Good News from the Darden Innovation Challenge

My team made the international top 10 for the Darden Innovation Challenge case competition. We get to compete in the final round in Charlottesville, VA in a few weeks. Woot!

The competition is fairly straightforward - the sponsoring companies provide a "problem", typically a marketing/product problem, and charge the participating teams to come up with a concept that addresses the problem with an innovative product, marketing strategy, etc.  The "innovating" is the hard/fun part...

Our first round problem came from Whirlpool. In a nutshell, we needed to figure out a way to help the company drive demand in the 18-27 age demographic. Luckily, the company provided us with a number of product concepts to get the ball rolling.

Our concept turned out to be a new line of funky, pseudo-upscale dorm appliances marketed by Whirlpool under a hip vanity brand. We weren't completely thrilled with the final idea - (I actually fought pretty hard early on to kill it - shows what I know!) - but the concept brief was strong and (I think/guess) had the right mix of creative positioning and "innovative" ideas balanced by meat and potatoes operational concepts, reasonably defensible financial/market justification, and digestible sales projections.

The final round will require that we prep new concepts for American Express and Hilton Hotels. We'll put forth our best effort in hopes of impressing the corporate sponsors/recruiters and, more importantly, winning the cash money pay day that goes to the first place team.

Our team, "Kenan-Flagler 16:47":

From left - Kami, Jen, Yan, Nicole, Eric

Asking Better Questions

I just got (moderately) punked by my macroeconomics professor and learned an important lesson in the process.

We were looking at quarterly GDP data over the past 6 years and noting that consumer spending remained strong during the 2000/2001 recession. I asked the following question:
What does the strong spending imply about savings?

...and got the following (paraphrased) response:
Well, by definition, savings is the income that you don't spend - so there really isn't any saving.

Doh! I set myself up for that one with an overly ambiguous question that didn't really ask anything. Luckily, the professor kept going and addressed the broader context of my question by talking about the implications of low savings in the US economy.

For what it's worth - I thought his answer to my question was fantastically sarcastic!

Eric = (1/8)*MBA

I just turned in my last final for Mod I, which means I'm 1/8 of the way through the MBA party. Right now, I'm too tired to discern whether I find the milestone exciting or depressing or terrifying or what.

Finals week got off to a bad start. I ate a bad chicken wrap for lunch last Friday, so I spent the entirety of my reading day sick as a dog. I managed to catch up on my studies on Saturday and Sunday, but didn't really prepare as well as I would have liked.

Fortunately, 2 exams (Accounting and Leading & Managing) were pretty easy and 2 others (Finance and Statistics) were more challenging, but pretty straightforward. The Microeconomics exam I finished today was a near-disaster, just as I - and everyone else - figured that it would be. (I'll spare you the long story to say instead that Micro hasn't gone well for anyone at KFBS this year - students or faculty.)

More to ride/wife is here. :-)

Sweet, Sweet Victory

The KFBS first year flag football squad pulled off a serious upset tonight with our 14-7 victory over the The Basement. We played this (all undergrad) team earlier in the year and they lit us up for 38 points. So it was nice to have a little "get back" on them.

Jon Yee - our speedy WR and DB was the hero of the game. He broke up a pass in the end zone, hauled in a tipped pass to score a PAT, and made a key late game interception.

Your's truly rumbled for an improbable pick-six that began with an easy interception, had a few Reggie Bush-esque (ha!) hesitation moves and missed tackles, and ended with an excessive celebration penalty after Ben hoisted me over his shoulder and started singing an indecipherable fight song. My touchdown proved to be the difference in the game. Good times.

Unfortunately, I later blew a gimme interception that would have iced the game. It hit me right in the hands and, for whatever reason, it didn't stick. Had he seen it, my father would have been completely disappointed. He's the original thinker behind the "if it hits your hands, you should catch it" philosophy and thus maintains a pretty high standard for balls that should be caught. Even Kelly called me out on it.

