Tag: academics

Airplanes, Austin, Classes, and People – My Texas MBA Allure

I’ve spent most of my life living in the eastern time zone, so moving to Texas was a wild departure from my past. As I chatted with prospective students who spent their whole lives in the Northeast, or maybe even outside of the US, it made me remember the questions and priorities I had when I was seeking out business schools. Did I find what I was looking for in Texas? (Spoiler: The answer to that question is “yes”)

Here are four main things I was looking for:

1. I want to go work for _______.

Inside, I’m still a small kid, fascinated by the prospect of two giant jet engines propelling a 300+ ton wide-body airplane up into the sky. I always wanted to work for the airline industry – yes, that pressurized metal tube, shoes off, delay-prone industry. Knowing this, I set out to find a school that gave me the best chance at fulfilling my ambitions. It was the active and well-connected alumni network, the well thought-out career support system, and Texas’ historic strength in the industry that made the school so attractive to me. In fact, it was one of the alumni that helped convince me that I would have the connection and resources at McCombs to get where I wanted to be.

Importantly, it’s not just the connection to a dream job or function that mattered. The relationship to my career aspirations, the career management staff and system strength, and diverse experiences of my classmates mattered just as much. I asked my self, “can I develop a connection with the career staff who will have my best interest in mind?” “Is the career support system proactive?” Thinking back, I made absolutely the right call.

(For brevity sake, I left out the next seven paragraphs about airlines. I have been known to talk people’s ear off about it…)

2. The Neat Outdoor-sy City Called Austin

First off, I spent most of my life in the frigid tundra of the Midwest. I loved the snow (and snow days!), and thought it had a bad reputation. When I descended on Texas, freezing weather was somewhat a foreign concept.

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Austin’s Freezing February

Seriously though, Austin’s an outstanding outdoors town. It’s actually a neat town in general. I like to spend a lot of time outdoors – playing tennis, ultimate Frisbee, jogging – and in the ten different cities I’ve lived in my life, Austin’s has by far the best trails, courts, and the weather to enjoy it all. If you’re not familiar with the area, definitely check out Barton Springs Pool the next time you’re here. It’s Austin’s natural river open for swimming nearly all year-round

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Hiking the Barton Creek Trail with Classmates

3. A Customizable Curriculum

By now, you’ve probably heard about our class structure – two years, four semesters, mandatory core classes to start. But it’s the brevity of the required core curriculum that was especially attractive. After all, the Full-Time Texas MBA Program is only two years / four semesters long.

When I was looking at the Texas MBA Program, I was concerned that the small class size meant less options for electives. Many case/discussion-based classes need critical mass to tap into the proverbial “wisdom of a crowd”. That said, I discovered a surprising number of interesting electives for a program that currently averages 270 students per year, because there’s so much time to take electives (nearly three-quarters of the program are reserved for electives).

A great example of a course that shows the diversity of our electives is “Corporate Governance” taught by Professor William Cunningham. To analyze a Board of Director’s important duties and responsibilities, the Professor invites several former and current senior executives from various companies to address the class. I’m taking this course this semester; it’s a rare opportunity to take a course where we can learn from today’s business leaders. And so far, it has been quite a treat.

4. The People

It’s a bit of a clichéd concept, but I believe that people can make the greatest difference. I always tell this anecdote about how I started to see UT as the place for me. Last year, I was making my decision on business schools, and visited Austin to check out the city and the university. Incidentally, it was the Austin Marathon weekend. There was something about the volume of energy and excitement around the city that surprised me, even if it housed a very large public university.

When I visited McCombs, it was much the same. The important thing to ask is – do I see myself with these people as my classmates? Would I enjoy their company, and be able to work with them? After talking to the current students, the faculty from the class I was able to shadow in, and even random people in the atrium, I think I saw myself fitting in just fine.

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Texas vs. Cal from the MBA Student Section! (I believe we were winning at this point…?)

Conquering a Finance Case Challenge

I recently participated in the 2015 Finance Challenge, where I joined a team with three of my classmates in analyzing a business valuation case study and presented our solutions to a panel of judges.

