Category: Austin (page 2 of 3)

How to Survive as a Liberal Arts Major Turned MBA

When you hear “debit,” do you think about your bank card? What about statistics? Does it make your stomach churnI Regret Nothing - Friends GIF just a bit? Is Excel only a program that’s used to conveniently sort rows and rows of data? In undergrad, did you purposefully avoid expensive calculators and figuring out what X was (again!)? If so, you’re probably one of my fellow liberal arts majors: Journalism, human resources, psychology, history, the list goes on and on.

While we know that most of our majors are divergent in practice, there is at least one glaring common thread that binds our educational and professional experiences together: Relatively minimal math.

Now, this is definitely not a slight to any of you that may actually regularly use quantitative skills on a daily or even weekly basis in your current position. However, notice that I said “relatively minimal.” Compared to many of your classmates who will be sitting next to you on the first day of class, you’re behind the math curve, and in the MBA classroom, learning these skills isn’t just part of the curriculum – it’s an expectation, and if you’re less familiar than those who have more advanced skills in these areas, the effort to maintain pace can become much more exacerbated.

So, let’s assume that you’ve taken the GMAT, you’re pleased with your score, and you’ve submitted your applications. Now what? Well, as you prepare for interviews, and even after you’ve plunked down your deposit on your choice program, it’s time to strengthen those quantitative muscles so that you’re able to flex them on day one.

Pro Tips! Here’s a list of things I recommend for those idle days pre-MBA:

    • Take an Intro to _____ class: Fill in the blank on this one. At McCombs, our core classes are very quant-heavy. In the first quarter of the semester, you’ll take Accounting, Finance, and Statistics, and in the second quarter, you only build on the skills you learned in the first, so it’s very easy to become overwhelmed if you’re not familiar with the material. Further, many in your class will have been a strong business or engineering background, so many of the concepts will be more review for them and may be completely new and foreign to you. Taking an MBA-level stats class as your first statistics class has a very steep learning curve, so audit a community college Intro to Statistics or Intro to Finance class during the spring or summer. If you’re able to know what a Z table is before the first day of class, you’re already one step ahead of where I was. An added advantage of taking a class at a local junior college is that it begins to prepare you to actually be back in the classroom, which will help with the initial transition from work back to school.
    • Read up on Excel: I used to think I was really good at Excel, but it turns out, it was only because everyone around me was not as good. Lesson learned: It’s all relative. I have a classmate on my study team who is a former IT analyst, and when we worked on Excel models together for homework, I would never, ever see him touch his mouse. He was a true Excel ninja, and the rest of my study team were in absolute amazement. Don’t take this to mean that you have to learn all of the Excel functions, shortcuts, and formulas before you begin your program, but you should have more than a basic understanding of what Excel is able to do prior to your first class. I recommend reading Marketing Analytics by Wayne Winston, which is our textbook for Analytics of Markets. It’s not a book that you read at leisure (it’s over 700 pages), but it does show you step-by-step how to use Excel functions in ways that you will be expected to know. The best part is that on the book’s website there are a ton of Excel spreadsheets that serve as companions for the exercises in the book, so you’re actually getting hands-on experience. Also, you may ask someone who knows Excel pretty well to sit down with you and teach you the basics, but it’s a bit more difficult to do this when you don’t know what you don’t know.
    • Don’t be scared of numbers: It took me a while to decide to come back to get my MBA because I was honestly scared of numbers. Studying for the GMAT helped me to mitigate that avoidance a bit, but I wish I had done more to really prepare for MBA-level math because the concepts come quick and it only builds from there. Go to a used book store and get an MBA-level textbook, read the chapters, and do the practice problems. The best thing you can do as a student who has more qualitative skills than quantitative skills is to recognize that and commit time and energy into strengthening those areas. On the first day of class, you want to feel like you have a reasonably good idea of the segments of the curriculum, which will strengthen your ability to positively contribute to the class.
    • Utilize free online courses: There are so many free remote learning resources available, and I would recommend browsing sites such as Coursera.org or Smart.ly to find a course that is most tailored to the skill gaps that you may have. My favorite site pre-B-school was Coursera. It includes dozens of free MBA classes that are taught by top MBA professors. For instance, I enrolled in a free accounting class, which allowed me to really understand the basic and more advanced concepts before I began my actual coursework. An alternative to these sites is MBAMath.com. It’s a bit dry in its delivery, but the content is absolutely necessary. Although it does have a flat annual subscription fee, it’s minimal, and you are able to access the site throughout the year for supplemental learning as you continue through your actual MBA coursework.

