*I try not to write “travel logs” on the blog, as I find that my writing suffers and I fear I will bore my readers. However, sometimes that is what is necessary. The following is a bit of a “play by play”, written for me in personal history fashion. Read at your own risk of boredom. And I have not put in names because, in this information age, I really don’t feel like having someone do a little Google search and find my blog because I posted the names of the company, the executives of the company, the university where I work and attend classes, or my team members or advisor. It’s not because I’m trying to be cryptic. However, you will be able to tell the company and the school from the photo.
So, it all started in January of this year. My friend, Catherine, encouraged me to take this field studies class through the School of Management. I thought about it and decided that, if I was really serious about going back to school for my MBA, this would be a great opportunity to a) see if my study habits and motivation had improved since my undergrad, b) raise my GPA, and c) see if I had what it was going to take to get through an MBA program. I went and spoke with the professor over field studies and he signed my petition to take the class (because I’m not in the management program, MBA or undergrad, I needed a petition).
I know I’ve discussed this previous to this post, but the truth is, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was taking this class, a 200 level English class (I had to retake it to get rid of the “unofficial withdrawal” on my transcript…which is the equivalent of a failing grade), and Accounting, along with working full time. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but whatever, that’s what I did.
I felt a little in over my head with the field studies class. The project we were given was basically to try and quantify the value of a company’s culture. There were two different teams assigned to this and we were each looking at it from two different angles. My team was looking at it from a financial perspective. The other team was looking at it from an HR perspective. In either situation, this is not an easy task, since “culture” is not exactly tangible, and therefore, not exactly measurable. We started out a little lost, especially me. With none of the business classes that the other team members had under their belts, I was already swimming uphill.
About two weeks into this, our self-appointed team lead, who had an “I think I’m so amazing that I can take 19 credits and be the team leader” attitude, ended up “resigning” from the class. He wrote all of us a letter explaining that he had taken on too much. Really, idiot, too much? In reality, I believe the majority of the reason he quit to be that this task seemed impossible and he did not want to be on a sinking ship, so he bailed out.We were left with a seemingly impossible task and no team leader. We still had a faculty advisor, but he’s a little hands-off (which I feel is totally appropriate for an MBA course), so we were left to our own devices.
Through a course of events I do not entirely recall, I ended up as the team lead (I still don’t know what I was thinking). I had definitely taken on too much, but I also knew that this was my shot. This was my chance to prove to myself, and whoever else, that I had what it would take to be a successful MBA student. And being the team lead didn’t mean I had to understand everything perfectly, just that I had to coordinate and make sure things were getting done.
To make an extremely long story a little less long, we figured out two ways to measure the value of the company’s culture. We wrote a report and created a Power Point presentation. The executive, we’ll call him Mr. M, who had requested that we do this study came to the university and both teams made presentations. It went well. As our advisor put it, “we hit it out of the park”.
A week later, I received an email from the Mr. M’s assistant telling me that Mr. M would like some of us to come and make the presentation to the executive committee, i.e. the CEO, CFO, COO, etc. Wow. I was blown away. After several emails back and forth, we finally settled on August. At first, it was going to just be me. I was terrified. Not that I can’t make a presentation, but the truth is, as the team lead, I made sure everything happened and I understood the results, but I wasn’t sure that I could explain it all and I certainly wasn’t prepared to answer their questions.
Thankfully, as it turned out, our advisor and another of my team members were able to come, as well. And that is how we arrived in Maryland Monday morning to give this presentation. I realize that’s a lot of background, but I felt like it would be helpful.
Before we headed across the country, we had to tighten things up a bit. We had numbers, but some of the were real time and needed to be changed. The report we turned in initially had a few errors (a common occurrence when all of the people writing/proofreading it are deeply involved), so there was some editing that needed to be done. By the time Monday morning arrived, though, I knew the information in the paper and presentation backwards and forwards.
Monday morning, we, our advisor, my teammate and I, met in the hotel restaurant for breakfast. (I hate eating when I’m nervous, but if I don’t, I risk getting sick). We then had about 45 minutes before we needed to head over to the offices. I went up to my room and began to freak out. I decided that was counterproductive, so I then just recited my part of the presentation over and over in the mirror over the wet-bar. I am not normally a “rehearser”. I’ve always been quite good at giving presentations on the fly. That’s not to say that I don’t prepare, but I don’t have to actually rehearse it, I just have to know the information. But, I’ve never given a present to someone who runs a multi-billion dollar company either, so I felt this change in routine was totally appropriate.
