Outside the Classroom

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Sep 302014
 

One of my favorite parts about Smith is the variety of learning experiences available to students beyond the standard curriculum. Last year, I got my first taste of this working on a Smith Experience project through the Center for Social Value Creation that allowed me to engage on a consulting assignment for Nexight Group. This year, I’ve continued to explore all of the out-of-classroom resources that Smith/UMD have to offer and how much they can contribute to my time here.

 

Last year, as the incoming president of the Smith Media, Sports & Entertainment Association, I was discussing with some of my classmates creative things we could do to gain exposure to these hard-to-reach industries. Eventually we realized that the answer could be right here in College Park: the UMD Athletic Department. We had a group of experienced students eager to get experience in sports business and here was this large organization with a multi-million dollar budget right in our backyard.

We weren’t exactly sure what a potential engagement would look like, but we figured that there was no harm in at least starting the conversation. So this summer I reached out to the Athletic Department offering our club’s services for any kind of ad hoc consulting or research project that the department might be interested in getting help with.

The response was great, as my contacts at the Athletic Department were eager to find somewhere for us to help. After a few discussions, we settled on a project helping the ticket office analyze pricing strategies for UMD basketball and football tickets. We are currently in the midst of our analysis, so we’ll see where it goes, but it just goes to show all of the amazing resources that we have at our fingertips here at Smith. I’ve learned a lot in the classroom during my time here, but the opportunity to immediately put those skills to the test in real-life work settings has been especially rewarding.

What a Difference a Year Makes

 Internship, Second Year  Comments Off on What a Difference a Year Makes
Aug 282014
 

Now it’s official. As weird as it feels to say, I’m now a second-year MBA student here at Smith. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago when I came in here and barely knew how to find the right classrooms, and now I’m back at school with only 9 months left until graduation.

Looking back on the past 12 months, I would say that more has changed in my life over the past year than any other in my life. I left my job, met and became close friends with an entirely new group of people with amazing and diverse backgrounds, learned about entirely new skills and subject areas, spent three months at a my summer internship, and set my career on a brand new trajectory. So yes – it was a very eventful year.

I spent the summer working as a Consultant Intern at First Annapolis Consulting in Annapolis, MD. Working at First Annapolis, which specializes in consulting in the credit card industry, represented a major departure from my previous work experience in politics and communications, so I came in with a great deal of uncertainty. And while the work was definitely a significant adjustment, I was amazed at how well the experiences from my first year at Smith had prepared me for my new role. The financial skills and concepts that I was only vaguely familiar with just 9 months prior were now tools that I was using comfortably on a daily basis in a fast-paced work environment.

I don’t think the amount of new information that I crammed in my head over the course of my first-year fully sunk in until I began working this summer and thinking about how much things had changed from where I was last summer. Now that I’m returning to school under completely different circumstances, I can’t wait to see what the next 9 months have in store.

Embracing Diversity

 Bradford Banquet, Community, Diversity  Comments Off on Embracing Diversity
Apr 302014
 

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One of the main reasons why I chose to come to Smith is because of the diverse and eclectic community that I saw here. What made the diversity at Smith so distinct is the fact that it isn’t just racial and ethnic diversity that is apparent, but diversity of all kinds: professional experience, regional, age, race and nationality among others. Last week, I was reminded of just how vibrant and diverse a community we have here when I attended the 21st Annual Bradford Banquet.

The Bradford Banquet is held every spring to honor the achievements of minority communities at Smith and to embrace the diverse culture that we have here. The event was especially unique because it marked one of the rare times where students, alumni, faculty, administration, and employers all come together at the same time. This mix of attendees gave a really great snapshot of just how far-reaching and diverse our community really is, and I was really grateful to have the opportunity have that perspective.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Bradford Banquet though is that it is a completely student-run event. The event is put together by Smith’s Black MBA Association and Latin American MBA Student Association, and I can’t stress enough how impressive my classmates’ in these organizations efforts were to put together such an excellent event. All in all, it was a great experience and a perfect end-of-year reminder about what made Smith such an appealing destination in the first place.

