It's midweek already and I'm juggling a powder-filled ski trip with a three-dimensional job decision matrix. On the slopes: big time pow on the order of a foot per day has tired our quads, chilled our feet, and been an absolute blast. We've done two days at Park City Mountain Resort and one at Canyons, both of which have a glut of snow and plenty of steeps and trees to keep us grinning. After skiing, though, something of a letdown in terms of the town of Park City. I'm sure the Sundance stars love the art galleries and haute cuisine, but we are after more of a ski town... you know, ski shops and bars and whatnot.
posted at 9:13 AM - comments
Friday, February 23, 2007
It's been a 'last few days of the semester' to remember. Since deplaning on Wednesday, a whirlwind for sure. I studied hard for Valuation and I think that paid off Thursday morning. Immediately following Valuation I went to a team meeting to try to wrap a strategy term paper, then to Kresge 4 for a throw down at the ACC corral. I think I must have hit the wall because after the first mini-case was complete I went into total brain lock. The second case might as well have been in Russian, so I stopped, went home, had dinner, worked on papers, and didn't think about accounting. When I returned to Kresge 4 this morning... BLAM. Knocked it right out. Then, because it's habit forming, I went back to work on papers. The big one was done around 2:30, leaving time for laundry and a preliminary round of packing. The second paper is still flying around the virtual world collecting edits ahead of its midnight submittal.
Oh yeah, career news too, confirming what I had suspected: Tuesday went well. I feel like I've paid the piper and then some for missing two days this week, but a mid afternoon phone call made it all OK. I've been thinking today about the efficiency of the job market for MBAs. Efficient market theory says that if everyone has symmetric information they'll value things the same. Lots of MBAs think this is not the case, but I have three letters from three very different consumers which indicate that symmetric information is available and the markets are efficient.
Up before dawn three time zones away. Fancy hotel, cold shower. Limo to OAK, there before TSA. Shoes off, shoes on, wifi, time flies. Small overheads in a big plane, big overheads in a small plane... same plane? Crowded jets are no place to study. Welcome call follow-up, weather at DTW clearing up. Big Blue Garage foul up. Home. Other home. Pasty for dinner, back to the grind - Michigan Union Ballroom. News about a new bride and groom. How to buy a house. Win a giftcard. Good info, meh info, info overload. Kresge 4. FIN overload, offset by carrots and dip in a tupperware. Nalgene water and valuation notes and weary eyes. Final final? Finally?
posted at 8:38 PM - comments
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I'm still kicking - a little jet-lagged, a little finals-week weary, a little big-interview stressed, but I'm alive and blogging from the San Ramon Marriott. It was a good day, first by phone, then by email, then by interview, then by dinner. I think things went really well on the interview front and I learned as much about them as they did about me, which was the objective of the day. In the evening Chad from 137 NAME days showed me some of the sights around San Ramon and then we had dinner at Bridges in Danville... you know, the restaurant in "Mrs. Doubtfire." It was a great way to cap a good day and good to see an old friend and hear what is going well with him.
The Sun Valley, as they (apparently) say, is really a beautiful place. There are big rolling green (in winter, at least) hills that reminded me more of Devon than anything and lots of space to bike or shop or hike or have a night on the town. Rumor is, though, that it can get pretty hot in the summer and that the Oakland Hills that create the western wall of the valley above the San Andreas Fault keep the temperature ocean layer from reaching and cooling the valley. I'm primed for another trip to this area, but next time for the cities and further-afield areas like Napa and Tahoe.
You might not have realized it, but today was two holidays: Presidents' Day and Take Your Disgruntled Teens and Tweens Flying Day. After the last day of Winter A classes I travelled west to Oakland with a mass of disfunctional families on winter break. I saw 14 year olds playing football in the concourse, little girls ignoring the flight attendants' requests to turn off a mobile phone, and plenty of just good ol' fashioned yelling at kids. I also saw a St. Bernard leader dog(!) and a bunch of folks headed toward the ski hill. While waiting in Denver I talked with Constable, which seemed apropos since he's headed skiing soon, too.
I ought not complain about travel when it's somebody else's bill and the purpose of the trip is to secure gainful employment in a position that seems a great fit. Again, great opportunities. Speaking of which, Doug found his at McKinsey and now we'll all be able to say that we remember him when. It's cool to see where classmates from 2002 wind up; marine or otherwise I think we're all making each other proud.
