Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Valuable Experience at the 2014 NBMBAA Case Competition

Jeremy Harp '15
Every year a sizeable cohort of students from the University of Georgia’s MBA program attends the National Black MBA Association’s (NBMBAA) career expo and job fair. In parallel with the job fair, the NBMBAA also hosts a case competition. Each year Chrysler Group LLC develops a business case and tasks MBA students with deriving a solution. With a 3rd place price of $10,000, 2nd place prize of $15,000, and a grand prize of $25,000 to the winning team, participation in the case competition is sizeable and competition is fierce.

This past year’s conference afforded me the opportunity to participate in the NBMBAA case competition with three other MBAs from the full-time program: LaDrica Derrico, Bruce Taylor, and Nathan Navarro. Fortunately, the business case this year involved developing a marketing strategy for the Jeep Renegade, and I had significant experience in consumer insights having worked with Procter & Gamble this past summer. The Jeep Renegade will d├ębut in early 2015 and we were tasked with developing how to both position the car based on Jeep’s current lineup, make the car more appealing to millennials, and increase traffic to the website.

Teams are given just over a month to analyze the case and finalize a presentation in time for the competition in mid-September. Keeping in mind the large grand prize, our team meetings began soon after we were all on campus. The most challenging part of the competition was the meetings about halfway through, where each member had conflicting ideas for how best to move forward. The strong personalities and the desire to do well made for some interesting meetings during that time. Fortunately, the team was able to work together in such a way that we could both express our ideas as well as have those ideas challenged in a respectful and positive manner. After coming to a consensus on direction, the development of the presentation was remarkably simple. The initial round of the competition went very well for us as we were selected as one of the top 6 teams to advance to the final round. LaDrica’s Best Presenter award and the team being close to the $25,000 grand prize spurred further preparation and practice with the group. The final round went equally as well as the first, but we ultimately did not place in the top three.

Though 1/4th of $25,000 would have been a welcomed addition to my bank account, participating in the 2014 NBMBAA case competition was an amazing experience. The competition allowed me to be able to strategically apply the topics to which I had been introduced in my classes. Additionally, I learned more about teamwork and how working well with others is essential for success in business. Finally, I became closer with my teammates and understood that the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business was the best choice for my MBA. My experiences reminded me of just how smart, driven, and impressive all my classmates are. I am proud to be here and I am proud to have represented UGA well at the 2014 NBMBAA case competition.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's Your Story? Applying to BSchool from a Career Management Perspective

Shannon Caldwell
Director, Career Management Center
MBA applications that stand out are ones that complete a good story. Everything in the application should provide a consistent story about – Why an MBA? Why now? And why specifically at the schools to which you are applying?  My goal is to help you all begin to tell your story as part of the graduate school admissions process.  This process is a very good groundwork for the storytelling that you will be doing when you are looking for a job.

The first step is for you to figure out where you want to go.  If you don’t know exactly, imagine one or two of the careers you think you would most like and most excel in.  Now choose one of those for the purpose of this exercise.  You can go back and repeat this process again with another career option.  Let us know if it would be useful to have a future blog post on the subject of a choosing a career path or how to talk about the paths you’re considering.

The second step is to look at what you’ve done already, what skills you’ve built, and begin to tell your story.  The story includes who you are, what makes you unique in a business environment, what skills and experiences you have that will be a benefit in your future career, and which ones you need to build.  That sounds onerous, and my goal in today’s post is to break it down a bit to make it a more doable exercise.

Building Bridges: Making Your Past Resonate

You’re always going to be competing against people who have been in the career path you want to go into since the start of their careers.  Let’s say you want to go into investment banking.  Some of the people you are competing with are former analysts at investment banks. Some of them have been working in finance with operating companies.  Some of them have been consultants.  Some have worked in private equity.  Stiff competition, right?  It is your work (and my work to help you) to translate your past experience for your future employer.  We want your past experience to sound incredibly relevant for your future career. 

