Friday, December 17, 2010

Bring on the New Year

Work has been beyond slow as of late. I wish I could say that is a new thing, but not the case. Sadly, I'm getting VERY good at Angry Birds (if you haven't checked it out and have a smart phone, it's definitely addicting!). My first finance-related market visit to Chicago is next week and as luck would have it, my future boss won't be there at all. I've decided that picking dates around large company and/or national holidays is the worst time to visit the market. Far too many people decide to take vacation and I don't blame them. My current boss has told me that she is ok if I do mostly personal stuff during my trip. First item on the list -new driver's license and car registration.

I'm not sure if it's just me, but I haven't had a new driver's license picture since the day I passed my exam. Not to mention all of the physical details are also from when I was 16. Luckily, I haven't changed THAT much. And come to think of it, I've never had a license anywhere except California. Here's to change!

For the next two weeks, I'm taking another whirlwind "vacation." I suppose I wouldn't be me if I stayed in one place long enough to get my feet wet. Tonight I'm headed to Evergreen, CO to spend time with my boyfriend, his parents and his siblings. After two days in the mild cold, I will head east to Chicago, where my new full length black parka will likely be my best friend. This is a "working" trip, though I use that word loosely and will likely be decorating and moving in. We leave on the eve of Christmas Eve to go to Southern California for more celebrations with my boyfriend's family. My family will be sailing the caribbean. Rough life huh? Next up, Vail! Hopefully that storm that just hit the mountains in California continues eastward and dumps in Vail. I'd like some powder days (please, Santa!). Finally the whirlwind wraps up with New Year's Eve in Chicago at the Drake. I have a friend from home who now lives in Houston coming into town with her boyfriend. She said she wanted snow on NYE, but I have a feeling she's going to regret that when she arrives. WEATHER SHOCK!

I'm excited for the next couple months. I attend my first of FIVE weddings in February. I move to Chicago in February, which should coincide nicely with the delivery of the couch that was ordered last weekend. My mom is throwing a large gala in March. And who knows what the rest of the year will bring.

It's hard to believe that 2010 is over and it's been a great year! I'll have to countdown the best moments of 2010 on the next post. :) Plus, they're fun to review.

2009
2008
2007

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Happened?

Writing used to be therauputic. It was a way to share myself with myself (and perhaps a dozen or so readers). Lately, I've been completely radio silenced. What happened? When I hit road blocks in business school, writing for 20 minutes cleared my mind enough to tackle the next big project. I attempted that at work once and when I hit "post," I received some sort of failure notification. My company doesn't allow you to post to blogs. I suppose I can't blame them. Work time is for work, right? Not to mention, there's fear that I'm posting sensitive company information. I'd like to think that most people are good natured and hearted, yet with scandel after scandel, it's hard to believe that.
 
Work is overly slow these days. I finished my morning responsibilities at 11:30a today and now I'm waiting for a 3p meeting. Yes, literally, waiting. Tomorrow, this place will likely be a ghost town. If it were up to me I'd skip the entire day completely. However, instead I have a 30 minute meeting at 8a, which will be my first and last bit of responsibility before the holiday weekend. Still contemplating if it is ok to simply leave when I'm done. Hmmm.
 
In good news, I received my market location 2 weeks ago. In February 2011, I'm officially moving to CHICAGO!! I couldn't be more excited and I wish February were tomorrow. Though I know now that it's Thanksgiving, the time between now and February is going to absolutely fly. The boy and I have trips planned for the holidays to see both of our families. I'm also looking forward to catching up with some friends along the way. My first trial run in Chicago will be right before Christmas for a market visit. Hopefully it's not too cold then! 
 
I can't promise more musings, but I'm definitely going to try. Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble!  

Monday, November 01, 2010

World Series

It's Monday night and I'm halfway glued to my TV, hoping the SF Giants can clinch the title. Mom, dad, brother and brother's GF attended Game 1 in San Francisco. Brother + 1 attended Game 2 as well. Giants fever has hit almost every Facebook status message I read during the nights they're playing and sometimes, the days they are not. I can almost tell what happened in the games based on the name updates... Sanchez, Cody Ross, Uribe, Buster Posey and the list goes on. More photos and tag lines of "Fear the Beard" arrive daily. It makes me miss home.

I'm not sure the Bay Area will ever not be home. I guess sometimes I'm just waiting for that day. Will I ever stop telling people I'm from SF? Living in Louisville, I often receive a slightly odd look, asking how did you end up here?! These days, I don't even know.

I await anxiously to find out where my next residence will be. In the last two years I've lived in Charlottesville, Atlanta, Louisville and even Stockholm, Sweden for a couple months. Friday, I will know where I move in February 2011. I'm excited and scared. The anxiety has seeped into my dreams as I cross my fingers for Chicago and try to remember that everything happens for a reason. Those dreams can turn to nightmares, so anything I can do to not focus on the next move is good as it hopefully leads to better sleep.

Therefore, bottom of the 7th, Giants lead 3-1. Let's go SF!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Want A Real Job

Turns out you can't post to blogger from work. Doh! I suppose that shouldn't surprise me given the restricted level of  internet access. Needless to say, I wrote a great post and had the entire thing disappear when I clicked post. Now I know.

You may be wondering how I have time to post during work hours. It's simple, I'm receiving an unmatched education around health and insurance, however the pace is definitely not that of Darden. This week has averaged two or three meetings per day, approximately an hour each. That's a lot of empty hours to fill.

I have no responsibility and no deliverables until February. All I have to do is learn the business, understand how areas connect and be able to speak fluidly about everything. Being new to the industry, I couldn't ask for a better setup. It just needs to be faster for the sake of my sanity. I crave intensity, which I've learned leads to better  personal time management. Currently, I have too much free time during the day where I just have to literally be present. My colleague and I joke that we would like real jobs. We know their on the horizon, but we're getting cabin fever.



Update: ... Blogger saves things automatically, here is the original post

The education I am receiving regarding healthcare and insurance is likely unmatched. While I may never claim to know more in any one area than some of the tenured veterans, I will be able to talk fluidly on how different parts of the business interact. I can say now, much more than I ever said during my interviews. In the beginning, health insurance was simply a card you took out of your wallet when you visited the doctor, who would eventually bill you for some unknown amount. Turns out it is not as gray as it seems when you know what questions to ask.

The pace of this education is definitely not that of Darden. While I suppose I don't need another couple years of such intensity, there was something about that intensity that I loved. I was much more diligent when it came to managing my time. Now, I just pray that my time is filled. This week has been incredibly slow. Typically 2-3 meetings a day, at a max of an hour each. What do you do with all that free time?

It's ironic how my free time at the end of my job prior to business school was a blessing. Of course, we also didn't have restricted internet access, so browsing was easier. Now, I crave speed, intensity, or simply a schedule busier than the one I have. It's hard when you're essentially working on someone's else time. In fact, a lot of someone elses. I have started creating a contact sheet of all the people I've met over the last five months. The tally is roughly 150. That's a lot of people! Yet, every day my colleague and I joke, we want a real job. It's been a long time since I've hard any responsibility or needed to work on a real deliverable. I get more excited about figuring out the best way to develop a website for my mother's wine group than anything here at the office.

I know the education will be worth it, I just want it to be faster. (And I'd like to be told where I'm moving in February...supposed to be informed during October. Two weeks left.)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Insurance, What A Strange Business?

Most widget makers have the luxury of knowing their cost prior to setting their price. When they set their price, they include a profit margin. And from there, the widget maker can try to understand how many widgets he must sell in order to cover costs and make an overall profit.

The insurance business is different. Specifically, health insurance is very different. Most fully-insured large employer groups look to receive a renewal price 2-3 months prior to their renewal date. If claims are used as a basis for that renewal price, credible claims must be posted approximately 90 days prior to their use. So if you want a price for a Jan 1 renewal in September, the claims that are being used are from June of the previous year to May of this year. The renewal price is a guaranteed monthly premium for an entire twelve months quoted. How is an insurance carrier supposed to know how much a member is going to incur in claims 15 months from the day of their pricing? They estimate. Additionally, if a member uses a lot of doctor's services in the first six months, the carrier can't reprice the premium for the second six months. It's definitely a risky business and an odd one when you realize that insurance companies essentially find out their costs many months after they set their price.

I must admit, prior to leaving business school, I had never thought about this when I received medical cards. Also, here's a good quick description of how health insurance works, past the pricing aspect.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Plugged In

It's the age of 24/7 connection. These days, my phone can do just about everything that I do on my personal computer. We omit personal phone calls in exchange for text messages. The virtual world now allows hundreds of thousands of people to choose where they want to live without worrying about where they work. Technology is moving faster and everything seems instantaneously obsolete, yet there are moments when I wonder if we're moving forward or backward.

