Week 6 - Module 3 - Accounting, Microeconomics, Business Decision Modelling, Organizational Behavior, Pitch Workshop,

. Sunday, June 21, 2009

Despite the long title, the last week was quite managable. Either that, or I am getting used to the rigor. :) Well, truth be told, the last week was relatively easy on assignments (only 1 due last week). So, here is the summary of the week that flew by:

Accounting: Being an accountant's son, I know that accountants rank "up there" in the "boring index" (Sorry Dad!). But the Accounting class was nothing short of brilliance! In my opinion, there is only one person who can teach accounting in such a way that the entire class looks forward to the class. And that person is Professor John Moore. Professor Moore handled the Pre MBA class for accounting as well. Day one of accounting was almost a re-run of what happened in the Pre-MBA classes. In my personal opinion, it was a good re-run as it helped me reiterate most of the concepts that were covered in the Pre MBA classes. I would strongly recommend going through the Financial Accounting workbook as it really saves a lot of time and effort in the course. Professor Moore was funny, witty and I never thought Accounting could be this sexy! :)

Organizational Behavior: Organizational Behavior is basically HR. The course was taken by Dr. Shawna O'Grady. Shawna had taken our First week orientation course too. The course has some rather interesting case materials and prereads and I liked skimming through them. (Notice the word 'reading' has been replaced by 'skimming'). The best take away from the course, in my opinion, is having a conclusion statement or a finishing statement after an interview. A finishing statement would be something like "I want you to know that I really enjoyed this interview and ...." Basically, one sentence that sums up your interest in the firm.

Business Decision Modelling: I was (and am) extremely interested in seeing what Business Decision Modelling has to offer. The course is being taken by Dr. Yuri Levin. I have had the opportunity to attend only one session of his course has I was down with a flu on Saturday. So, at this point, I have very minimal input to give. I look forward to working closely with Dr. Levin as I think Business Decision Modelling will be fun.

Microeconomics: No updates from Micro econ as our classes begin on Monday.

Pitch Workshop: We had a 'Pitch Workshop' on Tuesday, conducted by the BCC. Basically the pitch is aimed at answering "I would love to work for XYZ Inc. because...". It was an interesting session in its entirety because 1. I went through the companies I was interested in, and their Org Structure 2. I now know what are my transferrable skills which I can sell to my prospective employers 3. I now realize that there is not much time for the OCR!!!

A typical pitch consists of 3 parts:
1. Intro
2. The organization you want to work for and why (mention the org structure, and the work they do, and how it aligns with your over all goals)
3. What do you bring to the table (based on your prev experience, mention your transferrable skills).

We also had a meet up with some alumni and it was a very interesting interaction. The interaction was being led by Cormac Evans, Associate Director - Corporate Relations and Student Programming. Among the many things I liked about the interaction, one was the ordering of questions by Cormac. Most of us will be approaching a lot of people with respect to job information. One of the main things in networking is asking the right questions about the job, and not just asking ANY question. In that sense, Cormac's questions were spot on, and would have impressed most 'future networks'. Questions like transferrability of skills, work pattern, basic skillsets needed and a whole hoard of others give you that edge over the other 10 people who will be with you, during the networking sessions. I will post those questions up soon. (In case I dont, please remind me).

On a parallel note, the class is going to Ottawa for Canada Day and it promises to be a day full of awesome fun. I hope I have recovered from this darned flu by then!!! :)

Time for some rest!


. Friday, June 19, 2009

As an MBA applicant, I approached a lot of students from different schools for their insight. A few people who are considering Queen's for 2010 have approached me with some questions too. I reckoned, it would be great to have a F.A.Q page, and mark it as a perma-link. As always, this is a link that will be updated regularly.

Admission steps:
1. What is the average GMAT score that Queen's takes?
- While there is no particular GMAT score average that I can think of, a score of above 600 would form the lower limit in most cases. Like most business schools, Queen's looks are the overall profile of the candidate, including the essays, and the resume. The essays and resume play a HUGE role in your application. We have people from 600 to 780 in GMAT in our batch. So, that us quite a range. Aim as high as possible.

