Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy Hours

I was in NY this past weekend for the Chinese New Year and it was a smashing success on all fronts but one. I'll start with the sadness. On saturday, I met up with my friend from DC who is also a prospective CBS applicant. I gave her a tour of Columbia's campus (even studied the Columbia wikipedia page for factoids!) but she was less than impressed. I think many factors contributed to this. First of all, it was fricking cold, at least in the teens Fahrenheit. Secondly, we couldn't get inside several attractions such as the majority of the Lerner Center, Butler Library, or Watson Library. Third, there wasn't much going on campus since it was a saturday. There were some CBS students around but not many. They all had robust lives I'm sure and after all, it was the weekend. Fourth, CBS' main building, Uris Hall, is objectively not very impressive... after all, it was built in 1985 or something. She decided not to apply. Oh well, I could tell she was never that motivated anyway so I guess more CBS for me :) Also, she's not a super fan of NYC... while I consider it the only place to live (obvi), she doesn't know if she could spend more than several days there. So there ya go.

A great thing came from her visit though. She was staying with a friend and I met this friend's boyfriend who just so happened to be a CBS recruiter from a bulge bracket bank for Sales & Trading! What a coinky dink. I tried to ask him questions about how recruiting was going and stuff like that but he wasn't really interested in talking about it. The expression on his face was fairly bored. Then his face lit up when the topic changed to the pros and cons of Duane Reade versus Walgreen's versus CVS versus Rite Aid! Crazy. It sucks because I feel like I missed a golden opportunity but there was nothing I could've done differently. I wasn't being obsequious or overtly exploitative in any way. He just wasn't that cool (or displaying cool behaviors I guess). Maybe he gets b-school kids asking him about that stuff all the time or whatever the case may be, but he wasn't interested in talking more. My alternative hypothesis (I was a psychology major in undergrad) is that he was kinda put off because I asked him if he chose to do equities trading or not after he mentioned he traded equities. He might've thought I was looking down on equities (which I wasn't) since equities have a reputation of being boring/old/not-as-profitable in the trading world... so maybe he was just feeling defensive and insecure. Oh well, still better to have met him than not met him I guess.

Later that night I met up with an old friend from high school which was great. He's a litigation lawyer living in Brooklyn and he lives a great life. He lives in a cool up and coming neighborhood, Clinton Hill, (from what I could gather) and he had a sweetheart girlfriend and some cool friends too. He had a job he loved and made good money. You could tell he was happy. Funny enough, his girlfriend is the head of marketing for an industry media company (can't say which) which I may potentially be able to call upon for future job leads. Niiice. One note here: I don't go around assessing whether new acquaintances/friends can be valuable in my network or not... it's just coincidence that I met those two people and obviously being the analytical guy that I am, I noticed their outstanding characteristics :)

On sunday I met an ex-coworker who now does Risk Management for a large bank. It was good to see her again and we caught up on everything for 2 hours. We got bubble tea in the East Village. She, like many that I've met, has no idea what kind of job she wants post-MBA. Funny how many of us there are, isn't it?

Lastly, I received invitations to 2 happy hours in the DC area. One is from the CBS Alumni Club of DC and the other is from a CBS student who organized DC happy hours last year and continued this year even though she is now a student and no longer around (how nice of her!) ... unfortunately, they both scheduled the exact date and time at different venues! I informed them so hopefully they'll do a joint one or one will alter their time. It would be sweet to attend both so I can get as much CBS in me as possible.

I got a separate happy hour invite for the Thursday before CBS' Open House in late Feb too. It was for the Milstein Center for Real Estate happy hour and I received it because I indicated real estate as my original interest. I don't want to go but I'm wondering if anyone received a happy hour invite from a different campus group/theme? Maybe the Lang Center for Entrepreneurship or perhaps a Sales & Trading one? That would be awesome and I'd totally go to one of those instead.

If there are any finance/market gurus reading my blog, maybe they'd also like to chime in on this: What do you think are the chances that the Prime Rate (aka Fed Funds Target Rate plus 3) reaches 6.5% (aka Fed Funds Target Rate=3.5%) by the year 2015? I imagine it'll definitely happen but wanted some other opinions. I'm asking because of a potential loan scenario I'm entertaining (no, it's not a student loan).

I'm starting to cringe at the realization that my tuition and living expenses are going to be a tougher burden than I originally anticipated. I'm thinking of cancelling the Morocco trip (still going to San Fran though) and quitting at the end of June. Then I'd take a week or two trip during June with the CBS Pre-MBA World Tour (maybe Russia?) and travel all of July (China, Australia, London). Much less than my original hope of traveling for 2-3 months. I should try to get a better picture of my travel plans this week.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Columbia Visit #43, Using the Network, & Dunking

I'm delighted that the CBS 2011 group on facebook finally broke 100 members! Granted, a few of them are actually 2010'ers who joined to welcome us but I'm glad the class is shaping up. I registered for Open House on February 20-21 already (probably one of the first couple people to do so since I registered within 5 minutes of receiving the email haha). The agenda for the Open House looks pretty good, lots of presentations on important topics like the Chazen international study trips and panels on student life and clubs. There are a couple happy hours too. I should really try to learn more about Entrepreneurship and my Sales & Trading post-MBA job outlook. But obviously I'm most excited to meet my future classmates.