As a consequence of a botched punt and, a couple plays later, my aforementioned botched pick, the game came down to a 4th and goal for the other team. I managed to get my hands on this pass as well, but could only tip it up instead of catch it or kill it. Someone for the other team caught the tipped ball, but it popped out when he hit the ground right behind me. Such an exciting finish!

Their quarterback's mini meltdown at the end of the game only added to our satisfaction. As if the accusatory "BLOCK HIM!!!" he screamed to his lineman after Matt sacked him on 2nd and goal at the end of the game wasn't enough, he walked off the field when the game ended and blurted a hilariously petulant growl/yell to voice his frustration.

Heh. Stupid undergrads.

A Billion Dollar Write-Off

We've been talking asset impairment in Prof. Mark Lang's accounting class, so the news of EBay's $1.4 billion write-off related to its Skype acquisition is pretty timely.

(Thanks to the class discussions and Prof. Lang's habit of beginning every class with a video, I actually know how a write-off works and how I would explain it to Kramer.)

The NYT post makes some insightful observations regarding the situation, particularly by couching the EBay/Skype fiasco as a warning sign for the pending Microsoft/Facebook transaction.

Career Fair

Kenan-Flagler hosted ~50 companies for the annual MBA Career Fair today. These things are always great for comedy. You just can't beat being within earshot of so many awkward conversations...

Lots of good companies showed up, but only a handful remotely aligned with my Internet/software career interests. As I had hoped, the shortage actually worked in my favor. I spent ~15 minutes with each of my 3 target companies and was able to deliver a pretty salient story regarding my interest in their internship programs. Here's hoping they noticed and return the interest.

For others, the Career Fair will be a full day spent talking to as many of the attending companies as possible, all of which are completely diverse. I felt strange bouncing from a conversation with a marketing consultancy to another with a media software company. I can only imagine having to change gears from J&J to Blackwater to XYZ real estate developer, all the while keeping a straight face as I express my interest in the company. Guess you gotta find your way somehow...

In Search of the Summer

I can't believe how quickly the summer disappeared. Just a week or two ago, it was 110 degrees outside, school had just gotten underway, and I was still buzzing from the post Italy and China afterglow.

A round of midterms and a few football games later, it's autumn. It is still warm outside, but "pleasant" warm instead of "gates of hell" warm. Instead of enjoying the novelty of being in school again, I'm knee-deep in the stay up late, wake up early, can't put it down drudgery of actually being a student.

(Not that said drudgery isn't both extremely manageable and enjoyable, by the way.)

Despite the significant task at hand and the impending doom of finals, everyone here - me included - already seems amazingly fixated on next summer. Nearly all of my classmates are eagerly running the company presentation gauntlet in search of the ideal summer internship. Everyone shows up in suits and spends their lunch and dinner time listening to whatever it is J&J, GE, Deloitte, McKinsey, Lehman Brothers, etc. have to say. Some are going to 2 and 3 of these presentations a day. (Insanity if you ask me.)

I haven't attended any of these presentations (and probably won't), but that doesn't mean that I'm not hiking my trek toward summer internship Shangri La. I've got a number of irons in the fire and, excluding a Kenan-Flagler sponsored VC fellowship program, all of them are individually driven and outside of KFBS' career services machine.

It is mildly frustrating that I don't have the institutional support of my classmates.  However, I must admit that I enjoy the underdog/individual effort aspect of my internship search, as well as the freedom from the company presentation grind. Plus, my internship search is a great primer for the job search that I'll start this time next year.

As much as possible/appropriate, I'll update The Boggs Blog with my search progress and lessons learned.

Rankings Don't Matter. Oh Wait - Yes They Do!

Kenan-Flagler ranked #6 in the WSJ's annual MBA program rankings, up from #8 last year. Good for us!

MBA rankings are a fickle beast. Administration and staff have to pretend like they don't matter, yet does anyone wanna bet that Dean Jones and the MBA program staff aren't slapping high-fives this morning?

Students must say that they removed "rankings" from the decision-making process and instead focused on other variables, such as "fit". It is just amazing how Top 5 schools seem to "fit" a little bit better and how my classmates are and will continue to be abuzz about the new rankings.

