Monday, November 29, 2010

Journalist accepts job offer, celebrates


In a way, I feel like I could shut this blog down today, because I reached what some consider the finish line of the MBA race: I accepted a full-time job offer. (I won't do that, though; we're not quite at the 75% completion mark, so there are still adventures to be had, and shared.)

I will be working for Deloitte, the world's largest professional-services firm (hence one of the "Big Four"), as a senior consultant in the company's Human Capital service area, in what's called the Organization & Talent service line. I will be helping clients, most of whom are big companies, with the "people" issues that arise during a major challenge or transition, such a merger or a new strategic endeavor. Issues that fall under human capital include organizational design, training, performance management, technology, internal communication strategy, culture, morale, pay, recruitment and so forth. You can read details here. The job starts in September, giving me the summer free, and is based in New York, though I will be doing a lot of regular work-related travel.

I'm very excited about the job. I think it's going to be fascinating and that I'll learn a lot. The people I've met from Deloitte have been fantastically smart, interesting and passionate about their work. The compensation package is music to the ears of someone like me who has always struggled to make ends meet. And I can't wait to live in New York. I'm also relieved that this process is behind me so that I can focus on school for the rest of my time at SOM.

I think it might be valuable to retrace the steps that got me to this opportunity because to some this may seem out of nowhere; I started this blog in July 2009, and the word "consultant" doesn't appear until late September 2010. So I realize this news could look random. Plus, the job hunt has been an area about which I haven't always been wholly forthcoming in this blog, because it's sort of sensitive and private. So now that it's official, let me back up a little.

Prior to SOM and throughout my first year of school, I was focused on journalism/media as an industry, given my background. That's not to say I didn't look at other options, though. Around this time last year I was getting steered by friends and the Career Development Office toward marketing, but none of those internships panned out (which was disappointing at the time, but now I'm grateful, because I don't think marketing is a good fit for me). After my flirtations with marketing ended, I applied to AP, which was my "that would be awesome" internship prospect throughout the year; I was thrilled to take it. I loved my summer there, but they do not extend full-time offers to MBAs post-internship. I also was starting to feel somewhat fatigued about the media industry. It's a fascinating field and near to my heart, but it kind of feels like I've been having the same conversation over and over for 10 years now. I'd like to see what else is out there.

The courses I enjoyed most during my first year were in the field of Organizational Behavior (OB). Although I've genuinely liked learning about economics, strategy, finance, operations, marketing and all the rest of that stuff too, OB has been where I've shown the most passion, interest and aptitude. But it wasn't clear to me what career opportunities were available in that area; that's what led me to co-found the Human Capital Club at school with my friend Erika, who prior to SOM worked in HR at GE. There are MBA programs that have a well-regarded human-capital track, like Cornell and Vanderbilt, but generally human capital is a relatively new (and not universally understood or bought-into) emphasis of MBA curricula.

During the summer, a Yale SOM alumna who works in Deloitte's Human Capital practice contacted me to see if she could be of service in any Human Capital Club events. We had a nice chat, and I found her work very interesting, even though I really hadn't considered consulting before. She put me in touch with a couple other consultants, who in turn hooked me up with still more people, and suddenly I was inadvertently networking with people at Deloitte.

Consulting is a popualr job for people with MBAs. For the Class of 2009 at SOM, 19% accepted full-time jobs in consulting. The other most popular sectors were finance (46%), general management (20%) and marketing (13%). I never looked at consulting last year. At all. I'm not sure why. Part of it may have been that it seemed too competitive. My classmates who were pursuing it were frantic and seemed to be tripping over one another for these opportunities -- plugging away at networking events, doing informational phone calls and coffee chats, practicing mock interviews, casing, entering competitions, going on job treks, doing workshops, reviewing each other's resumes and so on. One needs to be awfully hungry for a reward to endure all that, and I was not hungry to be a consultant whatsoever. Consequently, I more or less turned a blind eye and kept my focus on media and journalism, a space where nobody else was competing, and where I thought I had good odds of getting a nice job that would interest me.

Anyway, flash forward to last summer, I've now started to learn more about Deloitte's human-capital work, and it sounded neat and like it could be a good fit, and that it would give me exposure to lots of different companies and industries that I'm not familiar with. I decided to apply, was invited for first-round interviews, was invited for second-round interviews, and was extended an offer. Because I wanted to do this specific kind of consulting at this specific firm, I could be focused in my preparations, which involved minimal practice casing and one Consulting Club workshop, on casing.

