If you want to have an honest discussion with yourself about how the world should work, you should consider the following scenario. What if you were given the opportunity to set up the world to work any way you want. You can change taxes, trade policies, the health insurance system, whatever. The only catch is that you then have to participate in the ovarian lottery, and randomly draw a ticket that specifies your parents, country, wealth, intelligence, beauty, etc. Wouldn't you want a system that was good to you not just in the unlikely event that you are an intelligent, well-off American, but also if you are a poor, unintelligent resident of a 3rd world country? After all, you only have a small chance of becoming an American...
Anyway, he answered a lot of other questions and spoke about other topics, but that's what jumps out at me. He was very casual, very down to earth, and very funny.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
My Kellogg interview didn't go very well, although I doubt it's the reason I was dinged. It started even before the interview when I spoke to my interviewer on the phone and incorrectly recorded his e-mail address. He worked for Hines, and I heard Heinz. A common mistake I'm sure, but it just started things off on the wrong foot. We arranged to meet at a Starbucks that was just a few blocks from my office, so when the time came I was generous and allowed myself 15 minutes to get there. Unfortunately, there was bumper to bumper traffic the entire way there and I wound up 2-3 minutes late. Ah well, these things happen. I never really connected with the interviewer, and although he made Kellogg sound like a very fun place, I was turned off by his HBS-bashing. I also made the mistake of ordering a Frappuccino on an unseasonably cold November evening, and so I shivered through the entire outdoor interview. Anyway, all things told it wasn't even close to being a disaster, but it was definitely the least fun. I'll try to write about the waiting game and the other interviews in the coming days...
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
My marketing professor said that she found that one of the unique strenghts of the HBS program is the close tie to industry. She said that this connection isn't found at any other school she is aware of, including Wharton. She really enjoyed the fact that faculty was expected to spend a lot of time working with industry rather than being focused almost exclusively on publish-or-perish. She said water-cooler conversation at most schools revolves around this or that article that added on to such and such theory that was in the latest academic journal. At HBS, OTOH, it was more likely to be about the latest Economist article, and what that means for this or that industry, and how it's relevant to this case that is being taught this week. She added that teaching was a huge focus at HBS, again more than other schools she knew of. In order to succeed at HBS and achieve tenure one had to be at least proficient in teaching and handling a classroom, which she viewed as a differentiating factor for the school. Now, as a young professor she doesn't exactly have a lot of experience and hasn't seen a lot of places, but I thought it worth passing on.
Dean Clark, on the other hand, was asked a question about rankings and what they mean for HBS. He quickly focused in on WSJ and B-week, since they are the two where we are lowest. He viewed the WSJ ranking very similarly to how Career Services viewed their ranking in B-week, which is that companies are never going to like us very much and that's a fact of life. On the BW rankings he felt that part of the problem was likely that the school is not responsive enough to students, but also that students likely have higher expecations of the school as well. He gave the example of a mid-level b-school that has the highest ranking by its students for developing leadership. He has some level of familiarity with that school and assured us that HBS does a better job of teaching leadership than this mid-tier school, but HBS students rank HBS lower than those students rank their program. In that instance it is likely that our students are being more critical than our counterparts, but it isn't necessarily true on other issues.
Dean Clark went on to say that he felt that two of the most important measures for the school were job placement and yield. Those measures dictate how much prospective students want to come here, and how sought after our students are, irrespectively. In job placement we had the highest percentage of students with jobs by graduation and the second highest average salary last year. The number of students with jobs at graduation becomes more significant when you consider that HBS placed 900 graduates and the placement rate was meaningfully higher than the next closest school. On the yield side, Dean Clark said that last year's yield for Harvard, Stanford, and Kellogg, were about 87%, 77%, and 57%, respectively. Again, significant variation.
