Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blogging Hiatus

Alas, I realize that I've been a delinquent blogger.

Darden gives us a generous four weeks of vacation. This is the official time off, anyway. There are four weeks between the official exam deadline and the start of J-week classes, so if you finish exams early and don't take a J-week class, you could potentially stretch it out by an additional two weeks.

While I wasn't lucky enough to avoid J-week classes, I did finish my exams early and have been on vacation now for nearly three weeks. In the past three weeks, I have visited the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, visited the DeSoto Caverns in Alabama (see previous blog post!), sunk my feet into the sand in the beach at Pensacola, visited every Disney World park and saw the Harry Potter world at Universal Studios. Just three days after walking around Universal Studios drenched from the water rides, I was back in freezing cold Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for Christmas.

Last week was a total blur of friends and family, but the highlight was my surgery... I can SEE now. Without glasses or contacts. If anyone is considering lasik, I highly recommend! I think my vision is now better than 20/20, something that contacts and glasses haven't been able to achieve in over 20 years. I take great delight now in both the crispness of everything I see and the fact that I don't need to put in contacts every morning.

Christmas came and went, and I now find myself back in my dearly beloved Canadian Rockies. My parents rented some amazing suites at the Grand Rockies Resort in Canmore as a base for our annual ski vacation. It's been absolutely luxurious and I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to ski, play board games and just get in some relaxed me-time.

Anyway, not that prospective Darden students really need to hear what I've been up to on vacation... I just want to encourage the first years who are undoubtedly using every spare minute to work on cover letters and practice interviews that second year really is awesome.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sweet (Someone Else's) Home Alabama


When I crossed the border into Alabama and entered the visitor information center, I knew that I was going to love Alabama. The people were so delightfully friendly that we decided we'd better make Alabama an actual stop on our road trip.

Spending the night in Birmingham, we found an amazing restaurant downtown called Twenty Six. For some reason, I was really hungry by the time we rolled in and the food was splendidly delicious.

This morning, we headed to our tourist destination of choice: DeSoto Caverns Family Fun Park. Everything about this visit screamed "Alabama" to me. From the y'alls in the gift shop to the ghetto fabulous "rides" (see below) to the evangelistic light show.

The cavern tour, which was really quite neat, featured a Christmas themed water and light show.

Not only did the Caverns feature pedal go-karts, a bouldering wall, a bunch of cool rock formations, and the fudge from the "100 things to eat in Alabama before you die", but the lady in the gift shop was insanely friendly and offered to email me the photo they had taken of me and AB in the cave.

She recommended a BBQ restaurant on the way back to the highway, so we set off for Sylacauga for lunch. We were greeted by the friendliest people I've ever met... but the highlight was the waitress, who I'm fairly certain must have been close to nine months pregnant. Not only was the pork BBQ I had DELICIOUS, but I also got to try the southern treats my friends have raved about: fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and hush puppies. Needless to say, I've had enough deep fried whatever to last quite a while, but I'm glad I tried it!

The rest of the drive was beautiful, and all the ranch country reminded me of home. There was something so charming about the accents, the friendliness and the scenery. I love Alabama!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Snow-Covered Appalachians and Tennessee Sunsets


That is the sound of all the stress being let out of me.

The last few months have been filled with stressors, challenges and unknowns. I don't think I realized quite how tightly wound I was until I found myself VERY anxious to leave Charlottesville this morning.

But I got away safely and am now in Nashville, TN, staying at a hotel which my road trip companion, AB, describes as "the type of place people come after committing a crime." I guess it really isn't that bad, but after staying in hotels that companies have paid for every weekend for the past two months, it definitely seems ghetto!

It's been a really, really great day. I haven't been on a road trip in a year and a half, so this was well overdue. The first stop of the day brought us to the Pink Cadillac Diner, a restaurant suggested by AB who was there on a road trip over Thanksgiving. It was not to be missed - just picture a completely pink building in the middle of nowhere with a large statue of King Kong out front. The inside was equally entertaining.

During the afternoon, we drove through snow-covered Appalachian mountains. The scenery was amazing, and seeing all the cows on the hills actually reminded me of home. I have to admit that as much as I'll regret saying this in two weeks (when I'm home with snow and -30C), I do miss the snow.

We finished off the day with this:

Need I say more?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Signed, Sealed and Plunked in the Mail...

It's official.

After over 30 interviews, 7,993 airline miles, and countless recitations of my "tell me about yourself", I'm done. I signed my offer letter, placed it in the mail, and sent a PDF copy to HR.

I'll be heading to Boston in August to work for a consulting firm.

It's been quite the year. I've gone through all possible highs and lows with the recruiting process. I've stressed out to my wit's end and celebrated the milestones that kept me going along the way.

Now it's time for my final celebration in the process... Heading off to Disney World!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

30,000 Feet in the Air

Okay, so I know in-flight wifi is totally old news, but it's my first time using it.

I'll be honest - even if I have nothing of importance to communicate with anyone, it drives me crazy being on an airplane knowing that I don't have the option of communicating with the outside world. In fact, since getting a smart phone, I've started to pull my phone out the minute the plane touches ground (if I'm not already sneakily using it to read), and turning off airplane mode the minute the stewardess begins the announcement that ends with "it is now safe to turn on cellular phones" so my phone has reception as soon as possible. It's not that I'm particularly important or have anyone in particular to communicate with; I just like knowing that I can.

Anyway, in-flight wifi has solved the twitching that accompanies a long flight and the shut down of communication. While I can't talk on the phone or send text messages, I can use email, Office Communicator and the WhatsApp app on my iPhone. I can also send this - my very first post from the air.

This is kind of a monumental trip, as it is my very last final round interview trip. The past quarter has been filled with travel. With the exception of Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend my parents came to visit, I've been out of town every week. While I've enjoyed racking up my United Mileage Plus points and enjoying staying in hotels (I sleep better; the people living above me like to walk around at 1 a.m. and the ceiling creaks), it'll be nice to be finished with interviews.

Of course, I'm not finished with travel... in the last week, I've booked trips to Disney World, home, Colorado and China. I guess I can't get too excited that the end of living-out-of-a-suitcase is in sight.

Second year at Darden is awesome.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh the Places You'll Go!

Several years ago, a book I read suggested that I needed to visit three new places a year. While I'm sure there were many other good suggestions in the book, that was the one that I took to heart.

Three years ago, it was becoming a stretch to get to three new places a year. I only had two weeks of vacation, and I'd already been every interesting place within a weekend's drive of good, old Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Since moving down to Charlottesville for B-school, all of that has changed. In the past month, I've been to three new places... Though, granted, they've all been for interviews, and the extent of the sights I've seen have been the insides of my hotel rooms. I would probably not count any of them as my three new places for the year, but that doesn't matter, since this year, I've already been to Barcelona, Detroit and Cape Cod/Martha's Vineyard to check off my list. And if I can't technically use Detroit as a new place since I accidentally drove through several years ago on a road trip when my sister and I missed a turnoff as we were caught up in our driving game, I'm headed off on a road trip to Florida after exams are finished in December.

It's funny how much my life has changed. I remember sitting in a cubicle in an office building in Edmonton, feeling like life was passing by, feeling as though my social life was slowly disappearing as my friends all got married and then started having babies. Now I've been able to travel to more places than I've ever been, being driven around in limos and put up in fancy hotels. Last weekend, I walked down the street and got last minute tickets to a Dave Matthews concert. I've made friends with people from all across the globe. My life has come a long way since I made the big decision to uproot my life and pursue my MBA, and there's no looking back.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Life is Good

The sun is warm.

The fall foliage is gorgeous.

I walked through the grass today just to hear the leaves crunch under my feet.

My new pink scarf is pretty.

And I got a job offer.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Another Reason to Love Darden

If you've been following my blog, it's not much of a secret that the current recruiting phase that I am in is super stressful. (Yes, three blog posts in a row about recruiting - I do apologize.)

Sadly, while I've somehow managed to be getting through classes with positive results, I can't say that I've been my normal, peppy self. This quarter, which will (hopefully) be the most stressful quarter of the year, I made the mistake of taking classes with all professors that I already have good relationships with. The downside of that is that while I may have managed to fool last quarter's professors into thinking I was putting the most possible effort into their classes, this quarter's professors know better.

