Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Section Bonds

One of my favorite aspects of section is the rapport you build with classmates. It's immature, funny, and likely less than you'd expect from "serious" business school students. Truth is, we are no better than anyone else, we just got lucky.

Section emails slowly descend from vital information to playful banter. Frequently, folks voice their despise for the reply all button. Personally, I love it. It lightens my day and everyone needs a little humor in their life. Granted, it can crowd an already busy mailbox, but Microsoft was brilliant and added another button to our toolbar, delete. The latest section wide email was a request to make a phone list and the reason was to ensure proper dispersion of drunk dials. Sounds quite important to me.

Then there was today, a handful of people were listed on the distribution of buzzword bingo. These are phrases that without context aren't legitimate in many conversations, but somehow were carefully placed in today's class conversations. The key is for the phrase to go unnoticed and for the speaker to talk with a straight face. "Fly it up the flagpole" failed on both accounts, but "gut the pig" won free drinks for the next TNDC. Though this is not a trend I would like to follow for the majority of classes, it did entertain me during a very boring Accounting class and an interesting L.O. class. Thankfully, we shut it down for D.A. as I was having difficulty keeping composure through the morning.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I am not sure I ever anticipated the day that I would pull out the last of a quarter's cases. Yes, of course it was bound to happen and yes, I know that my marketing final is Friday, but tonight is when it finally hit me. I have 2 cases left in Marketing and then on Friday, the class will be complete. Everyone says to enjoy business school because the time flies. That's an understatement! I feel like it's been lightning speed since I arrived and I can't help but acknowledge how quickly it'll all come to an end. I realize I still have a while to go, but if this quarter is any indication, I'm going to blink and this will all be over. As for finals starting, I suppose I've tried my best to avoid those thoughts. Although, I do need to start "studying", which basically entails concept review. On that note, I have a career management packet to complete, an L.O. reading assignment and my LT wants to do 6 cases tomorrow... basically, they're out of their minds and I'm off to work. Night. :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Darden Cup: Football

It is rare that I can justify getting out of bed before 10am on a rainy Saturday morning, but for Darden Cup football, I would have made sure I was out of bed at 7am. The SYs told me that football tends to draw a huge crowd; however, today that crowd seemed slim due to the forecast of rain. Nonetheless, there was good representation from all the sections, most sporting newly designed section t-shirts. Section E rocked participation by convincing 57 members of their section to attend; add in partners and they had 73 people signing under the FY column. Sections D, C and A were all within 10 attendees of each other with a lone B pulling up the tail.

Brett Nichol, our fabulous Athletics coordinator went to great lengths to shorten the duration of Saturday’s Darden Cup event. It worked out well in my opinion. Each section fielded 2 teams and each team played 2 games. The condensed format allowed the event to complete by 1:30 pm. Both Section B teams dominated play, though with less than desirable participation, they slipped in the rankings to tie with Section D for 3rd overall. A number of section A’s players got worked by E, leaving the injured on the sideline and E with the W. Section C’s president caught an incredible diving touchdown pass to win the game over Section E with 1 minute remaining. Kelly Woodham of Section B solidified their win over D with a late in the game interception. Additionally, Paul Hepper intercepted a pass from D in the endzone though it wasn’t enough to stop section D. The best play of the day came from Tack Richardson of Section D, who ran half the length of the field with his shorts around his thighs to solidify D’s win over E. Apparently the shorts were the only true casualty of the day.

Great job to all the day’s athletes!

Final Standings for Football:
Section A – 55 Points
Section B – 60 Points
Section C – 73 Points
Section D – 60 Points
Section E – 73 Points

Overall Standings:
Section A – 130 Points
Section B – 150 Points
Section C – 143 Points
Section D – 90 Points
Section E – 125 Points

My personal accomplishments:
Sacked QB Kevin (3rd string at Penn State pre Darden)
Lateral pass to Matt for a touchdown
Many off kilter QBs due to my rushing abilities
Couple good catch for some yardage.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Damn am I lucky to have LT7

Learning Team is one of those experiences that some people hate and others love. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my LT. Not only are they fantastic people in and out of room 138, but they know when it's time to get to business. I feel that we are more efficient than most teams and know when you must agree to disagree. The case method can be hard as there is only a "more right" answer and sometimes even after class, it's hard to see what that answer is. Moreover, there are many LTs that forget there is a class to teach you what you can't figure out together. The experiences of my mates provide very diverse perspectives and though we sidetrack at times, everyone is open to bringing the conversation back to where it is supposed to be.

