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.

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!

Consulting Corps Squared

It’s the fourth week of classes. How did we get here? It may seem like a cliché to say that time flies by in business school, but it’s no exaggeration. Somehow, I’m back in a place where finding even 30 minutes of free time in a given week can be a challenge. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy, and dare I say, even thrive off of this kind of hectic lifestyle. Many students at Stern will openly admit that they over commit. However, I’d like to see this level of involvement as a tradeoff. I’ve traded sleep and relaxation for two years where my life is dominated by FOMO (fear of missing out). For this reason, I’ve taken on two consulting projects in addition to my usual club activities and alumni volunteering.

The first project I’m working on is part of the Stern Consulting Corps (SCC). We are working with NYU’s Langone Medical Center to help their Department of Integrated Health develop a workable business model. Although my team has yet to delve into the details, I’ve already learned a tremendous amount. While the healthcare industry in the US is obviously fraught with woes, this project in particular has brought to light the disconnect that exists among between medicine, patients, and business.  The goals of the department are admirable and I truly believe our partners are some of the best-intentioned. However, it is clear they are seeking guidance and support to become self-sustaining. Over the next 8 weeks, it will be interesting to see how our group is able to answer some of the departments’ more trying questions. The prospect of making an impact at a world-class health facility is exciting and I look forward to sharing our results!

As if the ten hour per week time commitment from the SCC project wasn’t enough, I have also signed on board to work with Gilt Groupe, specifically with Gilt City as part of the Luxury and Retail Consulting Corps. While the Langone project is one of personal fulfillment, my motivation for this project is purely professional. As I look to enter a career in retail, I am thrilled to gain insight from one of the leaders in e-commerce and email marketing. I am hoping that this project is the perfect fusion of my minor technical background and my newly acquired analytical skills from Stern. Regardless, it will undoubtedly be an amazing experience to work with a company that is growing so quickly, yet still able to maintain its entrepreneurial spirit.

I can’t wait to contrast the two consulting roles!

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.

Another Great Week

Since I last posted, a lot has happened. It has been an incredible week. Last Friday was the Stern Women in Business Conference. We heard from some amazing women who were quite open with the audience about balancing a high-powered career and a family. I found their candor refreshing. It was great to hear some of their anecdotes regarding childcare and learning to adapt after having kids. I attended a panel about creative innovation and the ways that women can create leadership opportunities for themselves. It was inspiring to listen to women with a range of backgrounds from finance to marketing to fashion. It was also interesting to hear about the risks these women had taken to advance their careers and how they learned to be more vocal about their career advancements and getting raises. The conference certainly gave me a lot to think about for the future.

From the conference, I made my way to Gilt Groupe where I will be working on a consulting project for the newly launched Gilt City. Again, I found myself inspired by the company’s energy and passion for what they do. I am excited to see how I will leverage my digital background for the first time since starting business school. Moreover, it is the first opportunity I will have to combine my prior work experience with my strong interest in e-commerce. In fact, I will likely pursue a career in luxury and retail, if all goes according to plan.

This brings me to another reason why I’ve had a great week. On Tuesday, I attended my first fashion show as part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. It came about when I contacted a former coworker and fellow Sternie regarding any industry connections he may have. He generously offered me his seat at the show to aid my networking. I was amazed with his selflessness, which truly speaks to the Stern spirit and community. Additionally, I have had three other alumni offer their time to discuss their experiences at various fashion and retail firms. For some reason, their willingness to meet in person or talk over the phone never ceases to amaze me. I think this week especially, I am reminded why my decision to attend Stern is one of the best I’ve made.