Friday, September 10, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?...and Lots of Homework???

For all 4 people (my Mom and Stepdad included) who regularly check the B-School Boy Blog for updates, you might have noticed that I'm falling behind on my preseason goal of two entries per week.  I won't say I completely underestimated the amount of time and work necessary for my MBA program, but I may have slightly underestimated my ability to write stimulating blog entries after marathon group homework sessions immediately followed by 5 hours of work at my restuarant.

Over the course of the last week, I participated in some fun activities that were only truly appreciated by those in attendance.  Last Thursday was my first time out for MBA "Mug Club" (Disclaimer: this is not a University sanctioned club!).  This experience entailed 100+ first and second year MBA students treating a downtown Champaign bar to one of the busiest Thursday nights they have seen probably since the last time the Mug Club visited them last schoolyear.  I was having flashbacks to my undergrad years at Kam's (yes I went there, and yes I loved it).  The bar was completely understaffed and the fact that average Joe doesn't easily catch a bartender's attention allowed for a somewhat difficult time ordering a cocktail.  Luckily for me, I former co-worker of mine from my short stint at nearby eating/drinking establishment had recently acquired new employment at the bar.  Honestly, I couldn't remember her name, but luckily that didn't come into play when pleading for her service.  Once that obstacle was overcome, it was back to "networking".  The night took us to another drinking establishment nearby where the networking came to an end.  I would love to give more details of the night, but the B-School Boy finds it more entertaining to leave some things to the imagination for readers to create their own version of the story.  All in all, it was a great experience and I look forward to more Mug Club events throughout Champaign-Urbana.

Two days after Mug Club marked one of my favorite days of the year.  For any die-hard Illini sports fan, the Illinois-Mizzou football and basketball games are can't miss events.  I definitely fall into the category of "die-hard" and unfortunately, that's exactly what our team did this year.  On a side note, the pre-game highlight had to be my buddy Greg's orange and blue Zubaz pants.  Kickoff was 11:30, way too early for college football fans to truly get "pumped up" before kickoff, but nonetheless our group was ready after an hour bus ride and a couple hours of early morning tailgating.  In nearly an instant replay of last year, I managed to break off from my group of friends so I could navigate the mass of people in my smaller more manueverable state in order to make it to my seat for kickoff.  Everyone from our group managed to get settled in alot earlier than last year and we became witness to the greatest half of Illinois football in history!  Ok, so that isn't true at all, but in the heat of the moment that's exactly how you feel.  I was out to sea onboard my ship the year Juice got loose against Ohio State and did complete the greatest upset in Illinois football history so this was my chance to relive that excitement live and in person.  I'd like to give play-by-play of the first half for anyone that didn't see the game, but lets just say the Illini fans might have been more surprised than the Missouri fans by the level of play from our guys during the first 30 minutes.
Fast forward another 30 minutes of gametime and every Illini fan had crash landed back on Earth.  We weren't embarrassed like we have been in some previous years, however we did manage to complete the "arch rivalry" series with a perfect defeated record of 0 wins and 6 losses in games held at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.  After a little research, I did discover that the Illini did get their last win in St. Louis over Missouri just a short while back in 1896!!!  But enough about my bitterness toward another loss to Missouri.

After a full day of enjoying college football it was time to get down to business.  Sunday was our fantasy football league's annual golf outing to determine our draft order.  My teammate Kyle and I were out of the gates fast and finished in second which meant I was entitled to the third pick and he got the fourth.  Golf was followed by Pizza Man (renamed Chandler Brother's Pizzeria but basically its Monical's of south-central Illinois) and the eventual draft of the greatest fantasy team ever assembled.  My team is anchored by MJD and Larry Fitzgerald and thats really all you need to know.  I'll report on my record in the coming weeks.

I feel like I should probably finish up this entry with a little something about my actual MBA experience three weeks in.  I've been able to stay afloat with the help of a great homework group and some long hours in front of this laptop churning out papers and accounting homework.  This week I also met with my awesome Career Services Advisor Amy.  I can already tell Amy will be one of the most valuable if not the most valuable resource I have in the Illinois MBA program.  There's just something reassuring for a guy who really has no idea where he might end up in two years knowing that there is a trained professional in the building who seems to have nothing but great advice/suggestions/ideas for my career development.  I plan to take all her words of wisdom and use them to the best of my ability.  Its safe to say, that if I don't end up with a good job offer when I leave the program, it can be attributed to "operator error".  The College of Business Career fair takes place next Tuesday and Wednesday and this will be my first true test of what I've learned about networking up to this point.  I know I need to do my research ahead of time to pinpoint a handful of companies that interest me and be ready to put my best foot forward with them in hopes of landing an interview or at least a business card for someone who can lead me in that direction.  I can only hope my "STAR" technique is polished enough to make a good impression!