In taking this job, I'm not abandoning all hopes of working in the news media. In fact I'm likely to get staffed on what they call TMT (Technology, Media & Telecommunications) projects, in light of my experience in that industry. But regardless of whether or when I find my way back to media, for now I'm just doing what I think is best for my post-MBA career development. I will have more to offer if I deepen my understanding of a function and continue my education through the rigor of consulting, and Deloitte, to boot, recently topped Business Week's list of the best places to launch a career. So I think I'll be in good hands.

I've been warned by former and current consultants that the lifestyle is difficult, but from what I can gather it's probably most difficult for people with families or spouses, and that's not me. There will also be some stressful deadlines and piles of hard work; but I'm used to the former, coming from the newspaper industry, and I'm not afraid of the latter, as evidenced by my return to school. I'm actually genuinely excited by my fears that this will be difficult. I have a very brief and special opportunity to capitalize on being a newly minted MBA, and I feel very fortunate to have snagged this offer. This is no time to settle for something easy and unchallenging; if there was ever a time to see what I'm made of, it's now. I also truly think this is going to be a load of fun. I'm psyched.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Back in the saddle


It's been a busy Thanksgiving holiday for yours truly. Gooey butter cake in tow, I visited my brother and his wife and two sons, who live less than two hours away. We enjoyed the typical Thanksgiving meal and several fun activities over the subsequent days, like setting up the Christmas decorations, going horseback riding and visiting the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

It was my first visit to the museum -- I think. The dinosaur bones were fun, especially for my nephews, who are 4 and 6. I also got to see Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old hominid. The museum left all of us pooped. My nephews are quality young men, and it's been fun to spend more time with them since I moved to this area last year for school. The elder one clearly takes after his uncle mind-blowing musical talent, as he's already picking melodies out by ear and playing them on the keyboard. And the younger one is reading books to his classmates and exhibiting immense compassion for others: After we spent the morning playing some games, like Candy Land and Hi-Ho Cherry-O, he later in the day started putting little stickers on my shirt. I asked why, and he said it was because I never win. Sweet, eh? So they're fun, and I'm glad that I'll be moving to New York after school and will get to spend even more time with them. I generally, however, don't tend to relate too well to boys between the ages of 8 and, oh, 24, so we'll see if sharing genes changes things.

Now I'm in New York City, enjoying the peace and quiet of the Yale Club library. I have some plans this evening and will return to New Haven tomorrow. It is not even 5:00 p.m., and already it's as dark as midnight out there, an oddity of life in the Northeast United States. It makes me want to eat dinner earlier, and fall asleep earlier. But, furthering the oddity, folks in New York don't like to eat dinner until 8 or 9. I love this place because it's weird.

I'm grateful to be a member of the Yale Club, but I wish they had napping rooms. If I'm going to be good company this evening, it would help not to pass out at 9, and a nap would hit the spot. Maybe I'll just shut my eyes for a few minutes ...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

St. Louis-style sweetness


As a native St. Louisan, I grew up on a steady diet of toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake, the former of which I would never dare to attempt to make, but the latter of which is easy as pie. A lot easier than pie, actually. It's a very sweet confection that serves as both an unhealthy breakfast food (think coffee cake) and an unhealthy dessert (think lemon bar).

It consists of two layers. The bottom is yellow cake mix, butter and eggs, all blended together. The top layer is powdered sugar, cream cheese and eggs. You can find recipes online with other twists, like pumpkin or chocolate, but I've only ever made the straight-up original, as my mom used to around Christmas. I made it to take to my brother's for the holiday weekend; I am now waiting for it to cool. It looks a little on the underdone side to me, even though I cooked it longer than I usually do. That's one of the many disadvantages of having had about 10 addresses in as many years -- all ovens are a little different, so for things I make occasionally, there's always some guesswork. We'll see.

But at least I've had ovens, which brings me to my list of five things I am thankful for this holiday season:

1. An oven. More specifically, the fact I have a place to live and that it has the appliances I would need to bake; I am also thankful to have the money to buy ingredients, the time to bake, and the health to be able to move freely around and do so.

2. Job offers. Looking for work can be stressful, and I know I'm very fortunate to have come into great opportunities so early in the year.

3. Access to the big city. I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to live in New York over the summer, to get to visit there this weekend, and to move there permanently after graduation!

