DBi Italy

So I’ve been back in the country for less than 48 hours. No, I’m not complaining. Rather, I’m still marveling over my trip to Milan, Cinque Terre, and Florence. Over Spring Break, I participated in Doing Business in Italy. It is course that takes you to Milan to focus on luxury retailing and branding. We studied at Bocconi, which is a business school in Milan where we were taught by industry leaders in fashion and luxury. We had the privilege of visiting a silk factory in Como, the Versace Headquarters, and meet with one of the leading fashion PR and events firms, Attila and Co. In addition to delicious food, we also conducted a field study in teams of 4 or 5 students. We visited stores across Milan including Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Tod’s, Louis Vuitton, Zegna, Versace, Armani, and several multi-brand stores. It was fascinating to see the differences in store layout, service, and branding within each location. With a critical eye, I found I learned a tremendous amount by making basic comparisons and traveling throughout the gorgeous city. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in luxury, I would highly recommend you enroll in this course.

Aside from the academic aspects, I was fortunate enough to travel to Cinque Terre with three of my classmates before class began. We hiked through three of five small towns on the coast of Southern Italy. The views were gorgeous and the food was beyond fresh. Due to our activity, we had few issues justifying our multiple trips to gelato shops. My only concern now is how I can find such delicacies in New York! Following the course, I also visited Florence. Simply stated, the city took my breath away. It was the best food during the whole trip. Plus, there were several beautiful cathedrals and museums. We even visited the Gucci museum. Lastly, I shopped in Florence. Conveniently located near the designer outlets, my classmates and I did some serious damage. It was the first time I’d shopped in some time, but it was worth the wait. Not only are the brands amazing, but you can find incredible deals (relatively speaking). Needless to say, if you visit, save in advance.

All in all, this was an incredible Spring Break. Regardless of whether you have an interest in luxury or retail, I recommend visiting Italy sometime if you haven’t already done so.

Stern Support

I am still in shock that my last semester has arrived. How did I get here? There’s a part of me that wishes I could stay at Stern forever, but there’s also a part of me that’s eager to get out there and show the world all that I’ve learned. I recently had the sad, but exciting task of selecting my last classes. The great thing about being a second semester second year is that I received all of my choices! The downside is that there is still so much I would like to take. In the end, I chose Decision Models, Pricing Strategy, Retail Strategy, Managing Growing Companies, New Venture Finance, Luxury Marketing, and DBi Italy. That may seem like a lot, but fear not. It only totals up to 5.5 classes, so a slight, but worthwhile overload, thanks in part to the extra 3 credits Stern allots you. Ultimately, after sitting in on many classes and consulting my friends for insight on their experience in certain courses, I am pleased with my selection. I like the mix of hard and soft skills built into my schedule this semester. During the selection process, I also met with several professors and faculty members to gain their input. I tend to be indecisive, so I figured an extra opinion or two could never hurt. The Stern community has yet to fail.

This brings me to the difficult start I had to my semester. During the last week of January, second year students completed a mandatory course called Professional Responsibility. It is a week-long intensive that covers various topics surrounding ethics. Unfortunately, in the afternoon on the first day of class, I received notice that a friend of mine had passed away from cancer. As one of my fellow GA’s and several friends comforted me while I sobbed, I was assured by the professor that I could take the time I needed. My friends remained supportive and encouraging. I knew I could rely on them for any notes or information I may have missed while I attempted to pull myself together. I ultimately chose to stay for the remainder of the day rather than go home. The decision was simple. I knew that I was better off surrounded by my loving, caring classmates than alone in my apartment. My fellow Sternies never left my side that week. They dragged me to lunch when I didn’t want to eat. They sat with me in silence listening to my reflections. They brought me humor when I cried. They checked in on me morning, noon, and night. Even in the short two weeks that have followed, I have had the undivided support from my friends.

So much of our decision regarding where to attend business school centers on academics and careers. While these are some of the compelling reasons I chose Stern, I ask you to reconsider your priorities. Ultimately, my experience here has been defined more by the people than by the institution. I am touched by their regular generosity and kindness. Needless to say, I’m not sure my two years at Stern would be half of what they have been without the community. It is truly a place that picks you up when you fall down the hardest.

