Friday, December 11, 2009

We survived!

I know I am well overdue for several posts, and I promise those will come later (honestly!)...but, as my Global Economies & Markets exam rolls off my printer, I just wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS to all my Darden FY classmates.  We've survived first semester, and now we can celebrate our survival with 5 weeks of glorious freedom!  Oh, yeah, and interview prep....  :-)

I wish everyone safe travels and a happy and healthy holiday season!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why do you build me up just to let me down and mess me around?

Apologies to The Foundations for borrowing their lyrics ("Build Me Up Buttercup") for the title of this blog post, but....

Dear Darden,

I have a question for you: seriously?  Now, I've heard all about "Black November" at Darden.  It's like one of those "the school, the myth, the legend" kind of things around here.  I know that I'm not supposed to have any free time at all, that I'm supposed to be getting 3.25 hours of sleep each night, that I should be making 5+ networking calls a day, that I should be calculating WACCs and de-levering betas in my dreams.  I get it.  Really, I do.  I was expecting it.  And frankly, my November didn't start out too terribly wonderfully.  I didn't understand anything in either Finance or Global Economies & Markets.  I hated my resume.  I was grumpy, for a variety of personal versions.  In other words, I was ready for Black November. 

Then, Darden, you decided to lure me into a false sense of security and complacency.  You gave me a light caseload last week.  My learning team didn't have to meet after Tuesday.  We got to go on a field trip, fifth grade style, complete with busses and a lunch consisting of turkey sandwiches on white bread and chocolate chip cookies.  I can't remember the last time I had a sandwich on plain white bread.  It was nostalgic.   I had time to pay my bills, clear out my DVR, and watch a movie from NetFlix.  I went to TNDC for the first time since September, without feeling guilty, because I got to sleep in the next morning since class didn't start until 10:15 for a change.  I got to clean my apartment from top to bottom because I actually had time to do it, not because I was using domesticity as a procrastination excuse.  In my view, having time to scrub your floors on hands and knees, with Pinesol, at 3 pm on a Thursday afternoon when you don't have company coming is the height of self-indulgence, an activity typically reserved for the unemployed or ladies who lunch.  The rest of the world uses Swiffers.   This weekend, I had time to make coffee cakes to motivate my Section E-mates to get up and play Darden Cup soccer.  I baked bread.  I made chicken noodle soup, from an actual raw chicken and a big pot of water and some chopped up vegetables.   It felt like exam week, only so much better.

Then this week started.  Monday was Black Monday, in my view.  I don't know what happened to the stock market, but my levels of joy and satisfaction with life plummeted well below 10,000.  I had a paper due that should have taken me 2 hours to write.  It took me HOURS, and I finished it 20 minutes before the deadline.  It was a 4-page paper.  WTF, Darden?  You've robbed me of my ability to write papers, and I was a paper-writing fiend before you converted me to a spreadsheet junkie.  I realized this week that my resume still stinks.  I haven't written any cover letters, and I have three weeks until on-grounds job applications are due.  I'm behind on preparing for case interviews.  I have several networking calls set up for later this week, but I'm still behind the ball.  I REALLY have no idea what's going on in Finance.  My class participation has fallen off a cliff.  We have a marketing simulation (StratSim) from 1:30 pm-9:30 pm today and 9 am-9:30 pm tomorrow.  It's raining today, and it suddenly went from 70 degrees to winter.  I feel like I'm drowning.  I'd rather go back to working 90+ hour weeks at a law firm. 

Darden, I understand that this month is called "Black November" for a reason.  I just think it was really mean of you to make me think that everything was peaches and cream last week.  If you were a man, I would dump you, because I consider that false advertising, and it's a problem in any relationship.  Take that, Buttercup.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Old friends

Since moving to Virginia, I have been truly awful at keeping in touch with my friends from back home.  There just isn't enough time in the day to feed myself, let alone make phone calls or send personal emails. However, due to some apparent oversight in the FY schedule this week (guess someone in the administration missed the "Black November" memo, but more on that later), I have had the luxury of enough free time to spend quality time on the phone with friends from college, exchange emails with a friend from work, and see a friend from home this afternoon (totally impromptu!).  Being able to catch up with these friends was exactly what I needed from a mental health perspective at this point in the semester.  The new friends I've made at Darden are great, but sometimes nothing beats being able to talk to someone who has known you for 5+ years. 

And now I'm off for a potluck with some new friends...  :-)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Exam week is the best week of the quarter

Imagine being able to sleep later than 7 am, to watch prime-time television, to spend the whole day in pajamas, to have time to go grocery shopping, to have time to cook (not just heat) dinner…

For Darden FY students, the above activities are just figments of the imagination during the first quarter. During typical school weeks, I wake up at 7 am, shower, dress, do hair and makeup so that I look presentable for company briefings later in the day, grab my first cup of coffee at 7:45 (thank goodness for timers on coffee makers!), hop in the car, get to Darden by 8 am, spend the next 5 hours in class (refilling coffee every 85 minutes), grab a quick lunch, attend a company briefing or two, meet with a career coach/attend a club function/hit up another networking event, run home, pound a diet coke, prep the three cases for the next day, zap my dinner in the microwave while I change my clothes, then head back to Darden for learning team at 8 pm, get home around 10 pm, and spend some time unwinding, paying bills, trying to keep in touch with friends (which I am really bad at doing lately), and then fall into bed exhausted around midnight or 1 am. I frequently grocery shop at 10 pm, on my way home from learning team (there are four grocery stores between Darden and my apartment, 3 miles away). I don’t have time to cook dinner unless it’s a weekend (fortunately, I made a bunch of meals in August and froze them, and between those, lean cuisines, and free food at briefings or networking events, I manage to avoid dinners consisting of chips, cookies, or other unhealthy but quick foods). It’s a brutal schedule. I thought I’d have time for naps, like I did in college, but I do not. I am literally on the go doing Darden-related activities for 14+ hours a day.

However, once exam week rolled around, I found that I actually had some time to unwind and act like a normal human being. I had time to clean my apartment. I had time to go to both dinner and brunch with friends during the weekend before exams. I woke up each day at 8 am, grabbed some coffee and a granola bar, worked on the day’s exam for 5 hours, printed it out, drove to school and dropped it off, and by no later than 3 pm each day, I was a free woman. I caught up on the shows stored on my DVR. I painted my toe nails. I cooked. I ironed a huge stack of business casual attire. I spent a lot of time on Facebook. I took naps. I read books for fun. It was amazing.

Then second quarter started….and by day 2 I found myself counting down the days until Q2 exam week.


I have always been a huge fan of buffets. When I was a kid, one of my cousins and I used to be brunch buffet masters – we’d load up our plates with Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, salads, freshly-carved meats, etc. And then we’d take a second, third, or fourth trip to the buffet line. I have no idea how we managed to eat so much, because I certainly cannot eat that much anymore; I just don’t have the stomach capacity for it (yes, for all you operations fans out there, my stomach is the Herbie when it comes to buffets). Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t try to relive my youth at the Darden International Food Fest…

The International Food Fest (IFF) is an annual Darden event sponsored by the International Business Society. Students form teams to represent countries or regions, and then they prepare traditional delicacies to serve from a decorated table/booth to the whole Darden community (you pay a flat fee for a wristband, and then when you show up, you get a plate and a fork and can eat all you want). After everyone has eaten themselves into food comas, many of the teams put together a performance of some sort.

While my heritage is German, there was, sadly, no Germany table at the IFF this year. Instead, I was recruited (during Orientation) by Team Italia. (Apparently, if you invite people over for a lasagna dinner during International Orientation, they will tell Irene , who will promptly recruit you.) We made a whole host of tasty food, including lasagna, tiramisu (I need to get that recipe from Irene!), polpette, bruschetta, insalata caprese, etc. My house and hands smelled like garlic for a week after my sub-team met to make the insalata and bruschetta….but it was delicious! Team Italia also sang some apparently traditional Italian songs during the performance section. Yes, even I sang, though I have a horrible signing voice and don’t speak a word of Italian. It was certainly interesting!

Although Team Italia didn’t end up winning any awards, this year’s IFF was a great chance to meet some new people, taste some new foods from around the world, and reminisce about how I used to be able to eat soooo much more food when I was younger. *sigh*

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Life Outside of School...If I Could Only Remember What That Is...

Darden has a reputation for having a very rigorous First Year program. Do not underestimate the implications of that reputation. I have class for five hours a day, starting at 8 AM, then I go to company briefings, then I prep my cases, go to club meetings, meet with my learning team, and come home to work on my resume or finish prepping cases. I get maybe, if I'm lucky, 6 hours of sleep. I can survive on that, but if you knew me in high school, you know what a lack of sleep does to me after a while. To head off those effects, I try to get a lot of sleep on weekends, but there are always tons of social events, more cases to prep, more job search stuff to be done....and a new town to explore!

