Category: Academics (page 3 of 3)

How to Tackle the MBA+ Experience

Ah, the MBA+ projects… these certainly constitute a range of emotions from us MBA students.  For those who haven’t heard, MBA+ projects are mini consulting projects that you can complete during the semester with a variety of companies.  Yes, that’s right, you can elect to do these on top of your already busy schedule, but there are definitely a few very important reasons why you should!  In this post I’ll talk a bit about my experience and my tips for the process.

At first, I was on the fence about doing an MBA+ project since I didn’t really know what to expect from my schedule and class commitments.  I mulled it over for a week or so and then realized that since I am not pursuing Consulting, I-Banking, or other major corporations (so basically the bulk of anybody coming to campus) that my recruiting schedule would be much less busy than many others’ in the fall so to just go for it – and I’m certainly glad I did.  The first step in the process is applying to projects (up to 10), and then your team will be selected by the companies sponsoring the projects.  Knowing where I did not want to recruit was how I selected my projects, so I focused only on Austin based start-ups and was matched with FreqSho.

FreqSho is an Austin based music discovery start-up that aggregates artist info from various web sources into a one stop shop for avid music fans.  When we started, the company was working off of a minimum viable product (MVP) and was working on launching a beta version.  Our task as a team was to help create the go-to-market strategy for launching FreqSho.  Given that I have an interest in transitioning from a background in Corporate Finance to Strategy & Marketing, the scope was perfect for me.  I have literally zero experience with marketing, and now I have some tangible skills, understanding, and stories to take with me into interviews.  Throughout the process I was able to learn more about utilizing primary research, digital advertising (Facebook, Google Display, and Search Engine Optimization), and project management skills.  Plus, I was able to score free Sam Smith concert tickets from my teammate and new friend, Gedy!

What to do:

  1. If you have a business background but are a career or function switcher like me, you should do an MBA+ project. Switching functions has been more difficult than I imagined and the MBA+ project is the only tangible experience I have in marketing compared to some class mates who have tons.
  2. If you don’t have a business background at all, you should do an MBA+ project. Start building skills and having interview stories aligned with your future goals
  3. If one of your target companies is sponsoring a project, you should do an MBA+ project. This is free networking, folks.  This is especially true for you aspiring consultants out there!
  4. Be selective! Pick either companies that you are interested in working for or projects that you are passionate about.  If nothing really strikes your fancy, you aren’t going to enjoy the process and it won’t be a great experience for you or your team.
  5. Consider your recruiting schedule and other commitments. Don’t over extend yourself unless you know it will be worth it.
  6. Get excited about meeting people outside of your cohort that you might not otherwise get to know

What not to do:

  1. Do not let FOMO (fear of missing out) get you. If you aren’t very interested in any of the projects, don’t do one just because it seems like all of your friends are doing one.  You will not fail the MBA program by not participating in an MBA+ Project
  2. Do not wait until the last 2 weeks to really get into the nitty-gritty of the project. This is much easier said than done.  Since these projects aren’t graded, it can be easy to let the tasks fall to the backburner throughout the semester, but it makes for an unpleasant rush to the finish.
  3. Do not stress too much. Like all things in life, some of the projects will inevitably have better sponsors and scopes than others.  If you end up on what turns out not to be your dream project use it as a learning example (great for those behavioral interviews!) and make the most of it.  Again, you will not fail the MBA program!

McCombs Tech Trek: Seattle

In addition to the strong recruiting in Texas and the Midwest, McCombs has a presence on both coasts. Students can gain exposure by taking school-organized treks to such places as New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. The focus of the Seattle Trek, obviously, is the tech scene. In this visit I had the opportunity to meet the area’s biggest companies as well as meet an exciting start-up with Texas connections.

 

Microsoft

Microsoft

Geek Culture is alive and well at the Microsoft Store.

 

Microsoft has been a long-time recruiter of McCombs MBAs. It was great to listen to all of the McCombs alums discuss their enjoyment and fulfillment of working at Microsoft. McCombs places graduates in a variety of MBA roles, but the most common is marketing. Alyse Coogan, MBA ’14, talked about marketing Azure and the growth of Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. Kalin Mckenna, MBA ’11, was also on hand to talk about her role as the marketing manager of the Surface tablet. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and reaffirmed to me that Microsoft would be an excellent company to begin a post-MBA career.

 

T-Mobile

T-Mobile

T-mobile Corporate HQ in Bellevue, WA. They are serious about their #BeMagenta slogan!