In passing, I often hear horror stories. People talk about LT members that are not willing to share notes without asking. Others say they will be "kicked out" if they haven't finished reading a case because they are perceived as not having anything to contribute. On one hand, I understand these strict guidelines, but they are not ones with which I agree. I like the fact that sometimes you just can't get to everything in life and there are 5 other people to bring me up, not down.

Monday, September 22, 2008

FY Standardization

As I walked up my stairs after another morning of classes, I started contemplating the standardized format of Darden's FY curriculum. As odd as this sounds, I like it a lot! Yes, my classes are chosen for me, but the fact that I can talk with my roommate who is in a different section about the same cases and same homework feels great. Not only that, but I could walk up to any first year and we'd all be on the same page, likely in the same camp (completely lost at times). I don't have to rely on the 60 people in my section, instead, it's the 333 in my class.

It seems that every Monday I'm tired. I'm sure it doesn't help that I'm up until 3-4am on the weekends and then end up going to bed at 12a on Sunday night. Yesterday was a busy sports day, which I often miss being in VA. I used to have soccer 3 days a week and now I'm lucky if I play once. Unfortunately, using my new cleats and braces have rendered my heel absolutely destroyed. I'm not sure if I've ever had such a large blister. This leads me into, what shoes am I going to wear for my briefing that starts in the next 30 minutes? I tried a couple pairs on and it seems that no matter what, the shoes will be tight. I must grin and bare the pain. It's only my future career, right? These days, if it's not one injury, it's definitely another.

Additionally, my DA homework is a bit more complex than I anticipated and though I've started, I'm not sure what the next step is. This proves to be a problem as I can't make it to learning team tonight and though I know my team may help me after the Merrill Lynch cocktail event, it's a bit difficult when you miss the entire discussion. Suppose this all stems from priorities and the purpose of business school in the end is to get a job.

Edit 9/23/07: I feel I should qualify my last statement, as I don’t actually believe the only purpose of business school is to get a job because if that is what I believed, I wouldn’t be here. The value business school adds to your toolkit and network far surpasses that of simply finding your next position in your career.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In the Heart of Turmoil

Sometimes you need to poke a little fun:

Dealbreaker has a great synopsis of what the headlines actually mean. Posted from the site:

In times of turmoil, you cannot always trust words to mean what they mean. Often they mean something they don't mean at all. Our guide to financial turmoil meaning should clear some of this up. Or not.

"If You Hear This" = "Read This" (Source)

"Low Quality Rally" = "Our Dartboard Malfunctioned" (UBS)
"We Might Encounter A Slight Correction" = "Expect A 40% Drop" (AIG)
"We Believe We Are Sufficiently Capitalized" = "Our Leverage Is Still 24:1" (Lehman Brothers)
"We Expect To Benefit From A Flight To Quality" = "Shorts Have Created So Much Buy To Lend Action Our Stock Is Buoyed" (Goldman Sachs)
"Another Front Is Opening" = "No One Wants Our Stock Anymore" (Barclays)
"It's Unclear Who Is Going To Be A Credit Provider Going Forward" = "No One Will Lend To Us" (Concordia Advisors)
"No Evident Catalyst For Ending The Pain" = "We Are Flooded With Redemption Requests And Our Attorney Quit" (Feda Capital)
"We Have Changed The Format Of Our Earnings Call A Little Bit" = "No Questions From Pesky Analysts After That Smartass From UBS Mouthed Off" (Baldwin)
"Markets Set To Bounce" = "Our Editor Has Almost Lost Everything" (Wall Street Journal)
"EU Has Tradition Of Bailouts" = "Don't Look At Me Like That, Germany" (Financial Times)
"Short Sellers Are Attacking Our Stock" = "My Mistress And I Are Fleeing Tonight To A Country With No Extradition" (Pick One)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I didn't know I had time to be busier this week!! SYs warned me about how briefings impact life, sleep, cases and time management, but of course, I nodded, smiled and thought, it's not going to be a big deal. Sure enough, I'm running on empty with little end in sight and unfortunately, I forewent going to the grocery store on Sunday night, which has proven to be a VERY bad idea as I have absolutely no food at home.

