Tuesday, May 31, 2005

First Day 
Today is my first day of work at my summer internship. While the closing weeks of school weren't really stressful, it doesn't seem that long ago and I almost wish I had more time off. Ah well, it will be good to be earning a paycheck again. I just got moved in last night in my summer digs, and I've got a mountain of dry cleaning and errands to take care of. Hopefully my first day isn't too long...

Friday, May 27, 2005

MBA Buying Guide 
Since summer is finally approaching, I thought I would put together a little MBA gadget buying guide, just to throw in my 2 cents on what you do and don't need for your MBA.

Laptops: While many schools have a laptop deal, I think most overestimate your needs while in b-school. Of course, HBS may be different due to the low intensity computer usage. We never run anything more intense than MS Excel, Word, or Outlook. In light of this, I recommend that the budget conscious MBA student purchase a fairly basic laptop instead of the latest and greatest. We paid over $2000 for my IBM T42, but I think Jie's sub-$1000 Dell Inspiron 6000 would work just fine instead. The primary issue is weight, but if you live on campus you should be willing to purchase a laptop weighing up to 7 pounds. Just make sure that you have built-in wireless or a wireless card, as almost every school has a wireless network.

PC Accessories: I have a Brother monochrome laser printer that I really like, since it's fast and fulfills my basic printing needs at a low cost (it ran around $150). I don't see any need to for a color printer, and it would be fairly easy to get by with no printer at all at HBS. I don't have a docking station, which I've never needed, though I do have a portable optical mouse, which is very useful at home.

Digital Camera: Everyone has one, but it's still nice to have your own as well. I would go for size above all else, since you won't carry it to all the balls/parties/games if it's a pain. I'm in love with my new Canon SD400, but I know people who are crazy about their Sony and Nikon ultra-compact models. As for resolution, you can get by for almost all pictures with a 3.2MP camera, but it's probably worth it to go up to 4 or 5MP if you have the cash.

MP3 Player: These things are ubiquitous at b-school, and for good reason. Studying on campus is difficult due to constant interruptions, so it's nice to have a portable music player to be able to concentrate. They're also great for the walk to and from class and while working out. Again, I would recommend something small, like the Ipod mini, Creative Zen Micro, or Rio Carbon. The mini has the best accessories, but the ZM and Rio are compatible with the new subscription based music services, a life saver for people like me without a large music collection.

Laptop cases/backpacks: Longtime readers of my blog may remember that I splurged on a Booq Bags BP3 backpack system last summer. This was a big mistake, as a plain jane backpack with a laptop sleeve would have worked just as well. If I could go back, I wouldn't spring for an expensive bag (Booq, Tumi, Coach, etc.) and would instead get something functional and inexpensive.

Wireless: I want to cover two subjects here, wireless routers and cell phones. 802.11g wireless routers have become really cheap, and it's possible to buy a good model for less than $50. I recommend Linksys, Netgear, and D-Link, in that order. Be sure to configure the WEP or WPA security, though, or you'll have a bunch of free-riders on your network. I like providing wireless access to others, but several times my router filled up and I couldn't get on it. As for cell phones, Jie and I have not regretted our decision to go without a land line. We have a family plan with Cingular wireless with a ridiculous number of minutes for about $80, tax included. I would recommend either Verizon Wireless or Cingular, as they have the most extensive coverage and large customer bases, which is important with free in-network calling.

Feel free to drop a comment if you have questions on any other purchases. Also, if you disagree with my opinion, let me know that too.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fast, fun, and uneventful 
Jie and I arrived in Austin around 6pm tonight. We made the drive fairly quickly, 2-3 hours faster than I expected. I think this is primarily because we hit almost 0 traffic. We passed through Hartford, Connecticut (the traffic scourge of the NE) and St. Louis, Mo around 6am on the two mornings, and managed to breeze through Dallas at 3pm, right before rush hour began. Other than that, the only cities we drove through were Indianapolis and Columbus.

We left Boston at 4:30am yesterday and drove until 10:30pm EST when we stopped in St. Louis, for a day total of 18 hours of driving and 1200 miles. We spent the night in a Fairfield Inn, which was nice and clean, if a little more than I wanted to pay ($75+tax). We got up this morning and left the hotel around 6am in order to make it through Dallas before traffic. After 12 hours of driving and 800 miles we arrived in Austin.

