Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Shark comes home

I know, I know, its been a long time since I last updated all of you on what has been going on in my life (actually 4 months). So I thought I would give you the quick and dirty "hyper catch up" of what's been going on with me since March...

1) Never got hired for the Biotech. Apparently they went with another candidate. I'm not sad about it thought because the upper management was full of jerks withe british accents and sticks up their asses.

2) Graduated from my MBA program with a 3.8 GPA, made the Deans List, and won an award for being a Graduate Student Leader. Basically left that place kicking ass and taking names.

3) Because I did'nt get the Biotech job, decided to move back to California and now I'm trying to get a job out here.
4) Figured out that the unemployment rate in Los Angeles (where I am now) is around 12%. Holy shit, finding a job is going to be tough!

5) Had an interview with 1 company so far, still haven't heard anything.

And that's basically it. Now I am just hanging around Hollywood, living it up until I get a job.

Ill try to include some more write-ups after 4th of July weekend, particularly with job-hunting in California, and some shady shit that went down while I was enrolled in my MBA program.

Until Next Time...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Shark...

Hello Dirt Readers,
It's that time of year again. That oh-so-dreaded time of year. Not tax season (although, that's a close second). No, I'm talking about something that involves being critiqued, berated, and judged by a group of peers. I'm talking about a process that's more rigorous than a marathon, more stressful than any test you've taken, and will play a major role in determining where you spend 40-60 hours a week, every week, possibly for the rest of your life. That's right people...i'm talking job interviews.

Doesn't it seem like yesterday that you just heard me bitching about finding a job? If you'll recall, after a couple of lackluster interviews, a 9.6% unemployment rate and absolutely no help from my university ("it's such a rough economy right now"), I basically decided to say "screw it" and run off to study abroad in Germany for a month.

Well now it's a year later and not much has changed. Unemployment is now 9.4% (mostly because people have just given up looking for jobs...yay?), my university has no career counselor for MBA's (because of the last one being completely incompetent), and I'm doing another round of interviews again.

I actually just interviewed with a biotech company that has one of the most rigorous interview processes that I have seen. So far I've had a phone interview, and 2 in person interviews. The last interview alone took 3 hours, involved an excel test, a personality test, and a PowerPoint presentation! Yikes, talk about high pressure.

Regardless of whether I got the job or not, one thing is obvious...although the economy is picking up, it's still an extremely competitive market out there. If your a first year MBA, your competing with second year MBA's. If your a second year, your up against graduates. And at the end of the day, the employers win, because they have their pick of the litter.

And you know what...this is F*&king scary. As a job hunter, walking into an interview felt a bit like an episode of American Idol. As a matter of fact, I definitely had a cheerful Paula, a down to earth Randy, and a rigorous and "in charge" Simon (complete with British accent!) critiquing my every response. It was absolutely nerve racking, and who knows how many people are gunning for the same job. Is it 3? 5? 10? At the end of this do I get a little placard that says "You're hired!" or do I get booted, only to be seen in a  cheap highlight reel of those who didn't make it?

This interview culminated in the delivery of a PowerPoint about the company to, ironically, the general manager who had been at the company for 10+ years. This to me seemed a bit presumptuous ("let me tell you how you should run your own company!"), but hey maybe I did well. Or maybe they thought "who the hell is this kid with the PowerPoint?".

Let's just say getting judged is stressful, and in this economy were all just numbers, guppies in the ocean if you will.

What the he'll is my point? Do I have one? Probably not. No wait, I think I point is, as special and unique as you might have thought you were, your not. So don't waltz into an interview like a guppy, because you're not guaranteed shit in this barren US economy.

So what do you do when you get in that interview room? Be a friggin shark. Reverse the whole process. Ask the company what sets them apart from the competition. Why do your employees choose to work here? What's your work culture like? Do people rush to clock out at 5? Do you participate in corporate social responsibility practices? In my PowerPoint I managed to stick in a far side cartoon. Why? Because it showed I had a sense of humor, yet still managed to work it into my argument at the time. Why?

Because "Screw it", that's why.

Giving canned answers, predictable PowerPoints, and smiling and nodding doesn't work anymore. And if I'm going out, screw it, I'm going out in style.

