Despite living in the great state of Texas, I will say that while we are busy keeping Austin weird, we don’t get to do very many “real Texan” things. Well, that all changed during the second annual Graduate Women in Business Retreat we had in April.
This year, we had almost 20 ladies drive out to Rancho Cortez in Bandera, Texas for a night of fun and bonding with our official cowboy host, Larry. We began the afternoon with a scenic horseback ride and lasso lesson. My horse’s name was Whiskey, and he was poorly behaved – the irony does not escape me. After dinner, we went on a hayride where we were able to take in the scenic Texas Hill country as well as get up close, and a little too personal with some real, non-Bevo longhorns.
Later in the evening, we enjoyed s’mores around a campfire with some of the other guests, including a nice family from Sweden. We rounded out the evening with some time in the hot tub and some serious girl-talk before turning in for the night.
The next morning, which started early at 8am (despite his casual demeanor, Larry runs a pretty tight ship), we had breakfast and were able to split up into another two groups for final trail rides before heading back to Austin.
Carly and I were so happy that we were able to get the retreat together, because I have to say it was one of my favorite events for the year. We have such a strong community of women in the MBA program here, that it was great to spend some time together having fun and getting outside of our comfort zones. It was also great to have a diverse group of attendees, international students, exchange students, part-time students and first and second years. Overall, now that we are coming to a close on the first year of the MBA program I can say that I am so thankful to have met these wonderful women and can’t wait to hang out at Rancho Cortez again next year!
See you next year, Larry!
Life in the Texas MBA program goes beyond the cohort classrooms. The city of Austin is integral to our experience in the two years that we spend at McCombs. The best thing about Austin is that there is something to do here for everyone. From race-car enthusiasts to live music connoisseurs, everyone in the program takes a little bit of this city wherever they go. In this blog, we wanted to touch upon three different types of events that are truly unique to Austin’s soul.
For Music Lovers: Austin City Limits Music Festival
Move over Coachella, the biggest and best artists in music make their annual pilgrimage to Austin and play in front of 75000 people in the outdoor greens of Zilker Park. The venue is decked up with food and drinks, an art market, kids area for families, while music ranges from rock, indie, country, folk, electronic, and hip-hop. This year, the McCombs group created their own flag and made their presence felt all over Zilker Park.
For Technology Lovers: South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive
SXSW Interactive is focused on emerging technology making Austin the breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies. The festival includes a trade show, speakers, parties, and a startup accelerator. This year, Meerkat, the video streaming application, was one of the featured technologies gaining traction due to endorsements from many celebrities including Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Every year, Texas MBA has a booth at the SXSWi Tradeshow promoting new technology ventures supported by our own students.
For Fun Lovers: Eeoyre’s Birthday
It doesn’t get much more Austin weird than Eeyore’s Birthday Party – the annual Pease Park bacchanal known for outrageous costumes and booming drum circles. This event is celebrated on the last Saturday of April, featuring colorful costumes, a trash can of lemonade, honey sandwiches and a live flower-draped donkey.
Pop quiz: What is the difference between student organizations, a.k.a. clubs, and the Texas MBA Fellows Programs?
According to everyone’s favorite Internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia, a fellow is “a member of a group of learned people who work together as peers in the pursuit of mutual knowledge or practice.” A club, on the other hand, is defined as “an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal.”
To put it simply, Texas MBA Fellows Programs are hyper-clubs that offer students immersion learning experiences in a specific industry or function, such as Operations, Marketing, Finance, and Entrepreneurship. The programs are highly selective and typically comprised of only about 15-30 MBA students each year, which allows members to have special access to business leaders and, often, dedicated job and internship opportunities.
A short description of each McCombs program is below, but I encourage you to visit the Texas MBA Fellows Program webpage to learn more about the unique aspects of each one.
Board Fellows: McCombs Board Fellows places selected MBA students as non-voting board members of partner local non-profit organizations for one year. The purpose is to give talented and committed graduate business students the opportunity to work with and learn from non-profit leaders while contributing their time and business skills to benefit the community.
CleanTech Fellows: The CleanTech Fellowship is a selective leadership program that offers exceptional Texas MBA students the opportunity to deepen industry knowledge through hands on experiences in the clean tech world. Once selected, each CleanTech Fellow spends 10-15 hours per week working with a company of his or her choosing and meeting with the other fellows to check in, attend speaker series and discuss developments in the industry.
Corporate Finance Fellows: Founded by Intel, Corporate Finance Fellows brings together selected students to work in a team on a specific project designed by Intel and other corporate partners. Each student participates in a 3 credit hour practicum course during the spring semester, followed by a summer internship sourced by Corporate Finance Fellows’ corporate partners.