4. Yale SOM. I go to a great school, which I don't really say enough. Case in point: This past week, members of Q+ (of which I am a co-leader) wrote an eloquent letter to Student Academic Services asking them to reconsider their annual policy that prohibits mixed-gender hotel arrangements on the first-years' required International Experience trip. They listened, agreed with our point of view and announced a change in the policy, all in a matter of days. That's one of the reasons I love it here -- it's a small enough school that it does feel like a tight-knit community where you can get things done, and the people here are pleasant, reasonable and responsive.

5. You. Thanks for taking the time to look at my blog and read this list. That's very kind, and I appreciate it. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I can't see myself the way others do ...


... because my mirror is awful. But at least I can justify lapses in fashion sense.

Today I am cleaning the apartment and laundering my clothes, and later I will be tutoring kids online and then perhaps running some errands in advance of Thanksgiving tomorrow. My local Stop N Shop tends to be packed regardless of the time of day or day of week, so I can only imagine the madhouse it must be on the day before Thanksgiving. With better planning I would already have the ingredients I need to make the treat I intend to bring to my brother's house tomorrow, but solid planning doesn't always happen in grad school, or in general.

I have officially declined Job Offer #1 and have placed my signature by the X for Job Offer #2; I just need to fax the acceptance over, which I may try to find time to do this afternoon. Then I'll do the big reveal.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ten-hour breakfast


My friend Matt and I have known each other for almost eight years, since back when we worked together at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Now we coincidentally live a few blocks away and see each other most mornings, when we go to the gym. That this is our routine would probably surprise the 2002 versions of ourselves, who did not tend to spend leisure time in as healthy a manner.

On Saturday, I went over for pancakes and ended up staying for hours, lingering over coffee, until we eventually ended up ordering a pizza and having a drink. It was a great day, reminiscent of many similarly great days back in Texas, and one I certainly paid for on Sunday when I was slammed with work. But no regrets, of course.

Personally, I like the on-the-go aspect of New York, so I'm looking forward to living there after school, but I also like the not-as-on-the-go aspect of a day like Saturday, and I hope I can continue to be able to have such days even amid a job that will be more demanding of my time and effort than the one I had in Texas. Ultimately, if I cannot spend a Saturday having coffee with a friend, then what's it all for?

Now it's back to the grind. In about 20 minutes my four groupmates and I will be giving our required presentation in Corporate Finance. Every study quintet does one. We're all required to do regular case write-ups, but each time a case is due, one group does a presentation on that case instead of a write-up. Sadly, we happened to get ourselves into the semester's only "raw" case, which is something they sometimes throw at us here at Yale. A typical case, or "cooked" case, usually consists of a narrative, maybe 15-20 pages or so, and another 5-10 pages of exhibits -- financial statements, graphs, organizational charts, or whatever might be relevant. Then there are questions. Most of the cooked cases we, and students at other business schools, read are written and distributed by Harvard. Sometimes we have cooked cases written just for SOM students, but that's sort of rare. Anyway, a raw case is presented on a website but has a much briefer narrative and a lot of links to outside resources, like large documents, financial statements, videos, news articles, etc. It's supposed to be -- and is -- a better simulation of how we'd do problem-solving research in real life. It can involve quite a bit more work, but the material can also be more fun. Our presentation will be looking at Kmart's bankruptcy from the perspective of the creditors.

OK, I'ma run through my part.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lucky dog


My Friday began highly productively with:

(a) A gym visit that today has made me sore (b) A haircut (c) Some quality time composing on one of the upright pianos in the music school (d) A planning session (with the dean, as usual) for the next Leadership Development Program class, for which I am an advisor/TA (e) Lunch and a bit of Yale-gear shopping with my friend Jennet.

In the latter half of the day, my friend Jason, my Alpha Gay equivalent in the Class of 2012, and I drove out to Foxwoods to have a nice dinner and see Kathy Griffin, in celebration of Jason's birthday. I had seen Ms. Griffin perform previously in Texas. She is very funny and I laughed heartily, particularly during her bit about the hysteria that overcomes Oprah's audience regardless of what Oprah says.

Unfortunately, some parts of her act were lost on me, since I don't have cable and am not as up on pop culture as I once was. I've never seen any "Real Housewives" shows, for example, so I didn't really get what she was talking about. But even in those cases I still laughed.

