Tag: texas mba students

Farewell, Spring Break: An Ode to Global Connections – Colombia

Imagine, if you will:

A balmy, salt-spiced breeze saunters down the street as you step into an alley lined with exotic fruit vendors displaying colors and flavors yet to be discovered by your senses. Lively salsa music emanates from around the corner, where an enchanting band has set up shop next to street merchants selling alluring handmade arts and crafts in shades of chartreuse, turquoise and emerald. All around, people are smiling, laughing, dancing.

Dream sequence? Possibly. But for the McCombs students who went on a Global Connections trip during the two weeks of spring break, the dream became a reality as soon as finals were done, bags were packed, and flights were boarded.

I had the pleasure of going to Colombia for 15 days with a group of 30 or so classmates. During that time, we visited several cities, including Bogotá, Medellín, Zona Cafetera and Cartagena (for a small, extended sojourn once the program came to an end.) In each city, we had the chance to immerse ourselves in the corporate and cultural sides of Colombia, all while sipping on some mighty good coffee.

Return of the "prom pose"

Return of the “prom pose”

First, let’s talk business. We met with over half a dozen companies, encompassing all sizes and industries. We walked the very fields where owner Jesús Martin harvests the same beans he selected, roasted and brewed into every cup of coffee he served us at his café later that day. We suited up in safety apparel to go inside Colombia’s main 3M manufacturing plants to witness firsthand how iconic products like Scotch-Brite and masking tape are made. We strolled the immense greenhouses of La Gaitana, one of the country’s largest exporters of flowers, and learned how they sustain their large-scale operations with such a nimble workforce. We dined casually at the headquarters of Corona, one of the largest producers of porcelain and ceramic products, with the company’s CEO – before he exchanged his three-piece suit for casual attire and chose to spend the entire day with us as we visited factories and storefronts to review the company’s inventory and supply chain procedures. Every company we met with, we were greeted with open arms, delicious treats, and a wealth of executive-level insight.

Endless appreciation for the substance that fuels my every morning

Jesús Martin: Endless appreciation for the substance that fuels my every morning

A company that's the epitome of strong leadership and values

Corona: A company that’s the epitome of strong leadership and values

When we weren’t off pursuing global business savvy, we were out and about exploring everything Colombia has to offer: local cuisine, live music, and tropical ecosystems in dazzling technicolor. Speaking as someone who thinks the word marathon should involve Netflix and not the great outdoors, I’m proud to say we did it all: descending into the underground salt cathedral of Zipaquirá, conquering the 700+ stairs leading to the top of the rock of Guatapé, ziplining across acres of lush vegetation in Armenia, and flying up winding mountainsides in open-air Jeep Willys on our way to Salento. But alas, every daredevil requires the occasional night off, so we also made sure to indulge in good food, drinks, and dancing when we could. There were spectacular meat/cheese platters, fresh juices from fruits you can only readily find and consume in Colombia, and desserts akin to ambrosia (one dish literally comprised of rich hot cocoa with chunks of creamy cheese melted into it – holy cholesterol.) The ever-present music that permeates the country by day seems to be heightened at night, causing body parts to inadvertently tap, shimmy and wiggle to the beat. Salsa clubs packed with dancers of all skillsets gave us an opportunity to burn some of those decadent aforementioned calories to the rhythm of bongos and trumpets.

Guatapé: Started at the bottom

Guatapé: Started at the bottom

Indescribable feelings

Salento: Unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings

Ziplining over babbling brooks? Don't mind if I do

Ziplining over babbling brooks? Don’t mind if I do

Beautiful, mystical, sprawling far as the eye can see

Beautiful and mystical, sprawling as far as the eye can see

One of the best parts of this experience? Forever creating those memories alongside my fellow MBAs. We had folks from the full-time and part-time programs alike, alongside some who were in entirely different disciplines outside of McCombs, and it was one of the highlights of my trip getting to know these people I might not have had the chance to meet otherwise. Together, we picked up some Spanish phrases (no dar papaya, y’all), learned the importance of cultural differences (I lescant even, y’all), ventured into new gastronomy (aguardiente, y’all!) and even hunkered down for a brief earthquake (…is my altitude sickness kicking in or did the earth just move, y’all?)