2. What are the steps to apply for Queen's?
- I had written a series of steps in one of my earlier entries.

3. Is there anything in particular that I must write in my essay?
- Your essays are your door to the school. Queen's School of Business is extremely detail oriented when it comes to choosing the candidates. I am not joking about this. Some of the things I might consider bringing about is:
* What sets you apart?
* Your strengths in working with teams?
* An honest assessment of who you are?
* Your growth / extra curriculars / differentiators / leadership experience.

4. Is the TOEFL needed for admission?
- I submitted by TOEFL scores. If you seek deferral of scores, please mail the admissions committee with appropriate reasons.

5. How is the interview process?
- The interview is a conversation. We had telephonic interviews for international candidates. If you are in the US / Canada, then they will invite you over to the campus for the interview. This is an advantage, as you can see the campus and talk to the current MBA batch while you are here.

1. What is the cost of living in Kingston?
- In my opinion, this is something that one cannot estimate as it varies from person to person. I am pasting an answer that we got from a student from the batch of 2009, Zach Sonnleitner as this is the most comprehensive answer I have recieved:
1. Rent:
This depends on whether it is furnished vs. unfurnished, if you are sharing laudry/kitchen/bathroom areas. I have heard figures from $450 going up to $800 pre-month for a single. I myself have rented the entire mainfloor of a house, furnished, with private laundry and bathroom for $1125/month. Expensive, but I have a wife who spends a lot of time their while the program keeps me busy. Also, you may (or maynot) want to avoid the "student ghetto". Houses in the ghetto are cheap, but their can be noisy parties from time-to-time. Also, non-ghetto housing tends to be a little nicer. Oh ya, Kingston's student housing is mainly in the form of older victorian style houses (1900s era) that have been convereted to multiple dwelling units. They can be overheated, underheated, dusty, drafty, etc. Sometimes they are perfect, but rarely. Be prepared to love you dwelling for the unique character the accompanies it.

1.1 Furniture:
A lot of the houses turnover at the end of April as undergraduate students who were living together for a few years graduate and move out. They literally leave their old furniture on the front lawns for the garbage truck. A lot of it is in very good condition if you can get it before it rains. If you are hear early, driving around daily for a week or so and picking the best dressers, couches, etc. before it rains on this stuff may be a good way to furnish a suite. Just a thought and a piece of information I wish I had been given.

2. Utilities:
Most rents will cover electricity, heat and water. However, cable television, phone and internet are extra. A lot of my classmates have opted not to get cable TV or internet at home since they simply aren't there enough to make use of them. I signed up with COGECO for full cable, internet and phone (VIOP), for about $100/month. It took about a week to set-up and I was able to do sign-up at a COGECO store in the mall. Again, a lot of people have opted to use a cell phone and skype instead of this solution. Also, the school has wireless internet in a lot of areas as well as the LAN connection for each student at their desks.

3. Electricity and internet charges:
Addressed above. I will also note that most of the coffee shops have internet. Some require you buy time, but a lot have it free.

4. Food Cost:
This all depends on what you eat and how much. If you cook all your meals yourself this can be kept to $200/month per-person. This goes for both domestic and international students (i consulted with my colleague to check this). However, then there is the chance you may want to eat-out or you get so busy you must eat-out. This could easily add another $100 to $200/month per-person, but again it depends on the person. Also, there are the various social outings. Plus there are few nicer resturants you will want to tryout, so budget for at least one really nice meal per month ($60/meal?).

5. Group trips/activities (catagory you missed)
You will want to set aside some cash to go do some of the fun stuff there is to do around Kingston. Within a 6 hours drive you have: New York City, Boston, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Niagra Falls, just to name a few. In addition there are various beaches. Lets not forget: white water-rafting, scuba-diving, sailing, scuba diving, hiking, downhill skiing, crosscountry skiing, hockey, etc. All of these activities will require some additional funds. Our class did a lot of this stuff and it made our experience that much better!

6. Socializing (catagory you missed)
Not everyone drinks alcohol, but it is important that everyone comes out and socialized. Networking is VERY important both within the program, outside of the program and after the program. Get good at this, fast. That being said beer is going from $5-8/pint or $15-22/jug depending on what you like and where you are. If a person was a really big party animal this could also easily add another $200/month. Even if you aren't, I would recommend you guys try to arrange pot-luck gatherings and keg parties at classmates houses. This keeps the cost down and allows you to socialize. In addition you get to try a lot of interesting new foods.

