Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, this post definitely took me way longer to write then I expected, and it’s not even going to be a lengthy one. I must have been enjoying the relaxation over the holidays a little too much.

In a nutshell, Q2 was definitely a challenge. There was more group work, the classes were demanding and on top of everything, preparations for recruiting season in January were consuming a lot of time and energy. I will provide a more detailed description of Q2 happenings this week.

For now, though, I just wanted to bid everyone a very happy new year. Let’s make 2012 the best year yet!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Keeping it real…

Q2 will be wrapping up in about a week and then we have another set of exams.

So far, Q1 and Q2 have been a whirlwind of case competitions, networking, classes, mock interviews, finance assignments, speaker series, dodgeball, class debates, Second Cup (is it just me or is the line getting longer?), job postings, study tour applications, resume reviews, class presentations, statistics projects, i-clickers, team feedback and much much more. People often wonder how everything gets done. In my opinion, it takes lots of planning, compromise and sometimes even some spontaneity with your team members and peers. And it’s a lot of work, but it can all be done. It’s a wonder how most people keep their sanity with this constant stream of items on our “to-do” lists.

This past weekend, all the first-year students had 29 hours to work on a strategy case analysis project, which involves coming up with recommendations for the company under study (don’t worry, I will have a lot more to say about this later on!) So as a tribute to the project, I have come up with my own three strategic recommendations for keeping your sanity amidst the hectic life of a Rotmanite.

Recommendation #1: Make it known what your “non-negotiables” are. A non-negotiable is anything that you partake in that you are committed to and are not willing to give up. For me, my number one non-negotiable is playing soccer on Tuesday evenings. For others, it may be getting home before 9:00pm, or exercising during the lunch hour, or eating dinner at home. Whatever it may be, make sure your teammates and others that you work with are well aware of what these are.

Recommendation #2: Don’t let anyone derail you from your path. This was especially difficult for me. As a member of the RFA, I am surrounded by a lot of people who are interested in investment banking. Even though I came to Rotman with a very clear idea of what I want to do when I graduate (private wealth management), I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s what I should be doing. Once I accepted that I don’t have to pursue a career in investment banking just because everyone else is, I was better able to spend my time doing things that were going to be valuable to me.

Recommendation #3: Be positive. This is hard to do when you have a number of things on your plate and not a lot of time to work on it all. It's even harder when things don't seem to be going your way. And there are two things that will make it worse: a) not getting a lot of sleep and b) being pessimistic. Nobody expects that anybody here is getting 8 hours of sleep every night – it’s inevitable that you will have more than a few late nights. What you can control is your attitude and the people you spend time with, and a good attitude can make an immense difference.

I could go on: be realistic, set priorities, acknowledge your strengths and weakness, get involved, participate, and find a group of classmates who are supportive of your goals (this one is actually quite important.) You will receive lots of advice no matter where you go to school, but these three realizations specifically helped me maintain my sanity so far.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Best. Strategy. Class. Ever.

Yesterday in our strategy class, we talked about business innovation. And a strategy lecture isn’t a strategy lecture without an example.

Yesterday, the example was Cirque du Soleil. Cirque took elements from a traditional circus (danger and thrill, acrobatics, popular venue) and elements from theatre (music, performance) and combined them to make a whole new form of entertainment. In fact, it’s hard to even classify exactly what Cirque du Soleil is. IS it a circus? Is it theatre? Is it a musical?

Nobody really knows for sure. But we did spend nearly 10 minutes in class watching a clip from “La Nouba”, Cirque’s show that was inaugurated at Walt Disney World Resort.

Tim Rowley (the prof) sure does know how to keep us engaged during class!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Featuring our resident poet…

Earlier this week our marks for Q1 were released.

Yes, there were some happy and some sad faces. But I think our classmate, Kiran Sajwani, said it best when she shared this poem with everyone on the Rotman Class of 2013 facebook group:

"If your Q1 grades have got you down,
And need to turn around that frown,
At your Rotman application essays take a peek,
And remind yourself why this path did you seek..."

Thank you Kiran for sharing! She truly has a way with words…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Other Q1 events and fun stuff to come in Q2!

Well, this blog post definitely took me a lot longer to write than I anticipated – my apologies.  My only excuse is that my schedule grew exponentially during the first week of Q2.