After the show, we gambled a bit, and Jason somehow managed to win more than $300 on a Village People slot machine. I, conversely, made solely donations, with no winnings this time. I'm not much of a gambler, but I've been to several casinos, and Las Vegas, and on cruises with casinos. Generally I think it's a ton of fun, but since I usually don't have two dimes to rub together, I get a little anxious about dropping $20 bills into machines. But when I have my high-paying post-MBA job, I bet the bright lights will bring me more hope than dread. Won't be long now!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I like IT


I'm back on my old laptop again for the time being, as my Yale-issued Dell is in the hands of the IT Help Desk. For some reason, the Bamboo writing pad I use when I tutor kids online (via LearnToBe.org) is not working, and I can't re-install the CD. I hope they're able to fix it, because the children are counting on me.

Speaking of knowledge displays, yesterday evening was the annual Student/Faculty Challenge at the School of Management, a trivia game-show style event in which four students compete against four faculty members. The students won, as they did last year. Had I been a contestant, I'd have been of little help beyond a few questions in the intersection of business and popular culture. Although I've learned a lot in my MBA program, my desire to pick up a Wall Street Journal hasn't intensified significantly. I'd still rather read Billboard Magazine. To each his own.

Both the clubs I co-lead saw some successes this week. In Q+, a first-year student is putting together what promises to be a really entertaining sketch-performance event where people will act out scenes depicting situations in which gay people and/or allies might feel uncomfortable. The scenes will be followed by discussion. It will be funny. Also in Q+, we're in the midst of working with Student Academic Services to alter the roommate policy during the required first-year international trip. Right now, students are asked to select roommates of the same sex. This has what we call "hetero-normative" implications, such as (1) dictating that same-sex roommate situations would naturally be more comfortable for all students than opposite-sex arrangements, (2) putting a cloak of invisibility on gay couples, (3) implying that there is something wrong with extramarital cohabitation.

Over in the other club I co-lead, the Human Capital Club, we had an info session to solicit first-year candidates to co-lead the club this spring, and next year. It's early in the year for that, but because my friend Erika and I are founding the club, the paperwork requires that we have a team of first-years lined up pretty early, just to ensure that the club doesn't die on the vine. We were really pleased with the turnout -- five people. That's more than enough to lead, and they all seemed really enthusiastic and into it.

It's a nice feeling to know that after I leave here there were be some evidence that I made a difference. I think that's been one of the benefits of school in general that I hadn't foreseen. Just last night, at the weekly happy hour, a girl told me she remembered me from last year because I conducted the campus tour in which she participated. She's not the first to say that, and I remember my tour guides as well. Those kinds of small things -- taking the time to have a conversation, or getting someone in touch with a relevant contact -- can matter to people. And the larger things, like changing the roommate policy or starting a club, can have ripple effects into the future that I'll never even realize! Good effects, I hope.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Penfold's journey


This is Penfold, who I have known for about 25 years, since I was 6. I remember my mom giving him to me; I think she got him as a free gift at a shoe store. He was always my favorite stuffed animal and is named for a character in the cartoon series Danger Mouse, which I adored at that age, and which is probably still funny even now.

Penfold is with me here at school, as opposed to, say, in my old room at home, because I have no old room at home. When I was 20 my parents sold the house I grew up in, had an estate sale and moved to Florida, and since I was in the middle of college, I didn't get to take much with me. But I took Penfold, who, thanks to me, has lived in no fewer than a dozen residences around this great nation since then. It's been quite a life, after his humble beginnings at the shoe store. Granted, he almost exclusively has lived on closet shelves or in boxes, but I've hardly ever heard him gripe about that.

Not sure what prompted me to bring him down, or bring him up, but maybe it's all this grown-up talk of full-time jobs ....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Got a job offer 2


The nine of us who embarked on last weekend's Q+ retreat/getaway in Vermont were the most fortunate of Q+'s members, as we had ton of fun. There's something psychologically inimitable about going somewhere removed -- and in this case lovely and bucolic. We rented a beautiful house that came complete with hot tub, sauna and pool table, and spent the weekend playing games, cooking, eating, talking and using the aforementioned amenities. This was the first time during my time at SOM that Q+ has done a trip, and I hope and expect it will become an annual (or perhaps even biannual) tradition.

There was much to celebrate this weekend. (1) We have an awesome group of LGBT students and allies. (2) I made a pie crust that didn't appear to poison anyone. (3) I received my second (and final) full-time job offer on Friday!