Here are the total trip statistics:
2006 Miles
30.15 Hours
67 gallons of gas
Average of 30 mpg (high of 34, low of 28, rough inverse correlation to external temp)
Average speed of 67 mph (including all stops except overnight)

Key points: We didn't stop much, with 5 4+ hour segments and only 1 sub-3 hour segment. Great gas mileage, especially for a V6, I was impressed with our Accord. Coincidentally, our individual driving stats mirror the daily stats: I drove 18 hours/1200 miles and Jie drove 12 hours/800 miles, and we alternated driving stints through the entire trip (I started and ended, hence the higher numbers). And yes, I do realize that I am a complete data geek.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ready to go 
I spent the entire day packing and cleaning. I think I've packed about three weeks worth of work clothes, as well as a bunch of leisure stuff. The car is loaded, our route is planned, all that's left to do is drive.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Year in Review, or not... 
I’ve been trying to write some kind of end of year post for a few days now, and nothing is coming to me. I did an ok semester review back in December after the end of Term 1, but I really don’t like that format so I’m not going to do that again. It would be really nice if I could write something honest and insightful about the program here, but I really don’t feel like it.

Finals were tough this time around, and I’m not sure why. I’m not convinced that the subject matter or actual finals were any harder than Term 1, but I struggled with them more. Perhaps it’s because I was disappointed with my finals results after Term 1 so I was determined to put in more time and effort this time around. I averaged almost 4 hours per final this term, but I still don’t feel like I did particularly well on any of them. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

I guess that would be my biggest surprise about HBS, the high level of my peers. This is my first time in a private education setting, up until now I’ve been public schools at every level. As grades are on a forced curve, and since I’m not the most polished essay writer, good grades have been harder to come by than I expected. Of course, in the end grades matter for nothing other than personal pride, since there is a no grade disclosure policy for recruiting.

Jie and I leave for Texas on Wednesday, and we’re driving a slightly different route than when we came up. We’ll be going through Columbus, Indianapolis, and St. Louis this time in an effort to see a different part of the country. It’s adding about 100 miles to the trip, but I think it’s worth it to see something new. Today I’ve got to start packing and I’m also going to see the new Star Wars movie.

I read The Tipping Point last week and really enjoyed it. The concept behind the book is that social phenomena expand slowly at first and then tip into hypergrowth and all of a sudden conditions radically change. I’ve been thinking about this regarding HDTV, since its adoption seems poised to tip for a number of reasons (I won’t go into it, just check out the latest Barron’s). I absolutely love HDTV, and find myself hugging my TV at least every few days. The only bothersome thing is the slow production of content by the major networks. ABC seems to be the big laggard, as they still aren’t broadcasting the NBA playoffs in hi-def even while ESPN and TNT are doing it. I hate watching basketball, but it’s just so pretty in hi-def, and with the DVR I can fast-forward through the boring parts.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Career Journal 
Sometime this year I committed to writing a Career Journal for Career Services that they would put online for the Class of 2007. They are trying to find ways to reduce the anxiety level, so they thought it would make sense if students could read about someone else's successful experience. While I thought it would be a fairly easy undertaking given my blogging habit, it acutally turned out to be a fair amount of work and weighs in at just over 8 pages. I finished my final first draft and sent it to a classmate of mine who also happens to be an accomplished journalist in his pre-HBS life. Hopefully after his review it will be ready to be on display for the next five years or so, which seems to be the shelf-life at HBS for projects like this.

I've also been working on Career Teams a little since school ended, as well as wrapping up the late fee issue and watching lots of TV. I met with the Executive Director of the MBA Program, Steve Nelson, for about 30 minutes yesterday to discuss the fee and my objections to its implementation. It was a pleasant conversation, and though he didn't eliminate the fee he did reveal that he has taken the bull by the horns and has scheduled meetings with the relevant departments to make sure the necessary changes are made. He encouraged me to keep an eye on the issue and raise it again if I don't think they get it right this time. I think that's a fairly reasonable response and about the best I could hope for, so I paid up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Year 1 is over 
Well, I just finished my last final of my first year. I've got lots of downtime between now and when we leave for Texas in a week, so I'll try and put together an all-inclusive summary post. In the meantime, here's the 5 second version: the people are awesome, I didn't learn as much in class as I thought I would, the ability to change careers is fantastic, and Boston is overpriced. There, that's HBS in a nutshell.