 

T-Mobile was the next stop of the day. T-Mobile has really undergone a transformation and is disrupting the telecom industry with their #BeMagenta focus. They talked a great deal about the leadership development program which allows incoming MBA students to spend three 9-month rotations in a variety of business groups. After the 27 months you are then placed as a Director in a business area of need. Do you want to have a 2.5 year path to major ownership and responsibility in a company? T-Mobile might be the right fit for you.

 

Amazon

Amazon

The view from one of many Amazon offices on South Lake Union.

 

Not much needs to be said about Amazon. Chances are if you are reading this blog on the internet, you have purchased something off of Amazon. Amazon provides an immediate opportunity for MBAs to produce real value to a company. There are no training wheels at Amazon. You are expected to come in, be customer obsessed, and deliver results. The singular drive to best serve the customer really shined through with our talks with MBAs at Amazon. The culture is intense, but so is the satisfaction in knowing that you can directly contribute to the bottom line.

 

Tune

Tune

Taking an Uber to visit Tune during the Seattle Tech Trek.

 

A few of my classmates and I were able to schedule an “off-trek” visit with a growing start-up in Seattle. The CEO of Tune, Peter Hamilton, is a University of Texas at Austin undergraduate alum and was gracious enough to talk about the company, getting funding from VCs and how to keep the culture of a company consistent in the midst of big growth. Tune, a mobile marketing technology company, doubled revenues in 2014 and grew to employ over 250 people. Meeting with Peter was a great example of the strength of the UT alumni base and the willingness of Longhorns to help out in any way possible.

Zulily

Zulily

The view from Zulily’s new office on the Seattle waterfront.

 

Zulily is an e-marketplace company that IPO’d in 2013. They have undergone tremendous growth and are a very unique business model. Unlike companies that emphasize fast shipping and almost immediate fulfillment, Zulily isn’t focused on quickly getting goods to customers. Instead, they offer a model where they will only ship out goods once they have reached a critical mass of purchases. They want MBAs that can think strategically about growing their business and how to stay competitive in a market that has seen rapid growth and cutthroat competition (HauteLook, MyHabit, etc.)

The modus operandi of business school is to have recruiters come to campus and pitch to you and your classmates on why their company would make a perfect fit for your post-MBA goals. The Seattle Trek, and other treks, provide an avenue to actually see company offices firsthand, to get hints of their company culture, and to generally obtain a greater sense of what it would be like to work in that environment every day. Because of this, I’d recommend that every MBA take the opportunity to visit companies on their home turf.

Reflections & Resolutions

Happy New Year, y’all!

It is hard to believe that the class of 2016 is already one quarter of the way through the McCombs MBA program. Looking back on the first semester I can confidently say that it was, at times, exactly what I had expected and simultaneously completely bewildering. There were days I felt confident and self-assured, and others that made me feel confused and uncertain.

I can see now that this is by design.

comfort-zone

Entering McCombs, everyone thought they know exactly what they wanted to do after graduating, but that notion was quickly challenged by the time orientation ended. Suddenly most people identified themselves as “career explorers,” learning about and eliminating functions and industries one-by-one during company info sessions, conversations with alumni and second-years, and through hands-on experience with MBA+ projects. While scary, being pushed outside of my comfort has enabled me to self-reflect, learn, and grow more than I ever expected.

In the spirit of the New Year, and at the suggestion of Assistant Dean Mabley, I have made a list of resolutions for making the most out of my McCombs experience in 2015 (and beyond).

1)  Take better advantage of McCombs resources: There are endless perks and opportunities provided by the MBA Program Office. Often likened to drinking from a fire hose, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the options. In the fall, I joined a few clubs, attended countless information sessions and had several appointments with career and academic advisors (a.k.a. MBA therapists). I attended conferences and heard from inspiring speakers including Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, and Jeffrey Raider, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Harry’s and Co-Founder of Warby Parker. This semester, I would like to attend more club and university events and take advantage of unique McCombs resources, such as using communication coaches for mock interviews and attending career treks to learn about companies that hire McCombs grads in cities like Seattle and San Francisco.

