Don’t Just Be a “Part-Time MBA”; Go All In

Vijay Rajan, Class of 2018

Vijay Rajan, Class of 2018

As an Evening MBA student, the title of this article may be deceiving. The intention behind this is to bring awareness to a topic that is dear to many “part-timers,” including myself. The sad reality is that the perception of part-time MBA students is that we are busy bodies that are too invested in our jobs to give up two years to go back to school again. Let me be the first to say this is largely false. The decision to go part-time, is typically a prudent one. Whether it’s because your employer is investing in your advancement, you are looking for a professional change but can’t afford to give up that paycheck, you are thirsty for more knowledge, or any combination of these and more, the choice to go part-time simply makes sense. I’m here to assert that the learning and experience beyond the classroom is profound and invaluable. During my nine months as an Evening student and student leader, I’ve met many engaging individuals, drastically enhanced my interpersonal skills, and developed new capabilities, all through resources and opportunities available outside of class. To the part-time students that are reading this and only attending classes, I implore you to get involved – you will regret not being a part of the Booth community. To those of you that are involved, I say take it to the next level. Here are a few reasons why it is paramount to your Booth experience:

 

More Than Just Networking

It’s been hammered into our heads that networking is vital to success both in and out of school. Involvement in activities outside of class is the easiest way to build your Booth network. More so than networking though, you will find yourself building lasting friendships with your fellow Boothies. I’m happy to say that some of my closest friends happen to be part-timers that I would not have met had I not made the decision get involved. Moreover, how many times have you heard your manager boast about a wildly successful friend from business school?

Real Professional Development

If you haven’t met with a career counselor, you are missing the secret sauce in getting that promotion, landing the job, or winning your negotiation. The career counselors cater to your professional aspirations, whatever they may be. The quality of my resume and ability to articulate my experiences has improved tenfold, and I credit Anita Brick and the Career Services team largely for that.

Elevate Your Perception

By not engaging in opportunities out of the classroom, you risk missing valuable events. If you are a career-switcher, that could be the invitation to the coveted invite-only recruiting dinner. As a social butterfly, you wouldn’t want to miss the summer boat cruise or winter formal. Being active in the Booth community not only enhances your student experience, but helps you develop a more favorable perception in your network.

With that, I hope you decide make the decision to get (or stay) involved. Push your chips in, and go all in.

 

The Story Behind Booth's Hottest Student Group

Erick Laseca, Class of 2017

Erick Laseca, Class of 2017

Whether you’ve heard of them or not, Booth’s Search Fund Club has grown explosively these past few weeks and has begun taking the quickly evolving industry by storm. According to Erick Laseca (’17), Founder and President, the Search Fund Club has gone from 0 to 150 in three weeks, with many of its new members coming from Booth’s Evening and Weekend community. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or interested in data-driven management, Booth’s fastest growing group should have something in store for you.

What is a Search Fund?

A Search Fund is an investment vehicle for young, aspiring entrepreneurs to search for, acquire, manage, and grow a company. The Search Fund model offers recent MBA grads from a handful of elite business schools the most direct route to running a company right out of business school,” states Laseca.

We all know how attractive it is to be an entrepreneur, but with only two percent of startups actually getting off the ground, the Search Fund model has proven to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to grow a business. In addition, given the nature of these businesses they are running, Search Fund companies have a 76 percent chance of launching a successful business.

The Search Fund model is an attractive entrepreneurial career path pursued by graduating students and young alumni, involving the acquisition and operation of a small to medium sized business. Interest in the model has grown significantly in recent years, with Search Fund formation accelerating at elite institutions, including Booth among the top three in the US,” according to Laseca.

Why Booth?

Despite Booth being a top three institution in its Search Fund programs, most of Booth’s entrepreneurial talent is more aware of the startup model through the rise in popularity of the Entrepreneurship concentration and activities like the New Venture Challenge. Few Evening and Weekend students are aware of the Search Fund model and Erick’s taken great pleasure teaching his peers.

“We attribute the rapid growth of the group to the growing popularity of the Search Fund model. MBA students typically have very traditional paths after graduating. You go into consulting, investment banking, private equity, corporate finance, corporate strategy or general management. There is nothing wrong with these, but MBA grads are looking for more exciting options while not exposing themselves to the huge risks of a startup,” states Laseca.