Winter Break

Since I last posted, a lot has happened! First and foremost, I accepted an internship at Chanel in E-Commerce, which starts in just a few weeks. I feel truly fortunate to have this opportunity. I feel like I would not be in such a position with the support of my classmates and the strength of the relationship that the Luxury & Retail Club has built with Chanel over the years. My classmates were an integral part of my interview process. Knowing I had three friends who had interned there previously, I made a point to chat with them. Each to 30 minutes to an hour out of their day during finals time to speak with me and help ensure I was prepared. Their insight was definitely beneficial and put me at ease for the conversations that would soon follow. I look forward to sharing my experience with you this semester, so be on the lookout for some updates!

Additionally, I am fresh off of my winter break. I spent several days at home on Long Island with my family and a week in Louisiana with my boyfriend and his family. I find that even when I’m away from Stern, I can’t help but talk about it – everything from courses to my friends to my club activities. While many students spend these weeks traveling the globe, I opted for a more mellow time, which afforded me the opportunity to begin my internship early. (In case you can’t tell, I’m more than excited.) One of the nice things about Stern’s long winter break (it extends from late December to early February) is that students can use this time however they like. Many students travel, network, intern, take classes abroad for one to two weeks, or prepare for summer internship interviews as first year students. It’s up to you! Last year, I was interviewing for summer positions, but in your second year, you can choose from a range of options or mix and match. Some students just take this time to relax or visit family. Stern affords its students this time so that they can come back to classes ready to learn again. I think it’s one of the program’s many assets.

I look forward to sharing my Spring semester with you, so please keep reading!

Stern and the Liberal Arts Background

One of the most common questions I receive as a Graduate Ambassador and an undergraduate literature major is whether I struggled with the quantitative and analytical nature of business school. I’m here to dispel any myths you might have about transiting from a “soft” background into a “hard” one. I know this is a common concern of many applicants and I’m here to assuage your fears.
Never once have I felt as though I didn’t have the resources to succeed in any of my quantitative pursuits. In fact, the classes are taught to engage and challenge students at all levels. Plus, the professors are extremely accessible and your classmates are always willing to help. When I took Corporate Finance with the legendary Aswath Damodaran, I was shocked by the speed with which he would respond to my emails. Not only that but, he remember my name and that I was covering Burberry for my final project (out of a sea of 400 students) after I met with him for just 10 minutes. With his support and with the help of my classmates, I succeeded in his course despite the challenging nature of the material. Further, I had numerous classmates take time out of their busy schedules to assist me. Needless to say, I never felt like I was on my own.
When deciding what courses to take this semester, I was concerned that my financing and accounting skills were not strong enough to take financial modeling. It was a subject I had never seriously considered before. However, as someone who looks to start her own business one day or ascend to senior leadership, I came to realize that I shouldn’t leave business school without this skill. I knew the class was particularly demanding, and so I expressed my concerns to the professor. Via email, I asked if I should take the course. To my (pleasant) surprise, I received a phone call from the professor later that evening encouraging me to take the class and ensuring I would not regret it. With the help of the teaching fellows and my classmates, I found the class extremely rewarding. Despite my initial hesitation, taking the class was ultimately the right decision for me. With the sense that I am never alone in the Stern community, I had the confidence and resources I needed to complete the course and perform fairly well!
With my stories in mind, I hope you’ll realize that you there is no reason to worry. You’ll get by with a little help from your friends.

Interning, Consulting, and More!

Where did we leave off? Since my summer, I have been busy! They say your second year is supposed to be a bit calmer than your first year, but for me it’s quite the opposite. Between interning, consulting, and TA-ing, I find I am running around more than ever. However, with this self-inflicted craziness, I find I am more fulfilled than ever.

This semester I am interning with the fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra. I conduct sales and inventory analysis for the small, yet growing, seven-person team. The Luxury & Retail Club posted about the opening over the summer and since then I’ve been building a relationship with the company so that they continue to partner with Stern. It’s been an incredible experience thus far. Joseph, along with his dog, Bean, is in the office frequently. Despite the industry’s reputation for being standoffish, I have found the people at Altuzarra to be warm, welcoming, and encouraging. Watching the process unfold from design to production and sales has been invaluable.  I consider myself extremely fortunate for this opportunity. Just by virtue of sitting in the office, I am able to absorb so much. I’ve never been closer to the product nor have I gained such exposure to the financials of a company. It’s also my first experience outside of the digital realm, which is enabling me to broaden my resume and experience.