My target is banking, so I've signed up for 7 banking briefings this week and one consulting simply because of Deloitte's blogger target. Suppose the marketing worked. ;) It's quite an exciting/interesting week given the state of the market and the consolidations happening at this point. The first briefing I attended on Monday was BofA. What a day to have BofA on grounds! Their entire presentation that was built last Friday was essentially void.

I've quickly learned that I prefer short presentations with the opportunity to talk with the bank's colleagues to the longer presentations. Most information can be found on a website or via a conversation, which all in all is simply more personal.

Today, I have another 2 briefings plus a Section D reception with Dean Brunner. Three other sections have already held their receptions and I've been informed that the time spent was worthwhile. Sounds great, but I'm still trying to figure out when I will have time to prepare my marketing case before learning team and my resume for tomorrow's career management class. The time I thought I had is now scheduled for a meeting with my Operations simulation group.

Luckily, with all the insanity around Darden these days, Friday is a Reading Day and thus, NO CLASS! :D It sounds like Merrill Lynch is still coming on grounds next week. I am interested to see what Merrill has to say about their merger with BofA and what it means for the banking market and job prospects in the future.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Darden Cup: Softball

The standings went a little like this:

First: Section B & C
Third: Section A
Fourth: Section E
Fifth: Section D

As the athletics rep for Section D, it's a bit disappointing to come in last for the first Darden Cup event of the season. Though I would change a few things in the future, I thought the overall organization went well today. I'm caught somewhere in between well organized and slightly neurotic. I crafted a spreadsheet and tentative teams to make sure we had 2 full rosters for every game (total of 4). As SYs showed up, I simply inserted them into our holes. There were two teams and I tried to balance capabilities as best as I could with no prior knowledge as to most people's level of experience. I'm not exactly sure it worked.

D-1s record was 2-1-1 and D-2 suffered an unfortunate 0-4. We played different teams so I can't say if there was a difference in the level of competition. Given what little knowledge I have of team D-2, I feel I was more organized than whoever the interim appointed captain was. It definitely proved beneficial to simply have the batting line up on paper. Plus, I tend to be loud and let people know who's on deck and who's in the hole.

Personally, I made a couple great plays. With some help from my teammates, I started swinging and hitting better. It was a very fun day!! I just hope we get a little more participation support from the section. I know people are busy and have obligations, but there are those that want to win.

Awards for today's effort:

KP - 3 run homerun over the fence - BEAUTIFUL!
DR - Playing outfield, dropped his glove, jumped for a fly ball, caught bare handed then rolled in the air to land on the ground
ECC - Last at bat - hit a single and after a couple batters, made it around the bases. YOU GO GIRL!
EB - Hurt his toe during the first game - managed to find a pinch runner and bring a couple in. :)
KK - Great pop up foul ball catch for someone who said she "sucked"
Team C commentator - I swung and missed the ball, he said, "I expected a lot more from you". Suppose it LOOKED like I knew what I was doing
My two lady Js - Thanks for playing, I know neither of you had the intention, but you saved us

And to all of Section D that participated, THANKS for coming out, I couldn't do it without you!! :D

Friday, September 12, 2008

Diversity: The Real Deal

If you haven't figured it out by now, Darden is known for interactive thought provoking learning and that is what today was about. We worked together to recognize and attempt to breakdown our biases, stereotypes and prejudices of those around us. CSW Global works with companies (and top business schools) around the world through theatrical presentation to challenge the way we think about diversity. When you're in an MBA program of vast diversity, you almost fail to recognize these difficulties. Gender, race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic class are just a few topics that were touched today. Being at Darden, we all have a common experience and thus, I think it's easier to empathize, but when you're at work, what then?