An example: One of the best examples I have heard is that being a nuclear submarine officer is like being a Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) caseworker is like being a brand manager.  One of our professors helped one of our students make this connection recently.  In each of these careers, to be effective requires getting a disproportionate share of resources, attention, and help for your ship, clients, or brand from many different shared service departments that do not report to you.  This requires motivating others and making compelling cases to get their attention on your project.  You can’t expect the brand management company to know what submarine operators or DFACS caseworkers do.  The former submarine officer and DFACS caseworkers have to learn what brand managers do and be able to explain their past experience to the brand management company interviewers in brand management terms. 

It’s time now to start thinking of how you are going to explain nuclear submarine operation to the brand management company, because that is exactly the same way that you are going to explain it to your prospective school. You are going to make your background as relevant as possible to what you’re going into.  You’re going to show them that you’ve done your homework, and you’re also going to own up to what you do not know.

How You Make a Difference

Now it’s time to talk about how you’ve made a difference where you are. And of course, we want those accomplishments to be honest, based on who you are, or the story you’re telling is going to lead you to a path that doesn’t fit you.

You’ve come into a job with a job description, been given duties, and been expected to execute them as directed.  So, not surprisingly, when we ask prospective students what they did in their past jobs, they tend to think about the job description. What was the scope of the responsibilities?  This approach won’t get you far.  It is a first step, sure.  But, if you stop here, you really haven’t built a bridge to that next job, or to the school.  Why?

It doesn’t tell us how you made a difference.  I want to invite you to put aside a lot of things from your past job, including what your company wanted you to do, what your assigned duties were, and what your boss valued.  Those things may or may not show up as you tell your story, but what we really want to know is going to be hard to find if we have to work around all those constraints.

How were you different from other people they could have hired?  Because you were in this job, instead of someone else, you paid attention to certain things, asked certain questions, pursued certain issues, just as a result of who you are and what interested you.  What are the things that interest you?  What did you go after that other people they could have hired for the job might not have done?  Maybe you were doing financial analysis, you really delved into some of the numbers, and you realized that the estimates could be better if you looked at them a different way.  You shared that information, and maybe there’s a tradition now of doing things your way instead of the way most people did them beforehand.  Moreover, because the estimates are better, something else happened.  What was it?  Why does it matter?

Maybe you built a partnership with another department, and that collaboration led to better information for both parties and a better outcome.  What was the information, and how did it lead to a better outcome?  What was it you paid attention to?  How did that lead to good things for your company?  How can it lead to good things for another company?

What Difference Did You Make?

Now, how can we tell people what the results of your efforts were?  You don’t just want to say you built a relationship with the marketing department and that led to better collaboration.  Remember, we really don’t know that much about your past work.  And, though it’s interesting to hear a little about it, by the time you’re talking to the admissions officer or the interviewer, they only want to hear a little bit about the ins and outs of your past environment.  When you spell out the result in big terms that apply to all business environments (new customers, more revenue per customer, time saved, costs cut, etc.), you take the work off of the essay or resume reader, and you build the bridge, helping people understand what was important. 

Format: Context-Action-Result

The best bet is to tell the stories in a Context-Action-Result format.  We need to know a little bit about the situation or context you were facing.  We need to know what you did (the action).  And we need to know the result that came from it. 

Action & You: When it comes to action, it’s very common, because of course you are working on a team or with a group, to talk about what “we” did.  You may be used to thinking this way because you care about the outcomes for the whole group, because you think of yourself as a team member.  While this is an admirable quality, and it probably means you are someone we would rather work with, it doesn’t give the admissions director or recruiter much to go on.  They know you were on a team. They also know other people were on the team. When you talk about what “we” did, they can’t tell what your contribution was – and you are the individual they are hoping to get to know.  Put another way, we’ve all worked on teams where the team accomplished something great but one of the members was counterproductive.  So, the team’s results alone aren’t enough.  We need to know you helped bring them about.

But To Tell A Specific Story Means I Can Only Tell A Few: Telling things in the Context-Action-Result format means telling a few specific stories with their specific outcomes.  Students are often reluctant to go this route, because it will reduce the breath of the responsibilities that they show.  Embrace this approach!  Those stories that you will tell are the stories in which you shone.  They will tell us worlds more about who you are and what you can do than a list of responsibilities.