One of the things that I was most excited, pre-Ross, were the intersection IM sports. It took almost two whole years, but Section 3 finally won a title: basketball. The second years carried much of the weight, which was fun, and the level of competition was very high. I like playing for something and a championship, even among MBAs, is exactly that.
Not a ton else to report... I've made hay on my projects, though we'll see how my teams are doing later this evening when the Strategies for Growth group gets together to review progress. I've also come to the realization that I leave tomorrow for a couple of days and I need to be packed, prepped, and ready for the trip tonight. Finals week. Hooowah!
Getting things done. Today, some case reading and then a team meeting for a group paper on the Tata Steel/Corus buyout. I also internet-watched Michigan beat Indiana in basketball, had a burrito, and wrote up a few paragraphs about labor relations and import/export barriers. That's minutia, though.
I've also been thinking the past few days about the enormous cyclicality of email communications: some days I'll get 20 emails in an hour, some days I'll get two all day. I'm not sure why this is; I'm certain that email begets email but I'm not sure what causes volleys like this. Anyway, food for thought.
There were weekends at Webb when you knew that you were going to be working. There was nothing to be done about this fact, so you just dug in and got 'er done. This will be one of those weekends. I have major reports due next Friday in two classes and both need work. There are two finals next week that I have to study for since a recruiting trip will swallow much of my time in the early week. There are classes on Monday that won't prep for themselves. Finally, the recruiting trip itself: they want a presentation of a past project and my technical capabilities. It's great to have this audience, but PPT decks are a time consuming wedge of quiche to an MBA and I really want to park this one. (No, I'm really not sure where the euphemism 'wedge of quiche' came from.)
Yesterday's interviews went well, I think. I really dislike leaving an interview not knowing how well it went. Over the past few months I have both experiences: "yeah, Dell probably isn't going to call" and "THAT oughta work." Yesterday I truly got back in the truck, back onto 696, and couldn't figure out how I felt about it - or if not knowing was the same as bad, which is often the case.
In the evening Jenelle and I drowned any lingering concern in a pot of melted gruyere, ementaler, wine, and lemon juice. Yes yes! Fondizzle. It's so good! No wonder everybody loved the '70s. Fondue with bread, broccoli, and apples is just a great tasting, sophisticated palate that I think everybody ought to experience. (We'd have it at the wedding except communal fondue is a little gross and it can be messy.)
Jenelle and I have a knack for going to events in Detroit in the midst of ferocious weather; last night we added to that history with a snowy trip to COBO for the boat show. Dad met us there - stepping out of the parking garage stairs as our elevator door opened - and we toured the ever-shrinking Detroit Boat Show. This year we had a clear best in show: Tiara's 39 Sovran with Volvo's IPS. I think this propulsion system is a game changer, because it enabled a more compact engine room and a much, much more spacious cabin.
Today was Valentine's Day, which Jenelle celebrated with a 5am phone call giving her the day off. I celebrated by joining the snowbound multitudes on the roads... and becoming one of the minority who did NOT go in the ditch or rubberneck at the dozens who did. Then class all day, with recruiting things coming together at speeds faster than normal. Tomorrow: GM. Tuesday: Chevron. These are exciting opportunities that have appeared from virtual thin air. I also ordered a cap and gown - sure signs of both a party and lifestyle change impending, as well as an era coming to a close.
Last, but certainly not least, it marks three years to the day that I paid a visit to Lansing.
Another Monday down; just a single one remains in Winter A. Today's strategies for growth class wasn't one for the ages, but neither was accounting so it is of little consequence. Greater China Association had free food that was gone in quicker than a flash - odd for a country with a billion plus people - and then it was off to meet with a professor who sits on the board of a steel company that is similar to a steel company that acquired another steel company which is the subject of a paper my team is writing for the aforementioned strategies for growth course.
Tonight we're going to get some more invitation stuff done; it's amazing how much planning it takes to lay out a seemingly simple paper construction. I suspect that if we did this again it would go much faster but for now figuring out what can get custom cut and what we'll have to cut ourselves is a real time sink. Later in the evening there might also be some tax prep and some report writing, but I am not going to dwell on either of those two tasks.