So its Friday evening and I'm actually happy about the fact that I have no plans this evening.  I was on-call at work and wasn't requested to come in, therefore, I'm kind of at a loss for any plans.  However, I do have my drill weekend for the Navy reserves tomorrow and Sunday which requires the unenviable task of waking up at 5:30 AM on a home football game weekend.  I am lucky enough that my work day ends early enough that I can actually make it back to Champaign in time for the game.  I can only imagine how far behind I will be from the rest of the Illinois student population who will have had an entire morning and afternoon to get "pumped up" for the big game.  I guess when duty calls you have to make some sacrifices.  I'll be content with an Illini victory over Southern Illinois University.  If we fall short then my preseason prediction of top 3 teams in the state might in fact be completely wrong.  Let's hope thats not the case!  Thank you again to everyone who takes the time to stop by and read.  Anyone who has any ideas to spice up the blog or maybe just wants a shout out of some kind in an upcoming entry, please feel free to email me.

Ryan (aka Petro for those who may not be familiar)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weekend Coursework...My favorite kind!

The first week of class got off to a fast start.  Five different courses all jammed into 8 weeks definitely tests the time management skills as well as trying to keep track of which assignments/readings are due each day for class.  Did I mention I also have a part-time job and a slight desire to enjoy a little bit of free time during my two years back in school?

So this past weekend I set aside all my newly acquired responsibilities of the intensive MBA courseload in order to concentrate on a different course.  This weekend was the epic disaster/party/golf tournament that is the Litchfield 3-man scramble held at beautiful Litchfield Country Club.  For anyone who reads this blog and has never been to Litchfield Country Club (I hope there is at least one or two people) I would be willing to venture a guess that LCC, as its known to the locals, might be in the running for country club courses..."most in need of some course improvements".  I love it there and have played it probably a few hundred times it seems like so I feel ok making harsh criticisms, however, I did try to word that as nicely as possible.

Back to the golf outing.  Most of my friends and I had been looking forward to this event for quite some time.  The basic idea is this, your team of three shows up Saturday feeling like Tiger or Phil and ready to set course records.  A few adult beverages later, and everyone is more focused on completing the round to get back to the clubhous so we can all talk trash to each other and enjoy more adult beverages.
I had high hopes once again for my golf game and once again was happy to enjoy my Saturday with friends while trying to ignore my superbly mediocre golf game.  I'd like to go ahead and touch on some of the highlights of the tournament.  First, I knew it was going to be a good day when momma cooked the breakfast with no hog.  Oh sorry, got sidetracked.  My buddy Greg had the genius idea of purchasing a few exploding golf balls prior to his arrival.  Exploding golf balls are just one of those things that are funny no matter what...kind of like everything Kenny Powers says.  My best friend Kenny (not Powers) fell victim to the exploding golf ball (he hit it just for grins) as well as a rigged prank on Greg himself.  Either way it was mostly for the old guys watching from the clubhouse who loved every second of it.  In what I can almost guarantee was a first in golf history, my team played the entire first hole with IPOD speakers playing "Gangster's Paradise" by Coolio...on repeat!  This is when I knew I was officially going to have a great time on Saturday.  So if I may fast forward through the next 5 hours, the day came to the enjoyable transition from trying to act like you can play golf to doing something my friends and I do well, finding stupid ways to entertain ourselves.  I will just leave you with this visual from Saturday evening.  The day/night at the golf course came to an end after Greg and I took my golf cart out in the middle of the parking lot and "tested the turning radius" while our buddies tried to throw stuff at us.  Yes, I got hit in the face with a beer can and no I didn't injure myself or my passenger. 

All in all, my Saturday at the Litchfield 3-man scramble lived up to my expectations.  As for Sunday... (yes this is actually a two day event) well, who really has time for playing serious and actually caring about the score??  Sunday might be one of the least enjoyable days of golf following perhaps the most enjoyable.  My round on Sunday was actually cut short ironically by a meeting my MBA study group and I had scheduled for 8 pm last night.  With all that being said, I should be expecting my winners' check sometime later this week and I'll report my prize amount in my next entry. 

