Realizing that most of the winter quarter would be spent on recruiting, I decided to free up my schedule by taking only three courses and this worked out pretty well. Something else I tried to do was make sure that I didn’t have any classes on Friday. I expected to be travelling a lot for on-site interviews and I didn’t want to miss too many classes. In the end, I still missed a good number of classes, but not as many as I would have missed if I’d had classes on Friday. The classes that I ended up taking in the winter quarter of my first year were:
Microeconomics: As you’d expect, this course was mostly about concepts like demand, supply, subsidies and so on. To be honest, I initially didn’t like this class as I felt I wasn’t learning anything that I would use in the real world. However, when we got around to analyzing the last case of the course, things really began to come together. I realized that I had changed the way I thought about certain real world problems, and that’s what learning is all about!
Finance I: When you go to bschool, you have to learn finance right? Well, Fin I is our introductory finance class at Kellogg. The content was great, but the best part of the class was the professor. I had Navin Chopra, and he was really passionate about helping us learn the material. Chopra’s also a funny guy, and this really helped my attention span of the class, especially when you consider the fact that his classes were happening immediately after lunch. 🙂
Technology Marketing: Hmmm so this one didn’t really do it for me. To be fair the professor is great and one of few tech-focused rockstar professors at Kellogg. However, I felt like I already knew most of the course content from personal readings before business school as well as my time in IT. I did make some really good friends from this class though (you know who you are :D) so in the end, I guess I can’t complain.
If I had to do it all over again, I’d still take 3 classes so that I can focus on recruiting. Learning is important, but at the end of the day, it’s all about getting that plum MBA job! 🙂
Last quarter, the most exciting part of preparing for case interviews, or case prep was ‘crushing the case’: quickly and confidently working through the facts of the case, understanding the key issues, and coming up with a recommendation that was both comprehensive and irrefutable. Few things feel as good as crushing a case!
Fast forward to the Spring quarter, which is supposed to be the fun, ‘post-recruiting’ quarter, and there’s isn’t really a lot of crushing going on. Maybe I took too many courses this quarter, maybe I’m involved in too many extracurricular activities (probably not), or maybe I’m just sleeping too much! Whatever the reason, I feel like I’m doing a lot of stuff this quarter without really crushing any one of them. I’m not exactly rocking my courses, neither am I investing the time required to sustain my relationships both within and outside Kellogg. Last but not least, my beloved blog is also taking a hit! 😦
Some of my friends tell me that the experience is intentional. That Kellogg wants to teach me how to manage the ‘high powered life’ that I will have after Kellogg. While this may be true, I know that I definitely do not like the current state of things, and so I have to act! I think I have two options. I could downsize, cut some stuff out of my schedule and become better by devoting more time to less. This might work, but then I might miss out on a lot of the good stuff that Kellogg has to offer. FOMO anyone? 🙂 My second option would be to get comfortable with the feeling of ‘mediocrity’ which I’m currently experiencing, and continue to explore as much of Kellogg as I can! This is definitely new territory for me, and only time will tell if this approach will pay off in the long run.
Stealing a line from a personal hero, Geoffrey Moore, “that’s what I think. What do you think?” 🙂
While this is only my second quarter at Kellogg, I can confidently state that it’s going to be my worst. Why? The Chicago winter and internship recruiting.
Having lived in Nigeria and the Great State of Texas before Kellogg, cold geographies have never being my thing, but Kellogg was a big enough draw to get me to move to Chicago. Notwithstanding, my first winter in Chicago has been particularly brutal, and is considered by many to be one of the coldest in a really long time. I still remember the Polar Vortex in January,and how some students threw boiling water outside to see how fast it would freeze in temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not sure if the water actually froze though; all I saw was a lot of steam… The really challenging part of the winter for me is that it really tanks my productivity by making a ‘sleepaholic’ like me to sleep even more. In addition, when I do become awake, I don’t feel motivated to go out or get a whole lot done.
The second and even more ‘sucky’ part of the winter quarter is internship recruiting. Now truth be told, this affects everyone differently. Some students, through pre-MBA recruiting, already had internship offers on the first day they walked into Kellogg. Also, offers from on-campus internship recruiting have started pouring in since early January. Nonetheless, not everyone gets an internship this quickly, and this can create stressful situations for ALL students. On one hand, students with offers are keeping their fingers crossed for those still recruiting, but sometimes feel like they’re walking on eggshells as they try to figure out the best way to support their peers. For those still recruiting, feelings of anxiety coupled with the ‘rough and tumble’ of recruiting may create distractions in class and reduce attendance at both academic and social meetups. These different dynamics come together to create what can be described as an undesirable experience during the winter quarter.
