Life at Sauder

Anyone who talks to an MBA student is likely to hear an awful lot about how busy they are.  Sure there is a lot of work to get through but that’s not all we do.  Most people here recognize that the value of the relationships you build during your MBA studies will probably exceed that gained from academic pursuits.

It’s not just about group projects, study dates and formal networking either.  The long lasting friendships are being forged out on the sports fields, over a beer on pub night, at 2am when you’re still with your P2 group, ski trips to Whistler, and in my case on the front face of The Chief.  It’s during these times that your personality gets a chance to come out and people really get to know you.

There is also nothing better than being able to have a chat with your prof’s over a coffee about non-academic issues.  Given the opportunities I’ve been able to pursue already I see a lot of my prof’s as friends rather than instructors.  I find I learn so much more in an environment of mutual respect, trust and open dialogue than from a straight lecture so it’s been hugely beneficial for me to be able to have those informal chats and really solidify my learning.

Over the break my classmates are heading to Mexico, the US, Australia, Asia, Europe, and India for leisure and to spend the holidays with family.  It’s pretty awesome to think that within this one group we represent so many cultures and areas of the world.  It’s a great feeling to know that in a years time I will have a huge network of influential friends all over the world.

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Thoughts and updates

Thanks to everyone who has been following this blog, getting in touch and asking questions about the admissions process and life at Sauder.  Life at Sauder is very busy! Hence why I haven’t posted here in a long time.  But busy in the sense that there are so many opportunities here if you want them.  I didn’t come here expecting to have someone hold my hand, I’ve been seeking out the opportunities I want and found so many I’ve had to really start thinking about what I want to achieve here.

This isn’t a test run, there is no second chance at life.  To quote one of my second year class mates “Sauder is the chance to make my life what I want it to be.”  There are no limits here, no one will shoot down your ideas.  I’ve been talking to a few people about an idea that is very close to me personally that I never thought I’d share with anyone.  Now I’m staring at a business opportunity that we believe could positively affect tens of thousands of people.

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

We’ve been talking a lot about communication lately. What makes for effective communication? How can we promote effective communication? What can you do to deal with chaotic communication?  One way we’re hoping to promote communication between Full-Time & Part-Time MBA students, prospective students, and the wider community is through a new MBA Society website.  For current students this will provide an integrated platform to communication, information and interaction between cohorts. For prospective students it will provide information about life at Sauder – academic & extra curricular, what you can expect from your time here, what opportunities exist here, orientation to Vancouver and Canada.

The website will be live by the end of the year.  In the mean time you should:

Follow us on Twitter!/SauderMBAS
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

There will be lots of exciting content coming through both these channels and we’ll be showcasing the videos on the new website.

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It’s a shot in the dark

by Julia Kerrigan

There is truly nothing I love more than a good under-dog turned miracle story. Nothing. My friends gave me one on monday. As a rec hockey team of mixed abilities they had trouble winning games at the beginning. Their goalie, having never skated but with extensive road hockey experience, wore vintage pads from the 70’s. We know it was out of financial necessity but like to say he’s a hipster goalie. Other team members include a young man who played hockey in the states and Europe… as his job. There were a smattering of boys who played varying levels of hockey growing up and a few who had never put on skates, even though they are exceptional athletes in their own sports.

The first few games we watched, just two of us girls doing accounting homework by the rink, were late at night, on Mondays and often frigidly cold. We would bring a box of Timbits for the boys so they had a little something after playing hard but often losing by some margin. They tied one game before getting relegated to the division below. This is when the magic happened!

Watching the boys come into their own, compete, win was exceptional. Even in playoff games the guys who hadn’t skated had ice time, were passed to, were out there just as much as the other team members. Playoffs were something else. Not only did a good number of our classmates come out to cheer the boys on against the second years of our program but so did some of our professors. The air was electric and the game often more exciting than some NHL ones I have been to.

The last game, just a few nights ago, was unreal. Our boys were older, fewer and less obnoxious than the younger undergrads. They were one up most of the game, we would catch up, tie then they would score. Our gritty boys coming back time and time again. Our unexpected goal tender owning the crease. Near the end of the game they were one goal down, it was 5 on 3 as a result of a few penalties taken (I stock some of it up to the fact that our boys could grow moustaches and looked like real men on the ice instead of scrawny boys). They pulled the goalie in the last minute and all I could think of was that game in the first series of the 2004 playoffs, Flames vs Cauncks. I just remember the Flames were up one and there were 10 seconds left in the game… then 5… and then the Canucks scored. That was the moment I learned that it is never too late, that the game’s not over until the buzzer sounds. So in the last 20 seconds of third period with 2 players less on the ice and no goalie in net our boys scored. I am not 100% sure I have ever screamed so loud..