As I was walking to school today, having not-the-best-morning-ever (a cold and some bad news yesterday), I heard my name yelled from across the parking lot. I turned around, and there was my PE prof. She asked how things were going and I was perfectly honest with her: I was stressing about the job search. She said that I didn't seem to be my normal self, but told me to focus on getting a job first and then stress about her class after I had a job and it came close to finals time.

It's just nice to have profs who A) understand where your priorities are and B) notice when you're stressing out and care enough to ask about it.

I love Darden profs... this is probably one of the reasons the Princeton Review recently ranked Darden professors #1.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween, Darden-Style

One of the things that I love about Darden is that everyone gets really engaged with everything. When we had the 80s-themed 100 Case Party last year, everyone was there with blue eyeshadow, neon sunglasses and tapered acid-washed jeans. Halloween is no exception to the "everyone dresses up" mentality. After being one of three people who wore a costume to our company costume contest the year before Darden (and, to be fair, I didn't show up in the costume, I brought it and put it on because one of the newer employees had gone all-out and I didn't want her to feel awkward!), it's refreshing to attend a costume party where everyone is, indeed, in costume.

Even more exciting, no one goes halfway with their costumes. I remember when I was in Grade 7 and dressed up as "modern-day Goldilocks." The only difference between my standard every-day dress and this particular "costume" was that I wore my (blonde, naturally curly) hair down, rather than pulled up in the usual ponytail. That was a big step for me. Anyway, at Darden, anyone in costume (which was, actually, everyone) went all out - wigs, face paint, accessories, shoes, everything. There was a Shrek with a completely green face, trolls with neon wigs and glittery eyelashes, Three's Company, and a couple dressed as lawn ornaments.

Ironically, after the excitement of attending Halloween parties on Friday and Saturday, I completely forgot that Sunday was actually Halloween. I haven't lived in a neighbourhood with any kids for quite some time, and consequently haven't handed out candy to kids in quite a few years.

Anyway, November is here, and with November comes a chill in the air. Yesterday, I was sitting on a sunny patio, comfortable in a t-shirt. Today, I am pulling my sweater and scarf around me for extra warmth.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Yes, it's true... another post about recruiting. I would write about something else, but the truth is... well, it is somewhat all-consuming in my life right now.

I flew out to Atlanta for my first final-round interview yesterday. It was the first time I've flown somewhere for an interview, and I must admit that I learned a few things:
  1. If you're going for a day, where your itinerary consists of: fly to destination city, eat lunch at airport, take cab to interview, quick post-interview cocktails with fellow interviewees, cab back to airport for dinner and fly home... well, there is no need for a laptop. You're better served saving the room in your bag for a change of clothes. Or, just bringing a smaller bag so your shoulder doesn't kill you at the end.
  2. Making #1 a mute point, I actually recommend flying out the night before. We had to drive through Richmond during rush hour to get to the airport, and I had a near panic attack when we were stopped on the interstate with an hour and 5 minutes until our plane left. Fortunately, the traffic dissipated and we had already checked in for our flight and there was virtually no line-up to get through security.
  3. RELAX. I don't normally get overly stressed about interviews, but perhaps all the travelling added to my anxiety levels. There were a few points during the interview that I was really not my normal relaxed self.
Anyway, I'm hoping recruiting season will be done in four weeks - potentially even earlier!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall is Here

In my last blog post, I bemoaned the passing of fall without my mindful watch. Well, yesterday was a very rare weekday off school, and having prepped all I possibly could for the upcoming stretch of interviews, I played hooky from life, drove an hour and a half up Skyline Drive, and went for a hike.

While I will always be partial to my Canadian Rockies, and frequently refer to Shenandoah as "mountains", I will admit that fall in Shenandoah National Park is breathtakingly beautiful. Growing up in a climate where fall lasted two weeks, and the only colour the leaves ever turned was yellow, it is an absolute treat to watch the autumn season unfold slowly, with it's wide array of fall hues. That the mountains in Shenandoah don't go higher than the tree line means that the valleys are filled with rolling hills covered in trees, sporting colours of every kind this time of year.

My friend and I made our way up to White Oak Canyon, with the main attraction being the first set of waterfalls. After a week of rain a while back, the waterfall was gorgeous and full. We reached the main lookout on the waterfall, a nice rock outcropping, and sat to eat some freshly picked apples and simply enjoy the warm sun and breathtaking views. It was the perfect day. Driving home, we decided instead of cutting over to the faster Route 29, we would just take Skyline Drive as far as we could. All in all, it was definitely the best way to prep for upcoming interviews.

Of course, most things in life are too good to be true, and my otherwise perfect day was no exception. About thirty minutes into the hike, my fast downhill pace got the better of me and I fell and twisted my ankle. Being the stubborn trooper that I am, I wasn't about to allow a twisted ankle to spoil my day, especially since I seemed to be able to still turn it and walk on it just fine. So I hiked another three hours or so. Unfortunately, after sitting in the car for half an hour after finishing the hike, I realized that was not the smartest of decisions and have since been resting, icing, compressing and elevating my ankle. (RICE) Needless to say, I sported flat shoes to my interview this morning. (And, since all my pant suits are tailored to be worn with heels, I had to wear a skirt and show off my awesome war wound. Sigh.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Job Job Job Job Job Job Job

It's THAT time of year.

Unfortunately, I'm not referring to the time of year where the temperature reaches tolerable levels, the leaves take on gorgeous autumn hues, and the sun hits the earth at just the right angle to create a warm, cozy fall glow. While yes, it is that time as well, that is not what occupies the thoughts of my every waking moment.

It's recruiting season. While the first years are busy throwing on khaki pants, blue dress shirts, and name tags, the second years are practicing interviews and awaiting the arrival of "closed lists." Essentially, with on-grounds recruiting at Darden, companies will post a job opportunity and specify a number of interview slots that will be offered. These slots are divided into invite slots and bid slots. The closed list is a list of people who are invited to interview with a company. The bid slots work a little bit differently - effectively an auction to give the people who are really passionate about a job an opportunity to interview.

Whew. So that's the system.

I wish that I were blogging about something other than recruiting. But, let's be honest, I wish I were THINKING about something other than recruiting. It occupies all my time (five mock interviews tomorrow). It occupies my head making me unable to communicate in social circles.

BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT... I'm off to a good start. I keep telling myself that if I work hard now, and line up a job before Christmas, the rest of the year will be smooth sailing.

So, that's life. And hopefully, just hopefully, I'll find some time to get out and enjoy my favorite season before it fades away into the dead of winter.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Thought First Year Was Over!

When I decided to limit myself to four classes this quarter, I thought that recruiting would essentially amount to another class.

This has not been the case.

The last few weeks (and the foreseeable future) have been filled with resume drops, cover letter writing, and practice interviews.

Classes? Right... yes, I do attend those. And prep for them somewhere between all the recruiting.

Anyway, hopefully all this preparation will be well worth it when I land my dream job before Christmas. That is the light at the end of this long tunnel. And, at least I enjoy doing case interviews... guess it could be worse!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


It had been over eight months since I'd been home. But this weekend, I drove two hours to Dulles airport, and two long plane rides later, I found myself at the Edmonton International Airport, sans luggage.

Things have changed since I left. Although I only got to hold one of them, there have been at least three new babies born among friends. A whole bunch of my friends have up and left the city. And my parents' new house is completely framed and well on its way to being completed. I thought it would be weird to be back... but I guess when you've lived in a city for 18 years (and driven in it for 14), you naturally remember how the roads work together and manage to get easily from place to place. (Edmonton also has a handy numbered-street system which makes it quite easy to navigate!)

I've changed. I don't know that I can say entirely HOW I've changed, but at the very least, my sister pointed out that I now say "about" like an American. (You know, with three syllables instead of two!) As people asked whether I was planning on coming home after finishing, I replied that I was looking at cities like Atlanta, Chicago and New York,* places I never really would have dreamed of living before. There's a certain sense of accomplishment that I've gained from conquering my first year at Darden and working at a tremendously successful start-up that seems to trump all my previous accomplishments. In many ways, heading back to Edmonton felt like heading back to a much smaller world... an ironic comparison because Edmonton is a city of a million, and Charlottesville-Albemarle county has only around 100,000.

