Business school, a year later

August 29, 2010 – Jet lagged, I dragged myself to Managerial Economics class on a Monday morning. As I settled myself in one safe corner of KSB 233, I started noticing the cliques my classmates had already formed with each other. A few formal hellos, some friendly smiles, and many curious glances. As the class proceeded, the numbers flew right over my head; most of my concentration was on the faces around the room. I suddenly realized I had completely forgotten what competition felt like. Rather, I realized, the only person I was competing against was myself. At this point, I gave up my attempt to listen to anything; my head went on spinning around faster and faster.

Fast forward one year…

August 29, 2011 – I’m not jet lagged today. I don’t have classes either. Yet, for some reason, there are a thousand things spinning in my head yet again. I wondered why today has been a strange day – until it struck me as I started typing this blog that today marks the first anniversary of my first steps at Kogod. The past year has been a whirlwind – a race against time, a self-imposed deadline to succeed and still be the best person I can be.

I don’t know if I’ve succeeded, but I know progress has been made. I know that I have moved one step (if not several steps) closer to realizing my career goals. To realize, to accept, and to develop my strengths has been the hardest thing to do in the past year, mainly because I come from a culture where even slight praise and a strong level of confidence in women are often termed as being “un-lady-like.” Perhaps being able to completely dodge that traditional thought is something that has helped me – or perhaps not. I don’t know yet.

As an accountant, I am still in the process of making additions and deductions of all that I have experienced in my travels to figure out what exactly makes me who I am. But the experience at Kogod has definitely added a deeper dimension to my personality through the people I have met. A year later, my peers are my strengths and my competition is still only me.

Global Innovation: Paris and Prague

 

Global Innovation at the L'Oreal Plant in Paris

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their spring break in a classroom. Unless that classroom is in Paris.

When I signed up for the IBUS course on Global Innovation, I did so for a few reasons. First, the class is the only at Kogod’s international business department that has a European focus (the subject of my undergrad degree). Second, the course includes travel. Third, travel meant spending spring break and Paris and Prague.

We all know that one of the highlights of Kogod is the international atmosphere here, which is augmented by the many opportunities to take short study trips abroad. Whether it’s Brazil, China, Argentina, South Korea, or Europe, twice (or even three times) a year you can take a class that not only teaches you about doing business in a foreign country, but actually exposes you to engaging with business in that country.

For me, going to Paris felt like it would be a homecoming. Having spent all of my life since age five studying French, all of my college years studying French history and language, and four months living abroad in Paris, I felt like the first leg of the trip would be a piece of cake.

How very wrong I was.

Seeing Paris with Professor Tomasz Mroczkowski was like seeing an entirely new Paris for the very first time. Our group of 22 — mixed full-time/part-time MBAs, SIS grads, SOC grads, and some undergrads — was folded into the renowned European business school, ESCP. Apart from taking class with incredible professors, we went on a whirlwind tour of French companies to study innovation at France Telecom, NYSE Euronext, and finally, L’Oreal. By the end of the trip I was exhausted (and craving steak frites), but ready for more in the Eastern European city of Prague.

Having never been to Prague, I first thought I would be completely lost. I didn’t know a word of Czech (I now know how to say hello, please, thank you, beer, and water), and I certainly didn’t know the city like I did Paris. But Prague exceeded my expectations, and quickly took the top spot in my personal list of most beautiful cities. The academic portion was incredibly enlightening, and extraordinarily impressive. Our meetings were with the leaders of each featured company: the directors of strategy for the Czech energy company Cez; marketing, customer service, and PR executives of Vodafone Czech Republic; the leader of the US Commercial Service in Prague; and the CEO of GE-Walter Aviation.

Despite moments of exhaustion (it’s amazing how much you can fit into a day…), the trip was constantly eye-opening, and incredibly inspiring. Now back in class in DC, I find myself many steps ahead of where I was before the trip. The exposure to different cultures’ approach to business has changed the way I think about business, and has made me able to take the theories in class at Kogod and synthesize them in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

So in short, spending all of spring break in a class room wasn’t half bad. Let’s put it this way: I want to do it all over again.

 

 

Big decision: Go full or part-time?

In my experience as a Kogod Ambassador I’ve noticed that some of the most popular questions among prospective students relate to their decision about going full or part-time. They wonder about the main difference between both programs, and what they could miss if they chose the latter. To them, here’s my answer, and know that I’m fully writing from my personal experience since I’m a full-timer while my husband is a part-timer, both at Kogod…

By comparing my husband’s experience with mine, I can tell with absolute confidence that the learning experience as well as the ability to network and make friends is exactly the same. Professors demand as much from part-timers as they do from full-timers, with the only difference that part-timers take fewer courses per semester. As for the interpersonal relations, it’s true that part-timers meet in class less often; however, their class is smaller so they share all courses, which allows them to get to know each other more quickly.

