Monday, February 28, 2005

The Waiting Game 
It's now been 10 days since I interviewed in Chicago, and I still haven't heard anything back. This is pretty irritating, especially since I'm very interested in the firm and the opportunity. It's not as bad as another story I heard today, at least not yet. This guy went back and forth with a firm because he has a very specific skill set and they weren't sure if they were going to have an opening in 2006 for someone of his background. In the end they didn't extend him an internship offer because they didn't know if they would need anyone like him in 18 months. I object to that line of reasoning on two grounds. First, I think it's extremely short-sighted on their part. Also, to quote Adam Sandler, "This could have been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!" If they knew it was an issue, why take him that far in the process???

Tomorrow I've got an interview downtown right after class. Unfortunately, it consists of 4, 45 minute interviews, so I won't be out until almost 7. After that I have to go home and pack for my trip to Houston. Needless to say, I'll be a sitting duck should any professors decide to cold-call me on Wednesday.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I just finished the 916 page behemoth that was Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson. I really liked it, though I don't think most people would. I'm a big fan of calculus, both the history and meaning thereof as well as the application, which is an underlying current of the book. It seems to me that perhaps Stephenson created this whole entertaining story, complete with spys, pirates, damsels in distress, court intrigue, revolutions, etc., just to tell the story of the development of calculus and what it meant to the world. It is also a fascinating glimpse inside Europe of the late 1600's, the time of Louis XIV, the Glorious Revolution, the formation of the Royal Society, etc. Much the same way that Memoirs of Hadrian, a book I read over the break, described the Roman Empire 1500 years before.

I can't wait to get The Confusion, the next book in Stephenson's trilogy. I'll have to hold off until I return from Houston, though. It's time to focus on my last two interviews of the internship process.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

I had a long conversation today with a prospective student's boyfriend who used to be a recruiter for an ACC football team. As he was describing the difficulty in choosing athletes it occured to me that companies face very similar issues to college or pro football teams. In both cases you're choosing between essentially equally-qualified applicants where desire and fit will make a much greater difference in long-term success than the marginal skills of one person over another. Of course, you always have the superstars who are no-brainers, but those are few and far between. Since football teams spend a lot of money and still get it wrong, I don't have much hope that the MBA recruiting process will ever be much more than a crapshoot.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Admit Weekend 
Jie and I just finished with our admit weekend responsibilities for today. I don't feel like I did a very good job, though. Today during Happy Hour I started talking with an admit and for some reason went off on my core beliefs as a robber-baron-capitalist. Later in the conversation I learned that he is pursuing b-school in order to start his own non-profit. Oops. Luckily he found it incredibly amusing, and I had already told him of my frustrations in being surrounded by a lot of non-capitalists, so I don't think I did any permanent damage.

At the discussion panel there was a question about marriage and b-school and I responded quite honestly that I think that if you don't make your marriage a priority then you're likely to join the ~40% of married MBA students that get divorced during or after their MBA. I think that came across a little harsh. Anyway, I wasn't very smooth today...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Admit Weekend 
Today I had a lunch with Admissions in preparation for the student panel I'll be participating in on Friday. They told us to be honest, positive, and to not speak disparagingly about other schools. Easy enough...

Tomorrow night we'll be at Brother Jimmy's for the Partner's Club ASW event. If you're an admit with a partner, be sure to drop by between 6-9pm. I'll be wearing my Texas cap, so be sure to say hi if you're there. After that there's an outside chance we'll make it to John Harvard's to fraternize with the rest of the admits.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Oil Bomb 
No time for a full post, but I thought I would relay a funny cooking story from yesterday. Jie and I were cooking hamburgers and home fries (sort of a Texas tribute meal), and I was starting the preparation. I poured about a pint of vegetable oil in a big pot and set it on high on the stove. I put a top on and went back to my case reading for today. After about ten minutes I start smelling that fried food smell, so I go in to check it out. The clear lid of the pot was completely opaque, as the pot was filled with smoke. Sensing some sort of danger, I got pot holders and moved the pot to an empty burner so everything can cool off. So far so good. My next move was not so smart, though, as I took the lid off the top of the pot. Apparently the only ingredient missing for combustion was oxygen, because as soon as I lifted the lid the oil ignited. In an impressive display of the 'flight' reflex, I jumped backwards three feet and landed on the trash can. I managed to get the lid back on to smother the burning oil, but in the meantime I fumigated our apartment with fried food stench. We had to open all the windows and doors just to get the fire alarm to stop going off.