Over the last few weeks, I've realized that as we move forward and move on in life, we never have the option of going back. If I were to move back to Edmonton now, it would never be the same as it was because I am not the same as I was. Our experiences in life are entirely dependent on our own outlooks and the perspectives and make-up of the people we are with. It's impossible to live in the past... something that we could be sad about if we weren't committed to building an exciting future.

Before leaving for Charlottesville last year, I got quite nostalgic, feeling that the things I was leaving behind would never quite be the same. As it turns out, I was right.

*Not an exhaustive list of possibilities.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Cold Call

Though I could make an entire blog post related to Darden terms, since someone posted a comment asking what a "cold call" is, I figured I would quickly answer it, urban-dictionary style...


1) The opening question of the case discussion, directed at a non-volunteering student. Can also be used in the middle of class.

Professor Landel cold called me during my 8 a.m. OPS class and I was still hung over from TNDC.*

Today I got cold called in strategy because Professor Fairchild knew I was a chef and also took cooking classes in Paris.

2) An almost-weekly gathering of the Darden community, named for the afore-mentioned class cold call.

You have to show up at the Cold Call at least ten minutes early, otherwise they will run out of food.

Alternative Uses:

Cold Call Chronicle: The Darden student newspaper (which also happens to be run by one of my best friends here!)

Did you see what they wrote about you in the Cold Call Chronicle?

Cold Call Chorus: an a capella group

The Cold Call Chorus performed for the Class of 2009 graduation.

*TNDC = Thursday Night Drinking Club

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Second Year

When you're running around like a chicken with your head cut off, forgetting to eat dinner and staying up to all hours of the night in hopes of dodging cold calls, second year seems like a distant Mecca. No one who researches Darden really worries about second year; all the focus is on whether or not you can handle first year.

Being the over-prepper, psyched-for-Darden, type that I was, I knew exactly what to expect for first year. I knew November would be black; I knew I'd have to bust out the 80s gear for the 100 Case Party; I knew about Cold Calls.

Somehow I managed to work my way through the maze of first year and now find myself solidly on the ground in second year, and I'm not really sure WHAT I expected, but it wasn't this.

Yes, I have more time. No, I do not have enough time.

It would be a stretch to say that I miss the comfort of the rigid first year schedule. After a time, I made peace knowing I wasn't going to accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish, and did the best I could. Now, I am back to thinking I'm super woman and can be a master case interviewer, savvy networker and charismatic club president while maintaining a straight "DP"* average.

Anyway, I could do all those things and be burned out by the end of the month. Instead, I'm learning to delegate club responsibilities to my more-than-capable VPs, spacing out the case interview prep, and staying on top of the course work. I am still only human, with 168 hours in the week, and life's too short to obsess over all these things. The biggest lesson I learned in first year was that you can do more with less, and taking breaks and maintaining relationships are the best thing you can do for your career.

*"DP" is the Darden code word for "A" and stands for "distinguished performance". Apparently "A" is a designation which produces too much competition and self-loathing, thus they changed it to "DP" so we would have to translate it for everyone and perhaps in the translation would lose the self-loathing? I never really understood why they changed it. Especially since we still have to submit our 4.0 scale GPAs to certain recruiters.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tourist-ed Out

On my last trip to NYC, I reveled in the joys of not being a tourist. Being anti-tourist on that trip was somewhat bittersweet, though, as I had still never seen the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty.

That has all changed, and I'm proud to announce that I have officially completed all touristy activities that I ever want to do in Manhattan.

And I'm tired.

My best friend from home flew in to meet me, and in just four short days, we visited the Met and MOMA, Central Park, shopped on Fifth Ave, rode the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, attempted to take a picture of the bull on Wall Street, saw two Broadway shows, bought cheap t-shirts in Chinatown and visited the Meatpacking District.


From there, we visited DC and covered parts of two of the Smithsonians, the Capital, the Washington Monument, the White House, the WW2 memorial, Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington Cemetery. In three hours.

I'm now back in C'ville and welcoming the opportunity that being in class means I can just SIT for a while. I learned a lot about myself and how I see the world this past week. I don't like traveling. Not the type of traveling that involves rushing from site to site trying to cram as much in as possible. I love experiencing things. My favourite night in New York was the night we sat in Union Square and watched one skateboard try again and again to land a kick-flip. (He almost succeeded once before hurting his ankle.)

In other news, second year at Darden has started and it is officially awesome. More on that later...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Smooth Sail to the Finish

My boss sent me home at 3 p.m. today.

My final presentation for the summer was this morning, and with a long week behind me (some days up until 2 a.m.), he figured I'd put in enough hours.

All that's left to do is make sure everything is organized and wrapped up for the summer. After months of crunching data and running analyses, it's weird to be doing nothing more than changing the names of a few PowerPoint files and entering some final data into a spreadsheet.

I had a great summer! I'm overwhelmingly glad at how well everything turned out and optimistic about what my efforts this summer will mean for full-time recruiting. I'm also looking forward to working more with Relay through a Darden Business Project sometime over the year.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lobster Weekend

In the latest installment of visit-friends-where-they-are-interning this summer, I hopped on a flight to Boston this past weekend. It was my first JetBlue flight, and I must admit that other than issues with the online check-in and confusion about seat availability, it was a great experience! The TV screens were not new to me, but really nice on a short-haul flight and the legroom was also quite comfortable. The best part, for my nerdy operations-minded brain, was that they actually board the plane from the back, so it happens in a fraction of the time. Take note, United, take note.

Rather than spending the weekend touring Boston, we took advantage of a house in Cape Cod that was available to us. It was my first time in Cape Cod and I felt spoiled having my own room and a queen-sized bed for the weekend. A friend of mine had recommended checking out Martha's Vineyard, so we took the ferry over there on Sunday, rented bikes, and cycled along the shore. I can think of few better ways to spend a Saturday!

I titled this post "lobster weekend" not only because I ate a lot of lobster, but because I finished Saturday looking like one. After spending so much time in the sun in Virginia, I figured I had enough of a base tan that I didn't really need to worry about sunblock. I was wrong. Yet, despite the fact that I am trying to figure out how to make my tan lines disappear so I can wear tank tops again, the sunburn was well worth the day of seeing the ocean and beautiful Cape Cod houses, realizing that the expression "it's just like riding a bike" is true, and eating all sorts of delicious, fresh seafood.

The best surprise of the weekend was seeing my aunt's post on Facebook the night before I left and realizing she was going to be in Boston at the same time as me! We got in touch and I had a great dinner with family before flying back to Richmond.

Anyway... I have two days left of my internship (plus some work yet to do tonight) and then I'm off for my final adventure of the summer: meeting my best friend from home in NYC.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Nostalgia, Part 2

It was a year ago today that I left my home of 18 years for the Great Adventure that has been Darden. Last year, I celebrated my birthday with the crowd of friends and supporters I'd been collecting for 18 years - co-workers, friends from high school and undergrad, church, and people who somehow made it into my life over the years. Yesterday, I celebrated my birthday with a small group of amazing girlfriends I only had the privilege of getting to know this May, and spent a good five hours on the phone with people living elsewhere.

In some ways it's hard to believe it's only been a year, and in others, it's hard to believe it's been a full year. And, to continue on the poetic paradoxes, it's been everything I expected and nothing at all what I expected. Going into Darden, I was well-educated on what to expect: hard work, great times, great people, come out a stronger and better person on the other side. I knew all about Section Norms and the 100 Case Party and Learning Teams. What I didn't know was all the details: the people who would make my life richer, the details that would come every day, how my specific academic and recruiting story would look.

And maybe this post is a year premature, but with a birthday yesterday and a coffee visit with an incoming first year this evening, all these thoughts are circulating in my mind. The biggest question as many of the first years stare down the barrel of the gun that is first year, is "is it worth it?"

And the answer, of course, is yes.

First year at Darden was not easy for me. It wasn't the stresses of the academic rigor, but the piling of everything: struggling with the job search for the first time in my life, being far away from everyone familiar and discovering new things about myself, over-committing to volunteer positions that had my Outlook calendar crazy full, and trying to participate in an environment where there are a LOT of really smart people.

