Grad School life - The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I have essentially failed at my new year’s goal of getting back to posting regularly on here. To be fair, work has been quite the roller coaster on top of school and attempting to have some semblance of a social life.

I am halfway through my second to last term in grad school. Midterms for Winter 2017 were last week. I also registered for… MY LAST CLASS!!!!!! I will officially be done with graduate school as of June 27th, 2017. Seeing as my birthday is the 26th, that is a pretty awesome birthday present. Unlike my last semester of undergrad, there are no bittersweet moments for me when I think about being done with school, only elation and a revelation that I will have free time again. That may sound like I have hated my time in school and dread the moments I have left on campus, but that is not how I mean it. I have enjoyed a significant portion of the time spend pursuing my MBA, but I am ready to be done. The bittersweet moments of ending undergrad stemmed from the memories made on campus and the comprehensive experience of being in college. While I have met some great people and learned a great deal in grad school, the comprehensive experience of being in grad school while working full time lacks the same appeal as the experience of undergrad.

The next few weeks will be a bit of a whirlwind of work and school, but it only brings me closer to the end of my time in the MBA program. The promise of summer, with no more classes and plenty of time spent on my paddle board, provides me with a light at the end of the tunnel to get me through the nights spent in a classroom instead of home cuddling with my dog. To say I am looking forward to those free nights would be an understatement.

This post will be short, as I am quickly running out of brain power, but I will leave you on a positive note. For as much as I have complained about school in the last year and a half, as I come to the end of it I can say that it is something I am glad I did. I have made new friends, expanded my expertise, and confirmed that I am more than capable of achieving all that I hope to achieve in my professional career. If you think you want to go back to school, do it! It will be a crazy, exhausting, stressful whirlwind, but it will be worth it.

 

Best,

Katherine

 

Getting your MBA is an emotional roller coaster

MBA? Get Ready For A Roller Coaster

Learning is fun right? Furthering your skill set is awesome! Grad school is a field of daisies…no.

Don’t worry, this will not be 500 words of me complaining about how much school sucks, but it will be a real look at just how much of an emotional roller coaster grad school can be. It has a happy ending though.

Last week I wrote about my new four week class, International Marketing with Dr. Yaprak. In that post I talked about how I hadn’t wanted to go to class and how the long week made 3 hours of class sound painful, but my time in class was actually quite enjoyable. This week’s classes took me for a similar ride, particularly on Tuesday. I drove to campus after a long work day with the thought more work still to be completed after class weighing on my mind. That is not a great mindset to be in when you will be discussing international marketing research and statistics for 3 hours. Stats can be enough of a headache when it is the easy stuff, adding the additional requirements for reliability and validity across nations is cause for an extra dose of caffeine even if you haven’t already completed a 9 hour work day. Despite being exhausted, and honestly a little uninterested in being in class when I walked into the lecture, 20 minutes in I was fully engaged and enjoying the discussion my professor was facilitating. It was still a long class, but my mood was noticeable improved following the lecture. As I drove home that night, the extent to which going back to school places you on an emotional roller coaster struck me. That is not to say that I have not noticed or thought of this in the last year and a half, but the fact that the swing was so drastic and took place in such a short time span was something worth noting.

Going back to school holds plenty of promise, the opportunity of career advancement being one of priority for many students, but the smaller victories and defeats of being back in school tend to be overlooked. Success on a paper, or project, or even in a lecture discussion can take your day from a 2 to a 10. Unfortunately, the opposite can be said for a poorer than expected grade or walking into a test feeling prepared only to find that you studied the wrong material. All of these ups and downs are exhausting, especially when combined with the greater stress of being back in school and the time and effort that goes with it. This is something that I feel many students are not fully expecting when they start a grad school program. They expect the hard work, the long nights, and the frustrations that come with any type of schooling, but may underestimate the number of ups, downs, twists, and turns that accompany the grad school life. It is much more than head down and move towards the light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, as I have moved this program I have come to believe that the emotional roller coaster is almost an additional course for student to succeed in. Grad school is more than just what happens in the classroom or in pursuit of class requirements, there are life lessons to be learned even by those who have been in the work force for many year. (For the record, I acknowledge how cheesy that sounds, but I stand by it).

