B-school: Knowing yourself, Roundtables, and LOADS of work

5 02 2013

Today I saw my peers shine. I recognized the brillance in the people around me and was proud of them. I was glad to be among them, and also recognized that I can hold my weight with them. Today I felt like a business professional, having good questions and ideas to enter into a conversation and add value. I’m learning the specific areas in which I can add value, and where I know how to ask good questions regarding certain topics. It’s true, everyone does bring their strengths. You have to find what sticks out for you in each group, and know how to contribute.

There’s something about being dressed up and sitting around the table with a COO. It was exciting to have Amy Villenueve, COO & President of Kiva Systems come speak to us today at Tepper. There were about 20 of us who had the special invitation to join her in a roundtable discussion after her main talk. We talked about moving from an engineering position to the top, emotions in the workplace, when to take risks and how to know if they’re good risks to take, and what innovations Kiva Systems needed next. She said that if you go to sell yourself and you have passion, it will shine through. This is so true. People can tell when you want to work at their company/with their products. It’s obvious and they want you.

I really liked Amy. She had passion and was willing to think and come out with what she had to say, but she did it in a tactful way; at the same time you knew that she wasn’t to be messed with. She went to Harvard while she was a single mom of a 2 and 4 year old. Talk about craziness in B-school! She talked about how it was so important to know yourself; she was good at developing people, she knew how to make things run, and she wasn’t the idea person. When she walked in to a new team and didn’t know something, she told them she didn’t know what it meant and asked someone to explain it to her. The team responded with something snide about how she just admitted that she didn’t know something and her response was “you’re right. And I expect you to admit things when you don’t understand or know something. We’re a team, and we do this together.” Way to be. Honestly and humility are important characteristics to a team, and if a team doesn’t have that, as the leader you can model and show that in hopes that over time they will follow.

She reminded me of myself in a lot of ways; I hope that one day I can be an extraordinary leader like she is and still keep my pulse on the people around me. We’re all busy, but you have to take care of your people.

Unfortunately, the morning wasn’t as great. In Statistical Decision Making, I really have no idea what happened the second half of class. When you hear the following steps:

  1. Make it a log function
  2. Take the derivative of that
  3. Invert the fraction and take the negative of it
  4. Take the square root of that function
  5. Then plug said function in to the second equation
  6. Then run a regression (or something like that)

I thought this was business school, NOT a Masters in Math. I joke, but this was really what happened in class. The bummer part of it is that I don’t understand what it has to do with business, but I do know that you can plug it in to software and use a three word command and get all the data you need (yay for computers! See, Kati, I told you they’d be your best friend!). The semi-good part is that I will know what it means by the end of the week, because I have a midterm for that class on Friday! Yikes.

Welcome to Tepper, the analytical B-school. It’s great though, actually. In most of my classes, even in the big-picture, or more management focused classes we have numbers and analytics. We use specific metrics to calculate things; in my Digital Marketing class tonight we used a formula to figure out how you could improve your viral marketing and make it spread faster, due to looking at the numbers. Data. It’s great, but it’s hard. But by golly are we going to be useful coming out of school because we can quantify things based on how the numbers are, rather than just a gut feeling or historical practices.

On another note, this week is crazy:

  • Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategy:
    • Two case studies
    • One large Assignment comparing Google Trends data with actual marketing numbers for comparison
    • Social Media Campaign project and presentation
  • System Architecture
    • 8 minute presentation and 6 page document
    • One 40 page article to read and questions to answer
  • Statistical Decision Making
    • 4 hour homework assignment project
    • Case study to read and work through
    • Midterm on Friday
  • Operations Management
    • Homework assignment (scared to look at its length)
    • Midterm on Saturday
  • Writing for Managers
    • 7 page Strategic Plan (anyone want me to write one for you? I’m taking ideas, and real business problems are better!)

REALLY? How the heck am I supposed to do all this in one week AND go to classes AND start leading a club (NOTE: I’m the new Business and Technology (B&T) club President for this upcoming year! Exciting, and ridiculously crazy!)? Thank God that I am done with recruiting and have a Summer internship, because I don’t know how else people do all this stuff.

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One response

6 02 2013
Stephen Miller (@sdavidmiller)

Five classes? Wow! Is that typical at Tepper? Most people I know here at Stanford are taking 3-4 max, and having a hard enough time keeping up. But hang in there, and keep up the hard work. It’ll pay off.

P.S. If you’re curious about the log/derivative gibberish, it’s actually pretty interesting (and elegant!) stuff when you get to the Machine Learning basics. But I’ve found most courses completely butcher it. The phrase “ANOVA” makes me cringe.

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