7. Clothing
Just a reminder that you are expected to show up with a suit or equivalent business dress attire. There are a few nicer places in Kingston, but a lot of people ended up going to Toronto for a new suit before interview season. Also, your class will want to get some "Queen's MBA 2010" swag printed up. This isn't as cheap as you would think.

8. Potential international travel
You may go on exchange. You may have a friend who goes on exchange and you go and bunk with them for a week while traveling the country. Just keep this option open."

From what I have noticed, if you are staying outside campus, an average expense of CAD 1000 is a fair estimate.

2. How far is downtown from the school?
- The downtown is approx 20 minutes walk from the school. Most students live at a 15 minute walk to school and 15 minute walk to downtown.

3. Restaurants?
- There are MANY restaurants in Kingston. Infact, I heard that this city has the max per capita restaurants. There are 3 Indian restaurants, many Chinese, Thai and Cambodian restaurants in addition to the zillions ofEuropean ones. Many places where you get pizzas and there are a lot of pubs on Princess Street.

4. How far is the nearest Walmart / Loblaw / marts where you get discounted merchandise?
- Loblaw / Walmart are about 15 minutes drive, on the end opposite to Downtown. There is a Foodbasic where you can do food groceries, which is in downtown.

5. If they are so far, how do students get stuff for their use?
- Most students walk down Princess and get their daily items. Some students normally take a bus to Walmart / Loblaws during the weekend, and then rent a cab to come back home. This helps in getting shopping done for relatively lesser price, and since you are sharing the cab ride, it is quite inexpensive. Most of the Food shopping is done in Food basics though.

P.S. This post is incomplete, and I am publishing this for now. I shall work on this FAQ, based on input from the readers, my peers and other feedback.


Module 2 - Statistics, Economics, Kingston Venture, Career Support, Personal Coaching, Exams, Elections, Clubs

. Sunday, June 14, 2009

The title pretty much sums it up. I have not updated my blog last couple of week, and have been feeling rather guilty about that. Anyway, I reckoned, it would be better if I wrote a summary of the entire module in this blog.

Module 2 consisted of Statistics and Economics.

Statistics: The course was taken by Professor Jeff McGill. As someone with very minimal statistics background, I was continuously 'catching up' with the class and at no point seemed to be 'in charge' of the course. In a one year program, it really helps to be ready for the course, rather than wait for the class to be taught, and then we follow up. This, in my personal opinion, is even more relevant with Queen's as the coursework, prereads and the assignments can be daunting at most times. My senior batches have told me that the worst is yet to come, but if this module was anything to go by, then I really have to learn how to stay ahead of the game.

The course overall was extremely useful. As I was telling Professor McGill one day, I have a new found respect for MS Excel. The thing with this course is, it helps you predict the future. :) Given the sample data, how does the consumer behaviour look in the future? That is one of the key roles of a Manager, and this course lays the foundations for that. We covered a lot of topics in this course, some of which being binomial and normal distributions, regression analysis etc. I particularly enjoyed regression analysis as Excel would do the number crunching, and we had to mainly come up with interpretations of the crunched numbers.

The course work was divided into 2 team assignments and 2 quizzes, each of 250 marks and contributing to 25% of our grades. The assignments were challenging and gave us a firm understanding of the concepts. My personal opinion is, if you find a subject difficult, and you realize that you might need an understanding for your career, become the lead for the assignment. I did not do too well in the first quiz but am very happy with my performance in the second quiz.

Overall, I think this was an important course, and I look forward to Business Decision Modelling, a course which I am excited about.

Global Environment of Business / Economics: The next course in this module was Economics, and was taken by Professor John McHale. I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Interesting would maybe be an understatement. I have been trying to keep myself updated with the global economic scenario for about over a year now, and I could see the impact of the same in class, as I was consistently able to contribute and grasp concepts fairly quickly. The micro economics part of the course can be quite challenging, but the macro economics portion of the course is quite easy.

My only 'complaint' (for lack of a better word) with this course is that I expected a lot more of comparison with the Asian economies. Economies like India have remained relatively insulated from the slowdown (*relatively*). While most business schools and economists acknowledge the possible handover of economic power to Asia over the next few decades, the course would be richer, if we understood what policies do these countries have, that insulated (*relatively*) them from the impact of the US slowdown.