I think I was lucky when I entered my program; I had watched people close to me go through this process before I started and so I had expectations of up and downs, but I still may have underestimated the emotional component of grad school. If I were to give advice to anyone considering grad school, and in particular a MBA, I would address this subject. Be ready to work hard, be ready to commit, and be ready to start a crazy ride.

 

Best,

Katherine

Finishing grad school in 2017

Be Good To Me 2017

See ya 2016, 2017, bring it on!

I’ve been remiss in my writing recently, but with the new year comes a renewed dedication to projects. As much as I hate to admit it, in the last couple months I fell into the trap burnout. Writing was supposed to be my release, a place to share my journey through grad school and a way to unwind. However, as many content creators will tell you, at the end of the day, blogging is work. When you spend all day staring at a computer screen for work and then follow that up with homework on the computer, your laptop starts to look very unfriendly and the motivation to spend any more time in front of it disappears. Not only did staring at a screen for any longer make my head hurt, I simply did not have the energy to tell my story. Now that I have been out of class for a few weeks and had a whole week off of work, my laptop seems less like the enemy.

So what is new in the world of this Mid (Late) 20s Night’s Dream? As mentioned in the last post, I am 4, yes just 4, classes away from being done with my MBA!!! Exciting as that is, those 4 classes still represent 5-6 more months of work. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, and I am quickly coming up on it. I start another 4 week course next week, International Marketing, which I am actually looking forward to. The professor is focused on more than just academia, he wants his students to thrive in the real world with skills and insights that work in more than just the classroom. The syllabus was posted a few weeks ago and as I perused the reading list, there were quite a few articles that caught my attention as something I would be interested in in reading. As for my two full term classes that start in February, they are classes I am approaching with a little more apprehension. The first is Social Perspectives, essentially business ethics. It is supposed to be one of the toughest courses in the program, and while my professor has decent ratings, I am sure it will be an interesting 11 weeks. That class also came with a bit of sticker shock when I looked up the text book. For the majority of my classes, I have escaped the pain at the bookstore that was a staple experience in undergrad; not for this class though. Even renting the book will set me back a pretty penny. Focus, focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

My second class is the core management class for the program. When I registered for the class a professor that had been recommended to me was scheduled to teach it, but that has since changed. I do not know anything about the new professor and the syllabus has not been posted. For now, I am flying blind into that class. The one upside is that it is an online class which gives me more flexibility in how I schedule my class time.

Beyond school, I of course have the obligatory New Year’s resolutions. My resolutions are nothing groundbreaking, but they are things that I can do to make me a successful and more relaxed version of myself.  My resolutions for this year are:

  • Power down electronics an hour before bed. Take some time to unplug and relax. This is going to be the hardest resolution for me to keep.
  • Get back to reading for fun. There is a giant pile of books in my bedroom that are calling for attention (probably in that hour before bed)
  • Take time after EVERY workout to properly stretch. I am generally pretty good about this, but when things get busy and I try to squeeze a workout into a jam packed day, stretching is something that tends to get cut short. This leads to aches and pains that remind me that while I’m not old, I am not a teen anymore and I need to take care of my body.

2017 is here and I am ready to take it on. Follow along as I tackle the last stretch of my MBA!

Best,

Katherine

First Day of School

Reporting for Duty: No Longer MIA

I’m here, I’m alive! I did not fall off the face of the earth, just the face of the blogosphere. The last month has been a whirlwind of school and work which left little time and even less energy to dedicate to writing. I won’t go into all of the details, because that would be a very long blog post, but here is a quick recap of the last month:

Grad School

  • 97% on my Corporate Finance midterm; was pretty excited about that. Followed it up with a 96% on the final and high scores on all of the group cases. Final grade: A. My 4.0 status is safe for now.
  • Inbound Marketing – 4 week course that technically started this week. The class material has been posted since September though so I have been slowly chipping away at it. The class applies directly to what I do on a daily basis so it is interesting, but also not too challenging. It is however, time consuming. There are two HubSpot certifications to complete, 3 blog posts to write,  a website consultation, and nearly 100 lecture videos to watch.
  • Class Scheduling – I am down to 4 classes before I complete my program. It is an exciting feeling. I will be cranking out 3 of those 4 classes in the winter semester; one 4 week class in January and two full classes that start in February. With any luck, I will be a MBA graduate by the end of next summer. The next few months will be one heck of a ride.