I realize that this post is very pro-HBS. The conversation with Dean Clark also covered the perceived arrogance of the student body, which seems to increase geometrically as it approaches graduation. You can only tell people how good, exclusive, and likely to be successful they are before everyone drinks the kool-aid and starts to believe it. The school still seems to have a ways to go before it gets a handle on this issue.
Lots of interesting stuff has happened since I last wrote. I suppose that last Friday I was at the height of the roller-coaster ride, with no idea that I had reached a peak and was about to careen down into a trough again. In fact, reading between the lines you can almost pick out the following theme: "This time it's different." Ah, how naive I was just 4 days ago... ;) I now feel entirely overwhelmed with school again, slightly annoyed at receiving class participation feedback that was below my expectations, and apprehensive about the career-finding process. Ah well, such is life.
Friday, October 22, 2004
This has been a difficult week at HBS, mostly due to the Red Sox. Everyone has been watching the games and so there have been a lot of late nights. Last night was the first without a Red Sox game, but there was a section Wine and Cheese event and so I got very little sleep anyway. As a married guy, I rarely see the other side of midnight, but it's happened every night this week. Even with all this going on, today was a great class day. We worked through a terminally boring Finance case in a positive manner, learned a lot about Cost Accounting in a surprisingly interesting FRC case, and then the capstone was Marketing. My section has had a rocky experience thus far with our marketing prof, but I thought today was the best case yet in Marketing, and the best case in a while overall. I had an "Ah ha!" moment, which hadn't happened in Marketing, and that really made my day. It's very rare for me to walk out of a class with a completely different impression of the case than when I walked in, but it happened today. It's really neat to have your mind changed by one simple sentence from the professor. It was nothing monumental, just "Which of these distribution channels is aligned with Aqualisa?" And like a bolt of lightning it was all clear to me. Very cool.
After class all the people who dressed in their native dress for International Day went to the front and showed off on the mini-runway while everyone clapped. It was one of those cool bonding experiences where you know that everyone in the room feels very comfortable and part of a whole. It was neat to see everyone have such pride in their countries, and even better to see everyone else respect it so much. After that was over we had the Sky Deck awards, and I finally made the cut. I finished the accounting midterm in about 30 minutes this week, for which I've received no end of grief from the section. In FRC yesterday I also remarked to the professor that Cost Accounting was indeed romantic stuff, which is one of his favorite phrases. Anyway, for those two incidents combined I finally made it to the Sky Deck Awards. The subject was relationships, and I was singled out for my platonic love of FRC. Once the initial laughter wound down I replied to the presenter that: "As my wife says, I do everything fast." It went over very well. ;)
Anyway, my friend Ben, who has found this blog to be a very convenient way to keep up on my life, remarked to me in an e-mail that I haven't talked a lot about how I feel about Boston and whether I really like being here. This post is intended to answer that question. I love the city, I love HBS, and I know I made the right choice. To quote Mr. Clapton:
I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Well, I've now completed mid-terms in TOM, LEAD, and FRC (Accounting). The marketing midterm is in 2-3 weeks, and in Finance instead of a midterm we have periodic quizzes. We've also received class participation feedback in TOM and MKTG, and we'll be getting it in LEAD and FRC next week. Thus far my feedback has been generally positive, so I feel good about that. I finished my FRC exam really quickly, much to the amazement of my sectionmates, but it was a rehash of the material I learned just a couple of years ago at UH so it wasn't too bad. I'm gaining a reputation for speed, though, which I suppose I'll have to work to maintain.
I've managed to pretty much settle into a nice routine, and time management doesn't seem to be nearly the issue that it was a few weeks ago. Most of the gains in time have occured by taking advantage of time here and there to read cases, and also the hour or so I've saved each day by not working out. Yes, I know that this is unproductive in the long run, but it really has made life easier. I've got another 3-4 weeks to contemplate career moves, work on my resume, and get an action plan together for finding an internship. I am participating on a career team, which is a group of 1st year students led by a 2nd year, so that should help with career direction and internship game-planning. Also, there are resume coaches to help with that part of it. But oh how I dread working on my resume.