Here's my brief assessment of the WSJ survey:

1. Recruiters like us because they can pay us less. KFBS has the lowest starting salary of the schools in the Top 10. Until we get pizzaid like a Top 10 program, I'm not buying the Top 10 distinction.

(Note - The article points out that the "what's in it for me" attitude similar to that which I just indirectly expressed caused Kellogg and Michigan to drop considerably from last year's rankings.)

2. We're eager. Which I presume relates to #1. We're a consensus Top 20 school. But, with regards to the Top 10, we're a bit of an up-and-comer, a scrappy underdog, if you will. Everyone loves an underdog - especially, it seems, MBA recruiters.

3. We don't have an "MBA attitude". KFBS does an amazing job of filtering out the jerks.  I can honestly say that I haven't met a single person here that rubs me the wrong way - which is pretty amazing considering my Jerry Seinfeld-esque sensitivity to jerks.

On the contrary, I visited a consensus Top 10 school in the Northeast this past February and decided not to apply because of the surprising number of abrasive personalities I encountered. It was a recruiting visit! Aren't you supposed to be nice to me!?

KFBS would do very well to continue this trend and steal some of the "collegial MBA program" market share away from Tuck and Kellogg.

4. Our test scores are weak, but getting MUCH stronger. The survey reports an average GMAT score of ~660. This is for the class of 2008. My class has an average score of ~690.

Hopefully the test scores and other improvements will continue to push Kenan-Flagler up the rankings, which of course mean nothing and everything.


I spent some time talking to a second year KFBS student on my way to an Accounting review Friday afternoon and he offered me a brief anecdote about his first year Microeconomics professor. My re-telling:
Bob Connelly told his students on the first day of class that the single most important formula that they should learn from his class is as follows:

"P = MBA"

He went on to say that if students are stressing about grades, then they just aren't getting it. Except for those keen on a finance gig on Wall Street, in which case grades DO matter, he suggested that students make sure to learn the material REALLY well, but spend their time exploring the numerous social, personal, community, and career opportunities that KFBS offers, not killing themselves for an "H".

His anecdote inspired me to skip out on the review session - (I already had the "P" in the bag.) - and caused me to reflect on the "P = MBA" concept. A few thoughts:

1. My Micro professor has written lots of formulas on the board, but none as relevant to reality as "P = MBA".

2. It is easier said than done. I'm a competitive SOB and I can't help it. For me, to "accept" a "P" is to accept defeat. This is probably why I've had so many late nights trying to stay ahead of the game with my coursework...and probably why I'm so tired all of the time.

3. It can be a timely excuse. Case in point - I'm pretty sure that I botched said Accounting exam for which I skipped the review session. (Note - I still studied quite a bit at home...)

But, you know what? I'm certain that I passed. I'm certain that I got most of the questions mostly right. Plus, I'm certain that some students did MUCH worse on the exam than I did. Most importantly, I'm certain that I know the material well enough considering my career aspirations.

So - while I might stink at Accounting - I'm not going to beat myself up over what will probably be a less-than-stellar grade. After all, P = MBA!

Courses related to my background and career interests will be a completely different story I'm sure...

A Busy Week...

Kenan-Flagler first years have 2 midterms and a paper due this week. Good times!

Our profs have mentioned numerous times that they work together to try to spread the load as much as possible and, to their credit, they've done a good job so far. I've been busy, no doubt, but it hasn't been the living hell that others had me believe that I would encounter.

(I might be singing a different tune at the end of this week...)

It is worth mentioning that the week won't totally suck. My first flag football game since undergrad kicks off Tuesday at 8PM and Jason Isbell blows up the Local 506 Thursday ~11PM. Can't wait.

Update on the Discrimination

Surprisingly, I hit a 6 week traffic high with my post about life as a Mac user in Kenan-Flagler's Microsoft polluted driven computing environment. I suspect that the scandalous title enticed the Facebook profile lurkers and RSS feed ignorers to take a look. Speaks to the power of headlines and subject lines...

