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.


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!

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.

Light Posting this Week

October 21, 2009
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All of a sudden it’s late October, and school has finally started to bear down on us here at CBS. Most of my time this week will be spent catching up on school work, reading, cases and starting to work on my final projects.

In the meantime, here’s three business/economics/finance blogs that I read for analysis on global events:

Calculated Risk: Focuses primarily on real estate and the mortgage crisis. One of the primary reasons I’m still relatively pessimistic on the economy.

Naked Capitalism: Awesome financial analysis of global events

The Baseline Scenario: Simon Johnson is considered one of the top minds in macroeconomics/finance and his writing here is top notch

In the meantime, it’s time for me to hit the books!

More on Classes and Exams

September 29, 2009
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One of the more difficult adjustments I’ve had to make at CBS has been dealing with the final exam as 100% of the grade policy. For a class like Corporate Finance, where the exam will cover most, if not all of the material presented in the readings and lectures, this is fine. We as students know what to study and where we need to focus, and then we just have to perform at exam time.

But for my other three classes, this is a much trickier proposition. Both International Logistics and Strategic Risk Management require individual 15-page papers. The topics of the paper are pretty much left up to us, as long as they have something to do with Logistics or SRM, respectively. There’s very little in the way of guidelines and structure. As a result, going to class and doing the readings for these classes is truly optional, and when I do the readings, I interpret every word through the prism of whether or not that particular article or chapter in the text will help me write my final.

This approach is a complete 180 from how we learn and cover material at NC State. Almost every class has a variety of projects that receive grades, whether those are midterm exams, presentations or other assignments. The courses are much more structured, and students know from the first day what exactly will be expected of them throughout the semester. That’s not necessarily the case in Copenhagen. For example, here is an excerpt from an e-mail we received from the administrative office regarding our finals:

Automatic Exam Enrollment Exam enrollment is done automatically in the courses you have in your course enrolment status. Don’t panic if you do not see all your courses in the exam enrolment status at this point. However, please contact the course secretary if your courses do not show in your exam enrollment status at the latest two weeks before the exam is set to take place. Before then – don’t worry.

If we had to wait until two weeks before the exam date to figure out when, where, and how the exam would go down, I know many people back at home who would be freaking out.

So it will be up to me to take more control of my schedule here and navigate the assignments the Professors have laid out for us. Fortunately, I already have some interesting ideas for my Logistics and SRM exam papers, and I feel like I’m up to the challenge. While this can be a frustrating experience at times, it’s much more similar to a non-academic environment. In business, managers are expected to be pro-active and to not simply wait for direction from upper management.

Class Overview

September 8, 2009
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Now that I’m a little more than a week into classes, and I’ve had at least one lecture for each course, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what my schedule looks like:

Corporate Finance: Judging from the syllabus this class will be a lot of review of topics covered in my Intro to Finance course from last semester, but with more depth and advanced concepts thrown in. There will be an individual final exam with problem solving and potentially a short essay or two.

Strategic Risk Management: This looks like one of the more interesting classes I’ll be taking. While the class will have a heavy emphasis on managing risk from a financial perspective, there will also be an emphasis on holistic risk management from other threats (i.e. environmental, political, economic, etc…). There will be an individual research paper addressing how a specific organization manages risk as well as an oral defense of the arguments presented in that paper.

International Logistics Management: A requirement for my Supply Chain concentration, this class will discuss both basic SCM concepts as well as more advanced theories and applications of logistics management. The course also requires a 15-page research paper, but is more of a pure research paper looking at Logistics management from either a theoretical or practical perspective. We will be proposing a research question, and then attempting to answer it.

Innovation Leadership: This class was my wildcard. It’s not required for either SCM or Finance, but it looked interesting, and the class already has a heavy focus on networking as a driver for moving innovative ideas to exploitation on the market. For the final, we will be working in teams of 4-5 to develop an entrepreneurial business plan relating to clean energy innovation.

Unlike American universities, at Copenhagen Business School, the final exams are 100% of the grade. There is no homework, no compulsory attendance, and no midterms. Needless to say, this is quite a paradigm shift from how I usually approach school. Every note I take or word I read is now seen through the prism of the final. Does this piece of information relate to what I need to do? If yes, write it down or capture that memory. If no, discard.

It will be very interesting to see how this dynamic plays out over the course of the semester and how it affects my work. Studying will definitely be a topic I return to in future blog posts. But for now, I have to head to the library to do some more reading!

School Update

February 7, 2009
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I know my recent posting has been dominated by the economy, but plenty is still going on at school. Here’s a quick look at what’s going on this week in no particular order:

  • We have our first midterm for finance coming up on Wednesday
  • I’ll be making two new videos this week about students who are getting multiple degrees (MMB, DVM) while also pursuing their MBA
  • I’m meeting two prospective students for lunch on Monday
  • Our MBASA is hosting a Chicken Nugget Eating contest on Friday to fundraise for future events (I’ll be making a video about this, too). Contact Amy Oechsli for more information

Internship Search and Some Other Bullets

January 23, 2009
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Now that we’re creeping up on the end of January, I’m starting to really ramp up my internship search. I have my resume into a few companies, but I’m now visiting our Career Resources website on an almost daily basis scouring for opportunities. This is not something I want to procrastinate considering the state of the economy, and I know many of my classmates feel the same.

In other MBA-related news, I’ll have another video blog to post in the next 24-48 hours. I had a brief discussion with Tejas Sangoi and Han Hsieh, who are attending the program from India and Taiwan respectively. I have a tremendous amount of respect for our international students, all of whom have learned English as a second language. Here they are, immersing themselves completely in a new culture, far from the comforts of home, and they’re expected to keep pace in advanced classes where the Professors have been known to occasionally talk to fast. Props to them.

We’ve also seen a noticeable uptick in the amount of reading and work assigned this semester. We have another project due on Wednesday for MBA 560 (Marketing), and I’ll be attending a semester-long project kick-off meeting in about half an hour here for MBA 541 (Purchasing and SCM). We’re definitely back to the grind.

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