While I haven't had a ton of time to really explore, when S came down to visit before classes started, we did go to Monticello (very cool!). J and A and I also drove over to the Williamsburg Outlets during Orientation (to stock up on lightweight business casual attire at discount prices). Beyond that, I've been spending most of my free time entertaining (I love having people over for dinner/drinks/apps/whatever), hanging out watching movies or playing Cranium, or just trying to find some time to catch up on everything I've got stored on my DVR (darn learning team meetings during prime time!). I'm hoping that now that I sort of know what's going on with school, I'll have a little bit more time to go do things like hike, drive Skyline Drive, etc. We also start getting random Reading Days (like last Friday, this coming Wednesday, and October 9!). Unfortunately, Reading Days are usually claimed by such fun school-related activities as company briefings, case prep, Career Coach meetings, conferences, etc., so I'm not sure how much of a respite they'll be. There's some talk of getting in a round of golf on Wednesday morning before company briefings, but we'll see if that plays out...(haha...punny!).

On that note, it's off to bed for me. Gotta get in that 6 hours of sleep, you know!

Retrospective: The Dreaded Career Search

Another thing I did not anticipate about Darden when I arrived: you have exactly 2.5 days to enjoy being unemployed, and then you start panicking about finding a new job. Surprisingly, this isn't because you are destitute; it's because the Career Development Center (CDC) will put the fear of God into you by immediately convincing you that you will never have a job ever again because there is a recession/you are a career switcher/nobody is hiring/the sky is falling/run, Chicken Little, run! OK, slight exaggeration. But still....

The doom and gloom and career-centric mindset started during International Student Orientation, continued through regular Orientation, became more intense during the first few CarMa sessions, and reached a fever pitch with the onslaught of company briefings, networking events, etc. that started a few weeks ago. To be fair, I think they really just wanted us to get on top of the job search sooner rather than later, but I thought I'd have a little while to just chill. Wrong.

We're currently in the midst of preparing our resumes (although resume drops don't happen until December, I've already been asked for mine a couple times). I'm having a bit of a hard time moving from a "look, I'm a great paralegal, hire me to work in the legal field!"-focus to a "look, I'm a great MBA student, hire me to consult/crunch numbers/develop a marketing plan/etc."-focus. I met with two second-year career coaches (one who was assigned to me when I picked the consulting industry as a focus, and one who will be working at McKinsey next year and had a similar non-quantitative, short pre-school career) and the consulting Career Coach last week, and I have a meeting with the "non-traditional careers" Career Coach tomorrow. Basically, my resume doesn't do a great job showing "results" right now, and I'm struggling to figure out how much I should/can (legally) share about what my jobs have entailed. I guess the good thing is that there are tons of resources available to me, so I'm going to keep taking advantage of them and "trusting the process," and hopefully it will all work out in the end.

Retrospective: Family Weekend

Last weekend was Family Weekend at Darden. On Friday, parents, spouses, fiancees, friends, whomever could visit a class with their associated student, come to First Coffee, hear from the Dean and the Director of Student Services, and (if they registered early enough to get seats) attend a mock class led by my LO professor, Scott Snell. The day ended with a Family Weekend Cold Call.

My parents came down for Family Weekend, arriving Thursday and staying until around 3:30 on Sunday. On Friday, they came to class (although they were scheduled to come to MC with me, and we were videotaping our 2-minute stories in small groups, so I prohibited them from actually attending that portion), went to the presentations, chilled with me at home in the afternoon, went to the Cold Call, and then took me to dinner. On Saturday, we hit up several wineries southwest of Charlottesville (Wintergreen, Cardinal Point (yep, trip 2 for me - but they have rieslings, which my family love), and Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery) stopped at a delicious roadside bbq shack in the middle of nowheresville, VA, and then came home to do random odd bits of home improvement (e.g., install latch for my screen door, hook up new television that was my early b-day present, install dimmer for the dining room light, replace all the lightbulbs in my house with CFLs, etc.) and eat dinner (homemade crabcakes, which I unfortunately over-Old Bay'ed, and sweet potato fries, which they actually sell in the freezer section of the grocery store down here - sometimes the South is wonderful!). On Sunday, we went to brunch, my mother altered a sundress for me so that it no longer fits like a tent, and then we got into a huge fight about installing a programmable thermostat (I swear my mother broke my A/C....but the landlord fixed it the next day). They left, and I scrambled to prep cases before meeting with my LT.

It was good to see The Fam, but over this past week, I realized that I really count on having some downtime on weekends; since I missed that over Family Weekend, I was realllly dragging this last week. But I managed to sleep for 14 hours straight on Friday night, and I followed that up by 12 hours straight last I should be nicely rejuvenated for this coming week!

Retrospective: I Thank God Every Day That I Have an Apparently Functional Learning Team

Learning teams (LTs) are a huge part of the Darden experience. Basically, it is an assigned group of 5-6 people who meet each evening to prepare and discuss the next day's cases. Most LTs meet between 7 pm and 10 pm each evening, although that schedule can vary. My LT, for instance, used to meet at 7 and now meets at 8. Also, I don't think it has ever taken us 3 hours to prep our cases; we're usually done much faster.

Basically, the LT serves a couple purposes:
1.) It helps everyone prepare for class. The cases are not always (or ever) the easiest things to figure out on your own, and by meeting as a team, you're able to share insights, resolve questions, and generally come closer to "cracking the case" (or at least being able to discuss it or ask intelligent questions in class the next morning). Also, once company briefings and networking receptions start (around the middle of Septembre) and you have less time to prepare on your own, your LT should be able to help you get through the material.

2.) It gives you experience working in teams. Basically, this is the point of business school. If you are going to be an effective manager, you need to be able to work in and/or lead teams, and Darden especially is big on having you learn how to do this in a hands-on way.

As I said, my LT is highly functional, and we all seem to get along pretty well (we had dinner together tonight, we've done Wednesday trivia night at the Mellow Mushroom, there's talk of LT apple picking, etc.); not all LTs are running so smoothly. There are some interpersonal conflicts, some conflicts regarding goals for evening meetings (always getting the "right" answer vs. gaining some insight/focusing on the big picture, etc.), some scheduling issues (remember that a decent number of Darden students are married/have children), and other conflicts. While LTs are supposed to stick together through Q3, if your LT is completely disfunctional, you can disband (although apparently you still have to do StratSim together in November... I still don't know what this is, so more on that later). There are also various resources available to LTs that are having problems so that they can try to work through those problems. For instance, our LO professors have offered their assistance, and each LT has an assigned 2nd Year LT Mentor, who are 2nd Year students enrolled in a class on leading teams. They come observe our LT meetings periodically, and they are a resource to whom we can turn to confidentially discuss any team problems.

Like I said, though, my LT pretty much rocks, and I am quite, quite thankful for that, having been on some atrocious teams in the past. Here's to hoping we continue to get along!

Retrospective: Section E is AwesomE

Darden divides the approximately 310 students in each class into five sections (A-E) of around 62 students per section. Apparently, this is done rather randomly. Within your section, you are also assigned (randomly) to a particular seat for the quarter (or maybe the next two quarters...I don't quite know yet). For Q3, you are assigned to a different section (I-V). Your section is the group of people that you sit with for 5+ hours a day in class (you're basically assigned to a homeroom, and the faculty for each course come to you), hang out with socially, and are generally forced to bond with. Fortunately, given my section, this is not too much of a burden for me. :-)

I am in Section E. In case you didn't know, E is for awesomE. We are the reigning Darden Cup champs (more on this later, I promise), and we are generally awesomE. As far as I can tell from the scuttlebut around grounds, Section E is the chill, non-gunner section. I am a big fan of that reputation. Also, apparently we rock at softball. And at convincing our profs to show up and root for us when we play softball. And at things like keg/case races, flip-cup, beirut, etc. (Now, those of you who know me know that I generally play flip-cup or beirut with water, and I am not a fan of keg races. However, all of these activities have perhaps a larger prevalence at Darden than they did at Brown (which was a wee bit shocking to me). I'm sure I'll talk more about my feelings about that later, too.)

Perhaps the most awesomE things about section E this year, however, is that there is a gentleman in our section named Asim (pronounced pretty close to "Awesome."). He has generously permitted us to emphasize this similarity in pronounciation at every opportunity we get (in fact, he is the first person who brought this up), and he has, in effect, become the section mascot.

Also, each section has various traditions. We found that the Section E traditions from last year's Section E were fairly lame, so we invented some of our own, which we and our faculty seem to be getting a big kick out of every day. Want to know more? Well, come to Darden and hope you have the good fortune to visit Section E.

