Thursday, February 23, 2006

Are big decisions really that big? 
The other day Jie and I were talking about where we want to live in Chicago and it occurred to me that I would probably be in the exact same situation if I had gone to Stanford instead of HBS for school.  Choosing HBS over Stanford probably didn’t make a difference in my summer internship (in fact, one of the people from my apartment complex in Houston who was accepted to Stanford with me also interned at the same firm) and it’s pretty doubtful that it made a difference in full-time recruiting either.  Of course, the offer I eventually accepted was only extended to me based on a relationship I had here at HBS, so I might not be at the exact same firm, but I would likely be doing similar things at a similar firm in Chicago.

Just went to an HBS people to Chicago happy hour.  Not in a position to type more tonight.  Bye.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pontifications on HBS 
Walking back from the gym today I pondered the meaning and value of my experiences here at HBS.  I think this is a fantastic place to spend two years but it seems to me that the value lies not in the education but instead in the features of the school.  The people, students and professors, have a profound effect upon the experience, enriching the learning experience far above the actual learning.  There are also the opportunities created, due to the reputation of the school and the network, that are only available at comparable educational institutions.  After all that, though, I still think of HBS as an expedient of success rather than cause of it.  In the working world people only care about where you went to school for a little while, after that it’s about how you do the job.  If career success is like climbing a ladder, perhaps HBS is an elevator that starts you off at a higher rung but doesn’t necessarily push you to the top.  Getting there is about your skills and abilities (and luck!) and not as much about where you went to school.  Or I could just be hopelessly naïve.

I found several bands on Napster to Go that I’m really enjoying: Beth Orton, The Postal Service, and Arctic Monkeys.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

2nd year, 2nd semester 
I can now see why so many 2nd year blogs don’t make it through the year.  There really isn’t that much to blog about, at least not the way the material just flows in the 1st year.  Now that my job search is settled all that’s left is to plan our vacation for the summer, find a place to live in Chicago, and enjoy the rest of the term.

Everything is going really well right now.  At this moment it looks like we’ll try to travel in Europe in May, house hunt in June, enjoy Texas in July, and then close on a place in August.  That will give us 3-4 weeks to move in and do all those new home-owner things, which seems like a lot of time right now but probably won’t be when all is said and done.

Classes are going well enough, though I confess I’m not as into them as I should be.  I keep thinking back to the whole grade disclosure debate as I shirk off my work, but I honestly don’t think it would make any difference if my grades were disclosed.

That news that came out today about Larry Summers was pretty interesting, if only in that it means that I’ll graduate HBS and attend the ceremonies at Harvard and HBS without a permanent Dean at either school.  I don’t have an opinion on Summers’ resignation, nor do many of my classmates, judging from the lack of buzz around the school today.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I underestimated the blizzard that’s currently dumping on the Northeast and now Jie and I are stuck in Chicago, possibly until Tuesday morning.  This is not good news, as I’ve already missed a day of class for Colorado and I’ll be missing two more for Spring Break in China.  In the meantime, we spent 45 minutes on hold for American Airlines this morning and another 40 for the corporate travel agency, which just disconnected me.  Now I’m called back in and we can’t go to breakfast until we know whether we’ll be able to stay in our current hotel tonight.

I guess this is truth in advertising for my future career in consulting…

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Anniversary, skiing, housing, mistresses, and UFC 
I can’t believe I completely forgot to note the second anniversary of this blog.  I guess it really isn’t exciting to anyone but me, though, and if I can’t even remember then really, what’s the point.

Skiing in Colorado last weekend was amazing, they had so much fresh snow in the week leading up to our trip that we had perfect conditions.  The midnight drive from Denver out towards Vail on Thursday night was a little stressful, but the more important drive to the airport on Monday night was a breeze, so it worked out.

Tomorrow morning I head out to Chicago to visit the office of my new employer and then spend the weekend scouting neighborhoods and getting to know the city a little better.  I spent a few days over the last week building an awesome spreadsheet to inform the rent vs. buy decision, which includes remarkably accurate estimates of state and federal taxes, investment returns, and so on.  The conclusion is basically that it is better to buy as long as underlying home price appreciation is greater than about 2% per year.  While that is below the 3 year Chicago average, certain areas that we’ve been investigating have experienced falling prices over the last year.  I think in the end the decision will come down to whether we find a better property to rent or to buy, regardless of the financials.

Yesterday in class featured two of the best comments that I’ve heard in a long time.  In Entrepreneurial Management in a Turnaround Environment we had the former head of the workout group for one of the largest national banks in class.  This guy looks and sounds like he could be out repossessing cars, not whole companies, and had some interesting things to say.  The best story: The manager at one company they were working with told him that they better treat the company well during the workout process, because he knew which busses the banker’s kids rode to school in the morning.  The guy at the bank sent the manager a picture of the manager with his mistress with a note saying that if he even spoke with his kids then he would send the picture to the manager’s father-in-law.  Can you imagine having an MBA from Wharton and working in a job where getting pictures of your clients with their mistresses was a normal part of the negotiating process???

Later in Investment Management our professor explained the short sale process using an analogy to Ultimate Fighting Championship.  One fighter, Tank Abbot, used to be a street fighter in California.  The inherent dilemma in street fighting is deciding who should hold each fighter’s wager on the match while they fight.  Abbot’s solution was to give his money to his opponent, and then take it out of his pockets after he finished beating the guy into submission.  Similarly, if you’re Tank Abbot you probably don’t need collateral when someone short sells a stock, but the rest of us do.

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