A writing spree on Q3!

Q3 has been insightful & memorable for many reasons, some good, some not so good, and some just plain interesting...  Hmm, "plain interesting..."  Didn't plan on that oxymoron, but it does sound oddly apt...  There I go again! Continuing on from Q2 were three courses, the first of which was "Finance II: Corporate Finance."  Now, I'm not really a Quants person, so number-based courses don't really come easy to me.  I probably have to spend twice as long to understand half of what's being said in class.  But I can assure you, whatever was being said in Finance II was definitely important.  Even if you don't plan on going into the financial sector, it is critical to understand all the elements revolving around Capital Budgeting, Incremental Cash Flows, Working Capital, WACC, Capital Structure & Taxes, Bankruptcy Costs, Agency Costs of Debt, Signalling and Options.  Because when you're contemplating finance options to grow & expand your qualitative-based entrepreneurial venture, it'll come in handy so the Investment Banker doesn't pull a fast one on you! ;)

Another part deux course was "Managing Customer Value II" or Markstrat as it came to be known, based on the simulation which forms the basis for the entire course.  The Markstrat simulation is well-respected, was quite engaging, and is representative of what you might end up doing with a career in brand management.  However, for me, working for a brand involves developing a deep intrinsic connection with the brand and its core message, because that's the only way I can best represent it to its final users.  And that's kinda hard to do when you are faced with a category-less, shape-less product, identified only by names like SELF, SEMI & VERY.  I liked it because it was my team's product (and our fabulous team worked very hard at it), but I couldn't bring myself to love it because I couldn't define it, and for me, when I put myself in the shoes of the user, love for a brand is one of the most important value drivers in the marketing space.  It's an interesting course, with a fair bit of practical application with the simulations, and the professor is extremely helpful & committed to helping you do better.  I suppose the right side of my brain was just itching for some more creativity.

The final part deux course was "Strategy II" and I quite enjoyed the class discussions where we tore apart the cases to get down to the key insights.  With interesting cases on Boeing, Airbus, Wii & Disney, we explored concepts on Competitive Dynamics, Game Theory, Cooperative Dynamics, Strategy in Two-Sided Markets, Horizontal Scope, Vertical Scope, Geographical Scope and Corporate Strategy.  Because the course was taught in phases by two great professors, in some ways it felt too short, and that you needed to learn more from each professor in order for the course to feel complete.

One of the most interesting courses during Q3 was "Macroeconomic Environment of Business;" until I decided on an MBA at Rotman, I was pondering a Masters in Economics, so economics-based courses are always exciting.  Our classes for this course were always held at 8:30am (before Daylight Savings Time went into effect), and when it's dark, dratty & cold outside, you really have no incentive to get out of bed in the morning, but you brace the dark dreariness for this course.  Our Professor embraced this course with so much joy, curiosity and excitement, that you were compelled to to be interested in economic concepts such as Long-Run Growth & Productivity, Unemployment & the Natural Rate, the Monetary System, the Open-Economy, the Exchange Rate & Capital Flows, and Monetary & Fiscal Policies.  While I did enjoy the course, it is quite unlikely that I will pursue a Masters in Economics - too many variables, and too much politics involved... perhaps I prefer the Austrian School of Thought!

Probably one of my most favorite courses, not just from Q3, but across the three quarters, would have to be "Leadership."  While the quants may dismiss this as a "fluff" course, I urge you not to underestimate its importance.  You can always acquire technical knowledge, but the opportunity to learn, test & apply these critical soft skills is generally limited to academia, or only if you have an extremely, extremely, extremely accommodating, encouraging manager, otherwise you ought to pay full attention in this class.  One important aspect of this course is that it was taught by an incredibly energetic, expressive, dynamic female professor - why is that important?  Because with the corporate world dominated by men, who have made enormous errors of elephantine proportions, it's important to get a fresh perspective on leadership, that isn't driven primarily by male aggression.  That isn't to say our professor was "soft" on us, in fact, she drove & pushed us hard to dig deep into makes a good leader, and more importantly, what mistakes do you avoid in your quest to become a good leader, and build effective Leadership models around them.

I had a question thrown at me the other day, as to what do I think of the different testing approaches, and what works best... to be quite honest, "It depends."  Each individual will have their own opinion, and not everyone will agree on this contentious issue.  Perhaps it's just me, but I'm not really a fan of exams that comprise more than 50% of your grade.  I almost feel that with exams, it is more focused on your powers of memorization and regurgitation, with limited application post-retention.  For me, assignments, essays, projects and presentations are a more apt assessment of your understanding and application of the material, and more representative of the challenges that you will face in the workplace.  I suppose that's why I'm grumpy during exams, but bustling with adrenaline just before a presentation, or brimming with excitement at the prospect of writing a 3,000-word essay.  Now if I could only find someone to pay me to do that! :)