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Isn’t it sad that I’m so thankful to have had a weekend without classes… so I can get more homework done?
The past two weeks have been just killer for me. It started off two Sundays ago with a 10:30 pm hockey game. Which meant – after playing, getting all my gear off, driving home, showering, and coming down from the adrenaline rush – I didn’t get to sleep until 2 am. And I get up for work at 6:30 a.m. This lack of sleep was compounded by a 9:30 pm hockey game on the Wednesday – again, not getting to sleep until way past my bedtime, especially given I was still exhausted from the Sunday night game. But the following weekend didn’t give me any reprieve, as I had class all weekend, including an accounting “quiz”1, plus a playoff hockey game on Saturday night. And then every single night last week I had some sort of event – or two events on some night. By Friday, I was so very, very, very, very tired.
But this weekend was good. I got to sleep in both yesterday and today, and I had no appointments or events2 or anything else to get in my way of being a productivity machine! I marked all the assignments from my students3, I studied a bit of accounting for my final exam next weekend, I created a PowerPoint for a group presentation (which serves) as our final exam for one of the courses I’m currently taking, I played a game of hockey, I talked to my sister and my BFF, and I did this:
What I didn’t do, however, was attend my Grandpa’s 90th birthday party, as he (along with all of my family) lives out east and I couldn’t get out there. I heard that a fantastic time was had by all – and the pics on Facebook certainly made me wish I could have been there. In particular, I like this photo which I shamelessly stole from my cousin Eliza’s Facebook:
It’s my grandpa with his great, great grandson, Rooke. Nice to see that even after 90th years, he still has his great sense of humour! Happy birthday, Grandpa!
These past 14 months have really flown by – it seems like only yesterday we were starting this program! But at the same time, when I think about all the things I’ve done in these 14 months, it seems an eternity! In that time, we’ve finished the extremely intense core part of our program – including running a simulated business, creating a full-fledged business plan, covering dozens of subject areas – and started off on our post-core modules1. Of the 51 people in my class, we’ve had, by my count2, 4 babies (with one more on the way), and 6 engagements (and 2 weddings).
I’ve had this idea in my head that I should be blogging about all the many interesting things I’ve been learning in school – and sometimes I even jot ideas down in a draft blog posting. But I haven’t been doing it consistently and then I get this feeling like I can’t post the list because it will be incomplete! However, I’m coming to grips with the fact that this needn’t be a complete list in one blog posting and am considering it instead the first in many incomplete lists of random interesting things I’ve learned in school:
- The importance of constructive conflict. I remember many moons ago when I took a course at McMaster in “Nursing and Healthcare Leadership & Management3, I read an article from Harvard Business Review about the importance of conflict. That article really stuck with me, as it changed the way I think about conflict, which I’d previously viewed as A Very Bad Thing. Without conflict, we get mediocrity. We get Groupthink and Yes Men and we don’t get the best of what the group can do. We’ve learned about this in our Organizational Behaviour course and I’ve seen it in my group work as well. Of course, too much conflict can be bad – as can conflict that isn’t about the work itself. But conflict allows us the opportunity to explore if decisions being made are the right ones, as opposed to just the first ones that are voiced (or the loudest).
- Cash flow statements are really important when looking at a company’s financials. Before I started my MBA, I couldn’t tell a balance sheet from a income statement from a hole in the ground4. Now I can pick up a set of financial statements and have a reasonable idea what’s going on in that company. And the cash flow statement is one of the things that I’m sure to look at!
- Fail early to succeed sooner. This was a saying I picked up from one of our profs about the importance of trying things out. Experimenting… and learning from those experiments… and applying the lessons you learned – that’s where you’ll get somewhere. Don’t be afraid to fail – be afraid of not learning.
- People don’t buy a 1/4″ drill. They buy a 1/4″ hole. This was from our marketing class and it’s about knowing your audience. People generally don’t care about the features of a product (the 1/4″ drill bit), they care about the benefits that product will give them (the 1/4″ hole in the wall that they need to hang their picture). Think about what’s in it for them!
