Intersecting Minds: Education, Business and Technology at the North Carolina State Jenkins Graduate School of Management

The Home Stretch: Oodles of Work

April 8, 2010
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We have three weeks of classes left.

Wow. It’s kind of hard to believe those words, but there they are all the same. Here’s a brief look at the projects I have to complete before school is out:

– New Firm Finance, Stonewall Case presentation: This project is the capstone for the class (along with an in-class final exam). In the case, Stonewall Kitchen is an up-and-coming specialty food provider who wants to expand its retail operations. Our job is to determine an overall growth strategy and an accompanying financing strategy that makes sense for the organization.

– Planning and Control Systems: There’s a lot left to take care of for this class. I’ve bulleted a few of the items below –

  • Midterm #2: Coming up on Tuesday, April 13th
  • ITEC: A manufacturing simulation that integrates operations strategy, master production scheduling, materials requirements planning and capacity requirements planning in one go
  • Take-Home Final

– Investments: We have two more assignments left and a take-home final that no one is looking forward to. The midterm in this class was amongst the hardest I’ve taken at NC State. Since the midterm we’ve covered options (Black-Scholes, hedging and valuation) and will turn to hybrid securities next (convertible/callable bonds).

– Practicum: Last but definitely not least, our Practicum group has to put together our final presentation and recommendations as well as writing our research paper and our executive summary of the project. The SCRC presentation will happen on April 29th.

In the meantime, I’ve also picked up some consulting work that will take up about 15-20 hours/week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Indeed, it seems like the end of the semester is near, but when I peruse my to-do list, the light at the end of the tunnel seems even further away.

But this is what we signed up for when we decided to come to business school, and if we didn’t enjoy it, we wouldn’t be here. It’s precisely this amount and type of work that is meant to prepare us for management in a corporate environment, and that’s exactly what we’re getting.


Back from Spring Break and Into the Home Stretch

March 22, 2010
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Today is Monday, March 22nd, and we are now just 54 days away from graduation. It’s pretty amazing how quickly the time has flown by up to this point, and I know that with all of the work left to do for us, the next few weeks will melt away just as fast.

Now that the finish line is in sight, it’s difficult not to start looking back at all that we’ve accomplished in the last 19 months as MBA candidates. The classes, internships, projects, exams, leadership roles, extracurricular activities, graduate assistantships, and for me, a semester in Copenhagen. We’ve been busy.

Lost in some of the day-to-day and week-to-week hubbub is a realization of just how far we’ve come in our education and our preparation to be leaders in the business world. From my own perspective, I feel so much more comfortable in my projects and assignments this semester than I did my first semester. And at this point, I feel very well prepared to enter my career, and I’m excited for the next opportunities and challenges that my next job will hold.

I’m sure I’ll have much more to say on these topics in the weeks ahead, but it’s nice to pause for a moment and say, “Yes, we have come a long ways.”

Time Management

February 10, 2010
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This semester so far has been quite different from my first three at NC State and Copenhagen Business School. My class schedule features three purely evening classes from 6:00 pm to 8:45 pm, Monday through Wednesday night. I also have a fourth class, Practicum, which feels more like a part-time job requiring 10-15 hours of work each week.

As a result, my schedule is more haywire this semester than it ever has been, and as a result, my time management and organizational skills have been pushed to the forefront. With evening classes, it always feels like there is so much time during the day to get everything done, but then the homework and projects start creeping up and draining time away. Combine that with making time to search for jobs, working part-time for my Graduate Assistantship (namely this blog), and volunteering when available, and all of a sudden those hours aren’t so plentiful anymore.

But I suppose that’s one of the best habits business school has bred. Don’t procrastinate! There will be interruptions and delays on projects, assignments will get dropped on you at the last minute, and you have to be able to adjust and adapt without getting overwhelmed. In that sense, I think business school, both at NCSU and CBS has done a nice job preparing me for what I will face out in the real world. Speaking of which, I have some research I need to do for an assignment due later this week!

Spring 2010 Class Schedule

January 27, 2010
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So with the start of a new semester comes a new set of classes. Here’s an outline of what I’ll be taking this semester:

MBA 523, Investments: This course examines securities (bonds, equity, options) in a much greater level of detail than Advanced Corporate Finance did. Instead of viewing securities from the viewpoint of the corporation, investments treats the subject matter from the viewpoint of the investor. A nice follow-up to Adv. Corp Fin., I’m excited about what this class brings in terms of understanding the financial markets on a deeper level. For example, when I read about what’s happening with Greece’s debt situation, I feel like I understand what’s happening there more clearly than I would otherwise.