The Smith Experience

 CSVC, curriculum, Smith Experience  Comments Off on The Smith Experience
Apr 032014
 

When I was deciding where to go to business school, one of the most appealing aspects of Smith was the opportunity to have so many out-of-classroom learning experiences. In particular, the Smith Experience offerings stood out as a really unique chance to get hands-on work experience during my time in school. Over the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to take part in one of those Smith Experience programs through the Social Venture Consulting Practicum.

Throughout this semester, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a team of my classmates on a consulting project with a real client. For our project, we have been working with Nexight Group, a local consulting firm specializing in technical and management consulting in the fields of energy, engineering and infrastructure, to perform market research and develop an enhanced marketing strategy for the firm’s new client outreach.

Not only has it been a great experience to work with a firm that is so committed to creating a positive social value with their work, but also the opportunity to gain a comprehensive firsthand understanding of the inner workings and structure of a consulting engagement have been invaluable. Especially for a career transitioner like myself who is trying to enter the consulting industry, I cannot think of any experience that would better prepare me for a career in this field. This has been an experience that would have been very difficult to find anywhere else and I’m lucky to be at a place with such great opportunities right at your fingertips.

Business Meets Sports

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Mar 102014
 

At any business school, you constantly hear about graduates going into careers in marketing, consulting, or finance among other traditional career paths. You don’t hear about too many MBA’s going into the sports industry. This is partially because a lack of available positions in the field, but traditionally the MBA skill set isn’t thought of as a common match for the sports world. That outlook has changed significantly in recent years, and one of the major contributing factors has been the rise of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which held its eighth annual event last week.

Every year more and more applications of quantitative analysis are being applied to sports in an effort to improve both the games and the business of the games. While Maryland doesn’t have anything quite on the level of Sloan, as a board member of Smith’s Media, Sports, and Entertainment Association, I have gotten some great exposure into potential career paths that lie at the intersection of business and sports.

Anyway, in particular, I find the application of analytics to sports to be fascinating and the Sloan conference does not disappoint. If you have any interest in how this research is being used, here are some of my favorite papers from the conference:

Leadership Under Fire

 Case competitions, Communcations, First Year, MBA  Comments Off on Leadership Under Fire
Feb 282014
 

Last week, I got the opportunity to watch some of my fellow classmates participate in an annual Smith event, Leadership Under Fire. The event was a competition among six groups of first-year MBA students where each group was in the role of top executives facing a major business crisis for their company. In an effort to manage the crisis, each group provided a written press release and held a mock press conference with real members of the media acting as the press corps.

While it was especially entertaining to watch some of my classmates squirm under the heat of pressing questions from the press, I came away – as I often do – incredibly impressed with everyone’s performance. As important as the quantitative skills learned in business school are, the event really emphasized the value of being able to clearly communicate your point and keep your composure under pressure.  All of the technical skills in the world won’t do you any good if you crumble in the spotlight, so it was especially encouraging to see how well my classmates handled themselves.

The event also highlighted how great of a job Smith does at providing opportunities to get a well-rounded educational experience. At times, it can be easy to become so focused on your work in the classroom that you forget how important it is to make sure you are learning in all aspects of your professional development, and Leadership Under Fire served as a perfect reminder of that.

A 21st Century Classroom

 coursework, First Year, MBA, technology  Comments Off on A 21st Century Classroom
Feb 142014
 

The future role of technology in education is a topic that has already come up numerous times in my courses so far, and it’s a very interesting topic for debate. With the rise of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs), Khan Academy, and other online courses, it’s clear that significant changes lie ahead in the world of higher education. What I hadn’t considered is how technological advancements in education would effect my snow day.

Well, I found that out last week as 10 inches of snow kept us away from campus on Thursday. Fittingly, my Strategic and Transformational IT class already had a technological contingency plan in place for dealing with this type of situation. Rather than lose a day of class, we all remotely connected on Thursday afternoon via Adobe Connect and went about class as usual. Having used Google Hangout and Go2Meeting in the past, there was nothing mind-blowing about the technology itself, but it was the first time that I had used something like that in an official classroom setting. And while I have always been a bit skeptical of the ability to replicate the classroom experience over a computer, I came out of the experience surprised and impressed with how similar it felt to a normal class.