When the boys are going to play golf and a female associate is excluded, what are the implications? Is this simply inclusion/exclusion? What's the best way to make the situation "fair"? Is the premise as to whether or not work will be "conducted" a reason to invite everyone?

A top performing candidate of color does not receive a promotion because of fit. Is it racial bias? Are we projecting our own self abrasions on the circumstance? Is it too much to ask the managing committee as to what fit means? Why do we tiptoe around these issues instead of addressing them. It's a fact that most lawsuits on discrimination are filed because someone DIDN'T say anything.

A teammate's sexual orientation is homosexual. Should the other members on the team be briefed to avoid potential conflict? Or do you let the teammate decide when and to whom it is appropriate to disclose this information?

A person from a different culture who speaks English as a second language has problems communicating with you. Do you say huh three times and turn away? Or do you engage and settle on the understanding that you both have your own difficulties interacting, but will try to continue building a relationship anyhow? What if this person is a co-worker? More importantly, what if this person is a client? In the back of your mind do you think these people should simply return to their native countries where they understand the native tongue? Or is that NOT being part of this global world?

Finally, a student is perceived to be wealthy when in fact, their schedule is packed with a balance of school and work to simply survive. What sort of socioeconomic implications are there? To continue, what if this person is in fact wealthy, should we treat them differently because they can afford things?

The thoughts and implications of these statements and questions are endless. There are no "right" answers. As we discussed these scenarios in class, everyone had their own opinions based on the perceived abrasiveness, controlling and passive acts of the characters. I think the only conclusion that most of us agreed upon was trying to put effort into people. Understand where they're coming from, what they're about and don't be afraid to ask the hard questions.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Gazogle Game

The best aspect of the case method is the level of interest the discussion commands in class. The best part about Darden, they never want you to lose interest and thus today, we played with Legos.

The Gazogle game took the place of Operations today. In this game, you are tasked with completing a certain number of Gazogles, which is a finished product likely consisting of approximately 10 Lego pieces, stacked in a specific array, four high. Each "manufacturing plant" had 2 customers, 2 procurement, 4 handlers, 4 assemblers, 2 shipping and 2 observers to begin. The tables started in the shape of a diamond and for the first 4 rounds, lasting 1 minute each, workers had to assemble product in a designated order, an ineffective order at that. As the other observer put it, it looked like a spaghetti chart.

The goal of the exercise was to make the exact demand from the customers, which changed each minute. After the first round (approx. 4 min), changes to the production line/order could be made with minimal boundaries (including firing people) to increase productivity and cut down on "muda" - non-value-added work. At the end of each round, the customer tallied the completed products, the amount it cost to make the product (ie. 1 worker cost $100) and the cost of the supplies scattered around the production floor (work in progress). This combined created a bottom line profit (loss).

I had the task of observer which was quite entertaining. Of course, on the outside, it looked ridiculous and chaotic, I wonder if it felt that way on the inside. The group I watched missed a few key steps in my opinion. They were far too nice and never fired anyone - sometimes an unfortunate must in a lean system. During Kaizen events, this team was so worried about separate groups that they never combined to find the problems root. They may have even failed to recognize the problem. It seemed to be procurement and shipping, which essentially influences how the parts are distributed. They continued to ignore the fact that someone needed to know how many products were being produced. Finally, the communication never improved and as product designs changed (specific colors required), many people continued to work on the old product instead of the new. Leaving mass confusion to reign.