MBA 529, New Firm Finance: While I don’t have a great deal of interest in entrepreneurialism, it never hurts to learn more about how small and medium-sized business works. This class will take us through the financing process from seed money through the venture capital process.

MBA 543, Planning and Control Systems: PCS delivers the nuts and bolts of operations management from Demand Management to S&OP to Master Production Scheduling to Inventory Management. The class has an intensive focus on practical application, and we’ll be working in teams on a number of simulations throughout the semester. After my Supply Relationship and Logistics courses, this is one of the capstones of my Supply Chain Management concentration.

MBA 590, Supply Chain Practicum: The culmination of my MBA, Practicum is equivalent to an applied thesis. The entire course is composed of a supply chain project at a local company. I will be working with three other MBA students to develop a risk evaluation framework for suppliers in Biogen Idec’s operations department. This is the class I am most excited about because it truly is real world experience where we’ll be applying all of the leadership, project management and supply chain skills that we have accumulated over the last three semesters. It’s also a great segue for getting back into the working world.

Needless to say, this will be a busy but exciting spring. I have an extremely full class load for my last semester, but then I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is why I came back to school after all!

And Just Like That…

January 11, 2010
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I’m back on campus here in North Carolina State ready for my first day of class. Does it feel really different? It’s hard to say right now. In some ways it does, and in some ways, it’s like I never left. The people are the same, the MBA lounge is the same, and I’m sure the intensity of the coursework will be the same.

But at the same time, I’m carrying the weight of the past 8 months with me, too. The internship at Genentech over the summer and the time spent in Denmark have broadened and clarified what it means to be here in Raleigh. For one thing, I’m extremely aware of how little time we have left until graduation: 4 months. And while that sounds like a considerable length of time, it’s really not. Between school work, assistantship activities and fun activities, we’re going to be so busy that the time will slide by almost without us noticing.

I think about my friends back in Europe often. I wonder what they’re doing, and how they’re classes are going. And if I close my eyes I can picture CBS and Solbjerg Plads and the library where I spent so many hours studying. I do miss it, but I’ve moved around enough in my life at this point that the effects seem somewhat blunted.

I’m ready for this semester to start, our last one before graduation, and I’m anticipating the challenges and successes that are sure to come with it. Here’s to a great one.

The Last Week

December 15, 2009
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Early this morning I put the finishing touches on my last final, a 15-page essay for my Innovation Leadership class. Advanced Corporate Finance nearly killed me last Friday, but it’s already receding from view. And now here we are, a few days from departure back to the United States.

Last night we had our residence Goodbye Dinner, featuring the finest Mexican food, BBQ and sangria Denmark has to offer in the middle of December. I suppose I could talk about the bonding and the first goodbyes, but anything I would have to say would come out sounding trite.

Instead, I like to think about the wall decorations, sheets of paper covered with our favorite quotes, memories and experiences drawn out and posted for all to see. Not everyone knew every story. There’s no way 80 people are going to become best friends, no matter how long they are living together. But we all knew what at least some of those words and pictures meant. They were the collective experience spelled out for all.

Living this experience has been invaluable in so many respects. The classroom has been enriching, and I do feel like I’ve come away with hard earned skills, particularly in finance. But while the classroom has been intense at times, it really has been secondary to the people and the experiences. That daily ritual of seeing your friends, talking through your problems, and sharing good times and bad. I think people here are thinking a little more deeply about who they are, what they value, and how they’re going to take all of this back to their friends at home. There is no doubt coming here has been expensive, there’s no price tag that can measure the relationships that have been built. Our professors preach networking back at home, and now it feels pretty good knowing my network is global.

I’d also like to think we’re looking at the future. After all, isn’t this the direction the world is going? Smaller, faster, more interconnected. I believe we’re going to live in a world where we’ll be expected to communicate with each other and learn from each other. We’re all going to take this new perspective on the world home with us, and we will all benefit from it.

Quick Update

November 19, 2009
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I know I’ve let this blog go silent for too long, but work has really piled up on top of me, and on top of that, I will be traveling for the next several days. It probably wasn’t the best idea to book all my trips at the end of the semester. D’oh.