- Everything is connected. This was a strong message that came across in the core part of our program. Every part of an organization affects every other part. Things that marketing does affects sales and operations and accounting and HR and all those things affect all the other things. You can’t make a change in one without considering what happens with the others.
- Point of diminishing marginal returns. This is a phrase you’ll hear even in every day settings5. It’s basically about the fact that what you put in does not have usually continue to result in an equal amount of output over time – and you really should ask yourself if continuing the input is worth it. Studying is a perfect example. Perhaps your first few hours of studying will get you from scoring 0% on the exam up to 75% and then the next hour of studying will get you to an 80% and the hour after that to an 82% and the hour after that to an 83%. Is that last hour worth investing to get one extra %?
As I mentioned, I’ve learned tonnes more stuff than just the above – these are just things that I happened to jot down6. I’ll try to be more diligent about capturing my learnings over the next 14 months!
Speaking of which, while I’m very happy that my program is halfway done, I’m also thinking, “omg, I have to do the same amount of time that I’ve already put in all over again? That’s forever!!” So I think it’s time to pull up my inspirational photos of the signs that some lovely volunteers made and put up at the rink to help me and my teammates get through our 10-day long hockey game:
- So far I’ve done 3 and am partway through 3 more [↩]
- I feel like maybe I’m forgetting some here [↩]
- I had a work-study job in the School of Nursing and part of my work was doing admin stuff for the distance ed version of the course. The material looked so compelling that I enrolled in the course one summer out of sheer interest – I got university credits for them, but they didn’t apply towards my degree. Foreshadowing that I’d one day do an MBA, perhaps? [↩]
- I also didn’t know a stock from a bond! [↩]
- But usually misquoted as “point of diminishing returns.” [↩]
- And I’m too tired at the moment to thing about more! [↩]
How did students ever get by without the modern conveniences of online journals and Skype and Google Docs? Case in point: I just got off a Skype chat with a group for one of my courses – we are preparing for our class on Thursday
and while on the call, we were brainstorming and then looking up resources to check out some of our ideas – we sent links via the chat function of Skype and emailed articles from online journals in mere moments as we talked.
Tomorrow I have a group meeting with another group for another one of my courses – which we’ll be doing by WebEx, so that we can share our computer screens with one another as we talk and we’ll be participating from various places across the Lower Mainland, plus Calgary and Kelowna1. In preparation for that call, we’ve been brainstorming by adding our ideas to a shared Google Doc.
When I was a post-secondary student the first time – i.e., in my undergrad2, Masters3, & PhD years4 – we didn’t have any of this stuff. Want to share a document? You had to print it out on a piece of paper and hand it to the other person! Or, if you wanted to be fancy, you’d save it on a floppy disk!
Group meeting? You had to do that in person! We actually went to the library to work together. But that was OK because you had to go there to photocopy that article you wanted from a giant bound volume of journal issues from the stacks.
We did have email – I got my first email address very early in my first year of undergrad – but the only other people I knew with email addresses were other university students and we all had to go to the computer lab to check email, since we didn’t have Internet access in our rooms. You were likely to see the person to whom you had sent an email in class, in the caf, or in residence before they actually got to the computer lab to see the email. And then when you did get an email, you’d print it out on a dot matrix printer, because it felt like you should probably have a record of that.
Hell, my profs didn’t even start to use PowerPoint until I was in my third or fourth year, and even then it was only the most innovative of profs and they had to have a back up set of slides on acetate because there was a 50/50 chance that the computer and projector wouldn’t actually be able to connect properly.
Now5, my profs post their PowerPoint slides lecture notes in our class Connect site, or in SugarSync or some other such marvel of modern convenience, I meet my classmates virtually, and I have access to virtually any article, website, or other resources in a millisecond. I collaborate on group papers in Google Docs in real time, I submit those papers via email, and my profs mark them using an annotation app on their iPads. And then I blog about it to a world wide audience! When you stand back to think about it, it’s pretty amazing how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time.