Here are my top five favorite moments of the Finance Challenge:

  1. Forming our dream team

The first step in any case challenge is assembling a team of four classmates who are interested in participating. The best teams are diverse – not just in cultural background, but also in skill set, work experience, and future goals. This is valuable because your team can generate unique ideas, you can learn from others’ experiences, and your presentation will be dynamic. McCombs has a wealth of diversity, so it wasn’t hard to create a solid team. I teamed up with a former investment banker, a former lawyer and banker, and a small business owner – and two of my teammates were even married!

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  1. Preparing to tackle the case… with Home Slice Pizza

One of the key elements in preparing for a case competition is social time. After we received our case materials, we visited an Austin staple – Home Slice Pizza – where we talked about the case’s important issues and our ideas to solve them over two large pizzas and a bottle of Chianti. This dinner set the tone for our whole approach to solving the case challenge – relaxed, yet confident and efficient.

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  1. Cracking the quants

The inner nerd in me (okay, I’m kind of an “outer” nerd, too) was extremely excited to build the financial valuation model for this case. So naturally, it was one my favorite moments. Our whole team was eager to flesh out every detail necessary to make the perfect model. We utilized topics and frameworks that we learned in our core corporate finance class as well as the “flex-core” valuation class. I suppose my background in financial consulting and my teammates’ banking experiences may have helped, too…

  1. Delivering the presentation

Case competitions are a great way for students to practice their presentation skills. As a former consultant, I did quite a bit of presenting, and I really enjoy public speaking. It was exciting to discuss our analysis with the judges and hear their feedback. For those who are looking to improve their communication skills, McCombs provides an invaluable resource: MBA+ Coaches. The MBA+ communication coaches are all current candidates or graduates of the UT Communication Studies PhD program, and they are available to all full-time MBA students to help with speech anxiety, interviewing, networking, writing, and more.

  1. Networking and celebrating

After the challenge was over, we chatted with the judges and other recruiters who attended the event. We reflected on what we learned from the challenge: how to remain cool under pressure, how to sift through loads of information and data to determine the key issues, and how to work closely with your peers to come up with the most innovative solutions. Then we went to happy hour at Uchi (another Austin favorite) to celebrate our success with our significant others. There’s nothing like a few sushi rolls and a glass of sake to cap off a week of late nights, early mornings, and a successful competition.

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Hook ‘em!

-Tim Carreon, Class of 2017

McCombs’ Favorite Classes: Strategic Marketing with Professor Mackie

The only way to really learn about business is to understand the real-world applications of concepts or to go out and actually apply these concepts in a real-world setting. The Texas MBA program provides you with ample opportunities to enjoy the benefits of both these learning methods. Firstly, there are a plethora of experiential opportunities that McCombs offers like the MBA+ projects and the Fellows programs. But even apart from these programs, classes often become a really great way to learn about practical applications and even put your learning to test. It is precisely for this reason that I have particularly enjoyed my Strategic Marketing class with Professor Kate Mackie.

The Strategic Marketing class, as the name suggests, covers various aspects of marketing strategy both at the product level such as the 4P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion), and at the company level such as resource allocation. What is interesting is that we actually strive to apply these concepts in a simulation, where we compete against each other to maximize shareholder value, much like what a lot of us aim to do as future C-suite executives. The competitive element of the class adds an element of fun and often has us frantically checking the results early on Friday morning, which is supposed to be our day off!

Another reason I find this course unique is that it does not look at things solely from a large resource-rich organization’s perspective. It takes into account possible resource limitations that firms may have to deal with and forces you to make decisions keeping these limitations in mind! Moreover, as readings for the class we read articles not only from business journals but also from business weeklies such as Bloomberg Businessweek, which I think is a great way to keep the conversation current. A shout out to Professor Mackie for making this course rigorous yet fun!

On one hand, this class has shattered certain beliefs I had in a previous life when I worked in a marketing role in the healthcare industry. For example, how it is actually better for a smaller company to compete in a more niche market where it can dominate rather than chase a large market. On the other hand, it has taught me useful tools as I prepare for my internship in the consumer packaged goods industry. Such as how important a clear positioning statement can be when developing a promotional campaign with a creative team.

All I can say is that, the Strategic Marketing has left me with a more sound understanding of the strategic decision making process that extends well beyond the realms of Marketing. When I was applying to McCombs, I reached out to a lot of students and Professor Mackie’s name came up when I asked about their favorite class. Now I know precisely why!

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