If you tell your stories this way, there are a three big benefits. 
  • It’s going to be much easier for the admissions committee to get a sense of who you are and how you operate in a work environment.
  • You’re going to demonstrate that you are a lot more sophisticated than the average applicant.  You’re going to show a great deal of maturity, self-knowledge, and willingness to make an impact.  These are all qualities that the admissions committee is looking for. 
  • You’re going to be well along in the career search, and chances are that’s why you’re coming to business school.  You are already going to be good at talking about who you are and what you can do, and that will enable you to go ahead and start networking in your field.  Start that now, and you will be one of the most dedicated and advanced people in your field when you get to campus.  There are lots of benefits down the road, if you can do this work now. 

 An MBA Will Differentiate Me

One last word about how business school fits into your story.  Most people come to business school because they believe it’s going to make them much better prospects for jobs.  They think of the MBA as the destination.  While that is a normal phase to go through, it is not a place to rest.  As soon as you become eligible to apply for those jobs that require MBAs, you often find yourself competing in a field where an MBA is not a differentiator.  Maybe every candidate has an MBA.  Now, it’s about how do you stand out, what makes you different?  Sound familiar?

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Summer Spent with Georgia-Pacific

Neda Zaman, MBA '15
I had the incredible opportunity of doing my summer internship with Georgia-Pacific, where I worked in the B2B or “Professional” division of the company. My project was a blend of what you would expect in a brand management position, as well as an innovation role. My task was to strategize the launch of a new product, and take into account both short-term and long-term possibilities. 

This was my first role with a company in the CPG industry, as my experience thus far has been in automotive finance, renewable energy, and education industries. What attracted me to Georgia-Pacific specifically was their unique culture based on Market-Based Management®, and it was this culture that enabled me to thrive and to learn as much as I could about the paper industry and the company’s operations.

I spent the first few weeks of my 3 months' time getting acquainted with the company’s product line, which is expansive to say the least. Their business model is fascinating, and the culture there allowed me to schedule one-on-ones with almost anyone in the company in order to better acquaint myself with the various roles and functions. Once I began work on my project, I decided that I wanted to run a trial to gain directional learnings that would help me provide better recommendations. My supervisor loved the idea and gave me a lot of room to run the test, which gave us great results about both the product as well as the methodology. I took those results and fine tuned some of the estimates we had made for our target segments, tweaked our strategy for reaching them, and focused on researching the platform for the launch.

At this stage, I was invited to attend conferences with visitors from multi-billion dollar companies that frequently engage in business relations with Georgia-Pacific. Attending the presentations was an invaluable opportunity, as I gained critical information about the company we would be partnering with for the launch of the product, which allowed me to make better decisions about the pricing strategy. Every day of my internship was spent in a similar manner; from lunch-and-learns with the CEO and CMO, to deep dives into market research, to attending presentations by huge firms. Not only did I gain incredible experience and a glimpse into what my chosen career path was like, I also had the opportunity to do work of real value and significance to the company. I count this summer experience among one of the biggest impacts on my personal and professional development.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

One MBA Student's Summer Vacation with CSX

Kevin Foster, MBA '15
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern in the Finance department of CSX, which is one of four major railroads in the United States. Truth be told, prior to starting the MBA program at Terry, I knew nothing about railroads other than from time to time I would get caught at a railroad crossing – always when I need to be somewhere. But my perception of the industry changed when CSX came to do an information session in late August. I walked away impressed by both the industry and CSX as a company. When you start to think of it, the railroad is the backbone of the U.S. economy – grain, lumber, chemicals, coal, vehicles, and millions of pounds of merchandise shipped via intermodal containers –  and few things make it from point A to point B without going by rail for part of the journey.

I joined the program with my target set on getting into the airline industry, so the railroad wasn’t a big jump. I decided to pursue the opportunity and by mid-November had received an internship offer. It was an intriguing opportunity in a subject I was only starting to get comfortable with (finance) in a city that I had never lived (Jacksonville), but I was up for a challenge.