Marketing Fellows: The Marketing Fellows program gives selected McCombs MBA students committed to pursuing leadership in marketing the opportunity to develop their marketing acumen and management skills through a combination of focused curriculum and consulting projects. The program is student led and managed with support from Center for Customer Insight and Marketing Solutions (CCIMS) and Marketing faculty.
Sigma Fellows: Sigma Fellows provides selected MBA students interested in pursuing leadership in the functional areas of operations, supply chain or information management the opportunity to develop their management and leadership skills through a comprehensive integrated learning opportunity. Through a combination of focused classroom discussions and consulting projects, Sigma Fellows develop a better understanding of real-world challenges and enhance the Texas MBA experience within the three Sigma disciplines.
Venture Fellows: Venture Fellows was founded in 1999 to provide selected McCombs MBA students the unique opportunity to work with venture capital and private equity funds. The Venture Fellows program consists of a two-semester internship component and weekly meetings with a guest speaker from the venture capital or private equity community to discuss relevant industry topics and experiences.
Venture Labs Fellows: Texas Venture Labs (TVL) offers a combination of focused curriculum, hands-on learning and a speaker series to students with a passion for learning about the entrepreneurial and funding processes. Through a rigorous recruitment process, 30 graduate students from the Schools of Business, Engineering, Law, and Natural Sciences are selected to participate in the program, during which they work on cross-disciplinary teams to accelerate the formation and launch of 5-10 startups selected through an equally rigorous process. TVL teams provide immediate impact and value to the partner companies for which they consult.
I can say from experience that joining a Fellows Program has added practical value to my McCombs MBA journey. As a Marketing Fellow, I have (so far) been able to advise American Airlines about how to design and promote its in-flight entertainment package, offer ideas about engaging Hispanic Millennials to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and design a marketing campaign for Chipotle catering.
The best part about the immersion aspect of the program is how truly interested the companies have been in our thoughts, ideas, and recommendations. Having the ear of executives from Fortune 500 companies is not something every MBA student (or working professional, for that matter) receives, and I am so thankful to McCombs for giving me the opportunity on a weekly basis.
P.S. Although not technically Fellows Programs, the MBA Student Investment Funds (MBA Investment Fund & Real Estate Investment Fund) are equally elite and provide McCombs students with rigorous, hands-on experience in the school’s own private investment company.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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
“South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual music, interactive and film festival held in Austin every year.” – SXSW.com
While technically accurate, this generic definition did nothing to prepare me for the 10-day blur of adventures I got myself into with classmates and friends, new and old.
Spoon, Jurassic 5’s Charlie Tuna, Nas, Run the Jewels, Verite, BØRNS, Gorgon City, Odesza, Elliphant, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Big Data, Twin Shadow and Best Coast were among the bands I saw play throughout the festival. There were many others…
And I did not even really see all that SXSW had to offer. Admittedly, I skimped a little bit on many of the amazing interactive panels. One of my classmates won a guitar from a Japanese start-up by playing an accurate rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and many others attended fascinating panels led by CXOs of some of the most prestigious companies in the world. I also somehow missed Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart wandering the street, as well as a free screening of Fast 7.
However, for me, SXSW was about trying to catch as much music as possible. I chose to bypass any of the SXSW badges, as well as the SXSW music wristband and test my luck by utilizing connections and being in the right place at the right time. Before SXSW, many of my fellow McCombs friends staying in town came together, compared schedules and tried to plan out our days. While at times this was successful (Spotify House), sometimes we just got lucky. There were multiple shows I just ended up walking into the venue not knowing who was going to be playing, only to have an incredible night with friends.
Here are a few of my top SXSW Music Tips & Tricks that helped me a lot:
– Create a What’sApp (or something similar) chain with all McCombs people that stay in town for SXSW. We leveraged this on a daily basis to determine what people’s plans were for the day, and most importantly to determine what the line/wristband situation was at similar venues. Many of us did not waste time at ‘at-capacity’ venues and were able to meet up at near-empty ones for shows (this is how I saw Ghostface and Raekwon).
– Leverage McCombs connections!!! There are a lot of McCombs alumni that are working at amazing companies in Austin and across the country that hold SXSW events. Through direct and one-off connections, I was able to volunteer at an Umbel event and get VIP-access for Spoon. Through a one-off connection, I scored VIP-backstage tickets to a Nas concert and was let into numerous after-parties and events.
– Hit up South Congress if you are looking for a more relaxed day. Once you cross the bridge and get downtown, there will be people everywhere. The streets are still manageable, but do not expect to be able to drop into a coffee shop and get work done. South Congress has a much less crowded, chill vibe (especially during the first week). They also have some great local acts (although these can be found all over downtown and the east side). West 6th is generally less crowded than the East Side and Downtown.
– Give new venues and new bands a try. This is pretty self-explanatory, but as long as the venue isn’t too far away (2+ miles away from downtown), check it out! I had never heard of Scoot Inn and now I cannot wait to go back!
We’re already looking forward to next year!
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!