But, as promised, here are some more short and sweet Q1 details:

  • Early in the year, the GBC held elections for the first-year sections to vote on their academic, social and sports reps for the year.  Congratulations to the winners!  These students are responsible for being the voice of their section for academic concerns and helping to organize social and sporting events.
  • I was selected to be a member of the Rotman MBA Games team!  This event brings almost all of the MBA schools in Canada together to compete on the platforms of academics, athletics and spirit and is hosted by the previous year’s winning school.  This year, the event will take place over a weekend in early January and is hosted by the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  Want to learn more?  Here is the link to the official website for the games:
  • The Women of the RFA had a mix and mingle event early in October.  For any ladies out there who are interested in finance, I would encourage you to join the RFA.  Even though women make up 5% of the members of the group (honestly, that IS my best guess), the Women of the RFA is a new initiative the club has started this year to help encourage more women to seek jobs in finance.

And remember when I said Q2 was busy?  Here are things that have already happened or will be happening very soon:

  • WIMA hosted an event called SheBiz which invites girls from local high schools to learn about the business industry.  I was a volunteer “pro-trader” for the trading game, the same one we did during orientation cam
  • Along with a few other members of the Rotman Asset Management Association (RAMA, another club I joined) I visited the Sprott Asset Management offices in downtown Toronto.  A recent graduate from Rotman took us on a tour of their floor, which are probably among the most beautiful offices in the city.
  • This Friday I will compete along with fellow section 1 classmates against the other sections, some second year students and, yes, even some professors in the Rotman Gladiators event.  I have no idea what this entails exactly but I know it involves competition and “mini-games”, so… Bring it on!
  • The Rotman Outreach Club is organizing a dodgeball tournament in a couple of weeks to raise money for a charity called “Boundless Adventures”.  Section 1 will again be competing against the other sections, second-year students and professors.
  • The BMO Stock Pitch competition is coming up this week.  The first-year RFA members pair up and pitch a stock, first to a group of second-year students (and get grilled with questions) and then to a group of industry professionals (if we make it to the second round).
  • Other case competitions taking place this quarter are the Rotman Entrepreneurial and Venture Capital competition (participants pitch an idea for a new business), the General Mills Marketing Case Competition and the McKinsey Management Consulting Case Competition.  I am not participating in these events, but just wanted to let you know there are competitions for all Rotman students (not just the finance–y ones.)
  • And this one is more academic-related: all the first-year students will prepare a strategy case competition as part of our final mark for strategy – this takes place over an entire weekend in early December.
I no longer promise timely updates to this blog – especially during this quarter, since every day seems to be pretty unpredictable.  I might even try to make my blog posts shorter (but sweeter!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Q1 is over!

*Warning: Heavy reading ahead!  I mean, not in the sense that it’s uninteresting or confusing, there is just a lot I have to talk about!*

The first year Rotman students had their last Q1 exam on last Friday, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we were all thankful to have a weekend without team meetings,  late-night studying or essay-writing, and no deliverables looming on Monday!

And this week, the first-years are participating in Career Discovery Week, a week completely dedicated to helping us prepare for recruiting season in January. This is the first time the program has had a week dedicated to career-searching and networking between Q1 and Q2, so I don’t entirely know what to expect for the rest of the week. I will bring you up to date in a later post!

Now that Q1 is over, how about a little more insight into the courses I was taking?

Foundations of Integrative Thinking:  FIT was one of my favourite courses this quarter.  As I described in a previous post, this course was all about making decisions when faced with human imperfections and biases, and models of the real world that don’t exactly represent reality.  For example, it’s easy to make decisions based on monetary value alone, but what about taking into account intangible factors like pollution and human life? And what kinds of things influence us to make decisions against our better judgment?  This course involves a lot of work – we had at least one reading before each class, two individual assignments, one group assignment, one group presentation, three personal reflection papers, an essay on the book Moneyball and we also had to read a book called Influence by Robert Cialdini. The professor, Kent Womack, expects a lot from the students and is legendary for cold-calling students in class to prompt group discussions.  If that doesn’t scare you into being prepared for class, I don’t know what will!

Statistics for Managers:  As I have mentioned before, Stats took me by surprise.  I have studied stats in the past and both times the material was heavy on the quantitative material. And although we finally got to the material that most people associate with statistics, the beginning of the class focused a lot on designing studies and evaluating prediction models.  This really frustrated me, and because I anticipated something different out of the course, I for some reason diverted attention away from it and towards my other classes.  I do not recommend this approach!   I should have taken the advice from one of the professors for this course, Ulrich Menzefricke, during pre-program.  He advised me and a couple other students that the course moves quickly and falling behind on one topic area will have a snowballing effect.  Better to spend some extra time reviewing topics after each class than to struggle with studying everything the day before the exam.