When I gave my PowerPoint I was very forward about some of the weaknesses the company had. I think that some of the people got a little uncomfortable hearing about improvements I suggested. Maybe they like the fact that I was open minded about some of the improvements I made and strategies i suggested. Maybe they didn't. Regardless, if you're a company hiring and Don't like hearing about the weaknesses of you're company and how I have some ideas about how to tackle them (which I did in my presentation)? Then screw it, because when I interview with your competitor, guess what, I know what your weaknesses are AND that you prefer to turn a blind eye rather than tackle these weaknesses aggressively. It also shows that you don't want me to think critically, you want me to just do what I'm told.

And you know what? screw that.

Like I've said before and I'll say again, I didn't go into business school to box myself into a corner. I want doors to burst open. I want every opportunity that this world can give me. I want someone to use the degree I earned, not just shove me in a corner doing excel with the possibility of promotion to a middle management position in 5 years because I have an MBA.

Am i smart? Damn straight. Do I seem cocky? A little. But at the end of the day one fact remains. I'm either going to work for you or one of your competitors. So I ask you, company you want me working for you, or against you?

Your move.

Until next time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Being a broke MBA

There is a great irony to being a broke MBA student.

I mean, yes, there are those MBA students who don't have to worry about money while they are in school. Maybe, some of you are working full time AND in an MBA program, which means that you have substituted worrying about money during grad school to worrying about your sanity. To me, this is a fair trade, and I congratulate you. Let me know when the proverbial shit hits the fan and your wife comes home one night to find you huddled in the corner rocking back and forth murmuring something about "black swans coming to get you". Then there are those of you who are "grandfathered in" to your Ivy-league MBA because daddy contributed enough money to build a new library or your parents were members of the "Skull and Bones" fraternity back in the day. Well you never had to worry about money did you? Feel free to disregard this post and go back to yachting...or whatever rich people do.

But lets face it, most of us, enrolled in $30,000-$50,000 per year programs, paying for rent, textbooks, and other essentials like food, coffee, cigarettes, hookers and blow leaves us, well...broke. (Just kidding about the cigarettes, those things will kill you!)

Which is weird, to be in a program that, well, lets face it, is focused around money. You hear it every day in class. Profit. Loss. Leverage. Credit. Especially when your hear about the multi-billion bailouts banks have received, CEO "golden parachutes" worth tens of millions of dollars, and the like. But at the end of the month, when bills have to be paid, and your looking at an ever-shrinking checking account, its a little disappointing to know how little your worth.

Things get especially depressing if your a finance major who starts calculating the Future value of your ever-increasing student loans. Or you start realizing that your credit cards have 19% APR's.
I guess you could argue that's the case with any Grad school student, but I think its especially painful for MBA students. Why?

Besides the fact that we have to deal with huge profit/loss numbers every day, to be honest, most MBA students in general had paychecks and jobs when we entered our programs. That means we actually gave up a paycheck to go back to school, which is a big decision for a lot of people. Our opportunity cost is a lot larger than people in other fields. The same may not be true for other degrees, like, History. Usually, in humanities/science degrees, you go straight from your bachelors to Masters, or only work for about a year or so in between to take a GRE. You don't meet a masters History major and have him/her tell you "Yeah, i got my bachelors, became a historian for a couple of years (?). then got my masters". Doesn't happen.

And lets face it, being broke SUCKS. College was enough of a lesson for me on how much it sucks being poor, why the hell did I want to relive this again? Why did I let something so stupid as ambition drive me to be poor?! Am I done yet?

Remember when in college you drank the crappy beer, like Nattie light (not that im hating on you Nattie, you got me through some rough times) because, you simply couldn't afford anything else. Then you got a job and, whats this you say, people buy IMPORTED beer? "What is this one called...Pac-See-Fe-ko?" "Boddingtons? Sounds like a bird!" "Holy crap they make beer in JAPAN?!". Maybe you bought a car. Remember when you used to go on these things called "vacation" to really exotic places, preferably places which had drinks with little umbrellas in them.

You were living the good life! Then, you got..."the itch". Maybe it was your annoying boss, your colleagues who had already gotten their MBA, or just blind ambition that told you, "Hey, I should go back and get my degree!" In a flash, that import-beer soaked, tropical vacation, car-owning rug called "A paycheck" is yanked from underneath your feet.

And now what? Your back to square one. Nattie is now replaced with Pabst Blue Ribbon, the hipster 23-28 year old beer of choice. You bum cigarettes. You couch surf when visiting friends. Your dying to get your student aid check. The only thing that separates you from a homeless person, really, is that you have a line of credit!

Guys I know. Ive been there. Hell I AM there. But you just gotta keep chugging along. In the end, it will be worth it. "The juice", to quote a finance professor, "will be worth the squeeze.".

