Creating Your Own Path

This next post is written by Marek Swierczewski, a Senior Marketing Major at the NIU College of Business.Marek 224x300 Creating Your Own Path

When I first came into NIU I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in. On one hand my whole life I’ve spent obsessing about cars and racing which led me to believe engineering was the right course of action.  On the other, I’ve already taken business and economics classes in High School and was set to go into management or marketing in college. I chose to go into marketing, but I had another dilemma on my hands; how to get involved? There are a lot of great organizations in the marketing department, like the American Marketing Association or the Collegiate Sales Advisory Board, but none really seemed to fit me. It so happened that my dilemma was solved by my brother attending Cornfest at the DeKalb airport my freshman year.

While at Cornfest my brother ran across the NIU Motorsports Formula team. The team designs, creates, and races a formula style car every year. Well, my brother told me about them and I attended the informational meeting where I found out that a big portion of the competition is a marketing presentation, I was hooked instantly. This was a way for me to take part in both of my passions simultaneously.

Engineering Car 1024x768 Creating Your Own Path

"I was hooked instantly"

It so happened that the team never had a dedicated marketing person on their team, they’ve never even had a business major on the team; I was the first. After some time I realized that there’s a huge business portion to the team that most members don’t even pay attention to. Biggest of all is the sponsorships, the team runs completely with money from sponsors so it is imperative that all members learn how to deal with potential sponsors. I have focused a lot of my time on teaching each member how to deal with potential sponsors and how to properly approach a sponsor. But the biggest part of my job is selling the car and the whole organization to a panel of potential investors in a mock selling scenario at competition at the end of the year. I’ve had to learn all about marketing plans, selling, finance, even production plant layout to be able to market our team as the best investment against over 100 different universities from around the world.

I am on my fourth year with the team right now, I am the head of the marketing department and am currently in charge of recruitment for the team, and I enjoy it more now than ever. The team has given me a way to practice my skills in marketing in an automotive environment which has lead me to realize the perfect career path for me. I am dedicated to join the racing industry as a sponsor relationship manager, and it is because of my four years on the team actually going out and doing what I am learning in my marketing and sales classes that I have been able to truly find my perfect career. If there is one thing that my experiences with the team have taught me is that there are many different ways to put what you learn in a classroom to work. Don’t limit yourself to just taking classes, go out, find what you are truly passionate about, and get involved, it is by far the best way to spend your years in college.

Women in Business Event

This next guest post is written by Elyse Jares, an Accounting Student at the NIU College of Business.elyse Women in Business Event

There are 21% of women in senior management around the world. When I saw this statistic it did not surprise me, especially in the business world. Men still dominate in this field. There are usually only a handful of women in leadership roles. That is why I was thankful to have the opportunity to attend the annual Crocker Program for Emerging Business Leaders at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Cindy Crocker, 1980 Marketing Alumna, served as Senior Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications for Equity Group Investments, one of the nation’s leading real estate companies.

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Women in Business panelists (left to right): NIU Business Dean Denise Schoenbachler, Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro, Program Founder & Host Cindy Crocker

She uses her knowledge and success in the business world to inspire NIU College of Business students. The Crocker Program for Emerging Business Leaders gave 50 NIU business students the opportunity to network with NIU College of Business alumni business leaders and the extremely successful Debra Cafaro. The women shared their insights on networking, leadership, their careers, and balancing between work and their personal lives.

When I first got to the event I felt a little out of place and intimidated. I had never been to a networking event or a hotel that nice before. I found myself diving into the appetizers and felt awkward when I had to introduce myself with no free hands. I didn’t know if I should start introducing myself right away or let everyone eat for a while. Once everyone sat down and each business leader introduced herself, everything seemed more relaxed. The keynote speaker was Debra Cafaro who is the CEO of Ventas, Inc., an S&P company with an enterprise value of $27 billion. Debra Cafaro was selected as one of the Top 50 Women in World Business by the Financial Times. She is happily married with two kids. A major concern many women have and society expects is balancing between work and family. Being able to see several successful business leaders who have juggled a family was very inspiring. They made me realize that you won’t always have a balance between a career and family but you can have both as long as you put enough time and passion into each. It was also informative to hear some networking tips like writing down names right after you meet someone and keeping up to date with the sports highlights.

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Refining our networking skills

It is true when people say it is all about who you know. This event was helpful in the way that it showed us what a real networking event is like. Being able to make a lasting impression on someone involves confidence, assertiveness, and putting yourself out there. This event gave all of us the opportunity to practice these things in a safe and comforting environment. Many of these women were in our shoes and graduated with a degree from NIU. Seeing the possibilities of where our lives could be in 10, 20, or 30 years from now was truly motivational. I am so fortunate to have these types of opportunities through the College of Business and especially events tailored to women in business professions.

The House Cafe: My Hidden Treasure

This next guest post is written by Mike Glassberg, a Marketing Student at the NIU College of Business. Follow him on twitter @mglassberg2. 

mike regs e1347975417580 224x300 The House Cafe: My Hidden Treasure

To preface the post, “hidden treasures” are the opportunities and events at NIU that you have to seek out.  They are the opportunities that aren’t always announced in your classes or sent to your zmail.  They are some of the most rewarding activities you can participate in, but they are often overlooked or unknown to many students.  Below, Mike will describe one of his own hidden treasures that he uncovered in his NIU experience  …

What is your stress reliever? Exercising? Music? Drawing? Video games?

