The Blog Experiment

Several months ago when I began research to start a blog on behalf of the College of Business I was trying to envision what it would look like, what it would discuss and how many people would be writing for it.

The original idea was to have several student bloggers sharing their experiences on the blog. What I came across (and what I ultimately want this blog to look like) would be Harvard’s student blog or Cornell’s student blog. Those are the idealistic vision of what I want this blog to turn into.

At first it was just me supplying the content but I soon expanded to “Guest Posts” in order to get other opinions or ‘voices’ involved. It is great and I’m certainly a fan of the guest posts. I’d still like to see this blog expand to multiple students which would hopefully represent different areas of the College of Business to bring more diversity and different experiences in various areas or majors.

I’ve gotten great feedback from peers and faculty who read the different posts on this blog. It’s great knowing people out there are actually reading it and that they enjoy it. It’s a bit of a bummer that I’ll soon be leaving and the blog won’t have fresh content for awhile (until the fall semester begins). It also won’t be maintained by me any longer either. On the bright side, it will be someone new, with new thoughts, new feelings and new experiences.It will be a fresh change of pace.

I’ve laid the foundation of this blog for the future students who contribute to it. I’ll have to check in from time to time to read the new stories and watch its growth going forward.

Words of Advice

Last week I did a question and answer session with a College of Business (CoB) student named Rod. He is a very active individual in the CoB. He is a senior finance major and currently the VP of Community Service for his business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi (DSP).

I wanted him to share his thoughts and give words of advice to younger students/incoming students. The only thing I want to add is that I share the same opinions as Rod and think that what he has to offer in this Q&A is very helpful and valuable.

Nick: What lead you to be involved on campus?

Rod: One of the biggest things growing up is to give back to the community. Growing up in impoverished neighborhood I appreciated people coming in to tutor or give time to help someone else develop.

Nick: As a senior; why are you still staying actively involved even though graduation is three weeks away?

Rod: I have a passion to stay involved. Seeing the look on someone’s face when you help them and the big difference it makes to someone to spend a little bit of your time with them. It isn’t a right but an obligation or a duty to give back to our communities. It’s like sucking up crops without fertilizing the ground anymore for the future. I want to build on the legacy for others to further build upon in the future.

Nick: What makes you want to leave the College of Business better when you leave versus when you started here?

Rod: For us to continually be ranked atop the nation, we need to bring in better teachers and better resources for students to be the best that they can be. Personally, for people to become better people you must reinvest time in them.  We need to show people how to be a better person so they can do it on their own, similar to movie Paying It Forward.

Nick: What would you have done differently with your time here?

Rod: Academically, I no regrets, I leveraged every opportunity that came. I networked in events, and through my business fraternity (Delta Sigma Pi). The biggest downfall of underclassman is that they do not utilize all the resources around them. An unseen downfall is that they try to become members of so many things and they don’t focus on a handful and become over stretched. You can’t exert your full potential in any one organization. You don’t just join an organization to say you are part of it; you need to be able to devote time and resources in it to make it a great organization. Personally, as VP of Community Service for DSP I wouldn’t be able to hold the position because time would be pulled into other areas.

Nick: What advice can you give to current students and prospective students?

Rod: One of the Biggest pieces of advice I can give without touching on prior information, and is something I give to family friends and my girlfriend is this; step outside your comfort zone, put yourself in uncomfortable situations. It is the only way you can grow. Don’t be afraid to fail because through failure you learn from your mistakes and you become better at what you do. My Mother told me ‘if you’re going to fall, fall fast, so you can get up quick.’ You can apply the same principle for life not just academics. Go in full force and don’t be timid. If you try something and don’t like it, at least you know it’s not for you. But you won’t know until you try.

A big question prospective students get asked is what’s your major, what are you going to be? It is essential to know what you DON’T want to be. If you know what you don’t want to do you know not to go down that path and you can venture down other paths you haven’t been before to explore, grow and find what fits you.