My easy going start to the year has now come to an end. As you may recall1, I did not take my usual weekend classes in Jan & early Feb, opting instead to take a Public Health Leadership class from a different Faculty at UBC. Given that I work in Public Health and I am building my leadership skills, it seemed like a relevant course to take. The thing with this class, though, is that it’s mostly online/self-study (with one in-person class per month2 and it’s spread out over 3 months, so the relative workload is much more manageable than the intensity of my usual weekend classes. Until now.
My next two classes from my program start tonight – in fact, at this very moment3, I am Skytraining it into class. Tonight, we have Strategy class. I happen to *love* Strategy and we’ve just been studying Strategy in my other class, so I feel that I’m pretty warmed up for that. But tomorrow, we have Financial Reporting – a.k.a., Accounting. Which means that this guy is back in my life:
Although probably this is a better reaction to that:
Or perhaps this:
Let the number crunching begin!
- What, you don’t keep track of my scheduling? Wait with bated breath to know what classes I am or am not taking? [↩]
- Usually on a weekday so I just take a vacation day to go to that class and thus keep my weekends free. [↩]
- I.e., when this publishes, not when you are reading it. Because I don’t know when you are reading this. What do you think I am, a psychic? [↩]
Today marked my last class for 20121! I am a very, very tired – but very happy – Dr. Beth.
The classes in my program actually ended last weekend with two exams, but me and two of my classmates decided to take a module that was offered this weekend from the Executive MBA in Healthcare program. The module was pretty awesome – I learned lots of neat things that I can take back to work and apply – but my brain is far too fried at the moment to actually tell you what any of them are. The good news is that since I took this extra module and I’m taking a course from another department that is offered mostly online next term, I can drop the two courses from my program that are offered in January. Which means that instead of going to class on January 4th with the rest of my cohort, I have *no* weekend classes until February 15th! My online class has one in-class day in January – the 24th, to be specific – but it’s a weekday, so I’m taking a day off work to attend class, which means it will just feel like a workday to me.
So what am I going to do with all my spare time? Well, there will be work to do for the online course that I’m taking, and I am teaching my online course at the Justice League, so there’s that. But without my weekends filled with classes, I figure I will have time in the rest of December and January to (in no particular order):
- sleep in. Oh man, am I going to do some sleeping in!
- do some Christmas baking2.
- play hockey every single Sunday3!
- make delicious homemade dinners4.
- go skiing5.
- do yoga
- go running6.
- catch up on Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, and Nurse Jackie, the latter of which finished in *June* and I’m still somehow not caught up on it7.
- read books that aren’t textbooks!
- hang out with my friends!
I’m sure that there’s even more things that I’m forgetting that I want to do, but this seems like a pretty good list to start with.
Seems that this January is going to be quite different than last January, with my pre-core classes every single weekend! I think this wee break is just what the doctor ordered!
- I have an assignment due for this class that I just finished today, but it’s not due until January 14, so I figure I don’t need to worry about it until after Christmas [↩]
- I missed the Snow family baking day, which was today, because I was in class [↩]
- I’ve missed a lot of Sunday hockey games this season as all the Sundays that I have class seemed to have had games scheduled during the day (when I was in class), rather than at night (when I could have played). [↩]
- There have been a fair few “let’s just pop a frozen pizza in the oven because I’m too busy to go to the grocery store to buy produce, let alone prepare anything that takes longer than 35 seconds” dinners this past year. [↩]
- I’m thinking that would be a good way to celebrate my birthday! [↩]
- I wanted to run the BMO Vancouver half marathon in May, but it turns out that I have class that day. Instead, I’m hoping to find another spring half marathon to run, as I really only get out running if I have something to train for [↩]
- Other than the Walking Dead (which I am caught up on) and Game of Thrones (which doesn’t start up again until the spring) – these are the only shows I watch. [↩]
Since the core part of my MBA program is complete, I figured it was time to check in on my “time spent” data. When last I looked1, I had been spending, on average, 17.7 hrs per week on school (including both time in class and time on homework), with a 0.87 hrs of homework per hour of class. Since then, we had the summer off from classes, but I kept clocking homework time as we worked on our business plan project during the summer. Then we had some more classes (and, of course, homework) in the fall.