This is the third incident in a series where I do something dumb involving oil, a stove, and myself. Perhaps I should let Jie handle all frying in the future.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Thoughts on Recruiting 
I recently had an e-mail conversation with a student at another major school about the recruiting process and it got me thinking about how well, or poorly, things worked out at HBS. So, here are my thoughts on HBS, in no particular order and with no particular importance.

Compressed Schedule: HBS compressed the recruiting schedule for 1st years for the first time this year. Rather than have recruiting kick off in September or October like most schools, we didn't get started until November 15th or so. The primary reason behind the change was to give students more time to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives, with the secondary goal of reducing the stress of the first few months of school.

It definitely reduced the stress-level, but unfortunately, I don't think most students used the time for self-reflection. My only data to this end is the sheer number of people I spoke with who were interviewing in at least three different fields (i.e. I-banking, consulting, marketing). I'm not really upset with people for doing this, but I think they could have made everyone's life easier with a little more reflection about what they wanted to do with their summer.

The catch with a compressed schedule is that students at HBS were the last to interview and often had to make tough choices due to a lack of available days to schedule 2nd round interviews. That's the problem with required attendance, it really makes it hard to get out of town to interview. Professors are pretty understanding of absences, but it's still a pain in the ass.

Atmosphere: The atmosphere around campus during hell week (and after), is what I'll call relaxed tension. People were definitely feeling some pressure, but for the most part everyone was relaxed about it. I think this is largely a product of a healthy job market, but it also reflects a general attitude at HBS: We're all going to get jobs, everything will work out, no need to make myself miserable in the mean time. In fact, I witnessed a high degree of cooperation and camaraderie throughout the process, which I thought was pretty remarkable.

Tips: Having gone through the process for the first time, here's my advice for future 1st years. First, I think it is highly desirable to focus yourself as early as possible. Start thinking about what you want to do for the summer before you even arrive at b-school. I would start by reading books like What Color is Your Parachute?, Do What You Are, and even Think and Grow Rich. After that, it just takes a lot of self-reflection and use of the career services resources (like Career Leader) once you get on campus. Having done the hard part, you can then make your life easier during recruiting by holding your focus to that one thing you want to do. With that focus, you can use long weekends and the Christmas Break to visit companies, which is an excellent way to get 1st round interviews come recruiting season. Career Services advises that you need a plan A, B, and C, but I think you just need plan A and you need to do what it takes to make it happen. Of course, that may mean waiting until May or June to finally get an offer, but if you know what you want to do then you know what you want to do.

Anyway, I could probably write more, but this is long enough as it is. Comment if you have specific questions and I'll try to get to them.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Body Worlds 
Today we went and spent about 2 hours waiting in line to see Body Worlds at the Museum of Science and Industry. In addition, we had to pay $17 each to enter. Having said that, it was about the coolest thing I think I've ever seen. The guy who did it injected some sort of polymer into cadavers and then used enzymes to strip away the body. The result: fantastically realistic recreations of the body, from the inside out. They are actual bodies, so some have hip replacements, or knee replacements, or aneurysms or heart attacks, and so on. If you're in Chicago between now and September 5th, I recommend you check it out. It's well worth the wait and the price.

After that, we drove up Lake Shore Drive to Evanston and saw Northwestern and Kellogg. We just drove by, but I wanted to at least visualize where I could have spent these two years.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Jie and I are in Chicago for the weekend. I had an interview this morning, and then we spent the afternoon on Michigan Avenue checking out all the shopping. Relative to Boston or NYC, Chicago feels a lot more like Texas. It's seems like a really nice city, and I think I could actually live here for more than 2 years.

The interview went pretty well, but wasn't without drama. When we arrived at the hotel last night I realized that I didn't bring a dress shirt. Yes, that's right, I'm an idiot... Anyway, after an initial moment of shock, I managed to call the concierge and found out that the Brooks Brothers across the street opens at 8am, which was an hour before my 9am interview. In the end, crisis averted, and the interviews went smoothly.

On another note, any admitted students and partners coming for admit weekend should swing by Brother Jimmy's on Thursday night from 6-9pm for the Partner's Club event. Jie has been organizing it, and it should be a good time. If you do make it out, be sure to say hi!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Fun with Airlines 
After Jie and I fly to Puerto Rico on American Airlines in March I will have flown on just about every major US airline within the last year. Here's the list, in order:
US Air (NJ and Boston)
Continental (b/n Houston and Boston twice)
AirTran (to Denver)
JetBlue (from Denver)
Delta (to NYC)
United (to Chicago)
American (to PR)

As you can see, I feel it is my civic duty to patronize all airlines equally. That way I never build up too many of those pesky airline miles in one place. Now if only I could work in some sort of Northwest/Southwest flight itinerary, I'd have them all covered.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

1st Round Completed 
I've now finished all the first round interviews that I had scheduled through Hell Week. I've applied to two more positions that have posted since then, but haven't heard anything back as of yet. I've now got two second round interviews in the next few weeks, and I'm waiting to hear back about the interview I had yesterday.