I was an accounting intern at Deloitte for three summers and realized I don’t want to spend all this time out of my life per week for this particular career path. That’s how I ended up going into finance which is similar to accounting. It was a tough choice to switch paths and walk away from great earning potential in an accounting career. But it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Nick: Any final thoughts?

Rod: Meeting new people has been a big breakthrough in college/academic career. A Lot of people generally tend to stay grounded in their high school niche of friends. You never grow if you stay stagnant. I went from predominantly black grammar school to very diverse high school. I learned quickly to adapt to different cultures and ethnicities. When you go into work force you won’t be working strictly with one nationality or ethnicity. Meeting a variety of people in different settings enables you to learn to identify with each culture and what makes each one uniqueme 293x300 Words of Advice and different from its own.

One of the key take aways: Get out, meet new people, have fun, and take a chance. Like I said earlier don’t be afraid to try new things, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Take a risk; be it a calculated risk, but take one. Big gains come from big risk. If you see cute girl in the hall way, can’t get a date if you don’t talk to her! Take rejection as a form of constructive criticism; a checklist of what you need to work on to be a better person.

The final piece of advice: No matter what, stay true to who you are and your values. I walk to the beat of my own drum but I still get along with everyone. Be comfortable in your own skin and with who you are. If you don’t like it, do something about it. Never settle for a situation you aren’t comfortable with. Don’t fit in the box, make the box fit around you.

 

2012 Ethics Case Competition

Last week on Friday I participated in an Ethics Case Competition sponsored by the student organization LEAD. The fictional case we were given was about a salesman who was sent overseas in someone’s place in order to win a $50 million contract. The client then told the salesman to bring $6,000 – $7,000 worth of whiskey to the contract signing. The salesman knew there was a company gifting policy and guidelines on what constitutes bribery. However, he could not remember what the guidelines were, nor could he get hold of anyone from his company. It was up to us to do an analysis of the situation and make a recommendation in a ten minute presentation to a panel of judges.

I’m a competitive person just like my competition partner, Abbey Vanderwoude. That’s what drove us to spend a ton of time doing research, preparing our analysis, arguments and presentation. (Don’t be fooled, it requires a lot of effort to deliver a worthy presentation in this competition. You should devote quite a bit of time and energy to it).

Even though we ultimately fell short of victory it was still a good experience to participate in. Sure it was a fictional case, but in listening to Dennis Barsema‘s keynote that day and in talking with my father who also is in sales, situations like this occur in the real world.

It is no surprise that the NIU College of Business truly prepares you for ethical dilemmas and how to best approach them. The College of Business truly stands by its brand statement of “Where the Classroom Meets the Business World” and its philosophy of “Thinking & Doing.” Even though it isn’t really possible to teach someone how to be ethical; this college does do its share in teaching the concept of ethics and provides tools for people to take steps in the right direction. This college is after all, recognized for how it incorporates ethics in its curriculum (ranked 3rd in the nation in 2011 according to Businessweek).

Through an experience such as this and listening to other people’s experiences you can learn to guide yourself in the proper direction. In Mr. Barsema’s words, you need to understand yourself and your values to let your moral compass lead you down the right path in deciding between “doing things right and doing the right thing.”

I encourage everyone to participate in the Ethics Case next year if you have the opportunity to do it. It truly is a wonderful experience.

Appreciation and Mentoring

The other day I had someone hand me a thank you card with a long-winded verbal thanks for all the help I gave them in prepping them for their Advanced Professional Selling (MKTG 450) interview in order to be accepted into the course.

Now, I worked with several people, all for several hours in going over their cover letter, resume and the actual interview process. I wanted to make absolutely sure that they would be overly prepared in order to get accepted into the course. They were all appreciative of my efforts in helping them but one person stood out the most. The handwritten thank you note along with the sincere verbal thanks was fantastic.

