Wednesday, February 25, 2004


HBS, Stanford, and Kellogg bloggers where are you?

The list of Wharton bloggers just keeps growing. There are 23 contributing diarists on the Wharton Diaries site, and 6 students (current and future) who maintain their own blogs.

According to the MBA League of Bloggers, we have one blogger from HBS, two from Kellogg (one is in French), and none from Stanford. I point this out not to toot Wharton's horn (that's just a satisfying side benefit), but to encourage any future/prospective students who might be going to those schools to represent! Let's get with the program!

posted by Ryan : 4:12 AM | permalink

Saturday, February 21, 2004


Interviewing Wharton's Dean

On Thursday my Wharton Journal co-editor Jeff and I sat down for an hour with Wharton's Dean, Patrick Harker. Harker is engaging and charismatic, but his stock instantly shot up in my mind when, as we engaged in small talk, he recounted two scenes from The Simpsons. The first reference was a bit where Homer needed a financial wizard, and a lady with a Wharton t-shirt and glasses showed up on the scene. From a school branding standpoint, Harker quipped "You know you've made it when you're on the Simpsons." The second Simpsons reference was Lisa's discovery that she'd have no hope getting into Harvard but that her file would be passed on to Brown University, at which point Otto the bus driver admits that he almost got tenure at Brown. Harker's impression of slacker Otto was uncanny.

Simpsons aside, I thought our later discussion about Wharton's brand was quite interesting. It is well known that, despite Wharton's many successes, the school has a branding problem (especially abroad). Part of the problem is illustrated by this fact: Princeton's business and law schools are frequently top ranked in polls. Yet Princeton does not have a business school or a law school! Stanford and Harvard benefit from the same phenomenon (although I've heard rumors that they actually do have business and law schools). Wharton, on the other hand, is part of the University of Pennsylvania which is generally the least well known of the ivy schools. The gap between awareness of the Penn name and the Wharton name is narrowing, Harker says, as awareness of Penn grows.

The Dean spends more than half his time on the road with alumni. A big priority here is to raise funds. But the other component is community building (translated: brand building). "The alumni," he stated, "define the school's brand." And what keeps Harker up at night is that the alumni don't talk enough about the school. Perhaps this modesty is explained by Penn's Quaker roots, but Wharton grads tend to err on the side of being too modest.

The other idea he wants to promote is Wharton's philosophy about leadership, which transcends the narrow "CEO" definition of leadership. He hastened to add that leadership in "business, public life, and private character" are equally important facets of leadership, and he wants Wharton grads to be known for all three.

An area I was curious about (which we didn't touch on) is Wharton's consistently high alumni ranking (compared with other schools) in polls. We tend to get the highest marks in answer to the question "Would you recommend Wharton to a friend?" Why is this? From what I have observed, I think this comes from the incredibly high student involvement and participation (clubs, committees, extracurriculars, etc.). I'm still amazed at how much the students do to make Wharton what it is. It sounds cliche, but there really is an entrepreneurial atmosphere here (which was surprising to me given the size of the program). I think the student population really feels it has an impact on defining the Wharton experience. You can't help but feel loyal towards something you helped build.

The Wharton Journal article with the full interview can be found here.

posted by Ryan : 3:37 AM | permalink

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


The Interview Game

Last week was the most stressful week of the year. I think it ranks even higher on the stress scale than moving all your stuff across the country into a highrise with a newborn infant. "DIP" week as it's known (Dedicated Interviewing Period) is the time where First Years put themselves through the wringer for a solid week with the hopes of getting a summer internship. Generally it's the consulting, banking, and large industry firms who use this week to fish for fresh recruits. For the First Years, getting a good internship is the best way to lock in a good full time job next year.

Several years ago, in the heyday, summer internships were a chance to experiment with something totally different (like a marketer trying his/her hand at investment banking or vice versa). The economic climate of the last couple years have changed the focus of the summer internship on finding a job that you can lock in when you graduate (job security in uncertain times). For some firms, things look slightly better than last year, but the feeling that jobs are scarce is still very much a part of the recruiting atmosphere among students.