Work LifeI love Tacos Dallas

  • Made my first trip to Texas to visit my company’s Dallas office. It is a very cool city, and I was able to catch up with a friend from undergrad who is from there. I’d like to go back and explore the city more. My team was amazed at how many restaurants there were. We walked from Uptown back to our hotel in the business district and 90% of the storefronts were restaurants. We of course, did not eat at the same place twice for the duration of the trip.
  • Two days home after Dallas and then it was off to San Francisco to speak at my first conference! My panel was all about the value of consumer insights and how to use them to develop strategy. For those not in marketing or data, probably not the most interesting talk, but I received a lot of great feedback. The conference as a whole was well done, with speakers from all different industries and experience levels. There were even some fun keynote speakers with Ayesha Curry and stylist Jeannie Mai. I had major shoe envy when Ayesha walked on stage. Brian Solis, who I have seen at every conference I have been to this year, also made an appearance. NetBase was awesome enough to gift us copies of Brian’s latest book that I can’t wait to dig into. That wasn’t the only book I came home with; I won a golden ticket for a signed copy of Ayesha’s cook book. New recipe adventures will likely appear on the blog soon! It was a great trip, with a well done conference and some extra time to catch up with friends on the west coast.

Vacation

  • It was a crazy few weeks, but I was able to squeeze in some fun and visit my sister in Charleston for Halloween. She started law school there this year and it was great to see her new home (and lie on a beach at the end of October).
  • One last bit of fun before the grind of this 4 week class kicked in; my dad and I took one final sail last weekend down the Detroit River. It was a little chilly (56 air temp), but we had great wind and a clear sunny day that seemed out of place in Michigan at this time of year.Sailing Detroit Detroit River

Now, it’s on to several hours of Inbound Marketing for me. I am a week ahead of the class schedule and I intend to keep it that way.

 

Best,

Katherine

Halfway There, Whoa! Living on a Prayer!

I am halfway done with my MBA! 6 more classes to go!

I never would have imagined how good it would feel to pack up my work bag and not have to bring school stuff with me. I’m not sure what it has been about this stretch of classes, but the feeling of elation after completing my final on Monday surpassed any excitement I’ve had in completing a grad school class so far.I have two weeks until fall classes start, and thus two days before the class I have dreaded from the start begins.

Corporate Finance

Just saying it has a crushing effect on morale. This is the only class in the program that I have a particular distaste for. I know i can do well in the class, but I also know that this is not a subject that I find easy to get into and I will need to dedicate a lot of time to making sure I fully understand the material. I know a couple people who are in the same section of the class with me, which can be helpful for those tougher chapters. #StudyBuddy. I plan on buying the book before classes start and skimming the first few chapters to get myself re-acclimated to the “wonderful” world of finance.

As I get ready to take on the fall semester, I also reflect on the summer semester. I don’t regret taking summer classes, but it is probably not something I would do again unless I was genuinely interested in the class. I also would not recommend a two weekend seminar during a 12 week stretch of 2 nights per week classes. While I enjoyed all of the classes I took this summer, the last couple weeks have been tough. My performance and engagement with classes definitely suffered in the process. Effects like this are why I place such a heavy emphasis on  finding balance. Cramming as much as you possibly can into a day or week may seem like a great way to be productive, but at what cost? Despite a long week before it, I enjoyed the first weekend of my seminar. However, by the last day of weekend two, I was so exhausted that I was getting headaches during lectures and becoming annoyed when fellow classmates extended a conversation around a topic more than a few minutes.  That is not how you want to spend your class time, you get nothing out of it. My advice to students looking at summer classes: be aware of the shortened time frame and make sure that you are prepared to spend the same amount of time on class as you would for a full semester. Keep in mind other commitments you have and summer plans that you do not want to sacrifice. If you can not honestly (being truly honest with yourself) say that you can dedicate the necessary time to classes and still have that down time to recuperate, I would advise taking an extra semester to finish your program over burning yourself out trying to get it done. Being cranky in class is not a fun time.