Sometimes I wonder what human interaction will look like when I have kids. My mom used to believe that when she drove my brother and I to school, that was her time to interact and teach us values. We couldn't jump out of the car, so she had a captive audience. These days, mom is on the phone and baby has a TV to keep entertained. What happened?

I found myself contemplating the virtual landscape the other day at work. Technology has helped companies that are spread across the states and world interact. However, has "efficient" technology led to its own inefficiencies? An email exchange that could be solved with a 60 second phone call will go on for days because no one wants to pick up the phone. E-learning activities are the fancy word for go 'learn'. Yet some people learn from reading, writing or a mixture of both. Retention of information is often not easy unless you apply it. Answering 20 questions at the end of an e-learning course does not prove that you learned the material, simply that your short term memory is good enough to recall it.

Webinars, while undoubtedly helpful, will never beat a live meeting. I think I fade faster in the virtual world than I do in a live presentation. It's hard to read your audience in the virtual world and thus it becomes so much more important that people speak up. Further, I think conversations need to be stronger in the virtual world as to not duplicate work. What are your assumptions? What EXACTLY is your end goal or desire? Sometimes, I don't think the asker even knows. In face to face meetings it seems much easier to define. Perhaps that's because for that second, there really is a captitive audience. And in today's plugged in world, everyone always seems to be multi-tasking, which, in my opinion, is an oxymoron. You're simply saying that not one item or person is getting your undivided attention. Just a different way to look at it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Waiting Game

In the middle of June, six of my coworkers in the Commercial Sales training program received word of their soon-to-be new homes. My finance counterpart and I sat back as they received relocation checks, locked in housing, packed their things and said goodbye to Louisville! This was their time to make a new home!

RS and I always knew that the waiting game for us would be longer. At first, we were told November, which in June seemed so far away that it wasn't worth worrying. In July, we were told October, but still three months can seem like a lifetime after business school. I lived in Atlanta and Stockholm for three months each. Just enough time to settle in to a routine, yet not long enough for it to feel like home. Since starting our finance assimilation, every time we meet a new person, they ask where we are moving. The answer of TBD is getting old.

This past Monday, the October deadline was reiterated. So now, I sit and wonder. Will I make it to Chicago where my better half resides? Or will this be the start of a series of tough decisions to come in the future?

The waiting game, while exciting at times, has gotten the best of me over the last three years. You wait to hear from business schools, and then you wait to start once you accept. Next, you start interview season, only to wait to hear if you're on the interview list, whether you make it to second round or finally receive an internship offer. At the end of an internship, some people even have to wait to see if they are extended a full-time offer. Even if they are, many still recruit, repeating the interview process. While I wouldn't trade any of these experiences for the world, I'm ready to plan my next move, which is hopefully to a place I can truly make home.

I suppose the good news I've become very patient and with all this moving, I have become the opposite of a pack-rat, constantly purging the items I own.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Darden Connection

Darden was one of the best decisions I ever made. I continuously say that and I think with each time, I mean it more. When I first started my position, I received a welcome email from a guy named Charles. I'm not sure how he knew I had joined the organization and I didn't bother to ask. He set up lunch a group of us including an intern and other alumni. Needless to say, I missed that lunch as Lotus Notes, our email system, doesn't include an automatic calendar reminder. You have to manually check a box to get a reminder, which I still forget to do. After missing that meeting, he was incredibly understanding. Then I traveled for a couple months off and on. Finally, two weeks ago I reached out to setup a new lunch meeting.

Charles graciously accepted and after a couple confusing exchanges, we missed yet another lunch. Today was the day that we were going to get this right. Sure enough, I waited by the lunch trays. Noon came and went, but about ten minutes after, he showed up. We grabbed our respective meals and found a place to eat. As most people do, he asked me how I picked Darden, having been from San Francisco. I explained to him that the Darden networking reception sold me. When looking at business schools, I suppose everyone has to consider HBS. It's known as a gold standard. The HBS reception was a mock case with roughly five alumni in attendance. I spent more time discussing the GMAT and tips with college kids than speaking to anyone about the school. Darden was different. The head of admissions spoke for five minutes and told us if we wanted to know anything about the school, talk to them, pointing to the alumni. She explained that they were the appropriate people to answer my questions. I spoke with people from the class of 1984, 1993 as well as some recent graduates. I was grilled by the head of Alumni Relations. Every person I met had their hand on their business card and wanted to know what they could do for the school. They wanted to give back. There was something about that interaction that simply stuck. HBS may be able to run circles around Darden in terms of network size, except the large class size doesn't give you the bond and connection Darden does.

Charles, who graduated almost 10 years ago and has had a very successful career, thanked me. He thanked me for reminding him why he loved Darden so much. There's nothing better than the Darden connection. When I mentioned the name of a coworker in my organization, Charles said he knows him well. I proceeded to tell him that he reminds me of Elliott Weiss, a Darden professor who wears a bowtie every day. This guy wears a bowtie daily. I guess that also speaks to the tenure of Darden's professors.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Putting It Delicately

Three Fridays ago I officially "graduated" from the first part of my rotational program. Six of coworkers had received their location assignments and took off to their new homes. Learning about the commercial sales organization is something most people in the corporate office likely fail to do. They forget that it is the sales organization that continues to keep a steady flow of revenue coming into the business, supporting the need for their jobs.

The next week, I attended the commercial finance conference. My first real interaction with many of the finance leaders at corporate as well as in the market offices. Great people and great information, though not as "fun" as those traditionally gregarious and outgoing sales people. The end of the week was light prior to my paid week off!

When I first heard of the vacation time, I struggled with the decision as to where to go. Free weeks aren't as plenty as business school, so I understand I need to take advantage of them. However, after ruling out a handful of exotic destinations, I decided home is always a good option, as is Chicago to see the boyfriend. While home I hung out with a handful of soccer friends. I'm not sure why it surprises me that I have such great friends in the Bay Area. I've always known that, but I suppose I have almost forgotten with the amount of moving I've done lately. Further, I hosted a handful of Darden 2010 alumni at my parents' house for a BBQ. It was incredibly good to see everyone and almost made me ask myself, why did I leave or specifically, why didn't I go back? Further, I keep finding people I missed as I didn't realize they had moved West. The contingent keeps growing. Chicago was also fun with more Darden reunions including a home-cooked meal by a Darden husband and BBQing on the 10th floor of a friend's downtown building. Very cool! I suppose it makes me realize how much I miss even having one person around with whom I've spent more time than the last three months.

I arrived in Louisville late last night and after fighting with my work computer for over an hour, finally, was able to access my email. This week started off promising, until I got to work. There's a lot of "catch up" time baked into my training schedule and while I appreciate the consideration, Darden never taught me the slow pace I've been going. It's not good or bad, just different, but I'm starting to want more.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Presentation and License Exam

At times, I feel like I should be wrapping up an internship. The last six days were by far the hardest I've worked since starting three months ago.

The three days leading up to this past Friday were packed with presentation skills training and practice. Valuable overall, yes, as I can always use more practice and reinforcement. However, I graduated from a top program where I took two very similar courses. Friday was the big day where I presented to senior leaders my market presentation on what I gleaned from two visits to Chicago. I think it went well overall and received few questions.

As soon as the presentation was over, it was time to start preparing for the Kentucky life and health insurance exam. We took a 40 hour course two months ago. I didn't forget everything but definitely had holes. Needless to say, most of my weekend and all day Monday were spent with my nose in a 700 page textbook like book. When I passed both tests on Tuesday, it all seemed worth it. I'm officially licensed! To celebrate, my boyfriend and I grabbed lunch and saw Inception.

It seems now that almost the entire group has checked out. Graduation from this program is Friday and most of my coworkers will leave Saturday for their markets. Time flew this summer and I imagine the next six months of finance rotations will soon be a blur.
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Monday, August 09, 2010

Spoiled in Chicago

It is hard to believe that I'm starting week 11 of my post business school occupation. Most internships are roughly this long!

I flew up to Chicago on July 30th for another market visit. This time I stayed the weekend as I worked Friday and Monday/ Tuesday out of the downtown market office. Half-kidding as the notice was extremely late, I invited my mom on Monday to meet me in Chicago on Friday. Needless to say, it all worked out!

We took my coworker to dinner on Friday night, where we indulged in steak, scallops, wine and chocolate covered strawberries. After another bottle of wine in the bar, the three of us ventured to the House of Blues, walking through a staged street for the next Transformers.

Saturday kicked off with a couple errands and then I met mom at Nordstrom. We lucked out as it was Nordstrom's anniversary sale. Little did I know, mom had plans to update a handful of my work clothes. Given that I started work so early, she considered this the shopping/ graduation trip we never did. A couple new suits, shirts and a raincoat, and I'm ready for another couple months of work!

Beyond shopping, we walked, ate, drank and had an absolutely fabulous time. I even convinced mom to return to Chicago once the boy gets settled, albeit I ought to plan that trip before or after winter.