But when I look back and see how well everything turned out, and realize what I've learned about business and about myself, I can't imagine doing it any other way. Even my internship search, which was by far the most stressful part of first year for me, turned out better than I could have possibly planned and has opened doors for full-time recruiting that I never would have imagined. Most importantly, I've spent time taking trips this summer to visit people who have become an integral part of my life who I didn't even know existed at this time last year.

I can only hope that Second Year - only three weeks away - will be just as awesome. But maybe without the stress.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Year Ago...

As I see posts on Facebook about people moving down to Charlottesville and see the evidence of moving trucks in Ivy Gardens, I can't help but remember the intense stress I put myself under this week a year ago.

I know that I really shouldn't admit things like what I'm about to admit in any sort of public forum, but in the hopes that it could help someone else, I'm just going to be honest and vulnerable. Anyway, the worst moment of my pre-move week was the emotional breakdown I had in the Alberta Registries office (Canadian equivalent of the DMV) when I discovered that the new-to-me car I was registering was still listed as leased... Not a big deal in ordinary circumstances, but a big deal when you are trying to drive it across the border in a cross-border move.

Among the other "adventures" that I went through at this time last year were having to get a new I-20 issued two weeks before my move (something I discovered while I was in Iowa for a friend's wedding), realizing that there was no way I'd be able to fit everything into my car and ultimately vacuum sealing anything that could possibly be shrunk and a very intense border crossing in which I had to tell my sister that playing the Arrogant Worms song with the chorus "burn, burn, burn the White House" would not be appropriate border-crossing music. (Referring to the War of 1812, not any sort of Canadian terrorist plans!)

Before I get to a suggested survival plan, I'm going to let you in on the punchline - everything was just fine. I got the right papers to take "leased" off my car registration. My sister turned off the stereo. Although I had to go in to get "processed," the merciful border guard did not attempt to open my vacuum-sealed trunk. And everything was A-OK.

Anyway, the best thing I did in my pre-move week was turn off my cell phone, leave my laptop at home, and head to the Canadian Rockies for a few days of camping, hiking and relaxing with my best friend. So, while most of you (and yes, this blog post is targeted at the Darden Class of 2012 - both of you who are still reading my posts!) may be tempted to check and re-check those lists of things to do, do yourself a favour and get away to RELAX! I'm not going to remind you of what's in store over the next few months... but trust me, relax while you can. :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Motor City

Detroit doesn't have the best reputation.

When I told one of my friends I was headed to Detroit for the weekend, she referred to it as the "crotch of America."

My first impressions of Detroit were less than stellar. Although the airport was cool (I walked through a large tunnel with changing coloured lights and sound effects), the fact that domestic Delta flights came through the international terminal resulted in me waiting for an hour until my friend (who was new to the city) and I figured out we weren't in separate wormholes - he just needed to come to the other terminal.

After that, Detroit just started to pop up with sweet surprises. For starters, we drove down Michigan Ave. - a long street filled with abandoned buildings on either side. But our drive took us to this fun, cool, delicious and BUSY BBQ restaurant, where the wait to get in was over an hour. It just seemed such irony to wait so long for a table when the abandoned store just two doors over had a sign filled with bullet holes.

Over the weekend, I found all sorts of pleasant surprises in Detroit - the gorgeous DTE Energy concert venue where I lay on the grass watching the Goo Goo Dolls perform with the sunset in the background, Greenfield Village with its Model Ts and a tavern right out of the 1830s, Belle Island Park surrounded by beautiful blue water and a quaint neighbourhood in Dearborn with ivy-covered parking garages and brick houses.

So, as it turns out, Detroit isn't so bad after all. My main impression of the city was that it just felt empty - like it used to house many more people who all left after the crash of the American auto industry. But shoots of life are springing up all over the place. As my friend liked to point out, Ford is now at the same quality ratings as Honda (and even better in some cases, though I am loathe to admit it as an avid Honda lover). And with real estate prices at rock bottom (we saw a house listed for $300. Not $300k, but $300), it could be a good place to be if you have a reason (read: job) to be there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Always Be Ready

My roommate got me hooked on Good Morning America, so now I watch it every morning as I eat breakfast as a more peppy alternative to the regular news. (As a bonus, they show local news and weather right around the time I tune in.)

This morning, there was a moment that had the potential to be awesome. Some of the cast of Project Runway, including Heidi Klum, were doing a Q&A for the audience. A 16-year-old girl, asking as an actress hopeful, stepped up to the microphone and asked Heidi Klum when she had gotten her first big break. Heidi told the story of her first modelling contest and then the hostess (Robin? I haven't been watching that long) invited the girl up, giving her the opportunity for her first big break.

The girl choked. She got on stage and messed up an opportunity to show the world what she was capable of... not by messing up a song/dance/joke, but by not offering one at all. To be fair to the girl, she wasn't expecting this opportunity. But, think of what could have happened had she been ready.

The moment reminded me of recruiting. Everyone dreams of having an audience with the HR director/high-up partner, but few are prepared when that moment comes. I wasn't always ready because I wasn't expecting that kind of moment. But seeing GMA this morning, I realized that we can't afford to let those moments go by without being prepared. Just like an aspiring Broadway star should be ready to bust out a song and dance at a moment's notice, I should always be ready to tell someone exactly why they want me on their team.

So... Although I know most of the prospective/incoming students have stopped reading my blog for the summer (at least that's what Google Analytics would suggest :) ), if you are reading, the biggest advice I have for you as you get ready to come to Darden is to get your story ready. Know why you are the best candidate for the jobs you are seeking and be prepared to tell that story given the proper audience.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Meanwhile, Back in Cville...

Although I haven't blogged much about it in my last few posts, I have still been working at my internship and hanging out in Charlottesville. A while back, I thought I hit the halfway point of my internship, but my project manager and I mutually agreed to extend my internship so I could do some more analysis for the company and get some more experience, so I've lost track of my progress at this point.

So, what's summer like in Charlottesville? Well, it's HOT. I used to use "it's 100 degrees outside!" as a hyperbole. There have been a few days here where we've approached that temperature. Of course, when I used the expression previously referring to the temperature in Celcius, it has certainly been much hotter than my poor Canadian tundra conditioning can handle. My dad was telling me about his cold camping trip this past weekend, and I was envious.

I've been playing on a softball team with a bunch of people from Darden, Darden partners and some law students, and it's been fun. Today we had our most stellar victory... didn't even have to show up since the other team forfeit and we got an email informing us we'd won this afternoon.

Yesterday was my first Fourth of July in the US. I think one word pretty much sums it up: fireworks. Americans like fireworks! We were delayed going to the fireworks Charlottesville shot off because people were lighting sparklers in the middle of the street. I managed to get in a few quintessentially American activities yesterday: played softball, watched a hot dog eating contest on ESPN, ate a hot dog at a cook out and watched fireworks. I didn't light off any fireworks myself, but the adventure of the evening was when my friend who's an ER resident at the UVA hospital had to attend to a child who got second degree burns from some amateur fireworks shooting.

The internship continues to go well. I am a huge fan of the virtual office. The company's entire file system is done through cloud computing, so I can access files anywhere I get Internet. Even more importantly, the files are synched to my computer, so I can work offline and sync once I have Internet access again. This was really handy when I took the train to NYC a few weeks ago and could work on the trip up. From the sounds of it, this set-up is way better than what some of my classmates have in terms of technology.

Even better than the virtual office, I do feel like I'm both accomplishing something and learning at the same time. It's been great to see there is life in Charlottesville outside of Darden!

Friday, June 25, 2010


The power went down in my apartment, the rest of the complex, and pretty much all of C'ville just over 24 hours ago. Cell phone signals are spotty, the Darden email server is down and I am bringing this blog to you from my office - a generator-fueled oasis of power and AC.

I find it ironic that I grew up practically in the tundra, still making it to work when it was -40C with blowing winds and three feet of snow, but a 15-minute storm can send an entire city into a tizzy. As a result, there have been only a few times in my life when I have had to live without power, and most of those times have been on camping trips. ;-) Boy, I wish I had a cooler and a Coleman stove right now!