Anyway, I'm brain dead now, so I think I'll go run a few errands so I can meet the section at Grafton later.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Should I pay? 

Ok, I think I need a little reality check to see if I am being reasonable with the administration. I've met with one level of authority, and am currently waiting to talk to someone pretty high up, so I wanted to get a little perspective. Anyway, here's the deal:

Ok, given the above facts, I had been letting my rent slide and then paying everything at the end of the term. As such, I was paid in full by the time of the deadline they set early in the term. However, after that deadline I didn't pay rent again until late in April, in accordance with my understanding of the system. This time I was charged a $100 fine, because I didn't pay within 30 days of the due date. According to the administration that one week announcement actually meant that if you didn't pay within 30 days of the due date, for any term bill, you would be charged $100 per month as a late fee. I didn't read it that way.

Now, I understand the need for the fine, and I agree that they don't want people paying all their tuition at the end of two years, but you have to notify people in advance if you are going to levy a fine like this. So, I'm protesting the fee and working my way up the chain of command trying to get it overturned. My question is this: Is this a noble fight worth fighting, or should I shut up, pay the fee, and go on about finals? Let me know what you think!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Price Protection Rules 
The TV we bought last week just went on sale at CostCo for $350 less than we paid for it. I was initially really upset that we didn't wait 2 days to buy it at CostCo, but fortunately Jie was more rational and immediately realized that Circuit City has price protection. Anyway, they refunded 110% of the difference, so we actually got the TV for less than 2 grand. This turned into a very good day.

Newport was last night, I've uploaded pictures to smugmug if you have the password. While the party was fun, I would recommend that anyone on a limited budget go to Hollidazzle and not Newport as an RC. I'm not saying it wasn't fun, because it was, but for $240 in tickets plus a hotel room for the night, it's definitely a pricey night out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Tomorrow I'm going to pick up my new toy, a Samsung 50" DLP HDTV. This purchase has been a long time coming, and I decided to do it now because they are phasing out the model I'm getting and so it was reasonably inexpensive, as far as HDTVs go. Comcast is due at 3pm to drop off the new HDTV cable box, so I'm looking forward to spending tomorrow night in HDTV bliss.

Anyway, I've wasted all sorts of time lately on picking out and buying the TV, so I apologize for the lack of commentary. Things are winding down in school, though in a busy way. I'm one of the captains for Career Teams next year, so I've been pretty busy with that as well. Also, Newport Ball, the end of year bash, is on Friday down in Newport. So, if there is a long period of silence you can just picture me rotting on the couch in some sort of hi-definition induced nirvana.

Monday, May 09, 2005

We took our strategy final today, thus ending the third of six courses for this term. Strategy was my biggest challenge this time, as marketing was last semester. I didn't have any exposure to strategic thinking before the class, and our professor was really on top of his game and was very impressive. It took a lot of mental work just to stay focused on what was going on, much less make the intuitive leaps to grasp whatever intricate point he was making using seemingly useless data. This is one of those classes that really makes me glad I came to b-school, and HBS in particular. And to be honest, you can't say that for every class.

Anyway, I spent a whopping four hours on the final, which is the longest I have ever spent on one test in my life, SAT's included. I really wanted to put the effort in and write a good exam, as a sign of respect as much as anything else. It also represented to me just how far I came in this particular subject this semester, as I don't think I would have seen things as deeply or as clearly three months ago.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

EC Course Selection 
It's now crunch time on the EC Course Selection front. About half the class participated in the sample demand poll, which helps identify the really popular courses, and now it's time to sit down and figure out what I want to take next semester and where I need to rank it. I guess it would help if I started by describing the process.

By Thursday at 4pm everyone in the first year has to rank their course preferences for both semesters next year. You rank 1-20, at least, and if you want to you can rank even further. They funnel all this data into a computer program that then randomly assigns everyone a number, 1-900, and then starts granting courses by going 1-900, 900-1, etc. So, if you are at a disadvantage for your first course you'll have an advantage for your 2nd choice (which is different, and superior, to the career services open interview process). Anyway, despite the fact that this computer process probably takes about an hour, they wait until early August to release the results.

