Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Halfway Point

It's official - this last day in February marks our halfway point of the MBA program. We are six months in, with six months left to go. Usually, it's times like these where I'd reflect and think, "Wow! Time has flown!" or "It feels like so much longer than that." But in actuality, it feels pretty accurate this time. At this point, I am just looking forward to having March Break, which will be the first time in six months that my mind will be free from school!

As for this year-long program, I just caught an article about one-year MBAs. As the article mentions, one year programs are becoming more prevalent. Personally, my decision to attend HEC Montreal over York University (Schulich) was somewhat made due to the quicker pace of the program. At the time I was making my decision, I was concerned about what employers would think. One alumnus of HEC Montreal assured me that the one-year length had not hindered him during his job search, and in fact, when it was brought up, potential employers thought he had made a smart choice.

I also saw in the news this morning that Canada will have its first Real Housewives. Hopefully, this cast of Vancouver women won't destroy Canada's reputation too badly. Can't we have better female Canadian role models on TV?

Tomorrow, our Littlefield Technologies simulation analysis is due. In the end, my team finished in fourth place. For this particular simulation, it was almost a good thing to make mistakes because we had material to elaborate on for the report.

For anyone who might be interested, I saw that there is an MBA Challenge Video Contest for MBA students and graduates who are changing the world. MBA students are always involved in projects that help to make the world a better place. Here's an opportunity to show the world what you've got!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rising to the Challenge

Today I read three big career mistakes that 20-somethings make. I feel fortunate to be considered as someone who seeks personal fulfillment and tries to be innovative. My generation is doing something right!

On that note, I hope that Genevieve Grandbois appreciates the time and effort that I put into my team's PowerPoint presentation. My creativity was inspired by the below screen capture I grabbed from her website.

It feels good to focus on this HEC Challenge assignment, rather than simply continuing my finals studying. There is only so much reordering point, net present value, and covariance calculations I can take. Sadly, I will probably have to revisit this material this evening, as I keep fearing that I will forget it all before this weekend's final exams.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Top Rank

There is some very good news from another recent business school ranking. HEC Montreal has been ranked 30th in the North America MBA rankings according to the 2012 QS Global Business School Report. The full list of the top 200 schools in North America can be found here.

I often think about the difference between my BA and my MBA programs. The MBA is generally positively valued and people consider it to be a very worthwhile degree. It contributes to growth in both "hard" skills and "soft" skills. On the other hand, people typically do not have the same view of a BA since it's mainly focused on "soft" skills. I have to say, though, I value both equally. At the very least, my BA has provided me with great fodder for dinner party conversation, but in all seriousness, it has given me analytical and communication tools, while providing me with a different perspective.

Today, I was a student tour guide for prospective HEC Montreal MBA students. I am definitely enjoying these experiences that provide me with insight into my potential future career in university relations and administration.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Now Presenting

HEC Montreal has been featured in an international ranking by Expansion, and it was the only school in Quebec to do so (not to mention only one of two in Canada). It is not surprising that HEC Montreal has been recognized by this Mexican publication, since we have many Latin American students, and the undergraduate program at our school offers a trilingual option - Spanish, French, and English courses.

Below is a picture from yesterday's Q&A section of our HR debate about banning social media. I think it went well, since we did a good job of engaging our classmates and presenting strong points.

Although we don't usually have class on Friday, today was an exception. We had read a case for Strategy about Ohlson Pumps Canada and the general manager at the heart of the case named Sylvain Levesque (who is an HEC Montreal MBA alumnus) was a guest speaker today, to discuss the case. All three full-time MBA classes joined together as part of the presentation. Here's a photo.

Since the Strategy class, I've been working and studying tirelessly. I was preparing the PowerPoint file for Tuesday's HEC Challenge presentation to our client Chocolats Genevieve Grandbois. Mostly, though, I've been studying for Finance with my very patient classmates. This weekend will be my last time studying for finals and I could not be happier!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Doing the Math

Here's a photo from yesterday's MEEX4 event. It's Reagan (my classmate) and me on the right with our new HEC Montreal friends.

This morning, as I tried to concentrate during my Finance class, I couldn't help but think about something strange. In high school, I was always stronger in my Math and Science classes, not English. On standardized tests, I consistently perform better on the Math sections rather than the Verbal sections. Isn't it odd that now, in my MBA program, it's the complete opposite? I wonder why that is.

