Monday, December 24, 2012

It's been a while!

Ladies and gentlemen, I offer my sincerest apologies for not keeping up with the blogging this semester. Everything at school certainly ended up occupying more of my time than I anticipated. But I am still having a blast at Rotman and have been enjoying everything about the life of a second-year student.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog post: the major differences between the first- and second-year life at Rotman. And what better way to sum this up than with a list?

1. Unlike last year when we had 18 hours of class per week, second year students have more like 10 hours of class per week. This obviously varies with the number of courses taken in the summer, the number of intensive classes taken over weekends and whether you decide to overload your schedule by taking 6 classes instead of 5. In additional to this, most people also have 1 or 2 weekdays with no classes at all, which means more time available to work on whatever needs to get done.

2. Second-year is also your opportunity to take the classes that truly interest you. Hated finance in first year? You won’t have to calculate a single NPV if you don’t want to in second year! Some people will take classes that will help them in their career, some will take ones they think will be easiest, and some will take classes that are completely unrelated to their chosen field in the hopes they will learn something brand new.

3. As an extension to my second point, because we are all taking different classes, scheduling times to work with classmates on group projects is definitely trickier. You may have classes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but your group mates may have classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays plus an intensive all day Friday and Saturday. And if you’ve got five different group projects on the go, this can turn into a real nightmare. Luckily, it makes everyone infinitely more respectful of everyone else’s time if you’re all aware you can only meet for an hour over the lunch hour that week.

4. And as another extension to points 2 and 3, you get to pick your groups for pretty much every class. While this is a little relieving since you will know what kinds of people you’ll be working with for the rest of the semester, everyone starts forming groups as soon as they know what classes they are taking. So if you are really picky about who you work with, you may want to have your groups organized well before classes start in September.

5. Even though we have fewer hours of class per week than first year students, that does not mean we are any less busy! Nearly every second year student is involved with a club or extracurricular activity of some sort, whether it’s the Rotman Finance Association, Management Consulting Association, intramural sports or even the Rotman Wine Society. This year, I am on the executive committee for the Women in Management Association and the Rotman MBA Games team, and I am co-captaining the women’s intramurals soccer team with a classmate. Active involvement in planning activities for clubs takes up a significant amount of time. Depending on who you ask, they might say they spend more time on club activities than they do on their actual school work!

While there are so many other things I could say about how second-year differs from first-year (like the opportunity to do an exchange overseas, more flexibility to fit in a workout, and being able to actually sleep in past 9:00am) I think these are probably the five major highlights.

And with that, I would like to wish everyone a safe holiday away from school and all the best to you and your families for a happy new year!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Aaaaaaaand we're back!

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another fun-filled year at the Rotman School of Management!

Now that everyone’s summer internships are wrapped up, it’s time to dive back into the wonderful world of classes, career searching, case competitions and copious amounts of coffee.

Some notable things that have happened over the past few weeks:

1.     Rotman Orientation Camp! I can’t tell you how much fun camp was this year. The second-year volunteers are still talking about it. Some of the highlights this year were the fact that we could go swimming, kayaking and canoeing (last year, we were not allowed near the water), a carnival with inflatable obstacles courses, rock climbing, slides and other injury inducing activities (don’t worry, there weren’t TOO many injuries this year), cotton candy, and fireworks during the full-moon beach party. There is no doubt it is going to remain one of the highlights of my second year. If you’re a first year student, I encourage you to apply to be a volunteer, and if you’re a prospective student, don’t miss out on this amazing weekend!

2.     The Rotman South Building Grand Opening was on Wednesday, September 5th, and hundreds of students, faculty, alumni and affiliates of the school came to celebrate the opening of Rotman’s new South Building. I had the pleasure of being one of four students selected to hold the ribbon for the ribbon cutting ceremony. There were tour groups being led around the new facilities throughout the day, and in the evening, all floors were opening up for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, music and mingling. It was so nice to see some of the recent graduates again, meet some older alumni and reconnect with my friends. It was a very successful day, and I think the new building is going to contribute to some great things happening at Rotman in the future.