The interview yesterday was a tough one, as I was expecting a 'fit' interview and instead they started it off very technical. Also, the firm has a reputation for being laid-back and friendly, and this was my most rigorous interview yet. I don't know how many times he said something like: "Now you just said x, but the industry standard is y, can you explain the difference?" or "So you're basing your conclusion on that evidence?" I spoke with someone who interviewed right after me, though, and she said she was given just as hard a time. Well, at least it wasn't just me.

On a more trivial note, the HBS community is now infected with an e-mail virus. I've received 10 garbage e-mails with sketchy attachments in the last hour. I may be a carrier, but VirusScan couldn't find anything.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I got a question via e-mail about the CFA Level 1 exam, and how I went about preparation, so I thought I would share my thoughts here. I took the Level 1 exam in June 2003. I studied intensely for about 2 months or so, as I got married 4 months before the test and therefore couldn't go about a leisurely 4-6 month study plan as recommended. Of course, I can rarely dig into something until a deadline looms, so it wasn't really surprising. I studied a lot, much more than most, because I had no background in Finance and I wanted to actually learn the material, rather than learning to pass the exam. Here are the pillars of my approach:
That's about all there is to it. It's not complicated, you just have to devise a plan and stick to it. Let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, February 14, 2005

One word: Playstation 
I've been joking around for a while saying that after I get an offer for the summer my term 2 activities will be summed up by one word: Playstation. Well, that time has finally arrived. I am looking in four primary geographic regions, and have a hierarchy of companies within each region. Once I know how things shake out within each region I'll have to decide where to spend the summer, but that is somewhat independant of the companies themselves. The good news is that the offer came from my top choice in one region, so it clears the picture somewhat and could also very well be my top choice overall. If this is confusing, let me know, and I'll try to do a better job explaining.

On another note, I spent last Friday in NYC at an interview. I had to get up at 4am to catch the 6am shuttle (I actually could have slept another 30 minutes or so and still been on time...), and I barely made it to their offices in time for the start of interviews. The interviews went well enough, until after the last one when I realized that I had left my backpack and coat in the first interview room. D'oh! The interviews ended before 11am, so with a 3:30 flight I decided to look up Paul, the guy from my high school who randomly appeared as a visitor in my section last semester and who is now a round 2 applicant. I met Paul for lunch (my first time at Chipotle: pretty good, but no Freebirds), and then squeezed on the 1:30 flight back to Boston. After getting home I hung out for a while and had a few beers before commencing on my interview thank you e-mails. Big mistake, I accidentally confused two (of four) interviewers and sent one a thank you note describing a different interview. Crap. I still haven't heard back from them, but I'm wondering if he holds it against me. It will be interesting to see... Note how easy it is to be blase about the whole thing after I already have another offer. I spent the entire weekend beating myself up about it. (Update: I guess they weren't impressed with my goofs, no offer from them...)

As things stand, I have another 1st round interview tomorrow, and then a 2nd round interview in Chicago. I'm still waiting to see if I'll get a 2nd round with a firm in Houston, and I've applied for a few more jobs that haven't interviewed yet.

Friday, February 11, 2005

This definitely makes up for... 
...having two professors who are fairly inexperienced this term. What am I talking about? Well, if you don't live in Boston or avidly follow the Patriots then you're probably aren't aware that Andy Wasynczuk, the COO of the New England Patriots, is leaving the team to teach at HBS. He's teaching the first year negotiations course, and I'm lucky enough to be in one of the sections he's teaching this semester. Read all about Wasynczuk here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

My Hell Week has officially begun 
Up until now Hell Week has actually been fairly relaxed. Go to interviews, go home and watch TV. Go to second interview of the day, then go home and read for a while. Go to third interview of the day, then go home and play NCAA on the playstation. Not a bad life, aside from the psychological stress of rejection.

Anyway, it now seems that the physically exhausting portion of Hell Week has begun for me. Over the next 8 days I'll be in NYC twice and then in Chicago, and that's only the travel I know of right now. The positive aspect of this is that it's the result of getting second interviews with several firms. I'm still waiting to hear from one of the firms from yesterday (which is surprising, I thought this process was supposed to be quick), and I've got another interview tomorrow morning.

