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!