Now that the core is complete, the data show:
|Hours spent on homework per week, on average||7.9|
|Hours spent in class per week, on average2||6.663|
|Total hours spent on school per week, on average||14.6|
|Hours spent on homework per hour of class time||1.2|
So, on average, I’ve spent ~15 hrs per week working on my program4, which is at the low end of the estimate I was given when I spoke to some program alumni before I started the program. It’s an insane amount of time, to be sure – it equates to about 2 extra workdays per week, so it’s like I’ve been working 7 days per week for the past 44 weeks5 – but no pain, no gain, right? I ended up getting a good mark for the core6 – and more importantly, I learned a ton of stuff.
Now, no data analysis is complete without some beautiful graphs, right?
The red bars represent time spent in class, which you can see occurs roughly every third weekend, with a big cluster at the beginning when I had pre-core classes for the first three weekends in January and then a big gap over the summer, when we didn’t have classes. Blue bars represent time spent doing homework, which you can see varies a lot from day-to-day.
Since I didn’t really see a pattern in the daily data, I tried graphing it as weekly data, but didn’t see a pattern there either – though I could identifying some specific events (as noted on the graph):
Conclusion: workload for the program is highly variable. Variability, as I learned in Supply Chain Management class, is hard to manage. My stress level and rampant weight gain over the core program agree7!
Tonight we start our first two post-core modules for the MBA – Business Stats and Business Economics.
We’ve been told that the post-core is much more manageable than the core. Will this turn out to be true? Only time – and the data – will tell.
- Back in July. [↩]
- We have class roughly every third weekend, so this is the value when you average that out over the whole time period [↩]
- Tee hee! [↩]
- This is on top of my 37.5 hr workweek. Plus on top of teaching time from January-April, when I was teaching my stats class. It also doesn’t cover travel time, unless I spent said travel time doing homework – e.g., reading a textbook on the Skytrain. [↩]
- On average. Weeks with class it’s more, weeks without class it’s a bit less. [↩]
- The core program is counted as a single 18 credit “course”, so we only get one mark for the whole 10 months. [↩]
- In fairness, after deciding to re-balance my life a bit by prioritizing physically activity – wherein I mean actually doing some rather than none and paying more attention to what I’m eating, I have actually managed to lose a few of the 15 lbs I gained since starting the MBA! [↩]
Today was the very last day of the MBA Core Program! After 10 months of blood, sweat, and tears, my classmates and I have successfully completed the most gruelling aspect of the UBC part-time MBA Program1! Looking back over the past 10 months, I’m reminded of the quotation that I first read in the context of parenting, “The days are long, but the years are short.”2 This perfectly sums up the MBA Core Program. When you are slogging through a managerial economics assignment or trying to edit down 7 months of work into a compelling and comprehensive business plan in what seems like an impossibly small word count, and doing it all on 4 hours sleep per night for a week because all the due dates seem to happen at the same time and, oh yeah, you still work a full-time job! – boy, are the days ever long! Yet somehow, here we are 10 months later and it seems like only yesterday we were all at our first class of core! I’ve learned a ridiculous amount3 and found things interested that I never thought I would4. And I’ve made a lot of really great friends along the way.
Today’s event to finish off the core was the presentations of our business plans, which we’ve been working on in project groups for the past SEVEN months, on top of our various courses and case studies and exams and whatnot. The presentations were all outstanding – the class was split in two, so we only got to watch half of the presentations5, but from the sounds of it, the other room’s presentations were just as good as the ones we saw.
My group’s business plan was around a solution to the problem of vehicle collisions with large animals, like deers and moose, which is a really big problem in Canada6, especially in rural areas and especially at dusks. As part of our presentation, we gave out these moose stress balls:
There’s a herd of moose on my desk!
