Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Survived

Is that all you've got?

That's right, I survived Black November. It's really overrated. 

It's interesting to see how different people prioritize and balance their lives. Some focus more on the job search and some on studies. I'm leaning more to the studying part, but I'm shifting towards the job search. Between organizing the job trek to the west coast, the various competitions I've taken part in and studies, I barely had time to breathe, and so I’ve finally succumbed and learned to let go the aspiration towards perfectionism. This capacity to multitask and prioritize and handle extreme load is a motif I hear over and over talking to alumni and really makes Darden grads shine on the job.


I allowed myself some time off today and went to my first UVa Basketball game, which turned out to be very exciting.

Tomorrow morning we’re heading towards Manhattan, where we’ll be having the third thanksgiving dinner this week with my brother and my Dad, who’s visiting the US now.


In a few days the marathon continues.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Black November

The most infamous time in the Darden program. When you wake up it’s dark. When you come back from school it’s dark. Recruiting stays in high gear and off grounds recruiting is added to it. To top it all off, if it wasn’t enough that we were loaded with 110% human capacity of schoolwork, meaning that 9% of the work can’t be done by an average person giving a 100% (dropping recruiting and everything else for it), the program has most graciously increased the load to about 130% with more pages to read for each case, more pages in each technical note and more pages in more books to read. The only thing that keeps us sane is the Thanks giving weekend seen at the horizon. Every class survives black November, so I guess we will too.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


A very exciting time to be an MBA student, but it is made even more exciting by the elections.
I have never excercized my right to vote when I lived in 
Israel, so this was my first time voting for the US elections. As I write this, I can hear fireworks celebrating the election of the US' first half Afro-American president. This is history being made.
As opposed to Israel, in the US we do not get a day off and you can only vote until 7 pm. Although people should be able to allocate the time to vote, I wonder how this affects the voting rate. 
I must admit that the voting process was pretty painless: an electronic process that although intutive, I can understand how some elderly folks in Florida may find confusing. 

It's funny, but in all the times I've voted in Israel I've never felt like I have today. Actually having a part in shaping the next 4 years of the greatest superpower in the world will do that.

America is certainly moving forward. Who knows, maybe in four years it will be ready for a full Afro-American president, or perhaps even a woman.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Best Professors in the World

In all the havoc and the routine of it, I sometimes forget to appreciate it. 

They invite us to their homes, they participate in our events, they are always accessible and will always find the time and they are with us every day. 

They are the best professors in the world. Recently ranked #1 professors in the world by Princeton review (up from #2) Darden’s professors are one more reason why Darden is such a great program. Yes, they have their research, but it is not why they are at Darden. Our professors are here because they love to teach. As students, we don’t want to feel that classes are simply an obstacle a professor has to overcome in order to go back to his or her research. We want fully engaged professors, that don’t just teach a class because they have to, but teach it because they want to. But we actually have more than we asked for: we have professors who teach because they love to.

There are no office hours for professors at Darden. Instead, their door is always open and they will always find the time for students. The other day after class, I still didn’t have something sit right. The professor invited me to his office when I’m done with classes. “we’ll walk through the numbers, you’ll understand”.

Darden professors are more than instructors. They are fully involved and engaged.

The other night, our professor showed up in our learning teams some time before 10pm. He was on his way back from Tennis and wanted to see how we were doing with our assignment.

In the last day of classes, we all came wearing our section’s T-shirts. One of our professors, of course, was dressed in business attire.  Jokingly, our section rep asked if he didn’t get the email. Our professor seemed surprised that there was an email. Five seconds later, he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal our section T-shirt underneath.

During our Darden-cup games, we get double participation points if professors attend. And they do.

If you’re looking for the best class experience, with the best professors in the world, you can stop looking. But why take my word for it? Schedule a class visit and judge for yourself.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Work hard & Party hard

In the rigorous program at Darden we work hard, but we also party hard. My ears were just recovering from TNDC, where a classmate’s band –Die Manic was playing, and I was back in class for the ‘Crack the case workshop’ learning how difficult case interviews are going to be. In the evening, it was time for the 100-case party – a 20 year old tradition of celebrating

 completion of 100 cases. This year we had an 80’s theme. What could be better than a full night with the best era of music the world has ever listened to?

The buses took us to an unknown location in an attempt to reduce the number of people driving there. I find it amazing that everyone just took a break from worrying about the financial crisis, the job search, exams and duties and was having plain fun. 

Only 7/8 to go!

The first Quarter is over and before we knew it, exam week began and ended. Last year I’ve read Darden student bloggers that mentioned that exam period is the easiest period and that not a lot of studying is actually necessary because if you’ve worked hard during the quarter, done your cases and were involved in class discussions, the material will already be in your head. These students also mentioned that they had a hard time believing it when they were told that exam period is the nicest of times until they experienced it. So I decided to break the cycle. I already believed it and guess what… I wasn’t wrong. The case method really works. We’ve learned so much during the quarter and it sticks. It’s pretty amazing. With one exam a day, equaling to 1/3 of the daily load during the quarter, less learning team time less briefings life gets real good. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Utilization 2.7?!

We just finished an excercise in Ops, where some of the stations' utilizatoin rate went above 100% and blew up the queue size and queue wait formula, meaning the queue is growing infinitely since the incoming job rate is greater than the stations capacity.

This is what the past few days have been like. Too many assignments for the measly 24 hours a day the earth's sping gives us. There's a meteorite enterng the atmoshphere tonight, maybe it will slow the spin down a bit, giving me the 3 extra hours I need per day. 

I have a presentation for DA to prepare for tomorrow, which I better do, since my DA professor stopped by our (awesome) learning team and once we've compared his reaction to the one he had for other teams, we figured we probably did a good job. 

There's  a 13.47% probability that he'll call on me tomorrow based on the fact that I already spoke and presented today, taking into account that he may be targeting my fellow team mate and not me. However, part of what we learned in DA this quarter is to look at the risk profile as well. Since I'm in fairly good standings in DA (Desicion Analysis BTW) I risk losing this and leaving a bad impression on the last class that may affect my grade. I'm mediumish risk tolerant so I'd try to give it an hour or two now (it's only midnight). 