Anyway, the administration provides a bunch of data, as do many clubs and the Harbus. Sifting through all this data, along with discussions with EC students and a thriving rumor-mill, is quite a task. In undergrad it was something of the same process, but back then you got to see what was still available and make your choices based on that information. Here, you have to input everything in advance and then just cross your fingers. Also, I'm interested in a lot of off-the-beaten-path courses, which means that my 1-5 rankings will all be for courses that I care less about, while 6-10 will probably be the stuff I really want to take. However, if I ranked it 1-5 I would waste those high numbers and wouldn't get any of the courses that I care less about but that are more popular. Anyway, that's the process in a nutshell.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Charity Auction 
We went to the section charity auction last night. It was a really fun time, we managed to snag a couple of cool things for great prices, and in the process personally contributed about $800 to the $60k+ that the section raised. The bidding was really pushed over the top by a single item, 1% of the combined salaries in 10 years of three of our sectionmates. I'm not convinced that these items are ever enforced, it will be interesting to see at our 10 year reunion. The only downside of the event was my overconsumption of wine, I was in bad shape during class today. Luckily, most of the section was feeling similarly, and our professors gave us plenty of slack.

It looks like Jie and I will be driving down to Houston right before Memorial Day, and then she'll be flying back to return to Boston for the summer. I think we'll drive back through Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri, since I've never driven through that part of the country. I think we could do it in two days, though it may take more than that. I'll have to decided on a route and then head to AAA to get my triptik.

I was impressed with HBS today, we already got the results of our finance 2 final. On the other hand, I also found out that native english speaking faculty are not provided with any editing services when they write cases (they do get peer-review, though). That's why there are so many grammatical errors, in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Case on HBS, at HBS 
Today in Strategy we discussed a case about HBS and the issue of globalization. For the last several cases we have talked about global enterprises and how businesses decide what functions should be located in what countries, and if it makes sense to go in as full owners, partners, or using arms-length contracts. The same issue applies to Harvard as it tries to decide whether to become more global, and if so, how? The school has clearly decided that it will focus on globalization, as shown in the third of the class that is foreign-born and the numerous overseas initiatives. However, many would argue (and I would agree) that the school is not currently a global institution. While it is likely more global than any other U.S. business school, most foreign-born students were already educated in the U.S. at some level or worked here. Thus, very few international students are truly international, and the school also has a difficult time convincing foreign faculty to move to Boston to teach.

There are several options open to HBS if it does want to become a truly global institution, and we discussed several of the more radical ideas. (Please note that is this pure conjecture and mental experimentation, and does not represent anyone's views.) One idea was to open a string of HBS's across the world, say one each in China, India, and Europe. Applicants would apply to HBS as a whole, but wouldn't know until acceptance which location they would be attending. This would force a global student body and global faculty. Clearly, implementation issues would be huge, and it would turn off a lot of applicants. Another option would be to only have another school in Beijing, with similar application rules. Personally, I liked the idea of two schools, but with all 2nd year classes in Boston. You force everyone (and the younger faculty) to spend the first year in Beijing being international and then you spend the second year in Boston. Of course, internship recruiting would be a bit of a problem, but I'm sure something could be worked out. Anyway, it was a pretty interesting discussion.

An interesting fact that came out: According to informal research by my professor, no university in history has stayed at the top of the education world for more than 250 years. This dates back to early history in Persia and all the way up to Oxford and now Harvard. Accordingly, Harvard's reign at the top should be ending very soon.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The 2nd Semester 
Back when I was young and naive, I thought I would have a lot of free time after recruiting was over. This has turned out not to be the case.

I would separate out the first year into a few distinct time periods. The first two months are filled with social and academic requirements, you're meeting people and getting up to speed on the whole school process. Round about the time you're getting comfortable, recruiting starts up and takes up 4-7 months of your life, depending on when you finally accept an offer. During this time you are attending company events, working on resumes and cover letters, interviewing, etc. It's fantastic.

By the time recruiting is over, or maybe while it is still happening, you start the third phase, which is what I'll call the pre-EC phase. You spend this time heavily involved in clubs or activities which you'll be leading the following year, choosing classes, finishing this year's classes (without hitting the screen), etc. Your social circle is well-established and large, there are lots of things going on, but yet you don't overdo it like those first months. No, in phase 3 you are just busy enough to wonder why you have so little PS2 time, but not so busy that you're losing sleep. Unless you are in the HBS Show, then all bets are off. (I was remiss in not mentioning the show before now, I saw it twice and it was fantastic.)

Anyway, the long and short of this is that the 2nd semester flies by. It's much more enjoyable than term 1, with the added bonus of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in the form of your summer internship.

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