Retrospective: Reflections on the Darden Q1 Curriculum from Someone Who Hasn't Quite Survived It Yet

I probably should have done more research on the Darden curriculum before I arrived in Charlottesville. However, I knew that there wasn't a lot of room for personal choice in the curriculum, and I figured that I was picking a school based in large part on fit, which for me had little to do with classes and more to do with people. (Remember, I was a sociology major at Brown. I'm touchy-feely and tree-hugging.) The faculty at Darden are consistently recognized as the best business school teaching faculty in the country. I figured if they're supposed to be that good, they could teach me just about anything. :-)

So, for those of you who actually want to know what classes I go to each day, here's my overview of the curriculum so far:

Decision Analysis (DA), or "Fun with Excel Models and Crystal Ball" - Let me preface this by saying that prior to coming to Darden, I don't think I had ever used Excel for anything more complicated than putting together a table of trial exhibits (because tables in Word are EVIL). Excel was embedded in our Powerpoint/graphics package at The Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named, but remember, I was in Legal, so I didn't really use Excel. Naturally, then, when I realized what exactly was going on with this class, I was horrified. Yes, I could make a spreadsheet. But it was not pretty, it was not color-coded, and I didn't know all the handy dandy Excel shortcuts. In fact, during the second or third week of class (and during the middle of my miserable bout with "the Darden flu"), I was cold-called and had to build a spreadsheet model in front of the whole class. My class oh-so-helpfully decided to nit-pick about the color I was making the input cells. I finally made the cells peach just to be a snot. After 7 weeks or so, my spreadsheets are slightly prettier, Crystal Ball (a simulation software made by Oracle that ties in to Excel and lets you run models to predict things like Expected Monetary Value for a particular decision given a whole bunch of assumptions) color codes them for me, and, I have found, usually there is an "Aha!" type aspect to each case that goes well beyond building the model. I think my Learning Team and I are usually pretty good at figuring out the big picture and getting close to the case-cracking "Aha!" moment. I still don't know all the Excel shortcuts; I may never know them, but I've decided it's just not a big enough deal to worry about.

Marketing (MKT) - Fairly self-explanatory, although I think I honestly expected more discussions about advertising campaigns and fewer mathematical formulas. We've had some interesting guest speakers from Heinz, Progressive, and Google so far, and we got to watch a bunch of Dupont Stainmaster commercials from the 1980's. Good times. I actually want to know how many Darden students switch to Progressive insurance during their first year, or how many of us went out and bought Heinz ketchup (and hot dogs, hamburgers, or french fries) after Thursday's case discussion.

Accounting (ACC) - We spent the first half of the quarter discussion Managerial Accounting (the stuff managers use internally to make business decisions - mostly focusing on issues like determining the price for which you should sell things), and halfway through the quarter we switched to Financial Accounting, which is giving me unpleasant flashbacks to senior year at Brown, when I thought it would be "fun" to take accounting. Fortunately, that prior background has probably saved me from major confusion or major embarassment in the last couple weeks. We dealt with journal entries and T-accounts last week, and this week we're moving into financial statements.

Operations (OPS) - We do a ton of simulations in this class, including one involving drawing faces, one involving building things out of legos, one involving playing doctor with a bunch of dolls, and one computerized laboratory. Basically, what I've taken out of this class so far is that the goal of any business is to make money (go read E. Goldblatt's book The Goal), Herbie's are bad, and there are also a bunch of formulas you can use to determine how many service center staff you need to have to keep wait times down to 5 minutes per customer. I don't know what else to say....operations is relatively foreign to me, but I'm muddling through. We'll see how the exam goes...

Leading Organizations (LO) - formerly known as Organizational Behavior. Basically, this is the touchy-feely class with which many people have a love/hate relationship. There's a lot of talking about feelings and self-awareness and "being in the box" and working with difficult people and managing up. We share a lot about prior difficult situations we've been in at work, difficult people with whom we've worked, etc. There's also a ton of role-playing: last week, I had to pretend to fire someone whose house had just burned down and whose daughter had leukemia. I actually really like this class; it appeals to my sociologist tendencies. Also, alums constantly say that this is the class that they "use" most often in real life.

Career Management (CarMa) - this class randomly shows up in our schedule. We started meeting in sections with one of the Career Coaches to discuss life themes, career objectives, and our 30-second stories. Two weeks ago, we broke into career-objective focused groups (I'm in the consulting group; more on that later) to discuss strategies for networking. We're also supposed to be working on our resumes now, and we'll discuss those in class on Thursday this week. Generally, I think the most valuable part of this class is forcing us to focus our attention on stuff like our resumes sooner rather than later.

Management Communications (MC) - This is another one of those "show up randomly in the schedule" classes beyond the five core class (DA, MKT, ACC, OPS, LO). We talked about email communications, story telling and knowing your audience, and then we each actually delivered a 2-minute story about a leadership experience (or, in my case, the reason I chose to pursue my JD/MBA - my section's prof let us pick any subject that might come up in an interview) and gave feedback to our classmates. On Friday, we had to turn in a short written story as a diagnostic...I don't know what we're ultimately going to do with those.

Retrospective: Orientation & Career Forums

Orientation at Darden lasts for about a week. The schedule is basically as follows:

Monday (optional) - pick up your name tag and t-shirt, First Coffee, mill around and meet people, first Career Management (CarMa) session, Q&A Panel with Student Services/Registrar/Financial Aid, etc. I only did the name tag pick-up, CarMa, and meeting some new folks. I skipped the Q&A because I was frankly so irritated by the Financial Aid situation that I was not in the mood to sit confined in a small space worrying about it any more (more on this later). CarMa was all about finding your life themes. I was unimpressed at this point.

Tuesday & Wednesday (optional) - Career Discovery Forums. Basically, these were 1-4.5 hour presentations (usually by alums working in a particular field) and Q&A sessions with a panel of folks from various career tracks, such as General Management & Operations, Finance, Consulting, Entrepreneurship, Sustainability/Non-Profit, and Marketing. I went to GMO, Consulting, Sustainability/Non-Profit, and part of Marketing. I thought the sessions were vaguely informative. The quality of the presenters varied. The Q&A sessions were not terribly enlightening. If you knew nothing about a particular area, these may have been rather helpful. Likewise if you were looking for folks with whom to network later. I personally think that cramming all of these sessions into 2 days was just too much. It was a ton of sitting around, plus the same boxed lunches each day. I would think about hosting one forum each day, first thing in the morning, so that they are interspersed with other Orientation stuff. Also, Tuesday was the day of the Business Etiquette Dinner, which was actually fairly educational. For instance, did you know that the appropriate time to bring up business at a breakfast meeting was right after the coffee arrives, whereas at lunch you can wait until after meals are selected?

Thursday (mandatory) - Dean's welcome, First Coffee, Section & Faculty Introductions, Welcomes from Career Management and Student Affairs staff. Standard orientation fare. Nice to find out with whom we'd be in class for the next three months.

Friday (mandatory) - Introductions from the Registrar, Financial Aid, Library, UVA Honor Committee, and Darden Outreach, followed by First Coffee, Introduction to the Darden Curriculum, Learning Team Orientation and Lunch, and Learning Team/Community Acitivity. Everything up to Learning Team Orientation was not particularly memorable. I remember thinking that it was really duplicative of everything we'd covered in International Student Orientation. I was really sick of turkey sandwich boxed lunches by this point. BUT, I did get to meet my awesome learning team (woot LT 31!). Then they shoved us outside in 95+ degree weather to run around and do team-building activities. Because really, who doesn't love spending time with virtual strangers sweating all over each other? It's not like you're going to have to hang out with them every day for the next 3 quarters or anything, right? :-) I think there was a Cold Call (read: free beer + food out in one of the courtyards) after this, but I went home for a much needed shower and nap.

Saturday (optional) - Fun activities, including tubing, winery/brewery tours, hikes, etc. The weather was fairly miserable, but I enjoyed the wine tour I did, which took us to Veritas and Cardinal Point. We even got to meet the winemaker at Veritas; he was quite informative.

Interspersed throughout this entire week were various gatherings at myriad social establishments throughout Charlottesville. I frankly do not have the stamina to go out every night; never have, likely never will. Plus, I find it really difficult to meet people when you have to shout at each other to communicate. And, smoking indoors is still legal in VA. Boooo!

All in all, Orientation was about what I expected; definitely not the highlight of my life, but relatively informative, and a good chance to meet some new folks.

Retrospective: International Student Orientation (yep, they let US students come, too)

This year, Darden invited US/domestic students to attend International Student Orientation (ISO). I figured it would be a good opportunity to get used to sitting in "class" again, to meet some new folks before full orientation started, and to prevent myself from using my copious free time do something stupid, like go buy tons of unnecessary housewares for my new apartment. The schedule also suggested that there would be some good coverage of the job search process, and I thought I could benefit from every bit of help or insight I could get in that area.