I get nothing out of spending time with these people, it doesn’t help my grade, I don’t get any sort of extra credit or recognition. I do it because I enjoy mentoring someone and sharing my knowledge and experiences to help them achieve their own goals. I’ve always been taught how far a thank you letter or note goes but I had never actually received one for myself from someone. I can see why recruiters or managers enjoy getting thank you cards from applicants or employees. It does mean a great deal to an individual when its recognized by others that their time or resources are appreciated.

I do look forward to continuing my involvement with the College of Business after I graduate and specifically my programs/department. I’ll certainly get a lot of intrinsic satisfaction knowing I can influence, motivate, inspire or mentor someone along their journey through school and into a career path they’ll enjoy.

This is just the thought of the day for me, but to turn it into a lesson learned/passed along:

1) Show appreciation to others for their time, their help or other non-obligatory efforts. It certainly goes a long way.

2) Whether you’re in school or you graduated; take time to help others achieve their goals because whether you realize it or not, a lot of people took their time to help you achieve yours.

 

Making an Impact; Lighting Up Africa

This next guest post is written by Jason Schwebke, a graduate Accounting student at the NIU College of Business. He is one of the members on a social project called Light Up Africa, and this is his story…

Light Up Africa evolved from the first ever “Social Venture Competition” class at NIU.  The class was taught by Dennis Barsema (after whom the business school is named) and began as a group of three accounting students partnered with one engineering student.  I had taken a class as a senior that Dennis taught, called “Social Entrepreneurship”.  After really enjoying what Dennis offered in that class, I decided to apply to be in his new class, the social venture competition, and from there the rest is history.

It was our goal to develop an idea for a sustainable business that could have a large impact on a large amount of people.  With this in mind, our group began discussing our ideas.  We kicked around ideas about computers, drinking water, electricity, food supply, education…you name it, it probably came up at one point in our discussions.  Not only did we need a product or service, we needed a location to that would be our target market.  With no limits on what we could do or where we could do it, it was a tough decision to zone in on one area and one product or service.

Ultimately, one thing sort of biased our group…in a very good way.  Alan, our engineer, was fresh off the plane from his recent summer long trip to Africa.  His stories about the people and places he saw were incredible.  He saw people living in conditions that most people do not believe even exist in the world today.  But the people still smiled and laughed as if they had everything…because they knew no different.  From this point on, our team has been focused on bringing basic electricity to people in Eastern Africa.  We would use the movement of everyday things to create energy that would be stored and used as electricity later.  Our idea is based on a small personal device that can be attached to moving objects such as bikes, cattle, boats, and even humans.  Based on the objects movement, the device will generate and store electricity to be used at night to provide light and power small electrical devices for impoverished families.   The device also has a universal plug in it.  One thing that we were amazed at is that everyone in Africa has a cell phone, but no way to charge them other than using a car battery (the battery has been taken out of a car…the people in our target market don’t have cars).  The Zoom Box will also give these people a way to charge their phones.

Fast forward three months and a lot of hours of work later, and we were presenting to a panel judges on the “final exam” day for Dennis’s class.  We had a 36 page business plan, complete with financials, competitor analysis, distribution ideas, and a heck of a lot more.  At the end of the night, we were awarded 1st place and a check for $10,000.  We have been busy since December.  We traveled to Chicago and presented to the NIU Foundation Board of Directors.  We just returned from Phoenix, AZ where we presented at an NIU Foundation event.  We have also been named a semi-finalist for the Dell Social Venture Competition and for the University of Oxford Global Entrepreneur Challenge.  We are waiting to find out if we will be a finalist and have a chance to travel to Oxford to compete for prize money.  Please take a moment to vote for our venture for the Dell Social Venture Competition by following this this link.  http://www.dellchallenge.org/projects/light-africa

 

Thank you for reading!

Light Up Africa Team 300x219 Making an Impact; Lighting Up Africa

The Fastest Year of Life

Last year a lot of my friends had graduated and the one thing every single one of them told me as I went into my last year of college was this: “it’s going to go by fast; enjoy it while you can.” Not only were they right, in my opinion it was a severe understatement. The fall semester felt like it was over as soon as it begun and the spring semester feels almost as if everything over the past several months happened in a matter of week.