There's another small assignment, cases for tomorrow and company research to be done.
I almost forgot about breakfast scheduled for 7am tomorrow for the DMA (Darden Military Association) with a member of Darden's board of trustees and the CEO of Prudential - John Strangfeld.

Contradictary information from 2nd years suggests different levels of difficulty next year.
Before I came to Darden I watched a short film from Darden follies called Darden Daze, which is a variation of Darden Days - the admitted student weekend at Darden.

I prefer to keep that vision of next year.

The video can be found here

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Did anybody get the plate number?

Things are happening at a frantic rate. Three weeks after we started our first year, when we were still trying to get the hang of 3 cases a day, learning team, 8 am classes etc. They came. From diffent parts of the country. From different industries. Yes, companies. There are multiple briefings every day. Sometimes we get 3 parallel and you constantly have to prioritise and drop stuff. I found myself comming unprepared to learning team meetings two days in a row and it feels aweful to let my learning team down. They are a great bunch and whenever someone is unprepared the rest cover and try to bring that person up to speed. Unfortunately for me, if I don't do the work myself I don't feel like I understand enough to participate the next day in class, but then there are more briefings and events and cases the next day. 
Darden's program is the best preperation anybody can ask for the real life. As a manager you'll have to constantly prioritise, skim where you shouldn't put much effort or delegate and drop or postpone non-critical issues. This is why Darden grads "hit the ground running".
Some grads actually said that they have so much spare time now that they are working and that everything seems easier after Darden.

This may be true, but it doesn't really help me right now.  We had the first exam this Friday and I did terrible on it. Most of us feel we did terrible and usually that's fine since there's a curve and it all gets normalized. However, I'll probably be on the lower end of that curve. 

Not all is grim. Deloitte graciously sponsored our tailgate today. Good food, good drinks and good people. I was still hung over from last night's attempt to wipe the memory of the exam from my brain, but I probably didn't kill enough brain cells. I'll keep working on it. 
The game was supposed to be a sure loss to the Maryland Terrapins so a lot of people just went home after the tailgate. Some friends and I went to the game to support our Cavaliers just to be surprised with the great turnout of the game. Our Cavaliers gave us quite a show. We won 31-0.
It was a spectacle.

Some more good news: I've been selected, along with some of my classmates to be an official blogger for Darden. This means my blog would be linked from the official Darden site.

(Look mom, I'm on TV)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hard days night

I've been popping redbulls like crazy but I'm finally done.
It's 6:00 am and I've just finished my assignments for today.
I have one hour of sleep left and a full day ahead of me.
Did I mention it's a rigorous program?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Diversity at Darden

This is most likely the most intense exposure and interaction an average student from my class would have to diversity. A condensed hot pot of people from different coutnries, races, cultures and genders (we actually have 100% of the genders represented in my class).

Coming from the hot-pot/salad mixer of coltures of Israel, it's difficult for me to relate to the hole topic of discrimination in the USA. After some discussions I've had with my classmates regarding minorities in the US and affirmative action I have a better understanding of the background of the situation today and my views have mellowed.

Though I  believe there still remain a few miles on the journey the US is taking in this matter, there's a lot of effort going into integration and rebalancing.

At Darden, we take part in a lot of activites around diversity. One recent and very interesting activity was an interactive play by CSW - a consulting company.

Here's my Leading Organizations professor interview for business week:

Tips for MBAs

Be bold. 
Be authentic.
Look at the market, see where the balls are rolling, what opportunity lies there? Do you see your destiny there?

This is a snippet of some of the wisdom and leadership philosophy Richard Fairbank, founder & CEO of Capital One - the 13th largest bank in the US - shared with us during Darden's Leadership Speaker Series this week.

Fairbank's r credit revolution is a story of true entreperneurship, taking advantage of opportunity when everybody else was doubtful. Stories like that trully inspire me so I was fully engaged in listening and I picked up some interesting points. 

A CEO will be able to delegate almost everything but one thing.
The one thing a CEO can't do without is vision.
Ok, this sounds very basic, but it's a lot more powerful coming from a person who had literaly made it. 

Hire the best people.
Ok, we know that. Everybody hires the best people don't they?
Well, you have to really put a lot of effort in getting the best people. This is where the most time and effort should be spent by leaders, according to Faribank. 

Create an environment where these best people can actually be great.

Fairbank moved on to encouraging innovation, but warned that changing buyers behavior is very difficult(though it can be done - e.g. IPod). Easier is to improve the buyers' experience.

Fairbank ended with a back to basics advice. The one our parents used to tell us and their parents told them: be loyal to yourself. The pure quest will rally up people around you more than the quest for your next promotion. 
Don't sell your soul and take the job because it pays well or because this is the cool job.
Take the job that you will learn the most from and have the most fun.

Friday, September 12, 2008


A game we played this week where we were divided into groups and asked to build Gazogles - Lego structures that look like the picture on the right.

The full game description can be found in an article writen by one of our operations professors. This would have probably helped my team not to do as bad as we did, but we cannot look these things up until we finish playing the game or discussing a case due to the honor code. Some more insights we've had in class discussin this is that we could actually talk to our customers and settle deals with them, perhaps sell them special product for premium price. We could also exchange some lego pieces for other pieces (bigger) to make the whole structure simpler to assemble.

I can say that being on the inside (I was assembler 1) you get to diagnose your own process as well as the one before or after you in the way they affect you. We have 15 minutes between rounds to perform process improvement (Kaizen events) but they went by so fast I could have sworn it was 3 minutes. During the events my group failed to consolidate the ideas so we ended up improving parts of the process while other parts (like supplies and procurement) remained inefficient rendering the whole process inefficient.

We failed collecting the input from all the different stations and looking at the whole process and improving it. I guess it may have been easier for an outsider to see things clearly.

This is probably what they hire consultants to do.
Anyway, I guess hindsight is 20/20.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Last weekend we had the class of 2010 section elections.

Positions ranged from section rep through social chair, athletics rep to student affairs. 

Though I was interested in the student affairs representative position, I was even more interested in being part of the student admissions committee, since I felt I had a lot to contribute in that area. The caveat is that you can't run for both, and the student admissions committee decision was after the section elections. So, if I was elected to the student affairs rep position, I couldn't run for admissions.

So I applied for the admissions committee. This application is actually an essay and you don't get elected, rather the admissions staff makes the decision.

