Saturday, September 14, 2013

The benefits of visibility on campus

Hello everyone!

You probably thought this blog was retired right? Well much like what happened during the first year of my MBA, while I was going through the interview rounds for my full-time job, I didn’t want to blog since if I did write anything it probably would have been me being angry or frustrated that I wasn’t employed yet which isn’t useful to you guys in any way whatsoever. Now that I am set for employment, how I got my job is a good lesson on what TO do when you are looking for a job post-MBA.  So here is my story on how I got my job:

As I might have alluded to in previous posts, I was VERY committed to making sure I get a job post-MBA. This meant many, many emails and meetings with my career advisor to ensure I was presenting myself as strongly as possible to potential employers. I also went out of my way to do some pretty creative things with companies that recruited on campus (while I was on exchange in Madrid and while I was completing my last semester in Toronto) so that those companies remembered me as well as possible.  As a result of all of this, the Rotman Career Centre knew me very well and I was probably often top-of-mind to them- to the point that I am pretty sure they wanted me to get a job so that, if nothing else, I’d stop getting on top of them for help!

As a result of the above, one day I got an email from the director of the Career Centre telling me that the Admissions team was telling her in passing that it was interested in hiring an MBA grad to join their team and the Career Centre director, knowing my passion for the Rotman brand, my strong networking skills, etc, thought I might be interested. I was indeed interested, so she told me to apply, so I did. Note that this job was not listed on the Rotman job listings site (but it was listed on the “careers at the University of Toronto” website). However if it wasn’t for me being told about the job, I never would have even known it existed.

So I applied, did my interview preparation, did my interviews and got the job! So I will be the new Assistant Director of Admissions for the Full-Time Rotman MBA Program.

I know some MBA students might feel like:
-They know everything they need to know for their job search
-They want to go at their job search without Rotman’s help

But as my story proves, it pays (literally and figuratively) to ensure people know you on campus! So get out there, get involved, be friendly with people and good things will happen!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Future Rotman students are in for some real awesomeness!!

One of the directors of the full-time MBA program, Kevin Frey, opened up time slots over the next few weeks to meet with us students to address any concerns we have about the program, hear from us how we can make the program even better, etc.

I really like Rotman and want it to maximize its awesomeness even when I am gone so I decided to attend one of Kevin’s sessions. SO fantastic!!  While I feel like I have gotten a lot out of Rotman, I am jealous of the class of 2014, 2015, 2016, etc. You guys are going to be SO set. Here are some cool things I learned:

The recruitment process will have changed COMPLETELY going forward. Rotman will be placing much more importance on employability upon graduation. This means in part, an emphasis on admitting candidates with sufficiently strong verbal and written communication skills and these skills will be explicitly evaluated in the application process. I am SO happy to hear this as this helps in so many ways:
-Group work becomes less stressful as ALL members of the team can pull their weight equally
-Class discussions become more enriching with more students able to clearly express their viewpoints
-The pool of viable candidates to employers becomes larger which increases the prestige of Rotman students on the whole

The interview process is also becoming much more rigorous. This means applicants can expect to be pushed a bit in their interviews. Also, each Rotman recruiter is assigned to and is responsible for specific applicants. So if, for example, X is interviewed by Y and upon admission, X turns out to be an all-star, Y will be recognized for their good job spotting an excellent candidate. Conversely, if X is a real dud, Y will be held directly accountable for admitting a dud. As a result, you can be sure awesomeness per capita at Rotman will increase.

Something that I didn’t realize until I spoke with Kevin was the importance of increasing the class size from about 280 (what it is now) to 400+. It turns out the big and most prestigious US schools have AT LEAST 400 students in the class (i.e. MIT). Many have about 1000 (i.e. Kellogg). Back when I first heard that the class size was increasing, I was worried about the talent pool diluting. But apparently MBA applicants don’t think that way. What tends to happen with a small class size is that they think “the class is so small I won’t apply because I won’t get in.” In reality, by admitting more students, you give more confidence to the all-star people of the world that if they apply they can actually get in and therefore more all-stars end up applying to (and getting in) the school. Increasing class size is also important from a recruitment standpoint which was the other big thing touched on by Kevin....