Over the last 24 hours, I've discovered just how inextricably my life is linked to technology. For example, what do you do when you are out of communication with friends (no phone signal or Internet access), have no power for your computer or TV, and can't go for a walk because the street lights aren't working (a bad combination when the sidewalks are littered with fallen trees)? Well, a lot of people may take that opportunity to read. So, I did that, but since I have my books on the Kindle app on my iPhone, it only lasted until the low battery warning came and alerted me I may want to save that power to serve as an alarm clock in the morning. (Still died, but managed to wake up on time without it... Julie: 1, Technology: 0)

Anyway, like a true junkie, I am at the office charging up the following items before returning home to sweat it out (AC not working) in my dark apartment: portable DVD player, iPhone and laptop. I did have plans for tonight, but with email and phone signals down, I have no idea where I'm supposed to go! Until the power returns, this is a great place to bunker down, since some of the restaurants on the Mall have power, and a restaurant is definitely more appealing than beef jerky and pita chips at home.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

It's the time of year where kids all over present their dads with school-crafted neckties and celebrate fatherhood with BBQs. Although I outgrew the construction paper tie phase of my life many years ago, and, being 2,300 miles away, am not able to prepare a BBQ dinner for my dad, I want to honour him through a special tribute post.

My dad is one of the most giving, selfless men that I know. I can't say for sure, but I would almost bet that he is spending this Father's Day with his "adopted family" - a group of Congolese refugees who he delivered winter jackets to at Christmas and has since invited into his life. My dad has spent his life seeking out people that he can love through various ways, whether by helping single moms with construction projects around their homes, being an adopted dad at father/son events for boys that have no fathers (which worked out well for him, seeing as how I have only sisters!) or just generally inviting his friends to truly be a part of his life. Ever since my family moved to Edmonton, my dad always sought to make sure we had as many people over for Christmas or Easter dinner as we could possibly find who didn't otherwise have family in town. My dad was a model of what it means to love others, unconditionally.

One of the things that always drove me crazy when I lived with my parents was that it seemed as though the house was always under construction. My dad loves to build and remodel and dream about what could be. While my parents' house (and the house they are building) definitely reaps the benefit of this, there are also houses and camps everywhere that have benefited from this passion. My dad gives his Saturdays (and often evenings) to drive out to camp and build cabins or do renovations. In addition to this, he started a ministry at church called "Tool Time" which provides home renovation help to people who might not otherwise have the talent or money to get projects done on their own.

Although my dad was quite disappointed that I never became an accountant, he's supported my career decisions. One of the best parts of our relationships now is that we've moved from a relationship where "father knows best" to a dialogue where I share what I'm learning and give him input into his own business based on what I am learning and experiencing through my own career and education. I think the best gift my dad could have given me, and both my sisters, is the confidence that we can do anything, and then backing that confidence up by listening to what we are learning and letting us make our own decisions in life.

All in all, I am very truly blessed with the family that I have. I can't even express in words how appreciative I am, and I know that others are not as fortunate. But my dad has not just been a blessing to us - he's given the same love and support to countless others.

Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


For many years, New York City was at the top of my list of places I wanted to visit, but seemed far and inaccessible. It was on the other side of the continent, and extremely excited. Given that travel during my first 25 years of life consisted mainly of road trips, and New York was a four-day drive away (yes, I actually looked into it), it just didn’t seem practical.

As I write this blog entry, I am riding the train back from my third trip to Manhattan. (No wifi yet, but there are power outlets to plug in my laptop!) The first trip to New York came when I was on the East Coast visiting MBA schools and stopped there with my mom for the weekend. We saw all the tourist attractions – spending time at Times Square every night, walking through Central Park, seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway, watching the New York Philharmonic play at Lincoln Center, watching Brett Favre in action at a New York Jets game and playing “Heart and Soul” on the big piano at FAO Schwartz. Though it should have satisfied my NYC cravings, it only whet my appetite for more NYC.

Now that my experience in NYC has transitioned from staying in expensive hotel rooms to sleeping on couches in friends’ apartments, the things I see and do have changed. Yesterday, instead of riding the Staten Island ferry (and catching that long-awaited glimpse of the Statue of Liberty), my friend and I went to a BBQ festival and caught up with some of her old friends. In some ways, I miss the tourist parts of New York, but seeing it as an “insider” has its definite benefits.

For starters, transportation costs are cheaper because you spend less money on hailing cabs and instead take public transit. Public transit is probably one of the best advantages of having a friend in the city; I saved a fortune on cab fare by knowing exactly which train to take to and from the airport in Munich. While public transit is accessible to everyone, there are so many other options that I never would have discovered if not for my friends. (Like the PATH trains to New Jersey, which I just found out about this weekend.)

You also get to eat at the less-crowded, less-hyped, but amazingly good restaurants that aren’t “World Famous” or located in the touristy areas. Yesterday morning, I walked straight past the one-hour line-up to get into Carlos’ Bakery of Cake Boss fame. Instead, last night I ate the most delicious, moistest chocolate cake I’ve ever had in my life at this little bakery called Amy’s Bread. On Friday night, we had incredible Chinese food at the Peking Duck House in Chinatown. The wait was only 10 – 15 minutes, and my friend was surprised there even was a wait. If it hadn’t been for the engagement party in the back half of the restaurant, we would have sat right down. The food was also much more reasonably priced than Planet Hollywood or Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square.

There’s a line from a John Mayer song that goes “Didn’t have a camera by my side this time, hoping I could see the world with both my eyes.” That’s how I felt about this trip. My camera was in my purse, but it stayed there all weekend. Instead, I paid more attention to enjoying my surroundings and taking in the people watching. I’ll do the tourist stuff the next time I visit the city with someone from back home, but for now, I enjoy being almost a local.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


Before this summer, I never would have considered myself a "foodie." Though I did enjoy food that tasted good, I never thought too much about where it came from or imagined new ways I could put food together to make something delicious.

Hours staring at a spreadsheet with delicious, local ingredients and reading even the first few chapters of "Omnivore's Dilemma" changed that for me. Although I still haven't gotten very far in "Omnivore's Dilemma", it's been interesting to see the implications of the corn takeover and how it's affected what we consume. Did you know that North Americans (Mexicans excluded...) have more corn in their bodies than the rest of the world? It's because it's in everything we eat. Farmers grow corn and feed it to cows, chickens and pigs. Even if we aren't eating corn, we eat it every time we eat beef, eggs, bacon, milk or cheese. To take it a step further, consider that corn is used to make most soft drinks (corn syrup), anything processed (corn starch) and pretty much everything we eat.

What's the problem with corn? There are a few. It takes more energy to produce corn than it actually provides, due to the use of synthetic fertilizers. It destroys traditional farms. It used to be that farmers grew oats, vegetables and other grains so they could feed their cows, chickens and pigs. Those cows, chicken and pigs would leave behind the remnants of their dinner, and this would be used to fertilize the fields for the next batch of crops. It was a self-sustaining system. Corn, instead, takes over the whole field (along with soy) and farming becomes industrial.

Anyway, although I haven't gotten as far as I'd like with "Omnivore's Dilemma", that's been in the back of my mind as I spend my days analyzing customer purchase patterns at work. Part of that process has involved going over our product database many times, which has provided me an opportunity to view the plethora of local foods available that were produced without corn. It's also enabled me to be a little more creative in what I'm cooking, and though I still don't feel confident to stray from a recipe, I've been looking up new recipes to try.

And, as part of that whole process, I took the plunge and ordered some very expensive chicken from a place called Polyface Farms. Food at Polyface is produced using the good, old-fashioned farming models, and despite the fact that I slightly overcooked the apple-stuffed chicken I made with it, I could tell there was a definite improvement over the regular chicken I buy.

Is this just an intern-induced fad, or will it mean sustained changes in the way I view food and the food chain? Only time will tell.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nearly 20% Complete!

It's hard to believe that I've been at my internship for two weeks as of tomorrow, and 20% complete! It feels like just yesterday that I was busting open the bottle of champagne to celebrate my offer.

My internship has been the best of both worlds. I am getting the opportunity to make an impact because I'm at a smaller company and they have a lot of projects that have just been waiting to get tackled. At the same time, I am working with people with significant experience in operations, the grocery industry and marketing. In fact, in just a week and a half, I have a meeting with three Darden professors to discuss what I've learned so far and get some feedback on how to go forward. Seems too good to be true!

Life has pretty much revolved around work. Somehow I've managed to get out most evenings while still clocking in a lot of hours. With time passing so quickly, it seems the eight hours of being in the office are not nearly sufficient. Fortunately, most of the work in the evenings has been pretty mindless and been done on the couch while watching TV.