This week, perhaps even today, I will officially accept one offer and decline the other. I feel immensely lucky to be in this kind of situation, especially in an economy that's still weak. This is, in fact, the first time in my life I'm ever actually going to be turning down a full-fledged job offer; in the past, I've just gone after jobs I was certain I'd take if given the chance, and did so when I got them without having any conflicts. In this case, though, the timing was just such that the final round interviews for both these jobs I wanted were in the same week, so I went to both, hoping I'd get at least one offer.

Both jobs are based in New York (although one would require regular travel). So it's a sure thing that I will be living in the city after school. This is exciting news, as it means I can enjoy the Big Apple's many exciting offerings, and finally get rid of my car, which I've had since 1999. I suppose "finally get rid of" is an insensitive phrase. My car, whose name is Cynthia, has been loyal and kept me safe. But she's not the car she once was. She's showing her age, especially after a harsh Connecticut winter, on top of the fact I almost never start her up these days. So she'll make someone else happy come May. Meanwhile, I'll be happy not to get hit with these outrageous Northeastern insurance bills.

I digress. It's worth mentioning that my heart is swelling with joy at what lies ahead from this day forward. The holidays are coming up -- I'll get to spend Thanksgiving with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews. Then when I'm back in Florida for the Christmas break, I'm going to spend a few days at Disney World with my dear old friend Carla, who I've known since I was 13. Then it'll be Christmas with family, leading into a semester I expect will be fantastic, loaded up with courses I find interesting (as opposed to this semester, when I'm taking classes I felt would be good for me in a calisthenics type of way). And I will be able to at least try to immerse myself in these moments and opportunities without the rumbling cloud of uncertainly hanging over my head.

Last year, when we first-years were hunting for internships, that cloud really rained on my spring. I was recently looking back on my Outlook calendar and realized I didn't actually finalize my summer plan (at the Associated Press) until about April 29, just a week or so before school ended. This had my stomach in knots for months. So it's a nice feeling to have something official, and something I genuinely want to do. I'm sure I'll still have some knots, because that's part of my charm, but they'll be significantly smaller and looser knots.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who has my keys


How the week flew by like a bumblebee. My classes were particularly demanding, with a problem set and case write-up for Corporate Finance, a homework for Data-Driven Marketing and a midterm exam for Competitive Strategy. Then again, how spoiled we second-years are to think this set of assignments constitutes a busy week, when it's a shadow of what we were enduring last year.

The week got cool, clear and crisp, permitting me to take the photo above, wich shows my view on my short walk home from school every day. Off in the distance is East Rock, for which my neighborhood is named. In the context of the flat places I have lived before, I'd call East Rock a mountain; my roommate, who is from Colorado, calls it a hill.

Last night, several members of Q+ and I went to New York City for a recruiting cocktail hour with prospective students and Yale alumni. It was a fun night until I returned and realized that somewhere along the way I had lost all my keys. In a completely bizarre miracle, I called my roommate, even though it was quite late, to see if she could let me in if I were to take a cab home (because, of course, I couldn't unlock or drive my car). And it turned out she was coincidentally at the train station at that very moment, so I just hopped in her car and came home. And to my further surprise, when I got home I found a spare car key in the first place I looked, even though I wasn't even sure I owned one. In the sober light of morning I realize how fortunate I really was last night, and that maybe I wasn't meant to drive. Perhaps in losing my keys, I avoided being hit by a truck! Who knows. The only key I didn't have a spare for was my mailbox key, but it was promptly replaced for just $10. We have excellent maintenance in this building; they always respond immediately and do things very well.

As I was without keys last night I began to wonder: Why do we still use keys? Seems awfully primitive. Take a housekey, for instance. We carry around this jagged metal stick all day every day in our pocket or purse, but we only use it for a total of about 4 seconds a day -- 2 when we lock the door on the way out, and 2 when we unlock it on the way in. We actually have to shove this metal thing into a mysterious slot and turn it? What is this, the 1200s? And on a higher level, why do we even bother? The probability of a would-be thief actually getting into my building and walking to my apartment and turning the knob to see if it's open, then giving up after realizing his boneheaded plot was foiled, is probably less than a millionth of a percent! Nevertheless, these silly-looking things have been in my pocket, pressed uncomfortably against my thigh, constantly for like 20 years.