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Insight into the fun world of product and service pricing

Hello friends!

So this semester I am taking my electives at Rotman, one of which being Pricing. I took this class because I figured if I am going to be a brand manager or work with brand managers, understanding how to price the brands which I am involved with is probably pretty important.

Also, from when I worked at Dell, when we made any new marketing initiative, the price of the products we were advertising was almost always the biggest issue.  Pricing was in fact such an important consideration that several members of the marketing team’s job was almost entirely pricing products! I had a basic understanding of what they did but now wanted to really get it, so I could be a more complete marketer upon finishing my MBA so here I was.

I know MBA school often gets knocked for making students study cases of really random industries unrelated to that which you will ultimately work in but the cases are actually pretty useful for practice, in this case, practice pricing products and services. Especially because there are so many ways to do it. 

It’s a lot of math to even figure out how much your products COST never mind what you will price them at! Things that one normally takes for granted, like the electricity in your building (overhead), is actually built into the costs of stuff you buy. This actually helps explain why Walmart can offer such low prices- they cut corners on almost EVERYTHING in their company (note that I said “almost”; they spend a lot on technology and such which helps give them their competitive advantage but I digress). So for example, by having offices that look like they belong in 1960 means their costs are lower and therefore can ultimately price lower.

This also explains in part why when I was working at Dell, we were always undercut by Acer. Acer had SUPER lean Canadian operations compared to Dell- like 5 people working in its Canadian marketing department while Dell Canada had like 25. So of course now, each Dell computer had to recover the costs of more salaries than Acer thus the price difference (all else being equal). This would be cost-based pricing and is I think, why my pricer colleagues were using most of the time.

Besides cost-based pricing there are some other pricing varieties as well. One thing that I thought was pretty cool was a study my prof (Dilip Soman) did on how different pricing plans influence product use. i.e. for a gym membership, to encourage usage, it is better to offer monthly pricing plans than annual ones. This is because when you pay each month, it is a reminder that you are still paying for the gym and therefore should probably use it. But if you pay annually, a month after paying your membership fee, life gets in the way of going to the gym and you forget about it. (I am probably the exception to this rule- annual or monthly membership…I am going to work out!) Consumer psychology with pricing! Fascinating.

Besides psychological or cost-based pricing like what I talked about above, another way is “value based” where you basically just pay for what you actually want (i.e. what you value). This is why cellphone plans exist, for example- by having different pricing options for different types of people, Rogers, for example, maximizes profit because they can meet the needs of every type of customer. People will be more likely to buy if they know they are paying only for stuff they actually want.

Thanks to our delightful pricing class, once I get back to work in a few months, I will be ready to make some awesome prices for whatever I am marketing to help my team make some big $$! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Back to the Toronto Routine!

I am living in Toronto again after 8 months away and it was a pretty weird feeling at first. After living exceedingly well abroad it was definitely a bit of an adjustment coming back. Although Rotman being Rotman, I got right back into the thick of things! Between:
-My involvement in the Rotman Marketing Association and Rotman Entertainment and Media Association
-Helping 1st years with job applications/interview prep
-Keeping up with networking for my own job search
My life has been pretty busy.

While I was gone, I was pretty removed from everything my friends were doing on this side of the atlantic. But coming back, everyone has been awesome getting me right back into the fold, like I never left. I am lucky to have awesome friends and classmates! If I could have taken my classmates with me during my time in Madrid, life would have been ever better over there!

For those looking to go on exchange, some important things to consider:
-Before you pick which semester you want to go abroad, consider when recruitment is for the jobs you are interested in. For example, if consulting is your thing, recruitment happens almost entirely in the fall. So you’d want to be at Rotman for that. So obviously then go on exchange in the winter.
-Everyone that goes on exchange gets a scholarship that essentially covers the cost of your flight. So no worries on that front!
-If you plan to get involved on the exec of a club, I strongly recommend you DO NOT go on exchange AT ALL. More on that below.