How to Get Involved

While a young group, there has been no shortage of events for the Search Fund Club. Having already hosted four, with the 3rd Annual Booth-Kellogg Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Conference coming up in October. The event, which sold out last year, will bring out 350 attendees, including top investors, and is a great opportunity to learn more about the space.

Mike Sharifi, Class of 2018

Mike Sharifi, Class of 2018

“If you want to learn more about the Search Fund space, or attend one of our events, you can join by visiting the Booth Groups page and typing “Booth Search Fund Club” in the search field. Membership is free for now,” encourages Laseca.

Mike is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Talent at Telnyx. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.

 

Beyond Excel: Overcoming Your Fear of R

One huge benefit of the Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs is that you can immediately apply the lessons you learn in class to your workplace or “in real life” (affectionately abbreviated as “IRL”). In this column, we will celebrate the lessons students learn in class and how they apply them IRL. Do you have a story that has inspired you? Feel free to write to me – your affectionate writer, known as CFN – at cnapier@chicagobooth.edu.

Catherine Frances Napier, Class of 2018

Catherine Frances Napier, Class of 2018

Statistics and modeling can seem intimidating, especially to those of us who aren’t naturally quantitative (these people exist at Booth, including your writer!). Fear certainly didn’t stop Cleo Miller from conquering stats and using it to benefit her work in real life.

Cleo Miller (‘17) enrolled in Professor Polson’s introductory statistics course without a strong background in statistics or R, the statistical platform the class requires students to learn. She admits, “I was kind of nervous about the class, [as the professor] forces you to use R and makes it possible for you to get your feet wet with it.”

After she got her feet wet with R through the class, Cleo fearlessly dove into the R deep-end in real life. At work, she needed to work on a large statistical analysis that needed to be easily digestible. Thanks to learning R in class, Cleo conquered this challenge.

Cleo Miller, Class of 2017

Cleo Miller, Class of 2017

“Because I was forced to be exposed to something I wasn’t comfortable with, [learning R] helped me grow in a way I never would have expected. It gave me a real problem solving tool that I wouldn’t have known about or have been comfortable using,” Cleo says.

Thanks to her time in the classroom, Cleo can use this platform to analyze anything to turn it into anything – including interactive maps, graphs, predictions, and more. She got exposure to a new idea that she may never have been able to find.

“I needed someone to push me in that direction to say that there are statistical tools out there. I can use Excel, but it never would have occurred to me to go outside of Excel. There’s so much out there, and Booth can really help push you in the right direction in ways that you can’t even predict.”

To Cleo, this example testifies to why she wanted to come to Booth. As a naturally qualitative person, Cleo bravely went to Booth to develop her quantitative skills. Clearly, she’s successfully doing just that.

“I want to learn how to use tools and think about ways to solve problems that I never otherwise would have been exposed to or known how to find,” she says. “It has broadened my horizons about what is out there in the world of stats and applied mathematics.”

When Cleo isn’t developing her quantitative skills, you can find her leading the Graduate Women in Business (GWB) group. She has learned many qualitative lessons about leadership as the group’s president. “The biggest lesson I’ve taken away is that it really is all about the team you’re working on and encouraging them to be their best,” Cleo says. “The lessons I’ve gotten from GWB are all about leadership through teamwork.”

Cleo’s story highlights that at Booth, students are challenged both qualitatively and quantitatively. Along that journey, students have amazing learning experiences. As Cleo says about her Booth experience to date: “So far, so great.”

Catherine Napier works at Northern Trust in wealth management, loves yoga, creating content on www.cfndaily.com, and the peanuts at the Midway.


 

IRL with Simon Holstein

One huge benefit of the part-time program is that you can immediately apply the lessons you learn in class to your workplace or “in real life” (affectionately abbreviated as “IRL”). In this column, we will celebrate the lessons students learn in class and how they apply them IRL. Do you have a story that has inspired you? Feel free to write to me – your affectionate writer, known as CFN – at cnapier@chicagobooth.edu.

Have you ever learned that it’s okay to be wrong? That to be right, you may be wrong first?

