Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh Blackberry, You're MUCH Better Now

Ever seen the facebook status message: "Blackberry Storm or iPhone?" It's a constant battle trying to decipher which phone is better. Not to mention, if you're locked into Verizon (or some service other than AT&T), should you think of switching? For the most part, there are many aspects of the iPhone that are "better", though many work environments utilize the Blackberry instead.

Last December, I got my very first Blackberry as I was about to head up to Week on Wall Street. Prior to my travels, I was informed that having a Blackberry helped facilitate communication in New York. Indeed, it was likely any smartphone helped. As a loyal Verizon customer, I didn't want to go through the hassle of switching providers and the Storm had just arrived, so why not be an early adopter on the technology wagon.

Since then, I've found that having a smartphone keeps my inbox clean. Additionally, I love having internet access overseas, no matter how crappy the browser is. Google Maps is heaven sent in new cities (especially when you're walking) and now, I get be a full fledged Facebook addict without having to open my laptop.

Parts of the phone were always incredible and other parts, namely the OS, left me wanting. However, I want no longer. This past week Blackberry pushed out an upgrade to their OS. In some ways, it reminds me of the iPhone, however, I still have problems using the iPhone. It's faster, sleeker, pops up and back smoothly, and even bounces a little when you get to the edge of a list. I'm completely fascinated by the new OS and almost feel like I got a new phone during the last week. While the argument between which phone is better may never truly be won, I must say, Blackberry did well with the latest upgrade! Two thumbs up.

(Note: Still an Apple lover.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Ding

It's inevitable that in interview season, everyone receives the illicit ding. If you're one of the fortunate ones to never experience this, I congratulate you.

There is not great way to get the ding, though I do feel some ways are easier than others. Email is just about as informal as it gets. The pro is that you don't have the awkward silence as you try to figure out what to say once someone has said they're uninterested. That leads me to the phone call, often the recruiter or someone from the corporate office who has no connection calls you to say you will not move on to Round 2. How are you supposed to respond? I simply say "thank you and enjoy your day/night/afternoon" though I'm not sure if there's a more appropriate response.

The voicemail is less painful than the actual phone call, fact is however, this person was trying to talk with you and the chance of them catching you may be as great as the chance that they don't. The voicemail to return a phone call typically means good news, unless of course you were me this morning, returning a phone call only to hear thanks, but no thanks.

Finally, I had another interesting experience this evening. I received the typical email this afternoon, only to get a phone call this evening with feedback. While I appreciate the feedback, it made the email ding feel worse than the typical recruiter phone call. I know it is meant to be helpful, except the feedback was regarding my quantitative skills and my knowledge of the industry. Fine, I did not articulate my industry knowledge well, but my analytic skills are part of my profile that I feel is strongest. I suppose we'll say last Thursday was simply a bad interview day.

While this post is mostly about the negatives of the interview process, I have heard some positives along the way as well, so don't think it's all dull-drums over here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Surprises at Darden

I love the case method, which is ironic because I told my mom when I was first exploring business schools that I wasn't interested in 100% case. During one of my interviews this past week, I was asked, what surprised you most about Darden? In fine case method fashion, I paused, smiled and started talking. I wasn't quite sure where I was going and ended up somewhere fantastic. A Darden grad was sitting on the opposite side of the interview table from me and I proceeded to tell him that I was most surprised about how much I learn from my classmates. I then mentioned how this aspect of the case method would easily transition into the workplace as I'd be joining the company as a newbie who would have a lot to learn from other people (not to mention a lot to bring to the table as well).

I was a bit amused with myself. Darden is often touted for having some of the best faculty and while I do agree with that statement as our faculty spends more time focused on students than research, it is my classmates who have exceeded my expectations. I recall sitting in the sea of Section D wondering how I got in next to all these incredible people. At some point, reality takes over and you realize you were admitted on your own merits just as much as they were on theirs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interview Malfunction

As if life wasn't stressful enough these days... Last week, I almost forgot to grab a snack on my way to school for the day. Focusing on the fact that I didn't want to forget my interview shoes, I missed grabbing my house keys and didn't realize it until I was over halfway to school.

Earlier this week, I packed up my laptop, books, lunch and thought I had grabbed everything I needed, including my keys. I got to school to discover that I forgot my power cord for my laptop. While this would not be a problem for most, my laptop doesn't recognize that it has a battery, nonetheless stay on for more than a couple minutes.

It seems we all have our interview malfunctions and are creative in how to respond to them. I asked my roommate to bring my keys to school and borrowed a power cord from the technical support desk. Today, may take the cake on resourcefulness though. As a classmate walked down the hall, she broke her heel completely off, nearly 10 minutes prior to her interview. She yelled down the hall to Carrie, who works in the Career Development Center (CDC) and asked if she could borrow her shoes for 30 minutes. Carrie obliged and the temporary malfunction was avoided for the day.

