Saturday, September 26, 2009

Frantic yet Fruitful – Early Lessons Learned

I find it hard to believe that more than a month has passed since I entered the Evening MBA Program at Wake Forest, but here I am staring down my first final and preparing to make an adjustment from one class to two.
The rapid-fire pace of my accounting class has been an adjustment after many years away from school, but one that I believe I have handled well. I have seen so many balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements, and have gotten well acquainted with learning from case studies and from my peers.
During my undergraduate studies, we rarely learned from the other students. It just wasn’t emphasized. Our professor in accounting has done a good job of encouraging people to ask questions, provide perspective, and give high-quality examples from their own experiences.
Rather than write endlessly about the various lessons, quizzes, and meetings that sometimes seem to blur looking back, I want to discuss my favorite part of the course: the group presentations. As a journalist, this particular assignment played to my strengths in some regards since we had to craft a thorough report on the companies we selected (Whole Foods Market Inc. and Safeway Inc. for out project). However, it also tested me in the areas of hefty financial analysis and public speaking. (For the record, we recommended avoiding either company as an investment right now: diminished cash flow, high debt loads, and an uncertain future when it comes to consumer spending.)
What impressed me the most was the way our team – a concept that Wake preaches with regularity – pulled together, assigned tasks, and knocked out self-imposed deadline after deadline. What began as a brainstorming session just a month ago was transformed into what I thought to be a well-constructed collaborative effort. My favorite moment involved stepping up in front of 40 peers and the professor to present the financials. Nervous? Of course. But soon after beginning the analysis I forgot that there were dozens of spectators and concentrated solely on doing my very best.
My team feels very good about the results, which contribute nearly a fifth of our final grade. It also galvanized us as a team, I believe. Our class is phenomenal, too. Every presentation was informative, whether the companies were auto manufacturers, chipmakers, or doughnut shops. I felt fully engaged throughout the nearly three-hour class! That seems to be a key takeaway from the program, and I am anxious to participate in future classes to expand my knowledge base.
I still have quite a load in my final days of accounting: take home project, individual research project, and a final exam. The lesson learned here is time management. Once a day slips away, you can’t get it back, so I have tried to commit some minutes (and hours, some nights) to incrementally moving the needle forward on assignments. The relief is realizing two days before the final that I am 95% through with everything. The joy is immeasurable!
These are just a few brief lessons that I wanted to share. Undoubtedly there will be more as I transition to quant and organizational behavior in coming weeks!
~Paul Davis is a first-year MBA candidate in the Class of 2011 Evening Program.

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