I’ve found out in my 3 years at NIU that if you don’t maintain a mental balance between school life and social life – you will go crazy. My stress relief has always been music – I would get home from a long day of work or class and put on my favorite band and jam out. I’ve been doing this since middle school and thought (until last weekend) that this was the best way for me to relieve stress.

I was wrong.

Last week, I stumbled across an ad on Facebook for a free NIU Jazz Band show at DeKalb’s own “House Cafe.” I convinced a few of my friends to join me and we absolutely loved it.

The House Cafe1 300x225 The House Cafe: My Hidden Treasure

A fun environment that fosters productivity?! Sign me up!

The House Cafe provides an amazing experience:

Good music - The House Cafe features a variety of music – Bluegrass, Funk, Jam, Jazz, Punk, Dance, Rock, Country. You name it, the House Cafe has hosted it.

Off campus - Whenever I get stressed out, all I can think about is school, classes, projects, quizzes, and intangible “points”. I often forget there’s a real world outside of NIU, with real people doing real-life things. The House Cafe provides an amazing escape for students even though it’s less than a mile away from campus.

Atmosphere - Great people. Very non-judge-mental. I’m typing this blog on a brown leather couch in the front of the House Cafe while giving the occasional high-five to friendly people passing by.

I’ve started to, and will continue to use The House Cafe as a study outlet. Last Friday night my friends went out partying. I knew I had entirely too much work to do, so instead of being a hermit and working in my room all night, I decided to come to The House and pay $7 to listen to live music, get productive, and still enjoy a social environment.

The NIU Jazz Band plays on Wednesday nights at the House Cafe (FOR FREE!) I’ll be at The House every Wednesday from now on, sitting at a table with my laptop, enjoying live music while still getting productive. Feel free to come out and do the same, I’d love to share such an awesome experience with other people!

Mike

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.

 

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

What is this CAUSE all about?

I’m excited to interrupt the “Getting Involved” series of posts (which will resume next week) in order to introduce the very first Guest Post!  This week’s Guest Post comes from Ryan Sterling, a senior at NIU’s College of Business.  Ryan is also a co-Founder and Events Director of NIU CAUSE, a new student organization in the college.  Here are Ryan’s own words about NIU CAUSE, why it’s so meaningful, and how you can participate and make a difference in the world.

 What is this CAUSE all about ~ by Ryan Sterling Head Shot Professional What is this CAUSE all about?

In the coming months I will be taking the next steps in life, that of course being graduation and then a career in sales. I have been so fortunate to take part in so many opportunities here at NIU and in the College of Business (COB). All of which I feel have set me up for what I believe will be a successful career. That being said in my final semester I ask myself why I should put more on my plate by founding an organization. Well, the short answers are I love being involved, and giving back to the community. But CAUSE is so much more than that to me.

This semester I needed more credit hours in the college and so a friend recommended I take a course in the college called:  Management 311 Social Entrepreneurship (MGMT 311). Going into the course I didn’t know really much about MGMT 311 except Dennis Barsema was the instructor. In the first class Mr. Barsema asked if anyone would be interested in starting a social entrepreneurship (SE) club. The following class sessions I had become so empowered that I had to do something to improve the community around me and those abroad. After several meetings just this semester CAUSE was off the ground and running.

The name was one of the harder things to establish. We wanted to include SE in to the title and one of the founders came up with the acronym CAUSE and we liked it but we didn’t have a word to use for the letter U. After a few days an idea came to Dr. Christine Mooney (NIU CAUSE’s faculty advisor) while she was attending a conference. “Unreasonable” she said in the following week’s executive board meeting. The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World by authors John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan the book we are reading in MGMT 311. It was only fitting that we use the term because of what the definition means in the book “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world” whereas “the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” That is how the Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs (CAUSE) was born.

Panel Picture 2 224x300 What is this CAUSE all about?After we met for a few weeks CAUSE was ready with a series of informational meetings to get the word out, and find out why other people want to make a difference. As the Events Director, I was responsible for putting together our kickoff event Panel Discussion this past Tuesday night which featured Rowan Richards of Steward’s Market and Kathleen Wright of Collaborative Group. The turnout and execution of the event was simply rewarding and I know my fellow peers were able to take something away from the experience. I encourage everyone to join NIU CAUSE and take part in the Entrepreneurship certificate classes. I am glad I learned about other ways businesses can positively affect their customers.

CAUSE logo 300x138 What is this CAUSE all about?Here’s how you can join CAUSE and make a difference in the world by attending our weekly meetings Tuesday nights in Barsema Hall Room 227 at 6:30pm. In addition, Follow @NIUCAUSE on Twitter, Add us on Facebook at C.A.U.S.E (Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs), or by sending your email address to  me at Richard.Ryan.Sterling@gmail.com and we will be more than happy to add you to our Google Group  which will keep you updated with upcoming events. This is a new organization so we are receptive to hearing about any way people want to make a difference and we are more than willing to help people make that impact.