Yesterday the results came in. 66 people applied for the student admissions committee’s positions. I did not get in, unfortunately.

I guess I'll have to find other ways to contribute and maybe try again next year.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Time Warp

Just like that another week went by.
I can't even seem to remember how it started. The last time I had a few minutes to think was when I wrote the last post after the football game. From then on, it was 8:00am in class. 13:10 - a starving man's frantic search for food. There was no time this week to go home (5 minute walk) due to club kick-off meetings that started this week, lunches with 2nd year students that interned in companies I'm interested in or are running a club I'm interested in, but could not attend the meeting.

I have never valued time more than I do right now. Every minute counts and has to be utilized to study the next day's cases, work on my resume, my 30 second pitch, my career goals, eating and sleeping.

Every day at 19:00 I meet my learning team. We've decided to start reflecting on our performance - what do we want out of the learning team? Are we achieving it? What works? Where do we need to improve?
We spend around 15 minutes every day to reflect on classes we had that day, what have we learned and how effective the learning team the night before had been.
We have improved (all that in just one week). The case method the way it's taught at Darden and the whole learning team experience is unefficient. But it is extremely effective.
I have learned so much during the past 2.5 weeks.

Why did black & decker pushed forward the DeWalt? Why is it colored yellow? What makes Southwest airlines so great or the Shouldice hospital in Canada and why do you want to get your Hernia fixed there and was it better for the hospital to expand their bed capacity or work on weekends? Why did Whestinghouse's CFL Superbulb did not sell well and much more.

Those of us who are going to NSHMBA had the resumania this week, where we met career consultants who went over our resumes with us. Today we had the Mockmania where we practiced our 30 seconds pitch. Mine still needs a lot of work.

Tomorrow - Friday - we don't have classes (thank god), but we do have industires workshops all day. The next 2 Fridays are also class free and after the game next Saturday vs. Richmond, we have almost a month where the games will be away so we'll have the Saturday's to catch up our schoolwork and career work.

I'm off to our bi-weekly cold call social - basically food and drinks outside on the grass at the school's court with all the Darden community - faculty, students, administration - that started 5 mintues ago.

Monday, September 1, 2008


I was still asleep when the 9:00 Kegs 'n' Eggs, hosted by a classmate, started.
I did, however, make it on time to the tailgate to get fuelled up with the local brewsky - Starr Hill -which is quite good. For some reason they don't allow alcohol in the stadium. Go figure.

Yes, it was the first game of the season. College football.

If I have ever been to a football game before, I was probably too young to remember, so for me, this was a first time experience and what an experience it was.
Around 60,000 people come into town and block the streets and fill up the parking lots. People who live near by Scott stadium sell their parking spots for 15-20$. This was a day to leave the car at home. Aparently yesterady was a new record for the stadium's capacity. 64,947 people watched the ranked third place USC Trojans treat our Cavaliers as cannon fodder . It's not Beaver Stadium (largest stadium in the US) but still quite impressive.
The walk to the tailgate and thereafter the stadium revealed sights of many many tailgates spread along the way as well as plain ol' picnics on front lawns with the background of thousands of people walking towards the stadium. It was amazing to see how everything turns into a celebration in the US. We have nothing even remotely similar to that in Israel. The closest would be probably the post victory celebrations after Maccabi won the Euroleague. But still, it's not liket this.

We had only one chance to sing our victory song - yes only one touchdown for this game, but the moral was high - at least for the USC folks it was.

A classmate explained the basic rules of the game and I dicovered that it's actually interesting and that I actually liked it. I'm finally in a country where I can relate to the national sports. I can't wait until baseball season starts - that stadium is a footstep away from my house.

The game and it's festivities take over one's complete day, so now I'm behind on all my school work/career/etc.
But you know something? There's another game next. We're playing Richmond and I intend to be there.

Go Hoos!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First week at Darden

I've had 2 full days of what is going to be the standard day - 5 days a week.

8 am: classes begin.

13:10: "free time" - in which I'm supposed to eat lunch and prepare my case analysis for my learning team meeting. 3 cases a day. Each case takes me 2 hours to read and prepare in a decent manner. Since I don't have that time, I spend 1 hour on each case, trying to skim through it and have some initial analysis about it. I don't seem to have time to read the extra material from the books so far due to my slow reading.Soon we'll add to this company briefings and club meetings. Good times.

19:00: Learning team meeting - where I meet with my (wonderful) team and brainstorm over each case for 1 hour.

22:00: If we finish on time - have dinner with my wife, catch up on study/reading material. Prepare for tomorrow morning and go to bed.

On Friday we had the Voyage of Discovery - a bonding, competative activity for the learning teams wrapped in the theme of the Lewis and Clark expedition. After we had our flag prepared, the trading floor opened, where we traded medicine for buffalo teeth, furs for metal etc. My team showed exceptional focus and discipline as we have in our two meetings. We ended the day with a nice dinner, where a second year joined our team and shared some of her wisdom with us.

Today started with a hiking trip in Shenandoah national park.

The day finished with a picnic in Flagler Court on the Darden grounds with all the Darden community. I returned home a little drunk, but very determined to crack the accounting case.
It's 2 am now and I have to finish a book and another case tomorrow before a BBQ at a professor's house - lunchtime tomorrow. And then, to top a nice Sunday, of course - learning team meeting.

Surviving two full days of the program gives no guaranties for this full week ahead. We already have an assignment for Wednesday consisting a 1/3 of our grade.

Fun times!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Class of 2010

Class of 2010 took the traditional photo on the steps of Sunders Hall.

In two years we'll take another photo, compare and reflect the past two years.

Follow this link to find some of the highlights.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A blast to the past

Yesterday we were given the opportunity to leave a time capsule for our future selves two years from now.
I did.
But then I had this idea, what if I could write to myself from the future. What if I now got a letter from myself in two years time. What would it say?

Dear Oren,
You are about to embark in a journey. The greatest journey you've had so far.
I don't want to spoil the surprise for you so I won't let you in on too much.
I will say this though; I had a blast. My (our) classmates are the best i could possibly ask for. I feel very lucky to have spent these past two years with such a talented, diverse group of people. I have learned so much from them and they, I hope, learned from me.
I never missed an opportunity to participate. Never sat shyly in the back, though I did sit in the back for the first quarter of the first year if I recall.