That said, with 3 weeks in the module, it is indeed difficult to have a comprehensive course. A challenge that most 2 year programs might not face. In my opinion, if you want to contribute well to the class, blogs like the baseline scenario, Krugman's column etc really help.

The course consisted of a team assignment (25%), a presentation (25%) and and a test (50%). While each of these were time consuming and challenging, I would not call them as impossible. But when compounded with stats assignments, the prereads, and post reads, the cocktail can be quite heady. A word of note about the text books. The books for Econ was simple, lucid and extremely well written. For a novice like me, this book was fantastic. I wouldnt share the same passion for the Stats text though. :)

Kingston Ventures Tour: This was an extremely interesting one day visit where we visited 3 companies during the day. These are startups based out of Kingston. We visited a Biotech Firm, a firm that deals with boats (mainly fireboats) and finally a manufacturing firm started by a Queen's Alums. It was really nice spending time with these entrepreneurs and listening to their story. A common thread that bound them together is the sense of accomplishment and that glint of pride as they describe their journey. While I have never considered entrepreneurship as a Post MBA career, the day with these people gave me an insight that I never had. Entrepreneurship is tough, and to meet these people was humbling. In the evening, we had to present an elevator pitch about one of the 3 companies that we visited. It was particularly exciting as the CEO's of these companies were present as we presented the pitch. I gave the pitch on my teams behalf and it felt so good to stand in the podium. Home sweet home! :) While my pitch was not great, I was pretty happy with the experience. Some of the teams had some great pitches and the team that won had a fantastic pitch. It was my favourite pitch of the lot.

Career Support: We had our first few career support sessions in this module. We had a half a day sessions with some of our seniors from the batch of 2010 and a couple of wine and cheese parties where we met up with some other alumni. We also spent anothe 1/2 day session of resume writing. We submitted our editted resume and had a 1-1 meeting with our career counsellers. For the uninitiated, the career cell in Queen's is called the Business Career Centre (BCC). The two counsellors that we interact with are Julia Blackstock and Joanne Thompson. Julia is currently handling all the Finance and non Consulting resumes while Joanne is handling all the consulting resumes. I was reasonably happy with my first session with the BCC, but then the next few weeks will be important in understanding how the BCC operates. I shall write a separate post on the functioning of the BCC.

Personal Coaches: Queen's also offers its students, the support of a personal coach. Faculty provide the academic support needed for the students, while the BCC is supposed to take care of the career support, your teams will be helped out by your team facilitator. But an MBA is about smoothening those rough behavioural edges as well, and thats were personal coaches play a role. For example, I believe I need help with a couple of behavioural aspects of my personality. Sometimes it is possible to not know what help you need. A personal coach will talk to you, give you tips on overcoming those behavioural challenges. They are scheduled to meet you for 6 hours over the year (8 sessions of 45 minutes each). There is an array of personal coaches, each accomplished in this field. We can go through their profile and mail any one and ask them to be our coach. First, a telephonic call is scheduled, where you and your coach can talk. You can voice out your expectations, and in the process analyse if he/she is the right fit for you as a coach. I had my first face-2-face meet with my coach this weekend and was generally happy with the way it went. Have another scheduled this weekend.

Elections: We had our student body elections for this year. The election committee did a brilliant job at conducting these elections. Our student president is Jameel Lalji, Vice president for Internal Relations is Danilo Martins, VP Student Affairs is Matt Hooper and VP Finance is Geoff Lau. BTW, the VP Finance is in our team, so we are hoping to reap the fruits of having a exec member! ;-)

Clubs: The various clubs have started mushrooming in the last couple of weeks. Everyone is a member of atleast one club. We are having quite a few clubs this year. Most of these clubs have their elections this week. Below is *some* of the clubs for this year:
- Consulting Club
- Finance Club
- Marketing Club
- New Ventures Club
- CSR Club
- Women in Leadership Club
- NetImpact club (Need to confirm this)
- Toast Masters Club
- Biopharma club
And a few others...

Once the elections are done, I shall list the presidents for these clubs too.

That pretty much rounds up this week. Heavy module (5 weeks, 4 subjects) ahead. Time to catch some sleep that I will be missing for the next 5 weeks. :)