I did get used to sitting in the same chair for protracted periods of time, I did definitely meet some great new people (some of whom I now consider my closest acquaintances at Darden), and I spent far less time and money at Target than I probably would have if I didn't attend ISO, but I also became completely petrified of the entire job search process. Yes, I know there is a recession. Yes, I know that finding a job is never a piece of cake. Yes, I know that it's important to start early. But I feel like a ton of gloom and doom was thrown at us all at once (more on this later), and I don't even have to worry about things like visas or sponsorship.

I also, frankly, think that ISO could easily be consolidated into a shorter time period and merged with Orientation for everyone else. By the end of the three days, I felt like everything was becoming a little bit repetitive, and certainly I heard a lot of the same content again during full Orientation the next week.

Retrospective: Moving, My Favorite Activity....EVER

As I’ve mentioned before, I hate moving. Absolutely HATE it. I think I would rather have my teeth ripped out one by one than move. OK, that’s probably an exaggeration, but only a little one.

When I was in college, I used to start packing up my dorm room by the middle of April. Moving stressed me out, and I tried to minimize that stress by starting early on the packing, which, to some degree, made me feel more in control of the situation. When I moved to Boston, I was able to do so piecemeal, since I still had an apartment in Providence for 2 months after my Boston lease started. This made the situation slightly less miserable, but it still wasn’t fun. Once I had moved everything to Boston, I vowed that I was never moving again until I was out of graduate school and could afford professional movers (I actually intentionally chose an apartment that was walking distance to Boston College, on a bus route to Boston University, and a short walk and then a bus ride to Harvard). The best laid plans….

When it became clear that I was going to move to Virginia, I almost instantly started freaking out about the move. I have a lot of stuff. I have heavy furniture. I hate moving. This was not going to be good. I also had no earthly idea how exactly I was going to get everything from Boston to Virginia (about 600 miles). Clearly, it was too far to make numerous trips as I'd done when I moved from Providence, and I had waaaaay too much stuff to cram into the family minivan as I'd done through college. So, I knew I was going to have to rent a moving truck. I also realized that there was no way in hell that my parents and I were going to be able to move all my furniture by ourselves without at least two hernias and probably a nervous breakdown or two or three. So, I was going to have to hire movers.

I really think that most moving companies are a huge racket. To hire a full-service moving company would have cost me upwards of $4500 (still assuming that I did my own packing), which is simply ridiculous, and goodness only knows when and if my stuff would have shown up in Charlottesville. Renting a Penske truck (with a AAA discount and my mother driving, since I’m under 25) and hiring movers to load in Boston and other movers to unload in Charlottesville, and including two stops in CT (one to pick up more stuff that I had in storage, and one to acquire a car from my grandparents) and one in DE (to sleep and pick up yet more stuff at my parents’ house), I was able to do the whole thing in about 18 hours and for around $2k. It was still expensive, but I was generally able to retain my sanity, nothing was broken, and nobody got a hernia. Therefore, I consider the expense well worth it, and I definitely recommend hiring professionals, unless you have a whole posse of able-bodied individuals around to move all your stuff.

Also, if you’re looking for movers in Boston, Intelligent Labor in Cambridge is amazing. Truly amazing. They were literally running between my apartment and the truck. 5 stars.

Retrospective: Quitting My Job, Or, What Not to Do When You Quit Yours

I’d like to offer some helpful do’s and don’t’s for those of you who are planning to quit your job to return to graduate school. These may not all be applicable to everyone’s situation, but here’s my perspective.

1.) DON’T underestimate the amount of time that training your replacement will take.

At the Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named, I was the only person in my position, and, while I certainly never considered myself irreplaceable, I performed many tasks that none of the attorneys with whom I worked would ever in their right minds want to do (thinking cataloguing and filing electronic copies of contracts and filing annual reports with various states), as well as some that I’m perfectly sure they could do but which would not be a productive use of their time (think running relatively routine daily compliance/conflicts checks, answering tons of questions regarding the Firm’s ethics/professional standards policies, or sitting in on numerous meetings where some other administrative group or another needed a “legal perspective” but also wanted to cover plenty of information that really doesn’t matter from a “legal perspective”). So, despite a hiring freeze, my position was considered sufficiently “essential” to merit hiring a replacement. Apparently, I’m so essential that the Firm was willing to have my replacement, M, start 6 weeks before I left (July 31). Now, when I heard that I’d have 6 weeks to train my replacement, I thought, “This will be great! I’ll have plenty of time to finish some projects, train M, write a manual about how to do the job, say my good-byes, etc.” Wrong. M is extremely bright, but there are a ton of nuances to conflicts/compliance/ethics work, and I had apparently forgotten just how long it had taken me to get up to speed on everything, plus my job had gradually evolved into what it was by the time I left. M got stuck with everything all at once. By my last day, I was still scrambling to finish up projects, transition things to M, and salvage my personal effects from my computer. Word of advice: plan on “transition” taking much longer than you expect.

2.) DO start documenting your job responsibilities or compiling a how-to guide NOW.

I guess this may only apply if you are in a “new” role or a role for which your company does not already have a “manual” documenting your responsibilities. If you are going to compile such a guide, do not do what I did and wait until your last few weeks at the company. You will invariably forget things that you do and how exactly you do them. Someone new walking into your job will not necessarily have the institutional knowledge that you have and will benefit from a detailed how-to guide. I had originally planned to do this early on, but I was busy, so I kept putting it off. Then, I was scrambling to try to remember everything. If you start now, you’ll be able to capture 9-10 months of work activities. I recommend looking at time sheets, emails, etc. every couple weeks, identifying major responsibilities or projects, and writing down how you did them, names of essential contacts, etc. This documentation may also be helpful to you when it comes to be review/feedback time.

3.) DON’T, under any circumstances, work up until the day before you plan to move.

You will be stressed about moving, you’ll want to see friends before you leave town, and you will benefit from at least a few days “off” before dealing with the hassles of moving, getting settled in a new place, and orientation. I worked until 14 hours before the movers were supposed to show up. Bad, bad idea.

4.) DO network at least a little before you depart.

I wish I’d had more time to do this, but (if you haven’t sensed a theme from this post yet) this is another area in which I feel like time snuck up on me. Ostensibly, if you’ve been at a company for some period of time, you’ll have formed connections with at least some of your co-workers. Take the time to go out to lunch, grab drinks, etc. before you leave. Thank your mentors. If they were particularly influential, you may want to keep in touch with them later, and this will be much easier if you’ve cultivated the relationship before your departure. Also, you may want to return to the company after school, and I would imagine this is easier if you do some work before you leave.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I'm beginning to sense an unfortunate theme related to this blog: I post for a bit, then I get caught up in life, and I stop posting. Well, I am quite disappointed with myself, and now I am officially committing not to do that any more. Starting this weekend, I am going to be making a concerted effort to post more frequently, and at least twice a month. That's my commitment to this blog and anyone who reads it. As I stated at the outset, I started this blog because I wanted to keep my friends and family up to date on my life at school and because I wanted to share my Darden/UVa Law experience with anyone who may be considering either school or the dual degree. The last 7-8 weeks here in Charlottesville have been completely crazy, but it's just not OK to stop blogging.

So, I'm going to try to make up for my poor prior performance (ahh...alliteration!), by diligently posting some retrospectives this weekend, covering the following topics:
1.) Quitting My Job, Or, What Not to Do When You Quit Yours
2.) Moving, My Favorite Activity....EVER
3.) International Student Orientation (yep, they let US students come, too)
4.) Orientation & Career Forums
5.) Reflections on the Darden Q1 Curriculum from Someone Who Hasn't Quite Survived It Yet
6.) Section E is Awesome
7.) I Thank God Every Day That I Have an Apparently Functional Learning Team
8.) Family Weekend
9.) The Dreaded Career Search
10.) Life Outside of School...If I Could Only Remember What That Is...

Yup, I'm committing to 10 full-length posts this weekend alone. It's the least I can do for being a slacker for the last couple months....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why a JD/MBA?

***Warning: this is a very long post. Consider yourself warned. I didn't mean it to be quite so long, but it ended up that way.***

Julie asked a while back, in a comment regarding my admissions options, why I had decided to enroll at Darden. I promised (also a while back) that I would actually answer that question, so here goes. However, before I can answer the “Why Darden?” question (actually, the “Why UVA?” question since my decision had to take into account the Law School, too), I need to address the “Why a JD/MBA?” question.

As context for that whole discussion, I should state up-front that I have known that I want to be an attorney for at least the last 10 years. Like most kids, I think I tried on various career options for size when I was very young. None of those options stand out in my memory, so clearly I wasn’t too committed to them. I do remember that for a while, I wanted to be a chemist, but that dream died well before AP Chemistry class (though not before I’d bought – or conned my parents into buying - all sorts of books of experiments that you could do at home and miniature chemistry sets, etc. In the end, I don’t think I was actually allowed to do much with these tools of the trade, as my mother didn’t want me making a mess, and “experiments” for kids are inherently messy). But I digress.