Charlottesville is getting hot. I don't know how I'm going to survive a summer of +33C/+93F, but somehow I think I'll make it through. It would sure be nice if I had working AC... :-)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Internship Bliss

Internships probably have honeymoon periods just like everything else. If that is true, I am still in mine.

The internship search was filled with tears, stress and anxiety for me. I never started counting my rejections (or "dings"), but some of the highlights included a rejection mere hours after I submitted the application and a rejection from a company that I never actually even submitted an application for. All in all, there were many, many moments during which those who were close to me had to remind me that things WOULD work out, and I would find the right internship.

Five days in, I couldn't agree more. Besides the fact that it's very convenient to stay in Charlottesville for the summer, I am finding the more I discover, the more I like this great town. Even better, I am working out of the Charlottesville Technology Incubator this summer (no room to work in the warehouse!) and it's located right on the Downtown Mall, which is by far my favourite part of Charlottesville. I spend my lunch and coffee breaks people watching and sampling some of C'ville's great restaurants. Perfect!

But all of that is cosmetic.

When I started my internship search, I was very focussed on consulting. I wanted to do consulting because of the ability to gain experience over a variety of functions and take on new challenges every couple of months. Anyway, Relay Foods excited me because it would give me the opportunity to work across functions, make an impact, and be part of a growing company. As it turns out, my internship is being constructed like a consulting project. I am working with a project manager who is a Darden professor who was a partner at a consulting firm pre-Darden and has already taught me a LOT about strategy, operations and marketing. In addition to getting the consulting experience that I really wanted, I get to use a lot of the skills I learned in my favourite class - Decision Analysis and Optimization.

All that said, it's also going to be quite an intense summer. I can't believe a week has already flown by! Given how much I want to accomplish yet, I know there are going to be many long days in the future.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Step One: Watch and Listen

After a ten-month hiatus from the work world, I set my alarm early this morning, donned a suit and heels, and showed up to fill out all sorts of paperwork and get oriented.

First lesson: suit not required. No, in a start-up, where there's a good chance that you may end up loading trucks or sorting groceries, it's less important to dress to impress than it is to be able to weather whatever tasks arise during the day. I still haven't figured out exactly WHAT the dress code is, but I DO know that I am in need of some new cute FLAT shoes and may have to hit up the Nine West outlet this weekend. ;-)

Second lesson: start-ups are awesome. Not only did I see everyone perform a huge variety of tasks today, but there is tons of enthusiasm and energy in the company. It was hard to find a place to sit without getting in anyone's way, but nobody minded having someone in their way, since it seems to be standard operating procedure. One of the reasons I chose this company was because of the breadth and depth of expertise, and today I was reminded just how prevalent that is. And I'm a little sad that I won't be spending every day at the warehouse, but at the same time, it will be good to have a working space so I can focus on all the fun analysis I will be doing. (No, that's not sarcastic... I'm a quant nerd.) And my working space is downtown, so I will definitely be hitting up all the great downtown eateries that are only open during the day. (There's a sandwich shop called Baggby's, or something, that I heard of before I moved here but have never actually tried!)

Third lesson: your first, well, at least a week on the job, the best thing you can do is use only your eyes and ears and keep your mouth shut. As much as I may feel I learned during my first year at Darden, I still need to learn as much as I can about the business before I can really start to analyze what is happening and start making recommendations. Today, there were times that I wondered if I could possibly add value considering the depth of knowledge and insight already at the company. Fortunately, I have one thing that all those other people don't have: time. And hopefully, I can start with that, pick off the "low-hanging fruit", and then add some value before my short internship time is up.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Building a House

Not me... My parents. And they're blogging about it. It's the second house they've designed and built, and this time they are taking care of everything.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Change of Pace

Many of my fellow bloggers are off on exciting adventures - at the Cannes film festival, off to India, roadtripping across the midwest, partying at beach week and getting settled into new locations for new adventures.

Me? Well, I've spent the last week recollecting myself. Life during my pre-B-school life was organized and tidy. I came down to C'ville, threw in several months of 16-hour days of work, and suddenly my ordered life became less ordered. After finishing all the "Yay! We survived first year!" celebrations and saying some tough goodbyes, the first thing I did was make a list of everything I needed to do to feel human again.

It's been a great week! I got a taste of what it's like to be a "lady who lunches" as I've tried out new restaurants (big thumbs up for Blue Moon Diner), mosied along the Downtown Mall, and spent time browsing fun stuff in the shops. My greatest triumph was having an apartment so clean that I could invite friends over for dinner at the last minute.

All of this leisure time ends Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. when I start my internship. It's probably for the best. Starting this early leaves room for exciting adventures at the end of the summer, or to stick around my internship longer and make a bigger impact. And though I haven't yet been bored, I suspect there is the possibility if I were to have yet another week of leisure.

Anyway, since this isn't particularly interesting, you can read about Brianne's road trip or Sierra's trip to Cannes.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

And That Concludes Act 1

My final assignment for Darden first year was turned in on Thursday evening around 6 p.m. Ever since then, I've been meaning to write a post about finishing, but I've been too busy celebrating! I think I've had three glasses of champagne since then, baked a pie, and spent time riding roller coasters at Kings Dominion. (Though I need to go back because the Intimidator305 wasn't running yesterday!)

My MBA degree is half finished. It's been quite the year. I have learned more in this past year than I have in probably any other year of my recent life. And I haven't just learned about operations and accounting and finance. I've learned about myself, about how to be a good friend (both by having them and being one! I feel so blessed in that area), about how to balance having WAY too much on my plate, about how to say NO (to volunteer commitments), about how to relax within time constraints and that I can be pushed to the brink of what I think I can handle and come out okay. On top of all that, I've learned that Americans say "dinner" instead of "supper," "grades" instead of "marks," "soda" instead of "pop," and that they give you a weird look every time you pronounce that last letter of the alphabet as "zed."

My internship starts a week from tomorrow. I am one of the lucky few who does not have to deal with moving and packing, so I'll be spending the next week getting my life organized once again, and being a tourist around Charlottesville. If anyone has suggestions on touristy things that I can do, please feel free to leave a comment! (I've been to Monticello three times already, so please not that!)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Exams, Take 4

For three quarters, exams were a one-day, five-hour (plus printing time!) affair that came every day between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Exam week was one of bliss, since you could only write one per day, and they were all open book.

This quarter, everything changed. We wrote our core exams (LO and Ethics) yesterday and today, but the elective exams are all "at your leisure." So instead of turning in my ethics exam yesterday and going for a nice, long stroll, I ate lunch and wrote Valuation.

Some people have already finished all their elective deliverables. I am still plugging away at a business plan and have another final to write. But I'm almost there!

As for the business plan, it's actually really exciting. A local Charlottesville entrepreneur wants to start a business that will help Haiti, and I am writing his business plan with a couple of other students from my Creative Capitalism class! It's exciting because the business is actually taking off, and because it caters to my passion of alleviating poverty.

Anyway, I know that I am long overdue for an interesting blog post, but given the time constraints that is finals week, this is all I've got for now. (Actually, I can't complain... I went for sushi and a pedicure tonight...)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Summer Internship Confirmed!

The day that everyone promised me would come arrived on Saturday.

Well, technically, it came a week and a half ago, but as I was contemplating multiple choices, it didn't feel real until Saturday.

I've confirmed my internship for the summer! It's something that I really couldn't be more excited about. I'll be working with a local Charlottesville company - Relay. (They blog, too!) The basic premise of Relay Foods is that they take the hassle out of grocery shopping. Instead of driving around to multiple locations (Hot Cakes, Mona Lisa Pasta, Foods of All Nations, etc.), you submit an order one day, they pick up all your food the next day and take it to a convenient pick up location. I can put in my grocery order Tuesday night and pick it up on my way home from classes on Wednesday in the Darden faculty parking lot.