In addition to the innovative approach to snow days, the course also features a blended learning plan, combining online lecture videos with in-class discussions. While I still believe there are valuable educational benefits that require in-person discussions, I must admit that my experience in this class has really opened my eyes to new ways of learning. Even if it comes at the expense of my snow day.

What is Social Value Creation?

 CSVC, First Year, MBA, Social Value Creation  Comments Off on What is Social Value Creation?
Feb 072014
 

In recent years, much more attention has been paid to social value creation as a major part of the business world. Just from speaking with my classmates, it is obvious that most of them are committed to doing more than just helping a company become more profitable in their future careers, and that may not have been the case in previous generation.

Smith has clearly embraced this trend, most notably through the establishment of the Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC). This semester, I’ll take part in my first official engagement with the CSVC as part of their social value consulting practicum. Over the course of the next few months I will be working alongside three of my classmates on a project where we will be developing a strategy for a local consulting firm to help provide their services for social value driven organizations.

The project is really exciting, and our initial meetings have got me thinking about the real meaning of social value creation. In particular, we were asked to read this article by Philip Auerswald in preparation for the project, and it offers a very interesting perspective on the concept. While we may think of social value creation as solely the work of non-profits and businesses charitable foundations, Auerswald provides a much broader definition, describing social value “as a new solution of a social problem, which is more effective and more sustainable than already existing solutions and it is more directed to the needs of the society than of a private person.”

There is definitely room to build upon Auerswald’s view, but I think it provides a really good starting point for how we view social value creation and its expanding definition. Personally, I’m looking forward to exploring that definition over the course of the semester, and I’m lucky to have the opportunity to do so through the CSVC.

Under Armour on the Rise

 MBA, Under Armour  Comments Off on Under Armour on the Rise
Jan 312014
 

As a lifelong Notre Dame football fan, a Smith student, and a Baltimore native, I got to see my worlds collide earlier this month when it was announced that Under Armour had signed a deal with Notre Dame to provide the school’s athletic apparel for the next 10 years. The deal is reportedly “the largest financial commitment ever made by a brand to a university,” marking a huge milestone for the company founded by Smith alum Kevin Plank.

As Under Armour’s first contract with a university ranking in the top ten in merchandise sales, the deal solidifies Under Armour’s place among the giants of American athletic apparel with Nike and Adidas. And it’s especially impressive that the relatively new brand was able to break through with one of the country’s most traditional and historic programs. While I don’t know how supportive the Notre Dame fan base would be of uniforms like these, I can’t wait to see what the partnership has in store for the new-look Irish.

In addition to the Notre Dame announcement, Under Armour also released its 2014 fourth quarter numbers this week, which brought more good news for the company.  Reporting higher than projected revenues, Under Armour saw it’s share price jump up 22% yesterday, its second-biggest single day rise in company history. While it’s global development potential remains a bit of an unknown, there’s no arguing the company’s bright future domestically as this month’s events confirmed.

It’s an exciting time for Maryland as one of its signature companies continues its rise.  But the big question is: do they make green suits?

Changing Semesters…and Priorities

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Jan 252014
 

Winter break didn’t only mark the transition from first semester classes to second semester classes; it also meant a major shift in focus for myself and many of my first-year MBA classmates. For much of my first semester, my time was mostly devoted to a heavy dose of coursework with some internship research and exploration sprinkled in there when I had time. But as the calendar switched to 2014, my attention quickly shifted to my search for summer employment.

With application deadlines now staring me right in the face, the pressure to find a job definitely turned up a notch in January. Luckily, at Smith we get a nice 3-week break to handle the onslaught of resumes, cover letters, behavioral interviews, case interviews and other fun activities that come along with the internship search process.

One of the most frustrating parts about the search is that it often feels like so much of an employer’s decision-making process is completely out of your hands. While this is of course true to a certain extent, one of the most important things that I learned over break – as obvious as it may seem – is just how much you can improve the way you present yourself to companies through practice and repetition. Whether this applies to writing cover letters, doing mock interviews, or networking, I was actually able to see marked improvement in my performance through regular practice over these last few weeks. This obviously isn’t an earth-shattering revelation, but for whatever reason it took a few weeks without the normal distractions for this to truly sink in with me. Now I just have to hope that it pays off when it counts and we’ll find out soon enough.