Rice Football

And speaking of football, my Redskins weren't the only team to do well this weekend. Saturday after the Association of Rice Alumni board meeting, I had the pleasure to attend a Rice football game against the University of North Texas.

My Owls didn't disappoint me in a record-setting, 77-20 demolition of the Mean Green. With four TD receptions in the first half alone, Jarrett Dillard tied the NCAA record for career TD receptions (50). He and QB Chase Clement broke the NCAA record for TDs between a QB-WR pair (40).

It was a beautiful day too--great football weather. I can't believe it's been 11 years since I stepped onto the field in Rice Stadium as a player. My freshman roommate and I took some time the day before to throw the ball around, run some patterns, and get some sprint exercise. While it was a lot of fun, the subsequent soreness in my hamstrings reinforced that I am not in the same shape I was in back during my playing days--go figure!

Over a decade later, though, the lessons I learned on the field are still paying off: teamwork, leadership, discipline, integrity, and a relentless thirst for victory even in the face of the most daunting of challenges . . . fortunately, the field of business doesn't require quite so much exertion from my hamstrings!

NFC East

The mighty Washington Redskins beat division rival Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium AGAIN yesterday. I missed most of the game while I was flying back to Switzerland, but I did see part of it during my layover in Newark. Hail to the Redskins!

Moreover, hail to the NFC East! With the Giants (3-0 and defending Super Bowl champs), Redskins (3-1), Cowboys (3-1), and Eagles (2-2), is there really any division that can compare?


BBQ, Blues, and Football

Yesterday was very productive. I met with a former US Deputy Secretary of Energy to discuss which companies had the most potential for global impact. He was very helpful and provided several interesting leads, especially around companies that specialize in the IT side of the energy world.

Then the evening was wonderful. I sat around with 10 of my best friends in Houston, dining on Goode Company BBQ, and talking about everything ranging from politics to Ayn Rand to football. One player was conspicuously absent but he was the topic of conversation frequently enough that he was at least represented in spirit.

Through a miracle of chance, my brother is in town this week so he joined us for dinner and will crash at my house. The opportunity to see him--and my nephew, his son--was the icing on the cake. This is a great trip.


Texas Burgers

Now that the beach volleyball season is essentially over in Lausanne, it feels good to be back in a place where it is still going strong. Tonight I played coed 4s at Third Coast Volleyball, my old stomping ground. It was good to see a number of familiar faces and to get in a couple of hours of play.

Afterward we picked up buffalo burgers at Bubba's Texas Burger Shack, a local legend. A couple of days after listening to Buffett perform Cheeseburger in Paradise, this was just what I needed. Huge buffalo meat patties, fresh wheat buns, gooey cheddar cheese, smoked jalapenos, and grilled onions, oh how I missed thee . . .

Yesterday I had Cajun (Treebeard's) for lunch and tomorrow I will have BBQ (Goode Co.) for dinner. If I can add some Tex Mex to the mix, I will feel complete from a culinary perspective.

There is still no Internet at home, which is making my career pursuits harder than anticipated.


Houston After Ike

After sustaining days of hurricane-force winds and torrential rains, Houston has held up pretty well. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the Texas gulf coast, much of which may have been dealt a fatal blow. In Houston there is still debris all over the streets--mostly fallen trees/limbs, but also a significant amount of glass from shattered windows and material from signs and buildings. Many traffic lights are still without power and that is causing serious traffic congestion.

Still, the city stood up well to a direct hit and for many it's almost back to business as usual. We have power at my house, although unfortunately still no Internet. The Rice alumni office is letting me camp out with them during the daytime so I can check in online every once in awhile. One thing that has NOT changed about Houston is the heat (90 degrees F today) and humidity (70% today) so I'm thankful that we at least have A/C at home.

It's fun driving a car again for the first time in 9 months. Directing the 270 horses in my convertible feels somehow very . . . empowering. It's a nice feeling of control after 9 months of feeling more reactive to everything the professors throw at us--not to mention the complete ignorance of where my career search will lead!

I had lunch today with Vanessa Kellogg, a Rice alum at Horizon Wind Energy, to discuss the particulars of the wind generation industry. She was very, very helpful so I think the least I can do is plug her book on wind energy: Wind the World Over. Talking with people like Vanessa renews my faith that we WILL find a solution (or solutionS) to the world's energy woes.

Meanwhile it feels good to be back. As I look out the alumni office window onto the grounds of Rice's Lovett Hall and main academic quad, I'm pleased to see that the old live oaks survived the storm well and that the campus is as beautiful as ever. I feel at peace and I feel at home. Now I need to stop feeling so peaceful and get my career search into gear!