Jeff left a great comment. He's right - Macs are for ballers:
We look at it this way - Macs are for people who know almost nothing about computers and are getting started, or are for people who know a LOT about computers and need the heavy lifting that a properly pimped Macbook Pro can give you.

I emailed the IT office (again) about an LDAP connection and got the juice. I can now search the global directory from my email client.

I'll learn to live with the calendering issue, partially because there isn't a simple solution, but more so because I have qualms about people adding - or "suggesting" - things to my calendar - regardless of my ability to accept or reject the request. That is another post for another time...

Discrimination at Kenan-Flagler

What a shame. Such a titillating title for what you will find to be a whiny, self-righteous post.

Plus, I should be studying, not whining, especially not whining self-righteously.

At Kenan-Flagler, Mac users have to walk to school barefooted, in the snow, uphill both ways. The whole email/calendaring system is entrenched in Exchange and that isn't going to change any time soon. I can't access the school's address book. The program office distributes documents that inexplicably don't open in Office for Mac.  You get the idea...

(I guess this really isn't that bad or much different that anywhere else. You see? Whiny.)

To be fair, I don't really mind it - I actually enjoy it. I have what works for me and I'd rather stick with it than follow the herd. Plus, the feeling that I'm having to scrape out my interactive existence keeps it interesting for me. (Here comes the self-righteousness...) Most of all, 4 years spent working at a company driven by and built on open source technologies galvanized my belief in open standards. I'm perfectly happy trading convenience for conviction.

That said, I don't like it when the following happens:

1.) I email someone about getting 30 minutes of their time and they reply asking that I add it to their calendar. I reply saying that I can't. I get the meeting, the first 2 minutes of which is spent questioning my ability to be productive without Outlook and suggesting that I migrate to Outlook for the web. (The full version of which doesn't work in Firefox and/or Mac OS, by the way.)

2.) I schedule a resume critique through an online system only the receive a calendar invitation that I can't act on. I had to access web Outlook to confirm the meeting and add it to a calendar that I don't use.

3.) One of my classmates describes my iBook as "cute".

The IT department, though aware of our needs and reasonably accommodating, constantly reminds us that they don't support Macs. In fact, they set up a discussion board so the 25 or so Mac users can help support each other. How nice! (Too bad it was after we had already set up an email list...)

Instead of a discussion board, I'd prefer a migration away from the Microsoft death grip to an IT world in which we are all created equal. The following simple things would make me happy:

- Calendars distributed via the CalDAV standard.
- Some sort of LDAP access to the global address book. Thunderbird appears to support it.
- The disappearance of the assumption that we all use Outlook.

A Big/Small Kenan-Flagler World

First day of orientation was great. Good times, good programming, good food, and, of course, GREAT people. People from all parts of the globe with all kinds of backgrounds, work experiences, and personalities.

Funny thing, though. Of all the different people from all over the world, the following happen to be my classmates:

Troy - my backyard neighbor.

Dan - a former pharma rep that serviced my Aunt Rhonda and Father-in-Law Carl's clinic.

Michael - my 2nd cousin and childhood friend.

Small world, huh?

First Day of School!

Orientation starts today.

My pencils are sharpened.  My snappy new lunchbox is packed.  I've donned my "first day of school" attire, as selected by Kelly and as displayed over night by the little man I fashioned out of the clothes in the floor beside my bed.

I'm ready to ask lots of questions.  I'm ready to have a locker again.  I'm a little bit nervous.  I'm wishing that Kelly would hurry up so that we could leave already.  Heck - I'm even drinking coffee from a Kenan-Flagler mug!

Game on!

The Calm Before The Storm

I'm so excited/nervous to be so close to officially becoming a Kenan-Flalger MBA student. I have a "Welcome Session" tomorrow, a week's worth of orientation next week, and then classes kick off the next Monday.

I'm excited because I know that I'm going to have a great time as a student again. I'll make tons of new friends, play lots of basketball, and - of course - learn a lot about business and hopefully more about myself.

