Updates All Over

More than 2 weeks have passed since my last post, and I want to apologize for that. We only have 3 more weeks of classes before the finals, and I have been trying really hard not to fall behind; inevitably (and regrettably) the blog took a back seat. I have so much to tell you though!

First of all, Passport Day! Mike and Ashrae have already written about it, but I can’t not mention it, because as part of the Stern Student Government International Committee, I was actually in charge of organizing the event. The two weeks after spring break and leading up to Passport Day were a little crazy for the committee: trying to help out volunteer country representatives with their responsibilities, and promptly answering their questions; marketing the event to make sure all the MBA students could be a part of it; figuring out the timeline for the performances; deciding on the voting system for the “Best Country” competition; setting up the tent in Gould Plaza… There was a lot going on behind the scenes, and it’s never easy to pull off events such as this one, but it’s really worth it when it all goes smoothly (which it did). We finally had the opportunity to relax during beer blast (it was right after Passport Day), and it was the happiest I’ve felt in a while: we had so many of our friends come and thank us for organizing it, telling us they had a lot of fun, and that was the whole point anyway. That sense of accomplishment and contentment is incomparable. Of course none of it would have been possible without the country representatives who volunteered their time to participate in the event, but they were happier than everyone else, and I was so grateful, relieved, and proud.

Next up: my Stern Consulting Corps project for the National Board of Review. We are almost done with our project; in fact, we just sent off our slides to our mentor today, to get his approval, and we will be having a preliminary presentation with our client on Friday. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m really excited to hear what they think of our analyses and recommendations. Hopefully, they will be impressed, and they will want to implement our plan.

Third: office visits to Fab and Etsy through the Stern Entrepreneurs Exchange Club. The visit to Fab was part of the 2013 EEX Entrepreneurship Summit 2 weeks ago, and the visit to Etsy was a stand-alone visit last Friday. It probably does not make sense to compare the two offices, but I’m lumping them together because they both sort of took my breath away—I was overcome with a sense of longing (and belonging, I guess). Tech start-ups have a very different feel—they are typically unconventional in their layout and decorations (random facts: the first thing you see as you enter the Fab office is a Foosball table; and Etsy gives each employee $100 to purchase from etsy.com to decorate their desks), but more importantly, there is an air of acceptance and welcome that’s really tough to put into words. Like I said, they somehow make me feel like I belong there.

Finally, this weekend was Pre-View Weekend at Stern! I’m not on the Torch Committee, so I was not as involved as I would have liked, but I did get to mingle with the new admits at a bar near school on Saturday, and that was really fun. It was kind of bittersweet actually; it suddenly hit me that my first year at Stern is almost over. Graduation is still more than a year away, and I realize that it’s way too early to start worrying about it, but I truly don’t want this to end. I love being a Sternie.


If you’ve been expecting me to write about my spring break, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you. As I have already mentioned, I was in New York over the break, so I don’t have any glamorous or exciting stories like a lot of my friends. I spent most of last week in a state of jealousy, looking at photos my friends have taken over the break, marveling at their adventures (white shark diving, among them!), and admiring their suntans.
Do not take that to mean that I did not enjoy the break though! It was relaxing; and of course, I was not the only Sternie “on the New York trek” as we called it, so I still had the opportunity to hang out with my friends and have fun!

What I really want to talk about though is our trip to the BuzzFeed office last Friday! It was organized by the EMTA, and we had the chance to hear from several people: including the CEO and co-founder Jonah Peretti.

I assume a lot of you are familiar with BuzzFeed, and how unique it is in the sense that the website uses 3 different types of content on the same platform: entertainment/humor (what they started out with), branded content, and reported news. Apparently it gets 40 million unique visitors each month, which is quite impressive.

Jonah Peretti is also a co-founder of The Huffington Post, and he talked to us about how he got involved with these projects. He said he had always been interested in why and how people shared content: evolving from email forwards back in the day, to organized sharing through social portals such as Facebook and twitter.

