Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Perpetual Growth: Why Investing in Kids Pays Off


"Nothing that you have not given away will ever truly be yours." ~ C. S. Lewis

Last week marked the end of another successful semester of Invest in Kids at the Carroll School of Management. Invest in Kids is a tutor/mentorship program sponsored by the Carroll School and its graduate students. Each week, approximately 35 'at-risk' middle school children from the Brookline Public School system arrive on the Boston College campus to work one-on-one with volunteer tutors from our MBA, MSF, and MSA programs. Invest in Kids partners with Steps to Success, a comprehensive school success and college readiness program that serves low-income youth from the fourth grade through their high school graduation. 

This year, I, along with classmates Michelle Pinnette and Kim Clark, have stepped up as the co-directors of the program. Together, we planned some fantastic sessions for the kids including a campus-wide scavenger hunt, a tour of BC's varsity athletic facilities, and a Minute to Win It themed Christmas Party.With the stress of school, project deadlines, final exams, and internship and job searching, it is very easy to become consumed by our academic lives. For those students involved in Invest in Kids, life is given new perspective as we join together for a few hours each week to support and guide those kids most in need of mentorship. While it can be hard, often frustrating work, nothing is more rewarding than to see a young individual realize his or her own potential and succeed in achieving those goals set at the beginning of the semester. For many of these kids, higher education is not believed to be an option. Over the course of a semester, several of these students will realize that they do have the intelligence to make college a reality, the ability to get on the basketball team, or the talent to audition for the school play. Sometimes, all it takes is some patience, positive reinforcement, and encouragement to show a young mind the world of possibilities that lie ahead. While not every scenario results in a Hallmark Hall of Fame happy ending, it is those small moments of growth, development, and self-realization that makes the program worth it for the tutors and students, alike. 

This past month, classmates Kevin Cuomo (U.S. Naval Academy grad) and Matt Horne (Holy Cross NROTC alumnus) spoke to the kids about the personal and professional sacrifices that service men and women make for their country. Following the presentation, the kids made greeting cards for the troops expressing well wishes and gratitude for their service, especially during this time of year. 

In an effort to bring Invest in Kids programming into the 21st century, a good friend of mine and Boston University film student, Austin Paquette, joined us to film a holiday greeting for those troops overseas. See the greeting below. As many of you know, I direct quite a bit of theater on the side. An ephemeral art form like theater is ideal for a perfectionist like myself where "Take 38" is not an option. Believe me when I say that  I was shocked when our nearly three dozen middle schoolers nailed our group Christmas greeting in one take. That being said, we did two more takes for good measure. I mean - would you expect any less from me? The group's ability to listen, stay focused, and deliver has almost made me reconsider my vow to never direct children and animals. Note I said almost. Merry Christmas!

video

Friday, October 28, 2011

Business with Buffett: No Big Deal



On Friday, October 21, twenty lucky MBA students from the Carroll School of Management's full-time and part-time programs were once again treated to a day with Warren Buffett. I was fortunate enough to be amongst this bunch. Our itinerary included a question and answer session with Mr. Buffett that ran for well over two hours and a leisurely lunch at Omaha’s family-run Piccolo Pete’s Restaurant.

Prior to the trip, I already had a great respect for Mr. Buffett’s prudent investment strategies, strong sense of business ethics, and commendable commitment to philanthropy – but in all honesty, I had no idea as to what kind of personal impression the man behind the headlines would make on me throughout the day. That said, I am delighted to report that Mr. Buffett exceeded all conceivable expectations. Humble, gracious, approachable, and surprisingly bawdy are just a few of the adjectives to describe this celebrated business man. While many of the questions addressed to Mr. Buffett related to his views on investing and the current economic state of the country and the world as a whole, he made a conscious effort not to turn our short time together into a master class in finance, but rather used the opportunity to share with us his high-level, yet personal insights on life, love, professional and personal success, and patriotism. Think Wall Street meets Tuesdays with Morrie. Below are just a few of the insights he shared with us that Thursday. I warn you – these nuggets of wisdom are not the typical sound bites you get by scanning The Wall Street Journal or The Financial Times.

-          On Careers: “Work for whomever you admire the most.” Upon hearing this, a record number of Harvard Business School graduates decided to become self-employed.
-          On Business Practices: “You might not remember the exact price of the product from when you bought it, but you’ll probably remember how you were treated when you bought it.”
-          On Marriage: “They always tell you to marry someone for his or her intelligence. Warmth. Sense of humor. Here’s some advice - just look for someone with low expectations if you want a marriage that will last.”
-          On Human Rights: “I am a firm believer in equality of opportunity and inequality of results.”
-          On Words to Live By: “A bell's not a bell 'til you ring it / A song's not a song 'til you sing it / Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay / Love isn't Love till you give it away.” ~ lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein II

Following this candid and memorable question and answer session, we all joined Mr. Buffett for a luncheon at Piccolo Pete’s, an unassuming establishment that you would think you had a better chance of running into the Food Network’s Guy Fieri in than one of the world’s richest men. Simple fare; hospitable service – it should no longer be shocking that this is one of Mr. Buffett’s favorite local restaurants. It was possibly most endearing to witness Mr. Buffett’s warm interactions with the restaurants’ set of regulars and wait staff. Clearly, everyone in this town rightfully adores their most celebrated citizen. This was possibly most evident at the end of our meal when each of us received dessert – Mr. Buffett’s favorite, a root beer float that was once featured in Fortune - with the largest glass placed in front of the big cheese, himself.