This weekend I'll be back in NY for the umpteenth time, primarily to celebrate Chinese New Year which is technically monday. I'm excited because on saturday, one of my favorite friends of 2008 (from DC) will also be in NY and I'll be showing her around Columbia's campus! It's funny that I'm doing that considering I'm not a student yet nor do I know the names of the buildings and history but I do know where to get bubble tea (Lerner Center). She's applied to a couple MBA programs (mostly for sustainabilty/social enterprise) for Fall 2009 and she's really interested in CBS, however, she lacks the motivation to start her app because she doesn't believe she has a good shot which is silly. She's actually quite talented and I think she stands an excellent shot so our tour tomorrow will be my marketing tool to galvanize her app. I'm debating whether to show her the horrific conditions of Levien and University Blue Gymnasiums though... she's a gym nut and I don't want to make her cry.

I'll also be meeting up with several friends and also an ex-coworker who I just learned will be a classmate too. Fun times. Oh, and I also started leveraging the network! As a techy consultant, I'm supposed to work on projects for different clients. Unfortunatley (or fortunately should I say), I haven't been assigned to any projects recently so I've just been sufing the web. I was starting to become paranoid that I'd incur my managers' wrath so I asked a different future classmate/current co-worker if he knew of any projects that I could work on... and it turns out he does! On tuesday, I begin working for him (haha, he will be my direct project manager) on designing an internal portal/website... it doesn't sound exciting but I think it'll be good for me because there'll be some intellectual engagement to it (e.g. how do we market the site and encourage greater user participation?) and I'll meet a host of team members from all other parts of our humongous company. That's the good stuff, baby!

Travel plans aren't looking great. Greece is out but Morocco is in (but not until March 6th I think). I'm excited for San Fran cuz one of my fav cousins apparently lives there plus a couple friends, but I can't book that for a while. I am also registered for a 1 day retreat with my undergrad alma mater in late February that will allow for relaxation in some rustic-looking part of Maryland. I really need to look at CBS' pre-MBA World Tour destinations too.

Lastly, I am re-upping my efforts at the gym. I never benchpressed until a couple months ago but my goal is to bench my body weight before the summer. Also, I'm doing a jumping program to work out my legs... the goal is to dunk (a guy can dream can't he?) by end of April. I even had a dream about it last night (seriously). My CBS classmates will thank me for this once the Cluster Cup basketball and volleyball competitions start!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Doom and gloom and Kroll too

I'm typically nothing if not positive when it comes to dreaming about the MBA future that awaits us all. BUT there's a recent thread on the BusinessWeek forums which really has me thinking. It's from a current Top 5 MBA student (probably Kellogg or Booth) who is talking about how dire the recruiting situation is for both full-time and internship positions. He says that students outnumber internship postings by 2 to 1! That's insane. I know it's just one person's experience but I've heard similar stories and from my own research, a lot of students are giving similar accounts (though maybe not as soul-crushing).

This begs the question. Is the MBA worth it? I've adamantly resolved that the MBA is the next phase of my life no matter what. I'm going to do this regardless of the job situation. But if I take off my blinders for a second, I can't help but wonder if the $175,000 (my personal calculation for CBS) for 2 years is worth it if it won't yield my dream job. Granted I don't know what my dream job is but I want to be able to get it once I determine that obviously. Yes, the experience and education and personal development and network will be worth it. But if internship recruiting is so dire now, how will it be in the fall when I start myself? Probably not much better. A lot of analyts expect the economy to start rebounding around Quarter 3 of 2009 but that might be a bit too optimistic. I always told myself that we'll be recovering (at the very least) by graduation in May 2011 but the reality is that I need to prepare much sooner. In fact, I believe Columbia recruiting events start within weeks of getting on campus aka September 2009! Ay carumba.

Perhaps there's a silver lining. Maybe the lack of a super attractive full-time job option will force me to dive into my entrepreneurial idea head-first. That's a good thing. But I originally wanted to ease into that venture while I worked a normal corporate job, preferrably as a trader at a big bank (so I think currently). I realize that no trading jobs are out there right now. I believe I have a decent shot of getting one of the few ones that pop up by graduation since I have experience as a trading assistant but I feel like I need the internship too. Ugh, maybe I should stop stressing.

