This was the story of a couple from Texas, Mark and Jie (pronounced 'J'), who started the MBA application process in August, 2003. Mark applied to five schools and decided to attend Harvard. This blog begins after his acceptances and documents the process from that point forward. It concludes shortly after graduation.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Well, things are busy. I've been trying to research potential employers, attend info sessions, and still keep up with my homework. Jie and I spent a great Thanksgiving day here in town with a few couples and then went to Montreal for the weekend with another couple. It was a good time, although Montreal seems better suited for bachelor parties.
Other than that, nothing interesting to report. Oh yeah, my section has this tradition during the week of Hollidazzle (the semester-end party) where we all pick a level of dare (1-4, or tame to crazy) and then are given a dare and give a dare to people who also chose our level. I am a level 2, but I haven't been given my dare just yet. Some of the dares thus far include: setting a bottle of Grey Goose on your desk during class, consulting a teddy bear when called upon by the professor, walking through the hallways between classes wearing a bath towel and asking people for directions to the shower, and singing the national anthem before class. I'll be sure and fill you in on my dare once I know what it is...
In one of his last posts, Joey talked about the necessity to focus on school in order to get the most out of HBS. While I respected his decision, at the time I really didn't see the need to cut off the blog in order to do well. I am now starting to feel the same way.
I don't plan on cutting off the blog, fortunately, but I don't see how I can continue at the same pace. I talked with another 2nd year today about the job search for equity research from the perspective of a former engineer with 0 experience. It will be a lot of work, and much of that work has to be done between now and when I leave for winter break. So, not much time between now and then to spend blogging. The same is true for winter break itself, and then for when I return. Here's what it looks like:
Must e-mail companies that didn't come to campus and express interest before leaving in December
During winter break must e-mail companies that did come to campus, and also start preparing for company interviews
After I return must continue to focus on company interviews as well as maintain contact and use network to improve chances of gaining interviews
So you see, not much time for blogging. My aim is to go from updating around 5x/week to around 2x/week. We'll see how that works out.
At HBS they have a program called Career Teams, which is where you do a number of introspective exercises in a small group setting designed to help you figure out what you want to do with your life. You meet with your team in three two hour sessions and then two 5 hour sessions that Career Services hosts. Each team is led by a second year and the longer sessions are led by the head of CS. The activities are pretty interesting, and I've found it pretty helpful in thinking about my future career.
At this point I'm hesitant to write about what exactly I'm thinking about career-wise because you never know who's reading. I do have several friends in the industries I'm interested in, and I'm not worried about them, but I do wonder about the random recruiter who google searches HBS and blog. I don't want to close any doors because of comments made here, so I'm not sure what to discuss, in what detail. If I remember correctly, Adam went through the same thing two years ago. Hmm...
I think I have the case discussion method largely under control now. I set the tone early in the semester by contributing regularly. I try to make very good comments, but most of them don't work out perfectly, and that's ok. What frequent commenting does is drastically reduce, if not outright eliminate, the risk of a cold call. That both simplifies your preparation and allows you to time your contributions to take advantage of particularly good insights you may have. On the other hand, if you don't have any brilliant insights into a case, or if you haven't read it, you can try to time your comment to get in on a side issue or at least a non-numeric example, as those are the easiest comments and get the least pushback from the professor.
Timing your comments can be a difficult process since you are at the mercy of the professor. If you aren't called on at the right time your comment may be useless, or worse than useless if you insist on giving a stale contribution. What has worked for me is to comment in one class in one subject, and then attempt to not comment in the next class of that subject. Now, sometimes I just can't resist and I get in anyway, but most of the time I stick to it. Having kept my hand down for an entire class, I am then much more likely to be noticed by the professor and called on in the subsequent class. The every other class method helps me time my comments and get in when I am ready, which in turn improves the quality of the class.
Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, but I seem to be spreading disease. Like one of the Four Horsemen I rode into my section and now my portion of the room echoes with persistant coughing. Jie is getting sick as well, so it's all about Robitussin and Nyquil this weekend in the Mark and Jie household.
I wound up attending nine company presentations this week. I cut out one i-bank that had a not quite as highly ranked research department in order to get some extra sleep and hopefully kick this cold. The early indications are that I was unsuccessful, but hopefully we can relax this weekend and get better.