Golf lessons organized by the MBA Golf Association

Golf lessons organized by the MBA Golf Association

2)  Explore and embrace Austin: Everything you’ve heard about Austin is true. It is weird and wonderful and welcoming to new Austinites. I moved here last July from Kansas City knowing almost no one and very little about the city, and have since fallen in love with it. Some of my favorite things to do are to take my dog, Louie, to run in Zilker Park while I people watch, sample endless food trucks and try new workouts (ex: rowing, hot yoga with weights, boot camp; you name it, Austin has it). It recently clicked that I may only get to live in Austin for these two years, so I had better make the most of it. My Austin bucket list includes, among other things: seeing more live music, exploring the Hill Country, taking a class at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop and a Matthew McConaughey or Sandra Bullock sighting, of course.

Attending the live Sam Smith taping for Austin City Limits TV

Attending the live Sam Smith taping for Austin City Limits TV

3)  Make time to be social: Thursday night means “Think ‘N Drink” at McCombs. And yet, there were more times than not that I gave up TND to complete homework or save a few bucks. Toward the end of the semester, I realized that these two years are probably the last time I will have Fridays free and definitely my only chance to create lasting relationships with my fellow classmates. I vow to do better in 2015 and make it a priority to have more fun.

Cohort 1 ladies night

Cohort 1 ladies night

4)  Land my dream internship: OK, so this one goes without saying, but hopefully if I put it in writing it will happen organically. It’s daunting to have to sell yourself to potential employers. However, thanks to the Strategic Career Planning class that is part of the McCombs MBA core curriculum, I feel prepared to enter the internship search with a polished resume and clear, focused goals. So here’s to a successful spring recruiting session and an impending internship offer!

Fellow first-year MBAs at the NBMBA career fair in  Atlanta last September

Fellow first-year MBAs at the NBMBA career fair in
Atlanta last September

Good luck to those of you applying for round two. Hook ‘em!

MBA Semester One? Check.

You go into a roller coaster ride expecting the adrenaline rush, expecting both the fear and the excitement. More importantly, if you are even remotely adventurous, you have been on the roller-coaster ride before.
MBA Semester one is a different story, however. I am surprised when people metaphorically compare the experience to that of a roller coaster only because nothing about the latter is life changing. I came into the program thinking I have done pretty well in the past, I will get through this. I was not only wrong, but it took all of ten days into the program to realize, how little I knew about the business world and the people who were bringing about the changing trends in commerce. Be it the finance class I took where bulk of our time was spent talking about present values of future investments or the famous Prof Britt Fruend’s Operations Management class, which spoke about Quality of product in Japan vs. that in America; I came to understand that there isn’t really an economic trend that is localized any more. Every change is working on a global level.
The Texas MBA in its first few days asked me to halt and see how I can obtain an eagle’s eye view on a problem. In the last 4 months, I haven’t worked with any team which would accept an answer for its face value. I was pleasantly amused to see evidence of researcher-like traits in almost all of my classmates. We maybe training ourselves to take quick, accurate decisions when situation demands, but at the McCombs School of Business, we are being trained to continuously evaluate the risk-reward parameters.

The last semester saw everything being thrown at each student all at once: the academic challenges, four sets of exams (well almost), networking with recruiters, finding and choosing career paths, deciding to give up Thursday Think ‘n’ Drinks for overnight case challenges (I did three and survived)! Suddenly, we also saw a surge in student club activities and students pitching for leadership positions. There were moments when all activities seemed to be taking place at just that one single moment. I knew I had reached a threshold limit when I literally had to block a time-slot in my calendar to update my calendar! It is only now, during the winter break, when I sit back and reflect at how intelligently the course structure has been designed. The idea is to help you restructure your efforts and re-think about whether your strategies and work-methods need be updated. This is the first step to effective leadership.
Irrespective of the roller coaster like ups and downs, I think what makes life extremely easy at McCombs is that spirit of collaboration which is forever maintained, no matter how busy everyone gets. We all are in this together and we help each other to sail through it together.
MBA Semester One: Over n Out.

Top 7 Reasons to come to McCombs that you won’t find in Businessweek

Ah, the business school rankings… one of the necessary, yet sometimes misleading data points that prospective students peruse year after year with hopes of choosing the right business school for them.  Well, despite even the recent rankings shake-up, there are so many things that make up a school outside of what you’ll find in rankings, news articles, or other “official” sources.  As a first year MBA student, I’m here to give you an insider’s view of what makes McCombs special:

 
1. Keep Austin Weird, y’all
In this day and age, Austin pretty much sells itself.  I could quote to you the many lists that site Austin as one of the best places to live or fastest-growing cities, but we’re trying to get away from the lists.  Having lived in Austin for almost 5 years now and seeing the growth first hand, I can tell you that the hype is true.  Austin is great because it really has something to offer everyone.  The city is well known for its vibrant music scene and killer BBQ, but there is so much more than that.  Whether you’re a nature lover who plans to explore the miles of greenbelts and kayaking on Town Lake (insider tip – that’s what the locals call it), or a craft beer connoisseur, there is plenty to keep you busy.  Personally, my favorite thing has to be all of the food – from sushi flown in from Japan to donuts with bacon or fried chicken, you name it, Austin’s got it.