It is really challenging coordinating things across time zones and because the Rotman administrators (and any execs in the business community you hope to work with to visit Rotman or whatever) get so much email daily, dealing with them is faster and easier face-to-face/by phone.

That’s not to say it is impossible to manage club stuff abroad (I managed club stuff abroad after all) but you have to be committed- which might be a challenge for some people when you are living it up on exchange in another part of the world. :-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reflections on Spain

Well here I am, back in Canada after my semester abroad in Spain. So I thought I’d use this blog entry to write about some interesting things I noticed during my time over there:

I lived in the neighbourhood called Salamanca. This is the richest neighbourhood within the city (before you jump to conclusions about me, I lived there because my school was there, not because I am a spoiled fancy boy or anything!). As a result, I’d become accustomed to being surrounded by people dressed impeccably well. All the time. I remember one day I needed to go to the grocery store quickly to pick up some milk. It was a 5 minute trip and for such a trip in the past (in Canada), that meant a hoodie and flip flops. But now, I thought “wait a minute…I’m going to look like a bum compared to everyone else. I can’t have that! Better put on something nice.” My oh my had I become “pija”! (spanish for “posh”) I NEVER thought that would happen to me but there it was…

Cheeses and meats are MUCH cheaper in Europe than in North America. For example, a mozzarella ball in Spain: 55 cents. Here, $8.  Very unfortunate state of affairs here. I ate very, very well in Spain. 

Breakfast cereals in Spain are a bit different too. Here and in Spain, the “healthy” cereals are basically the same- Corn Flakes, Special K (although the Special K in Spain is SO much better than ours!! I love it so much I brought some home with me haha), etc. Our sweet cereals in North America have a pretty big range- honey, chocolate, cinnamon, frosted, fruit flavours (i.e. fruit loops), other (such as French toast crunch). However in Spain for some reason, sweet cereals are: honey, chocolate or frosted flakes. That is all. I can’t believe things like Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Sugar Crisp wouldn't sell in Spain. I wonder what the business reason is behind such a lack of variety?

One of the big reasons why I love Spain is how chilled out people are. For example, if I tell you I will do something, you can trust that it WILL get done, without a need to create a formal agreement stipulating every minute term or condition, etc. I noticed this on day one dealing with my landlord and found myself becoming this way as well by the time I left Spain. I really like the idea of being able to actually trust people’s word and not worrying that you are going to get screwed somehow.

Madrid has one of the best Metros in the world (in fact, that statement is part of their slogan).However until I lived here I never realized how crazy interchange stations were (that is, at a station, you switch from one line to another). The lines at every station are SO FAR apart!! It’s nuts. If you need to change lines, that instantly adds 5-7 minutes to your journey in walking from one train all the way to another. Also, most metros in the world have timers at each station telling you when the next train is due in the station. In Toronto, if it says “3 minutes” it always feels closer to 1. In Madrid, “3 minutes” really is 3 minutes. So prepare to wait!  That being said, Madrid’s metro is still pretty freaking awesome. I enjoyed riding it (and have the metro chime as my ring tone now!).

Pretty much everyone that knows me knows my time in Spain was probably the happiest 4 months of my entire life. I absolutely loved it there and sincerely hope I have a chance to return one day. But first, I have an MBA to finish in Toronto!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reflecting on my time at IE

This week is sadly my last week at Instituto de Empresa. L With that, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my experience here. Hope you enjoy!

