Friday, November 28, 2008

Cover Letter Mania

December 5th is the official drop date for on-campus recruiting companies. This means, that all my cover letters must be complete in 7 days. I'm still working on my first draft, which is unfortunate as this coming week is quite busy. In addition, for a handful of banks, I need to select the specific product or industry group I want to apply. This isn't an easy task due to my limited background in industries outside of finance. Further, to show true interest, you must reach out to those specific groups so that you can get a feeling of who the members are and the rapport among them.

The difficulty I'm facing with my cover letter is the "about me" section. What do I write about my previous employment that isn't directly written on my resume? What makes me special compared to the numerous other qualified candidates? How do I turn my spoken "pitch" into a quick 5 sentences? And though I am contemplating these questions, I'm also avoiding what I need to be doing, WRITING my cover letter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving: Part Un, Deux, Trois

The much needed break is finally here!! At 1:10 this afternoon we finished classes for an entire 5 days! After a number of reading days in Q1 and close to none in Q2, I'm excited for a break from cases, Darden and C'ville.

I've already had two Thanksgiving feasts this week and I'm happy to report, I don't feel fat yet. A holiday that celebrates gluttony... who invented that? Only Americans. Anyhow, enough about the origins. On Saturday night 12 FYs gathered at a flat just off the downtown mall to give thanks. The turkey was amazing, however, I missed dessert due to a last minute networking event. In all honesty, I was happy. I didn't need anymore food. The fun part about Saturday night was simply being around people. Some days I feel so young, but that was one of those that put life in perspective. We're here, we're getting our MBAs and we WILL be the future leaders of America. Crazy to think.

Last night, I skipped learning team and attended Thanksgiving at a SY's house. I was one of five FYs invited and one of three who showed. I'll admit, I was happy to see that I knew a number of the SYs there. At the same time, I met and talked with a few new people. Everyone was very warm and probably didn't know if I was a girlfriend or a FY, until the host kindly pointed out each of the FYs. Again, the food was amazing and this time I did have dessert. I feel very lucky to be in such a good place in my life right now. Further, I was told numerous times that it was the job of this select group of FYs to continue the tradition. I know who is cutting the turkey, I can organize, but I'm not sure what KM's purpose is. ;)

Finally, I will attend the real Thanksgiving this Thursday. My parents fly in this evening, my brother comes tomorrow and on Thursday, we will drive to the Greenbrier in West VA. This is a family tradition that has continued for the past 10 plus years. Though there will be 25 of us this year, I'm hoping I can steal some time to focus on my cover letters and accounting review slides.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Darden Finance Conference

The DFC held the eighth annual Darden Finance Conference on Thursday and Friday of this week. There were a number of companies on grounds giving presentations and networking with first and second years alike. The list included: Marsh and McLennan, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Citi, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft, JP Morgan and a couple of people who participated in a panel regarding Investment Management, PE and Hedge Funds. The tone on the economy is not pretty, not that I thought it would be. After spending two days listening to projections and watching more investment banks spark flames, I'm feeling the pressure. I haven't done any off-campus recruiting and my backup plan is still in the development phase. Granted, it's not even 2009 and I still have time, but I'm feeling the pinch.

We are in the bulk of recruiting right now and cover letters are due almost immediately after Thanksgiving. I don't have a working cover letter yet, however, that's my goal for the weekend. Ideally, I'd like a couple sets of eyes on my cover letter before I head to West Va for festivities, but I may be cutting it close given everyone's busy schedules at the beginning of next week. In addition, I've realized that I have not used the SYs as a resource nearly enough. Every SY offers their help, though you don't realize how valuable they are until it's mid-November and the wheels are turning 100 MPH.

After dinner and networking last night, I was starting to feel the crunch. I don't believe "Black November" is as bad for banking this year as it has been for consulting. That's a factor of the environment though. Consultants have started case prep and bankers don't need case prep. Further, the banks are not down here as much as I think they have been in the past, which is understandable given the market. On the other hand, our October was much worse than the consultants'. All the same, I returned home last night, having not completed my second case, with the knowledge that many of my colleagues were headed to the corner to "network" with the banks. Needless to say, after a big hug from my roommate and couple deep breaths, I composed myself and went out for night. I'm hoping that this weekend will be as productive as I need it to be. Tonight shall be early as JP Morgan is hosting the Darden tailgate at 9 am tomorrow. OUCH! All in the name of recruiting. This is what makes business school tough.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where am I versus Where are They

Everyone has different answers to why they are at Darden. My reason was that I wanted to change positions and though I loved my company and my co-workers, the flexibility just didn't exist. Given that I had such a great rapport with my co-workers, I touch base every once in a while, which ends with mixed emotions because although the company specializes in investment management, which is an interesting portion of the economy to be in at the moment, they are, in the grand scheme, doing quite well. Through my four years at Ensemble, I helped launch the platform for philanthropic investment management. An interesting and challenging task at first has become a pillar of Ensemble's business model. In addition, my boss has become a pinnacle of discussion in the world of philanthropy.