Today I picked up my season tickets for U of I football (seamless transition).  The feeling I'm currently experiencing is quite similar to what I described when arriving at the golf tournament Saturday morning.  I have all the confidence in the world that we will beat Missouri this upcoming weekend and carry that momentum to a bowl berth.  A few adult beverages and 4 or 5 Missouri touchdowns later, my expectations will once again be destroyed on Saturday.  I haven't had as much time to keep up on our team's preseason progress as I have in previous seasons, but I did hear our secondary (which honestly made me want to cry at times last year) has incurred numerous injuries causing more than one receiver to switch over to defense to start the year.  Maybe Zook can find some hidden gems at Kam's or Clybourne to fill some of the holes.  If I were him, I'd be ready to resort to just about anything with the seat as hot as it currently is this season.  So, that wraps up my preseason commentary on Illinois football.  My bold preseason prediction is that Illinois will finish in the top 3 by the end of the year....right behind Northwestern for state BCS rankings!  PLEASE PROVE ME WRONG ILLINI!!!!

Thats it for tonight.  Statistics problem sets and Marketing case analysis write ups are calling my name.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Long Days, Short Years...

One of the more insightful comments I heard during MBA orientation week was from a former Illinois MBA student who said "The days will seem long, but your two years in the program will fly by".  It's easy to understand after the nonstop action of MBA orientation week, which was a perfect example of a few long days that have only now allowed me enough free time to sit down and write my second post for the blog.
So what did I learn at orientation week?  I'd say I learned three important things. 
1. The first semester is going to be BUSY! It seemed that the second year MBA students could not stress this point enough. My initial questions were with regard to maintaining my part time serving job and finding enough time for some kind of physical activity in between hours of group work and writing papers. Then I switched into panic mode and realized I might have to make some sacrifices once classes start. My affinity for garbage reality TV and my insatiable appetite for watching sports might have to be scaled back quite a bit. I hope that as long as I can prioritize and utilize my time management skills, my fantasy football team won't have to suffer as well this year!   By the way, if anyone reading this blog has some mind blowing fantasy football draft strategy, please feel free to email me.  If I like what you have to say, I can probably come up with some kind of compensation structure once my team wins the championship.
2.  The second point I took away from orientation week is that there are many decisions that need to be made and in many cases you should have these decisions taken care of yesterday.  We were given numerous pitches about Illinois Business Consulting (IBC) during our first week.  There is no doubt it is a great program that should be utilized by nearly every MBA student.  However, it isn't necessary. Although, I always felt like that last comment was followed by, "You need to go online and apply as soon as you leave today".  I haven't made my decision on IBC yet, which makes me feel like I'm already behind the curve.  I don't know how many of my fellow classmates are in the same position I currently find myself in, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who is undecided on a focused concentration, my internship desires for next summer, the MBA student clubs I'm joining, etc.  I was taking orders and leading sailors for the last five years of my life, which didn't leave me alot of time to think about the details of my future professional career in the civilian world.  I was approached at our evening cruise on Lake Michigan by one of the business career services counselors and the first question was where/what I wanted to do for my summer internship.  I honestly had no idea.  I felt like it was better to simply state that than try to BS some kind of answer faking interest in a specific field.  Yes, I was a finance undergrad, and yes that interests me, but I've also had zero professional experience in the financial industry to know whether its the right choice for me or not as my MBA concentration.  I guess my point in all this is that I want to use my first semester in the MBA program to figure this stuff out!  I don't think we all walk in day one with the answers to these questions.  I know its advantageous to start early, but I know I'll be better off if I actaully wait until I know what peaks my interest in the curriculum before I decide what field I want to direct the next few years of my life toward.
3. The last takeaway I have from this past week is the importance in developing a strong network while navigating my way through the MBA program.  On day one I met classmates from nearly every background.  To name just a few, I met a student straight out of undergrad from just down the interstate, a pharmaceutical company lab testing project manager from New York City, as well as a Samsung employee from South Korea.  The diversity of lessons to be learned are invaluable and there is no doubt we will all learn as much if not more from each other as we will from any of our professors or textbooks.  The typical awkwardness that comes from icebreakers and forced interaction was present at this orientation as much as any other, but this time I felt like it was well worth it!  The relationships we started during "speed dating" as one student described it, will develop into friendships for life.  The experience of "trust falls" during the Allterton Park challenge course will create the foundation for many professional opportunities in our careers.
The Illinois MBA is focused on learning about business but more importantly I think the program is about learning about ourselves and each other.  MBA orientation doesn't necessarily stop at the end of this week.  I truly feel like we will use the entire two years here to orientate ourselves to surviving and succeeding in the challenges ahead....together as friends and classmates. 