--Things that were awesome—
-Living in Madrid- IE is awesome if for no other reason than the fact that it is in Madrid. My favourite city in the world. As I alluded to in previous blog posts, the weather, food, culture, etc are all so phenomenal that having Madrid as a backdrop to your MBA studies automatically makes your MBA experience pretty great.
-The Profs- Among the profs I had anyways, almost all of them teach and work in the field in which they teach (rather than just doing research). I loved this. It made the profs seem very up-to-date on best practices so learning how to use those best practices in developing business strategies I feel has really helped prepare me for success in my post-MBA career.
-REAL diversity- Every MBA school seems to talk about how much it values diversity but for most, it is just talk, with the student body being dominated by 2-3 countries or regions of the globe. At IE, diversity actually exists. My classes included south americans, north americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians and Australians with no one region dominating over the others. This was a great way to open myself up to tons of different perspectives on life and business.
-The Campus- IE has several buildings spread out across a few blocks in the neighbourhood of Madrid called Salamanca. The buildings are NICE. I mean, really, really nice. It was pretty cool studying in such cool spaces!
-Support for your own entrepreneurial venture-IE has A TON of support for people looking to start their own companies- networking with venture capitalists, support on how to build your business, etc. If you want to use your MBA to start a company, IE is probably where you should study. Given I want to be a marketing director (which is akin to managing a business), it was really helpful for me to be a part of this environment, to be better equipped for becoming a marketing director one day!

--Things that were not so awesome—
-Student life- I could go on for a LONG time about the issues this school has with promoting and facilitating a cohesive student body,  creating a more enjoyable student experience, etc but will just leave it at this. Rotman is MILES ahead of IE in this respect.
-Networking clubs- I was a member of several clubs (marketing club, north American club, etc)  and in one semester, there was ONE event (a speaker event) across all of the clubs I am a member of. Why do these clubs even exist then?

Living in Madrid was a dream come true for me. I know I will miss it here and hope I can move back one day. However, I really miss my classmates at Rotman…I am excited to see them again soon!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mike gets the Andalucian Experience in Granada and Malaga

I had another long weekend here in Madrid so I wanted to use it as another tourism opportunity. Flying somewhere was out of the question and I had yet to see the Alhambra (in Granada) and my cousin had told me very good things about Granada as a city so I figured that would be a good option, especially because a bus there was only $50 return. Even better was the fact that an hour from Granada is Malaga where several of my friends live from when I went on exchange in Amsterdam as an undergrad. So we could have a mini reunion there! So off to the south of Spain I went.

Granada is famous for the Alhambra but there are some pretty cool other other things there as well:
--Student town--
Granada’s medical and dental schools are apparently very prestigious and big meaning Granada is a student town. Meaning cheap food! Fun parties! Huray!

--Los Reyes Catolicos--
The king and queen of Spain from the late 1400’s to early 1500’s, Fernando and Isabella, (known as “los reyes catolicos” or “the catholic king and queen”) are buried here. Why is this noteworthy? Well they united the various regions of spain under a common flag, began the spanish inquisition and sponsored columbus’ voyage to the new world. Pretty influential monarchs! In the church they are buried, you can see their actual tombs!! It was pretty cool to see these actual monarchs who were so influential in world history. 

--Tapas- -
When I read in my Lonely Planet guide that Granada was notable for its sizable tapas, I knew I had to see this for myself. And boy was Lonely Planet right! In very commercial establishments in Spain and elsewhere, you have to buy tapas separately and they are small plates of things like olives or tortilla española or whatever. In traditional Spanish restaurants the tapas come free with your drink, mimicking the traditional manner of serving them (which you can learn more about here
For some reason in Granada tapas are almost like small meals and the more beer/wine you order, the bigger the tapas.
Example 1:  I bought a small glass of beer for 2EUR and got a ham sandwich and fries for free!
Example 2: I was with a group of 5 people and we each got a beer for 1.80EUR. With it we got a PLATTER of burritos!! WHAT!!??? Awesome!! (and they weren't gross burritos either!)
As an MBA student I was curious to know how this could possibly be a sustainable business practice. My friend Jose from Malaga (who is a recent MBA grad) informed me it is funded through people buying lots and lots of alcohol at a time at the bars. Oh Spain…how I love it. Haha

--Moorish-themed stuff—
Because Granada was such an important part of Moorish Spain, there are muslim-themed things everywhere. The Albayzin (old Moorish quarter) feels like you are in Aladdin  or that part of Raiders of the Lost Ark when Marion is hiding in a basket while Indy is getting chased by bad guys.  It is very crowded and everyone is trying to sell you tacky carpets, Moorish tiles, hookah pipes, etc.