Detroit Style Pizza from Via 313 – my home away from home! Via 313

2. Texas, Fight!     
I’m sure this isn’t a surprise, but there is nothing like Texas football. Seriously. Whether you were a football-loving undergrad (me!), or coming from a small school where sports weren’t at the forefront of your weekends, or even from abroad where you think American Football is just crazy, being part of Texas Football weekends is an experience everyone needs to have!  Luckily for you, McCombs takes tailgating very seriously and we’ll leave it up to you to decide how passionate you are about attending the actual game.  Each home football Saturday, McCombs hosts our own tailgate, complete with great food, drinks, and even employee recruiting if you’re still telling me you REALLY don’t care about football.

First football game!

UT Football

3. Little Big Town
Football is one example, but there are many others that come with being a small program at a large university.  McCombs is a tight-knit place, and the fact that all of my classes are in one building sometimes helps me forget exactly where I am. But we have so many advantages being connected with the University of Texas system. This means that we are a part of a huge student body and alumni population (hello, immediate network!), we’ve got the aforementioned sporting traditions, and we get awesome opportunities, like having the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, come to campus and speak to students.  Being in this unique program is really getting the best of both worlds.

4. Wine > Sleeping in a Tent
I personally hate camping.  Why you would choose a sleeping bag over running water and a real bed is beyond me.  I do like wine though. I mean, what is there not to like?  But no matter what camp you fall into (pun intended) McCombs probably has a student club for your interests – and if not, you can create one!  There is the Graduate Business Adventure Team (GBAT) that hosts the camping trips, Graduate Business Wine Club (one of my favorites, obviously), the Live Music Association, MBA Improv, and MBA Soccer Club, just to name a few.  Of course, there are also many clubs devoted to your career path and special topics in business.  Life during your MBA will be busy, so it is great to have fun ways to get out of the classroom and hangout with new friends, doing whatever it may be that you enjoy doing.

5. Shark Tank
If you’re addicted to the TV show, Shark Tank, like myself, you might remember the pitch from a few weeks ago for Beatbox Beverages that secured a $1 million deal with Mark Cuban.  Well, let me tell you that Beatbox was a business that started right here in the McCombs MBA program!  I use this example just to demonstrate how committed our program is to entrepreneurship – and this is a great city to explore that space.  At McCombs we have classes like New Venture Creation and Intro to Entrepreneurship where you can literally work on building your own business, or classes like Entrepreneurial Growth or the Texas Venture Labs Practicum where you can learn how to apply the topics you’re learning about to small businesses.  Plus, Austin as a community is very involved with start-ups.  There are several well-known incubators, conferences like SXSW and many venture capital firms hoping to find the next Facebook.  So, whether your interest lies in creating your own start-up, working with current start-ups, or funding start-ups, we’ve got something for you!

6. Thursdays
Thursday nights – what every MBA at McCombs looks forward to, assuming you were crafty enough to ensure a free calendar or at least free morning on Friday (that’s right, no Friday classes – ever!) you’ll be able to partake in our favorite weekly ritual, Think ‘n’ Drink. TnD is organized by the Social Committee and held at a different bar around town every week.  Everyone is invited, including significant others, friends, and this week even a few visiting parents, and it is a great way to wrap-up the week and hang out.  Sure, there will be weeks when going is unrealistic, but it is nice to have a collective activity that you can count on week after week.

Halloween Think ‘n’ Drink

Haloween

7. Hands On Opportunities
One of the reasons I chose McCombs was because of all of the hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.  I can’t wait to get out of the class-room and start learning by doing.  I will be joining the Texas Venture Labs Practicum in the spring where I will work with a team of six other people- four are from other graduate programs like Law and Engineering, and we will partner with two local start-ups to help them with various issues related directly to their business. There are also partnerships for many other industries like Private Equity/Venture Capital, Operations, Marketing, Corporate Finance, Real Estate and our very own Investment Fund.  These classes are a great way to get in-depth knowledge in your area of interest and partner with companies that have an interest in McCombs’ Students.

Hook ’em!

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