Back in the USA!

I just spent 10.5 hours on the flight from Paris to Houston. Continental, which has always had a great product, has upgraded its 777s with power plugs at each seat—very helpful for laptop-minded travelers such as myself. However, I really didn’t take advantage of the new feature as I was distracted by the entertainment system, which had been upgraded as well.

With a selection of 300+ movies to start, stop, pause, and fast forward as I please, I had the chance to catch up on American movies that had been released while I was abroad. I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Iron Man, Leatherheads, and, running out of new movies I wanted to see, Rear Window. It made for a very pleasant flight and now it’s good to be back in the US of A for the first time since early January!



Today was another lovely day walking around Paris. Yesterday we spent time in the Luxembourg gardens and Pantheon. Today we wandered around the Latin Quarter. We capped it off with dinner at our favorite restaurant, Aux Charpentiers, where we stuffed ourselves full of great food and wine. What a pleasant reprieve from my career search!


Jimmy Buffett in Paris

I cut my week of interviews one day short and hopped on an EARLY morning train to Paris today. The weather here is cool and clear and the ground is covered with fallen leaves. I met up with another Buffett fan, who found us a charming little hotel in the St. Germain area. We spent the day leisurely strolling around Paris, eating at little cafes, and preparing for tonight’s Jimmy Buffett concert.

Fortified by a bottle of Bordeaux, we walked about an hour to the concert venue, which was in a sketchy neighborhood in the 5eme arrondisement. We finally found New Morning Jazz Café about a half hour before the show started. I was worried about arriving so late as it was open seating and I thought we might be stuck in the back.

That turned out not be a problem, however, as the venue was very, very small, and the concert was limited to about 200 attendees. As I walked in and sized up the place, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “This is one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

Sure enough, we found a spot around 20 feet from the stage and began the usual pre-Buffett meeting/greeting of other Parrotheads. As with any Buffett concert, most of the fans weren’t local. We met people from all over Europe, North America, and Australia. Also as with any Buffett concert, there were fans ranging from 6 years old to 60 with the entire spectrum of ages in between represented.

The concert itself was a blast. Jimmy played for over two hours with no break. The set list was excellent and the environment was intimate; the entire audience was singing along and spirits were high. The bar wasn’t prepared to deal with the lush factor of Buffett fans as they ran out of wine halfway through the show and beer shortly after that. No worries, though, we still had a blast between Buffett’s singing, joke telling, and French speaking.

After three encores we all spilled out onto the Paris streets. Even in the small crowd I bumped into a friend of mine from Rice—small world! The long walk back to the hotel in the fresh night air was a nice way to cap off a very, very different Buffett concert experience. If he comes back I will try to make it again next year –and with a larger group that won’t feel shy about tailgating in a random alleyway in a sketchy Paris neighborhood!

Photos and Videos


Interview Failure

Today ended four days full of interview preparation and interviews themselves. On Tuesday and Thursday I had my two “big company” interviews with Shell and British Telecom respectively. They were both very structured, including cases, and really more “assessments” than interviews. Insomuch as I wasn’t invited for the next round by either company, I failed both assessments.

As someone who is very performance-oriented, I took both failures pretty hard. Although I recognize that it is the job of these recruiters to assess fit—not just worthiness—and hence it is better to know that the fit isn’t there earlier in the process rather than later, it is still hard not to feel . . . rejected. I had many peers with whom to commiserate as each company took just a few applicants to the next level.

This year has taught me a great deal about failure. My prior attitude was one of avoiding failure at all costs. I was obsessed with winning each and every battle I undertook—perhaps to the point of avoiding some battles that offered low likelihood of success. But there is much to learn from failure and these cases are no exception. Both Shell and BT have offered to share feedback from the interviews with us next week. This will help me understand why there wasn’t a fit so I can focus my career search better. Furthermore, I look forward to learning the strong and weak points of how I came across so I can build them into subsequent interviews with companies for which there is a better fit.

Speaking of which, I also talked with three product managers at Google this week and that position sounds like an excellent fit with both my skills and experience. The recruiting process is daunting, with up to 16 interview and some of them very technical, but then so is the process for attaining most positions worth having!