Good Luck and Hook ’em!

How We “Slack” in The Texas Executive MBA Program

slack user growth

Slack is a new online collaboration tool (and is super addictive!) [.gif source]

If you read the title of this post and thought it would be about Executive MBAs slacking off, you’re about to be slightly disappointed. Slack is a new, hyper-addictive online messaging tool that the Texas Executive MBA Class of 2016 started using last August, before our first seminar, to communicate with one another. One of our classmates, Josh Treviño, uses Slack at his office and suggested we set up a team account. Slowly but surely, students began trickling in, tentatively posting questions about pre-readings or class schedules.

The early days of our Slack environment were like being in a library: a place to request or look for information, quietly and without bothering anyone.

Fast-forward to nearly a year later, and our Slack team is more like a bustling conference at a convention center, with hallways and rooms to duck in and out of, people laughing in one corner and others sharing useful tips and tricks in another. Not only has Slack helped us find the program information we need, but many credit the tool with our class’s ability to form strong bonds with one another. Inspired by Bill Morein’s How We Slack at FiftyThree, which discusses business uses for Slack, we wanted to share how Slack has helped busy students like us, as Slack’s tagline promises, “be less busy.”

slack for education and universities

General Channel

We have one channel, #general, that anyone can join – and pretty much everyone has. This is where the chit-chat takes place, and can run the gamut from people asking questions about which elective to take, to updates received by individual students about the program, to people testing out their Slackbot-programming skills.

Class Channels

Channels named after our classes each semester help keep things organized. Think #financial-management, #managerial-economics or #strategic-management. If you’ve got a class-related question, need to track down a file, or are just looking for some motivation to work on a paper or study for a big test, this is the place to do business. These channels are archived by the moderators a few weeks after classes wrap up so they don’t use up valuable storage space.

Funny Quotes Channel

Being in one of the Top 20 MBA programs in the country means you’re always surrounded by smart, quick-witted people, whether they are your classmates or professors. A few weeks into our first semester, there were so many funny verbal exchanges happening in and out of class that often times were also some of the best learning moments. #funnyquotes is where the greatest ones get memorialized. A gem from the #funnyquotes feed recently: “Shake hands, kiss babies, and never confuse the two.” That’s Dr. John Daly, professor of our Advocacy elective.

Jobs Channel

Whether you’re looking for a new job or know someone who is, our #jobs channel has helped several people swing to the next vine. It also serves as a place to ping classmates for connections within companies (usually someone has an “in!”), solicit resume advice, compare notes on the executive coaches in the UT Career Services program offers, and offer referrals of candidates who may not be in our program.

Hobby Channels

We’re a diverse group and that extends to our hobbies. Among our hobby channels, we’ve got #field-and-stream for the outdoors-men/women in the program who like to hunt and fish, #wine-club for the group that shares a mutual love of wine after class on the weekends, #chinese for those who want to learn more about the Chinese culture prior to our class trip to China next May, and #hangout which serves as a catch-all for people who want to coordinate grabbing lunch or a drink with a classmate in the area.

Private Groups

There is the option in Slack to send private messages, as well as create private group messages. In my study group’s case, we have a private group titled “Goose” (named after our team name, “Two O’s in Goose”) set up to share notes about group work, gatherings, and inside jokes (most of which, unsurprisingly, involve references to Top Gun).

Questions about Slack or its uses for student communication? Feel free to leave them in the comments below, or tweet at me at @racheltruair.

Austin: The City with Something for Everyone

Life in the Texas MBA program goes beyond the cohort classrooms. The city of Austin is integral to our experience in the two years that we spend at McCombs. The best thing about Austin is that there is something to do here for everyone. From race-car enthusiasts to live music connoisseurs, everyone in the program takes a little bit of this city wherever they go. In this blog, we wanted to touch upon three different types of events that are truly unique to Austin’s soul.

For Music Lovers: Austin City Limits Music Festival

Move over Coachella, the biggest and best artists in music make their annual pilgrimage to Austin and play in front of 75000 people in the outdoor greens of Zilker Park. The venue is decked up with food and drinks, an art market, kids area for families, while music ranges from rock, indie, country, folk, electronic, and hip-hop. This year, the McCombs group created their own flag and made their presence felt all over Zilker Park.