I may try and journal my job hunting experience for Career Services to provide some sort of benefit to future career switchers, but thus far I can't find time to do a reasonable job search so I don't know where I will find the time to write about it.
I am a huge fan of BYU and Stanford this weekend, hopefully my Horns will finally get some BCS love, although it doesn't look good.
I've been to 5 presentations thus far, with 5 more to go this week. Mostly they are investment banks, and it's a little frustrating because they usually don't talk about equity research in their presentation, and I have to wait until afterwards to talk to people about it. So, I spend 45 minutes learning about i-banking and then 5 minutes talking to someone about equity research. Things are going well overall, though.
We had a great weekend. Friday night Jie and I braved the snow to go see The Incredibles at the Boston Common Lowes. It was a great movie, I think it's now my favorite animated film (yes, even beating Shrek...). On Saturday afternoon my dad and step-mom came in to visit and we had a really good time. We went to dinner in the North End and had some very tasty Italian, and then went and met up with the section at 33, a hip bar in Back Bay. Sunday was all about Cambridge, and then this morning they came to a couple of classes before heading to the airport.
Company presentations start today and run for the next few weeks, so I apologize in advance for a lack of posts.
The amount of time I spend on case preparation has dropped pretty consistently over the last month or so. Gone are the days when I spend 5 hours on a three case night or 3.5 on a two case night. No, these days I might spend 2.5 hours on 3 cases, and that's only if there are a lot of numbers to run in one of them. Am I less busy? Not really. Am I less stressed? Yes...for now.
Instead of case preparation I've spent more time ramping up preparations for the job search. Company presentations start on Monday, and once they hit I don't think I'll have a lot of free time until March. Or maybe April. Anyway, I've got my Personal Action Plan in writing, I've finished up my resume, and I've started to make a spreadsheet of companies. I've also met with a couple of second years who worked in equity research either full time before HBS or last summer. Right now my focus is on getting an equity research summer internship. Although I really enjoyed being in operations before, and I think I would enjoy going back into it, I want to try my hand in asset management and see if it works for me. The field is pretty competitive, though, so it will take a lot of legwork. In other words, classes are ceasing to be a big deal just as the job search is poised to take over my life...
The retreat was a great time. On Saturday night as the party raged around us a good sized contingent of the section gathered round one of the TVs to watch the Longhorns battle Oklahoma State. I think my Horns converted several of my sectionmates into fans with the show they put on in the second half. What started out as good natured humoring of my ridiculous addiction to the Horns turned into full fledged support as my team scored 7 unanswered touchdowns in the biggest comeback in school history. Hook 'em!
I was just sitting in class this afternoon, minding my own business, while the introductions of visiting students were going on. All of a sudden I heard the name of a good friend of mine from high school, a guy I lost track of 5 or 6 years ago. In shock I immediately stood up and lo and behold, it was indeed my friend from high school. Anyway, I thought that was pretty cool.
Yesterday my Finance prof, formerly of MIT, explained the case method in an interesting manner. He used the analogy of teaching someone to swim. In the lecture method they teach you the mechanics of swimming, the theory behind it, and the physics involved, but you never actually get in the pool until you graduate. In the case method, OTOH, the professor pushes you in the pool on day 1 but is there to make sure you don't drown.
Several visiting students I've spoken with have asked me whether the case method works for subjects like finance and accounting. Suprisingly enough it works great in accounting, and not so surprisingly it's a train wreck in finance. The reason is that while accounting is all about which rule to apply, when, and why; finance is more about applying tools to come up with answers. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that my section landed a great finance prof, I think I would dread the class.
Speaking of great professors, I am really amazed at the luck of my section. I spoke a while back about how all of our professors were great except our mediocre marketing prof. She has really rallied and is now considered one of our favorites, and so we are in the enviable position of having 5 professors that we really enjoy and really learn from. I don't think many other sections are in the same boat.
This is another busy week. Today we had a group Marketing midterm until 5pm, and then I had a dinner etiquette class from 6-8 and three cases for tomorrow. Tomorrow night we are going out to celebrate Jie's birthday, and then Friday after class we are heading to Vermont for the weekend with the section for our section retreat. I'm also working on my resume and trying to get in touch with people who have worked in asset management and can share their impressions with me. I can't seem to remember the last time I had a decent amount of free time.