I decided I wanted to become an attorney during my freshman year of high school. All it took was joining the mock trial team on a whim – a few months of the nerve-wracking exhilaration as I stood in front of a “judge” and argued that the scant fact pattern must lead to only one conclusion (“Your Honor, obviously my client was just defending himself against the unprovoked attack by the man sitting next to him on the train that day!”), the edge-of-my-seat tension as I portrayed an expert witness whose testimony could be easily misappropriated by the cross-examining attorney (“I said it was technically possible that the aneurysm killed the victim before the defendant stabbed him, but that certainly isn’t a plausible explanation!”), and the frantic mental steeplechase as I jumped to my feet and scrambled to state the right objection and grounds (“Objection! Rule…um…407! Subsequent remedial measures are not admissible to prove negligence!) – and I was sold. When I grew up, I told myself, I was going to be a trial attorney. With some practice, I could even do that really cool “walk over to the jury box and look incredulously at Juror #4 as the witness says something completely preposterous” thing that Sam Waterston/Jack McCoy always does during a trial on Law & Order (believe it or not, mock trial judges actually love this move if you do it right; they swear that they don't because it isn't "realistic," but then they give you amazing scores).

So, clearly, my desire to become an attorney was based on several things:
1.) Law & Order was my favorite TV show.
2.) I was a huge mock trial nerd.
3.) I loved (and maybe still do love, just a little bit) to argue. Arguing was more than just something I did when I was mad; it was a full-fledged hobby for a while.
4.) I really loved to argue when I knew that I was right and/or that I had evidence to back up my argument.

Fortunately, even at age 14, I knew that reasons #1-3 above were insufficient grounds upon which to select a career. My ultimate decision to pursue a legal career is actually a prime example of my tendency to ensure that I am making a well-reasoned decision (which is also reason #5 to become an attorney: apparently, I kind of rock at thinking logically/analytically). So, having hypothesized that I wanted to be a lawyer but realizing that mock trial had likely not provided the best example of how lawyers actually spend their days, I subsequently set out to prove that I was, in fact, interested in a career as a lawyer. This "mission" led me to several years working at a law firm in Delaware (a "large" firm by DE standards, but mid-sized by conventional standards), where I worked my way up from working in Records to working as an administrative assistant (a secretary by any other name is still a secretary) and then to working as a litigation support clerk (read: paralegal who doesn't yet have a B.A.). It's amazing what you can do in 4 summers, 3 six-week winter breaks, a semester working part-time remotely (covertly) from Rhode Island, and six weeks between finishing college and getting a new job. :-)

During my time at The Firm, I performed a variety of tasks, some exciting, some mundane. Yes, I spent HOURS filing, pouring over reams and reams documents looking for one critical reference, photocopying, Bates-stamping, and putting together hundreds of trial binders. But, I also got to go to court, interact with clients (both individual and corporate), and gain a pretty decent understanding of the actual mechanics of filing lawsuits and conducting trials, appeals, etc. in several courts (DE Superior, DE Bankruptcy, DE Chancery, US District of DE, and US Court of Appeals- Third Circuit). I learned that pretty much every "legal" show on TV offers a horribly inaccurate representation of what attorneys actually do all day. However, I did actually enjoy most of the work, and the experience didn't convince me that I no longer wanted to be an attorney.... that brought me to graduation (or rather, six months before graduation, since I finished undergrad early), at which point I knew that law school was in my future but that I wanted to "take some time off" before I continued my education. I knew I wanted to move to Boston, so I started looking for jobs at law firms here, but I couldn't really find a position that I liked enough to make a commitment. Then I opened up my search to in-house legal departments (i.e., internal within a corporation, not at a law firm), and I was fortunate enough to find my current position at The Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named. I’ve had a great experience here, too (which I’m sure I’ll talk about in some sort of retrospective fashion before I leave at the end of the month), but what I got to see here that I hadn’t seen as much at a law firm was the real intersection between business issues and legal issues. It has been my experience at The Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named that convinced me that I still want to be a lawyer but that I also want to get my MBA.

The work that my Legal Dept. colleagues and I do every day isn’t purely “legal.” The pure-and-simple “legal” answer to any question may not be the “right” answer because there is some other “business” issue that causes us to modify the “legal” answer. Law isn’t practiced in a vacuum; the business environment should really shape any “legal” advice that an attorney gives, but I think at some law firms,* some of the lawyers are not necessarily good at taking the business context into consideration when they provide legal advice.

I know it’s hard to explain what I mean by the above, so I’ll give the example that I used during all of my business school interviews**: Let’s say you have a pharmaceutical company called Miracle Drug Co, and they make a variety of drugs, including Pain Drug A, Pain Drug B, Pain Drug C, and Cancer Drug D. Let’s assume that Miracle Drug Co holds patents on Drugs A, B, C, and D, and Miracle Drug Co has recently learned that Super Cancer Drug Co is making a product that Miracle Drug Co believes is just like Cancer Drug D. Miracle Drug Co. goes to its law firm and says, “Hey, Lawyer, that punk company Super Cancer Drug Co. is infringing on my patent and making a drug that only I should be able to make! They are making a drug that is just like Cancer Drug D, and I’m losing money because of it! What should I do?” Well, if Lawyer looks at the information available and talks to a few experts and looks at the relevant law and feels that Miracle Drug Co may be right and Super Cancer Drug Co could be infringing on Miracle Drug Co’s patent, Lawyer is probably going to provide the legal recommendation that Miracle Drug Co sue Super Cancer Drug Co and will work to develop a trial strategy, because that is what lawyers are trained to do: if someone is infringing on your client’s patent and causing lost profits, you help your client sue the infringer to make them stop infringing and pay your client damages. Telling Miracle Drug Co to sue Super Cancer Drug Co is probably fairly sound legal advice. But, let’s assume that there are other “business” issues at play here, too. Miracle Drug Co makes 3 pain medications and this one cancer drug. Making this one cancer drug costs a lot more money to make than the 3 pain medications together, and it requires a completely different manufacturing process, a totally separate marketing plan, and it is used by far fewer people than those that use the pain medications. Actually, when it comes down to it, Miracle Drug Co would love to stop making Cancer Drug D and focus on making just Pain Drugs A-C and developing a new Pain Drug E. But, by the time Miracle Drug Co sues Super Cancer Drug Co and wins, Miracle Drug Co will have spent tons of time and money on litigation, and they’ll still be the only makers of Cancer Drug D, which they feel obligated to make because it helps people. If Lawyer looks at the business issues here, Lawyer may actually recommend that Miracle Drug Co sit down with Super Cancer Drug Co and talk about a licensing agreement under which Super Cancer Drug Co would be able to make and sell Cancer Drug D in exchange for paying a fee to Miracle Drug Co. Then, Miracle Drug Co could get out of the cancer drug business, cut costs, and focus R&D on inventing new pain drugs, all while still making some money off the fact that Miracle Drug Co did invent and patent Cancer Drug D. This second “legal” option may actually be the better one for Miracle Drug Co, but it isn’t necessarily the one that Lawyer would have suggested if Lawyer wasn’t also listening to what Lawyer’s client was saying about the business context.

So there we have it – an attorney who is attuned to both the legal and business concerns of her clients is more likely to provide responsive legal advice that helps her clients reach their business objectives. That is why I want to get an MBA in addition to my JD. I’m sure some of you will say, “Yeah, but you don’t need an MBA in order to be a lawyer who listens and provides legal advice that takes business issues into consideration.” You are absolutely right. There are plenty of lawyers who can do this without getting an MBA. However, there are also plenty of lawyers who just can't do this at all, and law schools are not necessarily in the business of training lawyers to do this; I think business school will help give me the perspective and the training that will allow me to do this better than I would be able to do so if I did not get an MBA.

If you still think I’m crazy (and I’ve met plenty of people who think I’m nuts to pursue a dual degree, including one of the attorneys who wrote some business school recommendations for me), I’ll offer some additional justifications for the dual degree:
1.) Law firms are businesses, but many lawyers do not think like businesspeople when it comes to running a law firm. I have seen and read about several instances in which law firms have been managed in ways that just don’t make a ton of sense from a business perspective. Plus, especially if I ever strike out on my own, I’m going to need to know how to run a business. I don’t think my sociology degree has provided terribly great insight into how precisely one runs a business well.
2.) Business schools help you build networks. So do law schools, but many (though certainly not all) people who go to law school become lawyers. Business school alumnae, on the other hand, tend to go off to work at or lead companies that may need attorneys. Therefore, business school may help me build a network of potential future legal clients.
3.) I know I want to work at a law firm for a while, but at my current relatively young age, I’m just not ready to say that I want to be at a law firm forever and ever. I may want to consult either before or after joining a firm, or I may strike out on my own, or move in-house, or do any one of a number of other things. Having an MBA opens more doors.
4.) Law firms are increasingly seeing the value of hiring associates with MBAs. For instance, Goodwin Proctor is offering a $20,000 signing bonus to new associates who have both degrees.
5.) Women have made great strides in law and in business in the last several decades, but I still firmly believe that as a woman, you have to work harder to prove that you have “street cred.” Collecting degrees doesn’t establish street cred, but getting an MBA does give you a shared experience with the CEOs who are your clients, and shared experiences tend to help foster stronger relationships, which permit you to develop street cred. Getting an MBA also enables you to speak the same language.
6.) It’s an interesting intellectual pursuit, if nothing else.