The summer proved to be an incredible adventure. Before the internship, I tried to learn about the industry so that day one I could hit the ground running. It helped to have at least a grasp on some of the major issues facing the company and a basic understanding of the language of railroading. CSX also worked to ensure that we were quickly brought up to speed. There were 8 interns total, with a wide variety of skill levels and background, and it was really enjoyable getting a chance to know them over the 10 weeks.

The project that I had was very much an MBA-level internship. There wasn’t a simple answer to the question that was posed – in fact, they really didn’t know where the project would lead. However, if there is one thing that MBAs should be good at, it’s dealing with ambiguity. I relied heavily on my background in project management and the skills that I picked up during my first year in the program – especially statistics – and was able to develop a number of well-received deliverables. The internship wrapped up with a final presentation to the 3 VPs that oversee the Finance department – aka one step below the executive team. The presentation went well and about a week later, CSX called to offer me a full time position in their leadership development program. It was the opportunity I came looking for when I came to Terry - just a different mode of transportation.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the summer, and really my biggest takeaway of the program so far, is that you have to keep your eyes wide open, because you never know where the opportunities are going to come from.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

UGA Net Impact Club Partners with Terrapin Beer Company through Projects For Good Initiative

From L-R: Erin Geoffroy, MBA '15; Chris DeFago, MBA '15;
Bobby Callahan, MBA '15; CEO John Cochran;
Julia McDaris MBA, '15; and Christina Smith, MBA '14.
Today we welcome Erin Geoffroy, MBA '15 (pictured on left) as a guest contributor to provide an overview of a project completed this spring.
Last semester, I was pleased to participate in a national Net Impact initiative called Projects for Good, which creates opportunities for students to serve as sustainability consultants for companies and help their triple bottom line.  Several students that are actively involved with the UGA Net Impact chapter partnered with Terrapin Beer Company to help them perform a B Impact assessment and help Terrapin become a more environmentally and socially responsible company.  Our team included MBA students with a range of expertise in environmental and social issues: Bobby Callahan, Chris DeFago, Erin Geoffroy, Julia McDaris, and Christina Smith.
Over the course of several months, we met regularly with CEO John Cochran and HR Manager Jeremiah Shepherd to learn more about Terrapin’s current practices and growth strategy.  The B Impact Assessment is a tool created by the non-profit B Lab to provide standards, benchmarks, and tools for a business to assess its overall impact, compare itself to other organizations in its industry, and provide practical solutions to improve impact over time. 
Why should a company invest time in using such a tool to improve impact?  It can help the company attract and engage employees, earn credibility and trust from peers, and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  In fact, I recently spoke to BBC Capital about how young people today, women especially, want to work for companies that prioritize social and environmental responsibility.  When looking for internships and full-time positions, many of my classmates and I made working for a company that is committed to making a positive impact a top priority in our respective job searches.
In our early conversations with Terrapin, we were thrilled to learn that the organization is already making significant strides towards its goals.  Terrapin donated $28,000 to local charities in the past year, has many great benefit programs in place such as a bike-to-work incentive, and has a goal to be listed as a “Great Place to Work” in the next few years.  Additionally, Terrapin has several initiatives planned for the coming year such as time off for employees to volunteer and a new canning line that will make the beer Terrapin produces a more sustainable product (since aluminum is infinitely recyclable). 
We worked with Terrapin to go through the B Impact Assessment and tried to simplify the process in light of their busy schedules.  Our team then entered the information into the assessment tool to generate a raw score for the company.  We presented to John and Jeremiah on ideas and best practices along with short-term and long-term recommendations for improving their impact in four areas: governance, environment, community, and workers.  The team was incredibly receptive to our ideas and requested that we continue to serve as consultants as they work towards these goals.  We are excited to continue this work in the fall and provide suggestions and innovative ideas. 
CEO John Cochran said, “We have enjoyed working with the UGA Net Impact team; their guidance on environmentally and socially responsible best practices will help us better position Terrapin as a company that makes great sustainably-produced beer, has a strong presence in our local community, and operates in a way that makes everyone want to work for Terrapin.” 