I'm of two minds about my prospects for changing careers directly into investment management. On the one hand, I searched through the 2nd year's resumes and I couldn't find a single person who went from 0 IM experience to a summer internship. On the other, I will be looking for something in Texas and so it's likely that I'll have more opportunities than someone with my experience looking for a position in New York or Boston. I also have my experience on the level 1 CFA exam to help me. Well, I guess I'll find out in a few months.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
This leads to exams that are basically just status checks, rather than difficult tests of your knowledge. I see benefits and drawbacks to this approach. On the one hand, we probably learn everything we need to know for our long term career plans. On the other, the learning curve will probably be steeper after graduation because we won't be as prepared for that first job. I don't know that either system is better, but there is definitely a big difference between the two methods.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Last week the new Business Week rankings came out, and apparently HBS ranked pretty poorly in a few categories. I believe one of these was student satisfaction with the administration, and another was companies' perception of career services. I think both of these were reasons we came out at #5. I have to apologize because I haven't read the article and I'm going off sketchy hearsay, but I'm trying to get the info and will update when I do. Anyway, career services had a few things to say about why recruiters don't, and will never, like working with them as much as they will at mid-tier schools. One of the reasons relates back to the rule they were thinking of implementing yesterday. HBS exercises a lot of control over recruiters, telling them when they can recruit, when they can interview, what activities are permissable and impermissable, etc. This is irritating enough, but what is a bigger deal is what career services does to companies that don't play by the rules. They ban them from recruiting. Now, from my knowledge, very few other schools do this, if any.
Now, taking this hard line has advantages and disadvantages. Several years back when companies were withdrawing offers due to the economy career services barred them from on-campus recruiting. A year or two later a technology firm withdrew 2 offers from every school where they recruited except HBS, since they didn't want to be banned. It tends to really irritate recruiters, though. Add to that the problem that many non-finance, non-consulting companies have just getting students to attend info sessions or interview for their positions and you can see why HBS's rankings in WSJ and BW suffer in the recruiting category. On the other hand, they had the highest placement rate at graduation (94%) last year, so it appears to be working for students.
Anyway, I just wanted to share all that. Thus far I have been very impressed with the career resources offered here. I also like how they have pushed back recruiting until mid-November to give first-year's some breathing space. One other interesting tidbit from yesterday is that they are considering creating a "career journal" section for the intranet careers section for the class of 2007. They were asking for volunteers who wouldn't mind writing about their experiences. You know, I think I wouldn't mind doing that... ;)
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
One bit of advice, though. Hmmm, how should I put this so it will get through? DON'T READ THE BUSINESS WEEK BOARDS!!! They will only drive you crazy, and they're just not worth the lost time and added frustration.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Anyway, I've talked before about CareerLeader, the online tool that the authors developed and that we use here. I last took the test back in March, so I decided to take it again since I have gained some distance from my last employer. My scores changed slightly, though not much. I am strong in quantitative analysis, theory development, and managing people. I am weak in creative production, enterprise control, and counseling and mentoring. Thinking back over my work experience since high school I think that these results are pretty accurate. What this means going forward is that my career hunches of investment management, corporate finance, or back into operations are probably on target. So, at this early stage I think I will focus my internship finding efforts on those areas, in that order.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
It's a lot of work hosting a dinner for 17 people, even if it was as simple as mexican food. Everyone brought a dish or beverage, while we supplied the main course and an appetizer. Jie made homemade pico de gallo, nachos, and sauteed onions, bell peppers, and portabello mushrooms. I made a couple of batches of margaritas in addition to my day job on the grill. It was a very good meal, if I do say so myself.