Still down 2 players for almost a minute of the 5 minute overtime I literally couldn’t watch. It’s hard enough watching a team of underdogs when it’s 5 on 5 but 3 on 5… impossible. So as I watched the clock and not the ice suddenly something caught the corner of my eye. It was one of our moustached men, hurtling towards the other team’s net and in another moment of sheer belief the puck was off his stick, in the net, and like nothing else everyone was on their feet, hugging, screaming, laughing.

You see it on TV, gritty, tired teams. Teams of men and women who play hard mostly on the strength of their hearts who win the big game. It is all throwing helmets and gloves, hugging, moments of pure friendship and joy out on the ice because though deep down they know they could win they didn’t necessarily know they would win. It was amazing to see my friends like this. Just so ecstatic. I was moved.

Going for a beer after the game made it even more clear. The guys were just so stoked. Some had won bigger games, some had never won something like this at all. They all mentioned it was something that they wouldn’t forget. Something that would define their time in the MBA program.  I get that. I feel the same way. When we started watching them play, weeks and underdressed for freezing arenas ago, I just wanted to watch a game I enjoyed and support my friends. Monday night. I felt part of something. As cheesy as it sounds, this is what this program, and life are about. It made no sense to sit there late on a Monday night in the cold. It may have made little sense but god, it was just so fun.

So that’s it. Our boys are champions. From the start of the season to now it is unbelievable to see how far they have come. To see underdogs win big, as big as you can in Div 2 Rec hockey (yeah, that comes with a trophy).


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Pre-Core Retrospective Part II

As promised, a (belated) reflection on the final two pre-core courses: economics and case methodology.

Pre-Core 3 – Economics

The pre-core economics course was a great introduction for people who have never taken an econ course before. We were introduced to a lot of the basic concepts of econ, including supply and demand curves, sunk costs, opportunity costs, and how we calculate them. A lot of my classmates struggled with the subjectivity behind opportunity costs in particular – I suppose when you are accustomed to engineering or IT, you get used to the idea of one right answer, but economics is full of problems where the answer is “it depends”.

We did get into the more numbers-based part of economics as the days progressed. Looking back now, the numbers stuff is essential to my understanding of the current course material.

Pre-Core 4 – Case Methodology

Of all the pre-core courses, I think this one was the most valuable. I never dealt with case studies in my undergrad, so the whole concept was very new to me. The best thing about this course was that it gave a framework and a process for looking at cases. Without that framework, it’s very easy to look at a case and see a jumble of unsolvable problems, or just jump to conclusions.

This course gave us the chance to practice on two full cases before jumping into the core, where there’s a case on the final day of orientation. One of the major skills we focused on was making observations without making judgements.

The basic steps of case studies are:

– understand the background of the case

– observe the problems/issues

– analyze the cause and effect

– brainstorm a lot of potential solutions

– consider the criteria you’ll use to make your decision

– make a recommendation

– describe how to implement it.

Without this class, my first case memo would certainly have been less … organized.


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As I sit here on a glorious Thanksgiving weekend – 4 days off school, and only one assignment due next week! – I realize that somehow we’re 5 weeks into the core… It really feels like only a few days ago that I was sitting in orientation, wishing to get started on the work.

At the same time, I feel that I’ve learned so much! I’ve learned about the subject material, of course, but also about the less tangible things that we’re supposed to learn – how to work in teams, how to let others be the leader (not an easy thing in a group of people where almost everyone’s used to being in charge!), how to manage my time, how to prioritize…. I could go on forever.

I was asked recently by someone who was considering their MBA what my reason behind my choice was. I wasn’t sure how to answer him, initially.  His reason was legitimacy: he wanted to feel recognized in the eyes of the world and his peers. I can’t help thinking that he was considering it in completely the wrong way.

If you want to do an MBA for other people, whether it’s to make them happy, or to improve how they see you, you may get into the program, and you may do very well in your classes, but you won’t truly experience the MBA. It’s not just about the classes – although, don’t get me wrong, the classes are immensely important! – it’s about the people, and the personal learning, and the wealth of intangible skills you will gain.