In addition to continuing our work with Terrapin, we are eager to find other local businesses in Athens that want to improve their triple bottom line and partner with UGA Net Impact.  If you are a local business that is interested in improving your social and environmental practices, please contact us at

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Net Impact Rebounds and Team Wins Leeds Case Competition

Just a year and a half ago, a lack of interest had shrunk UGA’s chapter of Net Impact to only one active member. Luckily, a few interested students began to meet regularly to discuss trends in sustainability, nonprofits, and social enterprise. As we became good friends, the club took off.  We attended the Net Impact conference in Baltimore, hosted several events, and were named a “gold” chapter by the end of the year. We also entered the Leeds Net Impact Case Competition, the first time a team from UGA had done so, and were thrilled to make it to the semi-final round. Our team competed again this year, and we were out to win!
     The Leeds Net Impact Case Competition in Boulder, CO is focused on solving real world sustainability issues and, as fun as it is, it is also a ton of work. The first round gave us two weeks to examine how investing in different technologies would affect a company’s “triple bottom line,” people and planet along with profit. Working in a team of four, we split up research and worked whenever we could find time between classes and homework. After advancing, we were given another case before the final round in Colorado. The time required could have been overwhelming, but my teammates and I are all serious about Net Impact and competitions are an incredible learning experience. I was happy to give up my free time to research regulations on pollution and discover how acceptance of global warming will affect energy sector profits. It wasn’t hard to convince my teammates to give up nights and weekends to dig into natural gas pricing forecasts or how pollution affects worker safety. This was our chance to use what we’re learning in a scenario we care about.
Our team was made up of close friends. We didn’t waste time deciding who would be responsible for what research because we already know what everyone’s strengths are and what each is passionate about. We didn’t mind spending hours working together, because we’d be together anyway. And in Colorado as we answered questions from the judges, we supported each Net Impact each other and kept each other calm.
The first night in Boulder was stressful as people finalized their presentations, but it was also exciting and fun to meet people with similar interests. As someone who is usually wary of “networking,” I found it easy to connect with the other teams and we talked with people from all over the country. Funnily enough, we spent a lot of time with our neighbors from Georgia Tech, who also had a team make it to the semi-finals.  
On the day of the competition, they paired each team up with a Colorado student. Our buddy, Reid, shuffled us to a classroom to present in the morning and ate lunch with us while we waited for the results. We all felt good about our presentation, but were happily shocked to hear we had advanced to the final round. Because of an unlucky draw we presented last in the finals, meaning we were quarantined with the other finalists and our CU buddies for the next 6 hours. Thankfully, Reid is one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met and he helped to ease our nervous energy. This was another time I was happy to be on a team with friends who could help pass time in an anxious situation!
The sponsoring company this year was Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway building supplies company headquartered in Denver. Our final presentation was to 10 judges, including their CEO and several executives. Presenting is obviously a big part of business school, and we’ve all had practice at it. But, presenting recommendations to such important people, along with other competitors, was justifiably nerve-wracking. I am incredibly proud of how confidently each of my team members presented their points. Kari Baker spoke passionately about improving worker safety and our economy, Betsy Curry easily explained energy use and cost in a way that everyone could understand, and Ariel Brassil answered the judges’ questions by referencing energy theorists and books she reads in her free time. The experience of successfully presenting to such an impressive group gives each of us a confidence boost. It is absolutely the best learning experience I have had in business school.
That night at dinner Mary Rhinehart, the CEO of Johns Manville, presented the awards. After hearing Purdue University place third and Notre Dame place second, we were tense. We spent the weekend struggling to not get our hopes up, so it was an enormous relief and incredibly exciting to hear University of Georgia announced as the winner! The judges later told us they appreciated how cohesive our presentation was and that we each referenced each other while we spoke. This came, I think, since we were among friends. We all worked hard because it was an enjoyable experience for us and we created a memorable, passionate presentation because no part of it was faked.  
I am incredibly proud of how far our club has come; we now have 20 active members. I’m sad to graduate and not be a part of UGA Net Impact next year, but I’m excited to see all that my friends will accomplish. I, of course, expect UGA to uphold our title at the Net Impact Case Competition so I look forward to reading about that next spring!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Full-Time MBA Program Ranked #48 by U.S. News

The Full-Time MBA Program at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia has attained the #48 spot in the 2015 Best Business Schools ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

Correll Hall, the new home of the UGA MBA in Summer 2015, is currently under construction in Athens, Georgia.