What prompted him to start BuzzFeed was that he noticed a shift from search engines to social: in the past, most online content was based on what people searched for, but now it’s becoming a much more “human” space, and they’re making content for people, rather than search algorithms. He chatted with us for an hour, and then we also had the chance to hear from Aswini Anburajan (Director of Partnership Development), Jonathan Perelman (VP of Agency Strategy & Industry Development), and David Spiegel (Executive Director of Sales). David is actually a part-time MBA student at Stern, and he was the one who had the idea for the trek; another demonstration of how Sternies like to help each other out. I thought it was an amazing trek—I have always loved BuzzFeed, it was great to see their office, and hear about the work that they do.

Waiting for the Break

Spring break is right around the corner, so this week is a little rough: 3 midterms and 2 papers in 4 days! But at least we have something to look forward to.

A lot of people are going on various club-organized treks in a couple of days: Thailand, Chile, South Africa, Japan, Peru, Cambodia… Unfortunately, I’m not one of them! I had other plans, which actually fell through at the last minute, so it looks like I’ll be in New York over the break. I feel bad about missing out on all of the fun, but I don’t really mind staying in the city, either—there are so many things I’ve been meaning to do, and haven’t had time for. Can you actually believe that I still haven’t walked the Brooklyn Bridge? This will be my opportunity to catch up on the touristy activities!

Now I just have to get through the rest of the week.

Strategy Forum & A Film Screening

Last Thursday I went to the “Strategy Forum: Achieving Strategic Advantage Through Innovation,” organized by the Strategy & Operations Club, and the Management Consulting Association at Stern. The keynote speaker was Mumtaz Ahmed, Chief Strategy Officer of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and a Principal at Deloitte Consulting. He talked about what sets exceptional companies apart from others, and how to achieve sustained competitive advantage (being in the top decile for 10 years, so that it’s not a coincidence). According to him, the three rules are as follows: 1) better before cheaper; 2) revenue before cost; 3) there are no other rules. It was all based on data and analyses that Deloitte has gathered over many years, and I thought some of the conclusions were unexpected: for instance, according to the data, there is no evidence that innovation is a key driver of exceptional performance. It was interesting to hear what he had to say.

Then on Friday, as part of “research” for my Stern Consulting Corps project, I attended a screening of the film Stoker (great film), followed by a Q&A session with director Chan-wook Park, and stars Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. It was a room of roughly 70 people, so it was relatively intimate, and I was starstruck the whole time. I don’t want to divulge the content, but all three of them were really nice, and Matthew Goode was hilarious.
This, of course, was followed by a 2.5-hour client meeting; after which I had to rush to make it to one of the biggest Stern events of the year: Think Social, Drink Local, or simply TSDL. It’s an annual runway fashion show (featuring MBA students & Stern administration wearing fashion from top NYC designers!) and dance party, all rolled into one big event in a gorgeous venue. I’m sure one of my fellow bloggers will cover TSDL this week, so in the spirit of avoiding redundancy, I will leave it at that. I will say it was an amazing night though—and a great way to start the weekend!

Industry Captains

The highlight of this week for me was getting to have a one-on-one conversation with Josh Shimkin, Director of Worldwide Digital Products & Premium Services at Marvel Entertainment’s Digital Media Group. He’s a Stern alum, and he was volunteering for the Office of Career Development’s “Industry Captains-in-Residence program, an innovative new mentoring program that brings highly successful alumni to campus to share industry insight and offer guidance to full-time MBA students through accessible, one-on-one conversations.” I had the chance to talk to him for half an hour Wednesday night; an informal chat, where he shared his experience before and after business school, answered my questions, and advised me about my options. I’m very interested in Entertainment, Media & Technology, so it was great to hear from someone working in that space, and to see some of his cool projects at Marvel. I’m really thankful for alums such as Josh, who take time from their busy schedules to have an honest conversation with us, and to help answer our questions.