Our dean, Bob Bruner (yes he still is the dean so try to get to know him better, I was a little weak on that one this time around so you have a second chance - take it) told us (I think it was the day you were supposed to get this letter from me) a piece of wisdom from Las Vegas' casinos. It was a sign he saw over the rouletter table that said: "You must be present to win".
You remember that, right? So be present. These are only two years and they go this fast (swish!)
Be present.

I took most opportunities I had to get involved, participate, volunteer and still I feel I could have done more. So do more!
You'll have tough times, you'll have good times, but don't let any of these interfere with you taking advantage of this once in a life time experience.
Never again will you have access to such a diverse group of people, hudled together in one academic village, willing to share their knowledge and wisdom and willing to learn from one another.

Reach out.
Appreciate and enjoy.

P.S. I just got your time capsule. Thanks for the congratulations.

I really have to say this: I was young back then.
See you in two years,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why Darden?

Why Darden?
Because it produces the most well rounded graduates.
Because the graduates of Darden are team players, because they are embracers of diversity.
Because the high level executives coming from Darden are taking the time and effort to mentor the juniors in the company, thus gaining their respect and creating enthusiastic high performers that aspire, in turn to be like them.

Why Darden?
Because all the Darden graduates in our company are high performers with a proven track record of delivering results.

This was the general idea of what I gathered from a short video we were shown of a recruiter from one of the (if not the) best swiss banks taken when she was at Darden.

She was not paid to do this (or so we were told) and there was no pretty talking around her statements. They were direct and clear.

So why Darden?
Unless you have some of us in your organization, the best way I can answer is:
Just come and visit the campus.
You'll understand.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Here we go...

Wow! These were some intensive few weeks. Prematriculation is officially over today and tomorrow we start the school year.
I've taken some 3 day courses in accounting and economics in hope that it would boost my knowledge in the area since I have no previous experience in the financial sector.
More interesting, however, is the PCAP - Personal Career Assessment Program which was a three half day workshop of self discovery. In Darden we try to trully understand who we are, what our life themes look like and what job alligns well with our personality, expectations and aspirations (A.K.A the Darden Cookie - knowing yourself and finding the job that completes you like a broken cookie and it's other half. If you're considerind Darden, there's a slightly different reference to the cookie here you may want to read about).

We had a two day career forum where many Darden alumni and business people from different industries and roles came on campus and presented us with the career opportunities we have. We all know there's IB, consulting, marketing, GM as the main jobs, but what are these jobs actually like? What is a typical day? How do you get to a PEG? (you don't get there after school if you don't have any previous experience in the area is the answer, at least it's very unlikely). The purpose was to create a safe environment where we could actually ask about anything and open our minds to the different options and indeed there were a lot of them. It made me think about what I want to do and if I still want to. It's a good time to be at school now and it's a great place to be with so many roads open to us.

Today was the official reception of the class of 2010. I found out some stats about our class and I also found out that a fellow student blogger who happens to be on my section has already posted some of it today. So here are the stats:
We have students from all 5 continents.
Our class size is 334
We have 97 women which is 1 woman less than last years and was the highest number ever recorded in Darden.
33% of us are international
Our Average GMAT is 692 and our Avg GPA is 3.35 .
28 is our average age with a range of 22-34.

We were 9 people competing for each addmitted student.

We got a world record holder, college athletes, Peace Corps Volunteers, various military and citizen pilots, a submariner and more and more.

We got our sections assignments today. I'm in section D. I found out that a lot of the Camp Darden refugees* are with me in D so it was great to have already known my peers who will be with me this year. It seems that last year's class started to get to know each other when school started, at least someone told me, but we all were already hanging out together these past weeks. Maybe it's the social online networks or the new DardenPortal, but it feels to me like we got something special forming here.

Tomorrow is our first day. We'll also be getting our learning teams assignments tomorrow so I'll know who are the 4 people I'll be spending 4 hours a day or more with, learning, eating, drinking, fighting... you get the picture. It's exciting.

A lot of things are going through my mind these past few days. It feels like being on a roller coaster at the top just before the first big slope down.
click, click, click... wheels rolling and here we go...

* Veterans of the legendary Camp Darden

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Camp Darden

Darden is known for its rigorous program. It was actually a part of why I chose Darden. I like to push myself to the extreme, testing my limits. So I was planning on August 18th as the start date. What I didn't take into account is the load I'll have during the pre-matriculation period. According to the wide recommendation for people with no finance/economics background, I registered for the economics and accounting pre-mats. I also took the career orientation workshop and attended some of the international workshops, the last one's theme was "why are americans like that?". As a dual citizen, I play both sides of the field so I switch between international and american at my convenience. There's a lot of red tape involved in being a dual citizen, but I won't write about it now.

To sum it all up I've had classes at 8:00 am up until around 16:00 including Saturday (!) and that has left me little time to finish up on my Darden assignments. There's a checklist provided by Darden with a time consuming list and at the end of it they told us to relax and enjoy the rest of the summer, which kind of made me laugh as I was reading it in my war zone of an appartment.

Surprisingly, the pre-mats turned out to be a lot of fun. The Dardenites that were around the past weeks in Charlottesville started going out, having parties, going bowling, having more parties and there were also some parties. What started as a mailing list that kept on growing as more people turn out in C-Ville and more events are added to the mixer and was later transfered to a google group is now known as Camp Darden.

Every day involves at least one of those activities usually ending up pretty late and the next morning people actually appear in class at 8:00 am. i didn't have the American college experience (beer pong is unheard of in Israel) so I'm having a lot of fun experiencing these now.

A few nights ago I attended an Edward Fourtyhands for the first time and besides the fact that the only 40 oz. bottles I found were bud & bud lite it was great. Besides being just great people, class of 2010 turned out to be a real fun bunch as well.