Following lunch, Mr. Buffett joined us in the parking lot for a casual photo session, granting every student on the trip an opportunity to pose with him in anyway they’d like. Props welcomed! No wonder I loved this guy – he has a clear appreciation for theatrical flair. For my photo op, a friend of mine created a faux New York Times article where Mr. Buffett agrees to produce my latest musical…with one caveat…he gets the lead. Without missing a beat, Mr. Buffett agreed to take 15% of the box office. I’ll have to consult with my business law professor to confirm how binding verbal contracts are!

See below for photos from this once-in-a-lifetime weekend. Also check out a copy of the aforementioned New York Times article.

Piccolo's - "Where everybody knows your name" - at least they do if you're Warren Buffett.

Group photo in the parking lot across from Piccolo's
Dinner on the first night in Omaha




 


Friday, September 30, 2011

That's the way it crumbles... cookie-wise.


On November 1st, 1959, the population of New York City was 8,042,783. If you laid all these people end to end, figuring an average height of five feet six and a half inches, they would reach from Times Square to the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan. I know facts like this because I work for an insurance company ~ C.C. Baxter, The Apartment

With the last days of summer behind us and our boys of summer unfortunately done for the season, it is time for me to provide you all with an update on my "vacation."

Much like the iconic character, C.C. Baxter, from Billy Wilder's charming romantic comedy, The Apartment, I worked for an insurance company. For better or worse, the similarities end there. There was no passing of keys to accommodate management's various extramarital liaisons, no fetching elevator operator girls to flirt with on my way up (although the kind, elderly doorman was always ready with a plastic bag for my wet umbrella), and for those of you familiar with the film's musical adaptation, Promises, Promises, certainly no Turkey Lurkey Time.

This past summer, I spent my days as a MBA Associate at Liberty Mutual's headquarters in Boston on Berkeley Street in Back Bay. I worked with a fine team in Group Benefits in Commercial Markets where I was able to head-up a project focused on the conception and development of an online self-reporting portal. Splitting my time between the conservative Boston locale and the much more casual (sadly, plaid was the closest thing I could find to flannel in my closet) vibe of Dover, NH - I gained great insights into the daily operations of the insurance business and was able to apply many of the skills and knowledge I developed in my first-year classes (Information Technology for Managers and E-Commerce) in a professional setting. From the development of a wireframe and prototype through the preparation for its anticipated market testing, I received senior level executive exposure (reporting to the COO of Group Benefits) and sincere accolades from the project steering committee. While I was very nervous taking on this high level project in the beginning, this experience has certainly built up my confidence and proven to me that the pedagogy I am exposed to in the classroom at BC will, if applied correctly, yield much success in a corporate setting like Liberty Mutual's. All in all -  I had a wonderful experience at Liberty Mutual as it was a perfect company to help me transition from the non-profit sector to Corporate America. While inarguably a corporate machine (See Fortune 100 list), Liberty Mutual has been able to uphold a culture defined by its sense of responsbility toward its customers, employees, and communities.

On a lighter and completely unrelated note, I was also able to return to the proverbial director's chair this summer as I was involved (as director and actor) in the premiere of the new musical, Affairs of a French Afternoon. One part Mel Brooks comedy, one part French farce, one part Shakespearean comedy, and one part Gilbert and Sullivan operetta - this new musical delighted sold-out audiences throughout its run. For your enjoyment, I have posted a fun, behind-the-scenes video as well as some photos from the production.  



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Winning


The last quarter has begun and the summer internship search is in full swing. While completing a series of cover letters this weekend, I am realizing just how many of the skills I've developed working in the non-profit sector will be transferable to a corporate setting. This summer I hope to find a position working in marketing and brand and product management. In the past week, there have been a lot of neat marketing/brand management/communications postings on the GTS MBA recruitment site for companies like New Balance, Welch's, Kettle Cuisine, Liberty Mutual, etc. Here's keeping my fingers crossed! While the application process can certainly be stressful - the insight, assistance, and support of Marilyn Eckleman in Career Services and the strong network of BC alumni have made the process much more manageable.

If I have not secured a summer internship offer by May 1 - I think I may have to widen my net. I hear Charlie Sheen is looking for an intern to promote and manage his social media network. Now that's a brand to manage! Charlie - my survival this year is proof that I possess the Tiger Blood you're looking for! While you may not have the talent of Robert Downey, Jr. I promise you by the end of our eight weeks together we'll have you suited up and ready to go for next summer's newest, biggest superhero blockbuster. Michael Bay - let's talk.

In other news - classes this quarter have been going well. It is very exciting to be taking our first round of electives. This semester, I am taking Brand Management, Business Law, and E-Commerce in addition to continuing my consulting project with Brown Brothers Harriman. So far the classes have been very interesting and full of great discussion. Life could not get busier, but honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Consulting Commences

The Boston College Consulting Project has begun. Our team has been assigned to work with Brown Brothers Harriman in the Financial District in Boston. Over the next semester, we will focus our efforts on researching and identifying globalization strategies to help BBH continue to lead the industry in cutting-edge technologies, innovative products, and client service excellence.  We are very lucky to be working with James Burns, a fellow BC MBA candidate and also a full-time BBH employee, as our second year consultant. Last week, our team visited the very elegant and impressive BBH headquarters (think Fidelity Fiduciary Bank from MARY POPPINS) to be drug-tested and complete our background checks. After several large bottles of water and a week of abstaining from poppy seed bagels, our team is ready to hit a home run for BBH.