With our company’s logo on the back:
We were really happy with how our presentation went and one of the profs even told us that he really thinks that someone should actually take our product and run with it for real – it’s a feasible business idea7
After the presentations, we had a nice lunch and a little ceremony to celebrate our accomplishment, and we all received a commemorative Tshirt:
And we got this swanky Moleskine book, branded with the Sauder School of Business logo:
We also got a really nice class photo, since we were all dressed up in our fancy business attire:
After this, I went home and took a well-earned nap in my business attire.
Now, we have a two week reprieve with no assignments to complete, no study groups to attend, and no business plan to write. I’m actually a little out of sorts thinking about what I’ll do with myself over the next 2 weeks with no homework due! I think reading a non-school book and going for a few runs will be top of my list!
- We now have 18 months of post-core ahead of us, but let’s not think about that now. Let’s enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of getting to this important milestone [↩]
- I read this in the book The Happiness Project in the chapter on parenting. But when I just Googled it, I found that it apparently originally came from a Russian statesman in the 1700s. [↩]
- Subject for another blog posting [↩]
- Accounting, I’m looking at you! [↩]
- I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see them all, as it would have been nice to see what everyone came up with. But on the other hand, sitting through 12 presentations that were 20 mins long, plus 10 mins of questions, plus transition time between groups would have made for a very long day. [↩]
- And in many other places in the world. [↩]
- Our plan was very ambitious and our product quite technical, so we are thinking that it’s not likely that we will. Though one engineer in my group is interested in see what can be done to take it forward. [↩]
As I write this, I’m on a plane somewhere between Vancouver and Toronto, on the first leg of my journey to Montreal for a 2-day workshop where I will share my research progress with, and learn about the research progress of, other researchers who are in the same funding cohort as me. I had grand plans to put together my presentation1 on this flight, but I have been thwarted by the fact that while I downloaded Prezi Desktop to my computer last night so that I could create a prezi without being connected to the intertubes2, I didn’t realize until I just tried to open it that I need to activate it, which requires the ‘tubes. Instead, I’m writing this blog posting, which I’ll post when I get back to the land of connectivity.
Happily, our profs decided to make our core final exam, which we were originally scheduled to be writing this morning, a take home exam, so I was able finish it up and submit it last night and will be arriving in Montreal at a reasonable time (4 pm) rather than midnight, as I was originally scheduled to when I thought I was going to be writing an in-class exam right now. With the core final exam under my belt, the only thing remaining in the core (read: nightmarishly busy part of the program, as opposed to the just very, very busy part of the program) is a presentation of the business plan projects that we submitted last week. My group has some kickass ideas for our presentation, which are remaining top secret as we don’t want any of the other groups to scoop us!
Looking at my massively complex spreadsheet that I’ve been using to track my grades3, I see that over the past 10 months since my MBA program started, I have completed:
No wonder I’ve been so exhausted! Happily, despite the accompanying sleep deprivation and exam-related nightmares, I’ve learned an insane amount about things that I didn’t know before, many of which I can – and already have been – applying in work and in life6.
But enough about that for now – this blog posting was actually supposed to be about my trip! After my workshop in Montreal, I’m hopping a Porter Air flight7 to Toronto to see my family. I haven’t seen them since the spring, so I’m super excited to play with my niece and nephew, spend time with my Mom and sister, and see some friends. Plans for my trip include:
- belated Thanksgiving dinner8 has been extremely busy, so she didn’t have time to do a Thanksgiving dinner this year. So my Mom and I are taking over my sister’s kitchen to make a feast so we can celebrate T-giving, if somewhat late.))
- the Hoot & Howl – a Halloween fair at my niece’s school9.
- the CN Tower Edgewalk10
Plans for Montreal, aside from the actual workshop I’m going to which will take up the lion’s share of my time, include:
- smoked meat sandwich
- spruce beer
- going for a run on the treadmill in the hotel gym, followed by some hot tub time11!
