Thursday, August 25, 2011

More pre-program!

Last week was another full week of pre-program classes: Spreadsheet Modeling (an extension of the first Spreadsheet Modeling class) and Foundations of Accounting. I enjoyed Spreadsheet Modeling – as I said before, a class in MS Excel always offers the opportunity to learn something new.

But Foundations of Accounting! I express similar sentiments to fellow Rotman blogger Haider Nawab in that I never thought I’d hear myself say, “Hey, accounting is pretty cool!” We learned about the different financial statements and put our double-entry accounting convention skills to the test. But our professor, Dragan Stojanovic, also made us contemplate WHY we account for things the way we do: why office supplies are considered a business expense and not capitalized on the balance sheet; do you express the social network of a company’s CEO as an asset; and how do you value the company’s buildings? I enjoyed discussing these issues with my classmates and thought Dragan did a superb job of engaging the students.

And now, for my very first piece of advice to prospective students: If you have the opportunity, take ALL the pre-program classes. I opted out of some of the math and finance courses because I had done well on the self-assessments, but I am fully regretting not signing up for them anyway. Why? Because even if you are a business whiz and think you wouldn’t learn anything new (but you probably would!), the connections and friendships you will make before classes even begin are invaluable!  

I also met my official second-year buddy, Su, for lunch at a sushi restaurant close to campus. Last February I met several other second-year students when I sat in on a couple classes to get a feel for the classroom experience, and they have been present at the various social events organized by the GBC (Graduate Business Council). They have made us first-year students feel so welcome and have given us lots of valuable advice which will undoubtedly help us in our upcoming two-year journey.

I'm looking forward to hanging out with my new friends at Rotman! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The results are in...

The day after I wrote my CFA Level 3 exam, I’m pretty sure I was fully relaxed. It figures, because I was already on vacation in Las Vegas. But as we got closer to the release of my results, I got a tiny little bit more anxious. Last night and this morning, my anxiety level reached an all-time high. I wished I was back in Vegas.

I opted to wait until after my accounting pre-program class was finished to check the email from the CFA Institute that would undoubtedly be sitting in my inbox. Thank goodness class was interesting, or else I wouldn’t have been able to sit still. I walked to the Rotman building and took a seat at a table up on the second floor. I wanted to be as secluded as possible.

It seemed to take forever for my laptop to boot up. And of course I had to re-type my password because I got it wrong the first time. Finally I was logged in.

And there it was. From CFA Institute: “Your CFA Exam Results”.

I didn’t even hesitate, I clicked on it right away. And when I saw “Congratulations” written somewhere in the email, I breathed the BIGGEST sigh of relief. I don’t even think I read the rest of the message.

So there you have it, folks! Pending work experience, I will soon be able to use the CFA charter!

Many thanks and much love to all the supportive people who helped me along the way: my family, for countless pep talks and words of encouragement; my Raymond James colleagues for always believing in me and keeping me sane; and my friends for always understanding when I said, “I am so sorry, I would love to party with you this weekend, but I have to study.” I am so fortunate to have you all in my life. It has been a thrilling ride.

To anyone who is considering obtaining their CFA charter: it will be the most time-consuming, draining, frustrating and nerve-wrecking series of exams you will probably ever have to study for. There is nothing worse than sitting inside in the middle of May and buried in books when the sun is shining and the birds are singing and your friends are sitting on a patio.

But oh boy, it is so worth it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

One week of pre-program classes down...

Over the past week I attended some of the pre-program courses offered at Rotman for incoming students. The purpose of these courses is to ensure that everyone is up to speed on the basics of major topic areas before classes officially start in September. They are completely optional – you can sign up for all of them, some of them or none of them. In order to determine whether you should attend a class or not, you can complete a self-assessment on the topic area. If you do well, then you may not find the class helpful at all. If you do poorly, it is recommended you take the class.

I decided to sign up for three classes.

  • Spreadsheet Modeling: No matter how many Microsoft Excel classes you take, there are always a few new tricks you are going to learn that will make your excel-ing much easier.
  •  Self-Management: Developing a Leader’s Instincts: I have never taken a course that didn’t involve equations or numbers. The material involved a lot of psychology and is very interesting!
  • Foundations of Accounting: Although I took a couple of accounting classes in high school and it was a major topic area in the CFA curriculum, I didn’t do as well on the assessment as I thought I would. I thought maybe a class would be a good refresher. This class starts next week.

The most valuable thing I am getting out of the pre-program courses, however, is meeting a lot of my new classmates. There are so many international students! It’s sometimes funny to ask someone where they are from and hear them answer “Dubai”, but when I am asked the same question, all I can really say is “Oh, I am just, you know, from Toronto. Nothing special…”

However, despite being a seemingly less interesting person, there are advantages to being a domestic student:

  • My family lives in the city, so going home for things like Thanksgiving and Christmas is easy-peasy;
  • I don’t need to move. This is obvious, but after reflecting on moving in and out of residence and my house in Kingston, I am especially grateful to be staying put;
  • Fewer administrative headaches. Whenever I see “for international students only” on any e-mail, to-do list, or paperwork, I know I can safely ignore it;
  • I have already acquired a taste for Tim Hortons*;
  • I already know the rules of hockey*; and
  • I already own a winter coat.*

*Yes, these things are important!

I will try to report back in a timely fashion on next week’s events, including the Accounting class and meeting my upper year buddy Su.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Hello there!

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Ten months ago, when I was deciding what schools would be a good match for me as I pursued an MBA, I discovered that most schools share current students' blogs on their websites chronicling their experiences in the program. I found a current student's opinion to be the most helpful in getting to know the school itself, the classes I'd be taking, what the student life is like, the career opportunities available, and *gulp* the new stresses and pressures I will be facing. Their blogs inspired me to start this one. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.

Since this is my first post, I figured I should tell you a little about myself. Here are the "Paige Donnelly FAQs."

What is your hometown and where do you currently live?

Toronto and Toronto. I grew up in the west end (Etobicoke) and currently live downtown, where I take advantage of the fact that all the necessities are no more than a five minute walk from my apartment. I also enjoy that I can get nearly anywhere via the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission, which provides public transportation to all ends of the city) and have little to no use for a car. 

What did you study for your undergraduate degree and where did you go?

Mechanical Engineering at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario (about 250 km east of Toronto.) I have never worked as an engineer, but I wear my iron ring proudly!

What kind of work experience do you have?

I have worked at Raymond James Ltd., a large North American financial services company for the past six years. I started in the Office Services department and now work as a Sales Associate. Since 2009 I have been studying to earn my CFA designation and wrote the level 3 exam just this past June. Cross your fingers for good news in one week!

What else do you do other than working (and soon, studying)?

I love sports! I currently play on two soccer teams and an ultimate frisbee team. I haven't played hockey for about two years now, but I hope to join a team once school starts. I am a Toronto Maples Leafs fan, and I (always) believe that this is our year!

What do you think is going to be more difficult: engineering or an MBA?

Good question! It's one I get a lot from my friends, especially the engineers. It's hard to say. It's common for the engineering students at Queen's to have ~30 hours of class every week. Plus there was countless time spent in labs and libraries in the evenings and on weekends. And based on what I hear from current MBA students and read on their blogs, doing an MBA is TOUGH! I don't think I can fairly answer this question without experiencing a few weeks at Rotman first. I will definitely touch upon this topic in a later post.

I know. Not much of an FAQ section. But I figure my interests will reveal themselves as I write more.

Stay tuned for more updates!