And hey, at least its only 2 years of being broke. Unless your doing a Ph.D. In which case, you really got suckered, and thats your own damn fault!

Get me graduated and a job already! Until next time...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

B-School Minority

Let me preface this article by saying that Yes, I am half-Hispanic. Whew! There I said it. the cats out of the bag! Despite my hispanic-ness (or latino-ness? Chicano-ness? I never figured out what the proper nomencalture is...) ive never thought of my race as something that people thought of. I never thought it was a topic of discussion.

One thing that I love about being a US citizen is the wide spectrum of nationalities that make up this country. Its really a beautiful thing. Every metropolitan is carved into its own little Ethnic enclaves; Little Italies, Mexican Barrios, and China-towns are etched into every community. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday, I heard Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Farsi (Well, some Arabic language I think...what do I look like Rosetta Stone?). Its something Ive really come to love about America. Now this isnt to say America hasnt had its own problems with race, but all in all, Americans, I think, are pretty open minded about peoples race & religion (despite what Fox News might say).

But I guess being born & raised in this country, with a Europeon mother and a Hispanic father, growing up in an African-American community, and going to school in a rather affluent neighborhood, I never saw my racial background as anything, but well, a little part of my identity. Just one of the many little things that make me...well, me.

Sadly, this sort of changed when I started to go to Business School on the East Coast. First and foremost, the first thing I noticed is that there are very few hispanics in business-school. This in itself wasnt a big deal to me, but I think this was a big reason for  people, especially professors, to be a little more curious about me.

However, soon their curiosity turned into something a bit more...intrusive. How? Well Dirt readers, I present you with...

The 3 most akward (and perhaps, rude) questions i have gotten in Business School!

Number 3: 
Professor: *upon hearing my incredibly hispanic last name* "Oh...were you born here?"
This sort of threw me off, because, if my last name was McBoyle and I spoke perfectly good english, would you ask me If i was born in Ireland? Probably not...but this was the first incident and i just sort of shrugged it off.

Number 2:
Professor: You know, I have to say you speak English very well.
me: *confused look*
Professor: Well, your last name is _____, so....
Me: Yeah, well I was born here.
Professor: Really? *skeptical look*
Now im starting to get a little irritated by these little lapses in judgment. Still, i shrugged off the question. Then, the atom bomb dropped...

Number 1:

Upon recieveing a flu shot from the school nurse...
Nurse: *Looks at chart, reads my last name aloud to herself*
Me: Yes?
Nurse: So...are you a legal citizen?

Yes, this really happened. To be honest with you, it really sucked to be asked so many times to explain to people why I had such a hispanic last name yet spoke english so well. It was irritating, and the more I though about it, the more that it was sort of insulting. The last time I checked, there were a lot of Hispanics who have been born in this country. And then, I really started to wonder...

If professors are thinking this about me, despite that fact that I speak English perfectly well in class and often get very good grades, what are employers thinking when they look at a resume and have absolutely no idea who I am? Do they look at my last name and automatically assume I am not a native speaker? What other assumptions are these employers thinking?

I got so depressed about fielding questions about my background from professors and students, that at some point, I even considered dropping my last name from my resume and replacing it with my American sounding middle name. Yeah it got so bad that I actually considered changing my last name. This is still something i think about when submitting resumes.

Usually I wrap up my rants with an anecdote or some type of tip for all you fellow Dirt readers. But this time I have none. I still struggle with this question, and in 6 months, when I graduate from school, Im going to be faced with that ever-present question...Do I drop my last name from my resume, or not?

Until next time...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Reflection on MBA Student clubs...

MBA student life can be pretty hectic. Midterms, Finals, snarky professors who assign tons of homework, campus politics, administration, caffeine withdrawals, registering for classes...not to mention you might actually have a life outside of class, like a husband/wife, kids. Lets just B-school life can be incredibly draining at times.

However, One often overlooked aspect of an MBA program is the on-campus clubs that are open to Graduate students. The point of these clubs is to not only get you networked (code for actually socializing OUTSIDE of Facebook),  but to help you build a sense of camaraderie among your fellow MBA students (you know, when you guys aren't trying to screw each other over by setting the curve for the finance midterm). This is essential for making the most out of your MBA program, and i encourage anyone applying to schools to also check out what student clubs your MBA program offer.

I know what some of you might be thinking, "But clubs take a lot of time", which, frankly, a lot of you don't have extra of. You know what, joining a student club does require a commitment, but let me help you understand something about the business world, which has proven true to me time and time again in my professional career.