I'm a very monogamous person by nature. I drink one brand of cola, one brand of beer, I always buy the same toothpaste, eat the same candies, and play the same video games. This whole interview process is a direct affront to that core value, and it really bugs me. I mean, I do have priorities and I haven't told companies things that are untrue. At the same time, I wish I could start with my first choice, see how that works out, then move to #2, etc. That way I wouldn't feel like I am sleeping around and trying to figure out where the best opportunity will be. I don't know, I suppose it's the nature of the game, but I still don't like it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I finally got a 2nd round interview, which makes me one for four in terms of the firms that have responded to me. I'm still waiting to hear from two more, and as I said, I have two more interview to come this week.

I just picked up Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. He's been my favorite author ever since I read The Diamond Age and Snow Crash, but I delayed reading the mammoth series, The Baroque Cycle, until now. I recently read very favorable reviews for the final installment, The System of the World, and I decided that this semester would be a good time to catch up on some pleasure reading. Over Spring Break I am committed to nothing but sun, beer, and books, and I want to get into the 2600+ page trilogy before I get to Puerto Rico.

6 down, 2 to go 
Six first round interviews are in the bag, just two more left. I've only heard back from two companies, and neither were interested in "pursuing the process any further." Ah well, such is life.

One of the frequent concerns of bloggers is the issue of anonymity. This is particularly troublesome at this time of the year as I am undergoing the delicate balancing act that is on-campus recruiting. While more fortunate than those who are interviewing for a wide variety of industries and functions, I'm at least lucky that I have a very precise career focus. Unfortunately, there are still times when I see a recruiter that I just had a great interview with, while being led to another interview room to interview with a different firm. I'm sure the recruiters understand the process, but it still makes me feel somewhat unchaste to be earnestly speaking with so many different companies.

Anyway, in light of the above discussion, I'm going to try to keep most details out of the blog. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Ding Tolls for Me 
Well, my first day of Hell Week and already a lovely rejection e-mail:
Thank you for interviewing with [our company] during the first round interviews on Campus. At this time, we have decided not to select you as a candidate for the second round interviews.

I appreciate you taking the time to meet with us and I wish you continued success in choosing your summer employment.

I'm not real sure what they mean by "continued success," but I guess it sounds nice. This was one of the firms that interviewed 20+ people for 1 or 2 spots. I knew the odds going in, so this doesn't come as a surprise, but it's no fun either. My other two interviews went well enough, but I'm still unsure what will come of them. They both told me I would be contacted within a week, so that's plenty of time to spend stressing about what their verdict will be. In the meantime, I actually went to work out in order to combat stress in a productive manner.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Beautiful Weekend 
We've had the best weather in months the last few days. Sunny, high's in the upper 40's, low 50's, not a cloud in the sky. That's worked great for me, since I've spent the entire time indoors on interview prep. That's ok, it will all be worth it if I can just nail down an internship by the time spring break rolls around. Sitting on a tropical island for five days without a care in the world sounds like the perfect remedy for all this work.

We went and saw In Good Company last night. I thought it was a solid movie, although not quite as good as I thought it would be. I think that's because the ending, while good, was not the cheery, over-happy fare that I'm used to getting from Hollywood. Of course, in some ways that makes it a better movie, so who am I to complain. The movie is about a young corporate MBA type who lands a killer job with a large multinational but who has no personal life. He winds up the boss of a pretty succesful ad exec who has a happy family and honest, productive work life doing something he loves. The interaction between the two is the stuff of LEAD cases, and I think the message is something that would benefit MBA students everywhere. It reminds me of what Warren Buffett said when he was here: follow your passion, work for someone you truly admire, and money and success will follow.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Friday Night Interview Prep 
I just spent my Friday night doing interview prep, and to be honest I kind of enjoyed it. I guess it's a good sign that I almost had fun prepping for the interview by doing the kind of work I'll be doing on the job. I had a lot of work to do that was applicable to all my interviews, and now that it's 70% taken care of, I'm going to start working on company specific preparation. My plan is to stay two days ahead in terms of researching the specific companies I'm speaking with, so that if things get bad during the week it won't kill me.