Now all that's left is to finish all of my assignments for tomorrow in the half day that still remains of this beautiful Sunday :P

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Utility day

Today was dedicated to utilities. It took me more time than I expected it to, but it was a good experience. The concept of marketing in the States is so much more developed than what we had back in Israel. See, in Israel - a very small country where everybody knows everybody - you always know where the best price is or at least where to find the best price. Price is the #1 factor when purchasing. Right after that is reputation which quickly flows from mouth to ear and therefore is almost equal to relationship (past or present relationship you have with the seller or provider of service). For example, we all hate our cable operator (in Israel we have one cable operator* and one Satelite operator). They "forget" to tell you that the special deal you're on expired and simply charge you more without notifying you repeatedly. The digital TV gets stuck a lot. The box set has A detector for food so that whenever you bring food to the TV room, the VOD stops working. I guess it's because it's not healthy to eat and watch TV.
The cable company is called HOT and there's even a website called I hate HOT

Back to the point, due to a long lasting (bad in this case) relationship with the company I'd prefer not to use their services. However, if the prices are seriously lower (like 33% than the competitor Satelite TV) I may get cable.

Today I experienced a different way of making decisions. I was connecting to my power provider and when I was done, was automatically transfered to a partner that can refer me to different service providers. Since I'm moving in, this is logical that I'll need these and rather than searching for them, they just appear at the other end of the phone line.

Another experience was when i was comparing quotes for my car insurance, getting one quote, I wanted to seek other's to compare. The customer service rep almost left me no choice but to agree that he calls me back in an hour, which is logical, and thanked me for allowing him to, which was weird. Before he let me go though, he spent like 30 seconds on selling me the strong points for getting insurance from the company he works for. He did that so convincingly that in my mind a feeling of trust and the idea that they are always available for me 24/7 and will actually help when I need them existed. Thinking back these were exactly the points the rep repeated with much charisma.

Maybe in Israel we don't know how to do that. Maybe we can't bullshit or we all know it's bullshit so we feel that it's stupid or empty. I ended up buying from that guy although his quote was a few bucks higher than the competition.

I meant to write that the day was productive, but the fact is that I only managed to get renters insurance and some furniture purchased. I still have a lot of summer reading and 2 prematriculation tests to do before I am allowed to take classes. I'll be renting a truck (yes you can drive a truck in the States with the same license!) and driving to Charlottesville with all my stuff to my new apartment (that will only be available the day after). Meanwhile Camp Darden** is still up. We drove to C'Ville*** on Friday to attend a party which was a lot of fun. Class of 2010 seem like a terrific bunch.

* There used to be a few companies, but they all united to one company - I think it was just admitting that there really isn't any competition so why fake it - but it's just my opinion
** Group activities of Dardenites in C'Ville during prematriculation such as pool/parties, bowling, pubs, golf, etc.
*** Charlottesville, VA

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Culture Shock

Efficiency, Openess of mind and plain good service.
But today, I'll talk about something else. Something completely unrelated.
Ladies and gentlemen, the DMV.
Got there early before it opened to find out that I'm not the only smart guy in Fairfax county.

They require two forms of ID. Yes, one is not enough because there's no way you can fake two IDs. One, maybe, but two... no way!
Since the only official US document I have is my passport and since my Israeli drivers lisence is not accepted ("according to the law, sir") I was offered to bring in my official transcript from the university. Since I won't have these for a while, until the semester that hasn't started yet will end, this was not a good solution for me.
They had no problem accepting a lease agreement that I printed out by myself for a lease that hasn't yet begun as proof of my residency. I even registered as a voter in the state.

At this point I should probably explain why it was so important to get the license. I'm buying a car and I need to get insurance. If I have an in state lisence, the rates drop by like 40%.

At this point I was told to bring in my birth certificate. I think I had a puzzled look when I was thinking [ok, just hang on one sec, while I go buy a $2000 plane ticket, fly over to my mom's house (only about 12 hours flight) and rush over back real quick )]. I said I'm not sure I still have it, and she replied that I must have it since I couldn't get a passport without it. Since it has been about 30 years since I got my first passport I wasn't really sure we kept it.

When they mentioned the selective service card (somthing I was only first aware of it's existance 2 months ago) my eyes glowed and I rushed back to my mother in law's home to find it.

Since I also found out that they don't really perform driving tests there, I found me a new DMV office and drove there.

I got lucky and received a good education session when I tried to figure out my weight and height in pounds and feet. The lady decided there's no way I can be 5"10 and must be 5"8. "Sir, when people try to help you, you listen and don't write down anything. Now go and fill a new form and come back".

When I turned to go back and fill the form again, she called after me "what did you just say?!" Since I didn't say anything I turned back and asked "what did I just say?" and she said "ok" so I guess it was ok.

I got back to discover my selective service card is not accepted there. It would have to be sent to Richmond and I'd have to wait 2 weeks for their response if they agree to accept it. I got to speak to the supervisor after waiting for her for 15 minutes during which I noticed the slow pace the people were working there. Efficiency was also noted when they had 10 computer stands for taking tests, but only 2 were being used. (yes, they were functional). After almost giving up on the argument with the open minded and understanding supervisor, realizing I'll have to wait to get my student ID card and maybe they'll agree to accept it as a form of ID, it hit me - my Israeli passport!

After some discussions, they agreed that this is recognizable by the USA and off I went to wait to be called to take the computer test.

The eagle has landed

So here I am. After 30 years of exile, I'm living in the States again. Interesting enough (or not) I'm not that far away from where I took my first breath in the world at a hospital in the Dirstrict of Columbia. First few days have not been very productive.
In half an hour we'll be driving to the DMV in hopes that they won't make any trouble on account of my not having any proof of being a resident of the state, since my lease only starts in a week. Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Leaving the country

I still don't fully grasp that in a few days, I'll be leaving the country. Yesterday I had my farewell party on the roof at work and it was heart warming, seeing all those people whom I've worked with the past four years. I've made some close friends there and it is tough leaving all those behind, in addition to the career I loved. Part of the switching countries process is detaching from a lot of material stuff. In my years of existence, I've managed to accumulate a lot of belongings. Shipping everything in a container is too expensive so, like a lot of other students going for their MBA in the US, I'm selling everything I can, donating the rest and throwing away tons of stuff. When I started clearing the house I thought about every little thing before throwing away. By the time I was finished, I was throwing/donating quality stuff without a second thought. Today I said good bye to my best friend since the 7th grade and I still don't really acknowledge that I'm leaving.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Moving hell