It is not what you know, it is who you know.

Dont believe me? Ok, fine, Pop quiz time...

Im the CFO of a company and im looking at two similiar candidates for one job opening, who do you think im going to pick

A) The guy with the 4.0 GPA with an MBA from University X 

B) the Guy with a 3.8 GPA from University Y who ive met before and built some rapport with.

OK, ill wait for your answer
*insert Jeopardy theme*

If you chose A, and most people would, You seriously need to reconsider your answer and your perceptions of the job market out there, especially now. Im not saying you shouldn't study, because you should definitely aim to get a high GPA in your MBA program. But, unless your going to an Ivy league institution with a serious brand tied to it (i.e. Harvard, MIT, Stanford or Berkeley), then your going to have to do some serious hustling to get a job. Because a lot of people entered graduate programs because of the Great Recession, there's going to be a flood of MBAs in the next couple of years, and you need to differentiate yourself from the pack.

How do you do this? Networking. And whats the easiest way to network when your in an MBA program? Are lightbulbs going off yet? Am I making a case for joining graduate student business clubs? Still dont believe me? Google "Best way to get a job" and Networking will be at the top of every list. Go ahead do it, you might be surprised.

So go out there! Get involved! Pull your head out of that Finance textbook and go meet some people. At the very least, its a good excuse to go grab some beers with other MBA's. Until next time...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Studying Abroad...An Update

So I have officially returned from my MBA study abroad program in Germany for the summer, and all I can say exhausted!
Countless people have approached me, asking the ubiquitous question, "So, how was it? How was Germany?", and I try my best to  cram a month full of experiences in a couple of interesting sounding, coherently structured sentences before I inevitably lose said persons attention, which we both know, is inevitable in this fast paced, "hurry up and get to the point" culture.

So how was it? You want my honest answer in a no-nonsense, straight to the point style? Fine...two words...F&%$'ing Awesome. Excuse my French...I mean German (?)

Never before have I learned so much yet managed to party so hard in my life. Funny though, when I tell people that I actually learned something abroad, I get a sort of skeptical half-sneer, as if they're saying "Yeah, right!". But to be honest, the program I enrolled in actually did require me to attend class and crack open a book once in a while. So what was the daily Itinerary like?

Here is a daily breakdown for you guys curious in enrolling in a MBA study abroad program. Now be forewarned, if your without any sense of humor (or an Accounting major), then you might find this description a bit crude and offensive. But hopefully, some of you readers are used to this by now.

8am - wake up, with inevitable hangover from night before after swearing to your classmates that "I cant go out tonight guys, I have class/a paper/ major surgery tomorrow". Possibly puke and rally. Think about rushing downstairs to make the free breakfast offered by hotel or university.

8:30am -You suddenly realize that you actually didn't wake up at 8am, you just hit snooze on your alarm until 8:30am. Class is at 9. You have time to do only 2 out of the 3 following  1) take a shower 2) change clothes or 3) get breakfast. Choose wisely.

9am - Finance/Economics class. Still hurting from last night, you pray for a teacher who understands that its an abroad program, and your still young and want to party a bit, and you may not be in top-form for a 9am econ class that focuses on European Central Banking Theory. You cry when you realize that your teacher is an ex-minister of finance for the European Central Banking Committee and he secretly loathes students because they think they can show up to his 9am class hungover. Also, your professor thinks that you remind him of a bully that used to pick on him in 4th grade. Awesome.

10:30am - the room stops spinning.

1pm - Your free! Your free! Class is over! Haha, just kidding, now you have a half hour to eat before going to your 3 hour long German class! You silently weep while stuffing a hot dog in your face so that you can get back to campus on time (or at least you think its a hot-dog, because, alas, everything on the menu is written in German. Which you don't speak. Yet.). Find out from fellow classmates what you did last night when you went out. Because you blacked out at 9pm, you reply casually that "No, i don't remember dancing on top of the bar/punching that midget/inhaling a bottle of Jagermeister last night."

1:30pm - Your stomach is telling you that you your lunch was definitely NOT a hot dog. And your German teacher is cold-calling you on how to conjugate a verb in German. Bonus: Its an irregular verb.

4pm - Your out of class and your hangover is gone. Time to sleep right? Wrong! Its time to go out! Dont want to go out? Then prepare to be left out of everyone's social calendars for the rest of the month there, because you will be officially labeled as lame (and rightly so!) Hello your studying ABROAD, your expected to party a little! Try to pull the "I cant go out tonight guys, i have class" line, and it will surely be met by cold stares or someone calling you a "Loser!", possibly followed up by a wedgie.