Hanging out on a mountain, nbd

Hanging out on a mountain

TL;DR:
1) Colombia, in all its lively, loving warmth, has truly captured my heart
2) Global Connections is a wonderful way to spend spring break doing exceptional things for both your career and your psyche
3) I need a vacation to recover from my vacation

My favorite color: Caribbean blue

My favorite color: Caribbean blue

Sunset over Cafe del Mar

¡Viva Colombia!

Hook ‘em!

McCombs Student Adventures: Marathons & Ski Trips

Before I started at McCombs, I wondered if my friendships and connections with fellow students would begin and end in the classroom. You often hear stories of the competitiveness of certain business schools, and that can breed animosity and force only surface relationships among classmates. While McCombs students are certainly competitive (it takes a level of drive and ambition to get into a school like ours) I have been pleasantly surprised with the level of camaraderie among all of my classmates. It is not just that we coexist in the classroom. We actually like each other and do things together outside of campus that make the whole experience of business school more fulfilling and more fun.

Take the Austin Marathon for example. I signed up for the half marathon with two members of my study group and four other classmates. We all survived the core curriculum and recruiting, what is a marathon compared to that? Though all seven of us did not end up running it, it is telling that we all wanted to do this massive undertaking together. I cannot think of a stronger support system for such a major commitment of time and effort. A group ended up making signs and cheering on our friends that ran it together.

Leigh McCoy and Georgie Smyser at a marathon

Leigh McCoy and Georgie Smyser making McCombs proud and looking good after 26.2 miles!

Probably the greatest example of the fun activities that McCombs students participate in together is the annual ski trip that occurred this past weekend. Over 100 students and their significant others descended on Park City, Utah for a couple of days of skiing, bonding and lounging (for the less athletically inclined). The trip is put on by the Graduate Business Adventure Club, a popular club that organizes outings throughout the year . They really do it big for the ski trip! The club organized dinners, hotel arrangements, happy hours and more to ensure that it was a weekend that no one could forget.

Students skiing together on Park City Mountain

Texas MBA students Students skiing together on Park City Mountain

To say this trip was fun is a huge understatement. It was so nice to leave the stresses of recruiting and studying back in Austin and just relax with the friends that we have made the past couple of months. It provided the opportunity to spend time with people that I might not normally hang out with and strengthen the friendships that had already developed so far in school. This trip gave me even more of an appreciation for my fellow classmates and the McCombs program in particular. I mean, look at these people, how could it not?

Texas MBA First Year Group Shot

Texas MBA 1st Years. Hook Em!

International Life at McCombs

In the Texas MBA program, we pride ourselves on being truly global. The most treasured element of our global identity is our international student community. At about 24% of the class, they represent many countries across the continents and create a global classroom environment that McCombs is well known for.

Indian Festival Diwali Celebrations in UT, 2014

Indian Festival Diwali Celebrations in UT, 2014

The culture of McCombs resembles that of a closely-knit family. All our classmates are deeply invested in helping us succeed and transition to the career of our choice. Most international students learn a lot from their domestic counterparts, especially about the culture and traditions of Texas. This year, the domestic students invited many international students to spend Thanksgiving with their families in Austin and other cities. International Night is another fabulous event where students from all countries get to display their culture to their classmates. It is this form of cultural exchange that makes the Texas MBA experience at McCombs truly unique.

International_Night

International Night, 2014

As an international student who has lived and worked in the U.S. for many years, I must say that the resources available for students are absolutely phenomenal. Right in the first week, UT holds a Football 101 session for all new international students to help them get acquainted with the game that is at the core of UT’s culture. Communication coaches are available through the MBA+ leadership program, and have a great impact in the first year of the program. My communication coach helped me work a lot on my non-verbal communication and business articulation skills. She has also helped many international students through accent modification training. Career services put a special emphasis on helping internationals succeed through specialized job search tools and a one-on-one peer advising model. With a 90,000+ strong alumni base, a lot of international alumni serve as mentors to the current students and help them through their career trajectory.