Best parts of my internship:
  • I will be doing operations, and have an opportunity to make a significant impact this summer. Time permitting, I may get to dabble in a few other fun areas like strategy and marketing.
  • I get to be a part of a company that is growing and generating huge momentum.
  • I don't have to move.
  • I get to spend the summer in Charlottesville.
Anyway, this internship search been quite the process. I've learned more about myself and how to market myself through the whole thing than I ever thought I would. But I've chugged along, built up the skills and just want to wish my encouragement to those who I know are still finalizing their summer plans. Hopefully the economy will be much improved for the Class of 2012 (I know it was much better for us than for the Class of 2010), but know that there are great opportunities that come to those who wait.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Follies and Foxfield

Follies was last night at Darden. Rather than writing a lot about it, I thought I'd share my favourite video: Darden Dancing.

Going out for a friend's birthday last night was probably not the best idea, seeing as how I should have been on the bus for Foxfield at 9 a.m. Since I never really understood what the whole deal with Foxfield was, I opted for skipping the bus. With the temperature in the 50s, and ominous clouds looming over Charlottesville and surrounding area, I decided Foxfield was not for me. However, halfway through the morning, one of my friends texted to tell me all the fun I was missing, so I called a cab, threw on a sundress, and headed out to see what all the fuss was about.

Foxfield, as best as I can tell, is a very Virginia tradition. It reminds me of football and tailgating. Girls in sun dresses, pearls, hats (and galoshes) and guys with seer suckers or shorts and dress shirts. The Darden tent is located in the middle of the race track, and occasionally a few horses will run by as part of the Steeplechase. While the Darden tent definitely seemed classier than most of the undergrad area, I must admit that I left right as the keg stands started.

All in all, Foxfield is an essential part of the Charlottesville experience. If nothing else, you feel very much like you're in the American South.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sprint to the Finish

Life in the MBA world flies by way too quickly. It feels like just yesterday that I was contemplating my upcoming move to Virginia, and reading the blogs of then-first year students. Their lives seemed so distant from my own. They were sitting out on the grass of Flagler courtyard and I was still hoping that it would stop snowing in Edmonton. The end of my first year at Darden seemed ages away.

But here I am. Less than two weeks left of classes, then four exams, and then it's all done. And the way my Outlook calendar is looking, these next few weeks are going to FLY by. Darden Follies is on Friday, followed by the much-anticipated Foxfields. (If you don't know what Foxfields is, I'll have to explain it AFTER I attend. My understanding is that the whole event is centered around horse racing, but only in the sense that horses racing is the excuse that everyone uses to get dressed up in sundresses and seersuckers and spend the day drinking and not working on cases.)

And then it's one week of classes, a weekend in Winnipeg, finals and first year is over and out. At this point, I should be welcoming the soon-coming breath of fresh air, but it makes me sad more than anything. I've realized that all those blogs that I read last year were written by people who will soon be graduating. And I've realized that I will be graduating much, much too soon and leaving this adventure that is Darden.

While it is too soon for a full-blown reflect-on-the-first-year post (but, let's be serious, I'm procrastinating on calculating equity residuals!), I do cherish the lessons I've learned and the friends I've made. Nothing bonds people together like an intense pressure-cooker environment. I can't say that every experience has been sunshine and lollipops, but since I'm not dead, by definition, I must be stronger, right?

Anyway, I could continue to reflect, but those equity residuals are not going to calculate themselves. AND, I'm better off savouring the next two weeks (or maybe just surviving... there's a LOT on my plate!) rather than being sad about how quickly they will pass.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Too Much Choice...

The first year at Darden is pretty much a boot camp. You show up to orientation, you get placed in a section, you are told which classes you are taking. It's like drinking from a firehose, but it's regimented and predictable.

Last Tuesday, we were given a brief orientation on how to choose ALL OUR ELECTIVES for second year. Suddenly, I'm longing for the days of "you will take Decision Analysis at 8 a.m., Accounting at 10 a.m. and Leading Organizations at 11:45 a.m." Instead, my world consists of trying to figure out which classes I want to take, when I want to take them, who I want to take them with... and once that is all over, how many bid points to allocate to each. I keep narrowing it down, making decisions, and going back.

In other news, though I'm not entirely sure yet WHICH company I will be interning at, I do know that I will be spending my summer in Charlottesville. I've got one opportunity that I'm VERY excited about, and another that I am also excited about, but on the waitlist. I'm very excited that I will no longer be doing practice interviews or stressing about which major city will net me the most profit through panhandling for the summer! Depending on how the company views the blogosphere, I hope to blog about my summer experiences.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Favourite New Technology

An episode of 30 Rock just finished playing on my TV. Now, this in itself would be uneventful, since 30 Rock frequently comes on TV, or you can watch it on DVD. What makes this particular viewing of 30 Rock cool is that it played on my Wii, through instant Netflix streaming.

When I found out I could download books straight to my iPhone a month or two ago, I thought that was pretty cool. I think this Wii/Netflix thing wins as my favourite new technology. Although the instant streaming library isn't as extensive as the DVD library, there are still plenty of options.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Action > Awareness

Some classes at Darden are dangerous.

Some of my fellow students would argue that it's DAO (Data Analysis and Optimization) or Valuations that are the dangerous classes. I've found that another class is dangerous: Creative Capitalism.

When I left the not-for-profit world to go into business school some six years ago, I thought I had left the social space. The reality is that I never truly escaped it. Concern for others is in my blood. It was in my blood when I ran day camps for two summers between my years of undergraduate studies (and if you've ever spent a summer recruiting 150 volunteers and then indirectly managing a whole handful of kids, you probably know that it's a lot more work than interning in an office somewhere). It was in my blood when I was enlisted to run our workplace United Way campaign.

So I don't know why I thought I could escape it and dream of a career earning tonnes of money and purchasing my heart's content worth of Jimmy Choos and Cole Haans. (shoes, for the uninformed in women's fashion)

In reality, if I wanted to escape my social conscience, I should have avoided Creative Capitalism. I thought that I could satisfy my social conscience by making people "aware" of the problems in the world and then maybe throwing some of my 10% tithe at them. (the problems, not the people)

But I'm finding that awareness is relatively useless. Yay, so I'm aware that there is an insanely high rate of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. I can tell you, and you would be aware, too. Yippee. Now we both know and can tell other people who will also know. How does that help the orphaned child in Swaziland?

Taking a class on Creative Capitalism is offering opportunities for action. All entrepreneurship comes from the examination of "pains". Tonight I'm going to order my groceries online for pick-up tomorrow afternoon in my school parking lot. That effort was a result of someone getting frustrated about driving around picking up groceries.

In the same way, social entrepreneurship comes from social pains. I haven't figured it out yet, but there's a way to solve the AIDS problem if we think carefully. In fact, the inventors of the female condom have found one way to halt the spread of AIDS. Going beyond AIDS to poverty in general, I have a classmate who invests in farms in sub-Saharan Africa which create jobs and get the economy flowing.

I will never be content simply running discounted cash flows and nursing my designer shoe budget. The more I sit in Creative Capitalism, the more of an impetus I feel for leaving my mark on society. Jon Foreman "tweeted" this quote today: "Lives, like money, are spent. What are you buying with yours?" - Roy H. Williams

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Best Word You'll Use at Darden

Tonight I have some advice for the incoming first years, the Class of 2012.

There are many different things you will learn at Darden. By the time you finish here, you will have acquired a strange new vocabulary with all sorts of crazy acronyms, like DA(1), TNDC(2), GEM(3), WACC(4) and LO(5).

But I'd like to suggest to you that there is one word that you need to learn before you come to Darden. As I sit here now contemplating the HUGE to-do list that comprises my week, I woefully regret that I did not make better use of the word last semester.

See, Darden is tricky. All these clubs and volunteer opportunities are presented to you as opportunities that will come at a later time; a time when you have your internship secured and have entered fourth quarter bliss. In some ways, these volunteer opportunities are akin to shopping in a store where the clerk whisks away each item you've decided to purchase until you are ready to pay for it. Then, when you get up to the front desk, you realize that you've committed to purchasing way too much stuff, but it's too late to put any of it back.

As you know by now, the word is "NO."

I came into Darden with a clear intent of getting involved in ONLY the things I was REALLY passionate about. As it turns out, I'm passionate about too many things. To make matters worse, I am still on the hunt for an internship. (Though that hunt will be over after Wednesday, since I'm going to run off to a tropical beach and find myself an internship as a cocktail creation consultant if none of my current opportunities pan out.)

Anyway, this warning is probably coming way too far in advance, but I hope you will heed it nonetheless! There are a lot of opportunities at Darden. None of us will want for things to do or opportunities to get involved and build our skills. The trick is figuring out where you can best add value.