3.     The clubs fair took place earlier this week – an event that is never to be missed if you are joining any clubs for the year. The room was buzzing for two hours with students of all years talking to club execs and eating pizza and candy. I spent my time between the club booths for WIMA (Women in Management Association) and the MBA Games, as I am on the executive team for both clubs. I am pretty excited about what both clubs have planned for the year and I hope we get a lot of interest from the incoming class. There will definitely be more updates on what these clubs are doing, so stay tuned!

There is not much to report on classes. Our schedule is a little wonky for the first couple weeks of school to accommodate information session for the recruiting season. But once we get into more of a routine, I will talk about classes a little more. Classes I am taking this semester are: Financial Risk Management (FRM), Business Analysis and Valuation (BAV), Security Analysis and Portfolio Management, Financial Institutions and Capital Markets, and either Behavioural Economics or Real Estate Economics.

That’s all for now folks! Enjoy the weekend and what’s left of the summer weather!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rotman's New South Building!

Greetings, everyone, from the wonderful world of SUMMER!

Yes, classes are out during the season of sun and hot weather (unless you are taking a summer course!) but the Rotman spirit never sleeps. These days, the incoming first-year class (class of 2014) are gradually getting acquainted with the school. In fact, tomorrow is the first of three “Rotman Ready Sessions”, where a group of first-years will learn about the ins and outs of Rotman, meet some second year students and take a tour of the new building.

New building.

New building.

New building.

New building.

Yes! Rotman has a new building! This is probably not news to many of you, but it is still exciting nonetheless. It is directly south of the old one (and hence called the South Building) and is set to be 110% complete for the grand opening on September 5th. Many of the facilities are in use right now though. Today, my camera and I decided to venture through these new walls, snap some photos and share the love with you all.

So here we go!

The grand staircase. The palazzo steps will connect to the atrium in the old building, and there will be a fancy laptop bar in the middle. The accent colour pink has been a hot topic of conversation. Most people are not so sure what to think. Apparently it was inspired by the Einstein issue of the Rotman magazine, where the header was this shade of pink.

Full-size lockers! As many of the second-year students know, these new additions will be a blessing. There are nearly 800 lockers throughout the new building, so everyone will have their own. Great for storing your suit and gym clothes!

The MBA student lounge. Notice the comfortable seating, two microwaves and full-sized refrigerator. There is also a meeting room in this area, and the window overlooks the grand staircase.

Officially named the “Masters Student Study Area”, but I predict it will be known as “The New Fishbowl”. The partitions that divide seats unscrew in case you are working on a project and need to open up the study space. There are also several group rooms in this area, and it overlooks the flat foot classroom.

A brand new study/group room. The best thing about these new rooms is that everyone can see your laptop screen when you plug it into the dock in the middle. This will be very handy for editing presentations, reports and spreadsheets as a group. Also, the chairs are definitely a step up from the ones in the old rooms.

This is the flat-foot classroom. Even though it is still under construction, you can already tell it’s going to be a very widely used space. The room can be set up in 7 different configurations. In addition to all-section lectures for the first-year students, it will also be used for events and guest speakers.

A student lounge area near the cafeteria on the main floor. That glassy area on the wall is a fireplace!

The cafeteria. We do not know what kind of food will be served from the kitchen (not in this picture, but it is to the left), but I think this is going to be a high-traffic area anyway. It will be a nice change from the same old sandwiches from Campus Express. And for people who bring their own lunch, it will be a lot better than balancing a cup of soup on your lap while sitting on a couch, or cramming yourself into room 121 in the old building.

I wish I could have actually gone onto the patio to take some pictures, but this is the best I could do. I cannot wait to stand out here. Apparently if you look south you can get a pretty awesome view of downtown Toronto!

