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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!

Full-Time Travelers: Texas MBA Treks

Source: VH1.TUMBLR.COM

Source: VH1.TUMBLR.COM

Great Scott! Back to the Future Day was October 21st this year, and that week McCombs first-year MBAs glimpsed their potential destinies. With a two-day break from their courses, students trekked across the city, state and country to become better acquainted with companies from local startup RealMassive to investment banks in the Big Apple.

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McCombs alumni welcomed visitors all along the way with warm greetings, fond memories and useful career development tips, as well as branded swag and delicious treats. And speaking of Hollywood classics, there were some big screens too, like this one at Austin big tech trek participant Emerson…

Thanks to MBA career advisor Daniel Liu for this photo from the big tech trek

… and futuristic motor vehicles that make modern-day stagecoaches seem so last century (yes, even when they have no class, McCombs MBA students stay classy).

Thanks to Tina Mabley, Director of the Full-Time MBA Program for capturing the tech trekkers in their best hook 'em poses

Thanks to Full-Time MBA program director Tina Mabley for capturing the tech trekkers in their best Hook ‘Em poses

For 20 MBAs on the Dallas marketing trek, the Monday morning agenda comprised coffee, juice and breakfast pastries served by American Airlines, Pizza Hut for lunch, and Frito-Lay’s Rold Gold pretzel dippers as a late-afternoon snack—all at those respective firms’ corporate headquarters. Presentations from members of the Longhorn family and current employees on navigating a major merger in the travel industry, managing relationships with franchisees and reaching target customer segments through emerging platforms like Periscope, among other topics, provided the food for thought. 

Six first-year MBAs at the Dallas headquarters of Pepsico's Frito-Lay division

Six first-year MBAs at the Dallas headquarters of Pepsico’s Frito-Lay division

Houston Energy Finance (visits including Chevron, ExxonMobil and Phillips66), Houston Clean Tech (visits including NRG and First Solar), and Dallas Private Wealth/Asset Management (visits including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse) were among the other treks. The adventures in networking continued throughout the next few weeks in Houston and Dallas, as consulting firms and Houston investment banking institutions hosted more forward looking McCombs MBAs.

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International Student Spotlight: The Road to McCombs

Texas MBAs come from all over the world. This week we’re highlighting some of our international students who made the long trip to McCombs. Check out what they have to say about Austin, McCombs, and the advice they’d like to share with future international applicants.

Texas MBA Student Faraha Kukkady

Name: Faraha
City of Origin: Bangalore, India

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? I wanted a school that was into social impact and also has a strong entrepreneurship program. I also had the fortune of visiting the school before applying and I loved the reception I received. It was a fit right away! And Austin has a great music scene, which is a bonus!

Any advice for others from India thinking about attending McCombs? McCombs has a lot of hidden gems which I discovered after I joined the program. I would advise speaking to as many students and alums as you can to understand how McCombs can help you achieve your goals.

 

Texas MBA Student ShinName: Shin
City of Origin: Seoul, South Korea

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? I knew alumni from McCombs and they recommended I apply because it is an amazing school. The community is friendly, diverse and very open to new-comers.

Any advice for others from South Korea thinking about attending McCombs? McCombs has so many hands-on opportunities, like MBA+, which will prepare you for any business environment in your future. Austin also has great weather and super friendly people!

 

Texas MBA Student Martin Cantu Name: Martin
City of Origin: Monterrey, Mexico

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? Texas MBA is a top MBA program that sets itself apart from other business schools. McCombs has a unique, friendly culture which helps anyone make the best of their program. A “pay it forward” attitude prevails in every McCombs student and alum. With the help of these networks, any goal seems feasible, and with Austin, a friendly, awesome city, included in the decision-making process, the choice becomes a no-brainer!

Any advice for others from Mexico thinking about attending McCombs? Come to Austin to meet the McCombs community! You will learn about the program, meet the admissions team, get to know current students and their experiences, and get advice on the future steps you need to take with your application (Take advantage of this opportunity, students want to help!) You will soon realize that the Texas MBA is the program you are looking for.

 

Texas MBA Student XiaopingName: Xiaoping
City of Origin: Shanghai, China

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? First, McCombs offers a customizable schedule that can be tailored to my personal goals. I can dive deep into the Corporate Finance Concentration and the MBA+ Program, to convert learning into action. Second, I appreciate the culture, diversity and collaborative community of McCombs and UT. My cohorts at McCombs are community leaders with diversified backgrounds. Learning from their valuable thoughts and experiences can inspire me to think more deeply about my career goals, life philosophy, and my contributions to society.

Any advice for others from China thinking about attending McCombs? I did a lot of research to choose McCombs, and after arriving here, things are far beyond my expectations! I really enjoy the down-to-earth culture. Most Chinese applicants do not know much about Austin and Texas. Texas’s current economic situation is the best among all the states in the US. More and more companies, especially the high-tech companies, are moving into Texas for this reason. Austin is a fast-growing city and the people here are nice and warm and you can enjoy the city life as well as the great natural scenes.

 

Texas MBA Student Arjun Dhand

Name: Arjun
City of Origin: Dehradun, India

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? I was looking for an MBA Program which would allow me to leverage my background in energy as well as provide world class education and professional opportunities. McCombs was therefore my top choice!

Any advice for others from India thinking about attending McCombs? Spend a lot of time reflecting on your experiences, professional, academic and generally in life. Find a theme in your experiences and tie them to your story. It’s YOUR story, no one can tell it better than you, and McCombs is a great place to do that.

To learn more about the Texas MBA program, admissions events, and application information, please visit the Texas MBA website.

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!

ExxonMobil & Net Impact Host 1st Energy Bowl at McCombs

It’s well-known that Texas produces more crude oil and natural gas than any other state in the US. However, did you know that the Lone Star State leads the country in wind powered generation capacity? The energy industry serves a crucial role in the macro economy and its complexity, technological advancements, and never-ending thirst for capital attracts many students to McCombs every year.

Here at UT, we benefit from vast resources to aid in our professional development towards becoming leaders in the energy industry. As Texas MBAs, of course we like to team up and make a friendly competition out of it whenever possible. Last week, Net Impact and ExxonMobil gave us the perfect opportunity to do so by hosting its inaugural Energy Bowl at McCombs.

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Texas MBAs at the Energy Bowl!

Leading industry experts MC’d the competition, which was not your average trivia night (not going to lie, I 100% expected a question on the gusher at Spindletop, TX…I was wrong).  Exxon and Net Impact tested students on categories including energy in pop culture, history, new and emerging sources, and projected trends in energy use. We’ve selected a few challenging questions to share below (Answers at the bottom of this post):

  • How many smartphone batteries would you need to equal the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline?
  • Which musician once worked as a roughneck on an offshore oil rig?
  • In what city was the first dam specifically developed for generating hydroelectric power?
  • How many 5 MW wind turbines would it take to provide the equivalent of NYC’s electricity consumption?

We had a great time trying to solve these problems and asking the panelists questions about the future of the industry between rounds. Perhaps more important than racking up points at trivia is your team name, shout-out to “1.21 Gigawatts” for the clever Back to the Future reference.

Whether you are interested in pursuing a career in conventional or renewable energy, there’s no better place to make the next step than McCombs!

(Answers: 4,000, Trace Adkins, Austin, 4,000 + back-up power)

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