Tag: first semester (page 1 of 3)

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!


  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.


  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.


Hook ‘em!

-Tim Carreon, Class of 2017

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.


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!

Management Consulting 101

Ever wanted to help an oil and gas company reduce its operational costs? Or wanted to help a consumer goods company analyze which segments it should expand its product portfolio to? Or wanted to help a bank target millennials more effectively? Or wanted to work on all of these projects and then some? If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then I’m sure you are already day-dreaming about becoming a management consultant post your MBA. And if I just described you rather accurately, then boy does the McCombs School of Business have a host of resources for you to take advantage of!

The Dallas Consulting Trek was one such opportunity, where a bunch of us brave first year Texas MBAs visited the Dallas offices of consulting firms like Bain, BCG, A.T.Kearney, Deloitte, Strategy and PwC. We were all on some level surprised by how welcome we and all our questions were at all the firms we visited. In retrospect, it was primarily because our badges read “Class of 2016, McCombs School of Business.”

It was definitely insightful (and for some of my classmates game-changing) to hear about the kinds of projects that these firms took on. We heard a wide variety of viewpoints, from senior partners to brand new interns, all of who took out the time to give us an actual sense of the work they did, and share with us their personal experiences.

So why would anyone in their right mind drive to Dallas and spend the entire day running from one firm to another a precious 2 days before finals? Here are my top five reasons:

1. For someone peering in, all management consulting firms might seem the same. They’re not. The work these firms take on, what they consider important, the kind of people they hire, the culture, even the vibe of their office spaces – every aspect differs vastly from firm to firm. And the trek is a golden opportunity to discover these differences for yourself.

2. The trek presents a chance to build contacts at the top consulting firms early on in the game. This is a great way of getting in touch with McCombs alums working at these firms, a network that you can leverage while recruiting for internships.

3. Meeting consultants working in the consumer and retail space (my industry of choice) left me with a good understanding of the kind of problems this industry typically brings to consulting firms and what skills are required while working on these projects.

4. The trek allows you to look past the surface and discover the pros and cons of being a management consultant – from the diversity of industries and projects to the constant traveling.

5. For the career explorers considering management consulting, this trek provides a platform to have all your questions answered by none other than the people who live and breathe this work every day!


Last but not the least, for those of you who have not been bitten by the management consulting bug, unlike roughly 25% of your class, you will find multiple other treks that suit your interest, whether it is investment banking, hi-tech, marketing, or even start-ups. Watch this space for more on that!

First Semester is Over, on to New Challenges

Now that my first semester as a Texas MBA is over and my second semester is on the very-near horizon, I cannot help but think of the old cliché “Where did the time go?” It is amazing to think that my MBA experience is 25 percent complete, and although I feel like I have participated in so many activities and learned more than I ever could have imagined, I know that McCombs has so much to offer and that there is so much to the MBA program that there is not enough time in the day to get to what would seem a sufficient amount.

With that disclaimer, there have been two particular highlights to my first semester at McCombs that stand out beyond my normal day-to-day activities. I would advise any potential (and even current) students to take full advantage of those McCombs offerings.

Career Treks: I attended the corporate finance and real estate treks to Dallas last semester. On the corporate finance trek we visited Sabre, Celanese, Yum! Brands, and PepsiCo, and on the real estate trek we visited Lincoln Property Company, Hillwood Investments, KDC, Invesco, and ProLogis. These career treks were my personal highlight of the semester from a “career” perspective Continue reading

The Journey So Far: Tips for Executive MBA Survival

The plague, the EMBA program - what's the difference, really?

The plague, the EMBA program – what’s the difference, really?

As we’re about midway through the first semester, I can’t help but mimic the guy with the plague in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “I’m not dead yet!” (Hopefully none of my classmates are hovering behind me muttering, “Yes you are, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.”)

So how have I managed to avoid getting tossed on the meat wagon? Here’s what has gotten me this far.

1.  Be militant with your time. When friends or coworkers ask me how school is going, my general response is, “It sucks up every spare minute and begs for more.” There’s no shortage of things I could study or read. So time blocked out for Continue reading

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