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. :-)