People are weirdos.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Got a job offer


Monday began cold and slushy with howling pre-dawn winds and freezing rain, though I didn't let that stop me from picking up my buddy Matt and going to the gym. A few hours later, I was in my Theory of Media class when my phone rang. Since I didn't recognize the number, I knew it could only be one thing -- a full-time job offer. And it was!

This is a huge relief because it means that, reglardless of whether I accept, I will likely be living in New York after school. And it certainly means I will not be living on the streets. I asked for two weeks to ponder the offer while I await word from the other company I interviewed with last week. For now I'm just happy a good job is there for me.

The rest of the day was a stamina test and included helping a friend practice casing, working with a group to do one of two Corporate Finance assignments that are due Wednesday and, most interestingly, meeting with Millicent Marcus, an Italian professor whose New Italian Cinema course I want to take next spring. What I hadn't realized prior to our meeting is that the class is not a lecture but a seminar, which means a discussion-based class with, in this case, probably 8-10 students, most of whom are going to be grad students in the film school. That said, she seemed interestesd in my background and said I'm welcome to take the class, with the understanding that I'd be lacking the other students' base of film knowledge.

I can't wait. Back in the mid-'00s when I was just starting to ponder going back to school, I took the GRE because I wanted to get a master's in film studies. I decided it wasn't practical (and don't regret that decision). So I get a kick out of the fact I get to take a couple film studies courses without being in the program. It also happens I took Italian back at Duke, and Prof. Marcus knew two of my prior professors. I haven't retained much Italian though. Actually even while I was taking it, la mia capacit√† di conversare nel di lingua italiana era eccezionalmente debole. That means "my ability to converse in the Italian language was exceptionally weak." At least according to the online translator I had to use. Anyway, this course looks at Italian movies since 2000 and builds on a class she taught last year, so she gave me that syllabus, and I may try to see some of those movies over winter break while I'm in Florida. The deliverables are two papers; I hope my senioritis isn't my undoing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Clevel Sluder, 1918-2010


I just received the sad news that an elderly woman I lived with back in Corpus Christi died yesterday at age 91. Her name was Clevel Sluder, and she was very sweet and grandmotherly.

Back in Corpus, where I was working at the newspaper, a co-worker came to know Clevel when writing a story on her extensive volunteer efforts. She was a widow and retired home-economics teacher. Not long after the piece ran, a bizarre tragedy befell her when a man who was renting a room in her home fell into a coma after a bar fight. She was mortified to discover him in the room, surrounded by blood and nearly dead. She wasn't sure what to do and contacted this reporter, who, along with my friend Matt, helped her take care of the situation properly. Then they repainted and freshened the room. I assume that man died, but I never asked. Matt would then go on to rent the room. When he left for grad school, I rented the room.

This was a sweet deal -- $100/month, utilities and cable TV included. The room was simple and had a bathroom and a walk-in closet I used an as office. (Trivia: It was from this closet that I posted and updated the story our paper broke in 2006 that Dick Cheney had shot his friend on a hunting trip.) She clearly wasn't renting the room for the money; she wanted company, security and maybe an extra hand around the house. When Matt lived there, he did several amusing tasks he felt ill-suited to do, like rewire stereo hookups, clean rooftop gutters and haul bags of birdseed. But when I moved in, she never asked me to do anything like that. I think she saw me more as someone who needed to be taken care of, perhaps because when we met, I was a bit frazzled and lost. It was the summer of 2005, and five of my best friends -- basically my entire clique, which because I was so far from my hometown had come to be my family -- had moved away over the previous few months. When I moved into Clevel's I was deep into taking personal stock and trying to transform my lifestyle. I shaved my head, bought all new clothes, quit smoking, started surfing every week, and running every day, and spent a lot of spare time reading books and writing songs. Basically I was worried I wasn't ever going to have permanent personal connections, since my family and friends were scattered and forever relocating, and that I needed to make sure I was someone whose company I enjoyed in the not-so-farfetched event I would be spending some or most of my life alone.

We lived together for nine months and had dinner together most nights. Then she sold the house, which she'd lived in for about 40 years, and moved to a retirement complex in Abilene, closer to her family. I moved to Fort Worth a couple months later and visited her once. It was the last time I saw her, although we e-mailed occasionally over the years.