Tomorrow morning I've got a practice interview through the program put on by career services. I'm hopeful that my interviewer will have specific experience with my target industry, but we'll see. In any event, it will be my first practice interview ever, so I'm curious to see what they tell me about my interviewing habits. I've always thought of myself as a good interviewee once I get on a roll, and I've had a good success rate, historically. My bad interviews, on the other hand, are typically disasters. Two examples: I once interviewed for an internship with a large oil company where I let it slip that my last boss was Dutch, and weird, and that as a matter of fact all the Dutch people I had met were weird. That was the end of that job prospect. Another time I was interviewing with a technology company in Austin for a full-time job and I just couldn't seem to wake myself up. It was almost as if I was standing in the corner watching myself blather away in this interview when all of a sudden I stopped, turned to the interviewer, and said: "This is all coming out completely wrong."

Those are my best interview stories, and speaking of good disaster interviews, I'm holding a contest for my section for worst Hell Week story. I've got some good prizes lined up for the winners, I can't wait to see what kind of great anecdotes people have after a solid week of interviewing.

SAT scores 
I've heard of several companies requesting SAT scores of applicants for summer internships. While I understand that this is likely just policy, I fail to see what can possibly be gained from knowing someone's SAT scores. Aren't GMAT scores more recent and thus more likely to be useful in any way?

Ben, you're a big fan of standardized tests, what's your take?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Citizen Mark 
Today I fulfilled my obligation in that noblest of duties, that of the juror. The day started omininously, as my subway train took forever due to a gas leak in the JFK/UMass station. Once in Dorchester I proceeded to walk the wrong direction for a few blocks before recognizing my mistake. I arrived at the courthouse a little late, which was ok because we sat in the juror room for 3.5 hours before getting called. On the positive side, I got all my cases done for tomorrow and a healthy amount of interview prep as well. -More later, have to go to a bar-

Ok, just got back. The story no longer seems interesting to me, so I'll sum it up: Sat on jury with some interesting people, jurored a case that should never have gone to court (no evidence to prosecute), deliberated for about 5 minutes, pronounced the guy innocent.

I already notified the registrar that I wouldn't be there tomorrow, so it was very tempting to play hookey and use the jury duty excuse, but for some reason I would actually rather be in class than not. I like sitting through the discussion and learning everyone's POV.

Ok, goodnight.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 
Recruiting is a funny time, filled with stressed out people and lots and lots of interview prep. Here are a couple of observations:

The Good - Everyone is really nice and chill right now regarding interviews. I haven't witnessed any shark-like behavior, and many people are assisting others in getting jobs with their former employers. In fact, just today I set up a meeting with a second year who worked at one of my target companies last summer. Also, people have been very friendly in swapping interview slots. I had to swap one of mine and found everyone very accommodating in sharing their schedule and trying to come to a good solution.

The Bad - The class attendance requirement at HBS is looking like more and more of a problem. Hypothetical situation: Let's say you get two second round interviews, and both companies invite you to their offices all day on Friday, February 11th. Now, both companies know that this is an open day, so if you try to reschedule with either one then they'll know that they are effectively #2 (or worse) on your list. There are only four open days aside from the 4 days that comprise the on-campus portion of Hell Week. Here's to hoping that I don't have to navigate any of these situations.

The Ugly - Despite the positive attitudes around here, people seem to be taking this on-campus recruiting thing way too seriously. The library was packed today when I went to print out a few things, and I've heard of students breaking down under the pressure and losing it. The summer internship isn't the end-all, be-all of the MBA experience, and just isn't worth ruining a semester over.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Hell Week 
Ok, in order to assist my readers I will explain the interview process at HBS. There are two separate processes but both lead to interviews: closed and open schedules.

Closed:You get a closed schedule by submitting a resume and cover letter to a company and then they in turn deem you worthy of an interview and place you on their closed lists. Or, like one company did with me, they think you're not quite special and they put you down as an alternate, which means you can get a closed spot if someone who got one decides they're not interested after all (not likely).

Open:You get an open spot by ranking a company in the lottery and then getting lucky and receiving a spot on their open schedule. Not all companies have an open schedule, but if they interview more than 12 people on a closed list then they have to have one (with at least 6 slots, I believe). After the lottery, all remaining open slots are then up for grabs by anyone.

I think I screwed up my lottery strategy since I placed the company that I thought would have the least demand, and therefore the best odds, as #1. I was right in my reasoning, but wrong in my conclusion. The company had so little demand that I could have put them #2 and almost definitely still won a spot, which means that I wasted my #1 pick on them. A friend of mine put the same three companies 1-2-3 as I did, but in a different order, and he got all three. Luckily, he hadn't planned on getting all three and so he declined one and I was able to get that spot when the schedules opened at 5pm today.

In the end I wound up with a good number of interviews. I got two of them via the lottery/open schedule process, and the rest through the closed list process. I have a lot of preparation to do between now and next Monday, with the added bonus of jury duty on Thursday.

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