All this was made possible thanks to the fajita meat we brought back from Texas. We got the premarinated family packs of beef and chicken from HEB. My mom and step-dad were nice enough to get us some dry ice to keep the meat frozen on the plane. The security guard in Houston wanted to search our cooler until we told her what it was and where we were taking it, and then she understood. An honorable mention goes out to our new Gas-Go-Anywhere Grill by Weber. It did a great job cooking 9 pounds of meat, and the $3 propane cannister lasted about 1.5 hours, including the meal from last night.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
In case anyone cares, the TOM exam wasn't too bad. I have to wait until Thursday to get my score, but I can tell you with reasonable certainty that I scored between 70 and 100.
Someone asked in a comment about the arrogance of the student body, particularly with regards to less prestigious schools/companies from one's past. I haven't seen this at all, though I imagine that it exists to one extent or another. Coming from UT, and having worked at a boring old utility, you might think that the investment bankers and consultants of HBS would not be real interested in my point of view. On the contrary, all they know is banking or consulting, so the idea of actually managing people or working for a boring company is usually something they consider novel and interesting.
I think the arrogance comes into play not between students, but rather student's view of the outside. One of my professors told me that we don't seem to be arrogant now, but HBS students seem to change during their years here and when they leave they're all arrogant as hell. My sister tells me that all the b-school grads from the top schools that she met had that attitude. I think that being told you're the best in the world on an almost daily basis for 2 solid years must have some sort of effect on people.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Since I've been here, I have seen much more cooperation than I ever saw as an undergrad in UT engineering, which I felt was a very cooperative program. People are more than willing to help you in class, outside of class, hold special review sessions, pass around helpful test review material, it goes on and on. Several times in class when I've been asked a particularly tough question by a professor I get multiple helpful hints whispered to me by those around me. Everyone here wants to see everyone else do well. Anyway, this was just on my mind since I had to filter through the 4 study guides that people e-mailed to the section e-mail list in preparation for the TOM test today.
Anyway, don't believe the reputation, cutthroat is about the last word I would use to describe HBS. Arrogant? Maybe. Fun? Definitely. A lot of work? Without a doubt.
Anyway, there's no rest for the weary after the exam. I have to meet my TOM project group at 4 and then do three cases for tomorrow after that. There is a Section G event at Grafton Street tonight, but we'll probably skip it in favor of a quiet dinner out and a late night with cases.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
School is back in full swing. Today in the meeting with my TOM group I think we finally got a good plan together. I am officially the wire cutter and kit putter togetherer for my group, which beats production but isn't as good as purchasing. I have a certain skill with the wire strippers, though, so I had to answer my calling.
Our section lost it's third straight flag football game today, 19-18. It was a tough loss to stomach, but we did score three times as many touchdowns as in the first two games combined. We would have been up at the end of the first half but I dropped a pass in the end zone on 4th down. It was not the easiest catch to make, but I should have had it.
After reading other 1st year's blogs I am really happy that HBS does not allow recruiters on campus for internships until December. Taking this time to really get things down is nice, and I'm busy enough as it is without trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up just yet. Now I have the rest of October and November to do that. See, much better... ;)
One final note before I conclude this "quick" update. One of the strength's of the HBS program is that if you are kind of middle-of-the-road in most areas (i.e. not an Investment Banker who knows finance, or a CPA who knows accounting...) then the HBS experience is perfect. Forcing everyone into one classroom for all subjects forces the pace to the average student. Now, in undergrad that was killer, but here it's quite nice. I know guys who are bored stiff in Finance 1 or Accounting, but so far everything has moved along at a very good pace for me.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Today we do a whirlwind tour of Houston to try and take care of everything and still get out of town by 2pm so we can hit Austin without serious traffic. Between now and then we're going to try do the following:
- Get the good fajita meat to take back to Boston
- Go shopping at some of Jie's favorite stores
- Go see my old office mates
- Buy some squash gear at Academy, a great discount sports store
- Eat Mexican food
As you can see, we've got a full day ahead of us. I also got good news, Jie and I have box seats for the first half of the Texans/Raiders game on Sunday. That will really be a good time.