Monday, August 30, 2004
posted by John Osvald
Well, I'm not sure I'll be able to keep the blog up, as after my first day of classes I can see I have a lot of work to do. But I do have an excuse for the last week.
I'm not saying who did it, but a beer was spilt on my barnd spanking new laptop. Two weeks later, I have it back, and THANK YOU Toshiba, for taking mercy on me and not charging me to fix it.
Anyway, Haas orientation was amazing, a full week packed to the gills. Highlights:
*Haas has a few shining star programs, the most impressive being Management of Technology. Haas is the only school that offers this as I understand it. The program tries to leverage Berkeley's strengths in both engineering and business by throwing students into high tech managment classes together. Students often hook up to compete in the two b-plan contests here. The result is a history of sucessful and profitable companies and products. Entrepreneurism is also huge here.
*The culture here is extremely supportive, and very socially concious. Most of the students I've talked to really do give a crap about CSR and are somewhat considering some kind of not for profit work, if not as a full time position as an extracurricular. And guess what? If the mood strikes you, Haas will fully pay your loans while you work for a non-profit. As part of the culture, there are a wealth of worthwhile clubs to join.
*This is more of a personal highlight. During O-Week we did a practice business case. It was on Clif Bar. We broke into our cohorts - 60 people each, and then into teams of 6. We had to do a presentation after 45 minutes, then the cohorts voted on the best presentation. The team went with my product idea, and I presented it. They also added some great strategy ideas, and presented those. We won our cohort. We then had to present to the whole class. We won that too... except unbeknownst to us it wasn't judged by the class - the founder of Clif bar was is the crowd.
*We had cohort olympics. There was beer and kickball. Enough said.
So on to the semester. Haas is divided into two 7 week mini semesters with three classes each. First is Organizational Behavior, Micro Economics and Statistics, plus a 1 credit leadership Communication. Then we get Finance, Accounting and Macro.
Shit. I have a lot to read.
Friday, August 20, 2004
posted by John Osvald
Some Good Advice
My brother in law, an HBS alum and one of the smartest people I know, sent me this advice on going through b-school the other day. I thought it was so good I asked him if I could post it here, and he agreed.
As You Begin….
Write down your goals: What are the top 3-5 things you want to accomplish during your B-School run? Review these goals regularly – hang them on your wall or keep it in your planner.
Get organized: If you do not already have one, get yourself a Palm Pilot, Treo, or paper-based system (Franklin Planner) to keep track of your (1) schedule, (2) rolodex, and (3) to do list. The rolodex is especially important – as you meet people (classmates, interviewers, professors, alumni), enter them in so you have record. Entering their names also will enhance your ability to remember them – repetition is the mother of skill.
Keep your resume up to date at all times! There is no official “resume season” – you could be asked for it at anytime, and failure to present one may preclude you from a great opportunity. Before you get knee-deep in classes, add your last experience to your resume if you haven’t already.
It’s all about Networking….
Get good at small talk: The best way to engage someone in small talk is to (1) remember their name when they tell you it and (2) ask them questions. I always have four questions ready to go for anyone I meet:
– What is your name?
– Where are you from?
– Where do you/have you worked?
– Where are you living? (on campus/off campus)
Any of these four questions can lead you to “Level 2” questions: For example – “where are you from” leads to things like “I’ve never been there – what is it like?” or “did you like living there?” or “sounds like paradise on earth – do you want to return there?” etc.
Meet, Greet, and Meet Some More: Meet as many people as you can. Even if you do not regularly socialize with them, you will be surprised how your former classmates will welcome an email from you 10 years down the road, even if they barely remember you.