Another lounging area on the bottom floor close to the majority of the classrooms and facing the sunken outdoor courtyard.

This is the sunken outdoor courtyard, still under construction obviously. From what I understand, there will be a few tables with chairs scattered about, and the perimeter will feature a waterway with “bubblers”.

Unfortunately I could not get a picture of one of the new classrooms. Two of them were being used and the rest were locked. But they are absolutely fantastic! Each classroom features 70 comfortable seats, white boards and smart boards, a camera that will record a professor’s lecture, a screen in front of the presenter so you can see your slides, a doc cam and much more.

If, after the first couple of Rotman Ready Sessions, I can generate an FAQ list, I will be sure to update this post to include them. I encourage you to see the building for yourself though. I know my classmates and I will be nostalgic for the old building, but the South Building definitely has some awesome features that are going to blow everyone away!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

And that’s a wrap for first year!

And what a year it was! It has been a week since Q4 exams finished, and after a much needed break, I am ready to go back to work tomorrow for the summer.

But first, a Q4 post-mortem. Q4 took many people by surprise. The second years told us that Q2 was the most difficult one, but I have to disagree. Q4 consisted of more group projects than any other quarter, and as we all know, compiling everyone’s individual effort into one group deliverable can be a challenge. However, I think we all pulled through and hopefully were able to learn something about working in teams along the way. And with the weather getting nicer and nicer, it made sitting through classes and studying in the fishbowl very difficult. Here are the courses we took this quarter:

Global Managerial Perspective: Also known as GMP. This was probably my favourite course this quarter. The professor for my section was Walid Hejazi. His passion for the material was evident when he shared his own research on the discussion topics and anecdotes that were sure to make the class chuckle. The course really made us appreciate the importance of globalization in today’s business world and understand the mechanisms from which benefits of globalization are derived. We learned about the relationship between interest rates, exchange rates and inflation; four trade theories that help explain trade between countries; the role of innovation and R&D in an ever-changing exchange rate environment; and what company activities and tasks should and should not be outsourced. Professor Hejazi challenged us to learn the material well and study hard, and like David Goldreich, he definitely knew how to keep the class awake for an 8:30am class.

Operations Management: I briefly discussed this course when I wrote about Littlefield. Let me tell you, it was no walk in the park. There are three group assignments that build upon the material learned in the lectures (one of which is Littlefield), a case to read for nearly every class, and a final exam. Despite the frustration with the assignments and the lengthy cases, I can say that I definitely learned a lot from the class. And I know this because now whenever I am standing in line waiting for anything, I can’t help but think how I can change the process so that there are no queues at all. So thanks, Operations, you have made waiting in line at Tim Horton’s so much better!

Business Ethics: Another amazing course. The only really disappointing part about this course is that it is only once a week. When else do you get to talk frankly about ethical issues in business and really acknowledge how complex ethical issues can get? It was oftentimes very surprising, when discussing an ethics case in class, how divided the class can be on the right thing to do. Should a CEO be fired for having a romantic relationship at work with someone in an unrelated department? Should a CEO be fired for lying about his credentials on his resume when he was hired 20 years prior? What do you do when a major donor to your institution is charged with securities fraud? This is another course where participating in class discussions makes the learning so much better. Your classmates’ differing perspectives on an ethical issue can make you question – or change your mind on – your own position on an ethical issue.

Integrative Thinking Practicum: This course was taught by our Dean, Roger Martin and Jennifer Riel, Associate Director of the Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking. The content is largely based off of Roger Martin’s book, The Opposable Mind, and some other articles co-authored by Martin and Riel. Nearly every class, we discuss a company whose CEO has faced a problem in the past where he or she is faced with a decision that involves obvious trade-offs and compromises. What this courses teaches us to do, is to think about the problem in a way where you do not have to make a trade-off; instead, you devise a solution that incorporates the benefits of both choices and that is better than simply opting for one choice over the other. We were able to apply our learning to two companies that are facing this sort of dilemma: Loblaws and BMO. The group that presented the best solution from each section for the BMO case also gets to give a presentation to the CEO of BMO, Bill Downe. Congratulations to the groups and best of luck!