I'm nervous because I don't think I've ever been so unprepared for something. I'm not the world's greatest "preparer" as it is - however - I've really outdone myself this time. Instead of ASW - Kenan-Flagler's accounting/finance/statistics pre-term tune-up - I opted to travel to Italy with Kelly and to China with John and Ben. (More blog posts coming for each trip...promise.) Plus, I've spent the last ~2 weeks since I've been home reading, watching movies, playing basketball, doing chores, and catching up with friends when I probably should have been re-learning accounting and statistics. (Which I started doing today, by the way.  Ugh.)

My summer of travel and lazing about the house, while undoubtedly an enjoyable experience and much needed time to recharge, essentially means that I'm WELL behind my classmates that attended ASW and nowhere close to being ready for the impending deluge of very difficult MBA coursework. It also means that I get to suck it up and accomplish something very challenging, which in its own strange way is an exciting reward. (At least that's what I'm telling myself.)

Game on very soon. Can't wait.

Experience Weekend Recap

A few quick observations from the event thus far:

- Deloitte sponsored a dinner last night and had a handful of recruiters working the crowd. I don't start classes until August, yet I'm already shaking hands with a recruiter from a major consulting firm. That's just funny.

- Johnson & Johnson sponsored breakfast this morning and had a small kiosk of bowls with Tylenol, Motrin, etc. A well-received remedy for my low-grade hangover headache and an economical branding experience for J&J.

- My plans to build an intramural basketball dynasty are slowly taking shape. I've already identified 2 key recruits from the incoming MBA class, one of which spent a brief term as a walk-on at Ole Miss. That, my friends, is the kind of ringer talent that wins championships.

- I'm really glad that I chose Kenan-Flagler.

All in all, its been great fun. The real party starts tonight with dinner, drinks, and bluegrass on the Latane Plaza and will end with beers at P-Bob's.

Kenan-Flagler Loves the Boggs Blog

Folks - Boggs Blog Fever is sweeping the nation. For example, consider this (roughly transcribed) conversation that I had with Sarah - whom I'm never met - tonight at the Kenan-Flagler Experience Weekend:

Eric - Hi. I'm Eric.

Sarah - Hi. I'm Sarah.

Eric - Nice to meet you. (Pleasantries, etc.)

Sarah - Umm. You might think this is strange, but I've read your blog.

Eric - (Uncontrollable laughter.) How did you find my blog?

Sarah - I Googled "Kenan-Flagler gay" because I was trying to get a sense of Kenan-Flagler's reputation as a gay-friendly school. You had just written a post about that NBA basketball player a day or two after you had written a post about being accepted at Kenan-Flagler. So I guess it made sense that it showed up in my search results.

Eric - (More uncontrollable laughter, followed by a 10 minute soliloquy on the virtues of blogging, the Long Tail, the Kenny George situation, and internet marketing - all of which was largely ignored by those around me.)

I'll post more about Experience Weekend tomorrow.

A Glimpse Into My Future?

The Kenan-Flagler Entrepreneurship Club stopped by Bronto this afternoon as a part of a day-long tour of Triangle-based entrepreneurial-type businesses. Matt coordinated the visit, but was kind enough to let me participate. I must admit it was a little odd co-presenting to a roomful of overdressed MBAs - and not just because I had on jeans, a t-shirt, and a SF Giants baseball cap.

The majority of the people in the group were first-year students. If I attend KFBS, then those folks are likely to be my friends and mentors. (I'll certainly be involved in the entrepreneurship club whereever I end up.) It was cool that so many of them offered up a business card, an invitation to lunch, or a reason that I should attend Kenan-Flagler. I especially appreciated that one student jokingly sought to confirm that I was not considering a Duke MBA...which I most certainly never have.

The experience also brought reality to my impending matriculation. Granted, I've visited schools (KFBS, Darden, Wharton), talked to alums, sat in on classes, scoured web sites, read blogs, the whole 9 yards. However, each of these have been in the context of an applicant completely unsure of how things will pan out. Experiencing a club event as an admitted student was completely different...and much more exciting. Without question, I'll be an overdressed MBA tron that visits a start-up next winter and eagerly soaks up the knowledge like a sponge.