Yesterday it was time to clear out our apartment. Somehow I expected, or more like envisioned my time after leaving work and before b-school more like drinking a rum cocktail with one of those tiny umbrellas under a coconut tree rather than the hectic time I've had the past two weeks getting ready for moving a country, tying up lose ends for work and, well, b-school stuff (which I am so far away from finishing). It was a last minute decision, but it seemed a 3 day scuba diving vacation down in the red sea will be worth the time we don't spend on packing and getting ready. It totally was. However, in order to get ready for moving day after the mover, who also packs the apartment bailed on us, we needed to pack strait through the night. At half past midnight I couldn't see strait anymore so we set the alarm for a three hour nap and then continued until 13:00, when the movers came. Movers have the tendency to always be unhappy. Unhappy with the deal's details, the pay, the tip etc. I think it's part of their training. Two of them actually were quite nice. The third, who looked like he was running the show was less kind - to us and to his colleagues. I won't bore you with the details of the rest of the hellish day spent with the movers, but I will say this: I am never moving house again. After graduation, when I work on the west coast, I'll come by on weekends back to Charlottesville to the grad student complex. Maybe there's a start up idea here. Maybe I could switch apartments during the weekdays with someone with the same agenda who lives in the west coast. Maybe we could have listings of all of those switchable apartments, say we'll call it Greg's list or something. Maybe writing a post when I'm so tired wasn't such a great idea after all...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tuck Visit

Tuck is one of the few top schools that will interview you prior to submitting your application. It's a great opportunity, especially for internationals already visiting to leave a strong impression since it's not likely that you'll come there again just for an interview. The downside of it is that you really have to prepare. Although we've done some mock interviews, looking back, I realize I was insufficiently prepared. We were lightly preparing our first applications to Darden while we were traveling so we just weren't polished enough.

Before driving to NH, we had to go get our found luggage containing our suits we needed for the interview. Just the night before, when we landed, AirTran informed us that they don't know where our luggage is, so we were extremely happy when we were notified it was found. Joyful that we didn't need to go shopping for suits we started driving to NH.

Dartmouth college is impressive. Located in Hanover, NH with all that green and forests around was very attractive for me. I like small places and Hanover was really a gem. We stayed in the nicest, coziest, homey motel in Lebanon (the nearby town). You come to realize that the center of your life would be around the school's building and we even heard stories from the Tuckies that during the harsh winter, they sometimes just stay indoors without ever leaving the school since it's connected to the dorms. Anyway, Tuck is really something else. The main hall has a fireplace and I've read that the whiskey club (yes, an official club for tasting whiskeys) sits around the fireplace drinking and telling stories. We walked by students sitting around with their laptops to the admissions office. The furniture around us is all oldish style in a good way. The staff was very nice. Parking is allowed in specifically designated places around campus. There are very few of these. However, I've heard one of the staff mention to a prospective that if he got a parking ticket, that he should just bring it to the admissions office and they'll take care of it.

I was interviewed by a second year student. When I analyzed it later on, I realized I should have shown more confidence with this guy, but as I've mentioned I wasn't prepared to take on an interview at the time. From what I've found out prior to the interview, the Tuck interviews are a flowing conversation, but that doesn't mean it's a walk in the park.

The class visit was OK, though there was nothing memorable there. Lunch in the cafeteria was decent and the student community seemed nice and helpful. We already had a scheduled meeting with an Israeli student of course and he was kind and informative. The main attraction of Tuck to me was the small class and tight-knit community, living in the middle of nowhere, NH - that's actually a good thing by my standards - bonding for two years. I did hear later on that students there actually need a liver transplant after two years there. I'm sure I could have taken it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sloan Visit

As an engineer, employed in the high-tech industry and aiming to return there - MIT was in my top list. After parking in a garage 10 minutes from school we discovered there's free parking right in front of the school. We met some nice prospectives in the lobby and started chatting. We then met a current Israeli student who seemed keen on the school, but we kept getting interrupted and didn't really get a chance to connect.

The class itself and the conduct in the class wasn't that interesting for our taste. We had lunch boxes prepared for us, which was very nice of the school and had lunch with current students. Of course, we got to ask questions about the school and application process.

We had a meeting scheduled with another Israeli student. We were eager to meet him, since the Israeli angle always reveals interesting information. We had a small communication breakage with him and couldn't find him for 15 minutes. When we managed to get him on the phone, he decided to cancel the meeting.

We left the school with feeling that we don't quite fit in the school's culture. I think this is the first time we really understood the importance of visiting schools and getting the feel from it and the people there. It's a good school, and I'm sure other people may find it more of a fit. By the time we reached the car, we had already decided not to apply to Sloan.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stanford Visit

Unfortunately Stanford hadn't yet had class visits available. I was really hoping to see what a Stanford class is like and get the feel of the student body. I did however meet two Israeli second years - who were a couple, which was great since we had the same goal of getting admitted together. They were two superstars who managed to get admitted to 5 top schools together and chose Stanford. They were extremely nice and spent some time with us over lunch telling us about the program.

I really liked Palo Alto and the campus itself. It provides the pastoral learning atmosphere and you have San Fransisco not so far away. We attended a short session conducted by the admissions staff and that was that. Our time was short and we had to proceed to our next stop - Boston, where we'll visit MIT and then head over to Tuck. We had just a few stops along the way: A few days in Vegas, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale and a short 3 day vacation in the Bahamas.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Haas Visit

We drove around Berkeley for a while before we reached some office that sells parking permits. Since they didn't know the way to the parking lots, we spent some more time finding one next to school. A Haas student later told me: "The best thing about Berkeley is our great location. The worst thing about Berkeley is our great location". The campus is beautiful and locating the b-school in it was an experience.

Stories of festivities in Haas' open area (concrete yard? see pic) and the smiling faces of students imprinted in my brain that it is a happy place. The class itself was fun and interesting as the students were summing up the result of a negotiations simulation. There aren't that many students in the class and this gives somewhat of a more intimate feeling. The professor added to the experience with her energy, smiles and good spirit. She looked like the stereotype of a California girl (no, I don't wish they all could be California girls - because I embrace diversity [I also stated that in one application essay]).

The professor then presented us with a short film created at Google labs where they teach the same class. I found out then that Google actually has their very own Haas MBA program running within the labs(!). The film was quite amusing, simulating negotiations of phone reps with angry customers.