Clevel was tiny and remarkable. She grew up as an eldest child on a farm during the Dust Bowl, so she had a lot of responsibilities and got pretty tough at a young age. She lost her youngest daughter in a freak accident, and lost her husband when she was in her 50s. She mentioned him, and how much she missed him, just about every day. For a small-town teacher in Texas, she was surprisingly well-traveled; there was a world map in her living room covered in pins, marking the places she had visited. She was somewhat conservative, but not judgmental.

She touched many people in a variety of ways, and I knew her for a period that, relative to her long life, was brief. But what I take away from her is that people, even people who may seem oddly mismatched, can impart upon each other some bits of wisdom or perspective that, if they're listening, can have a long-lasting impact. She's someone who didn't know a lot of people like me but also seemed to entirely understand me immediately. And even though she was technically just a landlady, she treated me like family, even cooking a big dinner for my friends on my birthday. She could have just collected my check and told me to stay out of her way, but she didn't. I'm not going to pretend to know why, but it meant a lot to me.

Losing my money and my mind


Ever have one of those days where you just seem to be mentally off? You can't find things, you knock stuff over, you forget what you were doing, and you feel generally cloudy and confused? That's more or less my life, but it was particularly and bizarrely bad yesterday, probably stemming from the long and exhausting week I had.

The highlight/lowlight of this phenomenon yesterday came as I was doing laundry. I'd gone to the grocery store and had the foresight to buy a roll of quarters. The basement of my building has a few washers and dryers that require quarters, but naturally there is no change machine, so it takes a little planning to make sure one has ample quarters, and since I had four loads of laundry to do, this meant needing to 44 quarters:

[(4 washer loads x 1.50 dollars/load) + (4 dryer loads x 1.25 dollars/load)] x 4 quarters/dollar = 44 quarters.

After I'd begun, I did something I never do, which is to trust in humanity and leave my quarters in the basement. I hid them deep in the laundry bag, thinking, "Surely no kind of sleazeball would actually scour a sack of dirty clothes in the hopes of scoring some change!" But when I returned and transferred some wet clothes into a dryer and then put some dirty clothes into a washer and covered them in goo, I discovered I could not find my quarters. I had no change.

Remembering that there's a change machine at my school that takes $5 bills, I scuttled over there in a hasty fashion, only to discover that it was not accepting my $5 bills, which were those newfangled Monopoly-esque $5 bills. So I started shoving in $1 bills, but sadly received a frustrating mix of quarters and useless nickels. Lacking the sufficient $0.25 pieces to complete my household chore -- and all the while dreaming of the day I will be back in New York, dumping my bag of clothes off at a nearby full-service wash-and-dry facility and never having to deal with this nonsense again -- I needed to go elsewhere, so I walked to the nearby wine store and begged for a roll. To butter them up, I also bought a bottle of cheap white wine. I explained what had happened because I thought they would find it amusing, and they said, more or less, that "This is New Haven" and I was an idiot for leaving money anywhere, even if it was hidden. They are correct. My roommate and I later shared the wine over a fantastic dinner of tilapia, risotto and Brussels sprouts.

Armed with a new roll of quarters, I continued my laundry. About an hour later, when I returned to move the newly washed clothes into a dryer, I noticed a layer of shiny circles on the bottom of the washer. They were quarters. I had, apparently, tossed my money into the washing machine with my clothes. They smelled fresh, at least.

The moral is that I am my own worst enemy, the thief of my own hard-earned funds, and that my actions are often ill-informed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The blitz


For the past two days, I've been back in New York participating in what Deloitte refers to as its annual "blitz," where candidates for full-time positions in the company's human-capital consulting practice are brought in for events, panels, interviews and activities. It was as tiring as the name implies, but it did offer a clearer insight into the company and its people.

The blitz began Thursday with a cocktail reception and dinner at the Ritz. It reminded me of a rehearsal dinner: standing with a glass of wine as appetizers were offered, then adjourning to a pre-assigned table for a delicious three-course dinner. There was much laughter and fun at my table; if this part was evaluative, it was hard to tell.

The next morning's itinerary began at 7:15 a.m., or, for me, 3:30, which is when I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. The day's lineup included an individual case interview, a group case activity, two behavioral interviews, a panel about life in the practice and a panel about client engagements. The day was capped off with a happy hour. As for "how I did," I'm starting to resist even looking at these things that way because it really isn't as much an issue of performing as it is both parties trying to figure out whether the position and the candidate are a good fit. I was me, and I hope I get an offer.