As with an undergrad, there’s a good chance that many of the details we learn here will get lost in the long run. Chances are, I won’t remember how to do a profit maximization function 10 years into the future. And if my main goal was to learn minutiae, I might find this disappointing.

But my goal is learning transferable skills. Maybe this is because I come from an Arts background. With an English degree, you don’t learn a lot of practical skills, but somehow it’s supposed to qualify you to work in the ‘real world’. And the reason, I think, that employers care about a B.A. spent studying useless languages and poetry and Shakespeare is not because they want you to demystify Shakespeare for them, but because you’ve shown the ability to work.

An MBA is similar in a lot of ways, I think. One of the major themes of the core is integration: how every department in a company affects every other department. Another theme is teamwork, and learning about how you work in teams with an incredible variety of people.

In my experience so far, the MBA is not a formula or a recipe for prestige, money, or success (though in many circles, I’m sure it helps…) It’s a learning experience, and to truly succeed here, we need to stay open to every experience it can throw at us.

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Opening Worlds

I was initially going to call this post ‘I Love Fridays’ but when I started thinking about what to say about the program over the past few weeks ‘Opening Worlds’ seemed like a much better title.  If it sounds familiar to you, and hopefully it does, that’s because it is the motto for Sauder.  When I first heard the line I have to admit that I wondered how much my experience at Sauder would reflect that phrase.  I wondered if Sauder really did offer what it seemed to be promising.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a chance to come and sit under my tree on campus to enjoy the fresh air and sun shice. Being an MBA student doesn’t give you as much time to get outside to enjoy the sun and fresh air as you’d like.  But I think it’s important to create space for that in a busy lifestyle and Friday afternoons seem to be that time for me.  As I was walking home from school earlier this afternoon it struck me how much has happened over the past 5 or 6 weeks.  While any given day almost seems like a monotone of class and study things look much more interesting from the 10,000 foot view.

I’ve only been in Vancouver a couple of months but it already appears that Sauder is ‘Opening Worlds’ for me.  I’ve made my first steps towards becoming involved with the British Columbia Technology Industry Association,  I’m involved in a group creating a business plan for a sustainability initiative in the Philippines, I’ve been approached by a few firms I’ve dealt with in Oceania seeking my professional asisstance and I’m making inroads into improving the flow of information to MBA students at Sauder.  On a daily basis I seem to be working with organizations from around the world and a significant portion of that is outside the classroom.

Two years ago I was an entry level programmer in New Zealand, a year ago I was sleeping in the back of an SUV driving across North America trying to figure out what I wanted out of life.  Today I’m sitting under a tree on the UBC Vancouver campus still trying to figure out what I want out of life.  The difference now is that through the MBA program at Sauder I’m learning all the business and life skills that I need to pursue whatever I choose, anywhere in the world.

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The first two weeks

I’m sitting in one of the many parks around the UBC campus under a tree on yet another gorgeous sunny Vancouver afternoon.  This particular afternoon is strangely devoid of the readings or assignments that have become a part of life as an MBA student.  So I’m taking the opportunity to get some fresh air, relax in the sun and chill out for a little while.

I feel like the first two weeks were baptism by fire in some ways.  The pace of most classes is pretty quick, the number of assignments to juggle is high, and the time it takes me to write up a case memo is still pretty high.  Last week was definitely one of the busy weeks for me but getting stuck into the workload seems to pay off here.  I wouldn’t be outside this afternoon enjoying the sun if I hadn’t already completed the two assignments due tomorrow (here is where I admit I’m that odd guy in class that goes home and does assignments the same day they’re handed out).  It’s not all hard work and no fun here though.  We’ve put together a number of sports teams within our class, a few of us get out rock climbing most weeks, Thursday is usually pub night and later this week the core faculty are hosting the MBA students at a karaoke evening down town.

The amount of material we’ve already been exposed to in class is huge.  Yet I feel like the majority of the learning isn’t coming directly from the classroom.  For me it’s the times, like now, when I get a chance to reflect on what’s happened over the past day or week.  That’s when I’m able to start joining some of the dots to see how the different subjects mesh together and how ideas from one subject area reinforce those in others.