Still not convinced? Check out this discussion (or this one or this one) of pros and cons, or leave some comments below. I’m happy to discuss.

*Note – this post is rife with generalizations. I know that, and I apologize. Given the constraints of blogging, please just go with it. Please do not assume that what I say is necessarily representative of all law firms, all consulting firms, all lawyers, all business, all legal issues, all business issues, etc. Please also do not assume that the examples I use are direct reflections of my experiences at either The Firm or The Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named.
**Again, this is a slightly contrived example, used for illustrative purposes only, not because I actually saw this exact thing happen. The people who interviewed me seemed to like this example, so I’ll use it here again.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Things I will NOT miss about Boston

First (and right now only) item on the list of things I'm excited to leave behind: The crappy, crappy weather we've had for the last month or so. Don't believe me? This is a reflection of the horrible month of June in Boston. Miserable graphic, but I think it says a lot.

I survived a year with something like 2 feet more snow than the average (which is already pretty close to 4 feet a year) in Boston, and other than the fact that all the shovelling made me slightly grumpy, it really wasn't THAT bad. Now, it's July, I haven't seen the sunlight in so long that I actually have a vitamin D deficiency (normal range is 30-100 ng/mL; my level is 25 ng/mL), and I'm pretty sure I'm on my way to a Seasonal Affective Disorder diagnosis.

Every time I log in to iGoogle and see the comparative weather between Boston and Charlottesville (e.g., 58 degrees and pouring vs. 80 degrees and sunny skies, respectively, for July 1, 2009), I can't wait until I move...

EDIT: Today (7/2) actually posted instructions on how to build an ark. You have got to be kidding

Forte Foundation MBA Women's Conference/NYC Weekend Update

Apparently, I’ve fallen off the blogging bandwagon again. But I’m going to jump right back on the horse (how’s that for mixing metaphors?) and try to catch up on my recent pre-school activities and goings-on.

This past weekend, I trekked down to NYC for the Forté Foundation’s MBA Women’s Conference. Forté is a consortium of corporations and top business schools that works to increase the number of women business leaders. Forté provides networking forums, career education, workshops, job boards, and other resources, and Forté annually hosts the MBA Women’s Conference, at which there are panel discussions and workshops on the experiences of getting an MBA and of being a female leader in business, networking opportunities, a chance to meet with various companies (including the corporate sponsors), etc. The Forté sponsoring schools (including Darden) have made a commitment to attracting top female candidates to their respective MBA programs, and each school names a certain number of “Forté Fellows” each year. I am pleased and honored to be a Forté Fellow in the Darden Class of 2011 (really 2013), and it was great to get to meet some of the other Darden Fellows in NYC. I think we all seemed to hit it off, and (as I’ve thought each time I’ve met someone else starting at Darden in the fall) I’m continually impressed with the amazing experiences and skill sets of my future classmates. Having a few more contacts has made me even more excited to move to C-ville at the end of the month!

In addition to allaying some of my concerns about b-school (working in Learning Teams/study groups, having a background that didn’t require consistent use of quantitative skills, surviving case method classes, etc.) while simultaneously freaking me out about my impending internship search (all you career switchers out there who are stressed should really try convincing folks that you are a desirable MBA internship candidate when you have a legal-focused background and won’t be out of school for four – count ‘em FOUR – years), the Conference also gave me some other cool opportunities. As mentioned above, I met some really great people, both from Darden and elsewhere. Additionally, The Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named (where I still work) became a sponsor of the conference at the last minute and had all sorts of folks in attendance. I got to meet some women from our NYC office whom I have emailed frequently but hadn’t actually met previously, and I took some time to chat with a few of the Recruiting representatives who were there. I’ve been seriously considering consulting for a couple years before joining a firm, and I hear law firms are starting to view a couple years of consulting experience in the way that they have historically viewed clerkships – as a valuable “training ground” of sorts that can help make you a better attorney. Hopefully, this isn’t just a rumor and will still be true when I’m done with school…in 2013. Regardless, I decided long ago that if I ever went into strategy consulting, I would really want to do it at The Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named. What can I say, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. :-) I also had a great discussion with a certain biomedical company near and dear to my heart (they pretty much keep me alive; no joke), and they seem open to discussing a customized sort of internship that would combine my soon-to-be-developed MBA skills with my existing (and soon to be further-developed) legal skillz (yes, that one gets the “z”) and compliance/training background from The Consulting Firm That Shall Not Be Named. I’m not terribly good at asking for what I want in an employment setting (usually I’m just so happy that I’m getting the experience/opportunity to do something fairly cool and career-furthering that I’m willing to accept pretty much anything), so the fact that I even broached the subject - let alone that they were receptive to some personalization - is amazing. So, I will definitely have to follow-up on that front, too. Very exciting!

I was staying with T in NYC, both because I’m a cheapskate (and she is super accommodating of my cheapskate tendencies) and because I realized I probably won’t get to see her forever since I’m moving kind of far away. Sad. But we had the chance to do some talking and catching up, and I took my first-ever trip out to Long Island after the Forté conference ended to meet her friends from home, grab dinner, and see some fireworks. We were kinda running late coming out of dinner, so we never really made it to the fireworks location; instead, we watched from a Home Dept parking lot. I think the view was better from where we were, honestly. And it was great to meet all of T’s friends from home, since I’ve heard so much about them in the last 6-7 years and had never met them (sometimes I joke that I’m the friend she’s embarrassed to introduce to others, but really, schedules and whatnot just haven’t worked out in the past). Then, on Sunday, we grabbed brunch at the Sunburnt Cow, recovered from that experience (let’s just say that brunch in NYC is focused on something other than that on which the average non-NYC brunch is focused), and I hopped back on the bus to Boston. All in all, a good weekend.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Things I'll miss about Boston (part I of what I'm sure will be many)

I've been so caught up in preparing to move to Virginia and go back to school that I haven't really spent much time thinking about (or appreciating) everything in Boston lately. However, on Thursday, I went to go see the Boston Pops. I assume you've all seen the whole "Pops Goes the Fourth" thing on CBS on 4th of July each year, because really, it's soooo much better than the broadcast from DC (plus it's super cool to go camp out on the Esplanade for the day to see the thing live), but for those of you who are neither patriotic nor orchestral buffs, an overview of the Pops is here. The guest conductor for the performance on Thursday was John Williams (you know, he's the guy who wrote the music for Star Wars, ET, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Superman, Schindler's List, Jaws, the Sunday Night Football theme, the music for the Olympics that NBC always plays, that Air & Simple Gifts song played at the Obama inauguration, etc.). Sorry, I think I may have gotten a little carried away with the links there. But the man is a legend, and I think everyone should appreciate that. Humph. Anywho...the concert was amazing; Williams was conducting the Pops through a Film Night program that featured music from several of the movie scores he's done, so it was music that even folks who don't generally go to the symphony or Pops concerts or anything of that ilk would appreciate. Stanley Donen, former choreographer and musical director at MGM was also a special guest (I didn't know this either, but he's the "King of the Hollywood Musical," i.e., the guy who directed folks like Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain and Fred Astaire in the famous dancing on the ceiling scene in Royal Wedding.) Donen is literally the most adorable, scrappy little old man I have ever seen, and he and Williams and the Pops did this really cool thing in which Donen and Williams would talk about a particular scene in a movie musical, and then they would play a clip from the film on a big screen so the audience could see it, and then as the film clip showed the actors and the dancing, Williams would conduct the orchestra to play the "background music" to the film. It was SO COOL because he was so spot-on in conducting the live music exactly in time with the movie. And I doubt that was an easy feat given the dancing and all that...maybe it sounds easy to read the description, but it was really amazing in person, and you could tell it was meant to be impressive. Even Donen seemed ridiculously impressed. But again, like I said, Williams is a legend.