People ranging from younger students and faculty to friends and family are all asking me if I’m excited to graduate. The answer is “yes and no.” People ask why and I say it’s a bittersweet situation. As my roommate and I had discussed just last week, we are ready to graduate, start great careers and start earning real salary and commissions. However, we are nowhere near ready to let go of the college life-style. The huge house parties, the cheap prices at the college bars, always having Fridays off (if you’re a marketing/business major), the freedom of minimal responsibility, staying up until all hours of the night and being able to push through the next day; all is going to be, for the most part, gone.

My roommate and I both said if we could rewind life back to freshman year and start over, we would. Not because we have any regrets (though everyone has some) it would be entirely for the purpose of going through the entire experience again. If I had even just one more year in college there are some things I would do that I wasn’t able. I was recruited to be part of the Experiential Learning Center, where a small group of students act as consultants to a business on a real business issue. Due to scheduling and the academic path I chose, far too many people said it was too much work to handle (and I’m the kind of person who takes on everything, so it says a lot when you’re told more than once not to do it). One more year, and I would be the first to apply and tell every faculty coach why I should be on their consulting project. I also would like to have had one more chance to scrape together enough funds to study abroad since I couldn’t afford to go this past year.  That’s academically, but on the personal side of life, it is tough to say what things I would do that I’ve yet to accomplish. I wouldn’t do anything differently, I would continue trying to take advantage of every moment and seize every opportunity from going out to forming new relationships. I can only hope that if incoming college students stumble across this post that they go to school with the notion that it will go by quick and they need to take advantage of everything as early as possible.

I’ve come to a point in life where I have to make a huge transition that I’m kind of ready for but kind of sad for it to be over.  College has certainly been one of the best chapters of my life and I’ve accumulated a great deal of stories and memories. So much so that I’ve been told more than once my life should have been a reality show during my tenure at NIU. It’s part of growing up though; you can’t be in college forever (unless you’re Van Wilder and take seven years to complete you’re undergrad). However, I still plan on maintaining the relationships I’ve established here to the best of my ability. That includes not only friends, but the professionals I’ve met and the faculty I’ve come to know and love.

Getting Involved: Part 6 of 6

Getting Involved

This is the last post of the series about involvement on campus. Part one discussed why I got involved, part two explained why I didn’t get involved sooner, part three touched on the opportunities available through being involved, part four talked about leadership experience, part five elaborated on how to get involved, and part six are my thoughts going forward for post graduation involvement.

Getting Involved; Part 6: Involvement After Graduation

As graduation comes closer to me I’ve been challenged to think about getting involved after graduation. Being in a professional organization or two will benefit me in my career as it will give me opportunities to network and potentially meet new clients or referrals through these connections.

I’m going to practice exactly what I preach in these past several posts and I’m going to go about it the same way I would if I were in school. I’ll use the resources I have now to figure out what I need to do down the road. Professors in the College of Business all had a career before coming here to teach. They’ve got real world knowledge and experience, so they’ll know organizations I can get involved with professionally or at the very least, know the direction in which to send me.

AMA will be easy to continue involvement with since I’m a collegiate member. When they send my form via email and in the mail I just need to renew and upgrade my status. Simple.

AMA had a meeting dedicated to an individual from the Young Professionals Network which is focused on allowing young professionals the ability to network with others and give back to the College of Business. The Young Professionals Network also has a partnership with the NIU Executive Club. Both of which keep you connected to College of Business alumni of all business backgrounds while still giving back to the NIU community and its students.

My dad having had a long career in sales told me a lot of people will get involved in their local community whether it is a Lion’s club, a park district or some other volunteer work. My dad said when I was playing hockey he would network with all the other parents from not just my team, but within the whole hockey club.

I’ve experienced how getting involved as a student can pay off. In a few months it will be time to shift gears, become newly involved in other things, and see how that investment of my time will pay off in furthering my career as well as others lives.

What do you think about getting involved after school? How will you go about it?