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Monday, July 26, 2010

Birthday Celebration

There really is a lot going on in my life, I swear! A week ago I officially turned the big 2-8! At first thought, this birthday was going to be a let down as I'm miles away from most of my close family and friends. The family that I have in Louisville was ironically in San Francisco. So that left me to wonder what a weekend of festivities after a week in Wisconsin would look like. Needless to say, Mack came to the rescue.

Mack and I had been discussing a weekend in Louisville since I moved given that she is in Columbus, OH and what better weekend to pick than the one of my birthday. She picked me up from the airport on Friday, July 16th and the festivities began. We had dinner and cocktails at a sushi restaurant called Sapporo. After which, we blasted music and got ready like girls should. Finally, we left the house at midnight for Bardstown Road and Molly Malone's. I'm not sure what time we left the bar, but I'm guessing 3:30a as the bars in Louisville don't close until 4a. In theory, this is a great idea. In practicality, Saturday after a late night like that is completely shot, especially when your room has no windows to give any sense of what time it is. We danced Saturday night away at Hotel on 4th Street Live with a handful of my coworkers. An absolutely perfect celebratory weekend!

Sunday, my roommate baked me a brownie cake, complete with Happy Birthday letters and soccer balls. Monday, my coworkers bought a cookie cake for me. The birthday diet while delicious, is never good for the waistline. I finally convinced my roommate to take the brownies to the neighbors.

I received cards and letters from people to whom I don't remember giving my address. Mom sent a care package, which is always exciting and included a pretty necklace. I even received flowers from my special someone who was traveling in Syria at the time. I must admit, I was quite impressed. That special someone also found an internet cafe so that we could Skype for a while - our first time using video since he left 1.5 months ago! (PS Technology is incredibly cool!!)

Thanks to all who made this year special! And I promise to get better about blogging...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Business Trip: Green Bay

Before Monday, what did I know about Green Bay? Winters are cold, they're known for their cheese, there's beer and of course the Green Bay Packers. Since then, I've discovered small business operations, the Green Bay Bullfrogs and a cook your own steakhouse.

In two days, I've learned a ton more about the way my company functions. I've also had job titles put in full perspective. What does an underwriter do anyhow? I now know! (They're not really the bad guy!!)

After work on Monday, the team ventured to a local brewery, which was located on the Fox River. What's so cool about the Fox River? It is one of a few that actually flows North! Who knew? No Monday could be complete without a Bullfrogs baseball game. The Bullfrogs team encompasses a number of college players who play during the off season and at times are recruited through scouts to the minors. The best part about the game was the seventh inning dizzy bat race between four of my coworkers. Classic!

Tonight our hotel suggested Prime Quarter Steakhouse for dinner. Twenty dollars gets you any one of a number of steaks including all you can eat salad, potato, and Texas toast. You have to cook the steak yourself or can pay two dollars for someone to do it for you. It was a fun experience, especially for one who often leaves grilling to the boys. Overall, I did well.


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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Poison Oak Woes

Imagine this, I now have more free time than I ever had in business school, but I write less now than I have in years. It isn't because I don't have anything going on. We all have events to discuss, yet I rarely write the thoughts on paper these days.

Work is going alright. I've enjoyed more business trips in the last four weeks than I ever thought I'd take in this role. Next week, my team is headed to Wisconsin, which means I can knock another state of the 50 off my list.

Last week as part of my training program we spent a day at a local charity, hanging out with underprivileged youth. It was a lot of fun however I managed to fish one too many soccer balls out of the poison oak ridden bushes. Needless to say, my leg looks absolutely discussing and additional patches have slowly developed since Saturday. I went to the doctor yesterday and received medication so I'm looking forward to feeling better. I can't take the 3a wake ups because I itch, am too hot or uncomfortable.


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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New City Blues

One aspect of business school, much like undergrad, that I took for granted is having a number of great friends within a 5 mile radius. There's always someone around if you need company for shopping. You can always convince someone to visit your favorite restaurant. There's someone else to push you to workout. And plenty more people for the hundreds of other activities you may imagine.

New cities are exciting and yet at times I miss the familiar feeling of the tried and true. I have yet to locate my favorite restaurant. My friends include my coworkers and roommate, and they are all moving by the end of August. My days consist of work and time in my apartment.

While I do enjoy relaxing, I miss having friends next door, knowing the names of nearby bars and having a preferred grocery store. I suppose right now I'm just having the new city blues. Hopefully that'll change this weekend as it is essentially my first full weekend in town since moving. Here's to new friendly faces - I want to meet lots of them.

The workout routine has begun, so I plan to be in soccer shape soon.


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Friday, June 11, 2010

Corporate Housing

Let's face it, I live in a hotel. While a nice hotel, it is still weird carrying around an electronic card key instead of a physical key. More often than not, I ride the elevator with strangers who are getting off at any of the fourteen floors below me. Mornings in the elevator are quick, afternoons are often slow.

The best part: no rent or utilities. The worst: knowing I'll move from a two bedroom to a one bedroom in early September. (Nobody likes moving.)

My mail occasionally goes to the mailbox. Often times my red message light blinks to say I have a written message. I press 3 and speak to the front desk who nicely says I have mail to pick up. At first I thought this was because initially I was told not to put my apartment (I'm in a fully furnished apartment) number on my mail. Such is not the case as I picked up mail today, with the apartment number on it, at the front desk. I feel like the front desk associates should be good friends by the time I move out.

Trash is another interesting experience. My trash was overflowing last week and desperately needed to go out. But where do you take a trash bag? Turns out, you call housekeeping. Unfortunately, I had to call a couple times. It was eventually removed. Still odd in my book.

On another note, I got paid today! Woo hoo.


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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Confidence

One part of the MBA experience that I never anticipated is the amount of confidence I gained over the last two years. Prior to my MBA, I never would have doubted my confidence. However, it is amazing what furthering your education and testing your limits can do.

Darden is all about the case method. It's about learning, participating, asking questions and providing answers. It is active learning at its finest - engaging and challenging.

Although I had a short turnaround from graduation to full-time employment, I still managed to miss what was the first day of work for the rest of my team. I had to make up that day yesterday. I attended an event that recently changed its name from "Spirit of Success". It was all about learning who the company is, what they do and where they're going. The facilitators took us through the training in a method very similar to case-based learning. Needless to say, I felt right at home, consistently making comments to the diverse group of 80 new hires. During the second to last activity, a woman from a different table came up and asked me in which department I would be working. She proceeded to say that she was very impressed by my comments and level of participation. I couldn't help but smile and thank Darden.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

House-Boyfriend

I'm starting to understand why some women work while their significant other stays at home. I've lived the good life this week. My boyfriend isn't working yet and has chosen to spend his last days stateside with me in Louisville.

We've attended a number of dinners with various parts of my family. He's run errands with me and attempted to fix my table stand (before I accidentally broke it again). However, one of the best parts of having him around is breakfast on the table shortly after I've readied myself for work. I not only eat well before work but also get to enjoy those extra few moments with him before the workday begins. That said, this is short lived and I need to remind myself that it is only temporary.


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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Graduation

The last three days have been a blur. My family arrived in Charlottesville on Saturday evening. We met my boyfriend's family for dinner - a total of 13 of us. It went quite well given that was the first time everyone had met. Ivy Inn, a restaurant that is one of the many recruiting staples, did a fabulous job! I was initially worried by the 5 course price fix though the portions were good size and I actually didn't feel sick after dessert.

Sunday morning I attended the entire UVA graduation on the lawn. Though a cool experience, the ceremony was long and a little boring. The heat likely didn't help either as we were all preparing for rain. That afternoon, Darden also held their diploma ceremony. Not only am I now a graduate of the Darden School of Business, but I am also the proud holder of a piece of paper that says Faculty Award for Academic Excellence. I graduated in the top 10 percent of the class (which I only found out when my name was called). It is funny how you're entire mind goes blank when they call your name to receive the diploma. In the audience, you notice the extra woo hoos when names are called. Though on stage I heard nothing but the couple faint words the dean spoke as he shook my hand.

Sunday evening consisted of 5 classmates and their families at my boyfriend's for dinner. It was a great way to end an incredible two years.

After the long day of festivities, I woke early to pack my car. By 11.30a I was on I-64 West, headed for Louisville. Last night, I arrived to my new residence for the next 9 months - corporate housing in downtown Louisville. And now that I'm done with breakfast, I'm off to my first day at work.


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Friday, May 21, 2010

SF, Bahamas, Beach Week

Honestly, I'm ready to be in one place again. Heading back to the Bay Area is always a highlight. I hadn't been home since Halloween, which may have been the longest sabbatical yet.

During my stay, the man and I ventured to Berkeley to see two of my first year friends at Haas. It is always interesting hearing about others' business school adventures. I don't want to say comparing, more so exchanging ideas and experiences.