A current student than took us to lunch in their very own grill-restaurant, which served some good ol' American cuisine. You are not entitled to lunch as part of the school visit. We met there some more pleasant Haas students and got to - you guessed it - talk about the school and admissions.

We were then taken to meet student ambassadors and admissions staff who were very kind. Some more prospectives joined the session and I discovered another Israeli there, which was great. There was no real answer for the financial aid issue with Berkeley. There is no loan arranged by the school without co-signers. This fact is extremely important to internationals. It puzzled me that Berkeley does not remedy this when I saw how a friend of mine had to deal with the financial issue with the high cost of living in Berkeley vs. the other offer he had at another ivy league school.

Unfortunately the Haas visit was added to our traveling plans at a short notice and we hadn't managed to meet an Israeli student there. The ambassadors gave us his contact, but due to timing constraints, we only had a phone call that evening after we had arrived to Palo Alto.

That evening, we continued working on our essays for our first application - Darden - as we've done throughout every stop in this trip.
The next day was a visit to Stanford.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ross Visit

It's a real short ride between Detroit airport and Ann Arbor. Something to keep in mind when considering interviews/conventions you'd want to get to during your two years. We touched base at a motel and met our Israeli MBA2 contact at his apartment. He called on some of the other MBA1's and MBA2's and we ended up sitting in a pub with 4 of them. Nastia (my wife) got a nice big 'X' mark on her hand, since she hadn't brought an ID with her. She was totally flattered by that of course. The Rossies are a fun loving, friendly bunch. Besides the fact that they spontaneously went out with us, they were ready and eager to answer any questions we had. No need to tip toe around the Israelis, so we really got to ask anything.

The next morning we had the class visit. The campus is spread around in buildings in Ann Arbor. The b-school is one of these. The full time program currently occupies the executive residence as far as I understand along with the part time, evening time and BBAs. The new building should be ready for fall of 2009. Until then, it may be a bit overcrowded. At least for my taste. Parking is not offered by the school, so we parked on the street and fed the meeter when it was hungry. There were a few of us visiting class. We got two escorts splitting us into two groups. Unfortunately we got a not so interesting class. Lunch with students was very nice. We had lunch coupons for the cafeteria and we got to ask questions about the school, admissions etc. The students were very kind. We had early dinner plans with the Israeli students so we took a walk around the campus. Luckily it was a perfect, blue sky, sunny September day. As sun is a rare commodity in Ann Arbor, the students take the opportunity and adjust their clothing accordingly. We sat down in a coffee shop and enjoyed the view and perfect weather.

It was really fun meeting up with the Israeli students again. We went to some fast food Italian restaurant and got to talk some more and meet some more of the Israelis.

We said goodbye to Ann Arbor and headed off back to Detroit. Stanford and Berkley are next.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just Married

Today I celebrated my 1 week wedding anniversary. Yeap, I got married a week ago.
Never viewed myself as the married type, but I guess 95% of all male US MBA students can say that.
Although we managed to pull everything together really quickly (like 3 months) (people here go around planning their wedding for a year or more - and I'm not accounting the plans girls have since they're 3 marrying Barbi and Ken [does Barbi still exist?]), it still was a lot of effort in all the planning and it all just blows away before you can say jack.. or ja.. well it's fast.

Nevertheless I have to admit, this wedding was perfect. The bride was astonishing!

With two witnesses at my side, I joined the Rabbi and signed the 'Ktuba' - a document specifying that I am obligated to feed my bride, make sure she has clothing and... well that she is satisfied. Yes the old traditions thought of that as well (PG-13?) . I put in a sum (the minimum required equals to about $30,000) of money that I agree to pay her in case I leave the house (yes this is legally binding).

We've marched to the sounds of a song from 'pirates of the Caribbean'. Guests were applauding and a rain of soap bubbles fell around us. We each gave a ring. My wife had a memorized fantastically honest, yet incredibly touching speech. She was surprised when I replied with one of myself. I heard later that guests were actually crying. The Rabbi was awesome - funny and witty.

When I broke the glass (Jewish wedding tradition) a song from 'Le-Reve' (the Tree) played.

The food was amazing (so the guests claimed - as expected we did not have time to eat), alcohol flowed freely (as an ex-bartender it was my duty to make sure good alcohol was present). Perhaps this is a good time to mention the amazing photography work done.

As sugar paste cake designers ourselves, we had to have an impressive cake at our wedding and so the masters who taught us the art prepared a cake with the bride and groom wearing graduation hats and cherry blossom branches spread on the cake.

We prepared a dance to the sound of 'Rule the world' by 'Take That'. It was amazing. We checked before (including youtube dance videos) and made sure we were the first ones to use these songs so here - it's documented - from here on the rest are copycats.

After that everyone was dancing or stopping to drink. The DJ built the music according to the feel of the crowd. Sometime later, deserts came (awesome too) and Popsicles appeared in the dancers hands contrasting the warm July evening.

After most guests left the lack of food, and constant dancing assisted the alcohol to charge in my bloodstream and the evening ended strictly according to tradition with the groom completely drunk.

A once in a lifetime experience.

Darden Visit

Last September, my girlfriend (toady my wife) and I set on 3.5 weeks of airport hopping around the USA. We landed in D.C. and after spending a few days at my girlfriend's parents in a suburb of D.C. we headed to our first school visit.
After almost 2 hours of drive we reached the gorgeous Charlottesville. Rumors have it that route 29 is a highway patrol goldmine, but I guess I was driving the speed limit.

We met with a current student in the evening who showed us around town - specifically the downtown mall. We had dinner and talked about school and the application process (surprise!).
We then turned in for the night preparing for the next day's class visit.

The GPS kindly pointed us to Darden blvd. There, surrounded by forest resides the Darden School of business administration.

At the gatehouse we got our parking permit, allowing us to park anywhere in the boulevard. I could feel the history surrounding me as we walked through the great wooden doors. These facilities are actually quite new, but they were built in accordance with the architecture of UVA, which was built by Thomas Jefferson's vision of an academic village. In short - amazing (UVA is a world heritage site BTW).