Catherine Frances Napier, '18

Catherine Frances Napier, '18

Upon Booth admission, Simon Holstein (‘18) had the confidence and the courage to try something new. He quit his job to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions (even finding an office at 1871), knowing he had the security of a Booth degree and the Booth community. Even though the idea didn’t take off, Simon learned it is okay to be “wrong”. What others may view as failure, Booth students see the right opportunity to learn.

Simon elaborates, “Before I even took a class, I had the confidence to take a risk. And then when I took that risk and I was wrong, I was already in an environment where if I told [Booth friends] about the start-up, they weren’t judgmental or in any way negative. The questions I got from my peers weren’t focused on my failures, they were focused on that experience and why I chose to do that, and why it didn’t work – from a perspective of being interested and not from a perspective of you failed.”

At Booth, students are encouraged to take what Simon calls “smart risks”, as this is the place to try something out of our comfort zone. If Booth students take a risk that doesn’t work out, Booth students humbly embrace a “wrong experience” and turn it into the right learning opportunity.  Perhaps, even more importantly, students like Simon learn to try again.

Simon Holstein, '18

Simon Holstein, '18

Even with a full-time job at Avant and school part-time, Simon is already back on the entrepreneurial scene, with two current entrepreneurial adventures. (Check out R-YA NUTS – where Simon is CFO—and watch him compete in the New Venture Challenge with the Freenters team).

To get involved with this year’s New Venture Challenge, Simon simply registered on the interested-student spreadsheet. “I had the confidence to put my name [there] because I knew that whoever was looking at it already started trusting that I was credible and legit. Being in environment like that unique to Booth. I don’t know other place in the world where you could pick a stranger’s name off the spreadsheet and want them to be a part of your startup or a part of your business.”

In this special community, Booth students like Simon fearlessly learn to try and to try again. Booth students learn to take risks “in real life” and enjoy the learning opportunity along the way.

As he says, “I have more confidence in taking risks. Being at Booth has put into perspective a lot of things, like how much I do know and how much I still have to learn – and being okay being in that position.”

Catherine Napier is a first-year MBA student in the Evening MBA Program at Chicago Booth

Effective Tips for Informal Networking

Mike Sharifi, '18

Mike Sharifi, '18

 However intimidating (or exciting) we find it, networking is a huge aspect of part-time business school programs. Getting to know our fellow classmates is a large reason we specifically chose to come to Booth, and while we all know the value of the Booth network, it’s tough to find a balanced way to informally connect with our peers.  Throughout the years, we’ve all been given hundreds of networking tips, but they are often better suited for corporate happy hours or recruitment fairs than the midway break in class. During our time at Gleacher, everyone wonders how we can best create professional bonds in very little time, but hopefully these tips help you better get to know “that person from Financial Accounting who always pops up in my LinkedIn feed who I think works for a VC, but I’m not really sure…”

 

Tip #1: Keep it Casual

    We’ve all been in that situation where we want to connect with a classmate who works somewhere that interests us, but how should we approach them about it? Should we be cool and calm or put on our best interview face? From experience, it’s best to be casual when approaching a peer for the first time. Our days at work and in the classroom are often rigid, so why make networking a chore as well? There’s no need to make a quick introduction any more complicated (or awkward) than it needs to be!

 

Tip #2: Be Direct

    Being casual is important, but also be mindful of the other person’s time, especially if it’s during break or after class. We all lead busy lives, and while we’re happy to help each other out, it doesn’t help to beat around the bush. In the first thirty seconds, you should: make an introduction if you haven’t spoken before, remind them what you do, and let them know why you’re interested in chatting. This will go a long way in ensuring that you make the most of the conversation rather than talking in circles.

 

Tip #3: End on an Action Item

    Whether your conversation lasts two minutes or two hours, make sure to keep it going after you part ways. Next steps could be as simple as checking out a website and catching up next week, or a larger step like updating and sending over your resume. Whatever it is, make sure you determine the best way to keep the conversation alive beyond that moment.

 

Don't be shy...go out and meet someone new today!

Don't be shy...go out and meet someone new today!

