Category: Student Life (page 2 of 5)

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!

Marketing Case Challenge

For those of you just getting to know the MBA experience along with classes, recruiting, networking, and “networking with classmates” (i.e.: having some fun…), case challenges are a (sometimes overlooked) piece of the puzzle.

Case challenges are sponsored by companies and are generally real-world questions that the companies are actually working on.

There are basically case challenges for everything: finance, marketing, global, and operations are just a small portion of them. Usually, they’re overnight competitions where interested parties self-select teams of 4 people to compete against either their classmates or against other schools (depending on the competition). They usually have cash prizes for the top three places, and they generally give out swag for other stuff (best speaker, best deck, etc.). Judges are representatives from different companies, so they’re great networking opportunities as well.

This year, rather than an overnight challenge, the marketing case challenge was a week long. Teams received the case on October 21, submitted their completed presentations by October 28, and presented on October 30. The competition was sponsored by Walmart and focused around how Walmart could use Pinterest to target millennials. For someone with a consulting background who worked in healthcare, public sector, and cable, this was a pretty big change.

Here’s the team vigorously (sort of) finishing the deck to get it submitted before the deadline:

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Little did we know… they had an extra surprise in store for us during the competition… A TORNADO WARNING! Here’s a small group of us after we made it to safety:

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Hook ‘Em, pre-presentation style:

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A picture of the ultimate victors:

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And finally, the second place team celebrating:

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Personally, it was great to get to go through this. I learned a lot about marketing through the conference, and I honestly came in not knowing what I would gain from the challenge. After going through, it was awesome getting to work with people outside of my typical study team, get some marketing experience, and work on building my speaking-skills. Plus, the case was really interesting and relevant for anyone who has an interest in marketing.

There’s also a marketing conference that goes along with the case challenge each year which, this year, focused on “whole-brained marketing” (i.e.: How good marketers today own a combination of creativity and analytics skill-sets). The two keynote speeches were from Peter Horst, CMO, Hershey, and Kip Knight, President, H&R Block US Retail Operations, but the entire panel of speakers was awesome

Full details on the conference here or,
Check out the Storify feed. 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.

Texas MBA Epilogue: From an Executive MBA

Twenty-one months. Thousands of miles traveled and hours spent studying. Dozens of trips to Austin. More caffeine consumed than I care to admit. It all leads to the ceremonies scheduled for this afternoon. Continue reading

Infographic: First Year Executive MBAs Tell All

EMBA Infographic

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