The New Semester

Another week has gone by, just as crazy as the last, and I’m pretty sure that officially sets the tone for this semester. I’m definitely going to be busy, but it’s all very exciting! A couple of things I’ve been involved in lately:

I’m on the SCorp (Stern Student Corporation) International Committee and we’re in charge of organizing Passport Day. It’s an annual event where international students get to show off their country’s food & culture; and there’s even a competition for the “best country,” voted by the students. It’s going to take place in April, but we had the kickoff this week, so there was a lot of prepping and marketing to get people interested in the event.

I’m also participating in the Exchange Student Buddy Program, which is a volunteer program where each incoming exchange student is partnered with a continuing Sternie to make sure that the exchange students have someone to turn to if they need assistance with anything. There are 26 exchange students this semester, and we had a mixer last week; I thought it was a great opportunity to welcome them, and I hope they agree!

Finally, I want to mention the project that I am most excited about this semester! One of the greatest initiatives at Stern (in my humble opinion) is the Stern Consulting Corps. It’s a program run by the Office of Student Engagement, where selected teams of students get to work with a wide range of organizations to help them tackle their problems. I think it’s an amazing opportunity to gain some hands-on experience, and extend our education beyond the classroom. My team will be working with the National Board of Review for the next 10 weeks, and we had our first client meeting yesterday! I will refrain from talking about the specifics of the project, but I will say that I have a great team, and we’re very excited about the prospects of making a change.

I think it’s fair to say that this semester is off to a good start.

Back from the Break & the Tech Trek

I can’t believe it’s only been a couple of days since school started. It feels like so much more, and I’m still trying to find my footing.

First thing’s first though! Before I get into what’s in store for me this semester, I want to tell you about my break.

After the finals, I stayed in the city for a few days, getting used to an eerily quiet life, and then finally went to Istanbul. I had to be back in New York in 10 days, and I’d been second-guessing myself: 10-hour flight, both ways, was it really worth it for just 10 days? Turns out it was; catching up with my family & friends after 5 months was exactly what I needed.

What I really want to talk about, though, is the EMTA Bay Area trek that I went on after I came back to the US. In case you haven’t heard of it, EMTA is the Entertainment, Media and Technology Association at Stern. Every year they organize a trek to the Bay Area to visit tech companies, and on the list this year were Zynga, Facebook, eBay/Paypal and Google.

We left for San Francisco on a Sunday, and that was an optional day for mock interviews with Stern alums who were working at our target companies. We spent most of that day trying to explore San Francisco: had lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, went to Ghirardelli Square for some hot chocolate, and wandered around San Francisco’s many hills. We then had a group dinner at Basil Canteen (amazing Thai food!) before finally calling it a night—we were too full and too tired to go out. Besides, we had an early morning the next day: company visits first to Zynga and then Facebook!

I should point out now that working for a tech company does seem to be all it’s cracked up to be. (Zynga, for instance, allows you to bring your dog to work—which perhaps is not all that surprising, considering that the company is named after co-founder Mark Pincus’s dog.) In fact, I’m going to go ahead and generalize a bit here; and of course, I’m not suggesting that this holds for all tech companies, but the ones that we saw typically have gyms, wellness centers, game rooms, free snacks throughout the day, and even dry cleaning! The workplace is fun and stimulating; and they want you to focus on your work, instead of the errands that you have to run, so they take care of it for you. Everything seems to be aimed at making your life easier, and maybe there is a trade-off, but even so, it would definitely be worth it!

Back to our itinerary—that first night, we had a mixer with Stern alumni in the area, and a handful of prospective students. It was a really nice way to wind down after the busy day, and get to know new people. Unfortunately, I had a phone interview the next morning, so once again, I had to call it a night somewhat early.