A few days ago I met up with a friend whom I hadn’t seen for over a year.  I was feeling pretty tired after the first busy week here… and I was up most of the night supporting New Zealand as they decimated Japan in the Rugby World Cup.  Despite me feeling exhausted and somewhat grumpy my friend commented that I seemed happier than they’d ever seen me before.  Now either I’m a really good actor or there was something in that.  Yes this program requires a lot of work and it can be tiring at times, but I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be, except the Southern Alps.  It doesn’t matter what options you in place in front of me I’d always rather be in the South Island back country.  Everyday I learn more about myself, about the world and about business.  I see new doorways opening all the time and I’m finding interests in subjects that I’d barely heard of before coming here and I know that many of my class mates feel exactly the same way.

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Post-Orientation in the Sauder School of Business – a Reflection

Time always passes by quickly when one is having fun, and it certainly felt that way during the last 2 weeks I had in the Sauder School of Business at UBC. The clear blue skies and late summer weather also uplifted everyone’s mood! In between introductory sessions in the lecture halls, the Orientation week definitely added a lot of value to the  program. With the lessons starting officially this week, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on what has been an exciting and activity packed week.

To start the group getting to know each other better, there was a facebook page online and the Orientation started with an ice-breaker scavenger hunt in downtown Vancouver that provided international students like myself an overview of the city centre. Next up was a team-building Ropes course held in UBC’s Point Grey campus itself that provides participants the opportunity to appreciate how working in teams, thinking out of the box and learning to overcome fear and uncertainty will help all of us in getting the most out of the MBA program. This was followed by a career panel talk that introduces us to the Vancouver business community and gives us the chance to think about our future upon graduation. Finally the end of the week was wrapped up with us being spread out into smaller teams to work on a business simulation ‘game’ that also happens to be our first team project.

In retrospect, the last week has been an excellent platform for me to get to know my classmates better and embrace the diversity within. In fact if I am not wrong, all the continents of the world is represented amongst the class of 2013. It is not just geographical representation that provides value, as I have discovered that people who have worked in other professions would have a different way of doing things and solving problems that we might not have thought about. Working in teams with this diverse bunch would definitely allow us a greater breadth of ideas and solutions!

And the start of lessons this week brought us to the topic of sustainability and the process of thought. These two topics are even more essential in today’s globalized economy, considering the need for fresh perspectives in dissecting and solving problems, as well as looking at the longer term and the bigger picture to strive for a better balance between business, society and the environment.

From the outdoor activities to the concepts covered thus far, Orientation week has also been feeding us well. There was a great dinner on the patio facing the beach on the first evening, and I am pretty sure everyone in the class would miss the amazing variety of pastries and fruits served every morning for breakfast. I might have half-suspected that they were trying to keep attendance high during the Orientation week by providing us with great lunch everyday. This also included a dinner at the University Golf Club with the Dean of the Sauder Business School.

Between the fun, learning and the food, meeting most of our core team professors at the start of this week has also been encouraging since they seem to be a great bunch of people to be learning from, and the help that has been provided by team mates within the program has been so spontaneous and enthusiastic that I can’t help but feel optimistic that we have one great team here, and I am hoping that we keep this morale high throughout the next 16 months!

Lunch during Orientation!

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Pre-core retrospective

Hi everyone! Now that the core part of the program is in full swing (or at least, it certainly feels like it, even though we’re only 3 days in), I thought I’d reflect back on my experiences in pre-core.

Because my undergrad was in English, I decided to take all 4 pre-core courses, and I am very glad I did! I suspect I won’t understand the true value of the courses until we get farther into the core, but I definitely learned a lot.

Pre-Core 1 – Quantitative Methods

The Quantitative Methods pre-core course was largely a math class. A lot of it covered material that was on the GMAT, but with a lot more detail (and with numbers complicated enough to require calculators!) Specific topics included algebra, probability, finance and basic calculus (not as scary as you might think). Unlike a traditional math class, we applied these concepts! The finance stuff was all completely new to me, but the prof (Brian Graham) did an amazing job of explaining things. Every concept was demonstrated with an easy-to-follow, step-by-step example. We also did a fair amount of work with Excel, which I think was pretty challenging for people who weren’t super comfortable with Excel already. I consider myself relatively Excel-savvy (though not an expert by any means!), and I found the material challenging but interesting.

One of the things I think the prof was really trying to drill into us was the danger of making unfounded assumptions. Our gut instincts can help us with a lot of things, but we shouldn’t always trust them blindly… especially when it comes to money!