Until the week of August 31st, I am focused on enjoying my time off. There will be plenty of time to worry about class this fall. If there is one thing I have learned from the first half of grad school, take advantage of breaks when you have them. I have slept in, had complete workouts, and even had some down time this week, and it has been glorious. These are the moments that will a) rejuvenate me to take on the rest of my classes and b) serve as extra motivation to finish so that I can free evenings on a regular basis again.

 

Best,

Katherine

 

Wednesday Highlights

Sleep: 7.5 Hours

Work: 8 Hours

Study: 1 Hour (finish up answers to group project)

Workout: 2 mile run, Blogilates leg day

Soundtrack: NSYNC radio, it’s that kind of day

 

“It’s Not Worth It”

Going back to school was not an easy decision. While to many it may have seemed like I jumped into it without a lot of thought, the opposite is true. I knew I wanted to get my MBA, but the decision was not as simple as “I want it.” Not only was I faced with the reality that I would have far less free time to do the things I enjoy, but I was taking on a very expensive endeavor that I would be paying for. I had to consider whether the investment of time and money was going to make a significant impact on my career down the line. Ultimately, I decided that the investment was worth it, and so I started my journey. However, it didn’t take long for me to encounter people who felt that I had made the wrong decision. Comments ranged from the confused but harmless”Wow, that’s a lot of work” to the more direct “I don’t think a MBA adds anything.”

“It’s not worth it”

“It doesn’t mean anything”

“It won’t help in your career”

You made the wrong decision.

They may not have realized it, but that is what all of those comments were really saying. I’ve heard this a lot over the last year, and for the most part I’ve just smiled and moved on. Their comments have no impact on my success and frankly, I don’t care if they think it was the wrong choice. Yet, I would be lying if I said a few of the comments didn’t bother me a little; in particular those that came from people in my industry. There was more than one “good for you, but” conversation that took place with colleagues.  As someone who is still young in an industry, those sentiments can be discouraging when they come from someone who has been successful in the field you wish to excel in.

Despite some less than enthusiatic responses to my choice, I have pushed on. I have chosen to let those comments roll off of me and keep my eye on the prize. I realize that going back to school is not for everyone and everyone is entitled to their own views. However, in defense of everyone who has chosen to go back to school, I need to say

Stop telling me it’s not worth it.

Please, stop.

I debated on writing this post. I generally try to avoid offending people and I try not to call anyone out unless necessary, but I think it is incredibly unfair for someone to negatively comment on another person’s efforts to do something positive. If you don’t think grad school is worth it, that’s fine. Keep those sentiments to yourself unless asked. The student you’re talking to is already exhausted and wondering what they got themselves into, they don’t need your negativity on top of it. Maybe an advanced degree won’t make a huge difference, but maybe it will.

Further, if you are in a program and not paying for it, please stop telling the people who are paying for it that it’s a waste. Please stop flaunting that you wouldn’t be doing it if you had to pay for it. Once again, you are entitled to your opinion, but that type of statement is a slap in the face. You are being provided the same opportunity that they are striving for without the associated financial burden, and you choose to crap all over it. Put yourself in their position and imagine what that feels like.

This may come off like a bit of a rant, but that is not how it is intended. It is simply a PSA for everyone who has a grad student in their life. We’re working hard, many of us while also working full time jobs, and we can use the support of our friends, family, and colleagues in getting through it. You may not agree with our choice or our reasons, but please don’t rain on our parade.

 

Best,

Katherine

Gary Vaynerchuk Hustle #AskGaryVee

A Little Bit of Hustle

Swamped at school and cramming a million things into all of my days, sounds like the perfect time to change things up, right?

Well that is exactly what I did. Wednesday marked the first day of my new job, adding tying up loose ends and adjusting to a new environment, team, commute, and responsibilities to my ever growing list of tasks. This is all happening during what will possibly be the three busiest weeks of my grad school journey. I was not able to take any time off between jobs; I closed up business on Tuesday at my old agency and opened Wednesday at the new job. At the same time, I had a case study (more on that later) due at 6pm Wednesday and several class readings that I needed to catch up on from Monday. I now also have readings that I will need to complete ahead of time so that I can start my next case study. That final case is a group presentation where we will lead the class in a discussion and debate. The madness continues in Global Automotive Marketing.