Financial Accounting:  I’m not gonna lie, it’s hard to get people excited about accounting.  Likewise with Statistics, failure to fully grasp the basics at the beginning of the course will affect your understanding of later material. Want some advice?  Do yourself a big favour, and if you have the opportunity, take a basic bookkeeping/accounting course before you start,  AND take the pre-program course.  Accounting is one of those courses where you can never get enough practice.  Knowledge of the basics before you officially start the course will have tremendous payoffs in the form of extra practice.  And hopefully you have extra energy to master the more advanced accounting material or focus on other courses.  One thing I really liked about this course is the professor, Franco Wong, who discussed various newspaper articles and cases relevant to the course material.  Still not excited about accounting?  Nerdy accounting jokes:  this course is full of them.

Managerial Economics:  If you’ve taken a microeconomics course before, this class shouldn’t come as any surprise to you. You’ll cover the basics at the beginning, like the laws of supply and demand, and elasticity, and by the end of the course you’ll move on to slightly more complicated topics like Nash Equilibrium and auctions. My professor for this course, Matt Mitchell, was the most enthusiastic economist I have ever met and he is sure to keep you engaged for an entire class. Luckily with this course you will have three quizzes that help you keep on top of the material throughout the quarter. However, the final exam is very heavily weighted, so plan your studying time wisely for this one!

Managing People in Organizations: This course has been unofficially dubbed “Manipulating People in Organizations” because, well, you’ll just have to take the course first to find out!  This was probably the most entertaining course we had this quarter.  Part of almost every class involved doing a simulation in groups, and the rest of the class was dedicated to debriefing what happened in the simulation.  What kinds of things did we learn exactly?   Three points stand out for me: that group decision-making is superior to individual decision-making in most cases, but only when done properly;  that people are less motivated by money and rewards than you may think, which causes managers to offer hiring packages that are higher in monetary value than necessary;  and that it is beneficial for the team to have a high degree of psychological safety, a sense of security for taking risks like admitting mistakes and challenging conventional wisdom.  Your grade in this course is dependent on class participation, a final exam and an essay on one of the simulations.  Which leads me to another piece of advice for this course: do a detailed journal entry after each simulation!  When it comes time to write your essay, it will be so much easier to remember what actually happened because you can refer to the notes you made immediately afterwards.

And there you have it! Stats and Accounting continue on into Q2, but I will have three new courses to tackle: Finance, Strategy, and Managing Customer Value.

Stay tuned for another post coming very soon that details all the other exciting events of the first quarter (and coming up next quarter!) that DIDN’T involve studying!

Monday, October 10, 2011


… of things I see when I decide to walk to campus which is rarely, and some other things too!

The University of Toronto is located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Despite being in the middle of a huge city, there are a lot of picturesque places on campus. This weekend I took my camera with me while walking to school* and took some pictures along the way. Enjoy!

* I rarely walk to school (hence the extended title to this blog.) I purchased a year-long membership to Bixi bikes, which allows me to pick up any available bike from the Bixi racks and ride it to my destination, provided my trip is no longer than 30 minutes. Interested? Find out more here! 

Queen’s Park, home of the Ontario provincial government. This beautiful building is located at Queen’s Park Circle and College St., right beside campus.

Front campus. It was a Sunday morning when I took this picture (and an unusually gorgeous day for the time of year!) Normally, this area of campus is filled with students playing soccer, ultimate frisbee or just enjoying the great outdoors.

Front campus, a different view. I wish this picture turned out better, but I just wanted to show that the CN tower is visible from campus. And that large building on the right is Convocation Hall.

Some pathways in the middle of campus. A quick google search informed me that Sir Daniel Wilson (the person's name on that sign) was a University College professor of history and English from 1880 to 1892 and was the president of the University of Toronto from 1889 to 1892. 

Back campus. Likewise with front campus, this area is usually buzzing with athletes. You can’t see it in this picture, but Hart House is across the field and to the right. Hart House’s website describes it as “UofT’s living laboratory of arts, culture and recreation.” 

The front of Robart’s Library. Looks like a turkey, you say? Yeah… Not going to disagree with you there. But you can read more about the architecture here.

And finally, when I got to school, I set up on one of the couches in the Fleck Atrium at Rotman Central. You will become VERY familiar with this area, let alone this building.

I took this picture the next day (hence the “sudden” change in weather.) I’m not aware of any other University in North America whose football team gets to practice with a view of the city's skyline. This picture doesn’t do it any justice though, thanks to my wee point-and-shoot camera.

And now for something totally unrelated to these pictures… Q1 exams are coming up in a week! So I will likely not post another blog until they are all over. Wish me luck!