Yesterday was a weekend day that felt a little like a weekday; I had to get up a little early to get over to Ypsi for some HFH house painting. There, I was reminded of something - I'm bad at painting. Not sure why this is, but I just have a natural dis-knack for painting. In the evening, as if we were in the movie "Old School," we took a pre-planned trip to IKEA for a few wedding supplies and a frozen yogurt cone. We also found out that if you pile 42 of virtually the same thing onto a flat cart in the mercantile at IKEA, people will stare. They just don't know what to do with this... pile your van high with kid's furniture and drive down the road grasping a mattress that is lashed to the roof with binder twine, no problem, but buy three dozen vases and you're a real weirdo.
Friday night was Follies. The live musical performances were taken up a notch, with some very impressive vocal stylings, and the video clips were funny as ever, but I missed the live action sketches, which really only existed in the form of Steve Spaulding's "Harlequin Cases." Nonetheless, we laughed pretty hard and enjoyed a little self-deprecating humor.
Today, not a lot going on... what a relief. We took care of various and sundry wedding details, spring break details, end-of-school details. I also made some soup and read Friday's WSJ, played with Ollie, and it was great.
What did I learn from Moosejaw guy? Plenty. First: beware a business where your first objective is to get girls. Second: watch out for over-inventory. Three: if you decide to enter a business situation with your sibling(s), don't work in the same room or on the same task. Four: if you give a talk, don't prepare but give away plenty of free stuff. Five: if you pre-blog about an event, blogging about the result will seem redundant.
Today got wicked busy, a little unexpectedly. More career stuff, this time scheduling a possible trip to California, slathered over growth strategies and valuation meetings. Clay, Ian and I knocked out the calculations for the last valuation case in three long afternoon hours in Kresge, but it feels good to be largely done with that class. I also heaped together a list of questions for wedding vendors; for some reason the past few days have been very fruitful in terms of my vision of the wedding as a holistic supply chain and this leads to very precise questions like 'what is the opportunity cost of linen pickup?' or 'what is the shadow price of one bottle of wine?' or 'who the heck is going to cut the cake?'
Several varied topics: first, a programming note. I don't know how many - if any - readers of browncow are readers in the 'newsreader' sense, but if you are so inclined you may now subscribe to browncow electronically at "http://browncow.tripod.com/rss.xml". Google has a free reader that takes a few moments to get setup but is competent (which, coming from Google, is something of a letdown).
Next, Mohit pointed out last evening at the conclusion of STRAT 672 Advanced Competitive Analysis that you never see 'finance guys' in strategy classes. It seems these folks are totally focused on ratios and multiples and acronyms; ironic since everyone in the strategy classes is really there to make sure they are capable of keeping the finance guys happy. Mohit pointed out the myopic death spiral this puts business into... food for thought, perhaps.
Ross's Sodexho cafe had a big pot of cafeteria style chili brewing today so I had lunch at school and reminisced about chili for lunch at school. For whatever reason I really like mediochre chili piled with cheese and onions. The whole thing just turns into a gooey mess that your plastic spoon can barely scoop out of a styrofoam bowl. I wish I were kidding, but it just really hits the spot sometimes.
This afternoon Moosejaw founder will be giving a lecture on campus to spread 'the madness' that is Moosejaw. I'm excited to hear real stories and tall tales of an entrepreneur who started his own sporting goods chain. (Not that I'd be into that in any way.) Plus, there are probably going to be goofy pictures, funny quotes, and swag.
I'm starting to wonder what the recruiting end game looks like. My wondering stems from an email received today, after an unrelated recruiting call, that described a strategic analysis position that is looking for a naval architect / MBA. How many of these totally unsolicited opportunities lie lurking in the virtual 'out there'? When does the music stop? Opportunities are great but they just make a person wonder what the n+1th opportunity is and when it shall arrive.
Ross has had a string of not-so-great publicities in the campus press lately, and the string continues with an article in the Daily's 'the statement' weekly insert that damns the b-school for teaching the hows but not the whys of business. There are some truths to James Somers' writing, but overall I think he's missed the critical mainstay of b-school: we'll tell you how, you have to want to know why and the discovery is up to you. It is very different than many other pedagogical environments - and clearly isn't for everyone.
The Chicago Auto Show is rolling through its pressers, and two caught my eye today: launches of the Saturn (nee Opel/Vauxhall/Holden) Astra and Pontiac (nee Holden Commodore) G8. Ever since a Vauxhall Vectra proved to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that turbodiesel wagons were the only way to fly I've been waiting for GM to import these products from its global family. Where there's an Astra a Vectra can't be far behind...