Keep Your Guard Up: One of the things I learned from my 1st year Negotiation class is that there are two broad sets of negotiators: Givers (“Pie Makers”) and Takers (“Zero Summers”). Givers are people with loads of integrity and are willing to work with you to create a bigger pie before negotiating on how to divvy it up. Zero Summers are in it for themselves; their sole purpose is to take as much as they can off the table. When a giver negotiates with another giver, there is huge potential for mutual benefit, but when a giver negotiates with a taker, the giver gets royally hosed every time. If you are, by nature, a giver, be very wary of the takers. (I typically assume someone is a taker until they prove they are giver.)
Don’t Become a Social Outcast: You are going to meet plenty of people who are just plain intimidating (Perhaps, you will recognize these people by the fact that they are going to pull up in Mercedes/BMW’s, talk about the CEOs they play golf with, and come from esteemed families/social circles). But there are plenty of people there who DO have things in common with you. Also, your social circles will develop over time, so don’t get freaked out if by the end of September, you have not found a group to hang out with.
Watch the Gossip: This probably won’t be an issue for you, but there will be plenty of opportunities (usually around beers) to make fun of people based on their classroom comments or other social gaffes. Try not to participate – it has a habit of coming back around, and you never know when you will have to work with that person on a team project.
Sometimes You Gotta Force Yourself: If you find yourself not feeling like going to a meeting, extracurricular, company brief, or social function, go anyway. I can’t tell you how many times I have dreaded going to one of these functions only to have learned something important or to have met someone that helped me down the road.
Today’s Professors are Tomorrow’s Colleagues: Meet your professors, get to know them. They value you – you keep them young and energized. Down the road, you will want to network with them. I did a horrible job of this.
Go to Class: Not sure how classroom participation works at Berkeley, but at HBS it was a significant portion of the grade. Regardless, go to class – you will learn more that way. And don’t show up late – it is unprofessional and you will look bad – very bad. If it came down to being late or not going at all, I chose not going at all.
Recognize that you bring value to the table: Don’t be intimidated (as I was) by the I-bankers and Management Consultants. They will have really good, strategic work experience. But you have an equally relevant base of knowledge and experience. You have the advantage of having worked in an operational role, and knowing what works day to day amongst people who make the strategy happen. More importantly, not many have your experience in web marketing. Use these as your base.
Learn the jargon: You will find that the consultants and I-bankers will come in with a certain level of business savvy that you do not have (and I did not have going in to HBS). These people have operated at a more strategic level than you; learn from them. Listen how they talk and write down phrases you hear that sound good. Also write down phrases that sound equally ridiculous – you may be able to start a game of Business Bingo or even write a B-School comedy.
Have fun learning new stuff: You are paying a lot of money for this – focus less on grades, and more on learning.
Leverage other people’s knowledge: Form a study group with people with diverse backgrounds. Aside from the learning aspects, it is a good way to socialize.
Get the Wall Street Journal: Read it everyday, even if only for 15 minutes over coffee – it is the best way to get educated on business, and gives you tidbits to contribute to conversations in and out of class.
View yourself as your own business: You officially work for YOU Inc. You are your own business. Figure out what things interest you (e.g. web marketing), and become THE expert on it. Then find opportunities (not necessarily “jobs”) where you can leverage your expertise. There will be times in the upcoming years where these opportunities will take the form of a job. Other times, these opportunities may take the form of a consulting/freelance role. Ultimately, these opportunities lead to the development of new skills and expertise, which open up a whole new set of opportunities.
Don’t settle for a job: Figure out something that interests you and go from there. I was interested in technology, I researched a couple of industries, and decided to go into telecom; I did not waste my time learning about other “hot industries” like Financial Services. Perhaps I could have made more money, but it did not interest me and I would not have been successful because I did not have the interest.
Don’t wait ‘til “interview season” to look for an opportunity: Devote time each week to learning about industries/companies/opportunities you are interested in. Get yourself a small notebook to jot down statistics or quotes that you can use in interviews, cover letters, and conversations. This is all part of the building expertise theme – you need to come across as an expert and part of that is industry knowledge.