To some, these buzz words may not make a ton of sense, but just writing this means I'm done with Ops homework for tonight, so I hope you can bare with me and perhaps understand a little of what this was trying to teach. Identifying the muda is not always easy from the inside especially when a set person is not in charge. However, in order for production to be effective, it's a necessary evil and for this reason, consultants have jobs. (Perhaps the last point is simply my interpretation.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Athletics Rep

It's another, what did I just get myself into? Last week each section (of which there are 5) spent 2 days nominating section reps and then 2 days voting for them. I was nominated for both Social Chair and Athletics Rep, though I had to choose one. I knew I wanted to do something for the section, but the initial choice was weighing of pros and cons. I finally decided athletics rep, it SEEMED like less of a time commitment, though I know I have skills for both.

This Saturday kicks off the quest for the Darden Cup with Softball. Each section will have 2 teams. Each team must have 10 players on the field - 3 of which must be female. Needless to say, I've started the recruitment process. Each section receives points for an overall win of the combined teams, participation points (playing and supporting) for each of these groups - most number of people from a section, most SY participants and most faculty participants. Needless to say, I'm working on my networking and persuasion skills to get EVERYONE out there. Although outlook is great for scheduling, I fear the slew of emails I will receive in the morning.

The SYs have lent a lot of support - helping me with ideas to better facilitate connection and communication. Some have also agreed to come help us on Saturday. I want them to remember, that if they partake in these events, the cup will be as much theirs as ours. Now that I've officially "wasted" 2 hours on non case prep, perhaps it's time to begin my casework.

Work hard, play harder! Let the games begin.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Prospective Students on Grounds

I look at the second years in awe of their knowledge and accomplishments. In that same way, I feel the prospective students look at the current Darden FYs. In truth, we’re not very different. Last year, I was the prospective student with the same awe for all the current MBAs. And here I am, supposed to be a little wiser to the process and yet, I'm just as lost as the rest of you, simply trying to put my all in what is before me.

During First Coffee, I spent most the time speaking with a prospective student and current FY. I felt bad for monopolizing part of the conversation, but I simply can't say enough about Darden. Indeed, I know I haven't hit the best of times or the worst, yet I wait patiently for both. My dilemma in talking to prospectives is how much to disclose. On one hand, I want them to get the true feeling of the school - the rigor and the grueling schedule. On the other, I want them to understand the sense of community and bonding that has happened with a smaller class. And overall, I want them to understand that at Darden we work hard, play hard. I suppose I fear that I will deter someone with my honesty. However, if this isn't what they want from the business school experience, I suppose they're not Darden material.

It's scary to think that the admissions office is now asking us for ideas to improve their process. Now that we are students, we are credible. I thought about applying to be on the admissions committee, however, I decided that I prefer to give advice to prospectives than evaluate them. Plus, I won Athletics rep for my section (can't run for both). D will bring home the Darden Cup!! Though that's a tale for another post.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Stunned DA Cold Call

The case study method is all about defining assumptions and then defending those assumptions. Most of the time, there is no "right" answer, however, a more right answer than its alternatives (depending on the class, of course). Additionally, the case study method has the dreaded cold call. Most of the time, this is assumed to be the ONE person who presents the case, though I've learned, it may be any person during the class period. This is part of the reason there is so much preparation for the case method - individual, learning team and class. They say, you'll will reach a certain point on your own, your learning team should force you to go further and full understanding often doesn't come until class (and even then, you may not "get it").

To start, I prepare - in both facets before class and by following the conversation in class. Last week, I was cold called in Accounting and the professor stuck with me while I struggled through principals and calculations. It was nerve wrecking, but I had the comfort of my own seat and I stuck with it. Today, was a little different. I didn't do part of the assigned homework for my DA case. The assignment was to come up with a work problem in which one must make decision based on a specific variable. The decision variable was assigned a value and a probability that it could occur. Easy enough for most people who work with products, but not for someone in operations. Needless to say, given other courses and time constraints, I let it slide last night. Sure enough, cold called today. Not only did I need to state my case, but I had to plot my points and draw the graph on the board. I somehow thought on my feet quick enough to come up with an example. Through some coaching from my classmates (ie questions) I sculpted the decision variable, made up some values and came out alive on the other side. Phew...

Today's lesson: Never lose eye contact with a professor as he's scaling the room for a cold call.