I held a small Cinco de Mayo party at the house that allowed me to see two of my married friends and their young children. We also attended a wedding of one of my good friends since I was 15. Trips home always seem short these days and I feel there are always more people to see. With so many friends with young children, it has become harder and harder to coordinate nights out. I suppose the longer I am away, the more times change and I have to realize that.

The Bahamas was a great trip. The older I get, the more I revel in my parents' company. We ate well, drank good wine and enjoyed a couple nights on the dance floor. The weather was a bit windy though still gorgeous. BVB and I swam with the dolphins one afternoon before meeting up with the group to try the "not so lazy" river. We also convinced my dad to try every water slide with us.

After one night back in Charlottesville I drove to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for what is known as beach week. Houses that fit 6 to 30 people are rented along the beach by second year Darden students. Our house was a lot more low key than some of our classmates. Given that the weather wasn't great, we played lots of video and board games. Turns out the Wii and Rock Band on PS3 were the favorites. The Outer Banks truly signifies the end of Darden. Grad weekend is here! Let the rest of the festivities begin.


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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Five Days

In some alternate universe, I'd be looking forward to this weekend - planning excessive drunk nights out and thoroughly enjoying the fact that graduation is HERE! Beach week is over (more about that later) and I'm back in Charlottesville doing what I do best lately - packing, donating and cleaning. There will be 32 of us in attendance for graduation dinner on Sunday night. I have 4 cases of beer (12 bottles/case) and 1.5 cases of wine. Plus, I'm sure there will be some liquor. It should be a blast. However, I will likely be worrying about Monday morning more than enjoying Sunday night. Monday is the official kick off of the next adventure.

Monday morning I leave for Louisville, KY. Seven hours in the car later, driving West on 64 will put me in my new home for the next 9 months - the corporate apartments of a well-known hotel in downtown Louisville. Tuesday morning, I start fulltime employment! I suppose the end goal after two years of new friendships and intense learning is to return to the working world in some form or another. While I have aspirations of potentially becoming an entrepreneur later in life, I chose the big company route for immediately after business school. Besides one classmate, I have the earliest start date yet. It feels weird as I know most people are here for another week to pack up their belongings whereas I am almost out the door.

We have received emails about "De-Dardenization" which is essentially removing the Darden specific setup on our laptops and adding a new "Non-Darden" email to our alumni profiles. Two years ago this seemed so far away. Even when I returned home, no one could believe that it had actually been two years already. I keep thinking that work and the "real world" are so far away, until I realize it's a measly five days and they are fast approaching.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thanks Clear Admit!

This post is long overdue. However, I've been in San Francisco since May 3rd and am now off to the Bahamas, which will be followed by beach week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

I'm pleased to say that I've been recognized yet again by Clear Admit and my peers. Thank you all. It is good to know that someone actually reads my blog, though I never anticipated I'd have a small following.

Check out all of this year's winners. Congrats to those who were and were not recognized. You all enrich this community.


Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Different Type of Celebration

Classes finished on Thursday and I capped off my Second Year by attending the Leadership and Theater performance of "Morning After." This is the same course I took as a 5-day J-week where by the end, the group writes, casts, directs and performs an original play. It was quite amusing and fun to watch my classmates (and boyfriend ) perform. Unfortunately, instead of going out that night as many of my classmates did with the intention of getting heavily intoxicated and streaking the lawn (which is an old UVa tradition), I headed home and hit the pillow early. I needed to be alert to take my DAO final.

This weekend was also Darden Days, which is Darden's admitted students weekend. The temperature has hovered around 90 degrees and I've been stuck inside. My early start date and choice of galavanting prior to graduation means I'm packing this weekend. I'm not quite ready for reality and I'll admit I'm a bit bummed I've missed out on all the weekend's festivities. I recognize that this is mostly by choice as I have chosen to go spend a week in San Francisco (home) before the Second Year class invades the Outer Banks (in North Carolina) for beach week. But at the same time, I never imagined this is what it would be/ feel like.

Last night was LASA's legendary end of the year party. I was stuck in my closet folding suits, boxing dresses and generally removing all memory of my stint in Huntington Village. I suppose the celebration will have to come at a later time. Maybe once I finish packing and my 2000 word essay on Thomas Jefferson is completed.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Paramore

One aspect of Charlottesville of which I've failed to take full advantage is the vast availability of great concerts. Music is quite prominent in Charlottesville. I'm not sure if it is because of the large university or the fact that Dave Mathews Band as well as many lessor known bands have started here. The Pavilion on the downtown mall hosts "Fridays After Five" every week, spotlighting local artists. The Pavilion also hosts a number of well known artists throughout the year. Scott Stadium hosted U2 in October 2009 and like all the other events I've mentioned, I missed this one too.

One other venue that is known as well for Cav's basketball as concerts is JPJ. I never attended a basketball game during my two years here. My first experience in JPJ was last night for the Paramore concert. We were the second stop on their tour, which includes Fun, Relient K and Paramore. Paramore was by far the best of the three and put on a great concert. Hayley Williams has an incredible voice (especially live!) and a ton of energy on stage. I was definitely impressed and happy to say I experienced a Charlottesville concert before my time in C'ville expires.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Follies

I am not the first to post this... and likely won't be the last. However, this is why, Darden, the community, the faculty and the experience are so unique.



In the end, Follies is the culmination of the year. It is the stage that allows all of us to make fun of ourselves, Darden and everything MBA related. We laugh a lot! And I did laugh when I first saw the variety of faculty members willing to dance with David Shepro.

Now though, I'll admit, I get a little emotional when I watch this video. Even with my feeling of second year-itis, I still can't believe I'm fours days of class away from completing my MBA. We often joke in the halls about staying another year, with full knowledge that it would take a miracle to fail at this point. I'm going to miss this place and the people. Special thanks to Shep for reminding us why this place is so special!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Golf

They say a lot of business is done on the golf course. However, I wouldn't exactly know given that I've never played the game...or even gone to the driving range. My former boss, who is just over 70 years, played anytime he could. He'd often return to the office and tell me to setup a new account for a new client or ready transfer instructions for an extra $1 million into someone's account.

Last week in my Hot Topics in Finance course we had a speaker from The Coca-Cola Company. Marie is head of Mergers and Acquisitions as well as a Darden grad. After the class, I attended lunch with Marie and somehow we started discussing golf. She thought that golf should be a business school elective at Darden. While my professor noted that it would never get approved, she stressed the importance of golf in the business world, especially for women.

Ironically, I have my third golf lesson this Thursday. NAWMBA (National Association of Women MBAs) put together groups of 12 people (max) for golf lessons at a local country club. We started with putting, moved to chipping and will finish with a full swing during the last two weeks. Granted, I'm not ready to go play a course, though I do vaguely understand the motions and how to hold a golf club. Further, I know that sand pits are actually called bunkers and all water is deemed water hazard. I can even differentiate between rough and green. While it will still take a lot of practice to get on a full course, maybe my brother's girlfriend, who coached college prep golf until 6 months ago, will provide some free lessons!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chi-Town and the 2 Week Countdown!

I spent this past weekend in Chicago, which is where my significant other is moving post-MBA. We thought that investigating where he wants to live before moving there would be a great idea. Needless to say, we've narrowed down the neighborhoods to two. We walked practically the entire city from Lincoln Park to South Loop and back again. We had amazing meals at the most random restaurants, browsed through a couple shops without purchasing anything and generally had an absolutely perfect weekend! Before we left for the trip, I felt a little bad that I was missing the second to last weekend of fun in Charlottesville. From two birthday parties to the Japan/Korean party, we missed a lot of festivities. Yet, I can say it was well worth it.

Now that I am back, my head has turned to the homestretch. We have 9 days left of classes! I sold my desk today, which was both an exciting and sad feeling. (Oddly enough, to yet another person who knew my step-cousin when he was in Hawaii with the Navy!) I aimlessly look around my apartment trying to decide what should stay and what should go. In my head, I think I have planned out my timeline of packing, moving and traveling before I start work and somehow I still feel unsure about it all. It's exciting, nerve-wrecking, happy, sad and basically a ball full of crazy - contradicting emotions.

I suppose the largest difference between my classmates and I is that they see the end as the beginning of a vacation, whereas I see the end as having to grow up, for good this time. Most people that have jobs start in July or later. I've heard dates as late as january 2010! I on the other hand, start May 25th - day two after graduation. It is hard to complain as I am fortunate to have a job with a well-established company. At the same time, while many people are planning their summer trips to Africa, Asia and the Middle East, I'm planning my move just short of 500 miles from Charlottesville.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hot Topics in Finance

Like most schools, Darden has a number of alumni who are either asked or volunteer to return to grounds to speak about their experiences in front of a second year class. Many of these speaker classes provide valuable information to students from life takeaways to how to deal with general problems that arise in day-to-day management. The speaker class I'm taking this quarter is called Hot Topics in Finance.