At McCombs, we often hear the phrase, “What starts here, changes the world.” Our international students are the pioneers of this motto. They bring the best of their global business acumen, and often take back to their home countries the valuable lessons learned in the Texas MBA community. And it all begins – not with the world-class faculty, the top-tier internships, or the leadership skills – It begins when you watch a fourth quarter touchdown at the football field, and before your know it, you clench your fists and say “Hook’Em!” That’s when you become a Longhorn!

Bleeding burnt orange at a Longhorns game

Bleeding burnt orange at a Longhorns game 2014

How to Tackle the MBA+ Experience

Ah, the MBA+ projects… these certainly constitute a range of emotions from us MBA students.  For those who haven’t heard, MBA+ projects are mini consulting projects that you can complete during the semester with a variety of companies.  Yes, that’s right, you can elect to do these on top of your already busy schedule, but there are definitely a few very important reasons why you should!  In this post I’ll talk a bit about my experience and my tips for the process.

At first, I was on the fence about doing an MBA+ project since I didn’t really know what to expect from my schedule and class commitments.  I mulled it over for a week or so and then realized that since I am not pursuing Consulting, I-Banking, or other major corporations (so basically the bulk of anybody coming to campus) that my recruiting schedule would be much less busy than many others’ in the fall so to just go for it – and I’m certainly glad I did.  The first step in the process is applying to projects (up to 10), and then your team will be selected by the companies sponsoring the projects.  Knowing where I did not want to recruit was how I selected my projects, so I focused only on Austin based start-ups and was matched with FreqSho.

FreqSho is an Austin based music discovery start-up that aggregates artist info from various web sources into a one stop shop for avid music fans.  When we started, the company was working off of a minimum viable product (MVP) and was working on launching a beta version.  Our task as a team was to help create the go-to-market strategy for launching FreqSho.  Given that I have an interest in transitioning from a background in Corporate Finance to Strategy & Marketing, the scope was perfect for me.  I have literally zero experience with marketing, and now I have some tangible skills, understanding, and stories to take with me into interviews.  Throughout the process I was able to learn more about utilizing primary research, digital advertising (Facebook, Google Display, and Search Engine Optimization), and project management skills.  Plus, I was able to score free Sam Smith concert tickets from my teammate and new friend, Gedy!

What to do:

  1. If you have a business background but are a career or function switcher like me, you should do an MBA+ project. Switching functions has been more difficult than I imagined and the MBA+ project is the only tangible experience I have in marketing compared to some class mates who have tons.
  2. If you don’t have a business background at all, you should do an MBA+ project. Start building skills and having interview stories aligned with your future goals
  3. If one of your target companies is sponsoring a project, you should do an MBA+ project. This is free networking, folks.  This is especially true for you aspiring consultants out there!
  4. Be selective! Pick either companies that you are interested in working for or projects that you are passionate about.  If nothing really strikes your fancy, you aren’t going to enjoy the process and it won’t be a great experience for you or your team.
  5. Consider your recruiting schedule and other commitments. Don’t over extend yourself unless you know it will be worth it.
  6. Get excited about meeting people outside of your cohort that you might not otherwise get to know

What not to do:

  1. Do not let FOMO (fear of missing out) get you. If you aren’t very interested in any of the projects, don’t do one just because it seems like all of your friends are doing one.  You will not fail the MBA program by not participating in an MBA+ Project
  2. Do not wait until the last 2 weeks to really get into the nitty-gritty of the project. This is much easier said than done.  Since these projects aren’t graded, it can be easy to let the tasks fall to the backburner throughout the semester, but it makes for an unpleasant rush to the finish.
  3. Do not stress too much. Like all things in life, some of the projects will inevitably have better sponsors and scopes than others.  If you end up on what turns out not to be your dream project use it as a learning example (great for those behavioral interviews!) and make the most of it.  Again, you will not fail the MBA program!

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.

comfort-zone

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!

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