For Technology Lovers: South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive

SXSW Interactive is focused on emerging technology making Austin the breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies. The festival includes a trade show, speakers, parties, and a startup accelerator. This year, Meerkat, the video streaming application, was one of the featured technologies gaining traction due to endorsements from many celebrities including Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Every year, Texas MBA has a booth at the SXSWi Tradeshow promoting new technology ventures supported by our own students.

For Fun Lovers: Eeoyre’s Birthday

It doesn’t get much more Austin weird than Eeyore’s Birthday Party – the annual Pease Park bacchanal known for outrageous costumes and booming drum circles. This event is celebrated on the last Saturday of April, featuring colorful costumes, a trash can of lemonade, honey sandwiches and a live flower-draped donkey.

Eeooyre'sBday

SXSW Recap: The Music

“South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual music, interactive and film festival held in Austin every year.” – SXSW.com

While technically accurate, this generic definition did nothing to prepare me for the 10-day blur of adventures I got myself into with classmates and friends, new and old.

Start-Up Crawl to kick-off SXSW

Start-Up Crawl to kick-off SXSW

Spoon, Jurassic 5’s Charlie Tuna, Nas, Run the Jewels, Verite, BØRNS, Gorgon City, Odesza, Elliphant, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Big Data, Twin Shadow and Best Coast were among the bands I saw play throughout the festival. There were many others…

Up front for Twin Shadow

Up front for Twin Shadow

And I did not even really see all that SXSW had to offer. Admittedly, I skimped a little bit on many of the amazing interactive panels. One of my classmates won a guitar from a Japanese start-up by playing an accurate rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and many others attended fascinating panels led by CXOs of some of the most prestigious companies in the world. I also somehow missed Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart wandering the street, as well as a free screening of Fast 7.

However, for me, SXSW was about trying to catch as much music as possible. I chose to bypass any of the SXSW badges, as well as the SXSW music wristband and test my luck by utilizing connections and being in the right place at the right time. Before SXSW, many of my fellow McCombs friends staying in town came together, compared schedules and tried to plan out our days. While at times this was successful (Spotify House), sometimes we just got lucky. There were multiple shows I just ended up walking into the venue not knowing who was going to be playing, only to have an incredible night with friends.

Here are a few of my top SXSW Music Tips & Tricks that helped me a lot:

– Create a What’sApp (or something similar) chain with all McCombs people that stay in town for SXSW. We leveraged this on a daily basis to determine what people’s plans were for the day, and most importantly to determine what the line/wristband situation was at similar venues. Many of us did not waste time at ‘at-capacity’ venues and were able to meet up at near-empty ones for shows (this is how I saw Ghostface and Raekwon).

– Leverage McCombs connections!!! There are a lot of McCombs alumni that are working at amazing companies in Austin and across the country that hold SXSW events. Through direct and one-off connections, I was able to volunteer at an Umbel event and get VIP-access for Spoon. Through a one-off connection, I scored VIP-backstage tickets to a Nas concert and was let into numerous after-parties and events.

Leveraging McCombs best student, Jimi

Leveraging McCombs’ best student, Jimi

– Hit up South Congress if you are looking for a more relaxed day. Once you cross the bridge and get downtown, there will be people everywhere. The streets are still manageable, but do not expect to be able to drop into a coffee shop and get work done. South Congress has a much less crowded, chill vibe (especially during the first week). They also have some great local acts (although these can be found all over downtown and the east side). West 6th is generally less crowded than the East Side and Downtown.

– Give new venues and new bands a try. This is pretty self-explanatory, but as long as the venue isn’t too far away (2+ miles away from downtown), check it out! I had never heard of Scoot Inn and now I cannot wait to go back!

We’re already looking forward to next year!

5 Ways Women MBAs CAN Have It All

When I started in the Texas Executive MBA program (EMBA) last August, I fully expected life as I knew it to end. I scheduled a couple of relaxing trips — a beach vacation over Fourth of July, and a fly fishing adventure with my husband on the Salmon River in Idaho. I got my hair cut. I read Vogue and took a few spa days. I scaled back my involvement in non-priority projects. By the time August rolled around and I buttoned up my business suit for the first seminar, I was ready to kiss my “old,” pre-MBA life goodbye.

A few weeks ago, I participated in a panel at the annual Texas MBA Women’s Forum, speaking to prospective Evening and Executive applicants. I remembered how I felt just a year before as an audience member watching a similar panel and wondering whether I was ready to make the commitment to the program. Now that I’m well into my second semester as an EMBA, life has gotten complicated, but it’s not impossible, and I’m certainly still able to enjoy my “old” life. I’m here to inform women considering the program that you can have it all. Here’s how:

1) Your support network goes far beyond you.