Blues, BBQ, Football, and Cool Weather

I have fond memories of this time of year in Virginia. As the weather would cool and it would feel more like autumn, I would be consumed by the excitement of heading back to school and . . . the football season! The weekend ritual was wonderful:

Friday night: high school football under the friday night lights!
Saturday morning: drag myself out of bed, tend wounds from the previous night, and watch game films with the rest of the team at school
Saturday afternoon: chores and homework
Saturday night: date or night out with the guys
Sunday: excursion to the orginal Red Hot & Blue BBQ in Roslyn with Mom and Nick, listening to great blues in the car

Those were great times! And, although I'm missing out on the football and BBQ here in Lausanne, the weather is definitely cool and I have Buddy Guy playing in the background as I work on my career search. Life is good!

Yesterday was my interview with Shell, although it was less of an interview and more of an assessment. They're less gung ho about renewables than I would have hoped, but I think there may still be a fit. I'll find out this evening whether or not I've been invited to the second round, which will be a much more intense group assessment.

Today I'm talking with Google, practicing for Thursday's case interview with British Telecom, and discussing opportunities in Italy with IMD's corporate development staff. And probably playing some ping pong too!



Day 1 of interviews is over and it went pretty well. Before I left my apartment in the morning I was listening to Bob Dylan's discography. The superb quality of his decades of poetry is the subject of another entire post, but this morning I just had him on for background music. When it came to All Along the Watchtower, I was inspired to swap out Dylan for the Jimi Hendrix rendition.

Oh yeah, that was just what I needed to start the morning off right. It took me back to middle school days, working out with my brother Nick, when we had just discovered a different kind of poetry--the electric kind that came out of Jimi's guitar. It put an extra spring in my step, as did the crisp, clear autumn weather en route to campus.

My scheduled interview with the MTS group, an Italian heating system manufacturer that is going green, went well and there could be a fit there. I met GE Energy at the career fair and they were interested enough in my profile to schedule an ad hoc interview. It went well and we identified some positions where there could be a fit.

It was not all sunshine and rainbows, however. After talking with the Amazon rep, it seems that the position I had identified there was not a great match for me. They clearly thought likewise as they declined to interview me, encouraging me to email a CV and cover letter. Perhaps that's what they told everyone who wasn't a German speaker looking for supply chain positions (for which they definitely were interviewing), but I'm less enthused about the opportunity with them regardless.

Tomorrow I interview with Shell, hoping to learn about their commitment to sustainability and demonstrate to them my "capacity, achievement, and relationships ." Then it is time to focus on off-campus recruiting for a couple of days before my interview with British Telecom. Bring it on!


Fall Has Arrived

It's 50 degrees F, it's raining, and leaves are strewn along the ground. Fall has definitively arrived and I think my days of beach volleyball here in Lausanne are numbered. Good thing I have a trip to Houston, where the beach volleyball season extends from March to December, coming up in a week!

Speaking of Houston, it seems that all of my friends there made it through Ike OK. The power is still out but everyone is safe.

Last week my ICP team presented our results from Phase II to our client in Zurich. Thanks largely to the efforts of Daniel, my German teammate who pulled triple duty as programmer/analyst, slide czar, and presenter, we turned out a quality product. Our client agreed that our project could help them add over CHF 100m to their bottom line! We are very excited about phases III and IV, which commence in two weeks.

First, however, we have a two-week deluge of recruiting activities. It begins tomorrow with a career fair at IMD then continues with multiple rounds of interviews over the next two weeks. I have an interview tomorrow with MTS Group, an Italian heating company that is concentrating heavily on solar thermal, and I hope to get interviews with GE Energy and Amazon at the fair. Tuesday I interview with Shell and Thursday with British Telecom. Should I succeed in the BT interview, there will be another on Friday, giving me just enough time to make it to Paris for the Jimmy Buffett concert. If Shell likes me, there will be another interview the following week--when I'm scheduled to be in Houston. I suppose we'll just cross that bridge when we come to it. I may also have an interview with Google this week but that is still to be confirmed.

This weekend I am spending my time researching the companies with which I have interviews and making sure I have a coherent story about the fit that I see with them. As much as I like to think of myself as a good ad hoc speaker, I'm definitely much better when I am prepared. In the meantime I'm also sitting on 10 companies to which I need to begin marketing myself and over 200 companies that I haven't yet vetted enough to know whether or not they are worth pursuit.

You'd think finding the right opportunity to help change the world wouldn't be this complicated!


Rock You Like a Hurricane

To all my friends in Houston, stay safe over there! Ike is bearing down and they're saying it will be Category 3 at landfall, so I hope for the best for all of you. I hope your possessions remain intact, of course, but most of all I hope for your personal safety. To anyone who's evacuating, best of luck on the trip and I hope it goes more smoothly than the Rita evacuation.