Tonight, I will be finalizing our PowerPoint slides for tomorrow's HR debate. Today's practice with the debating team went well, and I hope the presentation goes smoothly tomorrow. It would certainly be a nice start to the long weekend of studying for finals!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


In Montreal, there is never a shortage of the number of events you can attend. Tonight, I went to a networking event called MEEX4, where I heard guest speaker Eric Sicotte give a presentation about 25 golden rules for business. I have to admit that, in my limited attempt to "network," I happened to introduce myself to two other HEC Montreal students, however I am happy that I heard about Sicotte's inspiring experiences in starting his own businesses. He really introduced some great innovative ideas in his businesses and his passion for his start-ups are infectious. He would be a terrific guest speaker for one of our Marketing or Entrepreneurial classes.

Things are really winding down in classes as we get closer and closer to final exams. Today, I handed in my second Strategy assignment, which means that only the final remains. Also, I sat with my one of my original teammates who was gracious to offer his time to explain Operations to me. I now have a strong basis to begin my studies in that subject. I'm looking forward to having our debate in Thursday's HR class, so we can wrap up that class, too. Only 12 days left in the semester!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Walking Woman

I was inspired by the above video to go on walks, both yesterday and today. Regardless of the fact that I have more readings and work than I can already do in the limited 24-hour days, my physical and mental health are extremely important to me. Although most of the snow and ice has melted outside, it's still freezing, unfortunately. However, it feels good to take breaks from schoolwork to get outside and breathe some fresh air.

Perhaps the cold weather is one of the reasons why Canada tops the list of most-educated countries, with 50 percent of the population holding a postsecondary degree (article here). I guess we all just want to stay warm inside and study, study, study!

This weekend, I accomplished what I had set out to do. I wrote my individual HR paper and Strategy assignment, read for HR, and prepared for our upcoming HR debate. Now that those things are taken care of, I will soon be starting on my exam studies, since finals will begin in only 11 days!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Montreal Rocks

Every time I finish something, it feels like a cause for celebration. I just completed my individual assignment for HR which is due on Thursday and I feel quite victorious. One thing down, a billion more to go.

The good news is that I live in Montreal, one of the best cities in the world! This time I'm not just saying it; it has been ranked as the #10 best student city in the world this year (and the top one in Canada)! You can see the top 25 here.

Because of my class's consulting assignment with the chocolate factory, I was particularly interested in the recent news that Mars, one of the big three candy manufacturers, will stop selling chocolates with more than 250 calories by the end of 2013. Somewhere Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak, is crying.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Littlefield Simulation

This morning, my team met at school to plan our strategy for the Littlefield Technologies simulation. For our Operations class, we will be running this simulation, from 1 PM today until 1 PM next Friday. Sadly, my team is currently ranked in last place (number 7 out of 7 teams, with one being a placebo "do nothing" team), but hopefully we will be able to rectify the situation and come out on top by the end of the week.

Tonight, I will be dining at Laurier BBQ for a friend's birthday. It's purely coincidental that I'll be going there after Gordon Ramsay's absence from his reinvented Montreal venture has brought the establishment some press recently.

As for my plans this weekend, I will be working on our Lululemon case for Strategy, an HR paper about the banning of social media, and our final report on Chocolats Genevieve Grandbois for the HEC Montreal Challenge. On a side note, we did finally get all the grades for our P3 classes, with the exception of Globalization. We are all waiting with bated breath for our grades to be released this weekend.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Electronic Arts

This afternoon, a small group of HEC Montreal MBA and M.Sc. students had a chance to visit the Electronic Arts (EA) Montreal offices. We had a guided tour, followed by a Q&A with five employees. It was inspiring to see employees who were so passionate about what they do and the company they work for. I had already submitted applications for two positions at EA (one in LA and the other in Montreal), but now that I've learnt that they also have University Relations positions available, I am hoping to be considered for those, too. I would love to be able to work for EA! I have to say that this was by far the best event that the Career Management Services (CMS) has organized yet.