This is my first speaker class and it's been quite interesting. In the beginning of the course, we discussed if the "old finance" is wrong. Specifically, are business schools teaching the wrong thing? The next class discussed what the market outlook is from 2010 - 2012 and what we (as business school students) think are good investments given that outlook. We learned about the rubber commodities market. Then spoke at length regrading our expectations of the future regulatory environment, both needed and what is likely to be passed. Hedge fund compensation and predicting the future of AIG were our next two topics. We rounded out mid-quarter learning about distressed debt and analyzing future M&A activity for Houlihan Lokey.

The best part of the class is learning that as an individual, we are more conversant in these subjects than we think. The course is not about being right or wrong. It is about being able to read about a subject, have an opinion and then defend that opinion in a class full of peers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why doesn't John Adams have a monument?

John Colley, the creator of the original reading seminar at Darden posed this question to my class today, why doesn't John Adams have a monument? We had just finished reading John Adams in my Thomas Jefferson reading seminar. We talked of Adams independence, of his relationships with his wife Abigail (remarkable woman!) and Thomas Jefferson, of his presidency and finally the years after. The book we read gave me great respect for John Adams, but no one could conclusively answer why it is that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have monuments and John Adams does not. Some of our guesses were that Jefferson was a doer in contrast to Adams who was more of a caretaker. Adams' revolution was from the Stamp Act to 1776, whereas Jefferson's began in 1776 and included the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the University of Virginia, among other things. Another interesting fact I learned this week was that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Very eerie if you ask me!

One aspect of Darden that I love is that not every courses is function driven. The reading seminars were actually started 25 years ago by John Colley because someone had been asked in an interview what books they had written, to which they responded none. Initially, Professor Colley could not get the faculty to approve such a course, so 11 students took an independent study - read a book a week, wrote a paper about it and then discussed that book with the group for an hour. Since then, there are now three different reading seminars. The point of each is to discuss leadership and management in the context of the books we read. Each reading seminar has an annual capacity of 96 slots and is often full. We meet in groups of 12 to discuss the book assigned. Sometimes, we read a book in its entirety, often times, we read select chapters as designated by the professor (still totally 250+ pages per week). The difference between the traditional reading seminars and the TJ reading seminar is that the TJ seminar is held at the Colonnade Club on the Lawn of the main campus of UVa. Given the location, we are able to drink wine and eat cheese and crackers, as we discuss the book of the week.

I took the class as I felt that it would be a tragedy to leave Jefferson's university without knowing more about him and our Founding Fathers. I've succeeded in expanding my knowledge and would advocate people who are not history buffs to relearn the history of the United States. It is amazing what you fail to recall as the years pass.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Best of Blogging Nominees 2009-2010!

A hearty thank you to Clear Admit and congrats to all my fellow bloggers! Clear Admit does the community a great service by not only recognizing bloggers, but also providing a space for the vast business school information available. Check out the post here: Best of Blogging Nominees 2009-2010!

Friday, April 09, 2010

MBA Games Continued

I wrote this post earlier this week regarding Duke's MBA games. One of the best parts of Duke's MBA Games is the effort that Fuquavision puts into making videos to get everyone in the spirit of the games. The weekend definitely includes poking fun at different schools in a light-hearted and competitive way. How did they make fun of Darden you may ask... first, TJ! Yes, it's true, we love Thomas Jefferson at UVA! Could be worse! Second, for being gunners. While I think this is a little over the top, it was still entertaining. (See below)



By far the best videos of the weekend were the wrap up videos showing what we did throughout the course of the day. I almost didn't realize it was this fun!!



The sound is not working in this video:


Thursday, April 08, 2010

DAO

This is going to be the first post of three discussing my classes this quarter. I'd hate to admit how much time I spent looking at classes before the quarter began. Stockholm was a fantastic experience, however the classes were quite different than Darden. I'll admit, I drink the Kool-Aid. The case method is the best thing since sliced bread.

One of the courses I'm taking this quarter is called DAO - Data Analysis and Optimization. Decision Analysis (DA) is a core course at Darden that every first year must complete. It was one of my favorite classes, not only because it made sense to me, but also because for some strange reason, I think Excel is fun! DAO builds off of what we learned in DA. Specifically, the course teaches more about modeling optimization, hypothesis testing and regression analysis. There's even a Web Page of Fame for people who have successfully used DAO techniques during summer internships.

Most people take DAO during the fourth quarter of first year, when it is first offered as an elective. I did not take the course then as I preferred some other fourth quarter electives (Valuation, Global Financial Markets & Financial Reporting and Analysis) and knew I could take DAO at a later time. Darden's Class of 2011 had significant demand for DAO and given that the second year course had excess capacity, I have first year students in DAO with me. Most of the time, I don't notice it, but every once in a while someone makes a comment about "third quarter DA" and I start to wonder if I remember that far back. Great course, even if it is at 8a!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Duke MBA Games

Football toss through a hula hoop
Cornhole
Crabwalk relay
Izzy Dizzy Bat Relay
Tug of War
Business Suit Relay (including 3-legged wheelbarrow race)
Business Suit Swim
5K

These are just some events that 15 schools including Darden participated in at Duke's MBA Games last weekend to raise money for the Special Olympics of North Carolina. Each team had a Special Olympian competing with them in various events. Duke also had two people dressed as superman/woman floating around all weekend. The day concluded with these two people belly flopping into the swimming pool in their superman/woman outfits. Duke did a great job balancing Special Olympic sports with pure business school sports. My only complaint is that the organizers did not pencil in a nap.

The 5K kicked off at 7a and my team decided to leave around 4:00p before the final event. It was a gorgeous day in Durham, though being out in the sun all day is tiring. I wish I could say we were more competitive than we were. Unfortunately, bigger and stronger helped in a number of these events. Izzy Dizzy bat was the funniest event as people went all over the place after spinning around, forehead to the bat, 10 times. I couldn't even balance enough to stand on both feet until someone finally kept me from falling over. Another member of our team ran completely diagonally, fell over and almost took out a video camera on his way back to the cone. Priceless! One of the hardest events was the business suit swim. Duke provided business suits. The relay was a team of 4, first person put on the suit and then had to do a lap in the pool (to the far side and back), once they returned to the starting side, they had to take off the wet suit and give it to the next member of the team. Turns out business suits provide a lot of drag, making it VERY hard to swim. Great fun and good laughs!

It was a great weekend, but I've been scrabbling to catch up ever since. Luckily, my world calms down tomorrow and I start golf lessons with members of NAWMBA on Thursday. Darden is competing in a large rugby tournament this weekend and I'm struggling to decide whether or not to go cheer them on... hmm.

From Collages


From Collages


From Collages

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Darden 10-K

Once upon a time, every year, Darden would produce its annual 10-K. This is not an annual report giving facts and figures about the school's finances and performance, but an annual yearbook for each class to remember the great moments of their time at Darden. Though I'm not exactly sure when, Darden stopped producing the 10-K until two of my classmates chose to resurrect it this year. Sounds fun huh?

The only difficulty is the yearbook photo. In order for all the pictures to be licensed to my classmates and generally similar in quality and size, they set up two full days of picture taking, starting today. My time slot was 9a-9:50a this morning. I must admit, deciding what to wear was a little nerve wrecking. Unlike social networking sites, this photo can't be updated or changed and likely, will be how people remember you for class reunions. Needless to say, after enough quality "girl" time, I decided that I didn't care anymore and a shirt/sweater combo was the outfit of choice.

What amused me even more was the operational procedures written out for volunteers helping with the registration and photo taking. They included what to do if different bottlenecks occurred - be it the registration desk or the cameras. I made a comment about the impressive nature of the procedures, to which the response was that they, based on an idea from another classmate, had used queuing theory to craft the instructions. Only an MBA!

Here was the setup:
From Collages

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Record deal?

There's a reason I don't sing karaoke. Let's say, the reason is as good for the public as it is for my self-esteem. Though today, I not only sang karaoke, but three of my classmates and I sang our own (or slightly changed) lyrics to instrumental versions of Kesha's Tik Tok and TI's Whatever You Like. As the four of us leaned over one mike, which actually had a screen, I felt confident that I could be drowned out. Then CD said this would sound better if each of us recorded the song solo. This allows our digital music master to change the vocal levels based on who nailed it and who didn't. Definitely a nightmare come true!

Regardless, the final version of both songs are fantastic. This is another item to add to the list of "things I never expected to do in business school." It also means that Darden will be a force with which to be reckoned at Duke's MBA games. CD ended up with a cameo appearance in Tik Tok - Darden style as none of us hit the chorus perfectly (and he sounds better than we do). All it took to complete this masterpiece was a little bribery - via beer! Most students' weak spot.

I will admit, CD's studio is incredible. Guitars, drums, keyboards and all the equipment needed to record a song. Very cool!! And a BIG THANK YOU to our artist and master. I'm not looking for a record deal this week...though the team is thinking music video + follies would be fantastic!