Another amazing learning experience is with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). I am developing an investor-ready business plan for a designer looking to launch a high-end women’s clothing line. The access to industry advisors and information will certainly be helpful throughout my career. Next semester, Stern is strengthening its relationship with the CFDA by turning the consulting projects into a class. We will be working with younger designers looking to grow their existing businesses. I will be the teaching fellow for that class and cannot wait to tell you how it unfolds!

An End and a Beginning

So it’s been a little while since my last post and much has happened since!

The trek to Bonobos was extremely informative. I learned a tremendous amount about the company’s unique business model and relaxed culture. I saw firsthand how a showroom can serve as a marketing and service tool for a business that is primarily online. Additionally, the finding of my consulting project presentation for the NYU Langone Medical Center’s Department of Integrative Health went off to rave reviews. I believe our team presented the department with a solid marketing plan, great industry insights, and concrete next steps to improve how they operate. I then celebrated with my teammates with a little bubbly and some hors d’oeuvres. It was a great way to wrap up the semester.

Since then, I’ve started my internship at Quidsi, a newly acquired Amazon company, working in Retail. Although I’ve been there for less than 2 weeks, I already love it! The first week was orientation. Not only did I get to visit a fulfillment center, but I also got to listen in on several customer care calls. Both experiences were extremely informative and gave me a far greater understanding of the company and its operations. I look forward to seeing how this new knowledge influences the projects I work on. While I’ve only been working on my projects for a few days, I can tell it’s going to be a great summer. I’m working with some incredibly bright and passionate people. Plus, the company has an open, relaxed environment and I’ve already met with several people in senior leadership positions. Needless to say, I’m going to learn a lot. I look forward to sharing more with you!

Spring Gala, Speakers, Bonobos, and SCC!

This has been an incredible week. As we gear up for finals here at Stern, it’s nice, albeit challenging, to still have so many exciting events going on. Last Saturday was our Spring Gala at the Gansevoort. Students dressed in their best and danced the night away. What was nice is that I even met some second years I didn’t know already. It was a great way to bond with my classmates and, like almost any girl, enjoy a night of playing dress-up.

The second unforgettable experience this week was when Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera came and spoke to a group of students about attracting new, younger audiences and the how opera must adapt to the digital age. He spoke with humor about his transition from Sony Classical Music to the Met and some of the errors he’d made along the way. He talked about the ways this old institution is striving to innovate and the financial difficulties it faced as an entity that must rely on donations to remain sustainable. Mr. Gelb spoke frankly about the need for opera to infiltrate culture on a wider level, which was his motivation for streaming performances in movie theaters across the globe. As an arts buff, his talk left me wondering how I could use my business education to give back to a place like the Met Opera one day.

The third privilege I had this week was that Ann Moore, former CEO of Time Inc. came to speak at my Leadership in Organizations class. Unlike many of the speakers, Ms. Moore did not allow Stern to videotape our conversation because she wanted to be as open and honest with us as possible. She spoke about the career challenges she faced as a woman and the difficulty she had letting people go during economic and industry downturns. She talked about managing her relationships from the personal to the political to those at work, and she discussed tradeoffs she has made along the way. What struck me most was that Ms. Moore did not have any regrets in her 33 year career at Time. She talked about the ways she had pushed the organization to allow her to change it and how we can all look to do the same in our own careers. Lastly, she discussed the difficulty of integrating digital natives from our generation with other generations, who may not be as comfortable or familiar with technology.

My last two adventures for the week begin now. I am starting my Friday off with a Luxury and Retail Club trek to men’s clothing retailer Bonobos. Then I will present the results of my Stern Consulting Corps project for the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Integrative Health, followed by a reception. It’s clearly going to be another amazing Stern-filled day, but I wouldn’t want it any other way, especially as the year winds down. I will have to report back on these events next week!