But it is what it is, and I have to make the best of the situation. In any case, I’m off to Amsterdam in a few hours, and I promise to have a long blog post detailing our exploits complete with pictures of the experience.

Our time here in CPH is winding down. We only have about a month left to go, and I’ll be doing my best to document as much of it as I can. Have a great weekend everybody!

School Update and COP15

November 11, 2009
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Because this blog is somewhat an encapsulation of my experience I should really share more about why the pace of my blogging has slowed dramatically. Simply put, school is kicking my butt. Due to the trajectory of the courses here, the vast majority of the work is backloaded towards the end of the semester. Here’s what my finals schedule looks like:

Strategic Risk Management: 15-page research paper due Nov 27th

Innovation Management: 30-page team business plan and 20-minute team presentation due December 7th

Advanced Corporate Finance: 4-hour closed book, closed note exam on December 11th

International Logistics Management: 15-page research paper due December 11th

Innovation Management: 15-page research paper due December 22nd

Needless to say, it’s a pretty brutal stretch through late November into December. A lot of research, a lot of writing, and a lot of studying for finance. All of which is to the good. I came here to learn, and the Finance program here is absolutely outstanding. But it’s also requiring a lot of extra time in the library to make sure I don’t fall behind. With trips coming up on Nov 19-22nd to Amsterdam and potentially in mid-December to Stockholm, the time is now to start knocking a lot of this work out. So unfortunately, I will not be able to post as much as I would like to, but I will still keep production up where I can.

One other piece of good news I’d like to share. I’ve been informally invited by CBS to attend “The Greatest Debate on Earth,” a meeting of the world’s top leaders at the COP15 Climate Change Conference. This will be an exceptional opportunity to hear many top officials from around the globe discuss climate change in a forum where the audience will be allowed to ask questions. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to ask a question. So I put the question out to you my readers: What should I ask and to whom?

Blog Absence

November 8, 2009
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Major apologies for the long absence on the blog. I’ve spent the last 72 hours furiously pumping out a 5,000 word paper for my Strategic Risk Management course. That’s a lot of writing. Needless to say, my brain and fingers have been occupied, but I should be back in full blogging force starting tomorrow. Enjoy your Sunday everyone!

Taking Control of My Education

October 26, 2009
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A lot of my friends back at home have been asking me how classes are going out here, and how it compares to education back in the States. I’ve already talked about the specifics of the Danish system (100% finals, non-compulsory lectures, etc.). But I wanted to expand a little bit on how that system is affecting my study habits and interests here in Denmark vis-a-vis my experiences at NC State.

In all honesty, I spent the first several weeks here not really doing a whole lot. My finals were far in the future, the classes were kind of all over the place, and there wasn’t any real structure to follow. I wasn’t really doing a great job of adjusting to my new environment, and as a result, I began feeling really unsatisfied with my academic experience here. Where was the structure? Where were the assignments? At the end of the day, I just wasn’t really sure how much I was learning, and that became increasingly frustrating to me.

After going through a period 0f self-reflection and talking to friends and family back home, I realized I needed to adjust my approach. In the United States, I was going to learn whether I wanted to or not. The courses demanded it. Here, I needed to take much more control over my educational experience. If I didn’t want to learn, I wasn’t going to learn (and my grades would almost certainly suffer as a result). So over the last several days and weeks, I’ve begun to refocus myself.

Now, I set aside time each day to go to the library and teach myself the material I find interesting. Instead of relying on teachers and syllabuses to tell me what to study each day, I set my own schedule and pick the topics that are grabbing my interest. For example, there’s a reason I chose finance as a supplementary concentration to supply chain. Oddly enough, I like finance. And now I set aside several hours each day to pore over valuation problems, options analysis, and risk management techniques.

The same is true for my other courses here. I’ve spent less time studying for my Logistics class, but that’s because a lot of that material has been covered in other courses and experiences I’ve had in the States. Rather than bog myself down in reviewing material I already know, I’m trying to learn new material that will add to my skill set.

Unsurprisingly, this process has been very rewarding for me. I wake up and I find that I’m excited to head off to school because I know I’ll be learning what I want to learn, and writing about topics that truly interest me. It has taken some time to find my academic groove here, but now that I have, I’m not sure if I would trade it for the more structured American approach. Much like everything else here, it’s a cultural trade-off, and one that I’m learning to appreciate as we move closer to our final exams.

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