Lately, everything has been really hectic in the MBA program. Now that we are in Week 4, our schedules are busier than usual, as we approach final assignments and exams. But on top of that, we're also in the midst of planning for P8's Supervised Consulting Project and P7's Campus Abroad, while still balancing our other demands, such as our job search, AEMBA duties, and other extra-curriculars. Lack of sleep and my impending cold aren't helping either. I'm hoping that the end of P4 and March Break will bring me rejuvenation - I'll need it for my business proposal competition!

The good news is that the Finance quiz is behind me and the weekend is quickly approaching. I just have to make it through Operations (our assignment is due tomorrow - yikes!) and HR, where my classmates will be debating whether women have themselves to blame for not making it into top management. Coincidentally, there was a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article on Monday about this exact issue.

As I will be taking the Being a CEO course in P5, I found this news particularly interesting:  CEOs spend most of their time in meetings, and the time they spend in the firm helps the company's performance. According to the article, "time devoted to activities that mostly benefit the firm is more strongly correlated with productivity than time devoted to activities that mostly yield private benefits." P5 cannot come soon enough!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Goal

Long day! This morning, my CSR case competition team met up with our coach to debrief on our  competition, which was strangely only a few weeks ago. We were able to provide him with recommendations for next year's team and provide some insight from our experience.

At noon, my P8 Supervised Consulting Project team met with the field project coordinator. Hopefully, my team will be able to get a project that suits our interests. Since it is better to seek our own projects, rather than wait for the coordinator's project proposals, I am going to start contacting the people in my network who might be able to help us with this assignment. I will probably begin with my contacts at the National Film Board (NFB) and Ubisoft.

In the afternoon, I had a chance to have a phone chat with a friend's contact at UCLA, to speak about my interest in administrative positions at UCLA that have an international component. If all goes well with that contact, I will be able to expand my network within the UCLA community.

Somehow I also managed to fit into the day a brief meeting with the Corporate Finance II TA (for Wednesday's quiz) and a significant amount of reading from The Goal for Operations. My goal is to finish the book soon, so I can move on to another school subject!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chocolate Dreams

Last night I had a nightmare that I was about to take one of our open book, open computer final exams but my backpack was gone and I had nothing to go into the exam with. Fortunately, I woke up before full panic attack mode set in.

Happily, I completely forgot about my nightmare once I dove into my delicious brunch at Le Cartet this morning. Interestingly, they sold chocolates from Chocolats Genevieve Grandbois (the company our HEC Montreal Challenge consulting project is for) and Weiss chocolate! I should probably mention that Le Cartet had one of the best brunches I've ever eaten in this city. Speaking of morning meals, I recently read that dessert for breakfast can help you lose weight. This seems like a cruel joke, especially to someone who will soon be heading into a high-stress exam period.

It's hard to find a fine balance between managing schoolwork and taking the necessary steps for my post-MBA career. Today I took a break from school to apply to a job at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Job applications are so time-consuming! I just hope that spending time during the MBA program to apply for jobs isn't for naught.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

To Russia with Love

Even though the weekend has only just begun, it's already been fun-filled! On Thursday night, we had a 5@7 at school (photos above), then a mixer with other Montreal MBA students at Newtown. It was great to see some new faces and hear about the different MBA experiences at McGill and Concordia.

Then, yesterday, I found out that I was accepted for the Russia Campus Abroad program with a $1500 Global Citizen Scholarship! I've already found a roommate for the trip and now I just have to work on booking my flights. The Campus Abroad in P7 is going to be an amazing experience!

In terms of schoolwork, this semester we have to read The Goal for our Operations class and I am slowly but surely making my way through this 300+ page book. It's really hard to focus, though, as I'm busy thinking about Russia, the end of P4 (22 days away, but who's counting?), March Break plans, and likely competing in a business proposal competition. At least I can't say that my life is boring.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Outside Involvement

Now I know why at least one of our professors has not yet released our grades. Our Globalization professor Martin Coiteux has been busy with a research study that shows that Quebec could soon be the poorest Canadian province - in only 10 years. Labor productivity, which seems to be the culprit in this study, was what we studied in Week 1 of our Globalization course. More information about the study can be found here.

We are slowly making our way through P4. At least we don't have any final exams in the month of February. We have one Corporate Finance II quiz next week, but fortunately, it's only worth 10%.