So, clearly I loved the performance. But I also realized a couple things while I was on the T (Boston public transportation) back home (because naturally, that was an hour-long process to go 3 miles, and it gave me plenty of time to think). First, it was exactly 10 years ago that I visited Boston for the first time, on the annual "8th Grade Boston Trip" that my grade school did every year in May. It was during that trip that I decided I wanted to live in Boston when I grew up. I'm not quite sure why I had that epiphany, but it clearly stands out in my mind. I think I recognized that Boston was a "big" city that didn't feel too big, that seemed "friendly," and that offered a good blend of history and contemporary culture (remember, I grew up in teensy tiny Delaware, I think NYC is too big/busy/dirty/crowded for me, and I have always generally disliked Philadelphia, for a variety of reasons, most related to the attitudes and behaviors of the people who inhabit the area). Whatever the reason, I distinctly remember thinking, "I could live here," and that wasn't a thought that I'd ever had before about a place that wasn't already "home." I've since had that feeling about a couple other places (e.g., Providence, Charlottesville, London), not all of which I've lived in yet, but as a kid, this was a big thing for me. Now, don't go thinking that I set about the rest of my life with a mission to end up in Boston, but when I finished college a semester early and needed to decide what to do with myself while I was still tied to Providence due to my lease and the fact that almost all of my friends were still in school, Boston seemed a logical place to start looking for work. So, when I found a sweet job in Boston, to which I could easily commute from Providence until graduation and my lease ran out, that's where I ended up. Since then, I've really enjoyed Boston, and it's nice (for lack of a better word right now) to feel that I've come full-circle...even down to the John Williams thing. See, as part of the 8th Grade Boston Trip, we went to go see the Boston Pops, and, unbeknownst to those of us who were expecting the "standard" Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, John Williams was scheduled to guest conduct that evening, too (even better, the guest artist was Itzhak Perlman. So cool.). Funny how the world works sometimes, ain't it?

The second thing I realized on my long T ride was that I am really going to miss all of the cultural stuff that has been so available to me while I've lived here. I work in the Back Bay, and that means that museums, historical sites, ice skating on the Frog Pond, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and Pops, and various theatres have been literally within short walking distance of me every day. I've enjoyed being able to leave work and go to a performance or show (my sister, an undergrad at Boston University (BU) and I had season tickets to the touring Broadway shows that come into town, and I have had season tickets to the BSO each year, plus the random one-off stuff I've done by myself or with friends). I love getting tickets to the Red Sox through work or other sources and walking over to Fenway. I love hitting up restaurants in the North End and stopping for pastries at Modern or Mike's on the way back down Hanover Street, I love summer Sunday brunches on the patio of a restaurant on Newbury Street, I love finding fun new bars in Allston and Brookline, I love cheering on friends at the finish line to the Boston Marathon, etc. Most of all, I love knowing that there's so much to do around town, whether or not I take advantage of it. Now, I'm sure I won't be wallowing on my couch in Charlottesville bemoaning the fact that there's nothing to do during my copious free time, but I'm pretty sure that will be more because I don't have free time than because there's soooo much to do. I'm sure I will find plenty to do, like visit Monticello/Williamsburg, hit up the amazing wineries (um...where do I sign up, and who's coming with?), hike (riiiiight...I'll have to work on this one), and find new favorite dining establishments....but I still suspect that I'll miss the abundance of everything that is available in Boston. :-( I guess it's time for a new adventure....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In which our heroine very nearly becomes overwhelmed by business school before she even gets to Charlottesville...

***Warning: the below is a rant. If that's going to bother you, stop reading now.***

As I mentioned yesterday, part of my blog delinquency has been due to the heinously ridiculous amount of stuff I need to do before I move to Charlottesville* on August 1. "What heinously ridiculous stuff?" you may ask. Well, aren't you going to be sorry you asked...

1.) Moving. Moving may be my single least favorite activity/event EVER. Do I hate moving more than I hate, say, eating brussels sprouts? YES. Do I hate it more than scrubbing bathroom toilets? YES. Go ahead and pick any other activity, and I promise you that I hate moving more. Now, why exactly do I hate moving so much? Well, for starters, I have a lot of crap, and moving it is a pain in the derriere. Secondly, moving offends my sense of order and reason. In the process of packing things up, you find yourself unable to find critical things that you need before you move, AND you can't walk around your apartment because of the bazillions of packing boxes in various states of being filled. When I was in college, I used to start packing for the end of the spring semester by Spring Break, and back then I had a lot less stuff. On the bright side, my friend Sam from work did just give me a whole bunch of boxes (Sam just moved) yesterday, so he has definitely saved me $$ and mucho time/effort. But back on the dark side, now I actually have to start packing, which is a process rendered far more frustrating by the fact that my sister is currently living with me (THAT is a story for another day and a less public forum), and my poor little one bedroom simply cannot hold, her, me, my stuff, her stuff AND boxes. Just ain't no way. Le sigh.

2.) Logistics. This topic sort of falls under the "Moving" heading, but I really think that logistics are their own separate problem. By logistics I mean finding movers, renting a moving truck, figuring out how I'm going to park a 26-foot moving truck in front of my apartment in Brighton(read: I need to figure out a.) how to get Boston street permits without paying a fortune to bond myself/my mother/our rented Penske truck and b.) how to ensure that nobody actually parks in the spots for which I've obtained the aforementioned permits on the day that I have the permitted right to reserve them), getting out of my Boston lease early (my landlord actually rented the apartment out from under me yesterday - I can't tell you how many times I said, "I am moving out August 1; you can rent the apartment any time starting August 2," but apparently, he didn't catch the fact that I WILL BE LIVING IN MY CURRENT APARTMENT ON AUGUST 1 UNTIL I GET MY STUFF OUT OF IT), getting utilities set up in Charlottesville ( there a reason Charlottesville, VA has no cable competition and Comcast thinks it's OK to charge a 25% premium over their rates anywhere else in the country?), etc., etc., etc. Maybe what this has taught me is that I do not have a calling to work in Operations.

3.) Healthcare. By healthcare I mean getting required immunizations, seeing every doctor possible before I lose my sweet, sweet health insurance coverage through the consulting-firm-that-shall-not-be-named, and finding new health insurance that will not result in me paying a bloody fortune to see an endocrinologist and keep my insulin pump (but chronic diseases are also another story for another day). Right now, I can't lift my left arm (seriously, John McCain-style) thanks to the tetanus (TDaP, actually, because nobody wants diptheria or pertussis, either) shot I got yesterday, and apparently, a simple tuberculosis test (that's the one where they inject stuff that stings like hell into your forearm, and it sits there in this gross-looking blob under your skin for while, and than you have to go back in two days for them to confirm that no, you don't have tuberculosis) now requires no less than four - count 'em, FOUR - trips to the doctor's office, because the FDA or somebody decided that one test isn't good enough so you have to do the whole thing twice to confirm that you're healthy. Again, le sigh. I don't even have the energy to discuss the insurance issues in any further detail.

4.) Money. It is no surprise that business school (or any pre-professional school, really) is expensive. I think everyone is fairly cognizant going into it that business school=debt, unless you are independently wealthy, or you worked on Wall Street and horded your money, or you live in South Dakota and just won Powerball. I am not independently wealthy, I am a paralegal, and Massachusetts is the only state in the country that doesn't have Powerball. So, like most other people, I plan to take out a bazillion dollars in loans to pay for my JD/MBA. However, loan checks don't get disbursed out to students until mid-September or something like that, and before orientation even starts, I need to buy a car, car insurance, parking (these transportation-related things are things I've been saving for and which would not be covered by loan funds in any event, but I'm listing them here anyway), a new computer, health insurance, renter's insurance, books (Darden charges a fee for all of your cases for the whole year, but you have to pay by August 15 apparently), etc. Not quite sure where all the money for that stuff is going to come from. In case the powers that be missed this fact, students need LOANS to pay for school-related stuff, so it's a wee bit challenging to pay for this stuff BEFORE we get our LOAN MONEY. Grumble.

5.) Actual academic preparation for classes. In the form of pre-enrollment modules and recommended reading. Frankly, the thought of this just exhausts me so much that I'm going to have to talk about this topic on another day. Same goes for the topic of wrapping up my current job (and remind me also to discuss the ridiculous expectation that entering MBA students can just take the whole summer off to prepare for school....riiiight. Again, not independently wealthy here. And in need of health insurance. Thanks for the consideration.). And I also need to write a post in response to Julie's comment on my earlier post about acceptances as to why I chose Darden. I promise I'll do that eventually, too....

*Note: None of my aggravation here is really specifically connected to Darden; I know I'd be equally frustrated right about now if I were going to school anywhere else, too. Just a disclaimer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shoe update

When I started this blog, I did honestly intend to post more frequently than oh, every two weeks or so. Clearly, though, I've been slacking in the blog department. Before I jump into an update about why I haven't had time for blogging, I wanted to update everyone about the shoes. Apparently, everyone (What, not you? Well, everyone else but you, then.) was intrigued by the concept, but some folks were skeptical that I'd actually wear them with enough regularity to make them worth the investment. Trust me, I hear you all on that.