The main difference between you becoming a part or full-timer relies on (1) the time you spend on campus, and (2) the extent to which school becomes your main focus. Of course going part-time will require you to spend less time at school, since you will be working simultaneously and taking only 6 credits per semester as opposed to 12+. Plus, work will probably continue to grab a big part of your attention, since there’s a reason you didn’t leave it in the first place, this being: the need to continue getting an income, the potential of growing within the organization, the risk of quitting and having to look for a different job later on, etc.

No one program is better than the other per se; it all depends on what YOU want to do, meaning what your interests and priorities are. Most international students for example, prefer to go full-time, looking for an on-campus experience that they probably lacked in their hometowns. Other people feel they want to become 100% students again: dress up comfy, grab food on the go, study at the library or simple sitting on the grass, and generally following an unstructured time schedule. Some decide to go full-time to graduate earlier and make that career switch they’ve been long waiting for. Others are willing to cope with only one type of stress at a time.

But everything is relative. For many people, working and studying at the same time proves less stressful than studying only, since it gets easier to set up time boundaries and become more productive. Plus, people may feel psychologically less pressured when taking care of several issues than when only focusing on one. Some others are career enhancers as opposed to career switchers, so keeping their job to capitalize on opportunities of growth within the organization makes more sense for them. Other people simply need their monthly income and are not willing to take on the risk of getting a new job in times of recession.

So… Who are you? What are your goals? What are your interests and priorities? Inquiring yourself can help you find out whether you would be happier as a full or part-timer at Kogod. Ask yourself:

  • Do I want to spend more or less time on campus?
  • Does having two focal points stress me out more or less than having one?
  • Do I want to have the 100% student experience again?
  • Am I a career switcher or enhancer?
  • How does quitting my job affect my career potential?
  • Can I afford to stop receiving a salary while studying?

Getting to know who you are and what you want is the first step to choosing the school and program that will fulfill you the most.

To know more about Kogod’s full and part-time graduate programs click here.

Work of art or labor of love?

Graduate students spend a significant amount of time looking at lecture slides. We stare at slides during class, at home when studying for exams and  maybe even sometimes in the occasional school-focused dream. At this point, I know you’re all thinking,  “Where do lectures slides come from?”

Dedicated professors create PowerPoint presentations as a backdrop to their lectures. The slides, as well as the lectures themselves, instruct their students on the key take-aways.  Often times, a professor’s personality comes right through the projector. At Kogod, we have several examples of  this personification  but the one really rises to the top: Professor H. Kent Baker.

A future value grows more quickly with increased compounding

Baker leaves no stone unturned when developing his course slides. There’s animation, a consistent theme and, above all, straight forward dissemination of knowledge. And just when you think you’re about to fall asleep during a lecture about the time value of money, fanfare begins to play softly in the background and Professor Baker has once again gained waning your attention.

Some attentive students might call his slides a work of art, others a labor of love but the important thing is that there really is something for everyone (that is trying the learn the keys to successful financial management).

So, Professor Baker and fellow slide artists,  rest assured that the first- year MBAs at Kogod appreciate your hard work.  (And of course, class participation points never hurt anyone)

Hands on!

If I had to choose a couple words to define our MBA program, I would definitely go for TEAM-BASED and APPLIED. As opposed to most undergraduate programs where the main focus is to generate a knowledge base through theories and technical concepts, the MBA is purely based on real life projects and cases.

It’s not easy. Reality is complex and requires you to put in your best soft-skills. Time management, prioritization, team coordination, communication, integrative vision, and decision-making in situations where not a whole lot of information is available become key! And this is exactly what the MBA is giving me. You would be surprised to see what a few tests are given compared to hands-on projects. I’m actually glad this is the case because I feel I’ve had enough of theoretical education and was eager to engage into something much more applied. 

Groups of students working on projects

Right now I’m working on four different projects, one for each class I’m taking. For my entrepreneurship course, my group and I are creating a business plan for a new venture that one of my teammates wants to pursue. She has even bought the name and domain for the business already, and expects to open it up soon after the business plan is ready. Pretty cool, eh? It will be exciting to see the business operating and feel I was part of its planning.

For our market research class, we are studying Fast Gourmet, a Uruguayan restaurant that opened up in DC only four months ago and whose owners are eager to get consumers’ insights on what they are doing good/bad, and how they can improve. We are carrying out interviews and focus groups, analyzing secondary data, and will follow-up with surveys. It’s great to feel that your work could help someone’s business; feels like you are somewhat giving back to your community.

For our negotiations course we’re interviewing a very successful lawyer in the DC area to learn from his everyday negotiation strategies and techniques. This is helping us get a better understanding of what tends to work or fail in different situations, as well as allowing us to get insights and advice from a skilled negotiator. Finally, we are studying home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma for our global supply chain management, aiming to identify the benefits and limitations that would arouse in its supply chain if it were to expand into Brazil.

So yeah, I feel like a more complete professional now. The MBA has trained me on real life situations experienced by real life companies. I’m ready to perform.

Click here to learn about graduate open house events and information sessions coming up.