The next day we went to eBay/PayPal (where, following a fascinating presentation from the retail innovation team, we all received bags with the new logo!) and then had a happy hour with Stern alumni who work at LinkedIn. We had plenty of free time after the happy hour, and our itinerary included burgers at In-N-Out, cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory, drinks at a speakeasy bar on Union Square, and then finally karaoke! This was our last night in San Francisco, so we really had to make the most of it.

The final day kicked off with a visit to Google. We had the chance to travel around the campus (which includes, among other things, a sand volleyball court), and then we had a panel with the Stern alumni who work there. Most of us were taking the flight back to New York that night, though some chose to stay in San Francisco for a couple of more days (cue jealousy).

I want to reiterate, yet again, that working for any of these companies seems like a dream come true. I can only speak for myself, of course, but they all have perks and/or quirks that I find very appealing: Facebook has conference rooms titled Alohamora and Avada Kedavra (self-professed Harry Potter geek here), and a real-life Facebook wall that encourages you to “write something.” Google has the statue of a dinosaur flocked by pink flamingos and google-colored bikes to help employees get around; eBay has a display of pez dispensers in the waiting area; and Zynga has the general feel of a playful gaming environment (you enter the office through a glowing tunnel). I’m sure we all had different takeaways and things that resonated with us, but the bottom line is that it’s very hard not to be impressed.

I’m so glad I was a part of this trek; not only was it amazing to actually visit these offices, it was also a great opportunity to bond with my fellow Sternies. I owe the EMTA team a huge thank you for that.


Yesterday was the last day of classes. We had 3 hours of Strategy with Sonia Marciano (who, by the way, is a legend) with coffee, cookies & cupcakes, and then it was over. My first final is on Monday, so I’m not freaking out quite yet, but I will get there…

What I feel at the moment is a little sad. Don’t get me wrong, we need a break, but I enjoyed my classes this semester, and as nerdy as it may sound, I’m actually going to miss school—that has more to do with the people than the classes, of course. The last four months went by in a blur, and somehow I enjoyed every single second.

The spring semester starts in February, but those of us who are recruiting for consulting have to be back by the first week of January, because we need to be whipped into shape for interviews, and that involves a lot of casing, in addition to the regular behavioral interview preparations. The process started months ago, but the interviews will take place in January, so we really have to up our game in those final weeks; and a part of me is happy that we will get to see each other sooner rather than later…

There are always a whirlwind of activities that we have to do, and it usually feels like we don’t have enough time to get through all of it, but that’s business school for you. The great part is that we have a great support system in place, whether it’s from fellow MBA1s, MBA2s, the Office of Career Development (OCD), or the professors.
For me, no matter how overwhelming it gets, knowing that I’m not in it alone is a huge relief.

Meeting Gordon Brown

The last few days have been insanely hectic: summer internship applications, midterms, group projects and presentations, on top of the regular stream of recruiting events… Everything is piling up and it is almost impossible to juggle everything.

That said, life in b-school is not without its perks. Case in point: I had the privilege of meeting Gordon Brown on Monday! Yes, the Gordon Brown—as in, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom.

It was part of a series of events where our dean, Peter Henry, invites a thought leader to speak to us. Blocks 1 & 2 had Hugo Lindgren, Editor of the New York Times Magazine in September; blocks 3 & 4 had Ken Mehlman, Head of Global Public Affairs at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. in October. It was finally our turn. In an unexpected turn of events, our schedule was changed, and we got to meet Gordon Brown! I was sitting in the front row, so I was one of the lucky few who had the chance to chat with him for a few seconds before he addressed the whole room and started talking to us about the massive changes taking place in the world economy. He spoke about the importance of the relationship between education and innovation in determining whether a country will succeed or fail and how global cooperation is essential for the world economy to prosper, before turning to us for questions.

I do not want to state mundane observations like “he was really nice,” or “he was brilliant,” so I will just say that it was probably the single most fascinating experience I have had at Stern so far. Life is full of surprises.