Now, given my shoe addiction, I have purchased many, many pairs of shoes in my life. I would say that the average amount I spend on a single pair of shoes is somewhere around $24.99, since I am a master shoe sale shopper (I double-dog dare you to try shoe sale shopping with me if you haven't already; my motto is "it's a marathon, not a sprint"). I also figure that, in the first month that I own any single pair of particularly-cute-but-not-necessarily-highly-practical shoes, I wear each pair on average two or three times, bringing the average cost per wear in the first month to somewhere around $10. So, in order to average the same cost per wear for my spiffy, wooden, lace-your-own sandals and make them "worth the investment," I needed to wear them 12 times between the day I got them (May 9) and a month from that date (June 9). Maybe the math and logic there is questionable...but they'll teach me math at Darden and logic at UVA Law, right? Anywho...

It's now May 27, and I've already worn the shoes 7 times. I posted the first two "lacing styles" earlier, and now I'll share the other ones I've worn.
As you can see, some are cuter than others. But remember also that these were just initial attempts. I'll keep you all posted on how the future "shoe styling" adventures go...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem...

Anyone who knows me knows that I have an addiction to cute shoes. I'd like to say it's only a minor addiction, but if I'm honest, I have to admit that I know that's not true - it's a serious shoe addiction. I love having shoes that perfectly match an outfit, and I just love cute shoes. I've recently found the perfect shoes, because they go with everything!

Now, I hope you've all clicked on the link and checked out the site for yourselves, but since I know not everyone will do that, I'll explain. Basically, there's this wonderful woman, Annie Mohaupt, who lives in Chicago, and she hand-makes shoes using environmentally friendly materials (sustainably-sourced wood and recycled rubber), which is, in and of itself, pretty neat. But the best part is that each pair of Mohop shoes is potentially hundreds of "pairs" of shoes, because you can lace them in a bunch of different ways using ribbons and string and whatever else suits your fancy. There are a bunch of base styles from which you can choose (wedge or bent plywood, various heel heights, different toe styles, etc.), and each pair of shoe bases comes with a set of 5 ribbons for you to start lacing. Or, you can do what I've done, and go hit up a craft store for a bunch of ribbons and doo-dads and create a whole bunch of awesome designs.

For those of you who are more at the forefront of fashion than I am, you may have read about these shoes in Lucky or US Weekly last year. I first heard about them from one of the Darden Student Bloggers (Mandy), and I happened to do so right after the consulting-firm-that-shall-not-be-named paid me my very much appreciated, hard-earned bonus. So, I broke down and spent far more on these shoes than I have ever spent on a pair of shoes before (if shoes are to me like nicotine is to smokers, shoes-on-sale are like crack*). BUT, I think it is totally worth it....because these are really like dozens of pairs of shoes, right? So, really, I actually probably spent LESS on these shoes than I have on any others, didn't I? AND, I'm helping support sustainability, American small businesses, and woman-owned enterprises. During a recession, no less. Ha! Take that! (Yes, I know rationalizing my addiction isn't helping matters).

Anywho...the shoes came yesterday, and I already wore them out for Mother's Day brunch today. They came with these ribbons already laced (I don't know if this is normal or was part of the sorry-these-are-late extra ribbons and such that Annie very kindly included for me. Also, I swear my feet don't usually look this weird...I think trying to take pictures of your own feet is just bound to turn out kinda poorly. Really, I swear I don't have cankles. I think the depth perspective is just really off given the angles). Regardless, the shoes looked like this when I got 'em:

And I laced up these cute ones (using new grosgrain ribbon from AC Moore at $.99 a roll...) to wear with a green top and white skirt to brunch:

So much fun!! I am really looking forward to wearing these all summer...and into the fall, since Charlottesville is warm much longer than Boston!
*Note that I am not trying to belittle those who are addicted to nicotine or crack. I think smoking is gross, but I recognize that cigarettes are addictive, and I largely fault the marketing tactics used to sell cigarettes more than the young people who start smoking and get hooked. And I'm certainly not trying to undermine the real problems faced by those addicted to stronger drugs. There are all sorts of socioeconomic issues there. Plus other mental health debates related to "addictions." But I think those are issues for another day...I just wanted to make a disclaimer in the event that I've managed to inadvertently offend someone.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Can a law school have commitment issues?

Today marks both the six month anniversary of the date I submitted my law school application to Stanford and the day that I received the letter notifying me that the Stanford AdCom still hasn't really made a decision about my qualifications but has instead decided to waitlist me. OK, technically the letter was delivered yesterday and dated April 28, but I didn't check my mail until this I'm sticking with the "six months to avoid making a decision" theme. If ever there was a law school with commitment issues, Stanford would be it. Even Harvard took less than six months to notify me that they, too, were refusing to make an actual decision and were placing me on their waitlist. Yale's AdCom, on the other hand, was pleasantly expedient (comparatively, at least) in telling me that they had decided me unworthy of admission to their law school: they let me know within 90 days, which seems pretty reasonable, on the whole. Note that I didn't actually have any reasonable expectations of getting into HYS [note to people who haven't applied to law school or spent hours combing through the message boards, HYS is common shorthand for the Harvard/Yale/Stanford, or the trifecta of top law schools], that I do firmly believe that I would be relatively miserable at Harvard, that if I'm honest with myself I'll admit I had no real intention of moving across the country to Palo Alto, and that New Haven and I are not really BFF's either, but it's one of those things where if I hadn't applied, I always would have wondered, "Could I have gotten in?" Harvard and Stanford are clearly going to leave me hanging, since I need to refuse spots on their waitlists in order to file my request for a deferral at UVA (so that I can start at Darden in August). BUT, the good news is that finally, FINALLY, my admissions process is complete! For anyone who cares or is curious (I suspect that some folks viewing this blog as they contemplate applying themselves will be), here are the final results:

Admissions Decisions
Harvard Law School (HLS)
Harvard Bus. Sch. (HBS)
Stanford Law School (SLS)
Grad. Sch. of Bus. (GSB)
Yale Law School (YLS)
Yale Sch. of Mgmt.(SOM)
Accepted (merit scholarship)
University of Pennsylvania
Penn Law School
Northwestern School of Law
Accepted/Deferred Admission
Accepted/Deferred Admission
University of Virginia
UVA School of Law
Accepted (merit scholarship & fellowship)
Boston University
BU School of Law
BU Grad. Sch. of Management
Accepted (merit scholarship)
Accepted (merit scholarship)
Boston College
BC Law School
Carroll Sch. of Management
Accepted (merit scholarship/assistantship)

Isn't that a snazzy table? Apparently I've got mad html skillz I didn't even know I had! :-)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New city, new apartment, new school, new Kindle?

Exciting news (at least in my opinion)! Darden has been selected to pilot Amazon's Kindle DX to access textbooks, cases, etc.! See the BusinessWeek article, the Darden announcement, and the FAQs. There's not much information available yet about how this may impact me and my classmates, but I am super excited and already trying to figure out how I can volunteer myself to test it out. I hate, hate, hate dragging around copious amounts of papers and books and other school-related paraphernalia, so if this means that I might have even one less thing in my ginormous shoulder bag, I'm all for it. Plus, it's definitely more green than printing a bunch of stuff out all of the time. And possibly cheaper? I guess we'll see. More information to follow, I hope...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ta-da!! It's a blog!

Welcome to my blog! While it doesn't look like much yet, this blog will (I hope) ultimately serve several key functions:

  • Enable me to update my friends/family/etc. regarding goings-on in my life as I go through grad school. I don't anticipate having a ton of free time over the next four years, and while I love all my friends dearly, I don't love phone tag. Really, I don't love the phone at all. Unless I can use it to email someone. But talking on the phone is over-rated. Plus, this way, you all have the option of hearing/reading about my life when it's convenient to you....or when you want to procrastinate at work....
  • Provide some first-hand reports of life as a JD/MBA student at the University of Virginia School of Law and the Darden School of Business. When I was applying to school, I combed through the "interwebs" to see what information was available regarding the experience of obtaining both degrees, largely to no avail. It was wholly impossible to get the perspective of an early-career woman trying to do it at two top schools. If this blog can help one other person who is considering pursuing a JD/MBA but just wants more information, then I think it's worth my time.
  • Provide an outlet for me to vent on occasion. While not everyone reading this blog will know me personally, those of you who do also know that sometimes, I just need to rant. And I can't always do so in the form of a nasty-gram to my landlord (I felt it my personal obligation to notify him of just how many provisions of the Rhode Island Landlord Tenant Act he was in violation), AAA (no, waiting for a tow truck for 4 hours is NOT acceptable) or the Danvers Sheraton (just FYI, Massachusetts law does not require that you be 21+ to rent a hotel room). Much as I love the intermittent nasty-gram, I think this may be a better forum. See also above re: my dislike of the telephone.
So, as I begin my JD/MBA journey and move to Charlottesville, VA, I'm planning to post relatively regularly here. Those of you who care to read and/or comment are welcome to do so...I guess we'll see how it goes...