Tip #4: Offer to Return the Favor

    There are few feelings worse than being used, so if you choose to network with a classmate for a particular purpose, make sure that they know you’re also open to helping them out. Your classmate may never take you up on it, but it’s great for them to know that you’re a resource as well if they need it. No one knows where we’ll be one, ten, even twenty years down the line, but it’s important to build rapport and keep in touch with fellow Boothies that can help us, and that we can help in return.

Editor Mike Sharifi is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Business Development at Built in Los Angeles. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.

IRL with Jon Dana

Catherine Frances Napier (CFN), Class of 2018

Catherine Frances Napier (CFN), Class of 2018

One huge benefit of the Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs is that you can immediately apply the lessons you learn in class to your workplace or “in real life” (affectionately abbreviated as “IRL”). In this column, we will celebrate the lessons students learn in class and how they apply them IRL. Do you have an a story that has inspired you? Feel free to write to me – your affectionate writer, known as CFN – at cnapier@chicagobooth.edu.

In our inaugural feature, a new student took lessons from LAUNCH - the official “first day” for students in the  Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs - and immediately applied them to his workplace. Jon Dana (‘18) felt so inspired by the lessons learned at LAUNCH, that he actually used the lessons to inspire change in his workplace.

During the Case Challenge presentation, Jon worked on the assignment that dealt with a startup trying to preserve its culture. It turns out, Jon is in the exact situation “IRL”. Using the lessons from LAUNCH’s public speaking session and inspired by his Case Challenge work (including discussing the situation with a judge who works in guiding companies through this transition), Jon bravely addressed the culture preservation issue with his top management.

Similar to the Case Challenge experience, the “real life” situation didn’t go as planned (the Case’s mock judges interrupted us to talk about tickets, and Jon’s CFO was late to the meeting). Nonetheless, Jon didn’t miss a beat.

Using LAUNCH’s public speaking guidance on listing a Point of View, Action, and Benefits, Jon compiled a presentation that was concise and clear. “If I hadn’t been planning to use this format, the whole conversation would have been jumbled and confusing - maybe even a little offensive to the owners. We had some great ideas, but we needed to get them across concisely in less than 30 minutes.”

Jon Dana ('18) was able to take his LAUNCH lessons straight to the office

Jon Dana ('18) was able to take his LAUNCH lessons straight to the office

Jon elaborates, “We learned at LAUNCH that we needed to be flexible and go with the flow. That's why I was adamant about having a very simple opening statement and very simple objectives - that let us go with the flow and have discussions while also getting our point across. We found that having all of the details in our 'back pocket' was critical.  We had to be prepared, but we needed to only bring up the high level points.”

The company was so impressed with the conversation that management committed to Jon’s request for action items. ”The view was that we were well thought out and we were taking charge of something that we are passionate about,” Jon says. “Our CFO came back to the office later in the day and thanked us for the conversation.”

The lessons Jon learned before Booth even started have already positively impacted his career. “I can honestly say that the conversation would not have been as effective and may have even been detrimental if it wasn't for the case study we did during LAUNCH,” Jon affirms.

As his CFO did, we’d like to thank Jon for this conversation. Before Booth Day 1, he has already inspired positive change.

How to Switch Careers at Booth

Mike Sharifi '18

Mike Sharifi '18

Evening and Weekend Students are here at Booth for a variety of reasons. Some of us are striving for that next promotion and some of us are seeking personal growth or validation. Some of us are looking to start our own companies or just looking to impress the in-laws. However, a large portion of us are here to make a career or industry change before our time at Gleacher is up.

    As someone who has helped hundreds through career changes, I’ve offered up various pieces of advice to a few of my peers these past two quarters. I wanted to use this article as an opportunity to share a few of these tips with those of you contemplating a switch.

Tip #1: Use the Booth curriculum to discover new passions

    Many of us know that we want to make a professional change, but are unsure what that change might be. It’s difficult enough to decide what we want to wear to the office tomorrow, let alone what we want to be doing for the rest of our working lives. However, a great place to start is by discovering passions we might not know we had by taking classes outside of our areas of expertise. Unless you’re trying to graduate with five different concentrations or take every Analytic Finance class Booth offers, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try something new.