The countdown to my weekend seminar has also officially begun (7 days). I have made significant progress on my pre-seminar readings and I feel like I am in good shape. I have all of the readings completed for the first weekend as well as my writing sample that is due Monday. My assigned partner and I still need to finish our collaborative assignment, but it is pretty close to done.

About that case study. I generally pride myself on being a competent writer, both creatively and academically. I have had few instances in my academic career where I was not able to effectively construct and communicate ideas and view points, particularly when given a topic to write on. That was not the case for this paper. While I feel confident with the material that we have covered in class, I struggled to figure out what direction to take my paper and debated on whether I was correctly evaluating the case on the basis of class discussions. The goal of the case study is to tie relevant class material to a real world case and credit is generally given if the presented position is logically supported. However, no matter how much I reread, reconsidered, and edited my paper, I was not completely satisfied. By the time I turned my paper in, I was definitely in a “satisficing” consumer mindset, not an”optimizing” mindset (a little consumer behavior jargon for you). This is a frustrating position to be in. I am not the type of student who can get a passing grade and be happy, I want to excel. I want to be able to say that I completed the task at the highest level possible. I realize that it will not always be the reality, but it still bothers me when it is the case. It does not help that I received a grade lower than expected on the first exam. Overall the class did not perform well, and I was among the highest grades, but given the amount of time I spent preparing and the confidence I felt coming out of the test, it is another frustration.

With everything going on and the new routine I am about to start, I have a feeling that I will be channeling Gary Vee for the next few weeks and months; cranking it out and living with a little bit of hustle.

 

Stay tuned!

Friday Highlights

Sleep: 7 Hours

Work: 8 Hours

Study: 1 Hour

Workout: Overslept…

Soundtrack: 90’s Playlist

 

Detroit Tigers Comerica Park

Can I Get A Pause?

Wow, what a week. I have been majorly negligent in my regular posts, but since this week’s Sunday Shenanigans fell on my birthday, I think I should get a pass.

The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind, with major client meetings at work, traveling to St. Louis for a wedding, a final exam, and several social events including my birthday and two nights spent at Comerica Park watching the Tigers. Of course, my life can IMG_3255never go a long period of time with things running completely smoothly, so I walked out of Friday’s game to find my car with a dead battery and awoke Saturday morning to a leaky shower pipe in my basement. Both were relatively quick and easy fixes, (though the shower was not fixed until this morning so I was showering at my dad’s), but neither were things that I really wanted to deal with.  In short, life has been hectic, but overall fun. The next few weeks promise a similar whirlwind. My next class starts this week and will require a large amount of time spent reading and writing outside of class. If I don’t post for an extended period of time, it is safe to assume that my blogging hours have been absorbed by class hours. I also have another trip to St. Louis for a bridal shower/bachelorette next weekend, a camping trip coming up in July, and various other social events throughout July. Basically, by the end of July all I am going to want to do is sleep, which will not be an option because I will not be done with classes until mid-August. It does not help things that I have only been averaging 6-7 hours of not so restful sleep recently. Despite my best intentions, I have continued to shove too many things into too few hours in a day. I mentioned in my last post that I had considered dropping my next class and taking a few weeks off before my seminar  in August. That is still a very tempting option, but I know that it is not the right choice. I can not guarantee that this class will be offered again and taking it gives me a greater degree of flexibility to take my final classes one at a time instead of trying to take multiple writing intensive classes at the same time. Still, a few weeks of regular sleep and not rushing through my workouts to get them done would be nice. Once again, I am living through the reality of grad school and a full time career.