Pre-core 2 – Accounting

I’m going to start out by saying that this course did not make me discover a deep-hidden passion for accounting… That said, it was an incredibly useful, detailed introduction to a topic I’d never studied before. We covered topics like journaling (in the accounting sense, not the write-about-your-life sense), income statements, balance sheets, and assets and liabilities and how to determine which transactions belong in which categories. It may sound fairly straightforward, but we went into a *lot* of detail. According to the instructor, Steve, who is also one of the core profs, we covered approximately a semester’s worth of an accounting undergrad course!

A lot of this class consisted of us doing practice problems, and we had quite a bit of homework… Of course, had I been better at accounting, the homework would have gone much faster, I’m sure. All in all, I feel much better starting to look at case studies now with the accounting pre-core under my belt, even though I still have a long way to go before it *all* makes sense to me.

I’ll continue talking about the other two pre-core courses in a later post!


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Welcome MBA Class of 2013

Six weeks ago I arrived in Vancouver after 26 hours of travel and an incredibly busy lead up to my departure from New Zealand.  I was alone in what for me is a big city, I didn’t know anyone, I still wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself in to and I had nowhere to live.  For a brief moment or two my resolve around what I’d come here to achieve waivered and the wall of challenges in front of me seemed insurmountable.

Today I live in an amazing flat just 10 minutes walk from Sauder with some very cool flat mates.  All the simple but unavoidable items like bank accounts, a cell phone, finding my way around, getting a bus pass, furnishing my room and locating my first class have long since been taken care of leaving me plenty of time to start exploring before school started.  Since then I’ve been rock-climbing in Squamish more times than I can remember, bet some locals up the Grouse Grind, visited Vancouver Island and the Greater Vancouver Zoo, taken some truly beautiful trail runs through Pacific Spirit Regional Park, experienced Wreck Beach, explored downtown and met some incredible people many of whom I’m already sure will become lifelong friends.

Without a doubt the Sauder MBA attracts an intelligent group of candidates, but what strikes me the most about my cohort is that everyone is down to earth and extremely accepting over everyone around them.  I’ve yet to have a conversation with one of my classmates where I haven’t walked away feeling excited about the next time I get a chance to engage with them for a general chat or as part of a class exercise.  And I don’t think I got lucky with my class either.  I think this type of person is indicative of the type of people attracted to the Sauder MBA, to Vancouver, to British Columbia and the type of person that the recruitment team looks for.

I was quite nervous about entering into an MBA for one reason only.  I wasn’t worried about my ability to cope with the workload or about moving to a new country. Nor did not knowing anyone or keeping pace with my class mates bother me.  I was nervous because I had an idea that everyone going to business school knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives while I still had no idea.  Let me say this: Nothing could be further from the truth.  When we were asked earlier today how many people had a good idea of what they wanted to do after they graduated less than a handful of people raised their hand.  This was in a room with over 100 MBA students in it.  The message is clear; if you have an idea or know what you want to do that’s great and you’ll perhaps suffer a little less stress throughout this experience than the rest of us.  But many people come back to graduate level education because that want a change in their current careers, possibly their lives, but they’re not really sure what it is they want to do next.  So if that sounds like you, don’t worry, you’ll find good company here.

Many of my classmates echo my thoughts when I say that the further I get into my time here the more excited I get about it.  Sauder has made it very clear that our success is their success and they’ll go out of their way to help us in that.  In fact I’m still learning new methods that they’ve put in place to help make sure that happens.  From a huge renovation with state of the art facilities, world class faculty and support staff to an all you can consume career coaching center and numerous job search treks.  In some ways it feels like you’d have to try quite hard to fail here!  There are so many opportunities to explore and take advantage of it can be difficult to keep track of it all.  Fortunately everyone here is aware of that so they’re fantastic at getting you timely information without overloading you and even send out little reminders before key dates.

There are many things I’d like to say to my classmates but I’ll pick just one. I DO NOT wish you good luck.  Many years ago as I was standing outside an exam room waiting to sit a chemistry final my teacher came around.  As he started handing out red bulls and chocolate bars I expected him to wish each of us good luck but instead he said “I’m not going to wish you good luck, you’ll get the mark that you deserve.” In academics and business I don’t think there is any such thing as long term luck.  So apply yourself, work hard, ask for help when you need it, give it when it is asked for and I wish you the marks and the success that you deserve.

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