Tip #2: Make the most of Career Services

    Contrary to popular belief, the Career Services team isn’t just here to send weekly emails and nitpick resumes. Through the Booth Intranet, you can discover the wealth of knowledge that Career Services has provided to answer a majority of the questions you may have on changing careers. From advice on “Telling Your Story” on LinkedIn to tips for sourcing opportunities, any jobseeker can take away something from this section. In addition, Career Services has an extremely well-connected Employer Relations team that can give us the inside track with companies. I’ve heard several stories of students visiting Career Services with only a general idea and leaving with introductions to their “dream jobs”.

You can never understate the importance   of networking

You can never understate the importance of networking

Tip #3: Connect with Booth Alumni

    It is  difficult for some of us to muster the courage to send an email to someone we don’t know asking them to make time to chat, but increasingly, I have come to realize that Booth alumni are open to helping current students when they can. Maybe Tom Ricketts won’t get back to your inquiry about a front office position with the Cubs right away, but the Chicago Booth connection is a bond that resonates strongly with most alumni. Use our alums as a resource to learn more about their company, their industry, or to just get their advice.

Tip #4: Utilize your Classmates

    We often fail to realize that our best asset in our job search may very well be the person next to us in the classroom. Given the diversity of work and industry experience in the Evening and Weekend population, don’t be shy to ask your classmates about their jobs and the companies they work for. Often, they are the potential resource that may give you the most balanced perspective, and one that may personally vouch for you to his or her company.

If you’re set on changing careers, or just reevaluating your options, it is important that you make the most of the unique tools at your disposal to get the upper hand in a highly competitive environment.


Editor Mike Sharifi is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Business Development at Built in Los Angeles. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.

Managing Your Time at Booth

Mike Sharifi '18

Mike Sharifi '18

Many Evening and Weekend MBA students understand very well that being a member of the Booth community comes with sacrifice. Whether it means spending less time at the gym or less time with family, we are all giving up something important to attend class. To contrast with our friends in the Full-Time program, we have at least fourteen hours of class work each week, in addition to full-time jobs and Booth extracurricular activities we engage in. With all of this on our shoulders, excellent time management is necessary to both keep us organized and sane. We each have different techniques for balancing our schedule. However you do it, this article should help you with some useful pointers from your peers.

Tip #1: Prioritize Tasks Every Day

Planning ahead is necessary for avoiding the feeling of helplessness

Planning ahead is necessary for avoiding the feeling of helplessness

    It may not be the most natural or exciting task to do, but it is especially important to plan out our days and prioritize what needs to get done. “If I start to think about what I need to do by the end of the week, I usually freak myself out. When things pile up, it helps to just focus on the next 24 hours,” notes Karen Sanchez (’18). Whether by creating to-do lists or setting notifications on our Google Calendars, we all can benefit from optimizing our days to make sure we don’t fall behind in the classroom and the office.

Tip #2: Review the Syllabus Ahead of Time

    Back in undergrad, many of us - myself included - would forget about midterms until the week of and neglect to study until the night before. While we could manage that lifestyle because the opportunity cost to pulling an all-nighter studying was often a frat party or Netflix binge, we have more pressing priorities in our lives today. Knowing this, Vijay Rajan (’18) makes sure to map out key assignment and exam days as soon as he has access to the syllabus. With busy days in the office and constant travel for work, noting big school events months in advance helps him to best arrange his work schedule accordingly.

Tip #3: Keep Your Friends, Family, and Co-workers in the Loop

    Starting up at Booth isn’t only a change of pace for each of us, it also affects those around us. During the quarter, we might not be able to attend every company Happy Hour or catch mom up on every little detail about our lives, but it’s important that we give those in our lives realistic expectations. Antonia Lee (‘18) makes sure to give her friends and family plenty of notice on the days/weeks that she might be off the grid. Everyone that we’re close to understands that we’re “busy”, but unless they’ve known others doing Booth part-time, it will be hard for them to completely relate unless we provide insight.

Tip #4: Do Something for Yourself Each Week

    If my life was a revolving door that only involved school and work, I’d be absolutely miserable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I love Booth, but each of us needs something to take our mind off both, especially when they get stressful. Whether it’s making time each day to read Game of Thrones or playing pickup basketball on Tuesday nights, it’s important to do things for you. Life is much more than just work and school…don’t forget that!

Editor Mike Sharifi is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Business Development at Built in Los Angeles. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.