And as I stated in my first blog entry, my main goal in writing this blog is to entertain.  If you haven't found anything up to this point to be worth reading, then I'm hoping I can at least go out with a bang.  I was driving to my Saturday morning volunteer project at the Champaign Park District Festival of Arts downtown at 6:00 am when I thought I had just witnessed a new business down the street from my condo.  After I stopped laughing, I actually had to turn my car around, go back and make sure I read the sign right.  Once I realized my eyes had not deceived me, I paused to take the picture below.  I have to be honest, I do feel somewhat guilty for stopping, putting forth the effort to snap a pic with my camera phone, and then driving off without correcting the strategically misplaced "F" on the sign.  I did drive by on my way home from downtown a few hours later to notice that it had been corrected.  I'm just glad I had a reason to laugh after waking up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning!

Friday, August 13, 2010

School: Version 2.0 (A modern twist on a classic program)

I went to the park by my house yesterday morning to play some basketball. As most tax-paying citizens were beginning their work days, I was working on my jumper and thinking about possible ideas for this blog. I couldn't help but think about comparisons between the upcoming journey through Business School and some of my previous endeavors.

It seems that whether I was four years old walking into pre-school, or 27 heading into my first day of the Illinois MBA program, many things are quite similar, only with a more modern twist. Crayons and coloring books are now replaced with Ipads and tablet PCs. Snack time followed by a nap is replaced by Jimmy John's on the run and struggling to stay awake in afternoon lectures. Recess is replaced with afterschool jobs or volunteer projects. The social dynamic shifts from kids in the corner playing with blocks to adults in the back of the room glued to their blackberries. We all want to walk in day one and become best friends with everyone. Playing together nicely leads to rewards from the teacher while demonstrating a keen ability to achieve success through presentations and group projects will soon lead to job offers from leading businesses around the world.  The feelings of nervousness and uncertainty remain constant no matter the age or amount of life experience.

Another thought that had me laughing (while sinking a ridiculous amount of three pointers) was the ironic comparison of my feelings at this point in my life compared to the emotions I experienced prior to my 2008 deployment to Afghanistan to serve as a Naval Officer alongside the U.S. Army in Kabul. I'm not sure exactly what it says about me as a person that I'm probably just as nervous heading into day one of the Illinois MBA as I was flying in a C-130 from Kyrgyzstan into Kabul for ten months. I think the goal in both circumstances remains the same, get the job done and make it out alive!

Heading into our first day of orientation on Monday, the nerves I'm experiencing are no doubt shared by most, if not all, of my classmates. Growing up in a small farm town in South Central Illinois did not afford me an extremely diverse student body as I made it through middle school and high school.  However, I'm now walking into a learning environment that might best be described as the polar opposite situation.  I will represent the exception in the Illinois MBA program. I'm not an international student.  I haven't traveled a vast distance to Urbana-Champaign (my hometown is only a two hour drive down the highway) for my education. My resume is not filled with impressive business credentials from Fortune 500 companies (Is the US Navy a Fortune 500 company?). I'm really just a normal guy from the Midwest who works hard and has a desire to make it in today's business world. This is my chance to show that I have what it takes and to prove I belong in a great B-School program surrounded by great people.

So there you have it folks, B-School Boy Blog entry #1. While I'd like to use this blog as an opportunity to reflect on my personal journey through Business School, I hope that I can spark some interest in my peers and anyone else who might find these entries entertaining. It’s not about me, but more about the chance to inform, entertain, and interact with everyone who wants to read the blog. I wanted to keep this one slightly more tame and straightforward. I fully intend to expand the topics and entertainment value as the blog continues to develop its own identity. The current goal is to post at least two blogs each week. The next entry will cover the awkwardness/awesomeness that is MBA orientation week!

If you have any comments, suggestions, questions, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and read the blog! I hope you found it worth reading and worth a return trip to the site. Best of luck to the Illinois MBA class of 2012! I can’t wait to meet you all on Monday.