6pm - 3:30am - Drink copious amounts of cheap beer, cheap shots, and protein laden Jager-schnitzels. Bond with your classmates. Hear outrageous stories about "back home" from your fellow classmates. Get in hijinks with fellow classmates. Get kicked out of bars with fellow classmates. Most importantly, have lots of laughs with fellow classmates.

3:30am - 4am - Subways have stopped running. Find out how to get back home. Mix the 3 words you learned in German class with broken up English to try to talk to locals to find out how to get back to your hotel. Watch as the locals take pity on you, the drunk American, and try to give you directions using a series of hand gestures you don't understand. Confusion ensues.

4:15am - Somehow you get home. You Pass out.

Rinse, lather, repeat for 30 days, and this schedule becomes incredibly exhausting. Yes I learned a lot from class, but honestly I learned more outside of the classroom. What do students from China think about the world economy? What do people who were born in countries whose entire economies depend on oil think about the environmental movement in the US? Can I haggle the price of those Beer steins down from 30 euros to 25 euros? Can I manage to navigate a subway system in a completely foreign language? Can I hang out with person Y without offending Person Z, who happens to hate person Y?

Some of these accomplishments sounds trivial, but its overcoming these obstacles and learning from these experiences that not only make you a better person, but a more experienced and capable manager in the future. It sounds weird, but by going to a completely different country with people from other different countries,sucking up any shyness and just putting your best foot forward to reach out to these people, sharing your culture, learning how people from different backgrounds and other cultures react and think, negotiating with the locals, learning how to navigate in a strange city all by grow from these things. And to be honest, overcoming all these obstacles has really made me a much more confident person, which is key in management...learning to lead with confidence.

The hardest thing of the whole trip? Saying goodbye to 40 people who over the course of a month I had become really good, close friends with. These were all people I had ate, drank, told stories with, and frankly, had bonded with. And in the snap of a finger I had to say goodbye to them. That was the hardest thing to deal with, but I at the end of the day, I cant thank these people enough. People who had come from Africa, Australia, China, Europe, all parts of America, all people who really were just so open about sharing their culture, sharing their lives, that I feel truly blessed, that, even if in a small way, I was a part of that.

Now, after reading that, how the hell could I even tell all of this to someone in a couple of sentences, without leaving so much out. I couldn't. So when im asked what do I say? What can i say?

I had lots of fun. And Ill miss it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Reading for MBAs!

Hey everyone! Hope summer is going well. Summer ...a great time for some of you who are enrolling in a MBA program to catch up on whats going on in the business world and get a head start on other students headed into school (or at the very least, look intelligent when your tanning on the beach). Here is some business (and non-business) material I highly reccomend...

Bloomberg Businessweek - I was skeptical when Bloomberg bought Businessweek, but as it turns out, I absolutely love their new (and improved!) format. Great for catching up on current events if you find a little too overwhelming at times (really CNBC, you guys have WAY too much going on in your front page). A subscription is around $50 bucks a year, and totally worth it.

The Quants - This book is great if you want a background to the  industry of finance  and the PhD math geeks who were behind all the hedge funds behind the financial crisis, but do yourself a favor and borrow it rather than buy it (or buy it used). Not worth the $25, but an interesting read, no doubt.

Art of the Start - Essential for anyone starting anything. Its a no BS, straightforward guide to starting a company (or really anything) without any "fluff". Guy Kawasaki (the author) is one of the guys who was responsible for making Apple's users so evangelical.

GQ Magazine - Every man should have a subscription to this magazine. End of story. Not only has great articles, but teaches you how to dress, which, believe it or not, is important not only in school but in life.

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber - I'm only halfway through this book, but its great if you need something to take your mind of business, and is one of the most genuinely entertaining books ive read in a while. About a Translavnian Hockey Goalie who becomes a Bank Robber.Yeah. Oh, its also based on a true story.

How to Win Friends and Influence People - This book is over 70 years old, but still an amazing book. If your bad at people skills, pick it up and read through it. Twice.

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand is one of the most influential philosophers of the century, if not all time. She basically influenced laissez-faire economic policy in America from the 1950's until today. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book, or at least wikipedia her!

Other Books I Like: Anything Anthony Bourdain, God Hates Us All, Downtown Owl, Any Harvard Business Review Book

Allright, well hopefully I helped some of you find something interesting to read for the summer. Or at least I helped you kill 5 minutes of your day by reading this post...

Until next time...