The visit started with 'First Coffee' - a 50 year tradition - a 9:30 gathering (after first class, which starts at 8:00 - Did anyone say MBA boot camp?) with a fresh, steaming cup and discussions about every topic from academics to hobbies with students and faculty. We were a bit shy and didn't get into any discussions. Networking in US standards is uncharted territory for us. We knew we, like a lot of internationals, had to learn this.

Off to the admissions office, where we received our case and had half an hour to prepare before our escort came to pick us up. This was my first case study ever so I didn't really know what to expect. The case was part of the 'Leading Organizations' course or as students call it - 'LO'.

Our student escorts took us to our separate classes - I was in section B. I kept rehearsing the short introduction of myself that I've prepared. The Israeli culture is very concise and strait to the point. We usually state our first names and current positions. Blabbing about your accomplishments is considered showing off, so speaking about myself in that manner is a skill I was still trying to master. I was somewhere at "My name is Oren..." when the professor asked me to introduce myself. I did so very briefly and that seemed enough. Than I was asked to tell an embarrassing story about myself. I censored the real juicy stories and told a nerdy dry "embarrassing" story because I actually wanted to be admitted to the school. I was finally allowed to sit down and watch the show. Or so I thought. You see, in Darden you don't watch the show. Instead of listening to the professor, you talk. If you listen to someone it would be to another fellow student. And you'd better listen. You can't lose trace of the conversation because you might get cold-called. The class split up to some group discussions for a few minutes and I actually participated, which seemed great at the time. What I didn't know then is that the whole learning experience at Darden comes from self learning, then group learning with your study group (3 hours every night) the rest is completed and polished in class by the 60 students who make your section. The professor is truly merely a facilitator.
There is no real way to transmit the experience of a Darden class. You really have to be there. This is probably why Darden requires that all domestic applicants interview on campus.

After class we were taken to have lunch with current students in the very impressive dinning hall. Food was good (paid for by the school) and the company even better. Darden students are friendly, modest and helpful. I can assume this collaborative, supportive atmosphere comes from the study method.

We were then off to the suburbs of D.C again. The next day held an early morning flight to Detroit. Ann Arbor awaits.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

School visits

If I could offer you one piece of advice, it would be - wear sunscreen.
A notch after that would be, visit the schools you plan to apply to.
As an international, flying over the Atlantic, then airport hopping across the USA poses a financial and workplace challenge. Especially if you don't want people at work to know you're looking at an MBA.

I can't put my finger on what drove us to visit schools, but I'm so glad we did.
You can do all the research in the world and "know" everything there is to know about the school, but you won't know the school. The only way to feel the culture and atmosphere is to experience it. Talking to people from the school, alumni, students, cleaning ladies etc. helps, but you will truly know if you "fit" the school once you've visited.

So, once again, visit the schools you plan to apply to.

I found the value of the visit was tremendously increased by contacting current students and arranging to spend some time with them so you'd have the chance to ask questions, maybe go out together and experience what it's like being an MBA student there.

Schools offer class visits, usually followed by lunch with current students (some pay for it, some don't), maybe a Q&A session and some are even nice enough to provide parking for your cool (so 90's) rental.

At minimum you need a day at each school for the class visit and spending some time with students. If there's one thing I do regret is not spending 2 days (two full days, not land, find hotel, visit school 2nd day) at each school to have one day free to get to know the place and more importantly (much more) the nightlife.

It's also nice if you join one motel/hotel club membership and stick with it so you'd probably end up getting a night or two for free during your trip. I used and was fairly happy saving $100+ staying one night in Boston.

Prior to the trip, I thought I knew what schools I wanted and what they would be like (more or less). I found out that some schools I thought I'd fit right in, I didn't like and some I thought would be nice - I fell in love with.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Getting a US student visa

Today we went to the US embassy to apply for a student visa for my fiancĂ©e (she’s also in my class of 2010).
The overall experience was pretty painless though I went to register for voting for the first time while I was there and it’s substantially easier on the US citizens side.
I have not heard of stories of international students who did not get the visa, but better be prepared.
So here are a few tips we gathered while listening on other people’s interviews:

1. Come at least 20 minutes prior to your interview. The security checks take time and it seems they invite groups of people once an hour rather than stream them every few minutes or so. So you want to be there before the full group gets there.
2. Don’t hide anything – they know anyway
3. Even though they took your fingerprints on the first step where you present your documents, don’t run off to the interview line. You are required to give your fingerprints again at a nearby window. I have no idea why, but if you don’t do it you may have to start the process all over (so the facilitator there says).
4. Bring a pen (black preferred). It’s a bummer to crowd around the few pens they have there or asking people to use theirs.
5. If you already have/had a US visa – bring it. They don’t ask it on their website and it’s not mandatory, but they sometimes ask if you have it.
6. Bring a paycheck. Again this is not something they specify on the website, but they sometimes ask for it. Better safe then sorry.
7. Bring cash. Preferably exact change. In Israel we paid 33.5 NIS for the postal delivery of the passport+visa.

*Information based on experience in US embassy in Tel-Aviv and is merely a suggestion. Author not responsible for any damage, loss or anything anywhere ever.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Should You Get An M.B.A.?

I tried out the Forbes business school calculator. I got the following results:
Yayks! I had the notion, but it's different when you actually see the numbers.
So I'm leaving a good career progress and a nice salary, stability, friends, family and all of that behind. Why do I want to get an MBA?

I had to answer this in the five applications I wrote, but even before that, I had to answer this in order to know if I even wanted to apply in the first place.

I like money just like the next person. Well, I apparently don't like it enough to keep it and patch up that hole I have in my wallet, but anyway, money's not the (main) reason for the MBA. I'm not even looking at investment banking.

Ok, so I would have gotten my next promotion in a few months. That would have been nice, but then what?

It's the leap. The doors that would be opened for me once I'm in a top b-school, the top notch education I'll get to understand all the business components and how they all come together, the fantastic people I'll meet (and already have met some). It's that quantum leap.

Why do you want to get an MBA?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A blog is born

I live in Israel, work at SAP as a software development team leader. At least I will be for the next month. As of mid August, I'll be living in Charlottesville VA, getting my MBA at Darden.
I love Scuba diving, skiing, roller blading, cooking, computer games and sugar paste cake designing.

Here, I will tell all about my experiences in the MBA process, what I've gone through by now and what I will go through in the next two years.
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