Better Late than Never

February 25, 2008

Please note that this is a historical post moved from my old site. This was originally posted on February 15th, 2008. 

It’s been about two months since my last post, and there’s very little excuse for that kind of delay. To all of my loyal readers, I offer my sincerest apology. Between the drought of new Mike Murphy blogs and the now-ending television writers strike, there must have been a real lack of interesting, inspired content out there… right?

Okay, so it’s been a wild ride. First, after the end of the second academic quarter at Darden I ran off to San Francisco for a “job trek”. A job trek is essentially a coordinated event in which a group of b-school students travel together to a particular geographical area and look at job opportunities there. In particular, we were looking for internships in the high-tech industry. We also checked out some great consulting firms. We started with Google, whichc had a fantastic campus and an understandably interesting atmosphere. We then checked out Broadcom, eBay, and Yahoo! (I guess Yahoo! isn’t really a smiley place right now, but I digress). I really liked the city… very cool area.

After returning from the job trek I headed home for Chirstmas. Christmas with my family was fantastic, of course. I had a great time. After Christmas I headed to Vegas for New Years. Some of my old Army buddies and other friends got together for the holiday. This was my first time in Vegas, and it was awesome. I loved all lights and sounds of the strip. We checked out the Blue Man Group show, and I lost a little money, hehe. We spent New Years eve at the Hard Rock Casino bar, and went onto the roof to check out the fireworks over the strip. UVa was playing in a bowl game with Texas Tech, so I made a small wager at the sports book for UVa to beat the spread. Unfortunately, since I’m a complete amateur, I misread the spread on the ticket and assumed the outcome (UVa losing by 1) rendered the ticket a loser. I left it and caught a flight home, but when I opened a paper on the plane and checked out the line in the sports section, I was suprised to find that the ticket had actually been a winner. My hasty call to my friends, who were still in our hotel room, resulted in somone collecting the prize. I received a phone call a few hours later, thanking me for breakfast and cab fare to the airport. Awesome.

After returning from Vegas I headed straight to Charlottesville to begin practicing for interviews. I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to receive about ten interview invitations, including a number of top notch consulting firms. I was primarily interested in consulting for four reasons: first, it’s a people (client) business, and I enjoy relationship-based collaborative environments. Second, it’s team-based, and I really enjoy working on small teams to effect big change. Third, I really like problem-solving, and that’s what consultants do: they solve problems. Last, and definitely not least, consulting is an adventure… projects typically are only a few months long, and then it’s on to a new project and a new challenge. Thus, it’s a great place to get a breadth of experience in a short amount of time. In this way, it’s similar to the case method that dominates the curriculum at Darden. Each day at Darden, we come into class to tackle three distinct business cases. With each case, we put ourselves into the role of manager or consultant, and apply a new technique to solve a problem. It could be determining the valuation of an initial public offering in Finance, dissecting a statement of cash flows in Accounting, determining how to shift a corporate culture in Strategy, or conducting a competitive analysis in Decision Analysis. For a student with no real business background, the case method is the best thing going to get a wide range of practical experience in a short period of time while honing new skills. Consulting is just an extension of this logic.

Consulting interviews are rather demanding. Typically, a consulting interview consists of a few “fit” questions to determine how well-suited a candidate is for consulting and how well they’ll fit into a particular firm’s culture, followed by a case. The case portion is usually a real business problem, and you talk through how you would approach solving it. At some point, there’s often some data interpretation and some basic calculations must be completed to reach a viable conclusion. One of the hardest things in preparing for case interviews was preparing for the math. Calculators typically aren’t permitted, so it’s necessary to do basic math by hand. This can sometimes be a bit tedious and even a little intimidating. After all, how long has it been since you’ve last done long division? Doing it efficiently in front of an interviewer watching your every move requires a bit of practice.

I spent countless hours practicing with my classmates. We used a lot of sample casebooks to help eachother prepare. I practiced with students who, like me, have never been in a case interview before. In addition, I practiced with a few students who had a consulting internship last summer, as well as with a few of our career consultants. Darden gave us a lengthy break (until late January) to prepare for interviews.

I never would have been able to land interviews with these firms immediately after leaving the Army. I would have slid just below their radar. I owe Darden a great debt for not just giving me a great business education and helping me develop a network that will serve me for many years to come, but also for providing excellent career services, helping me reach out to recruiters and position myself for the best possible opportunties. In a small effort to start giving back, I have volunteered some time to show prospective students around during their visits to Darden, and I’ve reached out to a few military applicants to offer personal assistance with their admissions process.

All the work and practice paid off. I had several successful first round interviews, and was invited to second round interviews with a number of firms. After a few weekends of flying to different offices to conduct second round interviews, I received several great summer internship offers. In most cases, these internships pay nearly double my Army salary on a monthly basis, which is quite humbling. More importantly, all of these offers provide an opportunity to learn more about consulting in general, and whichever firm I end up with in particular. At this point, I am favoring one offer over the others, but I feel it’s best to withhold my decision from the blog (which is published on the Darden portal, after all) until I make my decision known to all of the recruiters and interviewers that have been so helpful and supportive through the process. I can say, however, that it is looking very likely I will end up in the greater New York area for the summer.

Classes have ramped back up, and, amazingly, the third quarter is almost halfway over already. It’s flying by, and with recruiting activities winding down, I am free to focus on my classes. I’m spending a lot of time working on Finance (FMP), Decision Analysis (DA), Strategy (STRAT), and Global Economies and Markets (GEM). DA is proving to remain my favorite class, as we’ve jumped deep into competitive analysis. Given that I am generally clueless in Finance, I am really learning a lot in that class as well. Until a week ago, I had no idea what a “future” was, now I’ve learned how businesses can hedge against rising fuel costs by purchasing futures options in the market. I really like how much I’m learning in that class… and the case method works surprisingly well in this context.

So, what’s next? I have a few weeks of classes left, and then it’s time for Spring Break! My trip to Costa Rica has been locked down. I’m going, and it’s going to be great… I have an intermediate surf lesson booked for every day I’m there.  In preperation for the trip, I’ve begun replacing half of my runs with swims at the Aquatic Fitness Center. I can’t wait.

I hope everyone is well out there, and I hope to be a little more prompt in my next posting 🙂


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