Category Archives: Student projects

Hooray for new-found confidence

Mount Villarrica was just one of the beautiful things I saw in Chile.

To call it an “ah-ha” moment would be too cliché. It was more like an intuitive moment of confidence that I remember all too well from when I was finishing up my undergraduate studies. That feeling that I have made the correct decisions.

Actually, I’ve had a series of intuitive moments since the spring semester started at TCU. I wasn’t searching for confidence or any kind of sign of an academic breakthrough. It just kind of happened one day in Operations Management class or during a team meeting for my Frito Lay consulting project. Finally, I KNOW I can do this MBA thing.

See, last semester I wasn’t sure. I was trying really hard to keep up, both figuratively and literally. I was trying to learn team dynamics and a new schedule. I was trying to wrap my brain around new concepts and acronyms, and rekindle old math skills. My mind was still halfway in burned-out journalist mode and halfway in grad school mode. I couldn’t quite shake my past career experiences. I used them as a crutch often times.

Not anymore. After a “cleansing” winter break chock full of traveling – to California for Christmas and then Chile for a wonderful TCU study abroad trip – I entered the new semester with a new-found ease and clarity. It doesn’t matter if I’m 10 years older than most of my classmates; it doesn’t matter that I came from a non-business background. The first-semester lineup of core classes at TCU was tough, but each class gave me, and I assume most of my classmates, a wonderful foundation to build from.

Now, as the spring semester cruises along I’m retaining more information and connecting the “dots” of business topics and theories. My classes seem easier, or maybe I’m just better prepared. Most important, I’m confident my first-year courses and consulting project work will help me compete in the wide world of summer internship madness and later when I’m looking for a full-time job.

Speaking of consulting, I was lucky to land a spot on the Frito Lay team for the TCU Neeley & Associates program. Each spring for the past five years, first-year students have had the chance to work in teams of four on projects that have the potential to make a real difference for companies in the Fort Worth and Dallas areas. My team is tasked with developing a plan to help Frito Lay’s Munchies filled cracker brand grow in the next two or three years. This marketing/sales project is definitely helping me sharpened my Excel skills and is giving me valuable exposure to a major consumer goods company.

I’m aiming my internship search squarely at consumer goods companies – with a few exceptions. I have applied for marketing internships at Land O’Lakes, ConAgra, Hanes, and Fisher-Price. I’m more likely to get interviews for local companies Sabre, American Airlines, 7-Eleven and Warren Douglas. At least I hope so. I have also applied for media- or PR-based internships at CNN and Coca-Cola, in hopes that my journalism background might land me at least an interview. Only time will tell.

— Michele Machado

Song of Snow and Ice

Snow days mean building snow men and surviving cabin fever

So in the days following the near complete cloud cover the US, we have been having snow and ice here at TCU. This of course is filled with both good and bad news.

Good News: School is closed and has been closed for the entirety of the week from Tuesday until now. Which means a mini vacation, hot cocoa, warm beds, and the lava game.

Bad News: School is closed and has been closed for the entirety of the week from Tuesday until now. Which means class schedules are wonky, and while it seems like a good idea for a day or two, it starts to wear on productivity.

Good News: Snow and Ice. That means sliding around, building snow men, the general merriment of powder and packing fights. General awesome.

Bad News: Snow and Ice. Dangerous road conditions mean no road trips (which for me was a trip down to Austin for randomness like Ushicon) and for others means dealing with crazy people and calling AAA sometimes. Unless you’re doing this on purpose. You people trying ice donuts outside know who I’m talking about.

Good News: Projects can be done. Time to do all those random projects, papers, and freelance work you decided was a good idea to pick but have been lying in wait for your attention. This could include catching up on the textbook readings or storyboarding those videos.

Bad News: Cabin Fever. At a certain point you can only be so productive before the voices start telling you all work and no play, and for some reason you have a recently stained smooth wood handle ax in the corner of your room….

I could continue with such contemplations, but the laziness (both good and bad) is starting to kick in and I’m afraid I must return to naps and reprieves. Hope everyone is staying safe and warm and enjoying the snowy weather. It doesn’t seem like Texas should shut down as much as it does with so little snow, but I for one always love the fact that we can celebrate this pristine beauty whenever it happens upon us.

-hugs-

annie nguyen

Reminiscing

Life in the new term is a slow trek back into the swing of things. This is a function of the flexibility in coursework that begins in the second term, but the introduction of elective paths makes one miss some of the constant camaraderie of the cohort. That said, I haven’t quite gotten over the jetlag that comes with returning to school again after the winter holiday break, but I have filled a bit of my time creating spoofs about my time past.

I don’t want to overload this entry with video plugs, but I have immensely enjoyed my first term at TCU and so follow a few amateur videos that highlight some of the silliness that is able to grow between colleagues here. Don’t take these too seriously, but then again, every lie has a little bit of truth.

IP (Integrated Project)

Mock Interview Experience

Chile (Video Postcard)

-hugs-

annie nguyen

Rewards after a tough semester

A full week after our IP presentations and I’m finally caught up on sleep. It’s remarkable how restorative a few days off can be after a difficult semester.

