Tag Archives: life

International Potluck

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Recently, the MPA International Connection hosted a potluck where international students shared foods from their respective home countries. Fortunately, they invited all of us to come and try them out. In good spirit, the domestic students brought some of their own food to share with the international students. Career Consultant Dawn Shaw was there, too, helping promote unity among the varied group of students in the MPA program.

About 25 students brought food from China, Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Mexico, Hawaii, and elsewhere. My only regret is that I didn’t save more room for the Korean BBQ. A bigger sampling might have given me enough ammo to write about another stop on my “BBQ trail” even though it’s pretty different from Texas BBQ.  There was so much food that I didn’t get to eat a substantial amount of any one dish, but I do not regret1610014_294678857356625_2368457516241372259_ntaking the opportunity to try out each one. My contribution, being a southerner, wassouthern-style sweet tea. I made a regular sweet tea version and another one infused with fruit.

Altogether, it was a great way to branch out and try something new that you would not otherwise be exposed to. I have always enjoyed eating foreign foods, but there’s nothing like home-cooking. That is a truism that transcends national and cultural boundaries. It also provided a venue to better get to know some fellow students who we may not have known at all otherwise.

That there is enough interest in an event like this is a testament to the diversity of the Texas MPA class, which is a quality important to me. I have enjoyed my travels outside the US and look forward to future travels, but experiencing fellowship in this context with others who are outside their home countries is the next best thing.

 

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Competing With Engineers for a Sustainable World

A couple of months ago, we all received an invitation to compete in BASF’s Team Chemistry challenge. A fellow MPA student decided to formTexas-mascot a group, and so I joined. It seemed like a fun project – come up with ideas to lessen the environmental impact of football gameday. I love football gameday and I have an interest in environmental sustainability, so it was like a match made in heaven. Of course, the incentive of winning a bunch of money didn’t hurt.

So, we set to work coming up with ideas on how to approach the problem.  We easily came up with a host of small solutions that would have some impact, but quickly got bogged down in the details. After spending some more time pondering our work, we decided to focus on a group  of related solutions and hone in on them.  As Joel said in his most recent article about accountants being risk-averse, we learned from our initial mistakes, found the proper balance, and ended up with some pretty cool ideas.

We were invited to a couple of events by BASF and the Athletic Department to learn more about the initiative and the goals of the competition. One event was a sustainability panel sponsored by UT Engineers for a Sustainable World. The panel was entirely made up of engineers and the audience was entirely engineers … except two of us MPA students. It was very intimidating hearing about them discussing various polymers of which we had no clue of their existence much less their properties. Apparently these students have a big advantage over us with their knowledge of chemicals, considering BASF is essentially a chemical company. The next event was a stadium tour, during which our guides told us about their issues with waste management. Their focus seemed to be only on waste management problems, while our solutions did little to address that.

ConcoursePoster_#2_Sec120But, we pressed on, confident in the power of our ideas despite not having the technical knowledge that is certainly common among our competition. What we do have is a business ingenuity that enabled us to come up with feasible solutions that are easily implemented and have a measurable impact. We used the skills we have learned in economics, finance, and accounting to estimate the results of our proposals. We also used our branding and presentation skills to develop a persuasive format through which to deliver our proposal.

We find out Friday if we are invited to the finalist round, where we will present and defend our ideas in a “shark tank” environment. We’ve had fun putting it all together, and we’re proud of our accomplishments, but it would be great to get to write a “Part II” to this article about our preparation for the finalist round!

 

Live Music Capital of the World

austin city music header Now that recruiting is out of the way and one semester under my belt, I feel like I have some extra breathing room to enjoy more of the fun that Austin has to offer. My biggest new year’s resolution is to see more live music, and what better place to enable my success than the Live Music Capital of the World? Being a musician, it wouldn’t hurt to get the chance to perform some of that live music as well.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve had the chance to see a few acts already, but I still have some places on my hit list:

Victory Grill: I had the chance after our first day back of the spring semester to check out Victory Grill’s weekly Monday night blues jam. A few of us MPAs went, and have already made plans to go back. It felt like a neighborhood bar for regulars to come and play sweet blues music, taking turns on the stage to wring out their troubles.