I can only imagine what others have faced given the level of interviews, classes, and cases these days.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

LGBT and Business School

This past weekend a handful of Darden students attended the Reaching Out MBA Conference in Atlanta, GA. Many of us were there as allies of the LGBT community, though I don't think I fully understood what that meant until I got down there. As I sat with a Darden alum and he mentioned his "coming out" story, he highlighted that each individual down there had one. I think when we discuss LGBT, we often forget how trapped individuals feel before they come out. In fact, it was interesting to be in an environment where you were first assumed to be gay instead of straight.

I don't believe students at Darden raise the question of what it means to be LGBT in the workforce unless there are members of their class who identify themselves as LGBT. As far as I know, I don't have any "out" 2010 classmates. Indeed, a married man and another classmate are running our LGBT student organization on grounds. As the conference progressed, issues of marriage equality arose, as well as the fact that there are no CEOs who are out (but don't quote me on that one). The experience was definitely enlightening on many fronts. I hope to continue to be the best ally I can, especially when there are no LGBT representatives in the room to speak for themselves.

My favorite part of the weekend was dinner hosted by a 2007 alum of Darden. His house was beautiful, the food was delicious and the company delightful. Though the job search was not fruitful, the experience was well worth the cost.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview Mania

And so it is the first real day for on campus interviews, though a few of my classmates and I have already kicked off the process. I think I have 3x the interviews I did last year, however, that doesn't calm the nerves of what if I don't get a job? I want to go to Sweden for Q3 without the dread that I will have to go recruiting in Q4. Fingers crossed, it won't be a problem!

My first interview today was for a leadership development program. The fluffy questions of tell me about a time when you had a difficult team challenge me more than they should. I essentially worked in a team environment for 4 years, but it was the same team. Had it been difficult, I would have left far before I did.

My second interview was odd. My interviewer is likely one of the people from the bank that I knew best. It poses a problem when you're trying to get into "interview" mode. Honestly, I'm not quite sure what to think.

My final interview went well, I think. At least better than yesterday's with the same firm. MY technicals were spot on and the voice was friendly. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

In other news, I'm attending the Reaching Out MBA Conference this weekend, which I haven't decided if it's a good or bad idea. Good because there are a ton of firms. Bad because I'm missing class and have interviews on Monday. A group of us are set to do the case competition as well, which I'm thinking was a horrible idea. I haven't had a break in weeks and my body is feeling it.

Good luck to all on interviews. Here's to finding a job!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why "I" chose Darden

Shout out to the roomie! Check out why she selected Darden here. I'd also like to think she came to Darden to live with me as we had met a couple times in California prior to school starting. ;)

Sunday, October 11, 2009


It never fails that, you've spent all day writing a paper, the computer crashes and you forgot to save it. You would think, after nearly 5 years in post-high school education, I'd remember this story.

Microsoft Word and Excel have become increasingly better at recovering documents, but to my disappointment, PowerPoint has not. One of my final presentations is an 8 minute self running PowerPoint file. I started it last night and decided to continue working on it today. Unfortunately, when I went to save the file, PowerPoint froze, crashed and didn't recover, leaving me without a deliverable for my two additional hours of hard work. As if the weekend wasn't stressful enough with take home finals starting on Thursday and being due on Monday. Not to mention, interviews start on Tuesday as I try my best to find some sense of a routine again. My grade for the idea of second year finals over a weekend: epic fail.

I'm not sure when break time is as I think Management Decision Models (MDM) is up next. MDM is known to be one of the hardest classes at Darden and from what I have heard, one of the smarter kids in the class simply said the final was impossible. Here's to hopefully finishing finals today (without another computer error)!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What not to talk about?

As you dream of the corner office and the fancy title of CEO, what topic is often avoided? To achieve that type of "success", what has to give? Can you have the family, the pets, the friends, the spiritual connection, the great body and everything else you desire in connection with the success that most MBAs are stereotyped into wanting?

It's an interesting paradox to contemplate. Most people believe it is every MBAs desire to be the one at the top. What those people don't realize is that there are many people who come to business school to make a difference in philanthropy and on the world. I should know, I live with one of them. The other aspect of the corner office that is often removed is the extreme difficulty of balancing a demanding C-level position in Corporate America with the rest of life. According to Professor Clawson there are 16 different aspects of the balance wheel including Professional, Financial, Material, Recreational, Physical, Sleep, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual, Marital, Parental, Familial, Social, Societal, Political, and Ecclesiastical. Further, each aspect has a number associated with it from 1 to 10 and no one is capable of being a 10 on every aspect. A 10 for physical may equate to being an Olympic athlete or for professional, it could be a CEO of a highly visible company.