The final three weeks of this fall semester were very challenging. I started studying for finals before classes even finished. All of the hard work and long nights studying with my new TCU family really paid off because I did well enough to earn a 3.3 average for the semester. Mission accomplished as far as my grades are concerned. So many of my classmates are such good “teachers” and study buddies and learning and reviewing content with them was a real joy.

After finals, my team dove straight into our Integrated Project, a week-long, computer-based business simulation that pits five teams against each other in creating and running global microcomputer companies. All of our skills and knowledge were tested and teamwork was of the utmost importance since we were confined to a room for 12-16 hours at a time. Trust and collaboration were my team’s strengths and we finished strong in second place in our World of five companies. We finished IP week with two presentations: one for fellow students and faculty and one for recruiters from several local companies, including Frito-Lay, Bell Helicopter, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Sabre Holdings.

Travel is my reward for surviving the final three weeks of school. I’m spending Christmas with my family for the first time in eight years. Shortly after I return to Fort Worth after Christmas, I’ll depart for Chile for a study abroad trip with about a dozen of my classmates. The trip to Chile is certainly an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m very thankful that the Neeley School of Business offers this type of travel class. Many of my other TCU classmates are traveling to India or the Dominican Republic during the holiday break. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., will also be a popular destination for TCU students and alums next week.

On Christmas Eve I’m thankful for both my new TCU Neeley School of Business family and the opportunity to spend time with my mom, dad and my brother’s family.

Happy Holidays and GO FROGS!

Michele Machado

IP or BUST

So I meant to update earlier with diversity day news, but as usual finals were a rush of sleepless nights and heavy workloads. So for many of you B-school prospectives and alumni, you’ve probably heard something of the dreaded Integrated Project (IP). It’s probably the worst end-of-finals feeling you’ll ever have simply because you know that after finals end, you’ll be spending the next week of waking hours trying to tackle this massive project (and maybe a few teammates). Despite all of that, you will find that IP is one of the most comprehensive learning experiences you will ever have and a truly fascinating way to apply everything you’ve learned.

Now, every team works differently of course, and I might be a little biased since my team happened to win, but the caliber of competition that occurred within my year was amazing. The amount of time management, leadership, negotiation, and information processing necessary to really attack IP is what allows the project to test the concepts and skills that the first semester of coursework is meant to teach you.

I had a goal of ‘Fuji or Bust’ before I left Japan, and I think the 16 hours straight of climbing that I did then as I worked my way to sunrise is probably comparable to some of the ongoing exhaustion you might feel during this experience, but along with that, I can say this. IP did not force insomnia on me, did not stain half my clothes red, did not cause my body to ache for a week following (mostly just a day), and still offered a spectacular feeling of accomplishment when all was done. Knowing that, I offer a few tips to those wary of approaching IP.

10. Know Your Metrics: If you’re looking to win, understanding how your performance metrics are being measured may affect the way you lever, get venture capital, budget your R&D, and generally a lot of your financing and growth activities.

9. Simulation World is not Real World: There is definitely a huge amount of information in the simulation; the key is to remember this is basically an alternate reality. Look at the charts, see the information, everything is meant to be new, somewhat dated to what we know today. All information means something and you can’t use any real world experiences to bias the simulation news you will get.

8. Market Research Matters: You learn in statistics that 95% confidence is enough. Well, after a certain point the difference between that and the best research available from the game is pretty meaningless. Get that and every piece of research you can, because the information could change your decision and tactics. It makes a difference.

7. Plan to Grow: The biggest challenge in the game is whether you’re growing too fast or too slow. Capacity and R&D are both huge factors in the game and so long as the amount of competition in the world is actually generating the demand for whatever product that may be, then you will see an extremely fast and furious growth in market potential. One of the failings in the simulation is that it does not truly factor in how long it might take a new product to gain traction or a learning curve for human resources. It is purely a combination of factors involving features, compensation, and advertising campaigns.

6. Everything is Interconnected: While splitting roles and responsibilities is great, most aspects of the game have interdependent aspects that you should be aware of. Know which people should be working together and in what priority. You may want to just run off and do your part, but it will help if you know where your decisions affect one another.

5. Time-limits: While this might vary place to place, there is a time limit. The game itself forces you to only modify one thing at a time (a feature I’m not entirely okay with software wise), and thus you need to manage your time wisely. If your team is having decision issues, from the start setup a time limits for how long arguments are allowed to go and then force a decision.

4. Decide Fast, Tweak Slow: One of our professors once said that if you think too long it will likely be wrong. Along the same vein, it is better to decide almost every decision you have to make in that quarter quickly, even just with filler numbers, and then spend long tweaking as needed after you have made a general game plan.

3. Food Makes Everything Better: So within our team we kind of unofficially took turns bringing or buying food for the team, either breakfast, lunch, or dinner depending on the time frame. Perhaps you won’t feel that close to your team, but I see it like family dinner time. It brings a bit of camaraderie that can ease tensions.

2. Sleep: No seriously, I’ve done my share of late nights with architecture and cram-sessions and generally poor last minute study habits. Sleep. Nothing good can come after midnight and at a certain point you need to have enough wits about you to last the week.

1. Do not stress it: It’s a game at the end of the day, and while a lot of things involved can affect how you originally perceived people or skills, this should not break you.

Thus ends the first term. Soon, travel abroad. New Year’s and happiness abound. Stay awesome and have a great holiday everyone.

-Hugs-

annie nguyen