For most students, finding a job is really important and one of the main reasons why we came to business school. However, the process of doing so is really stressful and takes a lot of shine away from the vibrant Kellogg experience. I can’t wait to get to Spring quarter when, following historical data, more than 90% of us will have found cool summer gigs, it’ll be a little warmer, and school can become fun again!
Kellogg is definitely unlike any other academic pool I’ve played in; it is different in two main ways. First, I’ve never been in an environment with such a high density of really smart and talented people, and this is definitely beneficial in terms of intellectual stimulation. Second all exams at Kellogg are graded on a curve, with about 30 – 40% of the class getting an A, about 50 – 60% getting a B and then the bottom 10% end up with a C. This doesn’t seem so bad, until you consider the fact that your final grade is now dependent on the performance of your awesome classmates, and when you’re among a group of incredibly smart people, the difference between an A and a C might not be as large as you think.
Stealing a line from my consultant friends, “So what?”. Does all of this matter? Do grades matter? Being at a top business school already says a lot about your intellectual ability and potential. Unfortunately, you still might need good grades if you plan to recruit for certain industries like investment banking or management consulting. Of course this varies from company to company. I’ve heard of Kellogg folks who had a 3.0 GPA and got into McKinsey…
If your school has a grade non-disclosure policy (Kellogg doesn’t), you may worry less about grades, but is this really true? My current understanding is that schools with a non-disclosure policy still give students the right to disclose their grades to employers. So if an employer asks students of such schools about grades, I’m not sure how they would respond without looking like they’re hiding something.
I think getting good grades is something worth striving for. Most of us haven’t gotten this far by settling for less than stellar grades, and that habit might be hard to shake off in “old age”. Notwithstanding, I also think that in some cases the difference between an A and a B might be three to four times the required effort. In such situations, channeling all that effort into getting that A might mean missing out on business school activities that provide opportunities to grow personally and professionally, build new relationships and participate in transformational experiences. This is when focusing on good grades can be a mistake.
The description of the first year of business school as “drinking from a fire hose” is so true at Kellogg! The reward for completing any task is a shiny new task that is usually more difficult than the last. It sometimes feels like I’m spending more time on assignments and preparing for classes than the awesome things I came to do at business school: interact with great people, create challenging but fun experiences and land my dream job!
Since I didn’t waive any of my core courses, I don’t have a lot of flexibility with my Fall quarter courses but that’s okay. I’m appreciating the opportunity to build a strong foundation in accounting, statistics, marketing and business strategy before moving on to more complicated business topics. My favorite class of the quarter is currently business strategy. Professor Garthwaite goes really fast, and there’s a lot of ‘cold calling’ (asking students to explain details of a case without warning), but his sense of humor helps to reduce the tension in the room. I also love the opportunity to think critically about the subject of business.
Something I think can improved is for the cases we read to be evenly distributed between North America, Europe, Asia and Africa instead of the America-centric focus that we have today. Even though I’ve been in the US for a while, I sometimes lack adequate context to effectively discus old american companies like Sears or Blockbuster. I can only wonder how my colleagues who are totally new to the US are faring, but then again, some of my classmates are gods walking among men… 🙂
Something I find interesting about my core classes is that professors actually know what we are learning in other core classes, and try to help us tie it together into some sort of integrated learning experience. So my marketing professor mentions concepts we have covered (or will be covering) in business strategy and ties it to the marketing class, and my accounting professor talks about marketing and so on. I think this really helps me integrate the courses about different functional areas into one giant course about the subject of business.
I guess this is true at most top-tier business schools, but one cool thing at Kellogg is how the diverse backgrounds of my classmates provide a rich context for discussing ideas in the classroom. One example of this was when we were discussing the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986, and were talking about O-rings, and how the decisions of some senior executives may have led to the disintegration of the space shuttle. Someone sitting close to me raised up his hand and said that he could provide some context as he had been designing O-rings for a few years in his last job. Everyone else kept quiet and listened! You can’t beat that kind of credibility.
I plan to write about my club experiences and what I call the “other education” in future posts, but for now, it’s off to assignments and prepping for next week’s mid-term exams!