From Collages

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pause for Reflection

I find it interesting that these days I seem to pause more than normal. A month from tomorrow, I will officially be done with school, again. I say again as the very first post of this blog was from the day I graduated college. At that time, I wasn't sure if I would ever return. I'm not sure I appreciated education as much as I do today. Funny how things change.

This weekend, five of my classmates and I will embark on an adventure - Duke's MBA Games. Approximately 15 schools will compete to help raise funds for Special Olympics. In all honesty, I'm not sure exactly what we're competing for (besides charity, obviously), but it should be fun nonetheless. In participating in the MBA games, I've consciously decided not to partake in BGIA - which was an absolutely amazing time last year. I guess this year, I wanted a new adventure. Additionally, what better way to bond with classmates?!

And bonding has begun... On Friday, those of us attending Duke's MBA games have to do a cheer/skit/dance to essentially introduce ourselves. I invited everyone in our group over for dinner and drinks (because liquid courage helps all brainstorming events) to decide on a cheer/skit/dance. Needless to say, we picked a couple songs, replaced some lyrics and tomorrow will become singers under Darden's very own producer, CD! CD is a musician, has a band and can do incredible things with everything from voice over to powerpoint. As we struggled through finding the right words and number of syllables, I thought, I'm going to miss this - and these people. Granted I'm still 100 pages short on my Thomas Jefferson Reading Seminar, but you can't replace these good moments of smiles and laughter. This blog has helped me pause over the last two years and I'm thankful. Otherwise, the time may have simply flown by.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Graduation Prep

Yesterday, Darden's Class of 2010 had a mandatory graduation meeting. I use the term mandatory loosely as there was no attendance taken and it was clear part of the class was missing. Items covered included beach week, the annual pig roast, ceremonies at UVA and Darden, and picking faculty marshals and a student speaker. As I sat there and looked around the room, I recognized a lot of familiar faces. Then it hit me, in approximately six weeks, I'm done with school. Tag on another three and I'll not only be a graduate, but also working again. Where did the two years go?

My classmates and I banter about staying longer, fully knowing it'd be next to impossible not to graduate at this point. One of my classmates is headed to the law school next year, for the next three. While excited for him, we wonder how much debt he actually wants to accumulate. I've received a couple notes from people who have either accepted or declined their offers to be admitted to the Class of 2012. I still remember that day jumping around like you wouldn't believe. Then of course, there's all the planning that follows to move.

At times, I'm excited for the next step. I'm still surprised that I'm not returning to the Bay Area. Yet, every time I meet someone new who is from SF, has lived in Colorado or spent a good deal of their life in Atlanta, it reminds me why taking advantage of living in a variety of places is great. It allows you to instantly connect with so many people.

On a separate note, I'm taking the Thomas Jefferson reading seminar. I figured I should know more about our Founding Fathers and this incredible President before I leave his homeland. It also has me thinking that maybe it is time to explore more of the US. With less time off in the near future, this may prove to be a grand idea.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Welcome Back to Cville

It's been an absolute insane couple of days. I had my final presentation for Psychology of Financial Markets on Monday. Afterwards, I took my last jaunt around Stockholm. Saluhall - still the best blueberries I've ever had! Chokladfabriken - AMAZING dark chocolate hot chocolate! I contemplated bringing some back to the states though I thought better of it. Packing and cleaning didn't take too much effort. I had a couple goodbyes, though some friends were still traveling through Europe. I was surprised about some of the cute notes I received. It's amazing how you can bond with people after only 2 months! Plus, I now have more people to visit around the world, and I definitely will!

Tuesday afternoon, I arrived in Washington DC to the smiling face of my boyfriend. We took a trip to Costco and he poked fun at how wide-eyed I looked. I guess I didn't realize it, but I was definitely looking around more than normal. That night, we attended Darden's quarterly mustache competition. I don't think I've been to one since first year. Very entertaining and definitely some dedicated mustache contestants.

Wednesday kicked off Q4 for me! No break. No rest. No moment to unpack! It's been full steam ahead. I've finally decided which class I'm going to drop with the reason that the class I'm keeping has no final exam. Instead, a quarter long group project will be presented the last two days of class. There's something to be said for being done as early as possible given that I'm starting work so early. Trying to maximize what little time I get off!

Best aspect of being back: SPRING WEATHER! It's been 65-70+ since I landed and I couldn't be happier about it. I've seen many familiar faces and gotten numerous comments welcoming me back. When people ask me about the experience, I'm not sure what else to say other than, it was great. I'm still adjusting and maybe in a week I'll have a appropriate reflection. Back to the books!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Local

It always takes a few months to settle into a new place and a new city. By the time I finished my stay in Atlanta this summer, I think I had started to get the hang of it. And here, I'm feeling the same way. I'm a creature of habit, especially in my eating habits. Once I've found something I like, no, love, it's hard for me to switch. As I get older, I've gotten better about being adventurous. Regardless, there's an amazing sandwich shop two doors down from my apartment building. I've been there multiple times by now, so I figured I should order one last sandwich before I leave. Most the staff is the same day-in and out, but there's one guy in particular who knows exactly what I like. Over the last week he's started my sandwich (as I like it "toasted") before I really order it. Today, he was my server and asked if I wanted "the usual." I confirmed and felt a little funny as I was going to walk out that door, not to be back tomorrow or even the day after. By the time I do return, and I plan on it, he likely won't be there and no one will know that once I felt I like a local.

Off to my presentation meeting. Four hours of school left.. then I continue to pack and clean.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

31 hours and counting

It's just after midnight in Stockholm and my flight to the US leaves at 7a on Tuesday morning. I can't believe this adventure is basically over! Tomorrow I have a presentation to do and besides that, it's packing and cleaning. Last night, I started putting all my dirty clothes in a suitcase - reality set in, I'm going home for my last quarter of business school. Wow!

Unlike my classmates who have been gallivanting in exotic places like China, Egypt, Costa Rica and Bahrain for spring break, this past week I have been working to complete all SSE schoolwork before I leave. Besides all the group projects, for Leadership, I had to write a case with analysis that is not technically due until March 19th. However, my goal has been not to take any SSE homework with me to Darden. So I spent Friday night writing my leadership case and went to bed at 7:30a on Saturday morning. Needless to say, the last 3 paragraphs made little sense and had to be rewritten prior to submission. That said, it's done and I'm almost done.

I arrive in Charlottesville at the end of Day 1 of Q4 classes, meaning I miss Day 1. I'm still struggling to narrow down my schedule too. I need four classes to graduate and there are six I would like to take. Currently, I am registered for five, knowing that I need to drop one by the end of this week. I'm hoping that I'll walk out of one of the classes with the insight - this isn't for me.

In the meantime, I'm wrapping up a PPT presentation, thinking about putting a couple more items in my suitcase and enjoying the crisp air that is coming in through my cracked window. 31 hours and counting...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Amazing Day in Stockholm

I just finished the $12 blueberries I purchased at Saluhall this afternoon. Likely pricey, though I'd argue they're some of the best blueberries I've ever had. There again, I don't recall the last day I had blueberries.

After yesterday's productive 15 hour day and my crazy busy week of schoolwork, I decided to take the afternoon off. I definitely got up later than I anticipated, but managed to have the usual Panini sandwich for lunch. There, I ran into two people from Darden who are here on the Sweden GBE for spring break. Small world!

Since I've been in Sweden, I hadn't done any shopping or really much wandering around since the first couple of weekends. There's at least four H&M stores within a block of each other. I've seen at least three Zara stores scattered around. And there are many boutiques and department stores in Central Stockholm. So I figured, today was the day! I was actually going to purchase a souvenir, so that I'm not only declaring schoolbooks (and some clothes I purchased in London).

I grabbed my camera "just in case." It's been an absolutely beautiful week in Stockholm, which contrasts to this Barcelona GBE. As I walk around, Stockholm looks different. Previously frozen canals are now mostly running water with random chunks of ice. There are more people here too. I notice handfuls of tourists. And generally, people are walking around, enjoying the sun.

H&M was a bust. I scored two tops at Zara. I purchased a "very Swedish" necklace by Sno of Sweden. And capped off my multi-hour and multi-mile adventure with delicious hot chocolate and treats for later by Chokladfabriken. Amazing is the only way I know how to explain the day. Check out the photos below! Also, I finally updated this post with photos.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Winding Down

It's shortly after 1a and I'm just returning from a 15 hour group meeting. During those 15 hours, my group changed locations three times. We stopped for lunch, which means everyone simply brought take-out to home base. Between our first and second move, we grabbed snacks (fika). Subsequently, I skipped dinner and have since realized that I have VERY little food left. Two handfuls of Cheerios killed the box. Now I've moved on to carrots and spinach. While I'm sure your interest doesn't lie in my late night dietary habits, I'm a bit spent!