The Moorish influence combined with Granada being a student town means there are maybe more shawarma places per capita than in Ottawa (my hometown). So much shawarma! And so cheap and delicious!! I loved it.

--The Alhambra--
This was a fortress that began in the 900’s by the Moorish rulers of Al-Andalus (the Moorish name of Andalucia) and grew over time to become the giant fortress it ended up as. The architecture, design, etc. is awesome and is a MUST see if you visit Spain but rather than talk about stuff you can see for yourself in person or Wikipedia, I wanted to touch on a few different things I found notable:
-For a few hundred years, the Alhambra was a dump, used as barracks, a place for bums to hang out, etc. It may sound hard to believe but what helped me envision what this place looked like in the past was Assassin’s Creed II (the videogame). This may sound silly but that game takes place in early renaissance Italy where you get to see, for example, the Roman Forum being used for the same dumphole purposes. People just didn’t really care about managing and preserving classical architecture at very points in history. I guess they had bigger problems on their hands...The Alhambra was "rediscovered" in the late 1800's by American writer Washington Irving. He stayed in the Alhambra for some time and was inspired to write about it (The Tales of the Alhambra). This led to renewed interest in the fortress and it becoming the tourist destination it is today. 
-The only thing I never liked about Lonely Planet guides was that there are few pictures for each tourist attraction. So it was sometimes tricky to follow what Lonely Planet was describing because you had to rely on the book’s description and assume you were indeed looking at the correct thing the book was describing. To tour the Alhambra, you have to follow a fixed pathway through the various parts of the fortress. Lonely Planet’s descriptions of the Alhambra follow this route EXACTLY!! I was very pleasantly surprised about this and it made it a lot easier to understand what I was looking at when, in each part of the Alhambra.
-Entering the Alhambra is a big chore. You MUST buy a ticket in advance online and your ticket is only valid for a set period of time of the day. And because the Alhambra is on the top of a hill, you need to walk for a while or take a bus up there. Worth it, but different from what I am used to where you can just go and walk into whatever tourist destination you want, whenever.

So that’s the gist of Granada. Now for Malaga.

I should note a few things first: I had been to Malaga before as a tourist so didn’t need to do much touristy stuff this time and I went to Malaga this time around to visit friends, not do touristy stuff. That being said, there are some worthwhile things to note about my visit:
-If you really want to go to Malaga as a tourist and have never been, I strongly recommend going in the summer. Outside of the summer, the city is chilly and/or rainy and all of the tourist stuff there is pretty similar to Granada but better in Granada (i.e. muslim architecture, churches, etc). In the summer in Malaga you can go to the city’s beach (called Malagueta) and eat/drink on outside terraces all day and night which is super fun and fantastic and worth it, time permitting. (which you cannot do in landlocked Granada)
-Malaga has completely redone its waterfront. The redo was completed like a few months ago according to my friends. Now on the port is a long promenade of nice restaurants and stores.
-You might have read in your tourism book about “teterias” which are basically restaurants that specialize in serving tea. Because I am not really a tea guy, I never would have gone to one on my own initiative. But because I was with my Malageño amigos (that is, friends from Malaga) I followed their afternoon routine. So after a big lunch at one of the most famous restaurants in the city, “El Pimpi,” they took me to El Haren, one of the most noteable Teterias in Malaga for some post-lunch chill time. It was SO cool!! The place is a converted very, very old house. Inside it felt very bohemian. Cool scene to chill out on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The place had tons of varieties of tea, none of which taste like the “typical” stuff we are used to in North America. My friend recommended “la jamiacana” (the Jamaican) which tasted sort of like tea mixed with a warm pina colada. The perfect way to organize my stomach after our giant Spanish lunch.
While I didn’t do any “typical” touristy stuff, catching up with my friends I hadn´t seen in 6 years and spending an day like a typical Malageño was a pretty fun experience.

Good times in Andalucia!! I am pretty sad I have to go back to Canada in a month and a bit; I could really have spent more time in the south for sure. Such a cool place.