So here I am, the opposite side of the country, and I'm sure you wonder, what made me think of this. Our marketing case for tomorrow is Google. When reading cases that were essentially developed in the lifetime of current students, the discussions tend to be very interesting and I anticipate this one being no different. However, with this one, I can add more personal insight than I've had in the past. The case specifically references Google AdWords and AdSense. When Ensemble first marketed philanthropic investment management, we used Google AdWords. A price per click was set, a brief description written and then constant revisions made as to not overspend, but still retain the right level of saturation.

To see where these ads sit now, I spent a few moments googling words that remember having AdWord associations. A few keywords have changed and I found it interesting that other words are now associated with my boss' blog, Tactical Philanthropy, instead of the company Ensemble. I thought I'd check the blog and it seems a forum will be held tonight. It sounds like the company is doing quite well and moving forward in the right direction. Though I am happy where I am today, part of me does miss being the backbone of the organization. Three years of design and execution have definitely paid off for them. I know two years at Darden will pay off for me as well, but in the meantime, back to Google.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Logistical Nightmare

Where's the teleportation device that Star Trek has had for years? Unfortunately, I don't think mass production will be available by Friday, when I honestly wish I could be in 2 places at once. Yesterday, I received an invite for a Women's MBA Reception in New York on Friday, however, Darden is hosting multiple finance companies for the Darden Finance Conference. So it seems New York will have to wait until December 13th when Darden goes to Week on Wall Street. Speaking of traveling, break plans, which once seemed easy, have become a logistical nightmare.

In theory, winter break would consist of a mixture of interview prep and fun, but as break nears, I realize there may be more interview prep than anticipated. For starters, I am attending Week on Wall Street from December 13th-19th for networking with various banks. Then I fly from JFK to SFO (home), where I will stay through the 30th, at which point I fly to DEN to meet friends for NYE in Vail. This is where the logistics are fuzzy. I am supposed to return to SFO on January 4th for an additional 5 days. I did not anticipate needing to be in C'ville until interviews start, however, Training the Street (a 2 day course that I've been told is perfect prep for banking) is being held January 5th. Given my flights have been booked, the United rep with whom I speak is not going to like the fact that I need to check if it is more feasible to fly back to IAD from DEN versus heading to SFO for maybe a couple hours - all to return to C'ville by 8am on January 5th. Feasible both logistically and financially. It seems I must make some trade-offs, which I should be used to by now given Darden's constant double booking.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I am one of the members of the minority who refuse to be super connected to the world, which means, I don't own a blackberry, iPhone, Trio or any other device that would keep me connected to my email 24 hours a day. I know that the life of constant connection is on the horizon as my job prospects wouldn't have it any other way, but in the meantime, I enjoy the fact that I walk away from the computer and I don't know what is going on. However, that said, when the computer goes on a fritz due to the Darden mail server being overloaded, all hell breaks loose! I've been without constant email access for 2 full days and even now, I've only managed a temporary fix. Granted, Darden as a whole is in the same boat, so I suppose I haven't missed much in the form of school communication, but my emails regarding recruiting sat in my outbox for a couple days. Indeed, it may not matter much to those receiving the letters, but I pride myself with being prompt and these definitely were the opposite. Hopefully regular communication will resume shortly.

Friday, November 14, 2008

From One Simulation to the Next,,,

After spending a total of 15 hours cooped up in small learning team room with LT7, I can safely say, no one was killed! Better yet, I don't even think anyone plotted a murder. During StratSim, we were the Auto Execs of Firm B, Industry 2 - Buzzy (sports car), Beaut (Luxury car) and Boffo (Family car) were our initial weapons as we competed for market share against 4 other firms in our industry. We used conjoint analysis, test markets, focus groups, economic data and good intuition to forecast where the market and our competition was headed. After a few minor upgrades, our first concept, Borvette, a high-end large sports car failed miserably. We launched the car with an advertising budget of $40 million and promoted with $120 million because of a miss-stroke of a key. OOOOOPS!