Read more: UGA Graduate Programs Continue to Move Up in National Rankings

Friday, February 21, 2014

Who is a UGA MBA student?

Jenifer Curtis // Terry MBA '14 from Overture on Vimeo.

Meet Jenifer Curtis, JD/MBA '14.  Jenifer will graduate from the University of Georgia in May 2014.  She has already accepted an offer to work with Troutman Sanders.

Monday, February 3, 2014 Preparing for the MBA Interview

Deirdre Kane, Director of MBA Admissions, Full-Time Program is currently featured on the Ask the School Experts blog.  Read her advice on Preparing for the MBA Interview before you visit the University of Georgia for your UGA MBA interview.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Full-Time UGA MBA Student Erin Geoffroy Named 2014 OneEnergy Scholar

First year Full-Time UGA MBA student Erin Geoffroy has been named to the 2013 OneEnergy Scholars class by OneEnergy Renewables, a developer of large-scale clean energy projects.  Erin is one of seven students selected for the class from national pool of applicants representing the nation's leading academic institutions.

The OneEnergy Scholars award program accelerates the careers of high potential individuals who exemplify the dedication and intellectual capacity required to move the clean energy industry forward.  In partnership with NetImpact, OneEnergy Renewables provides award recipients with broach recognition for their achievements, personalized career counseling, internship opportunities, and peer and professional networking.

Prior to attending the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, Erin was a Texas Communications Manager at the Environmental Defense Fund.  She is currently focusing her MBA studies on marketing and corporate social responsibility.

For more:
OneEnergy Scholars: Erin Geoffroy
Terry MBA Student Wins Renewable Energy Award

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thoughts on First Semester

Today we welcome Jennifer Conner, MBA '15 as a guest contributor.  Jennifer was kind enough to take a few minutes to jot down her thoughts on first semester.

As a double Dawg, when I began the process of applying to an MBA program, Terry College of Business was naturally one of the first places I looked into.  Everyone talks about small class sizes and the individualized attention that you receive from professors and other staff members at Terry, and while it was an important aspect, it originally was not high on my criteria for school selection. I was interested more in the strong alumni network Terry has created, the business analytics concentration which was taking advantage of innovative business trends, and the module class system which allows me to focus on multiple concentrations and really immerse myself in the subjects. However, after finishing ¼ of my MBA here at Terry, I have realized how invaluable it is to have professors and career advisors take the time to know me, and to have the time to work with me on an individual basis.

I came into business school with a strong career background, but no formal business training. The first few modules cover business basics, and I found myself challenged to understand concepts and formulas I had never seen before. I am not the type of person who is used to feeling lost in a subject and I found myself struggling with some of the materials. This is where the professors at Terry excel. They were willing to sit down with me and walk me through concepts until I understood the not only the concept but the theory behind the concepts. They were willing to take the time and reteach lectures to make sure that I felt confident in the materials. One professor actually paused class one day when he saw I was getting lost and reworked the concept until I was comfortable. I know that I was not the only person who was confused, just maybe the most vocal about it. The smaller class helped here too, because I would not have been as comfortable asking questions in a huge lecture hall. In a bigger program, I would not have had such direct access to my professors and I would not have had a more difficult time succeeding in my first several classes.

Staff at Terry also have the time and desire to get to know each student individually. The Career Center took the time to review my business background and my future plans and goals, not just professionally but personally as well. The entire staff knows who I am and where I want to go, so if something comes across their desks, they are able to pass it along. Through their support, I was able to land a summer internship at a Fortune 100 before Thanksgiving. If one of the Corporate Relations liaisons who doesn’t actively counsel students hadn’t taken the time to get to know me and my interests, I would have never even seen the application.

The amazing staff and professors are why I decided to continue my education at Terry College of Business of the University of Georgia “with the understanding that there is no tradition more worth of envy, no institution worthy of such loyalty, as the University of Georgia”. 

Have questions? Contact us at