(1) Decision Analysis
(2) Thursday Night Drinking Club
(3) Global Economies and Markets
(4) Weighted Average Cost of Capital
(5) Leading Organizations

Friday, April 09, 2010

Rethinking Aid in Africa - A Guest Post

Few will deny that there is a clear moral imperative for humanitarian and charity-based aid to step in when a country or continent encounters a crisis, such as the recent earthquake in Haiti. Nevertheless, it's worth reminding ourselves what emergency and charity-based aid has its limits. Aid-supported scholarships have certainly helped send African students to school, and food aid has helped feed millions of people affected by persistent drought. This kind of aid can provide band-aid solutions to alleviate immediate suffering, but by its very nature cannot be the platform for long-term sustainable growth.

Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population -- over 350 million people -- live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.

Development related aid has also created aid dependency in many African governments in Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Somalia, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Sierra Leone from 1970 to 2002, over 70% of total government spending came from foreign aid, according to figures from the World Bank this dependency makes this governments complacent in initiating any projects that may increase tax revenue since they are guaranteed “free money” every year.

On the surface development aid appears to be benign intervention, however unintended consequences can leave the recipients’ worse off say there is a tailor in small-town Africa who employs ten people and his company manufactures 500 clothes a week. Typically, these 10 employees support upward of 5 relatives each. An aid program generously supplies the affected region with tons of free clothes. This promptly puts the clothing manufacturer out of business, and now his 10 employees can no longer support their 50 dependents. In a couple of years, most of the donated clothes will be torn and useless, but now there is no tailor to go to. They'll have to get more aid. So long as there is a constant supply of free clothes local manufacturers cannot operate profitably.

If aid is not the solution, what is? The answer to this question is trade. Take the case of Botswana as an example, At the time Botswana became fully independent in 1966 it was a desperately poor country. Like most of the other countries in Africa, it had a per capita annual income of $100 by 2008 Botswana has a per capita annual income of $14,906, granted Botswana is blessed with huge diamond deposits but so is Congo, what has made Botswana a success is a policy of not depending on aid, investing in local industries and learning to live within its means.

Africa is a continent blessed with a large variety of natural resources, key among the resources is land. A recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) indicated that less than half of Africa’s agricultural potential is in use. Given the projected rise in global food demand over the next 50 years Africa has the opportunity of using trade to build sustainable economies which depend on trade in agricultural resources, natural resources and other services and not on development aid.

- John Mwangi

John Mwangi is a fellow Section V'er and comes to Darden from the country of Kenya. He graciously sent his Management Communication (MC) paper from last quarter to me so I could share his thoughts with the blogosphere.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Day of Rest

Over ten years ago, I decided that I needed to heed the third commandment and institute a day of rest into my week. Over ten years, I have stuck fairly rigorously to this commitment, and it's been a good decision.

Since coming to Darden, I knew it would be a challenge to maintain this day of rest. Sundays (for somewhat obvious reasons, namely, that I go to church anyway) were typically my day off, and with learning teams meeting on Sunday, I knew this wasn't an option. It's been challenging to keep up with my commitment, but I've made it through thus far, and I think that I can only keep a schedule as busy as mine BECAUSE I take a day off.

This past week was absolutely insane for me. In addition to having an assignment due tomorrow, I have two HUGE volunteer projects and another leadership responsibility creeping up. It would have been easy to throw in the towel and just save today for getting some work done.

But I didn't. I got home last night after working all day painting, running errands and pulling up carpet tacks and finished my assignment.

The reward? Today I've been able to set aside all my other stresses and enjoy the sun and the gorgeous spring here in C'ville. Never before have I seen quite so many flowering trees. Spring here is a months-long event, with each portion of nature patiently waiting for it's turn to unveil.

A lot of people think that they couldn't fit in their own day of rest in the week. I just want to encourage you that my day off keeps me sane and keeps me going the rest of the week. I don't think I'm particularly lazy or particularly brilliant (with an ability to do schoolwork in a shorter amount of time). Primarily, I'm just stubborn.

I encourage you to give it a shot. :-)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Darden Structure and International Experiences

In the comments section of my previous blog post, I received some questions regarding how Darden could increase international exposure, as well as what the benefits are of how Darden structures the year. Rather than replying in the comment section, I figured I would write a blog.

First, Darden and international exposure...

There are a variety of ways through which Darden gives an international exposure through the curriculum. As you may be aware, there are GBEs (global business experiences) to a wide variety of places: Barcelona, Brazil, Stockholm, Mexico City, Argentina, Bahrain, and a bunch of other places that I cannot currently recall. Students have the opportunity to attend up to two of these through their time at Darden. Beyond this, partnerships with companies like Danaher offer students the opportunity to go and do projects in their overseas divisions (this past spring break, some of my classmates did a Kaizen event in India). So there are opportunities for short trips abroad to get a glimpse of culture and business in foreign countries. If you want something longer, Darden has exchange programs with a number of partner schools. Off the top of my head, I can think of students who have gone to Sweden, Barcelona, Italy and Japan. There are more, though!

Another international flavour that Darden brings is international cases. By no means are the cases we study centered on American companies. I can't estimate the portion of the breakdown, but there are a lot of international cases that we study.

And finally, of course, there are international students. These students (of which I am one, though culturally, there isn't a significant difference between Canadians and Americans) bring their cultural knowledge and experiences into both the classroom and the extracurricular time. Just this past Saturday, I enjoyed Indian dancing at the Bollywood night. The richness of the international experience depends on how immersed you are with international students. Because I had the opportunity to attend international student orientation (well, not opportunity so much as requirement), I got to know a bunch of international students.

Structure of Darden Curriculum

Since there are changes on the horizon, all I can say is that the benefit of the Darden structure is that it allows for modular learning. If we only took five courses in first semester, I don't know that we'd be as prepared as we needed to be for interviews. Using shorter chunks of time for courses allows us to integrate learning across subject areas because there is more variety.

**Note: Just wanted to clarify that the change is not with the curriculum, but the structure (i.e. when each module is delivered). I think the move is toward six terms rather than four quarters.

Anyway, I am happy to answer your questions, so feel free to leave some in the comments. I generally check them fairly regularly.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Congrats Round 2 Admits!

The latest round of acceptances were released on Friday at midnight. Congrats to everyone who was admitted!

In honour of your admission, I would like to present Julie's Official Do-Before-Darden Starts guide.

  1. Relax and enjoy life. Get in a trip you've been thinking about, enjoy a hobby, spend time with your friends, read all the books you've been thinking about reading.
  2. If you're still working, DON'T throw in the towel and coast until your end date. I finished my job on July 17 and had a few weeks off and was immediately thrown into stressing about my internship when International Student Orientation started on August 10. What you want to do while you are still at work is find ways to create measurable improvements at your workplace. You'll want resume bullets that fit the STAR format (Situation/Task, Action, Results... with results quantified wherever possible), so make sure you view the rest of your time at work with a view of building up these resume bullets.
  3. Follow all the stuff on the Darden checklist. I can't remember it, but all the logistical details are taken care of with that list. For things like housing, there is some incentive to take care of it sooner than later. My roommate and I got the sweetest building in the complex because we signed our lease as soon as we could.
  4. Relax and enjoy life. I say it again because it's the most important. Darden first year, and especially first semester, has been described as drinking from a fire hose. They are changing up the program next year to make the structure a bit more manageable, but I went the first couple months without reading any non-Darden books, scrambling to find time to call my friends and family back home, and dreaming of time that I could go hiking. It's all worth it, but I just want to emphasize that now is better spent relaxing and enjoying life than attempting to learn everything you possibly can about accounting.
Hope that helps. Congrats again!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Creative Capitalism Live Blog

"There isn't a person in this room who couldn't do what Mohammad Yunus did." - Ed Freeman, Darden Professor, March 23, 2010

Mohammad Yunus, in case you are not familiar with him, won the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering Grameen Bank and the concept of micro-credit. Micro-credit is the concept of giving itty, bitty loans (like $25) to people who need them to get capital to start their businesses. If you are at all interested, I highly recommend Banker to the Poor.

Can I really change the world? According to my Creative Capitalism prof, yes.

The question is not if, but how.