Getting over to the offices was a bit of a fiasco. I thought the building was the one just across from the hotel, so we walked over there. That wasn’t it. We tried the building next to the hotel. Not it either. Finally, we asked someone at the hotel. It turned out that we had asked the bellman, who was also the shuttle driver, and he went ahead and drove us over (it really was just a two minute walk, but I was so glad to be driven and not feel like a lost dog).
Mr. M’s assistant met us in the lobby and we were then taken upstairs to get the boardroom ready. I love technology, but that was the one that was really making me nervous. What if we couldn’t get the presentation up? What if the projector didn’t work? What if? What if? What if?
Well, my fears were unnecessary. The thing is, when you’re talking about a company like this one, everything is built-in. There are tech people available to help you with anything. We had the presentation on the screen (which was not a projector at all, but a huge monitor) and we were ready to go. The company photographer came and took our picture in the boardroom (when I have a copy, I will post it). We then left the boardroom with an hour to kill while the committee met and took care of other business. We got a tour of the building and were treated to Starbuck’s down in the cafeteria.
One of the things I really like about my advisor, a quality I hope to emulate, is his ability to be calm and reassuring without being disingenuous. Of course we were nervous and we could have been discussing the presentation for that hour, getting more and more nervous. But instead, he talked to us about our lives, told us about his kids and then, just before we headed upstairs, he said something like, “Remember, these are just people. Sure, people who run a multi-billion dollar corporation, but they are still people. You know this stuff up and down. You’ve worked hard to get hear. Just be confident and we will be great.”
The meeting was right on schedule. We were invited in right at 10:00. We entered, introduced ourselves and shook hands with all of the committee. And then it was time. I began the presentation and was happy to see that everyone was paying attention and nodding as I shared the background to the study. My team member was next. She went through the first method of our valuation. I was up again to summarize that part and introduce the second method. My advisor took care of the second method. And then I wrapped things up.
The committee had some questions. Obviously, as we were using publicly available information, they have more accurate numbers to work with. All in all, the questions were about what we expected. What I hadn’t expected was how educational this part of the presentation was for me. It was absolutely fascinating to hear the executives interact with each other. It was like a dream. I just kept thinking, “this is where I was meant to be.” I realize that these people did not get into these positions overnight, and I don’t necessarily mean that I expect to be the chief officer of anything, but it was such a great discussion. People disagreed with each other and were respectful and amiable about it. People had different ideas about what to do. People had different questions for us based on what they do for the company. It was such a treat to be able to witness all of this.
And then it was over. We were done. We did get to go to Mr. M’s office and see all of his pictures. You know, the ones where he’s standing with the President…of the United States, and the First Lady, and various other well known individuals. We got to talk about where this might go. There was talk of publication in Forbes or another magazine of the same variety (I can’t remember which one). My advisor will be writing an article for the School of Management magazine…at which point, everything will have been cleared through the company’s legal counsel and I will be able to share the article.
We left feeling really good about it all. My advisor even suggested that it would not be unreasonable to expect that Mr. M might be willing to write me a letter of recommendation for grad school. That led to a discussion about grad school, when I’m taking the GMAT, what kind of things to put in my personal statement and the fact that, while for my immediate financial future, this university (the one where I work), might make the most sense, but that it would be wise to consider all of the variables before deciding where to go. He had some very good advice on the matter and gave me a few things to think about.
We arrived at the airport, had lunch together and then headed to our different gates (we were all on different flights for various reasons). As I sat at my gate, alone, I was once again left with some time to reflect on my life…you know, the deep type of reflection. I thought about how I had arrived at this point and where the future might lead. Basically, the weekend ended just as it began, with this amazing sense of peace about my life and my future.
**Weight Watchers Weekly will be posted sometime this weekend…so that you aren’t waiting on pins and needles, I didn’t go to the meeting this week, not because I didn’t have time, but because it’s what I needed. All will be explained in the post.