Watch Your Burn Rate (a.k.a. Beware of Clothing Companies): In keeping with the “view yourself as your own business” theme, the #1 reason why startups fail is they run out of cash. So don’t let YOU Inc run out of cash. Rest assured, Hickey Freeman will try to sell you a $1500 suit, claiming that “you need this suit to be successful in your interviews.” Unless you are headed to Wall Street, a tailored $300-$400 suit will do you fine. The more general idea behind this is don’t do anything that unnecessarily raises your burn rate. Doing so will raise the amount you have to borrow and puts you in a deeper hole.
Organize Your Finances: Consider getting Quicken – it is a good time to get your finances organized. Also, keep good paper records around your school loans. We bought a plastic, portable file box with 2-3 accordion files to go inside – one was for our School Loans and the others were for bills, etc. Just don’t do anything to screw up your credit rating. You will need it later.
Debt Fears: Don’t worry about your debt – you will find a way to pay it off. We emerged from B-School/L-School with over $100K of debt; we paid it off, and we don’t exactly have Wall Street power jobs. (In fairness, they kinda do have big important jobs J )
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
posted by John Osvald
So it's my birthday. Yay.
Remember I said I was still getting paychecks from work? Well they just took the most recent one back by debiting my account the last one. Lucky I didn't spend it! It's a reverse b-day check.
School is great, loving finance & accounting. 2 more days of math camp. Tupelo has separation anxiety, and ate her way through the ex's door yesterday. Our stuff finally got here, they tried to charge us for 500 lbs, so we made them way the truck with us. We were right. Ugh, and I recommended those movers to two of my fellow classmates. Anyway, gotta run and celebrate with some excel work.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
posted by John Osvald
Well, I am one week into my life as a Haas student, and things are going just fine. Math camp classes move rather fast, and in great detail. This intersected sharply with my quantitative weakness, so after the first day I was a little freaked out. The homework was basically a bunch of "hard" GMAT calc problems, and since I took the test in 2001, I couldn't remember how to do them. So I tried for a few hours and stressed. My fellow students were mellow though, and it seems that the homework comes a day before the class lesson does, so by the end of the week, I was comfortable enough to take Friday off. Not that I am acing the material or anything, I'm just trying to get rid of those class cutting impulses during the preseason. Thr prof reaches near genius level in the math area as far as I can tell. Also, he seems to genuinely love love love math. When we learn a formula, he starts with a general truth, then does a shitload of lightning round calculus to go through an explanation why the new formula is true. Then we get the formula. Then we do it manually. Usually, it ends with learning how to make excel or the 12c take care of it all for you. Personally, I'll be concentrating on this latter part. I like the hp12c. oooooo. Shiny.
Everybody I've met at Haas has been very friendly, and they definitely seem like a very smart/succesful bunch of people. I have to admit I am generally a bit intimidated. I'm really looking forward to hanging out with em all. Unfortunately, it does seem that everyone lives in Berkeley. It's definitely a trade off. However, while I am enamored with the redwoods of the university campus, I am still not all that impressed with the surrounding town. Plus I love where I live, so I' not too bumbed. Oh, and from the time I close my front door to the time my ass hits the seat, a little less than an hour passes. That's not too bad, and the BART ride is uncrowded with opportunity to get a little work done.
Other than that, not a whole lot going on, except me loving life in this very excellent little city. I got a job with the building manager cleaning/repairing and painting apartments during their transition. I am psyched. I make my own hours, love handy work (ok, not the cleaning : ( ) at make $12.50 and hour. This should help things financially. I ran my budget. I have about $200 a week to spend. Not too bad, until christmas, or generally any unforeseen expense comes up.
Lastly, my moving truck is still not here. I have gotten so used to having nothing, I'm not sure I want my stuff anymore. Like Thoreau says, simplify, simplify. Which is why I think I should try to trade everything I have for a flat screen plasma tv. That's as simple as it gets.
Anyway, good luck to all as you start classes, and hello to Trip & Yogi, congrats to 3app on the interview invite.