This quarter abroad is truly winding down. My flight to the US is within grasp - 4 more days! I turned in my Psychology of Financial Markets study today. My Leadership (today's group) is complete by my standards. Now I have one more leadership project to prep, which actually isn't due until March 19th, though I'd prefer to leave all SSE schoolwork in Stockholm rather than trying to manage SSE work and Darden work concurrently. Besides that, my final presentation for Psych. is on Monday and by the end of that day, my bags will be packed for greener pastures (literally).

While 15 hours straight and multiple project days is never fun, I've learned a lot about my Swedish/German classmates in the last week. To a certain extent, I could almost say I've had fun. Further, now having completed two theoretical papers/studies, I do have an appreciation for all the theory I claimed to despise (I think that was two days ago!). Don't anticipate this as me saying I like it, but more that I have an understanding of it. Additionally, today's editing task was a test of my ability to write clear, concise sentences. The things we do for word count! I had flashbacks of business school essays and remembering that it's much easier to cut than add.

I think at this point my tea has cooled, my bed is calling and tomorrow will bring more activities to wind down my days in Sweden. Just a couple more days left in this chapter.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Theory

SSE has been an interesting contrast to Darden. Most of what we read at SSE is theoretical papers. Even our texts are based, at least partially, around theory. The most I can remember about theory at Darden over the last 1.5 years is finance. Should we use a risk-free rate of 10 years or 30 years? Most of the time, our professor would point to theory (though logically any valid argument would allow you to use either on a test), while many people going into finance would ask for practicality. Beyond that, I don't recall a lot of theory (however it is possible that it's embedded in our tech notes and I never noticed).

I don't want to say theory is bad, as it is obviously important for parts of practicality. Though I will say, it's extremely boring and I'd rather have the two page recap instead of the 20 page dissertation. One of my Booth friends mentioned that they do theory all the time. All I thought was, thank heaven I didn't apply there! I'm not sure if I could have handled it. Plus, I find that I actually enjoyed classes at Darden (yes, they get boring at times), but overall, I learned a lot. Here, I'm convinced I've learned something (at least that's what my latest exam says), however, the practical application of all this theory just seems silly to me.

What's even more annoying is in two out of my three group projects, our final paper is a form of theoretical dissertation. Thus, we need to find old theories to cite that will complement our new theory or findings. While I think it's important to cite what others think, I think it's even more important to learn to say what you think. It's true, not all thoughts are based on evidence, though it seems SSE would like them to be.

One thing I've accomplished - a talent at searching Google Scholar for articles.

Seven more days until I'm return to the US and Darden's case method. It's absolutely flown.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Swedish Lappland

The adventure started on Thursday night. Between the bus and two trains, it took roughly 18 hours to get to Kiruna, Sweden. We arrived, three hours later than anticipated. We were picked up by an LKAB bus that took us to the iron ore mine that is effectively the reason for Kiruna’s existence. We went over 500 meters down into the ground to a showroom that describes much of who LKAB is and why this mine in particular exists. Very cool and a great way to start off our trip. Even crazier is the fact that the town of Kiruna will be moved soon as there's a little cracking several hundred meters below the surface that no one knows what will happen if LKAB continues to drill further down.

After 18 hours of traveling which of course included a couple adult beverages on the train, everyone was beyond starving. We stopped in an area that I’d equate to a small American strip mall that had more restaurants than shops. A handful of the 40 exchange students decided on pizza for lunch. Turns out, ordering pizza to go infers that you receive a discounted price and thus are not allowed to eat it inside the restaurant. So we took the pizza to the bus and ate it there. It definitely hit the spot!

Thirty minutes later, the group arrived at the original Ice Hotel. It was different than I expected as I assumed the hotel would be in the middle of nowhere. Our guided tour highlighted why the hotel started, the fact that their church (which only really exists for 5 months out of the year) is the fourth most popular in Sweden, and the hotel is different every single year. Traditional rooms are rather boring, but the art suites is where indivudal artists apply to create something new. Unfortunately, the hotel had a power outage, so none of the suites were lit up. Instead, the best way to decipher the “art” was to take a picture. I’ll admit, I’m happy I saw it, but I definitely didn’t need to stay the night. Brrr…

We arrived at our hotel just in time for dinner – another 2 hours on the bus from the Ice Hotel. The food was absolutely amazing – every day – all meals! That night, we were given one piece ski suits, warm gloves and warm shoes. After dinner, a number of us went outside to the snow covered (approx 2 feet) lake and played in the snow. Saturday was busy – including making the base for Sunday’s snow sculptures, dog sledding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. I did not partake in the last event, however, everyone who did said it was a blast!! Sunday morning started with half of us going to a reindeer farm to feed, lasso and drive a reindeer sled. Overall, an incredible trip! Though I didn’t complete nearly as much homework as I anticipated. Will hopefully post pictures later.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Trade Offs

Life is about trade offs. Business school is about trade offs. Every decision or inaction is about trade offs. I chose to spend Q3 in Stockholm instead of Charlottesville. I signed for a job I wanted fully knowing I would be in a different city than my boyfriend after business school and that I would start within days of graduation, instead of August 2010 like most my classmates.

My most recent trade off is attending a close friend's wedding instead of a soccer tournament in Vegas. While I'm sure those don't seem equal to most, the Vegas tournament has been one of the highlights of the last two years. And as silly as this sounds, not being in SF makes it harder to go, so I don't want to fall off the invite list completely. But of course, it's not fun to disappoint friends and thus, I will be there to congratulate one of my close friends for the last 12 years on his wedding day. Did I mention his bride-to-be doesn't like me? Though I'm hoping after 9 years, we can try first impressions once again.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Grocery Store Challenge

Living in the heart of Stockholm has its perks. One is that everything seems to be within walking distance including grocery stores, which these days, I seem to visit more and more often. My fridge is the size of a fridge in a traditional US college dorm. And now that I think about, it may be even smaller than my fridge at Colorado. Regardless, it's small and I share it with another person, complicating the fact that very little fits in it. Thankfully, some items are smaller here. Milk is purchased in liters instead of gallons. Eggs can be bought in packs of six (I know this is similar to the US). And I seem to live on small Dole packs of spinach and carrots.

Luckily, I live very close to four grocery stores. Lidl is literally next door to my building. Coop Konsum is a block and half away. ICA is 3-4 blocks in the opposite direction and Hemkop is roughly a mile away. Lidl is known to be CHEAP - and what comes with cheap is slightly defunct produce and a need for a high level of patience. Coop Konsum, while much nicer in appearance and products is not as nice in price. I still haven't been to ICA though it seems like the middle ground between the other two. Further, the store supposedly has NONFAT milk (all others carry 0.5% fat). Hemkop is a store that supposedly has anything you would want, though I've been in, I've never purchased anything - likely do its distance from my house.

Given that markets here have a very limited selection of items compared to supermarkets in the US, I find myself more and more wanting to go to TWO grocery stores. Sometimes the reason is price, while other times I simply like different products at different stores. This is such a new phenomenon for me as I typically go to ONE store for a week's worth of food versus multiple stores every 2-3 days because I don't have room for much. RetailRelay, a grocery delivery service in Charlottesville, has one of its value propositions as the fact that they'll go to multiple specialty shops so that you don't have to. I never quite understood that... until now.

One other item I'd like to draw attention to is cereal. I LOVE cereal. Some days, out of choice, I'll have cereal for multiple meals. In the states, I've gotten good at pinpointing cereals with high fiber and relatively low sugar. This is in contrast to Sweden, where I've pretty much decided almost all cereals have lots of sugar. I can't quite figure out if part of that is because the measuring system is different (servings tend to be noted per 100g instead of cups) or they simply like more sugar. Even my relatively "healthy" cheerios are sweeter here. It's a bit odd.

First item of business when I return to the US - COSTCO! Simply because I can. ;)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Long Day

I walked into the house and thought thank goodness it is empty. Now I'd like to point out that there is NOTHING wrong with my roommate. I've just been going nonstop since 6a when I continued my studying for today's leadership-decision making exam. Sometimes it is nice to return to the silence of home and simply put your feet up.

I also received a letter from mom today. All I could think of is she's as scatter brained as I am. Maybe that's where I get my unending random thoughts. And as always, it is good to get mail.

One of the two projects that is due next Wednesday is practically complete. The other is started though we need to complete some data analysis before writing our section about results. I suppose I could start the section regarding how we collected data. My third group project that is due next week will hopefully have a big dent tomorrow. It seems all my classes are converging on the same due dates and it doesn't help that I'm leaving this weekend. The good news about Lappland is that I can't imagine a reason for spending prolonged periods of time outside, by choice.