My advice to anyone who is thinking of pursuing their degree while working is simply to go in understanding that it is a huge commitment. Grad school classes are not like many of your undergrad classes; you will not be able to coast through with minimal effort no matter how smart you are. Professors expect you to participate with thoughtful answers and will grade you accordingly. In the same vein, if you are serious about a graduate degree, coasting through should not be an option. Go back to school to actually learn something, not just for the letters behind your name. I realize that that may be a tall order for some; there are plenty of people who go back to school only for the credentials, and that is fine, but in my opinion that is a lot of time and money spent for a minimal payoff. Even if you do not feel that you learn from the material in all of your classes, at least make the effort to sharpen the skills that the class calls on, whether that be presenting, critical reasoning, or managing a team. I have been just as guilty as the rest at times, with a mindset of just get through and get a good grade, but I do strive to take something away from each of my classes. If I am going to spend the time and money and love through the stress, I want to know that I at least did it well.

With all of that said, it is back to the roller coaster ride for me. Wish me luck!

 

Best,

Katherine

 

Monday Highlights

Sleep: 6.5 Hours

Work: 8 Hours

Study: 1 Hour

Workout: Pilates and paddle boarding

Current Soundtrack: N’SYNC Pandora station

 

My Great Debate

There comes a time in every grad student’s tenure where they wonder, “what did I get myself into?” That question has crossed my time several times in the last few weeks, as I cram more and more into my days. Class two nights a week plus a crazy eight week stretch of social engagements on top of the busiest time of the year at work has left me choosing between sleep and working out, making poorer eating habits, and generally feeling exhausted. While my current class is not difficult, the tight time frame is tiring. The fact that the material is not as challenging as other classes is in some ways to my detriment as I am tempted to put off reading since in theory the material should not require a great deal of extra reviewing. The problem with this approach is that when I do get back to reading, I am reading closer to 100 pages in one sitting instead of 30. After a long day at the office, those 100 pages feel pretty prohibitive. My first summer class ends this week but my next class, Global Automotive Marketing, kicks off next Monday. I am actually excited for the material in that class as it relates closely what I do every day. It is also taught by the same professor I had my first WSU marketing class last fall which I enjoyed. However, she is tough in her expectations and places a large emphasis on case studies that demand a fair amount of writing. Not overly difficult, but very time consuming. That time demand plus readings and the 6 hours of class every week feels a bit daunting at times. Especially during the summer when I would much rather spend time on the boat or playing with my dog, school feels like an anchor. So much so that I have considered dropping my next summer class to take a few weeks off. I still have my two weekend immersive class in August to get through and I will be taking Corporate Finance in the fall, which promises to be a bit of a headache. The idea of having a few weeks where I only have to worry about school is tempting. I can take a break, recharge, catch up on things that have fallen to the wayside. On the flip side, I want to take the class and doing so brings me closer to finishing my degree all together. It also gives me the freedom to take the classes I have remaining in smaller chunks. Given that three of my four remaining classes after the fall semester are heavily focused on writing, the ability to take one at a time is advantageous. I have already spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what order I should take those classes in and how much time it will take me to complete my degree. I’ve looked at the possibility of taking my last three classes one at a time and I’ve talked to people who have already taken those classes to try and figure out which ones I can double up on without driving myself crazy. Throughout all of this I have had to keep in mind the growing number of responsibilities I have taken on at work and what I would like to accomplish in the career setting over the next year and a half. To say it has given me a lot to think about would be an understatement.

Thinking long term, it is clear that I should remain in the class and get it over with. Work is busy now but not unbearably so, which I cannot guarantee will remain true in the coming months. This is the time to set aside dome extra time for school, while I still have “extra time” to spare. Yet the short term temptations are brought to the forefront every time I sit down after a long day to do homework. While I am driven, I am also tired. Tired i the sense that I am probably not getting enough sleep, tired of having to rush workouts and feeling sluggish throughout them, tired of not having time to cook much, and tired of my desk looking like a hurricane ripped across it. In short, I am in need of a bit of a mindset adjustment. What I need to do is purchase my next class’ materials and make the commitment that I will not take the easier route. The next 6 weeks are going to  be hard, but I think they are worth it in the grand scheme.

 

Best,

Katherine

 

Monday Highlights

Sleep: 8 Hours

Work: 9 Hours

Study: 4 Hours

Workout: Rest Day (not exactly by choice)

Current Soundtrack: Piano Guys Pandora station