We thought all was lost. Our stock price was hammered and though our core cars were carrying Borvette, we sat with 45,000 in inventory, indicating, we sold 5,000 during the initial launch. BLX, the new style of modern luxury was next in concept phase, but was delayed at the last minute and replaced with Bruis, the first car to be introduced into the rapidly growing Hybrid market. Due to logistics, BLX and Brius hit the market at the same time and Firm B stocked out of 5 of 6 cars that period - rolling the stock price up to $52. The simulation ran for two additional periods with no new decisions and though we made some good late in the game decisions, we never anticipated, 1st overall in the industry, 1st in Firm B across industries and a very pretty stock price of $131! LT7 rocked the house!!

After StratSim, we started a new simulation for Ops where we are making cell phones. We have to analyze various attributes of a cell phone, decide which ones to add to our phones, forecast demand, set up a procurement strategy and choose the companies from whom we order. Changes to orders may be made in between months for a small fine of $2 million. After each year, we receive a board review of our progress and a positive or negative vote of confidence from each of the 5 board members. My team has only completed year 1, but so far so good.

In addition, here is a video from last year's LT11 on their interpretation of StratSim.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One of Those Moods

I'd consider myself a very optimistic person. I'm often cheery, and I constantly try to remind people about the lighter side of life. So what happens when I need that reminding? I wouldn't say that anything has gone "wrong" to transition my mood, however, I'm sure the 12 hour flu on Friday night and the fact that I was cooped up in the house all weekend didn't help. I've been trying to recover from the weaknesses I felt beginning Saturday morning, though, only recently have I started to feel human again. Soccer, the release that typically gives me life, seemed to do nothing but take from my limited energy supply over the weekend. The smart idea would have been to sleep and avoid games, yet, I am not about to advertise that I am that smart. ;)

In the past week, I've caught up with a number of friends in the outside world with whom I feel I've lost touch. And by catch up, I mean I've been able to speak with them, on the phone, and receive the 5 minute update of what they have been doing for the last month. Even then, I'm far behind on my callbacks and I've started to receive second and third messages asking if I've forgotten. The bubble traps me at times thereby leading me to "ignore" the world that is not Darden. Sometimes I love the bubble and other times, I can't wait to escape for a weekend.

At this moment, I have 150 pages of reading to complete by tomorrow for StratSim - more on that later simply because I can't explain it given I haven't done the reading. I just know it will consume most of Wednesday and 12 hours of my Thursday. My intention was to complete the reading over the weekend, however, that agenda was kindly messed up by a bug. I don't quite feel stressed, although I'm on the verge. It'll all get done and I'll survive another week of Black November, but this is one of those weeks when I want a big hug from someone close and a little positive encouragement to remind me there are brighter days on the horizon.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Why Darden Should Be Number 1

A few weeks ago, a number of students who attend Darden put together a video of why Darden should be number 1. If any applicants are wondering why we love this place, perhaps this will explain why. Enjoy.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Operation: MicroAire

B-school and buzzwords are two peas in a pod. We throw buzzwords around in our classes, often, poking fun at the way we speak. The sad thing, they're used in the real world! We're not just a bunch of highly educated students with a knack for buzzwords anymore, we're the next generation of managers who will implement lean thinking.

Yesterday, the entire first year class was broken up into subsections that visited a number of companies to analyze their processes. A few of the companies attended were Target, Hersey's, Philip Morris, and Hollister (not the clothing company). My group went to MicroAire, a privately held company that manufactures hand held medical devices specifically for orthopedic surgery. In addition, they manufacture a device for liposuction and one for carpel tunnel as well as various disposable blades and tubes. As many of my classmates noted, this company was definitely drinking the Kool-Aid. Everywhere we went, they discussed lean and reductions in waste, movement and inventory. They also managed to reduce their setup time as well as their throughput time by converting to cell manufacturing after holding a Kaizen event. The cell is in beta form for now, however, the company hopes to expand cells plant wide as they continue to cross-train all their employees. Further, they are looking for ways to reduce product development. Needless to say, the company visit was a great experience to see all of our hypothetical talk put into practice. We're not just learning buzzwords here, but the practical application of business practices.

Plus, who doesn't love a field trip?