Time for dinner and ideally the gym, though I'd almost prefer a nap. Two weeks until I return to the US - a very exciting and scary thought. The last quarter is almost here.
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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rapidly Moving

The world seems to move so quickly these days. The once snow laden streets are actually clear for once! It could be the fact that yesterday hovered above 0 degrees Celsius for the first time since I've been in Stockholm. Needless to say, white snow is now dirty slush and I can actually see some of the streets! Very strange.

I completed my Professional Service Firms module take-home case last night. It was odd to have an exam case that had no time limit and simply a 2,000 word limit. I likely spent much longer than the typical 5 hours (Darden exam length) on it, which put me in bed close to 6a. Not that my schedule has ever been "normal" here, but it could be better. Though tonight's Alice in Wonderland Party in the school's rotunda (aka school's bar) will likely have me up late again.

This coming weekend is Lappland - think cold, ice hotel, dog sledding and reindeer lassoing! Should be a blast, however I have three concurrent group projects to complete by March 10th. Basically this means that this week is going to be SUPER busy.

There's a bunch of Darden GBEers coming to town on March 7th who want to explore the city. This means they'll want us to go out with them. What's even scarier is March 7th means that I have just over 11 days until I'm home. It'll be bittersweet. I'm ready to venture back to the world of full-size fridges, my boyfriend and 24 hour stores, however, I also wonder how great this place is during the summer. So much to do, so little time. I best make sure that I enjoy these moments as May will be here before I know it - including graduation and back to the working world.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Left Brain/ Right Brain

Naturally, I'm left handed. Though my boyfriend likes to call me a broken left handed person as I throw and hit right handed. I eat, write and play pool left handed. I've never swung a golf club (to be changed in April 2010), but can only assume I'll be more comfortable doing that right handed. Urban legend says left handed people are more creative, though honestly I'm not sure if that is correct and if it is, what that means for strange people like me.

The real story here isn’t what hand I write with, but is what side of the brain we use most often as MBAs. We had a fascinating talk about creative leadership on Tuesday with anecdotes about creative right brain thinkers versus analytical left brain thinkers. The world we live in is very structured and linear - made for the left brain. Though there's something to be said for being creative and drawing boundaries differently - right brain thinking. Isn't that what innovation is anyhow?

Our professor posed a question to us. Often it is assumed that business school students leave business school left brain heavy, so do we think business schools do enough to make us balanced? I can't say a lot for SSE though I can note that classmates had mixed opinions. What I can say is about Darden. Darden allows each individual to design their own structure during second year. Are there opportunities to do right brain activities? Definitely. Are we forced to take advantage? No. I think about my "design" or you could call it "accidental design" and I couldn't be happier. I've written, directed and acted in play. Essentially, I participated in a 6 week book club, reading a book a week and then meeting classmates to discuss it. Tactical Leadership was one of those classes that forced an individual to be creative during role playing. And System Design and Business Dynamics was about visually modeling systems and then initiating changes to make a new system. My point is that we often laugh about the "fluffy" courses at business schools. But some of these courses are where we learn the most or at least, where we balance ourselves out the most. A classmate of mine recently write this post discussing a lot of what I'm talking about here, though in a different context.

Here's a list of which side controls what:

LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
knowing
acknowledges
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies
practical
safe

RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS

uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
believes
appreciates
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
impetuous
risk taking

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Expectations

It is 10a on Wednesday and I have approximately 29 hours until my first midterm. However in those hours I need to attend two classes and get a full night's rest. At Darden, I know what to expect in terms of tests. For the most part you never need to review more than an hour if you diligently did your work over the course of the quarter. Further you typically are always allowed to use your notes, a benefit that I feel matches the real world.

Here at SSE, I'm not sure what to expect. This Psychology of Financial Markets test will have 15 multiple choice questions, which I hated in college, and short answer questions where on must answer 2/5. I assume the questions will surround all the theory we've discussed however we've been speculating what the professor could actually ask - be it study details, hypotheses, conclusions or simply who performed the study.

I've read the material but it doesn't feel like it is sticking. Here's hoping that changes and that the test isn't as hard as it looks 29 hours away.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Why the Case Method Works?

At SSE, I'm taking a course in Leadership that is segregated into three modules - leadership, decision making and professional service management. I'll admit the decision making module has lacked applicability to the business world. However, the professional services management module has been very interesting and informative.

Prior to business school, I worked in a PSF (professional services firm) and after school, I'm set to join another PSF in a different realm. So maybe this is why I'm interested. Part of the module included various assignments that essentially add up to reading Managing the Professional Service Firm by David Maister in its entirety. Some of the information seems like common sense to me though I'd likely have difficulty articulating it on my own.

One of the anecdotes in the book regarding motivation struck a chord. The author was describing how to achieve excellence in client service. He compared this to losing weight - "They know and want the goal, they believe it is worth the effort, they know what to do - but, like all human beings, they are very bad at incurring short-term discomfort to achieve a long-term goal. People are terrific at postponing diets. Do they feel guilty? You betcha! Are they likely to change? Not unless they're forced to!" He proceeds to explain that guilt alone doesn't change people, but the right degree of embarrassment does. Then he gives the example of having your weight announced to tell a group of people, the same people every week. May create some self-discipline and motivation, huh? Finally in order to achieve excellence his opinion is that a system must be designed that doesn't simply leave individuals to their best intentions.

I connect this to the case method because in undergrad, I did what it took to get decent grades. Be it cramming for a final or pulling an all nighter to finish a paper I had a month to write. I think each of us understands the pitfalls of procrastination and the rewards of doing a little work daily instead of leaving it until the last minute. Yet, until the system changed for me, a la the case method, I didn't have the motivation for the daily work. There's enough risk of embarrassment that while at times people gamble that they won't be the 1 in 67 that is cold called, for the most part, work is done and the entire class is better off for it. In contrast, I've found myself reverting to bad habits at SSE. While I could blame it on the bookstore, I should be finished with Maister's book instead of on page 200. In my opinion, the case method is an incredible system that helps elevate the learning potential of the students. Without Darden I never would have realized what I was missing.


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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Entrepreneurship

As an MBA, I tend to be impressed by friends with an entrepreneurial spirit. I wrote this post in December 2008 regarding a friend who wrote and self-published a book. Recently, she has been picked up by Amazon Publishing and her book has been relaunched under a new cover. Further, she's taken it upon herself to open Waverly's Honey Shop. I'm very excited for her and more importantly, impressed how someone can put their mind to something and succeed.

On a different note, a high school classmate who has always been interested in musicals and theater has written and directed The Gilded, a new musical which opens in San Francisco tonight, Feb 18th. This blog has a video preview of the musical. Again, I'm impressed by the dedication and candor of this person who used to be a teammate for various projects.

This brings me to one of the classes I'm taking here at SSE, Ideation. We have a group assignment due next week where we have to interview a local entrepreneur and find out about their idea generation and business plan process. I find that some people find a love and work on it for years, like my friend who wrote the musical. Some people happen upon an idea, like my friend the author. The business owners we interviewed here in Sweden are what I would describe as a serial entrepreneurs. They already own an interior design firm and are in the process of making a TV show about design. In November 2008, they were on vacation in Nice, France and fell in love with an olive oil shop. Thinking the concept would transfer well to Sweden, they asked to speak to the shop owner who agreed to franchise the shop. Most of our conversation was with the manager of the shop, and it was interesting to get her opinion on what their target market should be, compared to what the entrepreneurs thought it was when they began. Additionally, the entrepreneurs targeted a location due to the affluence and education of the potential customers. Turns out, Swedes don't know as much about olive oil as those in greater Europe and approximately 60% of the products purchased from the store are gifts. Regardless of challenges, the concept is still quite interesting and the story had my attention.

Every week in Ideation, we have to come up with a new business idea. It doesn't have to be a new invention, but a new innovation. Little tweaks to the value proposition of current products/ services suffices. Listening to the stories of these entrepreneurs helps put into perspective that anyone can be an entrepreneur and everyone has ideas. I'll admit though, after 4 weeks of solid ideas, they're new ideas have become much harder.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maximum Email

Those who follow my blog know that I recently posted a ploy to entice readers to help me with my Psychology of Financial Markets survey. Needless to say, we hadn't received enough responses from within Sweden, so I went ahead and sent an email from my SSE account to 200 SSE email addresses. Turns out a number of them failed, but regardless, it reached a decent sized audience. Consequently, I am also not allowed to send another recipient large (or maybe even small) email for next 24 hours as I've hit the quota! I find it funny as 200 people is only a portion of Darden's Class of 2010! I can't imagine if Darden limited us to that many recipients in a 24 hour period. It was bad enough that Darden's mailboxes had a 100MB quota last year. The first years don't know what they're missing without receiving the "Warning: You've Exceeded Your Quota" email once a week!

Also, I didn't congratulate the Class of 2012 admits!! It's a very exciting time for you all and please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. I recently wrote a novel to an admit about Darden, why I chose the school, what the case method is like etc. My fellow classmates and I are here to help!