Rice's Game Changing Performance

Rice's last-second, come-from-behind win made the final cut for ESPN's Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the Week. Please visit the site and vote for Rice; with such a small alumni base, we need all the help we can get!

Deja Vu

Everytime I think I've left IMD's first half in my rearview mirror, it jumps back into my life. It is late at night, I'm here at school with my team, and--just to ensure that I really feel like it's Q1 2008 again--we all just trampled each other to get at sushi left over from an executive program dinner. But I wouldn't have it any other way; these are the memories I will take with me years afterward.

Our Phase II ICP presentation is 36 hours away and there is still a great deal of work to do. However, it is interesting work so staring at it all day everyday is not onerous. Time constraints bring the challenge of finding the right balance between sophisticated analysis and quality communication of results. Growing anxiety over careers adds another dimension as teammates (myself included!) are pulled in other directions. This isn't unexpected, though, and I'm sure we can address it--after all, we will face similar challenges in the "real " world.


A Great Day for Football

Yesterday was a great day for football in my family. My mother's alma mater, TCU, destroyed SFA 67-7. Not to be outdone, my father's alma mater, Arkansas St, obliterated TSU 83-10. Meanwhile the University of Minnesota, where both my parents earned their PhDs, beat Bowling Green 42-17.

Rice's game against Memphis was much closer, but we still prevailed 42-35, scoring 29 fourth quarter points, capped off by a 69-yard interception return for TD with only 11 seconds remaining in the game. Go Owls!

Now if only my Redskins could pull their offense together . . .


A Trace in the Sky

Monday evening I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit in on a session in an executive program for a major energy company. The speaker was Bertrand Piccard, who completed the first transglobal balloon trip. I had seen his balloon at the National Air & Space Museum, where my mother works, so I was intrigued to meet this adventurer.

His talk was very interesting. The first theme ws leadership of teams against difficult goals, a subject near and dear to my heart. The second theme was leadership and decision-making when you have little control over external factors. In a balloon, for example, you can change altitude but you have no steering control and you certainly can't control the weather. By recognizing that which you cannot control and focusing on what you can (adjusting altitude to take advantage of different wind directions and weather patterns), you will be maximally effective. The talk finished with a brilliant photo montage accompanied by "Let It Be."

Bertrand is now focusing on a new project: Solar Impulse, a 100% solar-powered plane to go around the world. I wish him great success, as such projects will inspire people. Many thanks to the most sophisticated woman at IMD, who was instrumental in helping me finnagle an invitation to the session.


Condom Understanding

Yesterday was the first presentation to our ICP client, the definitive end of Phase I. ICPs usually follow a four phase format:

I: Industry Analysis - understand the client's industry and which factors are key to succeeding in it
II: Company Analysis - benchmark the client against those key success factors, identify gaps, and recommend initiatives to close them
III: Issue Analysis - take one of those initiatives and work it out in great detail to provide very specific recommendations on which actions the company should take
IV: Implementation - provide a plan for and participate in the implementation of change

Our project is a little different, however. The client arrived with a firm idea of which issues they wanted worked. Accordingly we combined the industry and company analyses into Phase I and used it as an objective validation of the specific issues on which the client wanted to focus. Our conclusions were that yes, supply chain mattered to this industry, yes, the client had significant room for improvement and, in fact, if they didn't address their supply chain strategy immediately, they would soon find themselves in a world of hurt.

Three of our client stakeholders--including one board member--came down to IMD. I was honored to be selected by my team to make this first presentation, key to setting the tone for the rest of the project. Our team worked long and hard to produce a quality deliverable and wanted to make sure that the presentation reflected that. Although I had to adapt my usual "jovial" style to the serious, Swiss-German audience, I think it went well. This should largely be credited to the team (including Corey, our faculty advisor), who offered me very helpful feedback during the several dry runs we went through.

There was one snafu, though, and it occurred at the very beginning. I was presenting with the display behind me and one of my teammates' laptops in front of me, controlling the powerpoint presentation. While presenting one of the first slides, a meeting reminder popped up on the laptop, obscuring much of the screen. It wasn't visible on the display behind me, however, so no one else knew about it. As I contemplated whether or not just to continue presenting that way, my mouth was on autopilot. I was supposed to say that our objective for the meeting was to build a "common platform of understanding" from which to launch the rest of the project. However, what came out was a "condom platform of understanding." Oops.

After that, though, it was pretty smooth sailing. We're glad to have Phase I behind us and today will immerse ourselves in Phase II: conceiving an optimization model for warehouse locations and transportation costs within Europe. Our next presentation is in 10 days--bring it on!