Managerial Accounting: This is the first time I have seen the word “accounting” in the name of a course and not actually had to look at any financial statements throughout the course. Which was, in a way, nice. Unlike financial accounting, managerial accounting uses data to help managers make decisions such as which products to keep and which products to drop, how to properly compensate employees so they are motivated to perform well, and how to evaluate employees’ performance. We also learned how to create a flexible budget and attribute earnings to certain products and services. The evaluation for this course consisted of two quizzes and a heavily weighted final exam.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is life as a first-year student at the Rotman School of Management!

This summer, I will be returning to my employer before I started at Rotman, Raymond James Ltd. I will be working in the wealth management department with a financial advisor, helping him analyze client portfolios, find new investment products and learn more about investment strategies for his clients. I am looking forward to it, and am excited to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones too!

I’m not sure how often I will be updating this blog over the summer. I will try my best to get updates out when we start picking our elective courses for next year or when any other exciting Rotman news comes out. So, as always, stay tuned! 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Not so little" Littlefield

Operations Management has been the course on everyone’s mind this quarter. That’s not surprising when you consider we just finished our third week and we are already working on our third major assignment. The assignments require a great deal of focus, attention to detail and problem solving.

This weekend, our assignment is to manage the operations of Littlefield Technologies, a company that manufactures digital satellite system receivers. The simulation runs for 100 hours over the weekend and the goal is to have the highest cash balance compared to both our peers and a computer benchmark that makes no decisions throughout the simulation. Some of the decisions we need to make along the way are purchasing and selling the machines operating at each station, increasing the size of the lot that flows through the factory, and the terms of the contract that dictates how much revenue we earn based on how soon the customers receive their orders.

Needless to say, it’s going to be an interesting weekend, especially considering the simulation is running constantly, even during the night. For the sake of our sleep schedules, I think most of us are looking forward to 9:00 pm on Tuesday night when it is all over.

76 hours to go…

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Long overdue Q3 wrap up

Ladies and gents, it’s been awhile. Q3 finished with a report, presentation, three exams and an essay. And shortly after submitting that essay and enduring a 5 hour delay at Toronto Pearson airport, I was on a plane headed southbound to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for our March break. Alas, we are back in Toronto now, and have just finished a week in Q4.

As usual, though, here is a wrap up of the classes we took in Q3.

Economic Environment of Business: The standard macroeconomics course for every MBA graduate. You will learn everything you need to know about GDP, inflation, interest rates, labour productivity, quantitative easing, the participation rate, foreign direct investment, net exports and net capital outflows. The evaluation is pretty straight forward: 3 quizzes and a heavily weighted final exam. One thing that the professor does expect, however, is that you keep up with the required readings that he posts online. Most of the readings are articles from The Economist that are relevant to the topics discussed in class. If you want to get a good mark on the final, you should be able to make references to the articles where appropriate. I suggest keeping up with the articles throughout the quarter and not leaving them until two days before the final.

Managing Customer Value: This course is a continuation of MCV from Q2. It was structured very differently though. We only had about 5 lectures throughout the quarter; the rest of the time, our attention was focused on the marketing simulation that you work on in groups. Each group manages the marketing and advertising decisions of a company that operates in the same industry as the companies managed by our classmates. Everyone starts off in a unique position (from the market leader to the underdog) and we needed to make decisions on how much to spend on R&D, what segments of the market we should target with which products, how much sales staff to hire, and whether we should enter an entirely new market. The major deliverables included a report and presentation that outlined the group’s strategies and justified the decisions made. It was a pretty interesting exercise and most people had fun with it. In fact, some people wished that the simulation went on for longer!