The reason I bring this topic up is that I took a class this quarter titled Tactical Leadership. The class was about influencing people. One of our last cases was on Bob Johnson, former chairman and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace. The case started out with a list of his professional accomplishments and by the end of the first paragraph stated he was lonely. When people visualize the life of a C-level exec, I don't think lonely comes to mind very often. It was fascinating to analyze the case and hear everyone's suggestions on what this guy should do to get out of his rut. Not to mention the CEO of UTC, George David, was sitting in on our class. His insights were even more spectacular from the standpoint that there are likely similarities between the two lives. A couple items struck me as profound that day, so I share them with you as something to contemplate.

1. Every 5 or so years, reassess. What are the end values? Where am I really going and why? Is this about reward, satisfaction, or security? Is it about awards or fame? Is it about business success or making people's lives better? (While there are not "right" answers, I think it's important to understand where you are and where you want to be.)

2. Businesses end and businesses change, eventually the business will run out on you. Thus, it's important to have other interests.

3. Relationships outside of work are crucial.

4. Understand from where you're sense of self-worth is derived. (Friendships, professional accomplishments, personal achievements etc)

5. The true value of a Darden MBA according to George David is that we're taught the process of thinking through problems under uncertain conditions.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Customer Service & Apple

Customer service is a very interesting part of private industry. Often, people ask for customer service because they are not as knowledgeable as those giving the advice. When customer service bridges into technology, healthcare, and other services where the information differential can be wide, customer service becomes utterly imperative. Then there is the bad apple (no pun intended) that doesn't meet your expectations, what happens then?

I'm a loyal Apple customer and have been for some time. My mom is on her third iMac, often upgrading to something newer and faster every couple years, though she doesn't understand the the technical language associated with a faster processor or more RAM. After about a year with her current iMac, she noticed it was running hot, so she took it into the local Apple store to get it fixed. They asked if she had backed the data up, but to someone who knows more about simply using computers than the peripherals, the answer was no. Hence, the Apple technician said they would do a complementary file transfer. Return time of 24-48 hours quickly passed with no update. After multiple phone calls, she asked that they call her at home. Instead, she received an apologetic phone call on her cell phone saying that they couldn't transfer her data and may have potentially lost it. For someone who uses her computer to document her life via photos and music, this answer is unacceptable. In my opinion, if you can't perform the service up to base expectations, don't offer the service.

Needless to say, after a lot of back and forth, the store said they'd like to make her whole. Whole entailed giving her a brand new iMac with specs comparable to her old one. I asked if that was ok with her and she said yes. I still speculate if simply replacing an old device with a new one is appropriate. I guess the act of new and free lessens the pain. I recognize items break though I know myself well enough to say, I'd still be infuriated.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

On the Horizon: Finals

Finals are around the corner and I'm not even close to ready. Ironically, I keep telling the first years that finals are one of the easiest times of year, at least that's how I felt. In contrast, this year if I'm not completing finals, I will be applying for jobs, researching jobs, prepping for interviews and then finishing that other list of things to do. (Grocery store, laundry, take my car in etc.)

I'm not sure where the first quarter went. I realized the other day that I managed to take a course in essentially 5 different subject areas, likely not something one does at a non-General Management school. The balance of information is fantastic. I suppose this will at least make the array of subjects similar to first year. On the other hand, the actual exams are quite different. First year, exams were approximately 5 hours long and had to be completed between 8a and 3p. Now, I have a group project which will be presented on Tuesday, a 15 min "dinner" speech followed by a paper reviewing my leadership presence, an 8 min self-running PowerPoint (with voice over optional) highlighting a combination of what I learned in the class and what I learned from the hour interview I have yet to conduct, and finally, 2 exams. (Wow, that was a run-on sentence!). The exams will be available on Wednesday and must be turned in by 4:30p next Tuesday, which is also when the paper and PowerPoint are due. The other presentations will take place on Monday and Tuesday.

I try my best not to feel stressed out. I know I need a release though I seem to always avoid that as I try to focus on the tasks at hand. I haven't been to the gym since I sprained my ankle 3 weeks ago. The number of times I've gone out can likely be counted on half a hand. My late nights have included more cover letters than drunken conversations of how to fix the world. I wonder what happened to my sense of release and if I'm just going to blow one of these days. All I hope at this moment is to finish my exams promptly so I only have to worry about the career search for a couple days. Fingers crossed!