Red River: Not a single venue, but a strip of clubs, bars, and music venues. Stubb’s BBQ and Mohawk regularly feature relatively well-known touring artists in addition to some of the local greats. Then there are several smaller venues and bars clustered around that frequently host live music.

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The Legendary White Swan: This one, another neighborhood bar, has been on my list for a while, but I haven’t made it down there yet. They host a variety of local artists, from blues to punk to roots country.

Sahara Lounge: Another venue that recently appeared on my radar, the Sahara Lounge is the most eclectic on the list. The variety of music that can be found here includes Indie, African, Blues, Rock, Country, Swing, Brazilian, and Funk.

Any takers?  Any other venues I need to check out?

Can you Identify a Fraudster?

Currently I am taking Professor Bradshaw‘s Fraud Examination class as an accounting elective. In the course we learned about the typical white-collar criminal and I believe most of us were surprised by the statistics. (I know I was!)

Maybe I have watched too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU, but I pride myself in being able to read others and anticipate who is the “bad guy” in a movie or TV show before it is revealed to the audience. Being able to read people is a valuable skill to have and, unfortunately, a necessary one because professionals in the workplace may not always be as honest as we hope they will be. In this respect, we cannot let stereotypes bias the way we view our colleagues and others in the professional environment.

Before discussing who is most likely to be a corporate fraudster, Professor Bradshaw prompted the class to describe the quintessential fraudster. In our minds, it would typically be the sinister looking professional who is either A) quiet and viewed to be anti-social or B) really aggressive. It is easy to convince yourself that the corporate “bad guys” are going to resemble the ones that you see in Hollywood dramas. However, statistically, the typical fraudster is not who you would expect.

Here are the characteristics of a typical corporate fraudster:

  • Male, aged 35+
  • Strong accounting/finance background and above average education
  • In a position of trust
  • Stable family/personal situation
  • Good psychological health
  • No criminal record

These characteristics, as Professor Bradshaw humorously pointed out, are more believable to be descriptive of the average McCombs professor, not a white collar criminal.

I would highly recommend Professor Bradshaw’s class if you are looking for an accounting elective to take! And remember to be wary in the workplace- the fraudster may not be who you most expect!

“It’s never the person you most suspect. It’s also never the person you least suspect, since anyone with half a brain would suspect them the most. Therefore I know the killer to be Phyllis, AKA Beatrix Bourbon, the person I most medium suspect.”
                                           -Dwight (during a Murder Mystery on The Office)

Recruiting and Finding One’s Match

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match
Find me a find, catch me a catch 
It’s all about the fit.

It is hard not to be reminded of this classic song as recruiting season heats up. Though Fiddler on the Roof was referring to a marital arrangement, I think the analogy still holds true with recruiting. At the end of the day, it is about how a candidate fits with the firm culture and whether a relationship can blossom. This is one thing that I have noticed employers emphasize more and more during interviews. The main question is whether our values and personality align with theirs.

I like to think about this exercise as a search for our perfect match. If only there was a Match.com or E-harmony website we can use to help us in this quest, recruiting can be much easier. One only has to look at the number of personality matches and boom we have a match and a 90% chance that the relationship would end up in a lifelong state of happiness. But, there is none.

What I am finding out is that as much as I am learning about future employers, I’m also realizing things about myself, my career goals, the kinds of people I want to work with, and my passion. Just like any serious relationships, I am looking for folks I like and whose company I enjoy. In short, I am looking for my perfect match.

I am reminded of an advice I heard in a career panel once. The question many students ask in deciding which firms to apply to is how the first few years are going to look like. The representative commented on how myopic this perspective is and how much better of a question it is to ask how one sees himself/herself in the firm in 5, 10, 15, 20 years. His point is that finding the right fit, the right people, and the right match to our values can make us happier in our careers in the long run. Putting all factors aside, the crux of the matter is whether chemistry exists between us and the firms or not.

What a relief it is to realize this! Passing an opportunity becomes not so much because of inadequacies but simply a difference in nature and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, we’re looking for the firm that complements us. This takes the stress of recruiting away and encourages us to simply be at ease with who we are. After all, our personality is our greatest asset and the best matchmaker we have. Now, that is something we can definitely sing about.