Marine Training for the Leadership Development Initiative

This past Friday, Stern offered me a unique experience. As part of the Leadership Development Initiative, I attended a modified marine training course with some of my classmates. We left from Stern at 8am and headed to the course on Staten Island. Upon arriving, we had little idea what to expect. I was fearful that the activities may be more physically demanding than I was prepared for. A former marine was running the course and I hoped that the sneakers and athletic gear, including helmets, were simply a precaution.

We were put into groups randomly and then proceeded to the first obstacle course. We were given a task and asked to choose a leader for each one. Each obstacle required a combination of problem solving, teamwork, and trust. It was great to work so closely with a new group of Stern students. Even though I didn’t know several group members, I felt we shared a common bond as Sternies. It was comforting to feel like they would support me. I found the tasks challenging – activities such as building a bridge with three planks no wider than six inches, getting a barrel across a “booby-trapped” tight rope, etc. The activities required a lot of giving and receiving feedback. It tied well with the course material from Leadership in Organizations.

I learned I could adapt quickly in unknown situations, even where I didn’t know my team well. It was nice to see how we bonded with ease over the course of the morning. While I was initially hesitant, I’m ultimately glad I participated.

Excited for Pre-View Weekend!

It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was eagerly preparing for Pre-View Weekend at Stern. Truth be told, I was still mildly undecided when I attended. I was 90% certain I would attend since Stern had been my long time front runner. However, as a naturally indecisive person, I was hesitant to make that commitment. That all changed when I met my potential classmates, professors, and faculty over Stern’s admitted students’ weekend. In fact, I remember it distinctively.

The first night we had a cocktail reception at the NASDAQ where Dean Peter Henry spoke. It was a place most people never see, plus we had great views of Times Square that even a native can appreciate. I remember joking with Dean Henry, a UNC alumnus, about my undergraduate school, Duke, and their basketball rivalry. I knew that any school with such a down-to-earth dean would be a great fit for me. I then continued to mingle with my peers before we continued the evening out. I recall not wanting the fun to stop and I looked forward to seeing my new friends the next day.

Even though I knew that moving from the Upper East Side was unlikely, I attended the off-campus housing panel the next day. It provided great perspective for me and confirmed my desire to stay put in my UES studio. I then moved throughout the day meeting more of my prospective classmates. When I would divulge that I had yet to put in my deposit, I was met with overwhelming encouragement and a nearly instant sense of community. I felt that my peers genuinely wanted me to join them in the fall. As someone who values cohesion and friendliness in an educational setting almost as much as academic rigor, I was delighted by their welcoming nature. These experiences definitely pushed me closer to writing my check.

Finally, when I met second year students and alumni, I realized the breadth of connections and quality of careers that Sternies have. Although Stern had caught my attention largely because of the school’s strength in Luxury and Retail, I wasn’t completely decided. By talking to students about their own paths and hearing from alumni, I realized there wasn’t a wrong choice I could make in attending here.

As I prepare to speak on the Housing Panel, participate in the career path discussions, and join some prospective students during dinner, I can’t help but feel excited. Actually, I’m jealous. I would give anything to be in their shoes and be able to start my journey over again. I hope those of you in attendance enjoy the experience as much as I did!

Brushing Up On My French

Bonjour! One of the things I love most about Stern is how motivated students are to organize activities and pursue their interests. Recently, a handful of my friends and I expressed interest in learning or brushing up on our French. We mentioned this to a classmate from France and he instantly volunteered to start hosting a class on Thursday afternoons. While I was excited by the idea and his offer, I was weary as to how the class would actually shape up. Yesterday, I attended my first one and it was outstanding! We covered everything from pronunciation to grammar to conjugation. Everyone was clearly at different levels, but we enjoyed the company and asking each other questions. One of the aspects I enjoyed most was that this lesson was about chocolate. Our gracious teacher even brought us some from one of Manhattan’s finest Chocolatiers, La Maison du Chocolat. Needless to say, the chocolate didn’t last long around a handful of hungry and tired MBA students, but our conversations did continue.

I appreciated that our classmate looked to make these lessons center around culture.  It was clear that he put thought and effort into our afternoon. For an activity that is not a formal club or class, it’s great how dedicated he was to sharing his knowledge with us, although this is not atypical for Stern students. Next week, we are going to focus on wine as a topic of culture and conversation. I think this is a lesson that can’t go wrong. I will report back on how these classes proceed. Until then, au revoir!