Second snow day in a row for Jenelle, but I was in class for the second day in a row this week. It was OK; afterwords I read some reading and took care of a few HFH duties. Jenelle came over in the evening and we did some wedding stuff. I also caught up with Anthony and we swapped wedding advice (didn't see that day coming!) and talked about Texas (ditto). Then in the late evening I played basketball. I like running with the MBAs... it is good exercise and good for my basketball skills, which are getting back into game shape. After graduation I'm afraid that prospects for a good game of hoops will dwindle somewhat - the risk of injury seems to go up in inverse relation with the level of organization and I'm not sure city league or YMCA pickup games are a great idea.
posted at 11:04 PM - comments
Monday, February 05, 2007
Another biting cold day. So cold, in fact, that Jenelle's phone rang late last night with the news of a forthcoming 'snow day.' While she enjoys a day off I'm enjoying a day on... campus, with class and group work shuttling around via email and sandwiches on Kresge 4. All that is well and good, but I would rather be at home chasing kitty and helping clean a closet than sitting up here in the heat waiting for a new draft of a report to "deeeaahhh" into my life by way of Outlook.
My hottest opinion of the day revolves around take home exams. I have never cared for them, but my feelings grow more resolute with the passage of time. Today, Professor Indjejikian announced that the ACC 650 exam will be a take home, thus removing the Friday morning time constraint placed by the in class scheduling. This makes my skin crawl; we've trivialized an already marginal learning activity in the name of extending Spring Break for a minority of students. A take home exam is a prisoners' dilemma of classic detail: my grade is no longer related to my knowledge relative to a standard, but related instead directly to the time others spend. I know that others know this, and in a competitive academic institution everyone must assume that everyone else will spend the maximum amount of time possible - 72 hours less sleeping and eating. What hypocrisy, then, for an exam in a 1.5 credit class to take more than three hours, let alone the untold dozens that my peers will spend. The exam should be in class and should not last longer than two hours in either case. (Thanks Prof Wiggins for providing the initial foundations for my argument and Prof Stephan for sealing my opinions on the matter.)
There's something strangely satisfying about arctic chill. Yesterday - at the Habitat house - I carried drywall from a frozen pile to a dumpster wearing my Carharrt and seeing the crisp shape of my breath ahead of me with every step. Today the Arborland sign said '0' as I headed to Jenelle's for the Super Bowl.
Over the past 24 hours we've allowed ourselves two of Ann Arbor's greatest indulgences: a Pizza Bob's peanut butter and chocolate shake last night after an hockey senior night victory and eggs florentine at Angelos for no particular reason this morning. Then I had another midday meeting... fortunately people came prepared with (unexpectedly) each preparing a separate part of the analysis to be done and we got things wrapped in good time. Still I'm looking forward to a day when Sunday afternoons are off limits.
It's the joke show on APHC. The day started with Habitat for Humanity house clean-up then, after pizza, turned into a four-plus hour FIN615 Valuation meeting wherein my group and I valued Conrail in 1996... twice. I have decided that finance, like accounting, is not in my future. There are some useful aspects of both, but I view them as supporting mechanisms for strategic and operational projects - means rather than ends.
Tonight is senior night for the hockey team. They are cruising towards tourney time, but we've got almost a month before playoffs begin. It's sad to think about the end of Michigan sports as a student spectator, but that time is fast approaching.
Plenty to write about this week, but I've just not been up to pace. Everybody in the blogosphere is calling for Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker's head (well job, at least) for his teams' inability to play with passion and fundamental soundness. Yeaaaah. If we fired every Michigan coach whose squad lacked passion, it'd be pretty lonely down there on South.
There're rumblings of job news, too. Things went well on Monday and that - hopefully - puts me in decision mode. I say hopefully only because one has to be wary of these things; there are variables on both sides, financial, geographical, chronological, that have to be sorted before a true comparison and decision can be made.
I've also decided that good news travels at something approaching the speed of sound while bad news (the b-school 'ding') arrives at the speed of something much slower, say a Michigan basketball chest pass. On the same day in which I received an interview and an 'intent to offer' I got a cheery, virtual ding from a company I interviewed with in late October.... the same October that occured over three months ago. This makes me very sad; what takes 90 days to decide on a candidate? Nothing - we all know this decision has been made for some time, so why not just send an email, provide some feedback, and move on? There's a real - and asymmetric - lack of respect throughout much of the recruiting process that corporations don't get called on enough.