The psychology of the interview process is an interesting thing. It's a bit of a game. The pre-game requires a lot of practice (especially for case interviews), and you have to think positive thoughts. The game itself can go a lot of different directions, and some elements are out of your control. The fate of the interview seems to rest partially on how you see your interviewer: as an opponent or as a team member. Some interviewers deliberately position themselves as opponents because they want to see how you react under pressure. It seems like the best approach is to not to take that bait... just continue treating the person like a team member. After the game is over, the post-game analysis can last for days. And nights. At 4:30am you wake up replaying the interviews in your mind... both the wicked smart answers you gave, as well as the dumb rambling ones. The replays keep playing themselves out in your mind until the outcome of the game is known. If you get a call from a recruiter (or no call at all), you know it's a ding, and you take a renewed vow to be rich and successful in order to show up the dinging firm... to teach it the error of its ways! Then you cry or mope for a while, and then you just suck it up and go right back to watching The O.C. If your call comes from a senior officer, you know it's an offer, you jump up and down, you dance the jig of joy, and you ultimately lose complete control of your bladder. These reactions to success and failure are inevitable, and there is no sense fighting them.

I've always been intrigued by the attribute (or skill?) of optimism, which, admittedly, has not always come naturally to me. An article (free registration required) in the student publication of the Chicago Business School makes an interesting point that relates to optimism, or more specifically, the psychology of "winning" in the job search process:
I have seen many people (with great backgrounds) falter during interviews because they were scared that one ill-perceived move was going to result in an interview ding. Students who interview "not to lose" are tense from the initial handshake and carry a sense of reserve throughout the interview, which inhibits their ability to demonstrate enthusiasm for the position. This same tenseness also impacts performance in technical questions and case scenarios. Remember, you must not allow yourself to fall into that "not to lose" mentality. So as you approach each interview, ask yourself one question.......am I doing this to "win" or am I doing this "not to lose?" There is a difference, and the choice is yours.
That seems to be true of anything worth winning in life. If you focus too much on avoiding bad outcomes, you pass up on risks that are necessary for personal growth.

posted by Ryan : 2:16 PM | permalink

Thursday, February 05, 2004


Top 10 Cool Things about Interviewing at the Four Seasons

(Scheduled to appear in the WJ on Monday, this Top 10 is inspired by all the aspiring consultants and bankers who spent their week getting worked over by interviewers in the posh hotel around the corner. Yes, people are actually interviewed in hotel rooms).

10. With in-room Spectravision, choose between Kill Bill and Scary Movie 3 while waiting for your interviewer
9. Inadequate buffet selection in the employer's waiting room? Just dial 7 for room service.
8. Well-trained room service waiters know to tip-toe when they bring in your lobster and Dom Perignon and you're in the middle of a case
7. For lengthy bathroom breaks, marble toilet seats are a joy to use
6. Swedish massage, aromatherapy, and papaya enzyme facials downstairs are all complimentary – simply furnish your interview room number!
5. In-room wireless lets you download a bootleg copy of Anger Management to your laptop while you focus on a discounted cash flow for a dump truck manufacturer
4. Luxurious Swiss-made hand towels are on hand during the interview to help with profuse sweating
3. Grand piano in managing director’s presidential suite provides opportunity to show off your ability to play / sing the Cheers theme (final rounds only)
2. Bombed your interview? Valets out front hand out free Mercedes Benzes as parting gifts!
1. Getting put through the wringer doesn’t feel all that bad when you’re in a 5-star establishment…actually, on second thought, yes. Yes, it does.

posted by Ryan : 4:32 PM | permalink

Sunday, February 01, 2004


Filesharing as a way to sell music

It seems that Fanning of Napster fame is working on a peer-to-peer "fingerprinting" technology which could combine legitimate commerce with peer-to-peer file sharing.

Something to get excited about? On the surface, no. Once you start charging for music, the immediate appeal of filesharing goes out the window. When the price of a song is zero (not factoring time wasted on incomplete downloads, mislabeled tracks, and lawsuit risk, all of which people generally ignore), quantity demanded is extremely high. If you charge for music, the whole benefit of the peer-to-peer network (whose value expands as the number of peers rises) seems to be in jeopardy.

But I believe there is value to file sharing that goes beyond the low prices... value that we don't see in commercial music services like iTunes. Specifically, the ability to browse a person's music collection is of tremendous value. Lets say that I find a user who is a big fan of both Miles Davis and Radiohead, whom I both like. But I also notice that he likes a band called Sigur Ros, whose music I may not have heard. There exists no better marketing for Sigur Ros than was just delivered to me in that moment. Record companies should be dying to capture that sort of word-of-mouth value.

I've always held that there is a business model that incorporates the best aspects filesharing. But in order for a service to get a critical mass of users, users should be incented to share their collections by receiving referral credits for songs purchased. In other words, if you browse my collection, listen to a free preview a song, and decide to purchase that album within the next 30 days, I should get a cut of that music sale.

The economics work out. The technology is there. Now if only the record companies would acknowledge the true "tell-a-friend" economics behind their business...

posted by Ryan : 3:46 AM | permalink

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