Friends opening creditsWhether you’re married, single, or “it’s complicated,” you’ll quickly find that you need more than just the power of you to get through this program. For those who have significant others, it’s imperative that he or she be on board with your decision — they will be your sounding board and your soft place to land. But don’t think you have to have someone waiting for you with dinner on the stove to tackle an MBA. This program expands your network — intentionally so — both professionally and personally. Between your study group, your classmates at large, and your professors, you begin to develop a network that helps you answer some of the most challenging questions in your life, whether they are related to career advice, personal development, or schoolwork. Additionally, the women in the class ahead of me have done a great job at building relationships with the women in my class. I think I can safely speak for the ladies of the Class of 2016 when I say that we’re all looking forward to paying it forward to incoming female students next year.

2) You become a decision-making rockstar.

How often do you hum and haw over whether to attend a meeting or bring an issue to your boss? How many times a day do you click on the same email trying to decide how to respond? Dr. John Burrows, the EMBA program director, and one of your first-semester professors, likes to say “Begin with the end in mind.” While at first this concept can be difficult to grasp, once you get the hang of it, you start applying it to everything in your life. When a decision needs to be made, you are able to arrive at an effective, prompt, and well-supported conclusion. Not only that, but you begin to collect tools and strategies that help you dive into and analyze these challenging situations with confidence. Being in this program so quickly cuts through the chaff in your life, that you just might be surprised by how much extra time it frees up (which, of course, leaves more time for studying!).

3) You learn how to prioritize the right things, not all the things.

One of the most important parts of the program that you won’t find in any formal curriculum is that it teaches you to recognize when and how to take care of your personal life. This isn’t just something that MBAs need to learn — any executive looking to go the distance must get a handle on this lesson at some point.

Need to get some exercise? There’s no shortage of running groups or cycling teams to join (or start your own!). If you have kids, be there for them first. Your group will support you (and demand cute photos of your kids as repayment!). A few of us in the Class of 2016 have made a point to have “Manicure Mondays” every few months when we get our nails done together. It’s a simple thing but it allows us to debate cases or talk through tough quantitative concepts while doing something special and relaxing for ourselves. During my first semester, my husband and I bought a house and decided to renovate our kitchen ourselves. Did I often think I needed to be reading case studies while I knocked dry wall down off the walls? Absolutely. Did I finish reading those cases by the time class rolled around? Of course. Life has a way of expanding and contracting to your priorities. It’s up to you to ensure you put the right priorities in your life.

4) You learn how to maximize your unique strengths.

Leslie Knope quoteChanneling your strengths as a leader goes far beyond focusing on just doing what you’re good at. In fact, this program challenges you to step outside of your comfort zone and to wrestle with questions you might previously have avoided. This is where you learn how to channel your natural talents, as you start to realize — with the guidance of great professors and supportive classmates — that there are unique aspects about you that make you a unique leader. These are the stories you come into the program with: a former career as a professional athlete, or a struggle to overcome a fear of public speaking. These bits and pieces of your history are often overlooked — and sometimes even hidden from ourselves and others. But the EMBA program encourages you to really explore what parts of those stories you can leverage to make the world a better place. How does this ultimately help you have it all? You have time to reflect on and ensure that an important part of yourself is not left behind as you grow and change as a leader.

5) You can find self-fulfillment.

Remember being forced to run the mile in grade school while being timed and yelled at by some domineering gym coach? I bet you couldn’t wait to stop running. Now think about what it felt like the time you chose to train for and complete a long distance race, whether it was a 5K or an Ironman. Sure, it was daunting going into it, but the process was just as satisfying as crossing the finish line. Pursue an MBA if you are looking for fulfillment at both a personal and professional level. It requires too much time, effort, and sacrifice if you don’t plan on finding personal satisfaction and happiness in not only the outcomes, but also the inputs. In her controversial essay “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Anne-Marie Slaughter writes about one challenge for women attempting the balancing act:

Seeking out a more balanced life is not a women’s issue; balance would be better for us all. Bronnie Ware, an Australian blogger who worked for years in palliative care and is the author of the 2011 book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, writes that the regret she heard most often was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Make sure an MBA isn’t just another item on the list of what others expect from you. If you’re true to yourself in this program, you’ll do just fine.

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