In other words, I have submitted my Kroll application and it's MUCH simpler than originally anticipated. It's different for each school (I believe they can customize what info to check) but Columbia asks for the bare bones. CBS' Kroll app asked for my current job, recommender info, undergrad info, and biographic info. It did NOT ask me about extra curriculars or past jobs or anything I wrote in essays. This should be a relief to some. I did not get an official "passed" yet but I fully expect to receive one.

On another note, I received a voicemail from Linda Meehan, the Director of CBS MBA Admissions, this week congratulating me on my admit. I'm kinda sad it took her this long to get to me considering I was probably one of the first 10 apps in their pile this season but it's cool. I'm sadder that I didn't get to pick up the call myself. Oh, and other sad news: my trip to Greece is off though I will probably still go to Morocco. San Fran is coming up in the next month or two too.

Alright, I'm going to run to the gym so I can dunk on some freshmen. And by "dunk", I mean shoot mid-range jumpers. I'm meeting 2 of my future classmates (whom I've already met a couple times) in the DC area for dinner afterwards. Tex-mex or pub grub?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Entrepreneurial New 2009 Attitude

I want to wish you all a happy 2009. I'm really optimistic for this year. There's always something about new beginnings, the unlimited potential, the unbridled hope, the promise. But it's more than that. Each year we get smarter and become better people (I like to think that we are always striving toward our ideal selves). Anything is possible right? Theoretically at least :) I'm happy because 2008 wasn't that great. World economy aside, I hated my job and didn't feel like I took advantage of all the social opportunities I should've. I guess we all feel like that every now and then but it still sucked. 2009 is wonderful because I will be resigning from my soul-sucking job in several months and embarking on a new adventure, CBS, and making new friends, learning new things, and making a new life. We all love the promise of re-inventing ourselves, don't we?

I have several resolutions for the new year (a dozen actually) but I won't bore you with all of them. After all, half of them pertain to how I can dominate better at pick-up basketball and my gym routine. The other half is about personal development and I guess, more important (arguably). No need to share them all but I do want to read more. I have never been an avid reader (or any kind of reader) before a couple months ago. Then I read "Ahead of the Curve" and enjoyed it thoroughly. Today, I read "Who Moved My Cheese?" (really cute and good-for-you kind of read, I do recommend it). One of my favorite new friends of 2008 got me an unexpected holiday present too: a book. Who'd have thunk it? It's Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" and it's a really good read thus far. I've gone through half of it in only 2 days, an unprecedented pace for me. I found it so intriguing that I stopped by the bookstore earlier today and read the intro to his other popular book, "Tipping Point", and enjoyed it too. Good stuff. The best part of it is that the books have a motivational message. We can all be entrepreneurs and set our own courses, create our own fortunes. We are fortunate in that we can do whatever we want. We're lucky.

With that sense of optimism, I have come to a new revelation in my b-school potential careers journey. I'm thinking I could be an entrepreneur and start my own business. It's not earth-shattering and it's not a new invention and it's not terribly innovative or important. It's merely a very small-scale business idea but it tickles my fancies. I get excited about it. I'm not going to sound like a fool and attempt to describe my idea but it does give me some direction. During my MBA, I can focus on entrepreneurship and learn about managing my supply chain, attracting investors, managing personnel, and marketing and all that good stuff. After all, I've always thought that entrepreneurs gained the most from MBA curriculums. Maybe I could even take advantage of Columbia's Entrepreneurial Greenhouse (doubtful tho cuz my idea isn't that kind of thang). But it's something to pursue that would let me enjoy my life. I'm thinking that I could also study finance and try to go into Sales & Trading post-MBA while I simultaneously cultivated my business idea at night. The good thing about trading is that you primarly work market hours and thus have your nights free. Trading is also incredibly interesting to me (and I actually have the experience to get a full-time job when the economy rebounds by 2011, fingers crossed). In fact, I really like trading as a job/career option except for it's lack of exit options. And that's where the entrepreneurial venture comes in. Maybe my business can be established by the time I want to (or need to) exit trading and I can just do that full-time. Love it.

So new directions and new ideas are exciting to me. I have other resolutions too but they're not particularly interesting. For instance, I want to eat more fruit and less junk, I want to be more outgoing and make an effort to make more new friends, etc. But I gotta say that this reading thing is awesome. Makes me feel like more of a person. Plus it gets me thinking, a fun pasttime despite what Gaston and Lefou might try to say (free Sloan or Yale SOM pen for anyone who knows where that reference is from).

I know resolutions sound dorky but I only make realistic ones and I enjoy the ones I've made. In fact, I think my next resolution should be to actually write my first business plan (dun dun dun). My idea may suck but the possibility of success is there. Then I wouldn't have to live a corporate lifestyle (something which I hem and haw over at times) and could live the rest of my life in the East Village happily ever after :)