In support of KCCD

It’s a new semester, which means new classes… like the first-year career development class run by the Kogod Center for Career Development. I hear my fellow first-years groaning, and I know the reasons why. First, the class is from 9:55am to 12:25pm on our “free-morning” days. Second, it’s a class about the tedious, nitty-gritty of career development: resumes, cover letters, networking skills, interview skills, etc. And finally, it’s a zero-credit, pass/fail class. So all in all, I’d venture to say that some of you aren’t huge fans. This got me thinking: How useful is this class anyway? What is it really doing to develop my career? And what’s so great about KCCD anyway? I would venture to say that it is Kogod’s greatest asset, and that this class will give you the skills to present yourself professionally for the rest of your life.

The KCCD is what drew me to Kogod, and so far, I’m thrilled with my experience there. The graduate counseling staff is outstanding; Arlene Hill, Jen Murphy, and Jacques Domenge are your biggest champions, and are some of the nicest, well-connected people you’ll ever meet. Without their counsel, we really could not reach our final goal upon the completion of this degree.

In my opinion, the career development class is our biggest value-add at Kogod. Our school emphasizes perfecting your resume and cover letter, sharpening your interview skills, setting yourself apart from other candidates, and helping you to take a hard look at yourself and your goals to find that perfect career enough to hire and entire staff to assist you in doing so. But KCCD also understands how busy we are, so they’ve carved time out of our schedules to help us do so.

Though KCCD does an excellent job getting employers interested in its students, we can’t lose focus of building our own networks through old-fashioned networking. Jen and Arlene and Jacques might hold our hands through some things, but they’re not going to feed us, too. Having trouble getting your networking plan off the ground? New to DC or switching careers? Make an appointment and reap the benefits of what KCCD does best: career development.

Oh, and let’s forget that we’re all in this together. I couldn’t be happier to go to school with the friends I’ve made in both the first- and second-year classes. I know that I’m not going to be able to build a successful career without you all.

~

For those of you doing your research about whether or not you want to come to Kogod, here’s the skinny: The KCCD gives you an incredible support system to get where you want to go, but you need to be realistic about coming to school in Washington, DC. If you’re expecting to go into finance, CPG, or commercial consulting, you’ll need to get your networking shoes on and get to work. (Or go to school in New York or the Midwest.) KCCD has amazing contacts, but the companies who recruit are largely consulting firms looking to hire for their federal practices, for IT positions, or in the non-profit world. So if you’re keen on IBM, Deloitte, CSC, or any of the hundreds of small, development consultancies in the DC-area, you must come to Kogod. But if you want to do something else, consider this: How often do you have the opportunity to study in a global city, the capital of the United States of America, and have chances to network with some of the most important people and influential companies in the world?

There’s something about being a first-y…

There’s something about being a first-year MBA that makes you a little bit nervous. Or perhaps not everyone, but definitely me. I’m not your typical MBA. I majored in Foreign Area Studies at Barnard (in other words, I took a lot of French classes). I did not work in finance, or consulting, or even a traditional “business” (I worked for three-and-a-half years in book publishing). I almost failed Intro to Econ in my last semester of my senior year of college. So what on earth was I thinking when I decided to apply to an MBA program? The same thing that all of you applicants are thinking, and the same thing that you, my classmates, once thought: an MBA, unlike any other degree, can open the door to possibilities that allow you to shape your own career.

But first you have to actually earn your MBA. Which means, you have to pass all of your classes. To me, it seemed easy enough. That is, until I sat through my first Accounting 607 class with Professor Ajay Adhikari.

There’s something incredibly intimidating about Ajay’s voice. Perhaps it’s the volume, or the timbre. Or perhaps it’s due to the fact that at the end of every slide, he asks: “Everybody clear?” And because Ajay an accounting expert, to him, it’s crystal clear. So asking Ajay to explain further feels like an admission of stupidity. Or at least that’s how it felt in the first month of classes. Everyone’s still new, everyone’s trying to impress each other, and even though you’re in the same cohort with the same people all day every day, you still don’t really know your classmates well enough to admit that you have know idea what Ajay means by “debit”.

At one point (for me, it was right after a dismal grade on the first midterm), you realize two things: first, that Ajay is actually one of the nicest and funniest men you’ve ever met, and second, that you better damn start asking questions. So one morning, we were discussing LIFO/FIFO, and it was really not clear. Inevitably, Ajay got to the end of a slide and asked: “Is everybody clear?” From across the room, one of my friends said: “No, not at all.” Everyone in the class started laughing, including Ajay. It wasn’t laughter at her, but nervous laughter of relief. Everyone else in the room was definitely not clear, and finally, someone had been brave enough to speak up.

Kogod is the kind of place where you are pushed to your limits, but you have an incredible support system of your peers, professors, and the administration. We all come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different life experiences. In fact, many of us are not your “typical MBA”. But what we all have in common is that we all chose Kogod, and we’re all in it together. No matter what cohort you’re in, Kogod students help each other succeed. And that is pretty darn clear.