Two other things:
- At the start of this flight, I fell asleep while holding my coffee and didn’t spill it, which is kind of a miracle. To re-balance the universe, however, after I woke up, discovered that I was precariously holding my coffee, I put down my tray table and put my coffee on it, fell back asleep, only to be woken up when the guy in front of me slammed himself repeatedly against his seat back (presumably “trying to get comfortable”), which spilled my coffee all over me. Fortunately, I had brought a blanket to keep me warm on the flight which I had on top of me, so it took the brunt of the coffee.
- The lady who is shushing her baby in the row behind me is way more annoying than the baby babbling that she is trying to shush.
Posted from Toronto International Airport, where I’m waiting for my flight to Montreal. Have activated my Prezi desktop so that I can work on my presentation on the next flight. Hooray for free wifi!
- I haven’t had a chance to put together my presentation because I was just slammed with a million and one other deadlines at work the past couple of weeks and just slammed with homework in the evenings/on weekends for the past, oh, 10 months. [↩]
- Why is it that in 2012 we still don’t have the intertubes on aeroplanes?? [↩]
- Even though I said my focus is on learning and that I don’t really care about my grades as long as I pass and don’t look like a total moron, I am compelled to put all data I can get my hands on into spreadsheets, especially data that can be sliced and diced and analyzed every which way! [↩]
- Where by “major” I mean reports based on big group projects that lasted a few months each. One was a report on the running of a simulated business, the other was a business plan for an innovative new product. [↩]
- 7 of which were case study memos. [↩]
- “Stuff I’ve Learned in School” will be the topic of an upcoming blog post! [↩]
- Dear FSM, I love Porter Air! [↩]
- My sister, who has gone back to school to get her Master’s ((Boy, we are cut from the same cloth, aren’t we? [↩]
- Every year I hear about the Hoot & Howl from my sister and I’m super excited that I get to go this year. [↩]
- I’m completely terrified but also very excited to lean over the edge of one of the tallest buildings in the world! It kind of makes me want to throw up just thinking about it, but omg, it’s going to be awesome! [↩]
- Running will be required to atone for the aforementioned poutine, smoked meat, and spruce beer. And hot tub is just because hot tubs are awesome! [↩]
For the second time in three days, I woke up with a charley horse in my right calf this morning. The last time I had a bout of charley horses, the culprit ended up being insufficient amounts of sodium – I was doing a lot of physical activity and eating only things I’d been making from fresh fruits and veggies (i.e., pretty much zero processed foods) and whatnot, so I ended up not getting enough sodium to replace that which I was losing. Sprinkling a wee bit of salt on my food made it so that I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night feeling like someone was stabbing me in the gastrocnemius.
This time, however, I’ve been doing next to nothing in the way of physical activity – since my half marathon, the only appreciable exercise I’ve done is play hockey, but my charley horses haven’t been on mornings after hockey games – and I have been eating stuff with salt in it, so I can’t imagine sodium deficiency could be the culprit this time. My best guess is that my calf muscles are angry at them for virtually ignoring them since my race – they probably just want to go out for a run, but all I’ve been doing of late is working all day and then coming home and sitting at my desk doing homework all evening.
I’ll be very glad when this weekend and its two economics assignments, two economics exams, and massively significant core final exam are over. On Sunday morning I fly off to Montreal and I think that a run on the treadmill in my hotel gym, followed by hot tub time are going to be just what the doctor ordered. That, and some poutine.
My managerial economics prof offered my class the option to have a math refresher evening to make sure we are up to speed on the math we need to understand to be able to do the work we need to do in managerial economics. So after spending the past three days at the health care priority setting conference, which was chalk full of health economics1, I spent two hours this evening going over solving systems of equations and taking partial derivatives.
Needless to say, my brain is fried. Very glad I went though, because I feel much better about my ability to do my managerial economics assignments. Starting tomorrow.
- And ethics. And a twist of patient engagement to boot. [↩]