In other news, today I spoke with Julie Ricard, Business Development Manager at Concordia University's John Molson School of Business (JMSB), regarding joining the Association des MBA du Qu├ębec (AMBAQ). I have not yet committed to it, but I am pretty sure that I will accept the offer to become a volunteer with the organization. It is a great opportunity to network, get involved, and break into the wider academic community here. Before I get back to Julie, I will speak with others at school to see if anyone else might be interested in getting involved, too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chaos Theory

This is a really hard time of year to trudge through the MBA program. I think everyone is in need of sunlight, sanity, and an escape from the core courses. It doesn't help that we're already into our third week of P4 and yet we only have two final letter grades from P3. Usually our professors are much quicker to update our final grades.

My group has an HR assignment that's due on Thursday, but we've only barely started. Actually, the way that my team works is quite amazing. We seem to do things in pure chaos, but somehow in the end produce successful results. It's a style I'm not quite used to, but for P4 I have decided to go with the flow. Anyway, our HR team assignment demands that we compare the HR strategies of Zappos and Novo Nordisk. It was quite timely that I caught this article about creating brand evangelists through social media, and of course, Zappos is heralded as an ideal.

There are some companies/names that always come up in the MBA program:  Apple, Amazon, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, etc. However, I was caught off guard when our Strategy professor noted the film Pink Ribbons, Inc. today! A National Film Board (NFB) movie being mentioned in an MBA class. Wow! I was temporarily reminded of the good old days studying Cultural Studies at McGill.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pretty in Pink

I love documentaries. This morning, I went to see a fantastic documentary called Pink Ribbons, Inc., which exposes the truths behind the pink ribbon breast cancer campaigns. I should also mention that I had previously worked with one of the writers Nancy Guerin back when I interned for the children's television show Mystery Hunters. From a business perspective, the film did a great job of showing the effects of capitalism, globalization, CSR, and bottom line demands.

When it comes to having a global perspective, The Globe and Mail reported that university leaders want more Canadians to study abroad. In about six days, I should find out if I've been accepted for the Russia Campus Abroad program for P7. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I am happy to report that my team has been accepted for the P8 Supervised Consulting Field Project. Even though the project isn't until July, the deadline to have our teams accepted is February 17, so I'm glad that we were able to comply with the criteria (two Canadian citizens and two non-Canadians, multicultural, and diversified academic and professional backgrounds) and be in agreement regarding the type of project we'd like to work on (Marketing). Too bad we're not quite at P8 yet!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Weak Week

What a week! This was my first full week of P4 classes, and WOW, it was seriously brutal. During the majority of my Operations class, I tried to figure out who my professor reminded me of. I finally figured it out:  William H. Macy.

Thankfully, I already have plans throughout the rest of the semester so I should be preoccupied with other activities besides school. I had previously thought that the HEC Montreal Challenge with the chocolate factory would save me this semester, but even that is turning out to be a disappointment. Four weeks left to go!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Case Competition

The bad thing about writing a blog is that, during times when I have the most to post, I have no time to actually update! Since I last posted, I have done the following:  completed my P3 final exams, celebrated with a bottle of Moet, received the case for my Rotman CSR case competition, trained for the competition, went to Toronto to compete, and started my P4 classes.

To elaborate on the competition, we received our case (The Clorox Company) on Monday the 23rd and immediately met at school to read the case and start brainstorming as a team. The entire week last week, we spent nearly every waking moment practicing, being coached, reforming our recommendations, etc. On Saturday, we presented our case at the University of Toronto (Rotman), but sadly, we did not make it to the finals. Since the winning team was competing against us in the first round, they were obviously so strong that we were knocked out from the beginning. We did, however, receive great feedback from the judges regarding our presentation; they simply did not buy our recommendations.

While in Toronto, I had the opportunity to meet up with my friend Aimee who watched the finalists with us. Then, later in the evening, we had dinner with another HEC Montreal case competition team that was returning from Ivey.

When all the fun and games were over and it was time to return to our new P4 classes, we had a rude awakening - we had to catch up. The bad news is that P4 seems to have the most uninteresting classes yet (HEC Montreal Challenge, Strategic Management II, Corporate Finance II, Operations Management, and Strategic Human Resources Management). The good news is that there are less than five weeks left until the end of the semester.