After the blitz I had a fun evening, beginning with dinner with my best friend from high school, Shiri, and then ending with karaoke with some classmates. By the time my head hit the pillow back in New Haven, it was just after 3 a.m. -- meaning I had been up for almost 24 hours. And long hours at that.

In other news, after returning I had two things waiting for me in the mail that delight me. One is a digital camera I had no business buying amid my financial constraints; my hope, though, is that I can start taking/posting better pictures than the type of frequently grainy, un-glorious depictions seen above, captured by my iPhone. The second piece of mail I like so much is a letter from Ndeye, the Senegalese girl I sponsor through Childfund International (formerly Christian Children's Fund). We've been corresponding for maybe two or three years, but this is the first time I've received a letter directly from her; previously, a relative (an uncle, usually) would write on her behalf and enclose one of Ndeye's drawings, or a photograph. Those letters, and this one, are in French, so a translation is enclosed. She's in third grade. They grow up so fast.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why don't I tell you about a time I overcame a challenge?


It's a very non-school week for yours truly, as I spent Monday and Tuesday in New York at a job interview, and will be doing the same Thursday and Friday. But today is Wednesday, so I'm back in New Haven in the midst of a day rich with academics, extracurriculars and, if the fates allow, laundry.

The position for which I interviewed yesterday is a two-year rotational development program at Bank of America. The opportunity came out of the networking and pre-interviewing I did at Reaching Out, the national LGBT MBA conference I attended a couple weeks ago in Los Angeles. There were about 20 candidates at this final-round stage; and I was told they'd probably extend offers to about 5 of us. It seems like an interesting opportunity, since the bank is always going through interesting changes (both technological and business-related), so there would be much to learn. The job would be in either New York or Charlotte, or potentially both since the rotation consists of two 12-month stints in different departments. I would rather be in New York, although there are worse places than North Carolina; I went to college there. Lovely state.

The interview schedule consisted of a cocktail reception Monday night, where we mingled and made small talk. I think I'm pretty good in those situations. The trick, really, is to drink very slowly, which is actually a little hard to do because the situation is so awkward and stressful. But I'm proud to say I managed to nurse two glasses of wine at a snail's pace over the course of 2 1/2 hours.

Tuesday's itinerary began with a lunch I had no appetite for thanks to a massive room-service breakfast, followed by three 40-minute behavioral interviews in the afternoon. Those conversations were a mix of casual chit-chat and scripted questions like "Tell me about a time you took on a project whose purpose changed during the course of the project, and explain how you reacted to that." (Summary of my answer: I worked at a newspaper for eight years, so that happened every day. Here are some examples: ______.) Everyone was nice; I only got one question that was slightly off-putting, which was "So, John, why should we hire you? Clearly we'd be taking a risk." Yikes! I responded by saying it would not be a risk, and I explained why I would be just as successful at the bank as I have been throughout my life up until today; she seemed to like my answer, but who knows, really? I've learned from interviewing prospective students that an interviewer's facial expressions can be very deceiving. Anyway, the process was a bit nerve-wracking but overall not a super stressful ordeal. I had time to relax and do some social stuff with local friends.

The interviews tomorrow and the next day, with a consulting firm, will follow roughly the same schedule but be a little tougher, with a greater number of higher-intensity activities than Bank of America had scheduled. Then all this will be followed by one of the strangest things I've ever seen on my Outlook calendar: A Saturday that isn't emboldened, which means I don't have a single thing scheduled. Not one! It would be pretty blissful to keep it that way, because after a week of missing almost all my classes it would be nice to read and catch up. (I'm very lucky to have a good friend, Zandra, who has been collecting notes for me.)

One of the things I particularly need to catch up on is my non-SOM class, Theory of Media, because I will have a final paper due in a few weeks, and I need to iron out exactly what I'm going to discuss. I think I'm going to talk about the blossoming locative-media industry (GPS stuff). An unanticipated aspect of taking a class outside the business school is that it's an oddly isolating activity; I'm never around anybody who's discussing it, so I can't gauge my effort to anyone else's. That's a contrast to, say, Corporate Finance, where the assignments are group assignments, and people always end up talking about how they're doing in the class, how hard they think it is, when and for how long they're meeting with their groups to do assignments, etc. That puts some context on my opinion of the class, and that context is lacking for my film studies class. So I just have to be particularly diligent to make sure I don't drop the ball.