Finance: Another continuation from the finance course from Q2. The material taught in this class was much different from that taught in the first finance class. In the first class we learned how to value stocks and bonds; in this class, it was all about corporate finance. When should you accept a new project? What are the advantages and disadvantages of financing a project with debt or equity? And how does a company’s dividend payout policy affect the value of the company? We worked on three cases throughout the quarter with our groups, which really helped us understand the concepts and prepared us for the final exam. The professor for this course, David Goldreich, was very enthusiastic and made the 8:30am start time a little more enjoyable.

Leadership: I really enjoyed this class. I would actually say that it was my favourite class from Q3. Before each class we had to read a case about a leader within an organization. We spent the majority of the class discussing what the leader did well and what he or she could improve on. We also spent a few classes analyzing our social styles, which I talked about in a previous blog post. To get the most out of this class, it was important you thoroughly understood the case being discussed and participated a lot in the class discussion. The majority of our evaluation in this class was a final paper, which was due at the very end of the quarter. Each student had to pick a leader that he or she has had professional interaction with and, using the tools and models taught in class, analyze their actions and show whether the leader was effective or not. You could also choose to write the paper about a professional leadership position you have held in the past. My biggest piece of advice in writing the paper is to start early! Get a solid outline written and know in advance exactly what points you want to discuss. After exams were over, nobody was really looking forward to writing a 3000 word essay, so getting started well ahead of time eased a lot of the pain.

Strategy: This strategy class was very different from the strategy class we took in Q2. The first class was more focused on an individual company; this class was more focused on the interactions between companies, competition, and horizontal and vertical integrations. Some of the companies that we talked about in class were Boeing, Nintendo, Disney and Microsoft. The course was taught by two professors, but other than that, it was similarly structured to our first strategy class: we had to read a case before class and be prepared to discuss it with each other. Our evaluation was based on our participation in class and a final exam. There was no case analysis project this time, although I think many would agree that some form of evaluation in the middle of the quarter would have been nice.

And there you have it! Q4 has started off well and despite the 8:30am classes every day, I think the next five weeks are going to be very interesting. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Entertainment King: Disney

We have been talking about The Walt Disney Co. in our Strategy class for the past couple of days. The history of Disney provides no shortage of discussion topics. I won't get into specifics, but this weekend I discovered this video:

How's that for a blast from the past?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Social Style Survey

I was right. Q3 is unlike anything we’ve experienced so far, and will probably be different than Q4. It is just so… quiet…

I did want to mention our Leadership class though. Of all the classes we are taking this semester, this is by far my favourite. Just about every class, we have a case to read about someone in a leadership position at their organization. In class, we share our thoughts on what the leader did well, what was done poorly and how the leader could improve in the future.

We were also required to complete a social style survey. We were given a week to distribute an online survey to at least five people we interact with frequently (or have interacted with in the past.) If you wanted to know your social style within a professional setting, then our professor, Jia Lin Xie, recommended that we forward it to our old work colleagues. Otherwise, we could send it to our friends. I ended up sending my survey to several friends (and filling it out myself) and got a whopping 18 responses! Thanks to all who completed it for me!

Everyone received feedback based on the aggregate responses to the questionnaire which categorized you into four different styles:

According to the responses, my social style as seen by others is expressive, which matched my own perception of my behaviour. The feedback given to us indicated that others describe my behaviour as “friendly, candid and receptive.” It also said that expressives “bring out the feelings of others by showing their own feelings readily” and that our outgoing, spirited manner encourages many people to confide is us about their own dreams and ambitions.

Using these results, we had to write a short paper about a professional relationship we’ve had in the past that was sub-optimal based on differences in social styles. We then swapped our papers with two other classmates and offered each other suggestions as to how to improve our versatility when interacting with others with a different social style.

Altogether, a worthwhile exercise! I wish everyone could take the social style survey – I think knowing whether your self-perception differs from how others see you, and knowing how best to work with people with a different social style would be beneficial to anyone working in business.